By Jim Bleyer
A Hillsborough transit tax activist and noted conspiracy theorist has filed an ethics complaint against Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White in a transparent attempt to deflect public attention from just how misguided the special interest levy is and how it was sold to a misinformed public.
White is asking the courts to overturn the transit tax that was promoted by special interests led by Jeff Vinik, the de facto owner of the Tampa Bay Times. The Times, at Vinik’s behest, has continually failed to report all the facts surrounding the tax as well as printing falsehoods to make it more palatable to subscribers.
The complainant, James E. Shirk, a civil engineer that could benefit financially from implementation of the tax, is essentially a stooge representing the interests of former hedge fund manager and would-be developer Vinik.
Hillsborough now has the highest sales tax of any of Florida’s 67 counties at 8 1/2 percent.
Vinik, with some of his wealthy downtown cronies, created All for Transportation, a group that campaigned successfully for passage of the increased sales tax last November. The tax is more popularly known as “The Vinik Tax.”
Success of Vinik’s floundering Water Street Tampa project hinges on implementation of the tax. Despite receiving nearly $500 million in public funds for needed infrastructure, “Underwater” Street Tampa is years behind schedule and has creditor Cascades Investments frothing.
“This ethics complaint is clearly a publicity stunt that has been conveniently timed to coincide with this Friday’s hearing on my lawsuit,” White said in a statement. He also called the complaint “baseless.”
White could attempt to recover legal fees from Shirk if the complaint is deemed frivolous.
Shirk calls himself “progressive” but is willing to allow oligarchs unfettered access to $16 billion over the next 30 years at the expense of low and fixed income families. A proposed light rail spur from the University of South Florida to downtown Tampa will displace the minority communities that Shirk, a self-labeled staunch progressive, claims to care about.
His hypocrisy is Exhibit A as to why national candidates like Bernie Sanders cannot gain traction with black voters.
Shirk’s friends on Facebook include Vinik lackeys Ali Glisson, his public relations flack; Janet Scherberger, vice president of communications at Tampa International Airport; Tyler Hudson, All for Transportation’s point person; Beth Alden, executive director of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization; paid AFT spokespersons Brian Willis and Rena Frazier, and Mark Sharpe, executive director at Tampa Innovation Partnership.
Shirk was appointed to the Bike/Pedestrian Advisory Committee of the MPO headed by Alden.
As recently as December, Shirk did not have any use for Vinik (see his sarcastic post below). Many observers believe the ethics complaint, with Vinik as clearly the primary beneficiary, was incentivized through one of Shirk’s many AFT connections.
Like many local “progressives”, Shirk believes public transit is worth the cost of displacing a minority community and expanding the income gap between ordinary citizens and oligarchs like Vinik.
Lastly, is it possible for a civil engineer to be successful and express himself like a third grader? You be the judge.