first Richard Coleman Conservation Award  
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DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Polk and Sumter counties of Florida

   

Explore, Enjoy and Protect The Planet

 


October 2003 Newsletter Articles

From the Chair
Outrage Over Toth and The Restoration
Sweeping Changes Proposed to Water Rules
Penalties Against Florida's Corporate Polluters Plunge, Penalties Against Homeowners on the Rise
Support the Florida Hometown Democracy Petition Drive!

FROM THE CHAIR . . . Karen Kaplan

It is difficult to add to Vice Chair Bob Taylorís wonderful words and poetry in Richard Colemanís memory in the September newsletter. I can only give my observations in relation to Sierra Club. Richard Coleman inspired others. He inspired my husband and I, and countless others from what I have read and heard, to do what we can to improve the land in which we live. He did that by gentle persuasion and by example. He was a sweet talker for such a boisterous man and his pure joy of the outdoors was contagious, gathering in many who wanted to be a part of the action.

One couple so exemplified what Richard was all about that our group awarded them the first "Richard Coleman Conservation Award" at our September meeting.

(l to r) Rachelle Coleman, Richard's daughter, Ryan Kordek, Chanda Bennett, Frances Coleman, Richard's widow

The award is given "In recognition of exceptional committment to Florida's natural resources." The couple is Ryan Kordek (a Polk County Transportation Planner) and his wife, Chanda Bennett, who have volunteered over 2500 hours during the past six years mapping , monitoring, cleaning and restoring Lake McLeod Preserve in the Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge. At the meeting Polk Sierra members were treated to pictures, maps and colorful stories of this unique site that is home to at least 12 listed federally endangered plant species, among them the Pink Lupine. Ryan and Chanda will be heading a Polk Sierra Outing to this special area in the near future. Look for the notice in upcoming Sierra newsletters.

As confirmation of how Richardís example continues to inspire others, many Sierrans will be very active during the busy months of September and October. Among those will be Marian Ryan and Gail Bond representing Polk Group Sierra at Ecofest 2003, September 20th, at Camp Wilderness Park and again representing the group on October 25-26 for the Lakes Alive Festival in Winter Haven. Al Greulich attended the Sierra Club Training Academy in September in Winter Park and Gail Bagley and Amy Lane attended the Sierra Club Outings Leader Training, also in September. I urge all members to reflect upon the energy and commitment to conserving our land that Richard Coleman brought to Sierra Club and search for a small place in which they can also make a difference.

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Outrage Over Toth and The Restoration

The following letter was sent September 9th to the Board of Directors, South Florida Water Management District to express Polk Sierra's outrage over the demotion and transfer of Lou Toth, Chief Scientist for the Kissimmee Restoration. If this makes you angry and apprehensive about progress on the restoration, write Mr. Harkley R. Thornton, Director SFWMD, Outlook Media Inc., 5401 South Kirkman Road, Suite 680, Orlando, FL 32819, and send copies to Dr. Henry Dean, Executive Director SFWMD, P.O. Box 24680, West Palm Beach, FL 33416-4680, and Governor Jeb Bush, 400 S. Monroe Street, The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001.

Something is rotten at the South Florida Water Management District. Lou Toth has for 19 of his 23 years with the Water Management District been the outstanding scientist for the Kissimmee Restoration project. This is the first ever anywhere restoration of a river and quite literally the eyes of the world are on this project. Now, like a bolt out of the blue, this scientist is demoted and re-assigned to another project. It is critical that he be reinstated.

His crime was to state the obvious in a Sun-Sentinel August 11th article; the obvious being that the restoration is five years behind schedule and that the Everglades project is diverting time and energy from the river. This is not exactly a startling revelation! But Henry Dean, the Executive Director of the Water Management District, declares Toth lacking in teamwork and in team support and removes him from a project to which he has devoted his working life and which critically needs his background and institutional knowledge. Dean levies this draconian punishment for picayune aggravations after Toth was given the accolade of Employee of the Year in 2001.

Tothís work with the Kissimmee Restoration project gave conservation organizations - and the general public - faith that the Water Management District was not simply a tool of developers and mega-agricultural interests. Paul Gray of Audubon stated "This is a huge loss of institutional knowledge, which is trouble." Juanita Greene, Conservation Chair of Friends of the Everglades, declared the transfer "outrageous." Sierra maintains that Tothís loss to the Kissimmee Restoration project at this time is irreplaceable. The faith we had in the Water Management District is destroyed.

The message Deanís action sends to scientists is that to hold on to your job you must toe the line, keep your head down, and spout the party line. A true scientist reports the facts as they are, NOT as some bureaucrat would like them to be. Could it be that the real point of Deanís action was an opening shot to rid the SFWMD of real scientists?

Clearly, something IS rotten at the Water Management District.

F. Coleman, B. Taylor, M. Ryan

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Sweeping Changes Proposed to Water Rules

Is Gov. Jeb Bushís Council of 100 business executives attempting to transfer control of the Stateís water supply from the current set of five regional water management districts? At a recent meeting in Tampa, this group of real estate brokers, developers, agricultural executives and sugar growers recommended that a Florida Water Supply Commission having seven members be appointed by the governor. As reported by Craig Pittman of the St. Petersburg times, this commission would "oversee the five water management districts."

Pittman adds that the Council of 100 proposal states that the new commissionís duties would be to "identify water stress areas and designate water supply service areas" and to "consider a statewide water distribution system to route supplies from water-rich areas to water-poor areas". The Suwannee River watershed was identified as one such water-rich area but the proposal did not actually (yet?) recommend transporting water from that area.

The Florida Sierra Club attempted to stage a large and vigorous protest. Although we missed badly on quantity, the vigor was clearly present. Approximately 20 human (and 2 fish) Sierra members gathered in front of the meeting site. Waving protest signs and chanting slogans, the group, mostly from the Tampa Bay area, caught the attention of the few passers by, and a small contingent of reporters. Unfortunately, I doubt that any of the official attendees of the meeting were even aware of our presence.

A bit later, when the group asked for permission to actually attend the meeting and join two Sierra representatives who had already paid a $200 entrance fee, we were rebuked. However, the "management" did allow several more Sierrans to enter as guests of the paid members but could only sit in as observers.

Fortunately, at least for now, Mr. Pittmanís article indicates that a number of the water management officials in attendance and several state legislators have all expressed skepticism about the proposal. This is an issue that we must monitor closely, but I do not recommend that we be involved in other poorly planned protests.
....Bob Taylor

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Penalties Against Florida's Corporate Polluters Plunge, Penalties Against Homeowners on the Rise

TALLAHASSEE - Penalties levied against polluting companies took a nosedive between 2001 and 2002, according to documents released recently by Florida Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Florida PEER), but homeowners and small business owners saw major penalty increases over the same period.

While the total monetary value of penalty assessments remained largely unchanged (approximately $8.5 million) between 2001 and 2002, the difference was the target of those fines. According to records obtained by Florida PEER from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Office of General Counsel, fines dropped precipitously in nearly every industrial or corporate penalty category in 2002:

  • Penalties for industrial wastewater and hazardous waste violations declined by more than 50% from the year before;
  • Assessments against air polluters dropped by nearly a third; and
  • Fines against solid waste violators declined by more than 85%. In contrast, penalties assessed by Governor Jeb Bush's administration against small-time violators and, in particular, homeowners, carried a much higher portion of the enforcement burden:
  • Domestic waste and potable water assessments, principally targeting mobile home parks and residential developments, saw increases of more than 50% above 2001 levels; and
  • Penalties for dredge and fill violations, such as construction of boat docks and the filling of wetlands, rose 10% in 2002.

ďEven though they are responsible for most of the pollution, corporate violators seem to be carrying 'Get Out of Jail Free' cards," commented Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney. "The little guys, who are not represented by major law firms or lobbyists, are getting the book thrown at them."

Recently Florida PEER released data showing that cleanup orders and other enforcement actions have dropped dramatically in the past decade. The Bush Administration issued an explanatory release claiming to be intentionally reducing lawsuits in exchange for swifter penalty assessments. "These figures suggest that the only ones benefiting from the new approach are the wealthiest violators," commented Phillips. "Not only has the number of lawsuits in key program areas dropped, but now it is evident that civil penalty assessments are declining as well."
...Florida Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

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Sprawling Development
 
Water Shortages
 
Congested Roads
 
Over-crowded Schools
 
Higher Taxes
 
Mining Permits
 
Destruction of Wildlife Habitat
Incompatible Land Uses
 
Lack of Affordable Housing
 
Air & Water Pollution
 

FLORIDA SIERRA ENDORSES THE
FLORIDA HOMETOWN DEMOCRACY PETITION DRIVE

Florida is still being overdeveloped and Floridians have been powerless to stop bad developments that ruin our communities...until now. You can help restore decision making power to the people and put people back in charge of the places where they live! Voters, not politicians, will decide if they want certain land use changes in their communities.

Comprehensive plans (county & city zoning) are the blueprints for land use in each county. The plans are supposed to protect communities from bad development, but they donít work because too many city and county commissioners canít say NO to bad development proposals. The Legislature has made it too easy to change the plans by providing numerous exceptions to the twice per year limit on amendments in the Growth Management Act.

Florida Hometown Democracy is a new political action committee that is seeking voter approval for a proposed state constitutional amendment. The amendment would let city and county voters have the FINAL say at a referendum on any future local comprehensive land use plans or plan amendments. Those decisions are now made by city or county commissions.

The Florida Hometown Democracy Petition Drive needs 50,000 petitions for the initial judicial review of this constitutional amendment, and a total of 500,000 by spring 2004 in order to place it on the fall 2004 ballot.

  Population 	       Polk     Highlands  Hardee     DeSoto 
 1980 Census 	    321,652 	47,526 	   19,379     19,039 
 2000 Census 	    483,924 	87,366 	   26,930     32,209 
 2020 Projections   636,650    114,952     37,444     45,415 

Source: 
University of Florida 
Bureau of Economic and Business Research 4/03

How you can help:

  • Obtain a petition, make copies and sign it. Then get 5 of your friends to sign it, and ask them to get five to sign it, and so on. All information is on the website: www.FloridaHometownDemocracy.com
  • Give a donation to the political action committee that is sponsoring this drive. There are many expenses involved. Information is on the website.
  • Volunteer to be a coordinator to get the word out, obtain more petitions, recruit organizations to help in this effort. Contact Gail Bond gailbond@tampabay.rr.com, 863-298-8134, or Marian Ryan 863-293-6961 marian.ryan@verizon.net, if you have time to offer or questions.

...Marian Ryan, Gail Bond

   

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first Richard Coleman Conservation Award

 

masthead picture: first Richard Coleman Conservation Award
(l to r) Rachelle Coleman, Richard's daughter, Ryan Kordek, Chanda Bennett, Frances Coleman, Richard's widowSierra Club, Polk Group

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