According to the Miami Herald Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are poised to give away the farm to Big Sugar yet again. This is an industry that is the leading polluter of the Everglades ecosystem, arguably the most important driver of Florida’s sustainability. The one of a kind environmental feature is unique to Florida and Florida alone. But many Florida politicians including southeast Florida Democrats have consistently ignored the need to protect and preserve the River of Grass and have become in the process become addicted to sugar money.
Rick Scott has compromised the previous good work of many Republicans on issues related to the Everglades. The lawyers and lobbyists from southeast Florida who worked hard to promote, protect and preserve the Everglades in the 1990s and 2000s were disproportionately Republicans. (While those interested in preserving the Everglades from outside southern Florida were disproportionately Democrats) While many Republicans, including Jeb Bush remained bad on the environment, Governor Charlie Crist was excellent on Everglades related issues and he could draw his lineage from Republicans who as conservationists put protection of our natural resources over campaign cash and polluters.
On the Democratic side, Chairman Rod Smith has brought Florida’s Democrats in close alliance with Big Sugar over the past two years. But even before that, many Democrats were addicted to sugar money. In the past some Democrats have told me that sugar money is essential to funding the party and legislative candidates because the Republicans have all the other corporate money locked up. Democratic candidates, party executive committees, local Democratic clubs and partisan functions have all been recipients of sugar’s generous contributions in recent years.
Nobody believes sugar should be prohibited to playing politically. But when the influence of one industry trumps the greater good as it has for years, Democrats have to think twice about whether this money is worth taking. It is disappointing to see so many progressives not understand the importance of protecting the Everglades and restoring Florida’s ecosystem to something bordering on sustainable- something it is not right now. Under a new Democratic Party chairperson, be it Allison Tant or Alan Clendenin, hopefully Florida’s Democrats will stand tall and protect the Everglades.