Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida: Reject columnist’s conclusion

CARE FL’s Robert Crandall  took issue with a local columnist, developed a 500-word opinion editorial and responded to the points that were made in that column.

Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL) is a coalition created by a group of concerned community leaders, organizations and neighbors in South Florida and the Treasure Coast, emphasizing that continued rail expansion will have a significant and negative impact on our communities. Robert Crandall of Palm City, a member of the CARE FL Steering Committee, and also former CEO of American Airlines, comments on a recent column by TCPalm’s Rich Campbell:

 Rich Campbell, a columnist for TCPalm, clearly has no faith in our judicial and governmental institutions and little interest in participative citizenship.  In August Campbell said it was all over and AAF had won.  On Sunday, November 22, he wrote that while it’s clearly not a done deal, government would probably find a way to ignore citizen opinion and tilt the outcome in AAF’s direction.  

In his November 22 article, Campbell laid out many of the reasons that opponents of All Aboard Florida believe the project shouldn’t happen. To quote Campbell, “the rail company received favorable treatment from state and federal agencies……to help finance the project” and “the Federal Railroad Administration issued two environmental impact statements that whitewashed our regions legitimate concerns”.  Campbell went on to note that All Aboard Florida hasn’t been able to sell its bonds because the marketplace knows it’s an extremely risky venture.

Finally, Campbell alleges that CARE’s Washington attorney is sustaining the struggle solely to generate legal fees.  That claim is inaccurate, defamatory, and implies that his clients are not in charge, when they are.

Here are the facts:

 1.         Steve Ryan is a skilled attorney with an impeccable reputation and long experience in similar conflicts.  However, CARE is managing the campaign and he does only what CARE and other clients direct.  This is a citizen fight, one which the more than 50,000 local citizens who have contributed time, money and energy to the fight intend to win.

 2.         CARE  believes that both the State and Federal governments have acted improperly to assist AAF,  and will press that point of view in every possible way.

 3.         CARE  believes that the Environmental Impact Statement prepared by AAF consultants and approved by the Department of Transportation is inadequate, capricious and inconsistent with environmental law and we intend to prove that assertion in court as soon as the DOT issues a Record of Decision finalizing the EIS.

Campbell says he is skeptical of claims that AAF can be derailed in court.  While court proceedings will take time and cost money, the United States remains a nation of laws.  CARE is simply not willing to accept that a completely inadequate Environmental Impact Statement – which in Campbell’s words “whitewashed our regions legitimate concerns with respect to traffic, boating, safety and environmental impacts”– can or will be sustained. 

Moreover, every citizen should recoil from Campbell’s conclusion that “if recent history teaches us anything, it’s that All Aboard Florida gets what it wants and the concerns of Treasure Coast residents don’t amount to a hill of beans”.

That’s not the way it ought to work, Mr. Campbell, and if CARE has anything to do with it, it’s not the way it’s going to work for AAF either.

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 In a statement, CARE FL updated current events regarding All Aboard Florida:

 In recent weeks, there has been lots of talk about giving up on the struggle to defeat All Aboard Florida (AAF). We are Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE FL) and we think giving up is a bad idea.

 AAF offers the residents of our community nothing. In exchange for nothing, we will get more freight and passenger trains that will create traffic delays, pose obstacles for first responders and hospitals and put school children who cross the tracks each day in harm’s way. More trains will create more delays for boats seeking to transit bridges that will be closed to allow trains to pass, and reduce the number of shoppers and visitors in downtown communities hobbled by traffic delays and afflicted with the noise and vibration caused by the passage of more and longer trains.

During the summer, a federal judge in Washington,  D.C., ruled that the communities and residents affected by the rail project lack “standing” to challenge the sale of the Private Activity Bonds thatwill be used to finance AAF.That decision freed the Florida Development Finance Corporation (FDFC) to approve the sale of the bonds. Neither decision, however, granted AAF the right to undertake its project.

Environmental impact statements have to be prepared by the designated lead federal agency, in this case the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT), and we believe the environmental impact statement prepared by the FRA is misleading and inadequate. Several important federal agencies—such as the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)—have not concurred with its findings, despite its having been released as a FinalEnvironmental Impact Statement (FEIS). Martin County, Indian River County, CARE FL and others have filed detailed comments enumerating the shortcomings of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and the FEIS.

Further, the FRA has not issued a Record of Decision (ROD), which demonstrates the FRA’s findings are not final and appealable to a court. The FRA’s failure to promptly issue the ROD for a project they are so clearly backing is ostensibly related to considering the communities’ comments, but in reality is intended to limit when the community can seek a legal judgment as to whether the FEIS is legally inadequate, ‘arbitrary and capricious’.

Our government is depriving us of our right to an immediate judicial review of the FEIS and AAF’s impact.

In addition, AAF needs to obtain licenses and permits from various federal and state agencies in order to proceed. These include the USCG, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others. Prior to granting the needed permits, these agencies must complete their factual and legal analysis of the impact of the project, despite the political pressure AAF is applying.

 Now more than ever, is the time to stand with our elected leaders, who have risen to the occasion, and have continued to show leadership by standing up for the rights of our residents. For example, Martin and Indian River County have mounted legal challenges to the FDFC proceedings in the state, and CARE FL supports those actions and awaits the court results. To add insult to injury, AAF’s lawyers have sought to mute the voices of our elected county officials by threatening them with lawsuits.

 If we back down in the middle of this fight, and simply allow AAF to move forward, we will be allowing AAF to change the quality of life we have grown to enjoy. Quitting is not the legacy we want to leave our children and grandchildren.

For more information on CARE FL: http://www.saveourfl.com/

 

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