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.
(Find the original editorial here: http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/article1188202.ece)