Don Mader: Bullying by big-city chambers and AAF is not appreciated
Posted on March 25, 2016
By Don Mader
I was disappointed to see chambers to the south and north of us submit a guest column accusing the good people of Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties of not being willing to sacrifice the safety, health, quality of life and property values of our homes and business for the sake of the ill-conceived All Aboard Florida passenger rail project.
I get it. AAF and the multibillion dollar hedge fund that backs it, Fortress Investment Group, have tremendous power and influence. I understand the money and political backing of the project enriches the lives of many. I appreciate the excitement of those who have temporary construction jobs, along with the high-paid lobbying, legal, engineering and public relations consultants who have been hired and are making money off of AAF.
I wish we could share your excitement. I wish we could "take one for the team" and stand down so Florida East Coast Railway can have its tracks upgraded in preparation for the increased freight that will travel along the rail line, even though this would be to the detriment of our quality of life.
But I can't. And I hope Treasure Coast citizens, along with the hundreds of thousands of other citizens up and down the rail corridor who are also going to be negatively impacted if this project moves forward, do not fall for the smoke-and-mirror tactics that AAF and all of its money, power and influence has been using to mislead the public.
How dare the big-city chambers of Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando accuse us of being NIMBYs. "Not in my backyard" is a disrespectful term often used by developers to accuse citizens who oppose their projects of being obstructionists. It is invoked as a desperate public relations tactic — often when a project is justifiably harmful to a community and the legitimate opposition group is making headway in having their voices be heard.
I invite the members of these urban chambers to visit our beautiful piece of paradise along the Treasure Coast. Come and stand in front of our "at-grade crossings" in the hearts of our quaint downtowns and historic districts where trains could speed by at double or triple the current rate. I challenge you to stand there with us and show us a single benefit we will receive.
Here's another suggestion. Stop pretending the Treasure Coast hasn't already tried to reach out to AAF, FEC, the Federal Railroad Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation and others to discuss the project with them. We have. They are not listening. They are not interested in having real dialogue, in being transparent, in reaching consensus, in mitigating their impacts, in resolving their unfunded mandates. They would prefer we just shut up and roll over. That's what they expected we'd do more than a year ago. They were wrong.
If you knew us, the residents of the Treasure Coast, you would know that we fight to be different from the South Florida that was ruined so many decades ago by greed and overdevelopment. We have remained different because of our love for our community.
We will continue to fight to protect our historic neighborhoods, our environment, our quality of life, our historic resources, our property values and the safety of our friends and neighbors. All the guest column from the big city chambers of South Florida and Orlando did was remind us AAF is pulling their puppet strings, and we must redouble our efforts to protect ourselves.
We are no one's marionette. We will not be bullied and we will not back down.