Editor: The November 1 percent transportation sales tax referendum for Pinellas County will raise Pinellas sales tax to 8 percent, the highest in the state of Florida, and if you think that this 14 percent tax hike spending increase will stop here, “I will sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Other cities’ rail systems have had cost overruns and future tax increases scheduled, and further, if approved, and light rail begins, but for some reason like low ridership, light rail fails to operate, then Pinellas County taxpayers must repay the government for their investment.
Yes, there is a place for light rail in large metropolitan cities like New York City where there is little parking available for automobiles and many of the residents live in large, high-rise apartments, near the rail stations, whereas, in Pinellas County most residents live in homes or condos and we have sufficient parking for automobiles. Further, DOT is spending $4.8 million to speed work on U.S. 19 and will complete the project nine months early.
Something else that has not been considered is the fact that after the winter residents have left the area for six months and the year-round residents have left for the mountains or other cooler climates, who will be riding that train from Clearwater to downtown St Petersburg? The answer is nobody, but who do you think will pay for the empty train? Right, you will.
Former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster had it right when he stated “any talk of light rail must include Hillsborough County.” Hillsborough County residents defeated this 1 percent transportation sales tax referendum in 2010 and it will not be considered anytime soon.
This is all about downtown St. Petersburg and keeping the Rays downtown, at the cost to all Pinellas County residents. Hopefully, North Pinellas County residents will remember this when they vote in November and will vote accordingly.