On November 8th, while Floridians were all wrapped up in election recount and ballot stuffing, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) board unanimously passed a measure, to extend a sugar company's lease on 16,500 acres south of Lake Okeechobee, land where a reservoir to mitigate discharges from Lake Okeechobee is to be built.
The existing lease was not to expire until March of 2019, yet the board unanimously approved it. The immediate red flag for this vote is that it was added to the agenda at 9 p.m. the night before.
On the same day, the board voted to vacate a 30-year-old "consent decree," a potentially seismic move which ultimately could end federal oversight designed to ensure water sent south to the Everglades meets pollution-reduction standards.
These two monumental measures could have a huge impact on water quality in our region and beyond
Didn't see it in the news, didn't hear anything about it, coincidence? Probably not!
At worst, they broke state law, requiring published notices of "intention to lease." At best, they showed a total lack of transparency. Either way, their actions were another example of a breach of public trust as the SFWMD continues to manage South Florida's Waters as an irrigation system for the sugar industry at the expense of Floridians,
Please let the SFWMD board members know they have once again broken your trust to benefit the sugar industry at the expense of the will of the people of Florida.
District officials insist both decisions complied with state sunshine laws. Environmental groups will surely be questioning that assertion in court.
District officials had to know there would be intense interest in both topics. Yet the speed with which these pivotal decisions were brought to the table and passed, stinks of what one can only call corruption.
The board ignored requests by U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, a Palm City Republican, and GOP gubernatorial candidate, now Governor Elect, Ron DeSantis to delay the vote on the lease for a month.
The district has three more scheduled meetings before the lease was to expire, so their claim that it had to be done doesn't hold water! (pardon the pun)
Many years ago I learned an old line that get its fair share of use in politics, it says "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission." Without a doubt, had the water management district made these moves public prior to the vote, there would have been opposition.
The proposals would have been scrutinized, debated, long before going to a vote. In other words, the process would have worked exactly as it's supposed to.
That it didn't suggests the district views transparency as an obstacle, and the public as an opponent.
Please let the SFWMD board members know they have once again broken your trust
to benefit the sugar industry at the expense of the will of the people of Florida.