By Matt Caldwell
“What can you do … against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself; who gives your arguments a fair hearing and simply persists in his lunacy?” — George Orwell’s 1984
It is an open joke in Tallahassee that if Kimberly Mitchell and the Everglades Trust speak, you will hear her words echoed down Adams Street by the dozens of environmental groups that are bought and paid for by her network. That her orders are now commonly carried out by a sitting congressman, however, is more than just a joke. U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Stuart, ran for Congress as a no-nonsense veteran who would cut through the noise ala Trump. But his recent advocacy regarding water supply planning in the Greater Everglades is a cacophony without equal.
Congressman Mast, and his backers in the Everglades Trust money machine, are determined to have the public believe that what ails Lake Okeechobee is simply the presence of some troublesome farmers in South Florida and if we just run them off, then the Everglades will once again become a magical land, as untouched as the day Ponce de Leon sighted La Florida. They want you to ignore the fact that half of the Southern Everglades now sits under the asphalt and concrete of millions of Floridians in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties and that these residents would not only be deluged by flood without the Herbert Hoover Dike but that they rely on Lake Okeechobee as a backup supply of drinking water.
The recent op-ed by Congressman Mast was filled with flowery language about sharing and equity, like some social justice term paper. But cut through the half-truths and you find that they really just want to starve Lake Okeechobee until it is so dry that the millions of South Floridians riot and turn on those pesky farmers, keeping the blood off their own hands. Lake Okeechobee is the liquid heart of the Everglades, and everything in Southern Florida depends on it. Water allocations from the lake not only supply the farmers that have been feeding us through the COVID-19 pandemic and the drinking water needs of South Florida. There are critical environmental needs as well, including fresh water during the winter months to prevent the Caloosahatchee from turning completely to saltwater. Management of the lake cannot be a political toy for the amusement of the idle rich.
If these “advocates” really cared about Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades, they would stop ignoring northern storage as the only tool to solve estuary discharges. Instead, they work daily to throw roadblocks in the path of the real solution, as they have done now for more than 30 years. Eventually, you can only conclude the obvious: that the trust and its allies make too much money off the system to ever help solve it. Like too many that go to Washington with bright eyes and earnest hearts, fame and money have captured their souls and now we are all the worse for it.
I’m an actual, real-life grassroots fighter who first spoke up years ago because I was tired of all the debauched advocacy that never seemed to get anywhere. During my time in the Legislature working on real solutions for the Everglades, the only ones consistently standing in the way were the Everglades Trust and their paid vassals. They are desperate to confuse the public and manipulate folks such as Congressman Mast to cloud their vision. I have faith that the people of Florida are not really gullible enough to fall for their antics this time around.
Matt Caldwell was a member of the Florida House from 2010 to 2018 and the Republican nominee for Florida commissioner of agriculture in 2018.