Which side are you on?
Orange TV on cable wasn’t going to cut it this time. You had to be at the Orange County Board of County Commissioners meeting to see the major players involved, in commuter rail for Central Florida.
There had already been a couple of these meetings in the region today; a tour to spread info and gauge support.
The venue was at already at capacity, and the overflow room was filling quickly as the public presentation from Governor Rick Scott’s, secretary from the FDOT, Ananth Prasad was almost underway. The crowd was growing impatient as the preceding matter lagged on, something about ethics or something, it didn’t matter, half of the people in the room don’t buy into that sort of thing anyways. Finally, it was time to begin.
Secretary Prasad’s thorough presentation covered a lot of numbers and had a cautious tone of approval. It sounded like a parent lecturing their children before buying a dog. “If I let you have him, you’ll have to wash him, feed him, and take him for walks”, except this was a money speech clearly, pointing out the responsibilities of all the levels of government, and even the private companies involved.
There were a lot of big names there. It was a site to see. Here is a rundown.
Congresswoman Corrine Brown, State Sens. Andy Gardiner, Thad Altman, former Sen. Lee Constantine, State Reps. Scott Randolph, Darren Soto, Bryan Nelson and a whole slew of Mayors on Sunrail’s planned route. The big dogs from the Lobbying firms downtown, members of the media and pundits like myself, all with entourage in tow (except me, the only Entourage I get is on HBO).
Mayor Jacobs took a moment before the public comment session to express her support for Sunrail and explained the rules to supporters and opposition. Two minutes per speaker, twenty minutes per side.
The opposition lined up and the list was displayed on the screen. Activists in red shirts that read “Derail Sunrail” were ready. There were no big names on the screen but, the opposition was passionate. One woman drove from Tampa to speak. No reaction from the capacity crowd during their 20 minutes. Several of them took the opportunity to tell Rep. Corrine Brown to her face, that they were not “Stuck on Stupid” as she’s said about commuter rail opposition in the past.
Then came the supporters… the group was twice as long and full of big names. A lot from the list, I just got done typing, Republicans and Democrats, with leadership from major organizations following them. They were all in top form addressing the board and Secretary Prasad. Then the ones that would be personally affected by the addition of Sunrail to Orange County spoke. A disabled woman in a wheel chair conveyed her support and how it could improve her quality of life, then a native Orlando college student, studying nursing in Atlanta explained the benefits of rail in Georgia and how it could help here, in Orlando.
It was time to call the fight…
The most visible support of Sunrail in Orange County didnt’ come until the end of the meeting. It was when Mayor Jacobs was wrapping things up and asked those opposed to Sunrail to stand up and be recognized.
About seven people stood up.
Then she asked those in favor to stand up and be recognized.
Virtually, the rest of the crowd in attendance rose to their feet. There were people that stood up that, I didn’t even know where there to take a side!
I still believe Rick Scott is going to put off this decision. It’s just my gut but, if he kills the train it will send shockwaves across the political landscape in Florida…again.
It’s been a political boxing match with both sides getting some big shots in and it’s going to go to the cards for a decision.
Except, there is just one card and one judge and whoever gets their hand lifted in victory, is still going to hear some boos from the audience.