TC Palm Editorial Board: Fighting for our future against AAF

Posted on February 23, 2015

The twin statements — coming about two hours apart Tuesday — were declarative and unanimous.

Given the fact the Treasure Coast is being steamrolled by All Aboard Florida, and that our region has few champions at the state and federal levels, the actions by two local governments were necessary.

First, the Indian River County Commission voted to spend up to $2.7 million to fight All Aboard Florida. Then the Martin County Commission followed suit, earmarking as much as $1.4 million for legal action to stop the rail project, which will bring 32 daily passenger trains through our region beginning in early 2017.

No train stops are planned for the Treasure Coast. But there are legitimate concerns in our region about potential negative impacts — on traffic, public safety, wildlife, emergency response, property values and others.

Martin County Commissioner Anne Scott didn’t mince words in signaling her support for the litigation-funding proposal.

“This misbegotten, crackpot idea, with a complicit government from Washington to Tallahassee and on down, has created a unity of purpose and concern in these communities on the Treasure Coast, unprecedented except in the aftermath of disaster,” Scott said.

She is correct — especially with respect to unity.

More than 47,500 Treasure Coast residents have signed an online petition by Florida NOT All Aboard opposing the project. That represents about 1 out of 12 people in our three-county area.

Such broad opposition also is evidenced by the volume of letters to the editor in this newspaper, strong attendance at last fall’s public meetings in our region sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration and the more than 12,000 comments on the project’s draft environmental impact statement.

Coupled with the fact our state government — our state government — missed the Dec. 3 deadline to comment on the draft report, the burden has fallen to local officials to carry the banner for residents’ concerns.

The Indian River and Martin county commissions rose to the task Tuesday.

Will other local governments where residents face potential negative impacts from the rail project — St. Lucie County and the cities of Stuart, Fort Pierce, Vero Beach and Sebastian — respond in kind?

Our editorial board supports the decision by Indian River and Martin counties to spend taxpayers’ money to fight All Aboard Florida.

But we also have concerns.

First, both counties — and other local governments that may join the fight — should work in unison. It would be foolish to hire separate law firms and file separate lawsuits. Join forces for a common objective.

Second, elected officials need to develop and articulate their strategy. Details were in short supply Tuesday.

Third, be transparent with taxpayers. Keep the people who will be funding the legal fight adequately informed every step of the way.

Pushed into a corner, Indian River and Martin counties have come out swinging.

Given the potential threat to our quality of life, we really didn’t have a choice.

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