Saturday, May 09, 2015

Time for eminent domain in the EAA: if your state legislator says he or she is proud of this session, ask why the legislature completely ignores the will of the people ... by gimleteye

Strongly agree with Tampa Bay Times Bill Maxwell: Florida needs a constitutional amendment along the following line: "One result should be the option of eminent domain. Floridians should have the right, for example, to take Big Sugar land at a fair price to restore the Everglades."

With a bought-and-paid-for state legislature, Everglades restoration is a series of half-steps, eventually heading to never arrive at the destination. Look what the legislature has done with Amendment 1: last November more than 75 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment to purchase environmentally sensitive lands. The state legislature took no time at all to ignore the will of the people.

Florida needs new amendment to protect environment
Bill Maxwell, Opinion Columnist - Tampa Bay Times

In its familiar dissembling way, the Republican-led Florida Legislature is contravening the official will of the people.

Last November, a supermajority of voters approved Amendment 1. It was supposed to strengthen Florida Forever, substantially protect natural habitats and enable the purchase of vital land statewide. Most notably, Amendment 1 money would position the state to purchase 46,000 acres owned by U.S. Sugar Corp. that would be used to help restore the Everglades. The option to buy the land expires in October.

Republican conservatives and cowed Democrats in Tallahassee have no intention of using a fair share of the millions of dollars from the amendment's documentary stamp tax proceeds to buy land. They intend to spend a lot of it on wastewater projects and to clean up agriculture's pollution.

The Legislature's dismissal of Amendment 1 is yet another example of the voters' powerlessness and the need for drastic action. Citizens who understand the value of the natural environment must take back the state from the sycophants in Tallahassee who put wrongheaded ideology, campaign contributions and incumbency ahead of the state's greater good.

We must use our only viable weapon: another constitutional amendment.

I acknowledge that the Legislature has effectively ignored previous environment-related amendments, one of the most far-reaching being the 1996 "Polluter Pays" amendment. With nearly 70 percent voter approval, the amendment called for Big Sugar to pay its fair share of the then-estimated $2 billion to clean up water in the Everglades.

But with bought-and-paid-for members of the House and Senate, armies of lobbyists and lawyers and shills in the water management agencies, Big Sugar has yet to pay its fair share for cleanup. Taxpayers continue to be cheated.

So, what would we gain from yet another amendment?

I am not a lawyer, but I wager that an amendment with incontrovertible language that gives Floridians a constitutional right to clean air, safe drinking water and a healthy environment would be a game-changer.

This is not a new concept. In her 1962 book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson argued that Americans have an inalienable right to a healthy environment. After all, a healthy environment is an apex human right.

Now consider the concept of the constitutional right to a healthy environment more broadly. In his book The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment, David R. Boyd, an internationally acclaimed environmental lawyer, writes that as of 2012, 177 of 193 United Nations member nations recognized the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions. The United States was not one of them. With all of our purported wisdom and sense of justice, we are in the company of China, Afghanistan and North Korea.

Boyd shows that in nations that have adopted environmental amendments, the outcomes have been remarkable, including stronger environmental laws, better enforcement of those laws, landmark court decisions, the cleanup of pollution hot spots and the provision of safe drinking water.

But merely stating in a constitution that a healthy environment is a human right is not enough. Countries with the most effective environmental rights in their constitutions crafted precise language describing shared responsibilities between the public and the government and gave courts the power of judicial review.

This movement is described by Erin Daly, a professor of environmental and constitutional law and the associate dean of faculty research at Widener University Law School.

"In many instances," she writes, "environmental rights are recognized not as substantive entitlements (which would allow litigants to sue if the government polluted their rivers or clear-cut their forests), but as procedural rights. Examples of procedural rights include imposing on governments the obligation to consult with communities before they take actions that will affect their environment or giving individuals the right to participate in governmental processes that will affect their environment. While procedural rights do not guarantee a particular outcome, they may be more effective in preventing environmental degradation."

The time has come for Florida voters to fight for a constitutional amendment that outlines clear procedural rights to a healthy environment. One result should be the option of eminent domain. Floridians should have the right, for example, to take Big Sugar land at a fair price to restore the Everglades.

Big Sugar's polluting practices must end. The industry should be forced to pay up with cash or land or both.


cyndi said...

Best mother's day gift ever! Tried to have this conversation with a variety of people. You were the only one that gave him a good answer. The rest either laughed or scattered. I think in the name of saving our drinking water, stopping salt water intrusion, sending water to the Everglades (which is a federal park) and stopping our discharges we need to do what need to be done and face the facts that our legislators do not care about any of us. The Board of Governors at SFWMD are unpaid volunteers not knowledgeable water advocates. I'm sure they all have great deals waiting for them when their time is up. One even went to Tally with our Solidarity Fish and came back and told us Rick Scott was our best friend. I say if they can't do the right thing then the land must be taken.

Anonymous said...

Be very careful about creating new guidelines to eminent domain to fix a corrupt government. Locations with easy eminent domain laws are rive with abuse.

Malagodi said...

"The time has come for Florida voters to fight for a constitutional amendment that outlines clear procedural rights to a healthy environment. One result should be the option of eminent domain."

While I would, of course, support such an amendment, at some point you have to ask - like Amiri Baraka - "why won't you fight?" for anything.

At some point it begins to resemble little more, says Baraka, than "the slaves singing."

cyndi said...

I' sure they are. Believe, me with the exception of one person every person I spoke to fled. After all the accusations it would give the conspiracy theorists something to talk about. "See it really was a land grab!" How about this. Suggestions for accomplishing the task. How do we get our legislators to agree?

Gimleteye said...

A takings claim would require that a fair market value be paid for their land. Obviously, Big Sugar wants the MAXIMUM value for its land and so seeking zoning changes from county commissions is baked into their business planning. Upzoning from ag to rock mining to large subdivisions or inland ports is their bread and butter. Once they get the zoning change, their land values increase. Since there is NO PRESSURE on the other side -- through process that they control -- of course they are going to go for the gold. Rick Scott is the best thing that ever happened to Big Sugar. He killed growth management, throwing the whole business of land value potential into the county commissions. That's just the facts.

whatmeworry? said...

Count me in on that petition! Some Florida legislators continue to deal away valuable land and endanger natural resources for political gain. What's wrong with that picture? Voters beware is not enough, we've got to make it stick, like with a constitutional amendment.