Tallahassee - In an exchange of e-mails, Governor Jeb Bush and Steve Siebert, Bush's political appointment as Secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA) last fall approved a plan to eliminate most state growth management controls, according to records obtained by Florida Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Florida PEER). While agreeing to the change in direction offered by DCA Secretary Steve Siebert, Bush's main concern was that the plan would be discovered if it was reduced to writing.
Siebert, a former Pinellas County Commissioner and private land use attorney, has proposed to radically "reform" growth management. Bush is a former developer, with past business connections to St. Joe/Arvida Corporation, the state's largest private landowner and one of its largest developers. Much of Bush's personal wealth is derived from the sale of his interest in a large South Florida real estate and development business. The industry generously supported his election campaign.
Citing pressure from unnamed organizations "to write my thoughts as to the future of growth management," Siebert sent an e-mail on 11/1/99 directly to Governor Bush setting forth his position in greater detail. Siebert advocated dramatically reduced role for state oversight. Thirteen minutes after receiving Siebert's message, Governor Bush e-mailed him back:
"First, you have created a public record which as you know will leave you open to criticism without recourse..."
"Conducting public business in the sunshine does not seem to be the Sunshine State governor's way," commented Florida PEER Staff Scientist Larry Zuckerman. "We've seen time and time again that candor has not been the hallmark of Governor Bush's growth management policy."