Advertisement
  1. Transportation

Residents urge Hillsborough commissioners to reinstate spending restrictions on transportation tax

The Hillsborough County  Commission listens to a briefing Wednesday from attorney Alan Zimmet about a lawsuit Commissioner Stacy White filed against a one-cent transportation sales tax. [ANASTASIA DAWSON  | Times]
The Hillsborough County Commission listens to a briefing Wednesday from attorney Alan Zimmet about a lawsuit Commissioner Stacy White filed against a one-cent transportation sales tax. [ANASTASIA DAWSON | Times]
Published Jun. 19, 2019

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Commission took no action Wednesday after about two dozen people asked the board to reinstate percentages dictating the types of projects revenue from a one-cent transportation sales tax can pay for.

Circuit judge Rex Barbas struck those percentages — which included allocations for maintenance, intersections, bike and pedestrian facilities and safety improvements — in a ruling he issued Monday in a lawsuit brought by Commissioner Stacy White. White filed the lawsuit in December arguing that the charter amendment 57 percent of voters approved in November usurps power from the County Commission by determining how the money should be used.

Barbas upheld the tax, but said the decision of how to spend the money rests with commissioners, not voters.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Judge: Hillsborough's transportation tax is legal, but spending allocations and oversight committee are not

Hillsborough county commissioners weigh in on uses, guidelines for transportation tax

Stacy White sues Hillsborough, cities to stop voter-approved transportation tax

The judge also removed a dedicated allocation of 45 percent of revenue to the county's transit agency and struck a provision that said money could not be spent on new roads, additional lanes or highway expansion.

Speakers asked the seven-person commission to honor their votes and reinstate the percentages, which they said provide transparency and certainty to how their tax dollars will be used.

"I voted for a very specific breakdown of where that investment would be spent," Tampa resident Brant Peterson said. "I knew exactly what I was voting for. ... One of the primary reasons I voted for the referendum was just that, that it was clearly identified where the funds would be spent."

The speakers represented a mix of interest groups that often oppose each other when speaking to the commission and other boards about transportation. People from the business community, anti-highway expansion groups, transit riders, the chamber of commerce, the Tampa Bay Lightning and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's office all asked the board to reinstate the allocations people voted for in the charter amendment.

"Not often do you see ... the chamber, the Economic Development Cooperation, the (Tampa Bay) Partnership and the activists all on the same side," former Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione said. "I think that is a tremendous statement."

Alan Zimmet, the attorney who represented the county in the lawsuit, briefed commissioners about the judge's ruling. Lawyers are still waiting for a final judgment, after which there will be a 30-day window for parties on either side to file an appeal.

County Attorney Christine Beck cautioned commissioners about discussing any pending litigation. None of board members commented on the ruling following the legal briefing.

"I'm also aware there are many discussions about the most appropriate way to uphold the will of the voters," Beck said. "There's no way we could pass an ordinance today. It requires notice and public hearings and so forth. I would think that in the coming weeks we would be tackling some of these issues."

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tom Murray of Willow Brook Court stands at the fence surrounding the sink-hole riddled drainage area in the Lakeside Woodlands neighborhood in Hudson. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
    Up to 15 property owners could be part of a grant application for sinkholes in Lakeside Woodlands neighborhood.
  2. Chris Murray with the Downtowner ride service drops off a passenger in the Channelside area. The popular free service is now in jeopardy. [Times (2017)]
    Money for the service runs out March 31. Members of the Hillsborough transit agency board are reluctant to pay for it.
  3. Members Pat Kemp, left, and Kathleen Shanahan quarreled over contracts during a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit committee meeting. [Courtesy of Pat Kemp, Kathleen Shanahan]
    Beset by an investigation and a court case, the authority sees tempers flare between members Kathleen Shanahan and Pat Kemp.
  4. A look at the construction on the Tierra Verde bridge project which is the bridge between Isla Del Sol and Tierra Verde islands on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 in St. Petersburg. The project began in December 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2021. [DIRK SHADD  |  DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]
    Dr. Delay takes a deep dive into the construction process for the $56.3 million State Road 679 and Bayway Bridge project .
  5. Residents and commuters are complaining about heavy traffic ever since the Florida Department of Transportation closed both northbound lanes on Nebraska Avenue just south of Hillsborough Avenue (U.S. 92) in Tampa on Jan. 6, to install new drainage pipes under Nebraska Avenue between Giddens Avenue and Hillsborough Avenue. [Florida Department of Transportation]
    Dr. Delay explores the latest backups aggravating Seminole Heights residents and commuters.
  6. Brandi Dobbins, 28, talks with bus operator Paul Robinson while boarding the PSTA bus at Grand Central Station in St. Petersburg, Florida on Thursday, January 23, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Elected officials see data as key to dealing with the problem, but systems for analyzing it are falling short.
  7. The Toyota recall covers certain 2011-2019 Corollas, the 2011 to 2013 Matrix, the 2012 through 2018 Avalon and the 2013 to 2018 Avalon Hybrid in the U.S. Pictured is a 2013 Avalon Limited.
    The problem could affect as many as 12.3 million vehicles in the U.S. made by six companies.
  8. The area will be closed to drivers headed north and south from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. through Friday.
  9. A scooter rider navigates Platt Street on Friday morning during the calm before the storm — successive weekends of downtown Gasparilla parades. Scooter companies like Jump warn users it’s a violation of their rental agreement to operate one while under the influence. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    One company decided to pull its scooters Jan. 25 ‘out of an abundance of caution for riders and those participating in Gasparilla.’
  10. Delta Air Lines said Friday it will launch five new round-trip routes a day between Tampa and Miami starting May 4. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    Delta says the daily nonstop Miami service will create new connections for Tampa travelers to fly to Latin America and other international destinations.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement