Gov. Rick Scott, his eye on the Senate seat held by popular one-time astronaut Bill Nelson, has found in Hurricane Irma the perfect storm.
A menace to the entire state, Scott has commanded Florida’s attention through preparations, evacuations, aftermath, damage reviews, and now, relief efforts.
All the while, the climate-change denier wears a Navy cap that becomes him, hiding his baldness and giving him a man-at-work flair. Only the fine thread in his button-down shirt betrays his wealthy white-man privilege, but that’s something only a prickly journalist would notice.
In Miami, he jumps on the opportunity to show off gibberish that passes for Spanish. The fauna loves and praises the effort.
But what voters don’t see behind the endless photo ops, live shots, and television sound bites is that Scott and the parade of local and state politicians joining him in similar stunts are campaigning. They’re amassing media time, and most despicably of all, they’re controlling the information to serve their public-relations purposes.
What does this mean to you?
You’re not getting information from the ground when reporters are kept out of the state’s Emergency Management Office briefings, where real information about the storm is handled. You’re not getting information as quickly as it’s available.
You’re getting information — controlled, distilled, manipulated even — delivered by Scott and spokesmen in a way that makes him look like a hero in action.
What you’re getting is a long-running campaign ad Scott didn’t pay for — and that isn’t labeled as one. Don’t confuse a politician for a hero.
The governor is far from being the only politico grandstanding.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo showed up with staffers in one community he has voted to ruin and where he’s most loathed — lovely, tight-knit and hardworking Palm Springs North — to score points by staging a road-clearing spectacle with staff members dressed in bright orange shirts that said in huge bold navy-blue lettering: “Team BOVO.”
“Clearing a path on NW 178th Street to so that residents can have access. Me and my staff are here to help,” Bovo tweeted with before and after photos and video.
Residents who’ve begged him not to expose their community to the high traffic of a coming megamall and rampant development out west — to no avail — were not impressed.
“For the love of God,” said Loly Stack, a community activist. “We’ve been cleaning up ourselves. We’ve got people with tow trucks moving things off the road.”
Palm Springs North residents have learned from a lifetime of being shortchanged by the county not to count on government services.
“We’re not going to wait for the county,” Stack said. “There are a lot of areas that probably need more help. We do what we need to do to pass through the roads.”
Instead of empty grand gestures, they’d rather see Bovo actually listen and act in their best interests than use them as a social media prop.
Bovo won’t even help them get speed bumps after a speeding car slammed into a house, another resident and activist, Mercy Sierra, told me.
He stands with developers who bankroll his campaigns — and doesn’t lift a finger to pressure the rock-mining quarry destroying homes with blasting every weekday, skipping out on the problem because it’s a state-regulated industry. And he’s certainly not with people on the issue that matters most: overdevelopment ruining their lifetime investment, their homes, with the menace of unfathomable traffic.
He only represents the interests of Hialeah, where he lives and has his power base. And the commissioner thinks moving a couple of trees out of the way is going to cut it?
He doesn’t know Palm Springs North.
“A lot of us here have no power, no Wi-Fi, but the neighbors are fantastic helping everybody,” Sierra said Wednesday. “Neighbors brought supplies. Neighbors cleared the trees that fell on two bridges.”
That’s a community worth fighting for, yet ignored.
Judging by the shenanigans and the slow recovery after Irma — which only skirted South Florida with tropical storm winds and hurricane gusts — had we been hit by the Category 5 hurricane we expected, we’d be in distress and anguish for years.
But that isn’t stopping local and state politicians from an infuriating onslaught of public-relations moves that only serve as self-aggrandizement — and to hide the real hurricane relief problems they’ve yet to solve, like elderly public housing residents sleeping in the streets of Miami because their building isn’t safe.
Nor does their grandstanding help solve the ones they created before Irma with their votes.
Stop patting yourselves on the back, pols. You’re no heroes.