Florida's Deadbeat Dad

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: August 29, 2013 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ

He's the head of the family -- the one who promises the moon and you want to believe, God knows you love him. So when he turns up empty-handed again, you give him another chance. And another.

That's Florida's deadbeat dad. That's the federal government.

It all came home to me Wednesday when Gov. Rick Scott pledged $90 million for a 100 percent, wholly federal responsibility in Everglades restoration, the bridging of Tamiami Trail.

Frankly, he shouldn't be offering a red cent for that. 

This massive restoration of one of the world's treasured ecosystems is a marriage. It's a partnership of trust. The state takes care of water quality, the feds water quantity. That's the deal.

The Tamiami bridge should not -- not -- be on any of the state's to-do lists.

But when you're in a marriage with a deadbeat dad, when you can't depend on getting any support, when Congress and the president tell you the Everglades' ship is coming in but you've heard it one too many times -- you do what you can. That's why Rick Scott is jumping in. Floridians victimized by Lake Okeechobee discharges and river pollution are outraged. They need to see action. The Everglades needs to see action. 

Mind you, moving this Tamiami flow-blocking dam will take three years and require matching funds from the U.S. Department of the Interior. So Scott and the rest of the kids will be waiting  for Christmas. Maybe Dad will be back on his feet and bring presents and love them then.

President Barack Obama has, after all, proposed $30 million this year for the Tamiami bridge. Proposed. In Washington "proposed" is miles away from authorized. The budget allocation is locked up with hundreds of others, in a congressional netherland.

By June 2008, the federal government -- goodtime Charlie, our deadbeat Dad -- had spent only $400 million of the $7.8 billion legislated when the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was passed into law in 2000.

Compare that to the $2 billion the state of Florida spent on Everglades projects in the same time period.

By 2010 the state had spent six times more money under the 2000 deal than the federal government, according to an accounting by the Everglades Coalition, an organization of more than 50 member groups pushing for Everglades restoration.

So, forgive me if I sometimes get a little impatient with the likes of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whose fly-by visits in times of water crises are filled with a deadbeat dad's big empty promises.

For me, disappointment in Nelson's visit to the Indian River Lagoon on Aug. 15 was compounded by his trickery. All he did was dust off the same speech he made in January 2006: “What I saw was a river that had no life. There were no mullet jumping. There were no seagulls. There were no pelicans diving. There was no osprey. ..." Virtually the same words both times. Did anybody else notice?

In 2006, he returned to Washington as quickly as he'd come, while Florida waited in vain for a promised $1.2 billion for the Indian River Lagoon project on the east coast and $350 million for the Picayune Strand project near Naples.

It was good to see so many Florida leaders recognize the governor for his $90 million bridge pledge. Scott is the other parent in the deadbeat-dad relationship -- not perfect, not always stepping up with his best foot forward, but there. Available and accountable.

Should the state be paying for a federal responsibility? I feel a little resentful. But I believe the governor was doing what he could under the circumstances, pretty much abandoned in a time of crisis.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 282-282-2423.


Comments (6)

What have the Feds spent?
7:37PM SEP 1ST 2013
From 2008 to 2012, the U.S. Corps of Engineers spent $446 million repairing Herbert Hoover dike around Lake Okeechobee. In fact, 20% of the budget for the Corps is being spent in South Florida. The work is continuing and will not be complete for several more years.

Now who is the deadbeat?
11:44AM SEP 2ND 2013
The dike has nothing whatever to do with Everglades Restoration. It's a necessity of public safety. The Army Corps is spending so much on the dike now because it neglected to go forward on work needed earlier. Now it is critical. Spending money on the dike isn't to protect or restore the Everglades, it is to save lives.
Charles M. Hill
12:32PM AUG 31ST 2013
Yes I believe Governor Scott was doing what he could. I believe we shoould wean ourselves from depending on the Federal Government for subsidising as much as possible;however, when it enters into a contract with a state to provide funding for a project, it should be forthcoming with what it says it will. I do believe we are better off managing our affairs within the state on our own resources and not depending of federal money, however inticing it may be. When we do that we also free ourselves of Federal intervention in our affairs. Every time we make ourselves dependent upon the Federal government we lose a certain amount of our freedom and sovereignty as a state.
5:54PM AUG 29TH 2013
i'd say joe is exactly right.
1:32PM AUG 29TH 2013
Rick Scott is a Deadbeat I wouldn't call him Dad
3:39PM AUG 29TH 2013
I'd say Joe is the deadbeat... and a nasty angry one at that!

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