Crist's Speech "Written by a Democrat"?
Today's Florida political news and punditry.
It "Could Have Been Written by a Democrat"
"Crist, who served in the shadows of Jeb Bush for the past six years as Florida's attorney general and education commissioner, used his 19-minute speech to outline populist themes that were short on details but so broad-reaching they could have been written by a Democrat." "Cutting taxes, insurance rates top the agenda". Charlie has figured it out: at the federal level as well, "Democrats' goals popular".
And what's this with the fighter jets? "F-15s screamed overhead, the guns sounded 19 times and, on the stroke of noon Tuesday, Charlie Crist formally became the state's 44th governor." "Crist takes oath, office".
More coverage of Crist: see "Charlie Crist sets 'people's agenda' as he's sworn in", "New governor promises a bipartisan approach", "Gov. Crist takes oath; schools and property taxes are on his agenda", "Crist promises to 'work together' at swearing in", "Crist proclaims need for transparency", "Crist takes office", "Gov. Crist Takes The Helm", "Take oath. Look ahead" and "Crist's Optimism Strikes A Chord With Audience".
The Tampa Trib editorial board is enthralled: "Crist Sets Fresh, Inclusive Tone With Promise To Put People First". Likewise with the editors at the Tallahassee Democrat: "Mr. Sunshine". See also Mary Ann Lindley's "It's Charlie Crist's time" and the St. Pete Times editorial board: "Crist's inaugural sets the right tone". More: "Lofty ideals, good politics" ("the new governor also used his inaugural address to set a new tone that, we hope, will result in more politically diverse appointments -- to agencies and boards -- than those made by the notoriously partisan Bush.")
But some note that "Playing center field could be tough position for Crist". The Orlando Sentinel editorial board seems to have had enough of Charlie's "sunny optimism and feel-good rhetoric", and, at the same time, are already missing their favored son, Jebbie:
Enough already."Get bolder". See also "Crist sets right agenda, but solutions need work" and "Tough choices, issues await Crist after he is sworn in as governor".
It's not that we don't like optimism, and, certainly, there's a lot to celebrate in Florida's booming economy. But if any governor could benefit from a substantive, goal-oriented inaugural address, it is Mr. Crist.
After all, the rap is that he's "Good-Time Charlie," all sunshine and little substance. The governor he replaces, Jeb Bush, was known for his "Big Hairy Audacious Goals," something Mr. Crist mentioned during his speech Tuesday. So where are Mr. Crist's audacious goals?
If you care to, you can read the entire speech here, or excerpts here.
And in the "Whatever" category, we have these stories: "Crist ditches suit to have some fun", "Friends, family - and even Democrats - join the party", "Prayer breakfast full of optimism", "Marchers persevere in the cold", "Formalities over, Crist joins the party" and "Parade attracts hearty".
The Media Failed Florida
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, observes that "as accolades are heaped on our former governor, the last eight years also deserve a sober review. It needs to be said that the personal appeal and likeability of Jeb Bush has led the press and the public to overlook the extremism of many of his policies."
Simon proceeds to identfy a handful of the media's failings:
Take the Department of Children and Families, which has been responsible for lost, brutalized and murdered children in the "care" of the state and which the press referred to as a "troubled agency." This characterization created a picture of a governor who lacked ultimate responsibility for personnel decisions and the human consequences of his budget-slashing policies on the mentally ill, the disabled and children in foster care. ...Simon closes with this:
The governor left office as he entered: advocating privatization of education through vouchers to send children to private, mostly church-run schools -- though the public opposes this version of education reform, as it did when he was elected in 1998.
Bush will probably want Florida to remember him as "the education governor." But the centerpiece of his "A+ Plan for Education," the Opportunity Scholarship Program (aka vouchers), was declared in violation of the state constitution. And, arguably, the two most important educational reform measures in the state's history (the pre-K early readiness program and the reduction in class size) were adopted without his support and over his objections.
He points with pride to increased test scores as evidence of "rising student achievement" and claims that his use of the FCAT brought "accountability" to the classroom. He failed to address the abysmally low graduation rates, among the lowest in the nation, and ignored the concerns of educators and parents about how the obsession with testing has converted classroom instruction to "teaching to the test."
It will be difficult for the public to forget his disgraceful performance in the Terri Schiavo case ...
Florida has a civil and voting rights crisis greater than any other state. Hundreds of thousands of citizens have lost their right to vote and are ineligible for state occupational licenses. ...
Most abortion opponents recognize some exceptions to restrictions -- exempting rape, incest and the need to preserve a woman's life and health. But in a notorious case, a severely retarded woman, placed in the care of the state in a group home, was raped and impregnated by one of the staff. The governor prevented consideration of an abortion by sending the DCF into court to seek the appointment of a guardian -- not for the woman, but the fetus. In another case, the governor was prevented from interfering with an abortion for a 13-year-old girl and thereby forcing children to have children.
Given our former governor's youth, his name recognition (though its value may be temporarily diminished), and the war chest stored in his foundation, how the Jeb Bush years are characterized has future political consequences."Jeb Bush legacy: Unflattering view".
Out in the blogosphere, In Theory has this: "Heckuva job, Jebbie" (via The Political Safari). This dKos diary is a bit blunter: "The Beast Known as J.E.B.". And don't forget this Huffington Post piece the other day about Jebbie's record of extremism: "'Bitter...Table for One': Jeb's Cloudy Futuro".
Sink Breaks GOP Hold
"Democrat Alex Sink broke the Republican hold on the state’s executive branch Tuesday when she was sworn in as Florida’ chief financial officer. Sink, a former banking executive, and newly elected Attorney General Bill McCollum joined holdover Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson to take their respective oaths of office shortly before Gov. Charlie Crist and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp were sworn in." "Democrat Sink, McCollum join holdover Bronson". See also "Sink Party" and "Newly sworn-in Cabinet is already a bipartisan effort".
Sink to Scrutinize Privatization
The GOPers are beginning to squirm: "Sink's declared priority to scrutinize and investigate state outsourcing 'smacks a bit of partisanship,' given the emphasis that former Gov. Jeb Bush and other Republicans have placed over the years on privatizing services, said University of South Florida political scientist Darryl Paulson, a Republican." "Sink Pledges To Keep Politics Out Of Finances".
May we respectfully suggest she take a look at this by Paul Krugman:
Florida's governor has been an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, "his bold experiment has been a success — at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations.""Victors and Spoils".
What's interesting about this network of contractors isn't just the way that big contributions are linked to big contracts; it's the end of the traditional practice in which businesses hedge their bets by giving to both parties. The big winners in Mr. Bush's Florida are companies that give little or nothing to Democrats. Strange, isn't it? It's as if firms seeking business with the state of Florida are subject to a loyalty test.
"Teachers across the state are up in arms over the pay-for-performance plan, which they say has been forced on them." "Critics give failing grade to merit pay for teachers".
"The plight of the polar bear should concern all Floridians, whether you love wildlife or not. The U.S. Department of the Interior wants to list the bears as endangered species because their numbers are plummeting." "Distant Polar Bears Should Be Significant To Florida".
Lookin' for a Plaintiff
"To government officials, it was a simple request: A local business owner wanted to donate a monument of the Ten Commandments and place it on the steps of the Dixie County Courthouse."
The commissioners, all professed Christians, approved the gift and its placement outside the building in the center of town that is home to several government agencies, including the County Commission."It's a battle not written in stone".
The monument, a chunk of black granite, went up after Thanksgiving. It stands more than 5 feet tall, weighs 6 tons and cost $20,000.
Word about the rock spread, all the way to Gainesville, leading atheists and agnostics there to contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They are threatening a lawsuit if the commission doesn't reverse itself and remove the monument.
There's just one problem: the foundation can't find anyone in this rural county of roughly 14,000 residents to participate in the proposed lawsuit.
The St. Pete Times has no problem with a little corporate welfare: even though "the price tag to taxpayers is steep - the state, Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa would provide more than $35-million in incentives" to subsidize a for-profit company that will create (only) 165 "high-paying" jobs "Bringing bioscience to Tampa".
Senator Mel opens his mouth ...
"There is a way to move your principles forward, without leaving bodies in your wake," Martinez said. "To get things done, you may have a Republican way of doing things, but maybe with a little contribution from the Democratic way . . . that may ultimately bring a better solution."Whatever, Mel.
On a separate note, Karl apparently hasn't instructed his "Florida Frankenstein" what to think about an early primary: "Mel's mum on early primary".
CD 13 Update
The Palm Beach Post editorial board takes on the most recent ruling in the Jennings - Buchanan case:
the public needs the courts to err on the side of voters, not trade secrets. Anything less does a disservice to the public and, ultimately, the machine's manufacturer, ES&S, which also makes the machines that Martin County uses. And Judge Gary's ruling relies on circular logic. Ms. Jennings hasn't proven that the touch screens failed. Thus, she can't get what she needs to see whether the touch screens failed."District 13: Wrong ruling".
The company stated in a legal brief that "ES&S has no interest in this case, other than to protect these trade secrets." That may be a good legal argument but it is bad public relations. If touch-screen voting is as reliable as ES&S and other manufacturers say it is, the company should welcome rigorous scrutiny, particularly since the court can protect trade secrets.
There's a bigger issue at work than who should be seated in District 13. Democrats in Congress, led by Robert Wexler of Delray Beach, want to require that printers provide a verifiable paper trail. Others argue for eliminating touch-screen machines entirely. With Judge Gary's ruling to keep the source code secret, ES&S may have won for the moment, but the company is losing the bigger and more important battle to reassure an already skeptical public that its product works right, all of the time.
The AP has this today: "Older voters had higher undervote rate in disputed Sarasota-area race". The story yesterday: "'Older' precincts added to problem".
"Crist has tapped Jim Greer of Oviedo to be the next chair, and the selection of a virtual unknown at least initially miffed some grassroots activists." "Carole Jean: I'm not seeking another term".
An Okeechobee Thing
A diary at dKos today, ""Welcome to Brahman Country": Gay Hate by the Lake", dissects this story: "Club that supports gay teens meets hostility in Okeechobee".
"Florida's new Gov. Charlie Crist chose not to keep embattled Department of Juvenile Justice leader Anthony Schembri on the job." "Crist drops DJJ chief". See also "Crist names six interim agency heads".
"Broward, Palm Beach and seven other county school boards have sued the Florida Department of Education, arguing that a new state agency with the power to OK charter schools is unconstitutional. Traditionally, only county school boards could approve charter schools, which are privately run public schools with independent governing bodies. That changed in August when the Legislature created the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission." "Broward, Palm Beach, others sue, call charter school agency unconstitutional".