Narrative implodes: Hillsborough bus ridership down 10.3% in one year

Just as citizens vote on a 1% sales tax to fund transit in Hillsborough County, the county’s transit authority reported that its bus ridership is down 10.3% for the fiscal year that ended September 30th (FY2018). The steep plunge calls into question the “need” or market demand for more transit, especially since more transit won’t…

PSTA ridership now 13% lower than a decade ago

In its fiscal year which ended September 30th, so-called revenue passenger trips on PSTA’s network of buses dropped 4.5% compared to the previous year. PSTA’s ridership is thus now 13% lower than it was 10 years ago. Despite a $100 million per year budget, a 34% increase in the tax rate levied on real property,…

Seminole mayor accused of abuse of power by two people, denies allegations

A local citizen journalist claims that Seminole mayor Leslie Waters tried to remove him from city public meetings. In a written statement submitted  to the city, a city firefighter seems to back up the journalist’s story. And the mayor denies all of it. Steve Hirschfield, citizen journalist and owner of the  local news website IonTB.com, filed a…

Anatomy of the rushed Hillsborough transit tax audit, part 1 of 2

It was after 3 P.M. in County Center on a hot Friday in September. The previous evening at 6:15 P.M., Hillsborough County Chief Financial Administrator Bonnie Wise had requested that “errors” be corrected in the performance audit report delivered by the auditing firm McConnell & Jones (M&J). The corrected report arrived at 2:33 P.M. In…

City commissioner e-mails city staff asking for campaign support

Largo City commissioner Samantha Fenger used her city e-mail account to ask city staff to sign petition cards so she could get on the ballot for the November election. On the face of it, Fenger’s actions appear to violate Florida Statutes 104.31 , which governs the political activities of state, county, and municipal officers. “I’m reaching out…

Tampa Bay Partnership membership income down 35% amid restructuring

A review of the Tampa Bay Partnership’s (TBP) 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 tax returns shows a 35% decline in membership dues in just three years. In the last year, it dropped 11% from the year before, despite a deep restructuring of the organization in 2016. The TBP is a non-profit 501(c)(6), which is the same…

State agency says public not allowed to see audit work plan for tax hike

Voter support for the 14% hike in the Hillsborough County sales tax is already unlikely. If the statutorily required audit of the government agencies receiving the money was supposed to increase voter support, a state agency may have just reduced the likelihood of that happening. OPPAGA, the state agency responsible for performing the audit, claims…

City of Clearwater wins one in ongoing land battle

The City of Clearwater scored a victory on Friday when the 2nd District Court of Appeals (DCA) for Florida overturned a circuit court decision involving submerged land in waters off of Clearwater Bay. The Guardian wrote about that decision last year, which was a summary judgment. Such judgments are rarely overturned, which makes the DCA decision…

City’s website carries political message against property tax cut on ballot

The City of Temple Terrace displays a third party political ad prominently on the front page of its website. The ad opposes Amendment 1, a high-profile referendum measure on this year’s general election ballot in November. The Guardian discovered the ad on Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend and immediately emailed questions to city manager Charles Stephenson…