Mark Sharpe defends his work on mass transit
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02/25/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

A clash of egos broke out at a budget meeting today with Hillsborough County Commissioners regarding a possible referendum next year on funding a mass transit system.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe has been actively involved in discussions with other local agencies over the past couple of years on the issue.

After coming back from a meeting with Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, as well as members of HART, the County’s Metropolitian Planning organization and the region’s transit agency, TBARTA, Sharpe said it was time for some officials with the county to begin attending future discussions.

Commission Chairman Ken Hagen asked Sharpe the status of such conversations, indicating that it might be time to house them with a transportation task force that he chairs. But Commissioner Jim Norman then interjected.

Norman asked why hasn’t Congresswoman Kathy Castor, as well as key bay area state legislators, been involved and accountable for matching funds to come from Washington and Tallahassee if a 1-cent referendum were to be approved in 2010.

Sharpe said those items had been discussed in his meetings with HART and Mayor Iorio, but said that Sunshine Laws prevented him from briefing his board colleagues about the content of those meetings.

The last time the county was serious about funding mass transit was a decade ago. But presentations made by the Committee of ’99 were rejected by the County Commission the following year. The only member of the current board who was present then was Commissioner Jim Norman. Sharpe responded to Norman by referencing that event.

Later, Commissioner Rose Ferlita said she was surprised and disappointed that Sharpe had kept his discussions regarding transit with his colleagues "quiet."

Sharpe came back at Ferlita, saying the transportation meeting he attended prior to getting together with the board was actually the start of a conversation.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and other agencies have been working on creating the ideal conditions to get a 1-cent sales tax on the ballot in Hillsborough next year for a commuter rail system.

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