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Hillsborough Commissioners clash on strategy, cause of sea-level rise

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that major cities in the Tampa Bay area have barely begun to address sea-level rise and its effects on the region, Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp alerted her colleagues Wednesday that it was the time to act in dealing with the situation.

The Post cited an assessment that within the next 12 years, the value of state property under encroaching water in the Tampa Bay region could drop by $15 billion. By 2050, that number could reach $23 billion.

With her Sierra Club pedigree, it was no surprise Kemp would highlight the story’s significance. Echoing Kemp’s concerns was Commission Chair Stacy White, he would be her ally when it comes to discussing strategies to deal with the threat of sea-level rise.

Sea-level rise and climate change are real, White said, adding he had no desire to dig into the issue of why the earth’s temperature is rising.

White’s comments set off Commissioner Les Miller, who said such an attitude represents an abdication of the board’s responsibilities.

“I think we still need to dig into the issue of what causes sea-level rise, specifically within Hillsborough County,” said Miller. “I think the citizens depend on us and elected officials in Hillsborough County to be attuned to what’s going on in our area, and what’s causing sea-level rise.”

“I think it is our responsibility to start determining what causes sea-level rise,” he added. “To sit here and say that we as a locally elected official should have the responsibility is absolutely wrong.”

Miller suggested the county should begin working with the Environmental Protection Commission on how to contend with the issue.

After listening to Miller, White said that it was healthy they both had “spoken their mind” but if the issue came down to a debate on global warming, “you’re likely to lose me because I really feel that our federal officials should be looking at that issue and having that discussion.”

Then, White told Kemp that if the topic remains concentrated on what the county should do about sea-level rise, “just know you have a potential ally here in me.”

The clash seemed a microcosm of the way Democrats and Republicans often see the topic of climate change differently.

Meanwhile, across the Bay, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has attempted to call out Rick Baker during the mayoral race as someone reluctant to embrace environmental change and ways to deal with it.

Not true, Baker responded: “You can’t look at the polar ice caps and not know that climate change is going on.”

“Man has had an effect,” he added. “The extent of that effect is up to great debate right now.”



Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

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