Discussion over Penny for Transportation at Village Square

Stephanie Sylvester



The Funky Buddha kicked off its first political dinner of the fifth season on Oct. 10 to discuss Broward’s returning initiative: A Penny for Transportation.

Broward County Commission District 6 and mayor of Hollywood, Beam Furr, and Opinion Page Editor for the Sun Sentinel, Rosemary O’Hara, engaged in insightful discussion regarding the Penny Tax in front of students, journalists and other influential community leaders.

Last year’s Outstanding New Journalist for the Florida Press and current reporter for WLRN, Kate Stein, had the responsibility of being the moderator at the debate.

This initiative plan includes raising Broward County’s sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent resulting in an overall 17 percent increase in tax payout from Broward citizens. The plan ultimately aims to create more buses, possibly install a coastal and intercoastal light rail, reduce emissions and relieve traffic congestion.

This initiative was proposed on the 2016 ballot, but before in two sections: infrastructure and transportation. The infrastructure section was rejected, and the transportation was approved, but the initiative would not be able to pass unless both sections were passed. The initiative returns to the Nov. 6 ballot this year as one bill only.

Over the 30 years that this plan would be enacted, the county would reap a total of almost $16 billion that is to be shared out between all 31 cities for transportation and traffic projects.

According to Furr, a special independent advisory board made up of 9 members would decide how this money is shared and ensure that the money is shared fairly to refrain from giving a “priority cut” to any one city.

O’Hara and others against the Penny Tax point out that it remains unknown for sure whether the community can trust that these individuals will really make unbiased decisions being that they are not elected.

O’Hara believes a 10-year plan rather than this 30-year plan gives the people more confidence in achieving these goals to improve transportation and traffic. She admits that there are a lot of things in this plan that are good, but the county reaping these benefits in an efficient time is not promising because no one has a tangible idea of how exactly this plan will be implemented.

“I want to live in a smart county that is setting things up for the future,” said Furr rebutting O’Hara’s belief that the plan is too long-term. Furr emphasized in his argument that although the plan is lengthy and contains many issues that are going to be tackled, he shines light on the fact that it is a chance to start fresh and get the money that Broward County needs to improve transportation in every city.

Furr also revealed that citizens would be informed of the progress of the plan for the duration of the 30 years through the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization and the advisory board’s newsletters.

“Give us the money first, trust us, and then we’ll tell you what we’re going to do with it,” said O’Hara regarding the great uncertainties she feels with passing A Penny for Transportation.

She emphasized how the initiative is more of a plan of promise rather than a plan of action. Regardless, Furr was persistent in his belief in the success of the plan. “It needs to be big. It needs to be bold.”

Student Life Ambassador for Downtown Campus and Social Work major, Rosean Monteith, identified with O’Hara’s view on the Penny Tax being too long of an ordeal. “It is a lot of money to put out for 30 years with risk knowing the nature of the government officials and the people trying to put trust in them.”

Business administration and management student, Jaarona Stuart, says she is undecided on how she feels about the Penny Tax. “It’s quite an optimistic and futuristic idea,” she said. “It can be

Stein brought up a valuable point in the debate that the plan is a matter of public trust. Will the citizens of Broward County trust the government to use $16 billion to improve transportation, traffic, connectivity and environmental issues for 30 years? The choice will be yours Nov. 6. For more information on A Penny for Transportation initiative in Broward County, visit http://www.broward.org/pennyfortransportation/

photo caption: Hollywood mayor, Beam Furr and Opinion Page Editor of the Sun-Sentinel, Rosemary O’Hara discuss the proposed penny tax at the Village Square. Photo courtesy of Downtown Photo

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