Friday, May 25, 2018
Politics

'Sunburst' email system a step in the right direction for Gov. Scott

When Gov. Rick Scott addressed an elite group of Florida business leaders at the Willard Hotel in Washington a few nights ago, the doors were shut tight, ensuring that whatever Scott said would not be reported.

That was bad. But here's the good news: We now know what Scott told the famously private Council of 100, thanks to Scott himself, and his newfound commitment to sunshine.

The key points of Scott's speech and a "survey" he gave his guests can be found online as part of "Project Sunburst," the new website that offers the public a glimpse of the massive daily email traffic in and out of the governor's office.

"Intro — priorities," reads the first page of Scott's Council of 100 speech, followed by the key points of jobs, education and keeping the cost of living low. The material was in the in-box of a press aide.

The Council of 100 cares a lot about higher education, and the group clashed with Scott on two big issues in that policy area.

The council favored a bill to let the University of Florida and Florida State University set market-rate tuition, which Scott vetoed, and the group opposed making Florida Polytechnic the state's 12th university, which Scott approved.

After his speech, Scott gave the Council of 100 a nine-page survey of questions, many of which were framed so as to put the state's condition in a favorable light.

Question No. 1: "For the two years ending June 2011, what was the average annual change in the total budget of the 11 state universities?"

Five choices followed.

The "right" answer was plus 9.85 percent, according to Scott.

That's Scott spin. The figure is somewhat misleading because it includes universities' rents, concessions and donations. State support for universities, in fact, has been on a steady decline for years. Earlier in the day, university leaders had emphasized to the same Council of 100 that the state now provides 21 percent of the universities' budgets, down from 30 percent four years ago.

Scott didn't tell the full story, which we wouldn't have known if the speaking materials weren't online.

A lot of the online email is dry stuff, such as weekly reports from the bureaucratic trenches, forwarded copies of news stories.

But when editors of most Florida newspapers gush with praise for one of the country's least popular governors, that's a significant development.

The Florida Society of News Editors praised Scott for Sunburst, which displays emails to and from Scott and 11 staffers on flgov.com/sunburst (the username and password are both "sunburst").

"We want to commend you," the editors wrote Scott. "Your efforts undoubtedly will inspire other public officials and local governments in Florida to follow your lead."

The system is flawed. For example, it would be better if email to and from the governor's budget office could be viewed. But Scott gets credit for improving transparency in government and for setting an example for the rest.

The candidate who refused to meet with editorial boards in 2010 now does so often. The governor-elect whose emails were carelessly deleted during his transition to power now lets the public see email online. That's progress.

Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected]

Comments
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18