Monday, December 2, 2013

GreenLight Pinellas - The Hype and the Circumstance

There has been a lot of planning go into the GreenLight Pinellas Project. In fact millions of dollars worth of planning.

A big part of the planning process has been how to sell YOU the taxpayer that this is a good idea worthy of your vote.

One of the stalwarts of all political campaigns is the ENDORSEMENT.

If you are like most people you don't follow all this stuff that closely, so if your Mayor, City Council person or someone you respect steps up and says this is a good deal,  many people pay attention.

Over the last couple of years there has been a steady stream of presentations, workshops and meetings conducted by PSTA, TBARTA, their consultants and marketing company to Mayors, City Council members, State Representatives, State Senators, local power brokers and movers and shakers.

It has worked quite well. Most Mayors and City Councils have passed Resolutions supporting GreenLight. Many Politicians have endorsed the plan and the sales tax. In fact several St. Pete Politicians, including the new mayor frequently campaigned supporting GreenLight.

The Consultants and marketing experts have done a solid job in getting these people on board. (no pun intended).

Question is: Have any of these people actually sat down and read the Plan? Do they really know what's in it? Do they actually know what they are endorsing?

Case in point. The current ballot language specifically dedicates the sales tax revenue to the GreenLight Pinellas Plan.

I doubt that any of these Mayors or City Council members would feel real comfortable passing a local taxing ordinance or resolution that dedicates long-term non, sun setting tax revenue to a specific named program without any oversight and ability of the Council to step in if something goes wrong.

So why did they vote to "endorse" the GreenLight and the tax?   Good marketing.

The County Commission has voted to move forward with the sales tax referendum. The lone dissenter, Commissioner Norm Roche, asked some good questions but was generally ignored.  Why?   Good Marketing.

Commissioner Roche questioned the using GreenLight Pinellas as the designee of the Tax funds but he was voted down. Why?  More good marketing.

Commissioners also decided how strictly to define what the new tax money could be spent on, ruling out bridge construction and other options.

“Including all that list is a sure way to kill the referendum,” said Commissioner Susan Latvala.

In other words they don't want you to know what the money will actually be spent for.

Oops, can't wait to see how the marketing team spins that one.

So there you have it. GreenLight Pinellas is more marketing hype than buses or trains at this point.

Expect to see your TV screen and mail box full of ads with gleaming buses full of smiling people whizzing up and down US 19. Streamlined trains stopping at well manicured stations and hansom people telling you how wonderful all of this will be.

Lots of "testimonials" about how you won't need your car any more, and trying to convince you that the 4 mile hike to the train station is really not an inconvenience just good exercise.

Read, watch and enjoy your paying for it.

Then remember, you will paying 1% more for almost everything you buy. And the GreenLight people will have almost $100 million of your money to play with every year.

The Pinellas County Commission needs to put on the brakes and build some serious control language into the Ballot Language or the Ordinance it puts in place, and most of all get The "GreenLight Plan" out of the Ballot Language, otherwise the tail will soon be wagging the dog.

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