It’s like inhaling the shock of cool, sweet air at dawn in a blossoming orange grove. Or the nose-clearing smell of pine in the cool breeze of the Rockies.
It lifts your spirits.
That’s the way it feels watching and listening to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. She’s fresh, crisp, energetic and upbeat. A determined woman on a mission at 100 mph. She’s unruffled by the enormity of what she faces (on behalf of Floridians) and optimistic that good will win over evil in this sprawling, complicated cauldron known as Florida.
Pill mills, K2, Vanilla Sky, addicted babies, time-share fraud, human trafficking, BP oil settlements, mortgage settlements and, oh yeah, fighting Obamacare before the U.S. Supreme Court. All in a day’s work.
Longboat Key’s adopted daughter (she spent the summers of her youth here and her parents, Joe and Patsy, live here part-time), Bondi dazzled Longboat Key and Sarasota Republicans last Friday speaking at the Sarasota Yacht Club. Afterward, mobbed by admirers wanting photographs, she took on rock-star status.
For the first time in a decade, Florida has an attorney general who is more interested in doing the job than looking ahead to the next higher political opportunity. Indeed, Bondi, at 46 and in her first elected position, still projects a refreshing persona that hasn’t been sucked into the vortex of Tallahassee’s political jockeying. And Florida voters — if Longboat and Sarasota Republicans are an indication — get excited about seeing a public official who doesn’t just serve up mind-numbing political platitudes.
They liked it when she unequivocally proclaimed: “The federal takeover of healthcare is unconstitutional!”
Bondi told her audience that shortly after her election — an amazing feat, by the way, to be elected statewide in your first race — she worried about whether she actually could make a difference. As a prosecutor in Tampa, she said, “You knew you made a difference every day.” But as the attorney general in a Capitol teeming with bureaucrats, lawmakers and politics, in a state with a melting pot of 18 million people and a gazillion issues facing public officials in every corner of the state, she said she stopped at one point and seriously asked herself: “Can you make a difference?”
“There are 100 things I want to do a day,” she said. “That’s what has been so frustrating for me. You have to learn to prioritize.”
So far, she has prioritized well. Kudos to Bondi, her staff, Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s law-enforcement officials for attacking the pill-mill epidemic in Florida like Marines on a beach assault.
When Bondi and Scott took office, Florida was Ground Zero for having the most and worst doctors in the United States, issuing prescriptions to just about anyone who wanted oxycodone and all of its nasty narcotic relatives. When she took office, Florida had 98 of the 100 worst pill dispensers in the United States. Today, thanks to Bondi’s assault, that number is down to 13.
She talked of walking into a dingy doctor’s office where bottles upon bottles and rows upon rows of oxycodone and other narcotics lined the office walls. Out back, behind the office, Bondi took her camera and photographed the doctor’s new Ferrari. She’s not an ivory-tower office rat. Her feet are on the street — and not just for publicity pics.
Bondi will be in the glare of the national media next week, when she is among the attorneys general leading the fight against Obamacare before the Supreme Court. No doubt, she’ll be anxious. But having faced down killers as a prosecutor in Tampa and stormed Florida as attorney general, Bondi appears ready for any challenge placed before her.
Nonetheless, everyone can use support. As Longboat Key’s adopted favorite daughter prepares for her biggest trial yet, consider sending her a note of encouragement:
Attorney General Pam Bondi
State of Florida
The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
Or: 850-414-330. E-mail: Go to myfloridalegal.com/contact.
+ $7 million for new center?
You really have to wonder. Last week we reported in our news columns consultants presented preliminary estimates of $6.9 million to construct a new community center and park at Bayfront Park.
In 2004, Longboat voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea of a new community center estimated at $6 million.
And then there’s the “from where the money will come.” Interim Longboat Key Town Manager David Bullock suggested a stew of possible sources — $1.5 million from a land-acquisition fund; $3 million from the infrastructure surtax over 15 years, or (a piddling) $200,000 a year; maybe reallocating $1 million slated for street improvements; applying for tax money from other governments; and maybe $3 million that might be extorted from the Longboat Key Club and Resort as part of approving its expansion plan.
Oh, annual operating costs for this center were estimated at $350,000 to $400,000.
While a new community center is alluring, it is increasingly difficult to see how $7 million to build and $350,000 a year can be justified. Here’s some perspective to keep in mind: The town paid $584,000 for the new public tennis center building. Perhaps there’s an altogether different vision for what Bayfront Park should be. Any ideas?