Today is a day for reflection and action. The most dishonorable elections in our history are over. Ugly as they were, they gave us incredibly valuable insight and direction for our future. This political cycle has been a gift. Our chance to use it starts now, to get back to doing work we can be proud of.
The most important thing we learned in these past few months is that democracy works only when people speak up and take action. Until Florida's waterways are on a clear path to recovery, the populist message of Bullsugar.org and the Now or Neverglades Declaration will only get louder. The political narrative on our water crisis shifted because so many people were inspired to raise their voices and participate. Now that we know what we can do, we're amplifying our efforts. We need more volunteers, more partners, more funding, and we've got more work ahead of us to win a political solution to Florida's catastrophic water management problems, but 2016 showed us how to get there.
It also showed us how much stands in the way. Clean water candidates faced virtually unlimited attacks, often from sugar industry-bankrolled organizations that operate in the shadows, behind made-up names and obscure funding. The money spent to oppose Everglades restoration is astounding, and it's preventing Florida from defending one of our planet's natural treasures. Our elected leaders need to fight back, stop private interests from destroying an irreplaceable public resource, and force decisions about its future to be made in the open where people can watch. They can start right away with three resolutions:
- First, Florida lawmakers led by Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart) need to follow through immediately on the pledge to acquire land south of Lake Okeechobee, starting with at least 60,000 acres for a reservoir to store, treat, and send clean freshwater south to Florida Bay. This can't wait. We've already lost six years to Big Sugar-financed stall tactics – six years that could have been spent working out the engineering, shoring up defenses against droughts and floods, protecting and repairing our estuaries. We can't waste any more time.
- Second, we need legislation to strengthen – not weaken – water management regulations and oversight. Millions of people in South Florida rely on state and federal authorities to keep our drinking water safe. Our fisheries and beaches and parklands are cornerstones of our economy. We should seek more – not less – help from Washington to protect them. Just as important, the local agencies that watch over these resources, like the DEP, the South Florida Regional Planning Commission, and water management districts must operate independently. They need the authority make decisions that place public interests above political and corporate interests.
- Third, every level of government needs to send this clear message to the sugar industry: Until Florida secures the land we need to restore and protect our natural resources – including the Everglades and Florida Bay, the rivers and estuaries and beaches on both coasts, and our drinking water supply – we will block every effort to turn Everglades agricultural lands into investment schemes. Absolutely no rezoning or development plans will be considered until there is clear, indisputable scientific evidence that they won't affect our ability to preserve South Florida's natural environment.
Florida voters elected a number of talented, passionate, principled candidates yesterday – honorable people with the vision and the courage to solve our water management crises. We founded Bullsugar.org to help them. We'll all face immense challenges from well-funded, well-organized, and often well-hidden opponents. But one thing the 2016 elections taught us is to confront them openly, to force the debate into public view, expose the financiers and their motives, and reveal the elected officials and appointees acting as their agents. Because when people can see it all for themselves, they speak up and take action.
So that's what we're going to do, every day, to help restore the Everglades and build a secure, healthy future for Florida's waterways. We've learned how much work democracy takes. We can't wait to get started.