The Last Governor

Back in January 2003, Jeb Bush dreamed of emptying out goverment buildings in Tallahassee. This commemorative scrapbook includes the greatest hits from the ensuing four-year parade of privatization.

Bush calls for more faith, less government

January 10, 2003

TALLAHASSEE -- Standing on the steps of Florida's old capitol, Jeb Bush was sworn in today to his second term as governor and promised to continue shrinking the role of state government through privatization.

"In the past, our response has been to raise more taxes, grow more government, and embrace the thin fiction that if only we can hire one more social worker or complete one more form, then we can somehow reverse corrosive trends and salvage these lives," Bush said during his inaugural address, referring to the 50,000 children in the custody of the state. "[W]hen we accept personal responsibility for ourselves and those we love, we don't have to invent government programs that apply complex rules to matters better addressed by profound human caring."

Bush surveyed the skyline surrounding him, then said, "There would be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society than if we can make these buildings around us empty of workers, silent monuments to the time when government played a larger role than it deserved or could adequately fill."

Toward that end, he called on Floridians to "build a life based on faith, friends, and family." Eviscerating those offices, however, will be a journey of "many steps," he added.


DCF puts out a contract on kids

July 13, 2003

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Jerry Regier announced today that the beleaguered agency would be dismantled. Much of the department's responsibilities will be turned over to private organizations, local charities, and law enforcement agencies. Regier expects the implementation of the "Plan for Reforming the Social Services Business Partnership" to take 18 months. More than 3,500 union jobs could be affected.

Gov. Jeb Bush privatized the human services programs in 12 counties during his first four-year term. Under the new plan, the DCF would simply monitor the work done by local contract providers. All cases of child abuse and neglect will be turned over to law enforcement agencies.

During his inaugural address in January, Bush spoke of his aspiration to empty state buildings of workers; the dismemberment of the DCF is just the latest effort to do so.

Bush's devotion to privatization began well before he was elected governor. After losing the gubernatorial election to Lawton Chiles in 1994, Bush recruited Jonathan Hage to study educational ideas for his new think tank, the Foundation for Florida's Future. Hage, who had previously worked for the conservative Heritage Foundation and helped write speeches for the first President Bush, became director of research for the Florida foundation, which helped open the state's first charter school in Liberty City. Recognizing the money-making potential of charter schools, Hage founded Charter Schools USA in 1997 in Fort Lauderdale. By 2002, the for-profit company had 900 employees and ran 11 schools in Florida and six in Texas, with annual revenues of about $40 million -- most of it taxpayer money.

In 2001, the state awarded a $60 million, five-year contract to Aramark, a Philadelphia-based food services company, to manage meals at most of the state's prisons. The contract affects about 500 state employees.

Last year, Bush gave Cincinnati-based Convergys Corp. a $480 million deal to manage the state's personnel work for seven years. About 800 nonunion jobs will be eliminated.

Late this January, Bush proposed eliminating the State Library of Florida as part of the new state budget. The library's collections of almost a million books, microfilm images, and other documents would be transferred to Florida State University. About 55 unionized employees would lose their jobs.

Bush recently proposed phasing out the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, a state agency that represents death-row inmates. He would replace it with a group of private lawyers.

The governor has support in high places for his privatization plan. Days after Bush's inaugural address, House Speaker Johnnie Byrd of Plant City told fellow Republicans, "We have to help Jeb Bush empty out those buildings."

July 13, 2003

INGLIS, Fla. -- Following services today at Spring Lake Sixth Baptist Church, Gov. Jeb Bush announced his latest faith-based initiative, Holy Roller Highways.

"As John the Baptist was so fond of saying, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord,'" Bush told the congregation of 35. "And I can't imagine who would be more spiritually equipped to keep our state's highways maintained and running smoothly for the Second Coming than you, my Christian brothers and sisters."  

Concluding the speech with a nod toward Old Testament devotees, Bush raised his arms and quoted from Isaiah 35:8: "A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it."

The governor's words were greeted with loud "amens" from members of this, one of eight Baptist churches in a town of 1,400. Inglis is best-known for its mayor's proclamation in 2001 banning Satan from the hamlet.

The arrangement brings to an end the Florida Department of Transportation's long-time role in managing state highways and bridges. During the next 22 months, those duties will be entrusted to fundamentalist parishes across the state, with headquarters at the Rev. D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale.

During fellowship lunch after services, Deacon Wilber Skerch praised the governor as he sipped black coffee. He recited a beloved verse, Proverbs 15:19. "The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns," he said, "but the path of the upright is a highway." Skerch expects to head the Everglades Thorny Hedge Removal Project.

Handing out spades, buckets of tar, and reflective orange vests on the church lawn, Bush declined to explain how


Florida families cheerful about bringing convicts into their homes

September 30, 2003

PITTMAN, Fla. -- Gov. Jeb Bush today unveiled Adopt-a-Convict, a sweeping new folks-based initiative to end the state's oversight of incarceration.

"It is time that the citizens of this state take a more personal role in confining, punishing, and rehabilitating Florida's miscreants," Bush proclaimed. "Not until penalization becomes a daily family chore will our criminal justice system be made whole."

The governor introduced Albert and Ruth Schneider, long-time residents of this small town in the Florida Panhandle, as the first "family wardens" for Adopt-a-Convict. Smiling broadly, Albert Schneider clutched a lengthy cattle prod in one hand and in the other held a chain tethering a stripe-dressed evildoer. "We raised three daughters and two sons -- all good, law-abiding citizens today," Schneider said. "We've got the experience, and we've got the spare rooms to handle the likes of him and several more. Plus Ruth's really looking forward to making him her bitch."

Bush outlined an 18-month schedule for households across the state to retrofit dens, rumpus rooms, garages, and utility sheds into maximum-security cells. For working families, the plan includes a $230 million contract with Outmates, a Toronto-based company that specializes in prisoner daycare, including feeding, rousting, confiscating, and strip-searching.

Warden families receive further financial incentive from chain-gang provisions included in the plan.

"A family that formulates a well-designed business plan could add thousands of dollars to its household income through the labor of scoundrels," Bush said. "And what better way to reform the hearts and hands of these reprobates than to chain them together as they dig swimming pools, prune hedges, and build screened-in decks, complete with barbecues?"

The state will retain control over executions of death-row inmates for the time being, Bush said.

Model-train enthusiasts working on real thing

April 3, 2004

ORLANDO -- Oliver Droob sticks a key into the shabby garage door and rattles the stubborn tumblers until the latch pops open. A musty, vaguely electric smell wafts out instantly.

Inside is the usual hodgepodge of old tools, lawn care equipment, and storage boxes. But occupying most of his mother's two-car garage is a model railroad track that twists, turns, dips, and climbs its way through a miniature landscape.

"I don't really have much time to work on this anymore," Droob says, his thick-framed spectacles once again straddling the end of his nose.

These days, Droob's fascination with all things locomotive has been consumed by Gov. Jeb Bush's freak-based initiative, Bullet Train by the Numbers. Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in November 2000 that requires a high-speed rail line connecting the state's urban areas. An Orlando-to-Tampa segment is the first expected to be built.

"It's kind of daunting," Droob explains. "The Greater Orlando Model Train Club has some very dedicated members -- 16, if you count Roger, who can't do much since his stroke -- but we've got a huge job ahead of us. Everything's heavier and bigger. One day, we all biked along I-75 looking for a good place for an overpass, and a state trooper pulled in behind us and read us the riot act. I thought Cooper was going to cry."

But oversensitive hobbyists aren't the only problem plaguing the initiative. Some train enthusiasts involved are urging Bush to include mountain vistas and stationmasters bedecked in 19th-century garb. Others envision vast spans of wooden bridges and mile upon mile of train tracks carrying passengers  


July 14, 2004

TALLAHASSEE -- Moving one step closer to his dream of emptying state buildings, Gov. Jeb Bush today shuttered the doors to the secretary of state's Division of Elections.

Under Bush's filch-based initiative, the state two months ago awarded the supervision of elections to GOPoll, a private, Washington, D.C.-based consortium, which won the four-year contract with a low bid of $15,000. Its duties include supplying electronic voting machines, providing poll workers, counting ballots, and certifying winners. The syndicate's six employees will work from office suites adjoining the Capitol Hill offices of Congresswoman Katherine Harris.

"GOPoll maintains low overhead by keeping its number of employees few," said James Baker, the consortium's spokesman and a former secretary of state. He declined to identify the members of GOPoll, citing security concerns, but added, "These people have solid experience in handling an electorate. Florida is in good hands."

GOPoll beat out Repuballot, whose bid was $16,000. DemoSlate, the only other bidder, was deemed ineligible after its application was misplaced.

Unemployed swell ranks of Florida sports teams

August 25, 2004

TAMPA -- Sweat atomizes off Richard Delgado's face as guard Jason Scukanec slams into him during a Wednesday-morning scrimmage. Delgado, a 55-year-old, unemployed, medical-supplies salesman, topples backward and loses his breath -- for the umpteenth time this day.

Delgado is one of the thousands of jobless Floridians now receiving unemployment benefits through the newly privatized Department of Labor and Employment Security. Under Gov. Jeb Bush's fan-based initiative, a coalition of professional sports teams in the state known as Play Ball! was awarded a $200 million, four-year contract to undertake the labor department's duties six months ago. The state's unemployment rate has since plummeted.

Play Ball!'s first call was to get the state's idle and unemployed off their couches and on to fields. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that has meant a dramatic expansion of its roster, from 58 players to 2,344 as of last week. Though few of the team's so-called "expansion squads" have much chance of actually playing in an NFL game, the bloody antics of their Extended-Benefits Scrimmage during halftime have attracted a host of new fans -- mostly from the audiences of professional wrestling and NASCAR.

"We don't have a lot of time for bellyaching out here," says Len "Buzzsaw" Andrews, the newly hired jobs coach for the Bucs. Squinting at the players, Andrews bellows, "Delgado! You goddamn pansy! If you can't stand up for yourself here, how on God's green earth are you gonna make it in the working world?"

Delgado nods and shakily assumes a three-point stance once again.

As the next play commences, Miriam Sotrate, a 38-year-old single mother of two, is hit high and low and takes a nasty spin into the turf. A former legal secretary, Sotrate laments the timing of her layoff.

"If I could have just held onto my job until after the Super Bowl, I'd have been assigned to a baseball manager in the Division of Spring Re-Training," she says. "That's a breeze. But getting sacked in the fall means getting sacked in the fall."

Seminoles to administer Florida Lottery

December 8, 2004

HOLLYWOOD -- Reiterating his long-time disgust for gambling, Gov. Jeb Bush today transferred management of the state lottery to the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

"It's time to get this vice out of the hands of state workers and into the coffers of the sovereign nation that so exemplifies high-stakes betting in the Sunshine State," Bush said of his so-called faro-based initiative. Standing beside Bush was the blond chick who announces the lottery numbers on television. She is slated to lose that $50,000-per-year state job but will earn about $500,000 a year doing the same work under new management.

Tribal councilmen did not attend the press conference, as they had all suspended one another from office.

The tribe is partnering with 50,000 convenience stores, gin joints, VFW clubs, and mom-and-pop stores throughout Florida.

February 18, 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE -- Gov. Jeb Bush announced today that the Florida Department of Education will expand upon a popular annual event in which parents take sons and daughters to their workplace for a day. The renamed Take Your Kid to Work Every Day is expected to dramatically reduce classroom size, Bush said of the newest phase of his farce-based initiative.

"Why are we sending our children to school anyway if not to prepare them one day for the salt mines?" Bush said to reporters and supporters gathered outside Jade's Swimwear on the beach. "We expect the youngsters who participate in this new program to actually graduate earlier than those left behind in classrooms. That means by age 14, possibly 13, they can man full-time the short-order grills, mall outlets, and hotels so essential to Florida's tourist economy."  

Bush hailed the new direction taken by the DOE since its privatization by the Florida Tourism Association and Hooters six months ago. The revitalized agency immediately tackled the thorny problem of reducing classroom size by embracing Bush's float-based initiative, Cruise to Diploma Land. Under that scheme, teen students are paired with cruise-ship tutors, with whom they live and work during each voyage. Students learn practical workplace skills, such as cleaning up vomit, changing bed linen, and busing tables. While off from their 80-hour workweeks, each student studies in a semiprivate stateroom with four mentors.

State's new executioners turn up heat

May 5, 2005

STARKE, Fla. -- Tomorrow's planned execution of Warren Bezard marks the full privatization of Florida's correctional operations.

Bezard, who was convicted in 1985 of murdering two gas-station attendants, will be burned at the stake by A Time to Die, a nonprofit coalition of religious groups and large mortuary chains with strong Republican ties. The executions were outsourced under Gov. Jeb Bush's flambé-based initiative, one of many schemes intended to reduce government and empty state offices.

Forgive & Forget, a partnership that included Quakers and Buddhists, submitted a plan that was deemed unsuitable by the governor's office.

At the time that Bush announced the contract, he said, "While the state's moral authority to put someone to death has been in question, religious sects have full knowledge of the will of God or Jehovah or Allah. Thus, uncertainty is taken out of the process, and at the same time, fewer state employees will be needed."

A handful of so-called "sacred flamesmen" have spent the week scouring for wood in thickets near this small town, whose economy has long depended upon prisons.

"We'll need lots of firewood," explained Martin Soyne, spokesman for A Time to Die. "While our contractual obligation is simply to bring about death, we don't feel the job is done right until we bring about repentance and conversion. For the truly recalcitrant, that can mean days of Scripture readings, prayers, and low heat." He smiled, hefting a nearby bag of charcoal. "Praise the Lord, and pass the Kingsford."

New Bush in Town: It's Neil

August 18, 2005

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush today proposed combining several key state agencies, all of which would then be outsourced to private management by Texas-based Ignite Inc., a company run by the governor's younger brother, Neil Bush.

The frère-based initiative, dubbed "Leave No Brother Behind" by family members, would be a corporate coup for the junior Bush, best remembered as the director of the Silverado Savings & Loan in Colorado, whose insolvency cost taxpayers $1 billion and led to a grand jury investigation. He has made little headway in securing additional contracts since partnering with Wackenhut Corp. 18 months ago to run the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The probable merger includes the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees licensing; the Public Service Commission, which regulates electric, gas, and telephone companies; the Treasury Department; the Financial Services Department, which regulates insurance companies; and the Ethics Commission, which sets standards of conduct for state employees and officials.

"The culture of business is a complex one, requiring an insider's knowledge," Jeb Bush told reporters. "Who then is best fit to oversee commerce? Pencil-pushing bureaucrats taking up space in a state office building or businessmen sculpted by the invisible hand of the market?"

The merger would dovetail nicely with the governor's recent filial-based initiative, in which daughter Noelle Bush became head of the privatized Department of Health, now named GlaxoSmithKline-Merck-Pfizer-Novartis-Schering. "I look forward to putting to use my extensive experience with pharmaceuticals for the good of all Florida citizens," she said during a press conference.

November 12, 2005

IMMOKALEE, Fla. -- The sun's rays are just peeking over the horizon as earthmovers begin rumbling out of this town on the edge of the Everglades. A stubborn storm system has halted their work for three days, but now they can return to the difficult task of draining the River of Grass.

The project is the brainchild of the board of directors at EarthTec, a multinational concern that runs the newly rechristened Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Exploration, and Capitalization. The Everglades will become a mixed-use development of oil rigs, professional sports facilities, citrus farms, commercial and retail space, and single- and multifamily dwellings.  

As part of Gov. Jeb Bush's much-lauded favor-based initiative, EarthTec began managing the Sunshine State's publicly held environmental treasures a year ago. Directors for the conglomerate quickly learned that the forests, shorelines, swamps, and game preserves now in their care were serious money losers. Since then, EarthTec, whose subsidiaries include ExxonMobil, Florida Power & Light, TECO Energy, Swerdlow Group, AutoNation Inc., Blockbuster Entertainment Corp., Huizenga Holdings Inc., and Barron Collier Co., has negotiated deals with the U.S. Department of Energy to store spent nuclear fuel rods at state parks and with Home Depot to supply cypress wood.

Only several years ago, the Everglades was considered too mucky and bug-infested for any practical


March 3, 2006

CHRISTMAS, Fla. -- During a brief press conference today in this small town nestled in orange grove country, Gov. Jeb Bush announced that the Department of Agriculture will be outsourced to a consortium of Florida citrus growers and sugar farmers. The department is expected to operate exactly as it has in the past, he said.

State government phased out

December 28, 2006

TALLAHASSEE -- Surrounded by reporters and the 200-or-so remaining state employees, Gov. Jeb Bush today announced his intention to run for president in 2008 after his term is over in two weeks. Bush took the opportunity to fire the assembled workers, then immediately rehire them as campaign staff.

Dubbed the Faust-based initiative by advisers, Bush's campaign will rely primarily on his record of privatizing Florida government and leaving this city a ghost town of shuttered office suites. In the ultimate term limit, Bush will be the last person to hold the now-irrelevant office of governor in Florida.

"No longer need the people of this state rely upon government bureaucrats to aid the poor, assist the sick and elderly, rein in the rapacious, represent the exploited, protect natural resources, and offer justice to victims," Bush said. "It's now a pay-as-you-go state, and citizens are free to pay fees for as many or as few services as they like."

Standing at the governor's side during the press conference was Mephistopheles, his new campaign manager and long-time prince of darkness. Displaying blackened teeth and emitting an acrid smell, the devil put many in the capitol rotunda at ease by asking them to just call him Old Scratch.

"Some people have asked me why I've committed to this campaign," said Mephistopheles, who is sole proprietor of HellCo LLC. "Simple: to let market forces winnow the weak from the strong."

Bush concluded, "I've emptied these state buildings of 170,000 workers, and I look forward to ousting the 1.8 million unionized federal workers who keep this nation from greatness."

"Unions," Mephistopheles scoffed, a cloud of sulfurous vapors wafting from his red lips. "And they call me evil."

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