Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

Sue Carlton: On partisanship, Scott's alligator hunt, and the strange world of the PTC

In the news of a Florida killer's execution postponed so Attorney General Pam Bondi could kick off her hometown fundraiser in Tampa, a detail stood out (besides the obvious).

Among assorted Republican muckety-mucks listed as hosting the event was Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Who is most definitely a Democrat. And since Bondi tends to tilt as far right as Gov. Rick Scott and the tea party types, what gives?

Buckhorn told me his philosophy: "I'm a Tampanian first, I'm a mayor second, and followed by a long way I'm a partisan Democrat. I support people who are good for my city, irrespective of their political registration."

But aren't there stark political differences between the two?

"Clearly, Pam and I differ on a lot of issues, but she's been good to Tampa while she's been (in Tallahassee). She'll continue to be good to Tampa, and I can't turn my back on people who are good for my city."

For the record, "host" Buckhorn did not attend the controversial party, having both a port authority meeting and an uptown council meeting on his schedule.

Seriously, is Carl Hiaasen, author of improbably wacky tales involving Florida characters and the outrageous things they do to make a punch line of this state, secretly writing Gov. Scott's schedule?

This week's not-making-this-up news was the hasty cancellation of a Scott fundraiser in which attendees would have paid $25,000 each for a "private gator hunt." (Scott, who is most definitely Not From Here, presumably would have had to bone up on how to say things like, "git 'er done, boys!" for his day of stalking the saw grass with his well-heeled friends.)

Oh, where to begin. How did the governor plan to pull off enough state-required permits for those donors when a capped number of permits are handed out by random drawing? And is this really the let-them-eat-cornbread message, suggesting a lack of respect for what's interesting and iconic in this state, he wants to send?

So wiser heads prevailed, and gators were safe. But seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

Could yet another controversy fuel the idea of ending Hillsborough's Public Transportation Commission — that unique and controversial board that oversees the county's taxis, limos and tow trucks?

Among the criticisms have been that the PTC serves the interests of certain companies and thwarts competition. But wait, there's more. A former county commissioner sits in federal prison for a bribery scandal when he was PTC chair. The board's six-figure executive director — a guy who wrote his own job evaluations — quit after the disclosure that he moonlighted as a security guard while payroll records indicated he was working at the PTC or on sick time.

Because there's never a dull moment, this week Commissioner Les Miller quit the PTC in apparent frustration over how Commissioner Victor Crist runs meetings. (Another frequent poke: The PTC sometimes seems remarkably rule-free.)

But if you expect Miller to get behind a push to abolish the board, no. He still believes it's why taxis and limos are well-regulated for visitors.

Though, for the record, other towns manage to carry people around without the controversy machine that is the PTC.

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