Robert Minsky: Use of public funds for All Aboard Florida ‘opens up whole new game'

Publish Date: 
Saturday, July 12, 2014 - 10:00am

Robert Minsky, guest columnist for TCPalm

As it is with AAF, supporters and opponents each have valid arguments and rights. Chances are the courts will make the final decision. From everything I have read about this project, if AAF would proceed strictly on its own dollar and with private investors, I think the opponents would be hard pressed to persevere. But that is not the case because AAF is trying for a $1.5 billion federal loan and a $44 million grant. Those are public funds — and when public money is involved it opens up a whole new game.

Public money is controlled by the people we elect and the governmental agencies under their authority. Since we supposedly operate as a representative form of government, the opinions and concerns of the people should be a factor whenever public money is involved. But I have not seen an overwhelming flow of involvement from our state and federal elected officials for the overwhelming opposition of the people being impacted by the AAF project.

If this project had undeniable profit potential, private investors would be flocking to its doors. But AAF seems determined to build this project using everyone else's money with minimum risk to their own. So I assume their business plan does not show the profitability needed to attract private investment. So why would the government lend out taxpayers' money to fund it?

At the beginning we were led to believe providing a transportation vehicle between Orlando and the Miami/Lauderdale area was the primary reason for All Aboard Florida. Now we are being told the project also incorporates real estate development and investment, and expansion of FEC operations will be significant objectives of the proposed project.

I would ask how much of the public money being requested from the government would be used for AAF and how much for the profit ventures of the parent company? When taxpayers' money is involved, I think it is a valid question. How will the granter's of the loan and grant money make sure there is no commingling of these funds?

Robert Minsky is former mayor of Port St. Lucie.