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Politics

Taxpayer-Funded Lawsuit vs. All Aboard Florida Looking Wildly Out of Favor

March 9, 2015 - 7:00pm

True, the poll on how to fight All Aboard Florida was only a poll on a newspaper website. But the website was TCPalm, whose turf -- the Treasure Coast -- is home to some of the most terrified residents about what the new train service will do to ruin their quality of life.

But a telling result came out of that poll.

Asked whether the Treasure Coast should spend taxpayer dollars to fight the passenger rail service -- of the more than 28,000 people who participated, nearly 90 percent voted a resounding No.

The Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers/TCPalm poll followed the latest decision by Indian River and Martin counties to commit to spending more than $4 million to sue All Aboard Florida.

Susan Mehiel, with the group Citizens Against the Train (CAT), doesnt buy the poll numbers. During last weekend, Mehiel and other All Aboard Florida opponents held a protest rally in Indian River County. With overcast and rainy weather, numbers in attendance were still between 400 and 600. Mehiel told the audience, Just like All Aboard Florida bused in college students from Miami to Brevard to stack up County Commission meetings, they can stack up an unofficial poll.

For several days, both sides of the argument have been responding to the poll. Most of the anti-All Aboard Florida comments came from those worried the train would hurt local homeowners and devalue their property. Proponents focused their comments on the lawsuit, saying there are better ways to spend the taxpayers' money on the Treasure Coast: on water, sewer, and fire and safety measures.

Concerning the lawsuit, Martin and Indian River County have no real specifics on which issue to concentrate their focus. Fill-in-the-blanks on how the money will be spent abound. But Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari says in days to come, that will change.

With the poll showing a majority of taxpayers registering their disapproval of an allocation of public funds for a lawsuit, other counties -- St. Lucie, for example, which is contemplating also going along with the lawsuit -- might rethink the action of the overwhelming public sentiment toward not spending taxpayer dollars on this fight.

Responding to the poll, Lynn Martenstein, vice president of corporate communications for All Aboard Florida, told Sunshine State News, All Aboard Florida is committed to working with stakeholders all along the corridor as the project progresses. We will be scheduling follow-up meetings with cities and counties north of West Palm Beach in the coming months to review ... plans and coordinate with local governments that wish to pursue Quiet Zone designations."

Ed Dean, a senior editor with SSN whose talk show can be heard on radio stations across Florida, can be reached ated@sunshinestatenews.com. Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio.

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