Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Hurricane Clary

What planet does Charlie Clary (R-Destin) live on and who is his weatherman there?

Less than 10 days after warning fellow state legislators that an honor guard of two Air Force jets saluting the opening of the legislative session "could shake any buildings that are in close proximity to the Capitol," the local state senator single-handedly "derailed" an effort to improve the state's wind-proofing building code for Northwest Florida.

Peculiar, that. How can Clary be so sensitive about a building shaking in Tallahassee while the politicians party-down, and so insensitive to the loss of life and billions of dollars in property damage caused right here at home by Hurricane Ivan? The story can be found today at Proposal To Increase Building Standards Killed: Panhandle codes will not receive any changes.

About the same time Senator Clary was trembling over the annoying fly-by of two jet planes in Tallahassee, journalist Carry Johnson was writing in the St. Petersburg Times that since the year 2000 Northwest Florida has been exempt from statewide wind resistance building standards.
"When the Legislature adopted the stricter building code after [Hurricane] Andrew, lawmakers in the Panhandle argued the region was less hurricane-prone than South Florida. So the tougher standards, which include withstanding 120 mile-per-hour winds, extend only 1 mile from the Gulf of Mexico and do not apply to older homes."
The exemption -- which was drafted by Senator Clary -- applies from Franklin County (including Apalachicola) all the way west of Pensacola to the Alabama line.

You might suppose that Hurricane Ivan would give legislators reason to re-think that exemption. And you'd be half right. As Aaron Deslatte and Paul Flemming of the Gannett Corp.'s Tallahassee Bureau report today:
"Rep. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said that after Hurricane Ivan battered the Panhandle, she wanted to bring the region up to the same wind-resistant building codes enforced in the rest of Florida.

* * *
Detert's bill would have required the Florida Building Commission to adopt newer standards for wind resistance necessary for construction projects throughout Florida. At the committee hearing, she held up pictures of buildings constructed under the older code for wind resistance that were damaged in last year's hurricanes and others built to higher standards that fared better."
So, a bill was proposed to bring the quality of construction in the Panhandle into parity with the rest of the state. But Charlie Clary killed it:
"Detert said Tuesday she was told local lawmakers, specifically Clary, objected to the measure, and a House committee deleted it from the bill that was moved ahead. Clary is Senate president pro tem, and he is able to halt legislation from his leadership post."
The reason Clary gives? In perfect harmony with the modern age of Orwellian newspeak this is what he told the Gannett reporters:
"'Ivan probably strengthened my position that what we did was right,' Clary said of his actions to exclude the Panhandle five years ago. Panhandle structures 'performed exceedingly well' in Ivan, he said."
Clary added that "his constituents, particularly home builders and building associations, don't want the change to tougher standards."

Clary may have been too busy ducking jets in Tallahassee (which, by the way, is not exempt from the statewide code) to notice, but he's got more constituents in his district than just developers and real estate hustlers. Thanks to Ivan, thousands of citizens in his district are still homeless.

Follow this link to see Katie King's photo of "the sea of blue" that Senator Clary considers 'exceedingly' good performance. As the caption describes, it is a "Testament to Hurricane Ivan’s brutal winds, more than 49,000 and counting damaged roofs in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties... .With labor and material shortages, blue roofs likely will dot the landscape for months to come."

Moreover, it's been authoritatively estimated that Pensacola is affected by hurricanes, on average, once every 3.05 years. We suffer a direct hit once every 8.93 years. Similar statistics apply to other communities in Senator Clary's district.

Thanks to "Hurricane Clary" and his opposition to stronger building codes, you can be sure the senator will have a lot more homeless constituents in the future.

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