Court Hammers Transit Language; Times Declares Victory



By Mark Calvert, from Eye on Tampa Bay

Now that much of the mandated spending constraints All For Transportation tax hike have been found unconstitutional, all the media, business elites, politicians and proponents that were so wrong about the legal issues, are pushing hard to reinstate the “will of the people”.

Judge Rex Barbas summary judgement, while preserving the tax, makes it clear why so much of the AFT charter amendment was unconstitutional.

                                                The Honorable Rex M. Barbas

But that’s not slowing down AFT and the “mix of interest groups.”

Barbas agreed with Commissioner Stacy White the prescribed spending allocations in the amendment are unconstitutional.

As such, the Court finds the portions of Article 11 Sections 5 – 9 that have been stricken on the attached Amended Petition Form, unconstitutional. This is because the stricken portions constitute a usurpation of powers as they dictate the uses BOCC may apply the proceeds to as well as how much of the proceeds BOCC may apply to each one.   

Regarding how the Clerk of Court must distribute the funds, again Barbas ruled in favor of Commissioner White.

As such, the Court finds Article 11 Section 4 constitutional. The Court further finds the portions of Article 11 Section 5 that have been stricken on the attached Amended Petition Form, unconstitutional.

Regarding the Independent Oversight Committee, again, Barbas ruled against the IOC ability to approve projects.

As such, the Court finds Article 11 Sections 6, 9, and 10, as stricken on the attached Amended Petition Form, unconstitutional. This is because the stricken portions prescribe duties to IOC, which have the effect of relieving BOCC of the following duties: determining which uses the proceeds will be applied; determining in which combination the proceeds may be applied, or; final approval and payment thereof.

What is left is the tax itself, and a neutered IOC.

Barbas has further elaboration in the ruling regarding the ballot language and severability if you’re interested. One may argue that with these three major strikes against the core of the amendment, the intent of the amendment was no longer discernable to voters, and thus invalid.

You can read Judge Barbas Summary Judgement here.

One might think after getting it so wrong, AFT, our politicians, business elites and media would take some time to understand the issue, regroup, learn from those that were right, and revisit what they believe to be true, but have now been proven wrong.

Not so with the Tampa Bay Times is cheerleading the way for the lemmings.

The Times can’t doubling down and wanting to lock in the 30 year prescribed spending plan outlined in the AFT amendment. Given that Vink’s minions who wrote and funded the AFT amendment and deceptive $4 million advertising campaign could not be bothered with legal vetting.

Barbas struck the following:

Projects described in the foregoing sentence do not constitute New Automobile Lane Capacity, as defined in Section 11.07(08) below.


(8) Limits on New Automobile Lane Capacity. Agencies are prohibited from expending any funds from the categories mandated by Section 11.07(1), (2) and (3) above on New Automobile Lane Capacity. For purposes of this Section 11.07(8), “New Automobile Lane Capacity” means projects that consist of (i) adding additional lanes for automobile traffic to existing roads or streets that are not related to intersection capacity improvement, or (ii) constructing new roads or streets.

Thus Barbas confirmed the severe limitations on new road capacity in the AFT amendment, which of course the Times and AFT repeatedly deceived the public about.

Road improvements were not the biggest winner, and certainly will not be if the the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners passes an ordinance to effectively reinstate AFT spending allocations.

Commissioner Overman, who states she is a long-time advocate of smart planning (what ever that is…), is the last person that should be speaking up on this matter. She stated publicly at a BOCC meeting the AFT amendment had been legally vetted. This is false, as the AFT leader, Tyler Hudson, stated the amendment in fact was not legally vetted during a deposition. Hudson is a lawyer, as are other AFT principles Brian Willis and Rena Frazier, believe it or not.

                           Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman

If Commissioner Overman, “a long-time advocate of smart planning”, could not get it right then, why does she… and the Times, have confidence now?

Commissioners Hagan, Kemp, and Overman were further quoted as supporting dedicated funding for Hillsborough Area Transit, despite the fact that HART has little in the way of real plans.

HART is no different than Tampa, Temple Terrace, Plant City or Hillsborough County for that matter. None have yet to have developed plans for spending the AFT funds.  More than $68 million has been collected, on the way to an estimated $300 million in the first year.

                                           Hillsborough transportation  plans

Despite the fact there are no plans, and the fact the AFT amendment was literally written by a few transit activists and lawyers over wine outside of any planning process or planning authority, we must do what they say!

And do it now.

At today’s BOCC meeting, 2 days after Barbas judgement, the activists, business elite were already pushing the issue.

The “mix of interest groups” is no surprise to those who follow transportation issues closely. All want something from your taxes without having to pay for it themselves.

The business community, chambers of commerce, Tampa Bay Lightning (Jeff Vinik, of course!) all believe they will benefit from financing, construction and development. from increased investment in transit. At least they are not stupid about highway expansion unlike too many transit activists.

 Lawyers are still waiting for a final judgment, after which there will be a 30-day window for parties on either side to file an appeal.

Clearly the transit activists, downtown Tampa, business elites, clueless politicians and feckless media are trying to force the issue now. They have the motivation, since there is something in it for each of them. They’re called “interest groups” because they are “interested” in more free rides, more development, and more power.

But the BOCC represents ALL of Hillsborough County including the 98% that do not use HART, and are road dependent. The small business owner, the commuter, those that work outside of downtown, the laborer and craftsmen that work jobs all over Tampa Bay. The commissioners seem to forget they represent the nearly 1 million residents in Hillsborough County that do not live in Tampa (and the county is growing much faster than Tampa). This is particularly true of Commissioners Overman, Kemp and Smith that are county-wide commissioners, but they seem to only represent downtown Tampa and nearby neighborhoods.

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