Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
January 15, 2019
“It is not fit that you sit here any longer… you shall now give place to better men.” — Oliver Cromwell to Parliament, January 1654
It was a breathtaking act of hubris when the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District insulted Ron DeSantis, two days after he won the governor’s race, by refusing to delay a vote on an eight-year extension of a land lease to the sugar company Florida Crystals — land that’s vital to the Everglades cleanup project. DeSantis’ subsequent demand for the nine-member board to resign was surprising only to those intoxicated by their own power.
But the board’s arrogant disdain for the new governor and for U.S. Rep Brian Mast, who appealed in person to delay the vote, served a public purpose. It showed DeSantis how the board typically treats citizens who aren’t developers or representatives of Big Sugar.
There are two other current examples of its public-be-damned mindset.
— According to the environmental lobby Bullsugar.org, the district blocked e-mails from citizens attempting to protest the lease extension and the board’s high-handed decision to ask a federal court to release the district from oversight of the pollution, most of it from farms, that’s draining into Everglades National Park.
— When the Everglades Law Center Inc., sought the transcript of a closed-door meeting where the district capitulated to a controversial rock-mining project, the agency refused to comply and went judge-shopping for an order, now on appeal, that blasts a giant hole in Florida’s open-meetings and public-records laws.
The good news, though, is that the entire nine-member board is either gone or going, the only question being how soon. One seat was already vacant. Two more members, Dan O’Keefe and Carlos Diaz, resigned Friday. The terms of three more, including two who refuse to resign, expire March 1. That’s six of the nine seats that DeSantis can fill right away.