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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 10, 2009 12 years ago

Time writer didn't do his homework

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For nearly 90 minutes, Harvard educated, liberal writer/author Michael Grunwald droned on to 50 or so growth policy groupies about Florida as the “unsustainable,” “sunset state,” mostly reading his speech — “Smart Growth/Dumb Growth: A Matter of Survival.”

For nearly 90 minutes, Harvard educated, liberal writer/author Michael Grunwald droned on to 50 or so growth policy groupies about Florida as the “unsustainable,” “sunset state,” mostly reading his speech — “Smart Growth/Dumb Growth: A Matter of Survival.”

On several occasions during the recent University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee event, the New York transplant who now lives in Miami Beach with his family and two dogs, sharply criticized “a certain state senator from Bradenton” for proposed changes to state growth management laws.

The unnamed target of Grunwald's attack was State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, chairman of the Community Affairs Committee and the Legislature's only board member on the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida.

When he wasn't demonizing builders and developers, Grunwald talked about “wildly inflated home prices” also saying, “The only really affordable options were out in sprawl-ville.”

But toward the end of the talk, Grunwald shocked the anti-growth audience segment when he offered this suggestion: “Let's put more people where there are already lots of people.”

As it happens, Bennett is the sponsor of Senate Bill 360, the “Community Renewal Act,” which in large measure would do just that by removing obstacles to development in the highest density areas and discourage sprawl. And Bennett has the full support of the state's top planner, Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham.

When asked after the talk if he knew that Bennett was the sponsor of the bill and that its main aim was to reduce sprawl, Grunwald sheepishly admitted that he had not done his homework.

In fact, Grunwald had not read the bill and did not know Bennett was its sponsor. The Senate read it and liked it too. On April 2, two days after Grunwald's talk, the Senate approved the bill 32-8.

Ironically, most of the limited opposition came from Democratic Senators from Grunwald's Miami-Dade County, who expressed concern that the bill would cause sprawl within Miami-Dade's area designated for future development. Go figure.

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