High-Speed Passenger Rail (HB 269 / SB 386) – This legislation not only protects Floridians from the potential dangers of high-speed trains by ensuring the appropriate safety technology is in place, but also protects their tax dollars by ensuring the appropriate entity pays for those upgrades. It provides powers and duties of Dept. of Transportation, provides minimum safety standards and requires compliance with federal laws and regulations. Railroad companies will solely be responsible to construct, improve and maintain the rail corridor which will take the burden off local governments and the state.
The administration of Gov. Rick Scott of Florida conditionally agreed to lease
out state property to All Aboard Florida, which plans to share the track with an existing freight train company. Federal regulators, after some initial concerns, concluded that the railroad’s safety plans met their standards. And a state authorized nonprofit approved taxfree bonds that can help finance All Aboard Florida’s business.
Fortress, which owns both the passenger train and the freight rail, secured these victories through a mix of negotiations, public support, political power and a revolving door between the government and the private sector.
Documents obtained through public records requests pull back a curtain on the lobbying that shaped the project. The documents, many previously unreported, spotlight the role played by Governor Scott’s aides.
The governor’s former campaign manager teamed up with one of his former policy advisers to coordinate All Aboard Florida’s media strategy and meetings with the governor’s administration. They found a receptive audience, including an aide to Governor Scott who texted a Fortress employee, “Let me know if I can be helpful.”
Fortress stands to benefit from the project in several ways.
Follow this link for the entire New York Times investigative Report on Fortress Investment Group, the parent company of All Aboard Florida.
How Private Equity Found Power and Profit in State Capitols – The New York Times
In the letter Commissioner Solari tells AAF Vice-President Rusty Roberts that “All Aboard Florida came into our community promoting a venture it said was a private project, on private property that was to be privately funded. Given this, AAF’s position has been the project is basically none of anybody else’s business. This is just not my view of AAF, it is an attitude AAF has projected into the communities along the Treasure Coast. It is a retrograde position, a position no longer acceptable in American society.”
Read the letter here:
The proposed All Aboard Florida (AAF) high-speed rail project raises several issues that could affect the Treasure Coast. Because you have shared with me your concerns about the project, I would like to provide you with an update.
As a condition of AAF’s application for a federal loan, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has undertaken an evaluation of the potential environmental and related impacts of constructing and operating the project. On Friday, September 19th, the FRA issued the resultant Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which can be reviewed here: http://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0672
Read more here:
By Anthony Man
1:13 p.m. EDT, September 22, 2014
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel is in a tough spot on the All Aboard Florida plan for high-speed passenger rail on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks through the heart of her district in coastal Broward and Palm Beach counties. Frankel represents Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, where there’s lots of support for the project because the proposed high-speed train service from Miami to Orlando would stop in both of those cities. She also represents Boca Raton and Delray Beach where, Frankel said, there’s lots of opposition.
So does she support or oppose All Aboard? “I am trying to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative,” she said Monday during an interview with a Sun Sentinel reporter and editorial writers. “That’s the best I can do, really.” She described it as a Catch-22.
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Candidate Charlie Crist says Rick Scott ‘incompetent,’ casts doubt on All Aboard Florida, defends himself on Rothstein.
By Anthony Man
Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor seeking the Democratic nomination to run for his old job, visited the Sun Sentinel on Tuesday, where he was interviewed by editorial writers and reporters. As he has all through the campaign, Crist focused on Republican Gov. Rick Scott, ignoring Nan Rich, his opponent in the Democratic primary, except when he was directly questioned about her. Crist said, as he has many times before, that the reason he didn’t agree to debate Rich before the Aug. 26 primary because he has to concentrate all his energy on Scott. “I don’t have the time. I’m running against Rick Scott. It’s a Herculean effort,” he said. “Running against somebody like Rick Scott is not an easy undertaking.”
Though polls show the race is tighter than when Crist entered the race in November, he said he’s recently regained his momentum. He repeatedly excoriated Scott. “This administration is incompetent. Incompetent. Whether it’s transportation, our environment, education, DOC, across the board. You know they’ve got changing heads of departments that are spinning around up there. Maybe it’s not fun to work with the guy. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not working, and I know we can do better.’
Here are several subjects that came up during the interview:
He was asked about the convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, who was a campaign contributor to Crist and was appointed by him to a commission that nominates judicial candidates. At a trial earlier this year, Rothstein suggested Crist was always available to do his bidding. “It’s just patently false. People paint a picture of the delusion that they have in their own mind of what things may or may not have been. I’m an honest man. And people can’t pay me to appoint people. And never have and they never will. And that’s where that is. So it’s a non issue,” he said. It came up again when he answered a questions about state incentives to Digital Domain, a failed effort to develop a film industry in Florida. Were you wrong your actions trying to get them here and giving them all the handouts they got? “Not everything you do in life is going to be a success. I’ve not succeeded at everything I’ve tried. Certainly neither has Rick Scott I mean he was with a company where the board basically kicked him off, got rid of him. They got fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud. And I’ve had some missteps but that’s a whopper. I’ve never had anything like that in my life. And I may have known Rothstein, but Rick Scott’s the one that’s got the guilty thing here, with his company directly. “So you make mistakes in life, but you don’t stop trying to do things because you may have failed at something in the past. We had hoped the film industry would come to Florida. I still am hopeful that that will happen. Not all of them are going to be winners, but if you keep trying and you keep going up to the plate, sooner or later you’re going to start getting on base. And sooner or later you’re going to hit some home runs.” So did you do anything wrong when it came to digital domain? “No. All I did was try.”
On high speed rail, something that Scott rejected federal funding for, and on All Aboard Florida, a plan to bring rail service from South Florida to Orlando.
“This All Aboard Florida thing. I’m not going to denounce it, but I have serious concerns about the whole thing. We have a governor who turned down the fast, clean rail and now seems to embrace wholeheartedly the slower, noisy – what is it 32 trips a day – rail down the East Coast. And it seems like a lot of people on the East Coast aren’t real interested and aren’t all aboard. And so it seems to me that investing in infrastructure … making good decisions, not bad ones. So what can I do differently? Everything. I would do everything different from this guy.” So are you for or against All Aboard Florida? “I have serious concerns about it. I haven’t reached a final conclusion. But I think high speed rail is much better for Florida than what this thing looks like. And especially the process by which it came about. I mean to have the chief of staff of the governor advocating for it before he becomes the chief of staff and then he becomes the chief of staff. I mean it’s a mess.”
On how he’ll convince people to vote for him.
“Remind people that I was a governor who was honest with them. Who tried to be fair. Who appointed people to the bench who were compassionate…Who respected a women’s right to choose. Who did the kind of things that protected our water, our springs, our environment, tried to save the Everglades. Those things are pretty good memories, and I don’t think you have to hold your nose to vote for that.” He said he’d be “honored, of course” to have President Barack Obama campaign for him.
On same-sex marriage, Crist said “I don’t think the state or government has a role in telling people who to love or who to marry …. Our society has moved rapidly in this area. I have. The president of the United States has. And I think a lot of the credit in the change in society’s view of gay rights should go to President Obama, frankly…. He said he was wrong when he supported the 2008 referendum that enshrined a ban on same-sex marriage in the Florida Constitution. “I’m not happy about it. It was a mistake. But I’m an older, wiser man now. And I’m willing to continue to listen and be open minded because I think it’s important for an intelligent person to do that. And you know there are those, some on the other side who say that you have to talk about your core beliefs and whatever they were back in the day. If you believe the same things today that you did when you were in high school, I don’t know if that’s a very bright human being, or a very enlightened person. I think you have to have the wisdom to understand that things change. Facts and circumstances change. And hopefully you gain more wisdom over time.”
Marijuana: He supports the medical marijuana referendum on the general election ballot but said he hasn’t thought about legalizing recreational marijuana use. He said he’d smoked pot when he was in college, an admission that came up when he ran for education commissioner in 2000. He said Florida utility companies are wrong when they argue solar energy isn’t a good fit for Florida. “Are they crazy? Are they crazy? They told me the same thing when I got elected governor before. I said you know I’d like to bring about solar energy. Well, you know we don’t have enough sun in Florida. I’m like what planet are you on? We’re the Sunshine State. Now they put that stuff out there because they like the profits they’re making on the stuff they’ve already built. They don’t want to change. I understand that. These utilities, some of them are like dinosaurs. And they rig the game. They don’t even have to compete. You can’t go to Joe’s Utility across the street. You have to send the check to FPL don’t you? They don’t have to compete. They don’t know what a marketplace is all about. They don’t have any idea about it.”
Copyright © 2014, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Source: THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, July 15, 2014 ……
Gov. Rick Scott maintains that no state funding is headed to a proposed passenger rail line that would run along Florida’s East Coast. And Scott, who in 2011 rejected federal funding for high-speed rail across 84 miles of Central Florida, has asked All Aboard Florida President Michael Reininger to “be sensitive” to residents’ concerns as plans for the privately run rail service progress. However, opponents of the rail plan say they need to hear more out of Tallahassee to keep the local fight from becoming a runaway election issue for the governor. “We would appreciate (Scott’s) voice to the Federal Railroad Administration saying, ‘We need make sure this project is feasible before you’re spending or loaning one penny of taxpayer dollars,’ ” said K.C. Traylor, who helped create Florida Not All Aboard, one of the key opposition groups to the return of passenger rail service along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. The Tampa Bay Times reported last month that Scott expressed support for the project. “I’m hopeful that All Aboard will continue to get all those concerns addressed,” Scott told the newspaper. “But I like people building things in our state, and I hope they’re very successful.” Nevertheless, his office has also tried to distance Scott from the project. “This project is a private venture that is using zero state funds. Governor Scott has had no role in its finance or development,” Scott spokesman Frank Collins said in an email response Tuesday to a question asking for Scott’s position on the rail service. Collins email accompanied a letter in which Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad wrote Tuesday advising Reininger that despite a recent media report that the company could request “an additional $44 million in state grants,” the department will not invest state dollars in the project. All Aboard Florida has applied for a Federal Railroad Administration loan for the $2.5 billion service. While Traylor said she hasn’t been getting the answers she wants from Scott on All Aboard Florida, or for that matter from his potential Democratic challengers, the residents know their voices are being heard in Tallahassee. A year ago an environmental crisis along the Treasure Coast resulted in state lawmakers agreeing this spring to spend more than $220 million for efforts to clean the water in South Florida. This year, residents from the same Republican-dominated area are up in arms over the potential impacts of All Aboard Florida, which is to planned to eventually run from Miami to Orlando. The first trains are expected to travel between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2016.
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TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Rick Scott’s top transportation official had a role in a move to oust the director of a Central Florida expressway authority because he deemed the proposed All Aboard Florida passenger rail service a “legacy project” and the rail company was unhappy with the director.
The revelations are in sworn statements from state Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad and Noranne Downs, the department administrator in charge of the Central Florida district.
The statements were given as part of State Attorney Jeff Ashton’s 10-month investigation into the embattled Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, which isn’t directly related to All Aboard Florida.
In a 132-page sworn statement given March 12, Prasad said All Aboard Florida officials didn’t like Max Crumit, who resigned as authority director Oct. 1, 2013.
Records released as part of the investigation, and reviewed Friday by the Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau, show other board members were working behind the scenes to oust Crumit for various reasons.
Prasad, who hasn’t been accused of any legal wrongdoing in the State Attorney investigation, said Crumit would “tell people…what they want to hear.”
“That started — that created a lot of frustration at All Aboard Florida,” Prasad said in his statement. “They were very frustrated with Max.”
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Naples Daily News: TALLAHASSEE
When Gov. Rick Scott ran for governor in 2010, the GOP establishment supported former Attorney General Bill McCollum.
So, when Scott, a former health care executive, spent nearly $40 million of his own wealth to beat McCollum in the Republican primary, fences needed to be mended between the rookie politician and the party he now led.
Enter Adam Hollingsworth.
At the time of the 2010 primary, Hollingsworth was making $189,000-per-year as chief of staff to then-Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton. He took a leave of absence, recruited by both the Republican Party of Florida chairman and Scott campaign manager Susie Wiles, to help fix the relationship between Scott and the party’s elite.
Hollingsworth became one of Scott’s most trusted advisers, a position he used to influence the administration’s rejection of billions in federal high-speed rail money, then later lobby for a rail project that would benefit his employer, emails, text messages and administration documents obtained by the Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau show.
Hollingsworth, through his office, declined to comment.
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By Kim Miller
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, announced today he will fight All Aboard Florida, and believes the best way to stop the passenger train is to block the $1.5 billion federal loan.
All Aboard Florida is a private express passenger service that will run on the FEC tracks from Miami to Orlando, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
The project has applied for a Federal Railroad Administration loan to help fund the $2.5 billion rail.
“If this was so great, if smart people in New York aren’t willing to put money into this project, that to me is a clue that maybe taxpayers shouldn’t either,” Negron said.
All Aboard Florida President Michael Reininger said he would have liked Negron to keep an open mind until the release of an environmental impact statement that will address many of the concerns people have with issues such as horn noise, delays at crossings and marine traffic congestion at drawbridges.
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