Vote yes for ELAPP
Way down at the bottom of your ballot is a Hillsborough County referendum on ELAPP. The main challenge facing this referendum is simply that many voters don’t know what ELAPP is. A recent poll showed that when people are informed about ELAPP, the majority will support this referendum, so in hopes that you will vote YES for ELAPP, I present these key points:
ELAPP, our county’s successful Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program, is set to expire after 20 years, unless we vote to renew it in this election. We must act now to preserve our last remaining environmentally sensitive lands to:
- Protect drinking water sources
- Improve water quality in local rivers, lakes and Tampa Bay
- Preserve wildlife habitat
- Provide outdoor recreational areas
“Moreover,” as the Tribune points out,
“the land-buying program allows the county to safeguard neighborhoods from overdevelopment without violating property owners’ rights. By saving green spaces, the need to build roads, schools and other costly infrastructure is averted, and pollution problems are prevented.”
The Tribune also points out, what everyone who is supporting this referendum is quick to point out, including the campaign brochure: [emphases added]
Voting for ELAPP will not increase property taxes. It is simply a continuation of a voter approved funding source in place since 1987. Those funds have been wisely invested and matched with 76 million additional dollars which would not have been available without a local funding source.
Use of those funds is strictly limited to acquiring and preserving environmentally sensitive lands in Hillsborough County. Strong oversight from a citizens advisory council and annual public audits have helped ELAPP earn the support of nearly every political, business, environmental and civic group in the region.
The non-partisan effort to continue ELAPP is led by former Gov. Bob Martinez (R) and former County Commissioner Jan Platt (D). Broad-based support comes from the cities of Tampa & Plant City, businesses like TECO and Mosaic, the Tampa Bay Partnership, as well as every local & regional environmental group including Audubon & Sierra Club. Both the Tribune & Times have endorsed it.
Need more convincing? Visit one of ELAPP’s 55 nature preserves. Take a walk and feel your spirits lift. Contemplate the idea that the preserve would be a subdivision or strip mall if it were not protected. Consider, too, that if the preserve had been developed, it would cost us taxpayers much more for infrastructure than it costs to maintain as a nature preserve.
Although we are all facing tight budgets at the moment, it is important to take the long view as we consider whether to renew this program into the decades ahead. Today’s economy provides excellent opportunities to acquire land at bargain prices, and there is still over 40,000 acres of environmentally valuable land in this county that we need to protect while we still can. This land will undoubtedly be paved over eventually if it is not purchased for preservation.
I hope you will join me in voting YES for ELAPP.