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Kelli Stargel’s appointment to Senate budget chief is a big deal for Lakeland, so why didn’t the local paper cover it?

Stargel will oversee a massive state budget, and that’s a big deal for her Lakeland district.

The (Lakeland) Ledger’s top story on its website Saturday morning is about a Polk County man who avoided prison time in a high-profile child abuse case.

Nowhere on its page, or anywhere on its website for that matter, is there a headline about Sen. Kelli Stargel, one of the region’s favorite daughters, being named Senate budget chief.

We don’t want to pick on The Ledger. They’re a relatively small community newspaper and times are tough for newsrooms like theirs.

But how could they not have coverage of one of the most impactful government decisions to its readers?

Behind Senate President and House Speaker, chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations is, arguably, the most powerful position in the Legislature. Stargel will be directly responsible for overseeing a massive state budget … and at a time when the belt is certain to be tightened, making local appropriations projects less of a priority.

With their own local Senator at the helm of that process, Stargel will wield massive influence over which projects to keep and which to slash. With her own district covering the Lakeland area, that could mean fewer local projects affecting The Ledger’s readership get the ax.

It is no secret that times are tough for media. It’s hard to prioritize state government with a small, lean newsroom at a local publication. But with Stargel in one of the highest positions in leadership, they should be prioritizing it.

Senate President Wilton Simpson named Stargel to the role Friday. In his announcement, he laid out the importance of her role.

“She will be a key member of the Senate leadership and will work to ensure all Senators have the opportunity to play a role in drafting our state budget,” Simpson said.

Florida has enjoyed years of economic growth, but that ended in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic lockdowns. Now, the Sunshine State is facing a $5.4 billion shortfall over the next two years, largely from tourism.

Stargel’s district doesn’t include the state’s busiest tourism sector around Walt Disney World, but it’s only a hop, skip and a jump from her Senate District 22. And her district does include Legoland, which is facing its own dire circumstances related to the pandemic.

“We are all well aware that the ongoing pandemic has placed a tremendous amount of stress on Florida’s economy, and in turn our state budget,” Simpson wrote in his memo. “While the most recent reports indicate that our state is recovering more quickly than we initially thought possible, there is no question that much of our time over the next two years will be spent studying issues related to our budget.”

Stargel will lead budget conversations both of those years. We think that’s something The Ledger should pay attention to as its own local lawmaker leads the conversation.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. tom palmer

    November 21, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    One possibility is that no one at the paper is on Simpson’s mailing list I’m not even sure if Gatehouse has a Tallahassee bureau anymore. Surprised the wires didn’t move something on the appointments.
    The Ledger is soldiering on with a skeleton staff and more buyouts may be on the way, I’ve heard. It is a pity what slips by today. Not only only is staffing down, but so is the newshole.

  2. Ron Wiegand

    November 21, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    The Ledger has become useless. I unsubscribed to them years ago.

  3. Palmer Tom

    November 21, 2020 at 2:44 pm

    I guess I’d add this is kind of inside baseball. The session doesn’t start until March. It’ll be interesting to see how much of her right-wing agenda gets pushed through.

  4. R. Bruce Anderson, Ph.D.

    November 21, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    The Ledger has gone from a newsroom of 126 in 2010 to 6. There have been additional losses in the past 2 weeks. I would hardly characterize this as “lean”. The destruction of a fine local newspaper – and the wonderful people that make it happen — should not be the target of a piece like this.

  5. Sonja Fitch

    November 22, 2020 at 6:18 am

    Now is the moment Lakeland Ledger! Cover what a conservative to the point of obsession she is! One of those I got it and you ain’t going to get it! Desantis is willingly slaughtering Floridians! So far the big 3 of the Florida house and senate talk clever double speaks! Actions will be evaluating factors ! Beware Floridians!

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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