Liquor Yes; TSPLOST No; and Incumbents Still In



(Photo: Trenton Police Commissioner Sandra Gray does The Happy Dance to celebrate her reelection.)

It's official: Dade is a county that loves a drink, hates a tax and, elected-official-wise, believes in leaving well enough alone. In a special combined city/county election today, it voted in liquor by the drink for the city of Trenton, voted down a sales tax increase for the county as a whole, and returned two challenged incumbents to the Trenton City Commission.

Or possibly Dade is just a county that doesn't give a flyin' flip. Despite October early voting, turnout was dismal at 10.64 percent, with only 1017 ballots casts out of a 9557 registered electorate.

With all votes accounted for in what is probably record time--polls closed at 7 p.m. and The Planet was rotating along on its homeward ellipse by 8:30--the final counts were:

The countywide TSPLOST (transportation special purpose local option sales tax, a new penny tax for transportation projects that would have raised the local sales tax from 7 to 8 cents on the buck) referendum failed at 576 no votes to 437 yes.

A Trenton-only liquor-by-the-drink referendum for the incorporated city passed at 164 yes to 143 no.

And Trenton Police Commissioner Sandra Gray easily won reelection with 135 votes to 80 and 91, respectively, for challengers Don Hicks and John Taylor. Sitting Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell trounced his challenger, Kenny Jeffery,197-96.

The liquor-by-the-drink referendum was necessary to make Trenton officially "wet" because, though Trenton voters participated in the countywide LBTD last November, no mechanism had been installed in the polling in that election to distinguish registered city voters from others who voted downtown. Because the city government is separate from the county government, it required a mandate from its own subset of the electorate to make its own liquor rules match Dade's. Trenton had already legalized wine and beer by the drink by the city commission's unilateral decision in 2010.


Elections Supervisor Lowanna Vaughn (center, with cascading flaxen locks) surrounded by poll workers. Note clock in background; counting didn't take long given the miserable voter turnout.

Dade County District 3 Commissioner Robert Goff, asked for comment on the TSPLOST's failure, was disappointed but not surprised. "I'm telling you it's a good thing," he said, but the commission had not been allowed to campaign or advertise for the tax's passage, he added .

He agreed that that had left TSPLOST without a cheering section. "It's easy to say 'no new taxes,'" he said. "But who wants to say 'I'm for raising my taxes?'"

But the county commission can always put the measure on 2018's gubernatorial ballot, he said. "It can always get in next year," said Goff. And with Walker County looking good to pass a TSPLOST of its own tonight, there may be an example right next door to show Dade voters the benefits of a transportation tax. "It's not failed just because it didn't pass," said Goff.

And he maintained the measure needs to pass. People are always asking the county when it's going to pave a road or when it's going to stripe one, said Goff. "Do you know the amount of money it takes to stripe the roads?" he said.

The Board of Elections was not as crowded tonight as it usually is on Election Day night, but Trenton City Commission incumbents Terry Powell and Sandra Gray were both present, Powell seeming quietly grateful for his easy win and the more demonstrative Commissioner Gray not above performing the Happy Dance for The Planet's camera.

She said that the laid-back--one might say soporific--tone of this off-year election is not unusual for city politics, anyway. "In all the years I've done this, I've never had somebody say anything bad," she said.


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