Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jan. 4: Letter From a Lifelong Florida, Inc. Stockholder

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Dear CEO Scott:

Yes, I know; officially, the title should be "Governor." But I'm writing this letter in the language you seem to know best: business-speak.

You seem to regard the state you're overseeing as a business - Florida, Inc. I'm a lifelong investor and stockholder - in layman's terms, a native Floridian.

I have a bit of knowledge, then, about Florida, Inc. Given that you've been here just a tad longer than the minimum requirement you needed to meet to run for governor - sorry, CEO - some historical data might be useful.

The first people to do business here came long before the state - sorry, company - ever got its name from Juan Ponce de Leon. They were Native Americans who learned to trade what they had with each other - animals, birds, fish, plants, shells and stones for food, clothing, medicine, tools, jewels and other basics of life. They included the Tequesta, Calusa, Timucua and many more.

They've been followed by the Spanish (twice), French, British and Americans (and for Key West, the Conch Republic, but that's another story). Florida was one of the 11 states that temporarily became part of the Confederacy during the Civil War, but, as usual, more people were coming here to escape than to fight.

Fortunately, we've had quite a few people who came here not to escape, but to serve the state's citizens. In your language, they were good administrators. In my language, they were and are the ultimate public servants, who put Florida's interests above their own, even when it came to working with the opposition. People like Claude Pepper, who served in both houses of Congress. And Bob Milligan, the state's commerce secretary for a number of years.

Some of them served in your job: Reubin Askew, who opened the government doors and records to the public in an unprecedented manner; Bob Graham, who improved education and cleaned up the Everglades; Lawton Chiles, who put the needs of Florida's most vulnerable residents first; Jeb Bush, who did a top-notch job of managing the state through eight hurricanes in two years.

And LeRoy Collins, known as the greatest of them all. After being elected as a segregationist, while his fellow Southern governors were still barring the way for blacks, Collins called segregation "morally wrong."

He sacrificed his political career, but gained a lot more. All because he saw human beings being treated badly.

Mr. Scott, we Floridians - all 18 million-plus - are also human beings, whether we've lived here all our lives or arrived yesterday. We all have equal voices, whether we voted for you or not.

And you are going to hear them, whether you like it or not.

Listen to those opposing voices instead of calling them "special interests." They are not. They are your constituents.

Feel free to change your views once in a while. For you to be successful as this state's governor (or even CEO), that's important. For Florida's future, it's imperative.


A Lifelong Investor In Florida

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