Pinellas County commissioner Janet Long has put her foot in her mouth yet again. In an interview last week with Mitch Perry of SaintPetersBlog, Janet Long said this about TBARTA, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.
“I don’t know if you’ve been to a TBARTA board meeting, but I thought I was going to eat my brains out!” Long says. “It is four hours of excuse my expression bullshit. All you do is listen to one study after another study after another presentation, and on and on. They don’t do anything!”
Apart from the vulgar language and the discord it is likely to cause, Long is incorrect on the length TBARTA meetings. The Guardian reviewed the meeting length of all TBARTA meetings during 2016 and found that they were on average 1 hr 46 mins long. No meeting lasted longer than 2 hrs 12 mins, well short of Long’s “four hour” claim.
So what is really going on here? Long may be lashing out because her efforts to create a Tampa Bay Transit Authority are being opposed by TBARTA and other agencies. In addition, citizen critics see it as an attempt to raise taxes and reduce accountability. More on that in Mitch Perry’s interview with Long.
We asked Long’s colleague, county commissioner Pat Gerard, if she intended to seek a formal rebuke of Long. Gerard, a fellow Democrat, has previosuly sought formal rebukes against fellow commissioners.
In 2014, while serving as Largo Mayor, Gerard made the decision to hold a special meeting to consider a censure resolution that expressed “its strong disapproval of the improper use of the city’s iPad and email account.” That matter involved city commissioner Curtis Holmes. The censure resolution invoked several city employee policy against Holmes, even though a commissioner is not bound by employee policies.
We received no response to from Gerard.
This isn’t the first time Long puts her foot in her mouth. Last October, Long incorrectly claimed that Pinellas bed tax dollars can be used for transit. In the summer of 2015, Long’s claim that “they do have elections in Cuba” caused an uproar (video). Cuba does not have anything that independent election monitors would call “elections”.
In 2013, a Florida Ethics Commission investigation found that Long violated the state ethics law and the state constitution by filing an inaccurate financial disclosure form while in the state Legislature.
The last time a local elected official publicly called something “bullshit” was last May when Madeira Beach city commissioner Pat Shontz characterized the complaints of a citizens group as being exactly that.
Shontz resigned two weeks later during a commission meeting after casting an important vote on land use. Shontz passed away last month after a brief illness.
Update February 19th: “It would have been easy for Long to verify the length of the meetings,” said Barb Haselden, who led the grassroots No Tax For Tracks effort to defeat Greenlight Pinellas in 2014. “Janet Long shoots from lip instead of getting her facts straight, and it happens much too often”, Haselden continued.
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