Thursday, March 06, 2014

Dear Mr. President: a note for President Obama when he visits Ocean Reef … by gimleteye

Dear Mr. President,

I know you are coming to the mostly Republican island enclave within an enclave (Key Largo in the Florida Keys) to rest this weekend. This is not a time for politics.

The last president to visit the Florida Keys was George HW Bush who loved to fish. It was that interaction with the environment that brought his attention close to the issues of fixing the damaged River of Grass. It is the upfront view of a fragile, damaged place that persuaded Republicans and Democrats to support Everglades restoration.

President Bush's successor, Bill Clinton, was more into campaign dollars from Everglades polluters like Alfie Fanjul and Big Sugar. But President Clinton did delegate the chore of roping environmentalists into line through Al Gore, who had a watch-maker's eye for the complexities of restoration, Carol Browner and then Senator Bob Graham who believed he could forge a plan to keep Big Sugar honest.

Florida and the Everglades played an important role in wrecking Gore's 2000 campaign, and the members of Ocean Reef who sided with environmentalists opposing the privatization of the Homestead Air Force Base had a role, too.

You see, Mr. President, you thought you could get away from politics for a few days … but we are familiar how character of place can be a killer of justice, just like Los Angeles was in the 1930's in the famous movie, "Chinatown".

There is a catalogue of woes you probably don't have time to read on a blog post, but I'd like to highlight the top ones for you nevertheless.

First of all, the most visible controversy on your dance card is what to do about protecting one of America's most threatened national parks. Ocean Reef is wrapped by Biscayne National Park. Park managers have floated a new management plan that has raised the ire of conservationists and Ocean Reef residents. But that is just the first inch of the roiling waters in South Florida.

Below that top layer, you will find your EPA in federal court against environmentalists who are pleading that a billion and a half dollar settlement agreement forced by said interests between the federal agency and the violator of massive waste water infrastructure standards, Miami-Dade County. The environmentalists are pleading that the federal court must include provisions and funding to raise the bulwarks against sea level rise. EPA has been a weak-kneed participant in Florida, Mr. President, in more ways than one. But this one you can see from Ocean Reef.

While you believe that climate change is an imminent threat to national security and the jobs economy, EPA is displaying quotidian policy schizophrenia with respect to climate change. Here. Right now.

As you enjoy your weekend at Ocean Reef, notice that sea level rise is literally inches, not feet, away. Contemplate that just one municipality, Miami Beach, is investing nearly half a billion dollars right now to provide pumps and pipes to remove sea water that floods city streets on ordinary high tides these days. But that infrastructure is only sized for a foot and a a half of rise. What happens after a foot and a half?

A third feature of contradictory politics that will be in plain view of Ocean Reef: the cooling towers of two nuclear reactors at the edge of Biscayne National Park owned and operated by Florida Power and Light.

The plans for FPL to build two new nuclear reactors at sea level have been plowing through permitting processes, thanks to "early cost recovery" rules at the state level allowing FPL to charge ratepayers for a massive lobbying, lawyering, engineering, and approval process that has been grinding up the public interest at an alarming rate.

Yes, we need nuclear power to combat climate change. No, "old" technology at sea level in an area of the nation that is clearly most threatened by climate change is not the answer.

A President of the United States might find a way to wrap the glorious experience of a vacation on Biscayne Bay to highlight complexities in South Florida as concrete examples why federal authority must provide clear leadership on the existential threats of environmental destruction and climate change.

Finally, in the words of a former executive director of Friends of the Everglades -- Joe Podgor -- (the small charitable organization for which I serve as volunteer president), "Fixing the Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to keep the planet." From my point of view, knowing Ocean Reef as I do, the words ring true.

Enjoy your stay in South Florida, Mr. President.


Anonymous said...

Isn't the bigger story that a paranoid president spies on Congress by using the CIA?
Using agencies such as the IRS to suppress counterpoints to his socialist agenda?
Forcing 28 tweaks to a screwed up Obamacare without Congressional approval to limit political losses?
Come on Alan wake up. This man does not care about the environment it is all about control and his overreach.

Gimleteye said...

Not only is that NOT the bigger story, it does get old reading charges from anonymous readers that this blog favors Democrats, and then when we demonstrate that we can be just as critical of Dems, we get comments that we don't "wake up" to embrace John Birch'er views like the one above. We understand whose agendas are being promoted by visceral, underlying antagonisms toward President Obama. Hopefully, voters in November will understand, too.

Anonymous said...

Alan, you are correct about Turkey Point, and that is just the point isn't it? A cluster of nukes near a one-road evacuation route from the keys and where sea level rise could make it the next Fukushima.

You need to be much tougher on this President. His environmental commitment is about as limp as his foreign policy and as weak as his respect for the constitution.

Slap him every once in awhile.

Caroline Lewis said...

Dear Mr. President,

Please read Alan's blog; he has had a bird's eye view of the SE FL environment for decades, and is a committed environmental steward; a much appreciated gimleteye.

Mr. President, thank you for your environmental efforts to date, a dramatic improvement from the previous administration. But, Mr. President, your lens must be even more informed and your voice must be even louder. These are urgent times.

Anonymous said...

Obama plays too much golf. I wish he would work harder and smarter.

Jorge said...

Another multi-million dollar golf vacation at taxpayer expense. It reminds me of Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your stay Mr. President while the U.S. remains leaderless.

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a vacation for a President. It is a 24/7 job that follows the occupant anywhere he goes. Trust me, he can turn that golf course into a fully functioning office at the drop of a ball. What this time gives him is some time alone to think and reflect. Every leader from the leader of the dog catchers to the leader of the free world needs that "alone time" .

Anonymous said...

I believe Obama has set a record for most days spent on a golf course. Maybe his time would be better spent researching to be a better president?

Anonymous said...

any transgressions by Obama are extremely mild in comparison with what Cheney/Bush did to this country and the 2 wars they got us into. We invaded Iraq because Cheney and his oil buddies wanted access to the oil fields there - pure and simple and a fact. Think about the loss of lives and US treasure that resulted. And these pathetic bloggers here are talking down Obama? Get a life and quit dragging this country down.

Anonymous said...

Cheney and Bush were in fact terrible and they probably committed many criminal acts. But now we are stuck with Obama. We need Obama to be better.

Anonymous said...

Putin does not respect Obama. That is obvious.
Putin just invaded Crimea. Then he thumbed his nose at Obama. On TV.

Anonymous said...

Crimea is about to become part of Russia and Obama is greeting high school students in Florida in a gym prior to his playing a few rounds of golf at the Coral Reef Club?