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St. Augustine Beach is listed as his primary residence, but he mostly lives at Clay County homeBy Copyright 2011 . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. June 19, 2011 - 12:00am John Thrasher’s residence in district, but real home might not be
St. Augustine Record
It’s clear that state Sen. John Thrasher meets the legal residency requirements for living in his Senate district.
His and his wife’s 1,527-square-foot St. Augustine Beach condominium has a homestead exemption. He calls it his primary residence and most of his legal documents list it as such.
But there are signs that Thrasher does most of his residing in Clay County at is his 5,701-square-foot Fleming Island home with a private dock and pool. The home is across the St. Johns River and miles from Senate District 8, which hugs the coast along Nassau, Duval, St. Johns and Volusia counties.
Thrasher and his wife have their Times-Union delivered there daily. The water bill for that home and the property tax bill for another house he owns in Clay County are delivered there, too.
Thrasher acknowledged last week that he doesn’t spend most of his time in St. Augustine Beach.
"I have five homes," he said. "St. Augustine is our primary residence. When we can spend time there, we’re there."
His other homes are in Orlando, Tallahassee and Sky Valley, Ga., but Thrasher’s roots run in Clay County. He started his political career on the School Board there and was a state representative for that district from 1992 to 2000, rising to be House speaker before term limits forced him to the sidelines. He returned to county government as a governor-appointed county commissioner in 2007-08.
The death of Jim King in 2009 opened the Senate seat and an avenue for Thrasher to return to Tallahassee. But because he did not live in District 8 — his Fleming Island home is in state Sen. Stephen Wise’s District 5 — Thrasher transferred his residence to his St. Augustine Beach address.
He said he “doesn’t keep track” of how much time he sleeps in the district, but “I spend as much as I can spend there, when I’m not in Tallahassee.”
State law is vague on what constitutes residency for legislators: The principal requirement is intent.
St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections Penny Halyburton said the definition of residency “is something we struggle with all the time.
"It’s a very hard thing to find," she said. "It’s basically just intent, where a person says they’re living."
She said some criteria include where a person has a homestead exemption and what address is listed on a driver’s license and a income tax returns.
Chris Cate, spokesman for the state elections office, said residency isn’t defined in state statute.
Drawing from a Florida Supreme Court decision, the state office said “legal residence is … determined by looking to where a person intends to make a home permanent and to whether factual evidence exists to corroborate that intent.”
Does the fact that Thrasher owns a luxurious home in Clay County and seems to spend a lot of time there mean the St. Augustine residence isn’t permanent?
No, Thrasher said.
"Like our good friend Jim King," Thrasher said. "He had a house in Welaka and spent almost the whole summer there. A lot of [Senate] members have multiple homes. I’m glad that I can do that."Source: jacksonville.com
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If a state were a business, CEO Rick Scott would be shown the door.| June 13, 2011
Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s ever present, camera-ready grin masks the strain of an embattled politician. His approval ratings rank at the bottom among the nation’s governors, and Democrats are poised to use him as the bogeyman of the 2012 election in a key battleground state. He can’t match the always-sunny-in-Florida cheer of his predecessor, Charlie Crist, but Scott rivals any Wall Street CEO’s unyielding optimism amid dismal earnings.“Hey, how’s it going? You doing all right?” he says as he smiles and grips a woman’s hand.
Scott is working the halls in a place where he isn’t a familiar face: the legislative office building. It’s rare to see the governor leave his office, behind gigantic wooden doors at the end of a great hall, to whip votes on legislation. Lawmakers usually come to him. But these are desperate times. Scott is working to charm four Republican senators into changing their votes. With only days left in the lawmaking session, he needs a last-minute victory on a bill that prohibits union members from paying dues through payroll deductions, a significant funding source for the state’s organized labor.
But the former corporate CEO and political newcomer is hearing an unfamiliar word from all four—“no.”
The legislation—and another bill eliminating traditional government pensions—is a top priority for Scott, one of the new hard-charging Republican governors, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich among them, who are aggressively pushing a conservative agenda that attacks public-sector workers. But Scott is a stranger even to legislators of his own party, which holds supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature. A newcomer to politics, he lacks the relationships, political or personal, necessary to secure a deal in the Capitol, and lawmakers say he puts little effort into developing them. State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla tells Scott after the fruitless visit, “I’m sorry this had to be our first face-to-face meeting—but I think you’re doing a great job.”
Florida is a diverse state with complicated politics, the nuances of which Scott doesn’t seem to quite understand. Three of the senators he approached represent strong-minded Cuban voters in Miami—voters who consider repression of unions a hallmark of the Castro regime. None of the lawmakers can risk such a comparison. The fourth senator is a former small-town sheriff who worked closely with unionized deputies.
State Sen. Dennis Jones, another Republican opposed to the bill and the longest serving lawmaker in the Capitol, says Scott is ignorant about “things that have taken place and commitments that were made long before he even moved to Florida.” (Scott barely met the requirement that a gubernatorial candidate live in Florida for seven years before holding office.) Jones, whose hair is as white as the beaches in his Gulf Coast district, recalls the work it took to get the unions to support Republicans in recent decades. “Over the years, we’ve developed good relationships with the police and firefighters, and when it comes to campaigns, they’ve been good friends and good workers,” he says. “So early on when this bill came out, a lot of us said, ‘You’ve been good to us; we’re not going to get involved in how you do business.’”
The union-dues bill died that day in the Senate. Later, at a luncheon speech to the conservative Florida Center-Right Coalition, Scott appeared perplexed about why his effort failed. “One of the things that doesn’t make sense to me: paycheck protection,” he said, exasperated. (“Paycheck protection” is conservatives’ term for the abolition of union-dues deductions from paychecks.) “Why would that take any time to pass?”
Scott’s emphasis on weakening the political clout of the state’s labor movement, however, stumped the unions. Unlike Wisconsin, Florida is a right-to-work state, in which union power has never loomed that large. Only about 6 percent of the state’s workers belong to a union. “We are facing record unemployment, facing major changes, and this guy’s walking the halls on a dues bill,” says Matt Puckett, the deputy executive director of the state’s Police Benevolent Association. “I think he should be embarrassed.”
Indeed, critics say Scott’s rhetoric and agenda haven’t always seemed germane to Florida’s particularities. Scott, for instance, wanted to require all public employees to pay 5 percent toward their retirement and put new employees in defined-contribution 401(k) plans—a proposal similar to measures in many states. But in Florida, the retirement fund is not threatened with collapse, as critics claim is the case in other states. “They decided to tax public workers to balance the budget,” says Ron Meyer, a lobbyist for the Florida Education Association, the state teachers’ union. Combined with the union-dues bill, Meyer suggests, the proposal shows how state Republicans are following the playbook of the national GOP and groups such as the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. “Instead of looking at Florida’s needs, they decided to carry out their dogma,” he adds.
Much of Scott’s agenda does seem to fit the national Republican playbook: restricting civil lawsuits; weakening unions; eliminating regulations, particularly environmental rules that may affect growth; cutting state jobs; and overhauling the education system by fostering more charter schools and mandating more testing. The first major bill Scott signed eliminated tenure protections for teachers and tied their salaries to student test scores. The far-ranging legislation is one of the most sweeping in the nation and a similar measure was vetoed by Gov. Crist the previous year after tens of thousands of critics lobbied his office and held rallies across the state. Scott eagerly signed the bill—at a charter school. The budget that the Legislature sent to the governor also included $1.3 billion in education cuts, far less than what Scott had requested but still the lowest per-student spending level in several years.
The cornerstone of the governor’s economic plan is an effort to eliminate the state’s corporate income tax—a 5.5 percent levy that already ranked among the lowest in the nation. Fewer than 2 percent of Florida businesses actually pay the tax, and experts question whether killing it would help spur business growth. Scott insists that eliminating it would send a message that the state is open for business.
Critics felt the corporate tax initiative was a vanity quest for Scott to get his picture on Fox News. Republican lawmakers pushed back against the governor, saying tax cuts for the middle and working class were more important than giving big business a break.
By the end of the two-month legislative session, Scott and lawmakers reached a detente. Scott won a number of victories, including measures to revamp economic development efforts, eliminate the state agency that monitors growth management, and expand charter schools. The Legislature also sent along a buffet of red-meat conservative bills that Scott eagerly signed.
Yet Scott’s big-ticket items were scaled back. State workers will contribute 3 percent to a retirement fund. It’s not the 5 percent Scott sought, but it still amounts to a pay cut after years without raises. And the Legislature approved $308 million in tax cuts, a fraction of the $1.7 billion the governor had requested. Scott did win a $37 million corporate tax cut, again far less than what he wanted, after apparently making assurances that he wouldn’t veto some pet projects lawmakers put in the budget.
In an interview conducted near the close of the legislative session—and after his polling utterly tanked—Scott sounded steadfast but acknowledged that the new job was an adjustment from the corporate world. He rejected the idea that his policies are overreaching and souring voters. “I’ve done all along exactly what I said I was going to do when I ran. I told people I was going to freeze regulation, ‘Oh gosh, he did it,’” he says mockingly. “I told people the way to get our state back to work is to reduce taxes—‘Gosh, that’s what he wants.’ So that shouldn’t surprise everybody.”
Even now, Scott’s top aides still privately marvel that he won the state’s governorship last November. But Scott’s fortune—estimated at $218 million a year ago—enabled his team to build his formidable candidacy from scratch. He spent a whopping $70 million from his own pocket to develop the most sophisticated campaign in state history, crystallized with a snappy “Let’s Get to Work” slogan in a state with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and home-foreclosure rankings.
With nightly polling and dial-measured focus groups, the campaign tested Scott’s every message. All the 30—second television ads he aired just in the contested Republican primary, if played continuously on one station, would take nearly 25 days to watch.
Scott pitched himself as the epitome of the American dream: The son of a long-haul truck driver with a sixth-grade education, Scott talked about briefly living in public housing, celebrating Christmas without presents, and working his way through school and college to become a jet-setting millionaire health-care executive and co-owner (with George W. Bush) of the Texas Rangers.
The campaign was also able to mask, as much as possible, the scandal that marked Scott’s tenure as CEO of Columbia/HCA, the nation’s biggest hospital chain. He was ousted in 1997 amid the largest criminal Medicare and Medicaid fraud investigation in U.S. history. The company paid an unprecedented $1.7 billion fine. On the campaign trail, Scott deflected questions about Columbia/HCA, at times waving his hand in the air when asked about it.
He was fortunate that Democrat Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer and once a rising star in the national party, failed to inspire her base and struggled to match her previous campaign’s ability to draw broad support. Scott effectively tied Sink to Barack Obama, even though she attempted to distance herself from the president—going so far as to duck a joint appearance at a Miami fundraiser.
Scott bested Sink by the slimmest margin in a Florida governor’s race in more than 100 years. Sink ran worst in the television markets where competitive congressional races federalized the election and made it hard for her to distinguish herself from the national party. The difference in the end: 61,550 votes.
Even though Scott claimed less than 50 percent of the vote in an election where less than 50 percent of voters cast ballots, he began to govern as if by mandate.
His first 100 days were riddled with controversy. He signed an executive order to mandate drug testing for government employees despite federal court rulings that it violated privacy; he rejected a $2.4 billion federal high-speed-rail grant; he released his state budget at a Tea Party rally held in a Baptist church; he appointed a director for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities who was embroiled in a group-home sex scandal; and he tried to kill a prescription-drug monitoring database in a state with a reputation as the drug tourism capital of the nation. From a public-relations perspective, his biggest gaffe may have been his emergency order to slash money for the developmentally disabled by as much as 40 percent—a document he filed hours after participating in a Special Olympics torch run.
A Quinnipiac poll released in late May put his support at 29 percent. Worse yet, it showed that 57 percent of registered Florida voters disapproved of his performance in office. By a 54 percent to 29 percent margin, voters also believed the state’s new budget was unfair to people like them.
“Scott is a four-letter word to many Florida voters,” says Quinnipiac pollster Peter A. Brown. “It is exceedingly rare for an unindicted governor or president to ever be seen as poorly by the electorate as [they see] his Legislature or Congress.”
Early polling is, well, early polling. And political consultants caution that Scott can rebound, particularly if the economy improves and he is willing to tweak his approach and learn what it takes to be effective. So far, Florida’s unemployment rate fell from 11.9 percent in January, when Scott took office, to 10.8 percent in April.
But the approval numbers apparently were dire enough for Scott’s team to take them seriously. In April, in the weeks after an earlier but almost as devastating Quinnipiac poll, Scott revoked his executive order cutting care for the developmentally disabled and reversed his opposition to the pill-mill database. He also arranged to sell his family’s $62 million stake in Solantic, a chain of urgent-care clinics he founded, after a mounting conflict-of-interest controversy.
Scott’s slash-and-burn budget, his abolition of teacher tenure and rejection of the federal government’s high-speed-rail grant also awoke the dormant opposition. Democrats largely slept through last year’s election, but Susannah Randolph, a progressive activist leading the charge against the governor, says that’s all changed now.
I met her in the Tallahassee legislative office of her husband, state Rep. Scott Randolph of Orlando, on the 13th floor of the Capitol, where Republicans put renegade Democrats out of sight and out of mind.
Earlier that morning, outside the legislative chambers, the Randolphs and a cadre of Democrats had held a press conference blasting House Republicans for dedicating two of the final 10 days of the legislative session to a social-conservative checklist that included a constitutional referendum prohibiting the use of public dollars for abortions; a bill strengthening an existing law that requires parental notification for minors having an abortion; a bill, vetoed a year earlier, requiring all women seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound; a first-in-the-nation measure to limit when doctors can ask patients questions about guns; a constitutional ballot referendum repealing the prohibition against religious organizations receiving state money; and a bill to require welfare recipients to clear a drug test.
“That was a great event, wasn’t it?” Randolph says as she arrives at the office. On March 8, the first day of the legislative session, she helped organize statewide “Awake the State” protests that drew an estimated 15,000 people to rallies in 31 cities. Now, she’s trying hard to keep the energy going to label Scott “Pink Slip Rick.”
The moniker refers to the jobs Scott proposed to cut—including 118,000 state and local public workers, among them an estimated 20,000 teachers, through cuts to education and the state payroll. The high-speed-rail corridor between Orlando and Tampa was estimated to create 20,000 construction jobs at its peak and more than a thousand permanent positions when completed.
“He is basically costing this state jobs,” Randolph says. “He is going at this just like he promised. He’s going to run this state like a CEO: ‘I’m going to treat my workers like crap, I’m going to make huge profits for myself, and I’m going to pay all the people at the top the most and starve the folks at the bottom,’ and that’s exactly what’s happening.”
The 37-year-old community organizer wore a black patterned dress and a pink button with the word “UTERUS” in capital lettering—a reference to her husband’s remark, on the House floor, that if his wife incorporated her uterus as a business, Republicans would stop trying to regulate it through anti-abortion legislation. It went unnoticed until the Republican House speaker asked Democrats not to use the word because of the young legislative pages in the room. Rep. Randolph then publicized the “ban,” and it spiraled into the nonsense land of cable TV news, getting a segment on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.
Susannah Randolph served as the campaign manager for Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson’s failed 2010 re-election bid and now runs a political advocacy organization called Florida Action Watch. The anti-Scott movement, developed with the help of Ray Seaman at Progress Florida, a liberal advocacy group in Tallahassee, was inspired by the protests in Wisconsin. Its success has surprised the organizers. “I think it was everybody … waking up to the fact that we have a Wisconsin situation coming on here,” Randolph says. “That we had a Scott Walker here.”
One crucial constituency that turned against Florida’s governor is the state’s Hispanic population. The group is not a monolithic voting block: The Cuban exile population in south Florida is filled with loyal Republicans, but new immigrants are trending Democratic.
Even though Scott won the GOP primary thanks to his far-right support for an Arizona-style immigration law, exit polls showed he remarkably took the Hispanic vote in the general election—a reflection more on the Sink campaign’s failure to court Hispanics than on Scott’s popularity with them. His Hispanic support fractured, however, as the immigration issue came to the fore during the legislative session. A House bill would have allowed state and local law-enforcement officers to determine the legal status of any person they investigate for a crime. It also would have required employers to use the federal E-Verify database to ensure the legal status of new hires. “We do believe that if you are violating our laws in our state, you ought to be able to be asked if you are legal or not,” Scott said in an interview. The tougher immigration laws eventually died in the Senate (where three Hispanic Republican senators opposed it), another major political defeat for Scott.
Hispanics’ opposition to Scott is not coordinated with the progressive rallies that Randolph has organized, which chiefly attract teachers and union supporters. But Hispanics’ discontent with Scott is just as strong—and audible on Spanish-language radio, where angry callers regularly trash Scott and like-minded Miami-area lawmakers. “One of the things he’s doing is what the Democratic Party of Florida has not been able to do, which is to unite Hispanics in the state regardless of party affiliation against a Republican governor,” says Fernand Amandi, a leading Hispanic political strategist who works with Democratic candidates.He is now realizing he has to retool his image—that’s huge, that means we are winning. Randolph acknowledges that Democrats in Florida were slow to oppose Scott. But as the consequences of his election have become clearer, Democrats have renewed their spirits. “The difference between 2010 and 2011 is we now have a very defining message around who this governor is,” she says. “Our goal is to brand him, and we are doing it. He is now realizing he has to retool his image—that’s huge, that means we are winning.”
Teachers are putting significant energy into the anti-Scott movement, holding signs that say “If you can read this, thank a teacher” at roadside protest rallies organized by Randolph and other progressives. The opposition is likely to grow this summer as teachers and other public-sector workers begin receiving smaller paychecks. “Now you’re seeing all these groups aligned—teachers, police, firefighters—more closely than they have ever been,” says Meyer, the teachers’ union lobbyist.
At the state level, Democrats hope to make the 2012 election a referendum on Scott, particularly if his numbers continue to sag. “If he stays where he is right now, he will be as familiar to voters next year as Obama was last year,” says state Rep. Ron Saunders, the House Democratic leader. “You will see Rick Scott’s picture on a lot of legislative mail pieces.”
“Next year, all you need to know about the Democrat is the Democrat is not a Rick Scott supporter,” he continued. “And at that point, if that’s not enough to get every firefighter, cop, and teacher off their ass to go vote … then you probably deserve what you get.”Source: prospect.org
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Jackson Laboratory’s abrupt exit from Florida this month illustrates how Tallahassee’s shortsighted fiscal policy undermines the state’s future. Eight years after Gov. Jeb Bush started Florida on an aggressive path to wooing the biotech research industry, Gov. Rick Scott and other state leaders are abandoning that strategy. Scott claims to be all about attracting jobs to Florida. That should include nascent industries as well as traditional ones.
For two years, the nonprofit Jackson Lab has said it wanted to join Florida’s fledgling biotech community by opening a facility to complement its Maine operations developing mice populations for gene-based disease research. It partnered with the University of South Florida on a plan and in 2010 persuaded the Legislature to set aside $50 million to start the project in Collier County. Then this past fall, amid the election’s tea party fervor, the community balked at coming up with its own matching funds.
Jackson Lab downscaled its request from a total of $260 million in state and local government funds over several years to $200 million. It found an enthusiastic new partner in Sarasota County. But Scott, fresh in office, stayed on the sidelines. Then the 2011-12 budget contained so little economic development money that Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency, told Jackson Lab to dramatically reduce its request. At that point, the lab got the message and gave up.
It’s possible the Jackson deal was not the best one for taxpayers and that the jobs promised wouldn’t warrant the extraordinary taxpayer investment. Hillsborough County claimed as much earlier this year when it declined to compete against Sarasota. But that was never the discussion in Tallahassee. Rather, faced with a daunting budget gap and an unwillingness to consider any new sources of revenue to further the state’s long-term ambitions, Florida’s Republican leadership never even attempted to court Jackson Lab. There was no discussion about the implications of retreating on nearly a decade of economic development investment in biotech research.
Most surprising is that Scott — who frequently boasts he spends time every day talking to out-of-state businesses to come to Florida to create jobs — never reached out to Jackson Lab leaders to see if something might be worked out during these tight fiscal times. Compare that to Bush, who pushed through an audacious $310 million in state money to woo Scripps Research Institute to Palm Beach County in 2003, and went on to attract three more impressive biomedical research firms, including SRI International, to St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront. Gov. Charlie Crist attracted two more, including Charles Stark Draper Laboratory to Tampa Bay.
By contrast, Scott’s most concrete economic development plan thus far is his unrealistic goal to make Florida the “shipping capital of the East Coast” by investing in the state’s 14 ports. Port investment does make some sense, but a governor who claims to be all about business ought to be able to simultaneously juggle revitalizing traditional industries and boosting new onesSource: tampabay.com
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By Barry Estabrook for Politics of the Plate
No wonder Tea Party activists love Florida Governor Rick Scott. To save a pittance on the state’s budget, the new governor, who has a personal net worth of more than $200 million, thanks in part to being president of a healthcare company that perpetrated the biggest medical fraud in United States’ history, vetoed a bill earlier this month that finally would have brought relief to 2,500 poverty-plagued African American farm laborers who, over the course of five decades, were poisoned on a daily basis by a witch’s brew of pesticides.
I met Linda Lee, one of the afflicted workers, last summer when she took me on a “pesticide tour” of the land near Lake Apopka, a few miles northeast of Orlando. Leaning on her cane in the scorching midday June sun, Lee, who is 57, matter-of-factly listed her medical conditions: diabetes, lupus, high blood pressure, emphysema, and arthritis. Her hip had to be replaced and her gall bladder removed. Her kidneys failed, so she had a transplant. She also had two corneal implants. Asked what caused her woes, she didn’t hesitate: As a farm laborer on the shores of Lake Apopka in the 1970s and 1980s, she was routinely exposed to agricultural chemicals as she worked in the fields. “Plenty of my old friends and neighbors got what I got, and a lot of them got stuff I don’t want to get,” she told me.
In a survey of workers conducted in 2006, the Farmworker Association of Florida found that 92 percent of the agricultural workers in the region had been exposed to pesticides through a combination of aerial spraying, wind drifting from applications on adjacent fields, touching plants still wet with pesticides, and inhaling pesticides. In a state where the average incidence of birth defects is 3 percent, 13 percent of the Apopka workers had a child born with a defect.
For the last 12 years, The Farmworker Association has been trying to get someone—anyone—to pay attention to this cluster of illnesses and provide money to help those most in need. The state government was able to find $1.5 million to investigate illnesses and deaths in birds. It paid for research into why alligators around Apopka had smaller than normal penises, but not a nickel was spent on the laborers who spent their lives working, eating, and sleeping on the contaminated land.
Finally, state Senator Gary Siplin, a Democrat, put an allocation of $500,000 for the Apopka workers in the $70 billion 2011 budget. Surprisingly, that budget passed the house and senate, both overwhelmingly Republican, only to be vetoed by Gov. Scott. “We were so close,” said Lee. “The governor just canceled out our hard work. He broke the spirits of so many in South Apopka that really need health care and don’t receive it.”
Gov. Scott’s veto is the latest tragedy in one of the country’s biggest environmental boondoggles. Roughly circular and measuring about ten miles in diameter, Lake Apopka is the state’s fourth largest lake. For a time in the first half of the twentieth century, it was nationally famous for its trophy largemouth bass, and twenty-one lodges sprang up on its shores to cater to anglers from around the world.
But by the 1980s, Apopka had earned yet another distinction: it was the Sunshine State’s most polluted large lake. By then the fabled bass were extinct. Blame for the declining water quality was not hard to assign. In 1941, as part of the wartime effort to produce more fruits and vegetables, 19,000 acres of swamp on the lake’s north shore were drained to make way for farms that were heavily sprayed with chemical fertilizer and pesticides. During the growing season, farmers pumped water in and out of the lake depending on irrigation requirements and rainfall amounts. In the off season, they allowed the lake to flood the fields to replenish the soil and prevent wind erosion and weed growth. With each cycle, the water picked up poisons and fertilizers that had been spread on the fields.
By 1996, the situation had become so dire that the Florida government bought out the big landowners and closed down the farms. The fourteen landowners were paid $103 million for property and equipment. (In one sweet deal, a farmer sold the government a vegetable cooler for $1.4 million and then bought it back at auction for $35,000.) The workers, who often had families that lived with them on the land, got nothing other than the order to clear out. They were not retrained for new jobs because the powerful farmers feared that educated workers would abandon the fields before the last carrot or tomato was picked.
In the winter of 1998, the Saint John’s River Water Management District decided to reverse the usual pattern of water flow and flood the recently acquired land in the winter to attract waterfowl. Sure enough, that year the Audubon Society tallied the largest Christmas count of migrating birds ever recorded for an inland location. The joy was short lived. By the end of the winter, more than one thousand fish-eating birds had died—blue herons, white pelicans, bald eagles. It was one of the worst bird-death disasters in United States history.
“It’s painful trying to get up in the morning and get from one day to the next,” said Lee, as we walked along a sandy track though the now-overgrown fields. Even though a dozen seasons have come and gone since the last pass of a pesticide-spraying tractor, signs read, “Warning. Visitors must stay on roads. No fishing allowed on this property. These lands were former agricultural land that were subject to regular use of agricultural chemicals, some of which, such as DDT, are persistent in the environment and may present a risk to human health.” Lee and her peers received no such warnings when she went into the fields to pick corn, cabbages, carrots, greens, and tomatoes, receiving twelve cents to pack a box of corn, fifteen cents for a box of greens.
“This felt like our one chance, now it’s gone,” said ex-farmworker Betty Dubose. “Where do we go from here?”Source: politicsoftheplate.com
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10:13 p.m. EDT, June 12, 2011
A $1 million incentive deal to entice Montreal-based Garda World Security Services to bring its U.S. headquarters to Boca Raton and create 100 jobs there over the next two years was first reported back in January and voted on by officials in Palm Beach County in February.
“This announcement speaks volumes about the strides we are taking to create the best business environment in the U.S.,” Scott said in a press release from Montreal last week.
His attempt to claim credit for a deal that was mostly negotiated under his predecessor Charlie Crist made him look desperate to create jobs buzz amid flailing public approval numbers.
10:13 p.m. EDT, June 12, 2011There was no shortage of eye-rolling last week when the “important” jobs announcement made by Gov. - Rick Scott midway through his weeklong jaunt to Canada turned out to be five months old.
Surely, he wouldn’t do that again.
But two days later, on Friday morning, his office issued another press release, this time from Toronto, touting two more companies coming to Florida: Aircraft Armature Inc. and UCC Steelwork Connections Inc.
“With three jobs announcements in one week, Florida is clearly on the right path,” Scott said.
In the case of these companies, however, their moves seem to be the result of simple timing rather than Florida’s “path.”
Aircraft Armature Inc. was a small airplane repair company that went out of business in Hialeah and last October was bought by Toronto Sky Aviation Inc.
Richard Howard, a vice president with Toronto Sky and the new president of Aircraft Armature, told me Toronto Skystarted negotiating a move to Florida as far back as May 2010 when Aircraft Armature came up for sale. Earlier this year the company bought a building in Opa-Locka and is hoping to hire 50 to 100 people in the next year or so, he said. Today they have five employees.
Did the governor influence his decision?
“No,” Howard, told me flatly, but he praised the governor and his team and said he hopes they can be of help in the future, such as when it comes to understanding health care and benefits in the United States, which is different from Canada’s universal health care.
He pointed out that as a former hospital executive, Scott “has got the credentials to know about that stuff.”
For UCC Steelwork Connections, operated by Toronto-based UCC Industries International Inc., opening an office in Tampa in April was a natural fit after it hired an employee who already lived there and didn’t want to move, said President Brent Hughes. He hopes to grow the Tampa office from two to 10 during the next few years.
He also said the governor’s policies didn’t impact his decision, but that it was “an honor and a pleasure to be able to meet the governor,” while he was in Canada and — Scott should like this last part — he added that the state’s tax structure and rental rates added extra appeal.