Friday, May 8, 2020

What about Mother Nature's constitutional rights in the Florida Keys?

Old Seven Mile Bridge

Dreamed most of last night about being involved in some kind of war in the Florida Keys and my Key West friend Naja Girard was my amiga in the dream. I wondered on waking if the dream had to do with Wisteria Island, which Naja was central in persuading the U.S. Bureau of Land Management was owned by the U.S. Government and not by a the Bernstein family, which wanted to develop Wisteria Island into a posh resort like its neighbor Sunset Key (photo below). After a long federal court proceeding, the Bureau of Land Management came out on top, so far.

Today, Wisteria Island is a kinda no man's land. More like when Naja and her hubby Arnaud and their children lived on a boat moored off the island and ran a water taxi business. The Island was their playground. Today, the island's a little different, but people live there for free, much to the consternation of the Bernsteins, the Key West city government and police department, the Monroe County government and sheriff, Florida Fish & Wildlife, chambers of commerce, capitalists, etc. But with the Bureau of Land Management having ownership, for now, and doing nothing with or about the island, the aforesaid disgruntleds are, well, stymied.

I heard the other day from a friend who lives on Wisteria Island of Key West police using one of their boats to bring a sheriff deputy out to Wisteria (I thought the sheriff had his own boats) to investigate alleged criminal incidents on the island (beyond smoking pot and ingesting other allegedly illegal chemicals, which is regular fare on the island, and in Key West and the Florida Keys).

One alleged crime was someone on the island was brought a boat to fix, he fixed the boat, the boat owner didn't want to pay but wanted the boat, the mechanic kept the boat. I said that would make for an interesting law school question. Usually, a mechanic's lien for work performed is absolute; the mechanic can keep the boat, car, truck, motorcycle, etc. until he is paid. But here, on an "illegal island", where nobody is supposed to live, where the mechanic may not have a business license, does a mechanic lien attach? Well, there is another legalism: "Possession is 9/10ths of the law." I think the mechanic still had the boat, so far.

Moving laterally into a slightly bigger cosmic arena in the Florida Keys, op-ed in the online newspaper Naja and Arnaud (above) operate, where people who want to know what's really going on in the Keys go; I replied beneath the op-ed. I personally know the author, who lives on Key Largo.
Photo: FEMA/Crystal Payton hurricane flooding
Photo: FEMA/Crystal Payton
Guest Editorial by John Donnelly
There’s a steady stream of compelling scientific research and evidence that identifies in detail the deleterious and destructive impact that 900 Additional ROGO Building Allocations will have upon the Florida Keys.
Consulting with my attorney and a plethora of hurricane evacuation experts, I was collectively informed that, in their opinion: “Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk got basic facts incorrect” when she ruled in favor of granting 300 ROGO units to each of the three Monroe County cities seeking them. It seems the health and welfare of Florida Keys’ families are disposable, as once again the strangulating grasp of authoritarian rule and over-development have coalesced into a tyrannical force to be reckoned with.
The fragile aquatic ecosystem upon which our lives, children, communities and businesses are dependent for protection and survival cannot withstand the harmful impact of additional ROGO allocations; sanctioned by corrupted politicians and an obtuse and myopic court ruling.
This judge’s decision implicates and increases the chances of lives being lost, residents injured and cataclysmic property destruction to occur during a rapid evacuation order preceding a hurricane strike. The inevitable governmental declarations that will force a quick and swift escape from the approaching danger of an ever strengthening hurricane looms large over Monroe County. Bolting from our domiciles as directed, fleeing from the tiny string of low-lying tropical islands we call home, will be complicated with  unnecessary fatalities and injuries if this errant court order isn’t vacated.
Safely evading a wobbling and oscillating Category 5 Hurricane will be near impossible, because of decisions being made by seemingly indifferent, ignorant and unaware city/county commissioners, along with an ill-informed judge.
Reasonable and rationale individuals making an honest analysis of the crazed over-development trends taking hold of our islands, quickly realize that our Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Area of Critical Concern designations are being systematically dismantled and shredded.
Over population, densely constructed housing projects and chronic traffic jams are the pre-requisites and red-flags of the lethality to come from compromised and discredited hurricane evacuation plans predisposed to failure.
Authoritarian malfunctions and aberrant court rulings, are the metastasized precursors of servitude and suppression required by one’s overlords.
Sloan Bashinsky
Looks to me, John, it all boils down to the U.S. Constitution has not regard for Mother Nature's rights. The Constitution evolved from the initial document to include the Bill of Rights and later Amendments. Today, U.S. corporations have constitutional rights. I can imagine some day American artificial intelligence will have constitutional rights. What I cannot imagine is Mother Nature will have U.S. Constitution rights. Not since the Native American Calusa tribes have Keys people acknowledged Mother Nature's rights, as the progression of white man real estate development proves over and over again.

Your and my Key Largo friend, Ron Miller, told me a few years ago, that when the canals were dredged and subdivisions cut out Key Largo and below there, the silt drifted out to the reef, occluded the water, microscopic organisms dependent on sunlight for photosynthesis, on which corals fed, started dying. The reef followed suit. Toss in thousands of septic systems and cess pits and what leached out of them into the water table and then into the sea, Not friends of the corals, either. At one time, Key West had a pipe running out into the Atlantic through which it pumped its raw sewage. The nice folks at Ocean Reef Club on the northeast end of Key Largo dumped their raw sewage into their saltwater creek on outgoing tide, until a federal judge fined Ocean Reef $60,000 a day, which led to Ocean Reef building sewage treatment plant, yes?

The Chambers of Commerce in the Keys, the Republican Party, the elected county and city officials, have not, to my knowledge, paid more than lip service to Mother Nature. The Democratic Party likes property rights, too. Last Stand once had sharp teeth, but they seem to have gotten lost. I ran for county commission three times down there (2006, 2008, 2010), and was the only candidate who said no more new development, the Florida Keys already are way over-developed and there is not a person living there who can look in a mirror and honestly argue otherwise. Who got elected told me how the people of the Keys felt about Mother Nature's rights.

Looked to me all along that that a Category 5 hurricane, or two or three or four, was Mother Nature's only remedy to mitigate what the invasive species had done and continued doing to her beautiful Florida Keys, which I fell in love with in 1956 at Ocean Reef Club, when it was a laid back sleepy little resort and cottages rented for $50 a day. That was many years before the new, bigger waterline from the mainland was built, which ignited development, because the old, small waterline was maxed out, new construction could not tap on. I can imagine the Calusas, wherever they now are, shake their heads over what white people did to the Keys. The administrative law judge only tacked a few more nails into the coffin.

How much more abuse will Mother Nature tolerate? Did She cheer arrival of coronavirus and the Keys shutting down, cruise ships not visiting Key West? If the Keys attempt to go back to as usual, will Mother Nature react? Do administrative law judges, county judges, elected officials, chambers of commerce, tourists development councils, real estate developers and their lawyers, the lodging and water sports industries, and regular people in the Keys ever consider they are there at Mother Nature's tolerance and mercy? Do they really think they are in charge, their rights trump Mother Nature's rights?

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