Rooney gathers governor, officials behind closed doors to tackle harmful algal blooms
Gov. Ron DeSantis was the surprise guest of honor at a multi-agency discussion of harmful algal blooms Tuesday.
Convened by Rep. Francis Rooney, the intent of the roundtable was to connect high-level policymakers and scientists with the boots-on-the-ground leaders who dealt with last year's toxic algae crises on a daily basis.
The goal, said Rooney, R-Naples, was to help them become a "fighting force" with enough information to "go out and communicate what they know. They’re the point people. They’re the elected people right here who are going to be facing green slime – or in the case of Captiva, brown slime – and dead grass and fish kills," he said at the post-event press conference. The meeting gave them “more confidence, more science and more contacts to call."
Elected officials must tread a fine line when communicating about the blooms, DeSantis said. “If you’re a mayor or something," he said, "and you’re walking down the street and people are coming up to you asking, ‘Hey is this stuff bad?’ you don’t want to not have any answers. You don’t want to tell them, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it,’ if it ends up being bad. You also don’t want to scare people and say ‘It’s the worst thing ever’ if that’s not what the science says,” he said, over the shouts of picketers gathered in a parking lot near FGCU’s Emergent Technologies Institute along Alico Road, the meeting's site. “A lot of people are apprehensive, and I totally understand that.”