Is it time for a 51st state? Vice Mayor Harris, Mayor Stoddard and Commissioner Welsh think the answer is yes. In a resolution sponsored by Harris, principally because of his concerns about the impact of sea-level rise on coastal areas and his perception that north Florida is unresponsive to the needs of south Florida, the Vice Mayor proposed that south Florida secede from north Florida and form a new state. The trio voted in favor of it during the final hour of the October 7 Commission meeting.
The preamble to the resolution read, “A Resolution…advocating the legal separation of Florida into two separate states, creating the 51st state in the Union and naming it South Florida.”
When asked what led the Vice Mayor to consider the resolution he stated that people have been complaining about the way the southern part of the state is treated by the northern part of the state for over 60 years.
“We can no longer deal with politics as usual in Tallahassee. It is time for us to get up and be heard,” said Harris.
Pointing out that South Florida holds a “unique, negative position” due to sea-level rise, Harris stated that south Florida “cannot be helped” by north Florida. By having a more proximate location for our state capitol (he recommends somewhere near Kissimmee in Orange County) and collaborating with counties that will be affected by sea-level rise, funding and solutions are sure to follow.
“Our representatives in Tallahassee are not doing their job. It seems that they are too far away to help us,” he said.
In his remarks supporting the resolution Commissioner Welsh said, “The only time you get real cooperation from a government is when you threaten them with action.”
Mayor Stoddard in his defense of the radical move said, “Our representatives aren’t paying attention to the scientists. It seems a bit Quixotic, but I have been advocating separation for 15 years.”
Recognizing that creating a 51st state would be an “uphill fight,” Harris said that the resolution was the first step and would be followed by getting powerful people such as businessmen Norman Braman and Wayne Huizenga to get on board to help convince elected officials and citizens of the proposed South Florida counties to start working for the secession. From there it would go to a state vote and then on to the US Congress.
Under Harris’ proposal, the counties of Brevard, Orange, Polk, Hillsborough, and Pinellas would comprise the northern border of the new state, as well as all counties to the south of them down to Monroe.
“We need Orange County because that is where the South Florida Water Management District begins and we need our fresh water,” he said.
Citing that south Florida provides 69 percent of the revenue to the state coffers and only receives about 55 percent in return and that the bulk of the population resides in the south, Harris said as a new state that we’ll be able to “do stuff on our own.” When asked if he thought that the north would put up a fight to retain the revenue produced in the south, he said, “They can survive quite handily without us.”
Dissenting votes came from Commissioners Edmond and Liebman. Commissioner Edmond, a history teacher, supported his vote by speaking about the war-related circumstances that allowed Maine to secede from Massachusetts and West Virginia to secede from Virginia.
“It takes a lot of courage to propose something like this, but Congress won’t allow it to happen,” said Edmond.
“It’s got to be done and we can do it. There is no historical precedent for this. This is a matter of war,” said Harris.