CARE FL Achievements
August 30, 2016
Over two and a half years ago, a group of likeminded citizens in the Treasure Coast and North Palm Beach County regions joined together to form Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL) as a means of unifying and organizing a strong, consistent voice against the proposed All Aboard Florida (AAF) passenger rail project and related increases in freight rail.
In this time, we have been blessed with generous financial contributions and countless hours of hard work—including attendance at events as far away as Orlando, Tallahassee and Washington, DC—from our supporters, and the attached CARE FL Achievements document details how we have been spending this money. Our successes are thanks to you, our supporters, and none of these accomplishments would have been possible without your contributions.
As you read through our significant accomplishments, please recognize that we have achieved these successes while being grossly outspent by our opponent at every turn. It should be noted that all monies go to professional services and that CARE FL Steering Committee members are volunteers and receive no compensation for their efforts.
We have been able to shed a light on the negative impacts of the AAF project, including our safety-related concerns, which stem from the proposed increase in both the number and the length of freight trains passing through our communities each day, as well as the speed of the proposed high-speed passenger trains.
We are also concerned about environmental impacts and disruption of maritime traffic and commerce, which have implications for quality of life in the affected communities. Decreased property values and increased noise—both likely fallouts of these rail projects—are also concerns, and again cut to the heart and soul of our basic concern: quality of life.
AAF has been described as a private sector venture, however, we all know that is just not true. The project’s success depends upon forced funding from impacted local communities and federally-backed private activity bonds.
CARE FL attorneys have provided the intellectual firepower to fuel the legal opposition to the AAF project. In addition to the legal efforts, we continue to complement our media efforts to keep us at the forefront of the fight to stop the misguided AAF project. We are fortunate to have a strong professional team backed by an enormous volunteer army.
Should you have any questions, please contact Brent Hanlon at 772.545.2532.
Over two and a half years ago, a group of likeminded citizens joined together to form Citizens Against Rail Expansion in FL (CARE FL) as a means of unifying and organizing a strong, consistent voice against rail expansion efforts in the Treasure Coast and North Palm Beach County regions. CARE FL launched its position by sending letters to Gov. Rick Scott and then-Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad, outlining the community’s public safety concerns. Since that time, CARE FL has become the voice of residents in the Treasure Coast and North Palm Beach County regions who are opposed to the All Aboard Florida (AAF) project. Below you will find a detailed summary of our efforts to highlight the numerous concerns associated with AAF and to fight back against this ill-conceived project.
Leading the Legal Battle to Stop AAF
CARE FL attorneys have provided the intellectual firepower to fuel the legal opposition to the AAF project. CARE FL is involved in ongoing strategic legal efforts to complement our media efforts and keep us at the forefront of the fight to stop the misguided AAF project.
Federal Lawsuit – Several CARE FL Steering Committee members are plaintiffs with Martin and Indian River Counties in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. On August 16, 2016, the court reversed its ruling from the previous year with respect to whether the plaintiffs have standing and denied AAF’s motion to dismiss the case. This was a significant victory on the legal front and the federal lawsuit will now move to its next phase.
U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Litigation – CARE FL made FOIA requests to the USDOT to shed light on the communications between the agency and AAF (and its affiliates). We were forced to sue the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in Federal court to obtain information that has been helpful in forming our legal strategy.
Permitting – CARE FL is working hard on opposing permits for AAF at the Army Corps of Engineers, at the South Florida and St. John’s Water Management Districts and at the county level.
Bringing Public Safety Issues to the Public’s Attention
Access to Emergency Medical Care – CARE FL hosted a press conference at Jupiter Medical Center with the CEO to provide area leaders, medical providers and first responders with an opportunity to highlight the public safety concerns and possible limits on access to local hospitals rail expansion under AAF would cause. In a medical emergency, seconds count and the increased rail traffic will separate people from care they desperately need. As a result of this effort, this public safety issue continues to resonate in our communities.
Children’s Safety – CARE FL hosted a press conference with the Martin County School District Superintendent, county commissioners and the local sheriff to detail the many negative impacts the proposed AAF rail project would have on children, including school bus safety, traffic congestion and pedestrian safety.
Nuclear Plant Evacuation and Safety – CARE FL sent a substantive letter to the FRA, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) outlining serious concerns related to the impact the AAF project will have on the operation of the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant and requesting follow up from the agencies.
Exposing Economic Issues with AAF
Damage to Mariners and the Local Community – CARE FL enlisted the expert advice of U.S. Coast Guard Captain Dana Goward (Ret.), a bridge and waterway navigation expert, to shed light on how increased rail traffic would worsen issues with the current rail bridges over the St. Lucie River and Loxahatchee River and associated waterways. Captain Goward’s report showed how the AAF project would negatively and unreasonably impact waterway traffic, which is inextricably tied to regional economies and local quality of life. The report was provided to the U.S. Coast Guard during their process of establishing new operating rules for the bridges in an effort to move the rulemakings in the right direction.
All Aboard Florida’s Bogus Economic Claims – CARE FL commissioned Dr. John N. Friedman, an Associate Professor of Economics at Brown University and former White House economist, to conduct an in-depth economic analysis of AAF. His study found that even under the most optimistic circumstances, AAF could lose up to $100 million each year, and would have to charge $242 for a one-way ticket between Miami and Orlando in order to service its debt load.
Exposing the FRA’s Flawed Environmental Impact Study
CARE FL submitted thorough expert-based substantive comments to the FRA on both its draft environmental impact study and final environmental impact study of the AAF project to highlight our environmental concerns, safety concerns, maritime concerns, etc. These comments are essential to future environmental litigation, as only issues in the record can be addressed.
Fighting the Unfair Florida Development Finance Corporation (FDFC) Proceeding
CARE FL coordinated an opposition presence at multiple FDFC hearings to speak out against issuing $1.75 billion in bonds to AAF. This included sponsoring a bus trip to Tallahassee for one of the hearings, bringing CARE FL members and supporters from Jupiter, Stuart and Vero Beach. We also held media availabilities at these hearings and received extensive coverage.
Engaging in the Political Arena
Lobbying in the Nation’s Capital – While outspent and out-resourced by AAF by orders of magnitude, CARE FL has successfully obtained critical Congressional support for its effort to stop USDOT’s efforts to fund AAF.
Fighting Back in the State Capital – CARE FL has established a presence in the state capital, providing us with the ability to secure meetings with the Governor’s office, FDOT Secretary and key state lawmakers. This is an essential component of our efforts and these meetings and relationships ensure our voices and concerns are being heard directly by decision makers and influencers. But we are being outspent here by AAF as well, by multiples we cannot even estimate.
Executing Successful Branding and Media Strategies
CARE FL developed a now very recognizable logo design, a regularly updated, substantive website and active social media websites, which have enabled us to expand our reach substantially.
Social Media – CARE FL has a significant social media presence with active accounts on both Facebook and Twitter. These accounts serve as a portal to speak directly with our neighbors about the negative impacts AAF would have on our region. We regularly share news articles and opinion columns that shed light on the problems with AAF.
Media Relations – Since our inception, CARE FL has placed numerous opinion editorials and letters to the editor and distributed countless press releases and statements to ensure that your voices and concerns are heard on the AAF issue. We have developed relationships with reporters and become a go-to source for them when they need help understanding the problems and impacts of the AAF project. Our spokespeople often provide comments that are featured in significant storylines and television news reports.
Investigative Reports – CARE FL has successfully interested the media in the AAF project and its parent company, resulting in in-depth investigative reports by high-level national news organizations as well as Florida media outlets.
Mason-Dixon Poll – CARE FL commissioned a poll to be conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc., an independent polling firm that conducts voter surveys. The survey found that four out of every five registered voters in the Treasure Coast and North Palm Beach County region oppose the AAF rail project.
Candidate Survey – CARE FL commissioned a successful election-related candidate survey (1) to identify those leaders who have helped in this fight and deserve recognition and (2) to put candidates on the record regarding opposition or support for AAF. The results of our survey are helping voters throughout the region make ballot choices in the August 30, 2016, primary election.
From the beginning, CARE FL has put an emphasis on building a coalition that amplifies our voices and concerns. We have established strong working relationships with Indian River and Martin County, with state and local elected officials, and with school board members, sheriffs, firefighters, paramedics, local business leaders and more. We have continued to grow our coalition and draw on the many experts in our community to weigh in on pertinent issues related to the AAF project and its negative impacts on the region.
Coordinating Efforts with Other Opposition Groups
CARE FL continues to stay connected with other likeminded citizen groups and local governments, collaborating with them when possible and appropriate. We share the same goal of stopping the ill-conceived AAF project from coming into our cities and towns and negatively impacting the safety and quality of life of our communities. Our message is amplified when we are able to join forces.
To get the latest news visit our website www.saveourfl.com or like our Facebook page for updates on CARE FL’s progress. The Facebook page has generated a strong following – so thanks to each and every member for these efforts.
Special thanks to our supporters for the many donations we received through our new PayPal option on our website. Your support will keep the fight going. Please visit our site http://www.saveourfl.com/donate.html for more information on how to donate.
After 2 1/2 years CARE FL is at the forefront of this fight. We continue to bring on new supporters and communities from as far north as Orlando to as far south as Miami. If you would like CARE FL to come out and speak with your homeowners in your community; you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please continue to share our updates with your family, neighbors and friends. So keep looking for our updates or call to action.
Thank you for your continued support. Together We Can Make A Difference.
Brent P. Hanlon
Chairman, CARE FL