To the editor
It is with an incredible sense of dismay that I watch what is unfolding in Florida this legislative session. The governor and Legislature seem bent on destroying our state’s landmark process to manage growth and development, essential considering that Florida soon will pass New York as the third-largest state in the nation.
In recent conversations with three former distinguished governors, I found all appalled by the disastrous course the state leadership is setting for us. The looming agenda is unapologetically pro-business and antiregulation. Florida’s new leadership is in complete denial that this state’s natural areas are both the foundation and economic engine that drive our beautiful state.
To avoid the problems of overcrowded schools, congested roadways and environmental damage that occurred unchecked after World War II, Florida must maintain a workable system to direct growth into suitable places and away from those lands too sensitive for development. This was, and remains, the mission I shared with several other prominent Floridians when in 1986 we founded 1,000 Friends of Florida, the second organization of its kind in the nation. Over the past quarter-century, 1,000 Friends has worked with leaders from both sides of the aisle to shape one of the most successful growth management systems in the nation.
Current efforts will do nothing less than open Florida back up to the ravages of unchecked development experienced in our state in the 1960s and 1970s. The resulting damage to the Everglades, drinking water supplies and public infrastructure is being felt to this day. Floridians simply cannot afford to make these mistakes again.
Residents throughout this state must continue to fight the false premise that Florida can build its way out of the recession by reducing or even eliminating a state oversight role in local development decisions. Such an approach will do untold damage to our environment and create costly future burdens for our children and grandchildren.
My travels throughout the United States and the world convince me that Florida was moving in the right direction to right past wrongs and prevent their recurrence. Sadly, the only kind of legacy we will be leaving to the generations following us is one of missed opportunities that no one can proudly claim.
This is a call to all of those who treasure Florida. The worst thing any of us can do is to go quietly into the night. Our great state is worth fighting for. Stand up and speak out against the outrageous proposals now steamrolling through the Legislature. We implore you to join the fight before it is too late.