DeSantis, Biden hurricane recovery actions show how 2024 race might shape up
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The lion’s share of national attention on meeting President Joe Biden and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has speculated in the 2024 Theoretical Presidential Match. But for many in the Sunshine State, the duo standing together is another stark contrast, one that has nothing to do with presidential politics, but rather government efficacy.
DeSantis’ leadership since Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm whose strength and devastation rivals their predecessors like Andrew, Charlie and Michael, has earned high marks from unexpected sources. In the words of Biden, “what the governor has done is pretty cool.”
While Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach attracted most of the filming crew, the action on Pine Island was truly amazing. Pine Island is located off the coast of Fort Myers The largest barrier island in Florida. It is a working-class fishing village connected to the mainland by only one bridge – a structure that was badly damaged by the typhoon. They needed a boat or plane to get to the supplies, and Pine Island’s 9,000 residents were in a bad situation.
DeSantis did not wait for help from the federal government. On Monday, October 3, he announced plans to build a temporary bridge to Pine Island, and deployed more than 130 trucks from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), who worked around the clock. Less than three days later, the bridge was open to the public, well ahead of schedule. State government and state funds got the job done. Trucks from Publix that day were seen bringing much-needed supplies to the island shop.
In the words of FDOT Secretary Jared Purdue, “Once the governor gave us direction to work on this facility, we mobilized our contractor and internal forces throughout the entire state.”
It is an example of government working as it was intended: quickly and efficiently. Compare DeSantis’ actions to Biden’s words. The president spoke in the usual broad clichés about the federal government’s support for “immediate needs and long-term rebuilding,” adding, “We will be with you every step of the way.” Even while demonstrating a bipartisan spirit, Biden couldn’t resist bringing climate change into the narrative, a top priority for his political supporters but no concern for the thousands of Florida residents without water or electricity.
The arm of the federal government charged with the recovery effort, the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has long lost credibility with the American public, and with good reason. There are a number of failures to point out, but consider the events unfolding in Puerto Rico, where the US mainland is still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Maria’s destruction over five years ago.
In September, Dean Cresswell, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told El Nuevo Día, the island’s largest newspaper, that Puerto Rico was a “long-term model of recovery.” After nearly half a decade since Maria, the island’s electricity is unreliable. Power outages are still common. Less than a fifth of the recovery funds allocated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been spent. Corruption is rampant, as is the finger-and-blame game — and that was before Hurricane Fiona made landfall.
Two weeks after Fiona, more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans were still waiting for electricity to be restored. This is the example that FEMA considers a “model”. Nobody buys it, especially people whose lives are on the line.
As a Florida state member and former congressman, I’ve been through a lot of hurricanes. Beginning with Jeb Bush, every governor in our state has continually worked to improve our rebuilding and recovery efforts.
DeSantis’ leadership since Ian set a very high ceiling. When he and Biden stood together, their differences run the gamut, from political philosophy to age to personality and style. If they end up participating in a presidential debate stage in 2024, their joint appearance in Florida in 2022 will be heavily scrutinized. But even if they didn’t end up as their party’s presidential candidates, Florida residents saw the future, a future where government can make life better for the people it’s meant to serve through immediate action rather than hollow words and self. -Pity.