Those of us interested in finding a solution to our recurring water quality problems, which is just about all of us, were happy to see, during this Inauguration week, our new Governor Ron DeSantis speak of keeping some of his lofty campaign promises regarding the environment. He promised to fight toxic blue-green algae, discharges from Lake Okeechobee and red tide.
All music to the ears of those of us on the coast. But still, just words. The coming weeks will tell. Thursday morning the new governor made a tour of the west coast, starting at the FGCU’s Vester Marine and Environmental Science Research Field Station, announcing his new water policy. Too late for this issue, but watch for a report online and in next week’s issue. The resignations of some key people from the South Florida Water Management District board (SFWMD) bodes well also. With all seats appointed by the Governor, could they have seen the writing on the wall?
Or maybe they heard Congressman Brian Mast’s mid-December call for the entire nine-member board to resign. He attended the November SFWMD meeting in which the board voted to sign a lease with Florida Crystals that could delay the building of the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir. The lease was put on the agenda at 9pm the night before the meeting. Mast, serving as head of DeSantis’ environmental transition team, attended as a representative of DeSantis to ask the board to delay the vote until DeSantis had a chance to review it. And still, they voted to approve the lease. That’s some kind of arrogance. Shortly after the board approved the lease, Mast called for their resignations noting that the board was not responsive to the people they serve.
While he can toss them all any time he wants, and that’s not a bad idea, DeSantis has the chance to solidify his environmental position in March when three seats are up for appointment. The SFWMD board does not have a single representative of the fishing or boating sector. It does not have single person whose primary mission is environmental preservation. It is filled with lawyers, real estate and agricultural industry representatives, hardly representative of the counties the board represents.
Show that you’re serious about our environment Governor DeSantis, put people on key boards that actually care about the environment.
And before we leave the realm of former Governor, now Senator, Rick Scott, how about those dozens of appointments he made as he left the state? First, he delayed being sworn into the Senate to remain Governor for every minute he had been elected to serve, then after 8 years in office, he waits until the last few days to drop dozens of appointments. Nearly 100 were appointed to boards, committees and courts. Some will require Senate confirmation and DeSantis has already said he will rescind some of the appointments. Maybe Scott is where the members of the SFWMD board picked up their arrogance.
Once an election is over, the hard work begins, for the voters and for those they were elected to serve. Voters must keep watch over their elected officials to see that they do what they promised, follow through with actions to support the words we all heard for months before the election.
Too often, voters are passionate about an election but when it’s all over, they fade away. Elected officials know this, so do lobbyists who will be laser-focused on those elected officials after the election. Voters should be also. If you want elected officials to serve you and your community you must stay in touch with them on a regular basis. Let them know what you and your community need from the government elected to serve you.
We’ve got a new slate of state officials. Let them hear you. Let them know how important the environment is to the economic health of our community.