Thursday, February 6, 2020

Tallahassee In The Keys

Last weekend we had plans, lunch with friends, a play after dark, half a day's overtime and time enough to exhaust Rusty before abandoning him to go to the Red Barn. That all fell apart when I woke up at 3:45 feeling like death and unwilling to get up to even walk Rusty. I called work and told them Keith's cold bug had got me, even though I had hoped on Friday that Keith's dire predictions were not going to come true. 
We were surprised and delighted when the Red Barn box office was able to give us seats this Saturday night so I plan to not get sick again like everyone around me. I say nothing but privately I am relieved I got the 'flu vaccine early in the season and disappointed the young bucks who fear needles or autism or whatever fashionable rant most moves them failed to do likewise. Massive sick outs put stress on survivors in a  town where adequate hiring is impossible to maintain. 
The newspaper is reporting the results of the annual junket to Tallahassee to get lawmakers to support issues of concern to these few people who live in these peculiar islands. Florida is run by the governor and cabinet members who are elected separately while the two houses of the legislature only work part time, three months a year and members only get paid something like twenty thousand dollars for the three months work guaranteeing only people with money can run to be representatives and senators.  It's a pretty creaky system in a state as large and complex as Florida and gives massive power to the Governor and Cabinet. To make it all even less representative gerrymandering has given a majority Democrat state a Republican dominated legislature and the Agriculture Secretary is the sole statewide elected Democrat. 
So the resistance Keys legislators offer to environmental proposals coming out of Tallahassee where old school thinking dominates means not very much. It's not easy to explain the need to control sunscreen sales to a Hendry county rancher who has never seen a coral reef in his entire agricultural life and has no plans to either. I found the same dichotomy in California when I was a youngster in Santa Cruz, a hotbed of university fueled activism surrounded by the hard headed conservative farm policies of inland ranching and orchard interests in Gilroy and Merced and Lodi, places that couldn't give a damn about the Monterey bay National marine Sanctuary that was so important to the Coastal Commission. 
I look back a hundred years and force myself to think hard about the drive of Henry Plant on the West Coast as well as our more familiar Henry Flagler on the East Coast, men of vision and boatloads of cash who wanted to open up the Sunshine State to tourism and industry. And they got on with it. A quotation attributed to Flagler, a partner in the early oil industry explosion of wealth goes something like this; "I'd be a rich man if it weren't for Florida." Indeed his East Coast Extension Railroad to Key West from Miami was always a losing proposition and following the 1935 hurricane, long after his death, was abandoned and handed over to the state to turn it into a road.
These days you'd never see that sort of vision in Tallahassee, creating a road out of a roadbed, opening up these islands, spending government money to create. And the billionaires of our age are a pretty poor shadow of the vision and drive of the robber barons of those days who built public facilities and infrastructure, somewhat at random I grant you, but in places where nothing was seen before. 
The best they can come up with in Tallahasse is offering to make canal cleaning a big concern but with no money to back up the nice words about water quality, and that old bugaboo of increasing evacuation time to allow more development. Not exactly stellar legislative achievements for 2020 but when you elect people of limited vision you don't get thoughtful legislation. I suppose doing not too much damage is the most we can hope for these days. 
I was listening to the radio on my way to work yesterday morning and San Francisco has closed its downtown artery Market Street to private vehicles. Apparently it took years to build consensus for that modest change and they are monitoring results. In Key West closing Duval Street, an obvious move, is a non starter and electric bicycles as replacements for internal combustion are driving people mad with anger. Change really isn't easy is it?