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HART, again: Tampa Bay Exceptionalism, Part II

September 2, 2011

Just last week Tampasphere applauded a county commissioner’s proposal to look into more regional cooperation on transit but wondered why he supported the newest board appointee to the HART board.  Well, now we know.  It was clearly to raise the level of discourse at HART, not to mention working hard to meet the challenges of providing efficient transit and helping the regional economy.  Take this nugget:

The board appears split on the benefits of a regional transportation, one side focusing on the quality of transit and the other on operational efficiencies.

“Local is always better,” said new HART board member Karen Jaroch, citing differences in the density of population between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

Adding a “P” from Pinellas to HART would create “PHART,” Jaroch said, which she added might stink.

Nothing says good government and planning for our regional future like fart comments or insulting Pinellas county.  Of course, that level of discourse pales in comparison to this from said board member’s fellow Tea Party activists (we apologize for quoting so much from the Times (full article here), but, frankly, it was so insightful and constructive, we just had to include it):

Organized by Dr. David McKalip, an outspoken St. Petersburg activist, the protesters balked at $15 million in future spending for land for affordable housing and a proposed increase in the tax rate for emergency medical service.

Kim Cameron of Oldsmar questioned to whom commissioners swore allegiance on the issues: “The United States Constitution, the governed or the devil?”

For the record, no one answered.

Besides calling the spending unnecessary and catering to special interests, some speakers accused the county of skirting the law when voters approved the extension of the Penny for Pinellas sales tax in 2007, claiming they never saw a mention of the funding in projects sold to voters.

But it was included at the time, county documents and news reports show.

Originally, the county pledged to spend $30 million on the land, but cut it in half when the recession hammered revenue. A nonprofit social group, Faith and Action for Strength Together, has urged the county to speed up the spending to next year from 2017.

The board voted 4-3 against Welch’s bid to move $5 million in spending to 2012, though the money remains allotted for affordable housing.

The emergency medical service tax rate won’t be decided until September, though the county said critics misstated its use, too.

Glenn Pav, a host on WGUL-AM 860, compared the housing funding to a United Nations “usurpation of our state and local government.” Others said the money would pay for “winter homes” or “illegal immigrants” or a “redistribution of wealth.”

Said McKalip: “Jesus never went to the Romans and asked for a handout.”

And, true, Jesus did not ask for a handout from the Romans – but then Jesus had special skills, like this, which kind of obviated the need to ask.

Jesus also said this:

Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar

 15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”

 18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

   Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Now, Tampasphere is not going to say that all taxes are ok or that government should not be run prudently and in a fiscally sound way – because taxes should be reasonable and fair and the government should be run prudently and in a fiscally sound way. However, it is unclear to us how religion fits into the legality of a voted-on tax or most other issues with which Tampasphere deals.

And lest we let slip this other nugget from the newest board member, we are also not clear on what she meant by “Local is always better.”

What exactly does that mean?  Locally produced produce is better than stuff grown somewhere else?  Small local stores on a main street are better than Walmart?

Maybe it means Hillsborough County, which has over a million people, should be split into smaller townships so people have more say over their government, like the level of discourse therein?  Maybe it means that planning decisions should be made more locally and the developer should pay the full costs of connecting the development to all utilities and the road network.

Tampasphere is just not sure.

Additionally, in our last post, we raised a concern about whether the new board member really cares about transit.  This concern was piqued because of the post on the website of the organization she co-founded: No Tax for Tracks which said:

Main Topic of the Moment

The No Tax For Tracks campaign aspires to preserve the American Dream by opposing the anti-suburban polices implied by so called “Smart Growth.” By opposing so called “Smart Growth” the No Tax For Tracks campaign endeavors to preserve the higher quality of life implied by affordable housing, as well promote the higher standard of living made possible when adequate roads reduce congestion and thus improve economic growth.

Since then, we have found that the board member has a company that lists its specialties as

Specialties

Civil Site Design, Stormwater System Inspections, Grading and Drainage, Lift Station and Septic System Design, Stormwater Modeling, Drainage and Flood Studies, FDOT Roadway Stormwater Design, Environmental Resource Permits (ERP), Utility Layout, Project Management

Additionally, her linked-in page  has her as a member or supporter of

Friends of The Road Gang

This LinkedIn Group includes Members and Friends of The Road Gang, an informal group of business and government executives, highway engineers, consultants, public relations, company representatives, and trade association officials from the highway transportation industry in the Washington, DC area.

You can find the organization’s website here.

Tampasphere is the first to say that having a business and belonging to organizations is perfectly fine.  However, we will say that it also seems very road-centric.

Because we are talking about the HART board, our concerns are not allayed – especially about why the County Commissioners decided to make the appointment.  We are open to considering an explanation.

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