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Nancy Smith

Congressman Closes Everglades 'Summit' to the Press; What about the Cars?

April 8, 2017 - 8:30am

This column is a vehicle for a number of items in a bits-and-pieces, strictly opinion, sometimes irreverent format. Look for "Just Sayin'" to run once a week in this spot.

Congressman Brian Mast, What's to Hide?

Why would a U.S. congressman stage a taxpayer-sponsored event in his district ... but close it to the press?

That's what 18th District Congressman Brian Mast did this week.

What, I ask you, does U.S. Rep. Mast want to keep from the press at an event meant to celebrate Everglades Day? 

He isn't saying. 

Mast's office issued a meeting notice earlier this week on his congressional letterhead -- I can't even call it a media release because it seems to want the media to summon environmental groups -- the invitees -- to his Everglades Day event while making sure reporters -- the disinvited -- know all they get is the privilege of waiting outside until it's over.

I kid you not.

The freshman congressman representing the Treasure Coast apparently thought a press lockout on the taxpayers' dime was his prerogative.

Why would the press care, he thought, because they get a five-minute photo op afterward, followed by a 15-minute "media availability."

A "media availability" is better known as a gaggle, folks. It's when reporters get to ask questions of whatever officials hang around later. Presumably in this case, Mast.

The emailed notice sent "FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY" was headlined, "Mast to Convene Southern Reservoir Summit with Local Environmental Groups."

Here, in italics, is what it said in full:

Stuart, Fla. – On Everglades Day, U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) will host a summit with local environmental groups on water quality and storage options south of Lake Okeechobee.  Rep. Mast has been a vocal advocate of storing and directing water south of the lake to the Everglades and is committed to fighting for resources on the federal level to accomplish that goal. 
Rep. Mast
Everglades Foundation
Rivers Coalition Members
National Parks Conservation Association
Audubon Florida
American Sportfishing Association
Everglades Trust
April 12, 2017
Meeting (closed press): 3:00 p.m. – 3:55 p.m.
Meeting (b-roll and photos): 3:55 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Media Availability: 4:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
201 SE Flagler Avenue
Stuart, FL 34994
Media please RSVP to
With ongoing changes to plans on the state level, Rep. Mast will convene a summit to hear from local environmental groups about the impact that those plans would have on the Treasure Coast.  He will reiterate his support for securing federal resources to help the state of Florida build storage and flow capacity south of Lake Okeechobee.


I emailed back Brad Stewart and asked him if I understood correctly, "is the meeting closed to the press? Yes or no."

Stewart fired back a one-liner: "There will be an opportunity for video and photo spray during the meeting and a press conference afterwards." 

Video? Who gets to film it?

And "photo spray?" What's that? I hate to show my ignorance, but is that anything like a funeral bouquet? I'm probably too old to know what that means, but if it doesn't give me a key to the meeting room door, I'm not interested. 

I also called Mast's aide in his district office in Port St. Lucie and asked why the congressman would want to close a meeting celebrating a treasure that belongs to all of us, not just the groups on his guest list. The aide said she had "no idea" and left it at that.

Now here I am considering the possibilities. Mast wants us out because -- 

  • he won't look good dancing around the reality that the deck is stacked against a federal partnership on Senate Bill 10, that a southern deep reservoir can't possibly be ready by 2018, and that other states with projects behind CERP are salivating to get their hands on money Florida will forfeit when it interrupts its Integrated Delivery Schedule for this next shiny new thing;
  • the Everglades Foundation/Trust/Coalition -- the ones really controlling the event -- told Mast they don't want the press raining on the happy parade they set in motion with SB 10.

Brian Mast just made the Suspicious Character List in my book. Hopefully, somebody in closer range than I am will bring him in for questioning. 

In the meantime, if you're a a reporter and you want to know what's going on next Wednesday inside the city building I remember as Stuart Recreation Center, go ahead and crash the party. What are they going to do to you? You've got a pen.


Does Anybody Else Wonder about the Cars?

Helping financially challenged foster children get their driver's licenses and then reimbursing them for car insurance, an expense that averages about $200 per month, seems like a compassionate thing for Florida to do.

So, what's not to like about the Keys to Independence Act, a three year pilot program funded by the Florida Department of Children and Families and managed by Community Based Care of Central Florida.

Time's up on the three years. A pair of Republicans, Jennifer Sullivan in the House and Aaron Bean in the Senate, got a bill passed to make the act permanent and the governor is expected to sign it.

Sullivan and Bean say, "In just a short time, the number of teens in foster care who have a driver’s license has almost tripled, and 1,035 participants are currently enrolled, including more than 80 in Northwest Florida." This is just in the area of the pilot program.

I can't help but wonder, though: What about the missing ingredient -- the cars?

This isn't meant to be cynical, I swear. But if kids don't have money even to get their driver's licenses or pay for insurance, is it right to encourage them to make higher car payments than perhaps they might have without the financial aid this bill provides? 

It's an interesting bill, probably a very good one. I like seeing money go to kids' programs. It just made me think, that's all.

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


Really? Nothing like Government in the sunshine...they voted for the fine young lad...

So is the public allowed to attend or just these specific special interest groups who have not been able to achieve anything through their bullying tactics? Is this the new way that the Everglades Foundation, Bullsugar, Everglades Trust, etc. will try to get their way...holding private meetings with politicians to spread their propaganda? Unbelievable that Brian Mast is even thinking about attending this meeting. Why send a media release if you are going to shut out the public and media? Congressman Mast, you are getting bad advice from your handlers!! We are all watching & we vote (with winning results, unlike these groups).

Really Congressman? You want to hold a public meeting that we taxpayers fund and you are able to become selective of the media outlets allowed to attend? Sure, You are protective of the little freshman that work for the silly Gannett outfits in Stuart, Fort Myers and Naples. Thanks for your service. Hope your staff can help out! Otherwise, you are an American hero mislead by selfish fundraisers like BullSugar that love themselves at all costs.

You claim to be "the press?" What a joke. More like a bloviating, self important, self righteous web page paid for by your big sugar overlords.

Okay you hate Sunshine News. But do you think this is the right thing for a congressman to do? Bloviating or not Smith is right and all media should attack this since they should be there when the public can not be.

Mast is doing what politicians do,kissing up to special interests while trying to keep the rest of us in the dark.That swamp can't get drained quick enough and I don't mean the Everglades.

I am amazed that speaking with constituents can somehow be construed as a negative.

Congressman Mast, is any constituent invited to this meeting or just these select groups? How do we, the regular people, get a scheduled meeting with you and only the friends we like?

Because not every person or group wants to be recorded or have their comments printed, not every event will allow media in. Just because I answer all of the medias questions that does not mean it is the right of media to monitor every other citizen without invitation.

You'll NEVER "educate" them Congressman: "They" took "Journalism 101.1" in Junior college, so "They" know EVERYTHING ! Just "keep on keeping on" Congressman; "Their" questions, comments, attitudes, and rationale are sophomoric (and will forever be that, regardless of what you do or say). "Intrusion" is an attitude to us,....but, a "lifestyle" to them (poor babies,..)

Because not every person or group wants to be recorded or have their comments printed, not every event will allow media in. Just because I answer all of the medias questions that does not mean it is not the right of media to monitor every other citizen without invitation.

Cars are actually fairly cheap compared to insurance as by shopping well you can find serviceable ones for $600-1k. And this is an excellent program which can greatly help them get employment.............. Growing up in fostercare is hard enough that helping them get started pays big dividends by helping them be taxpayers instead of tax takers............. Of course our racist resident troll disagrees. But that likely means it is a great idea ;^).............. I'm about to start several businesses and going to give them jobs if they want them as they time out to help get them on the right path and train them in real life economics.

The "Keys to Independence Act" is krap, and a "taxpayer drain". Let 'em use "public transportation" (that "taxpayers ALREADY pay for)...OR... GET A FRIEND TO GIVE YOU A LIFT ! (THIS might come as a surprise to you NANCY,... But EVEN "foster" kids have FRIENDS !) Must EVERYTHING be a 'taxpayer cost', "social issue exercise" to "SSN",.. and their ilk ?!?!?

O00oooRAH!!! To Brian Mast !!!! It's IMPOSSIBLE to get anything done (or even planned,.. or in the initial "development stages") when "The camel's (read: "Media's") noses are in the tent" ! The "Media complex" wants to "control, plan & run" EVERY event, plan, parade, fundraiser, (continue on with YOUR own list of items..) that they get a sniff or glimpse of...! [JUST ask ANYONE "in the public eye", from the President of the United States right on down to your local "dogcatcher"..]. Hard to get ANYTHING done with these people up your ........... I say again,.. O00oooRAH Brian Mast !!!... (It takes a WARRIOR to create, "polish" and execute a workable PLAN (without fomenting intrusive and corrosive "public opinion" right at the start...)... {Very "refreshing" Congressman; Very "refreshing"!!!!.... We can ALL wait, YOUR convenience...

Well stated. It is time to remind the "media" that we do not all dance to your tune!

".....he won't look good dancing around..." REALLY Nancy????? Did you ACTUALLY say THAT??? Did you intend a cute "Reporter's metaphor"??? I truly think you owe the Congressman an apology,....."Take a knee"!

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nancy smith
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