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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Florida didn't elect John Q. Public
By STEVE BOUSQUET
Published June 23, 2007
It's all about "the people" with Gov. Charlie Crist.
This means you.
Shortly after he took office, Crist retooled the organizational flow chart in the governor's office, featuring an easy-to-follow guide for who reports to whom.
At the very top, right above Crist's name, is a box labeled simply "people."
The chart reflects Crist's steadfast belief that he's accountable to the people of Florida.
But another message is that John Q. Public is running the governor's office, which everyone knows is not literally true.
Nor should it be.
More than 2.5-million people voted for Charlie Crist.
Nobody elected the guy down the street to anything.
He shouldn't be calling the shots.
Since Jan. 2, "the people's governor" has been advancing a "people's agenda" with the help of "the people's Legislature" and, not least of all, the people.
But which people?
The people suffering under the weight of high property taxes?
Or the people being shipped to the unemployment line so cities and counties can absorb these state-mandated tax cuts?
Is it the people who believe government is bloated? Or the people who know Florida ranks near the very bottom of states in per-pupil spending and high school dropout rates? Is it the people who want college tuition to be as cheap as possible? Or the people running our universities who say rock-bottom tuition is cheating our kids?
Simply put, is it the mob that screams the loudest?
As governor, Crist must carefully weigh competing interests, which often means pitting one group against another homeowners against business owners, and make what he believes is the best decision.
The right decision is not necessarily what most people would choose in a popularity contest. It often means one group is going to gain at the expense of another.
One of his role models is LeRoy Collins, Florida's Democratic governor from 1955 to 1961. History judges Collins as a brave, and often unpopular, voice for racial tolerance in the dark days of segregation.
By all accounts, people love Crist. But if a governor with a 73 percent job approval rating has a problem, it may be trying to maintain that number.
If Crist really wants to emulate Collins, he needs to make a lot of people angry -- for the right reasons.
Besides, the people can get it wrong sometimes, depending on your point of view.
The people put legal protection for pregnant pigs in the state Constitution.
They put a high-speed rail in there, too, and later voted to take it out.
Now the people will decide whether to give themselves a much larger homestead exemption, forcing cities, counties and schools to get by with less.
"The people deserve to get their money back," Crist said as he flew around the state, signing property tax bills Thursday. "They spend it more wisely than government does every day, and now they'll have that opportunity again."
They will have the opportunity to vote no on that larger exemption, and regardless of which way they vote, Crist will say they made the right decision.
His predecessor, Jeb Bush, never hesitated to say he was right and the people were wrong when they put smaller class sizes in the state Constitution. The polls suggest people prefer Crist's way.
"Jeb wanted to have his own parade," says Jade Moore, the Pinellas County teachers' union leader and a Crist admirer. "Charlie has the ability to see where the parade is going and jump in front of it."