Rick Scott's appointments leave many uneasy

01/28/11 Lisa Marzilli
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Gov. Rick Scott appears to be fulfilling his campaign promise to get ‘right to work’ and run Florida’s government like a business. He’s wasted little time stacking his new administration with some controversial appointments like Billy Buzzett, who now heads the Department of Community Affairs. Buzzett’s a former executive with the St. Joe Company which owns close to 600,000 acres in northwest Florida. It’s not just environmentalists who are uncomfortable with the idea of a developer overseeing growth management. Ron Littlepage is an Op-Ed writer with the Florida Times Union. He says Scott’s latest appointments should make people a little nervous.

The St. Joe Co. has been buying up rural property since it’s creation in 1936. Its corporate profile states it is committed to bringing “high quality growth to the last, best part of Florida.” The most recent thing the developer did bring to Panama City was a controversial airport; that’s when Linda Young, President of the Clean Water Network of Florida first came up against the new head of the DCA.

To win that approval Buzzett promised to set aside some 41,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land which Young says has yet to be donated to the public. She credits Buzzett’s predecessor at the DCA, Tom Pelham with doing the best job he could given the administration he had to work with and is weary of what will happen to Florida under Buzzett’s rule.

Governor Scott also won Senate approval last week for his pick to head the Department of Environmental Protection, defense contractor Herschel Vinyard. Prior to his appointment Vinyard was a director for BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards in Jacksonville. The Florida Progressive Coalition writes that the bulk of Vinyard’s legal work appears to be based around the idea of helping businesses navigate around environmental regulation and says this appointment should give people pause. Ron Littlepage of The Florida Times Union agrees.

Gov. Scott has suggested creating what he calls a “growth leadership” agency by doing away with both the DCA and DEP and merging their responsibilities with the Florida Department of Transportation. Linda Young with the Clean Water Network refers to the merger as a “mega-mafia”. She cites a recent federal report on improper payments made by the Federal Aviation Administration. Topping the list was a $7 million dollar payment to the Bay County Airport Authority in Panama City that Young said the FDOT was well aware of.

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