by Chris Massicotte
I will say up front that I am no fan of Ron DeSantis and the Republican controlled legislature. This legislative session saw Florida arming teachers, gutting the will of the people on Amendment 4 by making it harder for felons to regain their voting rights, and failing to protect LGBTQ rights by not passing a ban on conversion therapy.
But Gov. DeSantis has shown an affinity for the Keys. He visited the Keys early on into his term and announced that Monroe County would finally be reimbursed for Hurricane Irma cleanup. He also announced state funding for building more desperately needed workforce housing. Unlike his Democratic rival Andrew Gillum, Gov. DeSantis was reluctant to acknowledge human caused climate change, and the first debate featured a paltry 60 second discussion of the topic. Once in office, though, his pragmatism has taken priority. He is the first governor to appoint a Chief Science Officer to study the effects of climate change on Florida. He also vetoed a bill passed by the legislature that would overturn any local bans on plastic drinking straws. He also signaled that he would veto a ban on municipalities banning certain types of sunscreen in an effort to slow down the death of our coral reef. That bill, ultimately, failed to pass the legislature.
In short, this governor has done more to address climate change in four months than Rick Scott did in eight years. It’s a welcome surprise because while in Congress he had a measly 2% lifetime approval rating from the League of Conservation Voters.
We welcome the governor’s talk and study of climate change, but it is not enough. We need action, and funding. Out of a $91 billion state budget only $26 million was earmarked for sea level rise mitigation with Monroe County getting only a small portion of that. Water was peeking out of the storm drains in my neighborhood during a high tide last week, and when the heavy rains come, it takes longer and longer to drain away — talk to local folks from Reef Relief, the Coral Restoration Foundation or Mote Marine Laboratory, and the effects become clearer and more dire. When it came to funding red tide mitigation and prevention efforts, Florida got only $3 milion. We all know what caused the toxic algae bloom, and the agricultural companies who caused this should be forced to pay to prevent it from happening again, but that would mean standing up to a good number of the governor’s campaign donors. A healthy sea is vital to our way of life in the Keys. We should be grateful for what our governor has already done, but also push him to do more and lead on this issue.
There are two types of friends in Key West: the drinking buddy, who will smile when they see you, buy a round and enjoy the moment with you; then there are friends who will put you up for as long as you need if you fall on hard times, and help you get back on your feet. We need to be more than just drinking buddies with the governor. Thank you governor for the first round, but we may need to crash on your couch for a bit.
Christopher Massicotte is a Democratic strategist who lives in Washington, D.C. and Key West. He is an aspiring pescatarian, but it’s been hard with all the free chickens around town.