May 15, 2024 - Politics

Hillsborough County OKs Israel investments over residents' objections

Illustrated collage of a cut up hundred dollar bill in various positions with squares, rectangles, and arrows

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Hillsborough's county commission amended its policies Wednesday to allow investments of up to $25 million in Israel after a raucous public hearing that saw multiple attendees removed.

Why it matters: Dozens of residents pleaded with commissioners for almost two hours not to approve the amendment, calling it short-sighted, shameful and a sign of the commission's misplaced attention.

  • Hillsborough is now the second (and largest) county in Tampa Bay to allow such investments.
  • Commissioner Pat Kemp (D) cast the lone opposing vote for the amendment. Democrats Gwen Myers and Harry Cohen sided with the commission's Republican majority.

What they're saying: "War-torn and bombed communities is not something that our county should be investing in," community organizer and Florida State House candidate Harrison Lundy said at the hearing. "It's almost unreal how absurd that sounds out loud."

  • "You have to remember it was your constituents who were tear gassed earlier this month and were brutalized by police in riot gear," he added, referring to law enforcement's response to pro-Palestinian protests at USF.
  • Kemp said: "Many residents have come to meetings, sent hundreds of emails to all of our offices and are here today expressing strong opposition to this change."

The other side: "I will look everybody in the face and let you know that I stand by this," said Commissioner Michael Owen (R), who introduced the amendment and is up for re-election.

Context: The meeting's contentious tone reflects roiling nationwide tension over U.S. support for Israel amid its invasion of Gaza.

The fine print: The amendment to the Investment Policy Ordinance allows for investments in "rated or unrated bonds, notes, or instruments backed by the full faith and credit of the government of Israel."

  • The move won't require the county to purchase these bonds but will allow it to do so. Local governments have been able to invest in Israel since 2007.
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