Daniel Tilson: Florida’s “Good Old Boy” government has to go

The adage that “You get what you pay for” sure does hold true in Florida’s political and public policy circles. Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferullo wrote a great piece for Context Florida this week, laying out how we pay…for what we are unwilling to pay for. Let me explain.

Ferullo detailed some of this year’s worst fallout from the “Good Old Boy” networks that rule the roost in Florida, with so many legislators and “business leaders” working in cahoots, cut from or cloaked in the same high-priced cloth.

Legislators are paid $29,697 a year. Millionaires make up almost one third of the Legislature. We don’t have many civic-minded Main Street folks able to afford doing the tough, time-consuming job of fighting for the middle class.

We get lawyers, doctors, businessmen, predominantly white guys with money and connections enough to run for office and sustain themselves if elected. It’s a group that tends to think and act alike in putting professional and business interests above Main Street interests.

When a story broke this week about “The Florida Council of 100” suddenly uninviting scheduled speaker Charlie Crist from its meeting at the last minute, it was a reminder about rich-guy groupthink – “a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values.”

Despite denials, everyone understood this corporate club with deep pockets and strong Republican ties pulled the ding-dong-ditch of Crist so as not to interfere with Gov. Rick Scott’s appearance at the event. No “smoking gun” email or text implicating Scott staffers needed, though it’d be fun to play with that for a news cycle or two. But don’t count on it, since Team Scott has quite the track record of deleting embarrassing documents. But I digress.

The point is, give a bunch of rich white guys the green light to unite and feel authoritative in groups such as the Legislature, Chamber of Commerce and Council of 100, and the line between public and private interests blurs. The line between right and wrong gets fuzzy too. Self-serving self-interest co-mingles with mutually self-serving shared interests, masquerading as “strategic thinking” and “cooperation.”

And bing-bang-boom, no sooner than you can say “Sorry Charlie,” stupid, potentially damaging conclusions and decisions are reached, with little if any vigorous debate or reality check. The good news is, this particular stupid decision only damaged the Council of 100, and the consistently clumsy Scott re-election campaign.

The Council got deservedly slammed by Crist, who showed up at the event venue, held a press conference, and took full advantage of a golden opportunity to slam the governor he’ll likely face in the general election come November.

Adding insult to injury was the additional body-slam delivered by two of Florida’s leading African-American legislators, Sen. Dwight Bullard and Rep. Perry E. Thurston. The two Democratic stalwarts sent the Council a letter ripping the Crist uninviting, before cutting to the chase about the groupthink thing:

“Disregarding that you purport to be a ‘nonpartisan’ organization, who does your organization truly represent?

“Your officers and board are comprised of 31 people, of whom only five are women and only three appear to be Democrats. Of the 31 Floridians who lead your organization, not one of them is an African-American.

“To repeat, in the year 2014, not one of your 31 officers or directors is an African-American. Your actions and your choices make it abundantly clear whom you seek to represent.”

I say, let’s keep the heat on these Good Old Boy networks, find ways to adequately pay or subsidize working class citizen legislators, and take back our state Legislature.

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Daniel Tilson


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