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A Matter of Fairness

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So much of what troubles Floridians about state government boils down to fairness. That's because so few of the decisions made in Tallahassee seem fair to middle-class Floridians.

Is it fair that families who work hard and play by the rules deserve to have their voices in government drowned out by the special interest groups, flush with cash, that seek to bend the rules for personal gain or political advantage?

How is it fair that, in the midst of a historic drought, Florida officials are considering allowing a single big industry to steal north Florida's water? After all, we are talking about the single most important resource of Florida. Our vibrant agricultural sector cannot survive a statewide water war, but that is exactly what is happening.

Right now, before Gov. Scott's political appointees at the Florida Water Management Districts is a pending permit from a European multimillionaire who seeks to pump 13 million gallons of our water each day, more than used by the entire city of Ocala, for his personal business.

Experts say withdrawing this much water would devastate the iconic Silver Springs as well as the other great springs in the region. Our water isn't just an economic lifeline for the people of north Florida; it is the backbone of this community's agriculture and ecosystem. We all have fond memories of splashing around in the springs with our families, riding the glass-bottom boats, and gazing at the crystal clear water, but now this precious natural resource is at risk.

And it isn't just our memories that are put in danger by Gov. Scott's careless approach to managing our land and water. Over-pumping will set off a chain reaction that will devastate our way of life, endangering tourism, which in turn would eliminate jobs and kill businesses. Meanwhile, property values will fall in the wake of dwindling water, and sinkholes will emerge, driving up home insurance costs.

As government bureaucrats, with the backing of Gov. Scott, continue recklessly approving deals just like this one, who do they think should bear the burden of Florida's growing water woes? Florida families, who are already being forced to stop watering their own lawns on certain days.

Maybe it's because both my wife and I grew up on a family farming business that we know Florida's water shortage affects our future like nothing else. So think about it. Is it really fair that one person's present needs might diminish all of our futures?

Rod Smith is the current chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. He is a former state senator who represented Gainesville and Ocala. He and his wife DeeDee live on their farm in Alachua County.

This column first appeared in the Gainesville Sun.