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.