No matter the focus of technology, there is nothing more important than human relationships. I believe that the Florida League of Cities and the relationships I and others have made there in the past years have been key in giving statewide recognition to the problems of our St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
Almost all cities and towns are members of the league and membership allows cities to have many business and educational services such as insurance and legal benefits at a reasonable “collective” price. Another aspect of the league is its legislative committees that work months prior to each legislative session to come up with a “policy statement,” for league lobbyist to use during the legislative session to promote the business of the league.
The five committees are Energy, Environment and Natural Resources; Finance, Taxation and Personnel; Growth Management and Economic Development; Transportation and Inter-govermental Relations; Urban Administration.(http://www.floridaleagueofcities.com)
I first joined the Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2010. It was intimidating to sit at the table with fifty or more mayors and commissioners from all over the state but it was enlightening to learn together about their issues.
It was here that I first learned first hand the extent of the destruction of our state aquifers and springs, (http://springseternalproject.org) and it was here that I got my nerve up to share about the problems of the sick St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon bottle nosed dolphins, and share how the southern Indian River Lagoon, my hometown, has the highest level of lobo mycosis, a terrible skin disease, as documented by Dr Gregory Bossert, formerly of Harbor Branch. It was here at this table I could relay the issue of the documented compromised immune systems of these dolphins due to poor water quality from pollution of local canals and especially the ACOE’s releases from Lake Okeechobee. It was here and this table that I received support. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16426180)
Over the years, the people on this committee and the staff of the Florida League of Cities like lobbyist/staff Ryan Matthews and Scott Dudley became my friends. I learned about the league and many cities’ environmental problems and they learned about Sewall’s Point’s. Ryan and Scott taught all of us how to advocate in Tallahassee for legislation on our issues.
Then in 2012, something amazing happened to me.
President of the League for 2013-14, Dr. PC Wu, councilman from Pensacola, appointed me Chair of the Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Committee. I had written Dr Wu asking to chair the committee and he gave me the honor even though I am from a very small town compared to many of my fellow members. Mayor Sam Henderson of the City of Gulf Port was vice-chair. We had a good year and although not much legislation came forth this session, Springs, Septic Tanks and Estuaries, our top priorities, were hot topics of discussion and received funding from the legislature. A start…
This work occurs due to relationships. I believe the only way we will ever really save the Indian River Lagoon or the treasured springs of Florida is “together.” Water knows no boundaries, just as friendship goes beyond political parties, backgrounds, and religion.
I thank my friends from the Florida League of Cites; I will continue teach and learn about your aquifer/springs issues and I thank you for learning about our east coast Indian River Lagoon. Together we will effect change.