So last week, I raised a question that was on the minds of an increasing number of Democratic voters I was running into: Are Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s former Democratic primary rivals going to get out on the campaign trail and stump for him?
It seemed like a rather basic question; but also a strange one given the stakes in this election. A state Democratic party energized by the charismatic Gillum has most supporters — and political observers — truly believing they have a strong chance of retaking the Governor’s Mansion after a 20-year drought. Not only that, of electing the first African-American to statewide office.
I observed that neither former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, West Palm Beach developer Jeff Greene nor former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine had been seen out stumping for Gillum since the early days following his stunning Aug. 28 primary win.
I did mention that Levine stepped up with a press release in defense of Gillum running-mate, Orlando businessman Chris King, over accusations of being anti-Semitic.
Afterwards, former Levine campaign operative Christian Ulvert reached out to let me know that Levine’s done more, and shouldn’t be “lumped in” with the others. Ulvert said that in addition to two private fundraisers, Levine has allowed Gillum’s campaign the use of a few of his former campaign offices around the state.
Noted. Financial support is important to political campaigns these days. Especially when it comes getting the message out via pricey advertising. Very important.
Arguably more important, however, is motivating people to actually vote. (After all, that is how Gillum managed to beat three more well-financed opponents in the primary.)
That’s why we asked in a poll last week: “Should Andrew Gillum’s Democratic primary opponents campaign for him in the general election?”
As of today (Monday), out of some 200 reader votes, about 72 percent gave a resounding “yes.” The post also received nearly 370 Likes on Facebook.
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One of Levine’s private fundraisers for Gillum was with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But Bloomberg went further, and actually stumped with Gillum. Following an Oct. 5 event in Coral Springs on behalf of his Everytown for Gun Safety, the possible 2020 presidential candidate appeared in West Palm Beach Oct. 6 at a Democratic Party fundraiser and then with Gillum Oct. 7 at a Century Village Jewish center in Pembroke Pines.
Voters are fickle. That’s why turnout is so crucial. Maybe it won’t matter to Democratic loyalists and crucial No-Party Affiliation (NPA) voters when they don’t see Gillum’s former rivals out on the stump with him, and they will show up at the polls anyway. Maybe.
And if you haven’t taken our poll yet, you can get to it here.
Though they were miles from the gunfire that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four months ago, they have been changed by it nonetheless.
“People are still devastated by these events,” said Donyea James, who just finished her junior year at American Heritage Boca/Delray High School. “It’s always on your mind: ‘What if it happens at my school? What if it would happen if I’m outside, or if I was the bathroom?'”
After the shootings, Keyiela Wilborn said she began checking on friends’ and classmates’ moods. The Palm Beach Lakes High school senior was looking for signs of possibly dangerous disquiet and encouraging them to talk if things are getting them down.
“It’s hard after these events to look at people the exact same way as you did before,” said Wendon Roberts of Spanish River High School. “But instead of thinking, ‘Oh, he’s being weird, I just better stay away from him,’ you have to think of it as, ‘Maybe this person really needs help.’ And that can stop a lot of these problems.”
Six teenagers, referred by the Urban League of Palm Beach County, talked with Rick Christie, editor of the Palm Beach Post Editorial Page, about the impact of gun violence in their communities and on their psyches. The Wednesday evening discussion was broadcast on Facebook Live.
The mass shooting at the Broward County high school spurred activism in the Palm Beach County students: they marched, held vigils, started organizations. “You want to do something not just to raise awareness, but to make a change,” James said.
Sterling Shipp and a friend had started a political science social group in the fall at Palm Beach Gardens High School. After Parkland, gun violence was the subject of every meeting. Attendance swelled. Even teachers came.
“It allowed us to have open dialogue,” Shipp said. “A lot of students came out, because they’re passionate about this.”
Gun violence hit close to home in other ways.
Wilborn said that, growing up in West Palm Beach and having relatives in Miami, “we hear about shootings all the time.” She knew a boy, “a wonderful kid, football player,” shot to death about a year and a half ago.
Roberts said that a classmate in 6th grade named Eduardo was killed along with his mother and brother in a domestic-violence shooting.
Christian Morales, just graduated from Suncoast High School, said a close friend and classmate named Brandon was shot and wounded in a drive-by while going for a walk with his brother.
And Materio is back for Round 2. According to the Post’s Tony Doris, she has filed three complaints with the Florida Elections Commission alleging that three shell companies were created to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars for political purposes without declaring themselves political organizations — which are required to identify contributors.
The political purpose? Electing Lambert.
The contributors? Voters don’t know. But shouldn’t they, for the sake of transparency?
Lambert, a newcomer with business community ties, managed to knock off the more seasoned Materio mainly because she had the money. She also had in her corner Rick Asnani, one of the county’s top political consultants.
That’s all good. Lambert won the seat, and is ensconced on the commission. Ready to vote, among other things, on a rejuvenated plan to create the Okeechobee Business District (OBD). Yep, the same OBD that would allow the construction of the 25-story One Flagler office building pretty much on Flagler Drive.
That’s not all good. A number of city residents — vocal city residents — don’t like the idea of building the tower on an already traffic-clogged Okeechobee Boulevard. They especially don’t like the fact that the issue seemed dead after it was defeated when it came before the commission in September.
“Ms. Materio used a campaign committee that was established in the month of February 2018, just one month before the election, and ran $23,000 in donations through the entity to help her campaign while hiding the donors,” Asnani told the Post. “Prior to that, Materio used a different political committee to send out a mailing that is being investigated by the Florida Elections Commission for potential illegal donations.”
Political operative Bill Newgent, for his part, filed complaints about a series of alleged misfilings and a missed deadline regarding Materio’s campaign documentation, Doris wrote.
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Election campaigns laws exist for a reason. The primary one being so that voters know who is influencing or attempting to influence candidates that are vying to represent constituents.
We know that transparency is a good thing… and “democracy dies in the darkness.”
But this long after the election, is there value in Materio’s insistence on knowing the names of the people or entities that contributed to those three mysterious shell companies created by Asnani?
We’ve been beating the drum on the issue for weeks now: The message that there is no graver threat to the future of South Florida than the accelerating pace of sea-level rise. By 2060, the sea is predicted to rise another 2 feet, with no sign of slowing down.
The editorial boards of The Palm Beach Post, South Florida Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald — with reporting help from WLRN Public Media — have joined hands in an unprecedented collaboration this election year to raise awareness about the threat facing South Florida from sea-level rise. Our goal is to inform, engage, provoke and build momentum to address the slow-motion tidal wave coming our way.
To that end, we (Post Editorial writer Howard Goodman and me) went on WPTV-Channel 5‘s “To the Point” to discuss the threat of sea level rise with host Michael Williams.
As we’ve said previously, most South Floridians get it. The Yale Climate Opinion Maps show 75 percent of us believe global warming is happening, even if we don’t all agree on the cause. We understand that when water gets hotter, it expands. And warmer waters are melting the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. If all of Greenland’s ice were to melt — and make no mistake, it’s melting at an increasing clip — scientists say ocean waters could rise 20 feet.
The problem is, too few of us are convinced sea-level rise will personally harm us in our lifetimes. We’ve got to change that mind-set because it already is. Lila Young, who has lived on the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach for 30 years, said she’s seen the king tides progressively getting higher and flooding her neighborhood more often.
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Palm Beach County is fortunate to have a slightly higher elevation, which means the risks aren’t quite so acute here as for our neighbors to the south. Still, the high-priced real estate on the barrier islands is equally vulnerable, along with the low-lying mainland along much of West Palm Beach’s Flagler Drive. As the sea level rises, the agricultural area south of Lake Okeechobee will drain more and more slowly after a major rainfall. And when significant hurricanes and floods hit farther south, we may see a sudden flood of people from Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Are we ready? Are we taking the threat of sea-level rise seriously enough?
Nearly six years in the making, All Aboard Florida’s Brightline is finally beginning limited service on Saturday. But I joined a gaggle of reporters, and business and government VIPs this morning for a test run.
And once the four-car Brightline Green train got underway (about 10 minutes late), it was hard for me not to think of the travel possibilities this oft-maligned, privately funded high-speed commuter train can offer stressed-out drivers in South Florida.
Question is, will they buy into it?
During my six-year sojourn in Washington, D.C., I was a daily MARC Train Service commuter: Bowie State University Station in Maryland to Union Station near Capitol Hill, one hour each way. Having spent of most of my life and career in Florida, not known for its mass transit systems, it was a new experience for me.
This time of year, after standing out on a cold Beltway-area platform, I’d endure every noisy bump and grind that comes from a decades-old commuter train. It was worth it, however, to not have to endure driving and parking in D.C. — in either money or time.
Truthfully, my round trip from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale and back this morning on Brightline Green had me feeling none of those negatives but all the positives.
Yes, they’ve still got that “quiet zones thing” that needs to be fixed ASAP, but as a rider I was unaffected. I could hear the train horns blowing frequently as we crossed roads, but the train is so insulated that the blaring sounded like it was off in the distance.
That the Brightline folks dolled up everything for this morning’s “media event” was not lost on me. I didn’t have to put the slick-looking ticket-buying kiosk to the test. There were balloons and helpful, smiling Brightline employees all over the West Palm Beach station, and complimentary food and drinks. The latter included alcohol (although they may want to check that rum choice if they want to impress).
All the pomp aside, both West Palm and Fort Lauderdale stations — in cookie cutter fashion — were bright and roomy (emphasis on the bright). You have to wear sunglasses when sitting on the comfortable benches upstairs because the big glass walls let all the eastern morning sun in. There’s real food and drink for purchase (not vending machine stuff), a sci-fi looking play area for kids and a “pet relief” station outside.
The practical, common-sense accouterments — such as charging stations — are like those I’ve seen in more and more airport upgrades around the country to meet traveler demands.
The ride was smooth from beginning to end,whether speeding up, slowing down or stopping. There was no clickety-clack of the old railroad trains. This felt more like the Atlanta MARTA or D.C. Metro trains, but even smoother.
The most exciting thing on the ride was having to come to a near stop just after Hillsboro Boulevard in north Broward to make way for a passing freight train, apparently due to a motor vehicle accident. Otherwise, I spent time chatting with fellow journalists, asking questions of our hosts, fighting over-attentive train attendants, and getting lost in thought while staring out of the window at the sights (trees, undisturbed scrub vegetation, the curious lack of fencing in some areas, an errant store shopping cart here and there, and, yes, continuing work on quiet zones).
It’s obvious that All Aboard Florida (before it was Brightline) spent a lot time researching and visiting high-speed passenger rail systems in other countries– as well as Amtrak’s Acela in the Northeast. That accounts for the smart things like roomy leather seats, free Wi-Fi (that works), food and drink cart service and workstations mixed in with regular seating.
But the fact that Brightline officials were not able to get all of the quiet zone upgrades done before the limited launch is a disappointment that sticks in the craw of government officials — especially in Palm Beach County. So much so, nearly everyone who spoke at the West Palm station launch brought it up. West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, a huge champion of Brightline from the beginning, was so bothered about it that she didn’t even show up this morning.
One can’t blame her, given the political capital she has invested in this project. And Brightline officials, who’ve already tested the patience of just about everyone with their multiple false starts, need to get these quiet zones done by their self-imposed end-of-March deadline. Not because any public official can stop the train from running, but because Brightline needs those officials’ support if this private venture has any chance of being successful — much less aggressively expand in the way they’re hoping.
Again, this isn’t a passenger thing, but a public thing.
Passenger-wise, all I could imagine was having to get down to Miami International Airport for a flight to the Cayman Islands and being able to bypass all of that horrendous Interstate 95 traffic. And as if on cue during the southern leg of my trip, I took a minute to text a friend of mine who was driving from Boynton Beach to his law office in Fort Lauderdale.
Me: “Yo!… Taking the Brightline Green train down to FTL on a press junket… It’s pretty nice.”
Him: “I swear I’m on 95 and I just looked at the train tracks and thought about the Brightline. I know it’s starting for the public this weekend… I was stuck on I-95 this morning. 40-min. delay due to mva (motor vehicle accident) at Hillsboro.”
Yes, that is the same Hillsboro where we slowed down and lost maybe five minutes off our arrival time in Fort Lauderdale.
Look, admittedly, some of my cultural bias against commuter rail was run out of me by my time in D.C. As a result, my mind may be more open than most to the idea of hopping a train down to Fort Lauderdale or Miami for business or recreation. Basically, I’m not as wedded to my car.
Many South Floridians look at taking the train, and then stress about how to get from the station to a specific restaurant. It’s like they developed an allergy to a cab or never heard of a (gasp!) downtown trolley.
As good a ride as Brightline is — especially for the introductory price of $10 one-way to Fort Lauderdale ($15 for Select Service) — there is still the question of whether South Floridians are really ready to give up their automobiles for the train.
For me, after one ride, I say they should give it a try.
I’m talking about billionaire West Palm Beach developer Jeff Greene’s seemingly abrupt decision to scrap his much-anticipated plans to build a 12-story, 348-unit micro-apartment project called Banyan Place.
Yep. Greene — handing ammunition to critics who say he doesn’t follow through on big project ideas — is telling all those West Palm Beach Millennials who were looking to him for some relief from Palm Beach County’s workforce housing crisis to look elsewhere. At least for now.
“I jumped the gun,” he told the Post’s Tony Doris. “I should have done a lot more research before I went through the entire entitlement process and spent a lot of people’s time on it.”
No kidding. Greene announced this project back in February, and has jumped through all the necessary zoning hoops to get final city commission approval in June.
Not that it means that much to South Florida Baby Boomers, who tend to like their space. But their kids and grandkids — read Millennials — are not thought to be as picky in that regard.
Greene says the projected rents — about $995 to $1,200 a month for 340 to 560 square feet — are just too low to make sense; especially when you add in upscale kitchens, bathrooms, and washers and dryers.
But is it possible that when it comes to space, the county’s Millennials don’t fall too far from the family tree when it comes to elbow room? Especially if you’re asking for $1,000 for what is essentially their bedroom in their parents’ home (sans mom’s home-cooking to boot)?
But “at end of the day,” Greene told Doris, “I ran numbers. If you have a choice of a small room with no view, or a 30-story building with views of everything, (it) can’t compete” with other nearby projects about to be completed near the downtown West Palm Beach Brightline station.
“I’m stepping back now to see how they all do.”
Greene’s right about competition. The city, behind Mayor Jeri Muoio, is experiencing something of a renaissance as it seeks to make itself more attractive to Millennials. Take 312 Northwood, the new apartment complex that just opened at the corner of Dixie Highway and 23rd Street. A few weeks after the doors opened this summer, the building was already 25 percent full, with residents paying between $1,400 to $1,850 for one and two-bedroom apartments, and some apartments as high as $2,300 a month.
Developer Neil Kozokoff expects the property’s 100 units — 75 of which have views of the Intracoastal Waterway — to be fully leased by the end of the year . At that point, he’ll consider building 102 apartments on land he owns nearby.
Those aren’t “micro-apartments.” But TBCG Capital Group’s five-building project on the west side of Northwood Village is planning some. The 3.5-acre tract dubbed the “anchor site” will also include offices, retail space, townhouses and apartments — including workforce housing.
Whether Greene’s decision to cut bait is just a Jeff Greene thing or a competition thing, there’s no denying that the city’s and county’s issues with affordable housing for a burgeoning young white-collar workforce is at crisis levels.
Not only can 75 percent of the county’s households not afford the median price of a single-family home, but rents north of $1,800 per month for a typical 1,100-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment have kept many young professionals from moving out of their parents’ homes.
That’s why Greene’s decision, though understandable, is disappointing.
Aggressive ideas like micro-apartments are needed if West Palm Beach and other local municipalities are going to make a dent in this burgeoning crisis. In fact, West Palm Beach has staked the future of its downtown on shelved projects like Greene’s, which had the added bonus of a pedestrian passageway on its east side, connecting Banyan to Clematis Street through the courtyard of popular Subculture Coffee. That 20-foot-wide strip of land currently dead-ends, preventing any connection between the boulevard and the popular entertainment street.
Whether micro-apartments are the way to go remains to be seen. The concept seems much more of a Northern, big city phenomenon, but might work in tandem with high-speed rail, as leaders in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami believe.
Developers need to continue to step forward with fresh concepts, and cities need to continue to offer incentives for them to do so.
Here’s a suggestion: Talk to Millennials, many of whom are now well into their late 20s and 30s, and find out what they really want.
There are more than 700 Confederate monuments in the U.S. — the vast majority in the South — according to the latest figures.
And there are many in Florida cities like Fort Myers, Gainesville, Jacksonville and yes, West Palm Beach. The latter is actually a private monument to Confederate soldiers in Woodlawn Cemetery. The cemetery is owned by the city.
Standing directly behind the American flag, a 10-foot tall marble monument is unmistakable when visitors drive through the front gate of Woodlawn. A Confederate flag is carved into the side with words honoring that army’s soldiers who are buried there. Early in her term, Mayor Jeri Muoio worked to remove all Confederate flags and symbols on city property, but the monument is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The city’s legal department has also been investigating if the city can tell the group to move the monument. But nothing yet.
This week, as the violent and tragic events of Charlottesville, Va., continue to dominate the news and political discussion — largely because of equivocal, ill-advised statements from President Donald J. Trump — the debate over whether these monuments should be taken down has once again heated up.
In fact, here are links to two opposing viewpoints in the Confederate monuments debate:
Overnight Tuesday, Baltimore took down four statues of Confederate monuments after it was ordered by the state’s Republican governor. And in Charlotte, N.C., protesters had pulled down a Confederate statue earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, the white nationalist groups behind the Charlottesville event have promised to have more rallies and demonstrations to preserve these monuments. Whether they will have further access to university campuses is another issue. This week, both Texas A&M University and the University of Florida denied Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute permission to speak on their respective campuses.
In the case of UF — full disclosure: my alma mater — President Kent Fuchs rightly denied the request to rent campus space to the “alt-right” movement leader “after assessing potential risks” campus, local, state and federal law enforcement officials.
Continued calls “online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville such as those decreeing: “The Next Battlefield is Florida’ ” also played a role in Wednesday’s decision, Fuchs said.
In a July 31 blog post, I made note of this debate after various Palm Beach Post letter writers shared their views on either side of the debate.
Among the blog post’s 500-plus comments emerged the interesting question of whether by removing these monuments to the Confederacy from public lands, we are seeking to hide an ugly part of U.S. history.
Aside from the preponderance of expected racist opinions, there were many like the following that stimulated an interesting intellectual discussion:
— Only an idiot would want to destroy history. Leave the monument alone. — Jimmy Anderson
— Now it will be Confederate memorials demonstrating history; and next it will be what? Could be anything that offends a group of people. If we don’t acknowledge history, it will repeat itself. And a lot of it is not necessarily good; but hopefully we have learned from it … leave the memorials! — Mo Earle
— Leave our history alone. Tearing down monuments does nothing be cheat future generations out of history… American history. The good and the bad. — Gennifer Cseak
Agreed, but there’s no rule that says that “history” must remain in a specific public space. Many of these monuments are front of city halls, major parks and other taxpayer-funded places that are frequented by the people who would be most offended by them as vestiges of slavery.
As a compromise, these memorials should be removed and placed in a taxpayer-funded museum where people who want to view them and further study history can do so at their leisure. After all, you can’t find a monument to Nazism in an outdoor public space anywhere in Germany.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section.
This wasn’t some arbitrary request, mind you. The IG’s office, according to Carey, has questioned $24.7 million in costs, identified $21.9 million in potential cost savings and referred 119 cases to law enforcement, the county or Florida Commission on Ethics.
Not bad for a much-maligned agency that’s been under-funded, under-staffed and under-appreciated by many of the local elected officials it works for.
Remember that 15 of our 39 municipalities sued to keep from paying their share for running the IG’s office.
Remember also, that in response to a 2009 grand jury report citing repeated incidences by former members of the county and West Palm Beach city commissions — earning us the nickname “Corruption County” — 72 percent of voters in 2010 had had enough. They approved expanding the IG’s office to cover all then-38 municipalities, and to be funded by them.
By they way, that was a majority of voters in each and every municipality.
The will of the voters aside, however, 40 percent of the county’s cities didn’t like the idea of paying for someone to look over their shoulders. They should decide how their city’s money is spent; a rather compelling argument when budgets are tight.
No surprise that leaves the IG’s office in a rather tough spot. You see, it must by law provide oversight and conduct investigations not only in the county but in cities that don’t pay for its work.
County Ethics Commissioner Sarah L. Shullman told the Post’s Wayne Washington that the cities are being shortsighted in refusing to fund the office. She said that its basically contract review work, and even its fraud investigations can potentially save a city far more money than it would cost to contribute to the office’s budget.
Carey, meanwhile, is trying to stay above the fray and not bite the potential hands that might feed him.
He just wants the money for the additional staffing. “I’m trying to stay out of the argument between the cities and the county,” he said, but added that the office’s limited staffing “hurts our ability to serve the citizens of Palm Beach County, who voted overwhelmingly for our oversight. At the end of the day, I just hope we find a way to adequately fund the Office of the InspectorGeneral.”
Yeah, good luck with that.
Carey did try to take his case to the public — albeit in an email to local media outlets the day before commissioners decided to accept County Administrator Verdenia Baker’s budget recommendation to hold off on the requested $500,000.
In a short, soft-spoken cover letter, he chided “friends and IG supporters” to:
Please see the attached IG Update on our accomplishments to date and where we stand as a result of the end of the lawsuit over funding of your Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General.
June marks my third year as your Inspector General. Over the past three years, I have spoken to hundreds of business and community groups about what your Office of Inspector General is doing to guard taxpayer dollars and promote integrity, transparency and accountability in government. If you have a group you would like me to speak to, please let me know. I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to meet and speak with those I serve.
Commissioners and Baker, who rightfully has her eye on a likely $25 million property tax revenue shortfall from a potential expansion of the homestead exemption next year, were moved, but not enough.
While some commissioners said they support the IG’s work, their hopes lie in the cities’ “voluntary” largesse.
“I think our recourse here is as clear as day,” Commissioner Hal Valeche said. “We need to go after the cities. They are getting a service and not paying for it, and that is not right. I don’t know how we apply leverage. We can shame the cities, which is my preferred course. You just don’t get something for nothing in this world.”
I’m not sure that the municipalities get that. They seem to be under the impression that they don’t need a corruption watchdog because we’re no longer “Corruption County” — a universally despised moniker.
But what if the reason we’re no longer “Corruption County” is precisely because we have a corruption watchdog?
Is it so hard to believe that government officials will behave badly when they are convinced no one is watching? Or that no one cares enough to do anything?
As much as we’d like to move past it, we need to remember that universally despised moniker was earned. A majority of taxpayers in every municipality agreed, and voted to do something about it.
A state appellate court shot them down. But that doesn’t erase their concern or wishes.
Our municipal government officials can either go on kidding themselves — and their residents — that “Corruption County” can’t happen again, or they can pony up the money to help pay for the IG’s work to make sure it doesn’t.
The number of Climate Mayors has grown to 211, representing a combined population of 54 million Americans.
Two more Florida cities have now signed on to the list: Kissimmee and South Miami.
West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein deserve praise — and their citizens’ thanks — for standing up with 184 other mayors for the Paris Climate Agreement despite President Donald Trump’s wrong-headed renunciation of the global pact.
The two mayors from Palm Beach County joined the so-called Climate Mayors, a group that stretches from Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti to New York’s Bill de Blasio, in making a strong response to Trump’s withdrawal from the accords of 195 nations to curb the planet’s warming from the burning of fossil fuels.
“As 186 Mayors representing 40 million Americans, we will adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement,” the Climate Mayors declared Thursday, adding:
We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice.
It’s a remarkable show of resolve. And it’s been matched by the governors of California, New York and Washington who’ve said they’re starting an alliance of states to stick to their own greenhouse-gas reduction goals.
California’s economic growth outpaces that of the U.S. as a whole, by the way — giving the lie to Trump’s basic claim that stringent climate regulations are the enemy of jobs and prosperity.
The defiance to Trump’s shortsightedness doesn’t end there. Major corporations, including Hewlett-Packard and Mars Inc., have also said they will forge ahead with their emission-reducing targets.
And there’s Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, who is spearheading an effort to take all these pledges from American cities, states and companies and submit them to the United Nations to be recognized along with the nations that have signed on to the Paris Accords. Bloomberg also pledged $15 million from his philanthropy to pay the equivalent of the U.S. share of the accord’s operating budget.
“The American government may have pulled out of the agreement, but the American people remain committed to it – and we will meet our targets,” Bloomberg said.
“Americans don’t need Washington to meet our Paris commitment and Americans are not going to let Washington stand in the way of fulfilling it. That’s the message mayors, governors, and business leaders all across the U.S. have been sending.”
Suddenly, the resistance has a new look. It’s not just protesters taking to the streets against the Trump regime. It’s states, cities and Fortune 500 companies defying a U.S. policy that throws science to the trash heap, plays hell with the future and self-mutilates America’s international standing.
The Paris accord commits countries to holding global temperature rises to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels, which will require global emissions to be cut to net zero by the second half of the century.
Scientists have warned that a failure to curb dangerous climate change will lead to sea level rises, more intense storms and flooding, more extreme droughts, water shortages and heat waves as well as massive loss of wildlife and reduction in crop yields, potentially sparking conflict and mass migration.
Few regions are more at risk than Florida, making part-time Palm Beacher Trump’s obtuseness all the more infuriating, and the Palm Beach County mayors’ defiance all the more welcome.
Mayors from a number of other Florida cities also signed onto the Climate Mayors list: Those of Apalachiola, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Lauderhill, Miami, Miami Beach, Orlando, South Miami, St. Petersburg, Sunrise, Surfside, Tallahassee and Tampa.
In some ways, this shouldn’t be so surprising. Some 69 percent of Americans polled in November that the U.S. should participate in the Paris agreement. That includes about half of self-identified Trump voters. Majorities in every state, including 60 percent of Floridians, said America should stick with the Paris pact.
Climate change is real — and if this resistance to Trump’s decision is any indication, there is an avid public appetite to fight back against the efforts by the fossil fuel industry, some conservatives and now, shamefully, the White House to play ostrich while the polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise.
That last fact means that Florida — and Palm Beach County, in particular — should be a leader in this fight. These mayors are setting a fine example.
UPDATE, March 28, 11:40 a.m. — This morning, the state House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee pulled HB 269 from its meeting agenda. The committee gave no explanation for the last-minute decision to not discuss the House companion to state Sen. Debbie Mayfield’s Senate bill proposing new regulations on high-speed passenger rail in the state of Florida.
Here’s a statement released from All Aboard Florida:
“The fact that the bill was pulled from the committee agenda today means the overwhelming input from groups such as the Florida Chamber and Florida TaxWatch, elected officials from key cities and newspaper editorial boards is making an impact. We have been saying this bill is not about safety but an attack against private property rights and is targeting our company. Legislators are comprehending these facts, and we are appreciative.” – Rusty Roberts, Vice President of Government Affairs for Brightline
And here’s excerpts from the response released Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL) to this morning’s developments:
“I want to once again thank Representatives MaryLynn Magar and Erin Grall for filing legislation this session to protect citizens from subsidizing high speed rail projects that pose risks to public safety. We are disappointed that the subcommittee did not debate the bill today, but we respect the legislative process, and look forward to more dialogue about this important legislation in due course.
“All Aboard Florida (AAF) is taking a victory lap today in its public statements, but its latest actions are nothing more than a special interest group flexing its political muscle in a desperate attempt to protect its profits which are reliant on taxpayer subsidies.
All Aboard Florida is up against it these days.
Right… So what else is new? The proposed high-speed passenger rail line that’s expected to have 32 trains running between Miami and West Palm Beach daily later this year has been fighting opponents since it was first announced four years ago.
And it’s mostly those folks north of West Palm Beach — in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties — that have declared war on the proposed Brightline service. They have mounted a well-funded group to fight it — Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (C.A.R.E.), based in the Treasure Coast.
A bill that, if passed, could halt the much-ballyhooed Brightline in its tracks.
Listen to audio of the meeting here:
The proposal (SB 386) would place regulations on passenger rail service. It was passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee — and sent All Aboard Florida into a tizzy, warning that the bill’s ostensible concern for safety could actually derail plans to link Orlando and Miami.
“The goal here is to mask this whole proposal in safety,” Mike Reininger, Florida East Coast Industries executive director, told the board. “Right?… Who doesn’t like puppies and bunnies?
“But that’s not what this bill is,” he added. “This is bill is simply another attempt to stop All Aboard Florida, specifically, and kill further passenger rail expansion, generally.”
Reininger, joined by Brightline general counsel Myles L. Tobin and Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches President Dennis Grady, added that passing the bill would certainly result in years of legal and administrative challenges. Not to mention having an impact on FEC’s schedule to begin offering service north of West Palm Beach.
(By the way, Reininger let it be known that All Aboard plans to propose opening a train station north of West Palm Beach “everywhere we believe is financial viable”.)
But Mayfield, at the March 14 Senate hearing, contended the proposal doesn’t target any particular rail service.
“This is about setting a framework so other high-speed rail companies that come in, we have that framework set into place,” said Mayfield of the measure, which would give the Florida Department of Transportation oversight where not preempted by federal law.
The measure also would require private passenger rail to cover the costs of installing and maintaining safety technology at crossings unless such contracts are agreed to by local governments.
“It’s not fair, and it’s certainly not legal,” Reininger said today. “We’ve already exceeded federal regulatory requirements in terms of upgrades to our tracks and crossings. So why do we need another law?”
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