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Nancy Smith

Should this Brightline 'Conflict of Interest' Be Allowed to Stand?

June 21, 2018 - 6:00am

It sure helps when the board chairman of an agency charged with deciding whether your environmental impact plan meets muster is also your bought-and-paid-for consultant. So, approval worked out very nicely, thank you, for All Aboard Florida/Brightline.

It took less than 20 minutes Tuesday -- less than the time it takes most people to break for a morning coffee -- for Orange County commissioners to approve the environmental impact for the planned rail service's 22 miles of right of way through wetlands between the county line and Orlando International Airport.

All Brightline had to do was agree to convert 100-plus wetlands acres along the beachline, mitigating the loss of fragile environment by buying additional lands, then deeding them over to the county conservation district.

The key to Brightline's success? It was John Miklos, who represented All Aboard Florida in front of the commission, in his capacity as president of the private environmental firm, Bio-Tech Consulting.

I Beg to DifferGetting that kind lightning action out of your county commissioners ... now, that's one damn-good consultant, you say. 

But what few people realized -- except county commissioners who kept mum and WFTV-9's Christopher Heath who did not -- was that Miklos is also the appointed head of the St. John’s River Water Management District. That's the state regulatory board with oversight over Central Florida’s water -- the same state board that reviewed the project.

Nice job exposing this one, Christopher Heath. Not that the Florida Commission on Ethics folks are clutching their pearls over what seems to me is a clear ethics breach. Miklos has a history of conflicts of interest. In 2016 he was hauled before the commission, reported for working as a consultant for the city of DeBary while the city tried to make a land deal with the SJWMD. But he wriggled off the hook when notoriously forgiving ethics commissioners found no probable cause.

After Tuesday's meeting, Heath tried to interview Miklos for clarification about his role as consultant and the District's role as the environmental impact plan's deciding agency. But he declined.

At least the SJWMD staff issued a statement for WFTV-9 viewers: "The district reviewed their application for an environmental resource permit. An environmental resource permit does not go to the governing board. It’s reviewed and issued by staff."

And, of course, staff is never influenced by the chairman of the board. 

Imagine Brightline trying to pull a stunt like this in Martin County, where angry citizens defend outsized puddles as never-ever-to-be-disturbed wetlands. 

Orange County citizens, no matter how much you look forward to your first promised Brightline ride in 2021, it's OK to be outraged. 

You've just been disrespected by a sham of a process that ought to be in place to protect your interests and the state's laws.

Maybe somebody will lodge a conflict-of-interest complaint and this time the Commission on Ethics will take a closer look at double-duty chairman-consultant John Miklos.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

Comments

Let’s not forget that on the Space and Treasure Coast, it isn’t the passenger trains you need to worry about, it's the hundreds of LNG/LPG tanker cars that will be running on those tracks, all day long. The passenger line will absolutely fail, but the transportation of LNG/LPG will go on forever. Remember, the grand plan is for two or more main line tracks everywhere. These freight trains, filled with explosive Natural Gas, will be running both northbound and southbound at the same time, twenty-four hours per day. So, don’t forget to “Look Both Ways!” Because these Freight Trains, on those new and improved tracks, will be running around the same speed as the Brightline passenger trains! 70 MPH giant tanks of barbecue gas rolling straight at all those small towns. What a pleasure, Thank You, Brightline!

We will see what happens next, with Brightline wanting to go north into the Treasure Coast and Space Coast, in Phase 2 of the project along US Highway 1. One thing I hope, is that the Brightline Train will go west, in Phase 2, from the West Palm Beach Station along State Road 710, (the Beeline Highway), toward the new town of Indiantown, in Western Rural Martin County. Than go northwest to Yeehaw Junction, (US 441 and State Road 70), in Rural Osceola County, which is to planning to become a new city in the future. This site is also close to the Florida Turnpike Interchange at State Road 60. From Yeehaw Junction, go onto Port Canaveral, (maybe going along the western segment of the new St. Johns Heritage Parkway), in western Palm Bay, which is now under construction in Brevard County. Than west to Orlando International Airport. Note: The St. John's Heritage Parkway in Palm Bay, when finished, will connect southern Palm Bay at I-95 near Mico and US 192 near West Melbourne and than go east of I-95 to the Melbourne/Orlando International Airport.

The Tampa Orlando route makes sense along I-4, but the Southern FEC is not well suited for the Coastal communities. Route should be planned to the West. It will cost more but AAF will be able to operate separate from freight. Much safer also.

Brightline will develop, complete and operate its Miami to Orlando route whether a narrow minded minority likes it or not. NIMBYs and their controlled or bought off media and officials got lots of conflicts of interest themselves. Like their chief advisor on stopping Brightline is retired American Airlines boss Bobby Crandall. Airlines get billions in support from government and of course want to continue to monopolise intercity travel. Never forget the millions in tax money wasted by Treasure Coast counties in meritless lawsuits to "stop Brightline." Silent when I-95 was built but up in arms over a railroad getting passenger service.

Who cares, we have 3rd world transit in this state because of idiots like you all...

If you disagree with our transportation in Florida why don’t you move some where they like costly unprofitable boondoggles.Sooner than later would be good

It seems that the Brightline High Speed Rail Train, (Florida East Coast Rail Road), will do whatever they it takes to get its way, to finish this Miami to Orlando High Speed Train Service. I know in the Treasure Coast and Space Coast of Florida they are still trying to get the Brightline Train north of West Palm Beach Station to Port Canaveral, in Brevard County along U.S. Highway 1.

Guess we'll have to plant some dinosaur bones near the tracks. it will stop them for awhile. Fair is fair

There is "THE VERO Man" project directly in the path who opposed upsetting their archaeology site. It includes mammoth bones and more.

This reporting highlights what only the ethically challenged would fail to see as a conflict of interest, or at the very least, the (strong) appearance of a conflict of interest. In my opinion, the entire All Aboard Florida/Brightline saga is just one shabby and ethically barren Federal and State governmental and agency approval after another, especially along the route north of West Palm Beach. For those of us in Martin County, remember when the Coast Guard held a public meeting and announced that it was off the table to bring up allegations of adverse safety impacts to waterway navigation around the drawbridge in Stuart? In general, opponents cited many reasonable objections based on environmental and traffic safety impacts. All this for a private project that isn't even really "high speed," nor does it provide any realistic commuting benefit linking South Florida to Orlando (but I guess one must have actual rail commuting experience to understand this). And Brightline apparently wants (or has) governmental credit support or actual funding. Again, in my opinion, if it comes to fruition, this utterly lousy passenger rail project will become a hallmark of Florida's sad special interest-driven public policy, and it will be a political albatross around the neck of any state official who either expressly or tacitly supported it (including you, Mr. Governor). I agree that the FEC railway (or whomever owns it now) does indeed have property rights along its right of way, but that doesn't and shouldn't shelter Brightline proponents from all of the valid and varied objections to a plan that so significantly adversely impacts environmental, recreational, residential, commercial and public safety interests along so much of its route! Again, all this wasted time and effort for such a lousy project!!

Where is the conflict? Most governing board members of water management districts have full-time jobs in the private sector. You do not state that Mr. Miklos represented to the Orange County Commission that he was there on behalf of the St. Johns River Water Management District. Also, I did not see any accusation of Mr. Miklos "using his authority as a board member" to force District staff to issue the environmental resource permit for wetland impacts. Maybe somebody will educate the writer on the true meaning of a conflict-of-interest.

Melissa, I think you may have missed the most important part of "conflict of interest" laws: the part where they recite "and must avoid even the appearance of conflict" which Mr. Miklos has failed to do on a number of occasions when it comes to his chairmanship. And what makes it worse is that instead of being concerned of even the appearance of conflict of interest, he, instead, laughs it off, as if it's not important.

At the same time so many people complain about global warming but refuse to do anything to help the situation, at least in Brightline's case they will be getting countless drivers out of their smog producing vehicles and reducing carbon footprints drastically.

Our countless drivers will be stuck in their smog producing vehicles for at least twenty( or more) minutes while the trains pass.that includes the passenger trains and freight trains, I watched an ambulance with all its emergency lights on, on trying to get to the hospital , sitting in front of tracks for over twenty minutes. The trains will cut our city in half. Police and fire trucks will have long delays to get from one side of the tracks to the other. Scares me since I now live on the wrong side of the tracks.

Brightline helpithe environment is a total fallacy. Experts have shown by the time to construct the tracks, engines and cars and all of the parking lots, stations, etc AND every one drives to the stations AND you operate the trains - you’ve spewed so much CO2 into the air, you can never overcome it.

Phil and I along with everyone who has sense and the ability to think for ourselves all agree that global warming is not a real thing. You are welcome Phil. Old Claude's got your back. I just don't want anyone out there to think you are "one of those people" Phil.

Do you ever step outside? Do you notice how folks never leave the bubble of their air conditioned homes or offices except to get into their air conditioned 4-door trucks? Old Florida homes were built for cross ventilation, porches were used as porches, etc. The vent window on your car air conditioned it for you. Now if you see a car with windows down, the AC is broken. Climate change is real. The consequences are real. Sea level rise and salt water intrusion are real. Last 3 years, hottest on record. Summers in Florida were warm, like winters here....not scalding infernos. Hell is truth seen too late.

Nope. Climate is the same as back in the old Florida days. Here's whats "real": most residents are grossly obese and addicted to something from their pill mill doctors. Fattys hooked on dope cant take the normal Florida non global warmed climate. That is all that has changed since the bygone days of old Florida.

No "Conflict of Interest" should ever be allowed. The EPA and Wetlands are nothing but Conflicts of Interests. We would be better served with no Rail Service and no Wetlands designations.

Comments are now closed.

nancy smith
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