Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Another Florida Folly

Even with all the general weirdness and madness of a last-minute campaign run for a hotly-contested gubertorial race here in the Sunshine State, we've got this going on as a distraction:
This map is from a coalition operating out of the City of South Miami.  City officials want to split off the southern half of the state so they can form their own, one that would do something about the climate change/flooding doom facing the coastline:
...(Vice Mayor) Harris told the commission that Tallahassee isn't providing South Florida with proper representation or addressing its concerns when it comes to sea-level rising.
"We have to be able to deal directly with this environmental concern and we can’t really get it done in Tallahassee," Harris said. "I don’t care what people think -- it’s not a matter of electing the right people."

The solution isn't that simple, crew.

I think I've argued in other articles about secession that the logistics of such a move - either to become an independent nation or a separate state - would be self-defeating.  While the move to become a state won't be as risky - the federal government is still there providing a foundation - there are still massive issues over revenue sources, property rights, and bureaucratic snafus.

First off, the existing state government has to sign off on this.  Considering South Florida is a major financial, trade, tourist, entertainment metropolis (Miami is one of the major global cities), Tallahassee may be loathe to give up that tax base.  That this coalition wants to grab the next two major metros in Tampa Bay and Orlando - as well as key metros like Ft. Myers/Naples and Lakeland - is going to leave North Florida with just Jacksonville, Pensacola, Tallahassee, Ocala and Gainesville (with J'Ville the only real metro).  Tampa is another major financial hub and seaport... Orlando has Mickey Mouse and global tourism money... South Florida is going to be taking a lot of money off the table and there's no way our current government will give up all of that.

The first thought I had when I saw the makeshift map up there was "why the hell does Miami-Dade want to include all the redneck counties between there and Tampa/Orlando?"  Reading that article helped spell it out: Orlando/Orange County is where Florida manages the water resources that South Florida needs.  But still, the logic of the map eludes me, because there's another thing that the secession types keep overlooking: even with a single state there are cultural and socio-political rivalries that prevent such clean break-ups ever happening.

Florida is not easily divided into two parts.  At best - at the very least - it can be divided into six territories.  If the state of Florida ever fractures it most likely go like this:

  • South Florida (Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, the Keys) - Everything from West Palm Beach down to Homestead is one big metro.  If you've ever read the Dredd comics, where they came up with megacities that engulfed entire states, you might get an idea what South Florida looks like: an uninterrupted chain of highways packed with suburbs, slums, business towers, and sports arenas.  The Keys from Largo to West may not be packed, but it's pretty much joined to the hip to Miami-Dade - literally, it's the only way in or out by car - and part of the same tourism appeal and Caribbean culture.  This might include Martin County, maybe even Saint Lucie...
  • Southwest Florida (Ft.Myers-Lee, Collier, Charlotte, inner counties south of Polk) - pretty much the last part of Florida to get suburbanized, and one with a lot of political-religious-social cohesion along the coastline.  The inner counties are mostly farmland and some of the least populated counties.  They'd have to choose between Miami-Broward-Palm Beach (an area they share little with), Tampa Bay/Polk County (same issue), or form their own faction (with Martin/St. Lucie/Okechobee Counties) surrounding the key geographic feature of the area, Lake Okechobee.  Taking their chances with Ft. Myers/Naples metro would be the likeliest move...
  • Tampa Bay (Pinellas, Tampa-Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Polk, Pasco, maybe Hernando Counties) - Defined by one of the key growth markets of the early 1980s that made Florida the 4th most populous state within a decade, not as big a financial market as South Florida but still a major trading port anchored by a coherent media market, healthcare industry, and sports franchises.  They'd get Sarasota County because the city of Sarasota is too close to the southern reach of the metro to split off with Port Charlotte-Ft. Myers-Naples...
  • Greater Orlando (Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard, Indian River, Volusia, Lake, maybe Sumter Counties) - the tourist Mecca.  Orlando brings in the people for the amusement parks, Brevard and Volusia brings in the beach tourists eager to visit Daytona and Cocoa Beach.  The South Florida group foolishly cuts off Seminole from Orange, despite the urban reach of Orlando overlapping Seminole as an outlying suburban circle of Purgatory. This faction could conceivably pick up Polk County if they make the right offer (more condos in Haines City!)...
  • Northeast Florida/Jacksonville (Jacksonville/Duval, every County east of the Suwanee River) - Where North Florida kinda becomes indistinguishable from the Deep South, and has more in common with Georgia than the urban centers of Central/South Florida.  Jacksonville would be the major seaport and business center, with Gainesville as the cultural/academic center.  There's little else up here except for horse farms and cattle.
  • Northwest Florida (Tallahassee, Pensacola, Panama City, sparsely populated Counties west of the Suwanee) - the other half of North Florida, the Panhandle.  Tallahassee is the state capitol and home of two universities (Florida St. the big draw), and then you gotta drive three hours and a time zone to get to Pensacola and that's pretty much it.  There's an airbase where they test UFOs and some decent southern-facing beaches, but that's it.  And if the state goes bonkers and splits up like this, there's a good chance Pensacola might just pack up and merge with Alabama, as that region has more in common with Mobile than Tallahassee...

Even the scenario I've painted here is unlikely: the state could easily fracture into ten parts as much as six, and there's little incentive for the sections to split off (yes, even for South Florida) because the costs of forming a new government - new elected officials, new government buildings, new bureaucracies to manage the graft - are just too damn high.  Mind, South Florida (just Miami-to-Palm Beach alone) might have enough financial muscle to pull it off, but barely.  The other parts of Florida would never afford such a move.

The other point of this proposed split is that South Florida residents are increasingly worried about the global climate change - the global warming in particular - that's due to flood out most of Dade and Broward Counties by 2020.  The costs of pumping out rising seawater from the sewers and streets are getting higher by the month: flooding is not happening during hurricanes anymore, it's happening during peak moon tides.  The response from Tallahassee has been to basically handle it as an ongoing crisis kept as far away from the news cameras as possible: but sooner rather than later the beaches that the state prides on won't even be there anymore, and boating won't be done on the Intercoastal, it will be done on Hwy 441.

But if South Miami/Florida thinks splitting itself off to form its own government will help matters, it won't by much.  They'll still have to cope with the costs of pumping and reinforcing flood walls, for one thing.  They'll have to contend with the fact our federal government - cough, oil-and-coal-paid-for pols with both parties, cough - is ignoring the problems of climate change altogether, something that a new state still won't be able to overcome.  And considering the map that the South Miami group is pushing, the new state government they'll form is going to include a lot of Republican-leaning red counties (Ft. Myers and Naples, Lakeland and Orlando and the infamous I-4 Corridor, the suburban outlets of Tampa and Pinellas) that might counter the more urban-leaning Democratic areas of South Florida itself (not to mention the conservative Cuban population in Dade/Broward mucking up matters).

Just chalk this up as another pipe dream by a local group of concerned citizens horrified that the leadership in Tall Hassle (the nickname for the corrupt capitol of the Xanth fantasy series whose map mimics Florida's) isn't working to answer their concerns.  A better alternative than wasting time and effort to forge a new state would be focusing on CLEANING UP the political mess of the existing state by voting out the corrupt Republican bastards who are ignoring climate change in the first place.

Alright, I'm off to bed.  Just remember kids, here in Florida we've got Early Voting going on, and you all need to GET THE VOTE OUT and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T VOTE REPUBLICAN.

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