Florence Snyder, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 17

Florence Snyder

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

The Grimm truth about Alberto Carvalho’s assault on WLRN

Friends of the First Amendment have their hands full with the War in the White House Pressroom.

That may explain why Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto (Rico Suave) Carvalho thought his attempted hostile takeover of the highly respected and ferociously independent WLRN newsroom might pass unnoticed.

Thankfully, fans of the free press have taken notice, and are rallying to the support of the high-quality journalism this public radio station produces with a small staff and a tight budget.

The Miami school system has owned WLRN’s broadcast license since before Carvalho was born, and has heretofore had the wisdom not to interfere with its editors and reporters.

If Carvalho gets his way, they’ll be reporting to his head flack and serving up mass quantities of happy talk about Carvalho, if they know what’s good for ’em.

The Miami Herald’s veteran columnist, Fred Grimm, explains that “Reporters who’ve dealt with the notoriously prickly Miami-Dade School District … [learned] Carvalho and company can hardly abide critical stories [such as the recent] series of stories exploring problems with the school district’s alternative school for suspended students.”

Grimm and many other Miami citizens and taxpayers have found a lot to admire in Carvalho’s stewardship of the county’s public schools. That could change irrevocably if Carvalho persists in his Putin-like effort to annex WLRN.

If Donald Trump won’t man up, meet with teen, maybe Betsy DeVos will

President Donald Trump ought to give Jackie Evancho the meeting she asked for. He owes her bigly.

The sixteen-year-old musical prodigy performed the national anthem at Trump’s inauguration, adding a huge dose of class to the festivities and sparing a grateful nation from another round of DJ Ravidrums, Toby Keith and Three Doors Down.

Evancho’s political skills are right up there with her astonishing vocal chops. In the wake of Trump’s mean-spirited withdrawal of federal protections for transgender students, she took to Twitter, and to television, to politely ask Trump to meet with her, and with her 18-year-old transgender sister, to learn about what life is like for children whose gender identity differs from the sex the person had at birth.

That’s a lot for a sex-obsessed 70-year-old man to wrap his head around. But we’d like to think that Trump would have done it if any of his five children had felt utterly out of place in the pink or blue blankets in which they were first swaddled.

The Evancho family, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the mother of a transgender son and a congresswoman who has refused to pander to uninformed and uncurious culture warrior constituents, and every other family with a transgender son or daughter has had to choose between educating themselves and supporting their loved one, or throwing the child to the wolves.

The alternative to unconditional love is to give license to self-appointed gender police, and to the Mean Girls, Bully Boys, and Bathroom Bill Brigades who make life so miserable for transgender kids that one out of three of them will attempt suicide.

Too many of them succeed, which perhaps explains why Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tried to talk Trump out of telling transgender kids that they’ll be happier — and definitely safer — with homeschooling. If Trump doesn’t have the guts to meet with the Evancho sisters, let’s hope that DeVos will.

Dan Raulerson and Dennis Baxley say ‘Let them eat steak’

In 10 years as head of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), Stephen Auger didn’t do much to solve the chronic, critical problems of people who work hard, play by the rules, and still can’t afford a decent place to live.

But he won the hearts and minds of millionaire senators like Dennis Baxley and Dan Raulerson, who think that buying steak dinners for people who do business with FHFC is a good use of taxpayer money.

Auger is among the casualties of Gov. Rick Scott‘s pre-session purge of agency heads caught in the act of frivolous, selfish, useless and stupid expenditures of public funds.

If government was really “run like a business,” Auger would have been gone years ago, when a Tampa Bay Times reporting team led by Susan Taylor Martin first began turning the rocks over at FHFC and finding an embarrassing pile of misfeasance and nonfeasance.  But Auger held on to his $183,000 job until December, when the legislature’s own auditors weighed in on FHFC’s miasma of mismanagement. Highlights include $443,000 in criteria-free staff bonus payments and a $52,000 “lender appreciation” dinner which featured broiled lobster tails, filet mignon and a nice “display” of tasty “imported and domestic cheeses.”

State audit manager and Master of Understatement Christi Alexander formally presented audit findings last week to the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, noting that such expenses “did not appear to be clearly necessary” to FHFC’s affordable housing mission.  Raulerson tried to stick a fork in Auger’s critics by pointing out that the real cost of the Festival of Filet was “only” $36,000, thanks FHFC’s ability to attract corporate “sponsorships ” from folks who very, very much appreciate the money they make doing business with FHFC.

Raulerson has no problem with FHFC blowing more taxpayer money on one dinner than many of his constituents make in a year.

But he is upset that “[Auger] lost [his] job over this, and that’s not right. I don’t think (FHFC) did anything wrong … What they did was entirely within reason.”

Baxley dismissed the audit as so much “nitpicking” over “an opinion that they had too nice a dinner. “

“I feel like we overreact to things sometimes,” Baxley said. “I believe in hospitality; I believe in recognition ceremonies for my employees … An audit to me is, I want to know if they’re stealing money or wasting money. But if they’re doing a function they’re allowed to do, part of their authority is to decide how big a dinner to have.”

Raulerson and Baxley delivered a depressing and not terribly subtle warning.  It may be a cold day in Florida before we see another “nitpicking” audit of public officials like Auger who party like Marie Antoinette.

 

David Santiago plays Jason Bourne while FDLE ferrets out real terror in the House

We are a nation of immigrants with very short memories. How else to explain HB 427’s frontman David Santiago‘s embrace of a ludicrous and mean-spirited effort to take Florida out of a federal program that assists people fleeing “war, persecution and violence.

Not so long ago, folks whose name ended in a vowel might be admonished — along with Jews, dogs and Irish — to “keep off the grass.” Yet Santiago and a large crowd of pols whose people arrived here from Someplace Else are hell-bent on taking Florida out of a federal program that assists refugees to settle in to an economy that depends in large measure upon the friendship and goodwill of tourists from Someplace Else.

Florida’s participation in the refugee program has been quietly managed for years by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Prior to the Era of Extreme Hysteria and Vetting, it operated with a low profile and a high degree of success. Catholic Charities and other organizations not known for harboring “bad hombres” work closely with state authorities and refugee families, and FDLE’s intelligence officers have assured lawmakers that “zero terrorism incidents in Florida can be attributed to refugees.”

While Santiago & Company preen and play dress up as Jason Bourne, FDLE keeps busy investigating genuinely terrifying threats to public safety. Operation Cupid’s Arrow, for instance, targeted dirty old men trolling Craigslist for little girls to sexually abuse. One geezer arrested in the sting was the $161,000 a year associate general counsel for Florida State University. Another was the “Civics Program Coordinator” for the school boys — and girls — in the House of Representatives’ Legislative Page Program.

Florida abuses teachers and can’t figure out why there’s a teacher shortage

At the rate Florida is hemorrhaging classroom teachers, it soon won’t matter that we can’t hire school bus drivers for $11.88 an hour, because there won’t be any classrooms worth taking the kids to.

Every week brings fresh reporting about Florida’s teacher shortage; none of it is a surprise to parents or policymakers who have been paying even the slightest bit of attention.

The teaching talent pool began to shrink in the mid-20th century as women’s professional options expanded into better-paying places. Still, girls and an increasing number of boys raised to revere teachers continued to pursue careers in the classroom.

Teaching reading to fidgety first-graders and science to 17-year-olds suffering from senioritis is hard duty under the best of circumstances. In recent years, it’s become close-to-impossible.

Technology and testing mandates change at warp speed, to the delight of stockholders in companies that sell technology and tests. There’s no money left for toilet paper and Kleenex, so teachers’ pay for those “amenities” personally.

Technology has also made it possible for helicopter parents to harass teachers at any hour of the day or night. Email is great for monster moms and douchey dads who wanted to bully teachers while wearing pajamas and drinking heavily. But it sucks down a lot of time that teachers need to grade papers and attend “trainings” on their uncompensated time.

It’s hard to maintain teacher morale when the wage gap in the public-school system is closing in on the wage gap in the private sector. In Miami, for example, Superintendent and Fashion Plate Alberto Carvalho can afford to dress like Rico Suave on his $345,000 salary. Teachers making $40K are lucky if they can keep up with their student loans.

Then there’s the daily dose of defamation heaped upon teachers by folks looking to dismember the public-school system for the benefit of people whose salaries in privatized “education” make Carvalho’s pay look paltry.

There are limits to people’s willingness to be a piñata for paltry pay and no respect. Teachers could be forgiven if they decide to homeschool their own kids and leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves.

Palm Beach County Commissioner has great advice for Rick Scott

The Very Best Idea in Florida Right This Minute comes from Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who is asking Gov. Rick Scott to call Florida’s heroin epidemic by its right name: a public health crisis.

This should be a no-brainer for Scott. With heroin-related hospital bills running at close to a billion a year in Florida, a governor who made millions as a hospital executive and reportedly aspires to higher office should take the state’s opioid addiction problem at least as seriously as McKinlay’s hometown newspaper.

For over two years, The Palm Beach Post has relentlessly pursued the hydra-headed heroin story. The Post has a disproportionate share of Florida’s best print, database, digital and visual journalists, and just about all of them have been deployed to expose the dark underside of the county’s booming medical tourism industry.

Fraudsters figured out how easy it was to get hapless insurance companies to pay tens of thousands of dollars for unnecessary urine testing in the county’s burgeoning “sober home” industry.

It was a short hop from insurance fraud to illegal patient brokering. It was only a matter of time before addicts who had come to Florida in good faith with a hope of getting well were forced into prostitution and dying of overdoses.

Florida politicians and policymakers are locked into a 14th century “understanding” of addiction, and The Post continues to pour its heart and soul into shifting the paradigm. Day by day and document by document, the paper pursues the bad guys and educates the public and public officials.

The Post’s reporting provided a wake-up call and a road map for police and prosecutors. State Attorney David Aronberg‘s Sober Home Task Force has made 21 arrests, and more are on the way.

In 2015, your chances of sudden death by heroin-related overdose in Palm Beach County was higher than the risk of death by homicide or traffic accident. Post reporters studied the autopsies, spoke with brokenhearted survivors of Palm Beach County’s 216 heroin victims, and issued a riveting special report called Heroin: Killer of a Generation.

Scott should read it as he considers McKinlay’s request. Bodies are piling up in the morgue located just eight minutes away from the winter White House; some have families and friends who read newspapers and vote.

 

FAU puts its money where its priorities are, part 2

Brand-in-himself (and biggest celebrity football coach in our state) Lane Kiffin has hit the headline-grabbing ground running.

Just weeks on the job at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), Kiffin is providing elite sportswriters and citizen journalists with reams of revealing insights into the mind of the young genius chosen to channel FAU’s “unbridled ambition” into a winning season at the jock palace formerly known as GEO Group Stadium.

The ink was barely dry on Kiffin’s $950,000 contract when he struck a blow for transparency and accountability (T&A), inviting Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated to keep him company as he shopped around Boca Raton’s $5 million-and-under waterfront properties.

That would be a lot of house for a guy who’s newly divorced from his wife of 16 years, but Kiffin sees it as an “investment in recruiting.”

Best not to think too hard about what that might mean. Among the coaching talent Kiffin attracted to FAU is Baylor’s Kendal Briles; the school has long been up to its eyeballs in litigation for fostering “an environment that promotes sexual assault and a “show ’em a good time” policy.

Baylor is known for sparing no expense in covering up for miscreant players and coaches, but Kiffin, by contrast, is right up front with his misogyny.

Kiffin pulled off a humble-brag, and a diss on the mother of his three young children, telling Thamel that he was “so young and his wife so attractive” that in his married years, less dazzling folks were inclined not to like him.

For Mrs. Kiffin, the married years meant having babies and dragging them all over the country as Coach tried and failed to keep a job. She’s still caring for the kids, some of whom are old enough to read national magazines and learn that their father resents the 34.5 percent their mom got in the property settlement almost as much as he resents paying “52 percent to Obama.”

On Friday, bachelor Kiffin was in da club, wearing an “aggressive V-neck” and chatting up the coeds. Social media was delighted to see him.

Said one Tweeter to the internet, “If FAU wins a football game for every different girl I saw Lane Kiffin talking to at Club Boca last night you’d be seeing us in the playoffs.”

That’s a consummation devoutly wished for a fourth-rate football program in a city whose name is regularly mispronounced by late night comedians.

Santa Rosa Creep of the Week reveals cockroaches in school district kitchen

Santa Rosa County Creep of the Week is also the Santa Rosa County School District’s 2016 Substitute Employee of the Year, proving yet again that Florida is never too busy to hand out meaningless awards, and always underfunded for things that matter.

Substitute teacher Richard Mack, 66, is charged with multiple counts of molesting multiple elementary school age children. The Pensacola News-Journal tells us “the investigation is still active so more information could be forthcoming.” The paper would have some of that information if the Santa Rosa School District had a personnel file of everyone who qualifies to be within touching distance of the kids. But it doesn’t, because Mack is a “contracted employee” of Professional Education Services Group (PESG) a company that supplies 500 school districts, with “innovative, hand-crafted solutions that meet the needs of your local school community.”

This is the kind of outsourcing the public rarely thinks about until the guy walking around your kid’s elementary school shows up in a hand-crafted mug shot, and there’s no “personnel office” that has to account for itself to local taxpayers.

PESG won’t answer media questions about its vetting process, which is about what you’d expect from a company whose acronym has the unfortunate sound of those things that House Speaker Richard Corcoran finds when he turns on the kitchen lights. But it didn’t take the News-Journal long to find out that Mack had been barred from teaching at two schools in neighboring Escambia County, where he dispensed unwanted, unwelcome and deeply disturbing back rubs to middle school girls, and ruminated on the possibility of shooters showing up at the classroom door, telling students he’d “hold the door open for them and let them come in.”

It will be up to school boards doing business with PESG to decide if the company’s hand-crafted vetting procedures are worth the money it makes, and the price children pay.

 

Boys are smarter. Even six-year-olds know that.

By age six, our daughters have internalized the belief that they are not as smart as boys. Boys think so, too. That works well for the bipartisan coalition of Men Who Like Things The Way They Are, but makes for “a pathological system that rewards men for their incompetence while punishing women for their competence to the detriment of everybody.”

TED-talker and professor of business psychology Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explains that “anywhere in the world, men tend to think they are much smarter than women.” By the time they’re out of high school, they have a well-practiced knack for hiding insecurity in a cloak of hubris decorated with charisma and charm that is easily, and wrongly, confused with leadership potential.

We can’t discern between confidence and competence, Prof. Premuzic argues, no matter how many times our male leaders fail us. There is “compelling scientific evidence” that women are more likely to adopt strategies that work, but they lack the talent for bragging, bloviating, bullying and beer-drinking required to get themselves into positions of real power.

Let’s not blame men for what they learned from their mothers and mostly female kindergarten teachers. Let’s not blame women, either. You can’t change 200,000 years of evolutionary biology overnight.

Feminists have been around since biblical times, making a difference here and there by whispering in the ears of their fathers, sons, husbands, and bosses who put them on the payroll to pretend they care what women think about anything. Ivanka Trump knows the drill. She might be the President’s favorite child, but the President’s advisers on “women in the workplace” are the 50-something male CEOs of Wal-Mart, and Ernst & Young.

Criss Jami, a writer and millennial wise beyond his years, observed that “Creative people are often found either disagreeable or intimidating by mediocrities.” That’s not likely to change in Dr. Premuzic’s lifetime, no matter how much peer-reviewed and beautifully expressed research he produces. You can’t take human nature out of human nature. But you can call things by their right name.

Rape kits delayed is justice denied

The Senate Subcommittee on Justice Appropriations is well-pleased to be “on track” in clearing the backlog of unprocessed sexual assault kits. Before you break out the celebratory cupcakes, consider that “the track” requires nothing more than processing about 25 percent of the backlog in a year.

We don’t know how many rapists are eyeing their next victim, as opposed to sitting in jail, by reason of the rape kit backlog. But we do know that every kit represents a medical exam that goes on for up to six hours and can be almost as traumatic for victims as the crime itself.

Here are some highlights: You undress on a large paper sheet, the better to capture any hair or fiber evidence that falls from your body or clothing. You’re photographed naked from head to toe. You’re poked, probed and swabbed in your mouth, your anus and your genitals.  On what is quite possibly the worst day of your life, you are trying to be a good citizen, and praying that the perp doesn’t get another crack at you or anyone else again, ever.

You never get called to testify because your kit is sitting on a shelf somewhere for months, or years, and when your government finally decides to get things “on track,” the track is three years long.

Florida is by no means the only state that insults crime victims and puts public safety at risk by failing to fund a crime lab that can keep up with the workload. Actor Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: SVU founded a nonprofit and a few Twitter feeds aimed at comforting the victims of “sexually based offenses” and afflicting public officials who talk tough on crime, but won’t pick up the tab for the basic tools of the crime-fighting trade. The victims need all the comfort they can get. The public officials are, so far, impervious to embarrassment.

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