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Nancy Smith

After a Botched Hurricane Hermine Performance, Mayor Gillum's about to Get a Do-Over

October 9, 2018 - 6:00am
Hurricane Hermine/credit: Tallahassee Democrat
Hurricane Hermine/credit: Tallahassee Democrat

You wait. Michael will go down as the most political hurricane in Florida history.

Rick Scott and Andrew Gillum watchers are already on the edge of their seats.

Remember Hurricane Hermine in September 2016? In Hermine's wake, Gillum clashed with Gov. Scott and struggled to coordinate an effort to restore power to the city. Competency as an emergency manager is always a crucial issue in a gubernatorial election. Specifically, an 80-mph, Category 1 storm and the governor had to step in to help restore power to 18,000 of Mayor Gillum's Tallahassee constituents after five days without power. 

I Beg to DifferHere we are now as Panhandle and Big Bend residents gird for a life-threatening Category 3 storm due within the next 24 hours. Yet the thing that consumes so many in the capital is whether Michael will turn Tallahassee into another Hermine.

High drama less than a month from the general election.

Unless Michael veers off before it reaches Tally, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum will at least get a do-over. And GOP senatorial candidate Scott gets to do what he's done better than any other governor since I've been in Florida -- command big-picture hurricane cleanup.

In spite of the gloss-over the leftstream media have given Gillum's Hermine performance, capital city residents remember the 2016 storm well. By the hundreds, they pleaded for Scott's help, and for days after, the governor "got to work" pushing local officials to get the lights back on in Tallahassee.

Hurricane Hermine/credit: Tallahassee Democrat
Hurricane Hermine/credit: Tallahassee Democrat

Reported the News Service of Florida at the time, "Even if the state hadn't gone a decade between direct hits, Big Bend residents are perhaps not as hurricane-hardened as the denizens of the southern part of the state. And when the initial indication from Tallahassee officials was that it might take a week to get power fully restored, the reaction was not kind.

"Scott decided to bore in," wrote NSF. "He called for Tallahassee and Leon County to bring in private contractors he had identified to help remove remaining downed trees and limbs."

In a news release, Scott said Tallahassee and Leon County declined further state Department of Transportation "cut and toss" assistance to clear fallen trees and limbs.

But city and Leon County officials were quick to deny they had ever declined assistance from the state. Instead, they had moved on to the next phase in the cleanup process --- debris removal --- which they said was being done with the collaboration of the state.

"With respect to the city of Tallahassee declining 'cut-and-toss' assistance, that's absolutely not where we are," Mayor Andrew Gillum told Scott during a showdown at the state Emergency Operations Center. "As far as we're concerned, the city of Tallahassee has no intentions, nor have we given any signal -- certainly not myself or the city manager -- that we wish to disrupt that process."

Hermine hit early on a Friday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, power had been restored to more than 90 percent of residents who had lost it statewide. That included 94 percent of Leon County.

Not good enough, said Scott, who claimed he considered himself a resident whose job it was  to help his neighbors as quickly as he could.

Residents took to social media to post their first-hand accounts of conversations with power crews who had made the journey to come to their rescue, but were left waiting in front of neighborhoods for hours for the go-ahead from the mayor. 

“These gentlemen just said to me, ‘I’ve never been in a city where the mayor won’t let us help get power back to the people...he won’t let us work because we’re not union [workers],” said Frankie Higginbotham of Tallahassee.

Even the Miami Herald quoted from an open letter to Gillum from Gus Corbella, a Tallahassee lobbyist for Greenberg Traurig. Corbella suggested that Gillum's handling of Hermine would be his legacy. 

“I believe the source of many Tallahasseeans’ frustration has been your unwillingness, Sir, to answer this simple question: when private utility companies (FPL, Duke, TECO, etc) offered to help our city by sending trucks, crews and expertise, did you turn down their offers and, if so, why?’’ Corbella wrote it on Facebook, where it received more than 250 shares.

And Daryl McLaughlin, a former deputy commissioner at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, wrote on the mayor's Facebook page on Sunday, "Questions are being asked of a mayor who doesn't seem to be leading."

With more some 18,000 people still without power five days after the storm, Scott dispatched to Leon County 15 additional Florida Department of Transportation crews, totaling more than 250 people, to remove debris and help restore power.

The clashes between Scott and the city had eased by then, but the governor remained laser-focused on restoring every last resident's power and every day issued complete lists of neighborhoods still without it.

"You have to be frustrated," Scott said, referring to local residents, while speaking to the media outside the state Emergency Operations Center on Tuesday. "Five days. Five days without power, and you actually don't know when you're going to get power."

Gillum essentially pleaded for patience, saying his city workers weren't being lazy, they were working hard but he had to be careful not to offend them. Nevertheless, during an emergency meeting Tuesday of the Tallahassee City Commission, Gillum said significant damage to large trees and major power lines meant the recovery process would take time, and he admitted the response could have been better.

"Without a doubt, we have not been perfect in this process," Gillum said, "and now is not the time to talk about whatever imperfections, because our staff morale needs to remain at the highest level possible."

It wasn't until the end of the week following the storm that power was restored to the last few parts of the city. 

Gillum didn't appreciate the interference and Scott was disgusted with the mayor's foot-dragging at a time the city needed a leader. 

Of the two, Gillum had more to live down -- and never completely did. He will be looking for redemption as Michael blows through, and so will his campaign team. Scott will be looking for a smooth recovery farther afield.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

Comments

If you live in Tallahassee you know this... 1. People were without power for 12+ days after a cat 1. If that is not a direct result of poor management of a situation that the mayor wanted to handle for publicity even though he had no skill set... then you don’t get it. 2. After the school shooting, he was still campaigning, but as the mayor he should have worked with city officials to decrease the risk for Tallahassee kids... you know that job we pay him for in tally. 3. Why are property taxes being increased by as much as 1500 per a city resident? Where will a single parent get an extra 100 dollars a month? Where are your plans to decrease that amount? 4. The poverty in this city is embarrassing and you have done nothing to improve that for residents. What jobs have you brought to tally. Please provide a list and the number of jobs? Bottom line is that Florida simply can’t afford you at this time.

If you really think Gillum would be a good governor you are not paying attention. He has thrown in with Dream Defenders. This group is so far left that you can’t even consider them American. A lot of them are the ones who are violently protesting and want to do away with prisons and police. Can you imagine our country without those entities. There are also a lot of them who are illegals and under the misconception they have a right to be here after sneaking over the border and breaking our laws. I for one will never vote the democrat ticket.

On his TV ads, Gillum clearly states that Medical Care is a RIGHT... Our declaration of independence states that "LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT of HAPPINESS" are our Rights... the constitution and amendments do NOT address this as a "Right" either! It is a pure Socialist add-on and made law in Other Countries - Not America - as a RIGHT.

"LIFE" cant be alive if you're dead.

Gillium will save the day with socialism, just like he did last time! Let's see how long the residents are with out power this time! Gillium refused outside power company assistance.

More Smithism! The REAL story is Trump's and FEMA's horrendously "botched hurricane performance" last year in Texas and in Puerto Rico. And, at the municipal level ... it's all about the performance of the respective county's and state government's 'emergency management departments' ... NOT any mayor's or city council's doings on an individual basis. Any real Floridian would know that.

Smithism? Get real, Kruzer... you have no clue what the nature of the devastation WAS. NO ONE can possibly prepare or get their hand on appropriate Resources to jump into any FREAK ACCIDENT Anywhere -- and look good doing it. Join the Citizens of America and lend a hand and some bucks to help your Fellow Citizens... Bitch, bitch, bitch

The usual transparent diversion tactic from Ted. Funny how Gillum is a WEAK (ceremonial) mayor when he wants to cry "it's not my fault!" (like the hurricane Hermine mess) but he's the MAYOR OF TALLAHASSEE (all caps intentional) when he introduces himself to TV networks and billionaires. But Ted wants to blame the state and the president like "any real Floridian would." LOL

STOP STOP STOP PLEASE. I can't believe anybody would vote for Gillum, Dems or Independents, please he will be real bad for us.

No he wont. Better than Ron "Monkey Up" DeSantis.

Republicans have picked a poor issue to lampoon Gillum. The Tallahassee power debacle was highly localized and really just not that big of a deal. Hardly an issue that will disillusion voters.

Gillum was fully aware that his 'staff' were on VACATION immediately after the storm. What a loser. The argument about using union workers is absurd, help is help, regardless of the worker's union affiliation or political support. Gillum was caught with his pants down on Hermine, playing politics with peoples lives. He would be the worst governor Florida could ever have. One thing is certain, with Gillum as governor, businesses would leave the state in droves, the state treasury would be robbed and taxes would go sky high. Gillum, of course would enrich himself and leave Floridians to suffer the same way he performed during Hermine. Gillum is a ghetto thug marketing himself as a 'progressive socialist'. He's cancer.

Any proof for your wild assertions?

Scott made $83 million last year alone. Gillium isn't even a millionaire. Stop the personal attacks. A Thug? Where did you get that? More fake news. Union workers are a big part of our work force. I don't think attacking them is a good idea. We can disagree on our political views because neither side is perfect. It is time for a new direction for Floridians and more people need to be included in the prospering individuals. If that's socialism then so be it.

We seem to be missing something. Money. Everything has to be paid for even in an emergency. Our State's workers have to be protect as well, yeah union workers. Everything can't just be done there are processes that must be followed. I have lived in South Florida since before hurricane Andrew. I have first hand knowledge of a real cat 5 storm. You really want to talk about the little rain shower in Tally and 5 days without power? We didn't have power for weeks and a whole part of Miami was leveled. I went to college in Tally every time it rains we lost power for some amount of time. Gillium didn't build the City he just governs the City. Let's talk about real issues Nancy.

Nice spin Nancy but you are just mouthing Repub talking point with little resemblance to the truth, something repubs seem to be auhuhhllergic to anymore...…...I have to notice in Scotts ads on this he makes the sources so small they can't be read.

Vote Ron DeSantis don't make all of Florida Trashassee! If you want a socialist state please move to California or New York! We don't want our state to become a Cuba or Venezuela! Sadly so many liberals are moving into our RED state and destroying it just like they did to where they came from! The South will rise again! VOTE RED SAVE FLORIDA!

"The South will rise again" Sounds pretty traitorous.

New York, the financial capital of the world? OK!

Yes, because we want Florida to be just like Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas, don't we? Actually you probably do. Last in everything except poverty and ignorance.

Here's the problem Joe. No we don't want to be Alabama or Mississippi. On the same note we don't want to be a fascist police state like New Jersey. Unfortunately a vote for your guy Killum gets us on the fast track to becoming Jersey Shore South.

Harry, I favor Gillum over Desantis, but Desantis will be far better than Scott. I'd rather have a check on the legislature than a cheerleader for its' worst instincts. As for my comment, when somebody says "The South will rise again" I want them to know the only thing rising will be the cornbread. Given the choice of New Jersey or Ala, Miss, La, or SC I think New Jersey looks OK. I grew up here a long time ago. The confederate flags and all the hate and ignorance that goes with them should be a thing of the past.

Interesting, Nancy. I just saw a tweet from Marc Caputo from Politico that read: “ I just reviewed video of Gillum. Gillum did not refuse an offer of help. The power-restoration offer via FPL was informally made; Gillum neither accepted nor rejected. At the time, Gillum said he didn't hear an "official offer" & there was not one.” Caputo went on to say: “Tallahassee wasnt destroyed by Hermine, a Cat 1 storm. It's a tree city & power always goes out somewhere in big storms. Tallahassee is home to the GOP's consulting class & they were infuriated about the power being off. So this is also personal for them” So, essentially, the big deal being made about Tallahassee and power being out for 5 days in a hurricane is just GOP whiners. Power has been out for a hell of a lot longer due to hurricanes in other parts of Florida and people didn’t get their panties all knotted up about it. We let the power people and they mayors, etc. do what they could do. Even mayors who aren’t in a strong mayor format, such as Gillum. I guess that doesn’t matter, though, when DeRacist needs all the help he can get. We can also add here that this storm will give Rick Scott the chance to redeem himself on the nursing home debacle. WILL HE ANSWER HIS CELL PHONE OR WILL HE LET PEOPLE DIE?

Leslie, I actually live here in Tally and through the Gillum fiasco

Leslie's quoting Politico now? Sorry, use sources a little more unbiased if you want folks to pay attention. Oh and Leslie, what's better? Ron Deracist or Andrew Killum?

Those 14 or so dead nursing home victims’ families would probably label Rick Scott “kill’em”.

Hey, if their families didn't want them to die, they shouldn't have left them in a hellhole in Broward County.

Hey, if you don’t want to be without power after a hurricane, go buy yourself a generator. See how that works? You want to make excuses for the murdering white guy who didn’t answer his cell phone, but blame the black guy for not accepting an offer he wasn’t OFFERED!!

Or don’t vote for Gillum for Governor if you don’t want Florida to be like Trashahassee!

Tallahassee must not be that bad, Lance. You haven’t moved yet.

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