Wednesday, March 25, 2009


...and remember them at election time!


The more I pay attention, the more I realize just how short sighted and self serving some politicians can be. And the less I'm able to put an optimistic spin on the bills I see advancing in the Florida Legislature this year. I can't say there aren't any good ones but they're not moving along as fast as the bad ones.

Over the last week, I sent a letter to 5 different committees consisting of a total combination of 76 congresspersons and if I subtract the handful of automated replies, I can count 4. (Two of which were from the same guy and he isn’t even my representative.)

Not one was from the four committee members I wrote asking not to include nuclear in our "renewable" portfolio standard. But I did get a reply from Governor Crist's Energy office basically reiterating what I wrote- but it included "If you hold strong feelings about this decision I would encourage you to contact your elected state Legislators".

Righto Guv'nor. Thank you for the advice.

In the name of economic development a bunch of politicians are using our economic woes as a way to get rid of all the checks and balances we have pertaining to growth and environment (as inadequate as they've been). There's somewhere around 300,000 empty houses in Florida, we're closing down schools, more and more people are out of work, more and more water restrictions are being mandated and all they can do is use it as an opportunity for a free for all. Even if you're an anti-environmentalist and/or pro-growth you can't like the bills being pushed through. Some of them not only weaken or eliminate any checks on growth and the environment but they take decisions (power) from local governments and the people themselves.

Senator Bennett, chairman of the Senate Community Affairs Committee is pushing a bill to get rid of the Department of Community Affairs or merging it with another government agency. Even if you're a developer like Senator Bennett, the DCA works for you. The St. John's Water Management District says we'll be out of sustainable water supplies in 4 years. Other areas of Florida are already running out of water. The Tampa area with an aquifer, a huge reservoir and a desalination plant just banned all lawn watering.

That alone reminds us of the need for the only real growth management tool we have- the DCA. I know there is room for improvement in our growth management regulation but getting rid of it altogether is not in anyone's best interest. Not even if you want to build and sell houses. Go right over the IR County line in Fellsmere and there are thousands of acres of land that just like in Fellsmere were once zoned agricultural but are now annexed to Palm Bay. They're in the St. John's Water Management District too and there'll be no agency coordinating regional impacts. Remember, SJWMD's job is to find and allocate what water there is, not to say where we can or can't grow. Not to mention the impact Palm Bay's development will have on IRC roads from Babcock and U.S. #1.

Another bill wants a 3 year moratorium on impact fees and it would take away an individual county's right to decide whether or not to partake- or if they want to let off on some but not on others as was currently proposed.

Another bill will make it easier to get a permit to pollute surface water and destroy wetlands and harder for agencies overseeing wetlands and surface water to use their rules to refuse permits.

Another bill dubbed “streamlining” would weaken environmental protections and includes a moratorium on new or more stringent protections for three years.

Another bill advancing is making a one size fits all law for fertilizer run-off. Communities would have to prove they need stricter rules than the state if they should live near some watershed they want to protect such as the Indian River Lagoon or the ocean. This would impose extra expense and difficulties for local governments that want to prevent water problems rather than mitigate them.

Last but not nearly least is the Paid Petition Circulators bill designed to limit our ability to promote constitutional amendments through the petition process. In the future, anybody could be affected by this bill as a citizen, even those pushing for it. It's especially egregious because it invalidates a petition signed in good faith by a registered voter through no fault of their own. Sometimes we have no other redress but the citizen's petition process.

All those bills are being pushed in the name of economic development. Florida's economy cannot recover without clean, adequate or affordable water supplies, if the roads are jammed or in poor repair, or if we have ever rising property taxes- and still no "good" or sustainable jobs.

An interesting article on how Gainesville is taking a better path to economic development:

Green For All's web page on the Economic Recovery Package:

"The package includes BILLIONS of dollars in funding for green job training, weatherization, and greener, more energy efficient infrastructure."

There’s still some process to go through before any of those become laws or regulations so we still have time to have a say before they come up for a vote. Below are two links to letters to get you started...

A pre-written letter from Audubon in favor of saving the Department of Community Affairs:

A pre-written letter from Audubon in favor of protecting wetlands and water resources:

TTFN, LDouglas

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