Opinions – Florida Politics

Manuel Orosa: Miami is ready for a strong mayor

Manuel Orosa

During my 35 years of service to the city of Miami, I have come to realize that the current system of government is dysfunctional.

I support the mayor’s attempt to modernize the antiquated city manager system to that of a strong mayor.

I have many reasons for this support; here are just a few.

Now, no city leader is ever held accountable for their actions when things go wrong. There are too many politicians in charge.

Hubris takes over and finger-pointing at the others, including the manager, is the norm.

Eventually, a confused electorate has no clue of who is to blame. Thus, no one is ever held accountable.

In a strong mayor system, the mayor gets the praise or the fault, and is clearly held accountable.

Secondly, a strong mayor system eliminates the political influence on employees.

Usually, politicians befriend certain employees who can assist them in getting things done in their districts.

These friendships lead to favors between both, such as a good word for promotion/better job, even if the employee is undeserving. These friendships also create difficulties for the manager when attempting to corral an incompetent or insubordinate employee.

If the case goes to a commission hearing, the employee’s conduct becomes inconsequential.

To make matters worse, the seven city officials in charge are usually at odds over issues and at times personally. During their discourse, sometimes amicable and sometimes not, employees are left to wonder who is really in charge.

The mayor has no vote or real power. A strong mayor is in charge and responsible for the city and everyone knows it.

In discussions with many of my colleagues, we all came to the same conclusion: Miami is not only ready but really needs a strong mayor form of government.

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Manuel Orosa is a former Miami Police Chief.

Joe Henderson: No game worth price Scot Brantley is paying

Scot Brantley was one of my favorite football players to cover during my years as a sports writer.

That goes back to his days as a ferocious linebacker at Ocala Forest High School, and later with the Florida Gators and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

His trademark southern drawl came through when he co-hosted a sports talk show in Tampa after he finally quit football. He always has been as real as a person can be.

That’s why it is especially painful to hear that at age 60, the man I knew is likely headed down a road from which there presently is no return.

In an interview with HBO sports, his wife, Mary, said Scot has Alzheimer’s disease. That’s not even the worst of it though.

She says the National Football League has denied his claim for assistance from the settlement it reached after retired players began reporting abnormally high rates of brain-related diseases and other ailments.

A study showed that compared to the rest of the U.S., NFL players are three times more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases and four times more likely to die from Alzheimer’s or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — Lou Gehrig’s disease.

There is no telling how many concussions Brantley endured from high school through seven years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1979, Brantley took a knee to the head and was knocked unconscious in Florida’s opening home game of the season.

He never played another down for the Gators.

He was advised to quit football then but received another medical diagnosis that convinced him and the NFL that he would be OK. The league and players weren’t knowledgeable about long-term effects from head injuries then, certainly not to the degree we see today.

Brantley kept on delivering his signature hard hits, and he said in interviews that he figured headaches and concussions were just part of the game.

You know what else should be part of the game?

How about some compassion.

Players like Scot Brantley helped make the NFL into the multibillion enterprise it is today. The league owes him and all those former players with similar problems compassion, care, and money.

I was part of a team at the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-NewsChannel 8 in 2010 that did a series we called “Broken Bucs.”

We sought to find as many players from the 1979 division championship team that we could to see how they were doing years later. It was the first time any media outlet had undertaken such a project on a single team.

One of my tasks was to find Jerry Eckwood, who was a standout running back on that team. I flew to Nashville, where he was staying in assisted living. He had been homeless for a while and was battling both physical pain and mental deterioration.

He could talk lucidly one minute, then go into a rambling, nonsensical paranoid delusion the next. He had suffered multiple concussions as a player.

Eckwood eventually did get some assistance from the NFL, but the game can never adequately replace what it took from players like him and Scot Brantley.

In reporting that series, we held several meetings with former Bucs at a North Tampa hotel. Many told similar stories of being turned down for injury claims.

“You know what they call it, right?” former quarterback John Reaves said. “Delay, deny and hope you die.”

Reaves died last year at age 67.

In a 2013 interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Brantley talked about his failing memory and admitted he had no idea how many concussions he might have suffered over the years. Who knows how that might have changed if he had heeded the advice to give up football while he was still with the Gators.

All I know is, a guy I like and respect is fighting the battle of his life, and I believe football is the reason why.

I enjoy watching football as much as anyone, but no game is worth the price too many are paying.

Lauren Book: Controversial ‘Show Dogs’ sends disturbing message to kids — skip this at the box office

Recent controversy surrounding the soon-to-be-released movie “Show Dogs” makes it clear that sexualized content — made worse under the guise of humor — has no place in children’s movies.

I am extremely alarmed by reports that a character in the movie was instructed to essentially tolerate having their private parts touched, sending a disturbing message to young moviegoers.

Bloggers who attended an advance screening rightly called out Hollywood for the inappropriate content in a movie targeting children.

Show Dogs is about a police dog who goes undercover in a dog show to find a missing panda. Variety describes it as “’Miss Congeniality’ for dogs,” where the hero prepares to compete in a dog show by learning how to prance, show, and even stay completely still while his private parts are being inspected and touched — something he is alarmed about and does not wish to do.

The trainer explains this a natural part of showing dogs (and it is) and to go against his instincts by finding a “Zen place” as a distraction from the groping.

This has no place in a movie for children and parents should avoid taking their child to see it unless the scene is removed before its Friday release.

As parents, we know the influence media has on children. Our kids pick up behaviors and understandings from movies, YouTube videos and TV shows. Their minds constantly absorb the content with little to no understanding of the context.

In this case, it’s OK if someone touches your private parts because it’s part of the “show” and it’s just silly fun.

But it’s actually called grooming and is a frequent tactic used by predators to keep victims quiet, questioning their fear.

Child sexual abuse is a trauma experienced by an estimated 42 million people in the U.S. and the number grows daily.

One in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18, and 90 percent of these cases will be committed by a person the child — and their parents — know, love and trust.

Bravo to these self-described mama bear bloggers for sounding the alarm. From one mama to another, thank you.

I myself have not seen Show Dogs, but have read multiple reviews that clearly state this content in the movie.

Show Dogs releases Friday — don’t go.

If you were thinking about it, wait for additional information after opening weekend and make an educated decision about what is best for your children and family to help them stay safe. And if you do choose to take your children, use the opportunity to have a real and important conversation about listening to your guiding voice and speaking up when a touch or situation doesn’t feel right.

Reinforce that it’s ALWAYS OK to tell and seek help from a trusted adult.

Your kids have a voice — teach them to use it.

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State Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, is founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids.

Eric Silagy: Global trade equals greater opportunity

Global trade in Florida means high wage jobs and greater opportunity for economic development.

Research shows that one out of five jobs in Florida is tied to international trade. We must continue to have important conversations on ways to secure Florida’s future and position Florida as a leader in international trade.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has been a long-standing advocate of free trade, and together we will continue to support expanding international trade and investment opportunities for Florida businesses, advocating for fair and equitable market access for Florida-origin exports abroad and eliminating barriers that are harmful to Florida’s competitiveness.

A delegation of business leaders joined the Florida Chamber of Commerce recently in Washington, D.C. encouraging Florida’s Congressional Delegation to support Florida’s job creators and to work to ensure that trade continues to benefit the U.S. and Floridians.

As the Trump administration considers the future of trade, it’s important now more than ever, that Florida’s business community unites in support of private-sector job creation, regulatory reform and creation of opportunities for economic prosperity, through strong global ties.

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Eric Silagy is president & CEO of Florida Power & Light and a member of the Florida Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Rebecca McLaughlin: What Publix can learn from Chick-Fil-A about handling political activists

Publix is currently facing an issue that is increasingly prevalent in American corporations: political activism.

As the left has become more radicalized with their demands for political conformity in the public space, the presence of activist-driven campaigns has increased and become more effective. Progressive activists understand that most American corporations are meek in the face of controversy and often mistake political activism as another type of customer complaint.

The result is that American corporations are easy targets for outrage campaigns spearheaded by mostly progressive activists on a range of environmental, social and economic issues.

Last week, Publix faced criticism on social media for its support of gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a natural fit given that Putnam is a native of Polk County and champion of Florida business.

Part of the Publix culture is putting customers first and responding quickly to complaints about shopper experience.  Publix’s customer-driven approach is part of the magic that allows the company to be a place “where shopping is a pleasure.”

Unfortunately, the Publix approach does not work when the complaints come not from shoppers, but from political activists. The key difference is this: the customer wants a company to make good on its stated goals. An activist wants a company to change it goals.

For the purposes of this article, an “activist” is someone engaging in a political mindset as opposed to a consumer mindset. The idea that a customer can move between being a consumer and an activist is vexing for companies, but is a reality of our increasingly politically infected culture.

Back to the Publix example.

Take a look at the Twitter response that drew the attention of the media last week.

The Publix response, while genuine and true to company culture, violates the three rules every company should follow if subjected to a campaign by political activists.

First, never apologize for your political position. The best corporate example here is Chick-Fil-A. Progressive activists disdain the company for its conservative, Christian values. Chick-Fil-A, however, just keeps growing, even in places such as liberal Manhattan, because Chick-Fil-A doesn’t apologize for its views. Apologies for intentional political stances only draw media attention, attract more activists, and make companies appear less authentic.

Second, never say what your company did NOT do. In the @Publix tweets, Publix clarifies they do not support the National Rifle Association (NRA). By attempting to be unambiguous Publix actually reinforced the idea of a link between themselves and the NRA.  The resulting headline the next day in the Tampa Bay Times actually read “Publix Clarifies: We Support Adam Putnam, Not The NRA.”

By saying what the company doesn’t support, Publix issued a denial and in politics, denials look like guilt.

Third, don’t respond to activists unless the media is directly asking for a response regarding the issue. The criticism of Publix could have been limited to a fringe social media campaign had Publix opted not to respond. By issuing a response, however, Publix created a mainstream media story that probably would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

The Publix story, however, has another layer.

The @PublixHelps Twitter handle also issued a response but one that followed the rules above. Here it is below.

The @PublixHelps tweet was a great response. The tweet simply states why the company supports Putnam without a denouncement of the NRA, mention of gun violence, or denial of any kind.

Simple. Direct. Perfect.

The rise of political outrage culture will continue to create headaches for every American company engaged in any public policy issue. The political minefield can be navigated, but only if corporate marketers are able to understand the differences between the political mind and consumer mind of their customers and obey the three simple rules above.

Remember, progressives still eat at Chick-fil-A and conservatives still buy coffee at Starbucks. If your product is good, even consumers who disagree with you politically can become loyal, lifelong customers.

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Rebecca McLaughlin is the VP of Client Relations at Strategic Digital Services where she spearheads digital strategy for an array of political and corporate clients around Florida.

Joe Henderson: Sure, young people are registering to vote, but for whom?

The New York Times reported that the number of young people registering to vote since the Parkland killings continues to, using the newspaper’s word, “accelerate.”

That trend is likely to spike upward again following Friday’s massacre at Santa Fe High School in Texas. The overriding factor for the increases obviously would seem to be gun violence in schools, and that is an issue that Democrats in Florida and elsewhere should own.

For Democrats though, there is a disturbance in the force of that narrative.

The Florida Supervisor of Elections Office shows that compared to the end of 2017, the number of registered Republicans increased by 11,065 through the end of April while the number of Democrats declined by 8,977.

It also shows an increase of 11,427 in registrations for what it calls “minor parties.”

Democrats still have more than 200,000 registered voters than Republicans statewide, but they have had that advantage forever and still lost the last five Governor’s races.

In this century, Democrats have won just one statewide legislative race — Alex Sink beat Tom Lee for CFO in 2006.

True, Dems have had some surprising special election success in unlikely places. In HD 72 in Sarasota, Democrat Margaret Good prevailed in February over Republican James Buchanan in a district Donald Trump won by 4.4 points in 2016.

And in Dade County last September, Democrat Annette Taddeo beat state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in a special SD 40 race to fill the vacancy created when Republican Frank Artiles had to resign following a racist rant.

After those results, it looked like the predicted blue wave for Democrats would sweep over Florida in the midterms, and it still could. For that to happen though, some things have to change — and the kids will have to be the ones to make the difference.

While it’s almost impossible to predict what Trump will do next and how that will affect his popularity in November, he does seem to be better liked in Florida than most places.

A recent Florida Atlantic poll had his approval at 43 percent — not great, but better here than the national average. If that holds, it might mitigate some of the drag on other Republican candidates that Dems have been banking on.

Rick Scott poses the biggest threat of Democrat Bill Nelson’s career in the U.S. Senate.

Although Scott, once considered a darling of the National Rifle Association, helped push through a modestly tougher gun law in the wake of Parkland, but will that be enough to convince young voters that he can be trusted in Washington?

And just as important for Nelson, will those newly registered voters actually cast a ballot? Turnout is usually modest in midterm elections, even when such critical offices are at stake. That has benefitted Republicans in Florida.

The other X-factor is that “minor party” issue. Idealistic young voters often feel neither major party listens to them, and they can be attracted to the message that a candidate out of the mainstream might offer.

That’s where I think Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam has been smart. He has become a champion of expanded vocational education in the state, even to the point of ridiculing the notion that everyone should go to college as some liberal elitist plot.

I think that’s an issue that could resonate with young voters who see a job market that seems to offer them only service positions at $10 an hour.

In close races, those voters can sink the hopes of a candidate from one of the established parties.

Put another way, while major Republican candidates would love to have a big share of the youth vote, they’re probably OK if it goes to anyone else but a Democrat.

That thought alone should keep Dems awake nights.

Logan McFaddin: Summer is near, hurricane readiness begins now

Logan McFaddin

An uptick in the frequency of severe weather is a sure sign that summer is near. And for the southeast, that means hurricane season is quickly approaching.

Last year, three major hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — caused an estimated $67 billion in damage in a 28-day window. Forecasters are again calling for an above-average hurricane season in 2018.

Hurricane season begins June 1 and extends through Nov. 30. But named storms can form even in May. Four of the last six years we saw hurricanes form before the official season even began, according to the Weather Channel.

Unfortunately, too many residents in the region still do not give the beginning of hurricane season enough thought — or take action to prepare their homes or their finances.

Floridians can take a few important steps now, to give yourself peace of mind and the confidence that you’re prepared financially for a major storm or emergency event.

Start with checking in with your insurance agent or company regarding the amount of insurance coverage you have. For example, determine if your policy provides for replacement costs or actual cash value of your belongings. If your home is insured at its assessed value, ask if that will be enough to rebuild in the case of a major catastrophe.

Don’t forget to consider additional coverage options such as flood insurance, as most homeowners’ policies do not cover flooding. Flood insurance must be purchased as a separate policy, and it takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to go into effect. Remember that floods can devastate communities anywhere. Floods are not isolated to coastal areas or flood zones.

After a disaster strikes, it can be tough to remember everything that was in your home. Homeowners and renters should make a home inventory every year. Use your smartphone to video the inside of your home and its contents. Include images of receipts for large items too. Back up the video on a cloud device, in case your computer or phone are damaged. Ask your insurer if they have an app where you can upload the inventory too.

If you sustain storm damage, call your insurer as soon as possible to start the claims process. Your home inventory will expedite the claims process. Beware of signing any documents from contractors before you talk to your insurer.

Assignment of benefit (AOB) abuse is rampant in Florida today. Third-party groups have perfected a too-good-to-be-true scheme that convinces homeowners and motorists to sign over their insurance benefits in exchange for quick repairs. The most common examples are roofing contractors walking door to door in neighborhoods and car window repair shops approaching motorists in parking lots. These third-parties offer seemingly great deals, but the unknowing home or car owner is being tricked into a lawsuit that could end up increasing their insurance costs over the long term.

Don’t wait until a major hurricane is lingering off the coast before you take action. Prepare your family and your finances early with a few easy steps that can go a long way in storm recovery.

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Logan McFaddin is a regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

Joe Henderson: Rick Scott following familiar campaign formula vs. Bill Nelson

The only way to avoid Rick Scott’s ad blitz thus far in his campaign for the U.S. Senate is to unplug your TV set and, well, who wants to do that?

That would mean you missed the Royal wedding and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s ongoing run toward the Stanley Cup, so I guess being subjected to Scott’s “approved” attack on his opponent and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is a price to pay we just have to pay.

The latest ad is a real gem.

Scott, the two-term governor, has been attacking Nelson, the three-term senator, as a “career politician.” Now, he is using what looks like the cast of Everyday Folks to paint Nelson as a rubber stamp who always votes the party line for the Democratic agenda — whatever it is.

One guy in the commercial even says Nelson is too influenced by Nancy Pelosi, and while I suppose their paths have crossed I doubt the House Minority Leader has much influence over Nelson’s votes in the Senate.

Ah, but that’s how the game is played.

Republicans believe Pelosi is such a hot-button item that merely hearing her name or seeing her face will send thousands of voters stampeding to the polls to back any GOP candidate.

Scott is not above playing the guilt-by-association game, either. A big part of his strategy as an unknown outsider in 2010 was to label Republican front-runner Bill McCollum as liberal for supporting — wait for it — “pro-abortion and pro-homosexual” Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential primary.

Painting McCollum as liberal was (and is) laughable, except it worked.

Scott then put “let’s get to work” on an endless loop that we’re still repeating eight years later, and I guess he figures if a little distortion worked before, why mess with success?

Besides, Nelson is absorbing a ton of body blows from these ads while sitting on about $10.5 million in his campaign chest. It’s reasonable to ask when he will start throwing punches back before Rick Scott defines himself as an agent of change and Nelson as the face of partisan politics.

While Scott has already spent $8 million on TV ads, including Spanish-language ads, Nelson has essentially been a ghost on TV and puzzling to the Democratic base.

For instance, he voted to confirm Gina Haspel as director of the CIA, choosing not to hold the fact she oversaw “enhanced interrogation” (torture) for a time.

He tweeted his support for relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, calling it the “appropriate place.”   

That doesn’t sound like a Democratic rubber stamp to me.

As long as Nelson lets Scott keep pounding away though, it doesn’t really matter what is true and what is misleading. Yeah, I know — the lead-up to major elections is all about being misleading.

Voters can usually sort through the nonsense, and it is still about 5 ½ months until the election. Neither candidate faces a serious primary challenge.

If I were Democrats though, I’d be worried that Scott is managing to plant enough seeds with voters that it could be hard for Nelson to change minds.

If they doubt that, just ask Bill McCollum.

Blake Dowling: Net neutrality redux

Net neutrality is back in the news.

There are 2 sides to the issue and everyone is weighing in. Except for the guy from now shall be known as “Shopping Center Man,” found at the 59-second mark of this WCTV News segment from Thursday night in Tallahassee.

When asked what is net neutrality, he says “he forgot” … “and back to you in studio Bob.”

 

Classic.

“I forgot.” That’s one I need to remember.

WCTV was kind enough to visit the office yesterday and asked my humble opinion on the issue, and it’s back to what happened late last year.

In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission classification of the internet changed from that of “information services” to that of a “telecommunications service” — with all the regulatory oversight that comes with it.

That was repealed, until this week, when the Senate said: “No joy.”

Bottom line, there are two sides: one says “trust the government,” the other says “trust business.” Regardless which side you are on, the decision is not up to you.

When I wrote on the issue late last year, I brought in the team at the Florida Internet and Television Association to weigh in. You can check that out by clicking here.

What went down this week was Senate Democrats used the so-called Congressional Review Act to force a vote. This allowed Congress to appeal an agency rule with a majority vote (not the normal 60 vote threshold).

How did they get there? They had help from some Republicans, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, whose state certainly has faced challenges with internet connectivity.

Will this matter? It brought the issue of net neutrality back to the table for discussion, but it will probably get punted when it hits the House.

 So, any victory will most likely be short-lived.

From 1996 to 2014, the internet seemed to do just fine — regardless if a Republican or Democrat was in the White House. For a long time, rules were the same.

Perhaps the game has changed? Maybe there is too much connectivity? Too many dollars on the line?

Maybe not.

We need not forget that innovation still needs to take precedence over regulation, as the United States is not the fastest in the world. Most lists put Sweden and South Korea as top countries with the fastest Internet. However, we certainly can’t let Big Business block access to specific sites as they see fit.

We will see how this goes, but (most likely) any changes made will stay on course — we will have to see what happens. As long as I can watch Gator baseball on my iPad, I’m good.

Why is it not on regular TV? I am forced to watch it on an APP? Jeez.

Oh well, there’s always Shopping Center Man to make me smile.

Say hello to Shopping Center Man.

Have a great weekend.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Mark Fontaine: DOC makes unwise cuts to substance abuse treatment programs

The Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) is dismantling successful substance abuse and re-entry treatment programs to fix a $28 million shortfall. The shortsighted action will adversely affect communities, offenders and businesses: an action that is totally unacceptable.

DOC Secretary Julie Jones recently announced that 33 community and in-prison substance abuse treatment and housing providers will have their contracts slashed or totally canceled. The total substance abuse reductions are over $22 million with community providers receiving a 43 percent cut and contracted in-prison programs a 48 percent cut.

The loss of substance abuse inmate programs means a greater likelihood of drug and alcohol relapse and a greater chance for repeat criminal offenders. The loss of therapeutic beds means no more graduated re-entry into society and offenders going back into their communities without critical substance abuse treatment. These programs are integral to rehabilitation; these offenders obtain jobs, pay restitution, child support and fines.

The DOC cuts also affect drug courts. Judges’ options to choose a substance abuse diversionary program over a prison sentence will be greatly diminished, thus continuing to crowd Florida’s prison system, and denying treatment to offenders in the community. Inmates currently in diversionary and re-entry programs receiving the cuts will need to be re-sentenced and re-assigned.

The DOC cuts affect every single contracted facility that offers substance abuse treatment and re-entry programs. The providers will lay off more than 600 full-time employees. The promise by the FDC to re-establish programs once money is somehow back in the budget rings hollow with no plan in place to secure funding being lost. Treatment centers have spent years to launch and refine substance abuse treatment programs; they can’t easily be re-established.

Interestingly, the money earmarked for substance abuse treatment before, during, and after incarceration is already in the legislatively approved budget, but the DOC wants to move the approved funds somewhere else. The DOC cites constitutional mandates to provide health care for inmates. The problem is, substance abuse treatment is health care and needs to be considered such by our top leaders.

Financial considerations are also paramount. The cost to house an offender for nine months in a community substance abuse treatment bed is far less than the average 3-year sentence for a drug offender in prison. A community-based approach can easily save the state $30,000 per inmate over the course of a drug-offender sentence.

The loss caused by this action to communities, individuals and businesses is staggering. The Florida Department of Correction cuts to Substance Abuse Treatment Programs (representing just 1.5 percent of the entire FDC’s $2.4 billion budget) should not be happening at all, let alone in the middle of the opioid crisis and the worst drug epidemic the state has ever experienced. Governor Scott and our state leaders need to fix this problem before it’s too late to turn back.

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Mark Fontaine is executive director of the Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association.

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