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Flagler a No-Show in Rep. Ron DeSantis’s Talk at Chamber’s “Think Flagler First” Event

| January 17, 2014

Ron DeSantis at the Grand Club at Pine Lakes today. (© FlaglerLive)

Ron DeSantis at the Grand Club at Pine Lakes today. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon was titled “Think Flagler First.”

Speaking before almost 100 people at a Chamber of Commerce lunch at the Grand Club at Pine Lakes today, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, whose district includes all of Flagler, talked mostly critically about federal health care reform, Washington politics, Barack Obama’s facility with executive orders, welfare and the 2014 congressional elections. But Flagler County or issues specific to DeSantis’s 6th Congressional District were no-shows in his 25-minute talk, aside from a brief mention of Flagler as a nice place. When he thought of Flagler, it was last and tangential, and only at the prompting of a Flagler County Commissioner.

Frank Meeker during a brief Q&A asked DeSantis what he was doing to help bring down the local unemployment rate, which continues to almost lead the state (behind Hendry County). DeSantis cited St. Johns County, which has been successful in bringing manufacturing jobs and lowering its unemployment rate to around 5.5 percent, better than the state average. “I don’t see any reason why Flagler can’t follow a similar model,” DeSantis said.

But the congressman appeared otherwise either uninterested or uninformed about local realities—aside from Flagler’s demographics, heavy with retirees—as he gave the audience a breathless tour of national issues and polemics that could have been spoken by any tea party Republican congressman in any of some 60 or 70 districts where such congressmen hold sway.

Garry Lubi, who chairs the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce and was instrumental in setting up the lunch—along with the county’s Department of Economic Opportunity—said DeSantis “has to look at it from the standpoint of the national, then further on down to the regional,” as such issues trickle down to localities. “He understands where the issues are, the root causes, and I think he’s working each and every day to resolve these things.”

DeSantis drew an unflattering picture of a capital—and a capitol—where only a handful of legislators hash out legislation behind closed doors then dump it on the broader membership at the last moment, expecting a vote, as was the case with Wednesday’s passage of a $1.1 trillion budget. The 332-94 vote was an overwhelming endorsement that contrasted sharply with a year of gridlock (which had culminated in the 16-day government shut-down that DeSantis supported).

DeSantis voted against the budget bill, criticizing it for being a 1,500-page opus produced just 36 hours before the vote, and singling out long-term military retirees for budget cuts. (In fact, only military retirees younger than 62 will see their cost-of-living adjustments reduced by 1 percent starting in 2016, and a planned cut to all military retirees that had appeared in a previous bill was scratched.)

DeSantis began his talk with an oddly lengthy story that involved another congressman who was caught napping on C-Span, during end-of-day speeches in the House. The moral of the story was that cameras are on members of Congress at all times, DeSantis said, and this: “trust me if you’re up there with that type of bloviating going on, your eyes do tend to close.” It was unclear why he devoted about four minutes of his 25-minute talk to start his presentation: the story, about an unnamed congressman, did not relate to anything he mentioned subsequently.

DeSantis then returned to his stump themes, criticizing Congress for living under a different set of rules than do Americans at large, and criticizing “big and unaccountable bureaucracies” such as the IRS, which was caught favoring and disfavoring non-profit groups based on their political affiliations. “No one was held accountable for that,” DeSantis said. He said Americans were also worried about how broad NSA surveillance had become, though he was not personally critical of it.

DeSantis never mentioned Obama by name, but said he was presiding over “the slowest recovery that we’ve seen in this country in 70 years” while, on numerous issues—immigration, health care, welfare reform—he’s “taken this posture of being able to pick and choose which laws to enforce and which laws not to enforce.”

DeSantis was also dismissive of Obama’s recent focus on economic inequalities, though he was just as dismissive of Mitt Romney’s infamous remark, during the last presidential campaign, that 47 percent of Americans (DeSantis cited 40 percent) prefer to rely on government checks rather than work. DeSantis said the figure includes many people receiving Social Security checks and other established government benefits that say nothing about their work ethic. The congressman was nevertheless critical of existing welfare programs that “incetivize” people to rely on welfare rather than to work.

DeSantis asked and answered his own question toward the end of his talk—what is he doing about it all? He said that since much of the work in Washington is either done behind closed doors or that “I’m not entirely optimistic that enough people up there get the message,” there wasn’t much in place to make a difference. Health care, he predicted, will be the dominant issue of the 2014 elections.

After his talk County Commission Chairman George Hanns, a veteran, asked if there was any interest in reviving the draft. There isn’t, DeSantis said. When Hanns asked him if there was interest in reviving a program similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Depression-era works program that drafted young civilians to public works projects, DeSantis said that wouldn’t be the sort of thing he’d favor.

Just before DeSantis was introduced, Palm Coast Observer Publisher John Walsh spoke briefly to announce a new sort of “micro community newspapers” that will be fanning out to particular subdivisions such as gated communities, and Florida Hospital Flagler CEO Ken Mattison spoke briefly to describe the recent quality gains at the hospital as it continues to focus on meeting local needs despite fewer expected resources.

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16 Responses for “Flagler a No-Show in Rep. Ron DeSantis’s Talk at Chamber’s “Think Flagler First” Event”

  1. fruitcake says:

    Why don’t you just come out and say you don’t like DeSantis?

  2. A.S.F. says:

    This confirms what I already suspected. The Flagler County Chamber of Commerce has always been a Tea Party Bastion and their recent foray into politics at large bears that same stamp. To come to a community forum and parrot the same kind of political slogans you can hear all day, every day, on FOX news, without even bothering to try to address critical regional issues, show this man, and his appearance at a Chamber sponsored event, for what he (and it) really is: More talking points from a one-dimensional right-wing politician to his prehistoric fawning audience.

    • Gretchen Smith says:

      ASF, the chamber’s goal in bringing Desantis or any elected official to these events is to give our members and guests an opportunity to listen and ask questions. More importantly, it’s an opportunity to show the people representing us in Tallahassee or DC that Flagler County is open for business.

      I invite you to call me at 437.0106 so we can discuss your “suspicions” and the misconceptions you have about our advocacy efforts.

      Thank you.

      Gretchen Smith
      Government Affairs Director
      Flagler County Chamber

  3. Jim Moller says:

    This guy is a dud. He does not care or have any knowledge of the people who elected him. Elected him to bring back jobs and the middle class. All he knows is the party line that provided the election money he needed to become elected. It is time to find a true representative and not an uncompromising idiot.

    • Genie says:

      @ Jim Moller: He isn’t a dud to me. I write an occasional letter to him and he actually called, from Washington, to discuss one of them. You could have knocked me over with a feather! I’ve never seen another politician to that.

      DeSantis is a real breath of fresh air for this area. He is concerned, responsive and more than willing to attend area events.

      If you have issues you think he is ignoring, let him know!

  4. confidential says:

    Well deserved by the constituents in Flagler County that wasted their ballots on him!

  5. Rick Belhumeur says:

    How unfortunate that we lost a representative that truly cared about this county’s constituents and ended up with someone that doesn’t even address local issues when at a venue set up as “Think Flagler First.”

    • Genie says:

      @Rick Bellhumeur: You “lost” a representative who knew he would not be reelected here and chose to run in his own neighborhood.

      You “lost” a representative who held a townhall just once in the 12 years I have lived here in Palm Coast. He was more than happy to come if it involved receipt of a check and these generally were not public events.

      You gained a representative who has been known to call constituents from Washington upon receipt of correspondence from them, and you gained a representative who is more than willing to speak at an event like this one and not expect to be handed a check for his efforts.

      Lastly, why doesn’t someone ask Mr. Meeker what issues local issues he has requested assistance with from Mr. DeSantis? That would be informative.

      Kudos to the Chamber for promoting the forum.

  6. BIG JOHN says:

    So what does DeSantis stand for? Empty generalities about govt waste? Ideological garbage about the magic of laissez-faire, tea-party, libertarian, obstructionism that does nothing but prevent anything positive from being done. All politics is local, and if DeSantis doesn’t know that then he should not be re-elected. DeSantis cares nothing for the plight of the average Americans who are suffering and need their govt to do something. Why is he against a revived CCC? Wouldn’t that help? It did a lot of good back in the 1930s and it would do a lot of good today. We need a NEW DEAL from our politicians NOT A RAW DEAL!!!
    First step: make the Fed finance a national recovery program at 0.25% interest
    Second step: Tax the Wall Street investment banks to finance a revival of our economy.
    Third: Reinstitute Glass-Steagall to break up the Too Big To Fail Banks.
    By the way, why haven’t any of these big bank CEOs been indicted, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to long prison terms….are these guys above the law? I don’t think so.

  7. FC resident says:

    So… I just wasted about 5 minutes attempting to digest this garbage. We have elected a congressman who lives in Ponte Vedra and barely knows we exist here in Flagler County. He has been outcasted by the majority of the legislators or he is a lame duck doing absolutely nothing in Washington, and he is criticizing the people who take money for free!!!! He makes $174,000 dollars free and clear and he does not know we exist here in little Flagler County! Ha.

    He slapped the Flagler County BoCC in the face with “maybe you should be like St. Johns County and bring in some manufacturing jobs,” oh that is right, we are a retirement community according to this article. So, unless we get more assisted living communities or nursing homes in the community then no improvement is expected in the unemployment figures.

    I could have swore I saw on WESH a couple months ago about Brevard County blowing off an MLB spring training team, and this team was looking for a coastal county to build a stadium and bring in 20+ years of revenue. Oh, that is right… If it is not the NY Yankees or the Mets we don’t want them. Screw the endless possibilities with having a secured investment into the community year after year after year for 17 more of the years than I already wrote (that makes 20 if you can’t count). We are a retirement community complaining about the unemployment rate. Does this make sense?

    News Flash you dingbats, don’t complain about the unemployment rate if your “claim to fame” is a retirement community; WHAT DO YOU NEED JOBS FOR? Oh that’s right, we are not a retirement community anymore than we are a blue collar county without Jay oh bee’s crying foul there are no job’s here.

    Maybe, just maybe, stop voting for all the retired people, the “working age” citizens get involved and vote, and this mentality will then change. Manufacturing Jobs will come, the City Manager of Palm Coast can’t turn down businesses to the community because the old retired people will not be there to protect him, he will be fired, the red light cameras will disappear, the City Code Enforcement will be dismantled and the old retired people that call to complain to the city code enforcement will be told to shove it and go live in the Villages (a certified retirement community).

    So… I guess if it were a perfect world this would happen, but the world is not perfect and this will not happen. We will buy large worthless contaminated hospitals that the property couldn’t be used to house prisoners of Al Qaeda and we will house employees who will end up with rare illnesses because we pad our friend’s pockets. The elected officials will attempt to punt the unemployment rate onto the next fool. Flagler Hospital will still be regarded as less than a clinic, and Lubis will continue to bring legislators to a luncheon in Palm Coast that the legislator didn’t even knew existed outside of a paper map. Oh, by the way, way to really pin DeSantis down to answer the tough questions BoCC representatives! That is satire. Look it up.

  8. Sally says:

    As a member of the Chamber, I did not attend because I was certain that this Tea party Republican who was elected by local “knee-jerk’ low information voters would trash Washington, of which he is a part (of course that’s easy when the party of “no” does not want anyone in this country to succeed and gets in the way of job creation and a fair wage).This, along with his lack of attention and knowledge of Flagler County’s needs. When are these voters going to realize that if you elect someone from OUTSIDE the County this is what you get! And more than that – we have LOADS of low wage jobs here in the County – when can these idiots learn from one of their own- Henry Ford – “I want my workers to make enough so they can buy my cars”!!! We need higher wage jobs here!
    The planners of this event should be ashamed of themselves for this partisan program!

  9. confidential says:

    This county voters gave away the opportunity to have our own, local resident, proud mom and wife of a war deployed brave soldier, always involved in our community; Mrs. Heather Beaven a Democrat would have worked for us not a DeSantis now working for the best interest of Jacksonville and his town of residence, wealthy Ponte Vedra.
    But as a Rep…he got all the FCCOC support, the GOP electorate here and quiet few chauvinistic Dems too. Now harvest what you planted!

  10. Will says:

    I couldn’t attend because of a prior commitment, but I think the Chamber is to be commended for bringing our elected Congressional representative to a program in the county. They are non-partisan as an organization (as opposed to comments above) and in theory, these events should share information two ways. The article talks about the speaker’s failure to address our local issues. But MAYBE, people at the meeting were able to educate him on some of those issues and concerns. And IF he has any smarts, WHEN we call in the future about our issues, maybe he will help.

    Two way communication has to start somewhere. And it’s important to maintain some level of business relations with whoever the congressperson is or what party they represent, for the good of the county.

  11. Sherry Epley says:

    I’ve tried to glean “anything” from DeSantis from the couple of times I’ve heard him speak. All he does is spout the “party” line and bash the President. He absolutely does not know or care anything about Flagler county. He does not represent us in any way what so ever. We should vote him out and elect someone who really represents our entire region of Florida.

  12. Vincent A. Liguori says:

    To those who say, “what has Ron DeSantis done for us”, I say what have you done to improve anything in Flagler County? For example, have you seen or heard from local elected officials about: their comprehensive plans to bring companies with competitive salaries to Flagler, eliminating the blight of empty stores in strip malls, restoring the attractiveness of sub-divisions which contain numerous code violations. Do you seriously believe that it is Mr. DeSantis’ responsibility to improve these situations? How many times have you attended a city council or a BOCC meeting to voice your approval or disapproval on pertinent issues? Of course you haven’t. It’s easier to sit back and point fingers at the Tea Party, retirees, republicans, red camera lights, etc. Oh I forgot. If we build it(the city hall)they will come. Do you vote? Probably not! Have a good day.

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