Our latest form of participatory democracy takes place in Tampa tonight, where scores of people will comment on whether or not the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization should include the Tampa Bay Express project in what is known as their Transportation Improvement Plan.
If past is prologue, the majority of speakers will be against the project, and the MPO will go ahead and approve the plan.
That’s what happened 10 months ago on a very similar vote. Only one member of the MPO, Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco, opposed the plan, and 13 supported it. That was despite the fact that two other members of the Tampa City Council, who had voted against the plan while on the council (acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency), approved it on the MPO.
So in analyzing if the votes have changed much over the past 10 months, you need to look at those on the board representing people in Tampa, since opposition is greatest in the neighborhoods that will be directly affected by the construction of the project — in Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights and V.M. Ybor.
Councilman Harry Cohen, perhaps realizing the inconsistency of his vote(s) last year, was the only member of the council recently to resist opposing the TBX in a recent vote. Lisa Montelione (who is running for the state Legislature this year) told me last week she could make a case for and against the project, leaving her vote in question.
County Commission Chair Les Miller has already declared his opposition, saying the Florida Department of Transportation has failed in its outreach efforts with the community over the past year. County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who supported the project last August, could be a no vote this time around. He was seen at an anti-TBX rally in Ybor City a few months ago and is in a tough election battle for Hillsborough Clerk of the Courts.
But the other members of the MPO, who don’t represent Tampa on the board? It’s hard to see how many minds have been changed. The political/business establishment in this town is solidly pro-TBX, and the Tampa Bay Times editorial page weighed in for the project just the other day.
In a move which critics would say is worthy of the best extortionist sports owners, the DOT has threatened to take their billions of dollars earmarked for TBX elsewhere in the state if the MPO rejects the project, further emboldening the business establishment that it would send the wrong signal for the community to oppose it.
The meeting takes place tonight at 6 p.m. at the County Center in downtown Tampa.
In other news …
On the eve of the Hillsborough County MPO’s vote on the Tampa Bay Express Project, a new economic analysis says it would bring nearly 7,000 jobs to the greater Tampa Bay area.
Rick Baker chose not to run against Charlie Crist for Congress in Pinellas County, but he’ll help David Jolly, as he was named Jolly’s campaign manager yesterday.
Kimberly Overman is challenging Les Miller for the Democratic nomination for Hillsborough County District 3.
Alan Grayson will introduce a bill today in the House that would ban assault weapons in America.
CD 15 Democratic candidate Jim Lange has blasted Dennis Ross for not mentioning the LGBT community in his post-Orlando comments.
Bob Buckhorn slams Donald Trump’s economic policy — at least the part The Donald has announced.