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Argenziano: Bush out of touch

"He's not in the same grassroots universe I'm in,'' the Crystal River Republican says, referring to the governor's veto of a waterway council.

By ALEX LEARY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 31, 2002


CRYSTAL RIVER -- Refusing to accept Gov. Jeb Bush's veto of a waterway council for Citrus and Hernando counties, state Rep. Nancy Argenziano on Thursday suggested the governor is out of touch with the concerns of common citizens.

"He's not in the same grassroots universe I'm in," Argenziano said, adding that she thinks Bush relied on advice from "territory-protective bureaucrats" to reach his decision.

"I don't think this does the governor any good with Citrus and Hernando counties," Argenziano said, referring to Bush's re-election bid.

Argenziano, R-Crystal River, sponsored the bill in the House, and it was introduced in the Senate by Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville.

Bush vetoed the legislation last Friday, saying the council would duplicate efforts by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and its basin boards.

In an e-mail to Argenziano this week, Bush conceded that his aide should have contacted her sooner about the veto -- the call came at 4:58 p.m. Friday -- but stood by his decision.

"We have basin boards and a water management district board, and that should be enough to get citizen input, which I know is important," Bush wrote.

The governor's office on Thursday said his response, along with the May 24 letter to Secretary of State Katherine Harris outlining the reasons for the veto, was sufficient comment.

A longtime critic of the water management district, Argenziano said it has ignored the issues facing the Tsala Apopka lake chain in east Citrus County.

Argenziano said the water panel would raise the profile of those problems, which include muck accumulation and weed infestation, because it would report directly to the Legislature.

The 12-member Citrus and Hernando Waterways Restoration Council would have been appointed by the Legislature and would have included waterfront property owners, engineers, scientists, lawyers and chambers of commerce members.

The bill called for Swiftmud to provide staff and to develop restoration programs along with the Department of Environmental Protection and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Al Coogler, a Swiftmud governing board member appointed by Bush and chairman of the Withlacoochee River Basin Board, said he agreed with the veto.

"That was a very Republican thing for the governor to do," Coogler said Thursday. "I thought we were about less government, not more."

Contrary to the assertions of some, he said, Swiftmud has paid attention to the needs of the lake chain, pointing to his involvement in getting the Wysong Dam replaced.

"I understand their frustration, that there is no water in the lake system," Coogler said. "An advisory board is not going to put any more water in there. The Wysong Dam is the key."

Despite her tough words for Bush, Argenziano said she did not think his action was malicious or aimed at her personally. "I just think he got some bad advice," she said.

This is not her first fight with her party. Since being elected in 1996, Argenziano, 47, has battled House leaders, lost key committee assignments and drawn a rebuke for sending manure to a lobbyist with whom she disagreed.

"I don't care if it's Democrats or Republicans," she said. "If it's going to hurt my district, I'm going to fight. There are too many legislators who just roll over and do what they are told."

Argenziano, who is running for the newly drawn Senate District 3, which includes most of Citrus County and part of Marion, said that if elected she would reintroduce the legislation.

-- Alex Leary can be reached at (352) 564-3623 or leary@sptimes.com.

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