The Palm Beach Post: Board members deciding All Aboard Florida money won’t be at public hearing
Posted on April 15, 2015
Board members charged with deciding whether All Aboard Florida gets $1.75 billion in tax exempt bonds won’t be in attendance during a Monday meeting scheduled for the public to comment on the funding.
According to Indian River County Attorney Dylan Reingold, only staff members of the Florida Development Finance Corp. will attend the two-hour hearing beginning at 9 a.m. in Tallahassee. The staff will then report comments back to the three-member FDFC board, who were appointed to their posts in March.
“Speakers who make the seven to 14 hour roundtrip drive from the areas impacted by these bonds will only have 3 minutes to testify,” Reingold wrote in a memo late Tuesday. “In fact, they may not have an opportunity to speak at all, as the meeting is scheduled for two hours. I have also been informed that there will be no opportunity for the public to call into the meeting.”
The Florida Development Finance Corp. did not respond to a question posed yesterday by The Palm Beach Post about whether board members would be present during Monday’s meeting.
All Aboard Florida, an express passenger rail project that plans to run 32 trains per day on the FEC tracks from Miami to Orlando, has been controversial in northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.
With stops only in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Treasure Coast residents say they’ll get increases in noise, traffic congestion and safety hazards without the benefit of a station.
Monday is the public’s opportunity to discuss their support or opposition to the project. It’s unknown whether there will be additional public hearings, but All Aboard Florida has only until July 1 to issue the private activity bonds as a condition of approval from the US Department of Transportation.
The Florida Development Finance Corp. acts as the conduit issuer of the bonds.
Reingold said he will request the hearing be rescheduled for a time when the FDFC board members can be present. If that’s not possible, he wants the public to be able to call into the meeting so they will have a “reasonable opportunity to participate.”
“I believe that in the current format as proposed by the staff, has a chilling effect on public participation,” Reingold said.
Indian River County filed a federal lawsuit last month against the US DOT for challenging the legality of approving the bonds before a final environmental impact statement is released.