Rich Campbell: Did federal railroad officials hear concerns of Martin County residents? Who can say?

Publish Date: 
Friday, October 31, 2014 - 4:45pm

By Rich Campbell. Full Article at TCPalm

The Federal Railroad Administration’s traveling road show stopped in Stuart on Thursday.

For the record, this is something — a “stop” in our region — that won’t occur when All Aboard Florida’s high-speed passenger trains begin making 16 daily round trips between Miami and Orlando in early 2017.

The 3½-hour meeting at the Kane Center — attended by more than 800 people — was professional and orderly. There were no impassioned speeches from the front of a crowded auditorium by elected officials and residents — the kind of format that quickly reveals a community’s collective, visceral sentiments about an issue or project.

Instead, members of the public wandered through the venue, visiting various displays dedicated to major topics in the draft environmental impact statement and talking with technical experts from All Aboard Florida and the Army Corps of Engineers. Residents dropped written comments in a box. Verbal comments were taken by a court reporter — in the relative obscurity of one-on-one conversations.

No eloquent speeches.

No robust applause.

Hence, no problems.

“The whole format is a joke, it’s frustrating,” said J.C. Stern, of Stuart. “We came here to be heard. But you put your comments in a box or speak to a stenographer. That’s ridiculous! We’re being controlled by big money people.”

Last summer, there was no doubt legislators at the lagoon forum heard the concerns of area residents.

On Thursday, there was nothing but doubt.

Putting comments in a box or talking with a stenographer isn’t the same as speaking your mind in a public forum.