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Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: Latest on the Hillsborough Transit Tax Boondoggle

September 13, 2018 - 6:00am

It should come as no surprise that voters and taxpayers are not funding promotion of the grossly misnamed All for Transportation (AFT), 30-year, 14 percent rail tax hike.

The Tampa Bay Partnership, leader of the local rail cartel, has been complicit with certain members of the mainstream media in disseminating the misinformation that the transit tax is a grass roots effort.

According to AFT’s latest campaign filing on the Supervisor of Elections website, $175,000 was recently donated to the AFT transit tax hike PAC from merely two donors -- BayCare Health Systems donated $50,000 and another $125,000 was filtered through Tampa General Hospital’s wholly owned coffee shop subsidiary.

Sounds like more grounds to defeat the tax.

Seven special interest entities have donated $925,000 to push the unnecessary massive 30-year transit tax hike scheme on local taxpayers.  

While almost $1 million has been donated by corporate cronies, only $1,025 has been donated by individuals -- in a county of 1.3 million people.

The dismal support by those who actually can vote may indicate how totally underwhelmed voters and taxpayers are about raising their sales taxes to the highest in the state. The proposed $16 billion transit tax hike includes billions for costly rail but zero funding for new roads and new lane capacity -- for 30 years.

High-profile AFT donors Jeff Vinik and Sykes Enterprises are intertwined with the Tampa Bay Partnership. BayCare and Tampa General Hospital (TGH) are also $50,000 pay-to-play members of the TBP.

BayCare gave at least $25,000 to the ill-fated Greenlight Pinellas light rail initiative in 2014.

When we looked at BayCare Health Systems 990 for 2014, which is available through Guidestar, we could not find the $25,000 donation to the Greenlight Pinellas political advocacy campaign in its Schedule C – Political Campaign and Lobbying Activities.

House of Coffee Tampa is a Starbucks franchise that operates in Tampa General Hospital and TGH Brandon Healthplex. House of Coffee’s legal entity is TGHHOC, Inc. which is a for-profit, wholly-owned subsidiary of Florida Health Sciences Inc.

Florida Health Sciences, Inc. is the nonprofit legal entity under which Tampa General Hospital operates.

It seems a bit odd for a two-site coffeehouse to be handing $125,000 to a PAC. But for-profit corporations do not have the limits or restrictions on engaging in political activity that nonprofits have.

Therefore, it appears TGH funneled their $125,000 PAC contribution to AFT through their for-profit coffee house subsidiary. Until now, voters didn’t know beans about this shell game.

The president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital, John Couris, who receives a total salary package of more than $1 million a year, was hired last June from Jupiter, Fla. Coincidentally, Couris had previously worked at BayCare.

Couris is on the Board of Florida Health Sciences Inc. (TGH) and, interestingly, Kathleen Shanahan is also on the Board of Florida Health Sciences (TGH)).

Shanahan is currently a City of Tampa (Mayor Bob Buckhorn) appointee to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority Board (HART) and she is HART’s representative on the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transport Authority.

HART would get so many transit tax dollars from AFT’s rail tax hike, they would literally be swimming in it. We bet TBARTA, created by the state at the request of Tampa Bay Partnership, will want a piece of the massive transit funding action too.

For the last few years, Tampa Bay Partnership has been promoting regionalism in Tampa Bay, Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., lecturing us that we must regionally speak as one kumbaya voice -- to get more state and federal tax dollars, of course.

Now Tampa Bay Partnership is funding another unnecessary 14 percent, Tampa-centric Hillsborough County rail tax hike. They want to force taxpayers in unincorporated areas to pay billions for costly rail in the city of Tampa.  At the same time, the $16 billion tax hike provides ZERO dedicated funding for 30 years for new road capacity, desperately needed in unincorporated Hillsborough.

Tampa Bay Partnership’s kumbaya moment had an expiration date.

Tyler Hudson, chair of AFT PAC, is a board member of the Tampa Heights Civic Association, whose members want to tear interstates down.

Tampa Bay Partnership aligned itself with the Tampa urbanist transit advocates who want to tear down I-275 downtown north to Bearss Avenue and replace it with a street-level boulevard and a train. Yet, the schizophrenic Tampa Bay Partnership has been proposing a regional BRT on I-275 from Wesley Chapel to downtown St. Pete, which includes that route.

Tampa Bay Partnership and its cronies must have money to burn. They threw gobs of dough behind the defeated 2010 and 2014 transit tax scams in Tampa Bay and are trying it a third time.

But in 2018, innovation and technology are disrupting traditional transit. Ridership has been tanking everywhere, including in Hillsborough County.

The Tampa Bay Partnership was not elected or appointed by anyone and they do not represent the overall business community in Tampa Bay. They are a pay-to-play lobbying group of one-percenters who keep funding expensive campaigns for rail-tax-hike boondoggles.

They refuse to even consider transportation funding solutions that do not require increased taxes, but demand more oversight and accountability.

Insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome.

The All for Transit tax hike is infinitely worse than the 2010 rail tax. The AFT $16 billion tax hike with its five pages of big government regulations ignores funding new road capacity and absurdly prevents and prohibits changes for 30 years -- in a county expected to grow by about 800,000 over the next 30 years.

This is not just an All for Transit tax hike; this is a 30-year congestion creation tax hike that will cause gridlock on Hillsborough County’s arterial roads.

Does BayCare and TGH simply have money to burn?

Why did the two health care providers financially support an unnecessary massive transit tax hike that hurts low- and fixed-income citizens the most? BayCare and TGH benefit from the one-half percent indigent care and trauma center sales surtax that generates over $140 million a year from county taxpayers. They know those who cannot afford to pay for an emergency room visit. Does BayCare and TGH want the low income and the most financially vulnerable to pay for the costly rail they will rarely, if ever, use?

These two entities are also heavily financing a tax plan that will negatively impact first responders as congestion increases in a rapidly growing county.

The common denominator is the Tampa Bay Partnership.

The 2018 version of its previous boondoggles needs to be rejected again.

Sharon Calvert is a conservative activist and with her husband, Mark, writes the blog Eye on Tampa Bay. This story was reprinted with permission from Tampa Bay Beat



Transportation Experts Slam Hillsborough Light Rail Plans, Higher Sales Tax

Audit Required for Hillsborough County's Special-Interest Transit Referendum


VOTE NO TAX!! The billionaires want to make money with their investment in land and sports teams, but they want the taxpayers to subsidize them with tax money. If you look at your cable bill, you will notice the Regional Sports Fee, of $6.00 per month. Think of what you could buy with an extra $72 per year. They need a way to get their paying customers to their projected sports venues, but there isn't enough parking space. Now they're spending over a million dollars to convince the voters that they need to pay an additional 14% in sales tax dollars. Don't do it!! Talk to your neighbors, and bring them to the polls. VOTE NO TAX!!!

Conspiracy theories and factual inaccuracies abound in Ms.Calvert's work. It's a wonder that she (a Pinellas resident) and the Koch Brothers can devote so much time, money and imagination to issues central to Tampa's future development. If you want to understand the issues, read the referrendum and do your own investigation. Seventy thousand Hillsborough County citizens signed the enabling petition for a reason. We need more transportation options in Tampa and Hillsborough County. We need much, much less Koch/No Tax For Tracks pro car, road and gas ideology.

The roadways in and around Brandon south on Lithia-Pinecrest Rd. to R-39 are just to darn small. People that have errands to run doctors, stores, not to forget school hours. It can take a half hour to go 12 miles Do you big shots even live around here? The roads can not take it. We do not need a darn train to go to Publix. How about MORE ROAD.

Rick you should know better. You never state what the conspiracies are or what the inaccuracies are. Never any facts of your own. We did the math on the referendum. Brian and Kevin stuck all the reserve funding in the MPO 2040 plan and stuck it in the transit funding section of the petition. They underfunded the portion to the county and cities (Tampa included) for roads, and other improvements by millions of dollars. There is no place in the petition that demands a certain sum of the tax must go to widening or building new need roads. The Petition overfunds HART's portion for bus and RAIL by $600 million dollars from the MPO plan. If there are any shortfalls in the revenue stream the impact will be felt by the county and cities and road funding will get worse and worse. The surplus shields HART and RAIL making it almost recession proof. According to the MPOs own numbers CO2 emissions will go up 40-45% from today. Your commute to work will be longer. Vehicles hours of delay at peak times will increase 2-300% from today. All this for a $9 billion dollar tax increase over 22 years. If you still think these are inaccuracies and just conspiracy theories you bring a copy of the petition and calculator and I will bring a copy of the MPO 2040 LRTP and in front of the TV cameras we will do the math, should take about 30 mins. Yes, we need transportation alternatives, but we can get them WITHOUT a sales tax increase and we can do the math on that too. I'm voting NO.

This is not going to pass. And if it did, rail costs more than $1.25 Million per mile. At most, if every penny was spent on rail, after 30 years it would have built about 50 miles of track. That doesn't include stations, train sets, maintenance facilities, offices, salaries and equipment. There is no way it was for any rail of any kind, there isn't enough money for it.

"Pig in a poke" Folks; ("Buy it at your OWN peril"!)

Here's proof they'll use the tax money for rail to the stadium. Channel 13 exposes them. TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Tampa Bay Rays took their first step to building a new stadium in Ybor City with Tuesday’s announcement, but many questions remain. One of the most pressing issues is logistically getting fans to the stadium. According to team officials, 1.6 million people live within 30 minutes of the proposed site. Taking them out to the ballpark, the team acknowledges, will require an expanded Ybor streetcar, beefed up water taxis, a longer Riverwalk, A RAIL LINE FROM THE EAST and drop-off places for Uber and Lyft. "THE DAYS OF A BALLPARK WHERE EVERYBODY DRIVES THEIR CAR TO THE BALLPARK, THAT'S KIND OF FIVE YEARS AGO," one team official noted. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says city taxpayers should not pay for the 30,000-seat ballpark itself, but has indicated they may be willing to help with infrastructure. "We also have to recognize, that if it doesn't pencil out, and if it doesn't help with the good of the community, we need to be prepared to walk away." Once a proposed garage is built, they expect to have about 4,400 spaces close by, and 10,000 within 10 minutes. But there will be no giant lots like the current stadium in St. Petersburg, which has 7,000 spaces. "There are tons of spaces within a 10-minute walk of the ballpark, we are fine with that," said owner Stu Sternberg. "That's not going to be an issue, plus, there are so many other means of transportation."

An example of the one-percenters manipulating the ninety-nine-percenters into paying for the fatcats' toys! VOTE NO! on this boondoggle! If the fatcats want it ... let them pay for it! Same for Sternberg's stadium!

Worthless hold over projects from the failed obama years. Still trying.

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