Friday, August 08, 2014

Growth Management in Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida and a hostile GOP legislature: just what Gov. Rick Scott had in mind … by gimleteye

News that 1000 Friends of Florida is contracting doesn't come as a surprise. The fortunes of the non-profit organization tracked the rise and collapse of growth management regulations in the state. Over the past twenty five years, 1000 Friends provided an enormous public benefit by lending expertise and insight and often representing the public interest in local and state debates on how Florida should plan for the future.

Under Governor Rick Scott, the final nails were driven in the coffin of growth management. In Scott, Florida's special interests found a governor willing to do whatever they wanted. Not even Jeb Bush thought he could blow up decades of bipartisan consensus that built the foundation for protecting communities and the environment from rapacious development. Gov. Scott wasn't afraid to use the dynamite. It must have been thrilling, with the full throated GOP legislature -- lead then by Michael Bennett and now by Jimmy Patronis -- egging him on.

Charles Pattison, one of the most qualified and knowledgeable planners in Florida, still provides able leadership to the organization whose board included representation from the state's largest developers. But 1000 Friends is shrinking, closing its Palm Beach office that was well represented by Joanne Davis for years.

One couldn't help get the feeling, over time, that 1000 Friends board members' well-being and bank accounts ran sideways to 1000 Friends' mission. In fact, ideas about "inclusiveness" and private/public partnerships to build "win-win" scenarios are often perceived by public interest leaders as the way to incentivize cooperation instead of conflict.

But if the final result is loss -- loss of biodiversity, loss of sound planning in communities and hard infrastructure, loss of access to decision makers and a hardening of political silos -- one does wonder what the contraction of 1000 Friends of Florida really represents.

The founder of 1000 Friends, Nathaniel Reed, tried his level best to make compromise work. In the end, the practical -- filtered through selfishness and greed -- suffocated the possible.

Moreover, political compromise -- the kind that gave birth to growth management in Florida, in the 1970's -- is viewed by this generation's extremist GOP as anathema. 1000 Friends of Florida often represented compromises that were no longer in fashion, once the insiders gained complete control.

The money in state politics that advanced the fortunes of "shadow government" by insiders (ie. Big Sugar, Florida's utilities) over time steamrollered the notion of the public interest and ideas of sound community planning as ventured by 1000 Friends and its able staff.

Where Republican leadership couldn't gain traction in its efforts to eviscerate growth management -- either by destroying regulations from the outside or hollowing out government agencies from the inside -- it waged battle with voters by disenfranchisement (redistricting) or simply by using ferocity in mudslinging in order to discourage voters. Period.

People do care, but going to the battle lines (UDB, Biscayne Bay, Turkey Point) year after year, only to find the goal posts moved by special interests does get old. That doesn't mean that a silent fury and anger, like coals covered with ash after they have burned down, has no chance to revive or that 1000 Friends of Florida won't find a way forward.

It is too soon to write the obituary for the state of Florida. The upcoming elections will provide an opportunity to protest the absence of ethics and of hope that fighting the naked power grabs from one corner of the state to the other is both practical and necessary.

Elections are always signs of hope and would be more so if we could throw crony capitalists from the temple.

On the Friends of Florida Demise
By Randy Schultz (Palm Beach Post editor)
Outlook grim for 1,000 Friends of Florida

For those who care about quality of life in Palm Beach County—which ought to be everyone—the news about 1000 Friends of Florida is alarming.

The Palm Beach Post reported Monday that the non-profit growth-management group is in such bad financial shape that it has laid off the Palm Beach County representative, Joanne Davis. Former Director Charles Pattison is now a part-time consultant.

1000 Friends was formed after the Florida Legislature passed the Growth Management Act in 1985. The mission of 1000 Friends was to ensure that the state and local governments followed the law, which required all governments to have growth plans that focused on sensible development and environmental preservation.

In Palm Beach County, 1000 Friends’ most notable success was a legal challenge that blocked construction of Scripps Florida on Mecca Farms. In that effort, as in others, 1000 Friends dedicated itself to stopping the sprawl that eats up open space, drives up the cost of services and raises commute times. 1000 Friends also has been bipartisan and reasonable, intent not on stopping growth but controlling it.

The Florida Legislature, though, increasingly has become hostile to growth management. Under Gov. Rick Scott, the state has gradually abdicated its role, abolishing the Department of Community Affairs that could overrule bad local development and pushing key decisions back to cities and counties under the guise of “local control.” In fact, that often means control of a city commission or council by local developers who want to get around the comprehensive plan.

The cover story is that government needs to be more “business-friendly.” But politicians can’t brag that Floridians live in paradise if we keep paving it over. Not enough state and local politicians are the friends of Florida that 1000 Friends has been.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel with you, Gimleteye.
To rectify this predicament it would help to step back and ponder, how come?
It's quite clear to me, from the get go the founding fathers setup a system favoring the landed gentry to have control over the lands. Inclusion, Minority rights or participation, diverse opinion sharing and respecting where not on the agenda, despite flag waving and noise to the contrary.
From the very beginning there had been a oligarchy and powers from behind controlling politics. Today the system is pretty much running as intended, with little chance of usurping the power structure. Because no real challenging party structure is aloud to emerge.
The emergence of the Stacy State over the last 15 Years has been the icing of the cake.
What needs changing is the structure, everything else will follow.