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GreenLight Pinellas - The Other View

Public Transportation is a necessity; the sales tax referendum is deeply flawed.

 Since Bay Post is now on more PATCH sites, Gulfport, Pinellas Beaches, Largo, Clearwater, Safety Harbor, Dunedin and more this is a repost from a week ago:

Since I am going to be taking a contrarian position on the GreenLight Pinellas sales tax referendum, I thought it was proper to lay out my general position in some detail so readers will be able to evaluate my comments as they make their decision regarding the Sales Tax Referendum.

Public Transportation
I am not opposed to public transportation. I believe that public transportation is a duty and responsibility of local government. I also agree and support the facts that: a) public transportation will never be a financially self sustaining program, and b) that all tax payers have a responsibility to contribute to the public transportation effort of their community.

Public Transportation Modes
Public transportation comes in many flavors including buses, trolley, trams, high speed rail, light rail and ferries. Intermodal systems use a combination of these specific types of transportation modes to build a functional public transportation system.

The mode or modes of a public transportation system in a community such as Pinellas County should fit the geography, demographics, commercial nature and objectives of the community. There is a place for buses, ferries and maybe light rail.

Governance
The establishment of public a transportation system such as the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PASTA) creates an entity with taxing authority to support the financial needs of public transportation. In Pinellas County PSTA has been carefully crafted to allow all of the 24 Cities in the County some degree of input along with a strong presence from the Pinellas County Commission. PSTA is a bit unwieldy, but highly representative.

What I Believe
I believe that the public transportation authority, PSTA in this case, has a responsibility to use public funds in an efficient and effective manner; such that the needs of those who use and depend on public transit are the first consideration and the most efficiently served.

I believe that a sales tax properly conceived would be an excellent mechanism to fund public transportation in Pinellas County. I further believe the sales tax Ordinance should set up a sales tax mechanism allowing a variable rate with a 1% maximum tax cap.

I do not believe that the Sales Tax Ordinance as offered in this Referendum  provides sufficient controls to assure the public interest (those who need and use public transit should have access) is served and that public funds are properly allocated or protected.

I do not believe that voter approval of this Ordinance establishing an immediate massive revenue source that passes directly to PSTA is either reasonable or prudent.

I believe that to the extent possible development of public transportation should not be significant economic disrupter in terms of local small and medium sized business.

I do not believe public transportation has a primary responsibility to support sports teams, developers or core commercial centers where future development is the primary driver.

I do not believe that the almost fanatical obsession with light rail as evidenced and conceived by the PSTA and its supporters such as TBARTA meet the true needs of Pinellas County public transportation.

Over the next ten months or so I will explore these issues and others related to the Sales Tax Referendum. I invite your comments and thoughts both positive and negative.

 Read the Sales Tax Ordinance at Greenlight Pinellas Tax Ordinance.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosers: Contributor to
No Tax for Tracks

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

JudyToo January 28, 2014 at 10:43 PM
Let me simplify the quiz for you:......... PSTA currently takes $30 MILLION per year through ad valorem/property taxes........With the 14% additional sales tax levied on everyone, rich or poor, young or old, PSTA will take $130 MILION from everyone - that is money taken directly out of the local economy.......PSTA raised the amount taken from property owners by 30% in 2010 by increasing the millage.....Now they want to increase their funding by another 333%......Do you really believe taxpayers should turn PSTA loose with $130 MILLION of taxpayers money to do whatever they want?.....Really?......You know exactly what they plan to do with the money or do you simply trust them?.....I don't know, you don't know and if they actually know, they are not telling us......They are just giving us a broad brush of some wonderful sounding things they might do........The 1% increase in the sales tax rate is played down and minimized so no one will think of it as $130 MILLION out of our local economy every year, forever.......Ask any small business owner if they would like to see $130 MILLION disappear from the local economy every year.......Anyone buying the Greenlight Pinellas scheme just thinks they are getting a free lunch.....That same thinking is how we end up with over $17 TRILLION in debt for our children and grandchildren to pay back.....with interest.
JudyToo January 28, 2014 at 10:54 PM
@Arthur finegold:....Your comparison would be more accurate if you would calculate the cost/user paid by taxpayers for roads in excess of gas taxes.....Then compare that to the cost per user of PSTA (or any public transit).......PSTA has documented that they serve less than 2% of the population so that logically infers that about 98% of the population is using the roads that they pay for.......AND paying for all of the capital costs and 75% of the operating costs of PSTA.......Now they want even more money so they can lose even more money on a train from St. Pete to Clearwater......Do you really believe that will make everything OK?.......That we can spend our way into prosperity?.....Do you realize that Pinellas County is forecasted to stay at the same or slightly lower population for the next ten years?......Where are we going to get more people to ride the $2 BILLION Greenlight Dreamboat?
arthur finegold January 29, 2014 at 06:30 AM
There is currently low ridership because of the inadequate schedules and routes of the current system. Studies show that more frequent service covering more routes increases the number of riders. Build it and they will come. A more effective mass transit will benefit even those who are not regular riders. It provided environmental benefits, cuts down on traffic congestion and will fuel economic development.
JudyToo January 29, 2014 at 11:50 PM
Did it ever occur to you that low ridership is due to PSTA's failure to offer a useful service? They have been spending more money every year for 30 years and still don't get it......And you want to increase taxes by $100 MILLION to help them do what? Waste even more money?
Mitchell McConnell January 30, 2014 at 06:39 AM
>>>>because of the inadequate schedules and routes of the current system When statist schemes fail, it is never because they were fatally flawed, but because they "weren't implemented properly". Hint, if something can never work, it won't ever work! FWIW, I am a pragmatist, not any other "ist", and I *do* support reasonable public transportation that is re-configurable to meet changing circumstances, such as buses.

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