Good Thursday morning.
Red tide is wreaking havoc on the Gulf Coast, setting the stage for environmental issues claiming the spotlight in 2022 elections throughout the state.
Pinellas County beaches are among the most popular recreation spots in the land. St. Pete Beach ranked No. 1 in America and No. 5 globally by Tripadvisor. Other nearby beaches routinely score high in the rankings as well.
But the draw of warm, Gulf waters and sand-filled summer days have been replaced by the odious stench from thousands of tons of dead fish and other sea creatures, victims of a vicious red tide that shows no sign of abating.
On Wednesday, Fox 13 reported that two massive grouper washed ashore along the Pinellas coastline. One weighed 400 pounds and required a backhoe to remove.
As of July 13, 614 tons of dead fish were by Pinellas County, including 477 tons in St. Petersburg.
Speculation centered on the Piney Point disaster in April, where officials drained more than 200 million gallons of polluted water into Tampa Bay to prevent a catastrophic breach in the containment wall.
“Never, ever, have I seen it this bad,” local fisherman Glen Nguyen told The Washington Post.
With Florida taxpayers on the hook this year for a $100 million budget appropriation to begin cleanup at Piney Point, Florida politicians are already beginning the finger-pointing and politicking. While the toxic leak hasn’t been directly blamed for this year’s red tide, many are making that leap. And St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Ken Welch on Wednesday tweeted that it was directly related to climate change.
Nearly four years ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis coasted to victory largely on an environmental message that resonated among voters, even Democrats. His early months in office saw some who might otherwise oppose the Republican Governor find refreshing relief in his commitment to clean water, including Everglades restoration.
But with red tide now dominating headlines, DeSantis and his allies face a bevy of criticism, most recently for so far failing to, like his predecessor, declare a state of emergency to allow state resources to aid in the crisis. On Wednesday, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman pleaded with the state to get involved and lamented they had not already. And Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s sole statewide elected Democrat running for her party’s nomination to challenge DeSantis, this week already began messaging against what she argues is a failed response.
The signs all point to one thing: The environment will again be a top issue as Republicans vie to maintain, and grow, control in Florida.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@marcorubio: The regime in #Cuba continues its violence against the Cuban people demanding #Libertad. We are still receiving horrifying accounts from people inside the island despite the cellphone & internet blockage. They are horrifying #CubaLibre #SOSCubaLibre
—@MarioDB: While the regime brutally assaults protesters, blocks internet access, and denies the #Cuban people their basic human rights, where is the UN Human Rights Council? The OHCHR? Our own representative to the UN (@USAmbUN)? The silence is reprehensible. #SOSCuba
—@RepMariaSalazar: #SOSCuba When the Ayatollah shut off the internet in 2019, @mikepompeo took decisive action — setting up a secure channel for people to upload videos of the atrocities being committed. The Castro regime has shut off the internet in #Cuba. Where are @POTUS & @SecBlinken?
—@RepValDemings: The communist and socialist regime in Cuba has delivered tyranny instead of freedom, poverty instead of prosperity, and unrest, and COVID-19 instead of safety. Democracy and a free economy are the right path forward.
—@SenMannyDiazJr: The Cuban people are acting for their #Freedom & are helpless against the attacks by the communist regime’s oppression forces it’s time for President [Joe] Biden to recognize this and take action #SOSCuba #HumanatarianIntervention @Hola_Otaola
—@ShevrinJones: Supporting humanity should never be an either-or situation that’s driven by ‘what’s good politics.
— Rep. Bryan Ávila (@BryanAvilaFL) July 14, 2021
—@RepDotieJoseph: GOP: You can’t say you support #Cubans (#Venezuelans or any other group you’re courting for political gain) AND block immigration reform at the same time. You’re either for immigrants* quest for #freedom, or you’re not. You can’t be both. *Violent criminals & terrorists excluded
—@ajhoward121: These widespread protests in Cuba are taking place because Cubans now have access to the internet, and they are able to get organized. This was one of the conditions Obama requested for re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba. But then again, you know that.
—@browardpolitics: Democratic @LeaderBookFL (along w/ @BobbyPowellJr & @loriberman) try to hoist Florida Republicans with their own petard over new state anti-riot law now that key element of Republican base is taking to the streets.
—@TPFabricio: Do not block the roadways. We are demanding that @POTUS take action and intervene in Cuba and help liberate our brothers and sisters from the tyrannical Marxist regime. Blocking our roads will bring negative attention to this matter.
—@TheRickWilson: One side is going to nationalize the election of 2022 best. That side will have a decisive strategic advantage. Proceed accordingly.
—@MeganSquire0: Part 1 of this good article covers hatejacking: tiki torches, OK symbol, Pepe frog, polo shirts, white boy summer shades, on and on. I’ll go ahead and add the punctuation: white power “subculture” is weak and derivative. It does not invent; it just steals from others.
— Benjamin J. Kirby (@bkirby816) July 14, 2021