Gov. Scott's proliferation of Great Floridians puzzles watchdog boss
Dan Krassner has an idea for some of the 23 people receiving the Great Floridian honor this year. They should make commercials for the state. Krassner, who heads Integrity Florida, an independent government watchdog, is puzzled at the expansion of Great Floridians under Gov. Rick Scott. Scott, who's running for re-election next year, in April announced a burgeoning Class of 2013 who would receive the award. On Thursday, he handed the latest one to Charlotte Maguire, recognized as the “mother” of Florida State University's medical school. While Krassner said he appreciates the contributions of Maguire and the other recipients, “it just looks like a series of taxpayer-funded photo ops with little public benefit.” Other 2013 awardees include professional football player Tim Tebow, former University of Florida football coach Steve Spurrier and Persian Gulf War commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who died last year. From the Great Floridian award's creation in 1981 up to Scott's taking office in 2012, 49 people received the honor under seven governors. By the end of 2013, Scott will have presented another 40 himself. At the very least, Krassner said, the Great Floridians still among us should volunteer to be pitchmen and pitchwomen for the Sunshine State. For example, New Yorker and actor Robert DeNiro provided the voiceover for that state's recent “The New New York Works for Business” ad campaign, shot by director Spike Lee. The state set aside $50 million for that campaign, however. Under Florida law, the secretary of state – once an elected position and now appointed by the governor – actually selects Great Floridians, based on nominations from an advisory panel. “The Great Floridian designation is presented annually in recognition of the outstanding achievements of men and women who have made significant contributions to the progress and welfare of this state,” the Department of State's website says. That includes Miami businessman and entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga, who has given campaign contributions to the governor, Krassner said. When asked Thursday whether he was giving out too many awards, Scott intimated maybe he wasn't giving out enough. “Oh, gosh, I mean, when you look at individuals like Charlotte Maguire, we have so many great Floridians,” he told The Tampa Tribune. “I'm just honored to be here. … We've done this around the state because we have so many great Floridians here.”
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