Bill Moyers NOW is one of the finest news programs on American television today. I realize that's not saying much these days, but it's still true. I feel that it is such an incredible program that consistently covers some of the most important public policy issues going on today, that I've decided to make it a priority to bring some of these stories to you.
First stop, Florida, where Jeb Bush has been misusing his influence as governor to assist the St. Joe company in using American tax dollars to fund the overzealous development and premature demise of the Florida panhandle.
St. Joe Company is the largest landowner in Florida. Over the last few years, St. Joe has been making the transition from a lumber company to a major land developer. According to the Bill Moyers segment, St. Joe is undertaking so many projects at one time, there aren't enough State and Federal agency staff in existence to properly oversee the projects. Florida's solution thus far has been to proceed with the development without the proper oversight. This approach, of course, has many obvious disadvantages.
It's a bad enough situation that this company is developing the Florida Panhandle's wilderness at such an alarming rate, and with no supervision, but one would hope, at the very least, that the company is paying for such development on its own. Guess again. Thanks to Jeb Bush, state and federal money is being earmarked to fund a new airport, roads and other private developments that will benefit no one but the St. Joe corporation.
Jeb not only wants to allow St. Joe to continue developing Florida with the same minimal oversight. He's taking things a step further by allocating Federal and State funds for St. Joe's private developments. He's used political pressure on his end to push through the restricting of public beaches, state highways and wilderness areas in order to help St. Joe prepare for the vast numbers of inhabitants it plans to import into the area.
One of most shocking changes was the redistricting of over 27 miles of what used to be public state beaches -- traded in for two -- count 'em two (2) -- access points to the beach in between the private beaches. The golf courses and resorts being built won't serve any of the residents already living in the area because they will probably be too inexpensive for the average resident to make use of.
Author Carl Hiaasen (Striptease, Tourist Season, Basket Case) has taken on the St. Joe company in a fight to protect the wilderness and the public's access to it. One of main changes that St. Joe has been making is changing the name of the area from "The Florida Panhandle" to "The Great Florida Northwest." Hiaasen has written an editorial addressing this issue.
Here is a complete version of the story in "Small" format, and partial clip of the last two thirds or so in Hi-res.
St. Joe and the Florida Panhandle - Partial (Hi-res - 242 MB)