Tuesday, December 15, 2015

When will Go Hillsborough Go Away?

Reposted from Eye on Tampa Bay

By: Sharon Calvert
This just in from the Tribune.
Once slated for December, a Hillsborough County Commission vote on a sales tax increase for transportation projects is now likely to come no earlier than February, County Administrator Mike Merrill said.
More delays. But apparently its just hard to get all the commissioners scheduled and pay attention to what is reportedly the top priority for the county for years. They can't get a workshop scheduled about mobility fees in over a month.

Your tax dollars at work.

The workshop is now scheduled for February 4th. For now. The big vote on the plan for February 17th. For now.
In some ways, delaying the commission vote on the tax could be a good thing for proponents. Go Hillsborough is still under the cloud of a sheriff’s office investigation Merrill requested in September. Investigators are looking into suspicions about back-room dealings in the hiring of the Go Hillsborough consultant, engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff.
In some ways, delaying any further activities on Go Hillsborough over the last couple of months, has been a good thing for Hillsborough County taxpayers, preventing more damage to their wallets.
Merrill said the investigation will be completed by Christmas, removing an obstacle that has stymied public deliberations on the transportation plan and tax. If no criminal activity is found, the public discussion can get back to what’s in the transportation plan.
Excuse me, but how does one of the.. no, strike that, the principal subject in the Sheriff's investigation, know the investigation will be completed by Christmas?

Another F-Rated road in Hillsborough - Bearss Ave
Mike Salinero, or perhaps some other dashing reporter, can you ask a few questions rather than take dictation?  Your last couple of dozen of readers want to know how and why Merrill knows when the investigation will be complete.
“I think it’s great that they’re taking the time to focus on projects,” said Kevin Thurman, executive director of the pro-mass transit group Connect Tampa Bay. “I think some of the politicians have been focused on the politics of this. That’s not where the voters want us focused.”

Thurman was referring to efforts by the tea party and other conservative groups to use the Parsons Brinckerhoff controversy to derail Go Hillsborough. At recent county commission meetings, the anti-tax activists have urged commissioners to shut down Go Hillsborough, thus scuttling the tax vote next November.
Thurman was referring to what? There is nothing quoted here about what he may have said about tea party and conservative groups, so again, Salinero is spinning on behalf of a transit advocate. I remind Salinero and Thurman, they've already lost the Sierra Club and others on this they know very well, not just conservative groups. If they don't know who else they've lost, well, they're not very curious or just burying the real story.
Commissioner Al Higginbotham, saying Go Hillsborough had “lost its way,” reneged on a campaign promise to support whatever plan came out of the city-county transportation Policy Leadership Group. The group voted 8-3 on Nov. 5 to recommend that the half-cent tax go on the ballot.
When Higginbotham professed his changed outlook on transportation a while back, the Tribune proudly stated he had "evolved". Now the recent information about Go Hillsborough shenanigans has raised questions about its viability, which Higginbotham has reviewed, he has "reneged".  Do you see what they did?

Of course, Salinero enables a Beth Leytham interlude to unilaterally defend herself despite all the evidence to the contrary. She's toast. None of her enablers will be giving her a dime. Why give her the time of day?

But they're already planning for the advocacy campaign, even though Go Hillsborough has not passed the commission, and the date keeps getting pushed out.
If the commission does vote to put the transportation plan and tax up for a vote, the county’s role in Go Hillsborough role will be over. At that point, business interests will lead a private campaign to pass the ballot measure. Beginning that campaign later rather than sooner may actually be better for the pro-tax forces, experts say.

“It seems to be the consensus that the shorter the private campaign the better,” Merrill said, “probably because it’s just a limited attention span and you want to have a more focused campaign that doesn’t get stale over longer period of time.”
If the commission passes the sales tax ordinance in February, Merrill said the private campaign could potentially start in March. 
Not too long ago, Merrill was stating they'd need a year to get their message out. He pulled that one cent tax rabbit trick out of his hat before he hid it again. This time, it's different.

Go Hillsborough is not a done deal. If it passes, then, and only then, will we see if the shorter campaign is better.

March is a rather short runway. Coordination and more cronyism anyone? Wouldn't be the first time.

With that logic, perhaps a commission meeting plan to vote on the Go Hillsborough October 2016 might be their best odds.

But it's best for Go Hillsborough to Go Away. The sooner the better.

We'll wait another year, and it will fail. We'll end up with nothing.

We're better off to pull the plug on Go Hillsborough and start working on realistic solutions within our existing funding. Now.

Go Hillsborough Go Away
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