As the call for political activism has grown louder and wider in the past few years, most of us have seen or heard people urging us to call our political representatives to let them know how we feel about certain issues. But what if doing so could land you in court for defamation?
That’s what happened to Maggy Hurchalla, a long-time environmental activist who served as Martin County’s first female commissioner from 1974 to 1994 when she lost to a candidate who was heavily backed by developers.
Hurchalla has spent most of her life fighting to protect the Florida environment from developers. In the 20 years she spent as a county commissioner, growth and development did happen, but as Hurchalla put it, it happened slowly, “sanely”, and in a way that would not have a negative impact on Florida’s environment.
In 2008, Lake Point, a rock-mining company, bought 2,200 acres of what used to be sugar cane fields in Martin County, not far from Lake Okeechobee. Lake Point wanted to mine for limestone and use the leftover pits to store and clean polluted lake water, which would otherwise be flushed down the St. Lucie Estuary and contribute to toxic algae blooms, which are already a problem. The project was approved by both Martin County and the South Florida Water Management District.
That all sounds like a good thing for the environment, but according to Hurchalla, she became troubled when, a few years later, the company offered to sell that water to the city of West Palm Beach. Hurchalla and Martin County officials were not convinced that the plan would really benefit the environment. Continue reading ›