Charlie Crist and the laser focused Rick Scott
What Florida newspapers could learn from Peter Schorsch

Rick Scott, barbed wire, and talking to the customers

Scott protest st luci lock
Gov.  Rick Scott’s SUV slid past hundreds of protesters, a gaggle of media, and zipped behind the protection of a high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.

 Followed by a small entourage of staff and a few public officials, Scott, a safe distance from the protesters and media, wandered along the St. Lucie Lock in Martin County Tuesday to see the polluted water from Lake Okeechobee flowing into the St. Lucie River.

 Nearly 30 minutes later, Scott hopped back into his SUV, security running alongside, his driver taking him a short distance to a visitor center which he entered through a side door for a brief press conference.

 One of the first questions came from WPTV anchor Michael Williams.

 Williams: “You cannot help but hear the angry voices outside. They say it took months for you to show up here. Today the optics are really bad. You go behind a barbed wire fence, have not sat and listened the people out there and their voices. We’re in a cramped media room. Are you now going to go spend time to listen the voices of the people you represent?”

 Scott:  “Gosh. I’ve been governor now for a little over two years, two and a half years. I focused on water issues the entire time. I have great partners here that are focused on water issues in the state. What we did with the Everglades was historic. The funding we have for the Everglades is historic. The relationship we built by working with the Army Corps of Engineers, Justice,

Scott media st. lucie lock 2

(Environmental Protection Agency), Interior, the environmentalists and the agriculture community is historic. I’m going to continue to do that. I’ve been working on this project since the problem started and I’m going to continue to work on it.

I’ve worked very hard to ensure we get the right thing to happen. Today, we’re announcing that we’re going to make sure there’s another $40 million in this budget to deal with this issue as quickly as we can.”

 Shortly after, Scott climbed back into the SUV and took off.

 As Williams noted – the optics were really bad.

 One wonders: who was doing advance work for the governor? Who thought it was a good idea for him to scoot past the crowd and emerge behind a barb-wire topped, chain-link fence? Who thought it was a good idea for him to ignore the largely well-behaved protesters?

 And finally, one wonders why Scott did not even mention the folks outside during his press conference.

 It should be noted that several weeks before, according to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, more than 5,000 held a rally to express concerns about the discharges from Lake Okeechobee. A week later, more 2,500 held another rally. More rallies are being planned.

 Scott’s team missed an opportunity to allow the governor to make an important, personal connection with voters. Polls continually suggest that as Scott approaches reelection, his popularity with Floridians remains anemic.  

 No one should blame the governor for the ineptness of the people around him. But Scott can be faulted for lacking the political instinct that previous governors have shown during similar circumstances. Many would have mingled into the crowd or sat down with a few of them for a private meeting. Some would have done both.

 This could have been a good event for the governor – even if his message did not satisfy everyone in the crowd. He could have let them know that he cares about their concerns on a personal level.

 Instead, Scott conveyed the image that he is very much like a company CEO who can’t be bothered dealing directly with the customers.



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