ST. PETERSBURG — When I talk to opponents about Greenlight Pinellas, I have heard them say that the plan will hurt the poor. They say the tax swap is “regressive” because of the increase in sales tax, and they complain that the light rail doesn’t serve south county.
I looked into it, because these are not idle concerns, and what I found is that Greenlight Pinellas will help our community’s poorest residents the most, in many ways.
It means our workers will have affordable transportation to work in all parts of the county, especially for those working late shifts and weekends.
It gives our elders and grandmothers raising grandchildren more security for themselves and their children, with well-lighted, safer stops and faster transit.
It means our young people and students can broaden their world, connecting to culture, entertainment, school and career opportunities more readily.
And it means our business people have a better chance to take part in the growing network of commerce, from downtown to Midtown to the beaches.
In concrete terms, if Greenlight Pinellas passes, PSTA expects to increase bus service by 65 percent, including the expansion of trolley and bus service on the 22nd and 16th Street corridors, to the new African American Heritage Trail, and to other corridors.
It will make some 45,000 jobs in the county accessible to south side workers who either don’t have cars or don’t have the gas money to search for and keep a job in mid-county or north-county locations.
All of the above is a benefit to our community; and I believe that what it will cost taxpayers is a wise investment in increasing the strength of our community’s economy.
Unless and until we begin to join hands with diverse groups to invest in new approaches to economic growth, unemployment in our community will remain at unacceptably high levels, like the 19 percent reported by County officials in 2012 for South St. Petersburg.
PSTA officials have already begun to make Greenlight a reality in south St. Petersburg. In addition to adding new bus service to the 22nd Street corridor, PSTA officials worked with 2020 leaders and the Pinellas Opportunity Council to increase youth employment last summer. They plan to do so again in 2015.
Most encouraging, PSTA staff is working with 2020 leaders to ensure that – as new jobs are created and generated by the Greenlight Plan – job seekers in south St. Petersburg will have a direct link to those opportunities, through hiring stations at places like PTEC and the Pinellas County Urban League.
Greenlight has my support for all of the reasons above; and I encourage every voter to take the time to review the Greenlight Pinellas Plan, and learn more about how taxpayers across Pinellas County will share in this new vision.