Jeff Bezos purchased two adjacent waterfront homes on Indian Creek Village, a man made island near Miami known as the “Billionaires’ Bunker.” Source: Screenshot/YouTube

FL - COMMENTARY: Jeff Bezos, welcome back to a very different Florida from the one you left

We could sure use your help with our many, many environmental woes

Dear Mr. Bezos,

Congratulations! After three decades in gloomy Seattle, you’re finally — as the elaborately coiffed Wayne Cochran used to sing — going back to Miami.

You’ll be the world’s richest Florida Man. Hope you have an appropriate tattoo. Do you already own a machete? I hear you can now buy them at a popular online retailer.

Allow me, as an actual machete-owning Florida native, to say welcome back! As a billionaire, you may be the only person who can afford our skyrocketing property insurance rates.

Bezos graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School in 1982. Yearbook photo via WLRN-FM

Because you graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School and even started your first business here — the Dream Institute! — you may feel like you’re returning to familiar surroundings.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but — like your own hairstyle — Florida has undergone some radical changes since you left us in 1986 for a job on Wall Street.

When you departed, the governor was a popular Democrat known for his concern for the environment. There was a growth management system that limited the impacts development had on roads, water, and sewers. And the coolest show on TV was “Miami Vice,” a drama about catching drug dealers in South Florida, which aired for five seasons on a network you could watch for free.

Now the governor is a hardcore Republican of waning popularity known for his odd footwear choices.

Our growth management system was junked in 2011 by pro-developer politicians. As a result, our roads are increasingly clogged, our overloaded sewer systems repeatedly give way under the strain, and our water supply is threatened by rampant pollution.

And the coolest show on TV is probably “Killing It,” a comedy about catching pythons in the Everglades. You can watch it only on a service you have to pay extra to receive.

In other words, we’re not quite the “same old place that you laughed about,” as they used to say on “Welcome Back, Kotter.” We’re much more crowded, our waterways are dirtier, our wildlife is in peril. Meanwhile our state is in the news now for our book bans, not our high-powered speedboats.

To help you out, I sought out several Floridians who, by dint of their experience, could best explain the difference between 1986 Florida and 2023 Florida.

One was Estus Whitfield, who served as environmental adviser to five Florida governors in both parties.

“In 1986, Florida was probably in the best environmental position it’s ever been, before or since,” he told me. “A lot has changed.”

Another was Victoria Tschinkel, onetime secretary of the old state Department of Environmental Regulation and former chairwoman of the smart growth group 1000 Friends of Florida.

“I personally feel that except for some modest improvements in the Everglades, things have only deteriorated,” she said.

A third was award-winning historian and avid newspaper clipping collector Gary Mormino. He sent me an email that said:

“To me, the single biggest (or at least one of the most significant) differences between 1986 and 2023 is our loss of faith, our lack of confidence that we can control growth, halt, or even slow down climate change, write books that will be read in libraries without public tribunals, and ensure our children will have. better lives than we did.”

Hey, maybe this is something you can help us with!

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