SENATOR JIM SEBESTA ON LIGHT RAIL AND EDUCATION-Andrew Stelzer

09/07/04

State senator Jim Sebesta was in Clearwater today, speaking to the Clearwater tiger bay club about the future of lightrail, both for the state and the Tampa bay area. Sebesta, who represents much of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, is on the states transportation committee, and has focused much of his time speaking about how he convinced governor Jeb Bush to provide funding to improve the Tampa Bay areas roads and interstates, because of increasing traffic. Sebesta wants to finish a 450 million dollar construction project on route 19 to make it into a 55 mile per hour road. They already have 250 million dollars allocated, and need another 200.

Although he opposed the amendment to the constitution that called for alight rail train from Orlando to Tampa, Sebesta is an advocate of public transportation. In 2001, he inserted language into the constitution, which demanded that the focus of funding of the light rail train be on funding from private sources, not the state government. Sebaeta said the state just received 400 million dollars from a private company to find the light rail train, so he thinks the idea isn’t dead.

ACT “I would like to see it out of the constitution, I really don’t care, but do not work on it. I think its gonna happen folks I really do, but the cost is too much for the taxpayers alone...e feds the state, the governor told me he wouldn’t support it at the current cost, but he would if it as cheaper…once we get the feds and the private..it will happen in Florida.�

More important that the statewide high speed train, Jim Sebesta says that the Tampa bay area is in need of a light rail train that connects the different communities and can provide an efficient way for people to travel without cars.

ACT ‘We found an old law from 1990, it established a regional transit authority, doing it with revenue bonds. Pay as you go we now have Manatee and Sarasota-7 counties and the plan is I knew until we linked those two counties Hillsboro and Pinellas, e are not going to solve the problem, until we link the two we will not solve the problem.�

WMNF asked Sebesta why, with the success of public transportation all over the world, is it taking so long for the Tampa bay area to build an effective ay of moving people.

ACT ‘There is only one light rail that pays for itself, NYC-they are not money makers, and until the public gets so fed up with traffic jams, that when they will finally come around….it takes ten years to get that going…love affair with their cars..well what would you say to critics who say that pouring this money into interstates is extending the problem, we haven’t reached the critical point with the improvements were putting it off, but that’s alright.�

One member if the audience asked Sebesta why Florida spends so little on public education. Florida ranks 42nd in the nation in terms of money spent per student.

ACT “We are not as high as we should be, built…I do not subscribe to the philosophy of throwing money at the problem..what kind of results can we get. We could and should be spending more on education, but only if it’s proven if it gets results.�

Sebesta also said that with the state legislature back in session in mid-November, now is the time to go to your elected representatives to try and get your issues on the agenda for next year.

ACT ‘Folks come during the session in March and April its way too late..if you have something, bring it to me now not march or April now.

And Sebesta warned people that they need to find a replacement for him when he leaves office in 2006.

ACT ‘I’m done I have two years left, right now is the time you should be thinking about who you want to replace me…well its not too early, hen I step down there is going to be a dogfight for my seat.�

On Election Day, November 2nd, voters will have the option of voting to repeal the amendment that calls for a statewide high-speed rail line. The deadline to register to vote is October 4th.

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