Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Great Destroyers, Fortress Tallahassee and their vehicle, Florida, Inc. … by gimleteye

Florida is closing in, to win the red state race to be the most locked down by crony capitalism. For its sheer population and size, Florida outweighs its rivals, including North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia. These days, the Sunshine State is pushing right next to Texas thanks to the chokehold by the GOP on the state legislature and a governor, Rick Scott, whose two terms effectively delivered the state to the Great Destroyers.

The process began with Jeb Bush, likely GOP candidate for president. It was under Jeb, that predetermined outcomes became the de facto standard for Florida policy initiatives sought by insiders including land speculators, Big Sugar, and the entire apparatus of suburban sprawl. It was on Jeb's watch that the first blows to growth management in Florida occurred, undoing decades of bipartisan consensus. It was on Jeb's watch that the first concerted effort to re-route Everglades restoration to the shape and fit of Big Sugar gained momentum.

1000 Friends of Florida put out the following summary, yesterday, of Florida, Inc.'s 2015 legislative Anschluss emerging in Fortress Tallahassee:

SB 484 - Regional Planning Councils (RPCs) and Plans Eliminated

SB 484 eliminates all functions provided by Florida's 11 RPCs at a time when many of the issues facing our state are regional in nature. It would eliminate strategic regional policy plans, plan amendment and DRI reviews, and the forum that allows local, regional and state government to learn about and resolve issues that are beyond the ability of any one local government to address. There is no House companion at this time. 1000 Friends is a strong supporter of regional planning and the RPCs.

SB 562 and HB 579 - Florida's Development of Regional Impact (DRI) Program Eliminated

SB 562 and HB 579 would eliminate Florida's DRI program for large-scale developments impacting more than one county. This bill substitutes instead the state coordinated review process, losing key protections for adjacent local governments. 1000 Friends continues to advocate that the DRI process remain "as is." But if changes are contemplated, they should be comprehensive and not piecemeal. Respected land use attorney Bob Rhodes has identified 12 recommendations that include requiring RPCs to issues consistency reports for local amendments with the regional policy plan, retaining the DRI thresholds, and allowing DEO to find a plan amendment "not in compliance" due to unmitigated extra-jurisdictional impacts. See 1000 Friends' position statement on DRIs and Bob Rhodes' recommendations.

SB 832 - Florida's Sector Planning Process Significantly Weakened

SB 832 significantly weakens Florida's sector planning process for projects more than 15,000 acres in size by reducing the information sector plan applicants need to provide to local government and state agencies when seeking a plan amendment approval. It eliminates requirements for providing information relating to transportation and public facility costs, phasing, staging, or financing until very late in the planning process. It prohibits local government from having any special review process for sector plans, even though such plans allow development across massive swaths of Florida's rural lands. The bill delays the recording of conservation easements jeopardizing the environmental value of conservation lands. It also allows certain types of DRIs in rural areas of economic opportunity to receive consumptive use permits for 20 or more years, which could have significant impacts on many of Florida's most sensitive spring and springshed areas. This proposed legislation could also have significant impacts on Everglades restoration, potentially making approval easier for the massive Deseret Ranch Sector Plan at the headwaters of the Everglades and the controversial Sugar Hill Sector Plan on key Everglades lands in rural Hendry County.

That's bad, but what is happening behind the scenes is even worse.

Yesterday, citizens concerned about the massive pollution of the Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee took their concerns to Fortress Tallahassee where they explained to legislators why the purchase of US Sugar Corps. lands, south of Lake Okeechobee, is the last hope for protecting their quality of life, their real estate values, and the Everglades. The US Sugar option expires in October.

Last week, they pressed their case before the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District. The board is appointed by Gov. Rick Scott. Its chair, James Moran, chided the citizens for "lecturing them".

The outright hostility to the request by civic activists and conservation groups -- many of their members vote Republican -- has been expressed variously by the most ambitious of the new wave of GOP leadership in Tallahassee: Ag Secretary Adam Putnam and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. They -- and the governing board of the district -- are saying, in effect, the Everglades are toast because we take our marching orders from the biggest campaign funders in the state: Big Sugar. Moreover, if you want "butter" on your toast, you had better toe our line.

That line is being drawn on several fronts in Tallahassee. On one front, Big Sugar and its mouthpieces claim that there is no point in providing more cleansing marshes south of Lake Okeechobee because the biggest source of pollution is north of the lake. At the same time, Ag Secretary Adam Putnam is trying to wrest control of pollution standards north of the lake from the state Department of Environmental Protection to impose weaker pollution control regulations. That will have the effect, of course, of guaranteeing that Lake Okeechobee will never more than a sewage basin.

On another front, the state legislature is maneuvering behind closed doors to commandeer the largest pot of money ever assembled for environmental purposes. Last October, Florida voters approved by 78%, an amendment to the Florida Constitution providing a permanent source of funding -- well nothing is permanent -- for environmental purposes. By allocating a portion of the real estate transfer tax, voters meant to create what could be as much as $20 billion over the next decade.

But legislators are already at work to undermine the intent of Amendment 1 funding. The outcome is still to be determined, but it is clear that the funding will only partly be used for the purpose that conservation groups struggled so mightily to accomplish. Based on reports from Tallahassee, the major portion of the money will be going to Florida, Inc. and its water supply and flood control projects like the favorite gambit of the Great Destroyers in Florida: aquifer storage and recovery.

The premise of ASR is that you can make every water related emergency in Florida go away by burying billions of gallons of fresh water in "bubbles" underground for later retrieval. It's a technology that is extraordinarily expensive and unproven at the scale that Big Sugar wants, but it will happen because Big Sugar refuses to allow any more of its land to be bought for the public purpose of water cleansing marshes south of Lake Okeechobee. (Who can forget that US Sugar paid for private jet, all-expense "hunting" trips to Texas at the King Ranch for top GOP officials where, according to one participant -- Gov. Rick Scott -- "no business was discussed"? Voters, apparently.)

The damage to democracy is unfolding as neatly as a new model Ford F-250. The political infrastructure is in place to execute the plans of the Great Destroyers to the last detailing on the interior. The exterior is buffed and shiny. And that "new car smell" is exactly what you would figure it to be.

Florida, Inc.: bank on it until sea levels rise to your nose.


Anonymous said...

Terrible news. Gov Rick Scott and his cronies hate planning and they hate anything that slows or stops corruption. We need better local leaders who respect planning and who hate overdevelopment.

Anonymous said...

Scott, Bondi and Putnam, the axis of evil. Painful to think Alex Sink and Crist should have beat him in the last two elections.

Hopefully this grows some legs:

Anonymous said...

Shall we move from Florida? It's so beautiful. Yet it seems things will only get worse as this bunch of officials invest less and less on public education, social services, infrastructure that benefits the public, protecting the fragile environment. The people seem to be getting dumber, too. And therefore, easier to manipulate.

Anonymous said...

People should drop their Audubon memberships based on Eric Draper's comments.

Anonymous said...

One wonders why those wealthy Republicans living in the Indian River area continue to support Gov. Scott.

Alexandria said...

The rich do not care if Florida dies because they have second homes elsewhere. An administrator at SFWMD stated at a meeting that in 10 years you would not find them when confronted with the failures of the Distict. So everyone of them has a second home somewhere else. The environmentalists needed to say hell no years ago instead they compromised and the results are Florida suffered, Time to sue in federal court. Time to pay attention and connect the dots. Time to stop being played by the players no more kumbya. Time to pick up the pitchforks. Time to call out the frauds. Perfect example Eric Draper. Our fresh water and our Ocean is all we got.

Anonymous said...

Crony capitalism as you describe is rampant in Miami. There is no longer any requirement for transportation concurrency and in the City of Miami we continue to build high-rise multi family without the ability to evacuate for hurricanes down narrow and crowded streets to too small main arteries.
What does the City of Miami do? Our commissioners, especially in District 2 ignore this and wish those living in District 2 to ignore these hazards in favor of more of the same. The current king of crony capitalism at City Hall is Mark Sarnoff. He is term limited out, but his wife, Teresa plans to continue this regime should she be elected. Meanwhile her husband will run the Downtown Development Authority where he can rule over the most expensive real estate, taxing with impunity, and accountable to no one.