Tag Archives: Citizens Against the Train

“I can’t believe you aren’t marching in the streets with pitchforks,” AAF, SLR/IRL

Robert CrandallRobert Crandall, the chief executive of American Airlines from 1985 to 1998 and leading the fight against All Aboard Florida.
Mr. Robert Crandall, the chief executive of American Airlines from 1985 to 1998 and leading the fight against All Aboard Florida in Martin County.

“I can’t believe you are not marching in the streets with pitchforks; this is going to ruin your county.” Bob Crandall, 2016

There was something about him. Maybe it was the confidence that radiated, or the casual way he put his hands in his pockets while looking people straight in the eye…something about him let you know  that you were dealing a legend… the kind of person they don’t make anymore…

On February 24th, I attended the Stuart Chamber’s Government and Transportation Committee’s guest speaker series. On this day it was Robert “Bob” Crandall, former chief executive of American Airlines who lives in Palm City. Mr Crandall and C.A.R.E. are leaders in the fight against All Aboard Florida. (AAF)

Trying to understand All Aboard Florida is difficult. It is multi-layered and after a while its easy to glaze over. Acronyms like FDFC; EIS; ROD and the discussion of extensions and bonds can turn off even the most interested. So today I am just going to share “the simple” and “the why” of Mr Crandall’s presentation and  summarize why “we need to grab our pitchforks.”  I will end with a true quote form Martin Health System.

  1. AAF is a health and safety issue.
  2. There will be less business, period. Noise and vibration will all facilitate less business in Downtown Stuart, and cause structural harm to its businesses, and historic Lyric Theatre.
  3. Property values will decline.
  4. A train going 55 miles per hour takes one mile to stop. These trains will go faster.
  5. Pedestrians such as in Golden Gate, used to slower trains, will not correctly judge speeds. There will be accidents .
  6. The costs to Martin County is estimated to be $323,000 in 2016; $1,000,000 by 2020; and $3,000,00 by 2040. Taxes WILL be forced up.
  7. The Maritime industry will suffer greatly. Property values for marinas and homes on west side of bridge will decline. Boaters will be frustrated and leave the area.
  8. The Roosevelt Bridge is now closed 3 hours and  30 minutes a day; with AAF it will be closed 9 hours and 30 minutes a day.
  9. The 80-year-old bridge over the St Lucie River WILL get stuck…
  10. Dangerous substances will eventually be coming through. Freight is the long-term goal.
  11. We can’t win politically; we have to win legally.

For me things really set in my mind after Mr Crandall’s talk. During the question answer period the representative from Martin Health System said the following. I kid you not. He said the following: “If All Aboard Florida goes thorough, people will die.” He was speaking of ambulances stuck at tracks. Seconds count if you have a heart attack.

I thought to myself: “This is unbelievable. The most conservative of our community and the number one employer of our community just said ‘people will die.’ And the chamber has not taken a position. Why aren’t we out in the street with pitchforks?”

I think Mr Crandall is right.

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Robert Crandall: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Crandall

C.A.R.E. Citizens Against the Train: https://www.citizensagainstthetrain.com

Martin Health System: https://www.martinhealth.org

Henry Flagler Wouldn’t Have Bought All Aboard Florida Bonds, SLR/IRL

Stuart's City Seal The original seal of Stuart was designed by a committee of three, A. T. Hogarth, J. A. Hancock and Curt Schroeder. It showed the confluence of the north and south forks of the St. Lucie River and the Florida East Coast railroad bridge. The original seal, adopted when Stuart was incorporated on May 7, 1914, served through the 1970s. (Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Stuart on the St Lucie)
Stuart’s City Seal
The original seal of Stuart was designed by a committee of three, A. T. Hogarth, J. A. Hancock and Curt Schroeder. It showed the confluence of the north and south forks of the St. Lucie River and the Florida East Coast railroad bridge. The original seal, adopted when Stuart was incorporated on May 7, 1914, served through the 1970s. (Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Stuart on the St Lucie)

The ironies of life in Stuart and Martin County are grand.

Here are a few:

  1. Business tycoon, Henry Flagler, is said to have first planned to run his railway through and develop Sewall’s Point and then across the St Lucie River to Rocky Point rather than developing Palm Beach. Title problems with the Hanson Grant, of which Sewall’s Point encompassed, led Henry to change the path of his railroad, instead taking it through Potsdam, later named Stuart.
  2. Stuart’s orignal seal, adopted in 1914, shows only the railroad going through Stuart as there was no “auto bridge” at that time. The docks sticking out into the St Lucie River can be seen on the seal due to their importance to property and commerce at that time in history. —The St Lucie River was important to “commerce” like the train at that time.
  3. Stuart was first on the north side of the railroad over the St Lucie River. When leaders wanted to change the name to “Port St Lucie” the railroad company “denied” this as there was already a town by the same name north. So the clever leaders of the town just moved the train station over the river to Potsdam and changed the name to Stuart. When things don’t work, smart business men take another path…
  4. All Aboard Florida and East Coast Railroad, Henry Flagler’s company, is now owned by Fortress; their plan to expand Mr Flagler’s business is likely to fail.
City of Stuart seal showed the railroad and an auto bridge in 1978. Seal taken from city stationary. Courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
City of Stuart seal showed the railroad and an auto bridge in 1978. Seal taken from city stationary. Courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

 

Today proposed All Aboard Florida is not following Henry Flagler’s one famous quote: “To help others is to help yourself,” in the age of paternalism such was the justification of the railroad….not today… Fortress Corporation is doing nothing to help others, like putting a stop at every pineapple plantation, but rather figuring how much money they can make for themselves barreling right through and then failing for bigger and better things…like Panama Canal freight.  Luckily their plan is falling apart.

The following information was simplified and explained by Mr Len Sucsy, of CARE, Citizens Against Railroad Expansion. He is a business expert. He gives us the inside scoop in layman terms we can understand.

You probably know about the Martin County and Indian River County lawsuits that are pending, but the specifics of All Aboard Florida’s failing business deal makes its vulnerability easier to understand:

“All Aboard Florida is having difficulty selling their $1.7 billion tax
exempt, junk bond issue. Municipal bond investors are being quoted in
Bloomberg, the Chicago Tribune, and other media sources as being
“uncomfortable” with the business model not only because no passenger train in the
history of the country has been profitable but also the real estate
above and around some train stations is speculative and yet to be
built. Other freight rail cash-flowing services are also future
events and speculative. The high leverage of the deal is also been
noted…. a problem. A well known muni manger of a $36 billion fund passed on the deal for
“credit risk” reasons.

Fortress, Inc., parent company of All Aboard Florida and Florida East
Coast Railway, is closing its flagship macro hedge fund. At its peak, it managed
$1.6 billion which now stands at $400 million due to investor flight. Last year the fund lost .6% and this year is down 17.5%. Managing partner and billionaire co-founder of Fortress, Michael Novogratz will leave the firm.
The company share price (FIG, NASDQ) has dropped 32% this year…”

AAF CAN’T SELL ITS BONDS. THEY ARE A BAD DEAL. SPREAD THE WORD. WRITE IT ON FACEBOOK. CALL YOUR FRIENDS  UP NORTH. PUT UP A SIGN.

Maybe our sign should read: “HENRY FLAGLER WOULDN’T HAVE BOUGHT AAF BONDS.”

A train on the original wooden bridge that spanned the St Lucie River 1894. Historical Society of Martin County.
A train on the original wooden bridge that spanned the St Lucie River 1894. Historical Society of Martin County via Sandra H. Thurlow’s book St on the St Lucie.

Citizen’s Against the Train: (https://www.citizensagainstthetrain.com)

CARE Citizens Against Rail Expansion: (http://www.saveourfl.com)

Not All Aboard Florida: (http://www.floridanotallaboard.net)

Chicago Tribune article: (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-wp-blm-florida-rail-e93cdf80-6e97-11e5-91eb-27ad15c2b723-20151009-story.html)