A group vehemently opposed to Florida’s cross-state rail expansion from Orlando to Miami graded state lawmakers on their position to All Aboard Florida/Brightline in a report released this week.
Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL), a group opposing AAF/Brightline, ranked local, state and federal lawmakers and political candidates on their positions on the $1.5 billion project to run from Orlando to Miami with various stops in between -- though none in Treasure Coast counties the rail project will affect most, Martin, St. Lucie or Indian River.
CARE FL calls the AAF/Brightline a threat to public safety and "the current way of life of communities throughout the Treasure Coast."
The group sent the survey to candidates seeking federal, state and local seats in the region to determine where they stand on rail expansion in Florida.
Of note is that of the 36 candidates who responded to the survey, eight were recognized as “Champions” while 22 received A’s, five received B’s and one candidate received a C. To view the report card, please click here.
“We are pleased so many incumbents and candidates are finally echoing the public safety concerns that have been expressed by so many members in our communities,” said Brent Hanlon, chairman of the CARE FL Steering Committee. “This is more than a regional issue, and there should be nothing more important than the safety of Florida’s residents, and visitors alike. We applaud the elected officials who have steadfastly stood with us -- and for that, they are recognized in this report card as Champions.”
CARE FL recognized candidates who through their past actions, while in office, have demonstrated a commitment to protecting the safety and way of life for families living in the affected regions as “Champions.”
Candidates recognized as Champions in 2018 include:
Congressmen Bill Posey and Brian Mast
State Reps. Erin Grall, Gayle Harrell and MaryLynn Magar
Indian River County Commissioners Peter O’Bryan and Joseph Flescher
Stuart City Commissioner Troy McDonald
CARE FL’s candidate survey asked 12 questions that were qualitative, and allowed for additional comments, providing an opportunity for individuals running for office in the regions impacted by All Aboard Florida/Brightline to outline their stances on the rail expansion project and explain the reasoning behind their beliefs.
CARE FL points out that to date, there have been eight fatalities and multiple injuries involving AAF/Brightline trains. "Treasure Coast residents are understandably concerned about the impact these high speed trains will have on their pedestrian downtowns," says the group's written statement. "Additionally, first responders are also concerned about an increase in passenger and freight rail traffic, as they already experience delays in response time due to existing freight trains that pass through their communities."
“We believe these scores will help inform voters as they cast their ballots in the upcoming election,” said Jane Feinstein, a member of the CARE FL Steering Committee who serves as the chairman of the group’s survey initiative. “For many residents in our region, a candidate’s position on high speed rail is a deciding factor. We need to ensure that our elected officials know that keeping our communities safe is a top priority.
“Given the importance of this issue and the recent announcement that high speed rail may be expanded even further in our state, it is disappointing that all but one of the statewide candidates who received the survey chose not to respond,” added Feinstein.
In fact, only Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democratic candidate for governor, completed the survey. Levine received an “A."
Both candidates running for U.S. Senate -- incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and current Gov. Rick Scott -- failed to respond, despite repeated outreach to their campaigns.
Throughout his tenure in office, the actions of Scott and his administration have been supportive of the AAF/Brightline project, including more than $200 million in state funds for AAF’s Orlando train station, as well as the failure of FDOT to respond to our communities’ safety concerns and inquiries.
Given Sen. Nelson’s prominent position on the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, CARE FL is disappointed that he chose not to participate in the survey.
CARE FL made several attempts by email and phone to encourage all candidates to submit their responses.
While some candidates were ultimately elected without opposition, they chose to respond to the survey and are also included in this report card.
Additionally, while some of our Champions are not up for reelection this cycle, CARE FL recognized Sen. Debbie Mayfield, the Martin County Board of County Commissioners, and the Indian River County Board of County Commissioners for their continued support on the issue.