Follow-up: Trump at Lake O — he came, he saw, he left

03-29-19 Trump at OkeechobeeFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon, President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Greg Steube at Lake Okeechobee on Friday.   (Photo: AP)

March 31, 2019 by David Silverberg

As predicted by The Paradise Progressive last week (Analysis: Follow the money when Trump comes to Lake O), when President Donald Trump visited Lake Okeechobee on Friday, March 29, he came, he saw, he boasted—but real results were sparse.

The Paradise Progressive: If he behaves as he has in the past, his visit will be a narcissistic exercise in self-praise…

Donald Trump: “This project was dying until we got involved,” he said. He also called Everglades restoration “very, very important. It was very dangerous and it’s a big project. But it’s a great project for Florida. And Florida is a state that’s a phenomenal state. A very important project.” Exactly in what way Everglades restoration is “very dangerous” remained unexplained.

The Paradise Progressive: …a vicious vilification of enemies real and perceived…

Donald Trump: “They set up these caravans.  In many cases, they put their worst people in the caravan; they’re not going to put their best in.  They get rid of their problems.  And they march up here, and then they’re coming into their country; we’re not letting them in our country.”

The Paradise Progressive: …and digressions into irrelevant or peripheral topics.

Donald Trump: “I want to just thank the Army Corps of Engineers, who’s been fantastic.  I said, ‘Let’s go.  We need a wall also on the border.’  You know that, right?  I’m looking at all these walls; I’m saying, ‘Southern border, too.  Don’t forget our southern border.’  And we’re right now building a lot of wall in the southern border.”

As for the topic at hand, funding Everglades restoration projects and repairs to the Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, when asked by a reporter about providing more money than currently in his proposed budget, Trump responded: “We’re going to be doing more.  We’re going to be doing more.”

To which the reporter responded, quite correctly: “When?  How much?”

To which Trump replied: “Soon. A lot. More than you would ever believe.”

This prompted the next day’s headline in the Naples Daily News: “Trump makes vague Everglades promise.”

As also predicted, Trump’s visit was an opportunity for Florida officials—all Republicans—to lobby him for more Everglades money, which they did while lavishly thanking and praising him. These officials included Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and Reps. Greg Steube (District 17), Brian Mast (District 18), Francis Rooney (District 19) and Mario Diaz-Balart (District 25).

This was a stark contrast to the event on March 14 when Rubio, Scott, Rooney and Mast sent a formal letter to the White House complaining that the latest proposed budget underfunded Everglades projects and failed to meet previous federal promises.

At Lake Okeechobee on Friday, Rubio in particular tried to cajole Trump along. “You have a chance, Mr. President, and your administration, to go down in history as the Everglades President — as the person who helped save and restore the Everglades,” he said.

To which Trump replied: “We have a chance to go down as many things.”

Liberty lives in light
©2019 by David Silverberg

Rooney breaks with Trump again, joins Rubio, Scott and Mast in decrying Everglades underfunding in new budget

03-14-19 os-ne-scott-rubio-trump-everglades-20190313
Florida Republican senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott denounce Trump’s new budget for its lack of Everglades restoration funding.    (Photo: Orlando Sentinel)

March 14, 2019 by David Silverberg

In yet another break with President Donald Trump, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) has joined Florida’s Republican senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Rep. Brian Mast (R-18-Fla.) in criticizing anemic funding for Everglades restoration in the president’s proposed budget.

The full text of their joint statement (their capitalization):

“For the third year in a row, the administration’s budget request underfunds critical projects in South Florida. It is incredibly short-sighted to continue to underfund a series of projects that are absolutely necessary to ensure the environmental sustainability and economic vitality important to the State of Florida and enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress. Failing to meet the basic federal funding commitments to restore the Everglades is contrary to the administration’s goal of improving project partnerships and cost-sharing with states. Successive Florida Governors have remained committed to this goal, pushing state funding of this 50/50 federal-state partnership to historic highs. Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers envisioned a $200 million per year federal commitment when the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was first authorized nearly 20 years ago, and it is time for the administration to meet that commitment.”

Neither Rooney nor his office issued a separate statement regarding his position.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), whose district includes parts of Lee and Collier counties and a substantial portion of the Everglades, did not join the other lawmakers. A request for comment has been made to his office.

(This report will be updated as new developments warrant.)

Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg


Trump budget proposal takes aim at SWFL seniors, Social Security recipients


01-13-19 us capitol croppedMarch 12, 2019 by David Silverberg

Southwest Floridians receiving Medicare benefits, Social Security payments and other social safety net assistance stand to suffer significant blows to their government-provided benefits under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, released yesterday, March 11.

The budget slashes $845 billion over 10 years from the Medicare program. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as of 2017 (the most recent date for which statistics are available), Lee County had 175,648 Part A and B Medicare recipients, while Collier County had 90,800.

Social Security would suffer $25 billion in cuts over 10 years as well. As of December 2017 (the most recent figures available) there were 12,863 Social Security recipients in Lee County and 4,169 recipients in Collier County, according to the Social Security Administration.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, would receive a $220 billion cut over 10 years and recipients would face mandatory work requirements. The program currently serves around 45 million people nationwide and 99,208 people in Lee County and 26,617 in Collier County, as of December 2018.

Environmental blows

The budget cuts all non-defense agencies by 9 percent and takes aim at environmental and science-driven agencies.

The Environmental Protection Agency would suffer a 31 percent cut, with the agency’s overall funding dropping to $6.1 billion, down from the $8 billion Congress enacted in 2017.

The Department of the Interior’s budget is cut by 14 percent. The Trump proposal, however, increases funding for Interior Department programs that “support safe and responsible development of energy on public lands and offshore waters”—which for Southwest Florida means potential oil exploration and exploitation off the Gulf coast and in federal lands like Everglades National Park.

When it comes to the Everglades, the budget requests a total of $118 million for Everglades restoration of which $74.3 million would be for projects under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and $44 million would be for non-CERP work, of which $43 million would come through the Department of the Interior.

Controversy and reaction

Nationally, the budget’s most controversial provision calls for $8.6 billion for a wall along the US southwestern border and boosts military spending 5 percent to $750 billion.

The budget proposal was met with a blast of condemnation from congressional Democrats, who denounced it as “irresponsible” and a “cynical vision for our country,” (Rep. John Yarmuth (D-3-Ky.) chairman of the House Budget Committee), “even more untethered from reality than his past two [budget requests],” (Rep. Nita Lowey (D-17-NY), chair of the House Appropriations Committee) and “breathtaking in its degree of cruelty,” (Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)).

Liberty lives in light