Shortly after he was elected Governor, Rick Scott proclaimed that Florida was “open for business.” He wasn’t kidding. Yesterday he spoke at his first meeting where he laid out his agenda. The meeting was itself open to business, but closed to the press, and therefore closed to the people of Florida.
In his typical hush-hush fashion, Scott met with business leaders from the Florida Council Of 100 at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando. He chose to share his plans with businesses who are more likely to benefit from his policies than anyone else, and apparently sought to enlist their help to fulfill his promise in creating those 700,000 jobs he proposed during his campaign. It also seems to have served as a means to recruit the first recipients of those new jobs. Towards the end of the speech, Scott said this:
Finally let me tell you what I need from you.
I’m now looking for the best talent I can find to join my team in Tallahassee.
The meeting was private and closed to the press, but after the meeting Scott released a copy of his “prepared remarks,” so we can only assume those were the actual remarks delivered, and odd remarks they were.
It’s no secret that Scott intends to run the State like a business. He said as much during his campaign. However, the extent to those intentions becomes eerily clear after reading his prepared speech. I had to read it twice just to make sure I actually read it correctly, and I still came away thinking “whaa….??”
Before I explain why, I first want to address another alarming tactic Rick Scott practices: Secrecy. First there’s that whole Medicare fraud problem. While Scott was never charged with Medicare fraud, his former company Columbia/HCA is the record holder of Medicare fraud fines, to the tune of $1.7 billion, and Scott was at the helm when it occurred. However, Scott’s bio has kindly been “edited” on his new transition website. There’s no mention of the Columbia/HCA Medicare fraud. That history has been re-written: “when Rick Scott left Columbia/HCA in 1997 “it was one of the most admired companies in America.” (Well, sure if you admire fraud, or you’re writing a textbook on business ethics.) Also, during that investigation Scott took the fifth 75 times.
Then there’s Scott’s current company Solantic and that deposition he refuses to release. He’s also not a fan of public debate with political opponents, he’s loathe to talk with reporters, and famously refused to meet with even one newspaper editorial board during his campaign.
We’ve also witnessed the foreboding signs of things to come as far as transparency goes in the Sunshine State. While the new Senate President Mike Haridopolos grabbed a drill and made a great show of removing the doors to his office earlier in the week, it was little more than a photo-op disguised as an actual “open-door policy.” His office doors may be gone, but his first meeting to negotiate veto overrides with Rick Scott took place in the president’s box during an FSU-Clemson game on Saturday. So much for “government in the sunshine.”
Which brings us back to the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando, where we find Rick Scott speaking to the Florida Council of 100, and where the press was not allowed. Even the details of who banned the press from the meeting are murky. Scott claims that no, it was NOT HIM who wouldn’t allow reporters in the meeting, certainly not! No, Scott blames that on the Council of 100:
(Scott) put the blame on the council for keeping reporters away. “It’s their decision and we’re respecting their decision,” Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said. “We respect the circumstances under which they invited us.”
The Council however, explained it this way:
Council of 100 President Susan Pareigis said Scott’s folks never asked for it to be open. “It’s a private membership meeting,” Pareigis said. “There’s no question-and-answer. It’s in-and-out and it’s pretty quick.”
Details aside, there’s no disputing that the meeting was very much a private meeting between the soon to be Governor and business leaders, and closed to the public and the press. That those businesses are privy to the Governor’s plans and the State’s future, but its citizens are not is cause for alarm in a climate where businesses and the candidates themselves are in a position to simply “buy” an elected office with little or no disclosure. When the entire Republican Party, from the newly elected Congressmen and women, to Governor, the Attorney General, and right on down to the State legislature are endorsed by the local and national Chambers Of Commerce, and essentially an arm of FOX, which may dictate policy and give them their marching orders, where if at all, do mere “voters” fit in? Where does it end?
Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and future House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, are giving closed-door speeches to the group on Friday.
So much for those missing office doors. It’s Rick Scott and Mike Haridopolos who are unhinged, forget the empty symbolism. That may sound harsh, but read some of those “prepared remarks” from the speech Scott gave before our new corporate overlords yesterday. You be the judge. Keep in mind the “run Florida like a business” mindset of Rick Scott – who was never charged but whose company was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud.
The Orlando Sentinel summed up Scott’s ideas for Florida (or “Florida, Inc.”) this way:
What’s perhaps more interesting in the speech is the tone — the simple, declarative sentences — and his analysis of state government as if it were a business. Putting aside any debate on the merits of that approach — state government doesn’t exist to make a profit, and a good chunk of its expenditures are entitlements that people rely on and can’t easily be changed — Scott’s assertions are fundamental corporate-speak. For instance:
- “The State of Florida is like a lot of companies.
- “Its overhead is too high.
- “It has more mid-level managers than it needs.
- “Its financial controls are too weak.
- “It hasn’t been clear about its core competencies.
- “It doesn’t measure enough.
- “And it lacks a sufficiently focused strategic plan.”
He may have a so-called business plan, but does he have a vision? If he does will we ever hear about it before it’s too late?
You can read Scott’s prepared remarks here.