Scott committee hauls in $579,000, spends $1.36 million

TALLAHASSEE — Continuing to run television ads to boost his priorities, Gov. Rick Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” political committee raised more than $579,000 in January while spending nearly $1.37 million, according to a newly filed finance report.

The committee, which has played a key political role for Scott, collected $579,600 during the month and had about $737,000 remaining on hand as of Jan. 31.

It spent $1,366,169, with much of the money going to advertising.

The committee received large contributions from some organizations and businesses. For example, it received $100,000 from a Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC; $62,500 from Florida East Coast Railway; $50,000 from the health insurer Florida Blue; and $50,000 from a Florida Insurance Council PAC, according to the filing.

Meeting set to discuss possible All Aboard Florida stop for Space Coast

The $3.1 billion Brightline intercity passenger train is planned to have just one of its four stations in Central Florida when it launches full service by 2018 — but an effort is underway to bring on one more in the future.

The Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) in Melbourne will meet on March 10 to review nine potential sites along the rail corridor in Brevard County to determine which would be the most ideal for Coral Gables-based All Aboard Florida to locate a train stop for its Orlando-to-Miami passenger rail.

The proposals were submitted to the Space Coast TPO by four municipalities — three from the city of Melbourne, four from Cocoa, and one each from Palm Bay and Rockledge — and were evaluated based on development and ridership potential, Executive Director Bob Kamm told Orlando Business Journal. The existing freight rail corridor is owned by All Aboard’s sister company, Florida East Coast Railway.

“As passenger rail service has been expanding throughout the state, we in Brevard County have wanted stops here by anybody at anytime,” Kamm told OBJ. “Here comes All Aboard Florida, which in 2012 announced plans for passenger service with no stop in Brevard … I’ve been asking for a station since then.”

Though the privately financed All Aboard for the first few years was solely focused on approvals for its first four stations, Kamm said he has in the last six months been able to convince management to agree to accepting at least one recommended station from the Space Coast. “All Aboard didn’t turn us down or say go away,” Kammer said. “They said, ‘If you can provide one preferred site, we will do a ridership survey and see if it makes sense.’ ”

All Aboard Florida provided the following statement through a spokeswoman:

“We appreciate the efforts of the Space Coast TPO and look forward to reviewing its recommendations.”

Read more about the latest with Brightline and check out more industry coverage in the On Transportation page in OBJ’s Feb. 26 weekly edition, or subscribers click here.

Why Bernie Sanders Won Super Tuesday

ernie won Super Tuesday! Let me explain why.

Going into tonight it was unclear what was going to happen because the polling was so shoddy in some states, especially Colorado and Minnesota. Those two states are so important because of what they mean for the future.

It turns out that Hillary Clinton won all of the states she was supposed to win — and a narrow victory in Massachusetts (remember she won Mass. by 15 points against Obama and still lost the primary in 2008). But Bernie Sanders had resounding wins in CO & MN. Those two states are much more indicative of the states that are coming in the rest of the primary schedule.

All of these Southern states were Hillary Clinton’s best states (by the way, also irrelevant places to have strength in for the general election). She’s used up most of her ammo and doesn’t even know what kind of trouble she’s in. Right before the voting, she pivoted toward the right again in anticipation of the general election. Big mistake. She can’t help herself; she lives and breaths arrogance.

Tonight could have been the knock out punch if Clinton had won CO & MN. But she didn’t! She lost them big. Now, he has a $40 million war chest and favorable map in front of him. Feel the Bern!

Time is on Bernie’s side. The more he runs, the more people find out about him. Everyone already knows Clinton. She’s gaining no new voters. Every day he gains ground. So, now he lives to fight many other days. She is in a race against time and she didn’t close the door tonight. Tick, tock. Tick, tock!

March 8th is huge because whoever wins Michigan has momentum going into March 15th — the real Super Tuesday (FL, OH, IL, NC and MO). That’s Colossal Tuesday. And maybe the Ides of March for Hillary Clinton.

By Cenk Uygur, Reader Supported News

How presidential candidates would change Social Security

With the number of serious presidential candidates thinning out and the election drawing closer, it’s getting a bit easier to see where the main contenders stand on Social Security.

The nation’s retirement-income program hasn’t emerged as a dominant election issue, but some of the candidates have articulated what they expect of the program, how they might change benefits or taxes or utilize other measures to shore up the program’s long-term solvency. Here’s how leading candidates view Social Security, based mainly on positions articulated on each contender’s website at the start of March:

Hillary Clinton: Mostly more of the same

Clinton largely wants to maintain the current system. There’s a pledge to preserve Social Security for future generations by “asking” the wealthiest to contribute more. Her website doesn’t provide many details on how much more in taxes would be paid by wealthier Americans. Clinton also would like to expand benefits for widows and for people who took time off from jobs to care for kids or sick family members, which presumably would help women in particular.

Her position on Social Security is mostly a defensive one: Oppose cuts in cost-of-living adjustments. Oppose efforts to raise the retirement age (which ranges from 66 to 67 for most people currently employed) and oppose benefit cuts or broad tax increases. Clinton also stands against efforts to privatize the system or “attempts to gamble seniors’ retirement security on the stock market.”

Bernie Sanders: Significant expansion

Sanders describes Social Security as the most successful federal government program ever, and he would extend its reach. Sanders wants to increase benefits by an average of $65 a month, augment cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, and increase the minimum benefits for low-income seniors. To pay for all this, and to keep the program solvent another 50 years, Sanders would raise the amount of earnings subject to payroll taxes that support Social Security. Currently, the tax stops above $118,500 a year in personal income, but he would tax income above $250,000. His website doesn’t spell out what tax rate, if any, would apply on income between $118,500 and $250,000.

Sanders opposes efforts to privatize the program or allow workers to choose investments. He notes that Social Security’s current (but dwindling) surplus is invested in U.S. Treasury bonds, which he calls the “safest interest-bearing securities in the world.” It doesn’t say that those bonds are backed by future tax revenue and federal borrowings rather than by stocks, real estate or other assets. Sanders wants to keep the private sector out of Social Security. “Corporations destroyed the retirement dreams of millions over the past 30 years by eliminating defined-benefit pensions plans,” the website says. “Millions of Americans lost their life savings after Wall Street’s recklessness crashed the economy in 2008.”

Republicans

Donald Trump: Few specifics yet

Donald Trump has vaulted to the top of the Republican leader board without talking much about Social Security, which might not be a coincidence. Social Security reform is a thorny, divisive issue. Candidates can’t take a strong position without alienating a lot of voters.

Trump’s website focuses on five key positions and briefly discusses about a dozen other issues, but Social Security isn’t among them. One of his five key positions involves cutting income taxes and simplifying the tax code. Trump also vows to create a lot more jobs if elected president. An expanding economy would generate more payroll-tax revenue to support Social Security, but that’s not the same as tackling the issue head-on. Some media reports indicate Trump wants to preserve the program without reducing benefits or raising the retirement age, but we won’t know specifics until he discusses Social Security in detail.

Other Republicans: Mixed bag

The GOP candidates trailing Trump offer various viewpoints. Ted Cruz’s website doesn’t spend much time on Social Security, though he does offer some bold tax proposals ranging from abolishing the IRS to simplifying the income-tax code with a flat tax.

Marco Rubio has one of the more clearly defined Social Security platforms. He vows to make no changes affecting people in or near retirement but wants to increase the retirement age gradually to reflect longer life expectancy. Rubio also would slow the growth rate of benefits for wealthier seniors and abolish the retirement earnings test, which he said discourages seniors from working without addressing Social Security’s solvency. (This test withholds some benefits for younger seniors below normal retirement age who continue to work and earn too much money, though they recoup the withheld benefits later.)

Rubio also would open up the federal Thrift Savings Plans to non-government workers. This program resembles a 401(k) program that, notably, features an assortment of stock and bond mutual funds —  not just government bonds of the type held by Social Security.

Reach the reporter at russ.wiles@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8616.

Michigan, Ohio, Illinois – Finally Some Blue States

Let’s face it, the reason the Republicans have had better turnout than the Democrats is that the race so far has been fought on their turf. Things will change over the next week as the campaigns head north. Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio are also critical states for Bernie Sanders. He must change the narrative and show that there is still a chance for him to catch Hillary Clinton in pledged delegates. If Clinton expands her map to the rust belt she will be tough to beat.

If Sanders can win in the Midwest, it will be a while before Hillary Clinton finds a map favorable to her. Sanders should dominate the West and if he does, the critical thing called momentum will turn in his favor. The other side of the coin, though, is Bernie’s path narrows if he doesn’t do well over the next week.

I thought both campaigns performed well in the Flint debate. It was a breath of fresh air after the GOP’s Houston debate. I am glad that Bernie will invest in mental health care – there are at least three Republican candidates who need treatment immediately. If you came into the debate supporting either candidate, you still support that candidate. I think they both did a great job reaching out to the undecided voters. Bernie did well on trade and the environment. Hillary scored big points on the auto bailout.

Both campaigns stumbled on race. Their answers were clumsy. Perhaps Bernie had the most to lose, and calling African American neighborhoods “ghettos” won’t help. The Clinton campaign made a big deal about Sanders telling her to wait until he was done speaking a couple of times. To be fair to Bernie, she was interrupting him, something he did not do to her.

The only possible game changer was the auto bailout issue raised by Clinton. I understood Sanders’s response that it was part of the overall bailout for Wall Street, but it remains to be seen if it was clear to Michigan voters.

Tomorrow’s vote could change things for Sanders. A win will show he can win in a diverse state and will send a strong message to Ohio and Illinois. A loss, while not the end of the road, will narrow Bernie’s path significantly.

Sanders was able to announce a big win in Maine and a new fundraising record. He received his 5 millionth contribution on Sunday. Sanders also won Maine by 30 points, garnering 65% of the vote. He needs to win some big states by similar margins to catch Clinton.

The two will square off again Wednesday in Miami, in the lead to the critical March 15th contests in Florida, Ohio, and Illinois.

All in all, the lack of a true game changing moment favors Clinton. She has a significant lead in pledged delegates. There is still a path for Bernie, but it is shrinking.

 

By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News

Nearly block-long row of mature palms near CityPlace buzz-sawed

West Palm Beachers love their trees.

Not only does the city boast about its program to increase its tree canopy, including tree give-away days, but it seems that anytime a limb falls anywhere in the city, residents are quick to call out the cutter on Facebook or to call City Hall to complain.

That’s what All Aboard Florida and CityPlace managers learned this week, after residents spotted a nearly block-long row of palm trees buzz-sawed between the railroad tracks and CityPlace garage.

Nobody’s talking on the record but we were able to piece together what appears to have happened.

The felled trees were on Florida East Coast rail right-of-way that had been leased to CityPlace, presumably to allow landscaping that for years helped block views of the Quadrille Boulevard side of the garage. But as All Aboard Florida prepared for high-speed rail service, it needed that room for the tracks, so it was time to cancel the lease and hand back the land in the condition that CityPlace received it.

That meant removing lots of trees. There’s still a row of tall, thin palms within a foot or two of the garage but anything closer to the tracks than that had a date with the wood-chipper.

West Palm’s city arborist, Ray Caranci, says he’s talking to CityPlace about what happens next. But since the land is on the FEC right-of-way, the trees aren’t within city jurisdiction, so he’s not yet clear whether he’ll need to approve any permits related to the landscaping.

Asked for comment, Robert Ledoux, senior v.p., for Florida East Coast Railway, replied by email that CityPlace was responsible for the trees: “The lease of the right of way adjacent to the garage is set to expire in the coming weeks. As with most lessor/lessee relationships, the tenant accepts responsibility of its owned assets on the property.”

Neither All Aboard Florida nor CityPlace would comment, so no word on why the trees couldn’t have been transplanted elsewhere rather than destroyed.

Bill McKibben Arrested (Still Detained) With 56 Others in Ongoing Campaign Against Proposed Gas Storage at Seneca Lake

The fight over the fate of the Finger Lakes received national attention today when best-selling author, environmentalist and founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben, joined the opposition. McKibben, 55, was arrested this morning with 56 area residents as part of an ongoing civil disobedience campaign against proposed gas storage in Seneca Lake’s abandoned salt caverns.

This is a developing story, but at this time all arrestees have been released except for McKibben who is still in custody at the Schuyler County sheriff’s department.

Organized by the direct action group, We Are Seneca Lake, the protesters formed a human blockade on the driveway of the gas storage and transportation company, Crestwood Midstream. During the blockade, which began shortly after sunrise, the protesters blocked all traffic entering and leaving the facility.

In a public statement to fellow blockaders, McKibben thanked We Are Seneca Lake for serving as a “curtain raiser” for the larger global movement to break free from fossil fuels that is now unfolding in frontline communities all over the planet.

“Today and every day there are places like this where people are standing up … This place is so important because it’s one of the places where people are understanding that it’s not just carbon dioxide we are fighting, it’s also methane, that there are two greenhouse gases and they are both spurring this incredible heating that we are seeing,” McKibben said. “… If we can hold off the fossil fuel industry for just a few more years, this stuff will never be built again.”

Also arrested today were several prominent local residents. Among them were the Rev. Felicity Wright, pastor of Elmira’s famed Park Church, and Phil Davis, 63, co-owner and operator of Damiani Wine Cellars on the east shore of Seneca Lake and a seventh-generation resident of Schuyler County.

Ranging in age from 30 to 76, today’s protesters represented at least 19 different New York counties.

At 6:45 a.m., the group unfurled banners that read, “Methane is Madness. Break Free from Fossil Fuels” and “We Are Seneca Lake. Can You Hear Us Now?”

The group was charged with disorderly conducted and arrested shortly before 8 a.m. by Schuyler County deputies, Watkins Glen police and New York State troopers, and transported to the Schuyler County Sheriff’s department.

The total number of arrests in the 17-month-old civil disobedience campaign has now surpassed 500.

“Climate change is not only an economic and ecological crisis. It is also, for many of us, a moral and spiritual crisis,” Rev. Wright said during the blockade. “Pope Francis understood this well when, in his recent encyclical on the climate crisis, he asks, ‘What kind of world do we want to leave … for those come after us?’ And the answer must be: a world that supports creation, and a world that allows us to be divine agents for what is holy, good, and true.”

Crestwood’s methane gas storage expansion project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October 2014 in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, and possible salinization of Seneca Lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people.

Crestwood also seeks to store two other products of fracking in Seneca Lake salt caverns—propane and butane (so-called Liquefied Petroleum Gases, LPG)—for which it is awaiting a decision by Gov. Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

“I will stand once again in resistance to this imposition of corporate will upon our people and our land and water,” Davis said this morning. “There is an attitude of arrogance and dismissiveness in the Crestwood communiqués—regarding environmental concerns, community safety concerns, area business concerns—that I find so offensive that I can’t stand by without joining to further the outcry of opposition. My family has been a part of this community for seven generations. I’m here today to lend my back and all my resolve to this fight.”

By Sandra Steingraber, EcoWatch

What’s Your AQ (Analytics Quotient)?

Your supply chain is controlled by data. As that data flows between your company an your trading partners it tells a story. For most companies that story is the current state of events. It reflects the orders, shipments, product inventories, and even work in process. Once the current status has passed the data can largely be considered to have served its purpose. But there’s a lot more to be gained from looking at that data as well as the facts about the data (its metadata) that may help expand the reach and effectiveness of your supply chain activities.

Port of New York and New Jersey set cargo record in 2015

The Port of New York and New Jersey set a new cargo volume record in 2015, surpassing the previous high-water mark recorded in 2014, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) announced on Monday.

Photo: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

During 2015, the port handled 6,371,720 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) or 3,664,013 cargo containers, an increase of 10.4 percent compared with 2014. The record volumes allowed the port to maintain its position as the East Coast’s busiest port, with nearly 30 percent of the total market share, PANYNJ officials said in a press release.

ExpressRail — PANYNJ’s ship-to-rail system serving New York and New Jersey marine terminals — also set a new record, handling 522,244 containers, an increase of 12.2 percent compared with 2014’s total, the previous best year for rail activity. In 2015, the port also handled 477,170 vehicles, a 21.5 percent increase compared with 2014.

China remained the top import country serving the port, with 1,013,669 import TEUs; India was second (196,956 import TEUs) and Germany third (189,622). The top import commodities were furniture, apparel and clothing, and machinery parts.

“The significant infrastructure investments we have made in our port continue to drive job growth and economic activity in the region, and have set the table for continued long-term growth,” said PANYNJ Executive Director Pat Foye. “Moving forward, we will continue to work in partnership with all port stakeholders so we can efficiently and effectively handle greater volumes of cargo in the years to come.”