Monday, March 07, 2016

Marco Rubio alienates GOP voters in Florida ... by gimleteye

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time." Abraham Lincoln


On March 15, Marco Rubio will run out of Florida voters to fool. Today he is looking forward to a day he expects: "Marco Rubio is Florida Country". In fact, as he looks backwards to assess, he and other state GOP officials will have to assess one of the key tenets of their majority control of Florida: that voters either don't care, don't know about, or are indifferent to ways Big Sugar controls their taxes and property values.

The secret handshakes between the state GOP and Big Sugar were documented in 2014, by the Tampa Bay Times, reporting secret hunting trips paid for by US Sugar Corporation to the King Ranch in Texas. Private jets. Luxury accommodations. Free wine and booze and what else. Perhaps it wouldn't be a big deal today, but for historic January rainfall that sent a tidal wave of water pollution across the thresholds of mainly GOP voters at the wrong time of year.

Today, Florida is a silent version of Flint, Michigan.

No issue more clearly connects voter anger at the GOP hierarchy than Big Sugar's lockdown of politics in Florida. It is classic insider-dealing: two billionaire families (Fanjuls/ Flo-Sun and Florida Crystals and the descents of Charles Stuart Mott who control US Sugar Corporation) control outcomes of property values and businesses owned by millions of residents and visitors.

And Marco Rubio is the Florida elected official most clearly connected with Big Sugar. Take a look at the text of the following encounter between Rubio and a protester in Martin County -- Republican voter country -- on June 20, 2014.

As Senator Rubio arrives at the entrance to a public meeting hall, the crowd erupts, "Save Our Rivers!”, sick and tired of waterways turning into sewage sumps for Big Sugar's pollution. He stops to speak to a protester.
River Warrior: You have to show up, you haven’t been here enough, man. We’ve been trying to get you involved.

Rubio: We’ve been involved in the issue. We are fully up to date on what is happening and all the work that’s been going on. And of course … the ultimate solution would involve the Central Everglades Planning Project.

River Warrior: Are you willing to stand here in front us today and say you won’t take Big Sugar money?

Rubio: Well, this is more complicated than that. (Crowd erupts) There’s more than just that. You have to recognize there are residential issues involved. Agriculture? No, agriculture is an important part of our state. They need to be part of the solution as well.
So, for unfamiliar readers; here is the meaning of what Rubio claimed and continues to claim. The Central Everglades Planning Project began in recognition that significant additional water storage marshes needed to be constructed in order to handle stormwater runoff from sugar fields to avoid damaging rivers, estuaries, property values and businesses on both Florida coasts. But in 2014, Big Sugar thwarted plans by Floridians and by Congress to get CEPP, as it is called, into the long-term budget for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Floridians were furious on three counts. First, that the industry had stopped up a plan that had the support of the Congressional delegation from Florida. Second, that Rubio did nothing about it. And third,  most damningly, CEPP ultimately was neutered by Big Sugar so that the lands that would be added to water cleansing marshes was insignificant compared to the need.

When Marco Rubio told the protester in Martin County that "agriculture needs to be part of the solution", what was left unsaid -- but understood by the angry crowd -- is that in Florida today, Big Sugar dictates the solution.

No Florida politician is more closely associated with Big Sugar than Rubio. In 2010, Rubio's Senate victory was secured by the massive influx of campaign cash from the Fanjul/Flo-Sun/Florida Crystal's fortune. Their goal: to stop the acquisition of 187,000 acres of lands offered to the state by its competitor, US Sugar Corporation. Today, the Fanjuls are Rubio's most numerous campaign contributors. (See: "Choosing Winners and Losers: Marco Rubio picks Big Sugar over rivers, clean water, and you")

If 187,000 acres of US Sugar Corporation had been purchased by the state -- a plan negotiated by Rubio's competitor for the 2010 Senate election, Charlie Crist -- Florida would be on the way to the ultimate solution of the stormwater problem that has turned both Florida coasts and tourism-related businesses into sacrifice zones for Big Sugar.

Historic rainfall in January caused the state's largest water body -- Lake Okeechobee -- to overfill. In the distant past, floods would have emptied over the rim of the lake to the Everglades and to Florida Bay ninety miles south. Now, sugar is grown on 450,000 acres between the Lake and the Everglades. Because farm runoff is too dirty to be injected directly into the River of Grass, state water managers and the federal partner, the US Army Corps of Engineers, caused 60,000 gallons per second to spew into coastal estuaries, and from those estuaries down both the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.

Back in 2014, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that secured a funding source for the Florida legislature to buy Big Sugar lands south of Lake Okeechobee. Since that time, Florida's GOP legislature has actively obstructed the will of voters expressed through Amendment 1.

Big Sugar and its allies who control the South Florida Water Management District contend that buying additional sugar lands for pollution-cleansing marshes isn't necessary. Most recently, one of Big Sugar's mouthpieces, Representative Matt Caldwell, recommended using Amendment 1 funds to fill gaps in the general budget.

This time, it is citizens organizing on social media; on blogs, Instagram and Facebook. and SWFL Clean Water Movement and individual activists. This isn't "divisive chatter" or a few environmental groups, as claimed by Big Sugar. Video clips and citizen reports, bypassing traditional media, are being viewed by voters hundreds of thousands of times.

As the GOP presidential primary rolls into Florida, Marco Rubio's hopes are turning stagnant as the coastline he -- as a state legislative leader and absentee Senate seat holder -- is sworn to protect. On March 15, Marco Rubio is going to run out of Florida voters to fool. On March 15, his campaign will be stranded in Florida without oxygen or fresh water. Unlike the majority of Florida GOP voters, Marco Rubio will be just fine.


Anonymous said...

Cook up that dead fish in a sugary sauce and serve it to our Senator.

cyndi said...

I was in stuart the day that marco came. originally it was an Republican only meeting and then we were invited in as long as we kept our mouth shut.
took him a year to get there and then he left and never looked back.

Anonymous said...

The Mott Family's US Sugar pollutes Florida's Everglades and politics, while the Motts hide behind their "environmentalist" foundation in Flint, Michigan.
South Florida's collapsing estuaries are a political problem, not a science problem. Scientists have known the solution for 40 years -- we need land south of Lake O to send clean water south. Despite billions of taxpayer dollars for "Restoration", Florida Bay and the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries are worse off today than they were in 1985. Despite repeated efforts, the people of Florida have not been able to purchase the critical land in the EAA, land that is almost entirely owned by 2 wealthy, subsidized families.
The Mott and Fanjul families have too much power and influence in Florida. This is mostly due to the $600 million dollars (just last year!) they receive in Corporate Welfare via the Sugar Program. They use this money to maintain control over Florida's water and politics.
As a result, the Sugar Tail is wagging the Florida Economic Dog: Our water management puts sugar cane first, even though tourism and real-estate are much more important to our economy. Last summer, when there was a small drought, sugar fields got water before Florida Bay. As a result, Florida Bay experienced a hypersaline collapse that is like to spiral for years, hurting Keys guides and businesses. This winter, with just 7" extra rain -- Lee, Martin and St Lucie Counties are in a State of Emergency due to Lake O discharges. Stuart and Fort Myers guides and businesses are hurting.
How much longer are we going to let this go on? Independent scientists agree that there is only one way to fix this problem: Buy land in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) in order to move, store and filter fresh water before it goes into Florida Bay. There is no other way, but the Mott Family is trying to block this from happening.
*** To learn more about why we need land in the EAA to save Florida Bay and the estuaries check out this 20 minute presentation by Dr. Tom Van Lent of the Everglades Foundation:
*** To sign on to Mary Barley's open letter to William White, Chairman of US Sugar and the Mott Foundation: