Monday, January 31, 2011

The Next Floridian Environmental Disaster

The abandoned Trinity Hospital in Jasper, Florida.  Like the new Governor, Trinity Hospital was making money by fraudulently over billing the federal government.
Last Summer, the Deep Water Horizon exploded, sank and subsequently pumped over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  When they burned off the corralled oil we could smell the toxic stench in Lake City. We all endured the embarrassing 'junk shot,' the ineffective 'top kill,' and the 'lower marine riser' for several months to solve a preventable disaster.  There were known problems with the rig, there was lax regulation and blatant disregard for safety but, it was an accident.  We can be thankful that it was not planned.

The next great environmental disaster to strike Florida is Governor Rick Scott and this one is being meticulously planned.  The people of Florida (49% of the 42% that voted, which equals 20% of Floridians) voted for the Tea Party favorite, Gov. Scott.  The Tea Party thought "Oh let's endorse a guy who ran a company that committed the greatest Medicaid fraud in history because that is fiscally responsible, right?"  The irony doesn't stop there.

Rick Scott is worried about regulation, all kinds of regulation: no regulation, imaginary regulation and some of the most lax environmental regulation in the US.  To combat any regulation that would hamper any development, no matter how destructive or unneeded, he has proposed something that only an anti-science, anti-environment Tea Party radical would. He is going to merge the state's environmental, growth management and transportation departments and call it, drum roll please...The Department of Growth Leadership.  Is anyone feeling like an 8 year old yet?  This new agency will be mandated to equally weigh any environmental protections with job creation.  Since Florida already has some of the weakest environmental regulations this bodes poorly for our fragile ecosystems.

Other ominous signs from Gov.Scott include:
  1. His selection of environmental department heads.  Instead of scientists or conservationists he appointed businessmen, a former executive of the St.Joe company (the second largest land owner in Florida) and a former executive of a shipyard in Jacksonville.  
  2. He already has suspended all rule making and regulations pending his review.
  3. He has proposed eliminating the State's regulatory power over major residential and commercial development.  This includes 'streamlining' the wetland permitting process that is already only 45 days long.  Wetland?  What wetland? Endangered species? No such thing!
  4. I'll call his next proposal the Tea Party Delight and it demonstrates the infuriating magical thinking that he and his supporters engage in.  He wants to end concurrence.  What is concurrence you ask?  Concurrence requires that developers pay for infrastructure upgrades to accommodate increased population and usage (roads, sewer, etc).  By eliminating concurrence who pays?  That's right, you and me, because that is fiscally responsible...
  5. He wants to end oversight of Developments of Regional Impact.  This has major implications for my community.  Florida is famous for enormous developments that often impact areas outside the local community by draining aquifers.  This oversight also protects less developed regions from being used as water supplies for poorly managed urban sprawl.  
  6. He wants to stop local governments from enforcing more restrictive regulations than the state.  So much for 'We the People.'
  7. He wants to prohibit counties from suing each other over water supplies or upstream pollution due to strip mining.  There have been proposals for water pipelines to South Florida in the past.  Gov. Scott who won these rural communities with his anti-government zeal now proposes to stop protecting our springs and rivers.  I wonder how the people of Columbia County will feel when they have no recourse if the Santa Fe and Suwanee Rivers become water supplies for the Tampa Bay area.
One would imagine with all this whining about regulation that Florida has been unable to develop for decades. Reality check Gov. Scott:  300,000 vacant homes in Florida.  I repeat: Three. Hundred. Thousand. Vacant. Homes.  Only in Florida...

ps: in case you were thinking he is a unique independent thinking libertarian type: he is also opposed to gay adoption; he is anti-choice; he favors a Arizona-style immigration policy; he is a climate change denialist; and he is apparently still up to his old tricks. Solantic health clinics (which Scott founded and is the primary share holder) is being investigated for Medicaid/Medicare fraud.  Oh the irony of a tea party wingnut making millions by over-billing the government...     
    On more than one occasion I asked my patients to sign out of Trinity Hospital against medical advice and come to our clinic and I would  readmit them to a proper hospital if necessary.  I never had to admit anyone.  One patient had been hospitalized for three days with strep throat (and no, he did not have rheumatic fever.  He had strep throat.)  Gov. Scott might want to check out this property as a new Solantic clinic site.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

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