Swanning around on what he calls the “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” tour, Gov. Rick Scott promises a second term of spending large to remedy the state’s collapsing ecosystems, fish kills, and algae-choked waters. He says he’ll throw in $1 billion for Everglades restoration, too.
After three-plus years of unapologetically raining, er, untreated waste on the state’s environment, Scott wants voters to believe he’s a born-again Green.
Scott got to work mere hours after taking office in 2011, cutting money for springs protection and sensitive lands acquisition, gutting the state’s water management districts, and stacking the Department of Environmental Protection with industry shills.
Perhaps Scott once had a traumatic encounter with a manatee. But whatever sparked his animus against Nature, he’s been relentless. In his 2010 campaign, he called the Department of Community Affairs, the agency in charge of growth management, “a job killer.”
DCA approved 95 percent of all development projects, but developers pined for the good old days when they could drain and pave without a piece of paper from Big Gub’mint.
Blake Gable, president of the Barron Collier Companies’ Real Estate Division, whined he had to get two, two! permits to deal with the endangered species on his property. “How obnoxious is that?” he said.
So Scott dismantled DCA and fired most of its staff. He cut water management district budgets and parked cronies on their boards. A month after his notorious double secret, U.S. Sugar-sponsored hunting trip to Texas’ King Ranch, he appointed a King Ranch honcho to the South Florida Water Management Board — the one allegedly overseeing water quality in the Everglades — right where Big Sugar makes its money.
As for DEP, Scott seems to think the “P” stands for Prostitution. He canned dozens of scientists and hired polluter-friendly execs who don’t know one end of a seagrass bed from the other.
Much as I’d like to believe that Rick Scott’s had a Road to Damascus moment, suddenly realizing that allegiance to Mammon makes for a dirty Florida and an unhappy electorate, his 11th hour eco-enlightenment is as hard to swallow as a cup of algae from the Indian River Lagoon.
Evidence? The state of Florida is still a party to the ludicrous lawsuit — paid for by your tax dollars — to block clean-up of Chesapeake Bay. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi claim it’s an issue of “states’ rights,” even though Chesapeake Bay is 800 miles away. In another state.
You know that noisome algae in Lake Erie that’s been poisoning the drinking water of 500,000 people? We’ve got that stuff in Florida, in the St. Johns, the Santa Fe, the Caloosahatchee, the St. Lucie and other Florida rivers, runoff from septic tanks and industrial agriculture. It can cause vomiting, rashes, lung and liver distress. Stinks, too.
Yet Scott continues to insist Florida doesn’t need measurable water quality standards. That’s what his pals at the Farm Bureau, Associated Industries and the Fertilizer Institute told him, so it must be true.
Who needs biologists, hydrologists and ecologists? Scott says his administration “knows more about our water bodies than any federal agency or other state and are in a unique position to craft a solution.”
Scott chirps out some platitude on Florida’s “natural treasures” every time he sees a microphone. But talk isn’t the same as action; pandering is not political conviction.
You can’t firebomb the forest, then go around claiming to love trees.
Diane Roberts writes about politics and football. She lives in Tallahassee.