- With growing unrest over the specter of Florida taxpayers' paying for CSX negligence, Sen. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, said Wednesday night the project could proceed without lawmakers' doing anything this year.
"I think the liability issue is dead," Webster said. He lashed out at opponents' meddling in what he perceived as a local issue. (Ledger, May 1, 2008)
Webster said the state could move forward with every aspect of the rail plan except for the liability and immunity provisions. He said those issues could be addressed at a later time before the train goes on the tracks -- a strategy that appears to raise the possibility the state could ante up hundreds of millions of dollars with no guarantee the train would run.
"I didn't say we were going to spend it . . ." Webster said. "I just said there's nothing prohibiting us from doing that; we could go forward with any of that." (News Journal, May 1, 2008)
Beware this man and his connections - he has spent 28 seasons in Tallahassee and knows the meaning of power. If you blink, the next thing you see may be a freight train barreling down on you.
At the height of his hypocrisy, the Senate Majority Leader (supposedly working for the whole state) lashes out at his opponents for meddling in "a local issue."
- A "local issue" that depends upon taxpayers' money from every corner of the state and from Washington.
- A "local issue" that dumps his local constituents' problems on their non-local neighbors who weren't consulted, but are nevertheless expected to sit down, shut up and ante up for the privilege of relieving his "local" problem of traffic congestion.
(Note: The House chose to avoid negative publicity by removing the dangling participle ban from the transportation bill. - News-Press)
Photo: Full-featured photo of a state senator. That's how the artificial commingling of unrelated issues works, as the senator knows.
Blow whistle on CSX
- Although Webster insists that the project can go on without the Legislature's funding or blessing, he should admit that, as things stand, the "issue is dead."
- Negotiate with CSX for the Orlando tracks needed for commuter trains, minus any state indemnification.
- Complete the development of regional impact study for the Winter Haven freight hub, being sure to include downstream impacts such as additional freight traffic in local communities and the substantial increase of truck traffic on area highways.
- Undertake and complete a study to resolve the downtown Lakeland congestion from the CSX freight trains - whether by rerouting freight traffic around the city or by other means - and identify a method of funding the remedy. (Ledger editorial, May 1, 2008)
START OVER, WORK IN OPEN
The Legislature should halt consideration of any of the CSX-related projects this year, either as a reconstituted plan or piecemeal.
It should order that the following be completed in time for consideration during the 2009 legislative session, and be undertaken in the open with time for full public comment:
CSX plan carries too many costs, needs regional planning
- It has been interesting listening to the rationalizations and justifications that seek to improve the conditions of one community to the clear detriment of others. [....]
We've also argued that no plan should move forward without critically necessary long-range regional planning.
I believe that we're headed in the wrong direction. First of all, this sends the wrong message: that quid pro quo supersedes principle. Moreover, the two should not even be connected. I believe proper planning would show that commuter rail should absolutely be established for Orlando - as well as for Tampa, and eventually Lakeland and other parts of Central Florida. But that in no way should ignore what I believe that planning will also show - that Lakeland's interests must not be set aside because of political posturing.
Frankly, you don't have to have a degree in planning to look at a large-scale map and recognize that there is a better route for the CSX freight line and a better location for the integrated logistics center. (R. Howard Wiggs, City Commissioner, Lakeland)