Update: I did eventually get documents from the county.
For the most part, the Florida Keys Stewardship Act (FKSA) has been presented to the public as an “environmental” bill. However, when Kevin Diaz pointed out that certain aspects of the bill might negatively affect the Keys environment, Comm. Carruthers responded with a pompous, tedious and extremely hostile rant claiming that it was not an environmental bill at all, but a “multi-faceted approach to addressing various needs arising from the State’s designation of the Florida Keys as an Area of Critical State Concern”. Hmmm….apparently environmental concerns have been run over by rambling, officious bureaucrat-speak.
Here’s just some of the media coverage of the bill:
- Jenna Stauffer interviewing Rep. Holly Raschein – June 25, 2016. FKSA is repeatedly referred to as an environmental bill. According to Raschein, the county does have a land acquisition plan and that plan supposedly prioritizes conservation land. Does this plan really exist? According to the the county’s response to my public records request, it does not. So where does that leave us? Once again, the public has no clear idea of what’s going on.
- Key West Mayor, Craig Cates and Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) Chairman, Bob Dean both emphasize the benefits to the environment.
- On its legislative affairs page, Monroe County refers to the FKSA as a “comprehensive environmental stewardship bill”. (I took screen shot. You never know when it might poof away.)
- When the FKSA was filed, Raschein emphasized the benefits to the Keys environment – especially the marine environment.
The public was most definitely led to believe that the FKSA was all about protecting the Keys environment. I definitely went with the flow. It all sounded good. Media coverage and statements made by Raschein and county officials indicated that water quality projects and conservation land were the primary focus and that the existing Mayfield interlocal agreement would be preserved. Neither appears to be the case.
Kevin Diaz’s letter woke me up. He, along with the rest of us assumed that the FKSA was an environmental bill. And why wouldn’t we? That is what we’ve been told all along. Diaz went to the trouble of actually reading the bill, unlike me (to my everlasting shame and regret). He pointed out that several of the provisions in this “environmental” bill have possible anti-environmental implications, and wondered why they were included.
County commissioner, Heather Carruthers’s hostile response only adds to the suspicion and uncertainty. Her pompous, tedious, condescending letter seemed designed to discourage any criticism, analysis or open discussion of the bill. Why? Why is Diaz wrong for reading the bill and questioning its implications? Is this how Carruthers would respond to a constituent who had questions? If she wanted to send the message that questions and concerns are unwelcome, she certainly succeeded. Add that to county staff’s confusion regarding my very straightforward public records request and it looks like the county is playing games again.
By the way, I asked Carruthers a few questions on her Facebook page. No response yet. Perhaps another blistering tirade will pop up somewhere in answer to my “stupid” questions. (Carruthers has since deleted and disabled comments. No two-way communication allowed.)
Most amazing of all, Carruthers strongly de-emphasized the FKSA as an environmental bill, especially the water quality aspects. Again, the bill has been presented all along as primarily about water quality and conservation land. Water quality projects were the first items mentioned by Raschein in her interview. But according to Carruthers water quality is definitely not a priority.
The bill is more than just a water quality bill. In fact, the term “water quality” appears in only 5 places among the 16 pages/414 lines of text. The bill is a multi-faceted approach to addressing various needs arising from the State’s designation of the Florida Keys as an Area of Critical State Concern. The Act touches upon topics such as funding sources for acquiring conservation land and satisfying property rights claims, and correcting an oversight that prohibited use of certain state monies within the City of Key West.
Once again, we are faced with a seemingly impenetrable wall of incoherent rhetoric. Clarity is needed.
- Will the FKSA preserve the division of funding agreed to by the entities of the Florida Keys? Or was that another lie?
- Is there a plan for land acquisitions as stated by Raschein? Will conservation land be prioritized? How will purchases be vetted?
- How will hurricane evacuation times be reduced without widening roads?
- Who will benefit from “affordable” housing?
Lots of questions. Very few answers.
By the way, the KeyNoter expressed concerns about the FKSA in an editorial a while back and I poo-pooed them. Turns out they were right. Should have actually read it way before Diaz wrote his letter.