CARE COMMUNITY LETTER: Don’t Be Fooled By the Headlines
Posted on June 24, 2015
Don’t Be Fooled by the Headlines
As you might be aware, Martin and Indian River counties recently went to the U.S. District Court in an attempt to temporarily block issuance of $1.75 billion of tax-exempt bonds for All Aboard Florida (AAF). That first effort was not successful– the Court declined to issue the injunction. But the outcome of this legal effort is not complete: Martin and Indian River have requested discovery, and can appeal the ruling. Indeed, the DC ruling is just the first step in what promises to be a long, spirited and difficult battle. CARE and other AAF opponents, including Martin, Indian River and St. Lucie Counties and a number of maritime groups have facts, federal regulations, case law and community support on their side. We remain confident that we will eventually succeed in shutting down this ill-conceived rail project.
Meantime, AAF still needs approval from the Florida Development Finance Corp. (FDFC) — this is the state agency that would actually issue the tax-free “Private Activity Bonds” (PABs) – before it can go forward. The FDFC was supposed to rule on these bonds May 28, but canceled the hearing, as well as the rescheduled one set for June 10. The latter cancellation followed a stinging letter of complaint sent by CARE, which detailed the many problems and deficiencies of the FDFC’s approval process.
A new FDFC date has not been set. But whenever this hearing happens, CARE will be there. Our group will also be heard, loudly and clearly: FDFC recently agreed to give the CARE coalition a 45-minute block of time to talk about its substantive concerns about the AAF rail project.
Meantime, we are waiting to see if and how the government addresses the many weaknesses, half-truths and bold lies that CARE identified in the federally-required draft environmental impact report (DEIS) that was originally released last fall. The DEIS, released by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in September, will in turn be succeeded by a FEIS “Final Environmental Impact Report.”
We were not alone in our concerns: The FRA received more than 12,000 public comments about the report – and the overwhelming majority of those were negative. If the DOT does not take the action it should, rest assured – CARE will. (And no, we don’t think DOT will step up.)
To prevail, AAF needs to win every step of the way. But please notice: FDFC has not yet approved the bonds that AAF needs for funding. And AAF needed a DOT extension because the deadline for sale of the bonds was about to pass. The FEIS has not taken action.
As we near the one-year anniversary of CARE’s founding – July 2014 – a quote from Winston Churchill comes to mind: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
And continue we do, in a fierce battle waged for nearly a year now. And how far we have come in just 12 months: This time last year, AAF was widely considered to be a done deal. As for CARE – we were simply a group of local citizens who had serious concerns about AAF and no formal battle plan. Or web site. Or public profile to counter the threat that rail expansion poses. Against those tall odds, we did what concerned Americans have been doing since the beginnings of this country: We decided to fight.
CARE hired an outside lawyer and brought in public relations experts. We concentrated: CARE engaged an expert to provide a financial analysis of the AAF project, and in doing so poked holes in many of AAF’s financial theories. We engaged a leading maritime expert. We also put a light on the many safety issues around AAF — and first responders, emergency medical teams, hospitals, police, fire departments, safety experts and others responded, loudly. We got the word out through press briefings, public events and letters to public leaders and elected officials, with the goal of raising attention and public understanding of the harm that the AAF rail project would inflict on our local communities, near and long term.
CARE gave a voice to those who otherwise would not have had a chance to make their views known. We will continue to make a difference, and fight the good fight, for the duration.
CARE Steering Committee
June 24, 2015