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Andrew Gillum ‘hopes’ Jack Latvala’s storm concerns are legit

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Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum Thursday said he “trusts” that state Sen. Jack Latvala isn’t unduly politicizing the city’s hurricane recovery efforts.

Gillum spoke with reporters after a meeting with Leon County Commission Chairman Bill Proctor on the progress of local recovery after Hurricane Hermine.

On Tuesday, Latvala said he was considering calling for legislative action next session to address the City of Tallahassee’s response to Hurricane Hermine.

The Clearwater Republican, set to become the next chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, specifically questioned whether community-based power operations — such as City of Tallahassee Utilities —are positioned as well as they could be to recover after major storms.

“I hope and I trust that the senator is really genuine in his interest in making sure that all of our utilities, public and private, are up to the task of dealing with storms,” said Gillum, a Democrat.

For instance, Gillum hoped lawmakers compared “apples to apples,” mentioning that Miami doesn’t have the tree canopy that Tallahassee does, nor does Tallahassee have issues with coastal flooding.

But during the meeting, Gillum said the city probably needed “an updated emergency management plan” that included lessons from “a conversation about resiliency.”

“My hope is that as [legislators] go down this road, and we’ll [also] be doing our own analysis, that the end product gets us to a place where we’re making every one of our communities more resilient,” Gillum said.

“I don’t think that should be relegated only to municipally owned utilities,” he added. “It’s a question that has to be answered by all utilities.”

Hermine, a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, knocked out electric service Thursday night to hundreds of thousands across north Florida, including nearly 68,000 in Tallahassee alone.

As of Thursday morning, local officials said fewer than 4,000 customers remain without power.

Proctor asked for a joint review of community response between city and county staff, saying “we did not expect that level of calamity.”

He further asked Gillum to consider rebating electric customers $100 on next month’s bill as a “humanitarian” gesture. The city utilities also has customers outside the city limits.

And Proctor similarly asked Gillum to sign on to his letter to Comcast, asking them to discount local customers next month for the inconvenience of cable TV and internet outages this month.

“We will work closely with any impacted customers on an individual basis to handle and resolve any concerns or questions they may have on their account,” said Mindy Kramer, Comcast’s vice president for public relations in Florida.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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