By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
The mayors of Lakeland, Orlando, Tampa and Miami all penned a letter on March 3 trying to allay Rick Scott’s concerns about a $2.4 billion high-speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa.
But it was all for naught. Their letter was doomed from the outset because it was built on one massive wrong assumption: that Scott might actually care.
Might care what the leaders of three of the state’s largest cities might think. Might care about voter outrage, logic or facts.
Scott has a small but committed tea party base. A Republican Party super majority in both statehouses that will prevent an impeachment (and possibly even a recall). Good lawyers. And a job. At least for another 46 months.
He doesn’t have to care.
What the well-intended mayors mistook for concerns — Scott’s claims about low ridership, his worries about possible future costs to the state — were simply convenient excuses.
He doesn’t care as long as Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon are willing to play along. And Hardipolos is too busy these days deflecting criticism about omitting half a million dollars from financial disclosure forms. Not to speak of the uber-embarrassing revelation that he was paid $152,000 by Brevard Community College to write a 175-page (double-spaced, no less) book — which was never published. It didn’t help that the fiscal conservative somehow found state money to send the college’s way. Remember that the next time lawmakers talk about the need to raise college tuitions. Which should be pretty soon.
On March 5, Haridopolos’ writing skills made the big-time: The New York Times. But it wasn’t the best-seller list. Columnist Gail Collins skewered Haridopolos for penning such political insights about running for office as: “a cellphone will be essential.”
Ahhh … Florida politics in the national spotlight again — back where we belong.
With problems like those, and a future run against U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Haridopolos needs as many tea party votes as he can get. Don’t expect him to confront Scott. And Cannon is too busy amassing a war chest for whatever political ambitions lie ahead.
The tea party will be Scott’s to lead around like a puppy on a leash as long as he keeps pushing to gut the state budget — education and families be damned. And as long as he keeps tweaking the nose of President Barack Obama.
Something at which he’s become quite adept.
After his lawyer beat up opposing lawyers before the Florida Supreme Court on March 4, Scott immediately announced he was rejecting the $2.4 billion from the federal government for the rail line. And then promptly flew to Miami to announce that the state, which is having to cut $1.75 billion from K-12 education, will funnel $77 million to the Port of Miami to deepen the port.
In case anybody might have missed what the whole port business was about, Scott made sure to mention: “As Floridians, we know best where our resources should be focused.”
Talk about Obama red meat for the tea partiers. All he needed was a Mike Huckabee-like reference to Kenya.
I won’t even get into a discussion about what kind of Brevard Community College math Scott is using to claim the $77 million will translate into 30,000 dredging jobs when the $2.4 billion cutting-edge rail project was supposed to result in just 24,000 jobs. Or wonder which critical road or bridge project is about to get dumped on.
It would be a waste of words. Because it would be based on the flawed assumption that logic matters …
To someone who doesn’t care.