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Mack blames Obama, BP for poor response

By Staff | Jun 14, 2010

With the Sanibel Lighthouse as a backdrop, Congressman Connie Mack (at the podium) speaks to a crowd of more than 30 local leaders, island business owners and residents.

During a brief press conference Monday morning on Sanibel, Congressman Connie Mack was critical of the Obama administration’s lack of leadership in dealing with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, calling for additional funds and personnel to be deployed to assist in cleanup efforts.

Standing on the beach in front of the Sanibel Fishing Pier, surrounded by local officials and supporters, Mack called British Petroleum’s response to the spill "extremely slow."

There’s plenty of blame to go around," he said.

But the bulk of his criticism was focused squarely on Obama and the federal government’s dedication to assisting with cleanup efforts throughout the affected Gulf of Mexico region.

"You would expect President Obama to lead us now that we’re in this position," said Mack, a Republican who represents Lee and Collier counties. ""So far, we have seen a lack of urgency. We need to have all resources available committed to stopping the leak and protecting the shoreline and wetlands and marshes. Peoples’ lives are being destroyed by this disaster."

Congressman Connie Mack, standing in front of supporters, from left, Jim Jennings, Marty Harrity and Michael Valiquette, speaks during Monday's press conference.

Mack also called the situation an "all hands on deck emergency."

"We know that we have resources available," he continued. "We need booms. We need boats. We need people out there."

James Wilson, a resident of North Fort Myers, said that many people in Southwest Florida have offered to take part in oil cleanup training, but local officials have yet to call upon the public for their help.

"I’d like to know how I can help," he said. "People want to take care of this problem. It’s time to take charge."

Elizabeth Wedlake of Fort Myers, who carried a sign which included her certification from the Otsego Bay Foundation for beach cleanup training, recently returned from a trip to Florida’s panhandle region. She said that volunteers cleaning the shoreline discovered tar balls sized between two inches and nearly one foot.

Mack addressed a small crowd on the beach next to the Sanibel Fishing Pier, backed by a contingent of supporters.

"The folks from BP were nice to me," Wedlake recalled. "We need to take part in this grassroots effort to get trained to help clean up our beaches. We need to be ready to go."

Mack also stated that he will continue to monitor both the federal government’s response to this disaster and British Petroleum’s efforts to contain the oil leak.

"Moving forward, in Congress, when somebody comes before us and has a request for a drilling permit, we’ll have to make sure that this can’t happen again," he said.

In the meantime, Mack hoped that tourists from around the world would continue to enjoy all that Sanibel has to offer.

"We have to stop the myth that there are tar balls washing up on the beaches of Southwest Florida," he added. "It may be a little hot, but it’s just beautiful here."

North Fort Myers resident James Wilson wore a t-shirt created specifically for Monday's press conference.

Mack was joined at his press conference by Sanibel City  Councilmen Marty Harrity and Jim Jennings; Kim Dickerson,  Deputy Director of Lee County Public Safety, Emergency Operations Center; Danny Duncan, Chief of the Sanibel Fire & Rescue District; Capt. Matt LeClair, Lee County Sheriff’s Office District Commander for Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach; Jon Inglehart, Director of the South District Department of Environmental Protection Regulatory Office; Phil Flood and Garrett Wallace of the South Florida Water Management District; Mike and Maureen  Valiquette of PURRE (People United to Restore Our Rivers  and Estuaries) Water Coalition Foundation; Rae Ann Weasel, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation; Sam Bailey, owner of Bailey General Store; and Robbie and Geoff Roepstorff of Bank Of The Islands.


Connie Mack answers questions from a group of reporters.