Georgia on my Mind

Based on a article by Stacy Kronquest, here's a look at how Georgia's Governor Sonny Perdue rewards his political allies. The transfer of wealth to politically-connected people continues.

Link: Georgia's Jewel Given Away

In November 2008 Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue awarded a 50-year development contract of Jekyll Island to real-estate developer Mercer Reynolds. Jekyll Island is called “Georgia’s Jewel” because of its miles of priceless beachfront land and breathtaking natural surroundings.

The barrier island was purchased by the state in 1949 as a place for Georgians to enjoy as a state park. It is the state's land, but it was signed over for the next 50 years to a developer with deep political connections.

Mercer Reynolds is known in Republican circles as a fundraising guru. In 2004, as George W. Bush’s campaign finance director, Reynolds raised several hundred million dollars for the President’s reelection campaign. His development in north Georgia, Reynolds Plantation, includes a Ritz Carlton and multi-million dollar vacation homes.

“There’s something wrong here,” says former Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) board member Senator Boshears, who recently was removed from the Governor-appointed JIA board. “Do we allow a fat cat developer to make millions of dollars for no other reason than to enrich themselves and their political cronies?”

State Senator Jeff Chapman of District 3, says that the other developers who bid on the contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars offered better deals for the state. “It was a rigged process right from the start,” says Chapman. Boshears, who is the former senator of District 3, says that once Reynolds was awarded the contract and negotiations began, he was discouraged from asking questions, describing a veil of secrecy. “It was completely the Governor’s decision,” says Boshears.

Senators Chapman and Boshears say separately, but with equal conviction, that the Jekyll Island contract is a rotten deal for the people of Georgia.

Frank Mirasola, former president of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association, tells reporters “I can only conclude that there are conditions in the agreement that are so heinous as to require total secrecy."

The 50-year contract gives Reynolds beachfront property to build a 160-unit timeshare with profits estimated to be $100 million from sales totaling $137 million.

Has Florida Mis-managed its water resources?

Unfettered real estate development has a price beyond the initial investment. Florida residents may be hit with very expensive water — soon.

Link: The Associated Press: Much of U.S. Could See a Water Shortage

Florida represents perhaps the nation’s greatest water irony. A hundred years ago, the state’s biggest problem was it had too much water. But decades of dikes, dams and water diversions have turned swamps into cities.

Little land is left to store water during wet seasons, and so much of the landscape has been paved over that water can no longer penetrate the ground in some places to recharge aquifers. As a result, the state is forced to flush millions of gallons of excess into the ocean to prevent flooding.

Also, the state dumps hundreds of billions of gallons a year of treated wastewater into the Atlantic through pipes — water that could otherwise be used for irrigation.

Florida’s environmental chief, Michael Sole, is seeking legislative action to get municipalities to reuse the wastewater.

"As these communities grow, instead of developing new water with new treatment systems, why not better manage the commodity they already have and produce an environmental benefit at the same time?" Sole said.

Florida leads the nation in water reuse by reclaiming some 240 billion gallons annually, but it is not nearly enough, Sole said.

"We just passed a crossroads. The chief water sources are basically gone," said John Mulliken, director of water supply for the South Florida Water Management District. "We really are at a critical moment in Florida history."