Thursday, March 12, 2015

In Florida, Big Sugar's Republican proxies stare down the Angry Bees … by gimleteye

At the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District today, Republican proxies of Big Sugar -- that would be the board appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to fulfill his mission -- will be facing the Angry Bees: citizens and activists demanding that the State of Florida buy out the properties of US Sugar in the Everglades Agricultural Area before the expiration of an option next October.

Protesters picket outside South Fla. Water Management District - WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida

US Sugar entered into the option after a daring offer by then Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010. Subsequent to the election of Gov. Scott, the deal was whittled down from 130,000 acres to a nub and then withered, leaving unanswered questions -- for instance, if US Sugar opposes selling its 48,000 acres now, why do the deal in the first place?

Big Sugar's lies are customary to environmentalists, beaten down by industry tactics to the point of Stockholm Syndrome.

The lies' purpose: to cover up the costs of Big Sugar's pollution or shift those costs to taxpayers, because otherwise -- if the costs were fully factored into the price of sugar -- it could not be grown in Florida.

Over time, Big Sugar has locked in its profits through government subsidies and spent lavishly from those profits on engineers, consultants, lobbyists and spin doctors to keep the Angry Bees at bay. It is infamously competent at virtual pesticide control; an apt metaphor for the effect of unlimited campaign contributions on the Florida legislature, Congress, and even the White House.

Big Sugar is the shadow government of the United States, even dulling First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign to fight childhood obesity. Eventually, Big Sugar's trillion dollar impacts to the economy may be reduced, but the industry has a different problem today at the water management district in West Palm Beach.

These Angry Bees are not just environmentalists. They are property owners. They are not only property owners, they are Republican property owners whose property values along iconic rivers, estuaries, lakes and rivers and bays have been trashed by state mismanagement of water resources in order to benefit Big Sugar.

The dawning awareness of Republican voters in Palm Beach, Martin, Lee and Hendry Counties did not come in time to stop Gov. Rick Scott from being re-elected last November. However, recent statements by the GOP leadership in Florida and by the District make it clear that they have no intention of protecting America's Everglades or the Angry Bees' home equity, wrecked by pollution spewing in a toxic stream from the state's diseased heart, Lake Okeechobee.

Here is the picture: the net worth of billionaire sugar farmers like the Fanjuls of Coral Gables and Palm Beach pitted against ordinary Republican and Democratic voters and taxpayers. Moreover, in Florida the battle over Big Sugar's prerogatives is class warfare amongst Republicans; between Big Sugar's proxies like Agricultural Secretary Adam Putnam whose farmland was purchased by the District at five times its value appraised only a year earlier and land owners who mostly vote Republican but can't dip their toes in the water from riverside docks because any open skin wound could be a pathway for deadly bacteria.

The Angry Bees get it: Big Sugar's profits are walled off from their declining quality of life and property rights. No one is stepping forward to buy their homes at five times the appraised value, like the state did for Adam Putnam.

Big Sugar is addressing the Angry Bees like saloon patrons throwing darts against the arrival of dawn.

One of the laughable ones: finish existing Everglades restoration projects before buying any more sugar lands. If Big Sugar could tell the truth, what it would acknowledge is the tens of millions of dollars it spends to ensure that every single Everglades restoration project points in the opposite direction from threatening its subsidized profits in the Everglades Agricultural Area. These are all about their flood control needs, not the needs of mostly Republican property owners.

Today and tomorrow, these Angry Bees have thinking to do. First, understand that the net result of the US Sugar deal made by Charlie Crist was to push Marco Rubio into the US Senate. Don't believe it? Ask Senator Rubio whether he supports the US Sugar deal. Second, understand that while he was governor, Jeb Bush and his environmental lieutenants took an axe to decades of bipartisan consensus on growth management and Everglades protections under federal law. Jeb Bush was so confrontational on behalf of Big Sugar that even literally pushed one of the GOP's most respected congressmen in Florida, Clay Shaw, off the stage.

Some state Democratic leaders are talking about a "take no money from Sugar" pledge. It is just percolating but that it is surfacing at all is an indication Big Sugar has overplayed its hand. That's usually the case when unelected, shadow governors are given a blank check by their elected proxies.

Thanks to a full scale GOP battle against Fair Districts in Florida, there is no chance for Democrats to influence the outcome in Tallahassee or West Palm Beach. So it is up to the Angry Bees to deliver their message now: these bees only vote for those who protect their hives.


Anonymous said...

A couple of your early points in this post need correction. First, you have the offer part backward. Gov. Christ did not make the daring offer to US Sugar, it was lobbyists from US Sugar that pitched the deal to the then-Governor and he bit. At the time, US Sugar was on the verge of going out of business and needed the influx of cash this scheme provided. Second, the deal was not whittled down by Governor Scott. Now, I'm no fan of Gov. Scott, but the fact is the deal was negotiated by the DEP Secretary and (barely) approved by the SFWMD Governing Board (after some serious political pressure was brought to bear during the meeting where the final voting was held) completely during the time Charlie Christ was in office. The final deal was approved and signed in 2009, Scott was elected in 2010. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Buy Land: Yes. Buy THIS land: NO!!!! This is the wrong land in the wrong place a the wrong price and anyone who is honest about the subject knows it. The SFWMD won't buy it partly because Gov. Scott hasn't ordered them to, that is true, but they also won't buy it because their own scientists are telling them not to, and have been since this deal was first created.

Anonymous said...

And the fact is, no matter how hard you try to rationalize it, $350 million for less than 50,000 acres of land is an awful deal ($7K per acre?!?!) unless you are buying waterfront property.