|PSTA awards $300,000 Contract to PR firm for 1% Rail Sales Tax Marketing Campaign to Pinellas Citizens|
On March 21st the PSTA Board of Directors clearly stepped over the line and hired a PR firm using $300,000 taxpayer money. The hired task is to devise a complete plan to overcome the 12 major stumbling blocks PSTA has identified to gaining enough voter support to pass a 1% sales tax increase by referendum in 2013 to fund a light rail system in Pinellas County.
By now, locally informed citizens know that the bus system run by PSTA is bankrupt, and, an ad valorum tax increase on pinellas homeowners was passed in August 2011 to slow down the hemorrhage until another funding source could be secured. Due to falling property values, many governmental agencies and municipalities whose budgets have been pegged to home values have plummeted and are in budget crisis. One remedy is to cut bloated expenses and if that doesn't work, to cut expenses again until it does.
Not PSTA. This appears to be just the opportunity they need to mount a rally to replace the main means of public transportation in the county of nearly 200 huge and often empty buses with a shiny new light rail system. It's for the future you know. We must think ahead. We must think of 2035. The roads will be unpassable by 2035 according to rail advocates.
According to their own survey the majority of Pinellas citizens polled feel that jobs and the economy are the number one issue elected officials should be concerned about, while only 4% were worried about traffic congestion. That public sentiment, along with several other potential roadblocks to success, need to be overcome if PSTA and the Rail Advocates are to win.
So they hired a high dollar PR firm with our money last Week by a majority vote of the PSTA Board of Directors (BOD).
The contract is amazing and can be accessed below. It lists item by item the main twelve obstacles to overcome if a 1% sales tax increase referendum is to be successful. Tucker Hall, the firm selected by the Selection Committee and awarded the prize, feels confident they can devise a strategy to successfully deliver the results PSTA needs. And, at the board meeting on the 21st, Tucker Hall CEO, in meeting the Board, boasted that the firm are experts in the area of electioneering laws and can guide PSTA safely through the dangerous waters of illegal use of public funds in advocating their cause.
Yes, they have hired expert help to get more of our money and build a rail system few will use regularly. Today, 78% of operations of the bus system is subsidized by our taxes, and as already mentioned, the bus system is insolvent. Only 22% comes from the fares. Imagine subsidizing 78% of a train in our county. And, once federal grant money is accepted to aid in construction costs, we will be on the hook forever, or owe every dime back.
Some other deck-stacking techniques in the works includes planning the referendum for an off year municipal election where only 10% of the voters turn out, as was the case with the Penny for Pinellas. That would mean that less than 10% of voters will purchase the train. Off year election referendums is a strategy that works well for passing unpopular initiatives, politicians have learned. Penny for Pinellas has passed three times over the past 20 years using this method.
Another weapon against the taxpayer is known as "the tax swap". Florida Sen. Latvala and Rep Ed Hooper carried legislation on their backs throughout session this year with the only opposition coming from Rep. Brandes and Rep Ahern and Rep Corcoran of Pinellas county.
Born out of the Hillsborough voter defeat of the 1% increase in 2010, this "Tax Swap" plot, if signed into law by the Governor in the next two weeks, will allow Tucker Hall to add tax swap to their messaging. Known as HB 865, this legislation says that if PSTA begins to accept the new sales tax revenue that they relinquish taking our property tax revenue. Rail Advocates Hooper and Latvala say this it to protect the people from double taxation, and it is not to fund rail! Sure. If PSTA successfully dismounts from property tax dependence and latches on to a new 1% sales tax pipeline, they will lose $32 million and replace with $130 million. What kind of a swap is that? Thanks for nothing! Please Governor Scott, veto this bill.
No wonder PSTA needs a PR firm!
What a sweet deal this will be for them if they can run the ball all the way to the goalposts; a bus bailout and a huge new train to manage all paid for with another 1% sales tax from us. 8% will make Pinellas the highest sales tax in the state. But for PSTA, or whatever they will call it such as Rainbow Rail, or Suncoast Coaster, it will mean new buildings, more employees, bigger government, more power.
Problem is, if they buy a train they will be upside down again in no time, maybe even before construction is complete, as has happened over and over in other cities playing the light rail game. Municipalities can and do go into bankruptcy. But that is only after you run out of other people's money.
Action You Can Take to Help!
Write an email immediately to Governor Scott and ask him to VETO HB865!
Send him the message that we know this will be used to trick the voters to pass a 1% tax increase to buy a train, and we don't trust PSTA to run a train on our money.
Send a quick Email with the title "Please VETO HB865" in the subject and email now to the Governor and urge him to VETO HB865: Rick.Scott@eog.myflorida.com Click Here to Open Your Email
Send an e-mail and or make a phone call to the county commissioners to vote no on placing any additional sales tax referendum on our ballot for the voters!
Strongly urge them to oppose the sales tax referendum when it comes to them to vote to place on our ballot for 2013. Get their pledge that even if it comes to their desk as far away as next spring, they will say "No" to placing a referendum an additional 1% sales tax for transit on the ballot no matter how Tucker Hall designs the language to trick the public.
County Commissioners contact information is here: http://www.railtaxfacts.com/links.html
Remember, they have hired a PR firm to steamroll our opposition and BS the public! Take Action Please, it works!
Here are the 12 items directly taken verbatim from the PSTA/Tucker Hall contract that are the most damning items, I have highlighted the ones that really are unbelievable. We are paying for this contract to hire architects of propaganda to address this wish list to convince us to pay higher tax!
Task 2 Develop Draft Strategies
A. Identify specific strategies to lead to a successful 2013 referendum that can be validated with
Market research and are reasonable to implement by the public and private entities within the
B. Strategies should be identified to address the following issues:
1. There are so many different transportation planning initiatives, what can/should be done to actually consolidate them versus simply presenting a summarized, focused version of all of their themes. The plans do have some differences between them (e.g.)The TBARTA Plan has multiple long-range rail lines in Pinellas while the LPA will only Identify one rail line). How should this education effort deal with these differences?
2. How should the Pinellas effort address connecting to Hillsborough? There are obviously competing public sentiments where some strongly value the need for this regional connection while others have concerns about cross-subsidizing public investments from one county to another. How should these issues be addressed?
3. How should long-range, unfunded, transportation investments be addressed? How many years should the planning education be targeted for?
4. How should other modes such as road capacity improvements, bicycle and pedestrian facilities be addressed?
5. How should transportation investments included in the various plans, but not funded by the proposed 1% sales tax be presented? Should the messaging focus on all transportation planning or be more specific?
6. What are strategies to respond to public fears that major transportation investments may or are likely to “fail?”
7. How should PSTA’s current transit services be presented? Is it better to highlight PSTA’s new initiatives and improvements or should emphasis be placed on how limited PSTA’s services are due to a lack of sufficient funding?
8. Do new public transit investments funded by a new sales tax need to adopt the proposed brand? Does PSTA and its existing services need to take on the new brand? What about other transportation investments that may be in the plans but funded with other sources?
9. What short-term strategies exist to pique the public’s interest in public transportation? The recent market research has shown voters have an increasingly single focus: improving the economy and creating jobs, which may be reducing the Attention to other public priorities including traffic relief and improving public transit. How can this transit funding initiative manage or even take advantage of this narrowing public attention?
10. What immediate strategies can be used to achieve successful approval by the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners for a referendum (probably in early 2013 for a Fall, 2013 ballot)?
11. What is the proper and most strategic assignment of roles for PSTA, the private sector, TBARTA, the partnership of public entities, etc.?
12. Certainly, there will be other strategies needed to respond to additional issues identified by the research in Task 1 as well. Deliverable: Presentation and Written Technical Memorandum
No. 2 – Summarized List of all Strategies.
Task 3 Develop Branding Concepts
A. Develop at least five (5) branding/messaging concepts for this education initiative using the Summarized plan items from Task 1 as well as research of successful “brands” which were developed in conjunction with similar transportation or other funding referendums.
B. Conduct concept market testing to determine which of the proposed branding/messaging
Concepts for the Education Initiative are most likely to garner support for a sales tax
Here is the link to the entire contract from the PSTA sight, where you can start at page 74: http://www.psta.net/PDF/BM%20Attachments%203-21-12.PDF
Send this to your local lists of contacts in Tampa Bay area for their action and help also!