The DCA takes part in the phosphate mining process – reviewing all county comp plan amendment proposals and allowing the public their opportunity to comment….
Community Affairs Secretary: There Goes the Scapegoat
Published: Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:28 a.m.
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They won’t have Tom Pelham to kick around anymore. The respected secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs has resigned.
It is Florida’s loss, because Pelham has not only been an environmental and growth-management visionary, he has proved to be an adept-and-willing compromiser over the years, especially with the state’s insatiable growth-and-development machine.
It is clear Pelham had no future under incoming Gov. Rick Scott — and maybe would not have had one even if Scott hadn’t been elected, given the Legislature’s disdain for the DCA and Pelham. Nonetheless, Scott was elected and during the election the governor-elect branded the DCA a “jobs killer” for its role in monitoring compliance with the state’s Growth Management Act.
It was a bogus charge, of course, aimed solely at trying to provide the teetering development sector with someone to blame for its greed and lack of restraint. There is very little evidence to suggest that overregulation has slowed down Florida’s growth machine.
The DCA has stopped, or scaled down, some developments that city and county governments approved. While that was happening, hundreds of thousands of new homes and retail spaces were created. It’s the economy — not The DCA — that left them empty.
CLASS ACT TO THE END
To his credit, Pelham has not been shy about defending his department against relentless criticism from Scott and other politicians. In fact, Pelham has been an activist DCA secretary, getting personally involved in those cases he thought were important to Florida’s long-term growth management. In September 2007, Pelham came to Lakeland to hear the concerns of citizens about CSX Transportation’s plan to run more — and longer — freight trains through downtown. He always conducted himself with class and conviction.
Even in the end.
“I think it’s extraordinarily unfair … to give us the responsibility to enforce the laws written by the Legislature and then point the finger of blame at us when we do what we’re charged under the law to do,” Pelham said recently. “It’s very discouraging to public servants, who are given a mission and responsibility to enforce laws enacted by others, to be constantly bashed for doing their job.”
Pelham will leave behind a department under siege. Lawmakers have relentlessly chipped away at Florida’s landmark Growth Management Act. And it is likely that the DCA will be abolished outright, all but ending Florida’s three-decade-long attempt to more wisely manage land use and development.
What will the politicians do for a scapegoat after Pelham and the DCA are gone