Lieutenant Governor visits Fort Myers Beach
Nunez talks economy, environment at Chamber of Commerce luncheon held at Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grill
Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille on Fort Myers Beach was the setting for the birthday of Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez Thursday during a speech to the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, where she talked up the economic and environmental policies of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Nunez addressed how the state is handling Lake Okeechobee discharges and algal blooms developing from those discharges along the Caloosahatchee River. Algal blooms are a “big issue for the entire state,” Nunez said. Nunez talked up a state contract with the Israeli company BlueGreen Water Technologies for a hydrogen peroxide-based product to combat blue-green algal blooms.
“I recognize the importance and how inextricably linked our environment is with our economy,” Nunez said.
Nunez said the state’s recently passed budget includes more than $415 million dedicated to Everglades restoration projects, more than $152 million to protect protect prized properties and water, and more than $50 million for the state’s parks. Nunez was scheduled to visit Lovers Key State Park Thursday afternoon.
DeSantis has made the environment a priority, she said. The governor, she said, “is committed to the mission of making sure we are not just borrowing the environment from our parents, we are giving it to our children.”
Another piece of legislation signed this year will ensure a “coordinated approach” to Florida’s coastal and island resiliency, Nunez said. The legislation will address the protection of coastal area from rising sea levels and hurricanes. Nunez said no other state had such natural resources to offer visitors.“We have really prioritized a lot of issues relating to the environment,” she said.
Nunez talked up other policies by the governor, including his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She cited the state’s actions in returning students to public schools quickly as important. “It is a crime what we see some of these state’s doing” in regards to the loss of educational achievement, she said. “We believe that Floridians are smart enough, they are resilient enough to make the right choices for them and their families,” Nunez said.
On the economy, Nunez said there are more jobs available than the number of people looking for jobs. The state’s April unemployment rate of 4.8% was below the nation’s rate of 6.1%, she said. Business have had to cut hours of operation due to the need for employees, Nunez said. Nunez also talked up the growing aerospace industry in the state.
Florida is the lowest taxed state per capita in the nation, Nunez said. She said the state’s approach to businesses during the pandemic has put the state in a favorable position to where Florida has become a destination. Nunez said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo should be named “Realtor of the year.”
Asked after the meeting on how DeSantis felt about the current decisions being made regarding Lake Okeechobee releases by the Army Corps of Engineers, Nunez said “if you are someone that is going to push forward on the environment, you are never going to be happy. You always want to continue pushing. Lake Okeechobee is a big priority for the governor. Managing the water in the lake is something he has been focused on. It’s not all under our auspices.”
Nunez said there has been improvement with the management of the lake.
“There is a lot of reasons why we have concerns with pollution in the lake. We are results oriented,” Nunez said. Lake Okeechobee is a source of consternation for those concerned about water quality in part due to runoff of nutrients from the lake, including deposits from sugar farms, runoff from nearby plants and development, which find their way into the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico.
Nunez also took a question during her appearance at the luncheon on increasing property insurance rates. Nunez said there are fewer private companies offering homeowner’s insurance, leading to more people shifting over to the state’s Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. “We don’t want people to flock to Citizens,” she said. Nunez said that should be an option of last resort.
A bill signed by DeSantis this week would allow for the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to increase its rates while making lawsuits over property insurance claims more difficult. The state has taken on more policies as the rates of insurance in the private sector have gone up. Nunez said the issue will continue to require legislative attention.
Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jacki Liszak said she was impressed with the speech by Nunez. “I am absolutely thrilled,” Liszak said. “It was a great turnout. Great support from the chamber membership. We’re pleased to be able to have the lieutenant governor and listen to her plans for what’s coming.”
Liszak said Nunez was “very eloquent” and said she “particularly appreciated her intense focus on the environment.”
Nunez gave her best compliments to Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, stating to the restaurant’s co-owner Marty Harrity “you are going to get rave reviews from me. You can’t beat the view.”
The restaurant provided Nunez its highly regarded carrot cake with a candle for her birthday with the crowd singing her “Happy Birthday.”