Today I would like to share good news from the Florida League of Cities of which I have been an active member, as an elected official of the Town of Sewall’s Point, since 2009. I was also fortunate to be chosen to chair the league’s environmental committee last year in 2013 and in 2013 the SLR/IRL became a part of the leagues legislative priorities. Today I am happy to share continued support by the FLC regarding the plight of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee River due to excess polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
Only a few years ago, the league had never heard of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and thanks to last year’s public outcry and the leadership of Senator Joe Negron, and others, today we are part of their greater lobbying effort!
To give some background, the Florida League of Cities is the “united voice” for Florida’s municipal governments and was first started in 1922. Its goals are to serve the needs of Florida’s cities and to promote local self-government and Home Rule. The league was founded with the idea that local self-government is the keystone of American Democracy. Today there are over 400 municipal members, (towns, cities, villages) represented by the league. (http://www.floridaleagueofcities.com)
Regionally, the Town of Sewall’s Point, City of Stuart, Town of Ocean Breeze, Town of Jupiter Island, St Lucie Village, City of Port St Lucie, Ft Pierce, Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach and Okeechobee are active members of the league.
There are five legislative committees of the league and ten priorities come out of each legislative session based on the work of the legislative committees that comprise members from all over the state with as many as 50 members sitting on a committee. This year’s Legislative Committee for the FLC occurred November 12-14 in Orlando.
The committees are as follows: Energy, Environmental and Natural Resources; Finance and Taxation; Growth Management and Economic Affairs; Transportation and Intergovernmental Relations; and Urban Administration.
As I mentioned, I chaired the Energy and Environmental and Natural Resources Legislative Committee last year, but this year did not, and I was wondering if estuaries of the SLR/IRL and Caloosahatchee would take a back seat as there is fierce competition and many water problems throughout the state. I was delighted to see that the committee continued its commitment to calling attention on a statewide level to the water problems of our region.
The POLICY STATEMENT for Water Quality and Quantity 2014 reads:
The Florida League of Cities supports legislation that provides recurring allocations of financial resources for local government programs and projects resulting in the protection of water resources, the improvement of water quality and quantity, and the expanded use of alternative sources of water.
The background immediately following this priority is even more specific stating:
Florida is currently dealing with multiple water challenges. South Florida faces water quality problems in the form of massive water releases of nutrient enriched waters. Those releases, which are controlled by the Army Corp of Engineers–a federal agency, pollute the estuaries and water systems that flow to the St Lucie on the east and the Caloosahatchee on the west. North Florida faces an impending disaster in its oyster industry due to increased water usage by neighboring states Alabama and Georgia. Meanwhile all of Florida is struggling with how to efficiently conserve water and avoid devastation to the Florian Aquifer….
I am thankful to the league and to the many elected officials from all parts of our state who supported this legislative policy statement for 2014. This statement will go before the state legislature as the league lobbys and works for policies of the league.
We must be mindful of all of our water issues, from spring degradation, dying lakes and rivers, aquifer depletion, as well as the St Lucie/Indian River/Caloosahatchee/Lake Okeechobee issues we deal with at here home.
Understanding all of our water issues together is necessary, as we are all connected.
Together as cities fighting for what we love, our cities, we can overcome the common apathy of our state legislature and the destruction that has been brought upon our state by overdevelopment and lack of appreciation of our natural systems and the role they play in strong economies and quality of life.
With cities addressing Florida’s water problems together, we just might turn the tide….