On this blog, I discuss the many ways in which Monroe County has failed the citizens and taxpayers. Their extremely inappropriate “partnership” with the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) has resulted in unprecedented financial waste and struggling wastewater projects. The wastewater treatment plants on Big Coppitt and Duck Key are failing to meet effluent quality requirements. FKAA is failing to honor the settlement agreement they reached with Cudjoe Regional citizens. Key Largo is still grappling with the county’s negligently unfair funding policies, which favor excessively wasteful projects and punish efficient ones.
Keys media generally serves to downplay the failings of FKAA officials. If you read the Key West Citizen, you’ve been told that FKAA board member Richard Toppino has done less than $1 million worth of business with the FKAA. This is blatantly false. FKAA documents reveal that Toppino has done over $20 million with the FKAA in the last ten years – $12.4 million of that on the Cudjoe Regional project alone. Not only that, Toppino benefited heavily from questionable bid shuffling on the now-failing Big Coppitt project. You won’t see any of this in the newspaper. It’s all very hush-hush. If you want to know how the FKAA’s systems are performing you have to go to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) Oculus database and look for yourself.
In other words, government corruption and incompetence run rampant in the Keys. And the main source of local news, the Key West Citizen, enables it with inaccurate and incomplete reporting. So if our government officials won’t look out for the public, and the local news media won’t look out for the public, then who will?
Many times its the affected citizens themselves. The folks in Cudjoe Regional have fought relentlessly to make sure their project is done right. And it’s not over yet. Not even close. The good news is that citizens don’t always have to fight this battle alone. An organization called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), is involved now, too.
As you might recall, the FKAA and the county wrote an environmental assessment for the Cudjoe Regional project and attempted to pass it off as being prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers. (Note that the linked article came from the soft-peddling Citizen. What actually happened is likely to be a whole lot worse than what was reported.) The FKAA used the document to persuade the FDEP to issue a finding of no significant impact. A few years later, the Army Corps became aware that the misleading document existed and demanded that the county remove it from their website. The county complied.
The federal agencies usually responsible for evaluating the environmental impact of such projects claim that they had no such responsibility on this particular project. PEER filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to find out why. Here is a link to the Army Corps FOIA request. Requests have also been submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
As always, I’ll be following with interest.