Martin BCC re All Aboard Florida lobbyist: ‘There was never a conflict of interest…’

 

(Source: Treasure Coast Newspapers)

 

From Martin County Board of County Commissioners: Martin County recognizes the value of our lobbyists, both at the state and federal level, and the access and opportunities they provide to advance our legislative priorities.

 

The County has been fortunate to be represented by one of the State’s premier government relations firms, Ballard Partners, for the last decade. Utilizing a team approach, Martin County staff works with our Legislative Delegation and lobbyists to accomplish goals. The cross connections and networks of our lobby team are what make our legislative program successful over the long-term.

 

Ballard Partners has been instrumental in helping Martin County secure hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding for projects that improve our local environment, economy and quality of life. You can find these projects in neighborhoods across the County. Here is just a sampling.

 

In the 2016 Session, key legislative and budgetary accomplishments worked on by Ballard Partners included funding for Everglades Restoration Projects critical to Martin County (C-44 – $60 million) and vital funding components associated with Legacy Florida, $1.7 million for the Britt Road Bridge Project and $700,000 for the All-American Ditch Stormwater Quality Retrofit Project for Palm City.

 

In 2015, Ballard Partners helped Martin County secure $49 million for C-44 and $2.8 million for Bathtub Reef/Sailfish Point Beach Renourishment Project and $1.5 million for septic-to-sewer conversions in North River Shores.

 

And in 2014, Ballard Partners obtained funding for the Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, which made recommendations to improve the environmental and economic health of the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon. The final State budget that year incorporated more than $231 million for these waterways and $3.18 million to fund maintenance (dredging) of the St. Lucie Inlet.

 

There was never a conflict of interest with Ballard Partners in 2013 and 2014, in fact at that time Martin County was advocating for Amtrak passenger rail on the Florida East Coast tracks. County Commissioners felt this type of service would improve our economy (via a potential stop and a tourism draw) and reduce the wear and tear on our aging transportation infrastructure. At the same time, the Board of County Commissioners asked both the Federal and State governments to provide funding for safety enhancements as required by the project, explore further enhancements such as replacement of the Railroad Bridge, provide funding to cover the cost of all crossing upgrades, maintain existing lease cost levels for local governments and explore other partnerships. All of this was requested so Martin County residents and visitors might directly benefit from the proposed service. Additionally, County Commissioners asked that broadband access be provided to local governments along the corridor.

 

In 2015, after it became clear that All Aboard Florida (AAF) would not stop in Martin County or on the Treasure Coast, and the project would negatively impact our community, the Board of County Commissioners took a position against AAF and allocated $1.4 million to fight the project through litigation. At that time, Martin County assigned another member of our lobbying team to monitor legislative and budgetary issues that could negatively impact the County’s position on AAF.

 

In addition, in February 2016, County Commissioners asked staff to return with information on establishing a contract with a public affairs specialist/lobbyist to add to our lobby team to enhance and expand the County’s ongoing opposition to AAF, in concert with our legal and public relations strategies. Staff is preparing this item and plans to bring it to the County Commission for consideration in May.

 

We have a long, trusted relationship with our lobbyists, including Ballard Partners. We retain Ballard Partners to work on other important issues for the County and we are proud of their proven track record, delivering success after success for the citizens of Martin County.

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