The TC Palm: All Aboard Florida capitalizing on “the people’s money”
Posted on January 27, 2015
By Robert Minsky
I first want to express my gratitude to this newspaper for its continued coverage of All Aboard Florida.
I’m especially thankful for the Jan. 16 article revealing how much of the public’s money is being garnered by All Aboard Florida, in spite of the company’s statements it will be entirely funded by private resources.
The Florida Department of Transportation claims none of this is state funding. Let’s be clear about something: Neither the feds nor the state have money of their own. Every penny spent comes from taxpayers and other resources. In truth, they operate with other people’s money. Whether it’s funded by the feds or the state, it’s our money, not theirs.
There are so many questions generated by All Aboard Florida, it is hard to know where to start.
Regarding the upgrades All Aboard Florida is paying for with FDOT money paid to Florida East Coast Railway, are those upgrades required by FEC freight operations, or are they needed to operate proposed high-speed rail operations? As the article implies, public money is undeniably being used to benefit the All Aboard Florida operation, even if indirectly.
Why is the government allowing FEC and All Aboard Florida to close their records from public scrutiny?
The article cited a statement by FDOT spokesman Dick Kane: “The funding is mandated and provided by the federal government for rail-safety lines in the state.”
Does government provide oversight of this funding to prevent commingling with funds for All Aboard Florida? How do they know if FEC/All Aboard Florida refuses to open their books?
One of the things stressed to me while I was mayor was the use of public money must always be proven to be for the public benefit. That is the litmus test that all expenditures by the government should pass.
I have yet to see evidence to the effect the All Aboard Florida project will benefit the people of Florida. I have yet to see evidence the project will be able to generate an operational profit. In my opinion, the impact statements are worthless until a business plan has been scrutinized to show they can generate profit. If they can’t generate a profit, how will they pay back the loans they are still opting for, whether public or private?
What I don’t understand is the relationship that has evolved between the people and their elected representatives. There was a time when I believed the primary obligation of every elected official was the welfare of the people in their charge. To me, the All Aboard Florida project has proved that is no longer the case.
Is the All Aboard Florida project beneficial to the people in Florida it will impact? I think not. Will the people be forced to pay for a project that will enhance the riches of some to the detriment of the people paying the tabs? Seems so.
It’s no longer just a question of money, it’s a question of principle. It is sad the quality of life of so many will be determined by so few.
Robert Minsky is a former mayor of Port St. Lucie.