By Sharon Calvert, from Eye on Tampa Bay
Since the legal appeals were filed in the All for Transportation/Hillsborough County tax litigation, the Florida House and Florida Senate have filed amicus curiae briefs with the Florida Supreme Court requesting the Court to strike the entire All for Transportation charter amendment including the tax.
The Senate brief states they are joining the brief filed by the House and also states:
On September 4, 2019 the Tampa Bay Times published an article that was entitled Hillsborough’s transportation tax has a new opponent: the Florida House.
The article included the following quote from the organizer for All for Transportation, Christina Barker, the sponsor of the referendum at issue in this case: “Hillsborough County voters exercised a right that the Florida Legislature gave them. The fact that this is being walked back now is incredibly disappointing.”
The Senate wishes to appear in this case as an additional amicus curiae and join in the House brief in order to clarify that both Chambers of the Legislature support the House’s position stated therein. The Legislature is united in seeking a proper interpretation and enforcement of section 212.055, Florida Statutes, and in opposing an expansion of the severability doctrine to include local exercises of legislatively delegated non-ad valorem taxation authority.
The Senate agrees with and supports the House position, which respects and protects the voters. Unlawful referendums that do not follow the clear procedures laid out by statute should not be judicially repaired by the trial court. The result reached by the trial court ignores the premise upon which voters may have supported the referendum, namely how the transportation tax would be administered.
“Between you and me: Christina Barker has been involved from day one.”
She previously worked for transit lobbyist organization Tampa Bay Partnership. Tampa Bay Partnership donated $250K to All for Transportation, including $150K of initial seed money to support AFT’s tax hike petition drive. The TBP has been the largest supporter of rail tax hikes in Tampa Bay.
Barker, a transit advocate, was the Finance Director for the failed Greenlight Pinellas rail tax boondoggle in 2014 while she worked for the Tampa Bay Partnership.
Barker was working for Mayor Buckhorn at the same time Ali Glisson was Buckhorn’s Public Affairs Director. Glisson went to work for Jeff Vinik’s Strategic Property Partners in 2015. As we posted here, Glisson is married to transit advocate Kevin Thurman who started the AFT transit tax citizen petition initiative.
The April text message referenced above confirms Barker was helping Thurman create the All for Transportation transit tax hike charter amendment at the same time she was working for Mayor Buckhorn.
Barker was conveniently hired by Jeff Vinik on June 1, 2018, just 2 weeks before All for Transportation launched their transit tax hike petition drive on June 14th. Barker went from “Special Assistant to the Mayor, to a vice president of community partnerships and policy for the Vinik Family Office.
And Barker became an AFT public spokesperson.
Barker was invited to participate on a “transportation” panel hosted by the Tampa Bay Business Journal a week before the election. Barker, who is not a transportation expert, admitted:
“Our story is one of a few people who got together. We were writing a charter amendment over drinks. We shopped that charter amendment around.”
There is great risk with writing a $16 billion transit tax and 30 years of spending mandates by a few people over drinks…. and never legally vetting it.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White filed his initial lawsuit on December 4, 2018 challenging the legality of the AFT’s transit tax charter amendment referendum. White’s lawsuit was not filed against All for Transportation but against the county who placed the flawed transit tax on the ballot and other governmental entities receiving and distributing the tax proceeds.
One week after White filed his lawsuit, Barker was added as an Officer of AFT’s affiliated nonprofit Keep Hillsborough Moving, Inc.
With Barker as an Officer of Keep Hillsborough Moving, Vinik has a direct connection into running All for Transportation with no transparency. Nonprofits are not required to disclose their donors and expenditures.
| Tweet from Streetsblog Barker retweeted
(click to enlarge)
Just last year the state legislature passed HB1393, an 89-page bill that gave Barker’s employer, Jeff Vinik enormous powers in his Water Street Independent Special District.
Do Barker’s public accusations against the Florida legislature reflect well on her employer?
The State Legislature has the responsibility for creating the laws, setting the rules and defining the procedures of county charters and the levying of any local sales tax. The State has a vested interest that those laws, rules and procedures are followed.
Local governments do not possess powers inconsistent with State law or the Constitution.
It is not “meddling” for those who create the laws to ensure those laws are followed.