Email insights: First he was a Nazi, now Ken Welch is a Russian Communist

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It’s apparently not enough for at least one Tea Party, No Tax for Tracks extremist that Greenlight Pinellas was soundly defeated by a team of a couple dozen anti-tax right wingers and less than $100,000. It’s not enough to watch a $1 million campaign fizzle in a matter of seconds before any Election Day votes were even counted.

Nope. Tom Rask wants more. Rask, the man who bombarded Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority email inboxes with mean-spirited insults; the man who was accused of, but denied, creating a video comparing PSTA heads and Greenlight supporters to Nazis; he still wants heads. Lots of them.

“So if you did vote in such fashion, thereby corrupting the public policy process, then resign now and ask your appointing authority to appoint someone else,” Rask wrote in an email sent to every member of the PSTA board.

He specifically names chair Ken Welch and Chief Development officer Cassandra Borcher in the email, but he makes it clear anyone who supported Greenlight Pinellas deserves the boot.

“If you voted for Greenlight and the tax-dollar funded propaganda around it, you cannot credibly be involved in any future “conversation” about transit. Not after 62% voting against your ‘plan that was designed by the community after a community conversation’,” Rask wrote.

The email was sent after an article published in the Tampa Tribune this morning quoted Welch suggesting a future path for PSTA may be to move forward with some components of Greenlight Pinellas that focused on the bus system. He referred to those improvements as less controversial than the light rail link between Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

This, apparently, peeves Mr. Rask who points out in his email that Welch and other PSTA board members have been saying for quite some time that if Greenlight were to fail, it would mean a mandatory 30 percent reduction in service by 2017 just to stay afloat.

Welch’s statements to the Tribune don’t negate that. As reporters covering any issues, part of election coverage includes asking those on the losing side, hey, what’s next? There’s not always a clear-cut answer and a well-forged path. Up until two days ago this was a group who thought their more than a million dollars in campaign cash was going to buy PSTA a $100 million annual increase in revenue. Any ‘what comes next’ speculation is simply just that. And if Welch and his cohorts at PSTA want to move forward with bus improvements instead of gutting the system as Rask seems to suggest, there are plenty of ways to make it happen.

In a SaintPetersBlog interview, Welch laid out a number of possibilities. PSTA could increase the amount they collect from property taxes to 0.75 mils. They could expand the tax base to include five municipalities currently not tapped including St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island. They could go back to the drawing board and start planning on a 1/2-cent sales tax ask that seemed to be more palatable to voters or they could look into squandering some of the Penny for Pinellas money.

Welch has probably been asked what comes next a dozen times. In both the Tribune and this blog, Welch is quoted as saying PSTA doesn’t have to go entirely back to the drawing board. Instead, they can work on components of Greenlight Pinellas that were supported.

Defeated county commission candidate Ed Hooper had said he’d prefer a ½-penny sales tax. Some No Tax for Tracks supporters suggested Penny for Pinellas. Nothing Welch has said since Greenlight got thwarted at the ballot box has come from within his own dillusions. But, alas, Rask seems to think so.

“After the Greenlight plan was rejected, all of it, including expansion of bus service, he insults the voters by talking about a “consensus” that only exists in his out-of-touch mind,” Rask writes. “Never mind Welch’s Square One, think Russia’s Red Square, and Welch’s voter suppression by thwarting the will of the people.”

In two-months time Welch has officially been compared to a Nazi soldier and a Russian Communist. That’s quite a feat.

Welch responded to Rask’s “going for the jugular” email very simply.

“Your skewed analysis of my comments and “going for the jugular” hyperbole is predictable and expected,” Welch fired back in an email. “As I’ve previously stated, I intend to complete my current term as the elected Chair of PSTA. I will also seek reappointment to the PSTA board as an elected County Commission representative. Elections do matter – all of them.”

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.