What I will do to address our river

Rainy season is here and our perennial algae-bloom nightmare is under way again.

As we do each year, we beg and plead with everyone from Mother Nature and the Corps of Engineers to the South Florida Water Management District to “do something.” But we all know that solutions to this enormous, complex, long-standing problem will take time, resources, and most importantly, unflinching political will.

From the creation in the 1940s of the system of canals then called the “flood control district” to the most recent attempts to undo the damage caused by decades of benign neglect and wilful disregard for the consequences of growth and development, this problem cannot be solved unless and until all parties at all levels made a commitment end the blame game and devote their energy to cooperation.

As a State Senator, I will pursue the following objectives:

1) Demand full funding for Amendment I and Florida Forever

The $100 million appropriated for Florida Forever in the 2018-19 budget was a small step forward, and better than the “zero” and pocket-change allocations for Florida Forever since it was first approved. But it is still nowhere near the amount promised -- or even the $300 million proposed by environmental advocates as a compromise. And funds promised for land preservation and management by Amendment I, adopted in 2014, still are being misused by the Legislature for purposes. The legal battle now underway may address that, but we will still need legislators who will stand up and fight for Amendment I and Florida Forever regardless of the outcome of that case, and I will do that.

2) Increase legislative oversight of the South Florida Water Management District.

This unelected body of officials has broad taxing power and authority over the well-being of 16 counties, which represent a large plurality of Florida’s population, but they are truly accountable only to one person: the governor. Hopefully, the next one will do a better job of appointing people to that board who represent the interests of all the people in those 16 counties instead of special interests. But the Legislature can exert its role as a check on executive power more forcefully than it has, and it has an obligation to do so -- even if it takes the creation of a select joint committee. 

3) Restore the Department of Environmental Protection to its rightful position. 

The present administration has effectively decimated the DEP, reduced its role as a protector of our precious environment in every aspect from parks and wetlands to rivers and springs, and appointed people to run it who either were not qualified to do so or did not have the interest of the environment at heart. I will introduce legislation to rectify the eggregious harm done to this agency across the past eight years, protect it going forward, and codify its role with respect to climate change. I also will exercise my duty as a State Senator to seriously assess the environmental credentials of any and all future appointees and vigorously oppose the confirmation of those who are not qualified

Maressa Levy