Transportation Tax’s Phony Promises

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

It should be no surprise that in an election year fueled with falsehoods, fabrications and fibs, the honchos behind Broward’s transportation tax proposal are outright lying to the public. 

Raising the sales tax a penny to 7 cents will not stop traffic congestions. In fact, the light rail system planned will remove driving lanes from already crowded streets. 

Not that you should believe the rail  — an already outmoded transit system that has failed to live up to its promise in many other parts of the country — will ever get built.

The Wave trolly, which was supposed to be the linch pin of the system, got dumped by the Fort Lauderdale Commission earlier this year.

Spending (at least) $4 billion price tag on an old school rail down Broward Boulevard from U. S One to University Boulevard and then south to reach Davie’s college complexes, is another of the grandiose South Florida dreams that surface periodically from the fevered minds of promoters. 

Reams of blueprints and presentation booklets sit in local historical museums for proposed projects that never got built.

There was the Resort World Miami’s plans for the old Miami Herald building site in Miami. It was touted as a $3.8 billion development with 50 restaurants, a casino-hotel and even a natural sand beach. Never built.

Or Wayne Huizenga’s Blockbuster Park, a 2,500 acre entertainment attraction along Interstate 75 in Southwest Broward. It died but not before generating a lot of talk.     

Remember Interama, the pipe dream that envisioned a permanent World’s Fair in Northeast Miami-Dade? It lingered on in the imagination for decades.  

Or the Everglades Jetway, a futuristic second Miami-Dade international airport with six planned runways and a monorail to the coast. It never got built.

 

Or Metrorail’s extension to Broward County, promised 20 years ago as part of the 89 miles of new rail to be built by a half-cent tax? We are still waiting.      

My take: The rail system will never get built, but not until millions more are frittered away on more studies.

The public will rebel against losing lanes of traffic on key roads. The public will rebel as soon as the estimated costs climb to the point another new tax is needed.

Those behind the transportation tax must know the public is dubious of a rail system that will come with huge construction costs and operating cost that go on…forever. That’s why you won’t find any mention of the rail system on the county Internet page promoting the tax. (If I am missing it, send me the link.)

But lobbyists, people in the real estate and construction industry and others who do businesses at the County Commission love the new tax. Any idea that can put more of your money in their pockets is a great idea.

 

Click to enlarge

 

Uber was one of the biggest contributors, forking over $25,000 to the committee promoting the tax. Regulated by the county government, the company probably just wants to keep commissioners happy.

Other than the rail system, how the rest of the money will be spent over the next 30 years is squishy. Every dime of the $16 billion generated by the penny sales tax will be in the hands of the Broward County Commission.  

Do you trust them to do what’s right? 

Based on history, individual commissioners will divvy up the tax money up so that each of their districts get a big chunk of the amount regardless of where it is really needed.  Spreading money around is a proven way to stay in office. 

“Reject Broward Penny-Tax Slush Fund. Trust Us Transportation Plan is Full of Holes,” was the headline on the Sun-Sentinel’s amazing and well-reasoned editorial recommending defeat of the tax linked here. 

If this tax passes, one more cent of the county’s taxing ability will be used. Remember that the sales tax is one of the few generators of government money and there are other big, big needs: schools, the poor, public safety, etc. 

And there is one more daunting need not being talked about enough — coastal flooding. 

Flooding is a real threat and it is multi-faceted. The cost of fighting the flooding will cost billions and billions and more billions. Just in Broward.

Roads are already waterlogged for too many days of the year in east Broward and other low-lying areas. Salt water is eating away at asphalt, concrete and underground utilities. Salt water is endangering our drinking water. 

The tax base isn’t big enough to handle flooding threats even if we don’t waste billions on an outmoded rail system that few will use. 

There is one positive in all this.  Maybe the flooding will prompt people to flee Broward. That’s one way to solve traffic congestion.



24 Responses to “Transportation Tax’s Phony Promises”

  1. Old Timer says:

    The main reason that people want mass transit is so other people will use it.

    FROM BUDDY:

    Very perceptive.

  2. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Phony promises-U r so right.Its like constantly sock it to the residents.It never ends.What i would like to see is these residents catching a break.With that beautiful beach which we have to share with the tourist and have to endure traffic congestion, to mobs of people etc.Not complaining but spread the wealth guys.I mean i appreciate the snowbirds etc but instead of constantly charging the residents more and more what i would like to see is how about a rebate.How about we lower mill rates etc.No water, sewer and now transportation tax as outlined here- enough allready.I agree phony tactic.More money for these elected officals to spend.What gets me is u know who wins here- the lobbyist, the developers and the politicians.Eat cake i would and will tell them very soon…

  3. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Light rail will not happen, and that’s a very good thing!

    Take a look at this recent Sun-Sentinel article, and you will see that the County is in fact doing exactly what it should be doing:

    https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/transportation/fl-ne-electric-buses-will-they-hold-up-20181025-story.html

    The MPO plan, when it arrives, will be considered by the County Commissioners then in office, which gives us plenty of time to kick out some of the current lower-quality Commissioners before that happens.

    Broward seriously needs this money for transportation improvements; even the anti-penny editorial you cited concedes that!

    This transportation initiative is a big YES vote for me.

  4. Tired of inaccuracies says:

    So many planners, engineers and transportation experts–not to mention fortune tellers– in this community lately. My take? Stay in your lane. Let people who are knowledgeable about how to solve mobility challenges do what works across this country and world. Stop assuming solutions aren’t accessible or practical. Stop asserting that GOVERNMENT is the reason none of the projects cited in this article got done. The reason things don’t get done here isn’t government inefficiency, it is a culture of fear. Fear of change. NIMBYism about every, single thing.

    Stop assuming you know better than the people who received degrees and have practiced in a variety of transportation and public works engineering, planning and construction fields. Light rail is certainly no more of an outdated techonology than our legs, bikes and all the fossil-fuel burning cars clogging every inch of our roadways, right? Should we abandon them, too?

    90% of the people who comment against the transportation initiative don’t even know the difference between the cities, county and state transportation responsibilities. Why don’t journalists spend time educating the public and helping them to be informed so the electorate can make INFORMED decisions… not continue the same tired tale of government waste and inefficiency. Especially when there isn’t any evidence.

    The plan is solid, detailed, and the rail is mentioned right in the Get the Facts presentation on the website. It’s also all over the Financial Plans. I am not going to send a link, because you’re a journalist, and I feel confident of your capability to find facts. See? I stay in my lane and let you do your job! Let the transportation experts and professionals do theirs.

  5. Concerned citizen says:

    What do you mean one more cent of Broward’s taxing ability will be used? This is a Charter County Local Option Sales Tax authorized under Florida Statute. It has nothing to do with Broward millage. And as a result, tourists and non residents, including out of state businesses,would help fund all the transportation infrastructure that they use! A sales tax actually frees up property tax money for all the other pressing social needs you mentioned!! You’re for the tax, but don’t realize it!

  6. Steve Geller says:

    Buddy:
    I agree with your premise but disagree with your conclusions.

    I agree that light rail down Broward Blvd. and onto University Drive would be a nightmare. I was the leading opponent at the Commission of doing this, and I was very, very clear that my vote for the tax was conditioned upon the assurance that I wasn’t voting for this light rail. I believe that it would result in 5-10 years of misery during construction on Broward, and then result in reducing the number of lanes of traffic. I simply don’t support this.

    I have been assured on the record that the proposed light rail could be limited to an airport-seaport-convention center link, which I wholeheartedly support. I’d also consider light rail if it could be done along 595, or in another fashion that won’t close existing lanes of traffic.

    I also don’t believe that added bike lanes would significantly reduce traffic. This is South Florida, where we have 1 week of Fall, 1 week of Spring, 1 week of Winter, and 11 months of Summer. Most people simply won’t ride their bikes to work, because they’d be drenched and smelly when they got there. I support constructing bike lanes where there is room, but I generally oppose closing lanes of traffic to create additional bike lanes.

    Whether we like it or not, for the foreseeable future, cars will provide the dominant method of transporting people from their homes to work, shopping, etc. The cars may become self-driving, they may be Uber or Lyft, they may be gasoline, electric, or hydrogen fuel cell, but they will still be cars. Other transportation options like better buses, community buses, trolleys, rail, etc. could all assist, providing that they’re in addition to lanes of traffic, not replacing lanes of traffic.

    However, there are many other funding components of the plan which I agree with.
    We need more money for transportation. Our existing transportation programs have been funded primarily through gas tax revenues, which are based on pennies per gallon. As cars have become more fuel efficient, this source of revenue has decreased significantly, particularly when accounting for inflation. It is better to fund transportation through a one penny sales tax as opposed to paying for it through increased property taxes, as about 30% of the sales tax will be paid by tourists and other non-Broward County residents. Also, in order to access many State and Federal matching grant programs, we will need a dedicated funding source, like the penny sales tax.

    You mentioned in your column that roadway flooding and drainage need to be addressed. That is done in this plan. The Broward County Para-transit program for people with disabilities has been growing far more expensive very quickly. This plan funds that growth. This plan provides full funding for the popular municipal Community Shuttles. The plan provides funding for more than 700 city requested transportation improvements. The plan uses new technologies to create “smart signals” and adaptive signal control to reduce traffic congestion and wait times after trains, bridges, or emergency vehicles disrupt normal traffic flow. It reconfigures 122 intersections across the County to reduce bottlenecks. It expands fiber optic networks to improve traffic signal synchronization. It expands express buses, the “Breeze” limited stop bus service, replaces outmoded and older buses, adds buses where needed to reduce waiting times at the regular fixed-route buses, will pay for environment-friendly electrical buses, etc.

    I don’t believe that the plan is perfect. I believe that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” I believe that it’s a good plan, and more importantly, it’s the only viable plan that we have. If we do nothing, the already significant traffic problems that we have will worsen, which is unacceptable. I believe that the portion of the money in the plan that is currently tentatively budgeted for light rail will be spent on the airport-seaport-convention center loop, and the remainder will be spent on intersection and other improvements. It’s impossible to accurately plan out 30 years in advance; any money spent on rail would be contingent on obtaining matching State and Federal funds, so those numbers are always just projections. I agree with you that the light rail down Broward and on University shouldn’t occur, but I still believe that this is the only plan that promises overall improvement in Broward’s bad traffic problems. The status quo cannot continue or get worse. That is why I voted for it on the Commission, and at the ballot box.

  7. Hmmmm says:

    The Internet page “informing” voters may not reference light rail, but the actual question being voted on certainly includes “rail along approved corridors.” Shall countywide transportation improvements to reduce traffic congestion, improve roads and bridges, enhance traffic signal synchronization, develop safe sidewalks and bicycle pathways, expand and operate bus and special needs transportation, implement rail along approved corridors, and implement emerging transportation technologies, be funded by levying a thirty year, one percent sales surtax, paid by residents and visitors, with the proceeds held in a newly created trust fund and all expenditures overseen by an independent oversight board?

  8. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    #6 u can see the public concern.I keep hearing more money, more money is the answer.Problem is always on the residents back.Its the same old line etc oh its just another fifty(50) bucks a year.Well it all adds up.Just look at the School bd.etc over 800 mill they took in for basically the same ammo.Money for innerstucture , better schools etc but yet nothing has been done.Oh they are famous for hiring consultant after consulant but nothing happens.Meanwhile these elected officals keep charging us more and more.Enough.Make do with the monies u take in.No, we want more Robert.Will see…

  9. Stephen Hamilton says:

    I am a NO on the tax. The basic reason is that I think it would be MORE wasted money. Do we need better transit systems ? Yes. Will this tax, or the current planning system produce it ? NO ! One commenter referred to the “Experts”. I’ve been full time participating in transit decision making for the last 3 years. There is very little expertise. The decisions they make are unjustified, full of holes, lacking any vision, and most often politically driven and encumbered by stupid rules. The whole planning system is broken. Feeding it more money will not help fix it.

  10. History says:

    History tells us that “leaders” like Anne Castro have proclaimed that people will be screaming for public transportation when they are forced out of their cars.
    Meanwhile, said “leaders” do not ride bicycles or use public transportation.
    BTW: Just glimpsed a Brightline train whizzing by, many empty seats on a two car train. How is that experiment going?

  11. Highly Misleading says:

    Stephen Hamilton (comment #9): You are a longtime resident of Miami-Dade County. Your experience relates to Miami-Dade County, not Broward. You can’t vote on the transit referendum in Broward County!

    https://thenewtropic.com/smart-kendall-rail/

    https://www.miamitodaynews.com/2018/03/06/personal-rapid-transit-moves-study-baylink-route/

  12. Stick your head in the sand says:

    Really, #9, three WHOLE years?

    Go ahead and vote no if you want our economy to stifle and our children never to return to South Florida. While you’re at it, stick your head in the sand.

    Mr. Geller is 100% correct. Let’s not let waiting for perfect to move forward with ba good idea.

  13. Charles says:

    Vote no on the Penny tax for 30 years. expected to collect 300 million the first year alone.

    A huge money grab.

    The money will be wasted as usual.

  14. DON KOZICH says:

    I read with interest Bob Poole’s editorial in opposition to Broward County’s 1% Sales Tax Increase.

    This is just a backdoor second attempt by the County to get more money with which to fund salary increases among other internal matters. After finding out the truth behind the tax increase even the Fire Fighter’s Union withdrew its support. The first attempt failed two years ago but only because the 1/2% increase for transportation was voted down, thereby defeating the entire 1% increase.

    I recall the Chairperson of the County Board for Transportation saying (paraphrasing) “we are creating gridlocks to get voters to approve the 1% sales tax increase and in the meantime let the people swelter in the gridlocks.”

    The County is at it again. Now the County is creating gridlocks all over the county purposely to induce voters to approve the 1% increase.

    For this go round the County combined both line items into one line item.

    The County has already reached side agreements with the Cities to fund their pet projects out of the increase but never disclosed the details.

    Two years ago I did an extensive public records request (PRR) but the County kept on stalling and I got nowhere.

    If you provide an email address I can forward my communications and PRRs for your review.

    Perhaps you can do better.

    Please let me know.

    Thanks,

    Don Kozich

  15. Stormwatch says:

    The biggest obstacle south floridians face with respect to transportation is political leaders with a lack of vision and a “What’s in it for me” mentality. I’ve split my time between south Florida and the northeast since 1973. I also do a good amount of traveling. Its interesting to see how residents and political leaders here deal with transportation as compared to other areas. Florida is one of the most populated states wirh a limited land mass. Based on growth projections, high emphasis should have been placed on elevated light rail years ago. There should be elevated light rail straight down the middle of 441 from Okeechobee Boulevard in Palm Beach County all the way to where 441 ends at the Broward / Dade county line. There should be light rail down the middle of 595 into downtown, Port Everglades and the beach. When the federal government wanted to fund a bullet train, Rick Scott nixed it in favor of his buds at Brightline. One of these days south Florida will exit the dark ages and be a leader rather than playing catch up.

    FROM BUDDY:

    One of the drawbacks is that Broward County has no employment centers. More people work in Davie than downtown Fort Lauderdale. A large number work around Executive Airport. A major employment center is Sunrise. And the people come from all over.

    It is almost impossible financially to have rail transportation reaching all these places. This is a low tax state. With the federal government running a huge deficit, it is doubtful much money will come from Washington.

    Re Brightline: It won’t be here for long unless the state/local government starts putting money in.

  16. Just One Vote says:

    @14 Don Kozich –
    “The County is at it again. Now the County is creating gridlocks all over the county purposely to induce voters to approve the 1% increase.”

    THANK YOU!!
    Were their others on a daily basis??

    I thought is was just me and my conspiracy theories with the county, but mostly the sub-contractors, setting up and tearing down barricades DAILY and NIGHTLY for over 6 weeks on east and west bound Cypress Creek east of the Turnpike. Instead f clown highway work planners working opposite the morning and evening traffic (jams eastbound in a.m. and westbound in the p.m.) these geniuses were closing lanes in the direction of the rush hour traffic, for over six weeks. I thought of writing the BCC but they are clueless and myopic and do not know the county outside ‘their districts’ so would have no idea what i was pointing out.
    Then in a last ditch effort to further enrage drivers the subcontractors started closing lanes northbound all day and thru afternoon rush hour northbound on NW 31 Ave at FXE. There were accidents every day. But you so clearly pointed out this was nothing more than a feabile attempt to provoke commuters to vote for the sales tax increase. Not.
    It is DOA in about 36 hours. Wait till the additional homestead passes and the cap on non-homestead. the finances at every level of gov’t will be hamstrung. The cherry on the top is Gillum getting elected. The economic crash and burn will be a sight to see.

  17. right wing says:

    not to mention the three very slow, antiquated drawbridges, and the seemingly endless parade of freight trains in and out of the port.don’t need a slick degree in your office to notice.

  18. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Looks like the transportation tax passed.Also Amend.4 passed.DEAL ME IN Dean.Charlotte Rodstrom get back back on that horse.One of us will be him.Trust me..

  19. Count. LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    18 posts opposing the increase in the Coubty Sales Tax lead by Robert Walsh.
    IT PASSED BY OVER 60%!

  20. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Just learned that all amendments go into effect on Jan 8.So all amendments gp into effect( law) on Jan 8, 2019.

  21. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    #19.Yes i was against this transportation tax etc.The residents in general have no idea( most) the history these elected officals do with this influx of cash.Yes, it passed but with protest from myself and others.Fees, cost , taxes should be lower not always going up.With the tourist and that beach it should equate to lower cost for the redident.Look for my ideas.Sin tax( for every drink u bars and restaurants pour 5o cents will go to Ft.lau.Hotels workers all of them 15.00 bucks an hour.Rank and file police your getting 10% raise clear across the board.Homeless take a walk with this Leap program( u bring them to your house Comm.Sorenson).10% cost reductions.( water, sewer, mill rate.Just a few of my ideas.” Together we can do this”….

  22. Stormwatch says:

    Based on the amount of investment Brightline has made and continues to make, they’ll be here forever. Those Brightline folks have vision. Those trains will be packed in 10 years. I’ve never seen a parking garage or a traffic jam in Davie, but I see a good number of parking garages and traffic jams in Ft. Lauderdale. The third most populated state in America and a limited land mass. Florida will have no choice other than to vastly improve public transportation. But we’ll play catch up and it will be expensive. These problems were highly predictable. But people sat around and did nothing rather than be on the cutting edge.

  23. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    #19.Your darn right 18x against this tax.Now make it 19…

  24. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    #21.I have generated alot of buzz with my plans for Ft.lau and how are u going to pay for all this.First the ” sin tax” will generate enough revenue to achieve all these incentives.Also city hall esp.city msn.office to to top heavy.With these senior man.fellows( that is what they r called to disguise them from the public) reduce that staff.W/ alot of them making close to 100g or more they will make do with less.Also city auditor your going( that will save over a quarter of a mill dollars.).Also we are going to put the petal to the metal and aggressively pursue monies that r owed to the city.Also( yes) every, every non profit u will now get zero dollars( charity begins at home, not city hall).To city employees we r going to put say 500 thou on the street ( so to speak) and with 5 yrs service we will let u borrow money say 1000 to say 2500 dollars and we will charge u say 8 % 10 % intetest for you to pay back.A win for employees( u will need the cash) and we will make a handsome profit).” Together we can do this”.My way works…

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