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Want clean water? Follow the money

By Staff | Aug 26, 2020

To the editor:

In 2018 our water pollution was so bad in Florida, we had dead dolphins, manatees, fish, birds and even a whale wash up on the shores of local beaches. People were coughing and having trouble breathing — and it was not pollution, it was toxic algae-caused by nutrient pollutant overload in our waters. And this pollution was enabled by the sugar industry. The sugar industry was so threatened by one local politician who took them on, they took out attack ads to silence him. His name was Ray Judah. His own party stood by and let it happen.

Sugar corporations donated to The Florida Chamber and other groups. Those organizations then endorsed candidates who looked the other way when sugar lobbied heavily to weaken water protections with South Florida Water Management District. Worse was when they voted for HB 7003 to weaken water quality standards.

Those same candidates voted to bring fracking to Florida (HB 191) rather than ban it from our state, endangering our water supply (fracking is the process of injecting more than 700 toxic chemicals into the ground and blowing it up to produce oil, and pollutes groundwater). They manipulated voters by claiming they were “regulating” when really they were allowing it and voting for it. As a clinical social worker who analyzes human behavior and environmental organizer who has worked with politicians over the years, take my word on this.

So if you are a member of your local chamber, your own organizations may be helping pollute your waters and endorsing candidates based on money they get from Big Sugar. And all of you need to demand it stop.

In recent years our waters have become so polluted that we now have fish with tumors being caught. This used to never happen when I was a kid here in Florida.

The question is, knowing this, how many of you will continue to vote for candidates just because they have an R next to their name? This is essentially shooting yourselves in the foot because you need clean water to have a strong economy, to sell and build homes, to bring in tourists, to eat tumor-free fish at local restaurants or fish to feed your families.

Some of these politicians are slick, they are friendly with voters, telling you what you want to hear, they have fancy ads and some even claim they care about the water, but the proof is in how they vote and if they accept polluter money. Some are even getting themselves “endorsed” by a the Everglades Foundation that says it is for the environment, but it endorses right-wing politicians who vote against our waters and takes sugar money (DeSantis took sugar dark money and had an F voting record on water when they endorsed him).

Sugar obscured their donations by funneling it through other sources but bought influence in the process so some would look the other way. Candidates in our area who have received donations from the sugar industry through these organizations are:

Fitzenhagen-R–1,000 and $500 (U.S. Sugar and Florida Leadership Committee-to hide this money)

Eagle-R–10,000 (sugar donated to the Conservative Coalition for Florida’s Future to hide this money)

Rodrigues-R–25,000 (sugar donated to Free Markets for Florida to hide this money)

So, knowing that in recent years our waters have been heavily polluted, how many of you continue to reward politicians with your votes while wondering why our waters are in bad shape?

My old preschool teacher told me she voted for one of these people because they were in her preschool class. That is not a good enough reason to vote for someone. Research their record, not what they tell you. We all now have access to google. If you truly want a legitimate organization to talk to about who really votes for the waters, contact Professor Dr. Janelle Christensen who lives here in our area. She has done an amazing job analyzing the voting records of every politician across the state and has a huge spreadsheet of what laws they voted for. She even graded them based on how they vote and is endorsing those who really vote for our waters. Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters are more reliable sources as well.

I was an environmental organizer for years and I used to lobby politicians on both sides of the aisle. I even worked with a Republican, but even he recognized his own party was no longer working for the environment, so he left and became an independent. This past year the League of Conservation Voters gave him a perfect 100% score. Democrats and NPAs in his area keep re-electing him because the local fishing community in the Hamptons recognize that water is economy. They don’t just vote because someone has a R next to their name.

I believe in being honest with people, in having integrity, in doing what is right. Some do not. Don’t reward them with your votes. Save our Florida waters. Stop voting R. That party has changed and is not looking out for our waters. Let’s stop shooting ourselves in the foot and get our clear blue waters back.

C. A. Hughes

Cape Coral resident