Some politicians around here are starting to scare me.
Last week, it looked as if they were actually trying to right some wrongs and make decisions that weren't outright dripping with politics. I know! I couldn't believe it either!
In Tallahassee, Cheerful Charlie Crist was expected to make a pure patronage pick for Hillsborough's supervisor of elections. No matter that the previous occupant, Buddy Johnson, badly bungled the job. No matter that the person freshly elected to replace him, Phyllis Busansky, died suddenly just as she was getting busy on basics like competence and openness.
We all know Charlie has places to go, as in the U.S. Senate, so we expected his pick to be whoever could give him the most political juice for the journey. Smart money guaranteed an "R," a letter that does not necessarily stand for "reliable." (See: previous occupant appointed by Jeb Bush.)
Okay, "D" doesn't always mean "dazzling," either.
The mix included some solid choices regardless of political party. Twenty-two threw in for the $132,000-a-year gig, including political types, a former restaurant owner and an unemployed civil engineer, even. Hey, times are tough all over.
Yes, Charlie chose an "R," though not one a lot of folks expected. Earl Lennard, 67, former Hillsborough schools superintendent, is considered a steady, able hand — maybe not a ball of fire, though that could be good, given the place did everything but burn down in the last go-round.
In other news, Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia and Circuit Court Clerk Pat Frank took pay cuts like those ones being suffered by employees all over.
And Hillsborough commissioners showed they had sharper hearing than their tone-deaf county administrator. Last year Pat Bean gave 7 to 17 percent raises, a 20 grand bump in one case, to her top six deputies. Talk about your buzz kill for office morale. What a fiscal fiasco in a time of slashed jobs and withered budgets, regardless of money she saved consolidating positions and doubling duties.
The public recoiled. Commissioners found a way to revoke their permission to reorganize her staff in the first place, and Bean took back two raises related to promotions from that reorganization. Two others who got the raises want to give theirs back.
The commission wasn't done undoing. Last year, amid some controversy, the board renamed the county's Moral Courage Award for a millionaire who liked to throw money to politicians whose opinions were in synch with his own. Not that smaller-government advocate Ralph Hughes wasn't well within his rights to do so. But relating political backing to "moral courage" deeply cheapened the honor. (Hughes made news again recently when the IRS said he died owing $69 million in unpaid taxes and interest, an accusation his family disputes.)
Commissioner Rose Ferlita planned to ask the board to take his name off the award, but before she did, his family requested it. The commission complied.
Me, I liked the idea of renaming it for Busansky, who as a commissioner herself fought for health care for the poor. Others said a name, any name, narrowed the prize's purpose. They were right.
All of which sounds dangerously sensible. I don't know about you, but I remain suspicious.