Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is Lake Worth Mayoral Candidate a Dolphin Trafficker?

By Deirdra Funcheon in Environment, Florida, Politics, Science
Mon., Oct. 26 2009 @ 12:52PM
Protestors at last night's forum
It's not unusual for politicians to want to hide controversial details of their lives: adulterous affairs, DUI arrests, bankruptcies. Leave to the reliably kooky city of Lake Worth to have this week's most interesting political scandal: rivals of mayoral candidate Rene Varela -- a marine mammal veterinarian -- say that he helps sell wild dolphins for profit.

On his campaign website, Varela claims that he has taught at such esteemed institutions as Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and the University of Florida. His website says nothing of his involvement with Ocean Embassy, a company that is building a $500 million Sea World-style resort in Panama. Ocean Embassy's website says Varela has been director of veterinary services since 2005. No one answered the phone at Ocean Embassy's offices today, and Varela has yet to respond to an email seeking comment.

Ocean Embassy has been no stranger to controversy. Its plans to import wild mammals and offer swim-with-dolphins programs inspired protests throughout Panama; people started petitions and protested in the streets, and the Humane Society International even wrote to the president to try to stop the project. According to Panamanian news reports, Ocean Embassy fought back by having one of its critics, head of an animal welfare group, charged with criminal defamation. In September 2008, the Earth Island Journal reported that Ocean Embassy closed in the face in opposition (according to the article, polls showed that 80 percent of Panamanians opposed wild dolphin captures), but on September 1 of this year, a Panamanian business periodical reported that Ocean Embassy had announced plans to invest $300 million on the project, and the company's website suggests that development is still under way.

Varela was also a subject in the 2008 documentary Dolphin Dealer by the Canadian Broadcasting Company (The video can be seen here.) According to the CBC, Varela, in his duties with Ocean Embassy, helped capture and inspect dolphins in the Solomon Islands, then ship them to Dubai to provide entertainment at theme parks.

Last night at a candidate forum, some Lake Worth residents protested against Varela. The Palm Beach Post noted his employment, saying he was a "partner" in Ocean Embassy but that he would not discuss the company. Some activists plan to wear dolphin-inspired clothes or carry inflatable dolphins this week in protest. Those include City Commissioner Suzanne Mulvehill, who said Varela's work "violates one of our civic virtues about environmentalism... If someone wants to exploit dolphins, what are they going to do to our city?"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Environmentalists Rally at DEP office for 350 International Day of Action on carbon emission reduction; highlight local threats and impacts

For Immediate Release: October 20, 2009
Contact: Panagioti Tsolkas, pbcenvirocoalition@gmail.com

West Palm Beach, FL— On Friday, October 23, 2009, 12 noon, the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (PBCEC), local Greenpeace organizers, Everglades Earth First! and other activists in the area will rally at the southeast regional offices of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), at 400 North Congress, which is also a regional U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) office, to challenge the agencies on not taking concrete action to address increasing carbon emissions.

Florida back-pedaling on climate change
In September DEP announced a decision to back out of the Governor’s commitment to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), who publicized the internal document, sees this as a clear step away from the pro-active stance on climate change that the State of Florida had been promoting.

DEP also issued a notice on September 10, 2009, to modify their air permit for the controversial FPL West County Energy Center fossil fuel power plant in Loxahatchee. FPL is requesting to increase the already massive emissions associated with the project for an auxiliary boiler. The permit modification does not monitor or regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The DEP project engineer for FPL’s modification, Jeff Koerner, stated to the PBCEC that he has already reviewed over 30 similar permits this year with no monitoring or regulation of CO2. All have been approved. FPL also continues to operate one of Florida’s oldest, dirtiest power plants here in Riviera Beach with no regard for it’s carbon emissions.

350: ”the most important number in the world”
These recent examples of back peddling by State of Florida politicians and bureaucrats come as the United Nations prepare for the world’s most important global meeting on curbing runaway climate change. An effort of international environmentalists and scientists is calling on the policy-makers to recognize the urgent demand to bring carbon parts-per-million (ppm) in the atmosphere back down to 350ppm. We are currently at 385.92ppm, an increase that has most notably paralleled the industrial world’s dependency on fossil fuel.

As PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney, stated in the groups recent press release, “Of all the states, Florida arguably has the most to lose from rising sea levels, bigger, nastier storms and the other side effects associated with climate change.” Global scientific research is now also associating the danger of increasing ocean acidity with industrial carbon emissions.

According to Panagioti Tsolkas, co-chair of PBCEC, “This is a crucial moment in the history of our species. After decades of environmentalists sounding the alarm on climate change—and being ignored—the world’s politicians and corporations are being faced with the devastating results of their greed.”

“Here in south Florida, a grassroots movement is building to hold people accountable. If agencies like DEP, and politicians like Crist or Obama, continue to fail us, we need to make sure the public remembers that.”

Rabbi Barry Silver, former State Legislature, stated, "I call upon all those who consider themselves religious to join us in protecting this magnificent creation called Earth. I also call upon those who claim to be political leaders, to join the movement to combat threats to our planet. The last thing we need in our effort to reduce global warming is more hot air from these polluticians."

For further information, see links below:

Events associated with 350 International Day of Action in South Florida throughout the week: http://pbcec.blogspot.com/2009/10/350org-climate-change-events-in-south.html

For more info on coordinated events around the world

For the documents from PEER on DEP, RGGI and problems with cap-and-trade


PBCEC Opposes Anti-Immigrant Candidates in Lake Worth Election: Scott Maxwell, Loretta Sharpe, Rene Varela and Wes Blackman

In past environmental organizing efforts in Lake Worth, confronting bad development plans had occasionally presented the challenge of working with people who haven't shared the same values towards social justice and human rights. While the relationship between environmental protection and human dignity has been a common sense alliance for the PBCEC, some neighborhood activists have not shared this view.

But with the coming election, that murkiness is starting to clear a bit, as the most developer-friendly candidates are turning out to also be some of the least responsive to needs of low-income and immigrant families in the City. Below are some cited samplings of the four candidates of greatest concern: Scott Maxwell – candidate District 1, Wes Blackman – candidate District 3, Loretta Sharpe – candidate for Mayor and Rene Varela candidate for Mayor.

The PBC Coalition for Immigrant Rights (PBCCIR), which recently collaborated with PBCEC in our Lake Worth candidates forum, has been a primary advocate for the Lake Worth Resources Center. The PBCEC considers the Center to be a quality-of-life issue in the urban environment, we support the work of PBCCIR, and feel that many of those who have opposed the effort do not have the interests of the public at heart. Further, there is a strong element of xenophobia and racism which has surfaced and must be exposed and challenged.

The above-mentioned four candidates for Lake Worth City Commission have been vocal opponents the city's efforts to create the Lake Worth Resource Center, which brings day-laborers off the corners, providing education, employment and access to services. Following are some of the public comments these candidates have made in opposition to the City’s effort to welcome immigrants and integrate them into our city through education, employment and recognition of their cultural heritage. Many of Lake Worth's immigrants families have been residents in the City of over 20 years (and are still refused the right to vote). The Resource Center is a critical piece of Lake Worth's efforts to be a city of tolerance, working pro-actively to create stable employment for residents so they can provide for themselves and their families.

I hope all voters will give serious consideration to these candidate’s opinions.

Scott Maxwell
Maxwell has presented himself as being openly anti-immigrant. Until recently, he hosted a weekly radio program called “Connecting the Dots on Illegal Immigration”, Thursdays 8pm on WBZT 1230 Clear Channel. He ended the radio show upon his candidacy for City Commission.

He attended the City of Lake Worth public meetings when they were voting to open the Resource Center to help provide employment for residents, and to get Day Laborers off the street corners. At that meeting he spoke against the center, I have included his comment from the official City Clerk meeting minutes (source, page 14:
His entire comment can be found on the official Clerk recording of the meeting. The meeting was held September 2, 2008

“Scott Maxwell said this was an important night for Lake Worth. The decision of the Commission would send an important message to its residents, businesses and developers, and America that the City sold its soul and pandered to those who tried to come to the country and improve themselves. The federal government allowed immigrants to get away with entering the country illegally. This was one of the most generous countries to allow legal immigrants to enter. With enough people, the government and the political country could be taken over. He said he was against Matricular Consular Identification and opposed the center."

Further proof of his vocal opposition to immigrants can be found in this email posted on the website of City blogger Lynn Anderson. (source: http://lynn-a.blogspot.com/2009/05/e-mail-from-scott-maxwell-on-illegals.html):


Very well written piece on your blog regarding illegal aliens.... (except for the part where you plugged my show! You know how bashful I am & can be J ! )

This week’s guest will be Steven Camarato, Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies. I really appreciate your being on top of this issue....hopefully we as Americans, will wake up and place some of our petty issues aside for the resolution of some of the more important.... Our country is in a terrible fight for survival...we are going to meet the same fate as all the other great civilizations before us...too bad that again, folks refuse to learn from history... Again, thank you for your activism...you are truly blessed with great writing skill....wish I could have a fraction of that gift....

Best, Scot"

[*note: Upon a simple search, quotes from Maxwell's guest, Steven Camarato, came up on the Storm Front, the 'white pride world wide" website out of West Palm Beach: http://www.stormfront.org/forum/sitemap/index.php/t-47305.html ]
UPDATE 11/7/09: The reason that this guest came up on the search is that the guest's name, actually Camarota, was spelled wrong by both Scott and the anonymous Stormfront blogger. Since the publication of this post, information has surfaced linking Scott Maxwell to several known racist hate group. More info can be found at: whoisScottMaxwell.blogspot.com

Wes Blackman (also a former employee of Kilday & Associates, one of Palm Beach County's nastiest developer/lobbyist firms)
While sitting as a CRA board member, Wes Blackman voted against a small $1,000 grant to provide wireless cards for the Resource Centers computers. Mr. Blackman’s comments at the July 4 meeting can be found at:

Mr. Blackman visited the center to try and confuse the staff and claim he was being discriminated against, and wrote about it on his blog. His petty and pointless complaints amount to nothing of substance and display his affinities with the organized anti-immigrant efforts in the City.

Loretta Sharp
Sharpe has also been a vocal opponent of the Lake Worth Resource Center. In her public comment during the City Commission vote to open the center, she compared the center to a brothel. Her comment as recorded in the official Lake Worth City Commission meeting minutes of September 2, 2008 is below. The entire comment can be found on the City's website, under the September 2, 2008 official meeting recording.

“Loretta Sharpe said she was a resident for twenty-one years complained about the prostitutes on Highway; however, no Commissioner offered to open a bordello to get the prostitutes off the streets. The Commissioners were thinking about opening a resource center, but it would not improve Lake Avenue. The Commissioners took away many events over the years, yet were considering opening a mentor center for people who did not pay taxes. Employees and programs were being cut in the proposed budget. She said she hoped everyone would record the vote tonight and remember it during the November municipal election and a year from November."

Source: http://www.lakeworth.org/vertical/Sites/{5E6FE119-0228-4C9B-B2DB067168049C16}/uploads/{4C61269D-F7D7-401E-BE4E-3DFB26D56F17}.PDF

Rene Varela (involved with the capture of wild dophins for private profit)
Varela also made public comment during the September 4 City Commission vote on the Resource Center. Following are his comments as recorded in the official city minutes, although his position is murky here (as it often tends to be), he has been clear during other forums that he does not support the center. At best, his position should be clarified.

“Dr. Rene’ Varela said his parents came to the United States from Cuba forty-three years ago. They became legal citizens and integrated into the county. The decision of the City’s future was being made during the budget process. This was a town with great compassion and no one had a monopoly on providing compassion. There was a need for a competent legal opinion on the impact of the center; needed to bring in a broader faith based organizations; needed a buy-in from the federal, state, and local governments who created the problem; needed a code of ethics for those involved in the center; needed those individuals who would benefit to own up to the law; and needed a mission that required all users to be legal citizens or were seeking legal status.”

350.org Climate Change events in South Florida


-Oct 17 ‘Age of Stupid’ movie showing at Unitarian Universalist church in Boca, 7pm, 2601 St Andrews Blvd

-Oct 22 ‘Age of Stupid’ movie showing at L’dor V’dor, 7400 Lake Worth Road, 7pm

-Oct 23 Climate Change/350 presentation at the Pollution Prevention Coalition (P2) of Palm Beach County meeting, 2:00 pm Palm Beach County Health Department, 800 Clematis Street

-Oct 23 Rally at DEP about failure to address climate change, 400 North Congress, 12:00-1:30pm, www.350.org/DEPFlorida

-Oct 23 Critical Mass(k) Halloween-theme bike ride for 350, downtown Ft. Lauderdale, 5pm (following Food Not Bombs picnic in park)

-Oct 23 Interfaith Service on the Climate at L'Dor V'dor, 7pm, www.350.org/SFlainterfaith

-Oct 24 Climate Change Wall of Hope and Shame, 3pm Rally at Atlantic Dunes Beach Park (1605 South Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach, Florida) www.350.org/palmbeachcounty350

-Oct 24 Broward County 350 event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on October 24, 2009, at the Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale (Broward Blvd. and Andrews Ave).

-Oct 24 Ocean Watch: Community Day of Action in conjunction with 350.org, from 12:00 to 4:00pm Between Bicentennial Park and American Airlines Arena, 1075 Biscayne Blvd, Miami

Check out this great coverage with local Greenpeace volunteer organizer Bobette Wolesensky:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mayoral Candidate Rene Varela profits off of wild dolphin trafficking

Since we hosted the Environmental Candidates Forum in Lake Worth, Rene has refused to communicate with the PBC Environmental Coalition. Perhaps this is why...

He is featured in a recent award-winning Canadian documentary called The Dolphin Dealer:

The documentary indicates that Rene Varela is a "key character, " involved in selling 28 wild dolphins caught off the Solomon Islands to a luxury resort in Dubai. He's worked for Ocean Embassy, a company that traffics in marine wildlife, in since 2005:

A Few Facts About Dolphins in Captivity
For every wild dolphin taken captive, at least one other is injured or killed during the capture process. Studies suggest that mortality rates increase six-fold after capture.

Even in the largest facilities, captive dolphins have access to less than 1/10,000 of 1% (0.000001) of the space available to them in their natural environment.

Dolphins in captivity are often restricted to swimming in circles. In many dolphins, this behavior is a sign that the dolphin is suffering psychologically.

In cement pools, chlorine is added to keep bacteria levels safe for humans. The levels of chlorine used, wreak havoc on a dolphin's skin and eyes, sometimes even rendering them completely blind.

For more on dolphins in captivity, check out World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)

City of Lake Worth to vote on Publix deal; Will they ignore farmworkers and local grocers' concerns?

This article below was posted on www.CIW-online.org news. It sounds a little too familiar.. (the article online has several helpful links to its sources, if you want the fuller version, check out:
http://www.ciw-online.org/news.html and scroll down to Sept 2.)

September 2 , 2009

Publix sweetheart deal at taxpayer expense in Ft. Myers, Florida, comes under increasing scrutiny...

A columnist for the Ft. Myers News-Press took a strong stand this past week against the questionable use of taxpayer dollars in a time of economic crisis... and the recipient of the public largesse in question is none other than Florida supermarket giant Publix ("Ft. Myers in no shape to give Publix rent break," 8/28/09).

It seems that Publix -- which is "ranked No. 10 on Forbes' 2008 list of America's Largest Private Companies and is the largest privately held company in Florida" -- has been receiving free rent at a new downtown Ft. Myers location for two years now, at the rate of $50,000 per month. Now the company is looking to keep the taxpayer money flowing its way for another two years, for a total of another $1.15 million. We'll let Columnist Mr. Cook take it from here:

"Fort Myers is broke, yet the city's Community Redevelopment Agency may forgive Publix two more years of rent, which, based on the past two years, amounts to $1.15 million.

For those keeping score, Publix on West First Street was forgiven five years of rent two years ago when it opened. A rent-free extension is preposterous - even for Fort Myers officials.

'From the beginning, the free rent was offensive,' says Councilman Warren Wright.

Why is a city $400 million in debt not charging rent to a for-profit grocery chain?..."

It seems the sweetheart deal was struck to lure Publix to open a store in the downtown area of Ft. Myers as a means to encourage the neighborhood's further economic development. But according to the News-Press story, there is no indication that the downtown Publix is struggling, especially after Publix closed a nearby store the company had apparently promised to keep open:

"... While the CRA ponders Publix rent, resident Timothy Jones gives it food for thought.

'I don't think Publix is hurting,' says Jones, who owns property next door on Clifford Street. 'They're getting the old customers from the Cleveland Avenue location plus more from downtown.'

Jones says public money should not be used to sustain a failing business.

'I find it hard to believe this store is not profitable,' he says. 'The parking lot is full. Where is the evidence? The City Council should demand proof. Would they take my word if I was asking for a million bucks?'

Wright also reminds folks Publix speaks with a forked tongue.

'They promised the Publix on Cleveland Avenue wouldn't close, but it did,' Wright says. 'If they don't make enough money, they will pull out of the new one, too. Whatever happened to capitalism?'''

Tough questions for the company known as the "neighborhood grocer".

The questions may only get tougher when the Community Redevelopment Agency takes this into consideration... [Tale of two grocers]


On Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 11:35 AM, PBC EnviroCoalition wrote:

"Honorable Commissioners,
I am addressing this to the both the City Commission and CRA. As i know, many of you are familiar with the conditions and efforts of farmworkers in south Florida. As you may or may not know, many of the residents in our immigrant communities have lived and worked in the Immokalee area prior to living in Lake Worth, and many continue to work in an agricultural sector plagued with reports of exploitation and multiple cases of modern day slavery prosecuted by federal law enforcement.

In the midst of discussing an official invitation to bring Publix downtown, potentially accompanied with a contribution of $500,000 dollars of public money through the CRA (which is intended for flighting blight in our neighborhoods NOT courting corporate interests to town) a leading farmworker-led south Florida organization has called for protests of Publix's denial to recognize the human rights and dignity of those who harvest our food.

Meanwhile, here in Lake Worth, the undeniable reality is that the Publix supermarket will primarily service residents OUTSIDE of the CRA district. There are already multiple locally-owned and operated grocers in or near the CRA district--including a Publix already within walking distance to the westside neighborhoods.

Let's put aside the question of whether or not this Publix is needed in Lake Worth (as the majority of officials elected or appointed to represent the City seem indifferent to that factor), and look at the issue of justice and social responsibility. There are three primary matters at hand:

1) CRA money to Publix
Is it just or responsible to hand half-a-million dollars of public money, a substantial portion of the CRA's annual budget, to the Publix corporation, who have not established any need for such assistance on public record? Does this disregard low-income residents the neighborhood improvements they deserve and pay for?

2) Publix's role as a neighbor in Lake Worth
Should we invite a new Publix to town without a commitment to honor the basic wage increase and commitment to human rights standards being asked of them?

3) The small locally-owned grocery businesses
How will big-box development, such as Publix, impact long-standing and new struggling local businesses? Will the City and CRA make commitments to continue assisting these businesses as well?

Below is some current background info on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) stance on Publix and schedule for protests. The response that they have received from Publix thus far does not indicate that they are committed to being a socially responsible neighbor to local residents nor to the agricultural workers who contribute to Lake Worth's local economy.

I look forward to your response, and am open to further dialogue on the matter. Our group is committed to the protection of both our natural environment and an equitable quality of life for all residents. We would like to believe that you are as well.

Panagioti Tsolkas
Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: coaimmwkr
> Date: Fri, Oct 2, 2009 at 3:42 PM
> Subject: "The Autumn of Our Discontent": CIW announces Publix protests set for the fall

Fed up with Publix's empty excuses for inaction, farmworkers and allies plan a full fall calendar of action at Publix supermarkets across Florida!

Check out the CIW site, http://www.ciw-online.org today for all the details! Here below is an excerpt of what you'll find there:

"Publix: Where shopping is still a shame"

When Compass Group and East Coast Growers announced their groundbreaking agreement to implement the CIW's Fair Food principles this coming season, Senator Bernie Sanders, a long-time observer of the Campaign for Fair Food, issued a statement that began:

"Today marks the beginning of the end of the harvest of shame that has existed for far too long in Florida's tomato fields."

Indeed, with farmworkers and growers finally working together to produce a fairer tomato -- including higher wages and better farm labor conditions made possible, in part, by the support of major retail food corporations that buy Florida tomatoes, like Compass Group and McDonald's -- it seemed inevitable that other large tomato buyers would seize the opportunity to be part of the solution to Florida's longstanding shame of farmworker exploitation.

Publix, however, refuses to be part of that solution.

Farmworkers and their allies will be joining forces this fall to press their case with Publix and demand that the largest publicly held company in Florida do its part to help improve farm labor conditions and eliminate modern-day slavery in the state.

Toward that end, a full calendar of actions at Publix stores has been set. Here below are the dates as they stand at this time (with more to come in the days ahead):

Month of Publix Protests:
> Oct 17 & 18 - Southwest Florida (Naples, Port Charlotte, Venice, Sarasota and Ft. Myers)

> Oct 24 & 25 - Gainesville

> Oct 31 & Nov 1 – Orlando

> Nov 7 & 8 - Ft. Lauderdale & Miami

> Nov 14 & 15 – Tampa & St. Petersburg

> Statewide Organizing Tour: November 18-24

> Major Action in Lakeland (early December, exact date to be announced)

If you live in or near any of the cities above, email us to find out how you can get involved at workers@ciw-online.org!

It's time for Publix to end the excuses and work together with farmworkers, growers, and consumers for social responsibility.

Join us this fall in pressing Publix to make shopping truly a pleasure by supporting fair wages and working conditions for the farmworkers who pick its tomatoes.

Thanks - Coalition of Immokalee Workers


Saturday, October 17, 2009

PBCEC October notes and updates

Our first official meeting on the second Monday of the month had a great turnout. Over 20 people gathered to discuss and strategize on regional environmental issues. Next meeting is November 9, 7pm at the Friends Quaker Meeting, 823 North C St, Lake Worth. Please bring food or drink to share. Below are notes from the October meeting, with updates and live links:

**Updates on FPL
the proposed modification for increasing the emissions of FPL’s WCEC, which can be viewed here:
The proposal adds several additional tons of air pollution through an auxiliary boiler. There will be a public hearing on the matter soon (Nov 17 or 19, location/time TBA... stay tuned!)

We also discussed the SFWMD decision to give FPL $1 million to relocate water pipelines in relation to the WCEC. They are supposed to vote on that, item #50, today Oct 15.. Yesterday the District agreed to give money to FPL for the Turkey Point water regional impacts.. You’d never know that damn company was making billions in profits, they way they extort the public.

**350.org Days of Action organizing events:
-Oct 17 ‘Age of Stupid’ movie showing at Unitarian Universalist church in Boca, 7pm, 2601 St Andrews Blvd
-Oct 22 ‘Age of Stupid’ movie showing at L’dor V’dor, 7400 Lake Worth Road, 7pm
-Oct 23 Rally at DEP about failure to address climate change, 400 North Congress, 12:00-1:30pm, www.350.org/DEPFlorida
-Oct 23 Interfaith Service on the Climate at L'Dor V'dor, 7pm, www.350.org/SFlainterfaith
-Oct 24 Climate Change Wall of Hope and Shame, 3pm Rally at Atlantic Dunes Beach Park (1605 South Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach, Florida) www.350.org/palmbeachcounty350

check out this great coverage with local Greenpeace volunteer organizer Bobette:

**Town of Palm Beach is still opposing Federal Protection for endangered Staghorn Corral! Click here to take action:

**the PBC Legislative Delegation begins meeting across the County starting next month through January. One of the primary issues of environmental concern across the state is the proposal to lift the ban on drilling off-shore for gas and oil. Other issues mentioned at our meeting included: funding for Florida Forever, rock-mining, the DCA, Scripps… Anyone can speak at these events, but it is best to sign up to secure a spce. The schedule can be seen here.
You can sign up by calling 561-355-2406

**Eagle Training Center in Venus.. there was a victory for residents in Highlands County last week, but it’s not over yet. Our friends on the other side of the Lake are asking for our support again October 20.. for details: http://www.noeagletrainingcenter.com/

**Scripps is back on the agenda!
And it’s already hitting road blocks from the Regional Planning Council and DCA. Check out their schedule for upcoming approvals: http://www.tcrpc.org/Briger.html
Nov 12, 7pm, the Briger Tract will be on Palm Beach Gardens agenda. Contact PB Gardens for more info: www.pbgfl.com

**Turkey Point rally date pushed back
The proposed Nov 7th date has been changed. The rally will be reschuled for sometime in the next several months. Keep an ear out..

**Mike Roselle’s book “Tree Spiker”
There’s a proposal to invite his book tour down here.. Here’s a little more about the book:
If you want to help us bring Mike down on his book tour, contact his book publicity manager, ask them to come to South Florida: rachel.ekstrom@stmartins.com

**We posted our endorsements of Lake Worth candidates on our website:

**Several PBCEC folks attended the cancer cluster meeting with Erin Brokovich and gave a report back. Mixed reviews. Sources are still uncertain, but it seems very worth keeping up with this efforts and deciding how to support those who are coming forward in a sincere effort to stop the cancerous poisoning of our communities (and also be cautious of the County's efforts to force rural communities onto a central water system without finding the source of toxicity).

**A PBCEC participant suggested we invite Barry Sanders, retired professor and author of Green Zone, a book on military pollution

**other announcements
-PBC Beekeepers Association monthly meeting, 1st Friday every month, 7pm, at Mounts Botanical (for now)

-FrankenFoods Film Fest, Nov 5th, Delray Library

-co-chair Barry Silver is speaking on the radio 1230AM at noon-1pm

-There is a healthcare rally at Humana in WPB, Thursday (today!),

-And last, our friends in the Coaltiion of Immokalee Workers have called for protests at Publix against their refusal to negotiate better wages for farmworkers. Read more: http://www.ciw-online.org/

Thursday, October 15, 2009

PBCEC endorses Lake Worth Candidates Javier del Sol and Jo-Ann Golden

After hosting an open candidates forum in Lake Worth and inviting candidates to our monthly public meeting to address follow up questions, we have decided our endorsements and positions on the election. Although we are not an organization that focuses much on political campaigns, we felt once again that the elections in Lake Worth have become an important battleground in the grassroots effort for environmental and quality of life issues across the County (and beyond).

We are glad to support Javier del Sol for Mayor. Javier has been active in social and environmental issues in the City of Lake Worth spanning three decades. His campaign reflects his commitment to simple, low-impact local living, maximizing recycling and a do-it-yourself ethic--including home painted yard signs by children and adults volunteers in the neighborhoods. Javier has attended PBCEC events for years, and participated in other regional environmental, social justice and human rights efforts (his frequent attendance at Everglades Day was noted by local Audubon Everglades eco-matriarch Rosa Durando.) His long-standing connections to under-represented communities in this town run unprecedentedly deep. For more about Javier check out: www.javierformayor.com

Our second endorsement is for Commissioner District 3, Jo-Ann Golden, running for re-election. Jo-Ann has been a community activist for years, from her hometown in Vermont to solidarity work in Central America and of course, here with her local work at the local affordable housing organization. Her time in office thus far has been one of integrity and commitment to controlling over-development, real estate greed and the opposing the selling-off of public space and services. She also took the lead in standing up to the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA), and is helping guiding us out of their non-renewable energy grip. Check Jo-Ann out at: www.goldenforcommissioner.com

The PBCEC has also decided that it is important to mention who we felt were the greatest threats in the election:

Wes Blackman, running for District 3. Wes has been on Lake Worth's Planning and Zoning board for some of their worst votes on development, which is not surprising, being that he has worked for Kilday & Associates, a primary voice for the County's rampant development in past years.
Rene Varela, running for Mayor. Rene is a danger primarily because he is masquerading as an environmental candidate. He has no reputable support in the grassroots environmental community, in fact, his support is coming from the usual chamber of commerce and real estate types. Rene has taken no clear stances on important issues, he has only the reputation of his supporters to speak for him.
Scott Maxwell, running for District 1. It is unfortunate that Scott is now in the same category as Rene as far as his supporters speaking louder than his own positions, as Scott once stood with the environmental community in opposition to the beach development plans of ex-Mayor Rodney Romano. Today, he is not only the chamber's choice, but he has also become a voice of xenophobic anti-immigrant perspectives in the area.

Once again, Lake Worth has the chance to turn politics-as-usual in Palm Beach County on its head. The County that won the title "Corruption Capital of Florida" is also now home to one of the most dedicated and effective opponents of crooked bureaucracy. There is a turning tide in this State, and it seems to be starting at the warm Gulfstream waters of little ol' Lake Worth.

For further details on any of these candidates from the PBCEC view, please feel free to contact us at PBCEnviroCoalition@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Florida Solar Energy Industries Association sell out to the fossil fuel industry; support offshore drilling..


The link below is to the Press Release posted last week on what appears to be a corporate buyout of Florida Solar Industries Association, advocating FOR offshore oil and gas drilling.


From Press Release:
"Florida's leading advocates for solar energy today announced their support for the proposal to authorize offshore energy exploration for oil and natural gas in Florida's waters..."

The Press Release contact Ryan Banfill. The number is a corporate public relations firm, Ron Sachs Communications. 850-222-1996. The employee at the FL SEIA office responding to the press release is Bruce Kershner.

From the South Florida Business Journal:
“The proposal to drill in Florida state waters has the potential to create a cleaner and wealthier future for Florida if it provides a sustainable funding source for the development of vibrant programs that will help Florida become a leader in the solar energy industry,” Kershner said.

Please contact Bruce and FL SEIA about this awful decision:
Phone: (407) 339-2010 or (800) 426-5899, Fax: (407) 260-1582

Address for FL SEIA
231 West Bay Avenue
Longwood, FL 32750-4125

The study FlaSEIA cites on their website advocating for offshore drilling was prepared by Fishkind & Associates. A corporate financial consulting firm whose client list includes FPL and Progress Energy, among dozens of other industrial and development-oriented interests. http://www.fishkind.com/client.html

This is terribly sad (and totally pathetic). I hope that we are able to respond as a unified environmental community to tell these solar advocates that we refuse to let the fossil fuel industry manipulate our call for decentralized, renewable energy options.

This page has a list of all officers and board members (all of whom have email addresses and phone numbers listed):

For a truly decentralized, sustainable Florida,
panagioti tsolkas
co-chair, PBCEC

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Victory For Venus and Fisheating Creek.. Private Military Training Facility Stopped!

"Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius--and a lot of courage--to move in the opposite direction."
---Albert Einstein

Local Residents, Environmentalists, Human Rights Activists, and Farmers Defeat the Eagle Military Training Center

October 6th--Sebring, FL--For no less than twelve hours locals, lawyers, developers, the air force, a former secret service agent, environmentalists, human rights activists, farmers, ranchers, anarchists, liberals, conservatives, land speculators, and politicians squared off at a quasi-judicial hearing at the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners. It was a marathon protest of strange bedfellows with all the hooting and hollering, jeering, sign waving and firebrand speeches calling for bird sanctuaries, armed defense, the dissolution of the government, peace and quiet, rural autonomy and eco-tourism.

Burt Harris, the silver tongued lawyer hired by the Eagle Training Center (ETC) applicant argued that the concerns voiced by the citizens of Venus, population est. 600, and other groups, had no merit. The business plan for the privately run for-profit ETC called for live firing ranges, MOUT (military operations on urban terrains)facilities, a runway, helipad, two towers, improvised explosive device (IED) training facilities, mobile firing ranges, classroom facilities, and barracks. It also stated that the company would seek to provide its services to the International Market causing many to label the proposed training center a mercenary camp. Harris argued that the ETC would be nothing more than a first responder training center for EMTs and as the night wore on, altered the site propasal piece by piece, first dropping all night flights to and from the site and banning 50 caliber bullets, then dropping the runway and one tower. The military facility he argued, would in no way impact panther, bear or swallow tailed kite habitat, nor would it pollute the Fisheating Creek watershed. Those in attendance were not buying it.

Jim Labozzo, the lawyer representing the interests of several citizens of Venus and other local environmentalists, blew holes in Harris' argument, pointing out that the facility was for special ops training, that it would adversely impact both the human and natural communities of Venus and surrounding areas. He also showed how little work the Highlands County Planning and Zoning Board had carried out. They had conducted no studies to conclude environmental impact, utility or infrastructure needs, growth projections, health concerns, and fire and medical needs.

At the end of the night, the Board voted unanimously (though a bit reluctantly) to oppose the project, which means that Venus can sleep a little easier for the next six months, at which time Eagle can reapply for the rezoning permit. But more was won that night than just the safety and integrity of one rural town. A coalition of hitherto opposing forces came together to fight the development which threatened all our ways of life, proving the power of collaboration. Together we raised our voices and drowned out a corrupt business deal in the making. Together we have the strength to turn the tide of development in rural Florida, and everywhere.

We are going to need that strength. Developers and politicians have no problem crossing political and social lines to push their fast money projects, most of them poisonous, into our communities and wildlands. Neither Venus nor the Eagle Project are off the radar. Those old orange orchards proposed for the Eagle site will go back on the chopping block for some other project of sprawl (how about a mall) and we can't rely on commissioners to stand by the people of Venus forever. Likewise, the Eagle Project will seek out another spot in another rural area to develop its mercenary center. One commissioner noted at the hearing that he had recieved word from an official in adjoining Desoto County that if Highland's didn't want Eagle, Desoto would take a shot at it.

Lets stand together and keep it wild!

-Russ McSpadden
Everglades Earth First!
[reprinted from www.evergladesearthfirst.org]

Oct 1st Lake Worth Candidates Forum a Success; Varela, Sharpe, Maxwell, Blackman Decline Participation

Over 50 attendees participated in a candidate's forum organized by PBCEC and co-sponsored by the Florida Voters League of PBC and PBC Coalition for Immigrant Rights. All of the candidates were invited and all, except District 1 seat Scott Maxwell, promptly confirmed attendance.

All four Candidates that failed to appear at the Forum later issued statements explaining their decisions, which were posted on local internet media site, Lake Worth News, by Jim Stafford:


On Oct 12, 7pm, the PBCEC will be making final decision on endoresments at our monthly meeting held at the Quaker Meeting House, 823 North A Street. We again invite these candidates to explain why the local environmental activist community should take their positions into consideration.