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As if Charlie Crist needed to provide further proof that he is a sellout extraordinaire to all Floridians, regardless of party, he is at it again. There are some truly bizarre and might we say corrupt going-ons in Florida that includes South Florida Water Management District (Governor Crist appointees all of them), Charlie Crist (the turncoat Governor) and US Sugar (largest Charlie Crist donor).
Allow Lady Libertas to set the stage …
Charlie Crist unveiled a plan back in June 2008 to purchase land from US Sugar to effect an Everglades Restoration Project. The cost for the original deal was almost $2 Billion dollars; however, projected cost for the acquistion of land AND the restoration was more like $12 Billion (yes, a Big “B”).
On the surface, no one can dispute that the Everglades needs to be protected and that clean water is a commodity in Florida but as negotiations proceeded, the mounting price tag for the state of Florida and the obvious bias towards Big Sugar became more and more apparent. From the New York Times:
Negotiations favored United States Sugar from the start, when the state accepted two outside firms’ appraisals of the company’s land that used figures from the height of the real estate market, according to documents.
When a “fairness opinion” commissioned by the state found that those appraisals had overvalued the land by $400 million, Florida officials orchestrated a public relations campaign to discredit the findings, internal e-mail showed. Appraisers from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which was required to sign off on the deal, were also cut out of the process after raising concerns, e-mail messages showed.
When it came time to decide which land to buy, state officials acknowledged that United States Sugar was, as one official put it during an interview, “pretty much in the driver’s seat.” The water district overseeing the restoration will end up with six large disconnected parcels under the current deal, including all of United States Sugar’s citrus groves.
State officials acknowledged that some of that land, which has been ravaged by canker, a plant disease, is useless for restoration.
Lady Libertas should also point out that there are currently more than 10 projects over 10 years that have been in process for Restoration which have been put on hold so Charlie Crist can bail out his buddies at US Sugar. One of the projects that has now been placed on hold is a massive reservoir in western Palm Beach County which was critical to Everglades Restoration and clean water projects. As well, the $1.3 Billion that has already been directed to the previous Restoration projects could be all down the drain as Charlie Crist jockeys to get US Sugar money for their land.
South Florida Water Management District and Crist have scaled down their proposed bailout for US Sugar; the original deal proposed paying $1.75 billion to buy more than 180,000 acres, along with all of U.S. Sugar’s mills, rail lines and other facilities was the original proposal in 2008. (Sun Sentinel 8/11/2010) The new proposal is for $197 million for 26,800 acres and is approximately version number four.
At the July 14 meeting, the chairman of South Florida Water Management District admitted that they have no idea how they will pay for this deal. It appeared the only way for any of this would be to raise taxes on already overburdened Florida taxpayer base. Unless the South Florida Water Management District takes the money from somewhere else … like the emergency hurricane fund and this is exactly what they intend to do to push this deal through.
South Florida Water Management District will take $197 Million from the emergency hurricane fund – the fund that is used to provide hurricane relief in the event of a disaster. Utilization of this fund while entering the height of the hurricane season in South Florida seems irresponsible at best & corrupt at worst but also begs the question: What is the big hurry?
This deal will cost the Florida taxpayers money for the purchase, money to attempt to restore disjointed land parcels that are diseased, AND the state of Florida will actually lose $61 million in property taxes for the year if the bailout goes through. Add to that the loss of an emergency hurricane fund. What is Charlie Crist thinking? Surely he is not thinking about what is best for Floridians or the Everglades.
Keep in mind, as well, the deal as negotiated by US Sugar and Charlie Crist’s appointees on the South Florida Water Management District will pay US Sugar 2006 prices for the land – prices that reflect the high end of the real estate bubble. How convenient that US Sugar makes out awfully sweet in this deal since they are also Charlie Crist’s largest contributor to his campaigns. Governor Crist is currently running as an Independent for US Senate against Kendrick Meeks (D) and Marco Rubio (R) and he needs all the backers and donors that he can get.
Leading the charge against Charlie Crist’s bailout of US Sugar is a coalition of Floridians and patriot groups (see the website at www.endcharliesbailout.com). Representatives of the coalition showed up today to the South Florida Water Management District board meeting to protest the bailout and air their concerns. They were met with closed doors and entrance to the meeting was denied to the taxpayers and the media. South Florida Water Management District and US Sugar cited attorney/client privilege in keeping the dealings behind closed doors at the meeting today – privilege that is apparently not being afforded to Florida taxpayers or to the media. Marianne Moran from Tea Party in Action made this comment today after the meeting:
“This new version of the bailout is worse! All of our emergency reserve funds should be used for real emergencies like flooding and hurricanes. Bailing out the U.S. Sugar Corporation who is Charlie Crist’s top political donor, is NOT an emergency. A vote for this deal will put all Floridans at risk when there is a REAL emergency. We must end the bailout now.”
Representatives from the Miccosukee Tribe were also present outside the meeting and immediately after the closed door meeting, the Miccosukee Tribe filed an emergency motion in federal court in Miami, asking a judge to stop the South Florida Water Management District from voting Thursday on the new plan to spend $197 million on 28,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land. Lady Libertas has contacted the Tribe for comment. Just released from the Sun Sentinel:
The Miccosukee’s court filing argues that new version of the deal shows that the district has “elected to abandon” the reservoir project, despite Moreno’s ruling in March calling for the district to resume work on the reservoir.
The Miccosukee argue that abandoning the reservoir and other long-planned Everglades projects in favor of “pie-in-the sky scenarios for Everglades restoration will result in the destruction of the Everglades and the Tribe’s land in the interim.”
Lady Libertas will keep you updated as the story unfolds – the vote is scheduled for Thursday (as in tomorrow) so let’s get some sunshine on this issue as quickly as possible! Let’s get some national Grassroots support on this issue and help the coalition members raise some money to air the commercial below!