Next Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will sit along with his colleagues on the Hillsborough County Policy Leadership Group on whether or not to support the half-cent transportation tax proposal announced last month by County Administrator Mike Merrill and Parsons Brinckerhoff.
Parsons Brinckerhoff is the national transportation consultant hired by the county last year for $900,000 to help facilitate the public outreach effort regarding transportation issues in the county.
Although there has been criticism about the plan from a variety of actors since it was announced last month, Buckhorn has been positive about the proposal, which would allow cities like Tampa to decide how they would use their portion of the funding. The mayor has stated that it could possible help with a light rail option, and/or boost the moribund downtown streetcar system.
On Friday it was learned that Parsons Brinckerhoff contributed $5,000 to One Florida, the mayor’s political action committee formed last December.
Tea Party activist Sharon Calvert, a critic of the county’s contract with Parsons, says it demonstrates a conflict of interest. “It’s ridiculous. Parsons has funded many of them (on the Policy Leadership Group). It’s a big circle of money.”
SPB contacted George Walton with Parsons Brinckerhoff on late Friday afternoon for comment, but he had left for the day.
Parsons’ $5,000 contribution to One Florida, a PAC that allows the mayor to travel the state in what is believed to be a vehicle for his gubernatorial ambitions, was the second largest contribution made to One Florida in the past quarter. Overall, it totaled just five contributions over the past three months.
Mayor Buckhorn is hardly the only member of the Hillsborough County PLG who has received campaign contributions from Parsons in recent years, though no one has received as much.
Tampa City Councilman and HART Chairman Mike Suarez has received $1,000 in contributions from the company, while County Commissioners Al Higginbotham, Victor Crist, Kevin Beckner and Ken Hagan have all received contributions in the past from Parsons.
WTSP 10 News reporter Noah Pransky reported earlier on Friday that the biggest contribution made to One Florida was a $10,000 contribution from American Traffic Solutions. That’s the state’s largest red-light camera provider. The mayor has consistently been a supporter of that controversial technology.