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Painting Rick Scott Green: We aren’t that stupid – I hope

The Miami Herald recently published an op-ed claiming that when it comes to Florida’s environment, Charlie Crist was — and would be — a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad governor.

Rick Scott has been a great governor, Nature-wise. And Jeb Bush, the guy who preceded Crist in the mansion? The greatest governor. A green visionary. The savior of the Everglades.

Also, Jeb was the author of the op-ed in question.

Maybe Jeb’s suffering from some rare brain-diminishing disorder, some kind of early-onset dementia-cum-whiplash brought on by moving too right too fast. Otherwise, he’s being seriously economical with the truth. Indeed, one might say he’s making crap up — which often happens when a person starts running for president.

Jeb makes it sound like Charlie Crist is a one-man drain-and-pave crew, targeting the Everglades out of sheer venality. Exhibit A: Crist’s attempt to buy sugar land. A “boondoggle,” “nakedly political” (you know it’s bad when a Republican says “naked”), an “irresponsible plan” designed to, er, reduce pollution in the Everglades.

The original deal would have bought up more than 180,000 acres of U.S. Sugar’s land. Big Sugar has used Florida’s greatest natural treasure and the drinking water source for millions as its personal sewer for decades, pumping industrial waste into the Everglades.

Since sugar production releases 100 pounds of phosphorus — the stuff which promotes toxic algae — per year per acre, taking a gigantic hunk of sugar production out of the ‘glades would be a good start.

If you actually want to clean up the water and land, that is, instead of scoring cheap, dumb political points.

Crist’s Everglades deal fell foul of the Great Recession and was scaled way down to 27,000 acres. Not bad, but nowhere near enough. The state of Florida retained an option to buy any or all of U.S. Sugar’s property later, when we had the money.

Now Rick Scott tells us Florida’s economy has recovered. He takes the credit for it, too. He doesn’t take credit for the way Big Sugar is still despoiling the Everglades, but he should.

Instead of exercising the state’s option to buy, Scott has been U.S. Sugar’s guest on secret hunting trips at King Ranch in Texas. U.S. Sugar, which has given $2.2 million to Republicans in 2014 (Democrats bagged $132,000), now says if the state doesn’t buy it, they might develop that Everglades land: drain it, build a bunch of houses and businesses and nice wide roads. The alligators and birds will love it.

And speaking of King Ranch, they’re up to their golden crowns in Big Sugar, too, the biggest member of the Sugar Cane Growers Co-op of Florida. Surely nothing to do with why Scott appointed a King Ranch honcho to the South Florida Water Management Board.

When Jeb Bush says Scott “has fulfilled his commitment to move forward with Everglades restoration,” he’s either one mojito over the line or suffering from Mega-Donor Attraction Psychosis — a recognized mental condition afflicting presidential hopefuls.

Scott defends dirty water like a dung beetle defends his manure stash, fighting numeric nutrient standards for Florida waters, turning Florida’s DEP into developer pimps, destroying the agency charged with growth management, ignoring Floridians’ demands that he address toxic algae in our rivers, lakes and springs, and awarding sweetheart-deal leases on state land to the very people who befouled the Everglades in the first place, so they can carry on dumping filthy gunk into the Everglades.

As David Guest, the lawyer who’s suing over this on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, puts it, “Any cook knows, when your soup is too salty, you don’t add more salt.”

Jeb Bush is not, unlike his brother, ignorant and proud of it. So maybe he’s just mad at Charlie Crist for abandoning one of his pet plans, a vast, environmentally unsound Everglades reservoir. Maybe he’s afraid Floridians will remember he’s the governor who intended to park the Scripps Research Institute in the ‘glades at the headwaters of the Loxahatchee. Maybe he’s scared we’ll recall that he signed off on Big Sugar-friendly amendments to the Everglades Forever Act, allowing still more poison into the ecosystem.

Maybe he’s just being a Republican.

Jeb Bush did some great things for Florida’s environment, putting money into Florida Forever and refocusing on the Everglades. So did Charlie Crist. But Rick Scott?  Even here in Looking-Glassland Florida, where believing as many as six impossible things before breakfast is not only possible but an essential coping mechanism, painting Rick Scott green is going too far. We aren’t that stupid.

I hope.

Diane Roberts is a professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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