Saturday, December 24, 2011

You CAN make a difference. Here's your chance.

In a matter of a few days last spring, the Florida Legislature, lead by a pack of aggressive, high-paid lobbyists intent on taking advantage of a very inexperienced and misguided new governor and a vindictive legislature, changed Florida’s future from one of responsible growth management and environmental preservation to one where its future is now for sale to the richest PAC.

Great Egret
Orange County, Florida
Vergara Photo Art

Land use and environmental protection laws were too onerous and too obstructive for businesses to make a profit, the developers said, so let there be no constraints because we need jobs now.  Doesn’t matter that the businesses that flourish now will contribute to the decline of a world famous style of living in a state with warm sun, clean water and a healthy and inviting natural ecology of wildlife, forests, wetlands and vast open waters.  “Not our problem,” seems to be the mantra.  “Kick the can down the road.”  “Let somebody else fix the problems.  We need jobs now!”

Simple desirable concepts that were tossed aside included making sure fly-by-night developers could not create sprawl just anywhere and leave local taxpayers to pay the inevitable costs for the roads, security, education, water and sewer services that would be needed.  Also, local governments were left with little or no effective way to assure large projects that have multi-county impacts could be coordinated between them.  The statute that provided the means to assure the decisions of one county will not have unacceptable impacts on the next was eviscerated.  Rules that were designed to prevent the construction of a community of hundreds or thousands of roof tops without an adequate road system or new schools to serve newly arriving school children were rendered ineffective or repealed.
These are decisions best left to local government, the legislature said, and then cynically left them without any effective way to do it on their own.
Water management districts which, over the last 30 years, had become the state’s first line of defense against rampant destruction of its unique natural systems, despoliation of its world-class springs, rivers and lakes, and stalwart proponents for assuring there will be ample public supplies for the future, were ruthlessly attacked.  Revenues were shut off and thousands of years of institutional knowledge held by some of the most respected water scientists in the world were put on the street.
Common sense growth-management and environmental conservation laws for one of the country’s fastest growing states were unwisely repealed or purposely reduced to ineffectiveness all under the guise of needing jobs.
With this as backdrop, a group of former political, agency and community leaders from both parties, most in or near retirement, but all with the same feelings of shock and concern over what had happened, came together last month and declared such ill-advised actions that so jeopardize the state’s future cannot be allowed to continue lest the damage require generations of recovery, if it will be able to recover at all.
Thus, the Florida Conservation Coalition was born.  Lead by former Florida Governor and United States Senator, Bob Graham, its first priorities would be focused on Florida’s delicate state of water:
  • Restoring reasonable funding for Florida’s regional water management districts to provide for water quality protection, adequate water supplies, flood protection, and natural resources protection.
  • Funding Florida Forever including acquiring land for water resource protection.
  • Reaffirming Florida’s commitment to restore the Everglades, upon which South Florida’s water supply and quality of life depends.
  • Managing Florida’s water resources at the regional, not state level.
  • Ensuring that growth management laws and policies support sustainable use of water.
  • Promoting efficient use and conservation of water.
  • Opposing efforts to privatize Florida’s water.
The Florida Conservation Coalition’s website can be found HERE (

Yesterday (12-23-11), the FCC published a letter by Senator Graham. 
It is an important letter offered here with the FCC’s permission.
Fellow conservationists and friends,

Bob Graham
Former Governor of Florida and United States Senator
 Conservation and other organizations and hundreds of dedicated citizens of all walks of life from throughout Florida  have joined together to voice their concerns about the way the State’s environment and natural resources are being mistreated.  In 2011 the Governor and Legislature placed our state’s natural heritage in jeopardy.  The Florida Conservation Coalition with your help is dedicated to stopping and reversing this ill-conceived and reckless trend.

The issues that face us are described in the attached Coalition position papers.  In order to focus our efforts for the forthcoming year, we have placed heavy emphasis on water.  I encourage you to read these papers to get a better sense of the situation facing Florida.  Go to .

To summarize, Florida’s nationally acclaimed growth management program was abolished, and the most notable conservation land acquisition program in the Country was not funded.  Important environmental laws were drastically weakened and citizens’ ability to appeal environmental permits was all but eliminated.  The Legislature took over control of the regional water management districts budgets and reduced them to dangerously lower levels.  The Governor supported these legislative actions.

Our immediate job is to convince the Legislature that it went too far and must correct and reverse its misguided actions of 2011.  One of the most effective ways of influencing the Legislature is by one-on-one personal contact with individual legislators in their home territory.  While the conservation organizations will be doing their best at convincing legislators in Tallahassee, so will an army of scores of privately paid lobbyists who do not share our points of view and will be working in the opposite direction.

If you are acquainted with a legislator(s), go visit him or her; develop a friendly relationship if you don’t already have one.   The best place for the visit is likely to be in his or her district office either before the legislative session starts on January 10, or during the weekend in early January when the legislator has returned home.  In Tallahassee, circumstances are frequently hectic and the legislator’s time and attention are constrained.
Great Blue Heron
Crystal River, Florida
Vergara Photo Art

You may wish to show the legislator the Florida Conservation Coalition’s position papers.  The  Coalition is particularly interested in knowing the legislator’s attitude toward our concerns (opposed, non-committal, supportive); is the legislator willing to consider revisions to some of the changes made in 2011, and if so which changes?; did the legislator have questions or requests for further information, and if so, what were they?  Also, please secure the name of the legislative aide.

Report back the results of your meeting. If you use Facebook, we have a special place on our Facebook page where you can report on your efforts.  If you do not use Facebook, please report to the Florida Conservation Coalition via email:

I do not believe that letters are nearly as effective as personal contact, but if you cannot visit, please do write or email.  On request we can provide you with legislator contact information.

As an alternative, if you know someone who shares our concerns and has a personal or political relationship with a legislator, please provide us with his or her name and contact information, and we will follow up.

While every legislator is important and needs attention, some need extra attention.  Attached is a list of some of the key legislators (following this letter) who merit special attention.

In three short months of 2011, the Governor and Legislature set Florida’s once proud conservation laws and programs back four decades.  In so doing they have handed us a very heavy lift.  But what choices do we have?   We surrender, or we fight back.

I am privileged to be to working with you, the members of the Florida Conservation Coalition - people who love and care for the natural treasures of Our State.

Best wishes to you, your family and our blessed Florida for the Holiday Season and the New Year,

Bob Graham     


Don Gaetz (R), Next President, Niceville/Destin, Dist.# 850-897-5747, Tallah # 850-487-5009,  Budget and rules committees;  District address: 3400 Legendary Dr. Suite 230, Destin

Jack Latvala (R, St. Pete, Dist. # 727-3600, Tallah # 850-487-5075, Budget and Env. Preservation and Conserv. Committees; District address: 12425 28th St. N., Suite 102, St. Petersburg 

John Thrasher (R), Jacksonville, Dist. # 904-727-3600, Tallah # 850-487-5368, Budget committee, Rules) committee (chair); District address: 9485 Regency Sq. Blvd., Jacksonville

J. D. Alexander (R), Lake Wales, Dist. # 863-679-4851, Tallah # 850-487-5044, Budget committee (chair),  Rules committee (vice chair); District address: 201 Central Ave. W, City Hall Complex, Rm. 115, Lake Wales

Thad Altman (R), Melbourne, Dist # 321-752-3138, Tallah # 850-487-5053; District address: 6767 N. Wickham Rd., Suite 211, Melbourne

Charles "Charlie" Dean (R), Inverness, Dist. # 352- 860-5175 (Inverness), 352-873-6513 (Ocala), Tallah # 850-487-5017, Env. Pres. and Conserv. Committee (chair); District address: 405 Tompkin St., Inverness

Andy Gardiner (R), Orlando, Majority leader, Dist. # 407-428-5800, Tallah # 850-487-5047, Budget and Rules committees; District address: 1013 E. Michigan St., Orlando

Nan Rich (D), Minority leader, Sunrise, Dist. # 954-747-7933, Tallah # 850-487-5103, Budget and Env. Pres. and Conserv. Committees; District address: 777 Sawgrass Corporate Pkwy., Sunrise 


Dean Cannon (R), Speaker, Winter Park, Dist. # 407-623-5740, Tallah # 850-488-2742; District address: 1992 Mizell Ave., Winter Park

Will Weatherford (R), Next Speaker, Wesley Chapel, Dist. # 813-558-5115; 28963 SR-54, Suite A, Wesley Chapel

Steve Crisafulli (R), Merritt Is., Dist. # 321-449-5111, Tallah # 850-488-4669. Ag. and N.R. S/C (chair) and Ag. and N.R Approp S/C (chair); District address: 2460 N. Courtenay Pkwy., Suite 108, Merritt Island

Gayle Harrell (R), Port St. Lucie, Dist. # 772-398-2786, Tallah # 850-488-8749, Approp. s/c;  District address: 2212 SE Veterans Memorial Pkwy., Port St. Lucie

Trudi Williams (R), Ft. Myers, Dist. # 239-433-6775, Tallah # 850-488-2047. Select Committee on Water Policy (chair) and Ag. and N.R. Approp s/c (chair); District address: 12811 Kenwood Lane, Suite 212, Ft. Myers

Ray Pilon (R), Sarasota, Dist. # 941-955-8077, Tallah # 850-488-7754, Sel. Comm. on Water Policy,  Ag. and N.R. s/c, Ag. and NR Approp. s/c; District address: 1600 Ringling Blvd., Suite 310-311, Sarasota

Dana Young (R), Tampa, Dist. # 813-835-2270, Tallah. # 950-488-2770; District address: 2909 W. Bay to Bay Blvd., Suite 202, Tampa

Debbie Mayfield (R), Vero Bch. Dist. # 772-778-5077, Tallah # 850-488-0952; District address: 1053 20th Place, Vero Beach

Franklin Sands (D), Sunrise, Dist. # 954-44-6800, Tallah # 850-488-0590, Sel. Comm. on Water Policy, Ag.and N.R. Comm., Approp. Comm.; District address: 777 Sawgrass Corporate Pkwy, Sunrise

Ron Saunders (D) Minority leader, Key West,  Dist. # 305-853-1947, Tallah # 950-488-9965. Appropriations committee; District address: Suite A – 90311 Overseas Hwy., Tavernier

Steve Perman (D), Boca Raton, Dist. # 561-470-6596, Tallah @ 850-488-5588, Sel. Comm. on Water Policy, Ag. and N.R s/c, Ag. and N.R Approp. s/c; District address: The Shoppes at Boca Greens, 19635 S. SR-7, Unite 43, Boca Raton

Denise Grimsley (R), Sebring, Dist. # 863-675-5267, Tallah # 850-488-3457, Approp. Comm. (Chair), Joint Legis. Budget Comm. (Chair); District address: 205 S. Commerce Ave., Suite B, Sebring

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