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Dueling solar amendments likely focus at Tampa Tiger Bay

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Two women closely tied to environmental protection will speak at Tampa Tiger Bay Friday. Janet Dougherty is the head of Hillsborough County’s Environmental Protection Commission. Susan Glickman is the Florida director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

The matchup is the latest in Tiger Bay’s “can’t miss” series.

Glickman is pushing the Floridians for Solar Choice amendment known to environmental activists as “the good solar amendment.”

Tiger Bay does not specifically say that the dueling solar amendments being pushed for this year’s ballot will be the center of focus, but it’s a safe bet that’s where the discussion will gravitate.

Solar Choice, the good amendment for people who actually want access to solar, would allow people with solar panels to collect up to 2 megawatts of energy and then sell the energy to a tenant or even neighbor. That’s something Florida residents can’t do now.

But another amendment is confusing voters. It’s called Floridians for Smart Solar. To people such as Glickman, there’s nothing smart about it. Instead, the “Smart Solar” amendment is viewed as an attempt by the utility industry to obfuscate the Solar Choice amendment.

In a nutshell, it would maintain Florida’s status quo of requiring all solar energy to be bought and sold through a utility company. And the effort is backed by lots and lots of money.

The group has been able to pay petition gatherers top dollar for signatures. While Solar Choice is still trying to meet the 600,000 petition threshold to get the amendment on this year’s ballot, the dueling petition has been an albatross for meeting that goal.

Glickman will no doubt address that, with both spunk and frustration, in her opening statements. Dougherty, however, may or may not. As head of the county’s environmental group, it’s not exactly clear what side of the issue she stands.

The Hillsborough EPC’s website doesn’t mention the amendments and Dougherty, it appears, hasn’t made any public comments on the issue either — at least none that can be found in recent news articles.

That layer of ambiguity should make for an interesting line of questioning for Tiger Bay members long known for their propensity toward not only asking tough questions, but also demanding answers.

While the solar issue will likely be the center of attention at Tiger Bay, other issues could be relevant as well.

With the county’s Go Hillsborough initiative, it doesn’t seem a stretch for some members to ask about the need for better transportation options. The issue is particularly daunting after a transit referendum in Hillsborough failed in 2010 and then another similar plan in Pinellas failed in 2014.

Leaders are left grappling with how to fund improvements without tax increases.

Mass transit is among the priorities for most environmental groups.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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