From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert
The Eye was at HART's Legislative Committee meeting Monday where the proposed Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) agreement between HART and PSTA was discussed.
Important to note: this MOU is a legally binding agreement just like any other inter-local agreement.
Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, a Democrat who is also Vice-Chair of PSTA, has been using PSTA as a proxy to push her regionalism proposal that includes merging PSTA and HART, regionalizing decision making and power and pursuing a multi-county sales tax hike [2020?].
As we find out what is going on in those "quiet discussions" held underneath the radar of the public, there are valid concerns about the true intent (at least by some) of this MOU agreement.
|Long's Regional Vision Presentation to PSTA|
The Board members discussed the MOU. There were a few fireworks and some tap dancing going on as statements were made that the MOU is an endeavor to work together and collaborate and not a merger.
SaintPetersblog reported on the meeting: HART board members deny that collaboration with PSTA is a backdoor attempt to merge agencies. They reported what HART Attorney David Smith said after citizens voiced concerns during public comment.
“Anyone who tries to interpret this as a pre-merger or merger, is, I don’t want to say hallucinating, but there’s no basis in fact for that,” said HART attorney David Smith, when asked if it was necessary to include Calvert’s “no merger” request in the MOU itself.Ironically it was HART Board attorney David Smith who recommended some changes for clarification and we assume he was not hallucinating.
Smith recommended changing the terminology in the MOU agreement from "Partnership Opportunities" to an agreement for "Future Collaboration". That change is an improvement since Partnerships are legal relationships whereas collaboration is to cooperatively work together. But who knows if their next collaboration will be to collaborate on merging…
Another change added to the MOU is that the agreement must be reviewed and re-authorized annually and a document on all actions taken must be annually provided. That is good as it adds needed accountability.
As SaintPetersblog also reported Murman and Suarez are on record stating
“None of these words in this document speak to any type of merger, taxation. Nothing about going to Tallahassee. Nothing,” said an exasperated Sandy Murman, chairman of the committee.
Board member Mike Suarez also said he didn’t see anything in the draft agreement that touches on merging.Perhaps the HART Board members should watch the videos of PSTA's January 4th Legislative Committee Meeting where Long stated the timeline is more important than the MOU; and PSTA's January 6th Executive Committee Meeting where Miller outlined the aggressive timeline to get the agreement approved and immediately take it to Tallahassee to ask for state money to fund Long's regionalism agenda; and read Commissioner Long's Presentation she gave at PSTA's January 13 Workshop meeting that clearly states her direction is for a merger and regional sales tax funding.
The PSTA videos confirms Miller and HART's Eagan were working together on the agreement.
Considering all of this: