Happytown 

Gov. Rick Scott crashes a gun range, state Republicans play a game of legislative chicken and wouldn't everything be better in the NBA (or otherwise) with an electronic whip? We've got that whip appeal, baby.

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Did you hear that crash, Orlando? Rick Scott was in town again! And this time he brought his buddy, Florida’s chief financial officer, Jeff Atwater, along for the well-insured ride! The couple made a pit stop at the OPD Gun Range and Training Center on Nov. 3 to talk to their constituency about the perpetual climb of auto insurance premiums among Florida drivers. It’s too bad we can’t give you any direct information on it – we weren’t allowed in. That’s right Happytowners, Governor Scott has no idea what the word constituent really means. In fact, when asked why we were denied access after showing our memo (sent from Rick Scott’s press office, no less), they mentioned it was “select constituents only” meaning if you had a shiny badge, lots of camera equipment or a fancy lanyard you would be able to join the elected brass and a handpicked cadre of insurance fraud victims around an oak table at the gun (fun!) range.Had we managed to get inside, we might have heard our shiny-headed gubernatorial hood ornament rattle off uninformed nonsense about how personal injury protection is an “outrageous” $910 million “tax on Floridians,” and how it was, in a roundabout way, keeping people from getting jobs or staying in their houses. (One day later, Atwater released a presser proclaiming that seven fraud perpetrators – or crash fakers – were arrested in Orlando and Miami).

Instead, we were told to head across the street (and not get hit!) where folks from the group Pink Slip Rick and some of the Occupy Orlando protesters were gathered holding signs saying things like “Rick Scott is the 29 percent,” alluding to his recent approval rating and the main reason for his sudden common-people lovin’. When we asked Florida Watch Action’s Susannah Randolph her thoughts on the ordeal, she simply stated that it’s “fitting for a fraudster like Scott to give us lessons on the ins and outs of PIP fraud.”

Randolph’s sentiments were bolstered last week when a Suffolk University poll showed that 49 percent of Floridianswere on to the Republicans’ own version of a faked wreck, saying they believed that Republicans were intentionally holding back economic recovery in an attempt to direct next year’s general election. The same poll found that Scott’s performance alone was rated “negative and damaging” by 37 percent of Florida voters. There’s no personal injury protection for that, now is there?

Speaking of recurring Republican damages, there’s a palpable game of chicken in the lead-up to January’s legislative session in Tallahassee. A Nov. 2 report by the Associated Press appeared to state what none of us were expecting: “Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders appear ready to scale back the number of substantial issues they plan to tackle in 2012.” Wait, where have we heard this before? Was it last year when Republicans sheepishly trotted out intentions to go easy on social issues as a means of addressing the state’s economic woes? And how did that work out for us? Hmm, a record 18 drafted pieces of legislation limiting women’s reproductive health doesn’t sound very easy.

So, here’s the setup, according to the Associated Press. Scott says that he may not push too hard on school vouchers or revamping the state university system to create droids, because “we’ve got to do it right.” Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon asserts that he may not press for the controversial division of the Florida Supreme Court intended to allow his every egotistical whim to bypass real scrutiny and become law. And good old Florida Senate President Mike “Hairball” Haridopolos doesn’t even want anything at all this year because he got everything he wanted at last year’s conservative legislative Christmas party. Besides, everybody’s going to be too busy with their “save my job” redistricting exercise to look up and legislate, right?

Wrong. Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, called her masters’ collective bluff, pointing out that this legislative session is likely to be polluted with more of the same bible-thumping. Anti-choice bills have already been filed, and other conservative hay-makers like school prayer aren’t far behind. Even scarier, that wing-nut notion known as fetal personhood(see “Planned personhood,” Jan. 27) drew the ire of Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz last week. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Wasserman Schultz (full disclosure: our girlfriend) called the petition-driven personhood movement “the most extreme assault on a woman’s right to choose in a generation.” By the time you read this, the geniuses in Mississippi will have already cast their vote on a personhood amendment, and Florida is not far behind – Personhood Florida has collected 20,000 of the required 70,000 signatures the measure needs to get a state Supreme Court review and a place on our 2012 ballot. The main Personhood USA group made the mistake last week of admitting that the legislation would in fact ban some forms of birth control, so their whole story has been – surprise! – a sham. Which would be fine if it were left to fringes in their fallout shelters. It isn’t. Guess whose name is among the petition signatures? Mr. Satisfied, Mike Haridopolos. We are about to get screwed by a hairball.

Carrying on with balls, did you know that Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic’s most expensive toy, is actually a bargain at $16.6 million per year? Neither did we, until last week when we found ourselves on the website of the Orlando Pinstriped Post. (Perhaps it was due to our sports Spidey sense – the NBA season should have started last week, as well.) Dedicated to every conceivable aspect of the Orlando Magic – from Dwight’s new $100 “adiPower Howard” sneaker to the traitorous rookie who eloped with a French basketball team – the Post amplifies the obsession of the Orlando Sentinel without the codependent partner vibe. The Sentinel, through uncomfortable levels of attention, has put the Magic on a stratospherically high pedestal. Then, when the team fails to win a title (as do 96 percent of teams in the NBA), it starts to frantically, tearfully chop at the base of the tower. The Pinstriped Post, on the other hand, is a more sober Magic media outlet, notable for its wonkish – dare we say academic? – reports, such as an Oct. 18 post titled “With Some Exceptions, the Orlando Magic Overpaid Their Players in 2010/2011.”

Using a complex formula that calculates a player’s worth based on team wins and individual statistics – each “win share” is worth $1.47 million – Post reporter Evan Dunlap took an economic magnifying class to the Magic. After some serious math (formula No. 3: marginal offense equals points produced minus 0.92, times league points per possession, times offensive possessions, duh), he found that most Magic stars weren’t earning their keep. The worst by far was Gilbert Arenas, the gun-toting former Washington Wizards guard, whom the Magic paid $12.1 million last year for only $294,000 worth of production, an overpayment of just over 666 percent. Even heartthrob J.J. Redick wasn’t earning his keep, though he was only overpaid by $635,000, which is the measly aggregate living wage for the salaries of 32 single guys living in Orange County, but who don’t play in the NBA. Worst of all, the team’s foundation, its rock, its magnificent shoulders – “Delicious Dwight” Howard – was actually shortchanged $4.5 million last year. Is there no justice? And does no one else call him Delicious Dwight?

The Post’s analysis got us thinking: If the NBA players’ union ceases to exist and team owners seize absolute, unquestionable, withering power, players could eventually be subjected to a performance-based pay scale.The many disappointments of Gilbert Arenas could be tracked in real time by a meter looming ominously on the Jumbotron, or better yet, embedded into the cushion of his assigned bench seat.

Now that we’ve got you thinking (and drooling), team owners, you’d be wise to head to Disneyland and take a gander at the “electronic whip” for inspiration. That’s the colloquial name for a ceiling-mounted display that measures the productivity of Disney’s laundry workers, as initially reported on Oct. 19 by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez. It was while investigating a labor dispute between Disneyland and its hotel workers union when Lopez stumbled upon the whip. “[T]he monitor might show that S. Lopez is working at an efficiency rate of 37 percent of expected production,” Lopez wrote. “The screen displays the names of several coworkers at once, with ‘efficiency’ numbers in green for those near or above 100 percent of the expected pace, and red numbers for those who aren’t as fast.” Lopez writes that this system is also used in Disney’s Florida resort, though Disney World spokeswoman Marilyn Waters denies the Timesreporting, saying that Central Florida doesn’t utilize the same whip appeal. Better start cracking that whip!

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