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Greenlight Forum Turns into Red Light for Audience Questions

Lottie Watts
WUSF Public Media

Four Tampa Bay area mayors met for a public forum to show their unified support for the Greenlight Pinellas campaign. In November, Pinellas County voters will be asked to raise their sales tax to pay for more buses and a light rail system.

But the "public" forum didn’t quite live up to its billing, because the mayors did not take questions from the audience nor did they go into detail about the referendum.

Instead, regionalism was the theme of the night for Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg, Mayor George Cretekos of Clearwater, Mayor R.B. Johnson of Indian Rocks Beach and Mayor Bob Buckhorn of Tampa.

They told a crowd of about 50 people that it’s important to connect to key areas like Tampa International Airport, downtown St. Petersburg and the beaches.

Buckhorn said although Tampa isn't a part of the plan and won’t be subject to the tax, the Greenlight Pinellas referendum ultimately affects the Hillsborough side of the bay.

"I recognized very early that we're in this together. It is no longer Hillsborough fighting Pinellas. Those bridges are not barriers; they should be conduits to cooperation between the two counties,” Buckhorn said. “You know, we're going to succeed together or we're going to fail alone."

Greenlight opponents were there as well. Several dozen showed up outside Freefall Theatre including Barb Haselden, a longtime critic of the plan and spokeswoman for the group No Tax For Tracks.

Haselden and other opponents said there is no demand for light rail in Pinellas and that the tax increase would increase the county’s sales tax to the highest in the state.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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