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  1. Opinion

Jeff Vinik: Time to invest in transportation

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik [Times staff]
Published Oct. 17, 2018

All my life I've been an investor - realizing the untapped potential of a business or an idea. I love the process of studying investment opportunities and supporting those with promise.

Since my family and I purchased the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010, we have found countless opportunities to invest in Tampa Bay. From building a dense and sustainable urban core to investing tens of millions of dollars into local charities throughout Hillsborough County, my team and I have followed a tried and true investment process: study the opportunity, build partnerships and take bold action.

Why invest in Tampa Bay? Because we love it here. The weather is spectacular, as are the parks, entertainment and arts. But in my opinion, what's really special about this region is its people - generous, friendly, welcoming people. This is a great place to live and a great place to invest. There is no doubt in my mind that if we as a community make the right investments, the Tampa Bay region is poised to lead the nation in growth and opportunity in the decades ahead.

Seldom, however, do you find an opportunity to invest in something that could transform an entire region.

TIMES RECOMMENDS: Yes for Hillsborough transportation referendum

We, as a community, have that opportunity right now. Earlier this summer, a group of transportation advocates asked if I would support a plan to address Hillsborough County's transportation shortcomings.

Having studied this issue for over three years alongside fellow business and community leaders, I realized this might be our best shot. Our best shot to reduce traffic and give people more time with their families. Our best shot to prevent tragic bike and pedestrian fatalities. Our best shot to expand our transit network. Our best shot to invest in ourselves and our future.

So I dove into the details of the All for Transportation plan. It is balanced and pragmatic: road improvements, congestion reduction, pedestrian and bike safety, transit options and technology upgrades like traffic-light timing. All of this to serve the entirety of Hillsborough County, so every single citizen in every single neighborhood will benefit.

Just as important, the authors and backers of the plan are intelligent and trustworthy. After collecting 77,000 citizen signatures in support of placing this plan on the November ballot, these civic leaders are now running the campaign. Should the plan pass, they will work alongside independent experts on an oversight committee dedicated to ensuring every single dollar is invested properly.

I pledge the very same. Should we as a community pass this transportation plan, I will work tirelessly to ensure these resources are spent as originally designed: across the whole of Hillsborough County, to everyone's benefit.

As we all know, every investment requires an up-front cost. In this case, the cost is a one penny sales tax increase. I take this very seriously. You likely do, too. What convinced me to support the transportation plan is the massive dividend this investment will return to our community.

This dividend comes in the form of shorter commute times, filled potholes, greater access to jobs, wider mobility options including transit, and safer streets for everyone. This plan would deliver all that in addition to helping grow our economy and preparing Hillsborough for the 700,000 new neighbors we will meet in the coming years. It is a local investment that can only be spent within Hillsborough County, yet every visitor to our county will help pay for it. Perhaps this is why the plan has earned bipartisan support - no easy feat these days!

Levity aside, I cannot think of a more common sense solution to Hillsborough's transportation challenges. I support it, and I hope you will, too.

Your ballot is long this November. You will find a local education referendum, which I also wholeheartedly support, as well as the transportation referendum discussed here. I believe the All for Transportation plan to be an incredible investment opportunity for our community.

On your ballot, that opportunity is called Hillsborough County Referendum 2. I encourage you to vote YES.

Jeff Vinik is a Hillsborough County resident and owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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