The press that seems intent on demeaning Ron DeSantis over his hurricane work can only do it by ignoring what he accomplishes.
Some of the more revealing scenes to the reality of the hindrance and threat Hurricane Ian delivered to the west coast of Florida were the helicopter shots showing that the access causeway to Pine Island had been washed away. More than just an illustration visually of the level of destructive strength this storm flexed on the area, it also meant something important to residents who remained on the island. Rescue efforts would have to be done primarily by helicopter, and needed relief supplies would mostly be brought by boat.
Amid the sprawling list of priorities that needed to be addressed in the aftermath was getting the island reconnected, so initial relief, and then rebuilding, could take place. One of the more aggravating actions this storm has delivered is the persistent drumbeat of criticism from the press over the actions of Ron DeSantis. Not only is this a clearly partisan approach to his oversight of the storm – the criticisms began before the storm made landfall – but it is disturbing to see politics become a priority over the tragic loss of life.
I covered on the recent Lie-Able Sources podcast here how the critiques on the governor were always shifting; he was allegedly not giving information (he held at least a dozen pressers the weekend before landfall), he was not evacuating (they called to clear out the Tampa area), and then it became an issue that he evacuated the wrong areas.
In an attempt to foist responsibility onto DeSantis, as CNN tried to do, they have to ignore that all the storm guidance from the National Hurricane Center and FEMA was focused on the Tampa-St. Petersburg area for the storm’s landfall. Ian made a late Easterly turn towards Fort Meyers, and it was then, in the closing days, that evacuation orders were made. (Note how no criticism is being applied to the federal agencies as being incorrect; all of the accusations are aimed at the governor.)
There is one other indicator from the press that they are approaching all storm coverage from a stance of bias – journalists are less inclined to find ways to give Governor DeSantis credit for any steps made that may be considered positive. The death toll has been routinely reported – it now stands at over 100 – but you do not see reports of the near-800 or so rescues that have been made with the same vigor.
This brings us back to Pine Island. The outpost land mass is mostly a tourism, retirement, and resort area, and those who remained on the island endured massive winds, storm surges, and destruction. They went days before seeing rescue teams arriving. On Wednesday, NPR detailed the plight of some residents. The Associated Press has a report Thursday on the conditions folks endured. At no point was the issue of the access causeway addressed — and that seems intentional, given the size of the news outlets.
Early this week, the governor issued an order to have manpower moving out immediately to repair the bridge. Road crews cleared roads, and then they began to focus on the bridge repair. According to his office:
These repairs are needed for first responders and Sanibel residents to access the island, as well as other recovery efforts such as power restoration and debris removal. Today, the contract for the bridge repair was awarded. It is anticipated to have the Sanibel Causeway accessible by the end of October. Once immediate recovery efforts have subsided, permanent long-term repairs will be made to the causeway.
And – that has already been achieved. On Wednesday, the roadway connecting Pine Island to the mainland was again accessible, and relief crews and supplies were carried onto the island.
Construction on the Pine Island bridge has been completed today – just three days after construction began.
Happy to have the state step in and help get our Pine Island residents back on their feet. pic.twitter.com/a8GqPoHtP1
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) October 6, 2022
The lack of coverage this type of news receives is indicative of the position of many in the press. If there is a need to cover the trials of those on Pine Island in the storm’s aftermath, why would avoiding the news that access has once again been restored take place? A project slated to take weeks was completed in days, and aid can arrive that much quicker.
There have even been examples diminishing the significance of DeSantis’ involvement, by suggesting that this only has taken place as a result of “Jose“ Biden sending federal relief funds to Florida to facilitate this project. That is not accurate, as this was a project originating through the Florida Department of Transportation, using FDOT emergency funds, as stipulated in the governor’s order.
Governor Ron DeSantis directed FDOT to prioritize repairs to the Sanibel Causeway. “FDOT has already made tremendous progress on the temporary bridge to Pine Island,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Now, I’ve asked them to work with Lee County to immediately begin work to provide temporary access and begin repairs to the Sanibel Causeway.
This has been a remarkable achievement, and needed relief to Floridians on the island can take place. The question to ask is why something this remarkable and welcome is flying under the radar of the news outlets covering the storm. It certainly appears that–for many of the stories that involve this governor– they choose to not even turn on those radars.