Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

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Blowing Smoke on Amendment 1


Freelance writer and editor of Bruce Ritchie has written a commentary today, Feb. 4, 2015 in the Gainesville Sun dealing with the ramifications of Amendment 1.  Since the election back in November put this amendment into Florida’s constitution, concerns about its deployment have been increasing.

Bruce Ritchie has pointed out the  activities of a group called Associated Industries of Florida,  who claim to have the interests of the people and the spirit of the amendment at heart, but whose sincerity may be questionable, due to the lack of clarity and commitment in their statements.

You can read this revealing commentary at this link in the Sun, or continue reading here for a complete reprint.

Bruce Ritchie: Blowing smoke on Amendment 1

 By Bruce Ritchie
Published: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 10:24 a.m.

Some of Florida’s elected leaders are calling for an open and robust debate on spending under the water and land conservation Amendment 1. But apparently not everyone wants to participate.

Amendment 1, approved by 75 percent of voters statewide in November, will provide an estimated $757 million for a range of eligible programs in the 2015-16 state budget.

The amendment was written so broadly that questions were raised soon after it passed about what the money could or should be spent on.

Environmentalists say the money should be used to boost spending on land-buying that’s been slashed in recent years. Others say improvements are needed in wastewater treatment to protect water supplies and natural areas.

A coalition of groups that supports Amendment 1 laid out recommendations on Jan. 8 for where all the money should be spent and has posted it online.

The Amendment 1 supporters want $173 million, or 23 percent, spent to pay off debt for past land acquisition. Among other spending, $170 million, or 22 percent, would go for Everglades restoration, with the same amount going to the Florida Forever land-buying program.

You can agree or disagree on where the money should go. The recommendation at least is out there for elected officials and the public to consider.

But now, a coalition of groups led by Associated Industries of Florida is criticizing its “opponents” for supporting the wrong priorities without saying how it wants the money spent.

Florida’s H2O Water Coalition sent out two emails in January saying that the “battle” over Amendment 1 money is underway and recipients need to send their comments to a Senate committee.

“Our opposition argues for rigid policies that would cause water shortages and stifle responsible growth,” the email said.

But the emails don’t specify what those “rigid policies” are that the opposition wants — or even who the opposition is.

And the coalition doesn’t say exactly how it wants Amendment 1 money to be spent. When I asked for a spending proposal, I was told by a coalition spokesman that one doesn’t seem to exist.

“The Legislature is currently working on a plan and we look forward to reviewing the legislative recommendations,” Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida said in a statement sent through the spokesman. “Our coalition believes this is an opportunity to take a global look at the needs of the state, region by region.”

If Associated Industries of Florida believes that water quality and water supply should be paid for with dollars from Amendment 1, then it should make its case and say where the money should go.

That’s how the democratic process should work, although it often doesn’t seem to be that way in state government.

Gov. Rick Scott didn’t help matters last week when he issued a 2015-16 budget request that his office said met the requirements of Amendment 1 but didn’t provide a spending breakdown. (His office provided a breakdown the following day.)

Any ideas on how the money should be spent should be part of the democratic process.

But anyone who can’t be specific about how the money should be spent or won’t say so publicly should be ignored — because they’re just blowing smoke.

And they certainly shouldn’t be criticizing others who are making their case — in public.

Bruce Ritchie covers environment and growth management issues in Tallahassee. He also is editor of Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Our Santa Fe River is grateful to Nathan Crabbe and the Gainesville Sun for permission to reprint their articles in their entirety.

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