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Danner on Greenlight Pinellas: Population Dropping, Black Neighbors Can Walk to Train, and You Will Pay No Matter What!

City Council Member, Past PSTA Board Chair, A Well-connected politician making money off the inbred political machine called the Greenlight Pinellas Campaign

City Council Member, past PSTA Board Chair, a well-connected politician making money off the inbred political machine called the Greenlight Pinellas Campaign. He says you are going to pay for the greenlight plan “no matter what”!  Huh?

Last night former St. Pete City Council member turned paid Yes for Greenlight consultant Jeff Danner went toe to toe with Randall O’Toole representing No Tax for Tracks. The event, held at the Disston Neighborhood Association drew about 100 to the audiance. Those wearing Greenlight T-Shirts jeered and literally gave the middle finger to those in disagreement and constantly interrupted the moderator and speakers to shout at the stage. Danner was clearly outclassed, doing his standard stream-of-consciousness presentation woven together with a strong dose of “Trust me” and a smile.  Randal O’Toole, an economist and national transit expert presented fact after fact on rail failures around the country and the PSTA’s own failures in its Greenlight Proposal (as well described in this detailed analysis on the Greenlight plan).

Mr. O’Toole pointed out how transit ridership has dropped 25% in Portland since 1980 despite massive rail and transit spending there beginning in ’90’s. He pointed out how “light rail” is the lowest capacity of transport and that a double decker bus would achieve more capacity if that was the true goal of the Grenlighters. Mr. O’Toole pointed out that Transit-Oriented Development (defined as 1/2 mile within rail stations) is always subsidized by the taxpayer and rich developers get even richer while their costs are covered by others. He pointed out that the proposed Greenlight Train, which doesn’t even go to Tampa, will require a $1 billion loan, with $700 million in interest payments making the train actually cost about $3 billion. This true cost of the train is not mentioned by Greenlight in their campaign designed to create the highest sales tax in the state.  To an audience member who shouted “you don’t even live here”, he pointed out that he can “read data” and that it is true whether you live here or not.  He pointed out how we have one of the worst managed transit systems in the country with an average bus ridership of 8 per bus while that in Honolulu is over 25 per bus!

Mr. Danner stumbled through his presentation, offering basically no facts and all platitudes and “visions”. He stated this was a great way to “remake the community”. He didn’t say in who’s image.  He actually stated that Pinellas County is “losing population” which must have come as a major surprise to the PSTA and Greenlight supporters who have routinely claimed we need to build for an anticipated added population of 200,000 (page 2 of their taxpayer-funded propaganda)! Danner is actually agreeing with the facts  that show we will not grow any population for next several decades according to State of Florida estimates! There is a phenomenon for when a politician accidentally tells the truth, but it occurs so rarely, no one has a name for it yet!

Mr. Danner stumbled on the question of “why not just raise sales taxes 1/2 cent and expand the bus system?”  He stated that this is what the “community wants” referring to the carefully choreographed, PSTA-Greenlight run meetings that pushed the plan on the community. Those who disagreed were told to sit down and not given the chance to speak publicly. The real answer of course is that the rail and land developers can’t get rich off of busses, only on subsidized “transit oriented development” and the contracts to build the needless train.   

Mr. Danner was asked why the train stations stopped short of the black neighborhoods in St. Pete and Clearwater and why there would be no “transit oriented development” in those areas. The train is planned to  connect pretty condos in downtown St. Pete to those in downtown Clewarwater.  Mr. Danner stated that those in black neighborhoods could “walk to the train” or take a bus.  Never mind that the train is no further south than 1st Ave. S starting at about 8th st. It seems that the train is for the rich areas of town and that the land developers don’t feel that money can be made from Transit-Oriented Development “investments” in the neighborhoods of south St. Petersburg. Why is this not another issue of Transit apartheid like in other places around the country?

Mr. Danner made another possible faux pas that was really more of a threat. He pointed out that “people are going to pay for this thing no matter what”. That is likely true since even when voters reject rail boondoggles like this, the planners and fat cat developers never stop. Just look at the Hillsborough effort for a 2016 tax hike despite the rejection by 58% of voters there in 2010.

There is a reason voters are rejecting Greenlight Pinellas here in our county by a 12 point margin. They don’t want the highest sales tax in the state to pay for a bunch of false promises and a train that no one will ride! Mr. Danner got his clock cleaned, but the spin will certainly be different. Kind of like the spin of a rail train wheel on the pavement as it goes right down the middle of the East Bay drive medians.  No thanks.

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11 Replies:

  1. John Burgess

    I am waiting for the the video to clarify his actual statement. I recall Mr. Danner saying, “You will pay for this whether you like it or not.” That was reinforced when a (very) senior lady from Gulfport came up to me and said, “Did you hear what he said? He said ‘You are going to pay for this whether you like it or not!’ ”

    Mr. Danner also informed us that it is appalling that we only have 28,000 sq ft of commercial space under construction in the Tampa Bay area. He repeated that (fact?) several times. The implication was that higher taxes would create more opportunities for business expansion.

    When asked why the interest on the nearly $1 BILLION that will be borrowed from the TIFIA program for building the train, which will be close to $700 million, his answer was, “I don’t understand the question.” Mr. O’Toole explained the concept of interest on borrowed money and current TIFIA interest rates, which may not be so low in 2020.

    Mr. Danner’s presentation was not simply lacking in factual information, he presented no facts, just promises of a better life for everyone if we trust PSTA and approve higher taxes for transit.

  2. Larry Gee

    Prove to me, with an example, how the sales tax increase will offset my property tax elimination savings…

    That’s what will drive most retirees to vote YES for GreenLie Pinellas. If you can’t come up with proof that they arent’ going save anything via the property tax elimination, you will lose that voting block. They don’t care about these other issues… the rail isn’t going to get them to their Dr. Appointments.

    $150,000 house, $25,000 exemption. City of St. Petersburg. Do the math.

    1. Sun Beam Times Post author

      If you are a person, older or not, who pays no property tax, you will, for dirst time ever, pay sales tax to psta. Howks that for a calculation? An infinite increase!

      1. Gary West

        I’ll keep shouting this from the mountaintops. The SOLE reason big box businesses, commercial enterprises, sports franchises, newspapers, hospitals, owners of large parcels of property are for this Greenlight Pinellas scheme is this. They will save enormous amounts of money when the transit tax is removed from their property tax bill. These businesses don’t pay sales tax, it’s a pass-through to the end consumer. Ergo the taxpayer is double-screwed.
        Big businesses such as the Rays, Tampa Bay Times, Baycare, etc. will see their bottom line increased and the el schmucko consumer gets to pay even more in taxes. Who gets hit hardest? The poor, the elderly, low-income, minorities, the most vulnerable among us.
        None of the Greenlight Pinellas pimps want to address the tax gift to large property owners nor do they want to face the people this hustle will hurt the most.

      2. Mathias K.

        I pay no property tax because I am a service-connected disabled veteran and under state law am exempt from the ad valorem assessment on my primary residence. While PSTA is a line item on the tax bills, these Greenlight people are in effect taking away a benefit for disabled veterans, and trying to saddle us with a sales tax instead. “Thank you for your service.”

  3. Johann

    Jeff Danner, PRINCE of the BOONDOGGLE. By my calculations, Former Councilmember Danner owes the taxpayers of St. Petersburg roughly $571,428.57 for his 1/7th share of WASTING $4 MILLION trying to FORCE the LEN$ BOONDOGGLE down our throats!! He acted, IMO, like a condescending JACKASS back then as well. Some things never change. VOTE HELL NO!!!

    1. Gary West

      Don’t forget the dog park that Danner hustled past the City Council. “Dog Park” Danner…..patted himself on the back so much he needs Tommy Johns surgery.

  4. Norm Roche

    Just to toss in a few more facts…

    1. The PSTA property tax is not going away. It will remain on your TRIM notice (property tax bill) and will be set at zero, thus allowing it to be reinstated if needed…and it will be needed because of #2,3,4,5,&6

    2. The new tax only covers about 52% of this boondoggles costs. The remaining 48% (11% State & 37% Feds) , and public record will confirm that neither our State or the Feds will even commit to funding that 48% promise.

    3. The projected costs are 2009/10 figures and have gone up since and will continue to go up.

    4. The cost does not cover what will most likely be 10+ years of eminent domain litigation.

    5. CSX has already confirmed in writing that thier tracks cannot and will not be used.

    6. The actual ballot language asks Pinellas voters to tax themselves in order to fund a “Regional” system…there is no “Regional” system by the way.

    7. Both my opponent in the Primary and his challenger in the General support this boondoggle 100%…even though they’ll obfuscate when asked. They will even go after the current Penny for Pinellas (already in the works btw) to do it.

  5. Neil Cosentino

    Thanks for the opposition to Greenlight … another boondoggle…
    We have asked a number of times if the proposed Light Rail System [LRS] me the minimum professional criteria for a new LRS, i.e., 9 RDU density along the planned route and a minimum of 20,000,000 sq ft of NON residential floor space at both destinations…
    No one has answered this question
    Concluding If their planned PSTA LRS met the requirements …they would boast about it!
    Conclusions: PSTA LRS does not meet the professional planning criteria – therefore it is all smoke and mirrors…like the TECO Trolley Folly …the only company that makes money with that LRS is TECO…
    Note the Duke Energy – the Python would love to sell – squeeze more taxes by selling more electric power to PSTA LRS…
    Conclusions: We want CONSOLIDATION PSTA+HART+MCAT we want a Metro Mass transit system and NO MORE fragmentation, duplication and NO to more unnecessary wasteful taxation…

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