Crist tours disabled home, talks politics

08/05/10 Kate Bradshaw
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He didn’t have any major announcements to make, but Governor Charlie Crist was in town for a short time today. WMNF’s Kate Bradshaw reports that the purpose of his visit was ostensibly to tour a facility for persons with disabilities, but he took a few minutes to field a random slew of questions from reporters.

Crist spent the better part of an hour touring the 10-acre campus, which sits off St. Petersburg’s traffic-choked Tyrone Boulevard. Parc houses more than forty different programs for people of all ages with developmental disabilities. In a room where adult residents were putting in a day’s work packaging Bic pens for regional distribution, Parc spokeperson Kelli Caputo said it had been a while since the governor had been there.

"I mean, we've been around since 1953 and he is a St. Pete resident. So, he knew about Parc, but it's just been a number of years since he could visit. And it's expanded, tremendously."

She added that she hopes Crist can take the image of Parc’s residents – and the message of what they need – back to Tallahassee.

"This way, when he goes back to Tallahassee and they're talking about agencies for persons with disabilities, he knows the population that's effected by those decisions."

Asked afterward, the governor said he was impressed, and happy to have such a facility – the largest of its kind in the Tampa Bay region – around.

"The dedicated workers that are here, I mean, they're serving so many people. The developmentally disabled need all the help that we can provide them, and I'm just proud that this is working as well as it is, right here in our state."

Though he was running late for another appearance – operating on what Tallahassee reporters jokingly call “Charlie time” – he took a few minutes to talk to the press about pretty much all of the latest news that may pertain to him. Asked what he thought about the apparently-functioning cap on the BP well that spewed millions of gallons into the gulf, he said he’s relieved.

"I'm very pleased. That's been one of the most difficult situations to deal with, as governor. The beauty that really makes Florida unique, is something that you never want to have to sacrifice in any way, whatsoever. When that oil started spewing out in the Gulf, back in April, it just broke my heart. To see it finally capped, it's a great conclusion, I hope."

But it’s not over, he said.

"There's a lot left to do. There really is. Not only to protect our wildlife, the environmental cleanup that's going to be necessary, but the economic result of this. That's why it's so important that we continue to work with Ken Feinberg, as we've been doing. They have the $20 billion fund to try to make these small businesses whole. The hotels, the restaurants, the fishing industry, I mean, there's a lot of work left to do."

Tonight’s debate between GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Rick Scott and Attorney General Bill McCollum has political junkies on the edges of their seats. Crist said he wasn’t betting on either horse, but he might tune in between innings of tonight’s Rays game.

"I'm not going to endorse in that race. I've got my hands full in my own race and plenty to keep me busy. I'll watch with great interest, though."

He didn’t say whether he would publicly support anyone in the pool of prospective successors to the governor’s mansion. The former Republican did defy the GOP’s latest attempt to further marginalize immigrants. This week, top Republicans have called for the repeal of a clause in the US constitution’s fourteenth amendment that grants citizenship to anyone born on US soil, even if one’s parents are so-called illegal immigrants. Nonsense, Crist said.

"I don't think it should be amended. I think that the Fourteenth Amendment, that honors the fact that if you're born in America, you're an American, is something that ought to continue to honor."

WMNF asked him about another bickering point between the two mainstream parties: the Federal stimulus. Today a massive spending bill aimed at preserving thousands of government jobs cleared the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is calling the US House of Representatives back to Washington to approve the measure. Crist said he wasn’t sure how he felt about it.

"I'm not sure. We'll have to wait and see."

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