Bob Robertson is a man who has an uncanny ability to pop up almost everywhere. Community meetings, charity events, volunteer drives — if it’s something that can help others, Robertson is there.
That’s part of what called him to run for the Pasco County Commission — a chance to make a difference. And that, for him, starts with getting people excited about their local government once again.
“The bigger issue is that people are totally disengaged, even to the extent that this campaign we’re in, we have to try and explain to people the voting process. People feel that government isn’t working for them, and I want to change that.”
Robertson worked to do that during his years on Lake Bernadette’s community development district, becoming a steward for the funds residents there pay for the management of their community, especially when it comes to infrastructure. It’s not anything like helping to manage a county with nearly a half-million people — but it’s a tremendous learning experience.
Especially when it comes to sorting through all kinds of needs, and then trying to find the money to help pay for it.
“Tax revenue has gone down, and property values have gone down. Hard choices have been made, and are still going to be made,” Robertson said. “We have to decide between what we need and what we want, and we need to create a vision of that.”
There has been a lot of talk over whether to raise taxes at the gas pump by a nickel, or even to increase property taxes to help pay for new road construction. Robertson said he’s not too interested in raising taxes, but he’s also a realist.
“Property taxes have been going down pretty considerably since 2007,” he said. “Some are down by about 35 percent. And when you then talk about raising the gas tax a nickel, it kind of puts all of that into perspective.”
However, the county has to be cautious about how they approach any potential gas tax, Robertson said. While the impact to residents might be minimal, the effect it would have on businesses — especially those that purchase large amounts of fuel — could be devastating.
“The business community side is where you get the unintended consequences,” Robertson said. “If you making your living in an area like landscaping, for instance, they are running around and buying gasoline for their equipment. They are not necessarily using the roads.”
Overall, however, the county needs to focus more on mass transit, to help get people around, and get more cars off the roads. While some areas — like the southern tier of Pasco — is becoming more urbanized, the bus system is not keeping up in making sure transportation options are in place, Robertson said.
“We need to look at what our southern neighbors are doing,” Robertson said of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. “We need to work in concert with them to figure out what’s working and what’s not, and to make sure that we can connect everyone to all parts of the region.”
It also means making sure there are good-paying jobs. Robertson has cited statistics he says are from government research that has the average weekly wage in Pasco at $624. Hillsborough and Pinellas pay about $200 more.
“Our residents are not in the economic position to be able to afford many of the wonderful things that we want to be able to offer in the county,” Robertson said, referring to generating more tax revenue for services. “Yes, we need these additional residences to be built up around the county to help with the tax base, but we also need to have people moving in that are making enough to boost the value of our property here in Pasco.”
Robertson has hardly raised the most money among the three candidates seeking the Republican nomination for county commission’s District 2. However, he knew from the beginning he would be the underdog.
“I see myself, at least, as the quintessential grassroots candidate,” he said. “The other two guys are politicians, but I present a different look. And you need to be different if you want to stand out in the crowd.”
Republican candidate for Pasco County Commission, District 2
Owner, The Financial Center
Lake Bernadette Community Development District, 2008-14
Cindy Robertson, wife
Zephyrhills, nine years
through Aug. 8
Published August 20, 2014
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