“I’m going to shake this county up,” says 23-year-old Francisco Pierre-Louis, the Green Party’s candidate for Hillsborough Soil and Water District Group 3 Supervisor.
“For far too long, people haven’t taken this job seriously. A Tampa Bay Times columnist recently joked, nobody even knew we had a Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District. Political insiders treat Soil and Water like it’s a joke. A way for aspiring politicians to get some name recognition. A stepping stone to, well, somewhere. But Soil and Water are the foundation for our civilization, and I take this race very, very seriously.”
The position he seeks is loaded with contradictions. The official Florida Soil and Water Conservation Districts Supervisor Handbook lays out lofty goals, to be sure. It creates “a state and local partnership with the federal government to protect and restore soil and water resources, and to assist private landowners in using conservation practices. … with regard to soil erosion, flood damage, and water quality.”
It lays out broad powers and responsibilities, one the one hand, and then it takes them away. Under the Board’s powers are:
“To adopt land use regulations governing the use of lands within the district to conserve soil and soil resources [but] the [Districts] have not needed to make full use of their statutory powers.”
“Under Florida Statutes, the responsibility for modern land use decisions resides primarily with county government; therefore, the soil and water conservation districts do not adopt such regulations.
“Through a locally-led consensus process [to assist private landowners], priorities are determined for conservation programs. The partners then work to implement programs that provide assistance to landowners, agricultural producers, and local residents.
Francisco is not accepting these restrictions. When he announced his candidacy on June 21, 2018, he vowed that he was going to take on the Mosaic Company a Fortune 500 giant and the world’s largest combined producer of potash and phosphates. It employs 3,000 Floridians and an additional 3,000 contractors. The Tampa Bay Times reported that in 2016:
“A massive sinkhole that opened underneath a gypsum stack at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry may have dumped at least 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Floridian Aquifer over the past three weeks, company officials say. And it could be months before the hole is plugged, the officials acknowledge. It drained millions of gallons of acidic water laced with sulfate and sodium from a pool atop a 120-foot gypsum stack. An unknown amount of gypsum, a fertilizer byproduct with low levels of radiation, also fell into the sinkhole, which is believed be at least 300 feet deep.
“Now this behemoth Mosaic plans to move its corporate headquarters from Minnesota to Hillsborough County, right in our back yards,” Francisco argues. “This is unacceptable. Right now, I am one of the few people currently running that is willing to work with local and statewide organizations to push Mosaic out of Hillsborough because — at the end of the day — water is life. If the Soil and Water District intends to live up to its claims to protect and restore soil and water resources, then it has to rise to the challenge that Mosaic is throwing right in our faces. Mosaic is not part of any partnership that I want to be part of. The partnership I want is a partnership with our community.”
Francisco is no stranger to working hard with the community. In the summer of 2016, he volunteered for the Community Voters Project, which does non-partisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns among underserved and underrepresented communities, focusing primarily on African Americans, Latinos, and in some locations, young people.
Francisco declares, “I learned that the main reason for lack of political engagement in the community stems from felons having lost their voting rights. So I believe that support for Florida Constitutional Amendment #4 — the Voter Rights Restoration Initiative — is critical.”
Francisco went on that year to found the Green Party Alliance of Hillsborough Community College. In 2017, he served as an SGA Senator at Hillsborough Community College. and is currently a Council Member of the Green Party of Tampa.
He is a staunch foe of Gentrification, which deliberately destroys communities:
“Pollution is a major problem in Hillsborough. It drives down property values, making them cheaper for the developers to take over. I want to work with local organizations to keep our neighborhoods clean, to break the cycle of Gentrification, and to strengthen our community.
“Now our entire state is facing a red algae crisis. Fertilizer runoff is pouring into our lakes and rivers causing algae bloom. We can address this problem without interrupting Floridians way of life, by scheduling fertilizer seasons for times when rain isn’t so likely. Again, I would work with county commissioners and city officials
Francisco has been endorsed by:
Green Party, Florida and U.S.
Democratic Socialists of America, Tampa Bay
He concludes, “Should I be elected, I can hardly wait to get to work!
— Jeff Roby
November 1, 2018