The Village Square » Florida 2013-12-04 09:36:56

FCRC logos 2Join the FSU FCRC Consensus Center on Thursday December 5th from 3 to 4:30 pm (Sittig Hall, Kleman Plaza, 301 S. Bronough Street) for a free forum that is open to the public on collaboration, civility and leadership. The program will be led by Richard Walker, Senior Vice President/Regional Outreach, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and and Todd Greene, Community and Economic Development, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Chairman Bernanke recently observed, “Industry mix, demographic makeup, and geographic location make less difference to success than the presence of a community leader and collaboration around a vision for the future.” Walker and Greene will share their insights on collaborative leadership from the Bank’s research and the “Working Cities Challenge” initiative in Massachusetts with an audience of scholars, students and professionals in Tallahassee. The event is part of the FSU FCRC Consensus Center’s initiative “Collaborative Leadership and Florida’s Civic Future” being developed with the FSU Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, Florida League of Cities, Florida Association of Counties, Leadership Florida, AARP Florida and the Village Square. For more info CLICK HERE (and page down for an RSVP link or CLICK HERE.)

St. Pete Village Square on December 5th!

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 4.25.53 PMIf by chance you’ll be in the Tampa/St. Pete area December 5th, the Village Square St. Pete is hosting a program you shouldn’t miss, “Oh Florida, Capital of Weirdness… “From Elian Gonzalex and Ballot-Chasing Lawyers to Ponzi Schemers, Face-Eating Cannibals and Child-Eating Pythons.” It features Dr. Gary Mormino, Professor Emeritus of Florida History at USFSP. Yep that’s our state. While you’re at it, why not visit the St. Pete Village Square website at online here.

Click this link to register.

“Caucus” this Sunday @ Challenger Center; humanizing rather than demonizing?

This coming Sunday, Tallahassee Film Festival is bringing Caucus to Tallahassee, 3:30 pm at the Challenger Center. Jump below the trailer for all the details.

Caucus – A New Film by AJ Schnack from AJ Schnack on Vimeo.

When: November 3, 2013 at 3:30 PM
Where: Challenger Learning Center IMAX, 200 S Duval St
Tickets are available online or at the show:
$10 – General admission
$8 – Students/seniors/active military (w/ valid ID)
$7 – TFF Members

Jeb on Hillary. Two old families feeling a little new right about now?

Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush shared a stage in September. Jeb Bush awarded Clinton the 2013 Liberty Metal (awarded by the National Constitution Center, which Bush chairs) at the event, honoring her commitment to civic engagement, particularly with women and girls. Apparently he took some grief for it, mortal enemies (rather than civic partners) that we’ve become. Here’s his comment at the time:

“While Secretary Clinton and I disagree on many issues, we certainly agree on the importance of civic engagement.”

This week former Governor Bush was interviewed by ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl about the experience:

Jonathan Karl: “What was that conversation like?”

Jeb Bush: “It was very friendly. Treating people fairly and with civility is not a bad thing. It would be good for our country if political leaders actually took that to heart.”

Starting today, keep an eye on the sky (the Air Force won’t be…)

Sequestration Asteroid

From Fox News:

“The Air Force says it can no longer afford to scan the sky for extraterrestrial threats that could doom the planet, all because of the sequester cuts Washington forced on itself when it failed to rein in the exploding national deficit. Called the Air Force Space Surveillance System, it’s “critical” to defense, the Air Force has said. By October 1, they’ll have to pull the plug.”

Apparently the extraterrestrial threats include about 1,000 asteroids large enough to “potentially unleash global catastrophic devastation to the planet upon impact.”

Kind of a big deal, yes? From this bit of asteroid news you probably shouldn’t expect much of a reaction from our elected officials. Last spring, when one asteroid actually did hit earth and one closely missed us on the same day, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) asked NASA chief Charles Bolden what NASA would do if a large asteroid was expected to collide with earth in three weeks.

“The answer to you is, ‘if it’s coming in three weeks, pray.’ The reason I can’t do anything in the next three weeks is because for decades we have put it off.”

So break out the space suits, America, and give Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck a heads up. Looks like we’re on our own again.

From Twain’s “The Gilded Age”

Join us for a discussion of rising economic inequality in our Dinner at the Square season kickoff “American Dream Lost?” Tuesday, October 15th. Get more information HERE.

“In America nearly every man has his dream – his pet scheme – whereby he is to advance himself socially or pecuniarily. It is this all-pervading speculativeness which we tried to illustrate in “The Gilded Age.” It is a characteristic which is both bad and good for both the individual and the nation. Good, because it allows neither to stand still but drives both forever on to some point which is ahead, not behind nor to one side. Bad, because the chosen point is often badly chosen and then the individual is wrecked. The aggregation of such cases affects the nation and thus is bad for the nation. Still, it is a trait which is – of course – better for a people to have and sometimes suffer from than to be without.”

Florence Snyder: Dexter Douglass

Dexter-DouglassWith the passing of Dexter Douglass, Florida has lost a lawyer who made friends out of clients, and left them in better condition than he found them.

Douglass hung out his shingle in an era when lawyers aspired to be the first person in town that everyone looked to as a wise counselor and community problem-solver. He held to that standard, even as the practice of law changed.

Douglass was a high priced gladiator in high stakes, high profile litigation and a master storyteller who could have made a lot of money without working hard as a cable news “legal analyst.”

Instead, and to the end of his life, he preferred helping real people with real problems, whether or not they could afford to pay.

Journalists old enough to remember a world in which professionals and public officials could think and speak for themselves appreciated Douglass’ accessibility, his love of language, and his ability to take his work a great deal more seriously than he took himself.

Reporters who know the difference between real and fake friends of the 1st amendment paid their respects in print and in person at his funeral Saturday at Tallahassee’s Faith Presbyterian Church.

“Sometimes he didn’t like what we wrote about him or his governor”[Lawton Chiles, in whose administration Douglass served as general counsel]legend in her own right Lucy Morgan told the Miami Herald. “Several times he and I had shouting matches over the phone,” said Morgan, who headed the St. Petersburg Times Tallahassee Bureau in years when Douglass was regularly making big news “but the next time I’d see him it was as though we had never argued.”

William Jablon, a 45 year friend, underscored the point in his eulogy.

“Dexter served as my mentor and lawyer for 35 years when I became headmaster of Maclay School,” Jablon said. “He always told me do the right thing….. He also told me that in speaking with the press tell them the truth; it always confuses them.”

Douglass took joy from the practice of law because he kept things simple. Get up in the morning. Don’t do anything stupid all day long. Don’t let your clients do anything stupid, either.

In 58 years as a working lawyer, Douglass had only two kinds of clients: those who took his advice and were glad they did, and those, like recount loser Al Gore, who listened to some other lawyer and wished they hadn’t.


Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at

Join the Asteroids Club: Possibly too true to be funny

asteroids social media cartoon

Cartoon courtesy of

Learn about our Asteroids Club season online HERE.

Florence Snyder: The Fourth Estate in the Sunshine State

Context Florida Publisher Peter Schorsch got it wrong dead wrong when he suggested in his September 5 Saintpetersblog post that reporter envy might taint coverage of the Chris Clark imbroglio.

Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Klas broke the story that Floridas power elite has spent the week chewing over, praying over, and kvetching over.

Klas reported that Clark makes megabucks as a political consultant, servicing clients he also deals with in his $150,000 day job as Senate President Don Gaetz chief of staff.

That was news to the 99%, most of whom think that $150,000 is real money, and more than enough to purchase all of a legislative staffers time and loyalty to the public that picks up the tab.

In 21st century Florida, everythings legal and theres no such thing as a conflict of interest. Taxpayers, and even the press, have become desensitized to public servants who hang out their influence-peddling shingles at 5 oclock on the day they cash their last government paycheck.

But Clarks real-time revolving door is something new.

Schorsch, himself a political consultant, is open-minded about Clarks hybrid job and rightly suggests that if this is the new normal, some public dialogue is in order.

As we continue to discuss this story, a better sense of proportion is needed,” Schorsch wrote.

Nobody could argue against proportion, but Schorsch goes a phrase too far when he posits that proportion may not come from envious reporters making little more than Highway Patrolmen.

Schorsch was blogging from a family vacation and may not have intended the juxtaposition of Klas and the Green Eyed Monster.

But plenty of Tallahassees movers, shakers, and legends in their own minds do confuse real reporters like Klas with the burgeoning population of reporters turned media lobbyists.

Lobbying the press is big business, and an out-of-control cancer on the body politic. As the News Service of Floridas Dara Kam showed in a groundbreaking story this week, professional press wranglers have been redefined as an expected expenditure for anyone who wants anything from government.

“Conduits to the media”, Kam reports, have become a routine cost of doing business, and the special interests will pay through the nose for ex-reporters willing to call themselves story brokers and peddle someone’s party line to their old colleagues.

Klas is lucky, and so are we, that whats left of the Miami Herald will pay her a wage she can live on to find out things that Senate Presidents and their retinues dont want you to know.

Klas could have cashed in her credibility for a Chris Clark size income in media lobbying years ago..if she were the envious type.


Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at

Get Local Tallahassee: Deadline to apply to be a KCCI Catalyst is Friday

Learn about it online at

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 4.24.13 PM

We are big fans of KCCI. It’s an incredible opportunity afforded our community by the Knight Foundation that other communities simply don’t have. If you get chosen to be a catalyst, you join a cool group of local people to imagine and complete a project to make Tallahassee an even better place to live. Every year The Village Square’s OUR TOWN series features the cool work of KCCI catalyst projects in our Fast Forward Tallahassee program.

Surely, you want that to be you? Deadline to apply is Friday. Tick tock.

Florence Snyder: Three times the public records fun in the Sunshine State

open_governmentFans of Florida’s public records law have a trifecta of stories to chew on this week.

The first involves the tragic death of University of Central Florida (UCF) football player Ereck Plancher, who collapsed and died on the practice field in 2008.

A jury awarded Plancher’s family $10 million, but the verdict was overturned by the 5th District Court of Appeal because Florida’s “sovereign immunity” laws place a $200,000 cap on damages against the state.

The family contended that the defendant UCF Athletics Association, Inc., a “direct support organization” (DSO) that runs the UCF football program, was a private corporation that could not claim the benefit of the $200,000 cap.

Nonsense. As the Court said, the Association is “wholly controlled by and intertwined with UCF, in that UCF created it, funded it and can dissolve it, in addition to oversee its day-to-day operations as much or as little as it sees fit.”

DSOs have proliferated like kudzu at state universities. They collect and spend billions of dollars which are effectively controlled by the university presidents. The Pancher case reminds us that DSO records are a treasure trove of information that the public has a right to request and a need to read.

Over on the Right Coast, the public relations geniuses at Broward Healthcare tried to spike a story about the salaries and benefits of top administrators by demanding $421 to produce public payroll records to reporters for the non-profit website Broward Bulldog.

Bulldog barked back with a crowd funding campaign. The embarrassed hospital district promptly rolled over and coughed up the records.

The Department of Corrections (DOC) has a higher threshold of shame, so the ACLU of Florida has gone to court to test the bona fides of the agency’s claim that it can’t possibly figure out the cell and bunk assignments at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution.

The News Service Florida extracted this instant classic explanation from DOC flack Misty Cash: “We have a fabulous IT team and they do everything and anything possible to supply records and things that they can,” Cash said. “However, we have a very antiquated system and often times it’s not easy to use that system and find what is there.”

“The DOC has a constitutional and statutory duty to provide access to its public records,” First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen told The News Service. “The fact that they have stored these records in a manner that makes them irretrievable is their problem.”

Indeed it is.

And it’s everybody’s problem that DOC—even with the help of a taxpayer-funded “Bed Space Management System” —won’t admit to knowing where the prisoners are bedding down.


Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at (Photo credit)

Florence Snyder: Surely it was inevitable that the boomers would create TGIO (thankfully, in Tallahassee)

There’s not much to smile about in this Summer of Tsuris. Governor Rick Scott has fled the jurisdiction as Dream Defenders occupy the Capitol. Deck chairs are being shuffled at the Department of Children & Families. The Agency for Health Care Administration is using the children it warehouses in geriatric nursing homes as an excuse to bash Obamacare. Obscene “compensation” pours into the pockets of shameless officers and directors at Florida Blue.

So it was a welcome and altogether unexpected surprise this weekend to see hundreds of old folks dancing down Broadsway at Florida State University’s Opperman Music Hall.

That’s not a typo. “Broadsway” Productions is the second act of self-described recovering lawyer Elise Judelle and Peggy Brady, who recently retired after a 21-year run as Executive Director of the local Council on Culture and Arts.

Judelle and Brady are in show business full time now, and this weekend was the world premiere of a cabaret they call TGIO (Thank God I’m Old). For two solid hours, Broadsway’s troupe of singer-actors took an unsparing musical look at all manner of unfinished business people contend with in the 4th quarter of their lives. The characters portrayed come from the songbooks of pop, rock, and country, as well as the Great White Way, and the stakes are high, because time on the clock is running low.

The Judelle-Brady spirit of “hey kids, let’s put on a show!” made for a great performance, but even more interesting was the audience.

The 442 seat venue was close to full of local retirees. Some of the faces were recognizable, but most were unsung heroes of generations of state workers, educators and journalists who served Florida in the decades before it was the world’s leading exporter of late night comedy.

The token young person in the room was cast member Kelly Staver Elliott, who sang the role of a beloved granddaughter in a reimagined version of “For Good,” a signature song from Stephen Schwartz’s “Wicked.” More often, Elliott was camping it up as a sweet young thing who catches the eyes of over-the-hill men armed with high hopes and a few hits of Viagra.

Audience emotions were toyed with in ways not generally associated with attorneys like Judelle, who spent much of her career doing the mind-numbing work of a bond lawyer at Bryant Miller Olive, the firm founded by the late Gov. Farris Bryant.

Show-goers toggled between uproarious laughter and barely-muffled sobs. There was a relaxed camaraderie in the audience that one used to see in the halls of power back when public service was an end in itself, and not a pit stop on the path to a lucrative life of influence peddling and no-bid contracts.

At intermission, people who used to be bold-faced names worked the room. They recognized people who, long ago, did real work competently at metal desks far removed from the corner offices of agency heads and managing partners. Unlike today’s “executive leadership teams” who always have their eyes on the name tags, looking for someone more important to talk to, they greeted old subordinates as equals, and asked after their children.

Judelle and Brady’s Glee for Geezers seems destined for future performance on the road and on the Internet. But on opening night, it felt like it was the audience that should be taking the bow.


Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at

Immigration: It’s Not Going Away

Immigration Reform is the next issue that Village Square will take up. The date is Sept. 19, from 6-8:15 p.m. at the Conference Center of the Seminole campus. When we identified this as a priority for Village Square earlier in the summer, we were concerned that events might overtake us that Congress might have had the debate, taken a vote, and disposed of this controversy for the foreseeable future. That looked more likely when the Senate passed the comprehensive immigration reform bill on June 27 by a 68-32 vote.

Not likely. The House appears to be in no hurry to take up the Senate bill. On July 10 House Republicans overwhelmingly decided not to consider the 844-page bill. So we arent worried about this issue becoming somewhat moot by early Fall. Indeed, with the House leadership apparently dug in against the bipartisan Senate measure, immigration is likely to be with us as a heated debate for a long time.

House opposition appears to be related to mistrust of the White House. The Obama administration cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises to secure the border and enforce laws as part of a single, massive bill like the one passed by the Senate, the New York Times reported, quoting a statement issued after the meeting. ( House leaders prefer to deal with immigration by a piecemeal process, considering several individual bills rather than the comprehensive package approved by the Senate. Among the first concerns of House members is border security and enforcement, followed by full compliance with the E-Verify system of electronic verification by employers of workers legal status. A path to citizenship for the 11 million-plus undocumented workers now in the U.S. would be far down the GOP list of immigration priorities.

Their position was announced on the same day that former President George W. Bush, a Republican, spoke publicly in favor of immigration reform. Saying The laws governing the immigration system arent working; the system is broken, President Bush expressed hope for a positive resolution to the debate, and urged that during the debate, we keep a benevolent spirit in mind, and we understand the contributions immigrants make to our country. (

Watch this space for more details on our September forum, coming soon.

David Klement, Executive Director

Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions

St. Petersburg College