Wednesday, March 27, 2019

All for Transportation Ballot Language vs Article 11 Charter Amendment - Deceptive or Legal?

Tampa, Fl
From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

All for Transportation (AFT) hit voters mail boxes hard last year with glossy mailers claiming they had a transportation "plan" aka $16 Billion transit tax hike to "cut" traffic congestion in Hillsborough County for 30 years.

But we posted here, when AFT spokesperson Kevin Thurman, one of the authors of their $16 Billion transit tax hike, was challenged on that claim about a week before the election, he was forced to admit that such claims were not true and congestion would actually get worse over the 30 years.

No wonder AFT refused to debate anyone who opposed their tax hike before the election. Their deceptive use of exaggerated claims would be exposed.

While deceptive political campaigns may not be illegal, what about deceptive ballot language?

The ballot summary language All for Transportation (AFT) used in their 30 year $16 Billion tax hike stated their massive tax hike would fund road improvements. In fact, AFT included improving roads and bridges first in their list of projects to be funded  - as if to tell voters that funding road improvements was the highest priority use for the billions in new tax revenues. 

Voters reading the ballot summary language can reasonably and logically construe the 30 year $16 Billion tax hike funds new road capacity.

The definition of road improvements includes "construction of new roads or improvement or expansion of existing roads…" It is common knowledge, and common sense dictates, that transportation projects to "improve roads" includes transportation projects to add new road capacity.

Except for AFT.

In the fine print of the 5 page AFT charter amendment the AFT transit advocates who wrote the transit tax hike charter amendment redefined the definition of "improve roads". AFT redefined "improve roads" to be improvements to intersections of existing roads.

But the ballot language also includes funding to "improve intersections" as a totally separate and different group of projects to be funded by the AFT tax hike than "improve roads".

If that is not confusing enough…In the fine print, not only did AFT intentionally not fund transportation projects to widen roads and add new road capacity, they specifically prohibited the use of AFT tax proceeds to fund new road capacity in Hillsborough County for 30 years - when the county's population is expected to grow by 700-800K.

AFT's ballot summary language may have serious logical conflicts with what AFT specified and prohibited in the fine print of their 5 page tax hike charter amendment.

AFT did everything by design. It appears they intentionally used deceptive and misleading ballot language so voters would logically conclude the $16 Billion tax hike funds much needed new road capacity in Hillsborough County over the 30 years of the tax.

The ballot language is the only piece of text every voter is guaranteed to see and it is the last bit of information voters encounter before casting their ballots.

Therefore, is the use of misleading ballot language legal?

Well...The Florida Supreme Court threw state Amendment 8 off the ballot last year stating the language was misleading. The Tampa Bay Times, who wrote editorials in support of the AFT tax hike and was all in for the AFT tax, weighed in on Amendment 8 with an editorial stating (emphasis mine)
Voters should know what they’re voting on, which is why the Florida Supreme Court was entirely correct to strike the deviously worded Amendment 8 from the Nov. 6 ballot.
So…if voters relied on the ballot summary language but that language was misleading, conflicts with the 5 pages of AFT's fine print or as the Times states is "deviously worded" - is that legal?

Hillsborough County commissioners and county staff admitted at the February 21 BOCC workshop that it is AFT's fine print mandating how the tax proceeds must be spent that is creating chaos and confusion. If the agencies receiving the tax proceeds are confused, it is reasonable and logical to assume voters were too.

AFT's $16 Billion tax hike with no funding for new road capacity and specific prohibitions for funding new roads for 30 years is causing big problems at County Center.

As posted here, AFT's big mess is putting the county between a rock and a hard place. Some county commissioners, including those who supported the AFT tax hike, now want to raise the gas tax and take more money from you.

All the commissioners were warned about the serious flaws with AFT's transit tax hike before the election. They refused to inform their constituents and remained silent about the issues except for Commissioner White.

The mask is falling off of AFT's tax hike masquerade…even by AFT.

Recently AFT spokesperson and chief architect of the transit tax hike Kevin Thurman posted this comment on a Times article about the tax.

Thurman is not a transportation expert or a traffic engineer. Thurman is a transit advocate who works on rail/transit advocacy campaigns.

The comment from AFT's tax hike chief architect confirms that AFT's $16 Billion tax hike was never intended to fund road widening or new road capacity in growing Hillsborough County for 30 years.

But AFT used ballot language (see above) for voters to reasonably conclude the 30 year AFT $16 Billion tax hike funded road widening and new roads.

Therefore, if AFT used ballot language that was misleading and the ballot language did not sufficiently inform voters of what was actually in AFT's 5 pages of fine print, is that legal?

This looks like another serious legal question regarding the AFT tax hike that must be resolved.

And as the Times editorialized "deviously" worded ballot language that prevents voters from sufficiently being informed about what they are voting for should be struck.

This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the blog publisher's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet.

Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay

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