Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blake Guillory Named New Exec. Dir. at SWFWMD

Blake Guillory

Blake Guillory has been named the new executive director of SWFWMD following the recent resignation of Dave Moore.  The water management district’s governing board named him to lead the once-powerful agency late Monday afternoon.
According to the website Linkedin, Guillory is presently Vice President, Florida Manager, at Brown and Caldwell where he has worked since 2007.
Before that he was Vice President, Water Resources Division Manager at PBS&J (recently sold to Adkins) from November 1998 – November 2007.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lots of Folks Need Jobs; Look Here

A friend sends this note and a link advertising an opening for a Planner III in Osceola County.  I'll others as received below:

We all know plenty of fabulous people who are unemployed or otherwise
looking for work.  Osceola County has a Planner III position posted on
our website...the position will be a team leader for an incredibly
talented team of young planners in our Long Range Planning Studio.
Please spread the word.
I am happy to announce that I have a
position open in the Lake Management Program of Orange County. The
position is for a Sr. Environmental Specialist and I have included a
short description of the position below. Please pass the word if you
know anyone.

This is the link to the online application website that the county

Any questions please give me a call or shoot me an email.

Thank you,
Ronald Novy
Environmental Program Supervisor
Orange County Environmental Protection Division
Lake Management Section
800 Mercy Drive, Suite 4
Orlando, FL 32803
office: (407) 836-1409
Fax: (407) 836-1499

To anyone interested and “looking” you might want to check these out.  Let me know under “comments” how it goes.  As always, you can remain anonymous here.
If you know of other openings that might help someone recently released from a water management district let me know.  If I get enough interest from those looking for positions and folks who know of openings, I’ll create a separate job announcement page.  Will do what I can to link the two.
Best of luck!

Monday, August 29, 2011

More turmoil at St. Johns River WMD

Kirby Green, Executive Director of the St. Johns River Water Management District for the last decade, announced today he is moving up his retirement date from early next year to October 1 of this year.  See his announcement below.

So, now you have a brand new director at SFWMD.  Director Dave Moore has resigned from Southwest.  His replacement is to be named soon.  Now Kirby Green bails early from St. Johns, forced out by a couple of developer-friendly board members, according to the Orlando Sentinel.  And hundreds of WMD staffers have been shown the door.
Heads are shaking.  Not that it’s surprising with CEO Scott wielding the sling blade.  It’s just that no one has any idea what all the R and R’s (removal and replacements) will bring.  There has to be some rational reason for all this planned mayhem or else it’s the biggest, dumbest, potentially the most calamitous management maneuver this state has ever seen.  And it's the state that will suffer.  How can this be labeled improvement?
Purposeful chaos?  To what end, governor?
August 29, 2011

Kirby Green

In July, I announced my retirement, with the plan that I would lead the District through the fiscal challenges facing us into the new budget year beginning Oct. 1. We have had to make many extremely difficult decisions during the past several months as we right-size the agency and ensure that we are properly aligned with the direction and focus of the Governor and Legislature. Since we have successfully completed the tasks to set the proper course for the agency into the next fiscal year, I feel that the time for my retirement has arrived. My last day with the District will be Oct. 3, and I want to take this opportunity to tell you how proud I am to have served as the District’s executive director for the past 10 years.
The District has accomplished much in restoring the region’s water resources, establishing dependable water supply projects and strategies, and managing the thousands of acres of land that have been entrusted in our care. Each District employee has been integral to the agency’s success, and I am proud of the work that they have done and continue to do for the residents of our District and the water resources that we all depend on.
There is still much work to be done, and I leave confident and comfortable that, with the experience and expertise of the District’s staff, our work will be carried forward and the agency will continue to provide the water resource protections that are so critical to our environment.
I appreciate the District staff’s hard work and dedication, and the public’s support and commitment to our water resources, and I look forward to hearing about the agency’s future successes.
Kirby B. Green III

ST Petersburg Times Hammers CEO-Scott for Jeopardizing Florida’s Drinking Water

In a hard hitting editorial published Saturday, August 27, the St. Petersburg Times declared that CEO-governor Scott is threatening Florida’s drinking water and says, for Scott, that’s reason to celebrate!
And, the Times claims, after scrapping purchases of environmentally sensitive lands and “rubber-stamping permits for agricultural and industrial water hogs” the governor is just getting started.
Apparently, the new CEO-Secretary of DEP held a news conference to boast how he was dismantling the water management districts by bringing about a $700 million reduction in the districts’ total budgets but after some vague references to “getting back to core mission” and questioning from reporters about the damage being done to the districts’ ability to function, he cut off the questions.
Seems that public relations ploy about getting the districts back to “core mission” is beginning to irritate brother Vinyard, the new Tallahassee CEO of water management in Florida.
Seems it can’t be defined. 
Seems when one talks about core mission all that can really be identified are all the responsibilities given to the districts by Florida law. 
Seems that thinking the districts were not doing their “core mission” reflects a vast ignorance of how water resource management has developed in Florida over the last 40 years. 
Seems that the incessant referrals to “core mission” is really a cover for reducing the districts to ineffectual state puppet organizations that now no longer need governing boards. 
Seems the real objective is to get the districts’ funding capacities into the hands of the Tallahassee-ites and out of the hands of the incompetent and untrustworthy locals.
The Times correctly points out,
Scott … ignores the reason behind the so-called mission creep; it's been the state over the years that has delegated many new responsibilities to the water management districts, not empire building as the governor suggests.
According to the Times, the ability of the districts to carry out their most important responsibilities will be permanently damaged by the CEO-governor’s machete.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District, which covers the Tampa Bay area and is commonly known as Swiftmud, would cut its budget for land purchases, restoration and major projects by 67 percent. In northwest Florida, the water management district would cover most of next year's budget with cash reserves. South Florida's water management agency would suffer the biggest hit, $519 million. That has forced more than 100 layoffs and a downgrade in the district's credit rating. The district said it has no plans to borrow, given the governor's pay-as-you-go directive. So much for buying additional land for Everglades restoration in the near future.
Want a water use permit in south Florida?  Apparently the new core mission of the districts is to give them away.  Here’s how the Times put it,
The South Florida district already plans to reassess its science and research commitments in the coming year while exploring "opportunities for additional regulatory streamlining" and "further operational efficiencies." See where this is going? Vinyard said the cuts would deliver "regulatory certainty." Translation: water consumption permits on demand.
The Times wraps up its piece by saying,
Water management districts serve an essential role in maintaining the state's ability to provide drinking water, protect against floods and attract tourism and growth. Under the pretense of saving money and cutting regulation to help the economy, the governor is starving them to death.
A sad commentary on what the future portends for the state of Florida, but well said, St. Petersburg Times.  Thanks for saying what needs to be said.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Citrus County Chronicle: We’re Worried About SWFWMD

The Citrus County Chronicle gets it. 
CEO-governor Scott’s endless calling for the district to “get back to its core mission”, frankly, means only that he wants the district to do less.  He just doesn’t seem to grasp that the district’s mission is whatever the legislature tells it to do and the district has been told to do a lot.
Maybe the CEO-Gov should check with the legislature to see just which of the responsibilities they’ve delegated to SWFWMD they might now want to be dropped.
The Chronicle is correctly worried that all the recent slicing and dicing is going to curtail the district’s ability to do what remains important: environmental protection, as well as, health, safety and welfare of the public.
And with the deep-sixing of the basin boards, who’s going be in control of where Citrus County’s local water tax dollars are going to be spent?  With the larger counties of the Tampa Bay area having the most representation on the governing board, it’s more than pretty obvious.  The counties around Tampa Bay are.
Privatizing water?  Is that now in the wind?
 Here’s the editorial.

Enfeebling of water board concerning
Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 12:00 am (Updated: August 27, 12:08 am)
THE ISSUE: Water management district.
OUR OPINION: Agency losing effectiveness.
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature’s move to cut the Southwest Florida Water Management District funding and promise to shift the agency’s core mission is troubling.
We understand voters sent a clear message last election that they want taxes cut and government spending curbed. However, the amount being cut from the budget of the water management district, commonly known as Swiftmud, will effectively curtail the agency’s effectiveness and lead us dangerously close to a centralization of power.
Swiftmud has had its problems, but it has accomplished a great deal of good. An example is the upcoming Three Sisters Springs storm-water project that is being paid out of Swiftmud’s budget.
The loss of local control and input regarding vital water projects with the legislative changes is very disconcerting. The basin boards have been eliminated and now all requests will be handled by the larger governing board. Smaller counties like Citrus will not have equal representation on the larger governing board, which means whatever available funds there are will go to the larger counties.
Gov. Scott sees privatization as an answer to many government woes and, while that makes sense in many areas, it appears quite likely he intends to push water governance in that direction, where water becomes a commodity vs. a resource.
By their very nature private enterprises are, first and foremost, concerned with the bottom line. While the success of businesses and their ability to function without unnecessary government intrusion are critical factors in a free-enterprise society, matters related to health, safety and welfare — to include water resources — are best left to government. Otherwise, profits get more attention than what’s best for the broader community.
We lament the loss of local control over our water projects and are concerned about the future of Swiftmud and the future of our environment.

Here’s the link to the original Citrus County Chronicle editorial:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Scott's Disingenuous Letter of 8.24.11 to SWFWMD

CEO-Governor Rick Scott
In a letter dated August 24, 2011, CEO-Governor Scott lavishly praises SWFWMD for how it has reduced its budget $122.1 million and for doing some really good things over the years. 
He says, “I appreciate” the district’s cooperation in helping find ways to slash its budget.
He says, “I also applaud the district’s forward thinking in meeting the region’s water supply needs into the future.” 
He says he likes “the way the district’s partnerships ensure that people, property, and the environment remain protected without the wasteful payment of debt service.” 
He says, “Your work to sustain your cooperative funding program is laudable and public-private partnerships like FARMS program help to protect our water resources by making the district cooperator, rather than an adversary.”
He says he likes the way “Your financial engine has allowed you and your partners to construct vital infrastructure like surface water reservoirs and seawater desalination plants that have been instrumental in supporting the growth of your region over the last decade.  Without the means of increasing the quantity of reliable and affordable water resources, your region and the state as a whole would face an uncertain future.”
So what’s wrong with this picture?  Sounds like the district has done a great job over the years, right?
What’s wrong with it is that the real purpose of the letter is to reform the district, and its sister districts via similar letters, into state agencies.  He wants control to reside not in appointed boards comprised of local citizens but in himself, as the CEO, Committee of one, Chief Poobah in charge.
What’s wrong with it is that it is just more of his now-apparent policy of employing disingenuous Tallahassee-speak while doing deeds that are not in the best interest of Florida’s future. 
The questions a lot of folks are beginning to ask are, where is this guy really taking our state?  Does he know what he is doing?  Are these wanton acts of reduction really going to result in more efficient flood control, environmental protection, water quality and water supply? Is he kidding? Can he really believe people are to do as he says and ignore the inevitable inconsistencies of what he himself is doing?
Double-speak is the name of the game.  After he says he really likes the district’s forward thinking in meeting the region’s future water supply needs and not going into debt, he chastises it for using a pay as you go approach which any business person knows requires a cash reserve to meet contractual commitments.  By building cash reserves, “your well intended efforts can lead to mistrust and a lack of confidence from taxpayers,” he says.  This, from a guy who’s only claim to fame is being the CEO of a company that was fined over a billion dollars for defrauding the federal government out of billions of dollars while on his watch!  B-I-L-L-I-O-N-S!!
He admonishes the district saying, “… it is imperative that your actions, as well as your intentions, are well known by all your constituents.”  This, from a guy whose transition emails somehow got “erased, ” This, from a guy whose former chief of staff said she doesn’t use email because Florida’s Sunshine Laws require they be made available to the public?  This, from a guy who seems dumbfounded by the difference between transparency and opacity?  Excuse me?
What have we Republicans done to ourselves and our state by supporting this guy for governor?  What are we going to do further by continuing to support him?
The letter is pretty reprehensible in its disingenuousness.  It is actually a masterpiece of base political lip service designed to hide the real message which is, despite the good you WMD’s have done you are too efficient and too effective and so I’m going to transform you into a state agency so I can control what you do and make you like my state agencies.  And like I did to SWFWMD’s basin boards, maybe I’ll get the opportunity to get rid of you governing board members, as well.
I’ll say it another way for you Republicans who are not yet listening.  The letter’s real purpose is to reduce the role of the governing boards of the state’s five water management districts to nil, transfer all control of their considerable funding capacities to Tallahassee, and create a scenario that will make the districts nothing more than subsets of an existing state puppet agency (DEP) directly under the control of the CEO-governor.
How republican is it to move government further from control by the people?  How A-m-e-r-i-c-a-n is it to move government further from control by the people?  How un-American is it to remove control from the people  so control of the people can be gained?
Thus, CEO Scott’s apparent purpose is to wrest away water resource management from the locals who have done an exemplary job and place it in the hands of uninformed, ill-experienced, politically ambitious minions who haven’t a clue what they’re playing with and who think they are smarter than forty years of lawmakers, governors and some really ingenious others who put the present system in place.
The question beginning to form in my mind is, what in the world does he have against water management districts?  Why the focus on reducing their ability to do all the important work they do with no apparent reason other than to be able to say he can put the price of a pizza at Sam’s Club back into taxpayer’s pockets?  Surely that can’t be the only reason.
He mouths the environmental mantra knowing all the while he is removing the district’s ability to do what he says they need to continue doing. 
And there’s that getting back to the water managements “core mission” thing again.  Becoming more efficient is a quest we all need to assure the districts follow but what I’m hearing is not what he’s doing.  He says the districts need to get back to flood control, water supply, environmental protection and water quality (as if they had gotten away from these statute-mandated responsibilities)  at the same time he’s removing their ability to do so.  It’s nuts.
And does he realize he is dancing dangerously close to a constitutional prohibition against the state levying an ad valorem tax?  Such control of property taxes out of Tallahassee was an anathema to the founders of our state constitution.  Only local governments will have that authority, it says.  CEO-Scott is ignoring not only American doctrine but Florida’s constitution as well.  Do I smell another lawsuit on Florida’s hot summer breezes?
You can read his press release and his letters to the other four districts here:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Real Reasons Behind the Cuts for Water Agencies

The following article was published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune yesterday.  (Here’s the link to the original article:
It’s noteworthy because Reporter Zac Anderson touches upon reasons why regulatory agencies are coming under attack, not because taxes need to be reduced in order to create significantly more jobs but because regulated industries are using a weak economy as a ruse to give them free reign to harvest Florida’s natural bounty for their own profit.
Jobs and strengthened businesses are important but not at the risk of destroying the essence and future of natural Florida.  Enlightened concern and smart environmental protection over the last forty years has kept Florida from being reduced to a polluted, dredged and filled, nest-fouled mess where no one would want to live.
See the originally published article in its entirety by following the above link.  Here’s what Anderson wrote:

Big cuts, smaller projects ahead for water agencies
Published: Saturday, August 20, 2011 at 9:45 p.m.
The biggest shake-up in state water policy in decades is unfolding this summer as the agencies that supervise everything from drinking water supplies for 19 million Floridians to flood control and environmental restoration undergo unprecedented budget cuts.
The $210 million cut will result in less environmental monitoring, the elimination of conservation land purchases and fewer drinking water projects like the new $128 million water treatment plant and reservoir along the Peace River that supplies Sarasota County and the surrounding region, according to preliminary budget proposals approved this month.
Critics say politicians and businesses hostile to the water management districts' regulatory and environmental policies are using the lagging economy as an excuse to roll back the agencies' power.
State lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott pitched the cuts as tax relief and an effort to rein in agencies that have seen significant budget growth.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District alone -- which governs 16 counties in the Tampa Bay region through Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte -- is slashing $119 million in annual spending.
The 44 percent budget reduction is the largest of any water district in the state.
Lawmakers accuse the water districts of growing fat on property tax money during the real estate boom -- amassing large reserves and bloated staffing.
In Southwest Florida, the district's annual service budget nearly doubled between 2002 and 2008, peaking at $390 million and 897 employees.
The proposed 2012 budget is back to 1999 levels: $161 million and 796 employees.
State leaders ordered the largest cuts to district programs considered inflated or nonessential, including land acquisition, regulatory staff and community outreach.
The owner of a $150,000 house will save $13 a year in reduced property taxes in Sarasota and Manatee Counties and $17 in Charlotte County.
"This property tax cut allows families and businesses to use more of their hard-earned money in the way they see best, rather than having to send it to a government agency," Scott said in a recent statement.
Critics say the cuts are short-sighted.
"Thirteen dollars is a pizza from Sam's Club; it's relatively meaningless for the individual. But when you add it all up it's of huge importance to the future of this state," said former Southwest water district executive director Sonny Vergara.
The cuts affect every district program, including $33 million less for drinking water development in Southwest Florida, $14 million less for water quality efforts and $6 million less for flood protection.
But some programs are being hit harder than others.
Too much land?
Florida had the most aggressive land conservation program in the country prior to the economic downturn.
Water district leaders managed the purchases with an eye toward protecting sensitive water bodies.
Since 1991, the Southwest district has spent $114 million on 73,000 acres of land in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte Counties.
The money went to purchase property along Charlotte Harbor, the Myakka River, Peace River, Tampa Bay, Shell Creek and the Little Manatee River.
A recent order by the Department of Environmental Protection spelled out the new policy: "No new land purchases."
The DEP memo distributed to water district leaders by Scott's administration instructed that: "Prioritizing our spending requires us to take a much harder look at whether the dollars we spend are congruent with the core mission of the districts."
"We have to go back to the basics," water district board member Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County home builder, said during a recent meeting in arguing that flood control and developing drinking water supplies should take precedence over land conservation.
Local governments that were hoping to partner with the water district on conservation purchases are re-evaluating their plans, including proposals in Manatee County to buy land along the Manatee River and Braden River.
Pulling back too much on land acquisition and environmental restoration is a mistake, said Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton.
The real estate lull has taken the pressure off developing drinking water supplies. Money could be diverted to conservation and fixing impaired water bodies without raising taxes.
Such projects improve water quality, a core mission of the district, Thaxton said.
One local example is Cow Pen Slough east of Venice, which was dredged and channelized years ago to drain agricultural land, destroying wetlands and flooding Dona Bay downstream with too much fresh water.
Sarasota County recently secured $1.8 million from the water district to restore the wetlands but the money was eliminated because of the budget crunch.
Lobbying by county leaders restored the funds, but similar grants will be in short supply going forward.
Thaxton compared environmental restoration to paying off debts.
"We spent 20 years behind the eight ball," Thaxton said. "Now we have some extra money in the account and we should use this opportunity to wipe out our debt and make sure we don't go back into debt when demand returns."
Also included in the DEP memo was a directive to cut the water district's regulatory staff, which is responsible for permitting drinking water supplies and impacts to wetlands.
"Taxpayers and the regulated community become frustrated when government grows in size and scope," Scott's administration wrote.
Such language has environmental advocates calling the water district cuts a backdoor deregulation strategy that will allow allow harmful development practices to flourish.
In the Tampa Bay area alone, the Southwest Florida Water Management District spent more than $300 million in recent years on alternative drinking water methods such as desalination and a new reservoir, Vergara said.
The spending was necessary because regulators allowed excessive groundwater pumping, depressurizing the aquifer and leading to an epidemic of sinkholes, dying wetlands and salt water intrusion.
With deregulation, Vergara fears developers will again take too much groundwater.
Nearly 20 percent of the district's environment resource permitting staff is being cut this year.
Some of the cuts are understandable because permit applications have dropped, Vergara said. But developers have long put pressure on the district to loosen standards.
"You have people who have been regulated for years and years, who really dislike being regulated, and they're taking this opportunity to cut the districts' knees out," he said.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

SWFWMD Sheds Staff At Scott's Direction

Similar to what’s happening at other water management districts, CEO-Governor Rick Scott has ordered from the methane-thinned air of T-Town that SWFWMD shall shed employees.  This unpleasant task fell to Interim Director, Bill Bilenky, who developed a plan in the absence of Dave Moore who resigned from the ED seat recently. 
It’s never easy to tell folks they're on the chopping block so the plan allows them a few alternatives that would theoretically ease the pain of being told to leave during one of the worst recessions in this country's history.
The plan seems reasonable, but when you’ve given years of your life to something you believe in only to have it cast you off like a snake shedding so much dead skin, no plan is going to make you feel real good.
So here’s how to get rid of folks you used to say were doing a great job.  This is the memo from Interim Director Bilenky to his "interim" staff probably with much sadness and misgivings about the impact it will have on those who most certainly are friends:
August 9, 2011
A Message From the Interim Executive Director
As you may know, the District had a plan in place to reduce its staffing levels through attrition to reach a goal of 770 employees (combined FTEs and contractual staff) by October 1, 2012. However, the District has been directed to achieve its goals by the end of this fiscal year. To meet this new deadline, a staff reduction of approximately 30 positions will have to be accomplished by that time.
At its August 2 meeting, the Governing Board approved the staff’s proposed Separation Incentive Program. While no plan for a reduction in workforce is “fair,” staff believes the plan that has been devised is the best approach for the District and the majority of District staff.
District management, in conjunction with HRD, will review and re-prioritize positions and employees based on a number of factors including such considerations as:
·        the specific needs of each department,
·        how critical each position is to the District’s/Department’s business processes,
·        how efficient and effective incumbent employees are within those positions; and,
·        employee work and performance histories.
The District will offer a Separation Incentive Program in lieu of separation through a Reduction-In-Force to approximately 30-40 employees. Under the Separation Incentive Program, employees will agree to resign effective October 3, 2011, and will remain in the District’s employ until then. In return for their resignation and Waiver of Claims/Release, participating employees will receive:
·        six weeks of pay (in addition to their usual salary or wages through October 3),
·        health insurance benefits through the end of the calendar year,
·        accrued annual and sick leave payout in accordance with the provisions of Personnel Guideline 009, Attendance and Leave.
·        Employees may elect to take the six weeks additional pay in the form of an increase in their bi-weekly pay checks or payments into their 457 deferred compensation plan, or some of each.
·        Participating employees will be ineligible for rehire for 12 calendar months.
Employees declining to participate will be separated in the Reduction-In-Force in accordance with the District’s normal separation procedures. Those discharges will be effective September 14 – 16, 2011. Management is not expecting to have to make any additional reductions at this time.
These are difficult decisions to make and we will make information available to you as soon as possible regarding this issue. Individuals who will be offered the Separation Incentive will be notified no later than the end of August. In the meantime, should you have any questions, please direct them to your manager or Department director, or to HRD.
Bill Bilenky
Interim Executive Director

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Orlando Sentinel: "St. Johns water-district layoffs driven by developers, environmentalists say"

In an article by reporter Kevin Spear published 8.15.11, in the Orlando Sentinel, he writes,

"Mass layoffs at the state agency most responsible for protecting Central Florida's waters and wetlands were ordered by Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers as a break for taxpayers, but the forced departures of key regulators appear to be driven by backlash from the development industry."

Read the complete article at:
St. Johns water-district layoffs driven by developers, environmentalists say

By Kevin Spear, Orlando Sentinel
10:33 PM EDT, August 15, 2011
Mass layoffs at the state agency most responsible for protecting Central Florida's waters and wetlands were ordered by Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers as a break for taxpayers, but the forced departures of key regulators appear to be driven by backlash from the development industry.

At the St. Johns River Water Management District, a development consultant on the agency's citizen board of directors asked last week that all senior staff members resign because the district has gotten a "black eye" for the way it treats those who apply for permits to consume large quantities of water or destroy wetlands.

"The senior, senior people have set the direction in the wrong path," Maryam Ghyabi, president of Ghyabi & Associates Inc., said during last Tuesday's board meeting. "I've been getting a lot of complaints about our agency."

The next day, three high-ranking managers charged with enforcing water and wetlands protections were asked to leave the 18-county agency, which takes in most of Central Florida. Their departures are not yet final. or 407-420-5062

DEP Names New Water Policy Directors

The following media release was published yesterday (8.16.11) by DEP naming the folks who will head Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration, and State Water Policy development and implementation for the state.
These are folks you'll want to keep on your radar.  From coordinating consistent water regulation and development policies among the five very different water management districts to restoration of the Everglades, they've got their work cut out. 
The major issue will be: to what extent will Florida's future quality of life be sacrificed?  Perhaps it won't.  Perhaps Florida's exceptional natural systems that set it apart from all others and which collectively are the draw that keep the state's growth engine running will not be sacrificed for short term profits and short minded job generation.
Reading what they're supposed to be doing, however, sounds an awful lot like what the districts have been directed to do by legislatures and governors over the last 40 years.  What will be new is how they will propose to manage in some new and mysterious way the perfectly appropriate tension between protection of the state's invaluable natural assets and the perennial pursuit of economic sustainability. 
Even though these two players could be the salvation of Florida from the slashing and burning of the water management districts and the methodical diminution of their ability to carry out historic statutory responsibilities, I'm not encouraged.  The word is out.  Florida is up for sale to the highest bidder. 
And there's that "core mission" nonsense again.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Too Sweet a Deal at St. Johns

Ron Littlepage writes a blog which is affiliated with the Jacksonville Times Union.  He noted on July 26 that the departure of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s General Counsel, Kathryn Mennella, and the remarkably quiet hire of the son of a former mayor of Jacksonville to replace her smells a little too sweet. 
Hans G. Tanzler, III

Rancid might be a better word. 

Hans G. Tanzler, III resigned from the St. Johns governing board the same day he got the $165,000 job.  (Decent of him, huh?)

Here’s what blogger Ron Littlepage had to say about it:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Core Mission? Really?

It's been a long time since I've voluntarily sat through three straight hours of a governing board meeting at SWFWMD as I did last Thursday.  In most respects, not much has changed.  The staff still struggles to get a lay board of directors to understand the why, how, when, how much and complexity of managing water in this state.  This is a normal but formidable task, not made any easier by covert motivations that are inconsistent with the original reasons the districts were created.  And that's what has changed.  The motivations of some board members seem to be focused less upon guiding the agency toward carrying out its statutory duties and more upon reducing its budget and all that it's doing regardless of the fact that its responsibilities are directed by Florida law.
The stated objective of the governor and his Tallahassee minions is to return the districts to their "core" mission, but it is clear the intent is actually to reduce tax levies and consequently what it is they do. 

The thing about getting the districts back to their “core” responsibilities at first caused me to smile when I first heard it.  Anyone in the business knows that defining such a thing will not be a simple task if even possible.  If there ever was a core mission for the districts, it has long been morphed, transformed, distorted, twisted, obscured, strengthened, widened, narrowed, removed, replaced, obfuscated and expanded to the point that any serious attempt to define it would require a detailed legal review of legislation over the last 40 years and a two-day conference of lawyer-filled panel discussions down in Marco.