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Nancy Smith

'Must Buy the Land,' My Foot! Classic Bait and Switch

April 27, 2015 - 6:00pm

One last time, senators: If you bought into the Everglades Foundation's propaganda about the implicit land-buying intention of Amendment 1, if you allowed them to lay a reservoir-sized guilt trip on you because you understandably want to follow the will of the people -- calm yourselves.

Amendment 1 isn't, and never was, principally about buying land. Allow me to present the evidence.

Before last year's election, Amendment 1 supporters were arguing for a broader use of Amendment 1 dollars. Maybe they didn't mean it at the time. Maybe when writing the ballot language they threw in everything but the kitchen sink to make sure the amendment would pass. But clearly, what they're saying now is a country mile away from what they said in their Supreme Court Brief from June 24, 2013.

Please have a look at the brief in the attachment below, or click here and follow along:

  • On page 6, they assert that the Legislature has complete discretion as to the allocation among the broad conservation purposes as defined in the amendment. Complete discretion ...
  • On page 25, it mentions beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites and others as projects eligible for funding.

If the Florida Supreme Court Brief isn't enough for you, how about a statementfrom Allison DeFoor?

DeFoor served as the campaign chair for Florida's Water and Land Legacy, the coalition responsible for placing Amendment 1 on the ballot. DeFoor should carry some weight. He's a seventh-generation Floridian, an Episcopal priest and a former vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida who ran for lieutenant governor under Bob Martinez in 1990.

In the op-ed DeFoor wrote for the June 6, 2014, Orlando Sentinel, he shows the forces behind the amendment wanted more than land-buying.

"I support Amendment 1 because, without raising new taxes, it will enhance drinking water sources, manage fish and wildlife habitats, add and restore lands, protect beaches and shores, and maintain state and local parks."

Read the entire op-ed, "Allison DeFoor: For Florida's future, Amendment 1 a good bet."

I met DeFoor nearly a year ago at a Center-Right Coalition luncheon in Tallahassee and we talked about Amendment 1.Both of us were speakers and on opposite sides of the ballot issue.

Afterward, we talked together for about half an hour, just the two of us, during which DeFoor did his best to try to convince me Amendment 1 wouldn't unintentionally break Florida's bank.

Eloquent and impassioned as he was, I don't recall him even once mentioning the amendment writers' intention to buy only land, or even principally land. Nor do I recall a single word about the need to complete the 46,800-acre U.S. Sugar Corp. land buy. I do remember him talking about the economy and, in particular, the link between tourism and Florida's fragile ecosystem, and speaking in broad generalities about preserving Florida's environment for future generations.

Not that any of this is as urgent today as it was Tuesday, when the House inexplicably walked out on the 2015 legislative session three days early.

It's now uncertain when, or if, talk of reassessing Amendment 1 money will resume. Certainly the Everglades Foundation's latest "Buy the Land" attack -- leaving petitions and bottles of polluted water with legislative leaders and at other strategic locations around the Capitol -- lost a lot of its sting after Tuesday's drama.

On Tuesday morning Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper told reporters there were discussions among Senate leadership to put a provision in environmental bill SB 918 to allow government to buy land in the Everglades.

With the House adjourned sine die, SB 918 changes will fall by the wayside.

Still. Watching senators in recent weeks, so filled with angst over the intention of Amendment 1, it needed to be said one more time: This insistence that land is what Amendment 1 is all about and the Legislature is obligated to put it first has been a hoax. A very effective bait-and-switch scam.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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