Context Archives - Page 7 of 216 - Florida Politics

AARP fights ‘loneliness epidemic’ with awareness campaign

Loneliness is an “epidemic” affecting 8 million older Americans and the newest addition to America’s epidemic of Awareness Campaigns.

In recent months, we’ve been flooded with Awareness of senior citizens bringing up grandchildren whose parents are dead or in jail. The rest of the old people are isolated and depressed in unprecedented numbers, says AARP, and it’s time to get Aware.

Because nothing says Awareness better than an online tool, AARP has gifted us with a pandering to a millennial-sounding website called Connect2Affect.org. It’s a 1Stop4U venue where old folks can “learn what leads to elder isolation and how to build social networks …” as well as “post … stories about loneliness.”

That could appeal to cyber-savvy geezers who aren’t overly busy hooking up with high school crushes, along with family members who don’t have time to spend with Uncle Ed and Aunt Mabel, but do have a chance to increase their Awareness.

AARP has developed a print and online “self-assessment checklist that can screen for someone’s risk of becoming socially isolated or depressed.”  Many self-aware seniors self-assessed without AARP’s help, and turned in droves to their doctors for companionship and a pill or three to ease their emotional pain. It hasn’t made a dent in the isolation epidemic, but it has blown a hole in the nation’s pocketbook.

For most of history, people lived in communities where they had meaningful and necessary contributions to make, right up to the time of their brief and final illness. We used to be Aware that we don’t have to outsource our babies to daycare and our compos-mentis grandparents to warehouses that look better than they smell.

Martin Dyckman: In post-truth America, responsible news more important than ever

There’s a scene in the musical “Chicago” that could be adopted virtually intact when they make the one I’d call “Trumpistan.”

It’s the number in which a cunning criminal defense attorney, Billy Flynn, works the press as a chorus of puppets, dangling from strings, as they dance to his tune and parrot his words.

That Donald Trump did that with much of the media is, aside from the result itself, one of the two most uncomfortable truths about the 2016 election. The other is that truth itself didn’t matter to enough people.

The media is many things, as Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron remarked in a commencement speech last week. It ranges from responsible entities such as his paper and The New York Times to social media posts that are accountable to no one and are petri dishes for fake news. In between are the cable networks that let Trump mesmerize them.

The Post and the Times reported heroically. So did many others. As Baron put it, the mistake was in not catching on to how Trump’s bombast was working.

But as he added, “There were some lapses … For one, cable networks should not give any candidate hours upon hours of live coverage for virtually every rally held. That is not journalism.”

“All that breathless cable coverage of Trump’s Twitter wars and the live shots of his plane landing on the tarmac didn’t help either,” writes Susan B. Glasser, who edited POLITICO during the campaign, in a Brookings Institution essay, “Covering Politics in a ‘Post-Truth’ America.” Read it here.

Certain print and network editors relentlessly led their front pages and TV screens with more pictures and coverage of Trump than he deserved or any other candidate could command. He was, of course, the most repulsively hypnotic and the most outrageous. But for every voter put off by his mean looks and his lies, there was another who said, “Yeah!”

Trump played the media like a pipe organ. He also made it his foil, with nonstop attacks — still continuing — on what it said about his policies, his reckless tweets, and even his hotels and restaurants. Calling out, sometimes by name, the reporters who covered his rallies, he worked the crowds to frenzies and put the journalists in fear of their lives.

Glasser’s essay details the other uncomfortable truth of the election — that truth itself is losing its potency.

” …(T) he media scandal of 2016 isn’t so much about what reporters failed to tell the American public; it’s about what they did report on, and the fact that it didn’t seem to matter,” she writes. “Stories that would have killed any other politician — truly worrisome revelations about everything from the federal taxes Trump dodged to the charitable donations he lied about, the women he insulted and allegedly assaulted, and the mob ties that have long dogged him — did not stop Trump from thriving in this election year. Even fact-checking perhaps the most untruthful candidate of our lifetime didn’t work; the more news outlets did it, the less the facts resonated. Americans are increasingly choosing to live in a cloud of like-minded spin, surrounded by the partisan political hackery and fake news that poisons their Facebook feeds.”

Trump means to keep feeding on that. His postelection tour has been only to states that he won; he could not care less about voters elsewhere who saw him for what he is. Many of his voters don’t believe even the unanimous view of our intelligence agencies that Russia influenced the election. Trying to tell them otherwise recalls the old adage and attempting to teach a pig to sing: it does nothing but frustrate you and annoy the pig.

Glasser cites a Pew Research Center report that most Americans got their information from questionable sources. Social media were the primary source for 35 people age 29 and under. For those over 50, the leading source was cable TV. Among conservatives, nearly 50 percent relied only on Fox.

Trump’s percentage of the popular vote is 47th lowest among the last 49 election winners. Hillary Clinton led by nearly 3-million votes. But a half of all Republicans say they believe Trump won the popular vote. They will never believe otherwise because they just don’t want to.

If you’re looking for a simple solution to America’s crisis of willful ignorance, I don’t have one.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, it’s too late for tears; the hour calls for ceaseless toil and copious sweat. We can’t persuade those who will not hear. Our call, rather, is to work harder to win the Electoral College as well as the popular vote in the next election and to take back the Congress. We need to work tirelessly to remind policymakers in Congress and capitols that the truth still matters to more people than those who ignore it, and remind them that Trump has nothing resembling a “mandate.”

Emails and calls to Congress cost nothing. The First Amendment belongs as much to the individual citizen as to the media. Use it.

And subscribe, if you don’t already, to a responsible newspaper or two. You need newspapers now, more than ever. They need you now, more than ever.

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in North Carolina.

Rick Scott wants it both ways: cut taxes, fund services. Can it be done?

Last April, in a news release by his office after signing HB-7099, Gov. Rick Scott bragged, “Over the past two years, Florida has cut more than $1 billion in taxes.”

What a happy day that must have been for the governor.

He has never met a tax he wouldn’t cut or gut, and that bill was a continuation of the theme. It included the permanent elimination of the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and a three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school stuff.

Scott wants to keep cutting taxes, too.

It stands to reason, though, when there is less money coming in something has to lose. We got a hint of that right here in a story last week on FloridaPolitics.com. It included a quote from state budget chair Jack Latvala about what could be a hotly contested fight for dollars when the Legislature gets together next year.

“To do any increases, we’re going to have to find areas to cut. That’s a certainty,” Latvala said. “Just my luck to be chairman in a year like that.”

But where can the hunt to “find areas to cut” lead when the governor and House Speaker Richard Corcoran want to keep chopping taxes, while Senate President Joe Negron wants to increase funding for higher education?

The Florida Policy Institute reported that more about 70 percent of Florida’s $82.2 billion budget for 2016-17 was allocated to education (29 percent) and “human services” (41 percent). Nearly 18 percent went to natural resources, growth management and transportation.

FPI also noted that despite spending increases in that budget for service areas, “they fail to fund state services at a level that keeps pace with population growth and inflation, and do not improve Florida’s national standing in the provision of these services.”

More ominously, projections are for the state to face a $1.3 billion deficit a year from now, ballooning to $1.9 billion the year after that. Since Republicans control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the Legislature, they can’t blame Democrats for fiscal irresponsibility. That leaves them with two choices: spend less, or bring in more.

It’s the acid test of the Republican (and Libertarian) ideal that growth comes through lower taxes. It’s the mantra they’ve preached for decades. We see it playing out now in Washington with the corporate tax cuts president-elect Donald Trump has planned.

Lower corporate taxes, they argue, will lead to job creation and expansion. Workers with a healthy regular paycheck will buy more things and that will sustain the government.

Well, that might be sort of true – provided government goes on a diet. That sounds fine in theory. In application, though, it gets trickier.

You also have to look at the complete picture. To coax businesses from other states to move here, Scott has touted Florida’s reputation as a low-tax state. Florida is one of just seven states without a state income tax, for instance.

Wallethub.com also sized up the bevy of state and local taxes and concluded Florida’s bite on median-income residents this year will be $4,868 – 10th lowest in the nation. That’s nearly 16 percent under the national average.

Scott probably wouldn’t be satisfied until Florida is No. 1. He seems driven to prove this state really can have it both ways – cutting taxes, cutting spending while keeping services and education adequately funded for a rapidly growing state.

Logic says that can’t be done. Latvala’s challenge is to prove it can be.

Don Fox: VISIT FLORIDA makes good business, common sense

Don Fox

At a time of year when every Floridian should be especially thankful for the arrival of tourists across the state, some of our lawmakers in Tallahassee seem to have taken on the role of the Grinch who stole Christmas.

The escalating attacks against VISIT FLORIDA … a proven marketing effort that has driven millions of additional visitors to our great State … defy common sense. And if not common sense, then certainly good business sense.

Those who say that tourism numbers would be the same in the absence of the efforts of VISIT FLORIDA are misguided. My intention here is not to school them on some of the most basic, foundational elements of business and marketing, but simply to point out to them (and the citizens who hold them ultimately accountable) that investing in tourism is a sound and important practice.

A failure to optimize tourism is a failure to drive vital revenue into the state. Strip away the incremental tax revenue generated by VISIT FLORIDA (tax revenue FAR in excess of the cost of the marketing efforts), and you are faced with one of two things: increasing taxes on Floridians, or reducing government services. What would you have? I know what I think is best, and I suspect most Floridians would agree: pull out all the stops to drive tourism, so that the tax burden on Floridians can be reduced.

Yet despite the obvious, some of our lawmakers seem to have adopted a campaign to stop VISIT FLORIDA dead in its tracks.

Despite abundant evidence of the return on investment that taxpayers have received from VISIT FLORIDA, they would, for reasons that seem more emotional than rational, strip it of funding in whole or in part, and be willing to risk declines in tax revenue driven by tourism.

Think about it: OF COURSE, the marketing of our state as a premier tourist destination increases tourism. And so, to suggest that in the absence of marketing, there would not be a reduction in tourism, is simply foolishness. Try that approach in business. Stop the promotion and marketing of your business, and only one thing happens. Business goes down.

If our legislators need a lesson in basic business, I beg them to not learn at the expense of hardworking, taxpaying Floridians.

There are elements of the VISIT FLORIDA campaign that are worth discussing in an open forum. Some people are not happy, for a variety of reasons, with a handful of the marketing tactics that have been employed (though frankly, the opposition to these ideas seem to be on emotional grounds, as opposed to an intellectually honest discussion of the business merits of those tactics). Those discussions should be carried out. But to call for a reduction in funding for VISIT FLORIDA (or worse yet, its complete dismantling), is nothing short of irresponsible.

I would respectfully ask the members of the Legislature to step back and take a sound and reasoned approach when putting forward their concerns. Their current tact is taking Florida in the wrong direction.

___

Don Fox is chief executive officer of Firehouse of America, LLC, in which he leads the strategic growth of Firehouse Subs, one of America’s leading fast casual restaurant brands. Under his leadership, the brand has grown to more than 1,030 restaurants in 44 states, Puerto Rico and Canada, and is recognized as one of the best franchises in the country. Fox is a restaurant industry veteran with 42 years of experience and incoming 2017 Chairman of the Board for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association

Mitch Perry Report for 12.19.16 – Florida electors feel the heat while the rest of the nation freezes

Florida’s 29 Republican presidential electors gather in Tallahassee today to vote for well, presumably for Donald Trump, who defeated Hillary Clinton by 1.2 percent in the Sunshine State on November 8.

While the world awaits to see if there’s any movement with the 290 nationwide Republican electors, our electors will be voting in perfect conditions, with the forecast set for 65 degrees today in the Capitol.

That’s a far cry from the weather conditions of electors from much of the country today, and should be noted.

More than three dozen record low temperatures were set in the Midwest and Plains this past weekend with actual air temperatures in the 20s and 30s below zero, while wind chills plunged into the minus 40s and even a few 50s at times in some cities. Subzero low temperatures were observed as far south as Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle Sunday morning. Huron, South Dakota and Marshall, Minnesota each set a record yesterday at 31 degrees below zero.

I’ve got the air-conditioning running in my home this morning, which, let’s face it, sort of kills the whole Christmas/holiday feeling. But I’ll refrain from complaining when I see the images of multi-car pileups and outright deaths around the nation due to icy road conditions.

Back when this presidential season really kicked into high gear – this past February in New Hampshire, I dealt with an inclement weather situation that, well, not to be dramatic, could have killed me.

On the Friday before the first primary in the nation, New Hampshire was rocked by a blizzard that, frankly, freaked me out. Considering I’ve only lived in San Francisco and Tampa, I haven’t dealt with a lot of snow conditions. Sheltered yes, but the fact is, I almost died driving down a turnpike from Manchester to Nashua, when I hit my brakes and went skidding over the road.

Yes, it’s annoying not to really get into the Christmas spirit when you have to turn your air conditioner on, but considering what it’s like in 80 percent of the rest of the country, those of us waking up today in Florida are damned fortunate folks.

As far as Florida’s electors? Yes, their feeling some intense pressure to reconsider voting for Trump. But none of them say they’re going to flip, so while there will be a lot of press coverage on this today, is it really that big of an event?

In other news..

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is closer to extinction after a vote by the local state delegation.

South Florida Democrat Tim Canova says he may run again against Debbie Wasserman Schultz in 2018.

Hillsborough Clerk of the Circuit Courts Pat Frank got in the local delegation’s face on Friday calling for more funding for her office.

And Alan Grayson is not completely done in Washington. On Friday he announced two bills trying to hold Donald Trump accountable.

FAU puts its money where its priorities are

Lane Kiffen

In 1962, a legislative “initial operating money” appropriation plus private donations for “architect fees, salaries and other expenses” added up to $400,000 in seed corn for Florida Atlantic University.

It still adds up to more money than most working folks will see in 10 years, but it’s less than half of what the school will pay its new head football coach, Lane Kiffin (rhymes with “What is FAU sniffn’?).

To be fair, Kiffin is almost as “big-time” as FAU Football’s Founding Father Howard Schnellenberger, having honed his craft and worn-out his welcome at some of the country’s most prestigious football programs.

Those who swoon when a football coach talks like a Sensitive Guy in a Lifetime cable movie will not begrudge Kiffin his $950K FAU base salary.

“I felt the people there,” Kiffin said in welcoming himself to Boca Raton. “I felt how they wanted me. I felt the vision there. Coming out of there, that’s when I felt like the recruit who was like ‘OK, they have a vision for this place and how we can do it and they want to do it together.'”

 FAU president John Kelly was swooning and ripping his own bodice.

“Today, we continue our pursuit of excellence, our unbridled ambition by hiring the top person in the country, the genius in coaching: Lane Kiffin,” Kelly said.

Kelly reflects the prevailing wisdom — and don’t you dare argue with it — that everyone who teaches everything from anthropology to zoology should feel honored to drive their ten-year-old cars to campuses where coaches live like kings. A football team is a tide that lifts the academic boats, university presidents tell us from their skyboxes where they chat up the boosters. You’d think that nobody learned anything at college in the days before a blank check for football was embroidered into every school seal.

“Genius” Kiffin’s highlight reel includes being called a liar by Raiders owner Al Davis; NCAA violations at the University of Tennessee; and getting his walking papers from USC on an airport tarmac.

“It gives us a head coach with, obviously, a brand in himself,” FAU Athletic Director Patrick Chun enthused. ” … he’s the biggest celebrity football coach in our state.”

For his first act in office, Kiffin recruited another celebrity, De’Andre Johnson, whose collegiate career at Florida State was cut short when he was caught on camera striking a woman in a Tallahassee bar.

Stepping up to journalism’s mission to help with healing processes, Good Morning America gave Johnson airtime to apologize to the victim. Johnson continued to heal at East Mississippi Community College, where he played good football and rebranded himself as an advocate for victims of domestic violence.

Owl Nation is hoping that Johnson’s redemption is real, and is rooting for Kiffin to enrich the university, and not just himself and the retinue that surrounds a head coach, even at a fourth-rate football program, in a city whose name is regularly mispronounced by late night comedians.

Richard Corcoran battle over Pitbull, Visit Florida contract sets the right tone

There has been a lot to like about the tone new House Speaker Richard Corcoran has set in Tallahassee. There is a new emphasis on ethics and disclosure of how the people’s representatives do their business — and more importantly who they do it for.

We all benefit from that.

That includes, especially, Corcoran’s insistence this week that details of the $1 million promotional contract between Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion arm, and rapper Pitbull be made public.

Pitbull’s production company, PDR Productions, balked, claiming the details were a trade secret and disclosing them would be a third-degree felony. Visit Florida officials also argued that letting the world know details of that contract would the state’s tourism industry at a disadvantage.

That’s not a little deal, of course. In 2015, tourists generated $89.1 billion for the economy here.

It’s ironic, though, that the marketing arm of the Sunshine State would want to keep business in the dark.

That’s why Corcoran sued Pitbull’s company to force details of the contract into the sunlight. Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Pérez, released the contract himself after the issue became a big story.

So all is well and a teapot-sized tempest is stilled, right?

Not yet. Hopefully, it’s just the beginning. This was Corcoran’s latest way of letting everyone know that things are going to change in Tallahassee.

It was never about the contract itself or the wisdom of using Pitbull to promote the state. The cost, frankly, seems reasonable and fair considering the potential return on investment. Pitbull is a fine ambassador for Florida in the highly competitive fight for tourism dollars.

But there was that slippery slope his company and Visit Florida tried to use as a defense, claiming Florida could be hurt if other states knew details of what we’re up to here.

Maybe so.

If other states want to operate in the dark, though, that’s their problem. Florida once had the strongest sunshine law in the country, and despite the efforts of legislators over the years to chip away at it, the law remains a bedrock principle of how the public’s business should be done.

I don’t think there is any question that this contract likely would have remained secret under many other Speakers. It would have been easy for Corcoran to keep the details hidden under that “trade secrets” argument. Besides, it’s only $1 million, right?

What Corcoran said instead, and backed up with his actions, is that there is no “only” when it comes to doing the right thing.

Refreshing.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.16.16 – Friday follies

Good morning to you all on this, the last Friday MPR I’ll be filing in 2016 …

Good news for those of us on the Affordable Care Act: While the GOP-led House of Representative promise to repeal the ACA within the first 100 days of the Trump administration, the date that the provisions of the act will be delayed, according to a report in today’s New York Times, by as “short as two years or as long as three or four years.”

The GOP always said it would repeal and replace — they just didn’t say how long it would take.

With just three days left before members of the Electoral College vote for president, time is running out for those Democratic electors who want Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to brief them on the latest news about the Russian email hack.

Ain’t going to happen, obviously, and that’s the way it should be, says Florida Senator Bill Nelson. At a news conference in Tampa yesterday, he said, “They’re going to have to go on and do their constitutional duty, regardless of them being able to be briefed on intelligence matters. Just to be able to receive classified information, a person has to go thru an extreme vetting process to make sure that there’s nothing in their background that would then compromise that information in the future. That’s simply not going to happen between now and next Monday.”

Matt Drudge has a link to a Daily Caller story this morning regarding the fact that six Hispanic surnames were among the top 15 common last names in 2010, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Deal with it, America — the country is getting browner by the day.

Keith Ellison, a leading candidate to run the Democratic National Committee next year, is throwing his support behind real estate mogul Stephen Bittel in next week’s race for Miami-Dade County party chair, Patricia Mazzei reports in the Miami Herald.

Speaking of Bittel, though he says he’s trying to be low-key about it all, the above mentioned Senator Nelson seems dead set behind Bittel taking over the Florida Democratic Party next year as well. 

In other news.

Nelson and Kathy Castor reacted with strong rhetoric yesterday regarding the reported Russian intrusion into hacking DNC emails.

Will St. Pete Pride move from the Grand Central District to downtown St. Pete?

Deb Tamargo and Jonny Torres are in a torrid contest to see who leads the Hillsborough County Republican Party over the next two years.

And in Tampa yesterday, union activists say its time for Wal-Mart to start having to pay for all of those calls for service to the police.

Christmas is a-‘comin’ and the geese are gettin’ hacked

With 11 shopping days ‘til Christmas, Yahoo dropped a lump of coal into the stockings of 1 billion of its users with news that their accounts had been “breached.”

That’s tech-speak for “bad guys forged your cookies” — and they are not talking about the sweets you leave next to Santa’s glass of milk.

Worse, bad guys have Yahoo’s “proprietary code” — and they are not talking about Pitbull’s million-dollar “trade secret.” For purposes of this holiday migraine, cookies and codes are the cyber-pathways by which everybody who does anything on the internet can have their savings stolen, their credit ruined and their life destroyed.

There will be time after Christmas for recriminations, and for Verizon to pull out of its “what were we thinking?” plan to pay $4.8 billion to take Yahoo off the hands of its shareholders.

Right now, Yahoo’s shellshocked customers are playing pickup sticks with passwords and slogging through lists of What You Need to Do Right Now, Dammit.

Meanwhile, back in the 20th century, Florida elections supervisors are fretting over the privacy of voters’ home addresses, which any 8-year-old can find on the internet, and birth dates, which most voters seem to have already shared with Mark Zuckerberg, Mike Allen and Peter Schorsch, and are happy to have them pass it on to the world.

No matter how much time we spend changing our passwords and passing ludicrous exemptions to our public records law, privacy is an idea whose time has come — and long gone.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.15.16 — Pier politics, part VIII

St. Pete City Council members are scheduled to receive a report on the progress of the St. Petersburg Pier at City Hall this morning.

Architects from ASD Architects, Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers, representing the Pier and W Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Wannemacher Jensen Architects, representing the Pier Approach will present updated renderings of the new Pier. According to a news release, City staff will report on timing, budget and next steps.

Not covering St. Petersburg on a regular basis these days, I have to admit I wasn’t aware where we all were in the process. Otherwise occupied, I didn’t realize that there has been an additional $20 million added to the budget from Pinellas County. For years the top line had been $46 million, which it remains in terms of how much the city will allocate to it.

As reported in yesterday’s Times, now Mayor Rick Kriseman wants the county to cough up an additional $14 million that has been earmarked to build an intermodal transportation center for light rail and buses. That now pushes the budget up to $80 million.

“I don’t want us to have any regrets down the road,” the mayor tells Times columnist John Romano this morning. “I want to be able to give the community something really special.”

When I closely covered the saga of the Pier in 2012-2013, I learned that while removes the element of the downtown crowd was all in for “The Lens” and couldn’t be bothered to hear arguments for maintaining the now razed inverted pyramid Pier, many people in the community felt otherwise. Though Councilman Wengay Newton was depicted as just being eccentric in supporting the 1973 model, he was actually onto something with his resistance to making such a change.

So, yes, people, the Pier is a complicated thing.

Like the never-ending saga of the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s still hard to predict how this whole Pier thing is going to work out. Though there is a sentiment within the same circle of folks who liked the Lens to just quash the whole damned thing, that won’t work.

So maybe Kriseman is on to something. It’s hard to say when it comes to the Pier. City Council members in the past year have found their voice in confronting the administration regarding the sewage crisis — will they as a whole resist the urge to keep on spending on something “really special”?

In other news …

In a health care committee meeting in the Florida Senate yesterday, some health care providers say this whole managed Medicaid system isn’t working out so well for them.

While Tampa Bay area lawmakers try to pass a law that removes the suspension of driver’s licenses for a series of crimes unrelated to driving, they don’t do so for drug crime.

Hillsborough County Commission Pat Kemp heard from some Tampa-based constituents not happy with the low salaries that are so prevalent in the area.

The Tampa Bay History Center is about to go through an $11 million expansion.

And critics of the Tampa Bay Express project aren’t surprised to hear FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold call for a ‘reset,’ but they want the whole thing killed.

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