Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Common sense questions about public policy, process and public engagement -to say nothing of financial risk- continue to dog @AllAboardFla and the Fortress Investment Group as they seek $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds from the Florida Development Finance Corporation for their planned Miami-to-Orlando express train, via Fort lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Some observations on what we know and what reporters should have been asking all along, but were NOT.

This is an expanded version of an email that I wrote about All Aboard Florida that was sent out around South Florida and Florida this morning shortly after I received a Twitter notification from someone at the group FloridaNOTAllAboard@FLNOTAA who describes themselves thusly:
"We are a grassroots group of citizens who have created this page to help facilitate communication and inform residents that are affected by AAF."
floridanotallaboard.com

Since I'd been planning on posting something about All Aboard Florida this week, once I received that message, I decided to write something today instead of waiting until later in the week.

Those of you unfamiliar with some of the issues here and my own perspective on the frustrating and often confounding public transportation scene in Florida may want to consult my blog post from March 26th and use that as a predicate:
South Florida has once again redefined the meaning of "Free Ride." But shouldn't we all realize by now that when it comes to #TransportationPolicy in #SoFL, there's no such thing as a free ride? But #Miami pols, @Tri_Rail & @AllAboardFla can't help themslves when it comes to taking taxpayer dollars and taking credit for something BEFORE the facts are ALL in
http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2015/03/south-florida-has-once-again-redefined.html

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So, look who seems to have finally woken up from many years of his Rip Van Winkle-like slumber? 

Columnist Michael Mayo of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, who for many years was one of the few full-throated voices in the South Florida news media willing to publicly tell the truth and speak ill of the powerful, comfortable, affluent and influential of our part area of the Sunshine State. 
That is to say, the same small handful of people of means and influence in South Florida who, over the years, have become quite accustomed to them and their favorites pet causes being catered to (and indulged in and promoted) by the South Florida press corps, no matter how wrong or dubious they were regarding an issue of public concern. 
To an extent, frankly, that would be embarrassing in most parts of the country, but which has become commonplace here, where there's a real paucity of reporters with old-fashioned notions of serving the public FIRST.

That is also to say that Michael Mayo was someone who used to be mentioned and linked to rather frequently here at Hallandale Beach Blog, in large part because of his willingness to call things exactly what they were here in Hallandale Beach and environs with respect to the illegal, unconscionable or downright stupid things that routinely took/take place at Hallandale Beach City Hall.

Mayo, to his great credit, unlike the majority of the news media in South Florida, was NOT content to just look away or merely swallow whole the PR spin served up by the usual Suspects at HB City Hall, whether Mayor Joy Cooper or her usual partners in dubious/unethical/shady shenanigans that embarrass the beleaguered residents of this ocean-side Broward city just north of the Miami-Dade County line, namely, HB City Commissioners Anthony A. Sanders and William 'Bill" Julian.

But for whatever reasons -and I have my own educated hunches- things changed with Mayo and what he chose to write about and make his primary focus.
To me and several other people in my circle of friends and acquaintances in South Florida and around the Sunshine State, he seemed to retrench, which was disappointing, given how few people seemed willing to do what he did in the first place.
The change made him seem like he not only avoided going after low-hanging fruit in our area that needed to be swatted at, but not even bother to aim for high-minded fruit on the top shelf, either.

But for today at least, he's back with some well-placed energy and moxie, asking overdue questions that others in the #SoFL media universe have been very, very reluctant or afraid to ask publicly.


"But the bigger question is this: If All Aboard Florida is such a good idea and has a reasonable chance of success, why is it falling on junk bond investors to back them, instead of AAF’s deep-pocketed corporate parent, Fortress Investment Group?"

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
All Aboard Florida bonds involve 'high degree of risk'
By Michael mayo
August 4, 2015
11:37 a.m.

Getting $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds approved by a state board on Wednesday looks to be the easy part for All Aboard Florida.

The seemingly harder part for the proposed Miami-to-Orlando express train: Getting investors to buy the risky unrated bonds (junk bonds, in financial parlance), and being able to make an estimated $105 million in annual debt payments to repay the bonds.

Read the rest of the column
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/michael-mayo-blog/sfl-mayo-aaf-bonds-20150804-story.html




This is esp. interesting in light of my tweets last week to Brian Bandell of the South Florida Business Journal reminding him of the tone-deaf and self-inflicted problems of All Aboard Florida a few years ago when it came time for them to actually engage the public in Broward County, whom they wanted to completely ignore in their original scoping meetings.

But then I started complaining about it loudly and publicly via emails, phone calls and blog posts to some responsive local officials -and certain key news media members- in South Florida, who agreed with me that given the scope of what was at stake, the All Aboard Florida geniuses core belief that they could literally force everyone in Broward who was interested in this plan -because there's a Fort Lauderdale station- to have to travel to a not-great area of downtown Miami at night, on a
weeknight when the Miami Heat were in the NBA playoffs, was probably NOT the greatest idea in the world.

But the decision to ignore Broward's residents -AAF's own future customers!- was entirely indicative of the decision-making prowess of the AAF braintrust.

Personally, I'm not against the idea, I merely find it hard to believe that in August of 2015 that there remain SO MANY basic questions, policy and process, that are both unasked and unanswered to my satisfaction, and clearly part of that has been because of the cheerleader attitude taken by so many in the South Florida press corps towards this plan.
That sort of bias and un-professionalism reminds me of the same media's attitude towards the Dolphins' terrible idea just a few years ago of forcing taxpayers to pay for stadium improvements at Dolphins Stadium, i.e Joe Robbie Stadium.
(You recall how badly that flopped, given that the owner of the team and the stadium, Stephen Ross, is only one of THE richest Americans alive today.)

The South Florida media was played like a fiddle by the Dolphins and their PR people and lobbyists, 
with several usually-solid reporters even being reduced to playing the role of little kids on "exclusive tours" of the stadium with the Dolphins then-President Mike Dee.
(Okay, you got it out of me -it was Lauren Pastrana of CBS4 News in Miami. For mojnths I watched her story out at the stadium and it made me cringe every time.)

That is to say, the media could look and listen to what was said, but seemingly couldn't ask adult questions. 
Like perfectly reasonable questions about why the Dolphins seem to have intentionally chosen NOT to repaint some areas of the stadium so that it would look worse as they and the NFL engaged in a PR battle via the media to force South Florida taxpayers to pay the freight so that perhaps the NFL might deign to have the Super Bowl played there in the future.
Some day.
Maybe!

A basic question I have had and never seen answered adequately is how will the City of Fort Lauderdale and/or Broward County government and All Aboard Florida legally keep the Fort Lauderdale train station-cum-transit center from being over-run by the army of transients and 
homeless, which has been the sad reality for the Broward County Transit main HQ off Broward Blvd. & Andrews Avenue the past few years, as anyone who has used it or gone to the McDonald's next door well knows.

It's both sad and tragic on many levels and... made worse by the fact that it is within two blocks of the Broward County Govt. HQ building and Fort Lauderdale City Hall.
But that everyday reality is also why some people don't use public transit and specifically don't go THERE.
Despite the fact that both are places that people ACTUALLY go to in real numbers.

If the public doesn't buy into a Fort Lauderdale train station/transit center right away, or have doubts about their safety and that of their family, no amount of PR spin and attempted media manipulation will prevent it from quickly becoming a No-Go Zone.
Another White Elephant monument to South Florida's long history of elected officials and "insiders" being persuaded/conned into forking over taxpayer dollars and rights for what was supposed to be, after all, yes, a private enterprise endeavor.

"But the bigger question is this: If All Aboard Florida is such a good idea and has a reasonable chance of success, why is it falling on junk bond investors to back them, instead of AAF’s deep-pocketed corporate parent, Fortress Investment Group?"


Yes, what is the reason for that lack of enthusiasm?


You can follow Lisa Broadt, aka @TCPalmLisa for live coverage of the meeting.






I encourage you to do so.

Adios!

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