Tuesday, September 18, 2018
  • Bay Buzz
  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeff Vinik and Frank Morsani give $150,000 each to transportation initiative

TAMPA – All for Transportation, the group pushing a sales tax referendum for transportation projects in Hillsborough County, bills itself as a grassroots  group.

But it also has the support of some pretty big players in Tampa.

The group has raised just over $300,000, according to a campaign finance report filed with the Supervisor of Elections office Friday.  Almost all of that comes from Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and prominent philanthropist Frank Morsani, each of whom contributed $150,000.

The push to get the transportation plan on the November ballot will also require about 49,000 signatures from Hillsborough residents. The group took a first step toward that target on Friday when it delivered boxes containing about 5,000 signatures to the Supervisor of Elections office in Brandon.

Those signatures, Hudson said, show there is support across Hillsborough for better transportation.

The group plans to use more than a hundred volunteers to gather more and is paying $50,000 to the Washington, D.C., group Revolution Group Strategies for petition gathering, its campaign report shows.

"We're obviously encouraged and heartened by the support from the community and getting these petitions from people who want the chance to choose Hillsborough's transportation future," Hudson said. "This is an effort we're going to continue to ramp up and amplify."

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

Vinik, who is the driving force behind the $3 billion Water Street Tampa entertainment district under development around Amalie Arena, said the county needs a transportation system that will keep up with its population growth.  The Tampa Bay area in 2017 had the tenth highest population increase in the nation,  according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

"It's time we secure a future where we can all get around efficiently and safely," Vinik said in a statement Friday. "This referendum is more than an investment in transportation, it's a much needed down payment on our quality of life."

Retired businessman Frank Morsani.

Morsani, the retired chairman of Automotive Investments, is a supporter of the arts and the University of South Florida.

"Hillsborough county is at a turning point," he said in a statement Friday. "We must find ways to alleviate congestion and work towards solving our transportation problems now so future generations can enjoy a Hillsborough that moves, not one that is stuck like the very traffic we're struggling with today."

All for Transportation is employing a rarely used citizen's charter amendment petition process to put the plan in front of voters. It comes two years after Hillsborough commissioners voted 4-3 against sending voters another transportation sales tax plan, called Go Hillsborough.

The petition process requires the group to collect 49,000 signatures by July 27 to get an initiative on the ballot. The measure would ask voters to approve a one penny countywide sales tax hike, from seven cents on the dollar to eight cents, for a 30-year period beginning in 2019.

If approved by voters, the tax would raise about $280 million per year.

Forty-five percent of the money raised would go to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit to improve bus service and pay for other mass transit. The remainder would go to Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City for road and bridge improvements, pothole repair, sidewalks, bike lanes and projects to ease congestion.

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at codonnell@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times

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