South Miami City Commission calls on South Florida to secede

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Officials in the town of South Miami want South Florida to be its own state – the 51st in the union.

The City Commission passed a resolution 3-2 last week in support of “South Florida” being its own state. It would include all of Florida from Orange, Hillsborough, Polk and Pinellas counties south.

“The creation of the 51st state, South Florida, is a necessity for the very survival of the entire southern region of the current state of Florida,” the resolution reads.

The move, spearheaded by vice mayor and environmentalist Walter Harris, is meant to curtail the threat of sea level rise.

“In order to address the concerns of South Florida, it is necessary to travel to Tallahassee in North Florida. Often South Florida issues do not receive the support of Tallahassee. This is despite the fact that South Florida generates more than 69% of the state’s revenue and contains 67% of the state’s population,” the resolution concludes.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has done little to address concerns that South Florida could one day be under water if nothing is done to protect the sub-tropical area from sea level rise. The governor has stopped short of acknowledging that climate change is manmade. It’s a political sticking point for many conservatives who, though some are coming around to admitting it is real, won’t go so far as to blame climate change on man.

The resolution points out that South Florida would consist of about 13.3 million people, 67 percent of the current state’s population and cover 23,000 square miles, or 35 percent of Florida’s land mass. It would split Florida’s 67 counties into 24 South Florida counties and 43 in Northern Florida.

The move would protect areas like Lake Okeechobee, which supplies much of South Florida’s drinking water supply. The new state would control the fate of the Turkey Point nuclear reactors that sit at less than 5 feet above sea level.

The resolution from the South Miami City Commission says the move isn’t political, but it very much is. Many people in South Florida are fed up with an electorate that ignores environmental problems and sea level rise, which most directly affect South Florida.

“We’ve been the laughing stock for a very long time. We’re setting a record with that ‘fangate’ thing,” Harris told Political Fix Florida, referring to the awkward delayed start of last week’s debate between Gov. Scott and Charlie Crist. “Now it’s the added dimension of the survival of South Florida.”

Prior to “fangate,” South Florida was mocked for having some of the nation’s longest wait times for voting during the 2012 election.

Even if Harris gets support from other South Florida counties, he still faces an uphill battle convincing Tallahassee. Even then the fight isn’t over. Establishing the nation’s 51st state would also require congressional approval. Considering Puerto Rico has been trying for years to make that happen, it’s unlikely this resolution will ever be any more than just a symbolic move to provoke the conservative governor and Legislature to address the problem of sea level rise.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.