Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum believes Rick Scott did a relatively good job leading Florida through the impact of Hurricane Irma, but he didn’t think much of the Governor’s verbal shot at him last week.
“Up until the time when he took a swipe at me, he was doing well,” Gillum said Saturday night at a VIP reception before the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Kennedy-King dinner. “I thought that the Governor was doing what a governor should be doing – moving around the state, reassuring people of their own safety, security, making sure that people took as much extreme precaution as they could in anticipation of the storm.”
Gillum was referring to a comment Scott made to POLITICO Florida, in which the Governor revisited their feud from a year ago. Scott referred to help his administration offered Gillum after Hurricane Hermine made landfall in north Florida, saying, “I couldn’t get [Tallahassee officials] to take resources or anything. Let me tell you, everyone wants my help now.”
Their dispute specifically centered on whether Tallahassee and Leon County officials declined an offer from the Florida Department of Transportation to use work crews to clear downed trees.
“Obviously I was a little shook that in the middle of all of that he decided to rehash what I think is a not completely fact-based recitation of Hurricane Hermine,” Gillum said Saturday, adding that he had yet to hear anything from the Governor after all 56,000 utility customers in the capital had their electricity restored within two-and-a-half days. This allowed linemen from Tallahassee utility crews to redeploy to other more parts of the state.
“Leading into this, I think the Governor did a very respectable job preparing this state,” Gillum said “Not butting into the local communities. Not issuing press releases that you later got to retract, but by leading, and I felt like he led in the early phase of this storm.”
Gillum has called for an independent investigation into what happened at a South Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning after the storm, leading to the deaths of eight people. He says that in preparation for Hurricane Irma, he said he brought health care administrators from local hospitals into a meeting with officials from Tallahassee public utilities, where he assigned a liaison from the power companies to be in direct contact with those health care officials.
“We know how vulnerable a population of people that is,” he said, “and while I have no regulatory ability over them, we have a responsibility to care for our most vulnerable, and I believe the same has to exist in the state of Florida.”
A criminal investigation has been started by Broward County law enforcement officials into the deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, including whether they were heat-related or from carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.
Scott announced Saturday that he is directing two agencies ― the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs ― to implement emergency rules for all assisted living facilities and nursing homes within 60 days. Those rules include having all assisted living facilities and nursing to obtain “ample resources,” including a generator and the appropriate amount of fuel to sustain operations and maintain comfortable temperatures for at least 96-hours following a power outage.”