This is the third installment of four special features honoring the 2018 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Congressman Tom Rooney of Okeechobee. Special thanks to Arysta LifeScience for sponsoring the Citrus Achievement Award.
If there was one thing you could fix about how Washington, DC, operates, what would it be and why?
Rooney: One of the things Washington could do to be more effective would be to bring back limited earmarks. Members of Congress know their districts best, and we are the ones who have to advocate for taxpayers back home, including citrus growers; but congressional inaction makes it hard to do that.
When we go home, we have to explain to the people who come out to our town halls and who we run into at the local hardware store what we’re doing in DC. There are folks in my district who desperately need money to do things to improve their communities, like widen roads or re-nourish beaches that are literally falling into the ocean. Sadly, what ends up happening is unelected bureaucrats in the executive branch get to decide who gets what money from the government and members of Congress are left powerless.
Because of the ban on earmarks, we can’t prioritize important projects. Critical projects — like repairing the Herbert Hoover Dike — are thrown on the back burner and slowed down as a result. Rather than leave the decision up to faceless DC bureaucrats who have never stepped foot in Florida’s heartland, bringing back limited earmarks would allow taxpayers to see their dollars come back home.
How important is accountability with politicians?
Rooney: When dealing with politics and politicians, it’s important to make sure that people, or groups, hold their representatives accountable. And if the representatives don’t listen to their constituents, they should make sure they understand that the support will go elsewhere. I think, too often people stay with and vote for incumbents because they think they’re in power and they need to support them, but that’s not how our system is supposed to work.