In the latest effort to ensure it still gets invited to all the good regional cocktail parties if and when the CSX deal goes splat, our Lakeland City Commission – excluding Justin Troller and Howard Wiggs – has sent a blanket email – with DOT-fawning letter attached – urging Florida senators to ignore any silly citizen emails or other contact expressing opposition from anyone not “official”.
Money paragraphs from City Manager Doug Thomas’ email:
We understand that you may have received information from individuals and/or organizations that have conveyed the erroneous impression that the City of Lakeland is opposed to the passage of Senate Bill 1212. Please be advised that the City of Lakeland has worked diligently throughout the 2009 Legislative Session with Senate Leadership, various Committee Chairs, Bill Sponsors and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to attain acceptable language in SB 1212 calling for: (A) the FDOT to undertake a Project Design and Environmental (PD&E) Study of various freight rail rerouting options arising from the FDOT District 1 Alternative Rail Study; and (B) that the preferred freight rail rerouting option from the PD&E Study, with a priority ranking from the Polk County Transportation Planning Organization, shall be programmed in the FDOT work program in a fiscal year no later than 10 years from commencement of construction of the CSX Winter Haven Integrated Logistics Center…
We trust this information clarifies any questions or impressions you may have regarding the City of Lakeland’s official position on this legislation, and please feel free to contact the office of either the Lakeland Mayor & City Commission or the City Manager in the event you have any related questions.
Leadership Lakeland must be so proud of its alums. However, it does seem a curious way for Commissioners Gow Fields and Jim Verplanck to approach their mayoral campaigns. I can imagine their speeches: “My fellow Lakelanders, you may be under the erroneous impression that you want a third candidate, perhaps one that is younger, better looking, and more energetic. We assure you that you do not. That’s our official position. You want us to make your decisions for you, in contravention of your input.” Feel those goosebumps?
This is all too silly for words, really. But I suppose I should bite briefly on the substance of the Lakeland language.
1) Lakeland only controls – at best – eight votes on the county’s Transportation Planning Organization, which is made up of elected officials across the county. Eight votes isn’t close to a majority. IMHO, there is no chance that TPO members – which include officials from Winter Haven and Auburndale – will vote to both impact themselves directly through rerouting or commit to massive funding of a project that would likely cause other projects to be delayed. I suspect that’s the reason the TPO language got inserted. The TPO won’t “priority rank” a $1 billion rerouting.
2) No one seems to have asked CSX if it would use any alternative route. I received no response from the company when I asked the press person. And Thomas told me via email that while the city hasn’t secured CSX’s cooperation, it would make perfect sense for it to play ball. Well, of course, if it would make sense, I’m sure CSX will do it out of general principle…
Back in the real world, once the Orlando deal goes through, and $600 million in cash and product is burning holes in CSX’s pockets, our wise commissioners have zero leverage to ask the company to do anything. So, we can get this study done, and TPO prioritization, and all that. But when CSX says no, future legislators will just strike the language from the statute. Lakeland who? “Official” Lakeland, that’s who.
Anyway, if you would like to annoy the commission further, email these two senators: (Larcenia Bullard) email@example.com; (Sen. Pres. Jeff Atwater) firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell them that official is always temporary.