Noted greenie Ron DeSantis turned heads after taking office when he pledged to spend $2.5 billion over four years to clean up the Everglades and restore water quality in the state.
More than one editorial board suggested the new governor, a Republican, had done more for the environment in eight days than his Republican predecessor, Rick Scott, had in eight years.
Agreed and, no surprise, it came on the tail end of what was dubbed the Summer of Red Tide — more accurately, the Year.
Also in response to the crisis came a Water Quality Summit at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center. Four hours long, it attracted a huge crowd of nearly 600 people. Again, that was no huge surprise given the breadth and intensity of public reaction to the stinking algae bloom that littered beaches with dead fish and stifled the region’s tourism economy.
The initial idea for the Water Summit came from Charlotte County Commissioner Bill Truex, a builder from West County, the place most harmed by the red tide outbreak. He’s a proud conservative Republican.
One keynote panel featured state Rep. Michael Grant of Port Charlotte, a Republican whose position as party whip puts him high in the House leadership. With him was state Sen. Ben Albritton of Bartow. Again, a Republican.
Also well-represented at the summit were real estate and building industries and economic development officials. Hardly what immediately comes to mind when you think “green.”
You might ask: Is everyone an environmentalist now?
Short answer: So it seems.
One lesson that permeated the public consciousness during the Summer/Year of Red Tide in the Gulf and Green Slime from Lake Okeechobee was the need for environmental stewardship to maintain our quality of life and an economy that relies on tourists and snowbirds.
Green is not only morally right, but economically right. It’s good business. Hence, the embrace from the newly elected Republican governor and a realignment of the party of business.
As DeSantis noted early on, the early conservation movement received its biggest boost from progressive Republican President Theodore Roosevelt. Later in the 20th century, Republican Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the Clear Air Act. Only in recent decades have conservatives veered from conservation activism — a trend linked with their disdain for government regulation.
As House Speaker Tip O’Neill once said, though, all politics is local.
In Charlotte County, as we’ve noted before, the County Commission – all Republican – has been a strong force for environmental protection in recent years, strengthening fertilizer rules and enacting a beach-saving renourishment program, for example. Topping the list of smart environmental programs is the septic-to-sewer conversion of septic-heavy Port Charlotte.
Charlotte now has a long-range, section-by-section plan that began in the Spring Lake neighborhood and has moved on to El Jobean. Next in line are 1,337 homes in Ackerman-Countryman avenue area.
Not every homeowner appreciates the opportunity to hook up, of course. But the commission managed subsidies that will trim individual costs from $26,952 to $11,500. And, key to the project, sewer conversion in this neighborhood will keep 32,000 pounds of nitrogen from the waterways annually.
A lot of money but a lot better for the environment that supports our economy.
An editorial from the Charlotte Sun.^p