The Palm Beach Post Opinion Zone – Clean water, stopping All Aboard top Martin residents’ legislative wish list

Posted on December 15, 2014

Sally Swartz


Martin County residents had two messages for their legislative delegation last week: (1) protect Martin’s rivers and waterways; and (2) stop All Aboard Florida from wrecking coastal communities.


About 60 residents spoke to Florida lawmakers Monday at Stuart City Hall.  The state senators are Joe Negron, R-Palm City, whose District 32 includes eastern Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and a small part of northern Palm Beach counties, and Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, who serves District 21 residents in western Martin and St. Lucie counties. Representatives are Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, whose District 83 covers northern Martin and southern St. Lucie counties, and Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Hobe Sound, covering south and west Martin, part of Jupiter and Tequesta in District 82.


It’s not often the the Martin County Conservation Alliance and the Economic Council agree, but they stand together for clean water and against All Aboard Florida.


Myra Galoci, speaking for the Conservation Alliance, urged the delegation to buy land for the Indian River Lagoon-South piece of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. “We’re in the process of closing on an important piece, thanks to Sen. Negron and the delegation,” Galoci said. “The land is under development pressure and won’t be there in five years. It is time for the state to buy (the) land now!”


Amendment 1 money, she adds, should be used to buy lands needed to restore the river, lagoon and the Everglades.


Protecting the rivers and waterways is the Economic Council’s top priority, Charles Gerardi said, ahead of economic development, job creation and tax reform for small businesses. The council also wants AAF, a hedge fund’s plan to run 32 high-speed passenger trains daily along the Treasure Coast with no stops, to consider western routes.


The Conservation Alliance agrees. “We need your help in stopping All Aboard from using the eastern coastal route,” Galoci said.”Local residents are concerned about safety, traffic, navigation and economic impacts from signal closings of three per hour.”


Residents, she said, will have to pay millions to upgrade intersections and crossings, and that’s with only 30 percent of the construction information, which is all that All Aboard has provided federal railroad regulators.


Stuart Mayor Troy McDonald, Florida Oceanographic Society chief Mark Perry and Indian Riverkeeper Marty Baum also spoke on water issues, and K.C. Traylor of Florida Not All Aboard added to the chorus of voices opposed to the passenger rail.


Clean water and damaging railroad routes were the constant themes, but residents have other concerns.


Martin Commission Chairman Ed Fielding, Jensen Beach Group representative Jackie Trancynger and the Conservation Alliance again urged the legislators to pass laws to protect residents from Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPP suits.


Recalling last year’s bill to kill local control of wetlands, permitting and growth management, several also asked the delegation to reject any bill that destroys home rule.


Schools Superintendent Laurie Gaylord asked for time extensions on federal and state accountability mandates, and asked that principal reviews count 70 percent and student reviews 30 percent in teacher evaluations.


Suzie Hutcheson of Helping People Succeed asked for a one-time grant of almost $300,000 to set up a program to evaluate autistic children. In Martin, one in 68 children is autistic, and five times more boys than girls are affected. Parents now have to take children to Miami or Orlando for help, she said.


Listening to the problems people ask lawmakers to solve is a window on community concerns. In Martin, the top priorities are clear: Clean the water. Stop the train.