Monday, April 19, 2010

Suspend the Mining! Father Gruloos speaks in Lake Worth on impacts of industrial mining in Guatemala

Monday, April 19th, 7-9pm
Society of Friends (Quaker) Meetinghouse
823 North A Street, Lake Worth, FL 33460

In March, Several Mayan communities and organizations presented a Constitutional Petition to the government of Guatemala, calling for the immediate suspension of all mining activities taking place on Mayan land. The Petition follows a formal request by the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Committee of Experts to suspend the activities while they investigate reported violations of international law in the Country.

Father Erick Gruloos is a Belgian-born priest who for 30 years has been pastor of the Parish of San Miguel Ixtuhuacan, Guatemala, where a gold mine owned by Canadian corporation GoldCorp has been polluting the water and air and damaging people’s homes while refusing to pay compensation. Father Erick and his parishioners, including many indigenous Mam people, have been very active in opposing this mine – this Monday he will share his first-hand experience with us.

We will also show part of the documentary, the Business of Gold, which chronicles the resistance of the people of San Miguel.

This event takes place in advance of the LatAm Mining Congress, where representatives of Goldcorp and other mining companies with bad reputations will meet in Miami, April 28-30.

For more information, contact Lynne at or 561-588-9666

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Letter from planner/land use lawyer Andrew Dickman supporting Amendment 4

Dear Friends:

After a lot of thought and soul searching, I have decided to publicly support “Amendment 4” sponsored by the grassroots organization called “Florida Hometown Democracy.” I normally don’t use this type of mass emailing, but I feel so strongly about this issue - one I have spent the last 20 years of my life working on – that I want you to understand Amendment 4. If you want off this list, just send me an email.

Amendment 4 is a ballot question that will be presented to Florida voters on Election Day this November 2010. This is a ballot question asking voters if they want to amend the State’s constitution so that local governments can change their long-range future land use plan only after a vote of the electors affected by that change. Currently those decisions are left up to your city and county elected officials.

In 1985, the Florida Legislature adopted what became know as the “Growth Management Act.” The general purpose of this Act was 1) to make all cities and counties prepare and obey comprehensive plans to control how and where future development would occur, and 2) to ensure that the public “participate to the fullest extent possible.” The idea was that planned growth would stop or slow suburban sprawl, protect important environmental resources, and help make our communities more livable and sustainable. The other idea was that citizens would get a significant role in how these decisions are made.

Twenty-five years later the State is a mess and citizens have no meaningful role other than a few minutes to speak to their local elected officials at the public hearing when future land use changes are made. Developers and their team of lawyers, lobbyists and experts almost always get their way, and, meanwhile, trust in the government approving these developments is at an all-time low. Simply put: the system is broken.

My family has lived in Florida for generations; I’m a certified planner, an attorney, and I have watched hundreds of amendments to the future land use plan get approved which collectively are ruining what I love about this state. It literally sickens me. In my view, the only solution is to balance the decision-making power between the developers, the local government, and the people. Amendment 4 will do this.


The opposition is mounting an elaborate campaign against Amendment 4 which is based exclusively on fear and speculation, not facts. As Election Day approaches, more and more of these kinds of fear-based messages will get targeted at you.

Developers and the indirect industries that rely on unfettered sprawl into rural and agriculture lands will stop at nothing to continue the status quo, even though every study since 1985 has documents that we have allocated so much land for future growth that it will take decades to build out. Yet local future land use plans continue to be amended all the time for more houses and strip malls, the cost of which to extend roads and schools to those locations are borne by the entire community. This is NOT growth management. In my view, the only way to instill fairness into this process is through Amendment 4 – give voters the opportunity to decide if their future land use plan should be changed.

I realize Amendment 4 is a significant change to the current system. But the current system has done NOTHING to protect natural resources, NOTHING to stop private condos from replacing recreational and working waterfronts, NOTHING to stop new incompatible developments from encroaching on existing neighborhoods, or NOTHING to build a broader economic base that isn’t vulnerable to the boom-bust real estate cycles. Florida, I have concluded, simply cannot wait for developers and elected officials to recognize the harm they are causing.

Once again, please visit the Florida Hometown Democracy website and get involved. But most importantly, vote for Amendment 4!

Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this further and share this email with others as you see fit.

Andrew Dickman, AICP, Esq.
Miami - T: (305) 758-3621 F: (305) 758-0508
Naples - T: (239) 434-0840 F: (239) 434-0940
P.O. Box 771390, Naples, FL 34107-1390

Thursday, April 1, 2010

From Mecca to Briger, Scripps Biotech has been a bad neighbor to the greater Everglades bioregion

[Open letter to the environmental community of South Florida]

Hey folks,
Many of us stood together against the threat of Scripps Biotech development on Mecca Farms 5 years ago.. and we won that battle. But the fight to protect what's left of Florida's unique ecosystems and the endangered quality of life in our communities still continues on today.

In the past several years, we have made great strides in exposing developer greed, political corruption, and it's ecological impacts here in the greater Everglades bioregion. While the Briger Tract proposal for Scripps is smaller than the Mecca/Vavrus plan, it is the same Chamber of Commerce-lead Trojan Horse, intended to bust open one of the last, large forested places east of I-95 in south Florida. In fact, the site represents a habitat type even more threatened than what we fought for on Mecca Farms and its immediate surroundings.

The Scripps Phase II/Briger proposal is requiring a Comprehensive Plan change from Palm Beach Gardens tonite to invite Scripps and 682 acres of 'ancillary development'. We feel it is clear under County, State and Federal law, that the site should be subject to a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Our simple request is that all involved Agencies and Governing Bodies, including the Palm Beach Gardens, acknowledge and honor that process.

I hope to see all those concerned with the rare habitats of south Florida out in Gardens with us tonite.

Everyone should be able to down load or view our recent report about Briger online here:

Hopefully it will help inform and inspire your public comments for tonite.

Our plan for today is as follows:

-6pm protest at PBG City Commission (Military and PBG Blvd)
-7pm Hearing.. Please be there promptly, and plan to stay a while. It is a quasi-judicial hearing, so all who swear in will have the right to speak and cross-examine witnesses.

The report linked here is what we have been working on all month. After tonight, perhaps we can schedule a time to all take a hike and show more folks first hand what we have been documenting. As deeply impacted the area is by development, it is still very beautiful and impressively biodiverse out there.

We have attached some of our favorite photos of the site in the above link, including an endangered Hand Fern on the Briger forest (one of over 55 spotted by our citizen surveyors), to show images of what we are fighting over. aside from its inherent value as a rare species on the brink of extinction, the fern is a very attractive plant as well.

-panagioti tsolkas
co-chair, PBCEC