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Rick Scott tosses aside the velvet rope

Last February, Crowley Political Report wrote about the appearance of the velvet rope.

This was a very bad sign. The staff of Florida Gov. Rick Scott decided they wanted to use a velvet rope to bring more decorum to the Tallahassee press corps.

Here's part of what we said then:

Good lord, there is going to be a lot of strain between the Tallahassee press corps and the newly minted administration of Gov. Rick Scott.

Blame it on the velvet rope.

Brian Burgess, the communications director for Scott, informed the press corps that the time-honored scrum of reporters surrounding the governor for a few final questions at the end of a press conference would be no more.

The kids must stay in their seats until Gov. Scott leaves the room. And there will be no crossing of the velvet rope.

In the great scheme of things it is no big deal. The scrum was often painfully silly and it was not as if suddenly governors were answering questions they refused to answer at the podium.

Still, while it added a bit of decorum to press conferences, the move needlessly annoyed the press corps which is already deeply suspect of the Scott administration.

The velvet ropes quickly disappeared but things still got worse from there. Much worse. Over the months, the Scott administration was often aloof and hostile - and not just with the media.

Now, with Scott's popularity in the tank, the governor has made some important changes.

And they are more than welcome.

Under the direction of his new chief-of-staff, Steve McNamara, Scott's office is much more open. Just in the last couple of weeks, Scott's office has:

 * Reduced the once onerous pricetag for public records making it less expensive for the media and citizens to obtain public records.

 * Invited reporters, for the first time since becoming governor, to spend time with him in his office in a relaxed give-and-take that seemed to work for everyone.

 * Announced that he will do his own series of Bob Graham style "workdays" that will allow Scott to do the jobs of Florida workers. This was an invaluable tool for Graham that gave him  a deep understanding about how issues affected ordinary Floridians.

 * Agreed to visit newspaper editorial boards to discuss issues.

While it appears that the credit for this change in attitude should go to McNamara, it would be unfair not to give credit to Scott.

The governor clearly came to understand that his method of doing business in Tallahassee was not working. He made significant changes in his leadership team and brought on McNamara who has a deep understanding for how Tallahassee operates.

There will always be a certain amout of stress between the media and elected officials. And no one should expect these changes not to be greeted with a bit of suspicion.

But it is a step in the right direction and Scott should get credit for being willing to make the necessary changes.

 

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