Forcing Out HABDI

One of South Florida's oldest families is nearing a come-from-behind victory in the battle for the Homestead Air Base

"The federal government -- and the State of Florida -- should seize this opportunity to demonstrate that protection and restoration of South Florida's internationally renowned ecosystem can go hand in hand with economic development," the letter concludes. "We truly believe that [the air base]'s redevelopment now presents a possible win-win situation for the federal and state governments."

The controversy surrounding the air base could also affect the presidential race. In mid-September the environmental group Friends of the Earth endorsed former Sen. Bill Bradley rather than Vice President Al Gore. The group's selection exposed an unexpected weakness for the vice president, who bills himself as an environmental leader and needs campaign contributions from greens. Gore's stand on the air base could become an issue in California, where ecological issues are particularly important.

In the past Gore has made repeated pledges to defend the Everglades and Florida's other natural resources. "The vice president has created expectations and it may seem unfair to him now that people want those expectations lived up to, but he is the one who made those promises," argues environmental consultant Joe Browder.

Will the Colliers' vision of an upscale development at Homestead Air Force Base become a reality?
Will the Colliers' vision of an upscale development at Homestead Air Force Base become a reality?

Gore supporter Mayor Alex Penelas may also find a way to duck blame if the Colliers win out. This won't be easy because Penelas has been a vocal supporter of HABDI. But on May 14, county attorneys Tim Abbott and Gail Fels concluded that the federal government could legally transfer the base to the Colliers without county approval. Now Penelas can legitimately argue he has done everything possible for HABDI, which includes many of his staunchest political supporters.

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