A white Cadillac limo, flags waving on front fenders, crawls across Captiva Bay. Journalists notice something different about the flags. One represents the state of Florida, the other Colonel Sanders Fried Chicken. The limo pulls over, a reporter runs to the back window, down it goes. The governor flashes that toxic political smile of some Southern politicians and offers a Rolexed handshake, saying, “Bet you want to know about the Colonel Sanders flag?”

“It’s like this,” he says. “We’re strapped for money. I had an epiphany. If it’s good enough for professional sports it’s good enough for Florida. I went after sponsors; they flooded in. The Colonel paid top dollar so he gets to sponsor the governor’s office. We have sponsors now for every department, road, and piece of equipment the state owns; soon we’ll get sponsors for the state bird, flower, and so forth. It’s bringing in more money than tourism.” It’s like naming a college building after a big benefactor.

Writer Carl Hiaasen’s satire (paraphrased above) of what Florida politicians were capable of in the ‘80s is like good music, it’s as relevant today as then.

Given the financial crisis facing our cities, states, and nation, Hiaasen—er, the governor—might be on to something. Our police department, brought to you by Smith and Wesson. The public library? Courtesy of Borders. And Ace’s Fire Alarms proudly presents the best firefighters in the USA!

It’s foolish to give up books, parks, and infrastructure improvements because everyone is rowing in the right direction but a few. As it is, those few, e.g. the police departments, rather than saving taxpayer money, are costing them, insisting on a mediation process (which won’t be free) when they are asked to give a bit for the public good like others do.

They can’t count on the same old revenue streams to cover costs year after year. Fines for moving violations, parking violations, or loud music can only be raised so much before people are tapped out. Choosing between paying rent or an exorbitant fine is unfair.

So get ready to plaster logos on your cars, cycles, and uniforms. Not too classy, but hey!

Seriously, our police and firefighters are the very best. But these are hard times, and they need to make a few meaningful sacrifices in overtime, pensions, and other benefits. In addition, rather than overburden the old revenue streams, our city and county needs to find new ones, or try some money-saving innovations. Put the parents of these spray-can Picassos to work doing something they never want to do again; they’d convince the kids to stop.

And, prohibit police and firefighter lobbyists from practically controlling candidates so they are free to do the job—so they can say no to outrageous demands and not worry about future endorsements. — Bill Garlock


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