One of the things keeping Rick Scott busiest on the campaign trail is dodging protesters who have dubbed him “Red Tide Rick.”
The moniker has been taken up by thousands of Floridians who rightfully link the two-term governor — now trying for a career in the U.S. Senate — to the state’s water woes, including red tide and uncontrollable blooms of toxic blue-green algae on the east and west coasts. Scott also has cancelled an event in the Panhandle, where red tide has spread in the current, virtually unprecedented outbreak.
Last Tuesday Scott abruptly cancelled an appearance in his hometown, Naples, after he was confronted earlier in the day by protesters in Venice. Residents were up in arms over more than 60 tons of dead fish, sea turtles, manatees and bottlenose dolphins that have been removed from local beaches.
According to the Naples Daily News, “Later in the day Scott announced the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is providing an additional $4 million in grant funding to assist local communities affected by red tide.”
Don’t worry. DEP won’t be in any danger of a record-busting budget.
According to an Aug. 22 article in Florida Sportsman magazine, DEP — the state agency responsible for protecting Florida’s water, air and land — operated on an annual budget averaging $1.9 billion before Scott took office. Since then the agency’s staff has been cut from 3,600 employees to 2,930, with a budget of $1.53 billion.
That’s 20 percent less money and staff to handle the environmental stress of an additional 4.5 million residents since the turn of the century.
And that’s not the only problem. Since taking office, Scott cut $700 million from the budgets of Florida’s water management districts, including the South Florida Water Management District responsible for managing polluting discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Scott might claim he has increased the districts’ budgets, but they still are $400 million less than when he took office.
It’s little wonder Scott doesn’t like to face angry crowds. He has a lifetime history of never owning up to his record.