Pinellas Commissioners will vote this month on whether to add transit referendum to ballot
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02/12/13 Janelle Irwin
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Pinellas County Commissioners scheduled a vote on whether or not to put a sales tax referendum on the November ballot. The measure would likely increase county sales tax from 7% to 8, but commissioners could change that. Commissioner Norm Roche who is also on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority Board voted last month to move the issue to County Commission, but was the only descending commissioner during today’s discussion.

Pinellas County Commission chair Ken Welch rebutted concerns by Roche that there isn’t a detailed enough transit plan to move forward with asking voters to fund transit improvements. The sales tax increase would fund a massive overhaul to transit in Pinellas County that could include increased bus service and light rail connecting downtown St. Pete to Clearwater. Commissioners will vote on whether or not to put the referendum on the ballot at their meeting on February 26th.

"I don't think we're ready for this. This plan...I don't think we should move forward on a $100 million ask when we have not even seen how it will be spent. County Administrator in her last meeting used the analogy of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity and I would submit to you respectfully that moving forward with a $100 million ask without a plan would be the definition of irresponsibility. I don't think we're ready for this and I won't support moving forward with it. I would support deferring this until sometime next year when PSTA, and alternative analysis, everybody can get together an actual plan and set it down before us so we can make a very competent, comprehensive, and comfortable decision. But I don't think we're there yet for us to take any action this, particularly when we have well over a year before it's even due. So we have time to let everybody get their ducks in a row. Get the ACTC, get everybody together and stand before this body and validating a $100 million ask."

"You voted for this at PSTA. We also definitely have a plan. PinellasOnTrack.com, you can see the detailed plan. We shouldn't say there is no plan, there's a very detailed plan that the AA worked 18 months to develop. That is the base plan that we will use going forward so I just want to correct the record. There is a plan, definitely is a plan out there and I'll get some other comments."

"Let me address your comments and I got calls on that after approving that on PSTA, and to clarify and took the time to clarify that there are dual roles here. I clarified this during the PSTA meeting as well. Sitting as a member of the transit body board with the CEO in front of you saying 'I have a plan, I have the funding, I'd like you to ask the County Commission for it' I absolutely supported that, just like the County Administrator stands before us with a budget every year. So that, and as I clarified during that, that is a whole different set of questions. Now, with that hat off and sitting here as a County Commissioner, there's a whole different set of questions I have that have not been answered. Alternative Analysis hasn't been back before us. This is such a large, this is a face changing event in this county and to say, with respect sir, 'go to the website and...' No, no, this has to be brought here."

"It has been. It has been brought on numerous occasions. The vote at PSTA was to ask the County to schedule this referendum for November 2014. You voted for that."

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