[UPDATE] Black Caucus Not Hopeful After Meeting with Scott

By: Keith Laing, The News Service of Florida
By: Keith Laing, The News Service of Florida

[UPDATE] 2-17 Noon

Members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus chided Gov. Rick Scott again on Wednesday for failing to hire black administrators and not providing dollars for most historically black colleges. Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, said Scott has hired only two black division directors for his administration. No blacks have been included in the ranks of agency heads or other high-level staff brought on by the governor in his first six weeks in office, Siplin said. “This is not something that we are proud of, nor reflects the composition of this state,” Siplin said. The 24-member caucus said it has established an e-mail address to solicit resumes of black candidates seeking posts within the administration, along with contact information for individuals and minority companies interested in seeking state contracts. The address: IMQualified@live.com. Siplin said unemployment within the minority community is far outstripping the state’s 12 percent level, and that Scott should display sensitivity to jobless Floridians even as he is seeking to overhaul Medicaid, state pensions, and other programs. While caucus members praised Scott for selecting Jennifer Carroll as the state’s first black lieutenant governor, Siplin said the governor had “catching up to do.” “He’s behind, way behind” in minority hiring, Siplin said. Scott also has drawn criticism for recommending elimination of traditional state funding for private colleges and universities. Struggling historically black schools such as Bethune-Cookman University and Florida Memorial College were zeroed out of Scott’s spending plan, although one institution – Edward Waters College – would draw $1.8 million. The Jacksonville college is near the legislative district formerly represented by Carroll, although caucus members said the lieutenant governor had lobbied for full-funding of black colleges. Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said, “The governor will hire the best qualified applicants, period.”

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Tallahassee, FL - Despite a cordial meeting with Gov. Rick Scott at the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee, members of the legislative black caucus said Tuesday they were not optimistic they would be able to find much common ground with the new governor they all campaigned against.

And that’s despite him having a former member of their group as his lieutenant governor.

“The governor is real set in his ways. He has a very, very pro-corporate conservative view of how life should be and he’s very entrenched,” Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, told the News Service of Florida as he walked out of the Mansion. “We talked about appointments, education spending, health care, all the major issues and his response was always ‘I was raised this way and this is what I believe and how I’m going to be governor.’”

“Our job over the next four year is to educate him that everybody is not the same in Florida and not everyone has the same opportunities,” Smith said.

Asked if the presence of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Florida’s first black second-in-command, helped any, Smith said only “I pray that it helps to have her in there.”

Those seemed to be the sentiments of many of the 20-plus members of the Florida Conference of Black State Lawmakers as they left an hour-long lunch with Scott Tuesday. Days before Scott and Carroll’s inauguration, members of the mostly-Democratic black caucus attended a reception at the state’s largest historically black university to honor Carroll's election.

Tuesday, they were saying that even with Carroll on Scott’s team, the governor didn’t appear eager to take up their concerns.

“Nothing new,” said state Rep. Oscar Braynon, who is running for a vacant state Senate seat, when asked what he heard from the governor Tuesday. “He told us what he believed; we told him what we believed. We told him about our concerns with the budget, he continued to say what I call the company line ‘that we don’t have unlimited resources.’”

Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, said the caucus members and the governor had a “spirited conversation” Tuesday, but he did not expect it to foster better relations. However, the presence of Carroll, who had been the lone Republican black lawmaker, could still be an ice breaker, he said.

“Jennifer Carroll will know a lot of our issues,” Braynon said. “It’s early to tell what that will manifest into, but a big issue we had was with the (proposed) elimination of the Office of Supplier Diversity. With Jennifer in the room, he told us that the plan was to roll that over into another agency. That may not have had happened had she not been there.”

The chairman of the Conference of Black State Lawmakers, Sen. Gary Siplin, said Scott told members he had not named any black state agency heads in part because received any suggestions on qualified people for those jobs, or for that matter for state contractors.

So the caucus is going to give him some.

“It was a beginning, our first opportunity to meet with a governor who has very little experience in public office,” Siplin, D-Orlando, said of the meeting. “He did offer to allow us to make recommendations on secretaries and other boards and black businesses to compete for some of these suspended contracts, so we’re going to hold a press conference (Wednesday) at noon in front of his office.”

The black lawmakers plan to announce a recruiting effort – seeking to get some suggestions for possible agency heads from the minority community.

The caucus will also press Scott to restore funding for the state’s historically black colleges, Siplin said. The only one included in Scott’s $65.9 billion plan was Edward Waters College, which is located near Carroll’s old House district. Otherwise, Scott’s budget request eliminates funding for most private universities, including HBCUs, and reduces spending on most public schools, too.

Siplin added that he would press for job creation efforts targeted at black residents because “when the economy is down for Florida in general, it’s even more down for us.”

He credited Carroll with coordinating Tuesday’s meeting between the black caucus and Scott and said she planned to meet with the lawmakers to discuss their budget concerns next week.

“It’s very important,” to have Carroll in the Scott administration, Siplin said. “She’s very sensitive to our needs.”

He added that he is less pessimistic than some of his colleagues appeared about Scott, at least when it came to increasing the amount of diversity in his hires.

“I’m hoping he’ll follow in the example of Bush, Crist and even the Senate president, who appointed me as a black (committee) chairman and (that Scott will) step in line,” said Siplin, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, one of only two posts to go to Democrats in the overwhelmingly Republican chamber. “I’m looking forward to submitting the names.”

A spokesman for Scott said the governor was looking forward to hearing from the caucus, though no promises were made on anything they discussed Tuesday.

“The governor enjoyed the meeting and appreciated the open dialogue,” said Scott spokesman Brian Burgess. “Both he and the members of the caucus share the same goal to turn Florida’s economy around and create jobs.”


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  • by RetiredMarine Location: Tallahassee on Feb 17, 2011 at 05:20 PM
    Some of you miss the boat. The " Black Caucus " isn't about whats right, or equality, they are about black preference and preferential treatment. We reached the point of equality years ago, now we have surpassed it. We, today, are at the point of reverse discrimination. All employment should be based on ability, performance and education. If someones more qualified why should race come into question? I don't know about everyone else but I'm tired of paying the price for slavery and the Jim Crow era. There are two generations of minority Americans that have had more opportunities available than their majority peers, look at what a large percentage have done with that opportunity.Nothing. It's time to level the playing field, Scott needs to keep his decisions gray when it comes to his policies and no concessions should be made in favor of race, one way or another and no current policies that do so should remain in effect....
  • by airborne on Feb 17, 2011 at 04:44 PM
    Anon-The University of Florida/Shands discriminated against them by giving them a job. My response, they don't have to work there.
  • by Robert Location: Hamilton on Feb 17, 2011 at 02:21 PM
    It's about time we all start behaving like Floridians and Americans rather than hyphenated 2nd class citizens and looking for handouts for our interest groups.
  • by Jacki Location: Tallahassee on Feb 17, 2011 at 12:41 PM
    Reading some of these comments ashames me. We have a governor that is not concerned with diversity and it seems many of you are not as well. Our state is not made up on one type of people and our government should not be either. Our leaders should not be homogenous. Gov. Scott prides himself on being an outsider and that the private sector does everything better and more efficient. Every major company has a diversity program and makes great strides to have a diverse workforce. Is that one of the ways companies remain competitive and cutting edge? We are so stuck on "stereotypes" that we can't move on. Our state should be more efficient, but if we have the same types of people with their same upbringing, we will have more of the same. We need diversity and shame on Gov. Scott for not realizing it and shame on all of you for taking us back 50 years.
  • by yep Location: tally on Feb 17, 2011 at 11:16 AM
    Go job on tightening the rope, Gov. Scott!!
  • by Serena Location: Tallahassee on Feb 17, 2011 at 06:08 AM
    Welcome to 2011 folks. And way to go, Gov. Scott. Everyone has equal opportunities in this country, but you have to finish school, not have 3 illegitimate children by the time you're 20, obey the laws, and be willing to work. Pretty simple really. There's dead wood in any organization, and Scott is just trying to get rid of some - that's a good thing. So, be a good worker, and you don't have to worry about losing your job.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 17, 2011 at 05:41 AM
    Reality check. It is not that easy for African Americans here in the Jim Crow south. At times I have found myself being discriminated against within the work place because of my race. I don’t however, feel the need for retaliation or feel that I am owed any retribution or special accommodation because of it. There are other companies out there that will recognize my talents and will employ me if I make the effort. I recognize the fact that I have to make the effort. Nothing is for free and jobs don’t fall into your lap. Neither does money. What I absolutely refuse to do is shuck and jive while being held under wage slavery.
  • by tom Location: madison on Feb 17, 2011 at 03:56 AM
    Do what is best for all Floridians and BLACKS AND WHITES benefit alike. Do what is best for one race only and Florida suffers........
  • by Anon on Feb 17, 2011 at 12:01 AM
    Was a Shands hospital in Gainesville (state funded) recently and other than the doctors, ninety percent of the staffers were black. That, my friends is racist.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 16, 2011 at 06:05 PM
    Other Truths Location: Tallahassee, Florida on Feb 16, 2011 at 04:52 PM, The U.S. is not a democracy. We are a representative republic.
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