I challenge each and every one of you to create some joy in someone's life. We can all make a positive difference!
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Pine Island is the next victim of US Sugar/King Ranch corruption
US Sugar and King Ranch have paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to Governor Scott and other state and Southwest Florida officials, and in return have been rewarded with legislation that saves the companies millions of dollars in Everglades pollution cleanup costs (which has to be made up by taxpayers), as well as other big favors. They claim it’s all legal because the money was routed through the Republican Party instead of going directly to the officials (like that actually makes a difference!). The News-Press said this “looks fishy.” Gee, you think!
Bribery is bribery (legal or not!), and it has a long history in Florida state and local politics. Don’t sugarcoat it—just tell it like it is.
Victims of this corruption are the taxpayers, Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah (who was driven from office by a million dollar negative television blitz led by US Sugar), as well as the Everglades, the quality of our water, and now Pine Island.
King Ranch, one of the largest landowners in the United States, has a long and nasty history of taking over entire communities by buying up the available land and using their enormous power and influence (including legalized bribery) to do away with local zoning and other land use controls. Pine Island is only the latest victim.
King Ranch has within the past two years purchased some 18 properties on Pine Island, a total of about 340 acres of palm farms for some $4 million, plus at least one mangrove area (probably for wetland development mitigation). They have overnight become the second largest commercial enterprise on Pine Island (second only to PalmCo). They also, true to form, immediately hired a local “developer-oriented “ attorney to get rid of the Pine Island Land Use Plan. Their all-out effort last year to do just that failed, but no one thinks they have given up.
The public interest and especially Pine Island cry out for some serious investigative journalism as well as law enforcement (we can do the former locally, but the latter will have to come from the federal government). The News-Press has done some great investigative journalism in the past—are any of those reporters still around? How much money has US Sugar/King Ranch funneled to Southwest Florida officials; how many of them have been on the famous luxury hunting trips to Texas; and what role is US Sugar/King Ranch playing in local political campaign management? Come on, let’s clean our own house before the feds have to once again step in and do it for us.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
In My Opinion
Carl Hiaasen: Bought and paid for with a Texas hunting trip
By Carl Hiaasen
Festival of Whores (continued):
Back when he first ran for governor as a self-styled outsider, Rick Scott lambasted his opponent in the Republican primary for taking campaign money from U.S. Sugar, one of the worst corporate polluters of the Everglades.
Scott indignantly squeaked that Bill McCollum had been “bought and paid for” by U.S. Sugar. He said the company’s support of McCollum was “disgusting.”
“I can’t be bought,” Scott declared.
Seriously, that’s what the man said. Stop gagging and read on.
Four years later, the governor’s re-election campaign is hungrily raking in money from U.S. Sugar, more than $534,000 so far.
Exactly when Scott overcame his disgust isn’t clear, but in February 2013 he and undisclosed others jetted to the King Ranch in Texas for a hog- and deer-hunting junket on U.S. Sugar’s 30,000-acre lease.
Apparently this has become a secret tribal rite for some top Florida Republicans. Exposed last week by reporters Craig Pittman and Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times, the politicians ran like jackrabbits for the hills.
All questions were redirected to the state Republican Party, which couldn’t get its story straight. “Fundraising” wound up as the official explanation for the free pig-shooting sorties.
Scott refused to field questions about the King Ranch shindig. A spokesman said the governor covered his own air flight and hunting license.
Days later, a bit more information: Scott shot a buck deer on the trip, his flak said, and paid the taxidermist out of his own pocket. What a guy!
A month after his secret safari, the governor appointed an executive of King Ranch’s Florida agricultural holdings to the board of the South Florida Water Management District, the agency supposedly supervising the Everglades cleanup.
The inner circle, you see, goes unbroken.
Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam was so mortified to be asked about his King Ranch excursions that he slithered behind a door that was then shut in a reporter’s face. Slick move. Putnam is the same social butterfly who once criticized the state law forbidding elected officeholders from accepting gifts like free trips, booze and meals. Putnam lamented that the ban was “a disincentive for fellowship.”
Thwarting the statutory gift ban has been accomplished by letting the political parties operate as money launderers for special interests. U.S. Sugar, for example, gives tons of cash to the Republican Party of Florida, which then spreads it around to Scott, Putnam and other candidates for purported political expenses.
The King Ranch, which has its own sugar and cattle holdings in Florida, has also hosted GOP House Appropriations Chair Seth McKeel and Dean Cannon when he was House Speaker.
The current House Speaker, Will Weatherford, and the incoming speaker, Steve Crisafulli, have both received Texas hunting licenses, although they won’t say if they’ve been to the King spread.
Florida has an abundance of deer and wild hogs, but an out-of-state safari offers the appeal of seclusion and anonymity. Interestingly, no Republican senators or Democratic leaders appear to have participated in the King Ranch flyouts. Former Gov. Charlie Crist, Scott’s likely opponent in November, has taken contributions from Big Sugar, but said he’s never been to the ranch.
Buying off politicians with hunting and fishing trips is an old tradition in Tallahassee, interrupted by the occasional embarrassing headline followed by flaccid stabs at reform.
Nobody believes the absurd GOP party line saying that the King Ranch hunting jaunts are “fundraisers.” They’re just free (or heavily discounted) vacations.
You really can’t blame Big Sugar or its lobbyists. They know who and what they’re dealing with; the only issue is the price.
The company has given more than $2.2 million to Republican candidates in the 2014 election cycle, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t get its money’s worth.
Taxpayers, not the sugar tycoons, remain stuck with most of the cost of cleaning up the Everglades. Every time someone tries to make the polluters pay a larger share, the idea gets snuffed in Tallahassee.
Meanwhile the politicians who could make it happen are partying in Texas with the polluters — shootin’ at critters, smokin’ cigars, sippin’ bourbon around the fire. Hell, maybe there’s even a steam bath.
These are the people controlling the fate of the Everglades. They’ve been bought and paid for, just like Rick Scott said four years ago. Now he’s one of them. His staff won’t say why he changed his mind about taking Big Sugar’s money. It also won’t say where he put the stuffed head of that buck he killed at the King Ranch.
The bathroom wall would be a fitting place, hanging right over the toilet where he flushed his integrity
PLEASE read this blog if you truly love Florida!!!!
Saturday, August 2, 2014
Subject: King Ranch related corruption
King Ranch, the latest and biggest of the secession of developers to invade Pine Island, continues to make the news with corruption involving both Florida state level and Southwest Florida level officials.
When you read the article below, bear in mind that it was US Sugar and King Ranch that reportedly spent some $750,000 getting environmentalist Ray Judah out of office and replacing him with Larry Kiker, now Chair of the County Commissioners. Also bear in mind that Gov Scott appointee Brian Hammam (now seeking reelection as county commissioner) appointed King Ranch Vice-President Mitch Hutchcraft to the Lee County Land Planning Agency. (Several foxes are in the hen-house.)
It's the same names over and over in an evil web of what most people would call corruption--but in Florida, it's generally accepted, and that's the saddest part of it all. The voters have got to stop being apathetic about corruption.
To all Pine Islanders:
Burn the name King Ranch into your brain. That's the name of the latest threat to Pine Island. King Ranch has been on a buying spree on Pine Island, buying mostly palm farms but also mangrove areas. They are, some claim, the largest private landowner in the United States. They are headquartered in Texas, but also own huge tracts in Florida, and now they are after Pine Island.
Their past practice has been largely to go in and buy large portions of ag land in a community, and then employ local attorneys to get rid of local zoning laws before they start widespread development. In Florida, development means destruction of sensitive wetland habitats, which can legally be "mitigated" by agreeing to preserve mangroves (hence the recent purchases of mangroves).
Of course, getting rid of zoning laws also requires the cooperation of government officials. Read the following article to see how that is being done, and note the partnership between King Ranch and US Sugar (perhaps the number one polluter in Florida).
There is a lot of evil lucking in these shadows.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Pic 1: Polygala regelil, big yellow milkwort
Pic 2: Coreopsis leavenworthii, tickseed
Pic 3: (l to r) Bobbe Rose, Martha Grattan, Mary Ellen Frazier, Michael Wheatley, Steve Roff, Lucy Breitung, Dorothy Rodwell and Ranger Mickey Miller. Relaxing and socializing after the walk.
For Immediate Release: July 14, 2014
Contact: Marlene Rodak, (239) 273-8945
Contact: Marlene Rodak, (239) 273-8945
HOW WILD TURKEY CAN SAVE YOUR GALLBLADDER
The Importance of Forest Bathing on Humans
FORT MYERS, FL, July 14, 2014 – On Sunday, July 13th, the Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, in conjunction with Conservation 20/20, led a field trip/scavenger hunt through Wild Turkey Strand Preserve at 11901 Rod & Gun Club Road in Fort Myers. Wild Turkey is located just east of where Daniels Parkway dead ends into Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, or SR-82. Immediately after your turn onto Rod & Gun Club Road, the Preserve entrance is on your left. Ten people gathered for this free opportunity to view the Preserve and its treasure of wildflowers and native plants. Jim Rodwell, Coccoloba member and Ranger Mickey from Conservation 20/20 led the tour down the 1.8 mile Gunner’s Trail path.
Wild Turkey Strand Preserve was purchased in the fall of 2012 and is well on its way to being beautifully restored to its native habitat through extensive exotic plant removal and control. The parcel was once part of the Buckingham Army Air Field’s (BAAF) Flexible Gunnery School, which was built in 1942. It was a base where training of recruits took place. The air field was deactivated in 1945, as WWII ended.
Nearly all the native plants we viewed could be seen from the trail. Rarely did the group leave the designated trail, except once to examine a young thistle and its host of pollinating insects, and another time to explore the munitions building remnants from the old gunnery range.
“But how can this save my gallbladder,” you ask?
Spending time in these natural areas is natural aromatherapy. In 1982, the Forest Agency of Japan proposed that when humans breathe the volatile chemicals (phytoncides) released from trees and plants in nature, their stress levels are lowered, and they are more relaxed. In an article presented at the 8th International Congress of Physiological Anthropology in 2006, scientists showed that the forest is a restorative environment for human beings. The benefits of forest bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku, include improved cerebral blood flow, better immune defense, and improved mental health.
Other studies are equally compelling. In 1984, the American Association for the Advancement of Science published a paper describing a study in which gall bladder surgery patients were randomly assigned to rooms with either a view of a brick wall or a small stand of deciduous trees. The results showed that the patients with the view of nature had shorter postoperative hospital stays, fewer complaints about nursing staff, required less pain killers and had few post-operative complications. Spending time in our beautiful parks and preserve areas is not only relaxing, but it boosts our immune systems - not to mention our spirits!
Still more studies have proven that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children is lowered when children spend time in green areas such as parks, backyards and tree-lined streets. An August, 2008 report in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that 20 minutes in a park may help children concentrate better. Plus, there are no adverse side effects to sending kids outside to play.
It is hot and muggy in Southwest Florida these days. Getting out in the heat and humidity will make you sweat. Generally speaking, the bugs are not bad at these parks, but bringing insect repellent is suggested. Having a good supply of water and some protection from the sun, with a hat and sunscreen, is necessary, and wearing closed-toed shoes is always a good idea. Also, long pants are generally suggested, but not necessary.
It’s always nice to walk with friendly people, and learning more about our native plants is a big bonus. Spending the morning at Wild Turkey, although hot, was not stifling. There was a cool breeze that felt positively delightful. Yes, there was sweat involved, but nobody minded.
Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society is leading another “forest bathing” trip on Sunday, August 17th at 9 am at Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park at 17980 Palm Beach Boulevard in Alva. You can register for this free trip at http://FNPSFieldTripAug.
Isn’t your gallbladder worth it?
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The mission of the Florida Native Plant Society is to promote the preservation, conservation and restoration of native plants and native plant communities of Florida. The Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society meets on the second Thursday of the month at Calusa Nature Center, 3450 Ortiz Ave, Fort Myers, FL 33905, September through April at www.FNPSCoccoloba.org or www.FNPS.org or call (239) 273-8945.for social time and for the program. For more information visit