Okay. So I was walking out of the relatively-new Target store at Dale Mabry and 275 this evening, and was approached by a dedicated “volunteer” for Taking Back Hillsborough County Political Committee. I must say he was making a strong effort. I am paraphrasing here, but it went something like this:
“Do you own a home? Have your property taxes increased? Would you like to see them go down? Then sign my petition to let the voters decide to elect our county’s chief executive.”
Okay. He was trying to say that by electing a county mayor who can only veto the budget, that mayor would somehow force the County Commission to reduce taxes.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
You see, the Hillsborough County Charter vests all of the power to set the budget – and there for our ad valorem taxes – in the Board of County Commissioners. The Taking Back website even says, “[the Board] will have power over the budget of the County.”
So, my petition gathering friend, please tell me how you can make the leap from electing a county executive to lowering property taxes? You can’t – and Taking Back should not muddle the issue by lying to the public to get their signatures.
The issue should stand on its own merits. Personally, I understand the motivation behind the effort. The Hillsborough County Board of County Commission has prided itself in mediocrity and acrimony. I agree with St. Pete Times columnist Howard Troxler who wrote in March:
In recent years the commission’s elections have been dominated by anticity, antigovernment, probusiness forces. They have been brilliantly successful at electing exactly the kind of board that they want.
It’s not just parochial east Hillsborough either; three of the current seven commissioners were elected by the entire county.
Instead of “taking back” the commission the hard way, winning seat by seat, the county-mayor movement seeks to trump the commission by electing a countywide mayor. Unspoken is the assumption that the mayor would be more “progressive” than the commissioners have been.
Could there be another alternative? What about adding members to the Commission? This is an idea that I think should be considered. (More on this later.)
For now, Taking Back needs to take back their petition and try again.