So why does Jeb Bush reek of hypocrisy when he accuses Mr. Trump of using eminent domain for his own benefit? Here it is. But first, I need to set another scene for you and I’ll do it by telling you something you probably already know. Two of the largest industries in Florida are tourism and citrus. Today we’re going to talk about the citrus industry and the very special way they have of pissing people off—thanks to Jeb. I’ll leave my opinion on tourists for a future post.
Okay, setting the scene down and dirty without a lot of poetic waxing. Big citrus was a big donor to Jeb Bush and his gubernatorial career. Yet during his first term he didn’t do too badly when it came to giving in to the special interest groups interested in him. It was one of the reasons I voted for him twice. However, with nothing to lose after being reelected, Jeb used his second term to pay back those he owed and he owed Big Citrus, big time.
Big Citrus had a big problem in Florida and it had to do with competition. Florida has the perfect agricultural environment for growing citrus trees, in particular, juicing citrus trees. Florida citrus isn’t the best for eating but it’s great for juicing. That’s why Florida has so many huge and lush citrus groves; each and every one of them full of juice. And all those groves are owned by Big Citrus. At first glance, competition doesn’t seem like much of a problem right? Well it is, or maybe I should say, it was.
Part of the problem Big Citrus had was that the same soil conditions and environment that made their groves so productive, also made privately owned trees in backyards across the state, very productive. Personally, I had an orange tree, a grapefruit tree, and a key lime tree. All three were mature and fruit producing. By the way, the fruit was absolutely the best juicing fruit ever . . . period . . . bar none.
I always had fresh squeezed orange and/or grapefruit juice whenever I wanted. The fruit juicer was a fixture on my kitchen counter. Two grapefruit cut in half made a full glass of juice, three oranges cut in half did the same. It was the best juice ever and I had more of it than my family could drink.
Now, for the conflict of interest:
If you’re in the business of selling OJ to the masses, there is only so much money that you can ask for a glass of juice. Let’s keep the math simple and say that the most you can sell a glass of OJ for is $1.00. After that, the demand starts to decrease and it doesn’t matter if you sell that juice in Illinois or Oklahoma, you still only get a dollar. From that dollar you have to deduct all your costs of which shipping and storage is a big part. Add in everything else that it takes to get a glass of OJ to Chicago or Tulsa and you have a lot less profit than if you sold that same glass of OJ in say, Fort Lauderdale or Orlando.
As for me and a lot of people like me, Big Citrus never sold us anything because we had plenty of our own. Yet pound for pound, or more accurately fluid once for fluid once, Floridians represented the most lucrative citrus market of all. Shipping and storage cost were all but nothing. However, private tree owners like me weren’t buying juice. If anything, we were selling it or worse yet, giving it away. Big Citrus had a big problem but what could they possibly do? Step in Jeb and his government authorized tree stealing company, Asplundh.
The Asplundh tree removal service arrived at my door three separate times. The first time I answered the door wearing my sidearm. The crew leader and his cohorts didn’t look overly impressed with the gesture, probably because it wasn’t the first time it happened. But they got the message and turned back, got into their trucks, and drove away. Here’s an interesting fun fact. Have you ever seen an Asplundh truck? They’re orange! The irony was cruel. In all honesty, it didn’t go quite as smoothly as the Reader’s Digest version might imply, but at the end of the day, I made sure that my poor trees would live to see another sunrise.
A week or so later I received a letter explaining how illegal it was to hinder a government contractor in the process of executing its contractual duties. About a week after that they arrived again. This time I answered the door with my sidearm drawn, but pointing down. I didn’t have to say a word. The orange trucks left. Two days later, the orange trucks were back but this time there was another vehicle leading the way, a BSO (Broward Sheriff’s Office) cruiser. They stopped in front of my house and the Sheriff got out; the tree thieves stayed in their orange trucks.
At the time I was living in Broward County hence the BSO officer walking up to my front door. I knew he was there, I knew the tree thieves were there, but I waited until he knocked and announced himself before I answered the door. I used the time to decide whether or not to arm myself. I wisely decided not to. The officer and I had a long discussion and to his credit, he was very polite, sympathetic, and maybe even empathetic, but the law is the law, and Jeb Bush’s debt to Big Citrus was going to be paid off in part, with my trees.
By now you’re probably wondering how Jeb Bush was able to justify coming into my backyard and stealing $15,000.00 worth of citrus trees. Furthermore, he did it with the BSO’s blessing. Hell, I couldn’t even call the police to report a robbery; the police were already assisting in the crime. There had to be a perfectly logical reason for this travesty of justice, something for the greater good, something justifiable, something other than . . . politics.
Well, there was. It’s called Citrus Canker. Big Citrus and therefore, Jeb Bush, said that in order to protect the commercial groves from canker, they had to eradicate the infected trees in the surrounding area. So they drew circles on a map and said any trees that were infected within those circles had to be removed. Why circles and not squares or triangles? Beats-the-shit-out-of-me. Following their logic, any shape would have worked.
After drawing their circles and settling on a pattern, it was time to send out the inspectors. Sure enough, all the trees growing within these circles were found to be sick and had to be destroyed. Also birds, bugs, and other tree dwelling species could pick up the canker and spread it, so just to be safe they had to draw more circles. Then, just to be sure they didn’t miss anything; they drew more circles around those. It was like giant sunflowers were springing up all over the map of Florida and these horrific flowers had only one purpose, to devour every privately owned citrus tree they could find.
If even just one sick tree was found in a circle, all the trees in that circle had to be removed. And then they would draw more circles around that to continue the process. I guess things weren’t going fast enough for Big Citrus so they started drawing circles in areas where no canker was found. Regardless of whether a tree was sick or not, if it was within two circles of a sick tree, it was removed. How big was a circle? It was as big as it had to be in order to contain an infected tree. The circles got bigger and more numerous by the day. I’ll bet that there was an official state certified Office of Circle Drawing in charge of the process, because Jeb was determined to pay back his debt as soon as possible. Technically, that’s an honorable personality trait to have, except when through eminent domain, you steal other people’s property to do it.
It took a few years but eventually, the privately owned trees were gone. My trees were not sick, nor were they lucky. In the end, there was nothing I could do to save them. A circle was drawn and they had to go. It was a sad day. I never tasted fruit juice like that again, and I probably never will. But that isn’t even the worst part. The worst part was the slap in the face Jeb gave me after he stole my trees. My payment for $15,000.00 worth of fruit trees was a Wal-Mart gift card for $100.00 which came with a stipulation; it could not be used to buy another citrus tree.
The story goes on and there is more to tell. Like the fact that most of the people who could afford to defend their trees in court were successful. In fact, if you did sue, the state would usually back off, but you had to have the money to go forward with a real legal challenge. Why did the state back down? Because a lot of these challenges were bring hidden truths to light like the fact that the source of the canker was the groves and not the surrounding privately owned trees. And the fact that canker does absolutely nothing to harm the tree or the fruit, it’s simply cosmetic and the juice is fine. I ask you, when if ever, have you taken a look at the orange that went into your Tropicana? If you did, I’ll bet it still has some black spots on it. That’s the citrus canker.
The bottom line for us average Joes and Josephines was simple. We got a big FU from Brother Jeb, and $100.00 Wal-Mart gift card for taking it with a smile. Oh, and in case you were wondering, that wasn’t one gift card per tree, it was one card per property containing trees. Add to that a life-long tariff of having to pay retail premiums for over processed Shit Orange Juice and you have a pretty good reason not to vote for Jeb.
Just between me and you, sometimes I wish I never owned those trees; you can’t miss what you never knew. So take it from someone who really knows, and still remembers, store bought OJ or grapefruit juice really is shit. You might as well save your money and drink Tang. I do.
Go get’em Trump . . . and FU-Jeb!