Friday, January 19, 2018
Politics

Tallahassee no longer fits as Florida's capital

It made sense to put Florida's capital in Tallahassee back when it was the center the state's plantation economy.

But for nearly 100 years it's been hard to argue that Tallahassee — at least a four-hour drive from Tampa and about eight from Miami — remains a logical spot for Florida's seat of government. Geographically, the center of Florida is Brooksville, while the Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research pegs southern Polk County as the population center of Florida based on 2010 census data.

There were several efforts in the late 1960s to move the Capitol to Orlando, but those ran afoul of North Florida legislators who made sure to start appropriating money to replace the historic, and dilapidated, old Capitol. The $43 million, 22-story Capitol that pretty much everyone considers hideous was finished in 1977, effectively ending chatter about shifting the Capitol to somewhere accessible to more Floridians.

A compelling new argument comes from a couple of academics, Filipe Campante of Harvard University and Quoc-Anh Do of the Institute of Political Studies in Paris: Corruption breeds more easily in isolated state capitals.

That's the conclusion of an article they authored for the American Economic Review journal. Here's their summary:

"We show that isolated capital cities are robustly associated with greater levels of corruption across U.S. states, in line with the view that this isolation reduces accountability. We then provide direct evidence that the spatial distribution of population relative to the capital affects different accountability mechanisms: newspapers cover state politics more when readers are closer to the capital, voters who live far from the capital are less knowledgeable and interested in state politics, and they turn out less in state elections. We also find that isolated capitals are associated with more money in state-level campaigns."

Keeping eye on Crist

The Florida GOP this past week has been trying to push a story that … well, we're not really sure what they were trying to say. First they suggested Charlie Crist's landlord at his Bayfront Tower rental condo in downtown St. Petersburg had improperly applied for a homestead exemption — or that Crist had secretly left the 'Burg.

When told Crist had in fact moved from a condo on the 22nd floor to one on the 19th, the GOP pressed on, firing off several press releases, including one excerpted here:

This begs many questions for Charlie Crist:

When did Charlie Crist move and where does he now live? The apartment he's renting in Fort Lauderdale? Or the place he's renting on Fisher Island near Miami?

Where is Charlie Crist's official permanent residence? Did he really "leave the 'Burg?" When did he move in relation to the timing of the Homestead Exemption filing?

Has Charlie Crist failed to change his address with the DMV and with the Supervisor of Elections in a timely fashion? Did he list the wrong address on his qualification papers, including his financial disclosure? (See Florida Statutes, Chapter 97.1031.)

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Crist is scheduled to receive absentee ballots at the address he no longer lives at. (See Attachment 2.) Why is he still receiving mail there? With the registration books already closed for the primary election, will he have to vote for himself on a provisional ballot?

The biggest question of all: Where in the World is Charlie Crist?

We can't decide whether this line of attack is more interesting for its sheer lameness or because it reflects how closely the GOP is tracking everything Crist does.

The state GOP had activists firing questions at him about his residency at news conferences last week, and Crist fielded a question about it when he met with the Sun-Sentinel editorial board.

"I rent a condo in St. Petersburg. I have been there since '83. We rented a condo here in Fort Lauderdale because Broward is important and we spend a lot of time here …," said Crist, who said he was trying to save his campaign money on hotels.

When asked again about the Republicans raising questions about his St. Petersburg condo Crist said, "I'm in a different unit. My landlord wanted to move back in."

Two things to note in fairness to the Florida Republican Party. 1. Crist did confuse matters. He said in March he was renting a place in Fisher Island because he was spending so much time in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, but then decided Fort Lauderdale would be more centrally located for the area. 2. At least they didn't use a photo of a shuttered Detroit factory to try to show how Crist was bad for Florida, as the state Democratic Party did in a Web video released last week that attacked Rick Scott for failing to help Florida's economy.

Ryan to visit Brandon

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's 2012 running mate and a potential 2016 candidate, will make nine stops in Florida as part of the promo tour for his new book, The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea. He visits Books-A-Million in Brandon on Aug. 24.

Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.

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