Go Hillsborough – Part 4 – Making the Tough Choices

Go Hillsborough Part 4

It’s time for Hillsborough County to get down to the nitty gritty as the final part of the Go Hillsborough transportation public outreach process begins. Starting on Monday, May 11, there will be four Finding Consensus meetings and one final telephone town hall. Before I go into Finding Consensus, I want to briefly recap my observations from this past set of workshops called Making Choices. This third series in the Go Hillsborough series focused on what funding avenues do citizens want when it comes to being able to fund transit improvements, roadway maintenance, new roads, and pedestrian/bike facility improvements. Options range from a sales tax, to a community investment tax, gas taxes, property taxes, and possibly other sources like tolls. No one said this process would be easy, but process has become better understood now that we know what the issues are regarding transportation in Hillsborough County, and what transportation options and opportunities are available.

Observations and Thoughts from the Workshop

At the West Tampa "Making Choices" workshop. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.
At the West Tampa “Making Choices” workshop. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.

At the “Making Choices” workshops, citizens were asked to fill out a paper stating what funding options they would prefer to help fund transportation improvements and how much percentage of funds should go to each of the transportation options that were identified during the Exploring Options meetings.

The paper asked two straightforward questions. Please see the photo below:

This is the paper that citizens were asked to fill out at the "Making Choices" meetings. Credit: Connect Tampa Bay.
This is the paper that citizens were asked to fill out at the “Making Choices” meetings. Credit: Connect Tampa Bay.

So first and foremost, are voters willing to help fund expanded transportation options through a higher surtax? So far, the answer to that question has been encouraging.

More than 50 percent of respondents at all 12 locations, from New Tampa to Thonotosassa, said they are willing to consider an increase in gas or sales taxes.

While this is great news, the battle is far from over. We must now work together to find consensus on a balanced community transportation plan while trying to keep misinformation from Tea Party interests at bay. Many Tea Party insiders and activists have already made it clear to Hillsborough County that the only thing that they are willing to do, is to continue an utterly failed pro-road status quo that we can no longer afford to continue.

Below are the illustrations used to layout each of the funding options being considered, how they work, and what improvements they could fund:

Revenue Sources
Credit: Go Hillsborough
Revenue Sources 2
Credit: Go Hillsborough

See the other “Making Choices” boards at the Go Hillsborough Website.

I personally would support an increase in the sales tax and/or gas tax to help fund transportation improvements.

Property taxes, I’m okay with as long as they are kept in place. Remember that the failed Greenlight Pinellas plan had a tax swap, which not all citizens wanted or understood.

Secondly, what percentage of funding should go to each transportation option, given the priorities that have emerged? This answer will be different for everyone, but I believe that there should be a balance between roadway maintenance, expanded transit, and Bike/Ped facilities. I strongly believe that until we pay more attention to the roads that we have, and complete infrastructure projects that were never completed decades ago (i.e. the Veterans Expressway through Lutz); that there should be ZERO percent allocated to NEW ROADS.

Here’s how I believe that each transit mode should be funded:

Roadway Maintenance/Safety – 30%

New Roads/Widening – 0%

Transit Improvements – 40%

Ped/Bike Facilities – 30%

Now, let’s work together…

On Monday, May 11, 2015, the last public outreach phase of Go Hillsborough, Finding Consensus, will begin. This is where citizens have the opportunity to work together to resolve remaining differences on building a comprehensive transportation plan. This is also where you can make a difference in which funding methods should be closely examined to help fund these transportation improvements. Please see the list below for meeting dates and times. There will also be a Telephone Town Hall for those who are unable to attend the meetings so that you can still have a chance to make your voice heard. You may RSVP for any of these meetings at the Go Hillsborough website.

Be sure to tell our elected leaders that we want a balanced community transportation plan!

Brandon/Southern Hillsborough

Monday, May 11, 2015 – 6:00PM to 8:00PM
Bell Shoals Baptist Church
2102 Bell Shoals Road, Brandon, FL 33511

New Tampa/Temple Terrace/University/Central, West, and South Tampa

Tuesday, May 12, 2015 – 6:00PM to 8:00PM
Omar K. Lightfoot Center
10901 N 56th St., Temple Terrace, FL 33617

Northwest Hillsborough

Monday, May 18, 2015 – 6:00PM to 8:00PM
Town ‘n Country Regional Public Library
7606 Paula Drive #120, Tampa, FL 33615

Plant City/Northeast Hillsborough

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 – 6:00PM to 8:00PM
Trinkle Center
1206 North Park Road, Plant City, FL 33563

Finding Consensus Telephone Town Hall

Thursday, May 21, 2015 – 7:00PM to 8:00PM
Call 877-229-8493 (Toll Free) and enter PIN: 110301

Look out for the next posts in the This is Go Hillsborough blog series

Go Hillsborough Series 4B

Now that Part 4 in my This is Go Hillsborough blog series is complete, I invite you to stay tuned for Part 5 in the series, Working Together to Find Consensus, which will focus on the final series of meetings. I plan on publishing this post at some point on or before May 31, 2015. Then in June or July, I will wrap up the This is Go Hillsborough series with What We’ve Learned, which will summarize the entire Go Hillsborough outreach process.

Finally, towards the end of the year, I plan to write a couple of follow-up posts to the This is Go Hillsborough series to see where the county is at with crafting its transportation plan, and what could be next as we enter 2016.