Vote as if your water depends on it – because it does

This commentary was first published in late April, by Ryan Smart of the Florida Springs Council – no relation to VoteWater Executive Director Gil Smart – as a depressing post-mortem on this year’s legislative session:

Going into the 2022 legislative session, I was optimistic that this year would be different. (Optimism is as much a job requirement as being able to type if you want to work in Florida environmental advocacy.) It was an election year, water issues and manatees were on the top of people’s minds, and the Legislature appeared poised to take action on at least one top environmental priority.  

I was wrong.   

Once again money and greed won the day in Tallahassee, thanks in no small part to campaign checks handed out by industry groups like Associated Industries of Florida and to campaign fraud linked to some of Florida’s most powerful corporations.   

Same as it ever was.

Smart goes on to list specific bills and issues taken up or passed by our legislators that will harm rather than help our waters – it’s a long list – and ultimately comes to the same conclusion that has motivated VoteWater from the start:

If you want better policies, you need better politicians.

From the column:

I can’t tell you who to vote for. Even if I could, I would tell you not to take my word for it. And, even if you did want to take my word, many of you won’t have a candidate from either political party on the ballot worthy of your vote, if you value what I value about Florida.  

But maybe I can help you ask the right questions of the candidates. These are admittedly simple questions with simple answers. They are so simple that every candidate for the Florida Legislature should be able to easily answer “yes” or “no.”   

Do you accept campaign contributions from corporations or special interest political action committees?   

Should corporations be allowed to pump millions of gallons of water each day for free from Florida’s springs?

Is the Florida Department of Environmental Protection doing a good job of protecting Florida’s waters?  

A candidate who doesn’t answer “no” to these questions on the campaign trail is unlikely to tell polluters, developers and corporate lobbyists “no” in the Capitol. They won’t have my vote, and they probably don’t deserve yours. 

Indeed, Smart even concludes his column with this:

If you don’t want to read another guest column like this next year as much as I don’t want to write one, please ask candidates these three questions and then “Vote Water” this election. 

The answer – and this is it – is becoming more and more obvious, to those like Smart who follow these issues closely, but also to everyday Floridians. It’s the old line – you can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.

We can’t keep sending elected leaders to Tallahassee who commit to corporate campaign cash over clean water. We can’t continue to enact policies like the ones Smart lists and expect anything beyond increased impairment of our water.

As clear and clean as the water may look in your neighborhood right now, at the tail end of Florida’s dry season, if you’ve been around any length of time you know everything can change, and quickly. The Florida Legislature has not addressed the underlying problems – ultimately, they’re making things worse.

So that’s where we come in. Look for our voter guides later this summer ahead of the Aug. 23 primary, as we seek to identify real clean-water candidates in more than a dozen Florida counties.

And then, vote as if your water depends on it. Because it does.

VoteWater is still looking for volunteers to help with our 2022 voter guides, particularly those who live in Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota and Volusia counties. If interested please contact VoteWater Executive Director Gil Smart at