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.
On Dwight, Leslie and SSN
What a difference a couple of years make. Kartik Krishnaiyer seemed to welcome Sunshine State News' support in 2014 when Florida Democratic Party leaders hijacked the comments section under his column. Remember? They urged Charlie Crist backers to help them by blanketing Krishnaiyer's website, The Florida Squeeze (TFS), with comments hyping Charlie's credentials and the need to blindly follow their lead.
We were friends of sorts, progressive Kartik and conservative me.
Now Kartik is offended because conservative SSN can reach progressive former state Sen. Dwight Bullard before journalists in the left-wing press -- including himself.
Why is that? Kartik has a theory. "This might be due to the relationship prominent Bullard-backer and perennial Democratic Party troublemaker Leslie Wimes has with that (SSN) website," he wrote in a Wednesday column.
Yes, it might be. And you know what else it might be, Kartik? It might be that Bullard knows that -- except for its complete antipathy for Florida Democatic Party leadership -- SSN doesn't have a dog in the FDP chair hunt and has no interest in kicking him when he's down. For SSN, who wins the FDP chair is a story, not a mission.
FDP leadership wanted Bullard out when he was trying to reclaim his Senate seat. They gave him no help in the primary and virtually none in his fight against Republican and eventual winner Frank Artiles, in spite of his strong progressive voice in the Senate. They even maneuvered him out of the assistant-chair role he sought in the Miami-Dade DEC. Show me the stories you wrote about Bullard's plight, Kartik. He's one of yours. He's advocated like a trouper for the same things you have. Where did you disappear to?
So, I'm thinking, what did Bullard have to lose to take my calls? Im thinking, he probably doesn't trust any of you guys.
It doesn't bother me so much how you mischaracterize Sunshine State News' position on the candidates. I think most of our regular readers know us and understand us, but I'll put it as simply as I can:
Over the years, SSN has raised fierce objection to two Democratic issues in particular. First, we've objected to Charlie Crist ... as a Republican, as an independent and when Democrats sought to drag him out of a dumpster, paint him up as a Democrat and pretend he has enough character to serve as Florida's governor again. Then and only then did you begin to notice SSN. Second, we objected to FDP leadership's insistence that Nan Rich, as classy a competitor as Florida has seen in my lifetime anyway, should be denied a chance to debate Charlie Crist. I said many times in columns that I didn't have to agree with Nan ideologically to respect the work she did in the Florida Legislature and to know who would make the better governor. She was treated shabbily by her own. But FDP leadership couldn't give her an equal shot.
FDP showed no faith in members of its own party to pick a winner. That's how your party bosses run their show. They did it in 2014, they did it in 2016. You're all supposed to follow the leader. Frankly -- and nobody asked me, but I'll say so anyway -- I think your whole operation is more than a little unAmerican.
Which brings me to my main point: Leslie Wimes.
A remarkable woman. A Democrat, a free-thinker, a person of enormous wit and integrity. I've said all this before and I'll say it again. Leslie is one of the good things to come out of this election season, for Sunshine State News, certainly, but particularly for the Democrats, because she's shown she knows her community, and more astonishing -- she's got an unfailingly clear crystal ball.
Leslie Wimes is a rare gem. She has more integrity in her little finger than the whole sour brigade at Democratic HQ. Leslie refused to rewrite Charlie Crist history or Hillary Clinton history. She voted for Hillary in the end -- because, as she said, "you can't think I would vote for Donald Trump" -- but along the way she refused to join the party's forced march to its chosen candidates until she had her say. You may disagree with me, but I believe if Democratic candidates had listened to Leslie earlier, they might have fared better in the last two election cycles.
Leslie Wimes is a strong, unafraid, principled woman -- courageous, wanting to make a difference for her party and her community. She's known at CNN, CNBC, PBS, NBC, and on and on. I'm always amazed at the people at all levels of government who call her and ask for her counsel.
In many ways, this year was Leslie's year. She's a rising star. And I couldn't be more proud that she chooses to share her columns with Sunshine State News.
Wildlife Paradise No More
So now we find out from biologists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that a record 42 Florida panthers died in 2016, with 34 of the deaths attributed to road kill. Not very happy news to end the year on.
Sadly, good news for Florida wildlife -- as in the case of these 42 panthers -- is hard to come by. But for some reason development is still allowed to plow its way into undeveloped Florida.
As the year ended, the UK newspaper The Guardian asked the South Florida Wildlands Association for its opinion as a wildlife advocate on the Babcock Ranch, the so-called "City of the Future" rising in the middle of wildlife habitat in Southwest Florida. Read the newspaper's story here.
This was the response of the SFWA's Matthew Schwartz:
“The Florida panther is an endangered species and this development is locking them into a small area. Roadkill and habitat loss is just destroying the population because it has nowhere to expand into.”
Schwartz explained the town of Babcock Ranch is going "smack into" what the Fish and Wildlife Service identified as a possible expansion area.
“That’s tragic, not only for the panther, but for black bears, eastern indigo snakes, red-cockaded woodpeckers and a whole range of species living under its umbrella.
“They say they’re only using land that was previously disturbed, but other private lands nearby will also be developed once people start moving in. People will want movie theaters and shopping centers, all the things that are part of urban sprawl. This project is making undeveloped habitats around it much more vulnerable.
“The developers didn’t need to come into undeveloped habitat to start a solar project -- there are plenty of communities they could have retrofitted with solar."
I couldn't agree more. Have you seen the Babcock property? It's cheered me up every year since 2013 when the project fell another year behind schedule. I still hope for a bankruptcy.
Reach Nancy Smith at sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith