Ignorant and misguided voters of Hillsborough County, do not worry.
Commissioner Stacy White is here to save you from yourselves.
Just weeks after an impressive 57 percent of the electorate took the extraordinary step of voting to add a penny sales tax for transportation — as in, they voted to tax themselves because our road and transit needs are that critical — the Republican commissioner from the east county suburbs says he knows better.
Despite the will of the people to move forward clearly reflected in that vote, White sued this week to invalidate the 30-year, $15.8 billion transportation tax intended to pay for road and bridge improvements and mass transit.
His grounds, you ask?
The lawsuit claims the measure takes away local authority, that a citizens’ committee to oversee how the tax gets spent is unauthorized under state law, and that you voters got misled.
People deeply involved in this amendment will tell you the oversight committee isn’t there to approve specific projects. They will tell you that its purpose is to make sure the local governments involved spend the money under the broad categories that were laid out for voters to consider.
All of which a majority of them must have approved of, by the way, given what happened Election Day.
And perhaps voters can decide for themselves if they were misled in this concentrated, considered and detailed push for a transportation tax.
Because it is no whimsical, why-not checking of “yes” when citizens agree to tax themselves.
After the lawsuit was filed Tuesday, White initially declined to say whether his goal is to kill the tax outright or just reorganize the oversight board. He said he wanted clarity before the tax kicks in next month.
At this week’s commission meeting after his bombshell — with citizens showing up to make clear they were not happy with his last-ditch effort to thwart the vote — White allowed that he would deign to implement the transportation amendment should a judge not agree with him.
(And he would have a choice on that? Just asking.)
While it would be nice to think that clarity on behalf of the citizens of Hillsborough County is all the commissioner is after, naive is another word that comes to mind.
The fact that White has long opposed this tax makes it read more like a politician unhappy with the outcome and using any means necessary to try to turn it around.
Which would be one sad, cynical sign of the times.
In other sour grapes politics this week, a lame-duck Republican-controlled legislature in Wisconsin just passed a package of sweeping changes to limit the powers of incoming Democrats. You know, the ones voters just elected to run the state.
So much for the will of the people.
Here at home, it was at least good to hear local politicians fire back against White’s lawsuit, among them a couple of his own county commission colleagues and also Tampa mayoral candidates Jane Castor, Harry Cohen and David Straz.
Said Castor rather succinctly: “This is exactly what people hate about politics.”
Given what sure looks like a last ditch cheap shot — an inability to act with grace, dignity and professionalism after a vote did not go your way, and worst of all, a total disregard for what voters said loud and clear is what they want — could you blame them?
Contact Sue Carlton at [email protected]