David McKalip touts new poll on Greenlight Pinellas, but were the questions misleading?

Posted by Mitch Perry on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 9:02 AM

David McKalip
  • David McKalip
(UPDATE)A new poll published on Monday finds large opposition to raising the sales tax in Pinellas to improve the county's transportation system, but critics say the questions asked prevented an accurate measurement of public sentiment.

Former St. Pete City Council candidate and neurosurgeon Dr. David McKalip hired St. Pete Polls to conduct the survey of what people think about "Greenlight Pinellas," a measure that will go before Pinellas voters in November. He is a member of the No Tax for Tracks committee, which is opposed to Greenlight Pinellas.

Over 60 percent of those surveyed rejected the proposal after they learned that it would increase the sales tax by a penny. Just 30 percent supported the initiative.

However, it should be stressed that there's more to Greenlight Pinellas than just the building of a light-rail system — the measure would also provide for a 65-percent increase in overall bus service in the country, including bus rapid transit lanes (BRT), increased frequency and extended hours, and a swap whereby county residents would no longer be funding PSTA (Pinellas County Transit Authority) by property taxes, but instead through a one-cent increase in the sales taxes. None of that was detailed in the questions asked by McKalip.

St. Pete Polls founder Matt Florell confirmed to CL that his organization did conduct the poll. However, he adds that McKalip wrote the questions for the poll, which only made a quick mention of "Greenlight Pinellas" at the very start of the survey. The poll had a final sample size of 2114 respondents. Only voters that had voted in the 2010 and 2012 elections were included in the survey.

When contacted on Tuesday morning, McKalip took issue with the inference that the poll was unfair.

"The advocates, when they ask questions, they never say the train is only from St. Petersburg to Clearwater, that's misleading. They talk about using public funds in the polls, but they don't talk about a sales tax hike. They talk about using a one penny increase in the hike when it's really $130 million. The entire modus operandi of Greenlight Pinellas is to deceive the voters. That's the only way that they can come close to winning."

One statistic that No Tax for Tracks will focus on is the awareness (or lack thereof) of the public that Greenlight Pinellas involves raising the sales tax. A majority 56.3 percent of respondents said they did not know about the tax increase, while 37 percent said they did. Six percent were uncertain. (Again, it should be noted that the poll made no mention of the reduction in property taxes.)

McKalip says his poll is in fact the only one that alerts county voters that the sales tax hike will make Pinellas have the highest sales tax rate in the state.

A Tampa Bay Times poll conducted toward the end of last year showed 56 percent of Pinellas residents supporting the measure, with 36 percent opposing.

Pinellas County Commissioner and PSTA Chair Ken Welch, a strong supporter of Greenlight Pinellas, dismissed the results, telling CL, "Our task is to make sure that the voters have the complete set of information, including the elimination of the property tax and bus service expansion."

Comments (6)

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The questions were not misleading. Only greenlight supporters use misleading questions. For instance they hide the fact that there is a 14 percent sales tax hike by calling it a 1 penny hike. They show maps of the train going to Tampa when it will not. GReenlightg spends $400k "educating" voters but does not mention they will create the higvhest sales tax in the state here in Pinellas. I am surprised that the author of this piece did not contact me to discuss this issue.

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Posted by McKalip on 01/27/2014 at 5:52 PM

Also, those interested in the true poll and analysis, should go to Sun Beam Times blog.

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Posted by McKalip on 01/27/2014 at 8:32 PM

The more you learn about the Greenlight Pinellas Plan, the less you will like it.

There is another survey out there, please take it:

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Posted by Fidelity Rask on 01/27/2014 at 9:16 PM

The poll said nothing about bus improvements and categorized a 1 cent sales tax increase as a 300% tax increase. It is the epitome of misleading. BTW, the Sunbeam Times is written by one of Greenlight's staunchest and most ignorant critics.

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Posted by One Silly Poll on 01/28/2014 at 9:32 AM

The current Pinellas County property tax assessment for PSTA is about $30 MILLION a year. The 1% sales tax increase would give PSTA about $130 MILLION a year. They call this a "swap." If I were to give you $30, would you give me $130 as a swap?

You say that 300% is misleading? 130 -30 = 100 increase. 100/30 = 3.333333 or about a 333% increase.

PSTA says we will get "bus improvements." They do not tell us what those improvements will be or how much they will cost. Does anyone know precisely what the "bus improvements" will be?

PSTA currently has 200 buses on 40 routes. 35 of those routes average as few as 15 riders PER HOUR. Maybe the "bus improvements" will be improving the allocations of buses to efficient routes, which would cost nothing.

The Sun Beam Times asks important questions, most of the answers illustrate that the voters in Pinellas County know very little about what the County Commissioners are trying to take from them ($130 MILLION every year forever). Does it really matter who the critic/author/questioner is?

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Posted by JohnB on 01/28/2014 at 1:29 PM

In my opinion, driving etiquette in Pinellas County is a far better index (than any poll) of public sentiment towards our current transportation network. Cutting people off, grossly exceeding speed limits, and a general "me first" mentality seems somehow deemed acceptable on the roads. Do we tolerate this type of behavior in other public places? In parks? Cyber bullying?

These types of behaviors express how people feel: the transportation network is f-ed so we'll just break all the rules (and social etiquette.) Can't we do better?

The key will be engaging younger generations who will either continue to pay exorbitant amounts for continued gridlock or embrace the idea that the future will not be dictated by clinging to old, outdated engineering and urban planning ideas that are not working.

BTW, sales taxes account for 28% of state and 33% of local transit funding nationwide, so this is not some revolutionary idea.

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Posted by Zack Westmark on 01/29/2014 at 8:52 AM
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