In the wake of a change in its leadership and top-level supporters, the Greenlight Pinellas campaign to expand mass transit options in the community is in grave trouble according to a new poll.
Just 29% of likely voters say they plan to vote ‘Yes’ to “approve the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum and sales tax increase on the ballot in November.” Forty-eight percent are opposed to the plan, while 23% say they are unsure.
The Greenlight Pinellas referendum seeks a 1-cent sales tax increase to pay for new bus routes and a 24-mile light rail line between St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
This survey was conducted by St. Pete Polls and commissioned by this blog.
Even when asked if they would favor the referendum if the sales tax increase was smaller and funding only went toward buses with no light rail provision, a majority of likely voters opposed the plan (52% to 23%).
“The poll results clearly show more outreach to the community is needed about these elements of the Greenlight Pinellas plan,” said Brad Miller, executive director the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. “I, and dozens of Pinellas elected officials including the PSTA Board are traveling the county to educate our residents on this plan. We continually are told by seniors, veterans and families that they want and need this plan. People like the idea of removing the PSTA property tax and sharing the costs with our visitors.”
These poll numbers stand in stark contrast to a December poll commissioned by the Tampa Bay Times which showed that 55 percent of voters surveyed said they would back the referendum, 36 percent said they would oppose it, and 9 percent were unsure.
But since those poll numbers were revealed, the Yes for Greenlight campaign has struggled to stay on the rails.
Ronnie Duncan, one of the campaign’s leaders and chief fundraisers, was hounded into resigning from the effort after questions were raised about possible conflicts of interest with his work as chair of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. At the same time, Tucker/Hall, the public relations firm which had worked on the so-called education aspect of the Greenlight Pinellas effort, was fired and new leaders and consultants were brought in to manage the political side of the initiative. Heading-up the campaign now is the St. Pete Chamber of Commerce’s Chris Steinocher, along with the Tampa Bay Partnership’s Stuart Rogel. The Pinellas Realtor Organization’s Joe Farrell has been tapped to manage the campaign.
Beyond questions of who’s driving the train, Greenlight Pinellas is facing increasing scrutiny over how PSTA is spending taxpayer dollars in the run-up to November’s vote. State Sen. Jeff Brandes has asked the Florida Department of Transportation inspector general to launch an investigation into how PSTA is spending about $800,000 of taxpayer dollars.
Despite these poll numbers, Greenlight Pinellas enjoys broad support from the county’s elected leaders and business community, while public opposition to the plan has been mostly limited to Tea Party members.
Here is the full survey document from St. Pete Polls and commissioned by SaintPetersBlog.