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(Not) shocking news — PSTA won’t be putting up another referendum in 2016

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Stop the presses!

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority won’t be taking another stab at a transit referendum in 2016.

Well, you don’t say!

Of course they aren’t going to try that again so soon. PSTA board members and Greenlight Pinellas backers are still licking their wounds from a crippling, embarrassing defeat just four months ago.

Who the H-E double hockey sticks would want to go down that road again before stopping to catch a breath and, I don’t know, avoid the wrath of the Tea Party for at least a year before subjecting the transit agency and its head hanchos to relentless attacks on their spend-thrifty ways?

Let’s look at this for a second and see why Brad Miller’s recommendation to his board during a meeting Wednesday was probably the best one he’s made in a long while.

First, Greenlight Pinellas was the brainchild of years and years of work. It started officially circa 2011 with a series of stakeholder meetings. Then there was that whole Alternatives Analysis and “locally preferred alternative” thing.

It was a heap of bureaucratic studies of where traffic did what and whether more buses and trains and trolleys really added to economic development.

It was a good study and a good plan. The funding, as touted by supporters, would have shifted the tax burden from homeowners to anyone who buys stuff (sales tax) and that would have looped in the people among the most likely to use public transportation, tourists.

It wouldn’t have cost anyone much. A $100 purchase would be $1 more than what it is now — $108 as opposed to $107. Things like groceries and medicine would still be exempt. Look around in the couch cushions and someone could probably find enough change to pay the extra tax on that purchase.

But no mind. A tax is a tax and that’s pretty whack if you’re a Tea Party conservative. Or any conservative who wasn’t in the know on the insider track of Greenlight.

Even some tax-loving liberals had a hard time swallowing the regressive sales tax ask. Instead of relying on people who presumably have an OK amount of money to spend -– homeowners -– this tax would have hit poor people the hardest. Nevermind that its benefit would have also helped them the most.

Doesn’t matter. It didn’t work when it should have worked and it sure as heck isn’t going to work in 2016. Not because people don’t want transit, because people don’t want to pay for transit.

And because the Tea Party is still alive and well and ready to sick their grassroots prowress on anyone who even sneezes something that sounds like tax, it might not be a good idea to get them riled up just yet.

That’s especially true considering the anti-transit groups are already on pins and needles ready to trounce an potential referendum in Hillsborough. Throwing Pinellas in the mix could end up just being a nice two-for-one.

Instead PSTA is going to focus its efforts on how to continue service without having to start slashing routes and run times on its buses as they face looming insolvency.

So, kudos on this wise, albeit obvious, decision Brad Miller.

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 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

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