If Puerto Rico didn’t get what it needed after Hurricane Maria, that’s a learning experience for everyone and doesn’t reflect on all that Florida Gov. Rick Scott did, and if Florida is experiencing its worst red tides in decades, that doesn’t reflect all that Scott did either.
At a U.S. Senate campaign rally in the Puerto Rico sector of Orlando Tuesday, Scott defended his administration’s record for addressing the water management issues that lead to the Lake Okeechobee discharges, and his administration’s increased investments in efforts to address the algae blooms. But he also blamed nature for the red tides and said, for now, only easterly winds could fix them.
Scott also took praise for his administration’s efforts to help Puerto Rico from the commonwealth’s Lt. Gov. Luis Rivera Marín and other supportive Puerto Ricans in Orlando, who said he helped make life easier on the island and for those who evacuated to Florida.
“It was thanks to the leadership of Rick Scott, a friend, a friend of Puerto Rico,” Rivera Marín said.
And during a brief press availability Scott highlighted Florida’s efforts to help its neighbor, and allowed that if the hurricane response was not all it could be, it was a learning experience. He declined to say much more in response to a question about the federal response to Puerto Rico’s difficult recovery. He also did not elaborate on the statements he made last week disagreeing with President Donald Trump, who had suggested all went well, and that death counts were exaggerated by his political opponents.
“What you do is you learn,” Scott said of the response to Hurricane Maria, which hit a year ago Thursday.
“I think all of us can do a better job of, one, getting services faster to Puerto Rico. We know it’s more difficult because it’s an island. We could pre-position things better,” Scott said. “Clearly the island has been struggling with a utility system that was already struggling… But we have got to get services there faster. Hopefully, everybody has learned how to do that.
“As a U.S. Senator, I’ll do everything I can to help build their economy,” Scott added.
There was no mention Wednesday of the red tides that plague Florida and led to Scott facing large protests in his home territory of Southwest Florida earlier, except from a media question. And on that, too, Scott suggested his administration was doing all that could be expected and more, touting increases over time in environmental spending. He also took shots at his opponent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whom he said was doing nothing in Washington.
But ultimately Scott blamed nature, and said that the only thing that could help now is easterly winds.
“It’s horrible. The red tide is horrible,” Scott said. “I think all of us hope the red tide would be gone. It’s naturally occuring. It’s part of the gulf. It’s been around. We’ve had records of it since the 1840s. We’ve done a lot. But it’s not gone, right?
“We need really good easterly winds right now,” he added.
As for the protesters who reportedly all but overwhelmed his stops in southwest Florida, Scott offered that they were exercising their rights.
After the rally, at the Rigo Tile Gallery Orlando, there were just a dozen or so protesters of the state’s response to the red tides and algae blooms. The protesters actually may have caused less of a scene than a few heated exchanges that took place prior to the rally in the overwhelmed parking lot, as the campaign’s advance people tried to control the flow, with traffic gridlocking in the lot and backing up onto the busy Goldenrod Road.