Gov. Rick Scott HAS BEEN missing in action. While the governor spent five days in New York and bounced around the Florida Panhandle and Tampa Bay boasting about bringing new private sector jobs into the state, firestorms were breaking out all over state government. Yet the governor appeared unengaged, uninformed or uninterested in explaining the actions of his administration. Floridians deserve better. Consider the latest developments:
• Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was appointed by Scott, inexplicably denied University of South Florida researchers permission to exhume bodies at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. Detzner claimed he does not have the authority to grant permission, but his double-speak did not make sense. It's unclear how many boys are buried at the now-closed school, and this smacks of avoiding a hot issue. The governor remained silent and absent.
• House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz unexpectedly called on Florida to back out of a national consortium developing the exams to test for the new Common Core Standards. They want Florida to develop its own assessments for students, even though Floridians have lost confidence in the FCAT tests and the school grading system.
Just two months ago, state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett — who was handpicked by Scott and is the state's fourth leader of public schools and colleges since Scott took office -— told the Board of Education that Florida continues to support the consortium as he reviewed the situation.
Weatherford told the Times editorial board last week he still supports the Common Core Standards, which are under attack by conservatives nationwide as too much interference from Washington. But the idea behind Common Core and agreed upon exams is to be able to better compare student performance nationally. Scott would have to agree that Florida should leave the consortium developing the exams, but he remained silent.
• Secretary of the department of Children and Families David Wilkins abruptly resigned late Thursday amid controversy over the deaths of four young children and battles with private agencies that provide foster care and adoption services.
Wilkins was the governor's longest-serving agency head and among his most competent. Whether he was pushed by Scott or left in frustration, whether his departure was triggered by the deaths of the kids or the turf fights with nonprofits, is unclear. Scott said little beyond calling Wilkins "a big loss.''
• After traveling and staying out of public view in the capital for nine days, Scott suddenly showed up Thursday night to spend a half-hour with some of the young protesters outside his office. Even amid the national controversy over the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict and the "stand your ground law,'' Scott still embraced the law and dismissed the protesters' valid concerns.
Scott has focused on creating more jobs, and the governor has a role in cultivating the state's economy. But the governor is more than a traveling salesman. The governor also has to effectively lead state government, offer a clear mission and explain his administration's policy positions to voters.
At the moment, Scott is failing on all of those counts. Florida needs a hands-on chief executive, not one who is more comfortable flying around in his private jet to take credit for every new job and stage more fake bill signings for legislation that he signed into law weeks ago.