By Whitey Markle
GOVERNOR CUTS LOOSE:
The Governor continues to behead his appointees across the state as we read this article. Last month, after a very short extension to the application period, the Suwannee River Water Management District Board of directors voted unanimously to appoint one of the Governor’s key advisors Noah Valenstein, to be their Executive Director, who will replace Ann Shortelle. Shortell was transferred to the St. Johns River Water Management District earlier this year after the Governor axed that Executive Director. Valenstein was appointed after applying for the position a mere few days beforehand. Also Peter Antonacci, was appointed Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District. Antonacci previously was the Governor’s General Counsel and was involved in removing the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Gerald Bailey, along with Governor Scott. Although state law requires that cabinet members must agree on hiring and firing, Antonacci advised Bailey that he should resign, which Bailey did that same day, a month before the next Cabinet meeting. Between 1996 and 2011 Antonacci made over $16k in contributions to candidates in both parties. It appears from news reports that the central issue in these gubernatorial manipulations is that of budget cuts. Several Water Management Districts’ budgets have already been cut in half. As a matter of fact, The South Florida Water Management District lost over 300 employees.
After having barely won re-election over a very weak Charlie Crist, the Governor apparently has a mandate to carry out……..anyone who even slightly disagrees gets the axe. And apparently all this is in the name of efficiency in government and, of course, GROWTH (less “government”, more and faster growth). In the website, The Price of Sprawl.com, it is stated that growth should not be confused with progress in that growth simply means more of something whereas progress means a better result. Growing for the sake of some economic theory is sketchy at best, especially when that growth is not smart growth. In The Tricounty Working Group’s new presentation on the economics of water in central Florida, presently referred to as Water Works, (being created tirelessly by SSJ member Katheryn Taubert) we stress the fact that for every dollar a new household spends in taxes the citizens spend from $1.40 to $2.45 to service that house. For example: schools/house= $6300 and roads/house=$6900, plus police fire, emergency, etc. It appears that the governor and most of the legislature have not heard these facts or they are ignoring them for the sake of growth. Or maybe they agree behind closed doors that we can afford the future tax bill. It just doesn’t make economic sense to sacrifice tomorrow’s quality of life for today’s.
This may be a sign to us all regarding the appointment system in Florida. Maybe the legislature should have some oversight in appointments, but, considering their treatment of the amendment 1 funding, maybe not. Until now, it seemed like the appointments were somewhat balanced between business, environment, education, etc. Not so now for sure. Apparently even the cabinet has little sway with the illustrious Governor.
Then we have the water grabbers. The way it seems to go is that Florida land goes from wild forest land to timberland , to pasture land , to housing. And sometimes that sequence is short-circuited. (forest to housing). Unfortunately the housing being developed nowadays in Florida turns out to be the cheapest housing that is legal which attracts the cheapest tenants and ownership, lowering the quality of life overall.
The governor, in a mere 6 years has just about done away with comprehensive planning, so more and more wildlands are being gobbled up mostly by retirees, those who are “entitled”, and low or no wage earners. People should be occupying the renovated and infill housing in the cities where services are already available, not where they have to be built and provided urban services.
So, in view of the taking of the wildlands and water, along with the increased demand for food for these new citizens, we must conclude that there just simply isn’t enough land and water for all the new people and the farming too. It’s one way or the other. Not both. God forbid the concept of water and energy conservation and reclaimed housing be placed in debate.
THE CENTRAL FLORIDA WATER INITIATIVE (CFWI):
The CFWI is being pushed by the plans to water the projected population growth in central Florida by declaring the Poor old Ocklawaha River (as well as part of the St. Johns) to be “Alternative Water Supply” sources. It was recently said that it is a plan to take water that doesn’t exist to supply people who don’t exist. Having attend the planning and strategy meetings by the Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Water Management Districts, I can tell you that an overwhelming percentage of the “stakeholders” at those sessions are representatives of the respective municipalities (Orlando, Daytona, Ocala, Gainesville, Jacksonville, and on and on) who are there for the sole purpose of securing their share of the water for their future “projected” populations. The Sierra Club and a few other environmentally-minded organizations participated in the process of developing the CFWI, but their protests were ignored in the final analysis.
STATE LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION:
My meager (2 minutes allowed) statement to the state legislative delegation was mainly about the nonreality of the CFWI, but I also stressed the crisis at hand in our drinking water. According to the Alachua County Health Department, the private, self-supply well nitrate data recently provided confirm the relatively common occurrence of nitrate above safe drinking water levels (10 milligrams/liter) in western Alachua and eastern Gilchrist counties. The Florida Springs Institute requests a comprehensive, area wide groundwater nitrate sampling by state and local governments (and that) “results need to be widely publicized so that local residents are aware of the risks they face and the alternatives they have to avoid those risks.” Nitrate overloading of the aquifer is the result of decades of nitrate loading into the water system. Another important fact that came out of the Tricounty Working Group’s Water Economics presentation is that for every 50 cents spent on a pound of nitrogen in fertilizer, it will cost the public $5 to filter out. So it only makes good economic sense to cut the Nitrogen loading up front. With too many people, too much fertilizer, too much sewage, too many grazing livestock to be supported by our available resources. Something has to slow down (or stop) soon.
As a final statement, I would advise everyone, no matter where you get your drinking have it tested for nitrate concentration. This is a very serious situation.
TRICOUNTY WORKING GROUP:
The Tricounty Working Group met in Crystal River on Sept. 15 and, watched a video, FAIRY TALES, BY George Sibley. The ½ hour film is an excellent documentary about growth management and sprawl in Florida. We wish George the best in his design and creation of the developing podcast concerning Plum Creek’s episodes in Alachua County.