When Florida became the nation’s 4th largest state in 1987, I was ecstatic. As a young kid I will admit I had an inferiority complex with many areas from the rest of the nation who got more attention on TV, had more pro sports teams and where all my relatives lived. Boasting about Florida’s size, importance and unique features became an integral part of my upbringing.
Almost three decades later, Florida has passed New York, a state in terminal decline to become the nation’s third largest state. In many ways this should be a day of celebration. For years, New Yorkers have felt the need to lecture Floridians about our backwardness yet have flocked en masse to our state because the quality of life is no better in the Sunshine State.
The symbolism of overtaking New York is particularly poignant for me as a year and a half ago I lost a job cared dearly about largely because the owners and those around the North American Soccer League (NASL) felt New York was a better place to do business from than Miami. It was especially odd considering CONCACAF the governing body for all soccer competitions, leagues and tournaments in North America had just made the opposite move leaving expensive digs at the Trump Tower in Manhattan for more modest but more accessible offices on Miami Beach. So the body that governs NASL as well as MLS, US Soccer, Mexican Soccer, Canada, etc is now based in Miami. That is because Florida provides the right place to do business if you are a truly international company or entity. Miami makes more sense than New York or Los Angeles or Chicago as a financial and business hub in the new economy.
But Florida becoming the third largest state in the union isn’t all sweetness and light. South Florida in particular faces an environmental crisis from over development and the potential of climate change. The water supply for the entire state is under tremendous strain thanks to taking in too many residents, and so many local elected officials have shortsightedly seen development as the only viable economic driver and have been loathe to consider the consequences of over developing land.
This state faces a looming major crisis and our political leaders aren’t ready to tackle it. Charlie Crist is one of the only leading Floridia politicians who has stood tall on these issues and unfortunately he’s been defeated twice for statewide office in the last four years. It is the transient nature of Florida that would allow voters to pick Rick Scott who probably still needs a road map or a GPS to find most parts of the state over someone who grew up in this state and cares deeply about its future and management of natural resources in Charlie Crist.
Lonely voices continue to sound the alarm about our future. But often they aren’t heard and while Republicans and Democrats alike push for more business in the state, more often than not the record speaks loudly to the contrary. So we aren’t attracting enough business OR protecting our environment properly. I would respect conservatives in this state more if they would be able to attract the number of businesses they promise and liberals more if they would double-down and protect the ecosystem. Once upon a time this state worked wonders and can again if we do the right things.
The 1970’s were the golden era in this state. Positive changes and real strong political leadership created the environment for business development and sensible growth management. We need to get back to those sorts of days and with this news and 2015 looming, no better time exists to start the conversation.
So in 2015, let’s talk about protecting the environment, attracting real new business to the state in creative ways and improving our infrastructure. All of these issues are linked together as we learned in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but all too often today’s Florida politicians lack of institutional knowledge of memory precludes them from really knowing this.
The conversation starts on website like this. If we don’t move the ball forward on these matters, we cannot expect the politicians to do so.