David McKalip, the most vocal opponent of the Greenlight Pinellas transit proposal, is calling for the resignations of Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority CEO Brad Miller and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch from the PSTA Board of Directors.
Writing on Sunbeam Times, McKalip accuses Miller and Welch of “betraying” the public trust, failing to oversee operations properly as “good stewards” of public dollars.
“They have both participated in the abuse of anti-terrorism grant funds and lied about the abuse,” he says. “They have continued to lie about the abuse and refuse to apologize for this abuse.”
The neurosurgeon and former St. Petersburg City Council candidate takes particular offense to the use of thousands in federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants — money intended to promote awareness of suspicious activity on buses — for a series of “feel good” TV ads promoting the Greenlight Pinellas transit plan.
McKalip is a member of “No Tax for Tracks,” the group opposing the one-penny tax at the heart of Greenlight plan. Its argument is that the proposed increase in sales tax – from 7 cents to 8 cents per dollar; an increase of 14 percent — will make Pinellas County sales taxes the highest in the state. It believes that PSTA spending, not revenue, is the current problem with the county transit system.
In a June 24 story by WTSP/10 News, Miller repeatedly told reporter Mike Deeson that making the transportation system feel safer and secure was intended purpose of the ads.
However, Deeson uncovered PSTA internal documents saying the grants are to encourage “transit patrons to alert authorities if they see anything suspicious” as well as “further promote public awareness of security issues related to public transportation.”
“(Miller and Welch) continue to attack those who have revealed the truth in order to deflect blame from themselves,” McKalip continues. “All of the abuse and lies have been to protect the $100 million Greenlight Pinellas Tax hike that will create the highest sales tax in the state to build a St. Pete to Clearwater train few will ride all to enrich wealthy land developers.”
Last week, Deeson reported that Miller reluctantly returned $345,000 of federal Homeland Security money, used to produce the ads. Deeson also pointed out McKalip’s charge that the ad’s tag line, “To learn more visit Greenlight Pinellas.com,” was a front for promoting the one-cent sales tax proposed in the Greenlight transit plan set for a vote in November.
McKalip also notes that Miller lied several times to the PSTA Board, particularly about the purposes of Transportation Security Grant Program (TSGP) Grant phase II funds for TV and other ads, and about communications to DHS about the agency’s “approval” for the ads.
As for Welch, McKalip says he “has gone too far beyond representing all citizens of the County to be a credible member of the PSTA Board,” especially for failing in his oversight role, as well as “refusing to demand more details on the DHS grant” that Miller later returned under protest.
“He has shown nothing but contempt for large segments of the population he was elected to represent and serve,” McKalip concludes. “And for that reason alone should resign after stating a public and sincere apology for his failures as a PSTA board member.”
McKalip’s entire article is now available at the Sunbeam Times website.