The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors approved funding last week to attend a climate change leadership summit set for Dec.1-3 at the Casa Marina Resort in Key West, but not without chafing from Supervisor Ralph Bair, who said he did not plan to attend.
“I am having trouble trying to justify this,” said Bair at the Nov. 18 meeting.
ITID Manager Jim Shallman said the conference is being organized by the Southeast Regional Climate Change Compact, a partnership among Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties.
“We were a little concerned at first about the cost of hotel rooms that they were listing, but we were able to find rooms with rates in the conference hotel that were well within our budgetary constraints,” Shallman said.
ITID Attorney Mary Viator said the issue of climate change is pertinent to flooding issues in The Acreage, and while there were questions about the travel policy, Shallman was able to address them.
“It’s the height of the season down there,” Bair said. “I pitched a fit about the fact that it was going to cost so much money, $275 a person. I don’t see any way to justify something with a hockey stick that doesn’t work. The scientists were discredited that tried to produce this out of Cambridge and at NASA. This thing is just crazy.”
Shallman said the consensus from experts is that climate change is real. “I’m not an expert, but there is consensus,” Shallman said.
Supervisor Gary Dunkley said he thought the conference is important.
“Ralph is entitled to his opinion, but I have been going to this conference except for one since I have been on this board,” Dunkley said. “I went to a conference in Miami one year and they had a bomb scare, so the whole auditorium had to clear out. This, whether you believe it or not, Ralph is on one side, I’m on the other… I just look at the signs, and I don’t know what our future will hold, but I would rather be ready. There is something in this environment, whether it is manmade or [natural], there is a change. I owe it to my constituents to have insight on things to do when the change comes.”
But Bair said he believes that climate change is not real, adding that recent weather upheavals are just typical events of nature.
“To me, this is just a big waste of money,” he said. “You can go and investigate anything you want, but I don’t see where it pertains to us. I see where water pertains to us.”
Dunkley said the conference pertains to decisions he has to make as a supervisor.
Supervisor Michelle Damone said the reservations have already been made, but that Shallman had put it on the agenda because he knew Bair wanted to speak about it.
ITID President Carol Jacobs said that each supervisor is allotted travel money, and the board does not spend a lot of money on travel, except to Tallahassee and district conferences.
“This is something, when I saw that it pertains to water and flood waters and such, that I think would be interesting,” Jacobs said. “Each board member should be allowed to have a little flexibility on which ones we might want to attend. Once you hit that limit, you should pay for it out of your own pocket, and I am willing to pay for this out of my own pocket if it came down to it. I would be willing to give up one of my Tallahassee trips if it came to it.”
Bair said he thought the price of the rooms in Key West was prohibitive to attending.
Dunkley asked attorney Ruth Clements, who has been heavily involved with water issues for the district, for her opinion.
Clements said she had looked at the conference synopsis and noticed that Rob Robbins, director of the county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management, is involved.
“He is someone that we really need to network with,” Clements said. “There’s also a legal discussion regarding local communities and the flooding aspects of climate change, so there’s a lot of stuff there.”
Dunkley made a motion to confirm the reservations, which carried 3-1 with Bair opposed and Supervisor Jennifer Hager away from the dais.