By Sharon Calvert, from Eye on Tampa Bay
As we posted here, the petition effort for a massive 30 year 14% transit sales tax hike is astroturf and not grassroots. Tampa wealthy elites and well-connected power brokers are using a group of Tampa urbanists and some paid political operatives to front them. The wealthy elites want to unnecessarily raise taxes to 8% – the highest tax RATE in the state – that will benefit them.
Hillsborough County, growing by leaps and bounds with new growth and rising property values, can Fund Transportation and No Tax Hike Is Needed! Except when a billion dollar stadium is seeking public money It’s a Package Deal! The Billion Dollar Stadium Needs Billions for Trains. It’s the same Tampa power brokers seeking both.
Surprise! NOT! Tampa Bay Partnership, the symbiotic twin of the 2010 pro rail tax PAC Moving Hillsborough Forward (MHF) and also a supporter of Greenlight Pinellas, donated $150K to the transit tax hike AFT PAC on June 26.
Let’s throw in the latest transit tax hike boondoggle savagely defeated in Nashville 64-36% on May 1. See a trend? The public no longer is hoodwinked by multi-million dollar fairy dust and unicorn advocacy false advertising campaigns for massive tax hikes.
Tampa Bay Partnership (TBP) self-proclaims they represent the Tampa Bay business community and are representative of the business community in Tampa Bay but they do not. They represent a number of big businesses in Tampa Bay and also includes USF President Judy Genshaft. However, no one appointed or elected them to represent anybody.
TBP is funded by special interests who pay $50K and $25K to be a member to lobby. And their top policy issue continues to be pushing costly transit in Hillsborough and Tampa Bay – when less than 2% use transit today and the vast majority want our roads, highways and interstates fixed and improved.
We did contact TBP regarding their $150K donation and support for the transit tax hike and received their statement below.
The governing body of the Tampa Bay Partnership, its Council of Governors, voted unanimously to contribute $150,000 to “All for Transportation,” the grassroots group that is collecting signatures to place a transportation referendum on the ballot for the November general election.
“To connect regionally, we need to have a well-funded local transportation system,” said Rhea Law, chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership and chair of the Florida offices of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney. “Improving connectivity throughout Tampa Bay is critical and we’re proud to support the citizens working to bring this decision to Hillsborough County voters in November.”With the $600K that was donated to the AFT PAC from 4 special interests donors ($150K each), their last SOE campaign filing reflects they have paid Revolution Field Strategies $250K for petition gathering.
That is not a grassroots petition gathering group. They are paying people to gather petitions who may not live in Hillsborough County or even live in Florida.
The only reason the Tampa deep pockets want a massive transit sales tax hike from 7% to 8% (a 14% tax hike, not a one penny or one cent tax hike) that takes $15-18 BILLION out of taxpayers pockets is to fund costly Tampa centric transit. Fixed guideways and rail are about land use aka transit oriented development to benefit them. It is not about mobility solutions to relieve congestion for the 98% who use roads in Hillsborough County everyday.
Special interests Coastal Construction out of Miami also donated $150K. The Tampa Bay Business Journal reported last June that Coastal Construction, led by Sean DeMartino, is expanding into Central and North Florida.
He [Sean DeMartino] is co-chairman of the Orlando Economic Partnership and past chairman of the Central Florida Transportation Task Force.
Just think of the Orlando Economic Partnership as Central Florida’s version of Tampa Bay Partnership. The Orlando Economic Partnership was created thru the merger last year of what was the Central Florida Partnership and the Orlando Economic Development Commission. Their “investor” level pay to play lobbying starts at $100K and they receive taxpayer monies.
According to this Business Observer article, last July Vinik hired nine construction firms to construct his Water Street district development that included Coastal Construction. But by January 2018 according to this Tampa Bay Business Journal article (also find it here): (emphasis mine)
The developer of Water Street Tampa has parted ways with the majority of contractors doing pre-construction work on the massive, mixed-use project, instead hiring a Miami firm for most of the buildings in the district’s first phase.
Strategic Property Partners, which is controlled by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment LLC, is awarding the majority of the construction work in the first phase of its $3 billion district to Coastal Construction, the developer confirmed Tuesday.
Coastal Chairman and CEO Thomas Murphy Jr. is the father of Patrick Murphy, the Democrat who challenged Sen. Marco Rubio in 2016. The elder Murphy was the “financial muscle” behind the campaign, the Tampa Bay Times reported in May 2016.
Skanska is building the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine, which is on an acre of donated land within Water Street. That construction project is under the purview of the university, not SPP.
The major donors to this reckless massive Tampa centric transit tax hike are Jeff Vinik and those connected to him and Vinikville – Morsani, Tampa Bay Partnership and Coastal Construction.
We cannot forget what the state legislators handed Vinik in this last legislation session: Jeff Vinik scores win with signing of Water Street Tampa bill
A bill that would create a special taxing district for the Water Street Tampa development in Hillsborough County was recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.
The proposal was backed by Strategic Property Partners, a partnership of Bill Gates’ investment arm, Cascade Investment, and billionaire developer Jeff Vinik. Water Street Tampa has become one of the most eagerly awaited private developments in Tampa.
The Water Street Tampa Improvement District, created by HB 1393, would allow an appointed board to levy assessments on commercial properties and charge property tax of up to one mill — $1 per $1,000 of assessed value — on property within the district.
And his thanks to them is pushing a massive transit tax hike that is an end round around county local officials for 30 years?
We have to assume Vinik did not get all that he wanted from the state so he is intent on getting more – BILLIONS more – from Hillsborough County taxpayers of whom over 2/3 live in unincorporated Hillsborough County.
Most people in Hillsborough County know nothing about this petition effort because there is no broad base of support for a massive $15-18 BILLION transit sales tax hike.
Tax hikes do not belong in County Charters. The Hillsborough County Charter is a governance document. This effort is changing the County Charter to add the massive tax hike and its 5 pages of gobbledygook burdensome regulations to the County Charter for 30 years. Ludicrous!
Like the crony Go Hillsborough, there is no broad base of support in Hillsborough County for this transit tax hike.
The base of support for this petition effort is Jeff Vinik, his cronies and their fawning local media – literally bought by, paid for and bailed out by Jeff Vinik. It’s public face is fronted by pro rail Tampa urbanists. Who’s using who??
There is much more going on with this petition effort than just the astroturf funding it – a post for another day.
The failure to even consider any alternative transportation funding plan is bad public policy and shameful.
But ignoring the consent of the governed can be perilous!