Greenlight Pinellas is dead

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Greenlight Pinellas is dead in the water. No votes from No Tax for Tracks supporters are pulling more than 62 percent of the early vote totals with Greenlight only bringing in just 38 percent.

“While tonight’s election result wasn’t the outcome we hoped for, we’re grateful to have had a conversation in our community about the need for better transportation options for the future of Pinellas County,” said PSTA board chair Ken Welch. “PSTA’s goal of providing the best transit service to our community remains our priority, and we will continue to provide the most effective service possible, within the constraints of our limited property tax base. The discussion of improved transportation options must continue. Over the coming weeks, we will review the strengths and opportunities for improvement in the Greenlight process. PSTA is committed to collaboration with community stakeholders to reach consensus on a sustainable transit system for our community.”

Greenlight Pinellas raised more than $1 million from a host of wealthy donors and passionate transit enthusiasts. All three Tampa Bay sports teams wrote checks for $25,000. They also brought in large contributions from banks, developers and large companies like HSN and Raymond James.

No Tax for Tracks brought in less than a tenth of that – almost three quarters of which came from two individual donors, Elizabeth Burgess and Richard Canary. The group said they weren’t sweating the funding gap because the campaign pushing a similar referendum in Hillsborough County in 2010 raised even more than Greenlight and still met its demise.

If Greenlight manages to overcome the damning deficit, it would raise the county’s sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent to fund sweeping improvements to public transportation including passenger rail, increased bus service and bus rapid transit. The sales tax would replace the current funding structure for PSTA, which comes from property taxes.

Supporters of Greenlight and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority have said if the referendum fails the agency would become insolvent by 2017 and be forced to drastically reduce bus service.

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.