Tuesday, May 24, 2022

 You can have a 572-acre rock mine across the street from a major hospital, but you can’t create art on a tree farm in Hernando County

May 10, 2022

Brooksville, Florida

Recently, the Hernando County Commission met to hear some folks complain about a neighbor whose lawyer said was operating an ugly, unsightly, smelly, dusty, noisy, industrial manufacturing plant in a rural/agricultural area which should not be allowed in Hernando County. 

They put up slides showing tall steel structures that could be seen above the 6-foot privacy fence erected by the next-door property owner as well as a cloud of "dust" caused by what they claimed was from sandblasting. 

Friends of the complaining neighbor swore under oath that they, too, could see the structure and hear the noises of the offensive goings on. They said the conditions were so bad they could no longer sit on their porches or look out their kitchen windows and not be offended by the activities of the new neighbor. 

If you did not know the truth behind all this, you might agree it’s just awful that sights and sounds of such things should not be allowed to encroach upon a neighbor’s right to the quiet and bucolic views of country living in our Hernando County.

But, oh how reality and truth can get tossed aside in the contorted legalese of lawyers arguing before a lay board who are not lawyers, who have not studied the laws they are elected to apply, and who are sometimes driven more by election politics than the execution of fairness and right. Truth can get overlooked and even avoided in such hearings and right can suffer. And this is what so egregiously happened at that hearing.

The allegedly offending neighbors are one, John Henry, who just happens to be one of the most highly revered living sculptors in the world, and his wife Pamela. This is a man and wife team who have been recognized by the international art community their entire lives and somehow decided Hernando County is where, at least for the moment, they want to spend the rest of their lives. We all, it would seem for many obvious reasons, should be so very fortunate to have them reside here and become members of our county community.

So, what, really, were the Henrys doing that was so egregiously unacceptable that the Commissioners decided to ban activities on their 30-plus acres after the next year ending May 31, 2023, to such an extent that Mr. Henry will be prevented from continuing to create on their own property the magnificent art sculptures for which he is known around the world? What could be so unacceptable that it was suggested he create his art in another county?

When the Henrys moved here, the property was an ongoing farming operation where palm trees were grown and sold. The property is also located on a major highway and within a mile, as a crow flies, of one of the busiest north/south interstate thoroughfares in Florida. Some of these trees are tall and can only be excavated and loaded on flatbed semi-tractor trailer trucks using large cranes, an activity that was happening before the Henrys but apparently never bothered any of the now-complaining neighbors in the past.

Mr. Henry's getting older. Born in 1943 he is approaching 80 years. He is known for his bold and towering steel and aluminum structures that museums, galleries and private collectors have purchased and displayed throughout the world. To make these structures, welding, grinding, and painting is required, and some are just too large to assemble in an enclosed building. He is in the process of finishing two of these structures. After completion, they will be disassembled and shipped to their buyer or display location.

The point here is that what he does on the property is not smelly, dirty, or offensive. It does not entail dozens of workers laboring through long shifts to manufacture thousands of widgets, day in and day out, which are then shipped in trucks daily going in and out from a dark smoking plant, as was so disingenuously implied by the complainants’ attorney and the testifying neighbors.

It is indisputable that the property is an ongoing agricultural operation of growing and selling hundreds if not thousands of palm trees for harvesting and marketing. The fact that Mr. Henry is an artist who has the personal wherewithal to also produce and sell art from his farm was inexplicably discounted when the Commission Chair observed that he was fully aware of Mr. Henry’s distinction as a globally appreciated artist, but that fact was not pertinent to the purposes of the hearing. But, of course, it was.

The alleged objectionable activity is to produce art, not to manufacture widgets. If this had been acknowledged from the beginning, it would have allowed a better appreciation for the fact that the “pertinent” activity is infrequent and would have underscored the fact that the sounds and sights associated therewith are not any more objectionable than what any reasonably sized agricultural operation might produce. This was simply not considered. Anyone who lives next to a farm knows this and many folks in Hernando County do. It was a significant oversight by the Commissioners.

Other unfair things happened at that hearing. Misinformation was given to the commissioners who then struggled for several hours trying to understand what they have the authority to do and what they should do with it. At one point, the complainants’ lawyer had them seemingly convinced they had no authority to allow the Special Exception being requested - and recommended for approval by the Commission’s own staff - until the Henrys’ lawyer, reading directly from statutes and rules, pointed out they did.

So, what should the Commissioners have done? Well, they should have approved their own staff’s recommendation. Doing so would’ve placed reasonable constraints the Henrys’ activities but wouldn’t have ultimately and so arbitrarily after one year banned Mr. Henry from being able to produce his award-winning art on his own property.

Instead, the Commissioners chose to focus on carrying out the rigid specifications of ordinances and laws and ignored their duty to also consider what would be right for the larger community. That is what Special Exceptions are all about. They exist in recognition of the fact that no legal language will ever be able to contemplate all possible situations that a law or ordinance might be intended to address.

As a final point, when the Henrys’ situation is seen in the light of a controversial project approved by the Hernando Commission over the objections of dozens if not hundreds of concerned residents a few years ago, the fact that a hand full of complaining neighbors can so easily cause the County Commission to outright ban an extraordinary man’s lifelong pursuit seems utterly outrageous.

Not too long ago, a request was made to allow a 572-acre rock mine immediately west of the City of Brooksville and adjacent to Cortez Boulevard, a major thoroughfare connecting the city to the rapidly developing residential/commercial area of Spring Hill. But, it was not possible at the time because at least four of the five-member board was needed to approve changes to the county’s Master Plan which, at that time, had the area designated for residential and commercial uses. Lacking the four votes necessary, the mining proposal was withdrawn.

Subsequently, a “friendlier” Commission revised the requirement for a four-member super majority to be able to change the County’s Master Plan so only three would be needed, a simple majority. This despite the vocal and written objections of dozens of Hernando residents.

With only a simple majority now required, the Commission accepted the mining plan and changed the County’s Master Plan to rezone 730 acres, of which rock mining would be allowed on 572. Thus, as a result of the Commission’s decision, a 572-acre rock mine is now going to happen on property directly across the street from a regional hospital despite a lawsuit and the organized objections of dozens of concerned county residents.

Activities associated with rock mining can include clouds of white lime-rock dust, explosions, draglines digging massive holes acres wide, and 110-ton-capacity Euclid vehicles rumbling around all hours of the day. In this case, it was also alleged mining there would disrupt an existing colony of threatened gopher tortoises and impact a nearby historic Brooksville cemetery.

So, while in that instance the voices of perhaps hundreds of residents were unable to sway the Commission, it apparently took only a few for the Hernando County Commission to do what it did to the Henry's. It is simply and inescapably dumbfounding.

By the way, that cloud of “sandblast” dust claimed to have wafted over the fence into the the Henry's neighbors' yards? Turns out, I’m told, it was the Henrys having their white fence pressure washed.

So, wrong was done at that hearing. Hopefully, before the end of the designated year, a way will be found to correct what is now happening to John and Pamela Henry and allow Mr. Henry to continue his passion for creating trend-setting art for as long as he might wish on the property they own in our Hernando County.

It’s the right thing to do.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Weeki Wachee Preserve - An Open Letter

The Hernando Board of County Commissioners is proposing to build a six-mile long “Aquatic Preserve boardwalk” inside the confines of the 11,206-acre Weeki Wachee Preserve purchased in 1995 using Florida Forever (State) funds. The property was acquired specifically to preserve the very significant environmental values of western Hernando County. This is an open letter to the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners and Administrator; the Board of Governors of the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Executive Director; the Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and Florida Senator Wilton Simpson suggesting such a thought is unwise and setting forth the reasons why.

May 17, 2021

To: Hernando County Board of County Commissioners

Commissioner John Allocco, Chair

Commissioner Steve Champion, Vice Chair

Commissioner Jeff Holcomb, Second Vice Chair

Commissioner Wayne Dukes

Commissioner Elizabeth Narverud

County Administrator Jeff Rogers

Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District

Member Kelly S. Rice, Chair

Member Joel Schleicher, Vice Chair

Member Rebecca Smith, Secretary

Member James G. Murphy, Treasurer

Member Ed Armstrong

Member Ashley Bell Barnett

Member Jack Bispham

Member Roger Germann

Member John Mitten

Member Seth Weigtman

Member Michelle Williamson

Executive Director Brian Armstrong

Secretary Noah Valenstein, Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Senator Wilton Simpson

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having read recently that Hernando County Board of County Commissioners is considering a so-called six-mile boardwalk from the Weeki Wachee Preserve in western Hernando County to Pedersen Park, and having received calls from Hernando Beach residents opposing the idea, here are a few thoughts for your consideration.

It is understandable how this unique property might seem attractive as a location for Hernando Beach residents who wish to have greater access to it. But, given the Preserve’s history which is directly related to Florida’s decades-long and nationally recognized program to protect its unique natural systems from the inevitable impacts of Florida’s continuing population growth, increased public usage and particularly construction of a six-mile long “boardwalk” large enough to allow significant hiking and biking, is problematic.

Everyone wants sustained economic growth and people world-wide want to live here, but most folks already here also want a balance between the loss of natural habitat that’s already occurring and the need to protect the rest from what will inevitably come with all that “love.” The growing realization is that if we do not preserve a large part of what’s left of Florida’s natural habitat, it will simply be exploited and “used” until it is no more and the very reasons why Florida has become a global destination in the first place will be lost along with it. I’m reminded of the “Tragedy of the Commons” and the phrase, “death by a thousand cuts”, further defined as, “the way a major negative change, which happens slowly in many unnoticed increments, is not perceived as objectionable” (Wikipedia).

Recent arrivals to our state simply may not appreciate all the hard lessons learned from past decisions and the energy and capital that previous and current residents have invested in implementing the state’s historic environmental protection programs that were carefully evolved as a result over the last 50 years. It remains a continuous struggle to maintain public awareness and appreciation for the critical importance that Florida’s natural systems hold for the state’s economy. Not all land in its natural state, or that hosts environmentally significant flora and/or fauna, for example, should be considered appropriate for a public facility just because it’s already owned by the public, it’s beautiful, and it’s environmentally bountiful.

In Florida, public education is ephemeral. Our population is always moving on or dying and being replaced by newcomers. Thus, maintaining effective appreciation for those hard lessons learned is difficult. It is an unfortunate reality about Florida that its demography is continuously renewing and changing while the critical importance of Florida’s natural environment to its economic future is growing as more of it is lost to development.

The 11,206-acre Weeki Wachee Preserve was purchased by the Southwest Florida Water Management District in 1995 from W. L. Cobb Construction Company for $15.1 million. Six years later in 2001 while I was executive director at SWFWMD, the property surrounding Weeki Wachee Springs was purchased from the City of St. Petersburg. (For years, ownership of this property by St. Pete was a very painful bone of contention for the residents of Hernando County because the City had acquired it in the 1930’s as a potential water supply source.) The springs parcel of about 400 acres was purchased for around $16 million as part of then-Governor Bush’s “Springs Initiative” using funds from the State’s Florida Forever program. Today, both acquisitions remain as important components of the state’s strategy to acquire, restore, and protect Florida’s inventory of iconic springs, which are not duplicated in such concentration anywhere else in the world. Florida’s springs are part of its globally unique natural heritage, much as the Grand Canyon is for Arizona.

The Preserve property was purchased as part of a regional system of conservation lands that extend up to the Crystal River State Park - originally known as the Crystal River Buffer Preserve - consisting of some 27,500 acres and including the southernmost coastal hardwood hammocks in western Florida. The Weeki Wachee Preserve provides a rich collage of habitats including several miles of Weeki Wachee River frontage, portions of Mud River, dense hardwood swamps, freshwater and saltwater marshes, and pine-covered sand hills. Part of why the acquisition was so important was because it would help in preventing further degradation of the groundwater flowing to Weeki Wachee Springs and because the area and its habitat is well known for its black bear population.

It is my understanding that, unfortunately, the preserve has been described as just some old leftover mining pits and those who oppose its development as an active public recreation facility are just people who are against everything. I have also heard that some believe if the county can get the six-mile “boardwalk” permitted, “other facilities” can be constructed later. It’s the old saw, if the camel can get his nose under the tent the rest of him will follow.

I can’t believe SWFWMD is going to be that na├»ve. The district has always understood, and likely still does, that there is a necessary responsibility to allow reasonable public enjoyment of its conservation properties, but within the meaning of that reasonableness is the responsibility to not allow the land to be over utilized to the extent that the original purposes for which it was purchased become obscured and no longer operative. I believe this because, early on, a careful plan for public access and use was developed by SWFWMD for every property it acquired using Florida Forever funds including the Weeki Wachee Preserve. Therefore, I believe it is not public use, per se, that is causing the growing objections to the county’s proposal. It is the potential concentration and intensity of the proposed use. The main access road from Osowaw Boulevard, for example, is smack dab through the heart of the corridor black bears need for their normal foraging, ranging and sustainment of the specie. Consequently, while the road may be marginally acceptable for maintenance purposes, it would not be acceptable as a main entrance with any anticipated heavy daily usage.

Perhaps there will be ways to allow a limited degree of public usage in the lake area, but the fact remains that the total land area was purchased and established as a Preserve for very specific reasons that are more critical today than they have ever been, and a six-mile walkway that promotes heavy human hiking and even biking from the mined lakes to Pedersen Park through what can only be described as some very sensitive natural systems is certainly contradictory to those purposes. SWFWMD clearly has an obligation to assure any proposed public uses fall within the constraints contained in the original state authorization to purchase the property using Florida Forever funds. Boardwalks can be found in many state parks but in most cases are carefully constructed to assure minimal impact on natural systems and keep related human incursion and its inevitable impacts to a carefully defined minimum.

You may know that SWFWMD has partnered on several occasions with Hernando County and the state’s park system to allow public access and use of district-owned public lands within the county such as popular Bayport Park and Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. It also instigated and locally funded, through the now dismantled Coastal Rivers Basin Board, the location and construction of an Environmental Education Center on park land just west of Weeki Wachee Springs on Bayport Road. All these facilities are located fairly close to Hernando Beach for those residents wanting to use them. If greater public usage becomes accommodated within the Weeki Wachee Preserve it will not reduce any pressures of overuse at the other facilities as has been suggested. It will only bring more visitors from out of county to negatively impact another unique and environmentally sensitive natural area of Hernando County.

There is also a mistaken notion that the reason the Preserve is under this consideration is because grant funding may be available, the land is cheap, i.e., free (SWFWMD already owns it), and it has water features. These are not valid reasons for obviating the original important purposes for which the land was acquired on behalf of Florida’s greater public, Florida’s natural environment, and Florida’s long-term economic future.

Finally, it should be noted that both houses of the 2021 Florida Legislature just adopted the Wildlife Corridor Act which would, if signed by the Governor, award $300 million to the Florida Forever land conservation program to expand and protect wildlife corridors. It was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate! Our leaders in Tallahassee clearly want wildlife corridors expanded, not developed.

I appreciate the opportunity to share these thoughts.


Sonny Vergara

Brooksville, FL 

Former Executive Director of Southwest Florida Water Management District and St. Johns River Water Management District.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A letter for our new Governor and Legislature

Dear SWFWMDmatters
"For decades, efforts to protect and restore
Florida's waters have been significantly underfunded."
Are you as concerned and frustrated about what’s happening to Florida's natural environment as I am? Here's what you need to know about what you need to know, so you can add your voice to the growing number of folks who are demanding our new Governor and Legislature take real action this session to protect Florida’s natural future. It doesn’t matter a whit what party you belong to. I’m a Republican and my concern for natural Florida is a s strong as any. I recently published a book, “Florida! Images of Natural Florida” in which I lament how, over the last eight years, our elected leaders have systematically abandoned Florida’s 50-year concern for its natural environment.
Former U.S. Senator (and a two-term governor of Florida), Bob Graham, a Democrat, along with former State Senator and State Representative Lee Constantine, a Republican, are jointly leading the way to a critically needed new and sensible approach for Florida’s future. Together, they have published a letter in today’s newspapers that provides a simple but straightforward take on what the state needs in order to insure its natural systems and state-wide economy can survive in a future that is dark with questions about their long-term viability.
The letter is printed in-full below, but to be fully informed be sure to follow the link at the end to the website for the Florida Conservation Coalition where you’ll find “A Water Policy For Florida.”
Emilio “Sonny” Vergara
Here’s their letter:
Meeting threats to the state's water supply
Where will the road to Florida's future lead us?
Protecting and conserving Florida's water is an economic as well as environmental issue, not one defined by geography or party lines. Both of us, a Democrat from Miami Lakes and Republican from Altamonte Springs, have made protecting and restoring Florida's waters a cornerstone of our public service. Today, we redouble our efforts to safeguard Florida's most valuable resource.
Spurred by outbreaks of Red Tide and blue-green algae leading to another summer of dramatic loss in revenue and decline of water quality and quantity in Florida's springs, rivers and lakes, the Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC), a coalition of more than 80 conservation minded groups, released 'A Water Policy for Florida.' This position statement provides an overview of many of the existing threats to our waters and a pathway for their successful conservation, restoration and protection statewide.
The coalition lays out five critical steps that must be undertaken immediately by our policymakers to safeguard our waters.
An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Preventing pollution at its source is the most environmentally sound and cost-effective way to meet water quality goals. We have proposed common sense solutions to prevent pollution from wastewater, agriculture, biosolids and stormwater, among other sources, in at-risk watersheds.
AGGRESSIVELY REDUCE EXISTING SOURCES OF POLLUTION. Since the vast majority of Florida's waters are already impaired by nutrients, it is not enough to just slow the growth of pollution; we must reverse the trend. Adopting a stronger state model fertilizer ordinance, requiring effective best management practices, upgrading wastewater utilities and replacing or upgrading septic tanks in areas already impaired by excessive nutrient pollution will be an expensive but necessary undertaking if we hope to restore impaired waters.
"The Legislature should pass a law that provides
significant annual funding to acquire critical natural areas
and conserve working farms and ranches."
What happens on Florida's land determines the state of its waters. Florida needs to immediately acquire lands in sensitive areas, minimize urban sprawl and require efficient landscaping in new developments. The Legislature should pass a law that provides significant annual funding to acquire critical natural areas and conserve working farms and ranches.
SECURE FLORIDA'S FUTURE WATER SUPPLY. Public investments in water supply focus on engineering solutions to expand valuable water resources, missing opportunities to reduce demand through conservation efforts. Government programs should prioritize and incentivize water conservation measures as the first means to address Florida's water supply challenges. Additionally, Florida's water management districts must do a better job of accounting for the interests of the environment and public in making water use permitting decisions.
PROVIDE ADEQUATE FUNDING FOR FLORIDA'S COMPREHENSIVE WATER POLICY. For decades, efforts to protect and restore Florida's waters have been significantly underfunded. Compared to other important state priorities, like transportation, which receives nearly $11 billion in funding each year, funding for the management and protection of our water resources is sorely lacking. Although a true cost has not yet been determined, estimates suggest funding for Florida's water quality compliance and infrastructure needs to be a minimum of $1 billion to $2 billion per year. Traditional funding sources, like water management district ad valorem tax rates, will need to be restored and new funding sources, such as a water withdrawal fee, will need to be identified if we are going to save Florida's waters.
As the 2019 legislative session begins in Tallahassee, we are hopeful that our governor and legislators understand that Florida cannot afford another year, much less decades to come, of the environmental and economic disasters that have become commonplace across Florida. As former state legislators, we know the importance of public input in the legislative process. We encourage you to contact your state senator and state representative and tell them about the rivers, lakes, springs, beaches and estuaries in your community, and why statewide water protections matter to you.
But first, visit wearefcc.org and read 'A Water Policy for Florida' (a 10-page document including a one-page summary) to arm yourself with the facts and information necessary to make a difference.
(Bob Graham is a former governor of Florida and former U.S. senator. Lee Constantine, a Seminole County commissioner, is a former state senator and former state representative. To read the Florida Conservation Coalition's 'A Water Policy for Florida,' visit the website here https:// www.wearefcc.org/waterpolicyforflorida. For more information email WeAreFCC@gmail.com.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A good-news story

This is a good-news story.

American Bald Eagle
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (298)

Last Monday, 2018-10-08, Gary Kuhl and I made a trip to Lake Apopka located 15 miles north of Orlando.  It’s the third largest lake in Florida, about 30,000 acres, and is the head waters for the Ocklawaha Chain of lakes. I was hesitant at first because this huge, beautiful body of water was for years reputed to be one of Florida’s most polluted lakes.

Fed by a natural spring, rainfall and stormwater runoff, water from Lake Apopka flows through the Apopka-Beauclair Canal and into Lakes Beauclair and Dora. From Lake Dora, water flows into Lake Eustis, then into Lake Griffin and then northward into the Ocklawaha River, which flows into the St. Johns River” (Wikipedia).

This grand flow that starts north of Orlando is also joined west of Ocala by the crystal-clear waters of Silver River and ends up exiting the state at Jacksonville. It’s an extraordinary hydrologic system and an exquisite underpinning segment of north-central Florida’s water make-up.

Decades of abuse and lack of understanding of their impacts by local communities and farmers, however, who ditched, diked and drained 18,000-20,000 acres of marshlands along the north shore, caused the lake, for lack of a better way to describe it, to die.

Glossy Ibis
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (199)
Here, Wikipedia recounts one example of the disastrous abuse the lake suffered: “In July 1980, Tower Chemical Company (TCC), a local pesticide manufacturer, improperly disposed of significant amounts of DDE, a known endocrine disruptor, along with other toxic chemicals. As a result, these chemicals spilled into Lake Apopka, and the US Environmental Protection Agency was alerted. TCC shut down their operations in December 1980. In 1981, an EPA investigation began and the site was decommissioned and designated as a Superfund clean-up site. Despite their efforts, some of the chemicals seeped into the Florida(n) aquifer and have proliferated into some of Central Florida's interconnected lakes and waterways. This chemical has caused health problems in much of the lake's wildlife population, and has caused infertility and other sexual disorders in several species, including alligators.”

Florida Marsh Hen
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (267)
In addition, with the massive loss of wetlands which deprived the lake of its natural ability to absorb and process nutrients, combined with hundreds of thousands of tons of added nutrients and pesticides discharged from the surrounding farming operations, the lake eventually succumbed. Its enormous natural bounty was decimated along with its world-class reputation as a bass fishing mecca and dozens of fish camps and other dependent operations. The lake was left as a disastrous pea-green soup of dangerously fouled water and dying wildlife

In 1984, I left as director of the St. Johns River Water Management District after over five years redesigning the way the U.S. Corps of Engineers had intended to ditch, dike and drain 2,000 square miles of the Upper St. Johns River drainage basin and divert its flows south toward the Everglades. It was a bruising exercise but one that resulted in a showcase system where today environmentalists, developers, farmers and governmental interests have been brought together in support of common goals.

Great Blue Heron
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (158)
As I was leaving the district, I told the incoming director, Henry Dean, the next greatest challenge for him and the district would be Lake Apopka.  Over the next 17 years, to his credit, he built the upper St. Johns Project as redesigned and took on the challenge of Lake Apopka.

Little Blue Heron
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (298)
Today, the District’s efforts are comfortingly apparent for the lake. The farming operations have been displaced through the mechanisms and wisdom of funding from Florida Forever funds designed for just such problems. Farms were purchased and thousands of acres of fertilized and pesticide-laden fields are being converted back to the freshwater marsh ecosystems systems that originally flourished as the lake’s kidneys. As we drove along the “Wildlife Drive”, formerly part of the agricultural diking system, the beginnings of new a marsh ecosystem was apparent, and wildlife was abundant.

It was gratifying to actually see and experience at least one significant success by those who spent their careers – decades - identifying and addressing Florida’s growing water-related problems and finding ways to revert such damage or prevent it from becoming a continuing inevitability into the future.

The health of Florida’s natural systems is directly related to the health of the state’s future economic well-being.  It is a false premise that protection of Florida’s natural systems and the legal mechanisms it entails are antithetical to free enterprise and the spirit of entrepreneurial viability.

These are a few photos that bear witness.
Red-Winged Blackbird
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (45)


Friday, September 14, 2018

Morning thoughts - 2018-09-19: Fla. Chamber wants more of the same


Florida Chamber of Commerce - Outlining Goals for Florida in 2030

The Tampa Bay Times reported this morning that the Florida Chamber of Commerce has put together its "business competitiveness goals for Florida 2030.  It's worth noting that high on the list (3rd of 7) is this concern: "Florida's environmental permitting and land use processes (are) among the most complex in the nation."

Thus, we can expect to see the Fla. Chamber continuing to support the defunding and defanging of the state's environmental laws and agencies which has been devastated over the last 8 years under Rick Scott's regime through the next decade. And, along with it, the continuing decline, exploitation and loss of Florida's sensitive and unique natural systems to the greed of powerful special interests like mining, power, land developers, etc., and the lobbyists and consultants who serve them.  This is their plan for the next 10 years, as if we haven't had enough environmental disasters for the last eight.

Consider the above in context with the pressures our state's natural systems are under even today from the following realities: 1) Florida is the 3rd most populated in the country - over 20 million; 2) Florida is the 3rd fastest growing in the country - about 365,000 new residents per year, or 1000 per day, or one city the size of Tampa per year; 3) Florida is visited each year by a record number of visitors - over 100 million each year, or about one third of the nation's total population (330 million) per year.

There shouldn't be any wonder why Florida absolutely must have some of the most complex environmentally protective laws and rules in the country if the very reason all those people want to come here in the first place is going to be around for a few more generations, much less forever. Florida has some of the most sensitive, beautiful and complex natural ecosystems in the country.  Why else would all those folks want to visit?  If we let them be exploited to extinction we will have destroyed our bounty of golden eggs right along with the very goose that laid them.  How bright is that?

All the more reason for you to get to the polls in November and stop the pillage of our great state by electing people who will make the right decisions on behalf of Florida and its future, instead of the power of the party and the interests of special interests.  Haven't we had enough of that?

Gillum, the FBI and a boat

Also today, the TBT has a front page item about the continuing saga concerning rumors of an FBI investigation of Andrew Gillum for alleged public corruption. A close read of the article will lead one to believe it looks like a whole lot of smoke being blown at an issue that has no fire.  The FBI says he's not the target of an investigation and are warning those looking at it not to conclude there have been any unlawful transgressions.

The article is all about the significance of Gillum's photo in the boat with some undercover FBI agents.  Even though the FBI says he's not a target, no charges have been filed and people should be careful not to read anything miscreant into it, the article notes the DeSantis crowd will likely huff loudly and treat it as a great cloud of evil hanging over Gillum's head. So when you hear of it know for what it is, the fodder of prevaricators coming from an opponent's camp who after years in Washington won't discuss his positions on relevant issues because he needs to do more study and research.  What?

By the way, be sure to read Bart Bibler's response to those who think Gillum's a socialist HERE