Florida Politics: Reforming the Wolves Den

“What is to become of an independent statesman, one who will bow the knee to no idol, who will worship nothing as a divinity but truth, virtue, and his country? I will tell you; he will be regarded more by posterity than those who worship hounds and horses; and although he will not make his own fortune, he will make the fortune of his country.”

 John Adams–

Florida’s new House Speaker Richard Corcoran is a man after my own heart.

If you are reading this, I suspect he’s your kind of guy as well.

For the first time, in a long time, we have a leader in Tallahassee who is taking the ethical high road, and dragging his fellow elected officials along with him – kicking and screaming.

Last fall, Speaker Corcoran announced a series of reforms that he hopes will make Florida, “the most open and accountable legislature in the entire country.”

That’s a tall order.  Especially here in the moral wasteland of the Sunshine State.

I recently watched a riveting movie about a young, idealistic FBI agent who is drafted into the shadowy world of the escalating Mexican drug war.  The protagonist, a soft-spoken CIA contractor with a mysterious motive elegantly played by Benicio Del Toro, remarks: “You should move to a small town, somewhere the rule of law still exists.  You will not survive here.  You are not a wolf, and this is a land of wolves now.”

 Unfortunately, Florida is a land of wolves.

Hell, it’s the original den of apex political predators.

 It takes a special courage and inner strength to stand against corrupt systems; to make right that which is wrong and expose the entrenched self-enrichment schemes of those elected and appointed to represent the public interest.

Many of the changes outlined by Corcoran can be found in an incredible (given the times) white paper, composed in 2012 by Corcoran and some two-dozen Republican lawmakers, entitled “Blueprint Florida.”

Trust me.  This is a must read for anyone interested in good governance.  Anywhere.

Called “The Manifesto” by members of the media, the blueprint points the finger of reform squarely at a system that has allowed self-interest to triumph over public interest.

I encourage you to read it here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/files/2012-blue-print-florida.pdf

In a 2015 piece in the Tampa Bay Times, Mr. Corcoran addressed the many cynics and naysayers who will no doubt have a field day with what many insiders and special interests will see as perhaps the first real barrier to maintaining the status quo at the State Capital.

Still, Corcoran believes there will be many legislators who will welcome fresh air, “It’s confront the brutal fact, and the brutal fact is – man is flawed, and if left to their own devices, they’re going to seek their self-interest.”

I think the Speaker is on to something.

After a life spent in municipal government, I have some solid ideas about how our democratic system – at all levels – became such a squalid, self-serving cesspool of base corruption – but, to be honest, I’ve never truly understood it.

It’s like one of those cruel and disturbing stories where a parent turns on their own children – the very ones they trust and depend upon for protection.

In my view, the strength of our system begins and ends with the moral character of those we elect to serve in the public interest.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naïve (unsophisticated maybe, but not naïve) and I am not suggesting that all public officials are dishonest shitheels – I’ve worked with some incredibly bright and forward-thinking civil servants who set the gold standard for ethical conduct.  I have also been forced to suffer a few of the most unethical frauds ever to disgrace local government.

Fortunately, Mr. Corcoran’s efforts appear to be gaining some traction.

I thoroughly enjoyed Daytona Beach News-Journal editorialist Scott Kent’s recent illuminating piece on Corcoran’s one man frontal assault on “business as usual” in the halls of power.

Now, it’s one thing to champion transparency and basic fairness in the public interest – but more than one “reformer” has been left tilting at windmills when they suddenly discover they are a lone voice in a fetid swamp of graft – or get caught in the, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” trap.

The tale of the tape will be when Corcoran’s transformational policies meet the immovable object of Governor Rick Scott’s unique brand of hazy governance.

I don’t think it’s any secret that Mr. Corcoran is planning a run for governor – and if he proves that his heart is truly in the right place – I can’t think of anyone more qualified, or welcome, to serve the long-suffering citizens of Florida.

For instance, per Mr. Kent, Corcoran has, “butted heads with the governor over state subsidies to private businesses.”  He also said that it is a “disgrace” that local governments use tax dollars to hire professionals to lobby the legislature – asking, “Shouldn’t legislators be aware of the needs of governments within their districts and do the lobbying for them?”

What an interesting concept?

The thought that a politician should understand the needs of his or her constituents, then actually work in the best interest of the communities that sent them to Tallahassee – or Washington – or Deland.

Interesting, indeed.

 

(Photo Credit: The Miami Herald)

 

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