We are learning just how partisan and political water management can be

Please excuse me for being determinedly naive. I had thought that Florida water management was in large measure nonpartisan, nonpolitical, and technocratic. That was the case a couple of decades ago but I see now that the times are very different. Yesterday provided overwhelming evidence of the new era.

Ideological cuts to water management district budgets were only the start. A number of very valuable and nonpartisan water management experts have been forced out of agencies in which they served Florida for years or even decades. Yesterday, for example, the Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District was dismissed two days after the governing board elected a new chair. It turns out that the new chair is a principal officer of the Florida Republican Party (a fact somehow omitted from his bio at SWFWMD).

Scott also chose to sign SB 2142 yesterday, which throws backward the state’s water management system. It injects politics into the system in a manner far beyond any that existed in the past..

Yesterday, too, Governor Scott held an event in the Villages to talk about the state budget and what items he is vetoing. The Legislature’s budget, combined with Scott’s vetoes, will do great harm to the state’s water resources. Scott proudly removed budget items for restoring the St. Johns River, for improved environmental permitting, and for land acquisition that protects Florida’s land and water resources. Astonishingly, he arranged for this important gubernatorial event to be sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida. The staging was harshly partisan and featured the physical removal of a few Democratic party protesters at this outdoor event on the “town square”:

At the urging of Scott officials, Sumter County sheriff’s deputies escorted a group of more than a dozen Democrats — mainly retirees who live in The Villages — from Thursday’s event at the town square. The reason? The $69 billion state budget signing ceremony was a “private event.”

Staffers and Republican operatives searched the crowd of about 200 looking for people holding anti-Scott signs. They were noted, and asked to leave. Those with pro-Scott signs were allowed to stay. The Republican Party of Florida rented the town square for the ceremony, which gave party officials the right to say who stays and who goes, deputies said.

If Scott and his political allies see state government, and water management in particular, primarily as a political activity, then it is. The only possible response is political change.

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