Rich Campbell: Candidates should tell the truth about All Aboard Florida

Posted on April 1, 2016

By Rich Campbell

Get ready, Treasure Coast voters.

The election season is upon us and local candidates soon will be falling all over themselves to demonstrate their opposition to All Aboard Florida.

The I-Hate-All-Aboard-Florida-More-Than-My-Opponent rhetoric is just beginning.

It's not enough to establish one's opposition to the Miami-to-Orlando passenger rail project. Local candidates will be vying for a coveted position — to be perceived by voters as the CHIEF opponent of the project.

Case in point: An April 16 shindig at the Meridian Marina & Yacht Club in Palm City. A flier for the event proclaims: "Please join us at Meridian Marina for a concert, meet and greet, and fundraiser for the Treasure Coast commissioners that are leading the charge against All Aboard Florida." (Scroll down to see the flier.)

Who are these knights in shining armor? Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari and Martin County Commissioner John Haddox, whose pictures are prominently displayed at the top of the flier.

Just so there is no confusion this is a political event, the flier duly notes it is a "political advertisement paid for and approved" by both Haddox and Solari.

The not-so-subtle message: Solari and Haddox want voters to know they are the tip of the spear in efforts to stop the rail project. (Oh, and you may leave a campaign donation at the door.)

All Aboard Florida, slated to begin running 32 daily trains through our region by the end of 2017, is seemingly the perfect campaign issue. Many Treasure Coast residents hate it — and elected officials have recognized the political value of opposing it. Sitting commissioners up for re-election (Haddox and Solari included) have spent taxpayers' money to fight All Aboard Florida and taken multiple opportunities in televised commission meetings to denounce the project.

Just one problem: They have little to show for their efforts.

Indian River and Martin counties have allocated about $5 million to stop All Aboard Florida by legal or administrative means. But how realistic is this outcome? Where is the evidence the rail project can be litigated into oblivion?

Our knights are tilting at windmills.

The members of Meridian Marina & Yacht Club have a vested interest in stopping All Aboard Florida. Anticipated lengthy delays at the railroad drawbridge have the potential to wreak havoc for boaters and marine-related businesses located west of the bridge.

I don't begrudge marina and club members one iota for opposing the rail project. But I'm skeptical of political candidates who continue to fuel the ephemeral hope All Aboard Florida can be derailed — and tout this position to appeal to voters and their money.

"Don Quixote," the 17th-century novel by Miguel de Cervantes, is an imaginative tale of misguided knighthood. The main character, Don Quixote de La Mancha, sets out with his squire, Sancho Panza, to revive chivalry and right perceived wrongs in the world.

"Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants?" Quixote tells his squire. "I intend to do battle with them and slay them."

The hulking giants were windmills.

All Aboard Florida may be the perfect campaign issue. However, it devolves into a political liability once voters realize the battle to stop it is a flight of fancy.

Political candidates need to continue perpetuating the notion this giant can be slain.

At least until Election Day.

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