Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rick Scott, Tea Party CEO of Florida Inc

Gov. Rick Scott has a Tea Party dream...someday Florida will be an enormous barren plain upon which you may do whatever you want whenever you want.  Pesky 'big government' will no longer worry about the air you breathe, the water you drink or the creatures that inhabit the state of Florida.  Developers and corporations will manage Florida's growth and environment.  Wealthy children will have high quality education. The poor will create their own social safety net and crowd their children into buildings formerly known as "public schools."

Background Check
Rick Scott is a criminal.  Before he deciding to turn Florida into a industrial park, he was the healthcare CEO of Columbia/HCAHe resigned after pleading guilty to massive Medicaid fraud (and 14 felonies) which led to the largest fine in Medicaid fraud history ($1.4 billion).  He pleaded the fifth 75 times.  After he stole millions from US taxpayers, he decided to run for Governor of Florida and thereby proved that the Tea Party has no legitimate philosophy.  Elected by 26% of Floridians (winning by 61,500 votes) he has acted like he won a landslide mandate election.  He promised a variety of crazy-ass things while running for election and now, he is delivering.

The Peoples' Budget
Scott's disastrous budget was recently signed in The Villages at a closed "private event" funded by taxpayer money.  For a photo-op he shipped in students from charter schools (run by his friend Jonathan Hage which receive millions in taxpayer money) from 60 miles away.  The children waved signs and looked happy (and a bit insane) as he cut $3 billion from public education.  He didn't allow protesters or anyone "liberal looking" at his public taxpayer-funded event.  Several seniors and others were escorted out by sheriff's deputies.  They were not disruptive.  They just looked like liberals.    

The War on the Environment (or Let No Crisis Go to Waste)
When House Bill 7207 was signed into law it destroyed 25 years of growth management in Florida.  The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) which managed growth has been eliminated.  The effort by Gov. Scott and his Republican super-majority demonized growth management while pretending deregulation will create jobs. Florida currently has over 400,000 vacant homes, billions of square feet of empty office space and millions of undeveloped commercially-zoned acreage. Historically, the DCA approved 97% of proposed projects.  Furthermore, the Florida House and Senate has been Republican controlled for 14 years with Republican Governors throughout.  Regulation and protecting the environment was never their priority.  Regulation did not cause Florida to be number one in home foreclosures.  Most would argue that 25 years of deregulation of the financial markets at the federal level coupled with Florida's already weak environmental laws brought us to where we are.   
  • HB 7207 kills concurrency which forced developers to help fund new roads, schools and parks to accommodate their projects.  The costs will now be passed onto taxpayers.  This amounts to public funding of private development.
  • County Commissions, full of good ol' boys, fraught with conflicts of interest and lacking long-term vision will be making major development decisions that will have environmental impact far beyond their counties. 
  • Water Management Districts which could have abated the destruction had their funding slashed and the Governor overturned decisions to buy property that would protect water supplies.  This was a carefully orchestrated decision that will likely be the first step in a water grab from the the water-rich rural communities of North Florida to the overdeveloped water-poor communities in South Florida.  There has been talk of a water pipeline.  The Springs of North Florida, the Santa Fe River, Suwanee River and many others are all at risk.     
  • Everglades restoration efforts that began in 1971 have been gutted, defunded and management handed to the anti-environment legislature in Tallahassee.  The South Florida Water Management District's ability to manage the Everglades has been reduced and the federal/state funding partnership is now in jeopardy.
  • Florida Forever was one of the most successful land-buying programs in the country.  It purchased environmentally sensitive land and protected it against development.  It was supported by Republicans and Democrats.  Jeb Bush was one of its biggest defenders and even vetoed cuts during economic downturns.  Scott proudly set Florida Forever's budget at zero. 
  • Voting and public participation in grassroots petition drives have been dealt a blow by a far reaching election bill.  This makes it exceedingly difficult for the public to stop what Gov. Scott and the Legislature has done to our future.

Perhaps the worst part of the new anti-environmentalism (at the state and federal level) is the false choice that is being presented: You can have environmental regulation OR a vibrant economy.  Reasonable people understand that this is nonsense, but it works politically, especially during a recession.  Politicians use this lie to weaken environmental laws, to threaten the EPA and to deny science.  If you look at the current line-up of Republican presidential hopefuls you will see how radical the new anti-environmentalism has become. There are not two sides to this issue.  There is no choice.  Habitat destruction is morally wrong.

    There is much more to complain about regarding Scott's plans for Florida.  He slashed school funding and is funneling money toward voucher programs to fund private schools.  He eliminated all funding for PBS and NPR.  He is resisting anti-gerrymandering legislation passed by an overwhelming majority of Floridians.  He is privatizing Medicaid (which is already diminishing access and the quality of care for some of my most vulnerable patients) and he wants to drug test all public employees and welfare recipients. Oh and by the way, he founded a drug testing/walk-in health clinic chain called Solantic in which his wife is a major shareholder.
    I encourage anyone that has floated down the Ichetucknee River, visited the Everglades or any of Florida's natural places to call the Governor and tell him what you think about his plans.  They will politely listen.  His number: 850.488.7146

    If you are Florida resident please call or write your senator and representative (click on link to get info) and please attend your County Commission meetings when necessary.  The 1000 Friends of Florida link below has a useful growth management alert system.

    Organizations that help protect Florida

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    A Tribute in Grass

     Castle Hill, Ipswich, MA

    Old Wire Road, Lake City, FL
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