The TC Palm: Editorial: State agency needs to hear from Treasure Coast residents on AAF’s bond request
Posted on April 13, 2015
Another opportunity is at hand.
And the outcome of this particular subplot may determine whether the rail company moves forward with its plan to begin running 32 daily passenger trains between Miami and Orlando in early 2017.
Gov. Rick Scott recently appointed three new members to the Florida Development Finance Corp., the quasi-governmental agency that will decide All Aboard Florida’s request for $1.75 billion in private activity bonds. These are tax-exempt bonds issued by local or state governments for the purpose of providing special financing benefits for qualified projects.
Despite the fact the three appointees have yet to be confirmed by the Florida Senate, they can serve the five-member board on an interim basis and have the authority to make decisions.
This includes determining the fate of All Aboard Florida’s request for private activity bonds, which the company plans to use to purchase locomotives, train cars and equipment, and to fund construction on segments of the 235-mile corridor.
The new board, which met for the first time Tuesday in Orlando, will hold a public hearing April 20 in Tallahassee. The purpose: “To provide a reasonable opportunity for interested parties to express their views both orally or in writing” on the proposed issuance of bonds to All Aboard Florida.
All Aboard Florida stated in its bond application it plans to use the proceeds in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Brevard and Orange counties. By excluding Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie counties from the application, All Aboard Florida officials were able to answer “no” to the following question: “Are you aware of any reason why any local government unit (city, county, special district, etc.) would not want Florida Development Finance Corp. to issue bonds in connection with this transaction?”
Though technically correct, the response is disingenuous and misleading. It gives the impression there is little or no opposition to the rail project.
Without even the benefit of a train stop, people in our region are grappling with the very real possibilities of delays at rail crossings (motorists) and railroad bridges (boaters), untimely interruptions for law enforcement and emergency services vehicles, noise and vibration impacts to people and property near the rail line and environmental impacts to wildlife and related habitat.
The new board needs to know how our region feels about the proposed project.
The Federal Railroad Administration received more than 12,000 comments on the project’s draft environmental impact statement — many of them from Treasure Coast residents. More than 52,700 people have signed Florida NOT All Aboard’s petition to “Stop Big Choo Choo” in its tracks.
The Florida Development Finance Corp. is accepting written comments from the public in advance of the April 20 meeting.
It’s time to speak up. Again.