Heavy lifting was needed to raise transit question
November 17, 2009
Everybody jokes about how a committee is the place ideas go to die, a group that keeps minutes and wastes hours.
They laugh about how the perfect committee would be three people, with two absent.
But without the hard work and research of a big committee headed by Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, the county could not be preparing to vote next year on a special sales tax for rail transit, buses, roads and other transportation improvement.
At a recent commission meeting, where the panel's recommendations were endorsed 5-2, Hagan noted that "this has been nearly a three-year journey to this point. These folks have done a phenomenal job, and I cannot thank them enough for the time and energy that they've placed into this effort."
Even those planning to vote against a 1-cent sales tax next year should acknowledge that the group did its homework, studied what works and what doesn't in other cities, and came up with a balanced plan designed to improve the local economy and fit into an eventual regional system.
An assistant county manager, Lucia Garsys, headed the staff effort, which involved more than 30 people and a number of agencies.
The committee itself was diverse and deeply versed in transportation. The unanimous vote on the final report gives the group credibility not easily dismissed by the do-nothing crowd.
Elected officials on the group were Hagan and Commissioner Mark Sharp, along with Tampa City Council members Gwen Miller and Thomas Scott and Plant City Mayor Rick Lott.
Scott was a county commissioner when the earlier Committee of 99 issued its recommendation for new taxes for transportation 10 years ago, and was ignored by the majority of the board. Scott made sure the group understood the history.
Another veteran of the county's transit planning was Steve Polzin, the only member of the task force who served on the thankless 1999 committee. Polzin is now a board member of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and works for the Center for Urban Transportation Research.
Robert Abberger is a development executive and member of the Tampa Downtown Partnership.
Edward F. Giunta II is a developer and member of the Hillsborough City-County Planning Commission.
Randy Coen is a transportation consultant and active in the WestShore Alliance.
Jill Collins is a partner in an investment group and member of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.
John G. Evon III is on the Children's Board of Hillsborough County and the Apollo Beach Civic Association.
John Fernandes represents the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
Scott Jones is a developer.
Dave Mechanik, an attorney, is on the HART board and the Tampa Downtown Partnership.
Dan Molloy is an attorney and past president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association.
Ron Pierce, a former aide to former state Sen. Tom Lee, works for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Jan Smith is a former head of the Hillsborough City-County Planning Commission.
Jerome Ryans is head of the Tampa Housing Authority.
Phil Waller is a water resources consultant.
Louis Miller is head of Tampa International Airport.
Richard Wainio is head of the Port of Tampa.
The work they did and how they did it could be a model for neighboring counties. They deserve our recognition and thanks.