Don't miss tonight's rare evening meeting of the Canaveral Port Authority. It is a great opportunity for residents of the five Port Districts to voice questions and concerns about the CPA's controversial 30-year expansion plans, with a list price of $2.6B (in today's dollars.)Read More
Port Canaveral is accepting public input on its expansive (and expensive) Strategic Masterplan that will guide development at Port Canaveral over the next 30 years at a cost of $2.6M in todays dollars. This post includes my thoughts. To let your voice be heard, comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Read More
Port Canaveral is getting ready to dig deep — and possibly into your pockets — as It unveils the strategic master plan that will guide Port Canaveral for the next 30 years.Read More
Last September, I wrote a column about Florida's insistance on a black bear hunt despite overwhelming public oposition. You can read it here.
I wrote this column in response, but the paper chose not to run it and I decided to sit it.
But after watching the antics of a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission that has been completely gutted under the head of the House of Slytherin, Gov. Rick Scott, I decided it was time.
Looking at the metrics, the original column was generally well-received, except for one of the people briefly mentioned in it — Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Aliese Priddy.
She took exception to this paragraph: "(Rick) Scott’s FWC selections have come under fire recently from environmental groups, because they are heavily weighted toward developers and ranchers like current commissioner and Scott appointee Aliesa Priddy. Priddy owns the JB Ranch in Immokalee and has been a leading proponent of removing the Florida panther from the federal Endangered Species List to be able to harass or kill the big cats, claiming they are culling 10 percent of her herd annually."
The purpose of that paragraph was to point out the onslaught that has befallen our charismatic megafauna like black bears and panthers in Florida; Scott's version of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is stacked with a commercial rancher, a construction engineer, two developers, the PR representatives for an enormous agribusiness and electric consortium and an attorney. Although they may like to hunt and fish, I wouldn't say any of them really have any formal background in fisheries or wildlife resource management. Coming from the same Governor who wants to allow grazing and timber harvest in state parks, that's hardly surprising.
Commissioner Priddy reached out to me via email to express her displeasure, asking that I correct several points in my column.
I let her know that I was keenly interested in working with her on a column focusing on her progressive views on managing Florida's largest cat — and provided her with 20 questions relating to the management of panthers and black bears.
Although she showed interest, Priddy also wanted the ability to sign off on the content, with strings attached to any sort of interview. In journalistic circles, that's something known as prior restraint — something I expressed to her that I am not comfortable with.
I have not heard from her since. She was aware of my deadline.
I do, however, want to clarify the points she took issue with.
First, Priddy disagreed with being referred to as a leading proponent of delisting the Florida panther so that it could be included in an incidental take permit that would allow her and others to harass — or possibly even cause the death of — endangered Florida panthers.
Although Commissioner Priddy may not be in favor of delisting the big cats, the record is pretty clear that as a commercial livestock rancher and one of seven appointed officials responsible for crafting the direction of fishery and wildlife management in the state of Florida, she is a leading proponent of fundamentally changing the way we manage this iconic endangered species in Florida. She would like to be able to mitigate losses to her (and other's) commercial interests through relaxed regulations and the ability to harass — or possibly even cause the death of — endangered Florida panthers.
In her email, Priddy took umbrage to the statement that 10 percent of her herd was killed by panthers:
"Over a 3 (sic) year period 14 calves on my ranch were confirmed to have been killed by panthers. No, that is not 10%, but it is about 5%. And that's not a claim, that's a fact. It is almost impossible to find a panther kill due to their caching behavior. I know my loss is more than 5% because of the numbers I keep on my cattle. Is it 10%? No way to know exactly, but probably at least 10-15% annually. Whatever I may have claimed publicly I can't remember for sure, but most likely I would have said more than 10%."
My claim of 10-percent attrition was incorrect. Commissioner Priddy believes it is more than 10 percent.
Lastly, she took issue with the term "culling," writing "To ranchers, culling is to separate out inferior animals and sell them. Panthers do not discriminate in the quality of calves they kill."
To this writer, culling is the process of separating the weak, infirm and young from the herd.
Survival of the fittest.
Which is precisely how big cats hunt.
All of that being said, it is clear: One of the seven appointed officials responsible for managing our wild resources in Florida is in favor of fundamentally changing the way in which Florida's panther population and its’ habitat are managed.
She favors an approach which puts people before panthers.
In her parallel universe, the Florida panther shouldn't be allowed to rebound and redistribute throughout its traditional range; panthers should be managed in a way that mitigates losses of livestock (in which she has a substantial commercial interest), development (she does own 9,000 acres in Collier County) and pets.
I'm not sure how many pets are taken each year by Florida panthers, but the number must literally be several.
The problem with panthers and bears is not that they exist where humans live. The problem is that humans live where panthers and bears exist.
And that's not their fault.
I hearby invite the rest of the world to take a look at the Florida Fish and WIldlife's Flickr account, which is supposed to illustrate the horrendous fish kill that occurred in the northern and Indian Banana River lagoons in late March. Anybody see one problem with it? There's not a single photo of a dead fish... way to go FWC. It's a bunch of middle age white men standing around doing nothing. Which honestly is a pretty good accounting of environmental protections, as a rule, under Rick Scott.
Come on down everybody, the water is fine.
Leader of Top Container Shipping Company Top Choice
Canaveral Port Commissioners voted unanimously to begin negotiations with Tampa's John Murray to become the ports next chief executive officer, replacing the disgraced John Walsh, who was forced to resign late last year over controversial comments he made critical of community opponents to a proposed heavy cargo rail project that threatens the Indian and Banana River lagoons and North Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The Orlando Business Journal had good coverage of the meeting, pointing out that after selecting Murray and appointing CFO Rodger Rees as the interim director effective Jan. 21, Commissioner Hank Evans suggested that they kick Walsh loose immediately and move Rees into the position immediately. That was quickly shot down by Walsh apologists Deardoff, Allender and Weinberg who — oddly enough — led the charge to remove Walsh in the first place. You'll find Florida Today's perspective on the meeting here. You can also see the port's perspective here.
Kudo's to Florida Today's Editorial Board for awarding the CPA a "Thumbs Down" for conducting its CEO search under a cloak of secrecy.
Chairman Allender opined during the meeting that the community and local officials "sent the message loud and clear that the Port needed to be more open and transparent." Unfortunately, that message apparently fell on deaf ears all the way around.
The search process for the cargo overlord took less than three months and was handled by a professional recruiting firm. According to Commissioner Wayne Justice — in a December meeting with a local elected official — the firm brought the CPA 20 resumes which they winnowed down to 5 finalists. That cut was made to three and earlier this week, and commissioners interviewed them behind closed doors and outside of the public eye.
At Friday's meeting, starting at 2 p.m., Commissioners allowed public comment BEFORE their discussion and vote.
Only problem is, the public really had no idea about the three candidates. No bios were distributed. No information given. Not even a peep on their website. No public meetings introducing the three top candidates.
It seems that the more things change with the Canaveral Port Authority, the more they stay the same.
Below is a piece I wrote looking at different perspectives on the recent fish kills of Florida's Space Coast. Some people, who never even saw the fish, said it was probably bycatch from shrimpers or possibly red tide. What they didn't take into account — as people like me witnessed were the thousands of items ranging from coffee to boxes of wine to industrial cleaners and disinfectants that washed up along the beaches in the days following. They had fallen overboard in containers on a barge headed to the Caribbean somewhere off Port Canaveral.
The state's response was underwhelming, with the fish kill office on the West Coast not communicating with FWC biologists on the ground here. The Coast Guard was a joke. They didn't have any idea what was in the containers or what or how much had gone overboard. Most household disinfectants and cleaners — in fact likely 3/4 of the stuff under your sink or in your garage — is lethal to aquatic life.
But by the time anybody took action, whatever caused the kill had dissipated. In talking with oceanographer Mitch Roffer, it seems likely that the containers were lost in an area with some structure (artificial reefs or wrecks), and a large shoal of thread herring were the victims — think dumping bleach in a baitwell.
The takeaway from all this? People need to become familiar with the term "cargo spill." Because that's what this was; just like an oil spill, only 25 or 30 twenty foot containers were spilled. And we'll likely never know exactly what.
But like No Fill, No Kill's Alex Gorichky said, we might as well get used to it. This was one ship passing in the night. If the Canaveral Port Authority continues to turn a deaf ear to constituents in the five districts as well as residents around Brevard and into Central Florida, we're going to have many more "cargo spills" in our future.
I have included a PDF of the story. You can find it in the print edition of Florida Today. It was posted online and even promoted by the paper on it's Facebook feed. But now it seems to have gone missing.
Kudos to CPA commissioners Jerry Allender and Thomas Weinberg for looking at CPA plans to buy nearly 300 acres of new land and expand its footprint outside of the CPA's traditional boundaries with a skeptical eye.
"Without any contracts, I'm just not feeling it," said Weinberg of the staff presentation. "The reality is we are going to have to build another cruise ship terminal. We're going to have to address that."
Allender was a little more colorful.
"It's the tale of the chicken and the egg. We've got the chicken, but we don't want to end up with egg on our face."
The meeting is currently underway, and you'll be able to watch a replay of it later this afternoon, here.
It looks like the Canaveral Port Authority might have found a use for it's beleaguered Exploration Tower. Commissioners unanimously approved a deal giving FOX35 an exclusive arrangement to place a camera atop the tower for use in its news broadcasts. FOX35's Allyson Mayer made the pitch that was well-received by commissioners who voted unanimously to approve the deal.
Comm. Jerry Allender asked (we think jokingly) if all of the stations coverage of the Canaveral Port Authority would be positive.
"Why wouldn't it be?"
Just one problem; it was on the consent item agenda and commissioners chose to vote and approve the deal WITHOUT ANY PUBLIC COMMENT. I can't imagine why anybody would have an issue with a controversial pseudo-government entity brokering an exclusive arrangement with a "news-gathering organization...."
The potential for a "quid pro quo" here is frightening. What's even more frightening is that commissioners unanimously decided NOT to let anybody in the public voice concerns (or support). But for them, that seems to be par for the course.
In a bizarre piece of executive/administrative fellatio, the Canaveral Port Authority wrote a GLOWING letter of recommendation for its fired CEO, John Walsh. The agreement was reached after an awkward meeting in which the majority of the CPA board expressed their desire for Walsh to resign. Here's the letter:
In addition to the glowing recommendation, the CPA also agreed to waive a Port policy that would allow Walsh to be employed by the Port within the next two years. You read that correctly: The Port waived a policy that sets the stage for them to rehire Walsh either as an employee or consultant. In other words, he was forced to resign, but for HR purposes, he was classified as a rehire. This tells me the forced resignation was a farce — merely an attempt to placate community members and County Commissioners that were offended by comments made by Walsh (which commissioners agreed with, chuckling) calling opponents of his controversial rail plan as "Luddites" and "dog's chasing moving cars."
Download the complete John Walsh severanc agreement below and see for yourself.
Those of you that have been following have seen the work and the progress that myself, Alex Gorichky and Sue Ford have been making in exposing the lies and deception spread by the Canaveral Port Authority under soon-to-be-terminated CEO John Walsh.
But the work is far from done. We have a ton of other public records requests in process or about to be filed. And they add up. In order to allow concerned citizens to contribute to this type of impact-producing, independent investigative journalism I have started a GoFundMe campaign. Every little bit counts, especially when there are lots of little bits. Anything helps whether it's $5 or $100. You'll also find an informative video on the rail that I produced for the League of Women Voters of the Space Coast. Click here to take a look and contribute.
This is an interesting piece by the CBC on a breakthrough with satellite archival tags on one of the Atlantic Ocean's most mysterious creatures: eels.
They've come under a tremendous amount of pressure over the past 30 years, with overharvesting of the larvae — considered a delacacy in Asia — in places like Maine and Canada. The larvae often sell for more than $5,000 per pound — but that's lots of little eels.
Interestingly enough, their experience with the eels getting eaten — $4,000 satellite GPS tags and all — closely reflects the experience of Don Hammond at the Dolphin Tagging Project.
Despite apparent concerns by Disney Cruise Line officials over embattled Port CEO John Walsh's dismissal, the entertainment company has announced plans to base three of its ships out of Port Canaveral — underscoring the importance of not forsaking Canaveral's core business for risky daliances in cargo.
It appears that the five elected commissioners of the Canaveral Port Authority have listened to their constituents over concerns about the amount of damage that endangered CEO John Walsh could do under a pre-arranged resignation brokered at the CPA's last meeting.
You can also read about the meeting and possible ramifications by FLORIDA TODAY's Dave Berman.
A lot has been written and said about John Walsh. I was driving to work this morning, and happened to stumble upon WMMB's Bill Mick talking about John Walsh's dismissal. I though't I'd set the record straight. Go to the 12:30 mark.
But there is also the question of the letters/emails that Walsh sent to folks in the County. We already looked at the letter he sent to County Commissioner Andy Anderson, where he referred to Brevard County as a "second-class community."
So, if he was willing to insult the 560,000-plus people that live in our 72-mile long county — why would he care what Linda Weatherman of the Economic Development Council thinks? The bizzare thing is if you read from the bottom up, Ms. Weatherman was actually inviting Walsh to participate and join one of the EDC's boards:
Then, there is the bizarre tale of Walsh's response to General Victor "Gene" Ruenart, who has spent more than 2 years working with the USAF and Department of Defense on a plan to build commercial rail through Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to benefit not only Port Canaveral, but also the USAF, Navy, Army and civilian space contractors. But Walsh was skeptical; so much so, that one commissioner told me that one could infer that Walsh had pre-existing relationships that could potentially benefit from the preferred routes that would hew an 11-mile long heavy cargo railway over the Banana River and through the North Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge.
Dealing with the public was never John Walsh's strong suit. Apparently, neither was playing well with others.
I have to admit it. I stole that headline from a profile written nearly 30 years ago by a fellow Gator about University of Florida Athletic Director Bill Arnsparger.
I've been waiting that long to resurrect it. It really is the type of headline that you can only use once in a career.
The time has come. Disgraced and ousted Canaveral Port Authority CEO John Walsh may very well be the only man Will Rogers never met.
Unless you listen to him. He's not disgraced. He has no shame. He worked with the best interests of Port Canaveral at heart. It was the port that was "unclassy."
I'm still not even sure that is a word.
Walsh reminds me of a vulture or other carrion-eater that has no feathers on its head, so that when it eviscerates its prey, nothing sticks.
His thinly-veiled apology for calling myself and others opposed to his embattled rail plans "Luddites," "dogs chasing moving cars," and "People whose own kids can't make them happy" belied his complete and total contempt for those that aren't like-minded greedheads hoping to supplant the citrus blossom with the Concrete Clover as Florida's official flower.
Then, there was the time he called Brevard County Sherriff's bullies. Or the time that he referred to the Economic Development Council's Linda Weatherman as "worthless." Or called the four-star Air Force General that may have the answer to putting rail through the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station a "carpetbagger." Or when he called Jerry Allender "a thorn in his side." Or when he called Com. Jim Barfield an "untimely coward" whose "backward thinking" would assure Brevard County would "remain a second-class community." Oh, then there's the time he lied about being told by the Surface Transportation Board that the port couldn't speak to anybody. The one lie that really got him, however, was fabricating a mythical document that he claimed he received from the U.S. Air Force listing "58 reasons commercial rail can't go through CCAFS." He tried to hide behind exemptive privilege and National Security. However, the USAF released the redacted version of the document that proved he was lying through his teeth the day after his half-hearted apology to the community.
Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?
One of my favorite insults, contained in an email to me, was his claim that I wasn't a "real journalist." It arrived after I refused to scurry to his office when summoned right after his train-wreck April 30th meeting where he compared trains to rockets.
There is a modestly-framed piece of paper on my home office wall that was awarded me for graduating from one of the top journalism programs in the country. And you know what? If it wasn't for a fishing guide with a cell phone, an old lady that can barely use her computer and a faux journalist, John Walsh would probably still have his job.
For nearly an hour the other day, as the ouster unfolded Walsh proceeded to turn his venom towards the elected five-man body that until several months ago backed him vigorously.
To say the audience was stunned is an understatement.
I'd like to first commend Coms. Weinberg and Allender for leading the charge against John Walsh. Coms. Deardoff, Evans and Justice — although I don't agree with their decision — did what I think they believe was the right thing: err on the side of caution due to looming, seemingly out of control debt at the port and a cruise industry that is obviously concerned with Walsh's ouster.
Allender and Weinberg (and I hope the rest of the board) are in favor of a nation-wide search for the next CEO of Port Canaveral. I hope the board looks to the south in Miami and Fort Lauderdale for somebody that deals with cruise lines on a regular basis. I think that's exactly what the cruise lines don't want, but likely something we really need.
Ironically, Walsh is leaving this week for a cruise with his wife. I won't even get started on that.
All five commissioners should also be commended for listening to the people.
If you wrote a letter, an email, went to a meeting and spoke or called your commissioner, you had a hand in this. That much was obvious to me in the fervor they've shown in pursuing the alternate Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Route with the Larkin/Renuart Group.
I wish that the board would have followed Com. Evan's lead in at least exploring how to pull the river routes (except for SR528) from the Surface Transportation Board's plate. It was 3-2, with Allender backing Evans up. But, as I heard Jim Dubea telling one of the commissioners at last month's Propeller Club meeting in reference to defeating County Commissioner Barfield's resolution opposing the river routes: "It only takes one." (In fact, they got none. Even Andy Anderson, who told Walsh via email he would vote against it, joined the unanimous vote supporting the resolution.)
So, after its all said and done, the board tried their best to exorcise the CPA of a malignant demon. They are very close to doing the right thing in terms of the river routes and the STB. Hopefully, they'll come to their senses and usher Walsh out the door of the Maritime Center with his bags brimming with severance pay before he does any more damage.
Personally, I'd like to see them reconsider cutting the strings on his Golden Parachute, letting him plummet to reality.
But in the meantime, let's offer an olive branch to our five elected officials in hopes of rebuilding the community relationships that John Walsh obliterated during his short reign of error at Port Canaveral — instead of whipping them with it.
The services of two of the country's top environmental ninjas, that's what.
That whopping number is what Venable LLC's Kathryn Floyd ($562 per hour) and Jay Johnson ($508 per hour) have billed the Canaveral Port Authority through May 31st of this year for working on the CPA's embattled cargo rail plan. Invoices for June, July and August have not been submitted yet.
It works out to an average of $44,066.76 per month — but ranges from a low of $13,119.40 for 21 days in their first month of employment (June 2014) to a high of $62183.5 the following month.
In an engagement letter dated Jun 9, 2014 to CPA's deputy director and point man for rail, Jim Dubea, Floyd outlined her and Johnson's fees for "regulatory and environmental advice and strategy in connection with the Port’s plans to develop rail service, including review by federal agencies under the National Environmental Policy Act."
In addition to the fees, the Canaveral Port Authority is responsible for:
- Internal photocopy requests in excess of 1,000 pages at $0.10/page
- Out-of-pocket charges. Examples include commercial messenger deliveries, external telephone conferencing services, filing fees, transcripts, outside copying or document management, printing, transportation, meals, and out-of-town lodging. Out-of-pocket charges more than $1000 will be sent directly to you for payment or, if you prefer, we can establish a separate expense retainer that will be held in an escrow account to pay these expenses.
- Paying the costs and expenses of any consultants or witnesses that Venable engages on the CPA's behalf; they are billed separately.
Records pertaining to any of the additional consultant/witness expenses were not readily available but are part of another FOIA request by tedlund.com.
Floyd is a partner in Venable, LLC, a high-profile Washington, D.C.-based law firm that specializes in such matters. Her areas of expertise include transportation, railways, energy, mining and fracking.
From her official Venable bio: "She has extensive experience counseling companies regarding controversial hot-button projects that draw attention from regulatory agencies and outside groups threatening litigation or disruptions. Ms. Floyd consistently helps clients shape strategic responses and catalogue a documented record to minimize risk, advance approvals and, when necessary, beat back lawsuits. Many of these engagements arise when clients’ projects face opposition under environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Stay tuned... there's plenty of more FOIA requests inbound to help document John Walsh's reign of error as the CEO of the Canaveral Port Authority.
By now, I am sure followers have learned of the board-led ouster by the Canaveral Port Authority Commissioners of embattled CEO John Walsh. I am going to go into my thoughts about the ouster in a couple of days, but wanted to post a quick recap of coverage from the media.
One of the most in-depth pieces on the subject (along with video) was posted by The Brevard Times In addition to outlining the major reasons commissioners called for Walsh's ouster, they included the video that shows Walsh displaying EXACTLY why they want him gone. I hesitate to say fire, as they didn't terminate him; they voted to accept his resignation effective in Jan. 2016. More on that later.
More from me over the weekend, but hopefully folks in the five Port Districts will keep the pressure on to send Mr. Walsh packing with his bags brimming with cash — sooner rather than later.