1. News

Romano: If you're looking for a culprit, the slime stops here

Scenes like this, with a boat navigating through the algae bloom of the Caloosahatchee River, should not come as any surprise when you consider Florida's environmental policies under Gov. Rick Scott. [Miami Herald]
Published Aug. 7, 2018

He has created jobs. He has boosted tourism. He has eliminated crime and turned all of our schoolchildren into geniuses. If you listen long enough to his handlers, you'll get the impression Gov. Rick Scott can also walk on water.

And in our current environment of slime and muck, maybe he can.

That's the risk politicians take when they run around a state taking credit for every bit of good news to be found. It means they must inevitably wear the bad, too.

In this case, that means the poisonous, smelly, noxious algae that has covered freshwater spots inland, and turned into a deadly red tide on more than 100 miles of Florida coastline.

The Washington Post is writing about it. CNN and the Weather Channel are talking about it. A state dependent on tourism is now generating headlines fit for the cover of Toxic Illustrated.

And no one is more responsible than Scott.

Oh, it's true this is not the first time Florida has dealt with algae or red tide, but it is equally true Scott has done little to prevent this out-of-the-norm outbreak this summer.

You could even argue his policies have encouraged it.

Think of how he has treated the environment since his first election in 2010. Even before he was sworn in, he was complaining about clean water standards imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, and asking that Florida be spared from "burdensome regulations.''

The state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was eventually given the responsibility for regulating the exact type of pollutants that have contributed to the nasty green gook that has been showing up in the state's rivers and lakes.

The number of enforcement cases handled by the DEP — essentially the number of times they investigated developers or corporations for pollution violations — dropped to a fraction of what they had been under Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.

Scott abolished the agency that had been responsible for reviewing local development plans, and he directed water management districts to lower taxes, which decimated their budgets.

RELATED: Lingering Red Tide bloom moves north, killing fish near mouth of Tampa Bay

He also signed a law in 2012 that repealed mandatory inspections for septic tanks, a decision that environmentalists now say is fueling the current algae crisis.

Perhaps the most underhanded move was the scam he pulled on the state's seven-member Environmental Regulation Commission. After the commission declined to change the number of dangerous pollutants allowed in our water, Scott waited until one commissioner retired and two others had their terms end.

Scott then added another DEP attorney to the commission and left the other two seats empty.

With the board now dominated by lawyers instead of scientists and environmentalists, the new standard for pollutants passed by a 3-2 vote.

From the time he arrived in Tallahassee, Scott has been fighting any attempt at federal regulation of the environment, and now he has the gall to blame Washington, D.C., for our recent problems.

It's unfair to put all of the state's pollution problems on Scott's shoulders, but it's not hard to connect the dots between his business-first attitude and our current environmental mess.

In times of crisis, they say cream rises to the top.

In Florida, so does the slime.


  1. Maurice A. Ferré at his Miami home earlier this year. JOSE A. IGLESIAS  |  Miami Herald
    He served as mayor for 12 years and set the stage for Miami to become an international city.
  2. Lilly Beth Rodriguez, left, Laura Robertson and Linda Lamont work on a Habitat for Humanity house in north Pasco. [Times (2013)]
    The increase is expected to happen in the first half of next year. CEO hopes other nonprofits follow suit.
  3. Terry Spencer carries his daughter, Trinity, through high water on 59th Street near Stewart Road in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, as heavy rain from Tropical Depression Imelda caused street flooding on the island. JENNIFER REYNOLDS  |  AP
    Although the amount of predicted rainfall is massive — forecasters say some places could see 40 inches or more this week.
  4. This April 2001 photo, which appeared in a newsletter from the West Point Grey Academy, shows a costumed Justin Trudeau, his face and hands darkened by makeup, attending an "Arabian Nights" gala. The academy is a private school in Vancouver, B.C., where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. (West Point Grey Academy/The Canadian Press via AP)
    A few Southern politicians responded to similar scandals recently with denials, apologies, and promises. Most of them have managed to stay in office.
  5. The number of single-family homes sold in the Tampa Bay area during August rose 2.8 percent when compared with the same month last year, according to a monthly report from Florida Realtors. (Times file photo)
    The midpoint price in the bay area rose to $250,000, which is still lower than the state and national median prices.
  6. This April 14, 2019 file photo shows a western meadowlark in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo. According to a study released on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, North America’s skies are lonelier and quieter as nearly 3 billion fewer wild birds soar in the air than in 1970. Some of the most common and recognizable birds are taking the biggest hits, even though they are not near disappearing yet. The population of eastern meadowlarks has shriveled by more than three-quarters with the western meadowlark nearly as hard hit. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    “People need to pay attention to the birds around them because they are slowly disappearing,” said the study’s lead author.
  7. Michael Robert-Jose Harbaugh has pleaded guilty in the 2017 slaying of Safety Harbor neighbor David Sommer, a former reporter. Harbaugh also pleaded guilty to a charge he tried to have a witness in the case killed. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
    Michael Harbaugh, 42, also pleaded guilty to trying to have a fellow inmate kill a witness in the murder case.
  8. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.
  9. The Aldi store located on 1551 34th St N, St. Petersburg, Florida in 2018, features its updated layout. JONES, OCTAVIO   |  Tampa Bay Times
    The store will re-open after renovations on Thursday, Sept. 26
  10. Vice President Joe Biden, right, talks to supporters as former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, left, stands near during a campaign stop at at Century Village in Boca Raton, Fla., Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. Crist is locked in a tight race against Gov. Rick Scott in one of the most negative gubernatorial campaigns in Florida history. The two disagree on most major issues, including health care, the minimum wage, Cuba policy, gay marriage and medical marijuana. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz) ORG XMIT: FLAD102 ALAN DIAZ  |  AP
    The Florida Republican-turned-Democrat said Biden’s ‘record of getting things done speaks for itself.’