Thursday, March 08, 2018

A shadow passes over Florida Congressional District 27. Donna Shalala, why? ... by gimleteye

Donna Shalala's late entry into the Democratic primary for Congressional District 27 is puzzling. As Eye On Miami observed, the primary is clogged with contenders. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a moderate Republican, held the seat for more than two decades. Hillary Clinton, in 2016, carried the district by 19 percentage points.

Why would Ms. Shalala, 77, enter a race where a squadron of Democrats is already running, including state senator Jose Javier Rodriguez?

Shalala served a distinguished term as University of Miami president. Earlier, she was Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton WH and a friend of both Bill and Hillary. Her campaign finance plan inevitably includes Clintons' Florida campaign contributors like Big Sugar billionaire Alfie Fanjul -- a board member and major donor to the University of Miami while Shalala was president.

Jose Javier Rodriguez is a leader in a Democratic legislative delegation where leadership is rare as hen's teeth. For example, his support for water treatment and storage marshes in the Everglades in 2017 challenged Big Sugar's control of Florida's political order.

Everglades restoration today is a work-around to maintain the privileges and prerogatives of Big Sugar. Hardened problems in Everglades restoration were created on Bill Clinton's watch.

In 2000 Clinton signed into law the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan which originally cost $6.7 billion (now, at least three times that much) and pivoted around the false flag of technological fixes that many environmentalists knew at the time could not pan out. (Aquifer storage and recovery wells were the false flag; a placeholder in CERP instead of acquiring large parcels of sugar lands to clean up the industry's massive pollution. These pollution costs are primarily paid for, by the public.)

Ironically, in the early 1990's Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's husband -- Dexter -- successfully prosecuted Florida's refusal to protect water quality in the Everglades. While U.S. Attorney in South Florida, Lehtinen defeated the state in federal court (cf. Judge William Hoeveler) but was bitterly disappointed when Clinton allowed the state of Florida off the hook, seizing defeat from the jaws of victory, with a settlement agreement that could not fix the problem of Big Sugar's pollution of the Everglades.

Fast forward, nearly twenty years.

JJR, a Harvard-educated Cuban American Democrat with a bright future in politics, worked during the 2017 legislative session in Tallahassee to shore up the key initiative of Republican senate president Joe Negron who called for the addition of 60,000 acres of land, including centrally-located parcels owned by the Fanjuls, to fix "once and for all" the fatal flaws in South Florida water management infrastructure that turned so much publicly-owned waterways into toxic sewers. (There are about 600,000 acres of industrially grown sugarcane in the Everglades Agricultural Area, around the rim and south of Lake Okeechobee.)

Big Sugar, through massive lobbying in Tallahassee, deftly turned the senate president's bill, triggered by need to solve massive pollution of waterways in his Stuart district, to its own advantage. Negron, who recently announced his plan to retire from the senate, was disappointed at the absence of Democratic support beyond JJR, and it was the failure of Democrats to support additional land purchases that allowed his bill to morph into Big Sugar's Trojan Horse. That Trojan Horse was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott a year ago and is now headed for Congress, after the stamp of approval by the legislature last week of the plan by the South Florida Water Management District shaped under tightly managed conditions to favor the sugar industry. Meanwhile, a companion bill to benefit Everglades Agricultural Area sugar farmers is speeding through the legislature, thanks to a novice senate Democrat, Lauren Book.

Where does Donna Shalala fit into this narrative? Hard to say, but an early indicator would be to follow Friends of Bill who are financially supporting her campaign.

NOTE: As former leader of Sierra Club and now of Friends of the Everglades, the Miami-Based conservation group founded by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, I opposed the plan to restore the Everglades in the late 1990's that failed to include adequate acreage to store and cleanse Big Sugar's pollution. I strongly supported the ballot referenda in 1994 to tax Big Sugar and to force Big Sugar to clean up its pollution. The state legislature has failed to enact the provision of state law, created by that election, to hold Big Sugar primarily responsible for its pollution and the costs of cleaning up its destruction of water quality in outstanding Florida waters and public lands including Everglades National Park. I have written extensively about these issues, for many years, on this blog, for newspapers, and for online forums. As an individual citizen, I support Jose Javier Rodriguez for Congress.


Geniusofdespair said...

Donna should run for Governor.

Anonymous said...

She should fund-raise for the Democratic Party and mentor candidates.

Anonymous said...

damn, didn't realize she's 77. Move aside for the young blood and enjoy retirement. Also anyone associated with either Clinton is a bit toxic these days.

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Anonymous said...

Why don't you get it? Donna Shalala in that office is exactly like having Iliana Ross Lehtinan in office. It is about preservation of status quo.

Unknown said...

This is all about Hillary's corporate crony gang maintaining control. Shalala, Pelosi, Wasserman Schultz, Mucarsel Powell. They are all about money and the status quo.

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Anonymous said...

Ros Lehtinen a moderate?! Was Batista a moderate? There are no moderate gop'ers--some are less reactionary or fascistic than others, sure, but that doesn't make them "moderates."