Chamber executive, County attorney question ’emergency’ meeting on All Aboard Florida

Is the Florida Development Finance Corporation rushing to approve state backing of $1.15 billion in low interest loans before Congress acts to eliminate such Private Activity Bonds>

Editor’s note:  According to a Brightline spokeswoman cited in local press today, the company asked today to cancel Monday’s meeting. The development, the spokeswoman indicated, was due to development in Washington D.C..  Senate and House tax negotiators appear to have agreed to preserve private activity bonds in legislation to be voted on this coming week.

MARK SCHUMANN

In a letter sent yesterday, Indian River County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Penny Chandler, challenged Florida Development Finance Corporation Ececutive Director William Spivey for calling a last-minute, “emergency” meeting on All Aboard Florida to be held in Jacksonville Monday, Dec. 18. Chandler indicated she only learned about the planned meeting on Dec. 14.

“What makes this an ’emergency’ meeting,” Chandler wrote. She then offered her own theory for why the meeting was hastily called. “A hurried meeting at a distant location during holiday season appears to be a veiled attempt to manuver around recently introduced Republican tax reform legislation that might terminate all Private Activity Bonds after 2017.”

The Florida Development Finance Corporation is charged with deciding if the Miami-Orlando passenger rail project will receive state backing for $1.15 billion in low-interest loans. The money would be used to upgrade the Florida East Coast Railway tracks between West Palm Beach and Cocoa and to construct new tracks between the Orlando International Airport and Coco.

Separate from Chandler’s letter, Indian River County Attorney Dylan Reingold charged that the scheduled meeting appears to be in violation of Florida’s open government laws. Reingold made his assertion in a letter written jointly with Martin County Senior Assistant Attorney Ruth Holmes and CARE-FLorida counsel Stephen M. Ryan.  In calling for the FDFC meeting on All Aboard Florida to be held in a city somewhere along the proposed route, Reingold, Holmes and Ryan wrote, “This is highly suspicious considering the meeting is being conducted far away from the FDFC offices, which do not lie near the location of the proposed project.”

Below is the full text of Chandler’s letter to Florida Development Finance Corporation Executive Director William Spivey:

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