Thursday, February 11, 2010

County takes money from environmental crimes fund and spends it on ... SUV's ... by gimleteye

Thanks to The Miami Herald for pointing out that there is a county environmental crimes fund that has collected more than $5 million in the past decade. "In the name of protecting the environment, the green fund has been used to purchase cars for top commanders, high-tech surveillance equipment, DirecTV subscriptions, iPhones, office furniture, boats and pricey laptop computers." Ford Expeditions and Chevy Tahoes. Gas guzzlers.

"The environmental fund was created in 2000 by the County Commission as a way to pool money from federal, state and local resources -- including fines and court judgments -- to combat environmental crime. The fund currently has a balance $1.6 million, according to Miami-Dade police." The Herald notes that as spending out of the fund increased, in the past three years, environmental cases by Miami-Dade police have decreased. "The department says a decline in cases shows that investigative measures to decrease environmental crime are working. Countywide, environmental prosecutions have dipped as well."

Curious. Whatever happened to prosecution of illegal rock mining in Homestead where political insiders violated permit conditions and drove their draglines straight into salt water, contaminating the local aquifer. There should be a few tens of millions to collect, there. What about prosecutions of developers who violated the terms of their development permits and zoning changes. Or, Florida Power and Light violating its agreement to monitor aquifer destruction from its Turkey Point nuclear reactors. Is anyone watching the store? Knock, knock: anyone home?

"Carlos Espinosa, director of Miami-Dade's Department of Environmental Resources Management -- the county's environmental protector -- said he doesn't know how the police fund money is spent. "I have no comment on it because I don't know what they use it for,'' Espinosa said. Of course not.

You have to understand something about this last comment, chosen to end the story. Wouldn't you think that the director of the county's environmental agency-- whose enforcement capacity has been under severe budget stress and the corrosive influence of lobbyists for years-- would want to know about a $5 million source of funding?

Everyone knows in Miami-Dade County that the environment is an orphan issue, the same way that land use and growth management is in the Florida legislature: no one wants to stand up and protect it. Why, when the local bullies organize year after year to assault the Urban Development Boundary or skirt laws protecting our drinking water supply.

I would like to see entire environmental crimes fund replenished from county funds. Make whole, to the extent that any expenditures were diverted from environmental purposes. Give the money to watchdog groups whose purpose is to make government follow its own laws protecting the environment. It's clear enough that our government cannot police itself.


Anonymous said...

Miami-Dade DERM has been on the wrong side of protecting the environment for 20 years. Don't expect that will change, ever. The only time they get it right is when the Feds are looking over their shoulder. We hoped things would change when Renfrow left, alas it is business as usual.

Anonymous said...

Is that a photo of dead coral?

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

Yet again "Eye on Miami" serves the community with updates on the corruption in / of the City Commission. GAD! Good job, good post. I realize Miami Herald contributes some decent info... woe that up here in WPB we have no true info mongers... the Post is horribly inadequate. Or just plain lazy. Yeah, well,
just saying... :-) This one truly pisses me off. The environment should stand out as the ISSUE of responsibility in all communities. TY for the post.

Gimleteye said...

Yes it is dead coral. All over the Caribbean and S. Fl too.

Anonymous said...

To the first Anon. I work for DERM and feel it is unfair to paint the department with the same broad brush one might use on, say, the County Commission. There are still a lot of good people at DERM, including a core few who have continued to fight the good fight for years despite being marginalized by upper management and worn down by the politics and bureaucracy. As bad as things have been and are in this County, it would be a whole lot worse if not for the good folks within DERM. They are often the ones that keep their own and other agencies (like the M-D Building Dept., FDEP, SFWMD, and the Army Corps) honest. There are many examples of this and quite a few good things that dedicated DERM staff do on a daily basis to preserve and protect what's left of our natural environment, but you hardly ever hear about them. If you really care about this place, then hold the feet of the County Commission, the Co Manager, and DERM's management to the fire and demand that more be done, but don't disparage the lot of we DERMites who work hard and strongly believe in what we do.

Anonymous said...

I thought that was boniato.