EPC wetlands division saved in hybrid form
Commissioners voted 7-0 yesterday to save
their jobs, the EPC wetlands division, and implement Dr. Garrity’s compromise Hybrid Proposal. After receiving about 3 inches of e-mail from an outraged public (Rose Ferlita held up the stack), and taking a constant beating in the press ever since their preliminary vote in June to eliminate the division, they had to vote for the hybrid. It was clear that a vote to eliminate the epc wetlands division would have been political suicide.
An EPC staffer counted 350 people, which included lots of red-shirted developers, but was clearly dominated by the greener side.
There were some heavy hitters there — Lynn McGarvey flew in from California (with decades of experience working on environmental issues in the bay area, she’s an eco-saint), Tampa City Council person Mary Mulhern, and ex-county commissioners Chris Hart & Jan Platt. Also some big organizations took a stand. For the wetlands: Sierra Club, Audubon, the Suncoast Native Plant Society, Friends of the Hillsborough River, the Agency on Bay Management and the League of Woman Voters. For cement: The Tampa Bay Builders Association and the Greater Tampa Bay Area Realtors.
Tommy’s prediction of outside attacks came true in the form of the Tallahassee based lobbying firm of Hopping Green & Sams calling for elimination of the division.
The crowd was righteously impassioned and many speakers drew hearty applause. I was particularly impressed by the number of people who spoke saying they’d never even been to a public hearing before, but they felt compelled to come speak in defense of our wetlands.
Kevin White, who made the original motion to do away with all our local wetland protections, said he wanted to “Regurgitate” his motives for his original vote as he backpedaled furiously, acting like his motion was a bold move that needed to be made to get the conversation started toward the final goal of the Hybrid Proposal. He didn’t fool anybody, and Marcella O’Steen was particularly eloquent in her extemporaneous thrashing of his “spin.”
Several of the speakers (including me) urged the commission to hold off on the Hybrid Proposal, with some speakers suggesting a Blue Ribbon Panel of independent experts study the idea first. The commissioners ignored that option.
If the vote had been strictly up or down on the wetlands division today, with no compromising Hybrid Proposal in the mix, I feel certain commissioners couldn’t have eliminated the agency in the face of such massive public opposition. Unfortunately, we are now stuck with this Hybrid.
We’ll have more about what exactly the hybrid proposal means soon.