October 26, 2014

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Icon: Wade L. Hopping

Born Aug. 12, 1931; died Aug. 11, 2009 -- Former Florida Supreme Court justice, lobbyist; Tallahassee

Cynthia Barnett | 10/1/2009


[Photo: Barry Gross]
Wade L. Hopping was perhaps the best-known lobbyist for developers in the state and was a key player in modern Florida history, beginning as an adviser to Gov. Claude Kirk in the 1960s. Florida Trend Senior Writer Cynthia Barnett had interviewed Hopping in 2003 on behalf of UF’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and was preparing to interview him for this feature when he died. The following is excerpted from the 2003 interview. Read the full interview here.

» My father owned a series of restaurants and bars, mostly family bars. One of my dad’s bars, the Zombie Bar, had the first TV in Dayton, Ohio.

» I’ve always been personally conservative. Not politically conservative as much as personally conservative. I remember when I was doing things for Claude Kirk, one of my friends said to me, ‘Hopping, you’re a latent liberal’ — because I was always thinking of these ideas that would move things forward. I’m very much for investing in infrastructure.

» I got involved in the YMCA summer camps and eventually worked my way up to being a counselor. That kept me from really going off the deep end because we didn’t really have much supervision from my mother. She was a very beautiful woman, and when she was divorced, there were a lot of guys around. I was a latch-key kid, and a pretty bad latch-key kid. I mean, she’d go off for two or three days. It was tough sometimes. It was unsettling, but you learn to make do and you develop some initiative. I think there were some close calls when you’re alone between 11 and 20.

» I went to college because my high school adviser told me not to. This guidance counselor said, ‘You really shouldn’t even think about going to college.’ She just made me so damn mad.

» I graduated from law school sort of in the middle of my class. They used to say in law school that the A students become professors, the B students become judges and the C students make a million dollars.

» I always laugh and say Claude Kirk had 100 original ideas a day. Now most people only have one original idea a year, maybe an original idea a month, but he had 100 of them. He thought every one of them was perfect. What he really needed that he didn’t have enough of were people to say, ‘hey, that’s a bad idea.’

» (Gov. Bob) Graham, God love him ... he didn’t have a successful relationship with the Legislature. He always had these great ideas, but they were great soaring ideas. He never could quite present a clear, concise agenda for them.

» When Lawton’s engaged (former Gov. Lawton Chiles) that guy’s a world beater. Toward the end, he was sometimes not engaged.

» The problem is that every level of government, state, regional and local, builds in additional process hurdles. So what happened in 1975 when we adopted the Growth Management Act, which required all local governments to adopt comprehensive plans, we should have abolished the DRI process. In 1985, when we amended the Growth Management Act and really polished it up, we should have repealed the DRI process.

» Republicans have this little bit of habit that I call the shoot, ready, aim habit.

» In some ways concurrency is a good idea (and) some ways it’s a bad idea. I mean, if your roads are at level (of) service E, why should I, as the incoming developer, bear the costs of bringing it to B? Or why should the new homeowners? The concept we had a lot of trouble getting people to understand is, hey, you aren’t costing the developers a dime ... it just increases the price of housing and lots.

» I’ve been a longtime advocate of increasing the sales tax.

» You know lawyers think they know everything and they think they can do anything, but planners are even worse. They think they know more about what the developer ought to do or what the public should have or what the local government ought to do than anyone else.

» A fundamental problem with all environmental regulation and growth management is none of these agencies trusts the other agencies’ judgment. And the environmentalists don’t trust anybody’s judgment.

» I sense there’s a general frustration in the state. There are a lot of people who now say, ‘Guys, we’ve got too many people. Where are we going here?’ I have that sense of frustration some. I think until we change our tax structure, we are not going to take care of that problem. We need a generation of political martyrs to do it because they’ll be out of office. We’ve got to do something about the homestead exemption, we’ve got to do something about the bankruptcy law that allows people to hide money down here, and I think we’ve got to do something about funding our infrastructure, which means increase taxes.

» I always say that government is like kudzu — you’ve got prune it back every year, or it will grow right over you. I think we’ll be tinkering with it forever.

Tags: Politics & Law, Florida Icon, Big Bend, Government/Politics & Law

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