Glades-area Mayors Keith Babb, Joe Kyles and Steve Wilson have written an open letter to candidates running for Governor in 2022, asking for attention to the region and to ignore “coordinated attacks” on agricultural interests.
“With election season approaching, candidates are listening to concerns and developing campaign agendas. We, the elected leaders and leading voices in the Glades, want to be sure that you are hearing directly from us on issues that affect our communities,” the letter opens.
“Agriculture is the very backbone of our economy here in the Glades. Like most other places in Florida, our residents are feeling the effects of current economic issues, and we need every available job. So, when paid activists make political attacks against our most important industry and jobs are threatened, we feel the need to respond.”
Mayor Babb of Pahokee, Mayor Kyles of South Bay, and Mayor Wilson of Belle Glade then argue the area has been “under constant attack” from environmental activist groups who the Mayors say are “working against farmers and the working-class communities around Lake Okeechobee.”
The Glades Mayors have been active in advocating on behalf of the region’s farming communities and pushing back against those they deem opposed to the region’s best interests. In the new letter, issued Monday, they want to make sure candidates running for Governor on both sides of the aisle hear that message.
“It is important that you know the facts and base your policies accordingly,” the Mayors wrote.
“We just finished another successful harvest season, and our air is as clean as it has ever been — better than many other parts of Florida. We maintain the highest air quality standards in our communities. In fact, there is more monitoring of the air quality in our region than any other part of Florida, and every single monitor (public and private) confirms that year in and year out — our air meets all state and federal clean air standards for good, safe, clean healthy air quality. The people who live here know this too, because we see the blue skies and breathe the fresh air every day.”
Representatives from the farming communities recently put out a report rebutting claims that sugar cane burning is hurting air quality.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is the favorite in the race, putting him on track to win a second term. And with state Sen. Annette Taddeo‘s Monday decision to exit the Governor’s race in favor of a congressional bid, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried are the two top Democratic challengers, with Crist holding a fundraising and major endorsement lead.
That gives the Glades Mayors three main targets for Monday’s open letter, in an effort they hope can shape policy as the Army Corps of Engineers readies to implement a new regulation schedule for Lake Okeechobee. The battle over resources is perpetual in the state, leading to some serious back-and-forth between farming communities and other interests around Florida.
“The coordinated attacks on farmers and our local residents have unfortunately distracted state leaders from hearing about the more pressing issues facing the Glades communities,” the Mayors said.
“We need access to affordable housing, health care and more good-paying jobs. We are worried about the rising cost of gas and basic household items. We hope that you will hear our concerns directly from us and not the groups that claim to have our interests in mind. We stand ready to host a meeting in the Glades so you can come and hear our concerns.”