Florence Snyder, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 17

Florence Snyder

Florence Beth Snyder is a Tallahassee-based lawyer and consultant.

Florence Snyder: Richard Corcoran, please show some love to our real life Smokeys

The men and women who take care of Florida’s forests and parks have a serious case of hair on fire, and the Legislature would do well to listen to them.

Trained professional foresters and the people at parks ‘n rec are easily among Florida’s best ambassadors. These stewards of “Real Florida” have been instrumental in attracting tourists since before Mickey Mouse was born, and they work for a lot less cheese.

This crowd is not prone to whining, or crying wolf. It takes a body blow to the budget to make them ask that we think for a moment about the work they do in the places where the wild things try to survive the wildfires that are engulfing the state.

Here’s the map that shows what they’re dealing with. Even Gov. Rick Scott thinks it’s a crisis. Yet the House proposes cutting $10 million — roughly 25 percent — of the current state parks budget.

That’s chump change to the swells and potentates at the Capitol, but in the hands of Florida’s land management professionals, it covers a lot of weed-pulling, lawn mowing, landscaping, and protecting the public from the invasive species that generations of Florida lawmakers never had the wit to do anything about.

More importantly, they are the real-life Smokey Bear, doing whatever it takes to prevent wildfires that increasingly threaten our economy, our way of life, and in some cases, the actual lives of firefighters, park personnel, residents and tourists.

The Senate budget preserves the status quo, but the better-by-far proposal comes from Gov. Scott. He proposes a 17 percent increase to pay for badly needed fire equipment; long overdue road repairs; and a Parks and Community Trails program to encourage families to VISIT places that aren’t in central Florida.

Scott’s budget also includes money to bring Florida’s parks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. That’s the law President Bush 41 signed in 1990 to facilitate inclusion for our kinsmen with “unique abilities.” How is it possible that this still on the list of Florida’s unfinished business?

Florida’s foresters and park personnel are not asking anything for themselves. They simply want the essential tools of their trades, and they should not have to be begging for the basics.

Florence Snyder: Florida’s opioid crisis, Part 5 – Hey Florida, talk to the hand!

One hour isn’t much time for a Senate subcommittee “confirmation hearing” on the heads of the agencies as important to “health and human services” as the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration.

But that’s what Health and Human Services Subcommittee Chair Anitere Flores allotted, and not one second longer. So, you’d think that AHCA’s acting secretary Justin Senior and DOH’s Interim Surgeon General Celeste Philip would each get a half-hour of the committee’s time … but you would be wrong.

Senior’s “hearing” was a tongue-bath and tummy rub that consumed most of the hour. To be fair, the feds had just dropped 1.5 billion into the AHCA’s coffers. Maybe Flores & Friends think that cash came Florida’s way due to Senior’s executive brilliance, as opposed to President Donald Trump‘s synergistic bromance with Gov. Rick Scott.

Or maybe they were running out the clock to get Philip safely to the border of Munchkinland and out of Oz altogether before she stumbled over that pesky poppy field.

Delray Beach Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader and large numbers of Floridians want to know why we don’t acknowledge the state’s opioid epidemic and get on with the business of dealing with it. In the minuscule amount of time available for Rader to ask and Philip to bob, weave and weasel her way through an “answer,” viewers got a pretty clear preview of coming attractions on the Opioid Listening Tour, announced last week by Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, who are not expected to attend.

Instead, Philip and others with titles, but no actual power, will deploy to four cities in three days for 90-minute “community conversations.”  It will be like watching a Lifetime Cable movie, but with less depth and sincerity.

Florence Snyder: Why children die: B.A.B.Y. Court works, but Florida prefers to pay for things that don’t

Planting pinwheels may “raise awareness” of child abuse, but the hard and labor-intensive work of preventing child abuse goes on in places where skilled professionals collaborate to do more difficult things.

One such place is Orange County’s B.A.B.Y. Court. There, Circuit Judge Alicia Latimore offers lollipops to toddlers and tots who have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect. That’s the fun part. The judge’s serious, life-changing work is to closely monitor the progress of the teams of social workers who help mitigate the long-term damage that predictably follows when pre-verbal children suffer harm at the hands of adults who were supposed to protect them.

B.A.B.Y. Court was incubated at the Florida State University Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy, where “lessons learned” is more than a leaf of word salad tossed into a news release every time a child dies in “state care.” Dr. Mimi Graham and her colleagues are Florida’s head cheerleaders for evidence-based methods of “trauma-informed care.” In the hands of appropriately educated professionals, it is entirely possible to break the intergenerational cycles of abuse, addiction and mental illness that break spirits, drain public treasuries and kill children who could have been saved.

Florida’s social welfare system is stuck in the mid-20th century, where caseworkers in the trenches receive little pay and less respect from a rotating cast of “leadership teams.” Failure is not only an option, it’s inevitable in a system that hasn’t had a new idea since the Graham administration, and isn’t trying very hard to fund programs that will give taxpayers a significantly better ROI.

Judges like Latimore who preside over dependency court dockets of despair say that B.A.B.Y. Court has helped close the revolving door through which families re-enter the child welfare system. The average cost-per-child of getting it right the first time is $10,000, and right now, Orange County has room in the budget for a paltry 10 cases at a time.

The Department of Children and Families, by contrast, has room in its budget for a “communications team” that includes nine flacks and a “Creative Director.”

That says a lot about what we value. And what we don’t.

Florence Snyder: Florida’s opioid crisis, Part 4 – Showtime at the Kabuki Theater

When Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi finally got around to talking about Florida’s opioid crisis, the hot air was suffocating.

In parts of Florida, opioids have overtaken homicides and DUIs as a cause of very premature and utterly unnecessary death. That is not breaking news to anyone who has been paying even a little attention. In a time when reporters are in short supply, almost every newspaper in Florida has made a noble, front-page attempt to assess the grievous impact of the opioid epidemic on their local communities.

The truth is out there, along with plenty of supporting data. Much of it comes from Palm Beach County, where “sober homes,” operated by insurance fraudsters and human traffickers, have proliferated like pythons in the Everglades. A relentless newsroom at The Palm Beach Post prodded the community to confront the mounting death toll, and to come up with evidence-based strategies and solutions.

And that’s exactly what the community did.

There’s a grand jury report full of strategies and solutions courtesy of Bondi’s hand-picked pill mill czar Dave Aronberg. There’s a Sober Homes Task Force Report. There’s a Heroin Task Force trying hard to get a second vote for a good plan of action that starts with joining states like Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia in acknowledging opioid addiction as a public health emergency that can be significantly ameliorated by public health professionals.

But who cares what an army of experts and affected citizens and taxpayers think?

Not Scott, whose brother’s unspecified addiction “taught” him that “In the end, it’s always going to come down to that individual and that family is going to have to deal with this issue.”

Not Bondi, who brings to President Donald Trump‘s Opioid Task Force insights such as “No short-term fix is going to help this problem,” as if anybody on earth had suggested a “short-term fix.”

Scott and Bondi will be sending a multiagency Kabuki Theater Touring Company around the state to hold “workshops” and “generate ideas.”  That news did not go down well in Palm Beach County, where beleaguered taxpayers, addicts struggling to recover, and grieving families of the dead are stocking up on torches, pitchforks and rotten tomatoes.

Excellent ideas are all over the place. It’s leadership that’s in short supply.

Dave Aronberg takes a number and gets in line

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg added his name last week to the list of public officials begging Gov Rick Scott to recognize the opioid epidemic for the public health emergency that it is, or at least have the guts to look them in the eye and tell them why he won’t.

America’s opioid problem is so “yuge” that Scott’s pal, President Donald Trump. has added it to son-in-law Jared Kushner‘s portfolio of priorities. Maybe Aronberg can get an audience with Kushner next time he’s in residence in the Winter Palace at Mar-a-Lago. Better still for Kushner to cross the bridge and see for himself the suffering occasioned by the “proliferation of fraud and abuse in Florida’s addiction treatment industry.” The pain and misery visited upon addicts and the people who love them is incalcuable. The body count and hard dollar cost to taxpayers are much more easily measured. In Palm Beach County, with its plethora of shady “sober homes,” the numbers are staggering.

Since 2012, the number of opiod overdoses has doubled once and doubled again. Nearly 600 people overdosed-to-death in 2016, according to The Palm Beach Post. The newspaper has been crunching the data and telling the stories of the dead, and the ones left behind, for months. It makes for excruciating reading, but Scott and his “leadership team” are unmoved.

The Post shamed Scott into a throwing citizens, taxpayers and grieving survivors a small bone last month when the Governor grudgingly allowed he was “still reviewing” public officials’ pleas to take Florida’s opioid crisis seriously.

Then, he returned to his regularly scheduled talking points.

Aronberg will be harder to ignore than “the liberal media,” and the first responders and emergency room staffs who are staggering under the weight of an impossible workload and wondering why Scott is more worried about ISIS than the crisis they deal with daily. Aronberg served as Attorney General Pam Bondi’s pill mill point man.

Bondi, a reliable Scott supporter, loves to talk about her leadership in shutting down pill mills, and now serves on Trump’s task force on opiod and other drug abuse.

A public health emergency delcalarion is overdue, and an idea whose time has surely come. If Scott continues to stonewall, there will be more deaths, and more public officials bearing pleas and petitions. The line forms to Aronberg’s right.

Florence Snyder: Prayers over the public-address system are a Florida fixture

In the 1960s, “morning announcements” at Miami Crestview Elementary School were served up with a side order of morning Scriptures.  The daily Bible readings skewed heavily New Testament, and the Jewish kids always dreaded spring, with its Easter ham-handed swipes at “Christ-killers.”

It was confusing, unsettling and sometimes downright scary. Somehow, we managed to weather it without help from the American Civil Liberties Union.

We got all the help we needed from our teachers. Whatever the administration might be pushing on the public-address system, the faculty had time, in those days, to pay attention to the children in front of them. There were fewer Test Police and Helicopter Parents. Teachers knew by the end of the first week of school what they could and could not expect of us. They had the flexibility to peel off children teetering on the brink of boredom and throw them into a “resource group,” where they learned about Malthus and Marx. Karl, not Groucho. They gave extra time to those who needed extra support.

At Easter, and all year long, the Jewish kids — along with the children of Christians and atheists — had help from parents, as well. We learned how to go into other people’s homes and houses of worship for simple meals and special occasions and join hands and bow our heads as our hosts gave voice to their traditions.

These lessons in respect served us as we outgrew Miami and our circles expanded to include Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, and others whose beliefs were not represented in north Dade County in the years before Joe Robbie brought football to town and a stadium to our neighborhood.

Respect for those who invite you into their lives is always pleasing to any God with whom anyone has ever had a personal relationship. Grabbing the microphone in the principal’s office to proselytize to a captive audience of elementary school children is just abusive showing off.

Last week, a self-described “constitutional conservative” used her public-address system at the Constitution Revision Commission — a microphone that belongs to 20 million Floridians — to pray to her god, her way.  It’s not very respectful thing to do, but it’s probably an excellent indication of where this Commission is coming from, and where it’s planning to go.

‘We Dine Together’ is rare good news from Boca Raton

Boca Raton, the plastic surgery capital of the world and a nice place to be from, is doing something right with its kids.

Located in south Palm Beach County, just minutes away from Ground Zero in Florida’s opioid crisis, Boca Raton is America’s City Most Likely to Be Mispronounced by Late Night Comedians and Out of Town Reporters.  One of them, CBS News’ Steve Hartman, visited Boca Raton High School and introduced the nation to some millennials who just might save the world.

We Dine Together is their effort to reinvent the high school lunch period. Traditionally, lunch is the time when the popular kids cluster together and make themselves feel good by making the newcomers and odd ducks feel bad.  At Boca Raton High, about a hundred of the school’s most attractive, articulate and self-possessed kids fan out during the midday meal on a mission to make sure that no one feels ugly and unwanted. Watch the video to see how they do it, and why they do it. Have some Kleenex handy.

We Dine Together kids are wise beyond their years. They understand that everybody has something interesting to say to someone willing to listen.

Feeling ugly and unwanted is a one-way ticket to depression and despair. Kids can, and do, self-medicate with plastic surgery and pills and other forms of temporary relief, and too many of them will not survive.

History may well record millennials as The Smartest Generation. They know they aren’t going to get a lot of help from a governor, and a governing class, which can’t bring itself to admit that the opioid epidemic is a public health emergency. They may be starved for adult leadership, but they’re trying hard to see to it that none of their numbers are starved for company.

Florence Snyder: Why children die — Part 2; clues in the claims bills

It’s that time of year when claims bills are briefly — very briefly — in the news.

Claims bills are the state’s reluctant, belated, grudging way of saying “we’re sorry” for the malfeasance and malpractice that ruined someone’s life. In a functioning system, simple mistakes and honest errors are caught quickly and generally capable of remediation for a sum less than $200,000. That’s the cap on damages that can be paid to an injured person without the legislature’s specific permission in the form of a claims bill.

We do not have a functioning system.

We have, instead, claims bills for victims who’ve spent years stonewalled by taxpayer-funded lawyers working for “leadership teams” whose political skills exceed their managerial competence. Sometimes, if the publicity gets bad enough, the state will admit wrongdoing, spare the victim a jury trial, and support (or pretend to support) a claims bill.

Among the stonewalled is a young man known by his initials, CMH, “to protect his privacy.” His claims bill has been kicking around the Legislature since 2013, when a Palm Beach County jury awarded him $5 million after finding that the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) was worried neither about his privacy nor his safety, when they placed a “predatory” foster child in his home.

CMH was just 9 years old when his parents, good and generous regular suburban people, offered to take one of Florida’s abused and neglected children into their Wellington home. The state employees who handled the handoff knew, but did not tell CMH’s parents, that the older boy had become a ward of the state by reason of the abuse he suffered in his family of origin, and was highly likely to victimize younger children.

And so, he did.

CMH’s claims bill may be approved, and Lord knows he deserves every penny. But there will be more victims, and more claims bills, as long as Florida continues to tolerate its social services Tower of Babel that rewards low-cost, low-skill activities like “filling out forms and bubbling in boxes” and pays no more than lip service to the idea of recruiting and retaining highly competent, highly qualified social workers who would not, on their worst day, unload a child in need of intensive professional help and round-the-clock supervision on an average family in Wellington.

 

Why children die – Part 1: If everybody’s responsible, nobody’s responsible

Lauryn Martin-Everett

“Foster care kids are our kids. They are our kids,” said Boca Raton Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader in support of legislation making it easier for youth in state custody to obtain a driver’s license.

You hear that line a lot — a lot — from “leadership” at the Department of Children & Families (DCF), and from the flacks who wear the skirts behind which “leadership” hides. It means nothing. It means less than nothing.

Latest case in point: Lauryn Martin-Everett. The 16-year-old spent half her life as one of “our kids” before hanging herself by the neck until dead in a “children’s shelter” which gets money from the “community-based care” which gets money from the DCF which gets money from the state legislature to “parent” tens of thousands of infants, toddlers and teens in “out-of-home care.”

Lauryn had looks and style and a high wattage smile. She got good grades, ran track, and went out for cheerleading. We know all that because the Miami Herald tracked down Lauryn’s 29-year-old sister, Whitley Rodriguez. It was Whitley who paid for her little sister’s athletic gear and school clothes, and otherwise kept track of Lauryn, both dreaming of the day that they could do what sisters do without having to beg for permission from publicly funded parents like the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter. Prior to Lauryn’s suicide, the “shelter” was best known as a good place for a pimp to find employment as a “mentor to at-risk” kids and a trolling ground for sex traffickers in search of fresh meat.

Only God and DCF would know why Whitley was not among the state’s candidates to provide Lauryn a “forever” home. Whitley speculates that she could not have passed the “home study” because she didn’t have a driver’s license.

DCF’s “leadership” is not talking, but thanks to what little is left of Florida’s public records law, we know that the state adopted Lauryn out to some “forever family” that later returned her in a fit of buyer’s remorse.

This happens more than you might think. Florida spends millions to get foster children off the state’s books by marketing them with the same techniques used to market politicians and consumer products. Those mass adoptions create regular opportunities to obtain “positive stories” from the organizations DCF loves to refer to as “our media partners,” but not everyone lives happily ever after.

Florida has never paid more than lip service to the idea of recruiting and retaining the kind of highly competent, highly qualified social workers who would not, on their worst day, be fooled or bullied into letting infamous child abusers like Jorge and Carmen Barahona adopt a goldfish, let alone four of “our kids.”

Ours is a system where everybody is responsible, which is just another way of saying that nobody’s responsible. It is a Tower of Babel, and Florida is decades past due to rethink it from the ground up.

Palm Beach County Commissioner has great advice for Rick Scott — Part 2

As the dust settles on last week’s Trumpcare debacle, President Donald Trump is reaching out to Sen. Chuck Schumer and others who think that America should join the rest of the civilized world in making basic health care a fundamental right.

That makes this an excellent time to remind Trump’s good friend, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, about the burgeoning public health crisis in the backyard of the Winter Palace at Mar-a-Lago.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay was the first public official to urge Scott to call Florida’s heroin epidemic by its right name: a public health crisis. That was, and remains, the Very Best Idea in Florida Right This Minute, and McKinlay’s choir is, thankfully, growing.

Last week, Palm Beach County’s Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath tossed his robe into the ring. In his plea to Scott, Colbath noted that last year’s local death toll was in the hundreds, and each overdose call to the Fire Rescue folks costs taxpayers about $1500. The price paid by first responders can run much, much higher.

Colbath is no bleeding heart, big-government, soft-on-crime snowflake. Experience as a prosecutor and insurance defense lawyer shapes his view from the bench.

The Palm Beach Post’s pacesetting, big-picture reporting on the opioid epidemic paved the way for police and prosecutors to begin cleaning up the Palm Beach County sewer of “sober homes” where pimps, extortionists and insurance fraudsters got rich preying upon addicts too sick to take care of themselves and insurance companies too stupid to recognize a criminal conspiracy.

But, as Colbath and everyone else paying attention can see, the problems have metastasized far beyond Palm Beach County. They won’t be solved easily, and they may not be solved at all without the statewide leadership that Scott’s Department of Health is long overdue to provide.

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