From the “Why I’m Glad They’re Only In Session Two Months of the Year” Department:
Florida, Water and Lobbyists
Toward a New State Capital
By ALAN FARAGO
Church is a good place for Sunday worship, but to contemplate the miracle of Creation, sometimes all you need to do is take a good walk.
The point of a good walk is obvious to anyone who has taken one. You start in one place and end up in another, even though you return where you started.
Which brings me to Tallahassee, a state capital so full of lobbyists you can’t do business without one handing you a towel when you finish.
Once I wrote critically of the pledge by Gov. Jeb Bush to empty Tallahassee of government superfluous to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But I’m coming around to a compromise.
I am for letting the whole place go to weeds. Like a flea-ridden mattress, Tallahassee just needs to be abandoned. Let’s start from scratch.
I hear the state’s largest land owner is building new cities in the Panhandle and that it is really sensitive to smart growth.
Let St. Joe build a smart capital in the Panhandle, surrounded by a wider moat and higher walls than Tallahassee.
Then, the governor and legislators shall remand all lobbyists to Georgia or Alabama, with a requirement to wear ankle bracelets for the duration of the session.
But the key to a functional government is not discrimination — but a good walk, without lobbyists, before the legislative session starts.
There is no better place to experience Florida — the thumb of the continent sticking into the ocean’s eye — than from the water.
The day before the session begins, our legislators and governor shall assemble in Key West, the southernmost point of the United States and the very point of the question.
With face masks, snorkels and life vests, they float over the coral reef that has virtually disappeared in the past decade — and now looks like a graveyard strewn with the bones of dead coral.
Treading water, they come up with their own theories and explanations. Before returning, they make a small ritual of throwing away cell phones.
By bus caravan, the government now proceeds northward on U.S. Highway 1 toward the new state capital.
They shall move at a deliberate pace, preferably at rush hour on a bad day, so all may contemplate what rule permitted so many buildings in the Keys and, once they hit Miami, why unbearable traffic is laying family life to waste.
The second stop is the reef tract off Palm Beach. It is blanketed by a nasty carpet of macro-algae and is lifeless except for supersized parrot fish hulking like hundred-pound babies baptized at McDonald’s and left for good by the fryer.
It is the effect, say some scientists — whose careers do not depend on state funding — of an underground flood of nitrogen pollution from Big Sugar — represented now by lobbyists jumping up and down in Georgia. Or Alabama.
What a tangle we have made of Creation, no doubt about it. Our government stares glumly out bus windows motoring across the Everglades, devoid of birds, to the other side of the state.
Now, the persuasions of technology, helicopter rides, Power Point presentations, planning matrixes and a dizzying array of acronyms induce melancholy and pity.
The confusion between smart engineering and intelligent design percolates through the minds of men and women given the consent of the governed.
For a blessed third time, they dip into water at the edge of Rookery Bay in Collier County, a growth-management failure that sticks like an urchin spine in the foot of the governor.
Expecting nothing, they are astonished by a profusion of wildlife around the freshwater spring bubbling from the bottom of Henderson Creek, recently reported by the Naples Daily News.
When all seemed lost, here is Creation firing on all 12 cylinders. Manatees, tarpon and snook crowd around looking sideways at the Legislature as if they only knew.
Humbled in the presence of Creation, with the sound of their breath in their ears, legislators and governor exhale like fish busting the surface at the same time.
But there is news.
Within a mile radius of the spring, Marco Island wants to double its aquifer storage and recovery wells already permitted by the state, injecting up to 6 million gallons per day — with no assurance and no idea whether what is left of God’s original plan can survive contamination through cracks and conduits underground.
This is the end of a good walk.
Once the Legislature arrives at the new capital, the bars and prayer groups, smoke- and lobbyist-free, fill with animated debate — for instance, which political party had more members who forgot to fasten their life vests.
But in all seriousness, were such a walk to take place, our Legislature and governor might resolve that when intelligent design is destroyed by smart engineering, polluters must pay and that, moreover, aquifers for drinking water that nourish Creation must not be violated.
But don’t count on that happening any time soon in Tallahassee, the state capital of Florida.