Monday, March 16, 2015

Florida GOP weasels away from US Sugar lands purchase: false arguments are common as kudzu … by gimleteye

So here is one obvious downside to term limits: young, ambitious politicians who know nothing but what is whispered in their ear by unlimited campaign contributors and their cash, ascending to leadership positions in the state legislature without knowledge and history of precedent. In this case, the issue is protecting, preserving and restoring Florida's natural heritage.

So much bipartisan consensus, stretching back decades, has been shattered on the issue of saving Florida from overdevelopment (including growth management) by Gov. Rick Scott and the eager Great Destroyers.

We are living in a time when the most base motivations of greed and self-interest are wrapped in mild platitudes and demagoguery, surrounding Floridians with toxics and pollution.

So now, House leader Steve Crisafulli (R-Big Sugar) says we need to "take better care" of state lands before buying any more. It is such a crock of s@#t.

The reason we are not taking better care is due to slashed budgets and willing GOP enablers. The point is, if you shrink government to the size it can be drowned in a bathtub (GOP eminence gris, Grover Norquist's contribution to the American polity), you get exactly this: agencies that CANNOT fulfill their mandates because of strategically withered budgets.

It has happened in state prisons, care for the young and disadvantaged, in public education, and on and on. The environment, surprise, turns out to reflects our tolerance for polluted politics better than any mirror.

When Floridians voted for Amendment 1 -- 78 percent of Floridians approved the Nov. 2014 constitutional amendment -- they expressed their conviction that a dedicated source of funding for environmental lands purchases needed to be secured, far from the grasping hands of state legislators or the cunning of their campaign contributors.

This is an enormous pot of money: over 20 years, it is estimated to generate around $20 billion of revenue for what the people wanted. Secured by municipal financing, the amount could be 10x more. In other words, there is finally a source of money to buy sufficient lands from Big Sugar to protect the Everglades and real estate owners whose home equity has been trashed by pollution from Lake Okeechobee flowing to both Florida coasts.

Here's the Tampa Bay Times: "Floridians pushing lawmakers to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. land south of Lake Okeechobee got a boost from a University of Florida study last week. But key legislators still seem lukewarm on the land buy, and most support a water policy bill that offers less protection to Florida’s springs, the Everglades and Lake O. The UF Water Institute’s report, noting Florida has an option to buy the 46,000 acres at market prices until October, said plainly that the state should consider buying the land. The report also calls for “enormous” increases in storage, for treatment of water both north and south of the lake and for the purchase of lands from other sellers south of the lake."

Whoever elected Steve Crisafulli (and this goes for Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, too, and Representative Matt Caldwell (R-Turbinado), next time you have the chance, please return them from whence they came and remember, our help doesn't cometh from the Lord. It comes from more people voting better candidates to public office.

(ContextFlorida: "Manage state lands AND buy more … it's not either/or", by Bruce Ritchie)

Rep. Steve Crisafulli suggests the state needs to take better care of its land before buying any more with Amendment 1 money.

Amendment 1, approved by 75 percent of voters statewide in November, is expected to provide $757 million for water and land conservation programs in the coming year.

Crisafulli, a Republican from Merritt Island, told House members during the opening day of the Legislative Session on March 3 that “stewardship is much more than ownership.”

“Buying up land we cannot care for, that falls into disrepair or becomes a breeding ground for harmful invasive species, is not a legacy that I am interested in leaving,” Crisafulli said.

But some environmentalists say that there doesn’t need to be a choice between buying and taking care of what the state already owns. A University of Florida professor who served on a state panel overseeing state lands said land management is being used as a political scapegoat.

Crisafulli told reporters that the message coming from the state agencies is that better land management is needed before buying more.
Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, says he doesn’t quite put it in those black-and-white terms, though he also doesn’t disagree.

“Taking care of the lands we have should be our first priority,” Wiley said.

“I don’t think we’ve put it quite that, ‘Don’t get any more lands until we can do land management,’” he continued. “But If I had to make a choice, I would make that choice.”

And he also explained that spending by his agency on land management was down about 40 percent from five years ago. It’s not because the Legislature cut spending, he said, but revenue from documentary stamp taxes was down during the economic decline.

An annual state land management report shows that spending increased last year for visitor services and capital improvements, such as bathrooms and parking lots, while spending for resource management decreased by 14.4 percent.

Florida had the largest land-buying program in the nation from 1990 until 2009, when its budget was slashed. With voter approval of Amendment 1 in November, environmental groups are pushing for more land-buying – in addition to improved land management.

“We view Amendment 1 as an opportunity to address unmet (land management) needs,” said Janet Bowman, The Nature Conservancy’s director of legislative policy and strategies. “But that’s not to say they (state agencies) are doing a bad job.”

Peter Frederick, who recently left the state Acquisition and Restoration Council after six years, said land management has become a political scapegoat. He is a research professor in the University of Florida’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.

The state agencies that manage parks, forests and other state lands need relief from budget cuts in recent years, Frederick said.

Vehicles need to be repaired or replaced, he said. Many of the state jobs in land management are vacant. And he said those that are filled usually are low-paying, leading people out of state government into better paying federal jobs.

“We need some money in the system,” Frederick said. “It has traditionally been squeezed by the legislature with, ‘We can do more with less.’ I think we are well beyond the breaking point.”

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment and growth management issues in Tallahassee for He also is editor of Column courtesy of Context Florida.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rick Scott has been a disaster for Florida.