By Jim Bleyer
Less than two weeks after it came out against a proposed Hillsborough County transit tax, the Tampa NAACP was targeted with a hate letter that included death threats.
The threats were leveled at all African Americans. Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum was specifically mentioned.
Addressed to NAACP President Yvette Lewis, the handwritten letter, postmarked from St. Petersburg, criticized the chapter for opposing the developer-driven transit tax that would burden low-income families and displace a minority community.
At an emergency NAACP executive committee meeting Thursday night the group reaffirmed its opposition to the transit tax. The NAACP refused to capitulate in the face of physical threats or the mountains of misinformation spread by proponents of the $16 billion special interest windfall.
The letter said in part, “gather up you n*****rs friends and family and put them on a bus to Miami. Make sure that lying cheating corrupt piece of garbage Andrew Gillum gets a front seat, that way if the bus crashes he’ll be sure to go through the windshield…get hurt or worse.”
The tough-minded Lewis is having none of the intimidation, declaring, “We’re going to keep going. We’re going to keep going no matter what,” Lewis said. “We are just not going to stop. We’ve come too far to turn around. Enough is enough.”
The racist threat is the most disgusting chapter yet in the Jeff Vinik-fueled transit referendum, designed to bail out his failing Water Street Tampa project and ameliorate impact fees imposed on developers for decades to come.
The Tampa Bay Times, Florida Politics, and Tampa Bay Business Journal have refused to report both sides of the transit issue. Vinik is the de facto owner of the Times, Florida Politics is a pay-for-play blog, and the TBBJ is dependent on advertising from the corporate entities that stand to benefit from passage of the transit tax.
Opposition has coalesced with progressives and tea partiers marshaling forces against the boondoggle. In addition, a vibrant minority neighborhood will be displaced by a light rail spur that benefits special interests and those in Hillsborough’s unincorporated areas will be shut out of road development and any mass transit.
Opponents at the Oct.18 NAACP meeting were vociferous in their opposition. Not one member spoke in favor of the burdensome tax.
“If Jeff Vinik and Frank Morsani were interested in the minority community,” they would have been paying the $30 annual NAACP dues,” observed one member of the audience. Besides Vinik, Morsani is the main bankroller behind the transit referendum. The Morsani College of Medicine at The University of South Florida is one of the would-be anchor tenants at the Water Street flop.
Others criticized the sponsors, the self-dubbed “All for Transportation.” Its so-called “ oversight committee” has no allowance for representation by average citizens who will be affected by the multi-billion dollar scam. The committee would consist of representatives of the special interests who will reap the financial windfall from the tax.
It was reported that development interests offered cash to persons close to the NAACP in exchange for an endorsement.
Jeff Vinik is not in the transportation business or industry and is not a transportation expert. All for Transportation is a political committee with Vinik as its largest donor pushing the rail tax. His $3 billion downtown development is way behind schedule and reported to be in financial difficulty.