EDITOR’S NOTE: The following opinion piece was writing by the Hon. Jason Maughan, Sanibel City Councilman. The Santiva Chronicle publishes opinions and letters on topics that are important to Sanibel and Captiva. They may be submitted via our email contact form.
To say that the sun shone brightly in Tallahassee Tuesday, January 8, 2019, would be meteorologically and metaphorically accurate. It was a beautiful sunny day when Babs and I were seated, with no small selfish pride I will admit, directly adjacent to the stage. We were fortunate as only three thousand had been invited from a starting list of 130,000 party faithful wishing to attend. It was a changing of the guard and clean sweeping away of the political “programs” that contributed greatly to our economic devastation through Tallahassee lobbyists and the local government enablers rationalizing their relationships. Then, as if to highlight this new political truth, that singular gentleman Alligator Ron Bergeron was seated to our right. Alligator Ron’s family has been in Florida since the 1800’s and no one knows more about the ‘Glades and conservation than our Ron and he is also a nationally respected Developer whose opinions should be noted by the wise. We talked about Big Cypress Swamp water quality, where he owns large tracks of land (my son and I had just spent New Year’s Day hunting there with Captiva’s Lt. Mike Sawicki), and I complimented him on his insightful commentaries at the recent Governor’s Environmental Transition Committee Meetings. Around us the Army Band played beautiful and inspirational music in the background, a little too loudly when you’re up front by the speakers; I made a mental note about humility and my pride at our location.
It was in that positive moment anticipating the long-awaited inauguration, in my opinion of our island’s future, that we observed the procession of dignitaries cross the stage escorted by Florida National Guard Officers. For a lawyer like myself there was the Supreme Court Justices, resplendent in black. There were prior Governors’ Graham, Martinez and Bush, and a good friend and legal colleague I started my career under, the Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp. Then there was the very capable Judge Ashley Moody and her family, ready to accept the mantle as our new Attorney General as well as the popular Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who’s young son clung happily, and securely, to his leg during the swearing in process. Jeanette Nunez stood and radiated the confidence she will bring to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, a confidence well-earned as she is expected to be one of our most active LG’s and has already taken up the reins on Healthcare issues for the Governor. All were joined by their families making it a truly a family gathering, but the main event was the First Family and they were about to deliver. Had Ron DeSantis not won the Election by ballot, then in a past millennia this would have been the moment he was elevated by Acclamation; the gathered Legions were about to roar their approval. Appearing at the top of the steps of the Old Capitol and pausing humbly to survey the crowd was a young and decisive Governor Ron DeSantis and the charming and lovely First Lady Casey DeSantis. Clearly moved by the outpouring, they paused and with one near sheepish wave to the assembled the sound rose to a deafening crescendo – I suddenly missed the Army Band. Once the oaths of Office were solemnly taken, the National Guard’s Artillerymen decided they were not to be outdone by the Army Band and set to their Howitzer commencing the 21 gun salute, which then caused four fighter pilots from a National Guard Fighter Wing to fly over and see what all the hubbub was about – this in fairness was our favorite part and there was not an arm hair laying down within sight of that beautiful martial display of Honor and Respect.
It is important to note at this point, that this day was brought about in no small part by the efforts of Island families and Lee County voters at large as our County’s high turnout in support of Ron carried the day in this Governor’s race statewide. It was the leadership and energy of Sanibel resident Anthony Farhat of PGI Homes, with the support of his wonderful wife Tia and their two boys in the Sanibel School, who refused to accept the predetermined election of Sugar backed candidates this year that rallied our troops. Together with Jeff Powers, Chauncey Goss, myself and too many dear friends to name here, we resolved in the Spring of 2018 to go all in to win the Governor’s race and force immediate action on clean water by Executive Order. This resolve was driven by the inexplicable decision of very nearly every other local politicians’ decision to support Big Sugar’s chosen candidate Adam Putnam. That support was patently opposed to their citizens’ wishes on water quality and against the best interest of local businesses, our economy and communities. With the grim determination of parents who can see their children’s future disappearing before their eyes, we made large personal investments, created local candidate events, raised well over seven figures and opened many speeches and rallies. We suffered, as the Bard would say, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” being literally laughed at for our idealism given DeSantis was more than 20 points down in the Primary. What we had though was an honest candidate who was committed to SWFL and I had my personal promise that the Water Management District will be replaced with appointees who cared about the Riverine and Coastal communities. Ron DeSantis’ honesty and commitment to fixing our problems and demanding results, instead of photo-ops, brought us to a stunning Primary win of 57 to 36. This represented a swing of over 40 points from our starting point – a blow cleanly struck for the new generation of leadership in SWFL politics.
After the Army Band’s Intermission Assault, I mean Act, and before the Governor’s Speech, we were ready to listen. What really matters at these events is the Speech and traditionally it is a clear menu of what will be served up during a Term. I for one was waiting with bated breath since my Democrat friends had assured me, he would never come through as promised, but I already knew they couldn’t be more wrong about that. The speech was a love song to water quality, conservation, economic activity driven by nature and protecting citizens access to our God given natural resources. The connection between tourism and water quality was absolute in his analysis, as were low taxes, and that by protecting our natural beauty tourism would save Floridians from tax increases by spreading the costs to visiting non- residents. Acceptance that tourism, not subsidies, anchors local economies and increases property values for all was key. As he humorously explained via a Yogi Berra aphorism: if people don’t want to come nobody is going to stop them. The 40-year-old new Governor then made it clear that the role of government was to serve the people and that those who were not representing the people they were put there to represent in good faith would be removed. Not because of wild eyed environmentalists (my characterization), in the case of SFWMD, but because the District had failed to do its’ job as chartered – that is the cancer to be excised, terrible water quality and economic damage are the symptoms of leaving that cancer in place (my summary). Projects that have been stalled to move water South are going forward, now, and now means Now in this Governor’s opinion. He then fell back on his abiding faith and challenged: “We resolve to leave Florida to God better than we found it. There endeth the Speech. Now, there were other important conservative issues raised that I support completely, but that were not as important to our Barrier Islands as water quality and our towns’ economies. By example, if anyone is planning a Sanctuary City you can forget that now and Sheriffs that are more concerned with their lives than little children’s will be looking for new jobs elsewhere – rightly so.
Subsequent to the Inauguration, we have seen that this is the most determined Governor in recent history, he has signed Executive Orders to compel advancement of the EAA Reservoir and demanded the resignation of the South Florida Water Management District Board entirely. With that intransigent obstacle to progress cleansed, we now have a fair chance to first solve and then remediate our water quality in South Florida. I for one have been repaid in full for my efforts on the campaign and all it required for our Governor and First Lady to accomplish were a couple of bright sunny days in Office.