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What's The Matter With Florida?

As tempting as it is to answer the title question with the words "Rick Scott", it goes back farther than Scott and paints a picture of what this country would look like if Republicans were able to win back the Presidency in 2012. Three stories

As tempting as it is to answer the title question with the words "Rick Scott", it goes back farther than Scott and paints a picture of what this country would look like if Republicans were able to win back the Presidency in 2012. Three stories today highlight Florida's decline.

Education

Florida's school voucher program was a Jeb Bush special, passed in 2006. Five years later, the Miami New Times is taking a close look at some of the "results". The goal of the voucher program was to give more "school choice" to parents of disabled children, but it appears to be a program that isn't regulated, has few standards, and lines the pockets of corrupt businessmen.

While the state played the role of the blind sugar daddy, here is what went on at South Florida Prep, according to parents, students, teachers, and public records: Two hundred students were crammed into ever-changing school locations, including a dingy strip-mall space above a liquor store and down the hall from an Asian massage parlor. Eventually, fire marshals and sheriffs condemned the "campus" as unfit for habitation, pushing the student body into transience in church foyers and public parks.

[...]

Meanwhile, Brown openly used a form of corporal punishment that has been banned in Miami-Dade and Broward schools for three decades. Four former students and the music teacher Norris recall that the principal frequently paddled students for misbehaving. In a complaint filed with the DOE in April 2009, one parent rushed to the school to stop Brown from taking a paddle to her son's behind.

"He said that maybe if we niggas would beat our kids in the first place, he wouldn't have to," the mother wrote of Brown. "He then proceeded to tell me that he is not governed by Florida school laws."

The school received over 2 million dollars between June 2006 and November 2010 that could have been spent on public schools, with no oversight. Read the entire article. It's worth the time.

This is privatization at work. Take public funds, turn them over to for-profit entities for the purpose of accomplishing a public purpose. The problem, of course, is that profit-making and the public good do not always make harmonious partners.

[h/t Liz Ditz]

Religion

What happens when freedom of religion smacks up against freedom of speech? In Florida, religion wins. EllenBeth Wachs is an avowed atheist living in Polk County. She has been harassed by the county sheriff since she dared to speak out against the donation of publicly owned basketball hoops to churches. Well, not just harassed. She's been arrested twice. But it's not just the arrests, it's the reasons for the arrests.

The Ledger.com

Wachs was last jailed in May when she was accused of simulating sex sounds from inside her home while within earshot of a neighbor's 10-year-old son. Sheriff's deputies said she made the noises in an attempt to make the boy stop playing basketball outside her house. Later that month, deputies charged her with possession of marijuana, alleging they found marijuana in a safe confiscated from her home.

Her suit claims that a search warrant served at Wachs home was too general, allowing deputies to seize items related to litigation and other materials protected by the First Amendment. It also says that a detective attended a civil hearing on an injunction Wachs' neighbors sought related to the alleged sexual sounds she had made at home. The detective immediately arranged a meeting with the family, "seizing the opportunity to continue his campaign of harassment against" Wachs, which is "misusing the state criminal law enforcement process."

Via MadFloridian, more details about that search warrant and allegation of 'making sexual noises':

EllenBeth Wachs was arrested Sunday, accused of making noises in her home that sounded as though she was having sex.

The arrest warrant says she made noise in her home on March 13 that "sounded like a woman experiencing sexual gratification in an extremely loud fashion."

So much for the Fourth Amendment in Polk County.

The judge in the case had a stern warning for Wachs:

On Friday, the judge settled on a $6,000 bond for Wachs. He also warned her not to make unusual noises around the house. She's also banned from making contact with her neighbors or minors.

So there you go. In this country, you can't make noises in your own house? At least, not 'sex noises'. Wachs has filed a lawsuit against the county, alleging they are targeting her because she is an atheist. Sheriff Judd is a Baptist who isn't shy about quoting Scripture, holding events in churches, or bragging about prisoner baptisms. It's not much of a stretch to imagine this guy arresting the town atheist in order to try and 'convert her', or barring that, just make her life hell.

The bottom line:

"While the above listed actions may seem innocent in isolation, they point to an obvious and deeply-ingrained tradition of Christianity within the agencies and officials overseen" by the sheriff, Walters writes. "The atheist, Jew, Muslim, or other non-Christian who reads Defendant Judd's newsletters receives a clear message — ‘you are not one of us.'"

Florida's Highway Patrol Nearly Disbanded

With the above two stories in mind, this one made me shake my head and wonder if it's time to give up on Florida altogether. Via the Palm Beach Post:

Florida Highway Patrol troopers came close to wearing the green uniforms of Sheriff’s deputies this past legislative session.

The jobs of more than 1,500 troopers were almost given to local sheriffs.

It would have been the biggest outsourcing in recent history and it was backed by Governor Rick Scott. It was the sheriffs, not the patrol that pushed back and said no.

“If a deal was worked out, the funding might be here one year and the funding could disappear in the next legislative session,” said Florida Sheriff's Association President Harrell Reid.

The switch could have potentially raised local property taxes, but the fight is not over.

Tucked into a Senate bill is legislation requiring a study of consolidating all law enforcement functions, everything from the FHP to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, Agricultural agents and more.

That same legislation moved Florida Department of Transpiration officers who inspect large 18-wheelers to the Florida Highway Patrol.

There's a reason for having the Highway Patrol at a state level. Highways cross county boundaries, go from one part of the state to another. Handing them over to local counties has not only the fiscal impact of putting the costs on them, it ensures chaos when it comes to law enforcement on the highways. Anyone who has ever watched a high speed chase knows it's already hard enough to coordinate local and state law enforcement when the one pursued is hopping on and off freeways, but imagine the nightmare it would become with every county having their own quirky ways of enforcing the laws, which, by the way, are state laws governing state highways.

The bottom line

Florida is an incubator for disaster. Between privatization, greed, zealotry, and ignorance, the citizens of Florida are paying taxes for very little in return. If ever there was a state that illustrated the abject failure of tea party 'liberty', it's Florida.

That's what's the matter with Florida. Oh, there's one other thing wrong with Florida. Rick Scott's cozy relationship with the Kochtopus.

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