Opinions Archives - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Free press needed now more than ever

The job of the free press is to find out stuff the public needs to know, make sure it’s accurate, and then share that information with the people.

A lot of times the mission means upsetting the powerful and those who support them. These days, it means enduring taunts of “fake news” and people who believe reporters deliberately publish fiction designed to destroy, in this case, President Donald Trump and his administration.

To some, the “media” is even a faceless, soulless agent of the deep state out to ruin the country, but it is none of those things. It is the firewall that protects democracy from the scoundrels and con artists.

So, that’s why Florida Politics has joined with newspapers, online outlets, and other media around the country to denounce what The Boston Globe has called a ‘‘dirty war against the free press.’’

Trump started that war while still a candidate for the most powerful office in the world. As president, he has declared the press is the enemy of the American people. That’s not exactly upholding the oath of office he took, the one where he promised to “preserve, protect and defend” the U.S. Constitution.

The First Amendment to the Constitution clearly states “Congress shall make no law … “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …”

The Founding Fathers understood that absolute power corrupts and that an unfettered press is a vital check on lawmakers who believe rules don’t apply to them.

But it’s not just about keeping Washington honest.

This past week, the Tampa Bay Times illustrated what the free press means to our local community.

The Times, with painstaking research and reporting, uncovered that top officials at the Hillsborough County School District knew about a widespread problem of lead in the drinking water at multiple schools for over a year, but didn’t share that information with the public.

They came clean only after reporters at the Times began nosing around and asking tough questions. Without the effort and skill of the local newspaper, no one might have ever known what was going on.

The recent attack at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. resulting in six deaths illustrates that this can be a dangerous mission. The International Federation of Journalists reported that 62 journalists have been killed around the world thus far in 2018.

Several of those deaths occurred while reporters were trying to cover bloody conflicts in war-torn areas. At the Tampa Tribune where I worked for more than 40 years, we learned the cost that can come with reporting dangerous but important stories.

An ambitious young reporter named Todd C. Smith used vacation time in 1989 to travel to Peru so he could report on drug trafficking. He never got to finish the story. He was kidnapped by Shining Path guerrillas, tortured, and murdered.

Do journalists get it wrong sometimes?

Of course.

And for reputable publications, there are consequences for that — unlike some of the conspiracy sites out there masquerading as real news. Reputable sites admit their mistakes and correct them. They hold reporters to high standards of honesty and accuracy.

An editor at the Tampa Tribune once spoke of the “multiple layers of inspection” a story had to undergo before it reached your doorstep the next morning. Real editors challenge reporters to prove that what they submitted is the truth.

That’s really what it’s about.

Truth.

That can be lost when many in the public get their news from Russian bots and Facebook memes. All the press can do to combat that is to stay in the game, keep uncovering facts and sharing it with its audience, follow the stories where they lead, and never allow itself to be intimidated.

Trump is not the first president hostile to the press and he won’t be the last. But the work reporters do and the valuable part they play in our democracy won’t change.

It can’t change.

The Founding Fathers understood that, and a free press is more important now than ever.

Carol Dover: Take action to protect Florida’s tourism industry

As every Floridian knows, tourism is critical to our state’s booming economy. This $111.7 billion industry represents 1.4 million employees, and one out of every four people in the Sunshine State works in hospitality. With more than 850 miles of beautiful coastline, seemingly endless options for entertainment and warm sunshine, it’s no wonder that millions of people come to Florida every year.

Our state’s largest industry is in danger as a result of the algal blooms caused when the federal government releases water from Lake Okeechobee into our rivers and estuaries. Gov. Scott has taken incredible steps in securing millions of dollars in state funding for repairs to the Herbert Hoover dike and billions for Everglades restoration projects.

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has worked tirelessly to expedite the EAA reservoir project, which is imperative for reducing the discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Further, the SFWMD continues to study the situation and determine what other actions can be taken. But the bottom line is that Gov. Scott, the SFWMD and Floridians cannot stop the algal blooms or minimize the damage to our environment and economy on our own.

The federal government must take immediate and decisive action to help Florida.

The federal government should immediately fully fund their half of the state-federal partnership for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. To date, the state has contributed more than $2.3 billion, but the federal government has contributed only $1.3 billion.

Their failure to follow through on their commitment delays critical projects that will clean, store and move water south and thereby eliminate the need for the Lake Okeechobee releases.

Congress should quickly approve the EAA Reservoir Project. The SFWMD accelerated the planning and design for this project, and the White House Office of Management and Budget approved the plan last month.

However, the plan is still sitting in Congress, waiting on approval. Without Congressional approval, this key project is on hold, and the Lake Okeechobee discharges continue.

Finally, the Army Corps of Engineers should evaluate their plan for Lake Okeechobee. We are in the middle of the wet season. Funding for the Herbert Hoover dike rehabilitation is secured thanks to Gov. Scott. And yet, the Army Corps of Engineers has not updated the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule for a decade.

Florida’s leaders are doing all that they can to protect our environment, our people, our wildlife and our economy. We all understand that a long-term, lasting solution requires everyone working together, and Floridians are doing all we can.

We need our partners at the federal level to do the same.

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Carol Dover is CEO/President of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. She can be reached at cdover@frla.org.

Martha Haynie: Adam Putnam, Frank White should rescind endorsements from anti-LGBT hate group

Florida gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam’s campaign has come under fire over his support from the National Rifle Association, with Putnam infamously referring to himself as a “proud NRA sellout.” Now that he has accepted the endorsement of the anti-LGBT Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC), Putnam can add “proud hate group sellout” to his resume.

Rep. Frank White, a Republican candidate for Florida Attorney General and anti-abortion hard-liner, was also endorsed by the FFPC after receiving an A+ on their legislative scorecard. If elected, White would wield considerable influence over issues related to LGBT and civil rights, as well as women’s health and abortion rights. His acceptance of FFPC’s endorsement is tantamount to declaring legal war on LGBT Floridians and a woman’s right to seek an abortion.

The FFPC and its leader John Stemberger have a long history of attacking the LGBT community with false claims and junk science. According to Stemberger, “gay is an artificial sociopolitical agenda that is dangerous.” By accepting Stemberger’s endorsement, Adam Putnam and Frank White are legitimizing this hateful, bogus rhetoric.

Stemberger’s group supports so-called gay conversion therapy, a dangerous and thoroughly discredited program aimed at turning lesbians and gays into heterosexuals. Conversion therapy programs for minors have been banned in numerous states and municipalities, including 20 cities and counties in Florida.

While fighting against a basic LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in Jacksonville, Stemberger had the gall to label the LGBT community “a radical group of political operatives who want to force their aberrant views on human sexuality upon the rest of society.” This from a man who wants to push his ultraconservative views on every Floridian and who once claimed on a radical anti-LGBT radio show that simply recognizing or affirming a young boy’s burgeoning homosexuality constitutes “abuse.”

Stemberger and the FFPC have also been key players in opposing marriage equality in Florida. Under Stemberger’s narrow view, legalizing homosexual marriage is “affirmatively harmful” to children and society. Stemberger’s attacks on the LGBT community don’t stop with same-sex marriage or hate crime laws. His group has also actively opposed anti-bullying programs and LGBT individuals serving openly in the military.

The Florida Family Policy Council is an offshoot of the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as a hate group whose “specialty is defaming gays and lesbians.” And with the acceptance of FFPC’s endorsement, Putnam and White aren’t just declaring themselves opponents of abortion — they’re making clear that as Governor, Florida’s entire LGBT community would be treated as second-class citizens.

Stemberger and his organization don’t just target LGBT Floridians. Like Adam Putnam and Frank White, Stemberger and his group rabidly oppose a woman’s right to choose. As a member of the 2018 Constitution Revision Commission, Stemberger tried to place an amendment on the ballot that would gut privacy protections for every Floridian. This alarming proposal would have not only eviscerated women’s privacy rights as it pertains to abortion, but potentially subjected all Floridians to greater government intrusion in their lives.

Stemberger has also repeatedly called for Planned Parenthood to be defunded, once calling them “dangerous for women and their own health care.” This is patently ridiculous. Safety net providers, such as Planned Parenthood, play a critical role in meeting women’s health needs. This is particularly true of low-income women. Without Planned Parenthood, it is estimated that the rates of unintended pregnancy, unplanned birth and abortion for women across Florida would all be considerably higher.

For 28 years, as an elected official and a Republican, I demonstrated my commitment to conservative principals. I am quite certain that these values did not include standing with hate groups, celebrating discrimination and demonizing entire classes of people. Adam Putnam and Frank White should immediately denounce the hateful anti-gay, anti-women’s health positions of John Stemberger and the FFPC and rescind their endorsement — or at least fess up and admit to being “proud hate group sellouts.”

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Martha Haynie served as elected comptroller in Orange County for seven terms before retiring in January 2017. Named the 1998 Outstanding CPA in Government by the Florida Association of Certified Public Accountants, she was the recipient of the UWF Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008.

Joe Henderson: Red tide is an emergency now, but can Rick Scott be surprised?

Red tide is in all the headlines now. It’s bad.

But let’s go back to a time before Florida’s beaches were filled with rotting fish, dolphins and manatees. Back to a time when Rick Scott came to Tallahassee as Florida’s Governor in 2011 with a two-fold mission: Cut the state budget and get people back to work.

He succeeded on both fronts.

More than 700,000 jobs in the state have been created on his watch, and in his early years, he was ruthless about slashing state spending. At one point, he had cut the budgets of the state’s water management districts by $700 million.

While some of that has been replaced, funding is still about $300 million below what it was when he took office.

That’s the kind of thing that people remember when toxic red tide is moving up Florida’s Gulf Coast, killing sea life and stinking to high heavens. That’s on top of the pea-green algae bloom that was making people sick on the Atlantic side of the state.

Water is everything in Florida, and when something like this happens it affects everyone – whether you’re inland or on the beach. The image of beaches covered by poisoned sea life can cripple tourism and the domino effect that can devastate multiple industries.

Scott declared a state of emergency to deal with the problem, but it’s a little late to close the barn door now. Perhaps a fully funded water management district could have taken some preemptive action to lessen the impact of what is turning out to be a full-fledged disaster for the state.

Let’s be honest, though.

To a politician like Scott, these agencies can be seen as money-sucking nuisances. When they work well, the Governor doesn’t get credit because when the beaches are clean, that’s what people expect. You don’t get brownie points for that.

It’s only after the water becomes poisonous to Flipper that the public starts looking for someone to blame.

In Scott’s campaign ads for the U.S. Senate, he has tried to make U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, his Democratic opponent, out to be the guilty party because he’s in Washington, you know. But that’s a hard sell because environmentalists have been blasting Scott since he took office for gutting protections and regulations for Florida’s fragile ecosystem.

Developers always complain about regulations because that cuts into profits, and Scott – like most Republicans – has been a friend to them. With a compliant Legislature eager to tout Florida as a business-friendly, low-tax, low-regulation state, the kind of safeguards for problems like red tide became just more red tape to eliminate.

There is a reason water management districts exist, though. On the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website, it says the agency’s core mission is to protect the water supply, water quality, flood protection and floodplain management, and natural systems.

That’s a big job.

Scott helped undermine that by stocking some of those management boards with developers. Conservation programs were decimated. Development took a high priority over protection.

And now we get dead fish on the beaches.

How can anyone be surprised?

Thomas Halfaker: Catholic school resurgence uplifting thousands of low-income families — and me

I was raised as a public school kid. After graduating college, I spent 22 years as a teacher and administrator in the Miami-Dade school district, the fourth-largest in the country. I was a high school principal of a small city, 3,000 students. I wasn’t surviving, I was thriving.

How did I end up here, principal of a preK-8 parochial school? Because God has a wicked sense of humor.

I loved public education, and I was good at it. But there comes a point when you realize a very important piece is missing. A key, if you will.

In the five years I was a high school principal, I attended seven funerals of students, none of whom died by natural causes. Yes, we had tragedies, but we also had wild successes: Kids going to Ivy League schools. Kids from families who spent their lives following the crops up and down the East Coast.

I was able to give these kids good advice. But there was a line I could not cross: I could not talk to them about their ultimate purpose and why they were here.

I could not explain to them that they were on the third rock from the sun for a specific reason. I could not tell them there was a God bigger and badder than any problem they might have.

That all changed in 2001, when my pastor asked me to sit on the search committee for a new principal for the Catholic school my children attended. That’s when the wicked sense of humor kicked in. Twelve years later, God and I are still laughing.

My immersion in Catholic education happens to coincide with a resurgence in Catholic education in Florida. All over America, Catholic schools are still disappearing, despite the high-quality education they’ve delivered for generations to students from all walks of life. But not in Florida.

Thanks to school choice scholarship programs, Catholic schools in Florida have rebounded, and even started growing again. This fall, 240 of them will serve 86,000 students – which would make them the 10th largest school district in Florida if they were under one administration.

Parents turn to us because they appreciate the academic rigor, character education and positive outcomes – from college enrollment and persistence to self-discipline and good citizenship – that solid research shows Catholic schools deliver. School choice makes schools like ours accessible to students of modest means. And we know our state is benefiting as much as our students from their success.

My awakening didn’t start with a burning bush, or a lightning bolt out of the blue. It started the way God usually starts, with that still small voice in the pit of your stomach or heart. I could exchange my profession for a vocation. I would have the freedom to help develop healthy minds, bodies, and spirits.

I still work with kids who live at or below the poverty level. Not all, but a good number of my 500 students participate in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, a program that last year served 107,000 low-income and working-class students, including 16,000 in Catholic schools. Their average family income last year was about $25,000.

The students in our school come from over 25 different countries. We don’t celebrate any specific heritage; rather, we have a Heritage Celebration every October where we celebrate our differences. It is our differences that make us stronger.

Part of the mission of the church is to educate ALL. For years the church has provided some of the best education in the United States, from primary grades to the Golden Dome of Notre Dame, regardless of the socioeconomic class the child comes from.

We are proud of that mission. We are also proud to live in a state that allows parents to choose from so many options.

I know school choice is sometimes the focus of heated debate. But as an educator, I know that not every learning environment is right for every child. And as a parent, I know nothing is more important than having a say in where and how your child is educated.

Tom Halfaker is principal at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish School in Miami.

Joe Henderson: What’s reasonable? ‘Stand your ground’ trial may provide answer

It’s not surprising that Pinellas County prosecutors decided not to buy the “stand your ground” argument and charged Michael Drejka with manslaughter Monday in the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton after an argument over a parking space.

This story had gotten much publicity, most of it negative, after Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri initially declined to arrest Drejka because he said the shooting was protected under Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Politics being what they are, something had to give.

I wrote then that I agreed with Gualtieri’s interpretation, and I believe prosecutors will have a hard time making their case that Drejka didn’t feel threatened when he fired the fatal shot.

Proving that the world was turning upside, that earned me a rebuke from Florida’s Mama Gun herself, Marion Hammer. In a comment under that column, she asked if I had actually read the law – implying that it didn’t say what Gualtieri and I believed it did. 

I had read it, by the way.

But I read it again, and here’s the part of that law that will really on trial when Drejka faces a jury of his peers.

Under the heading “justifiable use of force,” it says deadly force is permissible if a person “reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

But state Sen. Dennis Baxley, a long-time champion of gun rights and the NRA, told Politico, the law uses a “reasonable-person standard. It’s not that you were just afraid.”

I imagine Drejka’s attorney will have a different take.

Video of the shooting shows McGlockton pushing Drejka violently to the ground during the argument. McGlockton takes a couple of steps back after Drejka aims a gun at him, but it was too late. He was shot in the chest and died.

Mind you, I’m not excusing the actions of either man in that confrontation.

McGlockton’s shove turned an argument into an out-of-control situation.

Drejka sent it over the edge when he pulled a gun.

It wasn’t the first time he had been involved in a dangerous confrontation either. The Tampa Bay Times reported that he had four road rage incidents since 2012 and had pulled a gun at least twice.

But in this case, Baxley’s “reasonable-person standard” will be open to interpretation. Who’s to say what is “reasonable” when you’ve been shoved to the ground with as much violence as Drejka was?

That’s what opponents to this part of the bill warned about. Gualtieri had called the interpretation “subjective” – which is the problem.

A “reasonable person” might conclude Drejka was scared out of his wits. And the twist to SYG now is that prosecutors will have to prove that wasn’t true, no matter what the video shows or seems to show. That is exactly what backers of that law had in mind when they pushed it through the Legislature in 2017.

One of the most ardent supporters of that bill?

Dennis Baxley.

He said on the Senate floor during deliberations, “I think of all the people who will be saved because we did this right and put the burden of proof where it belongs.”

A “reasonable person” might disagree.

Melissa Howard HD 73

Joe Henderson: For Melissa Howard, truth should matter more than degree

I grew up about 40 minutes from Miami University. It is a picturesque place, tucked way off the beaten path in the rolling southwest Ohio hills and home to one of the most beautiful campuses you will ever see. I did not attend school there, but many of my friends did.

I did spend a few nights at the long-gone pubs there known as the Purity and Boar’s Head Inn, knocking back 3.2 beer. But that’s another story.

Students and alumni have been known to call it the Harvard of the Midwest.

Perhaps coincidentally, it is located in the quaint village of Oxford. If you were looking to skate through four years at No Challenge U, then Miami probably wasn’t the place to enroll. Its graduates, which it sounds like do not include Republican Florida House candidate Melissa Howard of Sarasota, are a fiercely proud lot. Earning a degree from Miami is a worthy accomplishment and something to protect.

So why would Howard apparently fib that she is a proud MU graduate, and then double-down with what a school spokesman said was a doctored photo that she posted while trying to defend the indefensible?

It’s too soon to tell if the apparent gaffe will end her political pursuits, but when you’ve got this kind of explaining to do, let’s just say it doesn’t help.

She already had strong endorsements, including Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The polls had her ahead in deeply red House District 73, but who knows if that still holds after Florida News Online reported that her claim to hold a bachelor’s degree in 1994 from Miami didn’t hold up under scrutiny.

She did, indeed, attend MU from 1990-94, but the school later confirmed she did not complete requirements for her degree.

That was bad.

What followed was worse.

A picture posted on her Facebook page purported to show her degree in marketing as well as her college transcript, but that was quickly debunked when Miami general counsel Robin Parker said (paraphrasing here) “nope, she didn’t graduate.”

And, um …. Miami doesn’t offer a degree in marketing.

This is not the first time someone tried to fudge their college credentials, but the lesson to be learned by anyone eyeing public office is that this should be the last. It’s just too easy to check these things, and while newspaper staffs have shrunk and now lack the resources to do comprehensive background checks, there are new sites popping up with professional reporters to fill the void.

I mean, you’re gonna get unmasked – if not immediately, then eventually.

It’s no shame to not graduate from college, either. Stuff happens. Sometimes money runs low. Sometimes other opportunities arise. Sometimes people just need to do something besides grind through to get a degree.

And for what it’s worth, a degree isn’t required to serve in the Florida House. Common sense would be a much more important thing for a candidate to tout. After all, geeze, Howard is said to be a savvy businesswoman.

Play that up, and if anyone asks about college, just tell the truth.

You can always tell them you’re a few credits shy and plan to make it up with some online classes.

Howard’s campaign people tried the ol’ “fake news” ploy, but it is a fact that the photo of alleged degree and transcript disappeared from her Facebook page.

It won’t be a surprise if her campaign soon disappears as well. Good judgment is a critical asset for a candidate to sell to voters, and let’s just say it looks like she didn’t pass that, either.

Blake Dowling: Elections are here. Who has class — and who doesn’t

Elections are upon us. Arguments are bound to spring up, especially in our highly charged 2018 world of politics.

We are presented with a good opportunity to see who has class — and who doesn’t.

The worst (in my opinion) are negative ads. It reminds me of an old quote about college football recruiting: You can either sell your school (and the program) or you can slam the opposition, not talking about how good you are, but how awful someone else is.

You see it all over, in fraternity-sorority rushing or in business. I would always rather see someone take the “we are the best” approach, versus the tactic of “someone else is a crook/awful, etc.”

Despite what I think some coaches say negative recruiting works. Sounds like old Jimbo might have engaged in the practice.

Consider this quote: “Recruiting is recruiting. People say and do things that sometimes they wish they probably didn’t do when it’s over with. That always happens.” — former FSU coach Jimbo Fisher.

So, to that end, I suppose you could make the argument that negative ads are effective.

Why don’t we check our good friends in the world of science? What do they think?

Donald Green, a political-science professor at Columbia (via Scientific American) says the results are inconclusive: “People were no less likely to turn out to the polls or to decide against voting for a candidate who was attacked in the ad.”

So much for science. Despite no real facts, the battle of the negative ads continued. You can read the full article here.

I can tell you one ad that will make you want to run for the storm shelter. Oh man, I could only watch a couple of seconds before pressing pause and looking for some wine.

This is from 2017. Dan Helmer versus Barbara Comstock for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District. Dan is a veteran (and I appreciate his service to our country), but if he could have discussed that only; instead, he produced this Top Gun-based rodeo of awfulness:

For the record, Dan lost. The Helmer Zone requested a flyby, but the pattern was full (as the movie says).

YEE HAH! Great Balls of Fire!

Back to Florida, as all eyes in our nation are looking to see what is happening with our elections.

“What happens in Florida will most likely happen nationwide,” says Al Cardenas on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Of course, there are the negative ads in our state where the public doesn’t know who paid for them. These are all over. If a group does not spend more than 50 percent of its money on political activities, they are not required to disclose their donors, according to POLITICO Florida, which references the group National Liberty Foundation.

And another example of an anonymous group comes from WFTV Orlando …

Dark money groups are on all sides of the political fence, raising unlimited dollars without having to disclose donors, making large contributions to a political committee — with said dark money group often the only donor — to run negative ads. And donors to the group remain unknown.

As the battle gets more heated, we will soon see who continues to throw mud and who does not.

And in the category of “what not to do,” just look at Brian in Tampa.

This week, Brian got into a heated Facebook dispute, which led him to shoot the man he was arguing with … in the buttocks.

Please, don’t be like Brian.

Personally, I enjoy coaches and politicians who talk about accomplishments over the failures of opponents, but that’s just me.

Buckle up; it’s happening now, and Florida has a front-row seat for all the action.

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

Jack Levine: With integrity and compassion, Mike Carroll will be hard to replace

Serving as Secretary of the Department of Children and Families is the second most challenging job in Florida government.

Day or night, you never know what agonizing tragedy will confront your staff and community partners.

Public servants of Mike Carroll’s high integrity, breadth of knowledge and deep compassion are difficult to replace.

We are about to experience the most sweeping government transition in Florida’s history.

Even over the four-month period before the inauguration of a new Governor, no matter who she or he may be, Mike Carroll will be missed.

I hope the leaders of the new administration will identify someone who matches Mike’s smarts and sensitivity, talents and tenacity, honesty and humility.

The children and families of our diverse state desperately need and definitely deserve no less.

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Jack Levine is the founder of the 4Generations Institute in Tallahassee.

Jeremy Ring: Setting the record straight on business background

Jeremy Ring

Appointed Chief Financial Officer and seafood restaurateur Jimmy Patronis lied about using taxpayer resources for his campaign — POLITICO even caught him red-handed — and now he’s lying about my business background. Let’s set the record straight.

I’m an entrepreneur. My opponent isn’t. I’ve started businesses. He hasn’t.

I’ve helped to pioneer industry. I’ve started organizations, grown organizations, and led organizations.

I’ve dealt with personnel challenges, written business plans, worked in mergers and acquisitions, raised capital, invested my own capital, and had shareholder responsibility.

I’ve been held to strong corporate governance standards, negotiated countless deals with countless clients.

I’ve held significant roles in publicly traded companies and private companies; large companies and small companies.

Jimmy Patronis, if he ever started a business, would know what all of that truly means. He doesn’t and hasn’t.

Jimmy Patronis inherited a seafood restaurant. He dropped out of a race for state Senate in favor of a plum position with the Public Service Commission, for which he was hand-selected by Rick Scott for his unique ability to do the Governor’s bidding.

After CFO Jeff Atwater resigned, Scott quickly appointed Jimmy to the role of Chief Financial Officer for the remainder of his term — for the very same reason he was selected for the Public Service Commission. In short, Jimmy is the CFO because he is friends with the Governor, not because he is qualified.

At 25, I opened the first East Coast office of internet company Yahoo! out of my apartment in New York City and over the next five years I helped to turn it into a multibillion-dollar tech leader.

I served in the Florida Senate, where I crafted major bipartisan legislation establishing an innovation economy to help Florida’s entrepreneurs build their ideas and grow jobs right here in Florida.

I created the largest technology incubator in the state, the Gainesville based “Florida Institute of Commercialization,” which in turn has helped start and grow over 75 technology businesses in Florida with over $1 billion in economic impact and an average salary of over $75,000.

I created the Florida Opportunity Fund, a $100 million institutional venture capital fund for Florida companies; last, I was the creator of the Florida Growth Fund, a $1 billion late-stage venture capital fund for technology company’s across the Florida that has returned over 10 percent capital to the beneficiaries of the Florida Retirement System.

In addition to those successes, I also started or invested in a number of businesses here in Florida, companies that Jimmy falsely paints as flops.

Jimmy points to my company Convizion as a prime example of my business failures, and as a reason as to why I cannot be trusted with the State’s finances.

He says that I readily admit to it being a “failure,” even citing an article. The only problem is that the next sentence after the one he cites completely contradicts his argument. It reads, “It was only by being open to new opportunities that he (Ring) and his partners were able to create a success out of their apparent loss.”

And, success there was.

In fact, Convizion shareholders made between two and four times their initial investment. Only someone with zero real business experience would consider that a failure.

Jimmy also points to Strategic Baseball Ventures and Ring Entertainment as “flops” and further proof of me losing money for shareholders. But here again, he is either lying or doesn’t understand basic business — neither is a good quality for the person in charge of Florida’s finances.

Strategic Baseball Ventures was set up in the early 2000s when a partner of mine wanted to investigate buying minor league baseball franchises. We looked at a few deals, didn’t find one we liked and moved on. No one lost any money.

Ring Entertainment was a small endeavor between my brother and I that was a fun family project. It had zero outside capital invested and minimal family capital.

Not everyone is handed a business and not everyone is handed a position to oversee the state treasury. Qualifications matter, as does honesty.

Right now, I am questioning both for the current appointed CFO.

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Jeremy Ring is a former state Senator and tech startup executive. He is a Democrat running for Florida Chief Financial Officer.

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