This column is a vehicle for a number of items in a bits-and-pieces, strictly opinion, sometimes irreverent format. Look for "Just Sayin'" to run once a week in this spot.
Audubon Shows Us Their Yin and Yang
There's politics and then there is science. Have I ever got an example for you of why we mustn't confuse the two.
For Florida Audubon, Executive Director Eric Draper is the politics; Paul Gray, science coordinator of the Everglades Restoration Program, is the science. Sometimes the messaging of the two doesn't meet. I mean, not even close.
Take Tuesday after Sen. David Simmons pitched pressuring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite renovation of the Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) to allow more water storage in Lake Okeechobee. (Read the story here.)
Draper, Mr. Politics, said no way should we try to store more water in the lake. In fact, he called it "dangerous."
He told Politico Florida's Bruce Ritchie, "Allowing lake levels to be raised two feet or more as proposed by Simmons would cost billions of dollars, pose a safety risk and would drown important wildlife habitat around the lake."
Said Draper, "I think it's a diversion -- I think it's a distraction. It's another thing to take attention away from a real solution, which is opening an outlet (to the Everglades) south of the lake." The perfect political answer.
But then there's Paul Gray, Audubon's Mr. Science. It wasn't that Gray didn't get the memo to butt out of the HHD conversation. The problem is, he put his science in a letter written nearly a year ago to Stacie Auvenshine at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (See the letter in the attachment at the bottom of this column.)
And guess what? His opinion couldn't be further apart from Draper's. I would call your attention to the end of the second paragraph and start of the third: "With the repair of the HHD, more options will be available and many of Lake Okeechobee’s values can be restored and maximized. Once remediation is complete, occasional higher water levels may be permissible in the Lake."
Later, Gray says, "Although chronically deep levels are a concern, occasional deep water during wet period emergencies, could be a future part of management. To a point, the lake marshes and biota can withstand temporary deep water events with manageable harm. Were the HHD safer today, the Corps could contemplate reducing or halting the current disastrous releases to the estuaries for a period of time to benefit them, and resume releases later. With the HHD in its present condition, such an option is not feasible and is an example of how a safer Dike can allow improved management."
Oh, yes, and the science coordinator ends his letter with this: "Audubon pledges to support efforts at the national and state levels to help the Corps and its partners make South Florida as safe and functional as possible."
The reason it's important to point out this canyon of difference now between Audubon's politics and Audubon's science is because there really is a right and wrong here. If senators like Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island really mean what they said -- show us alternatives to the Negron plan if you've got them -- legislators in both chambers will need to work overtime to identify which is which.
Pay No Mind, Glades Folks, He's Just Another Bullsugar Oinker
Stay out of dark alleys, Bob Markey II. What goes around tends to come back to bite you in your curly little pink tail.
By the time I read Bullsugar Bob's disgusting post on the anti-sugar fright site, half of the population of the Glades had already seen it. I'm sorry about that. These are good people who deserve better. It was J.P. Sasser, former mayor of Pahokee, who called my attention to it.
Here is Markey's post, fresh from the trough of BullSugar.org's Facebook pigpen:
"Bob Markey II I don't care if jobs are lost in the Glades because of a cut in sugar production. Those jobs are causing the destruction of our environment and should not have ever existed. Clewiston is a legitimate town, but have you seen Belle Glade or Pahokee? They are godforsaken places of crime, municipal corruption and poverty whose residents would be better off, and would cost the state and feds less by being relocated to legitimate communities elsewhere."
Spoken like a true Realtor. Which he is. Has he ever broken bread with anybody in Belle Glade or Pahokee? Does he know anyone out there? It's not so easy to dismiss people as garbage when you've met them and listened to them.
It so happens Bullsugar Bob, son of the local newspaper's founder, grew up amid the polo ponies of tony Wellington. Wouldn't you think a guy whose hometown was carved out of the pristine Everglades, bermed to help keep it dry, dredged with canals that go nowhere so people like him can make a bundle selling "waterfront," then blasted every summer day for God-knows-how-many years to annihilate the mosquitoes ... wouldn't you think he might have just a touch of humility and compassion for his hard-working neighbors across the River of Grass?
Said Sasser bitterly, Markey deserves "a shout-out for actually verbalizing on a public format what people really think about us."
He told me the First United Methodist Church in Pahokee will celebrate its 100th year in 2018. "We've been here longer than most cities in Palm Beach County."
Certainly they've been there longer than nouveau cities like Wellington and Royal Palm Beach -- Bob's haunts -- which are very much part of the history of today's water problems in South Florida.
Good news for Bullsugar Bob and his ilk if the dike fails: The land will be so much cheaper then. On the other hand, there's the inconvenience of having to clean up all those bodies.
Some things just make me want to cry.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith