Are Four of Our Candidates for Indian River County, FL County Commission Wimping Out on Fighting All Aboard Florida?

zim-mediterranean-in-panama-canal

Locomotives guide a container ship through the Panama Canal.

Readers: “These are the containers that will roll through Vero Beach.” / “Such an attractive backdrop for our little town.”

WHILE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER’S AUGUST 16, 2016 39-PAGE RULING THAT MARTIN AND INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, FL. COUNTIES CAN PROCEED WITH THE FIRST EVER LAWSUITS OBJECTING TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION’S AWARD OF $ 1.75 BILLION IN PRIVATE ACTIVITY BONDS FOR THE ALL ABOARD FLORIDA (AAF) PASSENGER TRAIN PROJECT, WE HAVE INDIAN RIVER COUNTY CANDIDATES WHO OBJECT TO ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR THESE LAWSUITS.  

According to a Bond Buyer Story by Shelly Sigo on August 17, 2016, Indian River County Attorney Dylan Reinhold said: “The ruling is a ‘really significant victory.'”

“He said that information the counties produced in discovery convinced the judge to change his mind about whether AAF needed bond financing for Phase 2 of the project.”

“The judge told us we have standing, and we met that burden,” he said.

In a statement Wednesday, CARE FL, a local anti-train organization, said that although AAF claims that it is a privately funded project the court ruling proves that AAF is dependent on public support from the tax benefit provided by allowing tax-exemption on its bonds.

Further, Ms. Sigo wrote that Brent Hanlon, the steering committee chairman of CARE FL, a local anti-train organization, said: “AAF would travel through heavily populated Treasure Coast areas and require residents to bear additional financial burdens and safety risks.

We especially applaud the Martin County and Indian River Board of County Commissioners and legal teams for their leadership and steadfast commitment in the fight against AAF.”

Nevertheless, in Indian River County, FL we have four candidates for County Commission who do not have the “steadfast commitment” to fight AAF.

Here are how the four candidates feel about continuing to fight AAF:

Joe Earman, Republican Candidate for County Commissioner, District Three:

“But at what cost do we fight the train?  Do we need to continue to spend the funds on the train?  $ 2.7 million is a lot of money.”

“We need to look at mitigating the impact the train would have on this community.  We need to spend your dollars wisely, not by making our out of town lawyers rich.”

(It is interesting to note that as a Vero Beach Firefighters union leader, every time Mr. Earman conducted a collective bargaining session he and his fellow union members utilized the law firm Mierzwa & Floyd, PA an out-of-town South Florida law firm from Greenacres, FL.)

Jay Kramer, Republican Candidate for County Commissioner, District Five:

This is a quote from Mr. Kramer’s election website: http://votejaykramer.com/video/

“Jay knows how to mitigate the effects of All Aboard Florida instead of wasting the taxpayer’s money on frivolous lawsuits.”

Chuck Kirby, Republican Candidate for County Commissioner, District Three:

“The TRUTH is the odds were always slim-to-none that three small Treasure Coast Counties with less than 10 percent of the population being impacted could politically (or legally) derail this project. Our County Commissioners eluded that they (or their lawyers) could protect our quality of life—that we didn’t have to compromise—and, of course, all we had to do was support their unanimous 5-0 vote to pledge millions of our hard earned tax dollars to the fight.

Despite endless saber rattling by Commissioner Solari likening this fight to historical military battles, efforts thus far have failed to block the 1.75 billion in Transportation Facilities Revenue Bonds or the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) by the Federal Railroad Administration. So why are our INCUMBENT Commissioners leading the charge to spend even more?

Richard Gillmore, Republican Candidate for County Commissioner, District One:

“At this point I would pull the plug on spending any more of our taxpayer’s money on attorney’s fees and look to ways to mitigate any adverse impacts on our County. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

 

______________________________________________________________

Might it be reasonable at this point to ask these candidates where they stand now?

______________________________________________________________

 

And then here’s this from a loyal reader:

“I believe it is important that we get back to basics since it’s been over 2 1/2 years since we started this battle. Now the candidates say, “Look at all the money we’ve spent – it’s a lot! We can’t keep it up.”

Have they forgotten that if the trains come to fruition – and that is not just AAF but also the doubling of freight carrying Hazardous Materials – the county will pay for re—engineering and massive renovation to roads leading to the crossings and over half a million annually in crossing maintenance fees alone? This doesn’t include upgrades and expansion required for Emergency Medical Services and lost tax revenues when business and housing values decline. AND an immeasurable loss to our quality of life. We can double what we’ve paid so far in legal fees and still come out far ahead of the game in the long run if we can stop the trains.

We have physicians who have stated that the seconds an ambulance spends waiting at a train crossing can make the difference between life and death for cardiac or stroke patients and we have emergency experts that say we don’t have the staff or equipment to handle a passenger train accident let alone a Liquified Natural Gas derailment and breach. Imagine what will happen at 170 grade crossings in our region alone.

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/08/14/frequent-trains-hinder-first-responders-in-circleville.html

With the recent D.C. Circuit Court decision that finds the counties have standing and can proceed with their case, we see not just a simple victory but a major milestone. In this decision the project has been deemed a “federal undertaking” and the implications of that statement carry over to a number of different fronts being challenged by the counties.

Also, AAF may have to seek other means of cheap financing and that would mean the US DOT finally has to file the Economic Impact Statement (EIS) Record of Decision. When that happens, our counties can legally challenge the most egregious aspects of the EIS with much of the analysis already complete.

Lives are at stake and these candidates, with no clue regarding the impact of the project on thousands of residents, can cavalierly say that we shouldn’t spend more money on the train fight. I believe that they are saying these things only to cast aspersions on their opponents, Solari and Zorc, in order to get elected.

This is very sad and very dangerous and speaks far more about them than it does our full Board of Commissioners who have voted unanimously each time to do whatever it takes to stop the trains…votes that were supported by a vast majority of county residents.”

top_all_aboard_14533482_ver1.0_640_480

A southbound Florida East Coast Railway freight train hauls its cargo along the main track just south of Orange Avenue under the Citrus Avenue overpass while traveling past the Florida East Coast freight yard in Fort Pierce on May 12, 2014.

Source: Free Image – TCPalm

 

 

2 thoughts on “Are Four of Our Candidates for Indian River County, FL County Commission Wimping Out on Fighting All Aboard Florida?

  1. Candidates objecting to additional money only have the best interests of taxpayers at heart and should be commended, not condemned.

    This article is misleading and rife with mischaracterizations and inaccuracies.

    1. The USDOT did not “award .. $1.75 billion in private activity bonds”, they authorized the use of PABs, but it is up to AAF to find the buyers.

    2. In a bizarre twist of logic, CARE makes the completely insane conclusion that PABs are a source of “public funding”… THEY ARE NOT! Public Activity Bonds are bonds authorized by public entities but funded PRIVATELY at a reduced rate because the interest paid on them (by AAF to buyers) is tax-deductible because such bonds are seen as in the best interests of the public. Public officials made that determination. There are those who maintain AAF needs these PABs to fund the project. That is really irrelevant and makes the lawsuit foolish because if AAF really needs them and cannot find buyers, there will be no project (unless AAF can come up with alternate funding — as they’ve indicated they can). Of what business is it of objectors or county officials where AAF gets its funding? If it cannot get the funding, it won’t be built. So what is the problem?

    3. CARE claims “AAF would travel through heavily populated Treasure Coast areas and require residents to bear additional financial burdens and safety risks.” The additional costs to maintain improved safety of crossings are well worth the safety benefit. Safety risks are reduced by improved rail classification, double track mains, and vastly improved crossing safety required to meet “sealed corridor” upgrades. CARE is lying about there being a greater safety risk. If they must lie, then just how good a case can they have? Money squandered on litigation could have been bankrolled to pay for any increased safety costs.

    4. Regarding “Nevertheless, in Indian River County, FL we have four candidates for County Commission who do not the “steadfast commitment” to fight AAF.” — every one of those candidates has a more mature, better-considered, and clearer view of this issue than CARE or ANY of the current sitting Commissioners who’ve squandered and continue to squander taxpayer funds on this highly dubious legal action that has little ultimate chance of stopping the project, Mr. Reingold’s self-serving comments notwithstanding.

    5. When a commissioner has to lie in open public meeting and commissioners can only talk in generalities and fail to identify any specific negative consequences to AAF, they reveal their case against AAF as unfounded. Rather than inform the public, they misinform, fear-monger and refuse to work with AAF to obtain the best for their constituents.

    6. This last-gasp legal action has virtually no chance of stopping AAF. It is designed to annoy AAF and slow down the project. It is fundamentally baseless and makes claims that are unsustainable.

    7. Having “standing” is a FAR CRY from having a legitimate case you can win. Having standing merely allows the case to move forward, it does not provide any real evidence that the case will succeed.

    8. Candidates Earman, Kramer, Kirby, and Gillmore are each better than any of the sitting commissioners and should be given serious consideration for their concern for the best use of taxpayer funds. Current commissioners have gotten their emotions involved and cannot think clearly about this issue, as has been evident for some time.

    9. Claims there will be massive improvements needed because of AAF fail to acknowledge that AAF will be paying for the vast majority of those costs. If the public wants to further improve their roadways, those would be voluntary expenses that cannot be blamed on AAF or FECR. Maintenance costs, as noted earlier, would increase, but there would be a commensurate substantial improvement in crossing safety, making fatal collisions very unlikely.

    10. There is no viable argument that FECR traffic will materially increase. Currently, three-quarters of northbound FECR freight capacity is shipped empty. Even at that, should FECR add three more daily trains on their busiest days, the combined FECR plus all 32 AAF trains would create no more daily crossing closure time than FECR alone created ten years ago! That is an indisputable fact that flies in the face of hysterical claims of objectors and spendthrift commissioners.

    11. The widened canal has been operational for several months. No increase in FECR trains. Why is that?

    12. No intelligent analysis exists that can demonstrate a meaningful change in emergency services impacts from AAF, whose trains are short and, at the speeds they operate, will close a crossing to traffic for less time than a typical red traffic signal stops traffic on a major roadway. Physician claims to the contrary are not supported by facts, only emotional hysteria.

    13. Yes, “lives are at stake”… should AAF not be built, then crossings will remain dangerous and crossing fatalities will continue to occur. If on the other hand, AAF is built, crossing fatalities will be extremely unlikely, given the improvements to crossings AAF will make.

    14. The quality of life along the rail corridor will IMPROVE, especially if Indian River County authorizes low-cost (to the county) “Quiet Zones” that would eliminate the major complaint about rail crossings (noise).

    15. There is no valid assessment of the impact of AAF on property values that can sustain the notion that property values will be harmed by improved crossing safety and quieter trains together with the possibility of future alternative transportation for county residents (which ALWAYS RAISE property values).

    This article is a deeply flawed and shameless political statement in support of irresponsible incumbents. Its assertions are not supported by rational, objective analysis. It fails to quantify or qualify any assumed negative consequences and scrupulously avoids any mention of the many benefits to our communities.

    Short-sighted commissioners wasting taxpayer funds to enrich attorneys deserve to be replaced.

    Like

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