Friday, February 17, 2012

Put the study of corruption in Florida law schools ... by gimleteye

The Hindustan Times reports that the University of Sussex in Great Britain "has announced the creation of a new research center at Sussex entitled, "the 'Sussex Centre for the Study of Corruption'." The university will offer a master's degree for center students who will "analyze what corruption is, where it thrives and most importantly, what can be done about it." Understandably, this is an idea that we could affiliate with locally. The University of Miami Law School, FIU or Nova could link with the Sussex venture, started by an Indian politician, Anna Hazare.

Suggestion to UM president Donna Shalala: solicit support for a new study of corruption from Lennar and Stuart Miller, a UM board member and on whose corporate board she sits, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, or Leonard Abess, an environmental philanthropist. Just a thought, but a thought that came to me in the context of a report by environmental journalist Bruce Ritchie, "Suwannee River Water Management District chief quits, warns Senate panel about water policy." Former District chief David Still told the GOP led legislature, "People have asked me, 'How you like what you're doing in the Legislature? ... The truth of the matter is I really want to tell them -- you won't hear this out of me very often -- I'm scared. I'm scared what is going to happen in our future with water."

What do the people of Florida recognize that the legislature doesn't? That to accommodate ceaseless growth of the cement and asphalt based footprint of development in Florida we are destroying our fresh water future. Its the same manifesto-- growth at any cost-- that made Florida the centerpiece of the housing boom and bust; mainly for the political influence peddling and campaign money that coalesced around former Governor Jeb Bush and an immoveable Republican majority in the legislature. Destroying our water future is in the genetic code of the Florida builders and associations like the Latin Builders: just give us the water we want, now. Keep the costs low. Keep building platted subdivisions in wetlands and open space. Never mind the future.

This is no exaggeration: the most important of Miami-Dade's 20 year plans based on its consumptive use permit with the state of Florida's water management district have been scrapped since Gov. Rick Scott took office. There is a virtual halt to enforcement and planning by state regulatory authority.

Don't get me wrong: I am not letting Democrats off the hook. When the Democrats had their turn at running the state of Florida and through their influence in Congress, not much was done to protect -- and I mean really to protect-- our water and air. Statewide candidates for office in Florida have been notoriously slow and indifferent to the ways that corruption is pervasive in environmental regulatory policies and growth management.

A recent report by the Department of Justice identifies Florida as 4th in the nation for public corruption. But factoring in state prosecutions, we are 1st. Numero Uno.

This leads me to thoughts about addressing corruption. Unfortunately we don't want to call corruption for what it is; not just the money under the table that lands county commissioners in jail, but policies that circumvent the will of the people as broadly expressed in important laws and regulations and for which loopholes are constantly being created. The goal posts change. The baselines vanish and are rewritten. Fast numerical standards on pollution become "narrative" standards. The Florida legislature hasn't even reckoned with the most dangerous pollutant of all, pervasive in Florida water: methylized mercury.

There you have it: the Florida legislature is obsessed with the moment of conception but cares not a shilling or dime for the pollution that is known to alter genes and creates terrible neurological deficits. This reminds me of the comment by super PAC organizer Karl Rove to the New York Times in 2003, when he was arguably the most important person in the Bush White House. Rove said, ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'' I call that, corruption.

Suwannee River Water Management District chief quits, warns Senate panel
about water policy

Bruce Ritchie, 02/15/2012 - 01:15 PM
Suwannee River Water Management District Executive Director David Still, who
warned a Senate panel on Tuesday that residents in his region are "mad as
hell" and are taking revenge on water management districts, has announced he
is resigning effective May 1. He becomes the fourth water district chief to
resign within the past year.

Florida has five water management districts
<> , established by the
Legislature in 1972 and established in the Florida Constitution by voters in
1976. Some observers say the resignations are part of an effort to run the
regional water management districts from the state capital in Tallahassee

Gov. Rick Scott last year directed the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection to oversee the districts to ensure they focus on their core
missions of water supply, flood prevention and resource protection.

Still, who spoke at a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, said Wednesday
he had no idea he would be asked to resign by the district's governing board
later in the day.

"I think they [board members] were looking for somebody different -- that is
the bottom line," Still said. He joined the district in 1994 and has been
executive director since 2008.

On Tuesday, Still told the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation
and Conservation that he had met Monday night with some Suwannee County
residents and "they are mad as hell." 

"And they are going to get some revenge and they are getting it on us, the
water management districts," he said. Still said Wednesday that he didn't
think his resignation request was related to his comments.

The Suwannee River Water Management District is holding a series of public
_spread_word_on_water_supply_strategies.pdf>  in the coming weeks with Still
and Hans Tanzler, the executive director of the St. Johns River Water
Management District, to address groundwater issues. 

The Suwannee River Water Management District said the Alapaha River basin,
the upper Suwannee River region and the upper and lower Santa Fe river
basins may be short of groundwater within 20 years. Some studies have
pointed to groundwater pumping in Jacksonville as contributing to water
shortages in the Suwannee River region.

DEP and the Suwannee River Water Management District are supporting HB 157,
which requires water management districts to identify water bodies that
could be affected by water use in neighboring districts. Some
environmentalists say the bill doesn't address over-pumping that already is

"Senators, we are at a crossroads with water supply in our area," Still told
the Senate committee on Tuesday. "And what we need to do is look at
conservation as the main key.

"We also need to look at alternative water supplies and implement those
fully as we go forward. A lot of that burden falls on the Legislature, in my
opinion, to set new water policy," he said.

Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness and committee chairman, said his visits to
the Suwannee region had convinced him that "there is nothing on the agenda
in the state of Florida more precious or more at risk than our water

"People have asked me, 'How you like what you're doing in the Legislature?"
he said. "The truth of the matter is I really want to tell them -- you wont
hear this out of me very often -- I'm scared. I'm scared what is going to
happen in our future with water."

His committee on Tuesday voted to confirm Still and three other district
executive directors.

Once Still resigns, Doug Barr of the Northwest Florida Water Management
District will become the only executive director remaining from when Scott
took office.

And Barr appears to be on thin ice with at least one senator. Sen. Jack
Latava, R-St. Petersburg, signaled during the committee meeting his
unhappiness with what he called "business as usual" at the Northwest Florida
Water Management District, including the agency having $30 million in
unallocated reserves. 

Sonny Vergara, a former executive director of the Southwest Florida Water
Management District, said Still is "an extremely good person and was a
perfect professional fit for the Suwannee district."  

"His departure reflects an assault that is endemic upon the water management
districts," Vergara wrote in an email.

Reporter Bruce Ritchie can be reached at


Anonymous said...

If they study corruption, they will just get better at it.

TerreG said...

The bottom line is that the voters are to blame for the corruption and chaos that exists at all levels of government because in spite of knowing how incompetent and corrupt some of our elected officials are, we keep voting them into office to continue their shenanigans.

What is the definition of insanity? To keep doing the same thing time and again and expect a different result. Exactly what we are doing.

Michael Froomkin said...

There is this: UM Collaborates with Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner on ‘Good Government Initiative’.