Ghost of a chance


Published: Thursday, May 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 at 11:02 p.m.

Rod Smith is hoping that Jeb Bush is afraid of ghosts.

State Sen. Smith, D-Alachua, has a devious plan to get Gov. Bush to abandon his long-standing promise to drain the Rodman Reservoir and restore the Ocklawaha River to its natural flowing course. The Senate has already passed Smith's bill to designate the 10,000-acre artificial holding pond and its surrounding lands an official state "reserve" on the theory that doing so would torpedo any future plans to restore the Ocklawaha. That bill is expected to come up for a House vote today.

The devious part of the scheme is naming it the George Kirkpatrick Reserve - after the legendary state senator from Gainesville who, before his sudden death this year, was both an ardent defender of the Rodman and a close political ally of Bush's. The expectation is that Gov. Bush won't exercise his veto for fear of appearing disrespectful of the memory and legacy of George Kirkpatrick.

We count ourselves among those who recall Kirkpatrick with fondness and respect. But Kirkpatrick's dogged championship of the expensive environmental mistake known as the Rodman was wrong, and we often took the opportunity to tell him so. It does Kirkpatrick's memory no great honor to use his name as part of a cynical ploy to convince the governor to abandon his own convictions about the importance of restoring the Ocklawaha.

Indeed, we would suggest that Bush cannot afford to do an about-face on the Ocklawaha, not even for the sake of sentimentality. This governor is already being accused of abandoning his commitment to clean up the Florida Everglades, and has been criticized for doing flip-flops on controversial issues like the Ichetucknee cement plant. Will he now abandon the Ocklawaha as well? And if so, exactly what environmental cause is this governor willing to stand up for in the face of spirited opposition?

We think Smith is as wrong-headed in his championship of the Rodman as was his predecessor, George Kirkpatrick. If the House follows the Senate's lead and passes this bill, we expect Gov. Bush to live up to his promise to restore the Ocklawaha. If he does, this devious bill won't have a ghost of a chance.

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