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At a news conference Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, at Flagler Place in Stuart, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced new water policies and asked all South Florida Water Management District board members to resign. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis, on his third day on the job, asked for the immediate resignations of all South Florida Water Management District board members during a news conference in Stuart.

The Senate would have to remove any board members who refuse, such as Vice Chair Brandon Tucker of Palm City, who said he plans to serve the last two years of his term.

"I believe I made a commitment to serve out my term," Tucker told TCPalm. "I haven't had an opportunity to meet with the governor and his staff and tell them about the issues and my positions on them."

Tucker said he wasn't surprised by DeSantis' request. "Everybody figured it was coming," Tucker said. "But I don't believe it was correct."

Tucker said he had "no idea" how the other members of the board will react to the governor's request. "I can't speak for them," he said.

Former Vice Chair Melanie Peterson, a Realtor in Palm Beach County, resigned Jan. 1.

Terms of three other members expire in March:

  • Sam Acursio, a Miami-Dade County farmer
  • Rick Barber, a Lee County engineer
  • James Moran, a Palm Beach County attorney

Thursday's action was the result of a controversial Nov. 8 vote to lease land needed for the EAA reservoir to a Florida Crystals subsidiary — after DeSantis asked the board to postpone the vote to give him and the public more time to vet the lease.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City and chair of DeSantis' environmental advisory committee, called the board members "arrogant" and "derelict in their duties."

“For far too long the South Florida Water Management District has been more accountable to special interests than to the people of Florida," Mast said in a news release Thursday. "That changes today, and I look forward to continuing to work with Gov. DeSantis to find replacements who make our waterways and environment the No. 1 priority.”

State Sen. Gayle Harrell said she’s interested to see who DeSantis appoints to the board, but did not say if she supports the resignation call.

“It’s an exciting time. When you have this large transition of new agency heads, of boards, it’s really a new day. I think we need to be optimistic as we move forward. I think there will be a balance of new people on that board to have good, solid policy.“

Water policy announced

DeSantis, along with First Lady Casey DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, had three news conferences Thursday, in Bonita Springs, then Sarasota, then Stuart.

At the first two, he unveiled an executive order focused on several water policies, including major increases in Everglades restoration funding and a blue-green algae task force.

The executive order: 

  •  Dedicates $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources. It's a $1 billion increase in spending over the previous four years and the highest level of funding for restoration in Florida’s history.
  • Creates a Blue-Green Algae Task Force, charged with focusing on expediting progress toward reducing the adverse impacts of blue-green algae blooms now and over the next five years.
  •  Instructs the South Florida Water Management District to immediately start the next phase of the EAA reservoir design and ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves the project according to schedule.
  •  Creates an Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency, charged with organizing and directing integrated scientific research and analysis to ensure that all agency actions are aligned with key environmental priorities.
  •  Appoints a chief science officer to coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis of needs to ensure alignment with current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.
  •  Expedites key Everglades projects including the C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area, C-43 reservoir, Tamiami Trail and additional projects necessary to protect waterways.
  •  Directs the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to establish a septic conversion and remediation grant program with a local government match requirement.
  •  Creates the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to help prepare Florida’s coastal communities and habitats for impacts from sea level rise by providing funding, technical assistance and coordination among state, regional and local entities.
  •  Directs state agencies to take necessary actions to adamantly oppose all offshore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.

"Our water and natural resources are the foundation of our economy and our way of life in Florida," DeSantis said in a news release. "The protection of water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state. That’s why today I'm taking immediate action to combat the threats which have devastated our local economies and threatened the health of our communities."

Environmentalists respond

Environmentalists had mixed opinions about the executive order.

Sierra Club Florida expressed both cheers and jeers, saying it supports the:

  • Focus on nutrient pollution
  • DEP science office
  • Expedited Everglades restoration projects
  • Septic conversion program
  • Commitment to enforce environmental regulations
  • Additional stormwater treatment for the C-43 reservoir
  • Commitment to protect Apalachicola River and  stop Georgia's water withdrawals.

“In his first week in office, Gov. DeSantis has done more to address Florida’s water quality crisis than Gov. Rick Scott did in eight years,” chapter director Frank Jackalone said in a news release. 

But the group said more needs to be done, including redesigning the EAA reservoir to curb Lake Okeechobee discharges so it's wider and shallower, and buying more land to treat the reservoir water before releasing it to the Everglades.

Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg also applauded DeSantis for addressing toxic algal blooms so quickly after being sworn in Tuesday. 

"With this pen, with the signing of this executive order, our governor in less than 48 hours after taking his hand off the Bible has set in motion an aggressive, comprehensive plan to solve these issues," Eikenberg said in Bonita Springs. In a later Facebook post, he said, "This is the first governor who has demonstrated that key link between our environment, tourism and our tax base." 

Julie Wraithmell, executive director of Audubon Florida, called the executive order an important step forward for the entire state.

"Our water issues are many. They come from many causes, and while there's no single smoking gun and no single silver bullet, we need to address all the problems that we're facing," Wraithmell said in Bonita Springs. "This broad platform is moving us towards that bright future, and this really what we need to see from our state going forward."

Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director Aliki Moncrief said there are many great ideas in the executive order and she's hopeful, but she's waiting to see if they're executed properly. 

"At the end of the day, the executive order is a collection of words though, it's not an action in and of itself," she said. 

She said DeSantis should also: support ongoing efforts in the Legislature to ban fracking; appoint people with strong science backgrounds; address climate change more thoroughly, looking at its causes rather than just establishing task forces to battle rising sea levels.

Bullsugar policy director Alex Gillen said acknowledging the human health impact of the algal blooms and recommending new SFWMD board members is "the most important thing" DeSantis could have done to address the blooms.

"Gov. DeSantis’ focus on scientific and operational solutions suggests that the state is finally poised to take action to protect people in the near-term from toxic blooms and the environmental and economic damage caused by our water management decisions. We’re looking forward to real action from Tallahassee on stopping discharges and restoring the flow of clean freshwater to the Everglades." U.S.

DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein thanked DeSantis for giving his agency additional funding and support to address water issues.

“What you see here today is the idea of urgency and working together to achieve more to protect our environment,” Valenstein said at the Bonita Springs event.

Many Florida environmentalists and newspaper editorial boards have called on DeSantis top keep his campaign promises and make clean water a priority.

Democrats respond 

Florida Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson said she's encouraged by the announcement, but concerned it will cut into other programs and could cost too much for financially strained local governments.

In a news release, Gibson asked the source of increased Everglades restoration funding, and whether other state programs will suffer as a result. 

She was also skeptical about septic conversions, asking how costs would be covered and whether poor homeowners would be able to afford it.

“The policies of the past administration have taken a terrible toll on our natural resources, to say nothing of the impact on our marine life," Gibson said in the news release. “But an executive order has to have more than just lofty goals, or admirable pursuits. It has to have the details we need to judge whether these goals are doable without hammering local governments and families throughout Florida with expenses they cannot possibly afford."

Mast criticized Democrats in a tweet. 

"Sadly, the partisan finger pointing continues. The exec order this morning is strong action & if it had been done by a Dem gov, they would be heaping praise," Mast said. "Enough with the politics - our water is too important to succumb to political games." 

full story:

Sunday, 23 August 2015 10:22

To the wise leaders of our great nation

To the wise leaders of our great nation and to those in other nations who follow the lead of America:

Many talks are debating and floating about in our present political system regarding how illegal aliens could get permanent resident status in our country.

Sunday, 16 August 2015 16:17

Plotting to dethrone Donald Trump

It is fairly obvious, to me at least, that the GOP is secretly plotting to dethrone Donald Trump in any way they can...and the debate was a direct indication of just that!! Trump is a threat to the political mafia that has entrenched itself in Washington, D.C. IF we let the media and/or big business dictate who 'We The People' elect for President then we deserve what will be forthcoming.
Only the intelligent will see through this fiasco and elect a person who will have the best interests of the common person in mind...the rest will be politically correct 'puppets'. Trump/Carson for me! Let's take back America and make it GREAT again...we are currently the laughing stock of the entire world.

Fred Cainz

How many Africans landed in North America during the slave trade? "Only about 388,000," says Henry Louis Gates (who is African American). Source: The Root.

"Even if all slaveholders had been white, that would amount to only 1.4 percent of whites in the country (or 4.8 percent of southern whites owning one or more slaves).The country's leading African American historian, Duke University professor John Hope Franklin, records that in New Orleans over 3,000 free blacks owned slaves, or 28 percent of the free blacks in that city." Source: Robert M. Grooms "DIXIE'S CENSORED SUBJECT---BLACK SLAVEOWNERS."

Nearly 50% of the US came here AFTER the Civil War. None owned slaves.

Thugs are holding black culture hostage. When free education (paid by taxpayers) is ignored & refused, and no one calls BS, black culture loses. When jobs are ignored and refused, black culture loses. When an aggressive 300 lb. thug is "a gentle giant," despite video proof of felony strong arm robbery, black culture loses. When obeying the law is "discrimination" (unbelievable), black culture loses. When riots, looting and arson are "protesting", black culture loses. When voting is too much effort, black culture loses.When the black community stops protecting thugs, black lives will improve dramatically. At some point, the excuses have to stop.

Lou Graves

Ed. Note: While we agree that there is a disproportionate amount of leeway given to the "Gangster/Thug" culture permeating black communities by our politically correct leaders and mainstream media; we also want to remind readers that black culture has also enriched our society in many fields. Few would disagree that jazz music, for example, is revered throughout the civilized world and is noted for its intellectual gravity. There are many educated and socially responsive people in black communities that can't stand the thugs or gangster lifestyles that are used by many to "typify" all blacks. But it is also true that they, like all of us, must do more to condemn those who glorify violence, flagrantly break our common laws, denigrate common courtesy and rip-off our tax dollars by scamming the system to get what they don't earn. This goes for all races in our opinion. Let all good people be heard with a common voice. Thank you for your comment.

Sunday, 16 August 2015 15:39

How's the country was going?

You asked us how we thought the country was going and if we felt confidence in the system. I thought I'd answer you.

Every election year my husband and I debate on which candidate may be the lesser of the evils; no good choices, just forced to somehow pick a leader of our country out of a pile of crooks. I'll admit to reluctantly voting for Obama the first round; he sure was a trickster, huh? He speaks well, have to give him that; had us both fooled. Lesson learned, as he was probably the biggest liar of the bunch! We simply feel like victims every election year, having to choose in this way.

When Trump announced that he was running, we laughed and thought it was a good joke and kept waiting for the punch line. After watching Donald and listening to what he had to say (difficult because he can be ridiculous in his comments and extremely animated to a fault - I don't like him); all we could say was, "Wow, hope this guy is serious about running!" Every time I hear him speak, it hits home. The content, the passion and common sense - he could sit in conversation at our dinner table and fit in every time. He's addressing what he knows Americans are concerned about and sick and tired of. He's calling out the media and their detriment to this country. He's calling out the BS of the politicians and describing how they've wrecked this country. He's calling out the horrible policies or lack there of on illegal immigration. He doesn't want my money in his own pocket, he has his own and he's worked hard for it like we have. He isn't reading statements or following queue cards, he's speaking from his bare intellect and heart - and if anyone does this, they'll eventually stick a foot in the mouth; but Donald couldn't have achieved what he has without knowing people and how to talk and negotiate with them. We need him.

Like him or not, he's telling it like it is! I've never seen this and I love it! It's all we want - someone to be honest and stop treating "the people" like we're a bunch of idiots and like we're too dumb to see what's happening in our own country. Our current leaders have ignored the great words and even warnings handed to us from our forefathers and they've destroyed the dream. Trump is reminding us of those promises for America! He doesn't care who likes it or not and he doesn't back down! This is history folks... politics will never be the same whether he's the next president or not and we can thank Donald for that - the political crooks have had their bubbles busted and their BS handed back to them already.

No prior candidate has moved me on a personal level like Donald Trump (obviously, I know). I talk to people that can't get past his abrasive personality only to find out that they haven't listened to what he's saying. Stop and truly think about what we want for this country and for future then listen, listen, listen... if you love the USA,vote Trump 2016!

Michelle and Ray Cummngs

Your editorial on the sickness of political correctness and how it has impacted our society was thought provoking. Political correctness and the over-feminization of our culture has led us to a sad point in our history. If we had this culture in the late 50s and early 60s, we would have never gotten to the moon or developed an aircraft like the SR71 in 18 months. Perception, self marketing, personal sensitivity, over-involvement without qualifications and character assassination for every slight and flaw are now more important than substance. Errors by the politically correct are ignored or downplayed while those who oppose are subjected to the most extreme ridicule and character assassination. The intense unfiltered dialog needed for free idea generation and problem solving is not possible when you must focus so much energy on how things may be interpreted or if they are out of bounds given the PC norm. Michael Bayhough

Sunday, 16 August 2015 15:11

Former Beach Chamber Chairman Replies

Thank you Sun Bay paper for your extensive article on the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce. I have been an outed member of the Chamber for over 3 years now and I have often wondered how the Chamber was making efforts to pay back the Foundation for all of the money owed. It appears from the article that they only feel the short term loan "so they were able to make payroll" is all they are owning up to for their debt and that is a complete shame. The thousands and thousands of dollars that was essentially taken from the foundation so they could remain in good standings with the bank while the Chamber of Commerce did regular business as usual without paying any money back is such a crime! They had a CONTRACT WITH A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION that was not honored and it needs to be paid back!!!!

I look forward to your future investigation on the "Bambi" topic as I see this as a fleecing of its membership and to all those who gave their money to this project. I remember it was Bud's dream to have a operations center that would be mobile where it would be place in Times Square and down at Santini in order to cover the entire island. To date, the only place they have covered is the parking lot covered at the Adventist Community Services. "I wonder how many people pull in there to get beach information?" Hard to tell as it is gated off most days. To me, I think that $30,000 should have been spent paying back the foundation who actually does something for the beach. How about the $50,000 they get every year from the Sandsculpting event, where does that money go? That is $50,000 more than when I was there and we made the mortgage payment. They have smaller accommodations, less bills and more money coming in.... Where is it going? I think there needs to be more transparency on the Chambers part. They act less like an organization for the businesses and more like a secret society as of late. I wonder if their board knows how much money they owe? Are the financials even being discussed at their meeting any longer? I have often wondered how are they paying rent at their new location? If they couldn't pay anything at the prior location, how can they afford to do so at the new location? Questions we will probably never have the answers for!

Andrew Cochrane
2010 Chairman of the Board
Greater Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce

Wednesday, 12 August 2015 14:10

What are Your Excuses for Not Investing?

We all make excuses. Most of the time, they're pretty harmless. But you could be hurting yourself if you make excuses for not taking action in some areas – and one of those areas in investing.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015 13:58

Bonita Fire Board Votes for New Station

The Bonita Springs fire board voted this week to build a new station on east Bonita Beach Road.

Since America severed its ties with England and launched the Revolution, our skepticism for lavish spending often borders on contemptuous. We may admire a self-made person who owns lavish homes or jet-sets around the globe but we don't like to see our elected leaders living in the lap of luxury on tax payer dollars. So it should come as no surprise to see an uproar in the media over how much our current Commander-in Chief and his family is spending on travel. It is, to put it mildly, a pretty penny.

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