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What was on Crist's to-do list in black book

The plain black book may look innocuous, but it's the ultimate to-do list, an insider's guide to Gov. Charlie Crist at work.

Former chief of staff George LeMieux carried the book with him everywhere during Crist's first year as governor. The governor's top aide and long-time political strategist filled it with notes of daily encounters with legislators, lobbyists, bureaucrats and others. He wrote reminders to himself and to Crist, made lengthy lists of tasks for his deputies and jotted down political advice from others.

A lawyer used to keeping notes on legal pads, LeMieux decided his best strategy, as he raced from one issue to the next in 2007, was to keep all his notes with him.

He took the book to the Middle East, where he met Israeli leaders and King Abdullah II of Jordan; to a drill in Tampa Bay on planning the first steps Crist would take after a major disaster; to meetings with Seminole Indians as they negotiated a casino gambling compact, which the Florida Supreme Court rejected on Thursday, saying Crist had no authority to negotiate games not already legal in the state.

It's an intriguing record of Crist's earliest days as governor. Crist's predecessor, Jeb Bush, sent dozens of e-mails daily. But Crist prefers the phone, a technology that leaves no written record.

LeMieux, who left the governor's office Jan. 1, initially refused to disclose the contents. Crist's office insisted the book was not a public record, even as Crist has promoted greater openness in government. After months of off-and-on negotiations, LeMieux agreed to copy most of the contents for the St. Petersburg Times.

LeMieux said he withheld only notes of personal or nongovernment political matters. He also was reluctant to provide the last few weeks of notes, saying he did not want to upstage future policy announcements Crist has yet to announce.

Now chairman of Gunster Yoakley, a South Florida law firm, and still a force in Republican politics and a Crist adviser, LeMieux called the book invaluable. "I would talk to the governor on any given day four or five times," LeMieux said. "Most everything had to pass by him."

>>a page from the black book

Entries from the black book

Gov. Charlie Crist was sworn into office Jan. 2, 2007. Selected entries from George LeMieux's book:

Jan. 8

Former Republican U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, a Crist mentor, visits LeMieux and raves about Crist's agency appointees, including a Democrat: "(Bob) Butterworth awesome!" LeMieux writes of Crist's secretary of the Department of Children and Families. Mack also recommends a former aide for a state job ("worked for CM in 1988, did press, utility guy"). The aide isn't hired.

Jan. 16

LeMieux writes a reminder to discuss with Crist: "Confirm no Handy." A few days later, Phil Handy, a prominent and controversial ally of former Gov. Jeb Bush, withdraws his name for reappointment to the Board of Education.

Feb. 6

From a meeting with Manley Fuller of the Florida Wildlife Federation and Terry Tamminen, former chief environmental regulator in California: "Florida is the linchpin to solving climate change worldwide."

Feb. 12

LeMieux reached out to several predecessors in his post. Notes from meeting Gov. Lawton Chiles' former chief of staff, Jim Krog: "Don't feel bad about changing people who are not working ... never use the word 'veto' — leave yourself trading room."

March

LeMieux lists 19 priorities, nearly all of which Crist would attempt in the coming year: "enviro summit," "cut property taxes," "cut insurance rates," "raise teacher salaries" and "improve open government."

March 7

Advice from Charlie Reed, former Gov. Bob Graham's chief of staff: "(Governor) can only do two or three big things (at any one time)" and "have a plan for what you can't anticipate — Castro."

Early April

Notes from a disaster planning session in Tampa Bay: "1. Call Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff. 2. Call President. 3. Call Mayors Iorio and Baker. 4. Call Hillsborough & Pinellas County officials. ... Report #2. 1. Direct traffic away. 2. Press conf. Shelter in place. Stay calm."

April

An undated entry headlined "Energy ideas," including "1. (State vehicle) fleet on ethanol. 2. Coal gasification. 3. More nukes. 4. (More money) for alternative energy. 5. Mandate emissions reductions. 6. Mandate 10% ethanol use by 2015."

April-August

Page after page is filled with numbers from bargaining sessions with the Seminole Tribe on a casino gambling compact that will bring slot machines to the tribe's reservations. "Starting points" listed from an April 23 meeting include "Can't go backwards — 7,000 employees, $100-million economic impact."

Early May

Three pages are taken up with details from the 2007 Legislature's proposed budget, including priorities of House and Senate legislative leaders. But under Senate President Ken Pruitt's name are just two objects. "Not going to be a pig," LeMieux wrote next to Pruitt's name. Crist later vetoed a record $459-million in projects in lawmakers' districts, but Pruitt's two higher ed projects survived.

Aug. 24

From a meeting with a Bank of America economist: "Tourism should do well — low gas prices."

Sept. 24

From a meeting with Jacksonville business leaders is a note about South Florida "condo disaster coming — 40,000 units," a reference to the real estate slump.

What was on Crist's to-do list in black book 07/07/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 9, 2008 7:48pm]
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