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Nancy Smith

'Fake News' and the Stuart Newspaper's 'Late-Night Lease' Outrage

December 24, 2018 - 6:00am
Brian Mast, Melanie Peterson and Mark Perry
Brian Mast, Melanie Peterson and Mark Perry

The Stuart News (TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers) doesn't regularly cover South Florida Water Management District Governing Board meetings, but heaven forbid its editors would let a little thing like ignorance of Board policy stand in the way of furthering a slanted agenda. 

Read the newspaper's Dec. 12 editorial, "Mr. DeSantis, please fix the SFWMD board." The drama-queenly piece advocates for immediate replacement of the SFWMD Board because of the "late-night lease" of some 16,000 acres of state land to a subsidiary of Florida Crystals.

As if the SFWMD Board and the sugar company cooked up some foul, secret deal: "At 9 p.m. the night before its Nov. 7 meeting, the board added a curious item to the agenda ..." the editorial reads.
I Beg to DifferCurious? Really? Curious to whom? The District and the Florida Legislature have only been talking about the lease renewal since 2017. Where has The Stuart News been? 
The newspaper has a close relationship with former Senate president Joe Negron, the man probably more familiar than anybody else in Martin County with the terms of Senate Bill 10, lease included. Joe gets it. Why no quotes from Joe?

The lease agreement wasn’t settled until late in the day prior to the meeting. But frankly, who didn't figure it was coming sooner rather than later? Only people who aren't following along with Board business. Board members were fixed on saving a month during the dry season so work could begin and rock moved on 560 acres. "The optics may not have looked good," one board member told me. "But it was the right thing to do to get the project moving. Delay the lease and you give Florida Crystals until April to farm, which runs into the wet season. Nothing gets done in the wet season."

The District's attorney, Brian Accardo, said he advised the Governing Board that because the lease extension was mandated by state statute, it did not need a series of public hearings. For a comprehensive background on the lease, read two pieces in the latest edition of Martin County Currents -- "SFWMD in cross-hairs of environmental activists" by Editor Barbara Clowdus; and "We're just throwing obstacles in path of EAA reservoir" by Nyla Pipes, founder of One Florida Foundation, an organization that addresses water issues throughout the state.

An irate Melanie Peterson called The Stuart News' editorial "fake news -- fake top to bottom."

Peterson is the at-large Board member for St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. "We deal with dozens of contracts every year, we have laws and procedures to follow," she snapped. "Leases are all normal business as usual. ... We are an autonomous governing body trying to keep politics out of water, that's all we are."

Her words reminded me of the late former Senate president Phil Lewis from West Palm Beach. He used to give all Water Management District Board members the same advice: "Remember," he would tell them, "Your only true constituent is the water."

For the Stuart newspaper, a little investigation -- a few phone calls, maybe even a sit-down with Board members and past meeting minutes -- might have produced a deeper editorial worthy of the community that relies on them for thoughtful commentary.

The bottom line here is, signing the lease was never a reservoir delay tactic, as the Florida Wildlife Federation and Indian RiverKeeper Marty Baum charge in the lawsuit they filed against the Water Management District. And it isn't sneaky because Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg, Congressman Brian Mast and The Stuart News say it is.

For these three, the more important agenda is punishing sugar. It certainly isn't the reservoir, because if it were, the newspaper would be editorializing like crazy against a lawsuit. Nothing brings federal capital projects to a grinding halt faster than the promise of long litigation.

Members of Congress will put off funding the EAA Reservoir because farmers are still farming on the site, argues Mast. The editors don't question this? It's the reason he gives for wanting the land to sit fallow for years. Hard to believe that's really the excuse he's going to make for the next congressional failure to fund. Remember, this is the same congressman who thinks he can ignore the Savings Clause in the law and re-allocate water in the Water Management District to cut out agriculture. (See the Savings Clause in the attached download below this commentary.) 
The Stuart News buys into this political theater -- advocates for chasing away the most transparent SFWMD Governing Board most of us have seen in more than three decades -- actually accusing members of "acting in their own interests" -- members who aren't paid a dime and have moved the reservoir forward faster and farther than most thought possible two years ago.

And the paper suggests DeSantis add Executive Director of the Florida Oceanographic Society Mark Perry to the Board because "who knows more about the challenges facing our waters than him?" I'm thinking probably real scientists with degrees in their specialty. But it doesn't matter what I think. Perry is probably a shoo-in. Wholesale changes at the District are inevitable, as Eikenberg confidently stated in a Sept. 27 Miami Herald story: "Forty days from now we’ll have a new administration in Tallahassee, a new governing board at the water management district, new leadership at the Corps." Eikenberg, of course, was the first to call for removal of SFWMD Board members.

Maybe a new Board of Governors at the District more to the editors' liking will inspire The Stuart News to watch more closely how sausage is made on Gun Club Road. It's not that hard. Board meetings are televised.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith. In full transparency, until 2005, Smith worked in various editorial capacities at The Stuart News for 28 years.  


I see this is old news. Why the photo of Mark Perry? What did he have to do with this?

much ado about nothing. The statute is clear, regardless of the spin they try to sell you...

From 373.093(2), FS --> "Before leasing any land, or interest in land including but not limited to oil and mineral rights, the district shall cause a notice of intention to lease to be published in a newspaper published in the county in which said land is situated and such other places as the board may determine once each week for 3 successive weeks (three insertions being sufficient), the first publication of which shall be not less than 30 nor more than 90 days prior to the date the board executes the lease, which said notice shall set forth the time and place of leasing and a description of the lands to be leased." . . . . . . . I've looked in Chapter 373 and SB 10 (including LOF) and have yet to find a specific provision that overrides the above notice requirements for this specific situation . . . . . . so I hope Nancy or SFWMD's Brian Accardo can identify the specific passage in state law that contains the provision that clearly states that "that because the lease extension was mandated by state statute, it did not need a series of public hearings" . . . . . . . . . . I'm really looking for such a provision to override the requirements of 393.039(2), FS, but haven't found it so far . . . . . . . . does it exist?

This article is spot on and revealing about how the degenerate level of dishonesty and fraud has trickled down to even the most base level of our news media. TCPalm is quite literally garbage--mostly a bunch of know-nothing "intelligentsia" collecting paychecks and masquerading as well-informed gatekeepers of information and current events while not even being capable of following the most basic tenets of their professions. They can't even convincingly lie anymore without looking like complete idiots. Pathetic. I know the Stuart News has never been held to a high standard, especially considering the abysmal job they have done for decades holding our criminal county government accountable, thus resulting in the financial mess we are in now. The comments here are repulsive, especially from people like Bob "I'm a Journalist, this really surprises me Nancy" H. You can blame Trump, Republicans, white people, or whoever you want. You are responsible for manufacturing the ropes you're hanging yourselves with. $20 says most of you who whine about this are also entitled boomers, trying to hold on to the last vestiges of power in your dying years. It's hilarious that journalists got away with so much for so long and were able to larp as the guardians of "democracy" when they were merely the tools of elites to destroy that very concept. Look at Europe and everywhere else. I see garbage like this exposed and it becomes abundantly clear that all politics is local, and yet all politics are also global at the same time. We truly live in transformative times. I hope the Fourth Estate keeps failing at all levels as badly as it has been so we can keep exposing these incompetent wannabes for what they are--societal cancers of the lowest common denominator.

Why do you publish anything. TC Palm is a Rag, always has been, and always will be.

Yes, yes, Nancy must be right --> "Really? Curious to whom? The District and the Florida Legislature have only been talking about the lease renewal since 2017. Where has The Stuart News been?" . . . . . . . . well, just to bring up two GOP voices: the incoming Governor DeSantis and Rep. Mast who released the following statement, and then had Rep. Mast representing the incoming Gov. to ask the Board to put off this inadequately noticed decision --> "Given that the current lease does not expire until March and because we did not receive enough advance notice on this proposed vote to ensure that this extension would not delay construction of the EAA Southern Storage Reservoir, we urge the South Florida Water Management District to delay their planned vote tomorrow. The EAA Southern Storage Reservoir is a critical component of Everglades Restoration and our joint efforts to prevent harmful algal blooms. We will not support any lease extension that could delay the construction of the reservoir in direct contradiction of the intention of both the United States Congress and Florida Legislature" [STATEMENT FROM DESANTIS & MAST] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . to attempt and spin that's there's nothing to see here . . . . . . . . . . . . . PATHETIC . . .

Yes, the EAA Reservoir is a critical component etc. but it can't do anything until a whole suite of CEEP projects ahead of it are finished. Fortunately, the Board of Governors listened to the legislature, read the law, obeyed it and paid no attention to the Eerglades Foundation, DeSantis and Mast who were speaking out of their ass.

Of course you must be right (and just another in the long line of supposed first time commenters I get always "seem" to get on SSN) . . . . . . . sneaking this lease onto the agenda at 9pm on the evening before the meeting that you're going to approve it is perfectly ethical in your world . . . . . . . don't worry about ensuring the involvement of people in a public decision and any concerns they might have if they knew this was happening, just do it covertly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . making excuses TO JUSTIFY UNETHICAL AND POTENTIALLY ILLEGAL DECISION after the fact and after receiving criticism . . . . . like Trump, Scott and the whole environmental mess they've created in Florida . . . . . . . . PATHETIC . . . .

They followed the law. If you and yours didn't like the lease extension you had many months to speak up, not wait to the final action to plead IGNORANCE (and man o man are you blue guys ignorant)

Slavery, racial and sexual discrimination, and voter literacy tests were once the law too (some, even in my lifetime), but highly unethical . . . . . would you support doing those too if they were the law, but unethical . . . . . . . . . . and it's still under legal challenge as to whether this action was actually legal, so it's not clear that all laws were followed . . . . . . . I'm sure the incoming Governor and Rep. Mast, both Republicans, must share your partisan belief that this was the right thing to do, correct . . . . . . . . of course not . . . . . . . . and are you under the mistaken impression that the precise language for this lease was out there for months . . . . . . . . . . . . that's just delusional and in denial of the facts . . . . which is always . . . . . . just . . . . . . . . . PATHETIC . . . .

Well, we're stuck with a "fake" president, a spokeswoman who peddles "fake facts"; and the Faux News Network which specializes in peddling "fake news" and puffing up the "fake" president and his tribal cohorts and cultists ... so ... "fake" is apparently "in"! A Trumpian Phenomenom!

Who is BibH? Hiding behind a abbreviated name to validate name calling is like a masked convent store mugger. State your case AND OWN IT! I’m really disappointed in my fellow veteran Mast. The lease back of unused farm/pasture/commercial properties lands owned by government in the norm for all agencies (BLM; USFS; Fla Fish & Game; City Of Stuart; FDEP; Fla Forrestry; etc.). In fact, I can’t think of an agency that doesn’t take advantage of the lease back option to maximize revenues of unused public owned properties. The claim of Mast that it makes selling the Federal Funding package to his brother & sister legislators is a lame excuse! Who among them hasn’t supported lease back options for numorus public agencies? Get over it and get back to the business or improving water quality! JUST SAYING.

Thank you, Ms. Smith for your courage to speak the truth. TCPalm is the most biased site in Florida next to Tampa Bay Times. I think the SFWMD board has done a wonderful job of keeping our reservoir project moving.

Nancy, I'm glad to see you've jumped on that "Fake News" bandwagon. As a journalist, that really surprises me. Took the bait. Hook, Line and sinker, I see. You conservatives still don't see what's going on. The less people watching, or reading the news media, means more drastic political upheaval can take place, because no one's going to believe the media, over Der Furher's nonsense. So he can get away with so much destruction. Nancy, you old cracker coot, you need to move closer to the middle. You'll be a lot happier.

So why don't you add some facts to your claims to support your comments? Instead of being a typical Liberal by relying on "name calling" and "insults" when you don't have any facts to back up your argument.

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nancy smith
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