Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tallahassee Shutting Out Locals in Water Policies - T. Swihart

Policy expert, Tom Swihart, weighs in. 

In his editorial carried this morning in the St. Petersburg Times, former Department of Environmental Regulation policy analyst, Tom Swihart, echoes the growing concern over the shift of local control of water policy decisions to the state and what it portends.  It's a trend, he notes, that flies in the face of the intent of former state leaders who, "... didn't think that all water wisdom resided in Tallahassee."
 Swihart is a respected thinker and author of a book entitled, Florida's Water: A Fragile Resource in a Vulnerable State," to be published next month.  Read about his book Here.

St. Petersburg Times
June 28, 2011

Takeover of Florida water shuts out citizens
By Tom Swihart, special to the Times
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature are breaking a long-standing Florida tradition of shared water management power. They are shifting all of the big water decisions to Tallahassee. These decisions will be made behind closed doors.
Recent state power grabs have overturned four decades of making key water management decisions at the local and regional level in Florida. When the Florida Water Resources Act became law in 1972, the governor and Legislature didn't think that all water wisdom resided in Tallahassee.
Rather, the founders of Florida's modern water management system deliberately created a system of shared water power, somewhat akin to the balance in the U.S. Constitution between the states and the federal government. The governing boards of the regional water districts were given wide discretion to address the water problems of their region but always under the "general supervision" of the state.
With neither the state nor the water management districts having all of the power, the two levels of government sometimes disagreed on the best policy. But, like the relationship between the 50 states and the federal government, it is healthier to have many voices and open disagreement than having one central authority make all major decisions out of the public eye.
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature are breaking this long-standing Florida tradition of shared water management power. They are shifting all of the big water decisions to Tallahassee. These decisions will be made behind closed doors in the capital, unlike the decisions made in public meetings by the governing boards of the regional water districts after hearing from local residents.
How have the levers of power shifted to Tallahassee? Start with the power to decide on taxes. During his campaign for governor, Scott did not say he wanted to cut the property tax levy of the water management districts. Nonetheless, right after being inaugurated, he announced his support for a statutory cut in regional water management taxes. An ideologically compatible Legislature soon passed that legislation and threw in additional provisions to give it more power over water management decisions. The Legislature declared that it would specify not just the overall tax levels but even how much the districts would spend on individual programs.
Water power is being centralized in other ways, too. In the Tampa Bay region, Scott refused to appoint members to the subsidiary basin boards that the Southwest Florida Water Management District established the same day as the district itself in 1961. He then successfully pressured Swiftmud to terminate the local boards. That action silenced local voices and makes it easier for all future governors to get their way without having to hear bothersome local opinions.
Only two weeks ago, Scott's Department of Environmental Protection sent a memo to all five water management districts emphasizing that they were to follow state directives. The district governing boards, including Scott's new appointees, appear ready to meekly comply.
It is not as if the water management districts have ever been free to act without substantial oversight. It is a question of balance - how far the governor and Legislature should go in micromanaging regional water management. For example, the governor has long had the power to review and disapprove district budgets. The 2011 Legislature gave itself the very same power to disapprove water management district budgets. The combined result is a confusing duplicative mess, sure to be saturated with politics.
Who is in charge of water management now? The governor? The secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection? Legislative committees that review proposed district budgets? All of them are "in charge," which means that none of them are. Keep in mind, too, that none of these supervising bodies is subject to the government-in-the-sunshine requirements that apply to meetings of the water management districts.
Big cuts to water management district budgets will prevent many Florida water problems from being solved. But over the long run, the centralization of water management power in Tallahassee will do even more harm. Citizens no longer have meaningful access to water management decisionmaking. Tallahassee does not know best. Our streams, lakes, springs, rivers, wetlands and estuaries will pay the price of this quest to centralize power over water management.
Tom Swihart worked until last fall as the administrator of the Office of Water Policy in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. His new book, Florida's Water: A Fragile Resource in a Vulnerable State, is being published next month

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Nancy Argenziano Rants About the Ugly Underbelly of T-Town Politics

I'm no fan of Nancy Argenziano.  In fact, I don't know anybody that's fan of hers, except maybe motorcycle riders who don't like to wear helmets ... and are still alive. 
She once wrote a letter about how people who work in government are just sucking at the public “teat” which was published in a local newspaper, including the use of that word.  She was in the legislature at the time doing a little “sucking” of her own and remained there for years until she switched nipples and got herself appointed to the Public Service Commission where she was pulling down a 6-figure salary.  Sucking, it turns out, was the only way she could make a living.
Recently, she published a lengthy, rambling diatribe about the ugly underbelly of T-Town politics which I reprint here.  The letter is floating around the internet but here’s a link to the Citrus Chronicle version if you want to see it published.  Prepare yourself.  There’s a picture of her there that’ll yank you right out of your boots if you’re not ready for it (not the one shown here).
Nevertheless, most thinking people will probably never acknowledge that deep inside they will think she’s more right than wrong in her rant.  The problem is that she is her own worst enemy.  Too shrill.  Like a banshee too shrill.  Too shrill because the internet has relegated shrill to junk mail status.  She’s lost her effectiveness. 
Read the comments to her article, if you can stomach it, and you’ll notice that few get or care what she’s really saying.  They just cast her into the sour grapes barrel because of her PSC fiasco (she was fired by an angry legislature consisting of many of her former cronies).  Many declare that all the points she makes are due to her loss of allegiance to the republican party, not because they may reflect truth.  Note that the concern is for the party not truth or country.
I think I’m going to call her.  Maybe she’ll get excited about the loss of the Withlacoochee Basin Board.  That would be really cool.  The new members at SWFWMD have never met her.  In the words of Jack Nicholson as The Riddler in the Batman movie, “Wait’ll they get a load of (her)!!!”
Heeeeeerrrsssss Nancy!:
Make no mistake: This is not about liberals vs. conservatives — or Republicans vs.  Democrats; it’s about what is right and what is wrong. The legislation and policies of the governor and legislative leadership are wrong. 
It’s about shouting a warning to Floridians that their elected leaders are selling them down the river, saying one thing, but doing another. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

At Least Hillsborough Gets A Representative At SWFWMD ... but what counties won't?

Read my lips, no more local basin basin board members!
 According to a SWFWMD communication received today, Governor Scott has announced the appointment of Michael A. Babb to the Governing Board, for the Hillsborough County seat. Babb, of Tampa, is the president of Two Rivers Ranch Inc.  He succeeds Maritza Rovira-Forino on the Governing Board and is appointed for a term beginning June 23, 2011, and ending March 1, 2014.
The Governor also accepted the resignation of SWFWMD's immediate past chair, Ronald Oakley. Mr. Oakley will be recognized for his four years of service at the July 26 Governing Board meeting in Tampa. 
It is unlikely the Governor will be in attendance to express his personal appreciation to Ron for a job well done.  Ron, as we know, was not among the governor’s Chosen Ones and thus appears to have been banished from the board for incompatibility.  Yes, I know he resigned, but probably only because he saw the guillotine on its way down.
At least we now know the Governor is capable of making appointments.
I was going to say it is sad, but outrageous is more appropriate, that he found it too much trouble to appoint local representatives to the district's now defunct basin boards and purposely let them become “unconstituted” (sic)  as members’ terms expired. 
The governor's lack of action is telling.  Shows what he really thinks about keeping the decisions of government closest to The People despite his public pronouncements to the contrary.
Lots of the governor’s actions are telling and are being noticed by his fellow republicans.  Makes me feel not so alone.   Have you heard what his latest approval rating is?  A Florida Trend poll shows him with a 19% approval by responding Florida voters!
Another poll by Quinnipiac University that was much more comprehensive gave him only a 29% approval rating.
But at 19% and realizing Florida Trend’s readership is primarily Florida’s Business Community, you have to wonder, is the governor listening?  Does he hear the poll bell tolling?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Scott Criticized For Rubbing Salt In Wounds To Make Questionable Political Point

The Palm Beach Post News

Scott touts property tax cut bill at South Florida water district where public job cuts anticipated
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Updated: 5:57 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Posted: 5:17 a.m. Wednesday, June 22, 2011

WEST PALM BEACH — Gov. Rick Scott was harshly criticized for being insensitive Wednesday after he traveled to the South Florida Water Management District to sign a bill that will cut $128 million from the district budget and cost many of its workers their jobs.
"We can agree to disagree on the merits of the bill the governor signed, but to come to Palm Beach County and rub salt in the wounds of people who will soon go home to their families unemployed is insulting and unnecessarily cruel," said State Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. "Can you imagine the governor showing up to celebrate your unemployment?"

Need a job? SWFWMD has an opening.

Qualifications:  Know the governor and how to spell “Tea-Party” very loudly.
Here's your chance to be the CEO of one of the most important agencies in Florida government today, though maybe not so much tomorrow. 
You’ll have the honor of serving at the pleasure of 13 governing board members, the governor of the great State of Florida and every Senator of the Florida Senate, who can hold up your confirmation or threaten you personally in ways that can render you no less potent than if you'd just suffered botched prostate surgery.  As such, you get to play tit for tat chess with any member of that auspicious group who will endlessly attempt to proffer their political ambitions at your personal and professional expense. 
You'll get to wrestle with a rapidly shrinking $200,000,000 budget and staff of over 800 employees, all for a salary that bespeaks your deep personal concern for the Florida taxpayer and which Sir Scott will not allow to be over, my guess, of about $150,000. (which works out, given it's a 24-7 job, to about one fourth of what a good mechanic gets or $17.12 per hour.). 

Official Solicitation for Exec. Dir. of SWFWMD

(Find the original solicitation HERE)

Executive Director

Position Number: 0001
Closing Date: 07/15/2011
Classification: Professional/Managerial
Location: Brooksville

Job Summary:Summary of Duties: Functions as the Chief Executive Officer of the District in carrying out its charge for total water resource management in a 16-county, Southwest Florida region. Position reports directly to the Governing Board; Includes daily direction and operating responsibility for District staffing, $280 million (Fiscal Year 2011) budget and all organization assets. Functions as the principal agent of the 13-member, Governor- appointed Governing Board in recommending and implementing policies the Board adopts to fully affect its charge as prescribed by the Florida Water Resources Act of 1972, as amended (Florida Statutes Chapter 373) and other applicable Florida Statutes, federal statutes and the Governor and Legislature or their representatives. Takes a lead incident command role in District emergency management activities. Participates in District activities and performs other duties as needed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Insider Note From This Republican to You

Dear friend,

There needs to be a rising drum beat of indignation over the fact that in only one or two legislative sessions decades of heartfelt and hard fought good for Florida has been undone.  This is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue.  It's the sale of Florida to the highest bidder ...  and a perplexing number of normal people who have no idea what it's all about but like the sound of "Tea Party" and the idiotic, fraudulent sense of patriotism it brings.

I'll keep bugling to the winds until I get tired, die or get bored.  Just hope there are a bunch like you "out there" listening.

Thu 6/9/2011 4:54 PM

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Executive Director Dave Moore Ends Tenure at SWFWMD

David Moore, CPG

After over eight years holding the reins as executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Dave Moore has been eased out the door as of Monday, June 20, 2011.  His offer to stay on after his voluntary resignation until his replacement is onboard was rejected. 
Following a half-hearted attaboy, board member Hugh Gramling moved to sever the relationship, post haste, saying when it’s over it’s best to move on.
Some board members rightfully felt two weeks was a bit abrupt, so after an hour of wrangling and multiple amended motions from Jennifer Closshey, they decided to put him on admistrative leave so he'll be available to give advice, until July 15, a totally underwhelming send off. 
William S. Bilenky
Bill Bilenky, the district's current general counsel, was named interim executive director after he told the board he would not be an applicant for the full time job.

I felt the the short shrift given Dave by his board reflects the current misapplied disrespect for all government employees.  But it really goes back decades when Sen. John McKay passed a bill specifically targeting water management district executive directors that essentially prevents them from having the kind of employment contracts enjoyed by practically every county and city manager in the state.  No five-year employment expectations or even three or two.  No grace period in the event of separation at the request of the board.  It’s, just, “see ya,” if you’re lucky, as they hold the door for you.  Sometimes a celebratory “roast” might be held, but that’s about it.

One would think that after dedicating one's life, 24-7, for 8.5 years to running a water district the size of Vermont, filled with political and technical traps and sinkholes, it would have been a happier occasion.

But having been through the “exit” process myself from SWFWMD and the St. Johns River Water Management District, and having witnessed the exodus of Don Feaster, Gary Kuhl and Pete Hubbell from SWFWMD before me, Jack Malloy, Woody Wodraska, Henry Dean and Carol Wehle from the SFWMD, Bill McCartney from NWFWMD and Don Morgan from the Suwannee district, about all that can be said of the process is that it is almost always uncomfortable and awkward.  The congratulatory departures of Don Morgan, Pete Hubbell, Gary Kuhl and Henry Dean are notable exceptions.

And so it was with Dave.  Hopefully, I judge too soon.  Maybe they will recognize him and thank him for a job well done, on a special occasion held just for that.  They should.
Afterward, Dave went to lunch with a few friends who spoke of the job and what it entails.  Despite the board’s comments that eight years is a rare achievement by anyone holding a water management district executive director’s seat, there is little doubt that most of them have no idea just how mentally and physically debilitating the job really is.  There is no quest for pity here.  It's just the way it is.
We laughed about how many “attaboys” it takes to overcome one “aw sh_t”, and surmised it could be as many as a thousand.  Maybe two.
We talked about the fact that no matter how successful one might be in doing the right thing, there are always, say, 15% who won't like it and will hold it against you personally.  Next month or next year, but always inevitably, that 15% will be placated but there will be another 15% who are not.  And so on, until 100% of all who might remotely give a damn about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, will have at one time or another fallen into the 15% “dissatisfied” category. 
On the other hand, the euphoria that comes with successfully achieving an incredibly difficult feat ends within a very short period of time along with any goodwill that may have accompanied it.  Invariably, it evaporates, assigned to oblivion, never to be remembered or appreciated again, while the stigma of an “aw sh_t” never goes away and in fact continues to build until it becomes who you are.
Eventually one becomes defined not by all the good he or she may have accomplished for the larger 85%, but by the unavoidable "aw sh_ts" that never made more than 15 % unhappy at any one point in time.
Anything short of absolute perfection, it seems, can’t be tolerated so the marriage is usually brought to an unflattering end. It is what it is.
None of us are perfect.  We never claimed to be and never expected to be.  But we tried.  David Moore tried too and was as good as any of us at having achieved difficult things under difficult circumstances.  The bottom line is that he did his job with energy, excellence, intelligence and good sense.  He did it well in a war zone of vindictive and powerful legislators, a new governor who doesn’t yet know the potential disaster he might be wreaking upon our fair state, and board members who, with a few exceptions, are generally too eager to fill the requirements of their own egos or political agendas to see the right thing they should be doing.
Those of us who have been there will stand for Dave and declare he did a fine job.  He will go on to do more.

Everything’s good, Dave.  Let’s do lunch soon.  On me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Insider Direction: Governor to WMD's

Quotable Quotes

You might want to take a look at the new feature added just below the BLOG title called Quotable Quotes.
It's a separate page of just quotes intended to bring home in a few words what this BLOG is about. 
Know of a memorable quote you'd like to see added?  Send it to me (in the comment section at the end of each post).  Be sure to include a link where I can find the original.
All comments, anonymously or otherwise, are welcome. 
Only civil, intelligent and rational comments will be published.  If you don’t want them published under any circumstance, just say so and only I will see them.
Thanks for your continuing interest toward this important subject – Florida’s future.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SWFWMD Governing Board Resolution 11-10 Vaporizing the Basin Boards


WHEREAS, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is subdivided into eight (8) hydrologic basins, the Withlacoochee River, Coastal Rivers, Pinellas-Anclote River, Alafia River, Peace River, Manasota, Hillsborough River and the Green Swamp Watershed Basins (the Basins); and

WHEREAS, the District's Governing Board has the authority to designate any area within the District as a sub-district or basin, change the boundaries of Basins, or create new basins by resolution, see: subsection 373.0693(1)(a), Florida Statutes; and

WHEREAS, recent policy directives of the Office of Governor and the Legislature have been issued requesting the District to simplify and streamline governmental operation and reduce the number of levels of government to ensure the operations and responsibilities of the District are being discharged in an efficient and effective manner; and

WHEREAS, in response to these directives and recommendations, the District has evaluated the various alternatives available for such Basin mergers and concluded that merging all of the Basins and their functions into the District in order to reduce expenditures and eliminate any duplication of work is appropriate.

NOW THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District that all prior Basins designations are hereby revoked and all Basin boundaries are hereby merged into the boundaries of the District, effective May 31, 2011.

PASSED AND ADOPTED on this twenty-fourth day of May, 2011.

                                                  SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT

                                                                              BY: __(SIGNED)__
                                                                              Ronald E Oakley

H. Paul Senft, Secretary

Monday, June 13, 2011

Goodbye Howard Troxler

Newspaper columnists are a little like familiar billboards on the way to work.  They’re always there, always with something to say about matters not always of interest.
And like a billboard, when the day comes that, for whatever reason, you drive by and it’s no longer where it always was, you realize how much seeing it and getting The Message, liked or not, was a part of your day. 
Howard Troxler’s column (St. Petersburg Times) was as much a part of my day as my first cup of coffee.  I would settle into my lazy-boy under the singular dim light that makes reading the paper before daybreak in my living room like studying fine print, and with eagerness turn to his message for that day.  
Without fail, Howard would greet me in return with a wash of views and words that would make me either contort in discomfort from disagreement or my pulse quicken in wonderment at his insight.  There was no yawning spent with Howard in those early mornings under that dim light.
Here’s an excerpt from Howard’s Sunday column which is so dead-on relevant to what is happening to Florida today, I had to share it:
… A more recent book about Florida made a big impression on me. Its title is Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams, and it was written by our own Gary Mormino, a history professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
Mormino documents the rise of modern Florida - the megastate Florida, the crushingly developed Florida, the Florida of real-estate booms and quickie subdivisions that simply exploded in the years following World War II.
A generation of Americans was exposed to this paradise during military training; many of them decided to come back as visitors, or to seek a new life in a newly mobile postwar nation.
Florida sold itself eagerly, of course. Florida has always sold itself eagerly. And plenty of people made a lot of money doing it, and plenty of people made a living by throwing up the new cities and subdivisions and shopping centers and strip malls that it required.
Only in the last generation did Floridians begin to question the wisdom of this. We saw our lakes and bays choked to death. We saw the highways jammed, the quality of life degrading.
And enough Floridians said, maybe this is not the state we want. So we passed laws that said, yes, we will always grow, but maybe we can grow better. Smarter. Wisely.
We should make sure Florida has the water it needs, and the roads it needs, and the schools it needs. The business of our state should be something besides unrestricted, anything-goes growth. Those people making money off Florida should help pay for the costs of their growth.
That was long-term thinking.
But, you know, we live in the short term. We live in the moment. And in this moment, for various reasons, we have chosen a generation of leaders of Florida who do not believe in these values.
I do not think most Floridians fully realize, and will not for some time, the full damage of what has already happened in Tallahassee. Our state's governor and the majority of our state's Legislature believe in exactly one thing: making money off Florida. They have repealed many of the laws that Florida passed trying to make itself a better state. We have, quite literally, propelled this state back into the 1950s, and when the economy explodes again, look out.
It was an earlier generation of Republicans and Democrats working together who tried to save our state. Making Florida better was never about Republican vs. Democrat. Hardly a day passes that I do not hear from anguished, older Florida Republicans who are dismayed at what is happening. They say: This is not what we wanted.
Florida needs a world-class state university system or it will never be a great state. Florida needs to invest in itself. It needs to invest in public - yes, public - education. It needs a diverse, educated, intelligent work force. Florida needs to protect what is left of the physical Florida. In every one of these arenas we are pointed the wrong way.
Yet despite all this . . .
Despite all this, lately I have been feeling more and more optimistic, precisely because more and more Floridians realize what is happening. This state is coming into an interesting and exciting time, a battle afresh for its future, and its soul.
So why am I quitting now, just when it's getting good? For entirely selfish reasons that have nothing to do with any of this, and everything to do with living the one single life we each are given.
But whatever happens, and wherever I go, I will always be for Florida. I hope you will, too. Goodbye
Like billboards, columnists leave us for reasons not always given.  They grow old and fail, they’re moved aside and replaced, or maybe their message is no longer relevant upon a vastly changing world stage.  For whatever the reason, Howard Troxler’s last column, as always, dead-on relevant, was yesterday, Sunday, June 13, 2011. 
Goodbye to you, Howard Troxler.  Best wishes living the one single life we each are given, and thanks.  
I will always be for Florida … too.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Power, Ignorance, Arrogance, and Plain Simple Thoughtlessness

Why did the Governing Board get rid of the District’s basin boards?  It’s beginning to appear a little like a perfect storm where power, ignorance, arrogance, and plain and simple thoughtlessness all came together at once to sink the public’s legitimate interests.   Not saying I understand it all.  Here’s what I think I know.
The legislature
There’s been pressure on the staff over the last few years to take action that reflects the state’s dismal economic collapse:  become more efficient, reduce positions and expenses, end redundancies, lower the millage rate, etc.  Certainly understandable.  However, the staff may not have responded as aggressively as some powerful folks wanted.  What was once pressure may have molted into pointed direction, that direction originating in part from the OPAAGA study referenced in the now infamous Resolution 10-11 that vaporized the basin boards.
Maybe some deals were struck.  I heard J. D. Alexander wants a “Regional Water Supply Authority” to be created in Imperial Polk County, a completely irrational idea from a statutory point of view but maybe not so much from a let’s-get-the-district-to-pay-for-our-water-supply point of view.  Said another way this would sound a lot like, let’s get the property taxpayers of the entire district to pay for our water supply. 
There’s always a lot of horse trading, political threatening, and quid pro quo-ing going on when the gang’s in Tallahassee Town usually involving the executive director who frequently ends up with the smelly end of the stick … but not always.  I have no idea how the basin board thing may have gotten mixed up in such a conversation but if there’s pressure on the district staff to get more efficient, getting rid of the basins would probably sound like an enticing card to play. 
The governor
On top of that was the inexplicable inaction by the Governor who just stopped making appointments.  This brought a different kind of pressure.  Staff saw the basin boards becoming unable to carry out normal business due to lack of quorums.  The situation was getting critical.  Thus, the decision to do away with them and transfer their taxing authority to the governing board must have seemed like the only alternative.
Stack on top of that the startling lack of institutional knowledge that comes with every new governor and the fact that it has never been as glaringly evident as with this one.  Why in the world does SWFWMD need eight basin boards?  How inefficient can you get?  Get on with it!  Whack’em! 
The governor claims to believe that government should be held closest to the people.  If he understood the function of the basin boards perhaps he would have been more responsible about making timely appointments thereby assuring that at least that part of the much scrutinized water management taxing authority would in fact remain controlled at the very lowest possible level.
The staff
Then there was (is) a district staff that did not push back against OPAAGA’s concept of getting rid of the basins and maybe even proffered the idea to the minions in the new governor’s office and DEP behind closed doors.  I believe they knew how political it could get so they were not likely interested in being too blatant about any support they held for the idea. 
Governing board
It needs to be asked, where was the GB when this crisis was building?  In the past, the governor’s appointees would have been pulling political chits, making the governor aware of the problem, educating him on the political benefits of having basin boards, reminding him of how American it just happens to be, and, of course, vigorously urging him to do his job and make the appointments.  To my knowledge, none of this happened.  
Advising the governor of difficult issues is a fundamental responsibility of any person appointed to give direction to a very significant agency, wouldn’t you think?  Has the climate in Tallahassee become so lethal that even the messengers get bloodied now?  If so, it’s very unfortunate and makes for a government poorly run, at least, and dangerous, at most.
There’s likely much discussion going on about the impact that subsuming the basins’ taxing capacity will have upon the district’s ability to do its job.  They’re probably still trying to figure out how to continue doing basin business in a way that will withstand legal challenge.  They are also probably more than a little nervous about whether the way they adopted The Resolution met all the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act.  I mean, it wasn’t even on the agenda!  Reasonable notice?  Hardly.  If it was in compliance with the law, the law failed us.
What to do?
So, for what it’s worth, here’s what I respectfully think the governing board should do: 
·       Step back and take another look, this time with a wider angle lens and full transparency. 
·       Hold a public meeting on the matter.  Hear what folks think about the deal.  Do not fear what they have to say or try to avoid talking with them about it.  Maybe no one will even show or say anything, but at least they will have had the chance. 
·       Take action only after proper legal notice.  Have the item on an AGENDA!
·       Meanwhile, communicate directly with the governor, not through minions, his or theirs.  Make him aware of the basin boards’ purposes from a political, philosophical and governmental point of view.
·       Fearlessly urge him to make the appointments he is charged by law to make.  This is HIS DUTY. 
·       And finally, re-establish the basin boards.  Maybe just three big ones: northern, middle, and southern, but re-establish them.
The governing board will be holding a meeting soon to discuss the situation.  I urge all former board members, basin and governing boards, to attend if possible.  County leaders who now may be realizing they are losing a valuable and effective communications path to the district should also attend as well as all other interested folks.  If and when the Board provides a chance to talk about it, it might be the last.  Calls and emails now would be completely appropriate as well.
I‘ll try to provide more information about when and where as learn it.

"To save quality of life, Floridians must act"

If what I’ve been saying about the impact that recent legislation will have on Florida’s future concerns you, you’ll be interested to know I’m not the only one saying it.  Read Charles Pattison’s letter to the St. Pete Times published this morning (6.12.11), also printed in full below with Charles’ permission. 
The drum beat of discontent over the cynical destruction of decades of heartfelt and hard fought laws designed to make and keep Florida a better place to live is rising.  If that destruction isn’t reversed, our grandchildren will look back with disbelief at what we did and ask, what were they thinking?!!
Charles Pattison is president and chief executive of 1000 Friends of Florida, a statewide nonprofit established in 1986 to “promote healthy urban and natural places by wise management of growth and change.”
June 10, 2011
To save quality of life, Floridians must act
By Charles Pattison
A few weeks ago, the well-regarded national business journal Chief Executive ranked Florida third in the nation as a business-friendly state. Florida received high marks because of its low taxes, business-friendly regulations and strong quality of life. Florida Trend lists quality of life as one of the top 10 reasons to do business in Florida, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce identifies it as one of its six pillars for Florida's future.
But during the 2011 session, "probusiness" Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature put Florida's quality of life squarely in their crosshairs. Florida's quarter-century-old system of managing growth was gutted. Important measures to protect the environment were tossed. Long-standing programs to protect drinking water sources and water quality were slashed. This was in the name of promoting jobs, even though extensive residential and commercial development approved by local and state governments over the last few years has yet to be built.
How can destroying Florida's quality of life, degrading its drinking water, and passing the costs of development off to taxpayers be an effective long-term economic development strategy? It can't be, especially in light of declining property values. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Bay area property values have dropped by more than 50 percent since 2006; close to 60 percent of area home­owners are underwater on their mortgages; and some experts say the worst is yet to come.
What has happened? Florida's leaders are supporting short-term gain over long-term, sustainable economic prosperity. They view this state as nothing more than a commodity, to be bought and sold to the highest bidder regardless of the consequences. This harks back to the anything-goes days of the 1960s and 1970s when the Everglades burned, untreated sewage poured into the Gulf of Mexico, and local taxpayers footed the bill for roads and sewer systems for unneeded new development. Back then, Florida's quality of life took a nosedive, and taxpayers clamored for passage of the now-gutted 1985 growth management act.
Public opinion polls consistently show most Florida residents support protecting natural areas, safeguarding drinking water and maintaining a high quality of life. Floridians understand that effective growth management is essential if Florida is to prosper in the 21st century. So in light of what happened during the legislative session, how do we best protect and sustain these qualities that make Florida so attractive to residents and visitors, and that are needed to attract new business?
As in 1985, Floridians need to give local and state elected officials a wakeup call. At the local level, engage in the community's planning process. Monitor changes to community plans and speak out at public hearings. Call on local government to give residents more say in community planning. Join local smart growth and conservation organizations that address these issues, and become an active participant. Encourage friends to become involved in planning the community's future. Write letters to the editor and share your views through social media. When candidates run for office, ask for their position on managing growth and protecting the environment, and vote accordingly.
Similarly, at the state level support those candidates who understand that growth management is essential for a sustainable future. Demand that legislators and the governor craft bipartisan solutions to ensure that development occurs in appropriate locations, significant natural resources are protected, and developers pay the costs associated with new development. Remind elected leaders that it is much harder for businesses to relocate to Florida when each of more than 470 local governments has its own rules regarding growth. Share with them that Florida paves over rural lands and destroys the source of much of the state's drinking water, businesses won't want to move here. Likewise, clogged roads, crowded schools and rivers polluted with runoff from development will not lure business and their workers to this state.
Florida is at a critical juncture. There is no doubt that this state's quality of life and environment suffered serious setbacks during the 2011 session. It will not be easy to turn the tide but it can be done, as it was in 1985.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Something's Afoot!

The Tampa Tribune editorial today blasts Scott for:
  1. Gutting Florida's growth management laws,
  2. Cutting funding for environmental lands purchases (Florida Forever),
  3. Torpedoing land preservation efforts at the local level,
  4. Being behind disbanding SWFWMD's basin boards,
  5. Being dismissive of the state's natural resources,
  6. Having a more insidious agenda that could include gutting the local sources first law,
  7. May be getting ready to foster another run at creating a statewide water utility so water can be transferred  from the haves of north Florida to the to the have-nots of Miami Beach.
Read it for yourself at:
All I can say at this point is, hitch up your britches and get a good grip on your backside because we're in for rough ride.  There’s just too much smoke billowing from the governor's office not to have some real fire somewhere.
You may be thinking how difficult these times are and, indeed, maybe harsh remedies are in order.  To which I would offer, yes, doubtlessly, BUT, saying we need to risk destroying Florida's future in order to create a better climate for business is idiocy.  It's that Wall Street mentality, get the returns now and screw what the state's future will hold. 
The axing of 30 years of carefully crafted environmental protection and growth management laws is incredibly short sighted and will prove to be disastrous for the state.  Frankly, I fail to see how any of it relates to creating jobs.  There were plenty of jobs through the decades that these laws were in effect, weren’t there?  They didn’t cause the Great Recession, did they?  Clearly, dismantling them isn't going to end it.  Good grief, where's the logic?
Maybe The Trib is right.  Something bad just may be afoot … and it doesn't smell like a bed of roses to me.  How about you?
Got those britches hitched?

Note to Governing Board Member Todd Pressman

Note to Governing Board member Todd Pressman who cast the lone vote against the resolution disbanding SWFWMD’s Basin Boards.

Thank you for your lone vote against the now infamous Resolution 11-10, Todd.  As you know, I believe it was a mistake to disband SWFWMD’s basin boards and unceremoniously fire the board members who were appointed by the governor. 

To hopefully help the governing board get through what I believe will be a growing point of contention for the you and the governor, the board should develop a strategy to reverse the problem and direct staff to pursue it vigorously with the full assistance and participation of all board members. 

If the problem is truly the governor’s refusal to appoint basin board members, for example, the strategy could be to act affirmatively to fix that problem instead of simply listening to staff and rolling over with much wringing of the hands.

Board members can call the governor’s office as concerned individuals, send a delegation of governing and basin board members to see the governor (invite the press), call their politically-connected friends, visit editorial boards of the St. Pete Times, the Trib., Citrus Chronicle, Sarasota Herald Tribune, etc., etc.  Further, out of respect for our tough economic times, when you go to see the governor, don’t fly, drive, and vow not to charge the district travel costs.

Afraid this will stir the ire of the governor?  Don’t worry.  I would hope the goodwill that would result in his favor after he “gets it” would take care of that.  If he doesn’t see the political value of having over 40 of his own appointees who reside in dozens of communities throughout a district the size of Vermont who would be ready stand up for him when he needs it, he probably won’t be re-elected anyway, and from recent polls this should be a matter of concern for him.

The view that the administration of the basin boards is an unworthy waste of time and money is the purest of bureaucratic thinking that reflects judgment as poor as I’ve seen in a while.  These are the eyes and ears of the district that provide it a direct link to the communities it serves.  No other water management district has this extraordinary benefit.  Getting rid of them and thinking staff can replace the goodwill these unpaid volunteers bring to the district as tax-paying members of dozens of communities while being gubernatorial appointees is ludicrous. 

Think about the millions the district pays for “education” and “community relations” and the half million spent for administration of eight basin boards becomes miniscule.  The district pays these folks nothing yet they’re a hundred times more effective.  The staff attitude, if it exists, that having to deal with these people is bothersome and unnecessary is unwise in the extreme. 

Basin board members should be nurtured and educated about their importance to the proper functioning (and control) of a very powerful and important government agency, not discarded. 

Thank you again for your wise vote.  Please help change this situation to something positive.

Best regards,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Scott Declares: “I Think That We Ought to Have Local Control of Things.”

Last Friday night the good governor flew down to Marathon in the Florida Keys.  Saturday morning he rose to have breakfast with a reporter from The Keynoter.  You can see the original article about the interview HERE. 
So What? 
The conversation went to what’s important to the folks there.  One of the topics was about the fact that a large portion of the Florida Keys had been designated an Area of Critical State Concern.  (Suffice it to say such a designation means development that trips certain thresholds there must receive a state level review and approval.)
“…oversight of development in the Keys … should be handled locally rather than through Tallahassee,” he waxed eloquently.
"I believe in local government.... It's closer to the people," he said, reflecting the wisdom that comes with spending a few months Tallahassee.
And here’s the kicker:
“... local citizens are going to rise up and make sure the right things happen," he declared, with irrefutable authority.
And, finally, with the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson, staring, unblinking, with remarkable high eyebrows into the wide, white eyes of the startled reporter, he said, without moving his lips, "I just don't believe we ought to be running these things at the state level. I think that we ought to have local control of things. Each community needs to decide what they want to do in their community."
That’s what!
Now place these statements in context with the disbanding of eight basin boards and the dismissal of over 40 board members executed a week ago with the precision of an MK-9 Reaper Drone by the SWFWMD Governing Board, and apparently with about the same amount of prior warning.
With this kind of philosophical guidance coming directly from lips of the Supreme One, how is it that one of his own personal Governing Boards could make such a colossal blunder?  Destroying the integrity of eight sub-taxing districts locally controlled by local, unpaid citizens from the area where the taxes will be collected for purposes they designate!
Actually, and seriously, as more and more folks share with me in good faith what they believe happened, I’m learning that there were a number of participants, including pawns, who brought about this very serious breach of a hallowed republican (make that, American) concept, that government should be carefully held closest to the people that will be most affected by it.
At the Governing Board’s next meeting, I’m told, it will discuss how to proceed from here.  I’ll try to bring you what I learn as I learn it.  Meanwhile, you should find out when that meeting is and plan to be there.
Before you leave here, though, I would err not to mention that the governor proudly and with some fanfare, I imagine, signed HB 7207 the day just before going to Marathon.  You know, the bill that essentially dismantles the Department of Community Affairs and will render any area designated an Area of Critical State Concern meaningless … along with over 30 years of carefully constructed growth management laws.
Perplexed by the governor’s position on growth management, the Keynoter asked, “… how that would play out in a case such as one from 2008 on Stock Island, where a 300-room hotel was proposed. Monroe County commissioners voted on the plan just minutes after being handed revisions to the proposal by a lawyer for the developers, then ultimately rejected it due to opposition from DCA, as well as from the U.S. Navy.”
It was then that he responded, “I think that's what the expectation is, that local citizens are going to rise up and make sure the right things happen …"
Looks like Bwana Scott is saying he thinks we should do just that.
Let’s do.