Monday, May 18, 2015

Time for a Reform Party in Florida: a state-wide ticket of first-time citizen legislators: Take Back Florida ... by gimleteye

Absolute power rarely knows how to self-correct when it overplays its hand with the public. That is the situation today in Florida, where an immoveable GOP state legislature handed over the keys to government to dominant insiders and special interests and now is thrashing around in turmoil.

The stalement between radical conservatives and even more radical conservatives in Florida fulfills no mandate from voters. It is a government pushed off the rails by the overconfidence of special interest puppeteers.

The state legislature is, today, in the grip of crony capitalism. How we transformed from an aspiring democracy to a shadow government run by insiders didn't happen all at once.

It took years of insider dealing -- primarily around the rights of Big Agriculture and Florida's development industries -- to destroy any pretense of fairness, equity, and balance. The history may be subject to interpretation but the net result is not: checks and balances? Pfft.

And Florida voters are steaming mad.

There is an opportunity today in Florida, if leadership among the state's tattered watchdog groups can be found, to raise a ticket of first-time candidates to the state legislator who could run -- together -- as a Reform Party, "Take Back Florida". Who can argue that first-timers could do worse than the GOP legislature?

State-wide newspapers, whose editorial boards have been routinely ignored by legislators for many years, could also rally around a Reform Party. What the media could help voters understand is how this effort is fundamentally different from the nascent, mid-2000's Tea Party that turned into a red herring, easily manipulated by the conservative right.

The goal of the Reform Party would be to break the chokehold of special interests on state government, nowhere more obvious than the refusal of special interests to allocate Amendment 1 moneys, voted as a constitutional amendment with 78 percent of the popular vote last November, to be used for environmental land purchase; such as the US Sugar lands required to cleanse Lake Okeechobee's toxic soup.

Before the November 2014 elections, the Tampa Bay Times reported on secret trips to the King Ranch in Texas, paid for by US Sugar, for GOP lobbyists and leaders including Ag Secretary Adam Putnam and Gov. Rick Scott. Although voters at the time failed to object to the crony capitalism marring state government, its results are crystal clear.

Big Ag's coordinated strategy to defeat the public took the predictable strategy involving tactics like disinformation (ie. pollution is from little people's septic tanks and not Big Ag's fault) and propaganda (ie. voluntary pollution standards as opposed to mandates requiring industry to clean up its own pollution), forming fake environmental groups, hiring actors to masquerade as Tea Party activists to discredit real citizen activists, deploying Big Sugar's own editorial content in a faux news entity (cf. Sunshine State News), and using Gov. Rick Scott's appointees to the South Florida Water Management District governing board to thwart, insult and marginalize civic opponents.

Watch this video to see how bad it was at the water management district last week:

Send the video to your lists. Talk with friends about whether people would be willing to put up their names to run for public office as part of a Reform Party. With enough public visibility, a Reform Party of citizen candidates would appeal to Florida voters.

It is time for a Reform Spring in Florida fueled by a legislature of citizens to correct Florida's dismal course.


Anonymous said...

Fake environmental groups:

Just who is the One Florida Foundation?
January 25, 2015
Sally Swartz, columnist

In the world of water politics, people are not always who they seem to be. On the Treasure Coast, One Florida Foundation Inc. (OFF) isn’t exactly the “clean water advocacy” group it claims to be, either. Instead, it promotes sugar industry and agriculture agendas.

Nyla Pipes, who lives in Port St. Lucie, and Don Voss, of Fort Pierce, organized the nonprofit group in March 2014, with Steven W. Edmonds Jr. of Oviedo.

It started after the Treasure Coast’s “lost summer,” when water managers sent Lake Okeechobee’s excess water into the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon. The discharges killed sea grass, made fish sick and sent residents, fishermen, boaters and tourists away.

Former St. Lucie County Commissioner Charles Grande said Voss told him the three organizers each contributed $1,000, and Robert Coker of U.S. Sugar Corp. offered to match the money to start OFF.

Pipes would not confirm or deny sugar industry contributions. Voss, however, said Coker gave OFF “one check for $1,000, which we used for supplies and lunch for 17 people.”

OFF also accepted a $700 check from unsuccessful Martin Commission candidate Barbara Clowdus when she dispersed money raised for her campaign. Clowdus publishes a monthly newspaper that runs large ads from the sugar industry.

Pipes, Voss and his wife, Dyana, joined river rallies and helped raise money for a trip to Washington D.C. But Voss soon alienated people in the environmental community with attacks in Facebook posts. Voss said attacks went both ways and he stopped posting anything after September.

The River Warriors, a group allied with the Indian Riverkeeper, distanced itself from Voss and OFF.

Pipes and the Vosses joined the Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County, President Shari Anker said, and took on jobs the aging members at first were glad to share. But abrasive encounters, she said, began to chase away members and Dyana Voss tried to get Pipes on the board.

Pipes, meantime, appeared at Martin’s Local Planning Agency and County Commission meetings with a former Pahokee mayor to protest changes to Martin’s protective growth plan that put restrictions on agriculture. That seems to be far from OFF’s mission to promote clean water.

At a recent Everglades Coalition Conference in Key Largo, Pipes and Voss revealed an alignment with Tom McNicholas ’public relations firm. The firm paid for their rooms and Voss listed the firm as his contact email.

McNicholas often supports growth industry causes and clients. His firm’s website touts its success at “marginalizing” environmental groups protesting Florida Power & Light projects.

Ken Hinkle of the River Warriors calls OFF “a pro-sugar, pro-development lobbyist group disguised as an environmental group.”

Last week, the Conservation Alliance’s problems with OFF came to a head. Anker said she feared a hostile takeover. Growth industry supporters engineered a similar takeover of Audubon of Martin County in 2012.

Pipes would not confirm or deny OFF’s plans. “There’s a lot of drama on the Treasure Coast,” she said. But the St. Lucie group was prepared. At its meeting Thursday, the Alliance welcomed a dozen new members from the River Warriors.

Dyana Voss turned over a treasurer’s report before the meeting and left to care for her husband, who’s recovering from shoulder surgery. Pipes was absent. The Alliance elected a new board of directors and officers.

So much for the local situation. But OFF also has pushed its way to the front of the grass-roots movement, and has met with state officials, claiming to represent local water advocates and touting the sugar industry agenda. (CONT.)

Anonymous said...

Long-established groups, such as the Rivers Coalition and Florida Oceanographic Society, agree on solutions for the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon: Buy sugar industry-owned land near the lake, and send more water south to the Everglades.

Instead, OFF favors a mix of projects, most north of Lake Okeechobee, that would not stop the discharges to the river or impact.

Sadly, sugar and agriculture industry supporters already have influenced Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who last week put the northern projects at the top of his list.

One postscript: While I was interviewing him for this column, Don Voss accused me of writing about One Florida because the Alliance recently gave me an award for “journalistic excellence and integrity.” I really like the little alligator tray they gave me, but I would have written this anyway.

Sally Swartz is a former member of The Post Editorial Board. Her e-mail address is

Gayle Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gayle Ryan said...

Hello Anonymous.... Anonymous - We DO NOT support OFF your are correct in your comment - please help us spread the TRUE word

cyndi said...

I'm all for taking back Florida but do we need another party. It just seems that we all get lost. Why can't Florida do what New Hampshire does. They allow people who are no party affiliation to vote the party of their choice in all elections. I don't think we hear many grumbles about New Hampshire politics except maybe a few old timers that still complain about those people from Massachusetts moving in. Cuts down on the pandering and makes politicians be a little most honest.

Anonymous said...

Good point, Cyndi.