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DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Polk and Sumter counties of Florida


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July 2004 Newsletter Articles

FROM THE VICE . . . Frances H. Coleman

FROM THE VICE . . . Frances H. Coleman

In June while our Chair & Carpenter Supreme (Bob) was off on a fishing trip, a congenial group of Sierrans gathered at the Swamp Cabin and held a free-flowing discussion on major conservation issues. Reports on Spanish Oaks and Thomas Landing were given by the Ryans and we reviewed the just past legislative session. Regarding the latter, our Sierra lobbyist, Susie Caplowe, summed it up very succinctly in the following manner:

The Good News is a lot of bad bills died. The Sad News is the taxpayers' money that was wasted on this session is inexcusable. This was politics at its worst. This session was about an election year and seeking to deliver laws and appropriations in exchange for campaign contributions from the corporate profiteers. You could see it in the gifts legislators received and read it in the legislation and hear it in the hallways, conference rooms and offices. The hallways were flooded with the aroma of food purchased by Developers, Sugar, Tobacco, Alcohol Distributors, etc., and it was, for too many legislators, the payback from those who reap the profits of tax cuts and exemptions.

We still have a chance to have an impact on one of the bad bills that was passed. The legislature passed an amendment which will be on the November ballot which would impose an earlier cut off date for turning in petitions. We must remember to vote NO on this and thereby send a message to our legislators that we won't stand for their attempts to curb citizen-initiated amendments. As of this writing the Governor still has not signed the Anti-Manatee Bill (nicknamed by us "The Marine Manufacturers Protection Act) and the Agricultural Economic Development Act (aka "Fueling Sprawl Hurts Us All). The Anti-Manatee Bill would impose new limitations on the state's ability to adopt new speed zones to protect manatees; the language of this bill would alter the "mission" of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to enforce proper boat use and would allow disgruntled boaters to challenge manatee protections anywhere. The Agricultural Economic Development Act would make it easier to change farm land use to residential, commercial or industrial designations. Sierrans are asking the Governor to veto both of these bills.

Each nesting box that Bob makes is better than the one before and people all over the county are acquiring them (for a donation of $35) as gifts for all occasions. He has just a small amount of lumber left. Call Bob and see if he has a box left for your special purpose (439-2251.

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Henry Ford famously said, "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal." Ten months into our campaign to put the people back in charge of the places where they live, it’s time to give you an interim report telling you where we are and where we are going.

First, it’s important to understand what Florida Hometown Democracy (FHD) is and what it is not. Our initiative petition drive is not well-funded. It is not backed by powerful financial institutions or resources. FHD is truly a grass-roots effort, dependent on you and other caring Floridians. Because we did not have a million dollars to pay for signature collection, we have had to "rely on the kindness of strangers" as a famous character once put it.

We were fortunate to obtain the institutional endorsement and support of many of Florida’s major environmental groups (like Sierra), and the support of their members has brought in great numbers of signed FHD petitions. Notably, many state, regional, local, and neighborhood groups have been faithful supporters of FHD. To those groups, we express our heartfelt appreciation. Unfortunately, several large, statewide environmental groups have refused to endorse FHD. Because of the efforts of many caring Floridians, FHD’s volunteer-driven effort has collected over 50,000 petitions -- an average of just over 1,000 per week. Thank you for getting us to this point!

Where do we go from here?

Once Florida’s Secretary of State certifies that we have collected at least 48,869 verified petitions, the amendment will be forwarded to the Florida Attorney General, who will forward the FHD petition to the Florida Supreme Court for review. The Court has no deadline for review of the petition, which involves the sufficiency of the title, summary, and text of the amendment (but not the merits of the idea). We have confidence that the Court will approve our language for placement on the ballot.

But the process does not end with Court-approval of the petition. During and after the Court’s review, we must still collect a grand total of 488,722 verified petitions in order to be placed on the statewide ballot. Each petition has a "shelf-life" of four-years. Accordingly, we are hopeful that we will be on the November 2006 general election ballot –– but we cannot succeed without your help.

Our score to-date: as of this writing we have 48,073 validated signatures. Our validation numbers across the state are in the 87-92% range therefore we need to turn in roughly 57,000 signed petitions to get the required number for the Supreme Court review.

Our goal is to turn out hundreds of volunteers on election day November 2, 2004, to collect signatures at the polls -- that's the best place and quickest way to collect large numbers of valid signatures. There’s no reason why we can’t collect several hundred thousand petitions on November 2, 2004, if you and your friends will commit to spending part of that day at the polls.

Our other goal is to raise money to pay for signature collection, to ensure that we make the 2006 deadline. We can expect to pay over $1.00 per signature. That’s just a fact of life. Tell your friends to donate to FHD. If you have a rich aunt, ask her for help! And don’t forget to still keep collecting and sending in petitions signed by Florida registered voters. Every petition gets us closer to our goal. Contact Gail Bond 863 298-8134 if you can help or if you need a petition.

We have already succeeded in raising awareness of the perils of rampant over-development, and in empowering citizens across the state to take action at the local level to protect their communities. Keep the faith. No one said this would be easy. We are getting there, petition by petition. We must keep our eyes on the prize, Florida’s future.
...Lesley Blackner & Ross Burnaman, FHD

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The heavy equipment is done scraping the muck from the bed of Lake Tohopekaliga, some 8 million cubic yards of the oozy crud that filled approximately 450,000 dump truck loads. Now it is up to Mother Nature to bring on the rains that will complete the final phase of the $8 million restoration and raise the level of the lake, commonly known as Toho. The six-month drawdown also affected lakes Cypress, Hatchineha and Kissimmee, which are downstream of Toho and help comprise the Chain of Lakes that feeds the Kissimmee River. The South Florida Water Management District assisted in permitting the project, then operated the water control structures that lowered the lake level by 6 feet. The phase lasted from November of 2003 to March 1. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission oversaw the muck scraping, which got under way early this year. Osceola County and the City of Kissimmee contributed people and money. And the agricultural community agreed to store the water coming off the lakes in surrounding farm fields.

With a normal rainy season, the lake should be at its summer level of 53 ½ feet above mean sea level by the fall, water managers said. It was at 48 ½ feet above mean sea level in mid June. While the lake is re-filling, water managers will not stop sending water south to the Kissimmee River from the lakes.

Postponed for three years, the Lake Toho drawdown and habitat enhancement project was needed to remove layers of accumulated muck, an oozy soup of rotting vegetation that degrades fish and wildlife habitat and obstructs access to the lake.
...Excerpted from SFWMD Release

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MERCURY RISING--Issued public health warnings to pregnant women and children about mercury while allowing power plants to pollute our air and water with three times more mercury than the current law and for decades longer.

SUPER DUPED--Became first administration to support shifting burden of Superfund toxic waste cleanups from polluters to taxpayers.

SOOTY SANTA--Dismantled provision of Clean Air Act that requires oldest, dirtiest power plants and refineries to curb soot and smog pollution.

BACK IN BLACKOUT--Actively promoted an energy bill that would deepen America's dependence on oil, funnel billions of dollars to the biggest polluters in the country, and do nothing to repair or address America's antiquated energy grid.

DRILLING WILDERNESS--Opened an area larger than Texas and Oklahoma combined to logging, mining, and oil extraction, stripping protection from 10% of America's land.

STONEWALLING, BIG TIME--Continued to withhold documents from secret meetings between Bush/Cheney Energy Task Force and energy industry lobbyists.

DON'T AX, DON'T TELL--Exploited public fears about wildfires to expand commercial logging on national forests rather than protect people where they live.

NEXT STOP, SHINOLA--Blocked proposed rules that would protect homes, streams, and beaches from raw sewage overflows and would warn public when overflows occurred.

CRITICAL CONDITION--Ended the process of critical habitat designation for imperiled wildlife under the Endangered Species Act.

COP OFF--Allowed environmental enforcement to plummet, by cutting funding for inspectors and dramatically reducing referrals for environmental prosecutions.
...Larry Fahn, Sierra President

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Several Sierrans carpooled to a delightful full day/evening at the 52nd Florida Folk Festival. Dance was highlighted this year and festival goers were treated to presentations by Greek, Masai, Flamenco - you-name-it - artists. Of special interest to our group were the Florida environmental vocalists who performed non-stop in the gazebo on the banks of the Suwannee. The evening ended on a note of high good humor with Arlo Guthrie's group. Mark your 2005 calendar now - the festival is always the Memorial Day weekend.
...Frances H. Coleman

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The Polk Vision Public Input meetings have been set for July 26 at 7PM at Bok Sanctuary and for July 27 at 7PM at the Auburndale Civic Center. On the 26th the Sanctuary will reopen at 5:30PM so that attendees may visit the gardens at no charge before the meeting. Visit www.polkvision.com for background information and submit comments by fax or e-mail; Polk Vision, Inc., P.O. Box 9005, Drawer PV01, Bartow, FL 33831, 863-534-5640 or fax 863-534-5642.
...Marian Ryan



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masthead picture: Outings Past , published with permission
Copyright © 2004, Frances H Coleman, All Rights Reserved

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