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Nancy Smith

Puerto Ricans at the Sunshine Summit: The Story You Never Heard

July 6, 2018 - 6:00am
Media witnessed RPOF's gift, wrote nothing
Media witnessed RPOF's gift, wrote nothing

It's just a little story and I might not have felt the need to tell it if any of the mainstream media who witnessed it had written about it or filmed it -- if for no other reason than to balance their liberal-biased stories about last week's Sunshine Summit.

But no one did.

Thursday, day of the Republican gubernatorial debate, was a scorcher in Kissimmee. It was punctuated with the week's highest humidity count and on-and-off cracking thunderstorms. An altogether unpleasant day for some two dozen Puerto Rican protesters to have to brave the elements in a symbolic tent city outside the Gaylord Palms Hotel and Resort.

I Beg to DifferProtesters were there as American citizens, to draw attention to their plight, ask for emergency help and demand stable, affordable housing from Gov. Rick Scott (who did not attend the Sunshine Summit).

When Republican Party of Florida staff arrived at midday, they saw the Puerto Ricans had what looked like very little water and food. They were noticeably wilting, even under canvass-covered patches of ground.

Protesters' pizzas arrive
Protesters' pizzas arrive

The RPOF staff took it upon themselves to order a delivery of pizza, soda and water for the Puerto Ricans -- who, when told it came from the party they were protesting, weren't sure at first whether it was OK to dig in. But soon after, they helped themselves and showed they were appreciative of the gesture.

Just a small happening unseen by Summit attendees. But media cameras and reporters were on the scene, and it struck me as mean-spirited not to devote even a paragraph to it. If they covered it, I certainly missed the story.

Asking the RPOF to talk about it was like pulling teeth. "It sounds too self-serving, we don't want to mention it," said Blaise Ingoglia, RPOF chairman. But presented with the photos you see on this page, he confirmed the story.

"We aren't looking for credit, it just seemed like the right thing to do," he said.

Protesters were appreciative
Protesters were appreciative

I would have agreed with Ingoglia -- this is nothing more than a story of people imparting kindness when kindness was called for, undeserving of a big headline. But it seemed to me the contrast between what was going on outside the Gaylord Palms and the media's gnashed-teeth feeding frenzy inside the hotel during the Sunshine Summit was too much to brush off.

The astounding facts and figures presented in the "Puerto Rico Rising" panel were barely mentioned. Why? Wrong side of the political spectrum?

A measure of resource availability and engagement is how much funding FEMA obligates in the first 180 days after a disaster. Look at these numbers from one of the panelists, Jose Fuentes, the island's former attorney general:

  • Irma, Florida (2017): $2.5 Billion
  • Sandy, New York City (2012): $2.8 Billion
  • Harvey, Texas (2017): $5.0 Billion
  • Maria, Puerto Rico (2017): $9.9 Billion

Puerto Rico faced the longest-lasting power outage affecting the most people in modern U.S. history: 3 million people without power for more than 30 days.

Look at the records Maria broke: It was the longest sustained domestic air mission of food and water in U.S. history at 62 days; largest disaster air mission in U.S. history at 5,373 sorties; the largest disaster commodity mission in U.S. history at 74.88 million liters of water, 63.83 million meals and still continuing; the argest disaster generator mission in U.S. history at 2,193 generators installed; one of the largest disaster medical response missions ever at 38,037 patients cared for; and the largest sea-bridge operation in U.S. history.

Though displaced Puerto Ricans last week were facing the end of their assisted housing, it's important to understand how much the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program has done. It's provided free-of-charge shelter in more than 1,000 motels and hotels both in Puerto Rico and the continental U.S. ... to more than 7,000 families in 42 states -- with expentitures of $81-plus million.

Gov. Rick Scott has been leading the effort, not only in Florida but nationally.

Yet the disdaining stories written last week in the Atlantic, the Orlando Weeklythe Orlando Sentinel and other media outlets didn't even acknowledge another side of the story, let alone attempt to tell it.

I remember Katrina. I remember the tens of thousands who were without homes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and had no out-of-state relative to go to. These victims were not swept up in a political circus, railing at a governor for failing to move mountains, as they are at Rick Scott today. They were putting the blame on the agency responsible, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

For the time being -- and probably only for the time being -- the humanitarian crisis has eased. A federal judge Tuesday gave Puerto Ricans in emergency housing another 20 days to find a permanent home.

U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin of Massachusetts blocked FEMA from ending the program on Saturday.

Then, U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman extended the FEMA program to July 23, pending further court action, according to a release from LatinoJustice, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed a lawsuit.

If this weren't an election year when we have to take down a party, we might be asking questions of real value -- for instance, where are the FEMA trailers? The agency has better ones now, trailers that don't make their occupants sick. Where are those?

I want to make it clear, the Puerto Ricans were appreciative of RPOF's gesture on an unbearably sultry day in Central Florida. The media hanging out with them, not so much.

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


The GOP-controlled federal government STILL needs to take care of and provide ongoing and significant assistance to the entire island of Puerto Rico. Protestors at an RPOF event here can take care of their own water and pizza!

Nature will ALWAYS have her way with the Earth... it really is up to the heartfelt desire to help others in pain relieve their difficulties. People helping people is the true nature of mankind. Why Bitch about money? There is always more of that coming down the pike. HELP THE LESS FORTUNATE! Forget POLITICS!

Always more money coming down the pike? That sounds like liberal philosophy 101. If we do not take care of our country and its finances we will end up like the USSR. Yes, we should take care of those in need and there will always be those in need. But spending too much is a problem.

Abolish the Jones Act

I would like to thank Governor Scott for opening Florida schools to automatic student transfers from Puerto Rico so that our young people could graduate on time and the students behind them could continue their education, which is keeping their hopes and dreams for a bright future alive. Thank you, Governor!

I applaud all that has been done for Puerto Rico post Maria. The Island had an antiquated power grid- government owned and operated- that was never 100% functional with rolling black outs per Maria. US Tax dollars have been spent trying to get it back in order and now the questions remains should federal tax dollar upgrade their system to a more modern power generation and supply system. Gov Rossello is pursuing solar options for rural areas and much progress is taking place. In spit of this disaster the Island is functioning well and the residents of Puerto Rico are very happy and polite people. You should visit the Island soon and see for yourself the beautiful people and Island. I also encourage you to read the Miami Herald stories about the situation that still remains in Florida's Middle keys. No financial assistance has arrived for many who lost everything, no FEMA trailers for many displaced. Hurricane debris sill lines the side roadways and the canals with no plans to clean them up. People living in tents, without running water or power in the Big Pine Federal Wildlife Refuge accidentally started a fire and as the fire spread, several homes were destroyed. Stores still remain shuttered, and life has a long way to go to being normal again for the Middle and Lower Keys. I see no protests or outrage for these residents across our country and wonder why not? While much negative focus has been directed on Puerto Rico recovery because it is a great narrative during this election cycle as a new group of voters, displaced Puerto Ricans, are now living in Florida; we also have many residents and voters in the Middle/Lower Keys that will not have a normal life again for many years to come. Should these new Florida residents who came post Maria want to stay, there are many jobs in the state but the biggest hindrance is many do not speak English. The schools in Puerto Rico until recently, are not required to teach English. Additionally, their education system is poorly rated which Governor Rossello is working tirelessly to turn around but that takes years. Perhaps the Florida regional job centers and not-for-profits can assist with teaching these new residents English and job skills for the many job opening we have today. Public assistance is helpful but it is not meant to last a lifetime. There are Federal Program that provide rent assistance based on income, free job training, food assistance, etc. Hopefully these displaced Puerto Rican citizens have been connected with these services and can better assimilate into our community should they wish to stay in Florida. We welcome these wonderful sisters and brothers and are hopefully they will be connected with the jobs that exist here and stay for many years to come.

Thanks Nancy. That bolstered me against a growing cynicism of labeling groups and erasing humanity as a factor in all political camps.

I agree with rvrysingle word that Miss Nancy wrote..Yes if the hotels and other help were available in Puertorico.what made them leave their homes to come in?Different for me.Ice been here since 8 yrs old.And we need to remember the the Caribbean basin is always visited by hurricane..Why leave such a beautiful piece of land..?

a kind gesture indeed, however, don't just cover pizza and water, or transitional housing assistance, cover that 20%, tens of thousands of Americans are still without power. These are Americans without power and up to 25% still without adequate water supplies. This is in a word, unacceptable. Here we are talking about summits and golf trips and Mar a Lago, etc. yet there are Americans without basic necessities. That should be the real story here, but unsurprisingly, it is not... That is the real outrage coming from the people of Puerto Rico...

As many people know, the root of today's Puerto Rican problems lie not with the hurricane but with the mismanagement, lack of management of infrastructure by the local PR government for years prior to the hurricane. Yes, they live in a US TERRITORY but they do not live in a US state and don't pay the same taxes. We, the taxpayers, continue to pay outrageous amounts of money to build the island's infrastructures. So blaming whoever is in office in the US, whether the governor of Florida or the President is really only about politics - and ignores the overwhelming generosity of the US taxpayer.

Welcome all you beautiful people from PR. I'm so glad you are here to help us humiliate that upcoming pond ripple the leftists are calling their "blue wave". Praise God and never forget these leftists are the same Satin worshipers who love to mutilate and pull live squirming babies out of mothers womb. Then after they pull them out (often a disjointed arm and leg at a time) they love to kill the poor babies if they are not already dead. #PR51stState #voterepublican #savebabies

Satin lovers? We love cotton and other materials as well. Also, there are many of us who are anti-abortion but we want to help people who are pregnant to keep their babies not just throw them out on the streets or separate living babies from their parents like your leader does.

You still haven't heard the news have you? President Bill Clinton passed the law you so eloquently wrote about. Were you wringing your hands then? I dare say not! President Bush enforced the the law President Clinton passed but still nothing but the sounds of silence from you and your hypocritical ilk. Ph yes, then came your hero President Obama, your savior of all children being torn from their mothers arms, but not only did he enforce this law President Clinton passed but he also spoke out on protecting our nation's borders from illegal immigrants. Then came this nation's electoral process and your darling Hilary Clinton who also was on record for protecting our borders from illegal immigration, running against Donald Trump (who the media and all other crooked folks claimed would soundly defeat). So now President Trump actually does what he said he would do and you mealy mouthed complainers think he is a bad man. You and your ilk are nothing but liars and hypocrites! Get used to real freedom by a strong President who doesn't spend his time on golf courses and extravagant vacations on our dollar. Not only did President Trump enforce the law passed by your immoral President Clinton, but when he saw that it was wrong, President Trump changed the law. You may now go back into your safe room. President Trump will be overwhelmingly elected President in 2020.

Miss Grundy my old high school English teacher! Good to hear from you how have you been? Thank you for pointing out my spelling error. I know you have my best interest in your heart. It's totally OK with me that you have transformed into Arnold. Good for you!!!

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nancy smith
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