10/31/2013 at 3:59pm
There have been two good examples this week of the power of the voice of the people. It’s easy to be skeptical and there is no shortage of examples of our representatives ignoring the voice of their constituents, but there are also cases where they listen, especially if those constituents are persistent enough.
This week a bipartisan group of Congressional representatives and Senators announced that they were preparing a bill to postpone the catastrophic flood insurance premiums that were a result of the Biggert-Waters Act. It still needs to pass both houses and be signed by the President, but just the fact that representatives from both sides of the aisle have recognized the need for relief is a hopeful sign.
Word is that it will be retroactive to October 1st and mandates affordability measures. Until the bill is actually written and passed, it’s a good idea to remain cautious and keep reminding your reps of your concerns. While the original intent of Biggert-Waters is sound – making the flood insurance program fiscally sound – if large numbers of homeowners drop their coverage and the coastal real estate market takes a huge hit, it won’t make the flood program any more solvent, but will destroy the economies of countless coastal communities. As people realized the extent of the effects of Biggert-Waters, they called on their elected representatives and were heard.
Another example was the passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRDA) out of the House Transportation Committee followed by overwhelming support in a full House vote, passing it 417-3, all within a week. The Senate passed a similar bill in May. It’s looking like a final bill may actually hit the President’s desk by year’s end. Makes you wonder why things can’t work this smoothly all the time, doesn’t it?
One reason may be that there were no earmarks attached to this legislation, a rarity in DC today. It has to be easier to pass laws when they have a single focus. Too bad the no earmark concept is not more widely embraced, so we’d all know who’s voting for what.
Before we get too excited though, it bears remembering that the WRDA is only an authorization bill. There’s no money attached so it needs an appropriation bill. And that’s where past WRDA bills were stopped. Historically, a WRDA bill was passed every two years, giving clear direction to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Administration, but no WRDA law has been signed since 2007.
The credit for passage now, has to go to the people who let their representatives know how concerned they are about water quality....
10/24/2013 at 4:10pm
Life in a small town is very different when compared to life in a big city, or even a large town. It’s more personal. You know your neighbors and many of the people you pass on the street. You probably know the mayor or one of the members of Town Council.
Government is much simpler in a small town also. Fewer elected officials, less red tape, easier access to town officials. Though some might argue that’s not the case here. I often hear that we have too much red tape, too many rules, too much regulation in our small town.
I’ve come to realize that there are some people for whom any government is too much. And others who would like to see government solve all their problems. Most of us are somewhere in the middle.
Some would like government - including our Town government - to just get out of the way of business. And were that to happen, business would flourish. New businesses would sprout and existing businesses would prosper. Businesses would regulate themselves, doing nothing that might harm their neighbors or other businesses because, the theory goes, and it would be bad for their business.
To those I say, how about a 24-hour motorcycle repair business opening up next door to your house? The only thing keeping that from happening is zoning rules. Or maybe you’ve opened a widget business and are paying rent in a prime location when a widget cart parks itself on your doorstep. That too is prevented by local government rules.
We do need some regulations, zoning and ordinances. And as onerous as it is, somebody has to figure out what those should be. That falls to our Town Council, who relies on advisory committees made up of citizen volunteers to offer input along with residents and business owners.
This week a group met to discuss changes to the Town’s outdoor display rules. The existing ones are practically unenforceable. There have already been several public workshops and meetings on this subject over the past few months, with ample opportunity for input from residents and businesses.
Change is difficult, no doubt. Our Town is nearing the end of its second decade in existence. It’s become clear that some of the rules and ordinances adopted at or near the beginning of our town are no longer serving us very well and need a careful review and possible updating.
One of the benefits or drawbacks, depending on your viewpoint, of a small town, where everybody knows everybody, is the tendency to want to work with everyone, to make everyone happy.
Don’t Make Us Liars
With the return of afternoon sunshine, there’s a hopeful air here on the Beach that the rainy season is behind us. Those reliable every-afternoon deluges may be gone, but our water quality issues are still with us.
The Lake Okeechobee water releases continue at 3,000 cfs at Franklin Lock, which reflects both Lake Okeechobee releases and watershed drainage. While 3,000 is not what we’d like to see, it is down from previous summer-time highs after the U.S. Army Corps opened the floodgates for maximum discharges down the Caloosahatchee in July. In August we saw over 7,000 cfs at the S-77 lock at Moore Haven (all Lake O) and over 14,000 at the S-79 Franklin Lock (Lake O + watershed).The bottom line is that the freshwater flow down the Caloosahatchee River has been way too high since June, killing off oysters and seagrass and causing still unknown damage to the life-sustaining seagrass beds in our river, bay and Gulf, turning our water brown and threatening our lifeblood tourism industry.
To learn more about our water quality issues, Islanders are invited to the Floridians for Clean Water rally this Saturday at Crescent Beach Family Park from 12-3pm.
The issues that caused this water-borne disaster are the same ones that existed in June and last year and for the last ten years. Rain in the central part of the state flows into the Kissimmee River, as does agricultural run-off. That flows into Lake Okeechobee. The agricultural industry - including Big Sugar companies around Lake O - use the water and has permission to pump it back into the lake in certain circumstances. When the lake level rises too high as it does during the rainy season, water is released to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.It can’t be released south to the Everglades, which needs water, because it is too polluted. So, the east and west coasts get the water instead. Apparently nothing is too polluted to send to us.
There are primarily two problems: 1. Too much "fresh” water. 2. Polluted water.
While there has been action taken on the state and federal level to move forward with projects to address water quality, most of them address the quantity issue – and look to provide areas to store water. Some projects will address how to remove the pollutants, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus. But few seem to want to address the pollution problems at their sources.
At this point a lot of people want to point the finger of shame at Big Sugar. And that would be very convenient. One monolithic industry to blame for all our water problems.
10/10/2013 at 4:45pm
Never in My Wildest Dreams
I can clearly remember the day many years ago when an office equipment salesman stood in my office explaining the future of business communications was going be the fax machine. Being a polite Midwesterner, I did not laugh or toss him to the curb, though my inner self certainly wanted to. I could not imagine the function, purpose, need, or advantages of business communications beyond the telephone, US Mail, or UPS/Fed Ex packages.
Fast forward to today, and I acknowledge that the salesman years ago was just ahead of his or my time. These days, I am a much quicker adoptee of personal and business technology if useful, not too time consuming to learn and affordable.
As a result of technology, today we offer our readers and advertisers 5 different platforms of news and information, including our flagship weekly newspaper. I mention this because I know many of you see us only as your local newspaper.
Our monthly Entertainment Magazine is the go-to publication for what is going on in our area. Events, activities, and entertainment are listed at no charge in our daily calendar format every month.(Deadline for November calendar items is Wednesday, October 23.) Each month also features the premier events in the area for that month with specific event information and background. This month Pirate Fest and Halloween are our focus. November will feature Paint the Beach and the Sand Sculpting Championships. Check our newsstands for our latest issue.
Many of you have also discovered our website at www.islandsandpaper.com. Paid subscriptions ($30/yr) get you the entire weekly issue – cover to cover – including ads, along with archives of past issues. We have 4 stories each week available at no charge which is more than most others offer. I know you have found us because our web statistics indicate our traffic is now over 600,000 unique visitors annually. That translates to a couple thousand of you visit the site every day to read island news…or see the Back Page Girl…I am not sure which. It is a true indicator of growth in digital access to information and news…not something new to anyone, but relevant because it speaks to what is going on right here and right now in our community.
Most of us have suffered through trying to access certain websites that load slowly or don’t format well on our smart phones or tablets.