Florence Snyder, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 17

Florence Snyder

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

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.

Florence Snyder: VISIT clueless tourism officials in Brevard County

If there’s one thing a $113,000 a year Florida tourism executive urgently needs, it’s a $26,000 raise.

Otherwise, says the Brevard County Director Compensation and Job Performance Committee, its Office of Tourism Executive Director Eric Garvey might leave the Space Coast — where the median household income is $48,483 — for greener Florida tourism pastures, where “the average salary for his counterparts” is $154,792.

Last week, the Brevard Tourist Development Council endorsed the committee’s recommendations, which include an added $90,000 to be divided up among nine of Garvey’s “best in class” staffers.

Don’t these people read newspapers?

Florida tourism’s marketing honchos have a target on their backs, fronts and sides, along with incomes that vastly exceed what average Floridians will earn in their best years, or their wildest dreams.

This is a bad week to be bearbaiting legislators and taxpayers who think the tourism czars should pay their publicists out of their own pockets. Garvey’s bosses might want to reVISIT their strategy.

Rape kits delayed is justice denied, Part 3

Robert Sheridan Haar

In a few weeks or months, we will learn the name of the Volusia County woman who, in 1997, had the bad fortune to encounter one Robert Sheridan Haar.

Relying upon DNA evidence, police say Haar, 22 at the time, and two of his yet-unidentified predator pals abducted and gang raped her near Mud Lake in Daytona Beach.  She was 14 years old.

To her attackers, she was just a piece of meat, a nameless target of opportunity. Today, Haar sits in a Wisconsin jail, awaiting the paperwork necessary to bring him back to Volusia County, thanks to what turned up in the 20-year-old rape kit of a nameless, helpless victim whose attackers figured they’d never see again.

Haar and two sidekicks allegedly told the teenager she would be killed if she screamed or resisted. The trio dumped her in Port Orange the next morning, when they were done with her.

She’s not done with them. “Obviously, she was very emotional, she did recall the incident very well although it had been 20 years,” Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Pat Thoman said in a news conference.  “She was definitely willing to pursue the case.”

Haar had managed to keep his DNA out of a law enforcement database until 2016, which is, coincidentally, the first time that the 19-year-old rape kit for this victim was submitted for testing.

Haar’s arrest comes as a reminder that he’s not the only person who might be decades overdue to face a grown woman with a prosecutor at her side and account for himself to the terrified child she used to be.

We can’t be reminded too often.

Florida’s public officials love to talk tough on crime, but they won’t cough up the chump change it would take to clear the backlog of rape kits gathering dust as perps remain free to gather new victims. The number of untested rape kits now stands, roughly, at 6444.

It’s an embarrassment. It’s a disgrace.

If you’re old enough to get married, you’re old enough to have a will

If you’re old enough to get married, you’re old enough to have a will, but that’s not something the Wedding Planner will tell you.

Your parents probably won’t tell you, either; it’s a statistically safe bet that your parents, your grandparents, and your wedding planner don’t have a will of their own.

Death is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. But it happens to the best of us, and to the worst. It can come suddenly, shockingly, to someone far too young. For the lucky, it comes gently, after a long and fulfilling life. Under any scenario, somebody must go through your wallet, your underwear drawer, your closets, your iPad, and figure out what to do with your stuff. Someone will look into the eyes of your dog, your cat, your bunny rabbit or your pet python and decide whether to take him home, take him to a shelter, or dump him in the Everglades.

We have enough pythons in the Everglades. If you’re old enough to have a pet python, you’re old enough to have a will.

One hundred percent of Americans will die one day, but 72 percent of them do not have a current will. Wealthy Americans are no more likely than the rest of us to have a will. And they are more likely to have a will that is out of date. In the afterlife, this’ll come back to haunt them.

Florence Snyder: Whether Adam Putnam likes it or not, it’s still OK to tell the truth

If Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is serious about running for governor, he’s going to have to dial down the #Stupid in his own office.

The Baron of Bartow went full #FloridaMan on Ocheesee Creamery, a family-owned dairy farm an hour’s drive and a world away from what former Gov. Jeb Bush derisively — and correctly — referred to as “Mount Tallahassee.” The Wesselhoefts are central casting’s idea of decent, hard-working people being run out of business by “regulators” running wild. They dote on their small herd of Jersey cows like the Donald dotes on Ivanka.

Visitors to the Creamery’s website learn that the “Jersey girls” are “an intelligent cow breed, and we enjoy being around them because they are known for their calm, gentle and docile nature.”

The “plush green grass and open fields of fresh air and sunlight” at Ocheesee would make an ideal backdrop for those ubiquitous FreshFromFlorida commercials. Instead, Putnam and his lawyers at the firm of Orwell, Kafka and ? and the Mysterians are in their fifth year of spending public funds to force the Wesselhoefts to add vitamin A to their skim milk, or add the word “imitation” to their skim milk labels.

Yesterday, it was Putnam’s turn to get creamed.

A panel of Reagan, Bush, and Obama appointees to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals circled the constitutional wagons around strict construction and decided that it is not deceptive to refer to skim milk as skim milk.

Nobody claimed otherwise before Putnam was elected as the state’s agricultural regulator-in-chief. His jihad on Jerseys has attracted embarrassing international attention, including the No. 4 slot on an April Fools’ Day roundup of “stories you thought were pranks but are in fact genuine.”

Mary Lou Wesselhoeft suspects that Putnam and his Label Police are carrying water, currying favor, and otherwise doing the bidding of bigger, richer, more politically connected dairymen. At some point, he’s going to have to explain to the rest of us why she’s wrong.

Florence Snyder: What does it take to get fired at DOH?

Lola Pouncey, a Florida Department of Health (DOH) “bureau chief” making $90,000 a year in “medical quality assurance,” set up a jewelry store in her state office. She commandeered state workers, state time, and state property in her for-profit business, according to the agency’s inspector general (IG), whose findings were available to DOH Secretary Celeste Philip well before the rest of us found out from Miami Herald reporter Glenn Garvin.

Seventeen days after Garvin’s story, Pouncey is still on the state payroll and baffled taxpayers want to know, “What does it take to get fired at the DOH?”

The IG found that Pouncey “knowingly and intentionally violated laws and agency rules.”  Worse, she tried to thwart the state’s investigation with “evasive and misleading” statements.

To her credit, Pouncey was willing to answer reporter Garvin’s questions. But DOH, like too many other state agencies, requires something approximating a papal dispensation for public servants who want to explain themselves to the public.

Garvin could not obtain permission to speak directly to Pouncey. Instead, DOH trotted out its $81,000 a year flack, Mara Gambineri, to inform Garvin that Pouncey was not fired, not suspended, just “counseled appropriately by her supervisor.”

More than 30 of Pouncey’s co-workers knew she was operating a “pyramid sales” operation. “Magnolia and Vine” jewelry and accessories were displayed in her office amid the medical quality she was supposedly assuring.

Garvin read the IG’s missive so we don’t have to and reports that Pouncey:

” … organized sales lunches known as ‘socials’ that often spilled into work time, recruited four other health department employees —some of them under her supervision — to become her sales persons, and berated them if they weren’t meeting their quotas. ‘You’ve got to get moving,’ one health department worker said she was told after her sales dipped. ‘You’ve got to get your $1,500 goal.’”

When her sales person approached Pouncey to discuss business, she would breezily declare, “OK, in that case, we are officially on break.” The rest of the staff quickly learned to stay away. “A couple of witnesses” told investigators that there were times when they needed to talk about health department matters with Pouncey “but did not because [she] seemed to be discussing jewelry with other employees.”

To avoid the distracting intrusions of health department affairs, Pouncey on at least eight occasions organized jewelry sales meetings at Tallahassee steakhouses. The meetings were scheduled for health department lunch hours, but often stretched into the afternoon workday, sometimes by as much as an hour …

“A couple of employees were told by supervisors they did not have to adjust their timesheet for the extra time spent at socials …

Some health department workers believed the socials weren’t exactly voluntary.

“Some felt if they did not attend the socials, they would not be seen as ‘team players’ … One new employee said she was told that it would be in her ‘best interest’ to attend because in the ‘boss’ is in the business.”

Pouncey could well be the least of the managerial problems at DOH, and Philip owes the public, and the employees Pouncey strong-armed, a better explanation than Gambineri’s “nothin’ to see here, folks.”

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