Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tallahassee - Bought and Sold (business as usual)

If you don’t think the Florida Legislature is being bought and sold, you’re na├»ve.  If you think it’s okay how they take money in exchange for favors, you’re part of the problem (and probably a Republican).  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, heaven help us.  This state and country is in big trouble.
Here’s a graphic and nauseating example.
Small, so-called craft beer makers, microbreweries, are now allowed to sell their beer in half-gallon sized containers and in quart-sized or smaller containers.  Recently, they decided they needed to also sell beer in gallon-sized containers like the big boys do because of its popularity.  A reasonable business strategy - responding to the needs and wants of their market.
To do so, however, the law would have to be changed.  So they went to T-Town, of course, expecting it to be a simple and positive thing to ask of their esteemed elected leaders.  It would help the small guys grow their businesses and the craft beer industry in general.
Enter some cagey, less than ethical, competition-hating, opportunists of the dark side of “free” capitalism, the beer distributors.  With fists full of green they ask their “friend” and president of the senate, Don Gaetz, to help.  The outrageousness of what he agreed to do is exceeded only by his actually doing it.  Simply put, it flies squarely in the face of acceptable ethics, honest free enterprise and the thoroughly American spirit of a competitive, open and free market place.
President of the senate, Gaetz, eager to help his friends, sponsored Senate Bill 1714, that would force the microbrewers to first sell their product to the distributors and, after they mark it up, buy it back from them regardless of whether or not they actually distribute the product!
Sound crazy?  It’s a true.  Google it.  You’ll find the legislators supporting this idiocy are those who have received heavy political contributions from the distributors.  It is nothing short of bald-faced bribery and if you’re not outraged, you need to move to some other place where such activity is considered part of the culture, because it's not here … yet.
Thank goodness there are some house members like Representative Dana Young (R-Tampa, House Majority Whip) who are calling this what it is, “punitive” and “absurd.”  
She asks, “Why would the Senate want to do this? It goes against every free market, small business principle we have?” 
We’ll see what happens.
Meanwhile, it leaves you with something  ofa deficit of warm and fuzzies about the ethics of our elected reps in T-Town and those governing our lives, doesn’t it?
Now, here’s my point in telling you about this.  Carry the thought to the topic of water and the state’s dependence upon an adequate flow of unpolluted, salt-free, and affordable quantities for its future.  Without it, we are in very deep trouble.  People living here now and in the future; tourists who want to visit us; current and future businesses large and small from every sector of our economy; and, fundamentally, a healthy and beautiful natural environment that makes Florida such a uniquely attractive place to live, work, and have a bit of fun; all, must have and continue to have, adequate clean, fresh water to thrive.
I’m confident you cannot rationally disagree with that last statement.  Thus, I urge you place this base display of failed governance regarding microbreweries in context with what’s happening to the Senate’s Springs Protection bill, Senate Bill 1576, sponsored by Senators Simpson, Dean and others.  It is in serious trouble.  What began as a rational and thoughtful approach to an aggravated problem that is growing worse by the day, is being systematically pricked apart and weakened.  If we want to know by whom, the situation of the microbreweries is instructive.  Just follow the money.
It would be my guess that big agriculture, mining companies, power companies, oil companies and land developers of all descriptions are tossing big green at those who will openly or covertly oppose this bill, Senate Bill 1576.  Include, if you will, a review of House members who fit this wrap, especially House Speaker, Will Weatherford.
The fate of this much needed legislation is unfolding in Tallahassee even as I write this.  The Bill is scheduled to be considered for further amendments by the Senate Appropriations Committee sometime between 9 until 6 today, amendments that will render its purpose either meaningful to the future of the state or just another destroyed opportunity for the legislature to do something good for Florida and its people rather than the ever-writhing and slithering moneyed special interests.
If you care, do something.  Call and/or email your Tallahassee representatives and the Governor today … now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Brian Armstrong - New SWFWMD Assistant ED

Sources who wish to stay anonymous are saying Brian Armstrong has been offered and has accepted the position of Assistant Executive Director at the Southwest Florida Water Management District.  Good luck Brian.  Hope you can return the organization to operating on the basis of science instead of the politics of Rick Scott and the sale of Florida to the highest bidders.

A note of concern.  Remember when the DEP Tampa Office minions of Herschel Vinyard and Jeff Littlejohn herded all employees of that office into a hastily called meeting and told them they were to remove all their personal belongings to their cars and take them home because the next day some of them would be fired?  Horrible way to treat a dedicated staff, yes?  Brian was a newly appointed assistant to the executioner, Mary Yeargan when that happened.  Question is, what role did he play  and what part of that experience will he bring back to his former employer and its already demoralized staff at SWFWMD?  Time will tell, Brian.