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Mitch Perry Report for 8.20.15 — The 1% solution for a Hillsborough County transportation tax

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The news that the Go Hillsborough campaign has reintroduced the prospect of the Hillsborough transportation tax going from a half-cent to a full penny apparently alienated a few county commissioners, who didn’t get a heads-up that County Administrator Mike Merrill was about to do that on Monday.

So now that they’ve got that out of their system, I’m curious as to what will be the magic moment that convinces Merrill and consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff to tell the Policy Leadership Group that the proposal should be a cent vs. a half-cent.

“I think there’s a growing realization if we’re going to have a real impact, you might have to look at that full penny,” former County Commissioner Mark Sharpe told me yesterday. Sharpe was like many pro-transit advocates in Tampa who put on a happy face when the original half-cent proposal, heavy on roadbuilding, was released in June. But their true feelings can be expressed now when they say that a full cent is a better idea.

Of course, the reason Go Hillsborough went for the half-cent originally is because they (and the entire Tampa Bay area establishment) are desperate for a transportation tax to win, after the losses in Pinellas last year and in Hillsborough in 2010.

Sharpe says he thinks a campaign for a full cent can be successful in 2016.

“I think with the right plan and a solid message and an honest forthright communication with the community, I am absolutely convinced,” he said. “But you’re going to have to be dogged.”

We’re still a ways away from knowing what, if anything, will go before Hillsborough County voters a year from November. The Board of County Commissioners aren’t scheduled to vote on proposed ballot language until December. And then we’ll have a year-long campaign before the November 2016 elections.

In other news…

Apparently no reporters will be allowed into future meetings, so take what you can out of this report on Tampa citizens gathering this week to work on their blueprint of what they’d like a citizens police review board to look like.

Pro-life groups are calling on people to protest in front of all Planned Parenthood facilities across the nation this Saturday, including 14 in Florida.

Tampa Bay area Democrat Kathy Castor insists she’s not feeling a lot of pressure as she prepares to announce whether or not she supports President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

There’s apparently room in the budget now, so the Florida Democratic Party is looking to hire a spokesperson fluent in both English and Spanish.

Victor Crist apparently thinks the writing may be on the wall for the future demise of his Public Transportation Commission. So the Hillsborough county commissioner asked Administrator Mike Merrill to have staff prepare what the costs may be for the county to take  over the regulating of taxis, limos and Uber and Lyft as well.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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