I am bombarded daily by “news” releases from Gov. Rick Scott’s press office. I’m glad to get them in the event news breaks out and the governor wants to assert or explain a policy decision. But that never happens.
The governor’s so-called “news” releases set a new standard in banality. Every governor engages in self-serving media flackery, but Scott has raised it to a new level. It’s the heights of hokeyness.
Most of the governor’s email blasts are quickly deleted because, Do we really care who he’s appointed to the state athletic trainers board? Or to fill an unexpired term on the Wakulla County waste disposal district? Many of Scott’s press releases also feature “WHAT THEY ARE SAYING” (always in caps) quotes, glowing tributes attributed to Scott admirers, but surely concocted by his press flacks. It’s all supposed to make our governor look like a nonstop whirlwind of productive activity. Truth is, it has the opposite effect.
But I lingered the other day over a missive from Scott’s office announcing — ta-tah! — his “Million Miles for a Million Jobs” bus tour. Seems the governor will take a victory lap by bus around the state Jan. 13-15 to brag about the 1 million miles he’s logged over the last five years “to bring more jobs to Florida.”
But the fact is, most of the jobs created in Florida since 2010 would have happened with or without Rick Scott. It’s the natural result of the usual boom-and-bust business cycle. Our economy waxes and wanes, jobs come and go no matter who the governor is. Even one who calls himself “the jobs governor.”
The good news is that Florida’s overall unemployment rate now stands at 5 percent, which is encouraging. Not so encouraging is Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate, which stands at 6 percent because of the rising value of the dollar against foreign currencies and softness in construction.
Additionally, most of the jobs added here and around the state appear to pay low-to-medium wages. We don’t hear the governor say much about that.
We do hear Gov. Scott saying the Legislature should appropriate $250 million for Enterprise Florida, the semi-autonomous agency that recruits companies to move to Florida and keeps companies from leaving the state.
The governor has added some sweeteners to persuade lawmakers to create the “Florida Enterprise Fund,” which would disperse the $250 million. But lawmakers, who generally don’t like Scott very much, are skeptical. Rightly so. Many companies that have relocated to Florida would have come without incentives from Enterprise Florida, which still has millions of unspent dollars in its escrow account.
I’d like to suggest that the governor widen his ambit. It’s fine to be the “Jobs Governor,” but Scott needs to also be the social-justice governor. The protect-the-Everglades governor. The stop-the-teen-murder governor. Putting more people to work in a more-diversified economy is a worthy goal, but Scott should be equally concerned about a litany of nonbusiness issues that he routinely ignores.
Instead of just visiting businesses around the state to hand out cheesy medals to CEOs, why not visit Miami Northwestern Senior High, where five students were shot and killed in the last year? Tell students you’re worried about their safety and the epidemic of gun violence and have a plan to reduce it.
While you’re in Central Florida, make a surprise stop at the Lowell Correctional Institution, which the Herald’s Julie Brown has shown to be rife with mismanagement and criminal behavior by staff. Tell the inmates they’ll be treated more humanely and will start receiving the basic medical services they’re entitled to. Spend a day with a public defender. Go to a driver’s license office and see what applicants go through. Get out there.
Gov. Scott has a very narrow comfort zone. He needs to widen it. Paying attention almost exclusively to business and job creation does a disservice to the many Floridians who strive daily to excel in other sectors — education, law enforcement, parks and recreation, the courts, medicine and so on.
It’s good to be the “Jobs Governor.” But if that’s all he is, he’s a one-dimensional governor.