Greenlight Pinellas transit initiative headed to defeat, new poll says

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The Greenlight Pinellas campaign to expand mass transit options in the community is on track to be defeated according to a new, comprehensive poll of likely voters.

Fifty-four percent of likely voters are opposed to the plan, says a new survey from St. Pete Polls. Just 43 percent of likely voters say support the plan to “support the Greenlight Pinellas referendum to improve public transit including expanded bus service, local passenger rail and regional connections to be funded by levying a one percent sales surtax.”

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.

It’s important to note that this may be one, if not the, most comprehensive polls conducted in this campaign. StPetePolls used two different sources — an automated phone call polling system and a website-based email polling system — weighing the results according to several demographics: political party, race, age and gender.

A sample size of 3,089 respondents was used in this poll. The survey has a +/- 1.8 percent margin of error and 95 percent confidence level.

Of all the possible explanations for the why Greenlight isn’t doing better in the polls, money is not one of them.

Friends of Greenlight, the political committee behind the referendum, recently passed the $1 million fundraising mark, and has about $200K in its war chest in the waning days of the election.

Although that amount is considerably more what was raised the anti-Greenlight folks at No Tax for Tracks, high-profile problems continue to plague the controversial referendum, any number of them contributing to its sagging poll numbers.

Greenlight’s most recent predicament is a report by WTSP/10 News Investigates, which uncovered a number of “shocking” emails, proving PSTA CEO Brad Miller lied about federal grant money from the Department of Homeland Security intended to promote safety on buses, but used to endorse the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum.

A PSTA meeting on Wednesday had NTFT supporters calling again for either Miller’s termination or resignation. However, the board remained supportive of the agency’s embattled leader, adding that the federal grant matter was “already dealt with” while praising Miller for his “stellar job performance.”

Greenlight also took a public relations hit when it released a poorly produced, stock-footage-laden advertisement that “feels like the exact opposite of such a boost” the proposal needs.

Another ad, this one targeting seniors, has been set for broadcast in the dozen days before the Nov. 4 elections.

Perhaps the biggest reasons for poor polling could be those working to defeat Greenlight. Not only does the measure have opposition from several prominent Republicans and Tea Party activists, but also by the small, but very vocal NTFT. Their argument is that the sales tax increase hurts both seniors and low income county residents. For North Pinellas, Greenlight is a tough sell, mainly because the highly touted commuter rail line stops at Clearwater, completely bypassing the upper part of the county. What is perhaps less widely known: much of the new sales taxes from Greenlight would be used for improved bus service in the entire county.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.