Florence Snyder, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 17

Florence Snyder

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

Spotted at the Governors Club: The last troubadour of Real Florida

Jeff Klinkenberg is not the kind of guy who does “luncheons,” but there he was at the Governors Club Tuesday, entertaining Friends of the First Amendment — some real, some fake — at the First Amendment Foundation’s annual fundraiser.

He looked a lot more comfortable later that day at Sally Bradshaw’s bookstore, telling true tales about things that “make Florida unique” to an appreciative audience of people who like to choose their reading material in a venue that does not sell toilet paper and tampons.

Klinkenberg coined the term Real Florida and cornered the knowledge market on everything worth knowing about people who do not need Disney to fire their imaginations or casinos to pump their adrenaline. To people genuinely committed to Florida, Klinkenberg is the Scheherazade of storytelling, revered by regular folks and by fellow A-list writers.

One of them, FSU professor and National Book Award winner Bob Shacochis showed up at Klinkenberg’s book signing to pay his respects. It was like watching Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page trade licks.

“Did you ever skinny dip with Jane Wood Reno?” Sachochis asked Klinkenberg. It was a question that could have come only from an author and journalist who knew and loved Florida long before the state became an international punchline.

Skinny dipping with Jane Wood Reno is one of the few Real Florida experiences Klinkenberg has not had. But she and her famous offspring have been in his database since 1966, when Klinkenberg was a 16-year-old stringer for The Miami News, where Reno was an esteemed reporter in an era when newspapers didn’t even have to pretend to take women seriously.

As a kid in Miami, Klinkenberg developed a passion for fishing, playing with snakes, and reading the inspired “About Florida” columns of the Miami Herald’s Al Burt. “I wanted to grow up to be Al Burt,” Klinkenberg said. “Back then, every paper had a person who wrote about Florida” so it seemed like a reasonable career goal, and a pretty good way to pay for the bait and tackle.

Great editors like the late Gene Patterson and Mike Wilson, now with The Dallas Morning News, saw the Al Burt potential in the young Jeff Klinkenberg, and turned him loose to travel the state in search of stories to inform, inspire, delight and dazzle readers of the St. Petersburg Times. Klinkenberg faithfully delivered for 37 years.

Telling real stories of real people was never just a job to Klinkenberg. It’s a calling, and he’ll be pursuing it until his last breath, or until they pave over the last square inch of Real Florida, whichever comes first.

Florence Snyder: Ain’t no Sunshine where Scott’s gone

Just in time for Sunshine Week, Tampa Bay Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman reminds us how focused, how ruthless, how relentless Gov. Rick Scott’s flacks are in their taxpayer-financed efforts to keep information out of the hands of taxpayers.

Florida’s Ministries of Disinformation have been around since the Chiles administration, but “paranoia about the press” has ramped up significantly on Scott’s watch. Here’s how Connie Bersok, who devoted 30 years of her life to protecting Florida’s fragile wetlands, described current events at Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to Pittman and Times researcher Caryn Baird:

“When I first started, if the press called, you could talk to the press, you just had to document it for your boss. Then it became: You had to get permission first, but you could still talk.

“Then it became: The press office would approve of anyone talking with a reporter, but they had to be on the line.

“And now that’s changed to: ‘You do not talk to the press.’ As a result, a lot of the information that’s expressed to the press wasn’t much information at all.”

Bersok’s now retired and able to exercise her First Amendment rights on behalf of former colleagues who don’t dare violate the government gag order for fear of joining the hundreds of DEP employees who have been disappeared since Scott took office.

Purges are always drenched in lies, especially when the purges are aimed at nationally respected professionals with decades of dedicated public service. It’s an uphill battle keeping the air fresh and the water clean in the face of relentless pressure to build high-rises and strip malls in places that God did not mean for people to live.

It’s impossible when the scientists and planners are subject to being fired with no notice and for no reason, and no amount of Florida sunshine and DEP spin will take the stench out of Scott’s campaign to make it easier for rich people to get richer creating more and more and more minimum wage, dead end jobs! jobs! jobs!

Florence Snyder: Rick Swearingen plays J. Edgar Hoover while Broward burns

While Bald Badasses Rick Scott and Rick (“We know the terrorists are here!”) Swearingen are busy playing dress-up like Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne, Florida’s criminal justice basics are increasingly under the command of the Keystone Kops.

The governor and FDLE commissioner are looking to raid state trust funds to “fight terrorism” by adding 46 new Counterterrorism Avengers to the payroll. It’s a good way to grab a cheap headline, and deflect attention from truly terrifying tales of our collapsing criminal justice infrastructure.

Speaking to a legislative committee this week, Swearingen had the gall to invoke the memory of the five travelers who were shot to death in January at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The shooter, Iraq War veteran Esteban (“My Pleas for Mental Health Treatment Fell on Deaf Ears”) Santiago had an easy target in a facility that has suffered from years of budget cuts and bad management. As passenger traffic grew by millions, sworn deputies, traffic enforcement officers, and community service aides were cut.

We know that because Gannett’s Mike Sallah, a Pulitzer Prize-winning member of the Miami Herald Brain Drain, and Naples Daily News staffer Kristyn Wellesley followed the trail of public records and reported that there were no armed deputies in the terminal when Santiago opened fire. In the decade before Santiago’s rampage, the number of deputies assigned to the airport had dropped by roughly the number of Homeland-types Swearingen seeks to hire. Crisis-trained deputies had been kicked to the curbs to direct traffic, deal with drunks, and reunite children with their lost stuffed animals.

Down the road from the Ft Lauderdale Airport is another threat to public safety that we know about because of journalists and not because of grandstanding politicians. Florida Bulldog reports that Broward’s new courthouse is, to put it mildly, “riddled with security issues.” The $276 million building features light switches and thermostats located inside, instead of outside, the cells. That way, the inmates can literally run the asylum.

The juvenile holding cells are coed, right down to the open toilets. Revolted by the 14th-century design, the juvenile judges revolted and refused to move into the new – but not improved – facility. Those courtrooms will stand empty until someone figures out how to “repurpose” them.

America spends billions every year on counterterrorism. If we can’t rely upon Washington to do its job, then we are in more trouble than Swearingen can fix with 46 new agents, or 4600 new agents.

If trust funds are to be raided in the name of public safety, why not hire some lab technicians and get on with eliminating Florida’s shameful backlog of rape kits.

Maybe FDLE can take advantage of some of that empty courtroom space in Ft. Lauderdale.

You know you talk like a toddler, right?

A recent and deeply disturbing addition to the Word Salad Hall of Shame is the painfully frequent use of the word “right” pronounced in the earnest tone of a toddler in need of constant reassurance.

“I pooped in the big girl potty, right? so I can play with my Legos, right? and then we can go to Granny’s, right? and we can have hot dogs for dinner, right?” is an adorable, if exhausting, indication that a little one is learning how to win friends and influence those closest to her. Soon, she’ll leave the need for constant reassurance behind and make her way in the bigger world of classrooms and playgrounds.

Even a small dose of “right?” is anything but adorable in the mouths of politicians, pundits, and other professionals who get paid to persuade us that they know what they’re talking about.

It was bad enough when adults in positions of authority took to ending simple declarative sentences with a “right?” Now, they’re tacking it on to the end of each clause.

Many of the hackneyed expressions that make up the iceberg lettuce-base of Word Salad are used primarily by Valley Girls and Someone’s Ne’er Do Well Nephew that we aren’t listening to, anyway. By contrast, “right?” has metastasized to some really smart people at every point along the political spectrum.

We’d listen to them more if they weren’t in constant need of soothing, like the brilliant baby-man that Beck Bennett plays so brilliantly.

It’s a good time to buy teddy bears, right? and baby blankies, right? because we seem to be having an adult onset insecurity epidemic. Right?

 

Bad nursing homes benefit from AHCA’s passive-aggressive war on #transparency

Somebody please give Shelisha Coleman a big fat raise.

The Agency for Health Care Administration’s (AHCA) high profile flack works hard duty playing hardball with some of Florida’s best reporters, but makes tens of thousands of dollars less than men paid by taxpayers to tell tall tales about #Transparency.

Coleman had to drop a whopping load of horsefeathers on the Orlando Sentinel last week in a laughable effort to justify AHCA’s unlawful redactions to public records.

Taking up the cause of families who love their grandparents, reporter Kate Santich asked AHCA to explain why inspection reports are being scrubbed of “dates, places and pivotal words” that make it possible to gauge the quality and safety of Florida’s nursing homes.

People who pay attention to Transparency and Accountability (T&A) in Florida had no trouble believing the attorney who told Santich “I’ve been looking at these reports for 20 years, and I know what they used to look like and what they look like now. It has become arbitrary and inconsistent what they redact — but I think it’s all part of a bigger purpose to confuse people and make the reports useless.”

Like a lamb to the slaughter, Coleman was dispatched by her better-paid bosses to tell the Sentinel that state officials are merely trying to “provide additional protection of personal health information” as required by federal privacy laws.

After she stopped laughing, First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen pointed out the holes in the rationalizations, prevarications and passive aggressive sandbagging served up by Coleman to justify AHCA’s “new redaction process.”

That new redaction process is good news for bad nursing homes. We can hope Santich’s story will embarrass the legislature into doing something about it. But don’t bet Grandpa’s life on it.

Jackie Pons to taxpayers: DROP dead, part 2

Jackie Pons is still the kind of public official who gave Florida’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) a very bad name.

To refresh our recollection on a pol best-forgotten, if he’d only go away, Pons lost his bid for re-election November as Leon County’s Superintendent of Schools.  As a DROP-enrollee since 2014, he was entitled a $6778 monthly pension check and a one-time payment of just under $200,000.

Most folks would call that a comfortable retirement. But behind Door No. 2 at the Florida Department of Welfare for the Rich was the promise of a $400,000 DROP payday if he remains at some public trough or other until 2019, plus a few hundred dollars more monthly walkin’ around money.

With a little help from his friends and a little saber-rattling from his lawyers, Pons is on track to suck every last nickel out of DROP. He’s already made some otherwise serious people look like buffoons. First, it was David Coburn, Chief of Staff to Florida State University President John Thrasher. who managed to keep a straight face while telling the Tallahassee Democrat that in Pons’ capacity as a $50,000 a year “business analyst” with FSU’s admissions office, Pons was “working on a project to recruit students from underserved areas of the Panhandle.

We don’t know how that project went, but we do know that Pons resigned from FSU just three weeks after he was hired.  Last week, Pons resurfaced at Florida A & M University’s Developmental Research School. As the K-12 school’s “development officer,” he will “provide information to meet (school) goals and objectives” and “develop a fundraising plan.”

As we’ve noted here before, it’s been 10 years since Lucy Morgan double-dipped her Pulitzer Prize-winning plumb line into the murky waters of DROP and its myriad opportunities for mischief. Her reporting resulted in reforms that closed off the dark alleys of the Florida Retirement System, where the most extreme examples of taxpayer abuse occurred.

For most state workers, the system operates to provide a modest return on investment in a lifetime of exemplary public service.

For people who don’t mind being simultaneously shameful and shameless, it’s a big pile of money for nothin.’

A birthday card for the unofficial, undisputed queen of Tallahassee

(PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Rosanne Dunkelberger is President of Dunkelberger Consulting, Editor-at-Large for Extensive Enterprises, and formerly editor of Tallahassee Magazine.)

It’s a Milestone Birthday for Rosanne Dunkelberger, and her kids have asked millennials she’s mentored and friends who knew her before she was an award-winning magazine editor to tell them what we remember most about the Unofficial Undisputed Queen of Tallahassee.

To the Geritol Generation of media lawyers who knew Rosanne in the disco era when she worked as staff director for The Florida Bar’s Committee on Media and Communications Law, she’s the woman who did all the work that we got all the credit.

Back then, the Bar’s annual Media Law Conference was a signature event. Hundreds of lawyers, judges and journalists attended to engage with and learn from speakers of statewide and national prominence.  For years, the Conference commanded the personal attention of the Bar President, who hosted a pre-conference dinner, usually in his home, where Bar leaders built significant and sustained relationships with media and political leaders, and nobody ever dreamed there’d come a time when the legislature would set about to castrate the courts.

Rosanne’s larger-than-life work ethic, and her genius at conjuring pleasant settings for meaningful conversations, helped to create and to nurture countless relationships that operated above and below the radar, and always in the public interest.

The Conference was funded in large part by underwriting from law firms and news organizations. With big money and bigger egos involved, there were opportunities aplenty for disaster. Rosanne’s extraordinary talent at wrangling donors; massaging egos, and arranging place cards were at the center of many of the Bar’s greatest conference hits.

Rosanne was also instrumental in creating a new “Florida Bar product,” the Reporter’s Workshop, an invitation-only seminar aimed at print and broadcast journalists who were new to the legal beat. One has only to look at the agendas for the programs she staffed to see the outstanding quality of their design and execution.

Rosanne is one of those very rare people who does not have a mean, selfish, or self-aggrandizing bone in her body. She makes any #Process better, just by being in it.

In Tallahassee and Orlando, advocates walk and talk about eating disorders

“I was four years old when I looked in the mirror and saw an obese, deformed body looking back at me,” recalled a college girl who is, thankfully, doing fine now.

She won’t be at Tallahassee’s Cascades Park tomorrow for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk because she’s running a half-marathon someplace else. But she’ll be there in spirit. She knows how lucky she is to be among the survivors of a ruthless, complex mix of heredity and environment that causes many boys and many, many more girls to weaponize food and wage war on their minds, bodies and spirits.

Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice. They are not a fashion accessory that rich white girls like Karen Carpenter and Princess Diana order up from the Nieman’s catalogue. They are among the most serious and difficult conditions to treat. They are the mental illnesses most likely to kill.

Anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders do not discriminate by race, gender, ethnicity or family income.  Good professional advice is hard to find, and much of what insurance covers will actually make matters worse.

Former congressman and recovering alcoholic Patrick Kennedy has seen all manner of mental illness in his immediate and extended family, so it’s well worth noting that he ” … has always felt that eating disorders suffer the most persistent discrimination within the mental health community in both insurance coverage and research funding. I commend NEDA for raising awareness to this issue and for setting the stage for progress.”

The pink ribbon crowd commands a disproportionate share of the high-priced PR people in the Awareness Industry, so props to the Tallahassee Democrat for bringing the Tallahassee walk to local attention. The second of two NEDA walks scheduled for Florida takes place Saturday, March 11 in Orlando.

These illnesses are so cruel, so cunning, that they can snatch our children from under our noses while they are still small enough to be sitting in our laps.  We could use a whole lot more awareness.

 

Grieving octogenarian does the heartbreaking heavy lifting that government won’t

The clubs have names like I Am One and Brave Women of Palm Beach County, and to look at their elegant members, you’d think they were ladies of leisure on their way to a fashion show or an art gallery.

Instead, they are the heartbroken survivors of beloved children and siblings whose extreme mental illnesses ultimately killed them, and they are on their way to any and every microphone they can find. They have learned the hard way that silence kills, and they are done suffering in silence.

At age 85, Rita Thrasher is not worried about people who think that mental illness is something about which to be ashamed. She and “a small group of thoughtful, committed” mothers and sisters are working to comfort afflicted families, and afflict federal, state, and local governments that are stuck in the 80s — the 1880s — in their approaches to mental illness.

By the time Mrs. Thrasher’s daughter Valerie ran away from home at age 18, she had been suffering for seven years from the bipolar disorder than would lead her to a lonely death at age 42.

Then and now, there was precious little meaningful help for people like Valerie. Mood disorders don’t show up on X-rays, but their symptoms cause heartache and chaos in a young person’s world. These conditions can be managed effectively, and people with mental illnesses can lead happy, productive lives.

But for every family that can find, and afford, the necessary care, there are tens of thousands who live in communities where competent professional help does not exist, or is unaffordable to all but the very rich.

The kids self-medicate with infinite varieties of self-harm as their families try desperately to protect them. But parental love is no substitute for appropriate medical care. The kids end up in jail. They end up dead. Some of their loved ones will follow them off the cliff.  Others, like the Brave Women of Palm Beach County, will take their cue from Mrs. Thrasher. “I am doing this work today because I want it in the curriculum of life,” she told the Sun-Sentinel’s Brooke Baitinger.

From her mouth to God’s ear, and to the ears of every Florida health care policymaker.

Let them eat steak, Part 2: Rick Scott edition

While Melissa McCarthy-impersonator Sean Spicer was confiscating his staff ‘s cellphones in search of leakers to fire, somebody tipped Independent Review Journal’s Benny Johnson to President Trump’s Saturday night dinner plans.

Johnson identifies his tipster as a “trusted source.” Obvious suspects include Trump-whisperer and former Breitbart News big shot Steve Bannon. Bannon might have a soft spot for Young Mr. Johnson, who began his new media career as a contributor to Breitbart and fell, briefly, upon hard times when he was fired from BuzzFeed for multiple acts of plagiarism.

Maybe it was the president himself, who, disguised as “John Barron,” mild-mannered publicist for Ratings and Sex Machine Donald Trump, used to call up reporters and dish irresistible tabloid trash for the Bonfire of the Vanities crowd.

Who knows? Who cares! Whoever it was that told Johnson to ask for a balcony table at Trump International Hotel’s steakhouse — thank you for your service!

Johnson’s minute-by-minute account is an SNL-level trove of rich, vivid, and telling details about the “worry worry super scurry” that surrounds a President and Guy Who’s Accustomed to Having His Own Way.  It also works nicely as a pitch to the Food Porn Channel for a docudrama on “how a restaurant prepares for a president.”

The story is lavishly illustrated with pictures that are remarkably revealing, considering they were taken in a steak palace and not a photography studio. Johnson was unable to catch a shot of Trump’s meal—well done New York strip soaked in catsup, allegedly — but the Tower of Bacon at Johnson’s table will make you lust in your salivary glands like a dirty old man drooling over a hot young blonde.

Trump’s guests did not include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who dined across the room with his wife. If Trump was talking foreign policy over the $24 shrimp cocktails, he was doing it with Florida Governor Rick Scott, a man who makes up in certitude what he lacks in expertise. Also at the table was Brexit Boy and Party Crasher Nigel Farage, and Ubiquitous Daughter Ivanka Trump, accompanied by the Father of Her Children and Maker of Middle East Peace Jared Kushner.

Johnson’s photo gallery includes a shot of Trump “discreetly” slipping a $100 bill to a “Latino busboy” who is, presumably, extremely vetted and not a rapist. The left side of the Twitterverse is sure this was Kabuki generosity staged for the benefit of a camera Trump knew was there. If that’s true, we’ll be hearing about it soon enough on Full Frontal, whose researchers are fanning out and talking to busboys Trump knew in his pre-presidential life if they’re not too busy performing the public service of euthanizing the White House Correspondents Dinner.

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