Sunday, June 08, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Florida "doubling down on low wages"

"While other states have used private money to foster higher-paying jobs, Florida has continued to use public money to feed the low-wage beast."

Politicians have offered tax breaks and incentives to theme parks and restaurants. They celebrate the openings of convenience stores.

Just last week, Gov. Rick Scott signed a budget that boosted taxpayer-funded promotion of tourism to a record-high $74 million.

This is simply doubling down on low wages — and using public money to do so.

"It's doing the same old thing and expecting different results."
Everyone knows that tourism is the mother's milk of this region. Cartoon characters and thrill rides put us on the map. But they have also placed us at the bottom of America's wage scales.

We [Orlando] have the lowest average wage of any major city in America and the greatest percentage of workers making less than $25,000.

As a result, Central Florida is full of families living on the edge — one car repair or E.R. visit from homelessness or poverty.

"How to lift Orlando wages: Bright ideas, private investment."

FSU's "bizarre" presidential search

"Florida State presidential search called 'bizarre'." See also "Thrasher denies circumventing FSU presidential search process."

Who knew?

"Cornelia Corbett is a name associated with philanthropy in Tampa, chiseled as it is into buildings at the Tampa Museum of Art and at a North Tampa preparatory school. Renown, in fact, seems to run in her family. The name of Corbett’s great-great-great-grandfather — Elbridge Gerry — appears on the Declaration of Independence and inspired a term that’s at the center of a court battle under way in Tallahassee: Gerrymander." "Philanthropist’s family linked to historical controversy."

"Sordid redistricting process"

The Tampa Trib editors write that "the testimony in a Tallahassee courtroom over the past several weeks shows the 2012 redistricting process was pretty much business as usual. Secret meetings were held, documents were deleted and a fake email account may have been created in an apparent attempt to hide the fact that Republican consultants may have helped draw a district map. . . . Regardless of the decision, the trial has been a blow to any notion that the newly passed constitutional amendments diminished the influence of partisan politics in a process critical to ensuring that representation in our political bodies is a true reflection of the populace." "Bring sordid redistricting process into the sunshine."

Meanwile, Martin Dyckman reports that "Republican governors like Rick Scott and ALEC-infested legislatures like Florida’s are ingenious at making it difficult and inconvenient to vote. "

And there are those who would make it even harder.

One Florida congressman, Ted Yoho, said during his 2012 campaign that only property owners should be allowed to vote.

Elsewhere on the radical right, there’s a growing fervor to repeal the 17th Amendment and have legislatures rather than the people choose U.S. senators again. Ted Cruz and Antonin Scalia, among others, are identified with this.

Call that nutty if you like, but those people are quite serious. Cruz wants to be president. Scalia sits on the Supreme Court.

Obvious obstacles to the ballot box such as voter ID, limited polling places and restricted voting hours aren’t the only devices for subverting your right to vote.

The other way is to waste your vote by gerrymandering it into irrelevance.

The current court challenge to the congressional district map that Florida Republicans contrived offers a glaring example.

"GOP is winning the gerrymandering game in Florida."

Mitchell Berger point man in the effort to make climate change a 2014 campaign issue

Anthony Man: "Fort Lauderdale’s Mitchell Berger didn’t plan to become a point man in the effort to make climate change a 2014 campaign issue. But he’s there, thanks to a confluence of events." "Mitchell Berger invests to make climate change a political issue."

"House of Cards" in Hooterville

Scott Maxwell on the recent grand jury investigation of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority: he writes that it is "a 543-page barn burner filled with allegations of corruption, power and greed. It involved limousine rides, booze, romance and millions and millions of dollars." He continues:

If the storyline was playing out on Netflix, I'd probably grab my popcorn and delight in watching.

Unfortunately, the reaction I had was less delight and more nausea.

That's partly because the characters in this real-life saga aren't nearly as appealing as the ones we see on TV.

While Hollywood schemers are savvy, sophisticate and subtle, these alleged schemers here in Orlando look obvious and oafish. You find yourself thinking: How can these guys orchestrate a coup? I'm not sure they can spell "coup."

I mean, who calls a limousine to a supposedly covert meeting?

Who utters sentences like: "Are you telling the vice chairman no?"

One of the key scenes detailed in the report takes place at a beer bar in Baldwin Park, where investigators say Batterson, the indicted former vice-chairman, tried to arrange a quid pro quo.

Not some hip, sleek ultra lounge, mind you. Or some out-of-the-way dive. A high-traffic beer bar named CaddyShanks where yuppie Baldwin Parkers walk by with their labradoodles to see and be seen. . . .

But Batterson wasn't alone at the bar that night. In this political thriller, there were cameos aplenty.

State Rep. Jason Brodeur and former Rep. Chris Dorworth were there — and departed in a limousine ... from the Baldwin Park beer bar, mind you.

Congressman John Mica's daughter, D'Anne, also shows up — though she later said she was just saying hello, since she's in a Bible study with Batterson's sister and mother.

Callahan said he was told that Dorworth — whose girlfriend works for the state's transportation secretary — had inside connections with the state.

Wink, wink. Nod, nod. Somebody get us another round of Cajun fries from Five Guys.

"House of Cards," this is not.

"But a few things are clear already:"
First, nowhere in this 543-page report does anyone seem focused on the only two things they were supposed to be focusing on — keeping tolls low and making commutes easier.

Second, Florida's top transportation officials — Secretary Ananth Prasad and District Secretary Noranne Downs — seem up to their eyeballs in all this (though Downs is portrayed as more of a yes-person than an independent thinker). Gov. Rick Scott is still MIA on all this, leaving State Attorney Jeff Ashton and a grand jury clean up his mess.

"Romance, power, booze, limos — all part of X-way case."

Expected FlaGOP candidate for governor in 2018 dances around climate change

"Adam Putnam, one of the four statewide elected officials in the Florida Cabinet, said Wednesday the world’s climate is clearly changing. He said it is “probably” been exacerbated by human activity – the conclusion of a vast majority of scientists – but isn’t sure how much of it is 'man versus some natural climactic cycle.'"

Putnam, a former top Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, is the state’s elected agriculture commissioner. He’s seeking election this fall, and is widely expected to be a Republican candidate for governor in 2018.
"Adam Putnam, top Florida Republican, attempts to thread climate change needle."

You remember Mr. Putnam: