So, the Hillsborough County Commission decided, again, to take an important decision out of the hands of those most affected. The public is once again denied the chance to decide if wants to tax itself to pay for things like roads, buses and other transportation necessities.
Undeterred by traffic jams and studies showing a quarter-million more people will move to Hillsborough real soon, commissioners Thursday voted 4-3 not to proceed with a November referendum for a 20-year sales tax hike to address that situation.
That was the same margin in April when the august body of seven decided against going ahead with a referendum on a 30-year tax hike. The deciding vote was cast by Commissioner Victor Crist based, in his words, on “simple, old-fashioned intuition.”
That’s leadership, baby. From now on we shall call Victor “The Transportation Whisperer.”
Understand one thing about this.
Commissioner Stacy White said he could not “in good conscience increase the tax burden on hard-working citizens by a margin of more than 7 percent.” But commissioners weren’t being asked to approve the tax.
It was going to be up to the hard-working citizens to decide if a half-cent tax was worth paying to address the county’s bad-and-getting-worse traffic.
Voters might have decided to vote the plan down anyway, but it would have been their choice. Why not give them that chance?
Instead, we are left with four commissioners – White, Sandra Murman, Al Higginbotham and The Whisperer – who I’ll guarantee you decided they didn’t want to get tagged with the title of tax-raiser come re-election time.
We can’t say this enough, though. They wouldn’t have been the ones raising taxes. We, the people, would have been doing that. Denied that chance, the county promises a Band-Aid here, a bunch of traffic cones there and, oh yeah, a study!
They’re going to study this!
Yay! Because, you know, we haven’t had enough traffic studies.
I guess we could ask Donald Trump to build an electrified wall around the state’s northern and western borders and make people from Ohio and Michigan pay for it. That’s one way to stop people from moving to Florida by the thousands because most of them have cars, and our roads don’t have room.
That thing about the wall was a joke, by the way.
What isn’t so funny is the shortage of forward-thinking leaders in this county.
We have a county commission that, as a group, makes decisions with a wet finger in the wind or old-fashioned intuition that says voters might get mad. Part of the job is sometimes making tough decisions because it’s the right thing to do in the long run.
But a majority of commissioners chose again not to do that. And we’re surprised?
This is governance by sticking their collective heads in the sand. They’re really good at it.
Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.