Friday, May 25, 2018
Politics

Gov. Rick Scott asks Facebook users for one word, gets an earful

On Monday night, Gov. Rick Scott — really his staff — asked the nearly 80,000 people who follow his Facebook page to fill in the blank: "If you could use one word to describe Florida's 2012 legislative session, it would be ___________. COMMENT below!"

People commented.

Racist Yankeeville Advancing Criminal Too slow for progress Underachievement Successful Winning.

Energized, but we still need to drill.

Whatever word describes "I am still looking for a job" …

About 160 comments posted within an hour, and more than 400 when we stopped looking Tuesday evening. Some of the posts were mocking, some praising. Many were angry. Some were hopeful. Plenty of people couldn't confine themselves to one word.

Some questioned the exercise itself.

"Gov, why do you do this? You know your page is trolled by losers who don't want to work hard, or they're union slugs (or both)," wrote Joe Duhamel of Tampa. "We know this because they have time on their hands to bother with these posts. So … why?"

It has become routine to see a politician turning to Facebook or Twitter to connect with voters without a media filter. Sarah Palin's Facebook page has more than 3 million subscribers, which is about double the Sunday circulation of the New York Times.

But this case is particularly intriguing because it provides a snapshot of a consistently divided state. In a word. On Facebook.

"Maybe not a good idea to ask this one, Gov. Scott …" wrote George Carl of Largo.

Next came David Marrs, who answered "Productive," and then Sheila Miller Cruz, "Frustrating!" Then Jeff Odgis wrote, "Disappointing — OPEN CARRY next year!" referring to a proposal to let gun owners carry their weapons in public. Randy Beauchamp liked that comment.

Digna Mejia wrote, "Productive, efficient, effective and successful … Thank you for the amazing work!!!"

Frank Alexander wrote, "Invisible — I haven't seen one word about it yet anywhere." Note to Frank: We write about it every day.

Gary R. Hulmes, who lives in Tampa, chose "deleterious," meaning causing harm or damage.

There was a curse word in Finnish. There were curse words in English.

"Self-serving," wrote David Croft, who later posted a followup. "Oops. That's two words. Selfish."

None of the posts have been removed as far as we can tell. The commenters aren't anonymous because Facebook requires them to register as themselves.

We asked 18 of them — a small subset — to explain or expand on their criticism or praise for the Legislature and/or Scott.

Only one, Dan Berkowitz of Brandon, replied.

His word: "Dysfunctional."

"As a voter and taxpayer, I see that the group as a whole has drawn partisan lines and refuses to communicate … let alone actually work together," Berkowitz wrote in a lengthy reply, which included praise for a proposal from CFO Jeff Atwater to make state contracts more transparent and criticism for the Senate's reluctance to take up substantial ethics reform.

A proposal from Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, to eliminate junk food from food aid programs gets both praise and criticism, Berkowitz wrote. "On one hand I don't like her being a goody-goody and telling people what they can eat. … On the other hand this lines up nicely with the attempts by the First Lady to improve eating habits in America."

Scott himself doesn't post on Facebook; his staffers do.

We asked them about the post and the responses, but they didn't reply.

So we went to Scott himself Tuesday as he attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a natural-gas filling station in Tallahassee.

How would you describe the 2012 legislative session in a word?

"Oh, I think it's interesting," said Scott, who chuckled at the question. "You know, it's part of America. It's, you know, part of the legislative process. Bills get made, you know, in the House and the Senate. So, it's one of the great things about this country."

Times/Herald staff writer Katie Sanders contributed to this report. Aaron Sharockman can be reached at [email protected]

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