Using the threatened waters of Key Biscayne as a backdrop, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation creating a new Biscayne Bay Commission on Thursday. The bipartisan bill to address dire ecological problems won unanimous approval in both the Florida House and Senate.
The Commission is an advisory body. It is intended to serve as a policy clearinghouse to coordinate all projects for Biscayne Bay, which is suffering from poor water quality, lost habitat, and declining fish populations.
“This is an international destination serving three million residents and 16 million visitors,” DeSantis said. He praised lawmakers for adding $20 million to the recently-adopted state for Biscayne Bay protection efforts as well as funding for Everglades environmental measures.
“We are really going in a good direction,” DeSantis said.
Republican State Sen. Ileana Garcia, one of the bill’s sponsors, was the only local official who attended the ceremony at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey says he was not invited, nor was Democratic State Rep. Nick Duran, who also sponsored the legislation. Also absent were any officials from County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s administration. Davey and Levine Cava are Democrats but hold non-partisan offices.
“The governor is in full campaign mode,” Duran said. “It’s not a good look for him to have Democrats standing next to him, apparently.”
Davey says he’s glad the bill will strengthen protection efforts and did not feel slighted.
“I don’t feel snubbed,” he said. “It was a decision that was made at the last minute, and they were at a state facility.”
For her part, Garcia said she would support naming Davey or another Village representative to the nine-member commission, which has slots for three members from municipalities bordering the bay, to be chosen by the Miami-Dade County League of Cities. Duran said he hoped the Commission would organize quickly to take advantage of federal grants for bay protection.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.