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Brian Willis wants an apology from Pat Kemp regarding transit proposal

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Hillsborough County District 6 Democratic candidate Brian Willis is calling on one of his opponents, Pat Kemp, to apologize to him and the other two Democrats in the race for having a supporter claim that she is the only Democratic candidate that will “fund transit now.”

“Every single Democratic candidate has argued that the County Commission needs to put more money into transit now, ” Willis said in a statement. “Pat has heard us say so at forums many times, she knows these claims are false.”

That statement came from Ed Turanchik, the former Hillsborough County Commissioner, who posted on his Facebook page Sunday that, “Pat Kemp is the only Democratic candidate running for County Commission District 6 prepared to FUND TRANSIT NOW.” Kemp reposted the endorsement on her own Facebook page.

Last week, Willis released his plan for transportation that calls for a variety of improvements, including a call to add 50 miles of rail transit, increasing bus coverage by 300 percent, building 75 miles of new roads and repaving more than 10,000 miles of road. He would pay for the plan by pushing for a referendum on the ballot in 2018 or 2020.

“He has no funding for that plan,” Kemp responded Monday morning.

She says she would pay for a transit plan immediately by using mobility fees that she’s been advocating for years (and which the county is about to implement), and she’s also calling on the county to set aside a portion of new general revenue to spend on transit, a plan that GOP County Commissioner Sandy Murman is calling for.

“The County Commission could pass a gas tax now, ” Kemp said. “They could do a set aside of the new funds to go to transit.” The board has not done either of those things, however.

Regarding the fact that Kemp’s idea is similar to Murman’s regarding setting aside a portion of the current budget to pay for transit, Willis says that Kemp has sided with “status quo Republicans” and attacked Democrats regarding transportation over the past year. Kemp joined with her colleagues on the Sierra Club last year in not taking an immediate opinion on the Go Hillsborough plan, but instead calling for increasing mobility fees and raising the gas tax. Willis supported the Go Hillsborough plan, which the board ultimately voted not to put on the 2016 ballot.

“Instead of putting forward a vision, Pat Kemp has consistently supported Republican plans that move us backward and don’t commit to transit long term,” says Willis. “Now, she’s repeating false claims about all of her fellow Democratic candidates. This needs to stop. I am asking her to apologize to local Democrats and to join me in going to the County Commission Wednesday to oppose Murman’s plan.”

When asked if she would apologize to the other Democrats in the race, who also include former County Commissioner and Tampa City Councilman Tom Scott and former Plant City Commissioner John Dicks, Kemp laughed and said, “Of course not. That’s ridiculous.”

Contacting this afternoon, Turanchik stood by his statement, saying, “Everyone else want to change the law or have a future referendum. In the meantime, we want transit now, and Murman’s plan does that, and Kemp supports the Murman plan.”

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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