If you had asked me a month ago to describe what the difference between North and South Florida was I would have laughed and said “North Florida may as well be South Georgia.” It would appear that this cultural separation has also been recognized by others, most notably the Mayor of South Miami, Philip Stoddard. Stoddard has recently proposed a legal separation of North and South Florida, making South Florida the 51st state according to The Sun-Sentinel. While I can understand Stoddard’s reasoning, I find this proposal to be an unrealistic expectation for the state of Florida, and one that many Floridians may not be willing to spend taxpayers’ money on.
The emphasis should instead be put upon who is elected to run the state instead of splitting the state in two. Florida needs elected officials who are equipped to handle the varying climates and differing communities. Florida is made up of historical districts, big cities, and rural areas; elected officials should have a basic understanding of the specific needs of each of these and have a comprehensive plan on how cater to them, even if it means forming committees.
Astoundingly, the proposal was passed with a 3-2 vote at a city commision meeting held on Oct. 7, The Sun-Sentinel reports. Stoddard and Vice Mayor, Walter Harris proposed the separation based on South Florida’s rising sea level. They believe that not enough regard is given to South Florida in the way of storm preparation and would like to see a change in the way environmental issues are handled in the Southern half of the state. “The resolution points out that the average elevation of North Florida is about 120-feet above sea level while the average elevation of South Florida is less than 50 feet. It is estimated that there will be a 3 to 6-foot sea level rise in the next 100 years,” reports USA Today. If South Florida was made the 51st state, the border would begin “from roughly Orlando down,” USA Today says. Harris’s reasoning behind this is to “keep South Florida’s Water Management district,” which is located in Orange County.
In theory, this could turn out very well for South Florida, since “Orlando down” is where most of Florida’s revenue is generated this would keep all the money that is earned by these counties in their rightful districts. Instead of the revenue being disbursed throughout the entire state, South Florida was benefit directly from it’s own earnings, which could be used to create a more efficient plan for unruly weather. The proposal in reality, however, would never pan out because it’s completely unnecessary. Harris and Stoddard feel that their weather concerns are being ignored by Tallahassee and offer this succession of South Florida as their solution. “We have to be able to deal directly with this environmental concern and we can’t really get it done in Tallahassee … I don’t care what people think — it’s not a matter of electing the right people,” Harris said of the proposed split. While the difference in weather are indeed significant, breaking off into two separate state’s would be a mistake, especially because this proposal has been made before.
In 2011 California proposed the very same thing with no success. The more conservative counties in Southern California wanted to split the state in half in order to change the way the state was run. This proposal was not received enthusiastically and was described as “a supremely ridiculous waste of everybody’s time,” by the California state Governor’s spokesperson according to The Huffington Post. The outcome is likely to be the same in our state.
Unsurprisingly, the prospects of South Florida being successful in their succession are not looking bright. “The proposal has to be approved by the governing bodies of the 24 counties that would make up the state of South Florida, and even if it is, the proposal would then have to pass a state electoral vote and then be approved by Congress,” reads an article by Eric Zerkel. It seems unlikely that many of the 24 counties involved will consider this proposal a priority.
I believe that the solution to this problem, however, lies elsewhere: The voter’s poll. Tampa Bay Times has speculated, very accurately, that Stoddard and Harris don’t just have the environment in mind with the secession of South Florida, as they have so honorably proposed. “Forget, for a moment, the climate change debate. Instead, consider the difference in voting patterns. Republicans dominate a huge chunk of Florida’s geography, but Democrats control the population centers,” Says John Romano of The Tampa Bay Times. The article goes on to mention that higher concentration of Republican voters in certain districts completely overrides the Democratic vote, even in spite of the larger number of Democrats registered to vote.
The solution, of course, is easier said than done: South Floridian’s need to be educated on issues, such as how our climate could threaten our half of the state, and make it our priority to change the way the State is run as a whole. Tallahassee will be forced to regard South Florida’s climate with a higher level of significance if a person who understands the state as a whole is elected. As a student of the University of Tampa, I was personally shocked that news of upcoming elections was noticeably missing from campus. If we want to have a elected officials with our interests in mind, we need to start caring more about who we elect; that means all of us!
Sam Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org