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Opinion: Bullet train got more votes than Jeb

(The Tallahasse Democrat posted the following editorial by George Hanna on its website on March 6.)

TALLAHASSE, Fla. -- What goes around comes around. I'm sure of it now.

Since about the middle of November 2000, I've been wanting to say these words to someone: GET OVER IT.

Now is my chance. Hey, Gov. Jeb. The people have spoken. Get over it.

You may have heard that the governor wants to make us vote again on two issues: high-speed rail and class size.

Where is Katherine Harris when we need a lecture that the votes were counted and the election is over? We shouldn't be surprised that Gov. Jeb wants a new vote on the class-size amendment. After all, he said he had a "devious plan" if it passed last November.

It did (51-49 percent), and he does.

That high-speed rail amendment - the so-called bullet train - was approved two years ago by a vote of 2.9 million (52.7 percent) to 2.6 million (47.3 percent).

In Leon County, voters approved it 51,736-44,315.

So here's my question: If 48.8 percent of the Florida vote in the 2000 election was enough to make George W. Bush president, aren't 52.7 percent and 51 percent enough to get us a bullet train and smaller classes? The governor didn't mention that the bullet train got more votes two years ago than he got last November.

I was among the 2.9 million who voted for that high-speed rail system, and I want progress, not excuses and not more voting.

Quick. Call Barry Richard and see if he used everything, or if there are any leftovers in his strategy files. Look in the "V" file under 'VOTES COUNTED/GET OVER IT." In Europe and Japan, high-speed rail has been an alternative for years to flying and driving. Japan is where bullet trains began, and the rail network has been developed over more than 35 years.

Yet here we are, in Florida, in 2003, wringing our hands about the cost. I read one story in which Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, was quoted as saying that a bullet train would be "a wonderful project for the year 3000." These guys don't get it.

With thinking like that, how does the Legislature ever accomplish anything? (OK. I hear you. Never mind.) Here's an idea to raise $35 million this year. Gov. Jeb is proposing a sales tax holiday again. Cancel it. That is a gimmick that began just a few years ago, and it's not chiseled in stone.

While pursuing this and other tax cuts, the governor said in his speech that "while we cannot expect the federal government to make our challenges go away, we must take full advantage of all the assistance Washington has already offered. We must aggressively pursue federal dollars."

Does he mean that Florida needs to get "federal dollars" so he can cut state taxes? Does the phrase "by robbing Peter he paid Paul..." come to mind?

Another thing the Legislature might try is some bold thinking, some innovation, some creativity. After all, Gov. Jeb suggested in his State of the State speech, "Our creativity, vision and perseverance will allow us to meet the challenges of the present day, as well as realize all the potential of the days to come." That's good stuff. The governor talks like The Little Engine That Could, but it won't if he has his way.

Remember creativity.

Businessmen ought to be lining up with cash in hand to get their names on that bullet train, just as they do to name a stadium. If Budweiser and Goodyear can fly blimps around the country, imagine what they'd pay for a name on the train. Think "Bud Bullet." Rep. Tim Allen, R-Brevard, who has filed legislation (HB309) for a new vote on the bullet train amendment, represents an area that has been the springboard for bold adventurers who explored space, yet he's playing the role of Tim Timid in this.

Brevard County voters were in favor of the bullet train two years ago, 60-40 percent. The voters have spoken, Tim. Don't just get over it. Deal with it. We want to ride that choo-choo.

Thursday, March 6, 2003

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