By Jim Bleyer
Jim Davison, a conservative activist and emergency room physician, is expected to file papers this week for the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 seat held by Pat Kemp.
The heavyweight matchup promises to be a referendum on countywide transportation which has been a fiasco for years. A countywide one percent sales tax, passed in November 2018 under dubious, if not illegal circumstances, is expected to be thrown out by the Florida Supreme Court in the coming month.
Kemp, a Democrat, has supported the tax that is expected to include a multi-billion light rail system. Proposed light rail routes will displace minority communities in East Tampa and benefit local real estate nabobs Darryl Shaw and Jeff Vinik.
Davison received appointments from the Board of County Commissioners to the county Citizens Advisory Committee, Indigent County Healthcare Board, and Emergency Medical Planning Council. He has been involved with local transportation efforts and for over 20 years was co-founder and first chairman of the New Tampa Transportation Taskforce. He was appointed by Tampa City Council to the county wide transportation “Committee of 99.”
The Republican has opposed the surtax and the subterfuge used to sell the concept to an unsuspecting electorate.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit in December, 2018 against numerous defendants related to the $15 billion transit tax hike charter amendment challenging the language used in the charter amendment. District Court Judge Rex Barbas threw out major portions of All for Transportation’s transit tax, including its mandated spending allocations, as illegal and unlawful. But Barbas, channelling King Solomon, let collection of the tax stand.
White’s appeal to the Florida Supreme Court to toss the entire surtax drew some influential allies. Associated Industries of Florida, the state’s most influential business lobby, the Florida House, and Florida Senate filed amicus curiae briefs opposing the tax and requesting the court to strike the entire All for Transportation charter amendment.
Ballot language was intentionally deceptive and misleading to voters who thought the massive tax collection would be earmarked for roads instead of a light rail system primarily to benefit the City of Tampa and real estate profiteers.
The Hillsborough County Commission, anticipating a Florida Supreme Court defeat, are intent on pursuing light rail and another referendum is expected to be on the November docket. The 2020 version will be a tougher sell because of the continued barrage of misleading information perpetrated by Vinik’s All for Transportation group.
The Davison-Kemp contest will amount to a transit referendum in microcosm. A referendum rerun, even a shrunken version, will have to pass muster with a far less gullible public.
Tampa and Hillsborough County seem to be going in the wrong direction. The Federal Transit Administration released data showing that despite a 7.4 percent increase in federal, state and local subsidies by taxpayers nationwide in FY2018, transit ridership fell 2.1 percent.