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Joe Henderson: Wednesday was a good day for Hillsborough traffic relief

County Commission decision gives All For Transportation the green light

If you’re weary of Hillsborough traffic and believe it is way past the time to meaningfully address this stifling mess, Wednesday was a good day.

The Hillsborough County Commission voted 4-3 to adopt the project spending allocations originally set in the All For Transportation charter amendment. Voters overwhelmingly approved the 1-cent sales tax hike last November to pay for desperately needed road and other transit upgrades.

The result wasn’t a surprise. Democrats took control of the Commission last November, largely based on this issue. There was a roadblock at the finish line, though.

Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit to block part of the amendment, though.

The amendment divided specific percentages of the revenue among various parts of the country. A judge ruled that the tax was legal but agreed with White that a governing body should not be bound by the spending requirements voters approved. Hence the need for Wednesday’s vote.

So, that’s what will happen. The Commission passed the recommendation from Chairman Les Miller to follow the original allocations set out in the amendment. Eight months after 57 percent of county voters approved the tax hike, the issue finally seems settled.

Something else was settled, too.

The core of the argument for the Commissioners who voted against this was that voters didn’t know what they were approving.

Poppycock.

That’s the argument from opponents every time voters take matters into their own hands. It’s simple why this amendment passed, but it still seems lost on the three Commissioners — White, Ken Hagan, and Sandy Murman — who voted no.

For years, the County Commission took actions that created the choking sprawl we see today in Hillsborough. It approved massive developments, big box stores, and so on without providing the infrastructure to support any of that.

It even kept a proposed tax amendment for Hillsborough traffic relief off the ballot in 2016.

Its solution after that was to allocate more than $800 million for that issue. Sounds like a lot, right?

It wasn’t.

That money, spread over ten years, would have done little more than fill potholes.

It took a petition drive by the All For Transportation crowd to get the sales tax hike on the ballot last year. Voters strongly responded that they’d had enough of this gridlock.

So yes, Commissioners White, Hagan, and Murman, voters knew what they were doing.

More to the point, they knew what you weren’t doing.

The Commission had plenty of time to take meaningful steps to curb sprawl and address Hillsborough traffic. It abdicated that responsibility, though, and voters didn’t trust the lawmakers to get serious about traffic relief.

That’s why the original amendment passed. That’s why they voted for pro-transportation Commissioners.

Voters knew what they were doing. Shame on anyone for saying they didn’t.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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