It’s been a little over a year since I moved from Pasco County to Atlanta and, in that time, Florida has changed significantly. Thanks to the beauty of online media, I have been able to keep up with the political happenings of my former hometown, and not everything I see is good.
One of the major reasons my family made the decision to relocate was a feeling Florida held very little in the way of promise for a better tomorrow for working families such as ours. Sadly, it would seem that this assessment was quite accurate. Despite unemployment dropping from double digits to the six percent range in under five years, many of the jobs created have been low-paying hospitality, retail and tourism positions, mostly part-time with little, if any benefits. Add to this much of Florida's business community now relies on temporary employees, and there is little sign that the well-paying work will be returning to the Sunshine State anytime soon. Even the healthcare field is hurting, but that is a result of a combination of both state and federal blunders and associated finger-pointing. In that case, no one person is guilty of obstructing job creation; everyone has financial blood on their hands.
Speaking of financial blood, the General Assembly has once again shown its uncanny skills at temporal soccer, as they kicked the ball down the field yet again on insurance reform. Millions of Floridians are now caught in not just a health care gap, but an insurance gap as well. Premiums have skyrocketed on all sorts of properties as a result of flood insurance rate hikes, and the majority of Floridians with cars have seen their premiums shoot to the moon so fast you’d think the space program got a reboot. Even Governor Rick Scott's challenge of the "$10,000 Bachelors Degree" has proven to be political gimmickry, with some colleges saying the idea is simply unrealistic.
While we’re talking about money, how about the General Assembly and Public Service Commission fess up to how much money Duke Energy has been pumping into campaign and lobbyists coffers. Multiple reports have revealed that the monopoly is not just fat, it's pretty damned sassy too. So much so that Duke Energy was allowed to keep money collected for a now-scrapped nuclear plant in Levy County because Progress Energy sold their board a bill of goods regarding the soon-defunct Crystal River nuclear plant, rendered useless by botched reactor repair which later was shown to be a near-guaranteed failure by engineering standards. Naturally, Florida's Public Service Commission proved that consumers are the flock of birds at the bottom of the pyramid.
The folks I’ve met here in Atlanta have told me how they see Florida as a liberal wonderland, but when I explain to them how the General Assembly, county commissions, and various city councils operate, they look at me like I’ve lost my mind. I will always love Florida and, all things willing, hope to once again call it home some day. Unfortunately, the sad fact is that the Sunshine State’s politicians are not big on sunshine, and Governor Scott’s own track record of evading public records laws proves it. As the saying goes, it all starts at the top, and Scott has set a horrific example for other politicos to follow.
Until the political climate of Florida changes from a “snake oil” culture back to transparency, no amount of tax cuts, tax holidays, and libertarian legislation will erase the bitter taste of knowing those you elect to office and pay with your hard earned tax money to represent you sold you down the river. Until that time, I will cover Tampa, and Florida politics from a distance, and perhaps that distance will provide the sort of objectivity needed to provide the sort of brutal honesty Florida residents need to see the truth.
Because, my former Florida brethren, the fact is the truth is, at this moment in time, pretty damned ugly.