​Turn talk into action: Help elect pro-transit people or remain mediocre

​Turn talk into action: Help elect pro-transit people or remain mediocre

Tampa Bay Partnership with Mayor Jennifer Roberts

The conversation about Tampa Bay’s urgent need for modern transit is getting old.

There’s no secret among business leaders that the collective inability to make real progress in any range of creative transit options for Tampa Bay stunts business growth in a community so rich with potential.

In our cover story this week, the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Janelle Irwin takes an in-depth look at the most controversial section of the former TBX, the $6 billion in road improvements aimed at relieving traffic congestion, and compares that to concepts proposed under its new moniker — TB Next.

This isn’t new stuff. A transit study more than 20 years ago hatched TBX, and as you will read in Janelle’s reporting, TB Next isn’t currently a plan, but instead a series of concepts. It will still be a few years before there is any real clear direction on TB Next.

Talk is not only cheap, it’s also economically inhibiting.

Last week, top-level business leaders from the Tampa Bay Partnership traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to evaluate the city’s transit system and identify ways the Tampa Bay region might break through its stagnancy. In recapping the highlights of the trip with reporters, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said the area is attracting increasingly younger people who prioritize places that have a transit system.

“We’re doing this because we’re going to do everything we can to educate those politicians [and] we think the time is right,” he said.

But a question at the debriefing about ousting elected officials who don’t comply was avoided. That can’t continue.

Business leaders in the Partnership group are invested, given the $50,000 it takes to be on the squad. They deserve to see real ROI on that money. I believe they are movers who still need to do some shaking. They need to support commission candidates who understand and support measurable transit progress that keeps Tampa Bay relevant.

After years of failures, last year county government leaders declined to put a halfpenny sales tax increase on the ballot that would have funded mass transit as well as transportation improvements.

Commissioners Sandra Murman, Stacey White, Al Higginbotham and Victor Crist voted against putting the issue to voters. Ken Hagan, Les Miller and Kevin Beckner (no longer on the commission) voted for the referendum.

“Regardless of your position, I can’t figure out why you would not want to let the public vote,” Hagan said before a vote was taken in June 2016.

It’s incumbent on Tampa Bay’s business elite to help support — with money and words — the election of commissioners who will stop being a barrier to progress. At the same time, we need our business leaders to be brave and not shy away from calling out elected officials who are standing in the way and perpetuating the congestion.

This article was originally published in the Tampa Bay Business Journal on July 20, 2017 (VIEW IT HERE)

Share this post: