As three regional task forces prepare for final meetings to gauge the feasibility of the Florida Legislature’s multibillion dollar proposal to build 340 miles of toll roads by 2030, opponents say the state is hiding overwhelming public opposition to the plan.
According to an analysis of nearly 10,000 public comments by the No Roads to Ruin coalition gleaned from 15 months of review, more than 93 percent oppose the three proposed toll roads.
Lawmakers created the task forces in 2019 to study a proposed Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) plan to build a 150-mile Southwest-Central Florida Connector, a 40-mile Suncoast Connector linking the Florida Turnpike and I-75 with the Suncoast Parkway and a 150-mile Northern Turnpike Connector, which would extend the Suncoast Parkway to Georgia.
M-CORES would be funded with $1.1 billion in license plate tag revenue to finance a bond; estimates top $10 billion. Construction would begin in 2022 and end in 2030.
The 2019 bill allocated $45 million to study the proposal and authorized $90 million for M-CORES in this year’s budget, $135 million in fiscal year 2022 and $140 million annually through fiscal 2030.
That money is not assured, however. Funding must be approved annually. Task force recommendations, due Nov. 15, will be key in determining how, or if, M-CORES will be funded.
As task forces prepare for next week’s meetings, No Roads to Ruin criticized the Florida Department of Transportation for classifying comments by areas of interest – route alignment, hurricane evacuation, wetlands, wildlife impacts, costs, tourism, infrastructure and jobs – without an overall “for” and “against” tally.
“They might tell us they got X number of comments concerned about water quality or X number of comments concerned about wildlife,” Progress Florida Communications Specialist Jon Bleyer said. “But what they didn’t share was the sentiment of those comments. They never shared how many anti or pro comments were received.”
The coalition, which spans more than 110 organizations, filed multiple public-records requests with the FDOT to access all public comments and received 9,886 comments submitted between August 2019 and Oct. 7, 2020.
Bleyer said an “army of volunteers” examined the comments and determined 9,232 – 93.4% – opposed the projects, 379 were in favor and 275 were undecided.
The coalition sent FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault a letter this week citing the overwhelming opposition and the absence of a “no build” option, even though the task forces requested one.
In the same statement in draft reports issued in late-September, all three task forces called for the FDOT “to consider a ‘no build’ alternative in future project development activities until a final recommendation about each specific project is made.”
“Because no-build is always an option, the department has only tracked topics mentioned at a very high level, not the sentiment of the comment,” FDOT Communications Director Beth Frady said in an email response shared by the coalition.
“Tracking it this way has allowed the department to ensure the topics mentioned by the public were discussed at task force meetings,” she said. “This means that, in the event the proposed corridors meet environmental and financial feasibility, the task forces have had the opportunity to consider all actionable feedback and input via multiple productive discussions.”
The task forces will hold virtual and in-person meetings and open houses next week.
The Southwest-Central Florida Corridor Task Force will meet Monday. An open house is scheduled for Tuesday at Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda.
The Suncoast Corridor Task Force will meet Tuesday, with a Thursday open house at Madison County Church of God in Madison.
The Northern Turnpike Corridor Task Force will meet Wednesday, with an open house Thursday at The Plantation on Crystal River.
Ed. Note: with all the protests and violence in our streets... it's good to remember our history
Vietnam War protests began small among peace activists and leftist intellectuals on college campuses but gained national prominence in 1965, after the United States began bombing North Vietnam in earnest. Vietnam War Protests: The Beginnings of a Movement-In August 1964, North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked two U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, and President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the retaliatory bombing of military targets in North Vietnam. And by the time U.S. planes began regular bombings of North Vietnam in February 1965, some critics had begun to question the government’s assertion that it was fighting a democratic war to liberate the South Vietnamese people from Communist aggression.
Boxer Muhammad Ali was one prominent American who resisted being drafted into service during the Vietnam War. Ali, then heavyweight champion of the world, declared himself a "conscientious objector," earning a prison sentence (later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court) and a three-year ban from boxing.
The anti-war movement began mostly on college campuses, as members of the leftist organization Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) began organizing “teach-ins” to express their opposition to the way in which it was being conducted. Though the vast majority of the American population still supported the administration policy in Vietnam, a small but outspoken liberal minority was making its voice heard by the end of 1965. This minority included many students as well as prominent artists and intellectuals and members of the hippie movement, a growing number of young people who rejected authority and embraced the drug culture.
By November 1967, American troop strength in Vietnam was approaching 500,000 and U.S. casualties had reached 15,058 killed and 109,527 wounded. The Vietnam War was costing the U.S. some $25 billion per year, and disillusionment was beginning to reach greater sections of the taxpaying public. More casualties were reported in Vietnam every day, even as U.S. commanders demanded more troops. Under the draft system, as many as 40,000 young men were called into service each month, adding fuel to the fire of the anti-war movement.
On October 21, 1967, one of the most prominent anti-war demonstrations took place, as some 100,000 protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial; around 30,000 of them continued in a march on the Pentagon later that night. After a brutal confrontation with the soldiers and U.S. Marshals protecting the building, hundreds of demonstrators were arrested. One of them was the author Norman Mailer, who chronicled the events in his book “The Armies of the Night,” published the following year to widespread acclaim.
Also in 1967, the anti-war movement got a big boost when the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. went public with his opposition to the war on moral grounds, condemning the war’s diversion of federal funds from domestic programs as well as the disproportionate number of African American casualties in relation to the total number of soldiers killed in the war. At a march of over 5,000 protestors in Chicago, Illinois on March 25, 1967, Martin Luther King called the Vietnam War “a blasphemy against all that America stands for.”
Vietnam War Protest Songs-
The Vietnam War protest inspired many popular songs that became an anthem for their generation. Phil Ochs wrote “What Are You Fighting For?” in 1963 and “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” in 1965. Other songs whose very titles were a protest unto themselves included Pete Seeger’s “Bring ‘Em Home” (1966) and Joan Baez’s “Saigon Bride” (1967). Nina Simone’s “Backlash Blues” (1967) took a civil rights poem by Langston Hughes and adapted it into a protest of Vietnam: “Raise my taxes/Freeze my wages/Send my son to Vietnam.” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” from 1971 went on to be one of the most popular songs of all time.
John Lennon’s first song after leaving the Beatles, “Give Peace a Chance,” hit airwaves in 1966. “Imagine,” from 1971, has transcended the Vietnam era to continue to be a song of peace and unity.
Political Consequences of Vietnam War Protests
The launch of the Tet Offensive by North Vietnamese communist troops in January 1968, and its success against U.S. and South Vietnamese troops, sent waves of shock and discontent across the home front and sparked the most intense period of anti-war protests to date. By early February 1968, a Gallup poll showed only 35 percent of the population approved of Johnson’s handling of the war and a full 50 percent disapproved (the rest had no opinion). Joining the anti-war demonstrations by this time were members of the organization Vietnam Veterans Against the War, many of whom were in wheelchairs and on crutches. The sight of these men on television throwing away the medals they had won during the war did much to win people over to the anti-war cause.
After many New Hampshire primary voters rallied behind the anti-war Democrat Eugene McCarthy, Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection. Vice President Hubert Humphrey accepted the Democratic nomination in August in Chicago, and 10,000 anti-war demonstrators showed up outside the convention building, clashing with security forces assembled by Mayor Richard Daley. Humphrey lost the 1968 presidential election to Richard M. Nixon, who promised in his campaign to restore “law and order”–a reference to conflict over anti-war protests as well as the rioting that followed King’s assassination in 1968–more effectively than Johnson had.
The following year, Nixon claimed in a famous speech that anti-war protesters constituted a small–albeit vocal–minority that should not be allowed to drown out the “silent majority” of Americans. Nixon’s war policies divided the nation still further, however: In December 1969, the government instituted the first U.S. draft lottery since World War II, inciting a vast amount of controversy and causing many young men to flee to Canada to avoid conscription. Tensions ran higher than ever, spurred on by mass demonstrations and incidents of official violence such those at Kent State in May 1970, when National Guard troops shot into a group of protesters demonstrating against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, killing four students.
In mid-1971, the publication of the first Pentagon Papers–which revealed previously confidential details about the war’s conduct–caused more and more Americans to question the accountability of the U.S. government and military establishments. In response to a strong anti-war mandate, Nixon announced the effective end to U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia in January 1973. The Paris Peace Agreement was signed on January 27, 1973.
Our instruction manual for combatting COVID-19 started with blank pages. We’ve slowly filled them with notes and studies, and gradually applied them to rules of practical living, along with government recommended standard practices. But those “notes” are in pencil, with many erasures and cross-outs.
It seems I’ve been buried in statistics lately as I try to understand the status and characteristics of many things happening during this pandemic. Here are two sets of observed data that have interesting implications as we decide how they should be interpreted and how they should be used. Let’s be smart about opening schools.
We’ve learned conclusively that this virus holds only minor consequences for school-age children. Using CDC statistics for the period February 1 through September 26, for Americans under age 18, there were 95 deaths from COVID-19, 325 from pneumonia, and 123 from influenza. Comparing that to citizens age 65 through 84 for the same diseases, deaths approximated 93,000, 98,000, and 3,000, respectively. Those comparisons speak loudly to us as we struggle to set the right priorities. For me, this should lead us to prudently normalize the school setting as soon and as thoroughly as possible.
In contrast, as of now we know far less about how contagious these youth might be. They are personally largely unaffected, but we’re still learning about how likely they are to spread the virus. Early reports about how readily these young people spread COVID are encouraging, but as yet they are inconclusive. We should therefore focus attention on those with whom students have contact, specifically those we know are more seriously affected by COVID. Older teachers and older family members should be the focus of protective measures, including but not limited to regular testing of students and those with whom they are in contact.
If we summarily shut down schools, we’re inviting all the emotional and social “collateral damage” into our lives which come from interrupting educational interaction by our youth. We tend to look for perfect solutions, but there are only trade-offs. That much we should have learned by now. Students must be prudently permitted to get on with their educations.
Spinning survival statistics can affect our peace of mind.
I’ve been reviewing recent CDC statistics to learn about surviving in this world heavily burdened by personal pandemic emotion. My emotional concern focuses on my age range which is a few years beyond traditional retirement age.
Consider this ominous presentation of COVID-19 DEATH RATES for infected individuals: 0-19 years – .003%; 20-49 years – .02%; 50-69 years – .5%; 70+ years – 5.4%. Using this data, the death rate for people in my age range, the oldest shown, is almost 180,000% higher than for people under 20. Ouch! I say. That type of presentation tends to lead someone to forsake all hope.
But turn that around and look at another, more relevant presentation of the same data, but in a format that compares COVID-19 SURVIVAL RATES for infected individuals: 0-19 years - 99.997%; 20-49 years – 99.98%; 50-69 years – 99.5%; 70+ years – 94.6%. Wow! I say, feeling a lot better. All ranges have percentage survival rates in the mid to high 90s. The youngest range is better off than I am for sure, but my range’s survival rate is almost 95% of those under 20. That’s a more valid comparison, and I like it better.
The second analysis shows us the actual reality that positive outcomes overwhelm the likelihood of something bad happening. We don’t get the same message from the first comparison. How could both analyses be telling the same story? That’s my point, they don’t tell the same story. One is very misleading.
The information used for both presentations is the same, but the comparison of survival rates gives us more valid and useful information. And as a bonus, it puts older citizens in a better frame of mind. This shows the power of spinning and presentation. Keep that in mind when eternal pessimists try to play with your pandemic emotions. Remember, the situation probably isn’t as bad as doomsayers want you to believe.