Hartline Study Group presents findings to County Commissioners by Mitch E. Perry

04/06/06

Today the results of a transportation study group that’s origins began in controversy was discussed at the Hillsborough County Commission meeting.

The group was chaired by Commissioner Brian Blair, a critic of the County’s bus service, Hartline. Charges of an anti-Tampa bias on the part of Blair were aired at its formation when he announced that nobody in Tampa would be included on the panel, which is charged with examining how the transit system can better serve residents of unincorporated Hillsborough County.

Kathy Harris from the study group acknowledged the controversy and concerns that the study would slam service for the City of Tampa (roll tape# 1 o.q.�or other places�)

Harris said that a decade or so a go, the majority of jobs in the County were centered downtown, but now they’re spread throughout the County, and the bus service should reflect that.

She also said the group believes any new funding should go to unincorporated areas, and then contract out for “non-core services , as well as saying there should be an in depth audit of Hartline .

Commissioner Tom Scott had complained initially when the Study Group was formed for the exclusion of Tampa residents…He agreed with the conclusion that the service should be improved in the unincorporated area, but said that should be handled carefully (roll tape#2 o.q.�Hillsborough County�)

….

And Scott said the study shouldn’t focus so much on Tampa vs.unincorporated areas, and worried about who would be affected by funding cuts in Tampa (roll tape#3 o.q.� Current structures�)

But that led Study spokeswoman Kathy Harris – like Scott, also African-American, to take exception that lower income bus riders only live in Tampa (roll tape#4 o.q.�)

Commissioner Ronda Storms emphasized her disgust with the unincorporated areas Paying more than double what Tampa has paid, and said part of her job is to stand up for those taxpayers (roll tape#4 o.q.�not going to do anything�)

And Storms then discussed a Metropolitian Planning Organization with officials from Tampa on Wednesday regarding funding for Busch Boulevard in North Tampa, which she said confirmed her opinion that Tampa officials like to blame the County unfairly for not concentrating on transportation issues (roll tape#5 o.q.�puhleeze�)

Earlier during the Public Comment portion of the Commissioner’s meeting, several members of the public came to speak about the Study.

Tom Atchison is Pastor of New Life Pentacostal Church of God and is also a member of the group HOPE, The Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality. (roll tape#1 o.q.�for the whole system�)

Ken Ferguson is also from HOPE…he mentioned the town Hall Meeting HOPE held last Thursday night, where HARTline chairman Ray Miller said he hoped to build various bus shelters that were requested by HOPE officials.(roll tape#2 o.q.�to keep that in mind�)

The Commissioners voted to hold a workshop on the study sometime in the next month..

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