A blog about local, state and national education issues, along with their related topics.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23, 2011
From the Sun Sentinel
by Curt Levine
Rick Scott's decision to reject federal funds to construct Florida's high-speed rail project was no surprise to observers who knew Scott's game plan. When Scott appointed Robert Poole as his transportation advisor, it sounded the death knell for any type of non-highway-based mass-transit public transportation projects in Florida during Scott's administration.
Poole is director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, a right-wing lobby group of road-based transportation industrial interests, including petroleum, asphalt and rubber-tire manufacturers. And, not coincidentally, Reason receives substantial funding by the ultraconservative billionaire Koch brothers. David Koch serves as a Reason trustee.
Scott claimed he was rejecting federal funding for Florida's high-speed rail project based upon a Reason Foundation report of Jan. 6, 2011, authored by Wendell Cox, head of the Wendell Cox Consultancy. Cox claims to be a disinterested, independent transportation consultant, but has long been known as an opponent of rail transit projects and on the roster of the Reason Foundation and other highway promoters such as the American Highway Users Alliance, a pro-highway construction lobby group.
In 2004, then-Gov. Jeb Bush also relied on Poole and the Reason Foundation as cover for overturning the voter mandate of 2000 to build the high-speed rail system.
The Reason Foundation report urged Scott to cancel the high-speed rail project "as Wisconsin and Ohio have recently done." Scott complied. Will Florida be the next Wisconsin?
There is a "Reason" for Scott cancelling the high-speed rail project, but it is not a good reason. The interests of the Koch brothers and the Reason Foundation do not dovetail with empowering the middle class, enhancing the quality of life for all Floridians, attracting new, clean business and tourism, and protecting the public from toxic emissions, polluted drinking water and dangerous working conditions.
Scott's first major official action in depriving Florida of thousands of new, high-paying construction and other blue- and white-collar jobs high-speed rail would have delivered, in favor of more asphalt, higher gas consumption and increased vehicular congestion, is a breach of the public trust.
Scott's vision for Florida for more highways, increased motor vehicle traffic, greater gas demand, less governmental oversight, fewer state public servants and no modern mass-transit system might be shared by Scott and the Koch brothers, but the lives of most Floridians will be negatively impacted. But do Scott and the Koch brothers care?
Curt Levine is a former state legislator who represented west Boca Raton and Delray Beach in the Florida House of Representatives.