Since the announcement of the high-speed rail train project, All Aboard Florida (AAF) has been outflanked by its opponents when it comes to public relations. But on the legal front, AAF is winning the battle.
Earlier this month, a Leon County Circuit Court shot down another lawsuit brought by Indian River and Martin counties on challenging AAF’s financing of their train. The court insisted the counties had no subject matter jurisdiction and had failed to establish standing to challenge the Florida Development Finance Corporation’s decisions to issue Private Activity Bonds for the rail project.
Indian River and Martin counties have run up about $4.1 million in legal costs so far and now some local elected leaders along the Treasure Coast are making it a political issue.
Last week, at a political forum at the Republican Women's Club of Indian River County, there were questions about the wisdom of the latest lawsuit, which marks another time the county offered an unsuccessful legal challenge to AAF.
Vero Beach Mayor Jay Kramer insisted this was the fifth, not the third defeat for Indian River County against AAF.
“If we are not going to win the lawsuits, then we need to be able to sit down and have a conversation with All Aboard Florida,” Kramer said.
Kramer added it wasn’t good fiscal policy to continue to use taxpayers' money on lawsuits.
Susie Adams, the mayor of Fellsmere, has opposed AAF, but said new plans are needed because AAF continues to win legal battles.
Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari has been a leading critic of AAF and has backed the legal challenges. When asked about alternative plans to stop AAF, Solari could not provide one.
Local firefighter unions and law enforcement officials told Sunshine State News they are against AAF, but would prefer the County Commission to spend funds on public safety and other issues.
But there are groups still against AAF and supporting continued lawsuits, including Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE) and Citizens Against The Train (CATT).
After the recent court ruling, CARE noted “the fight against AAF is far from over” on its website.
“We continue to actively pursue all possible legal, political and public communication channels to stop the ill-conceived AAF rail project that threatens the public safety and current way of life of communities throughout the Treasure Coast,” CARE stated.
Ed Dean, a senior editor with SSN whose talk show can be heard on radio stations across Florida, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio