May 02, 2008

Orlando scrambles to save the CSX PolitiCorp deal

The Orlando Sentinel, never recognized as a bastion of progressivism, reports (or rather, editorializes) on the faltering CSX-Orlando rail deal today and - guess what - continues the newspaper's campaign of misrepresentation of the issues and distortion of key points.

Sentinel quotations (in italics) are followed by logically inferred meanings:

Today is decision day for commuter rail

      The House earlier this week signed off on the deal. But its chief hurdle has always been the Senate, where trial lawyers and unions, along with critics such as Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, and Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, have spent months building a barricade.
    It's always those pesky lawyers and unions and a few "ferocious" and "foolish" politicians (the Sentinel's own creative labels; cute of us, huh?) who throw up the barricades. That's why we had to leave them out of the loop for as long as humanly possible.

    Overlooked by our eyes - and rightfully so - are, among others, the only Democrat in the state Cabinet, editorialists from several major newspapers from all across the state, residents of communities that would be negatively impacted by the CSX deal, educators, nurses and providers of other public services, and the people they serve - and millions of taxpayers from Pensacola to Key West.
      Barring a dramatic turnaround, CSX spokesman Gary Sease said the company would decide during the next few days how it wanted to proceed.

      "We don't want to do things hastily," he said. "We want to consider all the options."
    You know, like we wanted to, but forgot to, consider all the options during our secret negotiations to beget this baby.
      "It's a great project for the whole state," said Noranne Downs, the Florida Department of Transportation's Central Florida head.

      "The feds are ready for us. The locals are ready for us. The state House is ready for us. It would be a darn shame if it got this far and did not pass."
    See, everybody's ready for this deal except the people who take the time to look at it objectively. That's what happens when the state's in a financial crisis, people are losing their homes and jobs and we're forced to provide more disclosure than the folks can handle. All this sunshine - it's "a darn shame."
      But a frustrated Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the federal funding won't wait.

      "I think it probably kills any form of commuter rail in Florida for 20 years," Dyer said. "A lot of people haven't looked at the big picture."

      Added Dyer, " Tampa and Lakeland will never in our lifetimes see commuter rail if this goes down, and they don't seem to understand."
    It's darn near impossible that we the people pushing this deal are the ones who don't seem to understand, who refuse to look at the big picture. And we Orlando visionaries, facing a minor delay now because of a few little questions about secrecy, liability, and impact studies, will never, ever, lower ourselves to work on a comprehensive, long-term, state-wide plan, not in this lifetime, pal. You hear me, Tampa and Lakeland?
      "There comes a point in time where there's not a lot more a lobbyist can do," said John Thrasher, a former House speaker and lobbyist for Orlando.
    But I'll keep wracking my brain because I make good money shuttling between my old legislative associates and my corporate "acquaintances."
      Rep. Dean Cannon had hoped to build a coalition of Senate votes by packing the rail deal with perks for other regions of the state.
    Sorry, grandma, we had to cut your meds this year. Priorities and all, ya know. Congestion has become downright hellacious around here. Take an aspirin and call me next year.

    The Sentinel's position: Siplin, Crist and Lynn are critical to today's momentous commuter-rail decision
      Without commuter rail, Mrs. Lynn, the more than 30,000 commuters who drive each day from their homes in Volusia to their jobs in Orange and Seminole will remain I-4 hostages. Another generation of your constituents would be left suffering the miseries of high gas prices and wasted hours sitting in their cars instead of productive time at their jobs or enjoyable hours with their families.
    Free the hostages! Save the planet! With commuter rail, Mrs. Lynn, I-4 may remain largely unchanged - but commuter rail could lead to further land development, business opportunities (wink) and urban sprawl - a good thing for your tax base. Our Orlando advertisers know what's best for you and your future. And keep this in mind: there are zero alternatives to the package our friends have delivered. It's this or nothing; now or never.
      The more than $400 million the state would spend on commuter rail would mean construction jobs just as many of your constituents are suffering through this bad economy.
    Maybe we can even hire a few of the laid-off teachers and nurses to fill all those new construction jobs. And we at the Sentinel have discovered plenty of money in parts of the state that, from all we care, are totally unaffected by "this bad economy." So get your slice of the pie or somebody undeserving will gobble it up.
      But even more important are the exciting new housing opportunities and job centers that are likely to spring up along the 61-mile route from DeLand to Poinciana. No longer would families be trapped simply because they can't afford a second -- or even first -- car.
    Trapped, in the very spot they chose to dwell. Forget how we got here, and they got there. Our plan is great for development. Just look at what we've built here in the City Beautiful. Ah, the grandeur... but I digress.

    When folks start complaining about unfettered development, keep in mind there's always somebody all too happy to have the untenable consequences dumped on their heads. Look what we're doing to the country bumpkins in Polk County, bless their little hearts.
      Mrs. Lynn and Mr. Siplin are being pushed hard by the state's trial lawyers. This special interest doesn't want the state to cover the liability costs in wrecks involving commuter rail, which would run on tracks owned by CSX freight company. Clearly, these lawyers are trying to protect the possibility of their own billion-dollar payday from a wreck. They have even gone so far as to threaten lawmakers by showing them the attack ads they'll see this election if they support commuter rail.
    We hate lawyers, don't you? Without this deal, they won't make any money at all off commuter rail accidents because we won't have commuter rail. That's why they want to kill it. See how sneaky they are? So get busy, make them a deal they can't refuse. The taxpayers won't have to know the minor details. They'll be blinded at the sight of our sleek new trains.
      Mr. Crist, only the weight of your leadership can overcome that kind of vicious politics. You've voiced support for commuter rail; now it's time for you to fight for it.
    And this is commuter rail, so it's your lucky day. If you have ever supported or will ever support it, anywhere, under any circumstances, whatever the cost and conditions, you must support this deal. We know we can count on you.

    Look, it's a vicious world out there. Paula hates us. Everybody hates us. We want what we want and we want it now, but we're weak. We have no voice. Woe is us. Can't you do for us what you did for John?
      This is more than a Central Florida issue, Governor. If commuter rail dies today, it could be a generation before Florida gets another shot. Forget about projects in Jacksonville and Tampa. Forget about your legacy as a leader of the national effort to reduce pollution spewed by cars.
    Life as we know it will cease to exist. You don't want that on your conscience.

    Look, I'm stamping my foot! Do you believe me now?

    NEWS UPDATE, 5:24 p.m.: CSX commuter rail project fails

      No comments: