By Sharon Calvert
We’re being setup AGAIN!
As we posted here, Senator Jack Latvala unscrupulously used his position as Senate Appropriations Chair to ram his crony TBARTA bill written by special interests thru the state legislature to create a new transit agency “Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority.”
While citizens in Tampa Bay never requested another transit bureaucracy, the largest supporter of tax hikes for rail boondoggles Tampa Bay Partnership did. Latvala obliged them by doing a back door end around the local delegations filing theTBARTA bill the weekend before the session started. He ensured the bill did not go through any of the local delegations and intentionally prevented citizens (including his own constituents) from weighing in.
While difficult for everyday citizens to get to Tallahassee, it’s very easy for special interests to get there and lobby for their cause, as the Times reported Tampa Bay area business leaders lobby on contentious transit bill.
The business delegation included Tampa Bay Lightning owner and developer Jeff Vinik, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft, Sykes Enterprises CEO Chuck Sykes, Ashley Furniture founder Ron Wanek, influential Tampa attorney Rhea Law and the top Tampa executives of TECO Energy, BlueGrace Logistics, the BayCare Health System, PNC Bank, Vology and Florida Blue.
“It’s so important for the legislative delegation from Tampa Bay to come together and support this,” said Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Rick Homans, “and recognize that transportation is unquestionably the biggest challenge facing the region.”
Transportation needs addressing but we do not need another taxpayer funded transit agency to address it. We already fund our local transit agencies and local voters keep rejecting tax hikes for costly transit.
Because they keep losing locally, the special interests were forced to take their quest for costly transit boondoggles regional. The rail cartel needed a new regional bureaucratic “Swamp” to control that would empower them and take away local control.
Once a regional “Swamp” gets a big pot of money and a long term funding source, it becomes almost impossible to drain these Swamps no matter how deceitful, crony or corrupt they become.
While Governor Scott unfortunately signed Latvala’s bill to create the new TBARTA Swamp, he veto’ed their one-time appropriation from the state.
The cry from the new TBARTA Board at their first meeting in August was TBARTA needs money and where is the money coming from. Hint: it’s going to come from you thanks to Senator Latvala and the rail cartel. Watch out next legislative session.
Ray Chiarmonte, TBARTA’s Executive Director, stated that TBARTA was established to be the hand off from the $1.5 million taxpayer funded regional premium transit campaign.
That is exactly what the Eye predicted.
But the timing of this regional transit campaign could not be worse.
Trust remains a big issue and all the campaign shenanigans does not help. There is probably less trust today than when transit tax hikes were on the ballot in 2010 and 2014.
Transit ridership is declining while vehicle miles travelled is set to be a record this year. More people are choosing (no coercion needed) to drive and/or use personal vehicles like ride-share than transit.
Expensive rail systems must shut down days before an approaching hurricane or major storm. Trains can do nothing to help any evacuation effort in Tampa Bay and it takes days or a week or longer after the storm for trains to come back in service.
Evacuation routes must be considered with any proposed mobility solution in Tampa Bay. If taxpayer big bucks are being spent on transportation in Tampa Bay, it better include accommodating evacuations.
Most importantly, this is a time of disruption for transportation/transit.
But costly rail/fixed guideways are never about transportation and mobility. They are about land use and development.
The rail cartel cannot help themselves. Special interests want costly fixed guideways because they will greatly benefit from those projects paid for on the backs of the taxpayers.
This latest taxpayer funded regional transit campaign was so predictable.
Taxpayers keep enriching the same consultants over and over who think the public is stupid.
But these consultants, who operate mostly within their own echo chamber, keep pushing the same costly transit solutions repeatedly rejected by voters. They keep expecting a different outcome. Hmmm…Where’s the stupidity?
This transit campaign is part of the regional “Swamp” shenanigans to set us up again for costly transit boondoggles. Rail is toxic in Tampa Bay but the rail cartel is tone deaf and prefers to ignore the will of the people and consent of the governed.
We anticipate the regional “Swamp” herd will push another round of massive tax hike referendum(s) on voters in 2020 to pick the pockets of taxpayers to pay for their largesse.
But just as Amazon disrupted traditional retail, innovation, new and emerging technologies are disrupting traditional transit.
And the public knows it.
Tampa Bay is well positioned to optimize and pursue new technology and rapidly emerging transportation innovation because we are not stuck paying for outdated costly rail boondoggles or bogged down yet in a regional “Swamp” bureaucracy.
Let’s keep it that way.
Let’s drain this regional “Swamp” before it’s filled.
Reprinted with permission from Eye on Tampa Bay