Pinellas' People's Budget Review to conduct their own education plan around Greenlight Pinellas

Posted by Mitch Perry on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 3:00 PM

A member of the People's Budget Review interviews a PSTA bus rider about the Greenlight Pinellas initiative.
  • A member of the People's Budget Review interviews a PSTA bus rider about the Greenlight Pinellas initiative.
When the folks with the People's Budget Review announced on Tuesday that they would be releasing information on a survey they conducted regarding the Greenlight Pinellas initiative on this November's ballot, you might have assumed they would be in support of the transit tax that promises to bring more buses and light rail to the county.

You would have been wrong to have done that, however.

In fact, says Kofi Hunt with the group, their survey of over 1,600 people in the county shows overwhelming ignorance of what is actually in the measure, and they intend to spend time this spring educating people.

"Our main priority is that, this is going to be on the ballot — do people even know what it is? And after informing them a little bit about what it is, would they vote for it? That's our primary take right now," says Hunt of Awake PInellas, one of a myriad of activist and neighborhood groups who make up the PBR, which formed a couple of years ago to help ensure citizens' having a voice on the budgeting process in the city of St. Petersburg.

Hunt says members of the group want to reach out to people who use PSTA buses on a daily basis right now and ask what's important to them. He insists that if the majority say they're not in favor of the initiative, "from that we'll decide on how to move forward."

However, critics of the measure aren't buying PBR's message that they have an open mind about the proposal.

"I think they’re supporting Greenlight Pinellas," Barb Haselden says flatly.She's leading No Tax for Tracks, the political action committee formed to defeat the ballot measure this fall. 

Greenlight Pinellas would swap the current funding structure for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Agency. Currently, the agency collects its  revenue via  property taxes. The measure would switch that for a one-cent sales tax increase, meaning Pinellas consumers would spend 8 cents per dollar on most purchases. That exchange would net PSTA approximately $130 million a year to pay for an expanded bus system and light rail system.

PSTA officials themselves aren't allowed to advocate for the measure, but can provide voter education, which for No Tax for Tracks is a very fuzzy line indeed. And while she applauds the People's Budget Review for getting involved in the democratic process, she questions how effective their efforts can actually be.

"Between all of the monies that have been allocated to just 'educate people,' it just seems that the more people find out about it , the less they’re interested in supporting it, so educate away, that’s fine with us," she says.

Kofi Hunt says part of the People's Budget Review charge is to consult with the people who generally aren't surveyed on key political or economic issues, and that's what their members are going to do, before soon deciding on a consensus.

"it’s easy to preempt the public voice. So we’re trying to be exceptional and to determine our path based on the community’s voice. So as soon as we're ready, we think we we know the direction that people want to go, we will work the same way we have the past few years."

Comments (2)

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The People's Budget Review group is not being tansparent about who they are. But Creatve Loafing knows who they are as CL did an article about this group back on Sept. 5 2013: "The People's Budget Review consists of members from SEIU Florida Public Services Union, the League of Women Voters, Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA), Agenda 2010 and Beyond, NAACP, Awake Pinellas, Suncoast Sierra Club, St. Pete Polls, as well as local business leaders and activists." Their poll they recently did which was recently reported on was done on an SEIU website. It's important that CL be transparent about who this group. Florida Public Services Union (FPSU) is not just a bargaining unit for thousands of workers in the city governments and schools but also an integral part of the community
Since the right is always called out - most of this coalition are Progressive/Liberal organizations who advocate for higher taxes, bigger government and more government spending.

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Posted by LetsbeTransparent on 03/27/2014 at 7:04 PM

Since the Peoples Budget review is all about fiscal responsibility, they should educate the people that the actual Ordinance that they are voting on, contains no fiscal controls, provides for “to be determined inter local agreements”, contains no guarantees that the bus system will actually be expanded and talks more about bonds than transportation.

The actual Sales Tax ordinance is bad governance and the public should be “educated” to that fact.

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Posted by Gene Webb on 03/28/2014 at 6:40 AM
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