Saturday, November 1, 2014

Do not vote for Rick Scott

You should not vote for Rick Scott because he spoke the truth when he said he is not a scientist.  No, even though that statement is one of the few truths we’ve heard from CEO Scott in his almost four years of occupation of Tallahassee, we should not vote for him because it is true.  In fact you need to say loudly you will not vote for him, because this truth is highly suspect, as most of his pronouncements are, thickly underlain with obfuscation and deceit. 
This use of truth to mislead and fraud the minds of Florida’s public is characteristic of the man, a leadership style that directs without direction, a man in a dimly lit wheelhouse aimlessly turning the helm of his self-financed state vessel, dumbly looking for fair winds and a following sea in a monsoon of public ire and dissatisfaction, all the while speaking truths as if they were edicts of wisdom from Zarathustra and denying their injurious nature to our fair State. 
No, we should not, must not, vote for this shill of a man who has given away our children’s future to narrow focused special interests, the highest bidders for his enabling decrees so damaging to natural Florida.
He has done lasting, perhaps permanent damage to the very things that define Florida as Florida, all the while claiming against plain truth and human intelligence that what he is doing is The People’s will.  He destroyed the state’s ability to protect its natural systems and claimed it was needed to foster economic development when no study declared it was a rational path to forge; and even when a history of record-setting posterity under stiff environmental regulation offered prima facie evidence it was not. 
We must vote against another four years of this man’s shameless anti-Florida, anti-public, pro-special interest deceitfulness.  By destroying Florida’s capacity to plan for its future, he destroyed our State’s ability to determine its own fate, to determine how we as residents want it to look and function for our progeny, and has given it over to the vicious, unsympathetic control of shareholder-owned corporations whose only interest is profit; profit now, and as much as possible, even if it incurs the most cynical forms of abuse and destruction of our natural resources.

Under a sulphurous cloud of cynicism, deceit and subterfuge, he now hangs on to a poisonous political strength transfused by impossible promises of money to repair the very environmental rot he so enthusiastically fostered over the last three years.
No, you must not vote for Rick Scott.  You must exercise your right to take this ugliness from our midst, from our lives and from our children’s future.
And, yes, you must vote for Amendment 1 to change Florida’s Constitution and by doing so, look the tea-party destroyers of our State straight in their Norquist-jaded eyes and demand adequate, dependable funding be generated to repair the mounting environmental neglect they have fostered.
Go.  Now.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tampa Bay Times blows it - Takes dumb position on Amendment 1

The Tampa Bay Times has recommended against Florida residents voting in favor of Amendment 1, an opportunity voters will have to assure funding is available for environmental protection for the next 20 years.
What are they thinking!!
They said the constitution is no place to house funding options that are more appropriately that of the legislature and governor.
TBT apparently has not been listening to itself over the last three-plus years as Craig Pittman and others have described time and again how T-Town’s tea-bagging conservatives gutted and dismantled over 40 years of carefully developed environmental protections which, by the paper’s own claims, are crucial to the state’s economic future.
The editorial published in Sunday’s edition correctly identifies the public’s frustration with Tallahassee’s pathetic attempts to declare its concerns for all things environmental while systematically destroying the state’s ability to protect its crucial natural systems. It is no less than stunning that the paper has somehow forgotten that this legislature and governor halted environmental land acquisition, decimated the environmental protective capacities of Florida’s primary agencies responsible for protecting the environment – the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the five water management districts - and blatantly caters to the moneyed demands of special interests.
TBT has gotten so wrapped up in some archaic narrow-principled idea of proper government it has forgotten why the constitutional amendment process exists in the first place.  For one thing, instead of frustrated people taking up sticks and stones against bad government, Florida allows its citizens to use the power of their right to vote to amend the constitution by referendum, and send a very clear and strong personal message to the People’s representatives that Tallahassee’s insulated governor and legislators are not properly representing the People’s interests.  This amendment is a way of sending them to the corner for a 20-year “time-out,” at least as it relates to taking care of Florida’s unique natural environment.  Amendment 1 is appropriate and badly needed, and it involves no sticks or stones.
TBT also points out, incredibly, that the Amendment is somehow flawed because it could lead to further legislative game-playing and funding skullduggery.  This is exactly why the People are forcing the issue and telling Tallahassee they’ve had enough such political nonsense.  How can it be worse than what this governor and legislature have already done?
Amendment 1 is a message that, if ignored, Tallahassee does so at its own political risk. The People should not listen to the Tampa Bay Times.   They should vote for Amendment 1.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Clean Water Act rules under attack by Farm Bureau and Fla. Cong. Steve Southerland

In a media release this morning, the Florida Conservation Coalition declared certain factions in Washington are trying to weaken federal clean water rules in a way that will have a negative impact on Florida’s waters.

It hasn’t been enough that our inept governor has already castrated the water management districts by firing their scientists, slashing their budgets, and reversing their regulatory mission from protection to serving special interests.  Now, one of those special interests, the Farm Bureau, an insurance company turned Big Ag advocate, and other industry groups, are trying to do the same thing to the regulatory authority of EPA at the federal level with the help of Florida Panhandle Republican Congressman Steve Southerland.

The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 50 conservation organizations and thousands of individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, wildlife and water resources. The first priority of the Coalition is to protect and preserve Florida’s waters.”

The Coalition is encouraging Floridians who value healthy wetlands and a strong economy to express their opinion of H.R. 5078 to their congressman.

Here’s the Coalition’s media release in full:

Florida Conservation Coalition Calls on Public
 to Support Clean Water Act Rules

Congressman Southerland’s Bill, H.R. 5078, Muddies the Water
In the face of attacks by the Florida Farm Bureau and a narrow group of elected officials, the Florida Conservation Coalition calls on the citizens of Florida to support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule to protect Florida’s water resources.
The Clean Water Act prevents activities that would harm the nation’s rivers,
streams, lakes, wetlands and coastal waters. As required by the Act, EPA regulations protect water quality, help to prevent flooding and limit the impact of droughts. However, federal court decisions have made it essential that the EPA clarify which waters must be protected. 
Legislation proposed by Congressman Steve Southerland and supported today by the Florida Department of Agriculture, the Farm Bureau and other industry groups would prohibit adoption of an important new rule being proposed by EPA in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide this clarity. The legislation would also shut down the public comment process, denying the public the opportunity to voice its position on the proposed rule.
This effort by Representative Southerland and others to keep the Clean Water Act rules muddy is not in Florida’s best interest. Clarifying that streams and their wetlands are protected but uplands are not regulated brings certainty to landowners and assures protection of Florida’s most important natural resources.

The proposed rule actually excludes regulation of most dry ditches, the subject of the Farm Bureau’s objections. All historical exclusions and exemptions for agriculture are preserved, and the proposed rule provides exemptions for many farming, timber and other land-use activities. 

“Southerland’s legislation is a misguided reaction to the proposed rule.  This legislation intervenes in the middle of the public commenting process and raises suspicion that the industry groups demonstrating today do not want to allow citizens to voice their support of our natural resources. Clean water depends on clear standards,” said Vicki Tschinkel of the Florida Conservation Coalition and former Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  
It is especially important that Floridians support EPA’s efforts to protect wetlands which are an integral part of many Florida waterbodies. They are essential to human life in Florida, providing safe drinking water, flood protection for our homes and roads, and our food supply.  In addition, wetlands are vital to the health of Florida’s waters; to wildlife which depend on them for food and habitat; and to our fisherman, tourists and all citizens who depend on the productivity of our estuaries, Atlantic and Gulf.  There is nothing more central to Florida’s economy than the health of our water resources.
Despite the political fracas created by the Farm Bureau, EPA’s proposed rule does not increase or decrease regulation of farming or other activities. The rule simply makes clear the boundaries between flowing waters, wetlands and uplands.
“We are puzzled by the fierce reaction against something that only seeks to provide needed clarity to the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule does not regulate any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Act.  Clarity of these regulations is desperately needed to protect our precious, yet deteriorating waters and to stop endless litigation,” said Tschinkel.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Scott - desperate for environmental love

Please read this Ocala Star Banner article: Florida Governor pledges major spending on environment .
Okay, thanks.  So, what do you think about it?
If you think that because of this announcement Rick Scott has seen the light and has become a virtuous soul of piously good environmental intent, you should read the rest of this … and then go see your therapist.
  • Scott’s announcement is a desperate, insensitive, disingenuous ploy by a weak re-election campaign to grab reluctant support from an environmental community he has callously disregarded for the last four years … and which he is only now realizing was a very significant political mistake.  It is such a complete reversal of his positions for the last four years, his credibility should now be as embarrassing to his supporters as it is a joke to the environmentalists he disparaged so vehemently.
  • $500 million for new water supplies?  If Florida is going to continue to have an economy at all, it must have more new water if enough cannot be conserved to meet the expected demand.  So, this could be a signal that conservation is going to be given a back seat.  If so, where are the new supplies going to come from?  In terms of the state’s projected needs, groundwater is not the answer.  More pumping is going to require many MFL’s (Minimum Flows and Levels) to be exceeded, more lost wetlands, impacts on springs, rivers, lakes, salt intrusion, etc.  If it’s from surface bodies, there’s not even a handful of rivers that might not be significantly impacted by large diversions.  Large diversions are only feasible on flashy rivers, like the Peace, that have huge “excess” flows on few occasions annually that can be effectively captured and stored.  The main body of most rivers’ flows cannot be impacted without commensurate impacts to all else that depend upon their continuous historic average flows.  Desalination?  Not even in the conversation.  And, where and for what purpose will this new water be used? Mining, power, big agriculture, “planned communities” that really aren’t? Finally, who’s going to receive the money to build the production, treatment and delivery systems?  The private sector?  That’s just transfer of more public wealth from working taxpayers to the pockets of special interests. Seems that’s what Tallahassee is all about anymore. If he lays $500 million on the table, it’ll be like the California gold rush to grab the last cheap water before someone else does.  MFL’s and the environment will be damned and you and I will pay for it.
  • $500 million for springs protection?  That just means a whole lot more waste water treatment plants, a good thing for certain if it’s truly and only to get the nitrate production out of the springsheds.  But what if it’s a ruse just to have you and me pay agriculture to clean up their messes.  More “big ag” welfare?  Aren’t they subsidized enough?  New waste treatment plants?  For whom?  Use to be when a developer wanted to build a community, the cost of water production and waste treatment had to be covered by the developer and recovered from the folks buying the rooftops, even when the money went to the local government to build the facilities - a user-pay thing.  Is Scott now proposing to help out a lot of developers under the guise of protecting springs? Certainly could be. It is completely consistent with his actions so far and highly doubtful the man could change his colors so fast. His disparagement of natural Florida's economic and aesthetic values has been so systemic and complete within Florida government the damage will be lasting for many years.  No, strongly suspect subterfuge here.
  • Regarding Amendment #1 - Placing this Nouveau Scott plan on the table now will give strength to the argument that this is how we need to pay for environmental protection and preservation, and why Amendment 1 is not needed.  The timing and inexplicable reversal of it smells an awful lot like a Trojan Horse.  Do we want to just forget how the environment has been subjected to the whims of a thoroughly (and embarrassingly) anti-environmental legislative and gubernatorial sentiment for the last four years and why the Amendment is needed to overcome the annual unpredictable whims of the legislature?  No we will not, but watch for the anti-amendment legislators to scurry out from under the baseboards on this.  Do not buy this Trojan ruse.
    This would be condos were it not in public ownership.
  • $150 million for Florida Forever?  If it’s not guaranteed by a constitutional amendment for certain purposes, rest assured it’ll be spent in ways that favor special interests and not the environment, e.g., subject to utility and roadway easements, not with mineral rights reserved, not for connecting wildlife corridors, not for protecting and preserving remote environmentally unique areas, not to prevent destructive private leasing, not limited to passive public uses ... and billboards will be allowed in the swamps.  Scott has spent the last four years weakening the protections our public dollars have bought and placed upon public lands.  Why should we think he’s going to do any different with any new lands bought under this guise?
  • Finally, increased regulatory scrutiny of permit holders is going to require a huge, really huge, shift in the anti-regulation culture Scott, Vinyard and Jeff Littlejohn have so meticulously constructed in place of the “pro” culture they destroyed.  It represents a stark and unbelievable 180 degree reversal of a major campaign platform.  Can we actually believe there is even an ounce of sincerity in this man and the army of anti-environmental minions he has strategically positioned within his administration?  Where from and how did they come upon this near-religious revelation?  Are we simply going to let them say, The devil made us do it, and thank them for their service?  I don’t buy it and you shouldn’t either.  The last four years have been a disastrous reality for natural Florida, much worse than just a bad dream from which we can now awaken.  If we believe this man now, it’ll just be four more years of that same horrid destructive reality.
Carl Hiaasen wrote today about Rick Scott’s credibility and where he might hang the head of the deer he killed at King Ranch recently, “The bathroom wall would be a fitting place, hanging right over the toilet where he flushed his integrity.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Former SWFWMD Land Acquisition manager and expert, Fritz Musselmann, says County plans for Weeki Wachee Preserve are not appropriate.

Fritz Musselmann worked for the district acquiring environmentally sensitive lands totalling some 435,000 acres for nearly 40 years.  Much of that land was purchased with funds provided under such statutorily-mandated programs as Save Our Rivers, Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever.  The last two programs, Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever, were approved by a majority of Florida voters.  Funds came not from sales or property taxes but documentary stamp taxes generated primarily from private land transactions involving recently-arrived buyers establishing residence in their new home state.  This supports the concept that growth in the form of new residents should help pay for the increasing need to preserve at least a part of natural Florida for the future. 

In an email to the Hernando County Commission sent Sunday, July 6, 2014, Musselmann wrote: 

”Unless the laws, rules, regulations, policies and procedures governing SWFWMD have dramatically changed since the acquisition of the Weeki Wachee Preserve, the proposed "Nature Coast Educational Plaza" including its various components are without a doubt incompatible with the purposes for which the lands were acquired and the "passive" uses recommended for such properties.” 

Here’s his email in full: 

Dear Commissioners and Staff: 

My name is Fritz Musselmann, I retired from the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD)in December 2008. During my tenure at SWFWMD (March 1975 to December 2008) I worked in the Land Resources Department and in July of 1982, I was selected as the Director of that department. In a nutshell, I was responsible for providing direction and oversight to the department which was responsible for Land Acquisition, Land Management, Land Use and Land Surveying services for the sixteen county jurisdiction covered by SWFWMD.  

On behalf of the Governing Board and taxpayers of the SWFWMD my staff and I negotiated, acquired and managed some 435,000 acres throughout the region including the properties referred to as the Weeki Wachee Preserve, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Bayport, etc. At the time the Preserve and Springs were acquired, Hernando County was very supportive and appeared to understand the notion that these properties were acquired to protect some of "Hernando County's most fragile natural resources". Resources that hopefully will be left intact for future generations of Hernando County residents and visitors to enjoy. 

It is obvious that Weeki Wachee Springs, Weeki Wachee River and Weeki Wachee Preserve are collectively the number one recreational/cultural venue for residents of and visitors to Hernando County. Unless the laws, rules, regulations, policies and procedures governing SWFWMD have dramatically changed since the acquisition of the Weeki Wachee Preserve, the proposed "Nature Coast Educational Plaza" including its various components are without a doubt incompatible with the purposes for which the lands were acquired and the "passive" uses recommended for such properties.  

It is difficult at best to truly understand what the County wants to build in the Weeki Wachee Preserve or for that matter, anywhere. A flyer I received from County Staff describes the "Nature Coast Educational Plaza" as a "Tourist Welcome Center, Educational Nature Center, Nature Museum/Conference Center/Auditorium including several hundred parking spaces, Plaza Grounds for holding large events such as tournaments and festivals, a beach and associated amenities". These proposed intrusive uses appear to also conflict with what many of us thought the "Nature Coast Experience" was intended to represent. Environmentally responsible entities build facilities such as those proposed by the County on the periphery of Preserves so as not to impinge upon the purposes for which the lands were acquired, core habitat and in this case an established wildlife corridor. Better yet, such a facility should probably be built on a major thoroughfare thereby providing visibility and access to more potential visitors. If you are trying to market the "Nature Coast Experience" you shouldn't compromise it by building in the Preserve.  

In 1997 consistent with building facilities on the periphery of conservation lands such as the the Weeki Wachee Preserve and in recognition of Hernando County's need for additional swimming opportunities, the SWFWMD as part of its "Plan for the Use and Management of the Weeki Wachee Preserve" and in coordination with the County, identified a site for a beach, swimming and picnicking area in the northwest corner of the lake complex adjacent to Shoal Line Boulevard. It was estimated that the site would double the County's existing capacity for swimming opportunities but the Board of County Commissioners did not have the political will to develop the site. If the County Commission wants to utilize this site and do the right thing, you will need to have the political will to develop and construct roadway and other necessary infrastructure improvements along Shoal Line Boulevard to accommodate traffic safety and the site.  

I have heard from County Staff the notion that building the "Nature Coast Educational Plaza" in the Weeki Wachee Preserve will somehow relieve some of the visitor volume pressures at the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and on the Weeki Wachee River. This is at best, nothing more than deferred political will. A number of years ago in response to community concerns about issues regarding the Weeki Wachhee River System, Hernando County had the vision to create the "Weekiwachee Eco-System Task Force". The mission of the Task Force which included representatives from local organizations, businesses, government agencies and residents from the community was "to preserve and prevent further deterioration of the Weeki Wachee River eco-system by identifying the issues impacting this system and to provide proactive and preventative solutions". If you truly want to maintain and protect the "Nature Coast Experience" for future generations you will find the political will to read, consider and adopt the recommendations in that report. Regardless of the Weeki Wachee Preserve, Weeki Wachee Springs and the river will likely always receive the highest user volume. After all, Weeki Wachee Springs (one of only 33 first magnitude springs)and the Mermaids are recognized worldwide. The Park is simply an iconic landmark.  

While I understand the County's desire to market the Nature Coast, I do not believe adequate attention has been given to the County's existing parks and associated facilities. I am aware of the necessary cuts in staff and services that local governments and state agencies had to endure during the recession. Much of the short and long-term maintenance of government facilities including park facilities was deferred. Only recently, did the Hernando County Property Appraiser announce that the County's tax base was finally starting to turn around. From a private business planning standpoint one would ask what the cumulative deferred maintenance costs and staffing needs will be on existing facilities before taking on more capital, maintenance and staffing costs for a new facility. Maybe the County has considered this but it was not evident when questions were raised in the two public hearings or in any discussions I have been involved in. 

If for example you want to "market" Pine Island Beach to be inviting to new visitors to the County, you should rethink the 23 signs of varying colors, shapes and sizes (ten at the entrance and thirteen just inside the entrance)advising visitors of what they can and cannot do. It is the epitome of sign blight. While I understand the need for the messages in those signs, there is no staff on-site to enforce the rules/regulations nor are there any lifeguards. It appears that since the cuts caused by the recession there is still little if any staff on-site at any of the existing County Parks which begs the question relative to staffing the Nature Coast Educational Plaza. In the two public hearings it was mentioned that there would be lifeguards on site which would be appropriate but contrary to the County's current practices at all of its other swimming venues. You must have the political will to adequately fund and staff your existing parks and NO, trying to spread existing staff to the proposed "Nature Coast Educational Plaza" will simply defer the inevitable and stretch staff resources beyond their ability to meet the real needs of visitors to the County and your voting constituents. 

I am hopeful based on the public input you received at the two public hearings as well as other input and observations that you will find a way to locate the "Nature Coast Educational Plaza" at an alternative site as well as remove any other proposed uses from the core or center of the established wildlife corridor. As well, if your primary unspoken goal is to market the unique attributes of the nature coast including its natural and cultural resources to increase jobs, visitor tax revenues and motel/hotel bed taxes, a more responsible, well-thought-out approach should be taken. You can start with a more professional and inviting sign at Pine Island Beach. 

Respectfully Submitted,
Fritz Musselmann
Spring Hill, Florida