DeSantis appoints 2 new members of Broward County Commission, addresses gambling compact delay

Florida

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — At an event in Fort Lauderdale, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced two new appointments to the Florida Department of Transportation. Torey Alston and Jared Moskowitz will fill vacancies on the Broward County Commission.

Alston currently works as the Chief of Staff for the Florida Department of Transportation, while Moskowitz served as director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management until February.

The governor said he was certain both appointees would put their communities first and avoid “useless political fights.”

“We have a lot of potential in South Florida, a lot of people want to be here, a lot of people want to invest,” DeSantis said. “And local government stuff is very important. If you look around the country, when these local governments have really gone off the rails, and a lot of it’s when you have one-party rule, you look and you see what’s happened to San Francisco, it’s a shell of its former self. You look at L.A., with all of the homeless that they have, all the crime in Chicago, you look at New York City.”

He said the changes in those cities are the result of policies, “a result of ideology trumping community.”

“I think to have two folks here who have demonstrated records of putting service above self, people that will work with you regardless of your political party, and people that both understand that we have unique opportunities here in Florida in this part of our history and kind of all eyes are on us,” the governor said.

DeSantis said he was excited to work with them and see what they could do together going forward. Alston spoke next and addressed the crowd gathered at the event. He thanked the governor for his vote of confidence.

“I am ready to roll up my sleeves and serve the people of Broward County and District 9,” Alston said. “As the governor said, there is no place like home.”

Alston said his passion for service began with his family and at a young age. His mother served Broward as a social services case manager for 35 years and his father was the first school resource officer at Boyd Anderson High School, where he served for more than 20 years.

Alston’s own service record covers multiple positions, including as a member of the Florida A&M University board of trustees, the corporate board of the Broward Boys & Girls Club, the City of Fort Lauderdale Audit Advisory Committee and the City of Oakland Board of Adjustment, before his time with FDOT.

He promised to begin a local listening tour across the commission’s community and speaking with key stakeholders before taking his seat on the commission.

“My initial priorities as a commissioner will include economic development, infrastructure, job creation, rent and housing assistance, a small veteran business development program, and of course, the environment,” Alston said. He thanked his wife and college sweetheart for giving him “the green light on this call to service,” and praised the support of his children and the governor.

“I can assure you, and the people of Florida and the people of Broward County that District 9 will be in great hands with a fresh perspective and new energy through 2024,” Alston said.

Moskowitz spoke next. He thanked the governor for the appointment and said he hoped the new position would not be as “eventful” as his last position with emergency management.

“On day one when I’m sworn in, I will go to work for the residents of Districc t8 and Broward County,” Moskowitz said. “There are many items to tackle. Infrastrucutre, economic development, but I want to work with all of our partners to continue the progress we have made on shcool safety following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting.”

He said he left his position as the emergency management director because at it took him away from his family.

“I didn’t go home for four months at the beginning of the pandemic,” Moskowitz said. “And my wife and kids stayed in Broward. And I am humbled by this opportunity the governor has afforded me to both continue my public service but be at home.”

He said the pandemic had taught him how important time with family was, and that time with them could be limited. Then Moskowitz said it was an honor to work with Mayor Michael Udine again, and thanked Commissioner Barbara Sharif for her service to the residents of District 8 and congratulated Alston for his appointment to the District 9 seat on the commission, before thanking the governor again.

Mayor Udine congratulated both appointees and said he was looking forward to working with them both.

“It is my honor to be standing here as Broward county mayor and to welcome two very qualified, fantastic members of the new Broward County Commission. We are a collegial body that looks to work together for the benefit of all residents of Broward County, for our residents, our businesses and our visitors, Broward County is an open and diverse community,” Udine said. “I look forward to working hard with you to bring the best results for all of our stakeholders as we move forward.”

When DeSantis took the podium after local speakers finished, he took a few questions from those gathered.

Addressing gas prices and inflation, DeSantis said the costs were “pinching people,” particularly workers at the gas pump for those who have to commute.

“There’s not really a way that they can ‘quote’ tighten their belts,” DeSantis said about his gas tax proposal. “These are kind of fixed costs and the costs are going up so it’s something they have to do, so I think it’s really appropriate, I think it’ll make a difference. We were trying to figure out what we could do for sure. We actually looked at maybe tolls but not everyone does toll roads, particularly in other parts of the state, and then you have these expressway authorities. So we said you know what, here’s our share of the gas tax, why don’t we reduce that to zero?”

DeSantis said making the gas tax relief a legislative priority and cutting certain parts of the budget was something he’d done before, referencing his cut of the Job Growth Grant Fund in the 2020 budget due to COVID-19 budgetary concerns.

“We’re doing another increase for teacher pay, we’re gonna do bonuses for cops and firefighters again, we’re going to do a $5,000 signing bonus for out of state law enforcement who’ve been treated very poorly in other parts of the country, they can come to Florida and do very well,” DeSantis said about legislative priorities next year. “We have money to transition by getting rid of the FSA and doing progress monitoring, we actually have a good system in place that’ll monitor progress and provide feedback, so we’ve got a lot of great things that’ll be done, and that’ll all be done in a way where we have really strong reserves going forward.”

DeSantis said it was unacceptable to have good, “record” reserves and not do more to provide relief for Florida residents as gas goes up so much in price.

Asked about the gambling compact between the state government and the Florida Seminole Tribe, DeSantis said he had not seen the federal court decision to invalidate the agreement, but addressed the negotiation between the state and tribe.

“When we did the compact, I can only negotiate with the tribes, I cannot do any gambling outside of that, per the amendment that passed in 2018,” DeSantis said. “That’s all done via referendum or not. So we had the ability to negotiate with the tribe, I felt very strongly, you know their Tampa casino is the most profitable casino in the country. They were paying nothing to the state so we got a deal that is going to be very good for the state. They wanted to do the sports and we said fine, and the reason why I’d said that is because it would probably pass on a referendum anyways and if a company gets it, the tribe gets it anyways, so we felt that that made sense.”

Referring to the “hub and spoke” of the gambling issue, DeSantis said the compact was preserved for the casinos and other stuff, and the state will still get revenue even without the hub and spoke sports betting. DeSantis said the “government wasn’t prepared” and the state and tribe would work together to get the compact validated.

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