Columns

Destiny's Child

Page 3 of 3

As they were leaving the White House, Hickel offered the governor and Reed a ride to the airport. "We hadn't gotten 250 yards from the White House," Reed says, "when Hickel gives Kirk a big slap on the knee and says, “Who makes the first call?' Kirk says, “I'll flip you for it.' Kirk calls heads and it turns out to be tails, and so Hickel picks up his car phone starts to dial the chief environmental writer for the New York Times. And I said, “I thought we were sworn to secrecy back there.' And Hickel says, “Nathaniel, you don't understand. We are in the middle of one of the great environmental victories of all time. We can't keep it to ourselves.'" Besides, once word of the decision was leaked, there would be no turning back.

The next morning the story was on the front page of the Times. A short time later, Reed fielded a call from Erlichman, who was furious at Hickel and Kirk. According to Reed the president's aide grumbled, "Dealing with those two juvenile delinquents is going to drive me stark-raving mad."

Today the jetport site is used as a training center for airline pilots practicing takeoffs and landings.

In 1971 Reed left the governor's office and went to work for Hickel as an assistant secretary at the Department of the Interior, where he helped develop the plan for the federal government to buy the Big Cypress swamp. The purchase was completed in 1974, and the name was changed to the Big Cypress National Preserve.

As the debate over Homestead Air Force Base heats up in the coming weeks, the names may have changed, but the story remains essentially the same. The FAA is pushing for the development of Homestead, as is the county mayor, who makes the same desperate argument his predecessor did 30 years ago about the county's economic future.

Instead of shady Democratic land speculators waiting to cash in, we have a pack of mostly Republican developers being handed a no-bid sweetheart contract that allows them to cash in on a new airport. "This is just plain old big-city greed," Browder says today.

On the environmental side of the issue, current U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt has come out strongly against an airport in Homestead, as has Carol Browner, administrator of Environmental Protection Agency, an agency created, coincidentally, by Nixon. Still lurking in the background, though perhaps not as prominently, are Browder, Reed, and in spirit at least, the memory of Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Only one question now remains: Will President Bill Clinton fulfill destiny's role?

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Jim DeFede
Contact: Jim DeFede