Pork-Barrel Politics & Amendment 1

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The [Bivins Arm] proposal is little more than old-fashioned pork-barrel politics.  It shows the need for a competitive process using environmental criteria to best determine the spending of Amendment 1 funding.

This reference is to Rep. Keith Perry’s request for using $12 million of Amendment 1 funds to improve the lake on which he lives.  The editorial by Nathan Crabbe in today’s Gainesville Sun suggests that this  is an infrstructure project that should be funded by other sources.

Read this opinion piece here at this link, or continue reading for a reprint:

Editorial: Pork-barrel politics

  Published: Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 4:19 p.m.

Alachua County residents don’t have to look far for examples of how state conservation money might be misspent.

State lawmakers are considering about $1.2 billion in requests for water-related projects. Much of the money could come from Amendment 1, the land and water conservation measure approved last fall by voters.

The largest local request is for $12 million to dredge Bivens Arm. The request was made by Rep. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican who has lived on the lake for 28 years.

Bivens Arm is undoubtedly one of the area’s most polluted water bodies. Dredging might very well help address years of pollution from sources such as urban stormwater runoff and a nearby cattle pasture.

But there is no research to show whether dredging is the optimal solution, much less one that justifies spending $12 million of taxpayer money.

Given that Bivens Arm lacks public access, the dredging seems more designed to make the lake more pleasant for neighboring homeowners such as Perry than providing public benefits.

The proposal is little more than old-fashioned pork-barrel politics. It shows the need for a competitive process using environmental criteria to best determine the spending of Amendment 1 funding.

For years, land conservation money was awarded through such a process for Florida Forever and other state programs. After state lawmakers slashed funding for those programs to next to nothing, voters responded by passing Amendment 1 by a 75 percent to 25 percent margin.

Lawmakers must use the money as voters intended — which is largely spending it on conservation projects. The measure wasn’t meant to pay for infrastructure projects that should be funded by other sources.

Some of those projects, such as extending or improving sewage systems, might actually further degrade the environment by encouraging development in sensitive areas.

Alachua County has enough trouble competing with funding requests from more populated areas with politically powerful lawmakers without Perry putting dubious projects on the table.

The best case for our area — and more importantly, for the environment — would be if Amendment 1 was used to fund projects with the greatest merit rather than the most persuasive lawmaker backing them.

OSFR commends Nathan Crabbe for his frequent and consistent concern for Amendment 1 and the protection of Florida’s natural resources, especially its rivers and springs. We are also grateful to the Sun for permission to print in its entirety this editorial.

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