The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

After seven months of protecting the 'inner sanctum,' Gov. Scott opens up office

1

August

 Scribbles in my notebook after an hour inside Gov. Rick Scott's executive office.

1.) The campaign team that Scott brought into office didn't want any reporters or lobbyists to pass the front door of his office, guarding what those close to him referred to as the "inner sanctum." Interviews took place in the press conference room and lobbyists often waited in the lobby while their client visited with Scott.

That changed today. He invited more than two-dozen reporters in for an hour-long "open house," which quickly turned into 60 minutes of Q-and-A.

Scott didn't break any major news, but he was at his most comfortable with the media since winning office. He sat in his chair, joking about the economic stimulus his campaign ads provided last year, shared details about his family and took questions on immigration, health care anything else reporters offered.

2.) We'll detail some of Scott's comments in a moment, but first some atmospherics from the office. 

The mezuzah former Gov. Charlie Crist hung on the office door (a gift from then-state Rep. Adam Hasner) to ward off hurricanes is now on a table just inside the door along with a couple dozen commemorative coins, a photo of the governor and first lady and a picture of Brandi Meshad, a Sarasota teenager who died of a prescription drug overdose.

Scott's desk includes a couple of trinkets with inspirational quotes. One reads, "It can be done." Another: "If you are not the lead dog the view never changes."

Scott's office is connected to the office of his chief of staff, Steve MacNamara. Just inside of MacNamara's door is a framed caricature of Scott from the Crowley Political Report.

110801_scott_openhouse.jpg3.) Scott welcomed the press inside, but implied lobbyists will have to wait. "I'm sure the lobbyists have figured out a way to talk to everyone in my administration," Scott said. "I'm sure that they do fine."

4.) Scott will attend attend to Republican National Convention in Tampa and the party's Presidency 5 in Orlando next month.

On the convention, Scott is amazed at estimates that 15,000 members of the media will be in town. "That's a lot," he said. "It's second to the Olympics, as far as media attention. That will be a good stimulator for a while for the economy."

Scott isn't sure whether he'll endorse in the presidential primary. "It's OK with me if people don't endorse people. I was on the opposite side of that last year," Scott said, winning laughs from the press corps.

Scott repeated that he wants the state's primary to be as early as possible without losing delegates, even if that means changing the day. "There's no real reason Tuesday is the day, right? If it's a Thursday or Wednesday, it doesn't really matter."

But Scott said there are political as well as economic reasons to hold an early primary: "Hopefully they'll all run ads and make up for the ads I'm not running this year."

5.) He offered his most nuanced position yet on immigration, saying new laws should not hurt businesses. Scott still wants to ask for immigration papers, but is no longersure when it would be appropriate.

"I want to have a good conversation this fall with everybody it impacts about where should the line be," Scott said. "I don't want to do anything that adds an adverse impact to getting more jobs to our state."

After campaigning on the issue, Scott almost never pushed it during the legislative session, which ended without a significant immigration law. Scott questioned whether something could get done in 2012.

"I have not done this a long time, but it sure appears things can get maybe blown out of proportion at times during an election year," he said.

6.) The thrust of Scott's agenda is to increase corporate profits with the hope that executives will use the extra money to add new jobs. He said those companies would provide better health care and retirement benefits if that's what consumers wanted.

"When you shop, do you say, 'Oh gosh, it was made in America so I'm going to buy it.' Most people don't," Scott said. "How many of you say when you shop, 'Oh gosh, that company provides better health benefits or better pension benefits or better anything than this other company for their employees so I'm going to buy that product.' We don't.

"That's not what Americans do," Scott said. "So we are exacerbating that problem."

110801_scott_openhouse2_0.jpg7.) Scott acknowledged a "screw up" last week when the Department of Veteran Affairs, run by his former chief of staff, nominated him for the state's new Veterans Hall of Fame. Scott served in the Navy, but has often poked fun at his rank-and-file service.

What was his initial reaction at the nomination? "You say, 'Why is this happening?'" Scott said.

"I didn't think it was appropriate that I be on the list," Scott said. "My goal is that when we do it everybody will be happy with the people that get chosen."

8.) So what really frustrates Scott? Slow compliance with public records.

Really.

"I believe in transparency and open government and all that stuff," Scott said. "If you guys don't get something that you want, I understand that it takes time. I understand that this year there has been such an unbelievable increase in the number of requests.

"But at some point: do your job. So if somebody here is slowing it down, that makes me mad. That's frustrating," he said before quickly changing the subject to doughnuts.

9.) One of Scott's first business ventures was doughnut shops. He said glazed sold best, kids love sprinkles and that he made sure to make apple fritters. "We made apple fritters. You have a better margin on them," Scott said.

Another nugget of Scott's doughnut knowledge: Hot weather and heavy rain was bad for business. Cold weather and light rain was better. "Foggy? The best," Scott said. "You probably don't buy many doughnuts, but I can tell you when you're going to buy them."

110801_scott_openhouse3.jpg10.) Scott wants to increase use of renewable energy, but said he won't increase utility rates on Floridians.

"If people show me the way to do more, which I believe in it - more renewables, I'm clearly receptive to it," Scott said. "But don't come to me and tell me how you want to raise everybody's utilities rates. Because I'm worried about the person that is struggling."

11.) Scott said it was "inappropriate" for the Miami New-Times to call his brother, Roger, for this story.

Roger Scott lives in a poor area of Dallas. He has a criminal record, is on welfare and has battled with drugs. "I help him, although he doesn't know I help him because it's through my sister," Scott said.

"I love my brother. I wish he'd figured his life out, but he hasn't," Scott said.

12.) Scott is clearly thrilled with having MacNamara on board. Citing his experience in a state agency and both the House and Senate chambers, Scott said, "There's not many people like that."

"Because of the relationships he has, if there's an issue he says, 'I know this person, I can make some phone calls.' I think that's helped," Scott said.

"He adds a lot of value," Scott said. "He knows a lot and knows a lot of people. And I think he's got good judgment."

13.) The Republican Party of Florida is running internet adds telling people that Scott had helped Florida add 85,500 jobs this year. Scott said recently on the radio that he wants more than 100,000 new jobs in the state by the end of this year.

He wouldn't offer any more detail today, saying only that there were national and international factors that the state could not control.

"Part of it is ... you don't have to outrun the bear," Scott said. "You have to outrun at least one person, right?"

(Photos by Steve Bousquet and Michael C. Bender, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau.)

[Last modified: Monday, August 1, 2011 5:44pm]

    

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