Keith Perry did not open his door at his district office at 4650 NW 39th Place, Gainesville on Wed. morning when a small group of protesters came knocking. A group of concerned citizens, mostly from North Central Florida AFL-CIO, Alachua County Education Association and Sierra Club gathered to showcase what they believe are Sen. Perry’s abysmal failings in leadership on key issues. Speakers were Jeremiah Tattersall of AFL-CIO, Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson of Sierra Club, and Carmen Ward of Alachua County Education Association. Following are parts taken from the Press Release:
This last legislative session ended like most in recent memory: with disastrous results for working families and celebrations from special interests. And like each Sine Die that Keith Perry has participated in, State Representatives closed down Tallahassee and sailed back to their everyday lives or checked out to hit the campaign trial, leaving Floridians holding the bag for their votes.
Perry has led the charge against better pay for Florida workers and consistently rubber-stamped dangerous, poorly vetted education bills that funnel millions out of public schools, setting up taxpayer slush funds for charter school corporations. Thanks to politicians like Keith Perry it’s no surprise that Florida ranks one of the worst states for teachers.
But fed up Alachua residents are ready to call out Perry’s voting record and urge their neighbors to make the best decision for their fellow working and middle-class Floridians: making sure Keith Perry doesn’t return to Tallahassee.
According to the protesters, not only has Perry has done nothing to improve Florida’s huge water problems, he has actually worked to make them worse. Following is Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson’s comments on Perry’s “F” on water:
Anyone who has lived in North Central Florida knows how important preserving our unique ecosystem is to this community. Our natural environment is part of who we are. Our kids grow up spending summers at Itchetucknee, taking school field trips to Devil’s Millhopper and camping at Payne’s Prairie.
Keeping Florida’s natural springs healthy and flowing is also key to keeping our economy strong. Every year tourists visit our hometown and support local businesses. But even more than that – if we fail to keep Florida’s springs healthy, North Central Florida will lose access to our primary source of clean drinking water.
It seems a given then that our state representatives would actively fight for policies that will preserve our natural resources for future generations, but that’s not the case. State Senator Keith Perry has spent his time in Tallahassee going to bat for developers, big polluters, and other private interests, instead of fighting to protect the environment we love.
For evidence, look no further than the “Toilet to Tap” legislation that Keith Perry supported after his own similar bill failed to pass the Senate this past legislative session. Perry argued that it would make the aquifer cleaner – offering no support for that statement. In reality, HB1149 was written to let companies and developers pump semi-polluted, chemically-treated water into the aquifer which provides 90% of Floridians with their drinking water. We don’t know what effect those chemicals would have on the aquifer and once the aquifer is polluted, that damage is hard to undo.
Concerns of water shortages are very real, but this bill wasn’t written to address issues with overuse of Florida’s aquifers. This bill was clearly written so that big developers could get approval for projects in areas where there isn’t enough water – even if it means endangering our drinking water in the process.
Florida needs leaders who will keep our water clean starting with a ban on fracking and drilling. For all eight years Perry has been in office, his party has controlled both houses of the Florida Legislature and the governorship, but they have failed to pass a ban on fracking and offshore drilling. It’s clear at this point that we can’t rely on him to be a leader on this issue, or even work with members of his own party to get the job done.
Perry is part of a culture of anti-environmentalism in Tallahassee. Right now in Central and South Florida, we are seeing our neighbors pay the price of that inaction as toxic algae slimes important water resources and threatens the health and livelihood of millions of Floridians who live along or near Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie rivers.
As detailed in the Gainesville Sun, “Rick Scott and the Republican controlled legislature slashed the budgets of water managers, eliminated an agency that regulated growth, cut enforcement of environmental regulations and spent money slated for land conservation on other uses.”
Moving forward, it’s not enough to address the effects of climate change. We have to approach the environmental crises we’re facing on a global scale because it will have a global impact.
We need leaders who understand that, and Keith Perry has demonstrated time and time again that he doesn’t. So it’s no surprise today that we’re delivering him a giant “F” on protecting the environment Floridians rely on.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-