Last week, I was surprised by fellow Republican Richard Corcoran’s remarks at a Tampa breakfast. The Florida House speaker praised top-down Tallahassee solutions and claimed state politicians are less susceptible to special interest influence than local leaders.
“To get something through in Tallahassee,” Corcoran argued, “you’ve got to get something through one chamber with 120 people, something through another chamber that has 40 people, and then you have an executive with veto power.”
Essentially, the speaker suggests Tallahassee is better because the scale of influence-peddling is greater. There are over 2,000 registered lobbyists in our state capital, many of whom draft the bills that eventually become law. While local officials also face pressure from special interests, strict sunshine laws ban the secret meetings that are so commonplace in Tallahassee.
Corcoran invoked our “founders’ belief in constitutional hierarchy” to justify the growing power of the state. However, before invoking the founders, the speaker should heed Thomas Jefferson: “Government closest to the people serves the people best.”
While Tallahassee’s halls are lined with lobbyists, most local commission meetings are attended by ordinary citizens. Ultimately, city government is “next-door government.” Unlike state politicians, local officials cannot hide from the people they represent — and that’s a good thing.
While state lawmakers are often preoccupied with the business of politics, local leaders must focus on the business of government — filling potholes, putting out fires and picking up trash. After all, law enforcement, libraries, parks or public works are not partisan issues; they’re simply jobs that need to be done.
I am from the same party as Corcoran, so my concerns with his comments are not partisan, they are practical. Florida’s 412 municipalities or its 67 counties don’t need Tallahassee’s sledgehammer solutions. In fact, when it comes to transparency, accessibility and fiscal stewardship, state lawmakers could learn from local governments rather than attacking them.
Susan Haynie is the Republican Mayor of Boca Raton and the President of the Florida League of Cities.
Read the article online here.