Yesterday we took a look at Governor Charlie Crist’s record on issues of environmental protection. However this record is contradicted by his record on growth management. Much like Crist’s other positions, a web of conflicts dots his public record and the zig zags are easily explained by what election was upcoming and the political climate of the day.
After strongly advocating environmental issues in 2007 and 2008, Crist spent much of the 2009 and the early part of 2010 running to the right on these issues as he sought the GOP nomination for US Senate against the hard-line conservative Marco Rubio.
Crist Signed Bill That Made it Easier to Develop Wetlands
On March 17, 2010, the Port St. Lucie News editorial board wrote: Senate Bill 2080, signed into law last year by Gov. Charlie Crist, was bad legislation and equally bad policy. The 2010 Legislature now has a chance to reverse course and restore proper authority to the governing boards of Florida’s ﬁve water management districts. At issue is who should have the ﬁnal say on permits allowing large development projects to use underground water. For years, this power had been entrusted to board members, who reviewed permit applications at their monthly meetings, solicited public input in an open forum and then decided to approve or deny the requests. This format ensured public participation in a very important process: determining who can use how much of one of Florida’s most precious resources — water. But something changed last year. SB 2080 placed these decisions singularly in the hands of the water districts’ executive directors. [Port St. Lucie News, Editorial, 3/17/2010] Ironically this was just a month before Crist dashed to the left and abandoned his bid for the GOP nomination. But in March 2010 he was still trying to placate right-wing interests.
St. Petersburg Times: Crist Bows Down to Developers Again
St. Petersburg Times: “Piece by Piece” Crist “Has Systematically Dismantled What Little Protections Protections There Are for Floridians Fed Up with Trafﬁc and Overdevelopment.”
On July 1, 2009, the St. Petersburg Times Editorial Board wrote under the headline, “Crist Bows Down to Develpoers Again,” that “Gov. Charlie Crist’s sellout to developers is now complete.” They continued, “He signed into law Tuesday a bill that neuters the governing boards of the state’s ﬁve water management districts, which grant permits for large-scale water pumping and wetlands destruction. Now that authority will rest solely in the hands of the districts’ executive directors. Developers and big industry will be able to more easily drain Florida and pave over what’s left.” “ Piece by piece, this governor has systematically dismantled what little protections there are for Floridians fed up with trafﬁc and overdevelopment. First, Crist gutted growth management efforts by signing a law that enables developers to avoid paying for roads to accommodate the trafﬁc their projects generate. Now he has made it easier to destroy wetlands and pump huge quantities of water in a state that faces a drinking water shortage. And Floridians with the gumption to ﬁght will have little recourse.” [Editorial, St. Petersburg Times, 7/1/2009]
St. Petersburg Times; SB 2080 Signed by Crist “Muzzles” Those Who Support Protecting Wetlands and Takes the Sunshine Out of Water Management Decisions.
On July 1, 2009, St. Petersburg Times Editorial Board wrote that before SB 2080 decisions about granting permits for pumping large amounts of water that destroys wetlands “had to be made in open meetings,” where “comment was accepted from all interested parties.” However, SB 2080 has no such requirement and while it allows, “Applicants for permits can appeal to the district board if their permit is rejected,” that same right is not given to environmental groups or the general public. The editorial concludes, “This law effectively muzzles those who would raise their voices in support of protecting natural resources. The only options for citizens who oppose the granting of a permit to pump ground water or destroy wetlands will be to ﬁle for an administrative hearing or appeal to the governor and Cabinet. That will be impractical and expensive for most Floridians.” [Editorial, St. Petersburg Times, 7/1/2009]
Sierra Club Urged Crist to Veto SB 2080
The July 2009 Sierra Club Florida Sentry wrote that, “Next up is SB 2080 – a terrible bill that would give the executive directors of the ﬁve water management districts the sole power to decide the fate of water withdrawals from our rivers and aquifer. Tell Crist to veto this bill!” [Sierra Club Florida Sentry, July 2009] Sierra Club: “Crist Takes An Ugly Turn.” The July 2009 Sierra Club Florida Sentry wrote, “Our ‘environmental’ Governor has sold out to developers. Crist signed SB 360 which is designed to spur construction by eliminating requirements that force developers to pay for road and other transportation improvements. It also grants broad exemptions to the state’s chief mechanism for regulating growth across multiple jurisdictions.” [Sierra Club Florida Sentry, July 2009]
Sierra Club: Crist Vetoed None of the 2009 Bills We Wanted Him To, Including SB 2080 and SB 360
According to the Summer 2009 Sierra Club Florida Pelican, “Governor Crist especially let us down, failing to veto even the worst bills.” They cited Crist’s signing “SB 360 guts a major part of growth management in Florida,” and “SB 2080 eliminates transparency and restricts public input into Water Management District Governing Board decisions.” [Sierra Club Florida Pelican, Summer 2009] Suwanee-St. John’s Group Sierra Club: Crist Refused Vetoing Anti-Smart Growth Bills to Avoid Alienating Wealthy Donors for his U.S. Senate Campaign. In July 2009, the Suwanee-St. John’s Group Sierra Club’s Newsletter stated, “There was some hope that Gov. Charlie Crist would veto the most outrageous bills, with Florida Sierra Club campaigning vigorously for vetoes of ﬁve bills. Crist was not willing to alienate wealthy backers that he would need for the US Senate race so developers won on these veto requests 5-0.” [Suwanee-St. John’s Group Sierra Club Newsletter, July 2009]
Sierra Club: Despite Outcry from Environmentalists and Growth Management Activists, Crist Signed SB 360
According to the August 2009 Sierra Club Florida Sentry, “On June 1, Gov. Crist, over the objections of environmentalists, growth- management activists, and many local governments, signed Senate Bill 360, euphemistically known as the ‘Community Renewal Act.’ There has been outcry and lawsuits throughout Florida following Crist’s controversial action.” [Sierra Club Florida Sentry, August 2009]
Developers and the Real Estate Industry Have Contributed Over $4.5 Million to Crist
According to the National Institute of Money in State Politics and the Center for Responsive Politics, over the past decade, developers and the real estate industry have donated at least $4,526,157 to Charlie Crist’s campaign committees for Education Commissioner, Attorney General, Governor, and United States Senate. [National Institute on Money in State Politics, accessed 9/3/2010; Center for Responsive Politics ]