Politics in Florida polarize, not unite, the state

Former South Miami Vice Mayor Walter Harris proposed a resolution calling for Florida to split into two states – North Florida and South Florida – in 2014.

The idea of southern counties separating from their northern counterparts is one that is tossed around every now and again. This is nothing more than a hypothetical scenario, but the premise that North Florida and South Florida have wholly different needs and priorities is certainly accurate.

Because of this polarization, one of South Florida’s most pressing issues, climate change, goes ignored by state officials.

North Florida leans heavily Republican while South Florida leans heavily Democratic. Hillary Clinton carried over 60 percent of the vote in Miami-Dade and Broward counties while Donald Trump dominated the North, carrying as much as 80 percent of the vote in some northern counties, according to Politico. In other words, you can win an election in Florida without strong support from South Florida.

South Florida has urgent needs that North Florida does not. South Florida already is and will continue to be severely impacted by global warming. The number of floods in Miami Beach more than doubled from 16 events between 1998 and 2005 to 33 events between 2006 and 2013, according to a University of Miami study, indicating the threat sea level rise poses to the region.

Yet, despite the extreme urgency of this issue, we have a governor who does not believe in global warming. Gov. Rick Scott even banned state officials from using the phrases “climate change” and “global warming.”

This is appalling.

The governor who is supposed to represent all of Florida does not recognize the force behind the threat to South Florida’s very existence. This has a real and direct impact on policy. Infrastructure funding, such as money to raise roads to make them less susceptible to flooding, is not allocated to equip South Florida to respond to climate change.

This shifts the burden to individual cities and counties. Miami Beach is spending $100 million on elevating streets and installing pumps to deal with flooding, only part of its $400-million to $500-million plan to comprehensively address climate change. Cities can only do so much without state and federal help. However, President Trump, who Gov. Scott endorsed, proposed slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent in his 2018 fiscal year budget proposal.

The only reason Gov. Scott gets away with this is because Florida’s polarization enables it. He can get elected without the votes of South Floridians. The state’s geographic size and diversity is not a bad thing; it’s actually great. However, we cannot have a government that completely ignores the needs of one part of the state.

We need attention from the state government in a way that is beyond desperate. Our very existence is threatened. Yet our governor could not care less. He avoids the issue and still gets re-elected. This cannot continue for the sake of South Florida.

Ryan Steinberg is a sophomore majoring in political science.