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Our dumb state's dumb governor

Photo: Illustration by Shan Stumpf, License: N/A

Illustration by Shan Stumpf

When Florida Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, somewhat quietly scratched out a personal-as-political manifesto on Feb. 16 - filing not one but two bills that would allow for the recall of elected state officials by the public; one by petition, the other by statute - it was not simply in the name of streamlining political procedure in the Sunshine State. Rather, it was a political call to arms for a state left dumbfounded by its own electoral process.

On Nov. 2, by a margin of 1 percent (or roughly 62,000 votes), Florida elected Richard Lynn Scott to its highest office - despite all of the warning signs, in spite of logic. Within a week of his inauguration, Gov. Rick Scott had intentionally flicked the first domino in what would become an inescapable racket of attacks on social services, state employees and the common good. At his first press conference on Jan. 7, Scott stuttered and sweated through a litany of executive orders: a freeze on regulations, an examination of existing rules, a new Floridian order flecked with anti-immigration sentiments. The press took its position behind the newly installed velvet rope, while Scott disingenuously touted the sacrifices he'd be making - he'd be selling the state's two airplanes, for instance (which was fine by him because he had his own personal aircraft). His ineptitude may have been palpable, but the consequences of his gubernatorial reign had yet to be fully realized.

It was on Feb. 16, the same day the recall chatter was consummated in legislative boilerplate, that Scott lurched for the jugular. In an act of ill-informed antipathy, the governor refused to accept $2.4 billion in federal money the state was depending on to fuel its high-speed rail initiative and create sorely needed jobs that could have put 23,000 people to work immediately. It was a gesture that baffled even Republicans, and it indicated a political flippancy that showed that Scott wasn't just a joke - he was a danger to the tentative health of a state already suffering from a bad case of 12 percent unemployment and an outdated infrastructure. Moreover, Scott's predecessor, Charlie Crist, championed the project just last year, leaving some Republicans in Florida's legislature to question whether Scott even has the authority to act on his whim. On March 1, Sens. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, filed suit against Scott in state Supreme Court over the rail fiasco. What a mess.

Like others in his class of newbie conservative leaders - Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin - Rick Scott is more ideological than he is gubernatorial, gold leaf for big business interests, but a slap on the face to mere humans. Early in his tenure, he's already a bumbling wagon of horrible mistakes; there's an almost inconceivable list of reasons he's the worst man for his job below - then there are many more lurking around the corner as he prepares to hood-ornament his inaugural legislative session, which begins March 8. Recent indications are that the veto-proof Republican majority might be willing to play ball with Scott despite initial hesitations, meaning even as an ogre with limited political power, Scott will likely set the tone for a session of surface belt-tightening and hidden back scratching.

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