Without Term Limits, Corruption Runs Rampant in Hillsborough County

 

Chris Paradies

By Chris Paradies

We live in a tourist paradise. Award-winning beaches grace the shores along our sunny, palm-lined stretch of the Gulf of Mexico. Our families enjoy everything that Hillsborough County offers: parks, recreation fields, camping, and plenty of sunshine!

As the founder and president of a small firm that helps innovative small businesses grow, I know first hand that many of our families, seniors, and small businesses are struggling to make ends meet. Among other metros our size, the Tampa Bay metro ranks 25th out of 25, dead last, in median household income.

That’s awful!  Half of our households are making less than about $50,000 per year, which makes it very hard to get ahead, even while working harder and harder.

Why is that? Bad government, with a history of systemic, persistent corruption, is one factor. It siphons off wealth for politically-connected developers and big corporations with the bucks to get career politicians elected and reelected, again and again. It adds to traffic congestion, robbing families of quality time and impacting productivity.

Then, there are the hundreds of millions in subsidies given to large, mostly out-of-state corporations to build big box stores that put our family businesses out of business and subsidized, tax-abated back offices offering call center wages. No wonder things are tough!

Why don’t career politicians like four-termer Ken Hagan listen to the voters instead of developers and their represetnatives?

Back in the 80’s, three Hillsborough County commissioners went to prison in an FBI sting that should have changed politics in our county, forever. In response to the scandal that rocked County Center, the people voted for government reforms, including term limits of 8 years and a county structure that allows every voter in the county to vote for a majority of the commissioners on the board of county commissioners. That’s why Hillsborough County has three county-wide commissioners and four smaller district commissioners.

Career politicians like my primary opponent Ken Hagan and their benefactors fought against these measures, especially term limits, but the courts eventually sided with “we the people” and ruled term limits constitutional in Hillsborough County. Then, a county attorney interpreted the term limit law as permitting career politicians to restart the clock, merely by jumping from a district seat to a county-wide seat.

Ever since, career politicians have made a mockery of Hillsborough County’s term limit law, using this loophole to jump from one seat to another and extend their career on the county commission.

There’s already been another conviction for corruption on the Hillsborough County commission, and former commissioner, Kevin White, was sentenced to 3 years. The corrosive influence of big money donors with business before the county, combined with greedy, career politicians, has given root to a corrosive influence of big money in Hillsborough County politics before, and it will do it again. It’s only a matter of time.

[Judge] Whittemore said White’s case was an ugly reminder of corruption on the Hillsborough commission in the 1980s. That’s when a grand jury labeled the County Commission an “ongoing criminal enterprise” and three commissioners were accused of taking bribes in zoning cases.

Once corruption takes root, it spreads below the surface like crab grass in the Florida sunshine. Those “in the know” talk about pulling the right levers, but if we the people allow corruption to spread, without rooting it out, it undermines the rule of law and liberty slowly dies. The idea of term limits is to limit politicians to eight years on the county commission, limiting the ability of corruption to take root and spread.

Term limits also provide more ordinary citizens the chance to serve thus eliminating career county commissioners. That would be a good thing! Our founders intended our government to be “of the people, by the people and for the people” and not an ongoing criminal enterprise for career politicians and their big money backers.

There’s a good reason for 8-year term limits. Eight is enough! 

In the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, “We the people … secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity….” We the people can’t allow career politicians, and their big money donors, to make a mockery of term limits laws in Hillsborough County, which are there to curtail the corrosive influence of big money donors on career politicians, transferring wealth from taxpayers to a wealthy donor class.

If you think that the corrosive influence of big money isn’t already a problem, consider the following. 

In December, urban planners provided commissioners a report that was applauded by the commission. It called for a pause of at least 5-6 years on extending the boundaries of the urban core, which is needed for the county to catch up on infrastructure, like road improvements needed to address the terrible traffic congestion in the Brandon region.

So, you’d think, when commissioners had the opportunity to stop sprawl on 160 acres of vacant land in the very rural area along Lithia Pinecrest Rd., an already congested two-lane road scheduled for improvements in 5-6 years, that it would be an easy no, even for career county commissioners.

Not so fast!

Enter Vin Marchetti, an influential lawyer in Tampa. He and his clients have given commissioners nearly $1 out of every $7 dollars in contributions received during this election cycle, according to a recent article on tampabay.com. So, when he shows up, career county commissioners listen. The county commission voted to extend the urban core, again, by just a single vote, only 4 months after agreeing it was a bad idea!

Ken Hagan, my “Republican” opponent in this August’s Republican primary for county commission district 2 was the deciding vote.

He actually said that 131 new homes on vacant Lithia Pinecrest land “…wouldn’t hurt the area…” and “…will actually provide a good transition to the east…” of Fishhawk Ranch? What!?!

I’ve been canvassing neighborhoods and talking to the people living in the region, and they say that traffic congestion, especially along Lithia Pinecrest Rd, a two-laner, unimproved stretch of road, is their biggest concern!

Ken Hagan, Republican-in-name-only, the 16-year career county commissioner, has to go!

We need term limits, but until we get real term limits, “we the people” need to get engaged and vote. I’m asking you to vote in August 28’s Republican primary. If you’ve left the Republican party or never registered, that’s easy to fix!

Just go here:  https://www.votehillsborough.org/About-Voting/Registering-to-Vote.

Then, take my survey: the Paradies Polland let me know what’s important to you.

What’s important to you is a priority for me!

Editor’s note:  Chris Paradies, a local entrepreneur and involved citizen, believes the Hillsborough County Commission’s version of musical chairs has been detrimental to our area and all earnest working taxpayers.

 

 

 

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