Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Senator Alan Hayes, R- Umatilla, vying to become president of Lake-Sumter State College. WHAT?

Senator Alan Hayes, R- Umatilla, soon to be out of a legislative job it appears (thank goodness) is vying to become president of Lake-Sumter State College.   

“I have the legislative experience and contacts through the legislature and the entire business community, and I really think I could guide the college to a bright future,” he said. “I feel confident I can win the trust and the appreciation of the faculty.” 
This is a load of you-know-what. 
He or she who feels inclined to believe this load is a fool.  Hayes just wants to do what every ex-elected official of T-Town hopes to do one day as they’re termed out, land a job as president of a community college because they find it "rewarding."  
Yes, very rewarding, as in hundreds of thousands of dollars rewarding
 The Tampa Bay Business Journal: "A recent report from the Florida Office of the Chief Inspector General found that the president of St. Petersburg College had the largest total compensation package, $449,031, out of the five colleges in the Tampa Bay area.  In fact, the base salary, $330,000, is about the same as average total compensation at $350,403."
 What?  How can that be?  How about other community colleges?
 Look at this: 
 Reported by the

Florida college presidents' base salary vs. total compensation

Total compensation
2012-2013 Base Salary
St. Petersburg College
State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (former president)
Hillsborough Community College
Pasco-Hernando Community College

Alan Hayes is no different from probably dozens of other legislator hacks who have jumped into one of these positions as a reward from acollege board for having “helped” them while in the legislature. 
What will be interesting is how the board treats his application.   The position requires at least a modicum of academic experience.  If they waive it and choose him over other much more qualified candidates, we’ll know the story.
It’s a pathetic story and if it happens, both he and the institution should be ashamed.


Sleepy Creek - just another bait and switch for Frank Stronach?

This op-ed comment was published Sunday, September 13, 2015, by the Gainesville Sun, and here with permission of the author.  Steve Robitaille, is Chairman of the Florida Defenders of the Environment Board of Directors.
Here’s the link to the Sun’s article: http://www.gainesville.com/article/2015150919950.
Sleepy Creek is the project formerly known as Adena Springs Ranch which you’ll recall first proposed to pump some 27 million gallons per day directly from the springshed of Silver Springs.   It appears this not-so-community oriented Canadian auto parts billionaire is beginning to show his true stripes.

Sleepy Creek - just another bait and switch for Frank Stronach?

Page all of 3Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach is the master of the bait and switch. Let us learn from his swindle of a $15 million sports stadium from the children of Marion County, so he doesn't use his dishonest tricks to make off with our drinking water too.

When Stronach came to Marion County to raise cattle, and to request 14.6 million gallons of water a day to nourish his cattle, he offered to build a multi-million dollar stadium and athletic complex for North Marion High School. Due to a “misunderstanding,” explained the Stronach Group, the offer is now off the table. The many disappointed persons left in the wake of this development are likely unaware that Stronach’s biography reveals a history of such business shenanigans.

Indeed, this bait-and-switch tactic should be a wake-up call to the Marion County residents whose precious water supply has now been permitted 1.46 million gallons a day, for Stronach’s Sleepy Creek cattle operation. They may also be unaware that his “exclusive” golf club has been permitted 278,000 gallons a day, 3,300 times more than his neighbors.

Stronach’s Florida cattle operation is not his first “hobby” investment, nor is it the first one that promises to make him wealthier, while leaving those in his path holding the bag. A 2009 Washington Post story recounts how hobbyist entrepreneur Stronach managed to scuttle his investor’s money while living the life of Riley. Wanting to add horse-racing to his personal entertainment dossier, Stronach “bought Gulfstream Park in Florida for $90 million, demolished it and spent $240 million to build a new facility that most fans regard as inferior to the old one.”

Not to be out “Trumped” by other members of the billionaires club, the Post adds that in order to add more stabling, “Stronach decided to build the Taj Mahal of stable areas, Palm Meadows, at a cost in the vicinity of $100 million — an investment that returns no revenue.”

Shareholders were infuriated. One of those investors, Farallon Capital Management of San Francisco, protested that MI Development was “pursuing an investment [to please] Frank Stronach.” As reported in the Post story, using a metaphor that should sound a note of caution to Floridians whose water Stronach wants to suck up at historic rates, Magna Entertainment was a “giant sinkhole.”

And down into what sinkhole were Stronach’s personal profits disappearing? According to investigators looking into the matter who were quoted in a Swiss newspaper, they resurfaced, like a bubbling Florida spring, into the tax sheltered vaults of Zug, Switzerland, where other folks with deep pockets and clever accountants, say like tennis star Boris Becker, manage to avoid paying taxes back home. The story referred to Stronach as a “pseudo resident.”

Magna, the auto parts giant he founded, decided its CEO was costing them more than he was worth. As reported by the Canadian weekly news magazine Maclean's in May 2014, Magna outfitted its boss in a $52 million dollar parachute of consultant fees and bonuses, “772 times the median household income.”

Florida Defenders’ record of protecting the Ocklawaha from ecological disaster is well known. The infamous Cross Florida Barge Canal, a boondoggle of colossal proportions, was aided and abetted by a pantheon of pork-chop politicians and President Lyndon B. Johnson, who broke ground for the canal in Palatka with a blast of dynamite. Two ugly stubs remain of the canal, as well as the Rodman “pool” of water coveted by bass fishermen.

FDE finds it unacceptable that one of the nation’s most exotic and pristine rivers has not run free for over 40 years. If Richard Nixon, a Republican president, had the good sense to decommission the canal and conserve both the river and taxpayer dollars, there is some hope the Scott administration will remove the Rodman dam before it requires expensive repair and free the river in the process.

Silver Springs, Florida
 Photo by Emilio Vergara, Skyshadow Photography

Even if we accept there was a time when barge canals and dams resulted from a lack of solid science and ecological awareness, there is little excuse for the recent decision by administrative law judge, Gary Early, to permit Stronach’s Sleepy Creek cattle operation 1.46 million gallons of water a day, when aquifer recharge of Silver Springs and the Ocklawaha watershed is 30 percent below normal. How can it be in the “public interest,” to use Judge Early’s convoluted interpretation of this term, to provide water to 9,500 cattle who will defecate 158 million pounds of manure, produce 11 million gallons of urine, thus adding 700,000 pounds of nitrogen to a watershed already reeling from nitrates that have increased 20-fold over healthy levels?

So we now know what the Stronach Group is not going to leave behind. There will be no athletic complex for North Marion High School, and a whole lot less water in the ground and fewer fish in the Ocklawaha. We also know what Stronach and his Sleepy Creek operation will leave behind.

Thanks to Gov. Rick Scott’s business-friendly administration and the mass firing of veteran water district personnel, we will have cow patties galore. Like the poor investors in Scott and Stronach’s business enterprises, we’ll all be forced, in a manner of speaking, to “step in it.”

We can only hope that Stronach’s pending water permit is denied and that Gov. Scott joins Richard Nixon by supporting a free Ocklawaha as a lasting legacy to the people of North Florida.

— Steve Robitaille is board president of Florida Defenders of the Environment. He lives in Gainesville.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Letter to Sen. Simpson - Relocation of SWFWMD's Headquarters to Tampa

Dear Senator Simpson,

I have neglected to let you know how much I/we appreciate your and Representative Blaise Ingoglia’s personal interest and support for our efforts to shine a bright light on the attempts of the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s governing board to move its HQ to Tampa.  I apologize. Your visibility and personal presence, in particular, was crucial to bringing the point home to the community of folks north of Tampa, the district’s governing board, other legislators who could be affected and hopefully even the governor.  It was an impressive show of multi-governmental and private sector collaboration that may be unprecedented.

Nevertheless, I am not confident our efforts had any effect on what district board members have already accomplished.  Short only of taking the HQ name from Brooksville/Hernando County, all significant HQ functions and staff have already been relocated to Tampa.  I truly believe they naively and arrogantly think they have outfoxed us, you and Representative Ingoglia.  As time passes, it is becoming increasingly apparent their stated reasons for relocation of the staff to Tampa has little compelling validity.  If one considers the cost for the relocations to date, as well as the $100,000-plus study to support the contention and the eventual cost they’ll certainly incur to build additional offices to house them, it is a very costly ruse.  All because they simply don’t want to drive to Brooksville and because they have no clue or care why it was placed outside the urban core of Tampa Bay in the first place.  All rural counties and cities, and especially the agricultural community, should be very nervous about their collective “water” futures.

 Hopefully the legislature will see to provide the district with guidance that will successfully encourage them to reverse this unneeded and ill-advised exercise which is having and will continue to have such an economically significant impact north of Tampa, and upon the City of Brooksville and Hernando County in particular.

Again, your involvement and support is sincerely appreciated.

 Best regards,

Emilio "Sonny" Vergara

Friday, September 11, 2015

Rick Scott is creating a chaotic resource management nightmare for this state, with no end in sight

Several months back, Jon Steverson, the Scott-chosen Exec Dir. of NWFWMD was removed and made the Scott-appointed Secretary of DEP.  The resultant empty seat there was just filled by a fellow named Brett Cyphers, the Scott-chosen Assistant ED to Steverson at NWFWMD since 2012.

Recently, the Scott-chosen SJRWMD Exec. Dir., Hans Tanzler, resigned in a huff and was replaced by the earlier Scott-chosen director of the Suwannee River District, Ann Shortelle. 

Just last Thursday, the former Scott-chosen director of SWFWMD, Blake Guillory, who was later chosen by Scott to take over the SFWMD because Scott had Fired the then existing Scott-chosen SFWMD ED, Melissa Meeker, has now been fired because he supported a small but critically needed rise in taxes, and replaced by the Governor’s former legal Counsel, Peter Antonacci. 

You’ll remember he was the lawyer who told the former FDLE guy behind closed doors that all the Cabinet members had secretly agreed he was to be fired, which resulted in a Sunshine Law violation by the governor, Adam Putnam and Pam Bondi, and which was settled without attributing guilt recently for a pile of public tax dollars. 

Antonacci’s resource management experience would measure at less than zero, were that even possible.

Now if you were a a voting member of such a large state as this, and your CEO was making such, frankly, dumbass decisions like putting his incompetent friends and political supporters in and out of management positions of agencies critically important for the safety and welfare of millions of Florida residents and a globally unique natural environment with such chaotic frequency that it was resulting in the obvious decay of the ability of those agencies to do their jobs, wouldn’t you assume he was so incompetent that getting rid of him would be central to the survival of the state?

Do you think Scott knows and, if so, does he care what he’s doing to Florida?  The frightening thing for me is this. I believe he does know what he’s doing to this state and he truly doesn’t care.  This was his game plan from the beginning.  And he's not through.


Water district chief out, replaced by Scott’s ex-general counsel



Thursday, September 10, 2015

Crystal River, Florida
2015-08-21 (26)
The WMD’s have become a sham.  The only reason the governing boards exist is to keep the tax levy, or what’s left of it, intact.  Water management is now an ingrained part of the Tallahassee political hierarchy and has little, very little, to do with responsible resource management.