Supporters of Greenlight Pinellas are biting their nails in anticipation of the election that will determine the fate of what has become one of Pinellas County’s most controversial referendums. In an effort to reach as many people as possible, St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce president Chris Steinocher sent out an email blast with a personal note about what Greenlight stands for.
“It’s a universal symbol for the notion that it is indeed, ok to proceed – the permission to safely move ahead through the intersections in which we find ourselves,” wrote with a touch of pun creativity.
The historically conservative business group endorsed the plan early on despite many seeing it as a partisan issue with liberals favoring it and conservatives rejecting it as just another tax hike. The chamber embraced Greenlight though, citing economic development and business growth. They have since been one of the issue’s loudest cheerleaders.
“It offers a certainty to our employers knowing they’ll have the ability to locate here and draw from a regional workforce. It provides our communities the courage to reset conversations with the demand to redevelop and the jobs created to do so. It relieves the notions of restricted access and gridlock,” Steinocher continued.
The one-penny sales tax increase Greenlight Pinellas asks voters to approve on this ballot would replace the portion of property taxes currently paid into public transportation. The new funding structure would boost the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s annual revenue from $30 million to about $130 million and would fund a passenger rail line from downtown St. Pete to Clearwater and a 65 percent increase in bus service. In all, it would represent about $2.2 billion in investment.
The issue has slipped away from its partisan label as more and more conservative groups and elected officials have come out in favor of it, yet it has still been opposed by the Pinellas County Republicans and a grassroots opposition group called No Tax for Tracks. Though opposition has been funded at less than 10 percent of Greenlight’s more than $1 million campaign, the group has made waves leaving the vote expected to be a close one.
Steinocher and other supporters are calling on friends and anyone who will listen to vote in favor of the issue.
“It’s hard to achieve growth if we don’t cautiously move forward. Yes for Greenlight offers us a solution. Provides us with momentum,” the email concludes. “So…you have the Greenlight – safely consider and look left…do the same as you look right, but most importantly, you…we…can’t stand still…we must always be moving forward.”
The email is a scanned copy of a printed letter with Steinocher’s signature. The header includes a photograph of him wearing green pants and a green tie leaning on the Greenlight Pinellas minivan that has been making its way through neighborhoods and to businesses the past couple of weeks.