Rail Tax Revolt Begins in Largo 1/21.

Join Citizens Stopping the 14% sales tax hike to build a St. Pete Clearwater Train. 1/21/14, Abundant Life Ministries 1550 Belcher Road South, Largo FL

Join citizens stopping the 14% sales tax hike to build a St. Pete Clearwater Train. 7 pm Tuesday, 1/21/14 at Abundant Life Ministries Church, 1550 Belcher Road South, Largo FL

On November 4, 2014 Pinellas County Voters will be asked to increase their sales taxes 14% to build a train from St. Petersburg to Clearwater under the “Greenlight Pinellas” campaign.  If passed, Pinellas will have the highest sales tax in the state at 8% and funnel $130 million annually out of the economy to the hands of government bureaucracies.  On January 21, the citizens group “No Tax for Tracks” will be gathering in Largo at the Abundant Life Ministries Church to launch their campaign to stop the tax hike.   They will be facing a “Greenlight Pinellas” war chest projected to be over a million dollar, largely raised by political insiders largely who will benefit directly from rail construction.  The Sun Beam Times is asking its readers to attend the 1/21 event and join the effort to stop the rail tax hike. Citizens of Tampa stopped the tax hike with less than $30,000 in funding compared to the rail supporters’ $1 million plus campaign.


No Tax For Tracks Kicks off its campaign to stop the light rail tax hike Tuesday, 7 pm, 1/21/14 at Abundant Life Ministries 1550 Belcher Road South, Largo FL.


PSTA CEO Brad Miller is bringing Charlotte’s failed rail boondoggle to Pinellas.

PSTA CEO Brad Miller is bringing Charlotte's failed rail boondoggle to Pinellas.No Tax for Tracks is concerned that over half of the massive sales tax hike is being used to build a train that will still require an additional $1.2 billion in federal funds to complete. The train will not go to Tampa, connecting only Clearwater to St. Petersburg. They point to the failure in Charlotte, North Carolina which passed a voter-approved sales tax hike in 1998 to build 5 rail lines. Charlotte has built 1.5 the promised track (with a 100% cost overrun), is now out of money and has to push for more taxes to continue.  It should be

PSTA has used $300,000 of your tax dollars to pay for their Greenlight Pinellas Political Campaign - they found legal loopholes to do it.

PSTA has used $400,000 of your tax dollars to pay for their Greenlight Pinellas Political Campaign – they found legal loopholes to do it.

 noted that PSTA is now headed by Brad Miller, who spent six years with Charlotte rail as a project manager. The $130 million per year would quadruple the PSTA budget and buy more empty busses, according to No Tax for Tracks. The Greenlight Pinellas campaign has already benefitted from over $400,000 in taxpayer funds to hire marketing professional, develop a political campaign and buy ads featuring the Greenlight logo throughout the county.

The Sun Beam Times will be evaluating the proposed rail tax hike over the next several weeks to offer a sober look for its readers. Sun Beam Times founder and editor, Dr. David McKalip, is a financial supporter and member of the steering committee of No Tax for Tracks.

 

 

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24 Replies:

  1. Westech

    Perhaps the PSTA could answer the following questions:
    1. Exactly and precisely WHY do you need a train from St. Petersburg to Clearwater? Be very specific. Explain in detail the number of passengers ill be carried, the per passenger cost to the taxpayer, where the stations will be located and WHY.
    2. Your train will require the purchase of a rail roadbed, a huge expense in a county that is overbuilt with little available connected land. As soon as the proposed rail route is made public the cost of the rail roadbed land will skyrocket. What do you have in mind? Paying full price? Eminent Domain? Government confiscation of private property? An unintended consequence; property values of nearby residences will decrease because few want to live near a train. Lawsuits WILL results.

    A well engineered public transportation system comprised of large and small buses running as needed-when needed will satisfy the demands of the public. Were the PSTA to propose, plan and document such an overall design they might be taken seriously.

    A choo-choo train, NEVER!

    1. CHC

      All of your questions are answered in the 1000’s of pages at http://www.greenlightpinellas.com.

      It is well studied and reported that property values within 3/4 of a mile of light rail lines during this last recession lost their values at a rate 20% less than those not within 3/4 of a mile of light rail. In Denver, property values increased significantly along light rail routes. The rail line is proposed to run at grade on streets with minimum eminent domain effect.

      Don’t forget that the funding of the Community Bus Plan is the biggest part of this plan. The buildup of a comprehensive bus system years ahead of the light rail is the most important part of the investment.

      1. Sun Beam Times Post author

        “Suzy” of New York. Since you are in New York, can you please explain how you are following this issue so closely? Do you live here? Do you happen to be affiliated with PSTA?

        Now, your comment indicates that property values went down less along RAIL CORRIDOR (the values did not go up). This means that TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT is depriving the vast amounts of property outside the rail corridor of property appreciation. In other words, it has redistributed the wealth within the community to those who are wealthy land developers along the rail corridors.

        1. CHC

          I’m a snow bird that owns a home in Pinellas. Am I am supportive of the Plan. But I respect your stance, this is America.

  2. Tom

    I wish they would focus more on flood insurance rates and people loosing their homes rather than raising taxes for a train to carry a few people around. Who is really going to ride this thing anyway? Almost 100% of the time when you look into who owns the real estate where the tracks start and end it is a family member hidden under a corporate entity of more than one politician pushing for this. I guess 100% of the time it is just by chance….
    more kool aid please.. Good to know that there are a few American’s who do not accept this sillyness. American apathy is governments best friend.

    1. Westech

      Tom, Excellent point. You can rest assured there will money made by a few of the pols when the rail roadbed purchases are complete.
      Ridership will be nil. With great fanfare the first train will be loaded with politicians and then……..nothing. We’ll have a lasting reminder of this rail foolishness because you can bet the little rail stations will be named after the elected officials that fostered this waste on us in the first place.
      Local politicians. sitting in a room, planning a railroad is lot’s of fun. It involves colorful charts, rosy predictions and raising taxes. All exciting things! Solving the flood insurance debacle isn’t. The Biggert-Waters Act means facing other politicians of a higher ranking, demanding answers, showing a spine, and representing the people that put you in office. Not a pleasant thing which is why the legislation passed in the first place.
      The VERY LAST THING the PSTA wants is the glaring light of logic shined on this Greenlight Pinellas scheme. The elected officials behind this tax version of 3 Card Monte are depending on successfully selling the Bait & Switch. This tax hustle isn’t tax neutral. It’s a shakedown, pure and simple.
      It’s passage will depend on the Pinellas voter being stupidity and gullible so let’s give it a 50-50 chance.

  3. JohnB

    Fortunately a few (not many) other cities and counties all over the country have built light rail systems so we know what we can expect based on their experience. The results over the last 30 years show that NO ONE has been able to come up with a magic formula that will deliver the promises:
    1. No light rail has demonstrated an outcome of less pollution.
    2. No light rail has demonstrated that traffic congestion has been reduced. The primary traffic problems we have in Pinellas County will not be addressed by the proposed train – if we have so many people who want to go from St. Pete to Clearwater, why doesn’t PSTA have buses on the same route with the same stops running at the same times? That would prove the need or lack of need, wouldn’t it? And it would not cost another dollar, it is already available and paid for.
    3. No light rail has been built on time or on budget. Typical cost overruns average over 40% (in this case, that would be another $500 MILLION). 23 miles of streets would be torn up for construction, which is estimated to take ten years. How would that affect businesses and homeowners and traffic?
    4. No light rail has demonstrated that more jobs have been brought to an area because there is a light rail. Trains go from Point A to Point B. Companies locate their facilities where they get the best workers and the best tax breaks; those areas are almost never anywhere near a light rail.
    5. No light rail has shown that more than 2% of the population in the area uses the train on a regular basis.

    We can learn from the experience of others and not take $130 MILLION out of our local economy every year, forever, to support a train we don’t need. That $130 MILLION is ALL sales tax, which comes out of everyone’s pockets.

    We have everything we need to provide a great transportation system to Pinellas county citizens. PSTA has 200 buses and trolleys that can move thousands more people – if they are routed properly and managed efficiently. A train doesn’t solve any of the problems we have. Buses are on wheels – they can be re-routed to where they will do the most good. Once a train is in place, it cannot be moved if our needs change.

    Greenlight Pinellas should be making a concentrated effort to improve what we have, not adding more burdens to taxpayers, who are already paying ALL of the capital costs and 75% of the operating costs of the PSTA bus system – currently used by 1.6% of the population of Pinellas county.

    1. CHC

      http://dc.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Utah.pdf

      Salt Lake City light rail came in under budget and ahead of schedule with a unique blend of PPP and incentive based contracts.

      These are the types of scenarios that PSTA has the advantage of learning from. It is not out of the realm of possibility that PSTA will engage in Public Private Partnerships. That has been a very cost effective effort in the new Denver International Airport Light Rail.

      1. Sun Beam Times Post author

        “Suzy of New York”, again, are you affiliated with PSTA, given your great knowledge?
        You have pointed to an “under budget” rail project in Utah. Please provide the data – a link to the budget and an analysis. Now, how was the revenue generated? Was it from taxes? If you want private-public partnerships, can you please advise if the private parties who support this will place hundreds of millions in escrow NOW to pay for this. The amount should be placed in under a 20 years contract that they can’t get the money back for 20 years to give you time to build the train.

        1. CHC

          http://www.enotrans.org/eno-brief/eno-releases-paper-on-lessons-learned-from-the-utah-transit-authority-system-expansion

          Give this one a shot.

          Your arguments are perfectly fair. I’m just thankful that it’s up to the voters, because polls, are showing that this is what people want. It’s great to be in a democracy where we can vote for or against something. Issues aren’t raised to be supported 100% by one side, that would just be ridiculous. Your efforts are respectable and will see what the people decide in November.

      2. Westech

        This isn’t Denver, this isn’t Salt Lake City. This is Pinellas County, Florida. There is NO PROVEN NEED for a train save for the fact the politicians want one.
        Intelligent scheduling and routing or various sized buses, responsible, judicious use of available tax dollars and a proper fare table is the difficult but cost effective way to address the public transportation issue. Whining for more taxpayer money is the political and easy route.
        As long as I’ve lived in this county, which is 64 years, there has never been a time when the answer wasn’t more money. When that money is given, it’s wasted thereby generating a demand for more money.
        I absolutely cannot wait to see how you sell this tax Bait and Switch to a county full of taxpayers and home owners facing property and flood insurance policy increases so you can have a choo-choo train.

        1. Ron Thompson

          Calling it a “choo-choo” train makes the poster look juvenile, it doesn’t denigrate the seriousness of the issue. “Rail transit”, like computers, expressways, microwave ovens, space flight, telephones, televisions, even electric lighting have come a long way in 64 years. Each iteration of a technology improves from the lessons of the previous. If America really believed “that will never work”, “its too expensive”, and “I won’t use that”, we would not have walked on the moon, would be listening to our victrolas, talking on crank telephones, and sweeping up after our horse drawn carriages.

          No, in America, we apply CURRENT technology and CURRENT experiences (like LED light bulbs, cell phone towers, quad-core CPUs, and reusable rocket boosters), not decades old expensive and obsolete projects.

      3. JohnB

        Salt Lake City’s UTA has several light-rail lines. While total transit ridership has grown since building these light-rail and commuter-rail lines, the region’s population has grown as well. In 1990, before UTA built any rail, transit carried 3.5 percent of the region’s commuters to work. In 2010, only 3.1 percent of the region’s commuters took transit to work. This can hardly be considered a great success.

        The Auditor General of the Utah legislature has released a report critical of the Utah Transit Authority, which runs light rail and buses and is building commuter rail in the Salt Lake City-Ogden area. The auditor also had several interesting remarks:
        • UTA has systematically overestimated light-rail ridership by about 20 percent (i)
        • Bus ridership is so low that the service is less efficient than other transit agencies (i)
        • While light rail may emit less air pollution than cars, the buses “create so much air pollution that they negate any gains in air quality created by light rail.” (ii)
        • UTA executive salaries are high compared to those of other transit agencies and should be reduced (i)
        • Farebox revenues cover only 17 percent of operating costs, which is below average (ii)
        • UTA expects to spend $11 billion on new transit projects in the next 23 years (i)
        • To get voter support for that funding, UTA released information just before an election that later turned out to be false (37)
        • UTA has made “poor use of internal auditors” (ii)
        Reference: http://le.utah.gov/audit/08_03rpt.pdf
        Reference: http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram/pubs/profiles/2012/agency_profiles/8001.pdf

        And at what cost? Riders pay $40 MILLION (averaging less than $1/ride) while taxpayers pay $296 MILLION for yearly operating expenses. Taxpayers also have paid ALL capital/construction costs totaling over $2 BILLION.
        Reference: http://www.rideuta.com/uploads/MasterCAFR2011x.pdf

          1. JohnB

            Surely the Eno study is more correct than the Auditor General of Utah.
            The ridership, fares and total expense numbers were published by the Utah Transit Authority (they operate the transit system).
            Surely the Eno study is more correct than the UTA.

          2. Sun Beam Times Post author

            Always interesting to see how the supporters of something like to cherry pick the numbers and hide the facts. CHC, what do you have to say for yourself on that?

        1. CHC

          “Utah Transit Authority (UTA) brought online this week two new extensions of its well-regarded Salt Lake City TRAX light rail network. The first projects in UTA’s ambitious Frontlines 2015 program, UTA delivered the new West Valley and Mid-Jordan TRAX lines 20% under budget and a year early, boosted by funds the federal New Starts grant program and from a quarter-cent local sales tax increase.”

          http://www.infrainsightblog.com/2011/08/articles/rail-and-transit/utah-transit-authority-expands-light-rail-network/

          I was mistaken by the PPP for Salt Lake but Denver’s DIA light rail line is run by Private Partnership with the RTD name.

          1. JohnB

            “……..boosted by funds the federal New Starts grant program and from a quarter-cent local sales tax increase.”
            It is amazing how much can be accomplished in a short period of time given a sufficiently large amount of taxpayers money – this instance, both federal and local taxpayers dollars were thrown at a huge, expensive problem.
            The virtues and shortcomings of the UTA TRAX system can be debated at length with little if any relevance to Pinellas county.
            Let’s agree that all light rail systems are very expensive and all require huge investments of taxpayers money, both for upfront construction and capital expenses (100%) as well as operating subsidies (typically 75-80%) forever…….
            UTA riders pay $40 MILLION (averaging less than $1/ride) while taxpayers pay $296 MILLION for yearly operating expenses, every year.

  4. Tom Kulaga

    Many complain about how old people drive. Can you visualize how it will look when they start to J-walk across US 19 anywhere north of Park Blvd. BTW driving up and down US 19 and Alt. 19 and the east west routes in North County I may see one to three people waiting for a bus every five miles. I ask how is that going to change with the proposed mass transit system.
    In addition, researching US mass transit systems I find adding light rail and bus rapid transit can bring in new employers but the routes have to be in places with vacant land available for new development. For example, LRT and BRT did work in places like Cleveland, between small towns etc. Studies show LRT did not work as expected in Charlotte. I ask does our proposed routes have ample vacant land for enough development to warrant a minimum $1.5 Billion investment plus maintenance costs being passed down to our children and grandchildren? Keep in mind the money comes out of individual taxpayers based on the current proposal (unlike Tri-Met Portland Oregon), not so much businesses. I say this because businesses worthy of staying in business pass through all of their expenses to customers.
    I suggest we put our entire mass transit system up for bids. I suggest our local government get out of the business altogether. Privatize it A.S.A.P. I suggest the local government work with the entity that wins the bid the best it can and never ever think about getting into it again.

    1. JohnB

      How can a private company justify making a $2 BILLION investment in a business that generates a 75% loss on operations every year?
      Have you noticed any private companies constructing $2 BILLION buildings and leasing the space for 25% of the ongoing operating cost? What is the net return on investment? The building doesn’t reduce pollution, doesn’t reduce traffic congestion, it does create a few temporary construction jobs and low rents for the lucky tenants.

      If we need a train, why don’t we have buses on the exact same route already?

    2. Ron Thompson

      Is the GDP or P&L the only measure of success? If General Electric will not buy a product, double its price, layoff half the staff, and give its top executives multi-million dollar bonuses, is that business a failure. Should we privatize the Election Commission? That could turn a tidy profit. The Department of Motor Vehicles? Should we Privatize Prisons so an executive makes his millions if he gets prisoners in-jail demerits and therefore extended jail time? So prisons can skip medical care, but fake records that it was provided but bill the state and keep the money? Shall we privatize schools so we can cut costs, hire the lowest paid least skilled teachers, but extensively measure the students ability to add a series of numbers then declare that a success?

      WHY should transit be privatized?

      The benefits to Pinellas of a robust transit system are decreased unemployment for the unskilled and a pathway out of dependence. People working at minimum wage must have RELIABLE transportation. A crappy car, that breaks down, will cost them their job. Again and again and again. Those “lazy” people, constantly out of work, can’t get to the suburbs every day at a scheduled time. And they pay top dollar for a wreck needing constant repairs and expensive insurance (or drive uncovered – so they can feed their kids).

      It saves the working poor from having to own a car. A neighborhood might have a single van/Pickup between several families (a tradesman), and “borrow” it on weekends when someone needs to move or get an appliance. This is how our grandparents functioned, like neighbors.

      It saves the elderly from needing two cars, maybe let them give up driving. All of us sigh when grandmother moved into a retirement tower that has a shuttle van to Publix, Target, and the Library. Why not a bus that runs every 20 minutes and can take her, with a 15 min transfer, to see her grandchildren in Terra Verde or Tarpon Springs? Or can take her to the movies and still be running every 15-20 minutes when the show lets out?

      Young people want to live downtown, or mid-town, or in any vibrant cityscape where they can walk to cafes, entertainment, and take transit to work. They are not fuddy-duddies like the rest of us. They don’t want the cost, hassle of buying, parking, insuring and repairing a car. If they need a car for a few days, they will rent one, or join a car sharing club, go look it up. We would rather die than do such a thing, but we are not twenty-somethings. We don’t understand their music, their lingo, or their lifestyle. But know this, if there is not transit, they leave. That’s why our downtown is full of 70 plus year olds, and the rest of the county is a death trap on foot, bicycle or motorcycle.

      Its easy to talk about how things worked in the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s. But its now 2014, and bus rapid transit system is needed NOW. The greenlight plan is focussed on ten and twenty years into the FUTURE, not the past. Rail is not even scheduled to be implemented for several years, and then as part of a regional plan (see San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington, Toronto, and every major city in Asia and Europe). Is every city with rail stupid and Pinellas county incredibly wise. Then why was our unemployment higher than the national average, why was our property “bubble” bigger than elsewhere, and why do we spend more money and more time on commuting than any other major city in the country?

      Some of us can ride on the horse backward, looking at yesterday and yesteryear, telling the rest of us what worked. But the rest of us, thinking about our kids, the future of our city, need to look forward. It is the job of a responsible adult to plant a tree that they will never enjoy, so their children and grandchildren will enjoy a full grown tree that they did not plant. Our parents did that for us.

      START a robust transit system NOW.

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