Tonight’s “Not Your Average Speakers” debate seems titled for Greenlight Pinellas

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As the future of transportation in Pinellas County looms, representatives from both sides of the issue will face off Wednesday afternoon in St. Petersburg.

Civic activist group 83 Degrees Media will be featuring Pinellas County  transit in the latest “Not Your Average Speakers” series of community dialogues.

Tampa Bay Mobility: Mapping The Economics of Transit begins at 5:30 p.m. at Nova 535, starting with a networking event.

Tampa Bay Times editor Neil Brown will moderate a panel of transit authorities as they consider the upcoming Greenlight Pinellas initiative, which centers on a one-cent sales tax on the November ballot that supporters say will “transform bus service and create a modern passenger rail system.”

Speakers include Florida Duke Energy President Alex Glenn, who chairs the Greenlight Pinellas Tampa Bay Partnership Working Task Force; Connect Tampa Bay co-founder Brian Willis; Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch; and Mike Meidel, director of Pinellas County Economic Development.

If approved, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority operating budget will stretch to $130 million for nearly 65 percent expanded bus service, as well as the development of rapid bus lanes and a move to a more efficient grid system.

In addition to expanded bus coverage areas and weekend service, construction would begin on a light rail connector from St. Petersburg to Clearwater Beach.

Supporters of the Greenlight Pinellas plan say one-third of the revenue will come from visitors and tourists in Pinellas County; the penny tax will also replace the current ad-valorem transit tax.

One person will be onstage in defiance of the Greenlight Pinellas plan  — South Pinellas Patriots President Barb Hazelden.

Hazelden will speak as a representative of No Tax for Tracks Pinellas, which argues the one-penny sales tax increase at heart of Greenlight Pinellas – a 14-percent jump from 7 cents to 8 cents per dollar — would make county sales taxes the highest in Florida. They believe that PSTA spending, not revenue, is the problem with the county transit system.

83 Degrees Media is an online periodical highlighting talent, innovation, diversity and environment with a focus on Tampa Bay. According to the event’s webpage, the group aims to “change the narrative” about the area by “telling the region’s economic success stories” in a “new narrative for a new economy.”

Nova 535 is at 535 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, in St. Petersburg. 

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.