When we look at the jobs situation, the superficial basis that he uses to tout his efforts is enough to be laughable if it weren't so serious. Yes, he did create one million jobs and he has brought the unemployment rate down dramatically, but you have to look deeper to see the weak basis used for it. Scott uses standard federal unemployment statistical guidelines and since long term unemployed are not counted and part-time jobs are given the same value as permanent jobs with benefits, we have to dig much deeper to get the real picture. Additionally, the jobs that are being created are primarily retail, lower end health care workers and hospitality industry jobs and we can't even be sure if those filling the jobs are Florida residents or even citizens of the United States.
The only way the truth will really come out is to focus on the huge number of underemployed as evidenced by stagnant and decreasing pay rates. Many of these same people are holding multiple jobs in their attempt to feed families. And then we have to look at the long term unemployed who are no longer counted on the unemployment rolls. Most have either given up looking or have fallen for the many government pay to not work schemes which make not working sometimes more attractive for low skilled employees than work. Government officials, both at the state and federal level don't want to discuss these issues. It's hard to find a valid reason for that except that they don't want us to know the truth.
One of the Governor's plans is a massive construction project for new roads while existing roads continue to be short-changed on maintenance. The Florida Department of Transportation says it's to handle the heavy additional trade volume with the Far East due to the Panama Canal addition. Here in Alachua County, in North Central Florida, the desire of the majority is to make improvements to existing roadways, including Interstate 75 and US Highway 301, two roads which have the capacity of handling much more traffic, particularly if in places they are modified to solve small scale engineering issues which are doable. Yet individual citizens are largely ignored via the use of a hand-picked task force to study the issue, a task force with a moderator who has established the criteria for consideration and is paid by the state. It is beginning to become clear that the goal is ultimately a new high speed, limited access superhighway likely to go through the heart of Old Florida, the rural and quaint traditional remnant of her past. Such a road would be used for a direct connection between Tampa and Jacksonville, a route which is questionable based upon volume to date and a realistic view of the future. There is a serious likelihood that the state has resurrected a plan or something similar to the plan which was attempted in 1988 but was scrapped due to huge public outcry.
At the time of the original proposal thirty years ago, the cost was estimated at nearly four hundred million dollars. In today's dollars, with cost rising by some seven to ten percent per year, it is likely to be astronomical and in the billions. It will be an engineering task requiring major construction through the watershed, low and often flooded lands which support the recharge of the Floridan aquifer, the source of potable water for the entire region and beyond. And judging from mistakes made in similar ventures in the past in South Florida, a real need is questionable at best.
The claim being made by supporters is that with the advent of more Asian trade through the new Panama Canal and its improved depth and width, huge Panamax freighters will greatly increase imports and exports through the ports of Tampa and Jacksonville, requiring additional roadways. Yet the Port of Tampa has realized that the harbor cannot be deepened sufficiently to handle the ship draft nor will those ships be able to clear the Skyway Bridge that crosses Tampa Bay near it's juncture with the Gulf.
In the case of Jacksonville, the one huge warehousing operation by TraFac which has been built to handle this extra traffic is inland beyond the point where deepening the St. Johns River will allow docking due to cost issues. In fact the port is now calling for doing the work in short segments, meaning that it would take decades to complete the original fifteen mile distance. The warehouse contractor, a California corporation, is threatening to close the operation since it is paying huge interest charges on the facility that is not meeting financial expectations and can't without deep water traffic. The Port of Jacksonville doesn't have the money and federal funds have disappeared. A required more than seven hundred million dollar dredging need is more like a pipe dream than reality.
Another problem also exists which no one wants to face. Direct transit from port to port by way of roads is not generally the case since the two ports directly compete with each other. Why would two ports located fairly close to one another want to share freight traffic with the other port? They wouldn't and they don't; the trend is to truck freight for short distance runs to their service area customers and rail for long distance and both Tampa and Jacksonville have rail shipping capability close by to each port. You aren't going to move freight by rail or truck between these two competitive cities since they naturally are concerned with their own turf. An internal trade turf war will just cause a big fight, not promote the state's desires.
Also impacting things is the state of the economy, with transportation of goods currently at the low end of the scale per the Baltic Index, a trade transportation business index. The world economy, including both America and China, are grinding to a major slowdown, sometimes looking like it is by a devious master plan. Some blame the New World Order, others blame crony capitalism which has killed demand for goods and both are probably part of the problem. The economy is retracting and really the only way to change that is through individual initiative and reward for risk, not by questionable public-private partnerships that generally fail. After all, when the taxpayer holds the responsibility for bailing failure out, why would the players in the finance game change their method of operation?
Look, not all public-private partnerships are bad, but many turn out to be boondoggles and they need to be limited to that situations that clearly make sense, not as an excuse for using the taxpayer dollars as the fallback fail safe provision. This requires much more diligence, honesty and integrity than we see in these "deals" today.
So if current operating roadways can be upgraded where needed and longer term city to city commercial requirements may not exist, why propose the new road? Well, as we discussed from the outset it is more likely to meet the goals of developers, always seeking a new plat of land, wet or dry, needed or not, to maintain growth for their business. And Florida has a more than willing advocate in the Governor who probably won't even stay in Florida when his term is up. And it leaves us with the question in the headline: A needed highway or an albatross? Sadly, folks, it's probably an albatross. But follow the money, for the money trail always explains why things happen in the political system whether they are needed or not.
When the last vestige of Old Florida and the landscape is urban from horizon to horizon, only then will we miss the beauty that we had. Wake up, America, for what is happening here in Florida is likely happening everywhere, and shen we lose our heritage of the land, there will be nothing but steel and concrete standing. And even that won't be paid for nor will it have water to sustain existence.