by James Lampe, Special to the Sunbeam Times.
The Republican controlled Florida Legislature has started the legislative process to strip voting rights away from Floridians in the Tampa Bay area. A group of wealthy CEOs called the Tampa Bay Partnership, Inc., have crafted SB 1672 sponsored by FL Senator Jack Latvala, to create a transit authority managed by 13 political appointees. These appointees will have the authority to build any rail system they desire and then tax the citizens to build it! It is stunning that the Tampa Bay Partnership Inc.’s bill passed the first legislative committee by a 5-0 vote.
The goal of SB 1672, is to avoid any referendums that will most assuredly reject a light rail system for Tampa Bay (Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties). The bill does that by combining the transportation authority for Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, into the new Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA).
Since the new transit authority will control all transit decisions in Tampa Bay, and be run by political appointees; it makes a light rail system a certainty for Tampa Bay.
We know the bill came from the Tampa Bay Partnership’s Council of Governors. When Senator Latvala introduced his bill, he said (at 1:50): “I want to acknowledge the efforts of the Tampa Bay Partnership to put this bill together.”
However, in a 3-28-2017 interview with Tia Mitchell of the Times –Union of Tallahassee, FL, Senator Latvala talked about why he is the best candidate for governor and stated: “People tend to trust the level of government closest to them, so why would we preempt those people from being able to make their own decisions at the local level, and try to coopt all that decision making to Tallahassee. It’s just wrong.”
Building light rail systems starts with hiring lobbyists, getting grants and taxes to fund it, public relations and marketing campaigns, and route layouts. Then eminent domain procedures will acquire and rezone the land needed, and engineering and consulting companies will determine routes. Perhaps it is a coincidence that the members of the Tampa Bay Partnership, Inc., represent firms that possess most of this expertise?
The highest level of membership in the Tampa Bay Partnership, Inc., is the Council of Governors. This includes people like the CEOs of SunTrust Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Bristol-Myers Squibb, PNC Bank, the President of the Tampa Bay Rays, and owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jeff Vinik.
People in the Council of Governors pay $50,000 to become members, then apparently write legislation that makes them, “Lords of Tampa Bay,” where they can rule over their proletarian citizens and make transportation decisions for them, by getting a bill like SB 1672 passed.
What makes this situation so egregious is that in 2010, Hillsborough County offered to build and run a light rail system for the citizens, but it was rejected by the voters 58% to 42%.
In 2014, Pinellas County put their light rail plan up for a referendum vote, and the citizens rejected it, 62% to 32%.
It’s frightening that members of the Tampa Bay Partnership, Inc. are willing to nullify our right to vote, regardless of any cause! Is there anything more anti-American than preventing people from getting to vote?
Instead, their business model seems to be the Medieval Era where the wealthy could visit their King, buy a Lordship and some land, and then rule that land as they saw fit. How can the residents of Tampa Bay ever trust the members of this organization?
Based upon SB 1672, it’s clear Senator Latvala and cosponsors Senator Bill Galvano, and House Representative Dan Raulerson would rather rule, than govern. Therefore, it is likely their invitations to join the Tampa Bay Partnership, Inc. are in the mail.
Note: SB 1672 still making its way through the FL Legislature.