Political Ironist: Where Have You Gone John Delaney?

September 25, 2016 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

While Florida Governor Rick Scott dithers over meteorological semantics and prohibits the term “global warming” from being spoken in his administration, Miamians wade to work during high tides and Floridians bake. They don’t need scientists to confirm that July and August were the warmest months on record. But dealing with such cognitive dissonance is the coin of the realm in politics today. Particularly, if you are entrenched anywhere on the extreme ends of the political spectrum and are protecting your ideological turf with the ferocity of a hungry dog defending his bone.

Unfortunately, there is no common ground between the left and the right, which means common sense and truth are the first casualties of this political war. The art of compromise has been slain, too, by the conflict’s “take no prisoners” mentality. If King Solomon were alive today, his sword would be dull from dividing so many babies.

Governor Scott’s taboo of talking about global warming appears to have sent a message throughout his administration on just how low a priority the environment is to the sweltering state. Nearly a third of $750 million, earmarked for purchasing environmentally sensitive lands for conservation by the passage of Amendment 1 in 2014 (approved by nearly 75 percent of Florida voters), has been diverted for other salaries and operating expenses, agricultural projects.  The result has led to lawsuits by the state’s environmental groups.

As more rural settings are turned into strip centers and boutique communities with bucolic names that are but a euphemistic reminder of the natural settings they replace, conserving native land is essential to a healthy lifestyle.  Studies show that a walk in nature relieves stress and anxiety and prevents depression. It also guards against the state becoming one giant mash up of suburbs and exurbs as well as maintaining a strong economy. After all, Florida’s tourism attracts countless visitors to its unique recreational environment.

Fortunately, Jacksonville has a healthy share of parks and preserves due to a visionary leader who understood the value of green space.  John Delaney, who served as the city’s Mayor from 1995 to 2003, convinced voters to come up with a half-cent sales tax to fund his Better Jacksonville Plan, an ambitious blueprint that appropriated $50 million for preservation projects, including a series of land grants for parks. In 2003, The Nature Conservancy awarded him the President's Conservation Achievement Award for his work on the Preservation Project. Delaney, who has led the University of North Florida as its President for the past 13 years, adheres to conservative principles but is not trapped into any ideology nor does he hew to a prescribed political stereotype.

As Jacksonville struggles to keep pace with 21st-century social trends and pass an HRO, Delaney became one of the first public figures to support it. As a politician, he never painted himself into a corner to play to a political base, which is why he continues to serve Jacksonville so intelligently as the leader of its largest institution of higher learning.  It is said that when he addresses a challenge, he approaches it from the best possible outcome, calling it a panacea strategy – he never settles for mediocrity.

 But for a decision to spend more time with his family, Delaney could have been Governor as political pundits extolled his promise and leaders from both parties saw his star on the rise. Smarter than most, perhaps he foresaw the social and political forces pulling against the center, which has made it nearly impossible for any politician to straddle the middle.

For now, you can thank him for that walk in the park and Jacksonville’s superior quality of life.  

Written by Mike Bernos

Mike Bernos  is an award winning journalist, having written for among others, ABC News, Gannett News, USA Today, Florida Trend and Christian Science Monitor. He is the author of three books and a songwriter whose works appear on Pandora, Sirius XM, and Spotify. He lives in Riverside.