The Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District, Departments of Health,—less so, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission….Afraid to speak?
Yes, and to a degree, it has probably always “been this way,” but right now, based on what I’m learning, I believe, it’s the worst it’s ever been.
My feeling now is that many wonderful employees who work for our Florida state agencies, —many historically the “best in the world,” have “gone mum” feeling that in order to survive, or to fit in, to keep their jobs, or positions, they have to remain “quiet and happy.”
The recent climate change debacle in the national and state media is just the tip of the iceberg.
All things start with leadership–with a tone that is set from “above–” This is true whether it be a family or a state agency. In Florida all state agencies are directly answering to the governor, Governor Rick Scott.
I met Rick Scott face to face in 2014. I have to say I liked him. I liked him for coming to Stuart to see our toxic, polluted St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I liked him for sitting on the couch with me at Kevin Power’s house, of the SFWMD Governing Board. I liked that he used a Sharpie blue pen to take notes on a yellow legal pad, and I have taken to signing many documents with a Sharpie as well. (It makes your name stand out…) I do appreciate the great effort that has been made to connect with local leaders and the monies towards area canal runoff for the C-44 STA/Reservoir… but I would be remiss if I did not say that “something is wrong.” Something is terribly wrong when people say they feel stifled, when people feel hand-cuffed, when people feel threatened.
This is as un-American as communism or socialism.
The red on our flag stands for the blood that was shed to extract tyranny. There must be a moral code to allow people to speak, to allow the agencies to advise. It is well-known that the golden area of conservation in the state of Florida occurred under both democrats and republicans in the 1970s and 80s when governors allowed talented, educated scientists and specialists to ADVISE and speak. Ofcouse there were “politics” but there was most definitely more freedom than today.
For example, two weeks ago, after 80 people signed up to speak on behalf of getting on the agenda the possibility to buy US option land south of Lake Okeechobee, the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District did not say one word. Not the scientists. Not the board. Not leadership.
Another state agency, the Department of Environmental Protection, you would think would be documenting the destruction of our St Lucie River by Lake Okeechobee, was so “gutted” in 2010, that basically their reef protection programs are now funded and run by a federal agency, NOAA. It’s hard for DEP to say a word I am learning because basically no one is around….and yeah, isn’t it the SFWMD that’s been given the job to document the dying seagrasses anyway? No report lately? I wonder why….
Supposedly, if were not for NOAA, the state of Florida probably would not have a Department of Environmental Protection. —-YES. The 2008 Financial Crisis ….I get it. I lived it as a small town commissioner in south Florida. It was scary, but we did not fall over the edge of the cliff, almost, but we didn’t. Money is slowly coming back into the system. But many agency scientists and leaders are still “scared” as under the Scott administration they watched their friends get fired and years of work and institutionalized knowledge get wiped off the map like toy soldiers swiped off a dining-room table. Could it happen again? Absolutely. A precedent was set….OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!
It is time for the governor’s office and those of traditional power and influence, who are running the show behind the curtain, the agriculture community and some water utilities, to look at our flag, and to remember that we are American, and that we are a state tied to the values of our forefathers, and that no government shall abridge the freedom of speech. That tyranny is repugnant….
Whether the chains are seen or unseen, they are chains…
It is also time for state employees to recall that in 1992 Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, (PEER), was formed. PEER is a non-profit service organization with the goal to protect local, state, and federal government employees “committed to upholding the public trust through responsible management of the nation’s environmental and natural resources.”
PEER objectives include:
-Organizing a support base of employees from public sector resource management agencies, retired public employees, and private citizens.
-Monitoring local, state, and national resource-management agencies in an effort to defend the environment for the public interest.
-Informing the federal and state administrations, politicians, media, and the public about crucial environmental issues.
-Defending public sector “whistle-blowers,” and striving to strengthen their legal rights in regards to environmental issues.
-Providing free legal assistance to “whistle-blowers” and others when necessary.
Sounds like a good idea, but then maybe state employees would get fired for joining PEER, or are blackballed if they already have joined?…
WE MUST BREAK FREE!
I read about PEER in the book Conservation in Florida, It’s History and Heroes, by Gary L White.
12 thoughts on “Is Freedom of Speech of Florida’s State Agencies in Chains? SLR/IRL”
Another fantastic piece and well written Blog, but how do we get more people to understand the need for for this land purchase? I mean some who comment obviously didn’t comprehend what they just read or are working as “plants” for Big Sugar. (Pun intended)
Kenny at this point I think we must go to the king himself, Gov. Rick Scott. Calls, letters, anything—he is making the decisions. Right now this is not a representative form of government. Masses of people must address the governor as directly as possible. Be creative. 🙂
I have said this all along. Each person who can needs to go to Tally NOW. Those making the decisions need to see the faces of the people to make the right decisions. Go in groups of one or two… But go get in the faces of the people\person who can fix our water. If you cannot afford it… Then raise the money for the trips… But go get in their faces. NOW.
Thanks for this direct and clear input.
Jacqui, Thanks for your passionate writing and leadership. I know the good folks of these agencies know the right solutions. I bothers me also that they wont/cant speak about them. I think you are right, this is a “from the top down” culture. They all must be under the watchful eye of evil care taker. Very unhealthy for private business and un-American in government. And scary! Thanks for the fight!
Thanks Mike. Yes, we the people must be the impetus to disallow this. The public is the only force that can inundate such influence. I so appreciate your kind words and constant support.
Great blog, Jacqui! You got me all riled up in a good way. Did you see this? I’m not so sure how you feel about John Stewart – of course I love him!!! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/26/jon-stewart-climate-change_n_6945576.html
No I had not seen and I don’t know much about John Stewart. Thanks so much for your comment; you mean so much to me and what you think is very important.
Unfortunately, state scientists are no longer allowed to provide scientific data to the public about certain subjects. When I was in a scientific position working for the state, I knew that I would risk my job for mentioning anything related to pollution coming from Lake Okeechobee. Employees at the Department of Environmental Protection are even more fearful. I believe that is the reason you will never see a state scientist at at a Rivers Coalition meeting and the reason why DEP is not documenting the destruction occurring from the releases.
Bob I appreciate your candor so much. Thank you for speaking out for everyone. You are a hero.
Jacqui, We have gone to Tallahassee , we have a petition of almost 15 thousand signatures demanding that Rick Scott buy the land and stop discharges . We have sent letters to Joe Negron, Gayle Harrell , asking them to BUY THE LAND . I have sent Tweets through Twitter .Can we get ACLU in here? Seems to me that all kinds of laws were broken when an employee of the state was taken from their job and forced psychiatric care because they said ‘ climate change’ and wasn’t allowed to come back until they changed that behavior. That was one report I read this past week. Also I saw video of State agency workers being interviewed by congressmen and avoiding these words. The congressmen were laughing , Why laugh, seems to me , OUR GOVERNOR and the other legislature that vowed to hold up our constitution , that has in it to protect our environment could be prosecuted for not doing so. When we have on Tape and written transcript that there agenda is ‘ Agriculture and Tourism is more important ‘ than buying the land and Everglades and the estuaries, then that is a problem when we just amended the constitution with Amendment 1 by 75% of the vote and it is with that money they are using . Seems to me we should be able to prosecute them in some way.
Thank you for your Blog.
Scott is a crook , I never liked him.
Pam thanks for your comments! Keep up the good work.