By Jim Bleyer
The public interest and sanity prevailed last night as the Hillsborough County Commission voted 4-3 to jettison the ill-advised, corrupted half-cent sales tax referendum for mass transit infamously known as Go Hillsborough.
The decision basically forces the county to earmark sufficient funds to maintain, fix, and expand the local road system, something it has neglected for years in favor of dubious pet projects for special interests.
Besides Parsons Brinckerhoff, the multinational engineering firm that stood to make tens of millions from Go Hillsborough’s light rail component, the evening’s biggest losers were the Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Tribune, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. With blatant disregard for the electorate, the four entities shared a mind-boggling arrogance in their incessant promotion of a flawed, corrupt, amorphic proposal.
The ineffective cheerleading by the two Bay area dailies illustrates the waning influence of the mainstream press and the amplified roar of social media. Bipartisan opposition was organized, reached out with facts, not propaganda, and marshaled a ground game not seen since Barry Sanders toted the pigskin.
The Tampa Bay Business Journal, in the two days leading up to the pivotal commission vote, ran a straw poll on Go Hillsborough in its digital edition. The TBBJ obviously expected solid support as its core readership represents the Greater Tampa business community. The result: 74-22 percent against. It underscored the extreme discomfort by movers and shakers with the plan, the process, and the promotion of Go Hillsborough.
Buckhorn’s shameless twisting of facts to favor a deep-pocketed political donor and his insulting comments about the majority of the voters on both sides of the Bay, torpedoed any hopes he harbored of being elected governor in 2018. At the hearing, he asserted, “If anyone gets up here tonight and tells you that the residents of unincorporated Hillsborough County are paying for a rail system, they are lying.”
He said this with a straight face. Buckhorn must be a disciple of Common Core math.
As for Parsons Brinckerhoff, it will move its act to the next town, ingratiating public officials, attempting to dupe the electorate, and hoping it can unduly influence an economically-distressed media. But its Teflon has almost completely eroded.