Manatee County commissioners join statewide clean water campaign

skennedy@bradenton.comJanuary 22, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Two Manatee County commissioners joined members of environmental and civic groups Wednesday as part of the statewide Commit to Clean Water effort.

Commissioners Michael Gallen and Robin DiSabatino attended the noon event on the steps at County Administrative Center.

The other five Manatee County commissioners, along with the entire Bradenton City Council, were invited but did not attend, said organizer Cris Costello, a Sierra Club spokeswoman.

"The goal of the campaign is to get as many officials as possible to commit to this," said Costello. "We want to demonstrate overwhelming support for Floridians' water."

Gallen said he supports the rights and responsibilities of the campaign.

"I demand clean water in the state of Florida," he said.

"For future generations, I support your cause," said DiSabatino.

Also attending: former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash and commission candidate Terri Wonder.

"I am just pleased to sign the Clean Water Declaration," said Wonder, a Democrat affiliated with the environmental group Bay Life Preservers.

Clean rivers, bays and lakes make for healthy people and healthy, resilient economies, she said.

Local groups in support of the campaign include Solutions to Avoid Red Tide, Bay Life Preservers, ManaSota-88, Native Plant Society, Save the Manatee Club, Manatee Fish & Game Association and the League of Women Voters.

Similar events were held in 15 other Florida cities, Costello said.

Statewide, more than 100 different organizations and many elected city, county and state officials participated in the Floridians' Clean Water Declaration Campaign,

she said.

Bradenton City Councilman Gene Gallo, when asked why he did not attend, replied: "I never got an invitation, not that I'm aware of -- it may have went to spam -- we get 100 spams a day."

Asked if he would have attended with an invitation, Gallo replied: "I'm not sure. I would have had to ask what it was all about."

Asking a reporter if she really wanted to hear the truth, he added: "I had a date with my wife at lunch. I'm sure I wouldn't have gone."

County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle said he had other appointments and personal business Wednesday, but generally doesn't sign such proclamations, anyway.

"Certainly, Manatee County's environmental record reflects my respect for clean water," Bustle said. "Certainly, we have done a great job in Manatee County to preserve our water."

Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who is being challenged by Wonder in this year's election, said she would not sign any agreement with anybody, in case something about the subject might come before the commission for a decision, and she could be accused of bias.

"Of course, I support clean water," Whitmore said. "It's important to protect our waterways."

Commissioner Betsy Benac said: "I did not intend to attend the rally. I did not know enough about it to attend. I'm not sure what the group is, or what their platform is. I would like to take a little more time to learn about it."

She, too, emphasized she "would support clean water, surely," and especially an effort to restore the state's natural springs.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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