Gov. Rick Scott tapped prominent conservative Josh Burgin to serve on the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit board, igniting a minor local firestorm of criticism from proponents of high-speed rail — a concept Burgin has vigorously opposed.
Stories noting Burgin’s appointment in Creative Loafing and the Tampa Bay Times were not specifically critical, but they were obviously written from a perspective surprised that the “virulent anti-rail” critic was named to the board.
First of all, I don’t understand why there is any surprise at Burgin’s appointment to HART. After all, Karen Jaroch, founder of NoTaxForTracks.com, one of the leading opposition groups to the transit referendum, was recently appointed to the HART board (by Hillsborough County Commissioners, not Rick Scott, as some critics have mistakenly contended). It’s obvious that conservatives and Republicans DO NOT WANT the issue of light-rail returning any time soon.
But, as a dutiful reader noted, according to the press release and the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser web site, Burgin lives in Plant City. There is no millage rate assessed for HART in Plant City and there are no HART services available in that area.
This reader wanted to know: How can a resident of a non-taxed area without service represent taxpayers on this board?
Having seen Burgin discussed in the local media so much over the last couple of days with really little chance to respond, I thought it best for Burgin to answer his critics head-on.
Burgin responded to my email about the question above, writing: “With all due respect to your reader Peter, the 2010 proposal to raise sales taxes in Hillsborough County, funding transit projects under HART’s care, did not discriminate based on whether residents lived in a city or in unincorporated Hillsborough County.”
“As we look forward, I consider that past tax question settled business,” Burgin continued. “However, I applied for this position out of a sense of community obligation. It is fine to have been opposed to the tax plan, but now that that is past, I want to be part of Hillsborough’s long-term solution.”
All I can say to that is, good answer Josh. Good answer.