Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Special Interests win again and Florida’s Springs lose … again

It’s frustrating and I’m angry.  All of us who care about our state and what’s left of its wondrous natural beauty are feeling like we’ve been bitten by a rattlesnake, and the slithering deliverers of the venom are the selfish interests of those who freely exploit natural Florida for profit without regard for its future.
You know how unique the state’s springs are.  There have been hundreds of thousands of words and photos describing them, hundreds of editorials lamenting what’s happening to them, and thousands of people shouting for Tallahassee to take urgent and effective action to stop their pending demise if nothing’s done very soon.  And yet … nothing.
Once again, we find ourselves at the end of a legislative session that started with promise only to end with thinly hidden obfuscation and deceit.  The actual events that took place resulting in the failure of the valiant bill, SB 1576, that would have been critically beneficial to the Springs will eventually be revealed, I guess.  But until then, we are left only with quickly dissipating smoke trails of the perpetrators and having to watch with disgust the spins of those most probably responsible already claiming it was the right thing to do.
So, who are we talking about? Apart from the legislative lemmings in the House lead by chief puppeteer, Will Weatherford (son-in-law of the right wing powerbroker and former House Speaker, Allan Bense, who put him there), there are the special interests.  If you want to know the real why and how of anything happening in Tallahassee, as everybody knows, just follow the money … and the money comes from special interests.
In this case, the money to fund the army of lobbyists that crawled from the cracks to defeat the bill came, not surprisingly, from business and agriculture, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Yes, the Florida Chamber was openly involved in lobbying the House not to spend even one minute of committee time to consider the bill after it was passed unanimously out of every Senate committee and even the full Senate.  
So who is the Florida Chamber?  You can tap HERE to see a complete list of its Board members or, here’s a list of some that may surprise you and whom you’ll quickly recognize: Florida Power and Light (Eric Silagy), Beall’s, Inc. ( Steve M. Knopik), Tampa Port Authority (Paul Anderson), Broward College (J. David Armstrong, Jr.), GAC Contractors (Allan G. Bense), Gulf Power Company (Stan W. Connally, Jr.), Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (Anthony J. Connelly), Waste Management of Florida (Charles Dees), Regions Bank (Don DeFosset), A Duda and Sons (Tracy Duda Chapman), Auto Nation (Jonathan P. Ferrando, Esq.), Duke Energy (Alex Glenn), Bank of America (Mike M. Fields), Shands Hospital (Timothy M. Goldfarb), Charter Schools USA (Jon Hage), Seaworld Parks and Entertainment (Dave Hammer), Ron Jon Surf Shop of Florida (Debra Harvey), TECO Energy (Charles O. Hinson III), Publix Super Markets, Inc. (John T. Hrabusa), CSX Transportation (Quintin C. Kendall), Florida Southern College (Anne B. Kerr Ph.D.), Suntrust Bank (Dan W. Mahurin), Darden Restaurants (Robert S. McAdam), State Farm Insurance (Allen McGlynn), General Electric (Trey H. Paris), Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce (Bob Rohrlack), and Allstate Insurance (Mike Sheely),
If you are frustrated and angry like me, you will want to learn what in the world these businesses are thinking.  Why don’t you send them a letter, avoid their services or products, tell your friends, ask them to tell their friends, start a blog, or all the above.  The point is, these companies and their executives who serve as directors on the Florida Chamber’s Board are the culprits who by their membership, direction and support of what the Florida Chamber is shamelessly doing, are complicit in the destruction of natural Florida, all in the name of “progress,” commonly known as higher profits.  You can follow links by tapping a name.  You’ll see who these people are and find another link that will take you to their company’s site where there will likely be contact information.
Don’t get me wrong, economic progress and profit-making is a good thing, but not at the shortsighted expense of one of the most economically significant ecosystems on the planet.  Why in the world would the arguably largest tourist-dependent businesses in the country play a significant part in stopping a critical effort to protect and restore one of the state’s most important and signature natural characteristics?  I mean Disney World and SeaWorld, of course.  Are they so arrogant that they can contemplate the destruction of Florida’s environment and still have tourists flocking to their entertainment venues?  Don’t they realize they are jeopardizing their own futures by jeopardizing Florida’s
I hope you’ll sit down right now and write a bunch of letters.  Send them to the companies, of course, but also to the media demanding to know why these companies are participating in the destruction of Florida’s natural springs.


  1. Sonny, I share your disappointment, and am at loss to understand what we must do to balance the value of our natural, God-given environment with those man-made things we treasure so much. What's the phrase, "maybe next year", or is it "when pigs fly"? Hang in there, I'm counting on you to beat the drum.

    1. The unavoidable truth is that no matter how much we want the cost of our using this planet to stay within the confines of strict conservative fiscal guides, the cost is going up and we will pay the price if want a decent quality of life for our grandkids. “No new taxes” will condemn us to a country of third world neglect. Smart new taxes and smart unadulterated appropriation of their use is the only answer. Grover Norquist is a fraud. Thanks for your comment.

    2. The Norquist agenda is a shell game. Regardless of political party, our taxed dollars have been shifted around to benefit the ones in power.

  2. Sonny, perhaps the Florida CoC should be named the Chamber of Craving

  3. Well said, Sonny - well said. I'm thinking I will switch my auto insurance from Allstate, which has had my policy for at least 40 years, and send my letter with a cancelation notice. I don't know a better way to hit them than in the pocketbook, but I recommend everyone who cares about the springs should pick at least one of those companies and follow suit.

    Take care - and keep up the good blogging.

  4. I agree, unbelievable how special interests disregard the health of our state, both ecologically and economically in the long run.
    Not to discount anything you have said, but I must say I would prefer that your choice of metaphors not cast a negative image on the beautiful, fascinating and helpful (e.g. keep rodents in balance) snakes of Florida! Just a friendly suggestion from someone who does care about the natural communities as well as vibrant built communities of our intriguing state...
    Yes on Amendment One!!

  5. Thanks Sonny. Your post, as usual, is exceptional in material content and in writing.

  6. Great job sonny.

  7. Sonny; Several things going on that need to be watched. 2 (more) executive level people leaving SFWMD. Gulliery is doingthe same thing at SFWMD but learned to take it slower. Still same effect, put yes people in leadership positions, SWFWMD just did the same hiring an inexperieinced and undereducated assistant. What am I to think of this: I heard that there is a move afoot to require that anyone talking to the WMD staff or Board members will be considered lobbyists and need to be registered? What is up with that? I recognize some of these lobbyists as former agency people, $ can change you (JF). Is this the Allan G Bense that just got arrested for drugs and alcohol in Pinellas Co. What a mess. Must vote these guys out.

  8. For your latest blogpost of 6 May ‘14. You’ve hit the nail on the head succinctly and articulately. I’m in the process of writing the FL Chamber and some 1/2 dozen members of the Chamber expressing my dismay. Relative to this I would like to quote certain brief passages in your blog post with proper source credit established, if you’ve no objections. As a sixth generation Floridian, resident of the Suwannee Valley, and witness to the degradation of our springs along the Santa Fe and Suwannee since my first diving and snorkeling adventures in the early 70s, I am appalled and want to encourage you in your efforts to bring about change. Keep up the effort fight the good fight.

  9. I'm not surprised to see the energy companies represented on that list, but the other members ... what the heck were they thinking? Colleges, hospitals, businesses that claim to be environmentally friendly - are they all chasing the money to the exclusion of other values? Rick Scott's anti-environment agenda is so obvious and so egregious that I hope it will radicalize more and more people!