Sunday, November 27, 2011

What's Going on Here? Stroke or Epiphany?

CEO-governor Rick Scott
 Either Rick Scott is seeing the writing on the wall or I’m having a stroke.  He sent a letter to the Tampa Tribune today (11.27.11) declaring that he now understands how the health of Florida’s economy and that of its fragile ecology are “inextricably linked.”

While I think the odds greatly favor the latter, just maybe the State CEO has had some sort of epiphany.  Or could it be that, just maybe, he’s realizing that the environment has a constituency that’s not limited to just liberals and democrats (bless their hearts) and a lot of folks are beginning to get a lot more than just nervous about his ill-advised ways.

Or maybe he’s the one who’s had the stroke.

The letter was obviously written either by someone who knows what the state really needs and the governor agrees with it, or it was written by someone who knows what the state really needs and the governor signed it anyway.

Such words out of Tallahassee, especially from an administration that to date has shown nothing but arrogance and disdain for protecting the state’s fragile natural environment and providing for reasonable management of its growth, are hard to believe.  The proof, of course, will be in what happens next.  Will the state’s environmental protections developed over decades by members of both parties be enhanced or weakened?  Will the state’s economy flourish accordingly?  Or, will we find ourselves led far down a primrose lane only to learn that it’s too late to turn around the egregious consequences of a terrible experiment gone wrong?

Lad Daniels

The letter was orchestrated with another letter released by the new chair of the St. Johns River Water Management District, Lad Daniels.  The timing and the message of the two letters are more than obvious.  It’d be a fair bet that this is the beginning of a concerted effort to turn around Scott’s pitiful poll ratings.  Just more politics.

But, hey. If it means the ol boy has seen the light, good for him and good for the state.  If nothing else, it gives folks like me a standard he’ll now have to meet.  He’s set a bar for himself and it’s a high one.  We can only wonder, though, in light of his previous cluelessness about environmental issues if he truly understands the extent of the commitment.

Here are some his statements quoted from the letter:

·       As governor, I understand a healthy economy is dependent upon a healthy environment.
·       A stable regulatory environment does not mean lower environmental standards. It means that environmental policy will be governed by sound science, not politics or one-size-fits-all solutions.
·       At the same time, willful violations of our environmental standards will not be tolerated. We will be just as vigilant about prosecuting bad actors as we are about helping businesses comply with the law.
·       The state of Florida should maintain its rights to protect our environment, and it should be done at a reasonable cost to taxpayers. We are a national leader in addressing pollution in our state's water bodies and have the most extensive monitoring and assessment program in the country. We know more about our water bodies than any federal agency or other state and are in a unique position to craft a solution that recognizes and respects the needs of our diverse landscape. We will continue to work cooperatively with our federal partners as we develop a state-led effort to restore and protect our rivers, lakes and streams.
·       Florida is committed to moving forward on important restoration projects like improving water quality in the Everglades.
·       Over the last five decades the state has acquired more than 4.2 million acres, including some of Florida's most critical conservation properties. However, now is the time to evaluate our inventory and ask ourselves if we have the right land in the right places.
·       Our state's natural resources are unparalleled. It's why people choose to live here, vacation here and bring their businesses here. In Florida, we don't have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. The two are inextricably linked, and as governor, I am working to ensure our resources are dedicated to the improvement of both.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  Be not beguiled into rapture, however, because there were also hints of further potential mischief in the letter:

·       That's why protecting our natural resources through a stable regulatory environment is key to ensuring businesses are successful and future generations will be able to enjoy all that our state has to offer.

What’s a stable regulatory environment?  Anyone want to venture a thought?

·       It also means that more of our dollars will be directed toward projects that actually benefit the environment instead of government bureaucracy, excessive salaries and benefits, and costly litigation.

Sounds good until he realizes that the engineers and scientists needed to achieve his goal of continued effective protection and preservation of Florida’s natural systems will have to be paid at a fair market rate.  Has he checked the salaries of community college presidents, airport managers, sea port managers, expressway authority managers, city managers recently?  And it isn’t exactly clear how “ …more of our dollars will be directed toward projects …” when he and Senate Budget Czar Alexander have eviscerated the budgets of the districts.  Makes no sense.

·       It means that our permit processes will be the same for Tampa residents and businesses as they are for those in Pensacola, Jacksonville or Key West, but also take into account our state's regional differences.

This has been a goal of DEP and the WMD’s for years.  Good luck, Governor.   The danger will be in creating a one-size-fits-all mandate that doesn’t, and the result will be the failure of the state’s regulatory system to reach the goals it is intended to reach, which, in turn, will lead to a disaster for the state’s future, environmentally and economically.

·       As we do with other state agencies, we will expect accountability budgeting from our water management districts, which means justifying every dollar we spend and bringing spending in line with revenues.

He still doesn’t understand that WMD’s are not state agencies and cannot be considered such by him or the legislature lest they risk causing the districts loss of their constitutionally-granted ad valorem taxing authority.  This is a bogeyman that’s going to bite him squarely you-know-where and only his and J. D. Alexander’s arrogance will be to blame.

Here’s the thing.  Words are easy currency for the politician.  It’s easy to say what people want to hear.  I – and, I suspect, you – sincerely want to hear and believe that all is going to be okay in Florida.  That its complex and fragile natural systems along with its economy will flourish under the guidance and wisdom of an enlightened leader in a position of major authority.

If However one can promise 700,000 jobs over and over again in order to get elected, proffering the conclusion that the state’s unemployment levels and thus its economy will improve, only to claim later that such a conclusion must be the result of delirium or unsavory political trickery of the liberal press, then why should we believe that we are now about to enter wonderland?

Rick Scott has been a resident in Florida only since 1997.  His whole professional life has been buying and selling hospitals, and shutting them down.  He was the CEO of a corporation that was fined over 2 billion for defrauding the United States Government.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

On March 19, 1997, investigators from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services served search warrants at Columbia/HCA facilities in El Paso and on dozens of doctors with suspected ties to the company.[20]

Following the raids, the Columbia/HCA board of directors forced Scott to resign as Chairman and CEO.[21] He was paid $9.88 million in a settlement. He also left owning 10 million shares of stock worth over $350 million.[22][23][24]

In 1999, Columbia/HCA changed its name back to HCA, Inc.

In settlements reached in 2000 and 2002, Columbia/HCA plead guilty to 14 felonies and agreed to a $600+ million fine in the largest fraud settlement in US history. Columbia/HCA admitted systematically overcharging the government by claiming marketing costs as reimbursable, by striking illegal deals with home care agencies, and by filing false data about use of hospital space. They also admitted fraudulently billing Medicare and other health programs by inflating the seriousness of diagnoses and to giving doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. They filed false cost reports, fraudulently billing Medicare for home health care workers, and paid kickbacks in the sale of home health agencies and to doctors to refer patients. In addition, they gave doctors "loans" never intending to be repaid, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.[4][5][6][7][8]

In late 2002, HCA agreed to pay the U.S. government $631 million, plus interest, and pay $17.5 million to state Medicaid agencies, in addition to $250 million paid up to that point to resolve outstanding Medicare expense claims.[25] In all, civil law suits cost HCA more than $2 billion to settle, by far the largest fraud settlement in US history.[26]

So, his letter sounds hopeful.  So what?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some things for which I am grateful …

I am grateful for all the lessons my mother taught me and for that part of me she represents in both flesh and spirit.  Years after she passed, I still marvel at the things she said, the things she believed and the things she did.  She had only an eighth-grade education and was married at 14 to the only husband she would ever have, but she knew innately how to care for her children and provide them more than just food and shelter as she weathered the trials and missteps of growing up with them.  I know each and every day what she meant to me, what she taught me and, most gloriously, how many times she forgave me even before I did the things I did that required it.
I am so very grateful for what I have: my wonderful wife, my wonderful children, my two wonderful sisters, a strong roof over my head, a warm bed at night and enough to eat when I am hungry.
I am grateful for my friends who seem to be more important to me, yet fewer and fewer, as I grow older.  Maybe the criteria for becoming one are just getting narrower as life teaches how rarely true friends happen by in the first place.   
I have learned that the value of one friend is not the same as that of another. It is as unique as the individuals they are.  I value one friend because there is absolute trust between us.  It is more than comforting to know with a virtual certainty that betrayal will never happen between us, no matter what.  I value another because of his willingness to share his wisdom with others in a way he knows it is needed, gently and with great respect.  It is redeeming for me to see such graciousness in another human in a world where it is so rare.  I value many others because we have shared experiences and share a common understanding of a unique time others cannot know because they were not there.  It is a quiet bond that needs no acknowledgement.   I have yet to meet all who were there, but if I do, they, too, will be my friend and I am grateful for that.
I am grateful for my health.  I am aware of those younger than me who were not so fortunate and whose lives have been cut short, in many cases painfully so.  Some were very dear friends.
I am grateful for my dogs Bo and Mickey who are now buried in the warm sand next to the muscadines.  They gave me absolute, unfailing, unquestioned loyalty and I am a better person for it.
I am grateful for our cats Weenie, Tiger and Orangie who humble me with their arrogance, sleep an incredible number hours each day and give my wife great satisfaction just having them around to hold and pamper.
I am grateful for all the pain we humans will have to endure if we are to become better stewards of this unique place we call earth.  It is only through such pain that we will have any chance of learning how to survive our own inhumanity to ourselves.
I am grateful for my life and all those who have drifted through it, some staying longer than others, for each left a mark the total of which is who I am. 
I am incredibly lucky and I am grateful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Unsolicited Thoughts – Governing Board Meeting – 10-25-11

Went online and watched the SWFWMD governing board meeting of October 25, 2011 this morning. 
I know, you’re thinking - doesn’t this guy have a life?
(I’m asking myself the same question.)
Haven’t done it often, though.  In fact, I can count on one hand the times, online or in person, that I’ve sat through a meeting since I retired in ‘03.  Well, maybe two hands.  Mostly because it triggers feelings I can do without.  This morning was not much different except this time I took notes with the intent of sharing some thoughts.
Before you ask, so who’s asking for my thoughts, I’ll admit, no one.  But I’m finding that when I share them, they seem to strike a chord.  I can only hope that anyone who does read what I write will agree enough to help change what’s wrong and support what appears to be right.  So with no expectations one way or the other and for what it may be worth …
WMD cutbacks too deep?
Irony of ironies, there is early feedback from the legislature (staff to staff, back channel) that maybe the cuts to some of the districts’ budgets were too deep.  Why? Because it’s becoming apparent that the districts might not be able to fund their share of projects co-funded with local governments.
Guess where the concern is coming from?  The Florida Senate. 
Guess who’s the budget czar of the Senate who’d be the one to know if funding cuts were too deep since he helped create them?  J. D. Alexander. 
Guess what project he would be most concerned about the district not being able to fund?  The $150,000,000 Polk County water supply project listed in the district water supply plan.
Guess who supported the dismantling of the basin boards?  J. D Alexander and the SWFWMD governing board.
Guess how that helps the Polk County project?  The governing board took control of the basin board taxing authority allowing it another $300,000,000 of funding capacity at the district board level, rather than by the individual basin boards which would have been controlled at the basin level.  This will now allow the governing board to use basin property taxes to help fund the Polk County water project.
Look for J. D. to support an increase to SWFWMD’s legislated budget limits.
What’s all this about EPA and Numerical Nutrient Criteria?
Want a clear, concise explanation of what the fuss is all about? Then, you might take a look at that part of the board meeting tape where Veronica Craw, district scientist, gives the board a briefing on the issue and its significance to Florida’s agricultural and environmental communities.  She did an outstanding job setting out the bases for the dispute and the positions of the interested parties, especially the state’s.
It’s extremely difficult to reduce a very complex subject to a lay board which may have to become involved at some point and must understand the issue thoroughly if they do.  If board members aren’t grasping the issues now, they will be able to with only a few more lessons from Ms. Craw.
Good things are happening in the Southern Water Use Caution Area
District staffer, Jill Hood, reported to the board that groundwater elevations are showing improvement south of Tampa Bay after years of uncertainty.  Very good news.  This, despite the associated new demand of 500,000 new residents in the area where per capita water use has dropped from 135 to 105 gallons per day.
The improvement to the groundwater was mostly attributed to the shifting of the phosphate and citrus industries further south and changes by those industries in how they use and reuse water now vs. ten to twenty years ago. 
Another very enlightening presentation of a difficult topic by an articulate and obviously very capable district scientist.
What was not mentioned was anything about how these “job-killing regulations” are not strangling the life-blood out of businesses as our CEO-governor wants us to believe simply because he so blindly believes it. 
What was not said was how these kinds of regulations are the guardians of this state’s economic future because without them there would be less water available by orders of magnitude to meet today’s and tomorrow’s growth demands in the region.
What was not mentioned is that there needs to be great care about which regulations will be found unneeded by the arbitrary mandate the governor has issued (to review all rules and regulations of the state for possible repeal) and CEO sec Herschel Vinyard’s subsequent unblinking pursuit.  Between the two of them, they’re in a position to do wholesale damage to the many critical protections such rules provide our quality of life and thus wholesale damage to the future of this state, if they act without thinking.  And so far, there’s been a lot of action without, it seems, a whole lot of thinking.
Governing board saved by banished basin board from Strange and Bradshaw redux
Like a fever that appears every time there’re new and innocent minds to infect, Chester Bradshaw assumed the podium and acted like it was a new issue. 
(Chester’s delivery has improved.  He sounded almost believable.)
He complained about staff. He complained about the district. He asked for relief.  Something about some very low land next to Lake Tsala Apopka in Citrus County, a levy or road, and what the district is doing or won’t do about some related problem for Charley Strange, the landowner.
He presented a letter, said it was from the county commission and implied it corroborated his concerns.
Unfortunately, one of the board members actually read the letter and realized it was not what Chester was implying.
Inexplicably, they began to discuss the problem anyway, asked the staff to explain details and seemed puzzled about it all until board member Neil Combe said he thought he remembered something.
That’s when the staff explained it had been an issue Chester Bradshaw and Charley Strange had been proffering to the district and basin board for years.  It had been investigated beyond thoroughly and studied ad nauseam by the basin board until members decided it was not a matter that merited further district interest or concern.  There is only so much staff time and energy the board can invest in a matter from a private citizen that is not within the purview of their public responsibility.
It occurred to me that this is what the governing board has to look forward to without the help of its basin boards.  Hours and hours of circular discussion that will go on and on and which will be repeated over and over while, like it or not, they should be focused on much larger issues for which they won’t have the time.
This is what CEO Scott and the new governing board members don’t get.  Government is not efficient in these situations.  People will demand consideration and their opportunity to be heard even when everyone knows the agency either can’t or won’t fix their problem at the public’s expense because it isn’t legal or appropriate.  The board will nevertheless be compelled to spend hours talking about it in order to give the appearance that they are an interested government  when in fact doing so is simply inappropriate and inefficient.
This is where the basin boards’ real value would come in.  They were local.  They knew details.  They would listen. They would bear the brunt of the responsibility to take action when it was merited.  Take one basin board’s time committed to local input and multiply that by eight to get an incling of how much time this requires. The governing board better get a hotel room and plan on staying awhile.   I recommend a Holiday Inn Express.
Another example of this was when the district ripped out the Wysong Dam from the Withlacoochee River over the objections of the local citizenry because, according to the staff at the time, it served no beneficial purpose.  It caused such anger and ill-will it spurred the creation of an organization that would call itself “Too Far” because that’s where they felt the district went without input from local residents.
The locals believed fervently that it truly did serve a valuable purpose.  They accosted the district for years until the basin board at last said, okay, it’s your taxes, you want it, we’ll put it back.  And the basin board did.  Al Coogler was the ex officio chair of the basin board at the time.  Local folks were so appreciative they got the basin board to name the new structure the Coogler-Wysong Dam. 
Chalk up another job done well by the Withlacoochee Basin Board and all the local citizens who refused to give up … that the governing board didn’t have to deal with.
Remove the District regional service office from Bartow?
Blake Guillory reported that the district’s service office is in need of repair.  The bid price for fixing it came in at a cost greater than the combined appraised values of the property and building thus creating the dilemma: repair it and create an investment that would be more than the value of the end result, or find an alternative.
This triggered concern in the Bartow area that the district might consider just shutting down the district’s presence in Polk County all together and operating out of its Tampa office or Brooksville headquarters.
The tape clearly reflects Guillory stating there is no intent to shut down the Bartow office but they will need to find a more economically sensible approach to the problem.
A later communication directly from him confirmed this.
Rest easy J. D.
Core Mission … or whatever, again
That pesky concept that is presumed to describe what Florida water management is all about, according to slogan-meister Herschel Vinyard (who also wants “to get the water right”), just keeps coming up.  No one can quite figure out what he means though.  Even a collection of the presumed most brainy legal brains of the water world said recently at a Marco Island conference sponsored by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, that it basically means whatever one wants it to mean as long it’s statutorily authorized.
Chairman Senft wisely noted how core mission is defined at SWFWMD may not be the same at, say, SJRWMD or SFWMD because things are, well, different there.
Déjà vu?  Imagine that.
After all the feed lot dust clears, I predict they will come to the same place the districts were long before CEO Scott’s reign in terms of their different identities and operations.  They will, nevertheless, feverishly rejoice how they have achieved a splendid job of redefining water management in Florida, saved millions of dollars and reduced government, when all they really will have done is what could have been done anyway with a lot less pain and turmoil simply by reducing the scope of each of the district’s respective operations to reflect a recession of historic proportions and just freeze hiring.  Let normal attrition reduce staff and operational activity.  It would have worked, but I guess it wouldn't have had the same political impact for one's political ambitions, would it? 

Later, Board member Doug Tharp cautioned they needed to be careful because if they aren’t, they’ll be identifying more things the district needs to be doing instead of less.  Imagine that.
Thus, the governing board feels the need to have a workshop to work on what they want core mission to mean.
Stay tuned.  No telling what will come out of that.  Flood Protection, Water Supply, Water Quality and Environmental Protection maybe?
Can you imagine any of this?  Maybe Alice can, down a rabbit hole. It's bizarre.
Restructuring the district, or; how to reduce the staff sensitively
This, in the final analysis, is where the new reality of water management is being brought home, literally, to hundreds of good, really outstanding people from all five of the districts.
However, as sad and uncomfortable as it is, a sound reason why it should not be done will be hard to find. 
There are many emotional things all of us want to say to those snagged by the net - that it is wrong, that it is cold hearted, that there ought to be another way. We want them to feel our empathy, the pain we share, and how much we want it not to be happening.
But the hard, stark, irrefutable reality is that without question the districts needed to reduce the scope of their operations to reflect a severely stalled global economy that has impacted everyone.
This is not to say the way the districts’ new management teams are doing this is in the wisest or most sensitive way, but, at least at SWFWMD, their hearts seem to be in the right place even if their heads aren’t at times.
The proof of their wisdom and their true motivations will be in how effectively they will continue to be able to carry out their core missions, once they figure out what those are, and have done all the “restructuring” they will do. 

Notably, after being criticized for slashing blindly without truly knowing what the consequences will be, it is being heard that the good the districts have done and can continue to do will not be abandoned.  SWFWMD board chair Paul Senft said it succinctly, “We must guarantee the district’s historic level of service will be maintained and the district’s core missions continued.”
The legacy that will be left for our children by this period of destruction upon the water management districts, as it has been termed, must not be a beautiful and natural Florida permanently scarred or destroyed.  It must, on the other hand, be a renewed appreciation for the fact that Florida’s unique natural beauty is as intertwined with its economic well being as water is with air.  Only with one, can there be the other.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Governing board gives nod to Leaner SWFWMD; but will it be effective?

This media release by SWFWMD is several weeks old and much that it contains has been reported by the media.  Nevertheless, for the wonks who would rather the see the “word” unfiltered from the gelding’s mouth but haven’t yet stumbled across it on the district’s web page, here it is in full ... for what it’s worth. 
The hidden message here is that it's Tallahassee calling the shots.  No longer is the governing board in control of the district or its budget.  When the winds blow out of T-town, the tree bends at SWFWMD and the other four districts.  The question is, how long before they break and become just so much useless detritus at the feet of a misguided and misinformed governor who doesn't understand it's the trees that make the forest and the forest is Florida.  (You can find the original release HERE)   

October 25, 2011
The Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board today directed its executive director to move forward with organizational restructuring that will increase efficiencies, reduce operational costs and meet the District’s Core Mission responsibilities in the areas of water supply, flood protection, water quality and natural systems. The plan includes staffing reductions and potential layoffs in the future.
“As an organization, we have to get leaner and more efficient,” said new Executive Director Blake Guillory. “The more quickly we can get right-sized for our budget and workload, the faster we can move forward, secure in our jobs, to meet the water resource challenges of this District.”
The District’s current budget is 44 percent less than last year. Thanks to its pay-as-you-go philosophy, the District has reserves available to help balance the budget now. However, if it maintains the current level of funding for cooperative funding and ecosystem restoration projects, the District will face a $30 million per year budget shortfall by October 2013.
“We either have to reduce our costs significantly or reduce our cooperative funding and ecosystem restoration efforts in the future,” Guillory said.
The proposed restructuring addresses many of the issues raised in a recent Workload and Staffing Analysis of the District completed by North Highland consulting firm. The analysis identified the potential to increase the District’s efficiency and reduce costs by restructuring the organization and improving its technology, processes and procedures.
The executive leadership team has spent the last three weeks reviewing each Division and Program to identify opportunities to combine programs for efficiency and effectiveness. The restructuring is expected to save the District more than $15 million per year.
Part of the plan includes realigning staff based on the types of work they do to increase efficiency and reduce duplication. For example, the creation of the Operations, Maintenance & Construction Division pulled together all the field operations, maintenance and construction of the District under one Division. One proposal is to move water quality and other data collection and monitoring programs into the Operations, Maintenance & Construction Division. This change could open up cross-training opportunities. For example, field maintenance staff may be able to assist in sampling activities. The District is also reviewing the appropriate level of sampling that is needed.
The District is also looking at the possibilities of creating new or redefined Bureaus in the future that will focus on specialty areas with growing needs. As an example, the District is considering creating a Natural Systems and Environmental Restoration Bureau in the Resource Management Division to address the growing water quality issues.
Reduction In Force
The District currently has 768 employees. The restructuring plan would reduce staff by 130–150 positions of which approximately 40 are funded vacant positions or contractual positions whose work is winding down. District staff will be offered a voluntary separation plan that will be available for 45 days. If the voluntary efforts don’t produce the necessary reductions, the District will have involuntary layoffs in January or February to meet its goals.
“We are blessed with smart and talented people. Unfortunately, we are caught in a situation driven by economic conditions,” Guillory said. “We need to be as thoughtful and helpful as we can during this process while also serving the taxpayers of our area.”

Destruction of Responsible Growth Management Not Over

Bruce Richie, a writer for theCurrent , an online news publisher, reported that a group of growth management law panelists who met in Tallahassee yesterday (11.9.11)  are saying the destruction by the legislature of Florida’s growth management laws isn’t over.
It wasn’t enough that some five months ago legislators passed a law our CEO-governor Scott signed which, according to Tom Pelham, former department of community affairs secretary, “… included changing the definition and test in state rules for urban sprawl, eliminating need as a requirement for new development and making transportation concurrency optional for local governments under strict guidelines.”
This is the same legislation that the state’s benevolent CEO who, when he signed the bill into law, labeled DCA (Department of Community Affairs) a “job killer.”
This panel, chaired by Tom Pelham, was asked what happens next with land-use management in Florida?  The prognosis is not good.  Here are selected quotes from the article:
David Theriaque, a Tallahassee lawyer who represents cities and residents challenging growth decisions, said the poor economy was a "ruse" used to push through growth law changes that favor developers.
If local governments interfere with development interests, "how many people will bet that we will have a bill in the next session that also mandates how local governments handle those issues?" Theriaque said.
But developers eventually may want changes in how sector plans, developments of regional impact, transportation concurrency and impact fees are dealt with by local governments. She (Nancy Lennan, a Tallahassee lawyer who represents developers and cities) said there is disagreement among large developers and home-builders on how to approach issues.
Pelham said the growth bill passed this past session represents a Legislature that is "vehemently anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-planning," he said. 
"They don't like it [planning] when it is done by anybody," Pelham said. "They want to tell local governments how to do it."
"So I agree with David Theriaque about the ruse that it is all about local control. This legislation itself places handcuffs on local government in numerous ways.
"I agree with Nancy they will be back. And they will be back to keep tying the hands of local government."
He (Charles Pattison, executive director, 1000 Friends of Florida) also said resident involvement should be improved, especially in light of a 1st District Court of Appeal ruling that order(ed) his group must pay attorney fees for Martin County and a developer. And he said the important regional state resources that require state protection have yet to be defined along with the "adverse impacts" that the state must work to prevent.
"We will continue to work with the new law," Pattison said. "But I think it will be difficult to motivate the public to mount challenges in particular with the expectation they could be successful in the end and avoid [paying] attorneys fees."
(Find the entire article HERE.)
There’s a growing number of folks who have always believed that the destruction and weakening of many of the much needed laws instituted over the last 40 years to guide the growth of this state in a responsible manner is being accomplished using a weakened economy as the excuse, a ruse. 
The inmates are taking over the crazy house.  Terra Nova’s front gate is down and it’s getting dark.  The rats are in the seed bin. The special interests and their cadre of lobbyists and “transition team” plants have infiltrated the palace guard and the house is in danger.  Sound the alarm!
BUT … Maybe there’s hope if we can survive the next three years.  theCurrent  also reported this morning that:
Despite a concentrated push to rebrand his image, Gov. Rick Scott's attempt to change his low approval ratings may have stalled, according to a new poll.
Fifty percent of Florida voters disapprove of the way Scott is doing his job as governor, a poll released by Quinnipiac University shows.

Just 36 percent of the people responding to the poll said they approved of Scott’s performance and 14 percent said they didn’t know.
This is virtually unchanged from a previous Quinnipiac poll released back in September. Back then Scott had a 37 percent favorable rating.
(Find the entire article HERE)
Will someone please start talking to Adam Putnam about a run in 2014?
We need help real bad.

If know a Marine, you can wish him or her a Happy Birthday today, November 10.  The United States Marine Corps is 236 years old.

Semper Fidelis

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Water Management Districts: Scott Drains Protections

The following editorial was published in the Lakeland Ledger this morning (11.2.11).  Here's the link to the original article:
Water Management Districts: Scott Drains Protections
Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 12:01 a.m.
After seeing their budgets cut by more than $700 million collectively this year, Florida's five water management districts are embarking upon a new era of smaller budgets, reduced staffs and fewer resources. At the same time, water managers are being asked to embrace a new, more "customer friendly" culture in which developers and big utilities are seen not as adversaries but as "partners."
By the way, they also are expected to continue to oversee the state's diminishing-and-deteriorating water supply and resources as well or better than ever. A tall order, for sure.
Whether that is possible or not, the districts' downsizings are just the latest less-government, less-regulatory initiative of Gov. Rick Scott.
Polk County is served by two water-management districts, Southwest Florida, known as Swiftmud, and South Florida. The South Florida Water Management District cut its budget by 47 percent, from $1.09 billion to $571 million, and cut its staff by more than 270. Swiftmud cut its budget 44 percent, from $280 million to $160 million, and cut its staff by 135.
Often seen as imperious, bloated and bureaucratic — especially to big developers, big polluters and big utilities — the water districts were prime targets for Scott's now-infamous budget ax. However, what the governor has done goes far beyond belt-tightening.
Scott and his administration have also done away with local basin boards, frozen purchases of sensitive watersheds, killed the Florida Forever land preservation program, caused the dismissal of dozens of scientists working on the critical Everglades restoration and ordered all "major" decisions to be sent to Tallahassee for approval. Districts also were ordered to drain their reserves to a bare minimum, and slash employee benefits and top-echelon salaries.
Today, look for a portion of the aquifer that has a higher level than a generation ago. Look for a community that is not worried about where its water will come from a generation from now.
Cutting budgets and making the permitting process easier for monied interests no doubt plays well to Scott's core constituencies.
What he should concentrate on is meaningful policies that will truly protect our water supply, develop new sources of water and help clean up the more than half of Florida's waterways that are polluted.