Saturday, May 7, 2016

The GOP ...blindly dedicated to the reasons they're about to self destruct

I've published over 188 posts on this blog and if there are any themes that might be discernable amidst all those perhaps slightly energetic offerings, it is this.  The doctrinal tenets the GOP shout from their right wing pulpits, as if it is the gospel straight out of the "good book," is odorous nonsense.  To wit:

1) No government is small enough or even needed - none;

2) There are no reasons whatsoever that can justify the existence of, much less an increase in, taxes - none;

3) There is no justification whatsoever for any regulation that constrains free enterprise in any way - none;

4) There is no program designed to assist poor, downtrodden, sick, aged or infirm humans that is not socialism - none;

5) There are no valid bases for thinking the importance of healthy, protected and preserved natural systems is critical to the economic future of this state and country - none

6) All capitalist endeavors that turn a profit, no matter the long-term or tragic consequences upon society, are by definition both morally and spiritually justified under the guise of free enterprise - all

7) Being believed is more important than whether or not one is telling the truth - honesty no longer matters

8) No matter the positive value or importance to our country, nothing fostered, initiated or supported by Barack Obama is right, good or worthwhile - nothing. He's a Democrat

9) No matter the truth, Reagan was never a Democrat, a moderate or suffered dementia while still in office - never

10) Even if we are a country of the people, by the people and for the people, it does not mean we are the government - that's somebody else

So when President Obama gave the following speech in Flint the other day, I felt something of the sense that, just maybe, I haven't been too far off.  The GOP have suffered their party major if not fatal harm by adopting and blindly defending tenets that are so weighted toward serving their party and moneyed special interests rather than their country, their base has left them and is running lemming-like behind Donald Trump ever closer to the precipice of complete and utter national embarrassment, or worse.  They have chosen hemlock over gridlock.  According to a friend, "It can't be explained more succinctly ..." than the way our President did.

President Obama
And it's a mindset that believes that less government is the highest good no matter what. It's a mindset that says environmental rules designed to keep your water clean or your air clean are optional, or not that important, or unnecessarily burden businesses or taxpayers. It's an ideology that undervalues the common good, says we're all on our own and what's in it for me, and how do I do well, but I'm not going to invest in what we need as a community. And, as a consequence, you end up seeing an underinvestment in the things that we all share that make us safe, that make us whole, that give us the ability to pursue our own individual dreams. So we underinvest in pipes underground. We underinvest in bridges that we drive on, and the roads that connect us, and the schools that move us forward. And this is part of the attitude, this is part of the mindset.
We especially underinvest when the communities that are put at risk are poor, or don't have a lot of political clout and so are not as often heard in the corridors of power. And this kind of thinking—this myth that government is always the enemy; that forgets that our government is us—it's us; that it's an extension of us, ourselves—that attitude is as corrosive to our democracy as the stuff that resulted in lead in your water. Because what happens is it leads to systematic neglect. It leads to carelessness and callousness. It leads to a lot of hidden disasters that you don't always read about and aren't as flashy, but that over time diminish the life of a community and make it harder for our young people to succeed.
So it doesn't matter how hard you work, how responsible you are, or how well you raise your kids—you can't set up a whole water system for a city. That's not something you do by yourself. You do it with other people. You can't hire your own fire department, or your own police force, or your own army. There are things we have to do together—basic things that we all benefit from. And that's how we invested in a rail system and a highway system. That's how we invested in public schools. That's how we invested in science and research. These how we invested in community colleges and land grant colleges like Michigan State.
But volunteers don't build county water systems and keep lead from leaching into our drinking glasses. We can't rely on faith groups to reinforce bridges and repave runways at the airport. We can't ask second-graders, even ones as patriotic as Isiah Britt who raised all that money, to raise enough money to keep our kids healthy. You hear a lot about government overreach, how Obama—he's for big government. Listen, it's not government overreach to say that our government is responsible for making sure you can wash your hands in your own sink, or shower in your own home, or cook for your family. These are the most basic services. There is no more basic element sustaining human life than water. It's not too much to expect for all Americans that their water is going to be safe.


Monday, January 25, 2016

An editorial published Sunday, January 24, 2016, by the Ocala Star Banner .  Please see the entire original article here:

Editorial: Water policy fails Floridians

If we didn’t know better, we would have thought the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott had achieved a major milestone for our state this week with the governor’s signing of Florida’s new water policy on Thursday. Because the celebration that took place in Tallahassee suggested this was a game-changer, the long-awaited “policy” that Florida desperately needs to clean up and preserve its water supply.

But Senate Bill 552 falls far short of any semblance of serious water policy. It is so flawed that former Gov. Bob Graham, in a letter to Scott, said the water bill “represents a purposeful effort to weaken protection and management of Florida’s water resources.”

Four years in the making, it took two legislative sessions to pass this policy failure. Graham is right — the bill does nothing to curb water consumption and little to slow the flow of pollutants into our rivers, lakes and springs.

Maybe worse, it is a outright gift to big business, especially agriculture. Not only does it loosen pollution enforcement standards, it actually allows Big Ag to monitor itself. The bill relies on so-called “best management practices” that set goals for large water users — but they have decades to meet the goals, there are no penalties or fines written into the law and no provisions are in place to add inspectors to make sure farmers and industry are adhering to the best practices.

To add insult to injury, our lawmakers included a “cost sharing” program that actually requires water management districts to subsidize Big Ag’s pollution control efforts. Yes, the taxpayers of Florida will pay so Big Ag can clean up the mess it created.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sen. Bob Graham: SB 552 fails Florida and its unique natural systems; has "egregious" problems"

In a letter dated today, January 20, 2016, the Florida Conservation Coalition, composed of over 50 charter member and affiliate organizations and a thousand concerned individuals, urged Governor Rick Scott to veto Senate Bill 552 saying there are "egregious" problems with the bill:

 "... provisions blatantly favoring special interests, tying the hands of the Water Management Districts by further weakening current water protections, and largely ignoring the two most important requirements to protect these resources: conservation and stopping pollution at its source. Frankly stated, this bill leaves the people and businesses of Florida unprepared to meet the water challenges of the 21st century." 
The letter was signed by former Florida Governor and United States Senator, Bob Graham, and endorsed by over thirty highly respected environmental organizations that have been unsuccessfully trying to get the legislature amend the bill. 
In his letter, Senator Graham urged Governor Scott to,
“… demand that the legislature send you a bill that focuses on conserving our finite water resources to meet the demands of Florida’s people, industry and agriculture for generations to come. Insist that the legislature send you a bill that controls pollution at its source now, instead of allowing new sources of pollution to continue to degrade our aquifers, lakes, rivers, springs, and estuaries.
Here is the letter in full: 

January 20, 2016
Governor Rick Scott
Plaza Level 05, The Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0001
Dear Governor Scott:
The Florida Conservation Coalition is composed of over 50 charter member and affiliate organizations and a thousand concerned individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s water, land, and wildlife. We are writing you today to ask for your veto of SB 552.
This 134 page bill represents a purposeful effort to weaken protection and management of Florida’s water resources. It will result in further corrosion of what was once hailed as the water management standard of the Nation. The extraordinary procedural requirements will not advance, but hinder protection and restoration of our water resources, and the negative results will outweigh the benefits of the bill.  
Water, Florida’s most precious natural resource, is threatened by over-withdrawals, waste and pollution. Although there are good elements in this bill, they come at too high a cost: provisions blatantly favoring special interests, tying the hands of the Water Management Districts by further weakening current water protections, and largely ignoring the two most important requirements to protect these resources: conservation and stopping pollution at its source. Frankly stated, this bill leaves the people and businesses of Florida unprepared to meet the water challenges of the 21st century.
There are egregious problems with SB 552. For example:
· All significant users of the citizens’ water should be required to monitor their use. This bill contains a loophole that will exempt many consumptive water users from monitoring.
· The bill inhibits water management districts from denying consumptive use permits. When statute or rule requires districts to deny a permit, they should not be subjected to new and additional oversight by the Department of Environmental Protection. The bill’s potential requirement for multiple complete rewrites of the Regional Water Supply Plan imposes an inordinate administrative and financial burden on districts.
· The bill weakens the concept that every district in Florida should aim to be water self-sufficient by easing inter-district transfers. Water Management Districts should not be allowed to unilaterally plunder water from already stressed water bodies in other districts.
· Public private partnerships are lauded throughout the bill, with unclear mandates that such partnerships be cost-effective and in the public interest. Citizens’ tax dollars should not be given to private entities without a clear determination that the citizens will benefit.
· Several Florida regions are running out of water. This legislation relies on alternative water supply projects, such as surface water withdrawals, which are unsustainable and damaging to other regions of the state. The only sure and safe source of additional water for environmental protection and economic growth is water conservation.
The current state of Florida’s waters is proof that we need stronger controls on pollution now - not decades from now. There is still time. The legislature has barely finished its first week of session. We ask you to stand up for the water bodies and aquifers that provide Florida’s drinking water and make industries like Florida’s tourism, agriculture and seafood industries possible by sending this bill back to the legislature today.
Governor Scott, demand that the legislature send you a bill that focuses on conserving our finite water resources to meet the demands of Florida’s people, industry and agriculture for generations to come. Insist that the legislature send you a bill that controls pollution at its source now, instead of allowing new sources of pollution to continue to degrade our aquifers, lakes, rivers, springs, and estuaries.
Furthermore, we must realize that any effort to restore and protect Florida’s waters will require significant investments in scientific research, remediation, infrastructure, agency staffing, and land acquisition. The provisions in this bill are meaningless if they’re not adequately funded. For example, sufficient staff will have to be hired to effectively monitor the use of best management practices around the state. Governor Scott, signing this bill will require a review and revision of your budget proposal as it relates to the direct state responsibilities under this legislation and an assurance to Florida’s water management districts that they will be allowed to set ad valorem tax rates as needed to fulfill their obligations.
As the annual progress reports required under this bill are sent to the Governor, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, it will become slowly and painfully apparent that this bill has failed to abate Florida’s water quantity and quality problems, which are already severe. The legislators responsible for SB 552 will be out of office long before Florida officially fails to meet the deadlines for success set in this bill. Do not let short-sighted plans be your legacy. Florida, its citizens, and its future deserve more for our most valuable natural resource, water.
Bob Graham, Chairman of the Florida Conservation Coalition
The following organizations, including FCC affiliates, have officially endorsed this letter:  
Alachua Audubon Society, Anne Casella, President
Anglers for Conservation, Rodney Smith, President
Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Dan Tonsmeire, President
Audubon Society of the Everglades, Paton White, President
Brevard NOW, Vicki Impoco, President, Kenny Hinkle Jr., President
Center for Earth Jurisprudence, Sister Pat Siemen, OP, Esq., Director
City of Seminole Community Garden, Mary Ann Kirk, Garden Secretary
Clean Water Action, Kathleen E. Aterno, National Managing Director and Florida Director
Concerned Citizens of Bayshore Community, Steve Brodkin, President
"Ding" Darling Wildlife Society, Doris D. Hardy, President
E. Allen Steward III P.E. Environmental and Engineering Consultant, E. Allen Stewart II P.E., Owner
Earth Ethics, Mary Gutierrez, Executive Director
EarthWeb Foundation, Josephine Balzac, Chief Environmental Officer
Environment Florida, Jennifer Rubiello, State Director
Estero Council of Community Leaders, Pete Cangialosi, Environmental Director
Florida Consumer Action Network, Susan McGrath, Executive Director
Florida Defenders of the Environment, Inc., Thomas Hawkins, Executive Director
Florida Native Plant Society, Suzanne Valencia, President of the Conradina Chapter
Florida Springs Council, Dan Hilliard, President
Florida Water Conservation Trust, Terry Brant, Legislative Chairman
Friends of the Everglades, Alan Farago, President
Friends of St. Sebastian River, Tim Glover, President
Friends of Warm Mineral Springs, Juliette Jones, Director
Ichetucknee Alliance, John Jopling, President
Indian River Democratic Executive Committee, Debra Messer, Environmental Chair
Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, Riverkeeper
Izaak Walton League of America, Michael F. Chenoweth, President of the Florida Division
John Kumiski Fishing Charters, John Kumisiki, Captain
Lake Area Water Alliance, Jackie Host, President
Lake Rosa Lake Swan Homeowner Association, Bev Ritter, President
Lobby for Animals, Thomas Ponce, Founder
Matanzas Riverkeeper, Neil Armingeon, Riverkeeper
Miami Waterkeeper, Rachel Silverstein, Ph.D., Executive Director & Waterkeeper
Our Santa Fe River Inc., Pamela I. Smith, President
Preserve Brevard, Vince Lamb, Chairman
Progress Florida, Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director
Putnam County Environmental Council, Timothy Keyser, President
Rainbow River Conservation, Inc., Burt Eno, Ph.D., President
Reef Relief, Millard McCleary, Executive Program Director
Rehab Farm, Carol Ahearn, Owner
Santa Fe Lake Dwellers Association, Jill McGuire, President
Save the Manatee Club, Katie Tripp, Ph.D., Director of Science and Conservation
Seminole United Methodist Church Community Garden, Robert Huttick, Garden Coordinator
Solutions to Avoid Red Tide, Sandy Gilbert, Chairman
Southwest Florida Watershed Council, John Cassani, Chairman
Space Coast Progressive Alliance, Philip E. Stasik, President
Speak Up Wekiva, Inc., Chuck O’Neal, Director
Springs Eternal Project, John Moran and Lesley Gamble, Co-directors
Stonecrab Alliance, Karen Dwyer, Ph.D., Co-founder
Treasure Coast Progressive Alliance, Sharon Lux, President
Tropical Audubon Society, Laura Reynolds, Executive Director

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Gravestone epitaph of Florida's dismantled natural resource management - "Science-based"

 I am giving a little talk  in The Villages Monday.  Here’s what I'm inclined to say about SSB 552. 

a.    The Legislature is poised to make major changes to state water policy

                               i.    They want to move the needle more toward fulfilling residential and commercial water needs and away from sustaining natural systems, which in their hearts is just a waste of good tax money that could be better spent to grow the interests of special interests who will pay for their re-elections and make them President of the Senate.

                              ii.    SB 552

1.    It is a bill that will create the expectation that conservation lands and efforts to protect natural systems should have a cost benefit ratio where the benefits must outweigh the cost.  Environmental protection and preservation always has a positive bottom line, but not always in dollars.  The extreme fiscal conservative will never acknowledge this.

2.    It is being written by those who proffer no monetary value for natural systems and who will use the resultant poor economic value to further extinguish legitimate environmental management in Florida.

3.    It is counter intuitive that giving the Ag Commissioner role as overseer of agricultural pollution and freeing farmers from regulatory accountability does not give them a free ride.  It is no different from giving a coyote keys to the coop and asking him to protect the chickens from other coyotes … and saying, “We trust you and all your friends will do the right thing.”   ......  BMP’s

4.    Requires self-reporting and data by environmental agencies at all levels that is clearly intended to load the political guns of special interests and make extreme fiscal conservatives like Alan Hayes drool.

5.    It is a bill written by those who see the dismantling of Florida’s natural resource protections as clearing the way for an ever upward-spiraling state gross domestic product, and who could not careless that the resultant environmental losses may be for all time.

6.    It is filled with condescension and empty platitudes for a public starving to hear something positive from a dysfunctional state Government.

7.    Liking anything in this bill is like saying you like a pie filled with arsenic because you like the Oreo Cookie crust.  It will do a great deal more harm than good.

8.    It will write the final epitaph on the gravestone of natural resource management in Florida as we once knew it … "Science-based"

-        Sandspur

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.