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Tampa Chamber of Commerce “disappointed” by rejection of Go Hillsborough initiative

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Although they didn’t show their full support for the measure until a week ago the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce says it’s “disappointed” by the fact that the Hillsborough County Commission narrowly voted to reject the proposed half-cent sales tax referendum on transportation on Wednesday night.

“Kicking the can down the road is not what we expect of our elected officials nor what our community deserves,” writes Bob Rohrlack, the chamber’s President and CEO.

“With 1200 member companies representing over a quarter of a million employees, it is our obligation as a Chamber to continue our collaboration efforts with our elected officials on a tangible solution to our challenges going forward,” Rohlack said in a statement. “We know that resolving our transportation issues is one challenge that will not go away on its own and doing nothing simply cannot continue. We are committed to continuing our efforts through education and advocacy.”

Some could argue that the Chamber’s regrets come a bit late. The organization kept mum over the past several months regarding their stance on the half-cent tax, which absolutely would require maximum support from the business community to have a chance at the polls in November. It was just three weeks ago when the organization released partial results of a poll (conducted by SEA Polling & Strategic Designs) to the public that showed that it enjoyed various levels of support. It came with little backup information, however, as Chamber officials said that the crosstabs would only be released after the results were shared among Chamber board members.

And it was only a week ago when the organization gave a full-throated endorsement for the measure, prompting County Administrator Mike Merrill to note, “I think it’s important for the overall effort and I’m really pleased they took a position. I think the business community is key to this, and the chamber is the representative of the business community. So it’s very significant for them to do that.”

The comment suggests that Merrill would have appreciated the support a bit earlier in the PR campaign to persuade specifically one board member – Victor Crist – who was always considered the swing vote regarding the tax – to support putting the measure on the ballot.

“We remain optimistic that our community will one day benefit from a transportation system that meets the needs of businesses and families” Rohlack concludes in his statement.

One unscientific poll shows the public in support of the decision made by Crist, Sandy Murman, Al Higginbotham and Stacy White to reject the idea of having the measure put before voters this fall.

As of 3 p.m. this afternoon, a Tampa Bay Business Journal readers poll of nearly 200 participants showed that 55 percent  surveyed so far agree with the decision not to put the initiative on the November ballot.

 

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 mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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