The Division of Florida


The US presidential campaign has only addressed in generic terms the wreckage caused by Wall Street, the absence of financial regulation and the wages of greed, and not at all how that feeding tube connects locally: too many platted subdivisions in farmland and wetlands and condos barricading Florida’s coasts. It is hard times for builders and their supply chain. But make no mistake: this potent source of political money from developers that matches up with big agriculture is all intent on business as usual, even in the face of the worst collapse in real estate markets since the Great Depression.

The absence of regulation of financial derivatives is woven together with weak, ineffective regulations meant to tame the growth of suburbs into the Everglades and condos on the ocean front. But solving this conundrum is not what you hear. From Florida City and Homestead to Naples and Orlando, from Jacksonville to Tampa: the entire slate of interests that propelled the politics of growth would just as soon forget that the piling up of foreclosures, misery, and massive budget deficits of municipal and state governments happened despite civic opposition to sprawl, despite the clamor of environmentalists and a few brave scientists willing to risk their career prospects and income. Bail us out, and, forget: that’s the call.

As election day approaches, it is important to highlight the fact that not only do the assembled interests want to forget; they also want things to be exactly the same once we come out from the end of this dark economic tunnel.

Of plans by the Orange County Commission to vote to include 4,600 additional acres within the urban-service boundary despite the inventory of almost 25,000 unsold homes in Orange and Seminole Counties, columnist Mike Thomas recently wrote: “This is like watching an emphysema patient smoking through a tracheotomy tube.” (Shady deal on Deseret adds to housing woes, Orlando Sentinel, October 28, 2008)

That is the right image to pair with that of Miami-Dade ramrod for development, county commissioner Natacha Seijas who regularly demagogues from the dais about rejecting state mandates, demanding “local control”, who nevertheless embraced last week news that the federal Environmental Protect Agency will study the county’s Urban Development Boundary. Funny how a lame duck White House that neutered the EPA for eight long years has taken a sudden interest in Miami Dade County development.

The fact is that Jeb Bush loyalists are stuck with land bought at speculative values before the real estate markets collapsed. They bought at the top and need help being let down. They depend on the Urban Development Boundary being moved to include their property for a massive new development planned by Lennar—more than 6,000 homes—despite the wreckage of foreclosures and half-empty subdivisions scattered throughout the region. They aren’t getting what they want with the Crist administration.

Again, Thomas has it right: “This is what we do. We clear land and build houses. That is why (Florida) ranks among the hardest-hit areas in the nation from the real-estate collapse. It is why the worsening recession will be particularly brutal here.”

Then there is Martin County, where pro-growth county commission candidates are running as a slate thanks to a political action committee mis-titled "Your Friends and Neighbors in Martin County", trying to plow its own platted subdivisions into farmland bordering the Everglades. Since August, the PAC has been mailing large, expensive color postcards urging people to call and thank the candidates for their "commitment to keeping Martin County beautiful", for "protecting our river," or for promising "lower taxes and less waste." (Martin Paradise Lost? Palm Beach Post, August 31, 2008).

The PAC is a sham, a "local, grass-roots organization committed to encouraging smart choices for a better, stronger future for Martin County"; a vehicle for the last minute infusion of tens of thousands from affiliates of the Fanjul’s Florida Crystals (Big Sugar), King Ranch and other speculators.

"Martin County Commission candidates Doug Smith, Patrick Hayes and Ed Ciampi, all Republicans supported by the growth industry, seem to be running as a team and acting as if they’ve scheduled their victory party. A single worker placed their signs together last week, pounding them into the ground at locations around the county. It’s not surprising that campaign-finance reports show that more than 20 donors gave to all three. With just 16 days until the election, the razzle-dazzle to dress up these wolves in environmental sheep suits is just beginning. The Palm City Chamber of Commerce endorsed the three caballeros, and invited the men to a "quick fire forum" lunch last week with a "speed-dating" format. Each sat and talked to chamber members for five minutes, then moved to another table. Other candidates who asked to attend were turned away." (Martin Campaign Contrasts, Palm Beach Post, October 19, 2008)

This November, Florida voters could have had an opportunity to vote on a measure to tame uncontrolled growth. But the citizens’ initiative, called Florida Hometown Democracy, was derailed on the verge of qualifying for the ballot; sabotaged by compliant county supervisors of elections, their staff and a Republican legislature that kept changing the rules of the game as petitions advanced toward the required number. And the Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries and their hired guns who pledged to do "whatever it takes" to defeat the measure, that would require amendments to local growth plans to pass the muster of voters instead of compliant municipal and county commissions.

Florida is a state, today, depicted as a struggle between evenly-divided politics of red and blue. The more accurate picture of what divides Florida is the politics of growth.

ALAN FARAGO, who writes on the environment and politics from Coral Gables, Florida, and can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com




November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme Park
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability