South Florida In The Spotlight During First Days Of Gov. DeSantis Term

Jan 18, 2019

Gov. Ron DeSantis has spent a lot of time in South Florida recently. He made several announcements across the region during his first week and a half in office.


On Friday, DeSantis issued two executive orders that address South Florida's role in the dramatic elections recount last fall. They suspend Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher and acknowledge the resignation of former Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, who was challenging her suspension by former Gov. Rick Scott.

And just a day after taking the oath of office, DeSantis appointed Judge Barbara Lagoa from Miami to the state Supreme Court. This week, he made his second judicial appointment, of Judge Robert Luck, who’s also from Miami.

DeSantis also took action on the environment, signing a sweeping executive order that pledges $2.5 billion for Everglades restoration and creates a resiliency office meant to tackle sea-level rise, among other things.

He’s also called for the resignation of the entire board of the South Florida Water Management District.

Another major personnel change happened in Broward County. DeSantis fired Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who’s been criticized for how his agency handled the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

WLRN asked listeners what issue the governor should take up next:

“I would like to see him tackle the mistrust of law enforcement we’ve seen as a result of the handling of the Parkland shooting,” said Thomas Sabino-Benowitz from Lake Worth.

“I want him to lead the Republicans in this state to adequately fund education,” said Rain de Lima from West Kendall.

“I’d love to see Gov. DeSantis support the Florida film industry. We’ve lost so many incredibly talented performers, crew members and other professionals to states like Georgia that have strong tax incentives,” said Isis Masoud from Miami.

“I would like Gov. DeSantis to allow the energy companies to do business in Florida so that [Florida Power & Light] would have to compete,” said Emil Krawczyk from Coconut Creek.

The South Florida Roundup discussed Florida's new governor and his recent focus on South Florida. Host Tom Hudson was joined by The Miami Herald’s David Smiley, Sergio Bustos with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, and Kimberly Miller, a reporter with The Palm Beach Post.

WLRN: Sergio, let me start with you. What can you share with us about the announcement regarding the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County? 

BUSTOS: What's interesting is when we are looking at topics that you may want him to take on, I think voting rights and the whole voting system in Florida would have been one. I'm not sure people are going to be crazier for this particular move. He seems to be taking aim at the people and not the problem, if you will. The problem still remains a lack of resources in South Florida for counties that have huge numbers of voters and all sorts of issues come election time.

Again, I think people will want to see something more on what to do about the whole voting system throughout the state. I'm just not sure this is the aim they were looking for from the governor or the move they wanted from him.

What does that mean in Palm Beach County? The supervisor of elections has been outspoken certainly, but outspoken in terms of the lack of technological resources that she experienced during the recount in the November election.

MILLER: I think you're exactly right. She has blamed it on outdated equipment and a lack of money to update them. I think people can understand the limitations, and although it was a terrible situation, it seemed like it was excusable to some extent.

What's the governor's trajectory? Within the last week, firing the elected sheriff of Broward County Scott Israel. 

SMILEY: In suspending Scott Israel, he was at the very least making good on a campaign promise. He had said repeatedly on the campaign trail that Israel should be removed. That move has been very strongly supported by a number of Parkland families who lost students or adults in the shooting, and that went over really well.

I guess he did telegraph this coming suspension of Susan Bucher in his inauguration speech when he talked about not being willing to allow elections officials to create problems in South Florida. Maybe he's trying to show a strong hand. In some ways, he's spent the last 10 days picking off low-hanging fruit that Rick Scott left for him. Some of these moves are pretty obvious, but a lot of them are going over really well. I'm with Sergio. I'm not sure how this one will be received.

NOTE: This episode includes a conversation about Parkland father Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter Meadow in the Feb. 14 shooting. The show took place before Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday he had rejected 46 appointments made by former Gov. Rick Scott earlier this month. One of the retracted appointments is Pollack to the state Board of Education.