"The whole idea of privatization - or "outsourcing," if you prefer - is to save the taxpayers money and improve services by injecting competition into the government marketplace."
It didn't start with ex-Gov. Jeb Bush, although he was an enthusiastic advocate of giving privateers a shot at the "noncore" functions of state agencies. ..."Former Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, and Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, were skeptics of privatization, as successive chairmen of the Senate Governmental Operations Committee. Persistent errors, lateness, security problems and just general dysfunction of the massive People First personnel outsourcing contract with Convergys - Bush's biggest and costliest - added impetus to creation of the council."
There is now a Council on Efficient Government that's cleaning up after Bush, although none of its professional staff would put it quite that way. In fairness, the council is doing a lot more than live autopsies on the Bush legacy; it will set up an orderly system for government contracting.
It would be good if the panel's review includes the question: "Is this a proper function of government?" Some things really are, like running prisons. ..."Monday's Cotterell column: The best privatization is the kind that works".
The idea behind all outsourcing is supposed to be that going outside government not only saves taxpayers money, but provides better services. One or the other is good; cheaper and better is best.
The trouble is, in the past, such a cost-benefit judgment has been made by the same people who were intent on privatizing something. If there's anything left to privatize, post-Bush, this new council appears to have a credible mix of government and private-sector talent to live up to its name.
Florida's "first postpartisan governor"
Steve Bousquet: "As the first postpartisan governor in the state's history, Crist has redefined what it means to be a Republican in Florida." "Redefining the Florida Republican".
Shirish Date, the Tallahassee bureau chief for the Palm Beach Post,is the author of 'Jeb! America’s Next Bush", comments on the Jebbie - Charlie thing::
Jeb supporters may label [it] a hatchet job by a vindictive journalist who was denied access because he wouldn’t play by Jeb’s rules. But Date says his unsparing portrait of Bush has been tempered somewhat by the ascendancy of Jeb’s successor, Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate Republican who appears to be the "caring conservative" Jeb only professed to be."In Date’s estimation,"
"Crist does believe in consensus, in persuading other people to his point of view or at least making the attempt, and Jeb really didn’t," Date says. "Jeb tried to twist your arm and if you didn’t buy into his point of view, then you were marginalized or punished or both. And it wasn’t just journalists; it was judges and legislators and the teacher’s union, whole vast groups of people who were 'off the bus' for eight years." ...
[W. and Jeb ]fundamentally don’t believe in the idea of having to accommodate popular consensus," Date says. "They believe that if you win, you get to do whatever you want, and if voters don’t like it, then elect somebody else."
Jeb’s chances of a presidential bid, either in 2008 or 2012, have been complicated by the sudden glow surrounding Crist, who it appears can deliver the Florida vote without the Bush baggage."Book a 'virtual vivisection' of former governor Bush".
"Jeb’s people fully believe that Charlie would be an utter and total disaster, and that people in Florida would see that within a few months. But to their dismay, he is 10-15 points more popular than their guy ever was through his entire eight years," Date observes.
That presents some ticklish timing issues for the president’s younger brother.
"What it does is, it narrows Jeb’s window considerably. Jeb really thought he had 10 years to kind of pick and choose what he did and when he did it. If the Republicans lose nationally in 2008, Charlie will be well positioned for his own bid, not for VP but for president in 2012. Even now, the Republicans come down here and kiss Charlie’s ring. They need him more than Jeb now."
"Letting Florida's three major research universities charge more in tuition won't suddenly provide financial stability for the state's overburdened higher education system, but Gov. Charlie Crist sent an encouraging signal by signing into law this important tool that would start addressing the problem." "Crist sends right signal".
"Still trouble in this part of paradise"
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization might want to consider a do-over on its decision to drop Everglades National Park from its "World Heritage Sites in Danger" list. There's still trouble in this part of paradise." "Environment".
"Sorry. That information is confidential"
"One day, you're out in your front yard and you see six cars adorned with county economic-development logos drive onto the vacant field across the street. A bunch of people in business suits get out, walk around the property for a while and leave. You're curious, so you call the county. What's going on? After a few transfers, you get a polite answer. Sorry. That information is confidential."
Congratulations. You've just hit one of the shady spots in Florida's much-vaunted open-government laws."Open Government".
Under an exemption created by the Legislature, local government employees can woo industries to their community in secret -- even promise taxpayer-funded incentives. They can move the process so far forward that the project is just one or two votes away from becoming reality. And by the time you discover that a round-the-clock grocery distributor wants to send dozens of trucks rumbling down your quiet street, it may be too late to weigh in.
This is the kind of public-records exemption that a new commission appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist should be looking at: The kind of restriction that limits information the public might need to know.
At the trough
"After a property-tax special session in which Florida lawmakers devoted most of their attention to homeowners, the state's dissatisfied business lobby is turning to an obscure but powerful body to get deeper tax cuts directed its way." "Businesses set sights on tax relief".
"The summer of 1971"
"In the summer of 1971, CIA agents saw Miami Beach as a sultry U.S. stand-in for Saigon, South Vietnam. So they secretly set up an antenna on a hotel rooftop -- and field-tested then state-of-the-art eavesdropping equipment." "Psst, the secret's out! S. Florida was hub for CIA in '60s, '70s".
"Residents and Democratic lawmakers from Broward County disappointed in recent property tax legislation".
"Democrats could gain more Hispanic voters, who make up the nation's largest and fastest growing minority. Except for Cuban-Americans, the nation's Hispanics traditionally have voted for Democrats, but many were swayed toward President Bush in 2004, when he received a landmark 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. With the immigration bill's collapse, Republicans could lose such gains, experts said." "Hispanic voters could make GOP pay for defeat of immigration legislation".
"Hillary Rodham Clinton took a jab at a potential GOP candidate, while her fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls joined her in addressing topics such as immigration, the war in Iraq, education and health care in a forum hosted by Latino elected officials Saturday. All of the major Democratic presidential candidates were in Central Florida for a question-and-answer session sponsored by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Of the GOP candidates, only California Rep. Duncan Hunter accepted the group's invitation to speak." "Democratic presidential candidates speak at Latino forum". See also "Democrats Court Hispanic Leaders At Conference" and "Clinton Names Floridians To Hispanic Council".
"Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday she is 'appalled' by remarks made by Republican Fred Thompson suggesting that some Cuban refugees could be terrorists." "Hillary Clinton Says She Is 'Appalled'".
"Another weird Miami coincidence"
"Kendrick Meek says his enthusiasm for the biotech project had nothing do with the fact that his mother was a paid consultant for the developer, or that she was was receiving free rent and the use of a luxury SUV."
He says his mom never asked him to propose the $4 million appropriation."Another colossal rip-off".
So it's just another weird Miami coincidence -- mother and son independently embracing a fast-talking Boston developer with ambitious plans and a thirst for public financing.
More: "Prompted by a Miami Herald investigation into a failed Liberty City project, Rep. Kendrick Meek says he's donating $5,500 in campaign contributions linked to the Boston developer of the project he and his mother, former Rep. Carrie Meek, once suported." "Meek to return campaign contributions". More at Politico (via Naked Politics).
"Ladies, get out your mops and brooms"
"It was all about the girls Saturday, as Hillary Clinton swept into Miami for a $100 a plate Mother-daughter breakfast fundraiser. 'If there ever was a time for a woman president it's now,' the Presidential hopeful told a mostly female crowd of nearly 1,000 at Jungle Island. 'We're going to have to do a lot of cleaning up after President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Ladies, get out your mops and brooms.'" "Candidate Clinton stops in Miami".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Lawmakers need to extend no-fault after blowing three earlier opportunities." "Fourth time the charm". See also "Interest groups taking sides in Florida's 'no-fault' insurance fight".
Mark Lane: "Roughly every three years, the state makes serious changes in the rules for grading public schools and using the FCAT. Roughly every three years, the scores drop as teachers and administrators scramble to adapt, teach what the tests demand and generally game the system. Then, the next year, school grades go up as the system adapts to the last wrinkle in the testing game. Congratulations go out all around. And again the next year. Then, people in Tallahassee talk gravely about lax standards, lest folks start to get the dangerous idea that public education isn't failing." "FCATs' puzzing results".
Our booming economy
"A stalled housing market combined with a drop in corporate tax collections has state officials bracing for a $1 billion loss in anticipated revenue. Tax collections came in $320 million less than expected through May, and state economists warn the trend is expected to continue." "It's not just local government: State sees need to tighten belt".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Only after they've cut the fat should elected county and city officials respond to the Florida Legislature's property-tax rollback by targeting public services. The obvious and best choice is to do what hurts the public the least. And that could mean cutting salaries." "When trimming budgets, cut fat first, services last".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida, tolerant since the early 1930s of a little gambling at the track but steadfastly opposed to the numbers racket and casinos, is sliding fast down a glassy slope that bottoms out in a place much like Las Vegas." "Quest For Tax Revenue Lures Reluctant Florida Toward Casinos".
"South Florida is awash, but the rainy season showers are missing a critical spot for our water supply: Lake Okeechobee. So much so, water levels reached an all-time low Saturday since record keeping began in 1931." "Despite S. Florida soaking, Lake O becomes Lake Low".
"The health, safety and development of children is a common theme running through a large stack of new Florida laws that take effect today." "Children are focal point of laws that go into effect today".
"Class of 2007: Legislative yearbook grades South Florida delegation".
"Florida Hometown Democracy"?
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "A group called 'Florida Hometown Democracy' is gathering signatures for a constitutional amendment requiring a referendum on any proposed changes in comprehensive land-use plans."
Hometown Democracy would place decisions about growth and development in the hands of the voters, many of whom are more interested in getting their kids to soccer practice or trying to keep their businesses afloat than the nuances of real estate markets or the economic viability of different types of land development."Ballot-box zoning will stifle construction".
Granted, Hometown Democracy's plan has a surface-level appeal. The name itself conveys an alluring image of empowered citizens in neighborhoods of white picket fences.
But this populist mask conceals an anti-growth, "close the gates" agenda that could threaten housing affordability, economic opportunity, and private property rights. Hometown Democracy would turn Florida into a laboratory for a statewide experiment in the radical sort of "ballot-box zoning" that has fueled sky-high housing costs in places like San Francisco, where the median housing price now stands at $620,000.
"For a year, a state agency has been throwing away records relating to consumer disputes with insurance companies. A Department of Financial Services lawyer said he decided that because the files weren't requested and aren't required by law, the agency is free to destroy them." "State destroyed its records of insurance-company complaints".