County jumps into one-sided debate mode

Detail from Great Orator, 1944 by Irving Norman. Graphite and color pencil on paper, 12 x 22 1/8 inches. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH. Purchased through the Julia L. Whittier Fund.The watchdogs on County Ethics and State Elections really need to take a careful look at how Hillsborough County elected officials and employees are lobbying for the sales tax increase that is on the Nov. 2, 2010 ballot.

It is one thing for The County to “educate” the voting public about pending legislation and ballot measures, it is something entirely different to advocate for them on the taxpayers’ dime. 

Case in point: The Tampa Bay Business Journal recently co-sponsored what was billed as a “debate” on the sales tax increase. On the pro-tax side was Commissioner Mark Sharp, vice chairman, Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioner.

The first time we heard Sharp speak in public in support of the tax, the opposing side was represented by another County Commissioner, Commissioner Al Higginbotham. This was a fair and balanced debate, presenting both sides of the issue by co-equal County elected officials. This changed once the measure was approved to go to the voters. 

At the Tampa Bay Business Journal debate, there was no one from Hillsborough County offering the other side, offering a balanced “education” on the tax issues. 

We saw something similar recently at a so-called forum in Sun City Center where three County agencies along with lobbyist organization Moving Hillsborough Forward (MHF) debated for the tax increase. Also at the pro-tax table, the County Board of County Commissioners was represented by Commissioner Kevin Beckner. 

Opposite the pro-tax table sat one lone private citizen, Jim Hosler who ably questioned the wisdom of increasing taxes during this recession. 

At NO TIME did anyone from The County present ANY information about the possible downsides of the proposed tax increase: none of the hand-outs; none of the PowerPoint slides; none of the rhetoric; none of the responses included any mention that there might be better ways to spend the additional $180 MILLION yearly tax to help Hillsborough move people and create jobs. There was no mention by The County that the tax increase would do nothing to solve our immediate unemployment problems or contribute to our health, safety or education. The list goes on. 

The overly close relationship between The County and MHF was amply demonstrated when the County talking points were projected on the overhead screen along with the MHF logo and contact information. 


County "talking points" (This is Sun City CENTER by the way)


Jim Hosler’s well thought-out concerns about why this was a bad time to increase county taxes, especially for an expensive rail project were dismissed by The County as “mis-information”. 

If this tax increase get approved, it will be largely as a result of The County influencing voters and not providing a balanced “education” of ALL the issues. 

This is a County Government bought and paid for by Tampa business interests, not one that represents the interests of the people of the rest of Hillsborough County.

<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen


One Response to “County jumps into one-sided debate mode”

  1. Rail Not Good for Tampa Says:

    Aug 5, 2010 – Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board motions to support sales tax (public record of bd mtg 9/5/10)

    This is on page 155 of the recently released 15 month Alternatives Analysis study as part of the 10/18/10 board packet.

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