Pinellas Suncoast Transit Agency (PSTA) is
going bankrupt. Instead of fixing their fiscal crisis, they are seeking
bailouts and new revenue sources. PSTA wants another transit tax referendum on
the 2020 ballot because they are insolvent in 2022.
financial position presented at Pinellas County local
delegation meeting in August 2019
PSTA has not only been
fiscally mismanaged. They have been dishonest, previously abused Federal funds,
information to the Federal Transit Administration in their federal grant
application, are using their Reserves for operating expenses and for years have
refused to address their declining financial position.
Listen to our latest podcast (about 15 minutes) highlighting
PSTA's fiscal mess and the end game they want - a new transit sales tax.
The Pinellas County Commissioners must vote to place another transit sals tax
on the ballot. They are watching closely how the Florida Supreme Court will
rule this spring on the fiasco in Hillsborough County - the All for
Transportation transit tax legal challenges.
However, it appears the chess board is being lined up and preparations are
being made to put another transit tax referendum on the Pinellas 2020 ballot.
The Pinellas County commissioners reappointed Ken Welch to the PSTA Board last
month replacing Dave Eggars. Welch was Chair of PSTA in 2014 when PSTA's rail
tax was overwhelmingly defeated. Welch was Chair of PSTA when they were caught
misusing Federal transit security funds on their failed Greenlight Pinellas
rail tax campaign. Welch was Chair of PSTA when they were forced to hand back
over $300K to the Feds for their misuse of those federal funds.
The Feds even told PSTA in 2014 they could bring criminal charges against PSTA for their
misuse of federal funds. But no one at PSTA was ever held accountable for
abusively using Federal transit security dollars on their rail tax hike
Instead PSTA CEO Brad Miller and his staff continued to receive pay raises even
as PSTA's financial position continued declining. And now the Pinellas County
commissioners reappoint the person who was Chair of the PSTA Board when PSTA's
misuse of federal funds occurred - during a sales tax hike campaign.
Somewhat oddly, PSTA recently selected Joe Barkley, Bellair Bluffs city commissioner
as the new PSTA Chair. Bellair Bluffs is one of or is the
smallest city in Pinellas County with a population of 2200 and a land size of
under 1/2 square mile. Barkley replaces county commissioner Janet Long as PSTA
Long is up for re-election countywide this year. She has been one of
PSTA's biggest champions for their proposed $45 million Central Avenue Bus
Rapid Transit (CABRT) project. PSTA's financial mess, the CABRT boondoggle and
a tax hike could all become election year issues for her.
With PSTA running deficits and using their Reserves to keep operating, the
misnamed CABRT boondoggle, that will not even run on Central Avenue, will
quickly bankrupt PSTA - without a new funding source.
The CABRT project began as a $16 million project in 2016. It was enabled to
proceed under the radar of the general public for years to become a $45 million
boondoggle due to PSTA's lack of transparency.
PSTA was never straightforward about nor never clearly informed the public the
CABRT project removes valuable parking and general lanes of vehicle traffic
along its route from downtown St. Petersburg to St. Pete Beach.
PSTA never told the public this project requires a new transit
tax and has issues with being truthful.
CEO Miller and Commissioner Long, Miller's political sidekick, travelled to DC
numerous times over the last few years to lobby for tens of millions of dollars
of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding for the CABRT transit project
that speeds up bankrupting the transit agency.
Miller and Long lobbied the FTA, our Congressional representatives and our two
Florida Senators for the CABRT boondoggle. In addition, PSTA uses tax dollars
to hire State and Federal lobbyists to also lobby elected officials and the
bureaucracies in Tallahassee and DC.
We doubt Miller and Long informed anyone they met with in DC of the widespread
opposition to the project. We doubt they informed anyone they met with that the
city commissioners of 2 of the 3 cities along the CABRT route (S Pasadena and
St. Pete Beach) voted unanimously on Resolutions opposing the project.
Taxpayers and residents from Pinellas County took responsibility to inform
those Miller and Long lobbied to about the opposition to the CABRT, PSTA's
dishonest behavior and PSTA's rapidly declining financial position.
Therefore, none of these decision makers can say they are not aware of the
opposition to the CABRT, PSTA's fiscal mess or some of the shenanigans associated
with the CABRT project.
Numerous times last year PSTA CEO Miller told local media that PSTA
"expected" to secure $22 million of federal funding for the project
by the end of last year.
Thankfully that never occurred, and hopefully will never occur.
PSTA is in need of reform, a new CEO and a new CFO and not a new revenue source
from the wallets of taxpayers.
Taxpayers in Pinellas….Beware! Be Prepared!
Because Pinellas County appears to want to reward PSTA's lack of transparency,
dishonest behavior and fiscal mismanagement with putting another transit tax
referendum on the 2020 ballot.
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
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