Friday, January 23, 2009

State of Stupidity

Props to the University Press of Florida- they publish some mighty fine books about the sunshine state. Right now I'm reading Up for Grabs by John Rothchild, a book I've had for six years but am now finally reading. It is similar to Losing it All to Sprawl, Bill Belleville's book, in that it looks at the history of Florida and how developers have shaped our state and our culture. 

Rothchild portrays Florida as a giant swamp that gets filled in by opportunists who create land out of muck and get rich by doing it. He traces the early capitalists who create Miami, St. Pete and other coastal communities, documents the growth of inland towns like Orlando and reveals more recent projects by greedy developers around the Everglades. While the book's tone is not cheerful, it does seem unwaveringly straightforward.

Both Belleville and Rothchild portray Florida's government as inept stewards of the state's natural beauty who cater to the developers that reap the rewards of plundering Florida's assets. Everyday I read the paper, I can't help but think he's right. As our current state legislature tries to make up billions of dollars in revenue by hacking the budget, their short-sightedness in considering their options is astounding to me. Our legacy as Floridians may be that we mess things up little bit more for each generation, unless we make some tough decisions.

A couple of thoughts:
- Florida's history is a series of gigantic real-estate booms followed by gigantic busts. I can't help but thinking we may be entering such a bust again. In the '80s and 90s, Church Street Station and Church Street itself was the center of social life in downtown Orlando. I'm sure that was considered when they made plans to build an enormous condo right in the middle of all the action. Today it sits empty, casting shadows over my beloved entertainment complex.

- A positive note is that our governor is considering withdrawing his support for the planned gutting of the Florida Forever program by the legislature. Lets see if he has the courage to follow through with it. I have to admit, if the choice is between keeping teachers and buying environmentally-sensitive land, it's a very tough call. Hey Charlie- why not just raise cigarette taxes and tax internet sales instead?

- Today's Sentinel has a plethora of letters about the state's absurd policy of euthanizing wild animals that stray into neighborhoods. There are neighborhoods everywhere, where else can the critters go? While there are many complaints about the quality of the Sentinel today, I still see it as an overwhelmingly positive force for raising public awareness.

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