Anyone who has read this column for any length of time knows that I'm not exactly Buddy Dyer's biggest booster.
I've knocked the mayor of Orlando for everything from improper arrests by his police department to no-bid deals at City Hall.
That said, I am ready to come to Buddy's defense. And you should, too.
Because right now, there are plans afoot to keep Dyer off a new regional toll board — and instead let gubernatorial appointees run the show.
This is a bad, bad idea.
You see, with elected officials, there is accountability. If one ticks you off, you can vote 'em out of office.
When a gubernatorial appointee ticks you off, you can't do squat.
You just have to open up your wallet and take it.
That is, in fact, what you've been doing in recent years as gubernatorial appointees at the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority have repeatedly raised tolls to pay for everything from shady bond deals to exorbitant legal bills.
It works well for the politicians who often get extra campaign donations from the people they appoint.
Not so well for the average motorist.
As scandals brewed at the authority in recent years, local residents were powerless to respond, since gubernatorial appointees constituted four of the five members. It took a grand jury to come in and clean up the mess.
Yet now legislators are doubling down on political cronyism.
They're proposing a new, super-powerful authority — replacing four separate boards in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties with one mega-authority with the power to raise tolls throughout Central Florida.
That part I actually like. One board instead of four means less bureaucracy and more regionalism. (Between you and me, having only one board also makes it easier to track the shenanigans.)
What I don't like is the proposal to stock this new super-powerful toll board with folks appointed by a guy who lives 250 miles away.
The bill now calls for four of the nine members to be appointed. That's too many.
And the proposal to bump off Dyer — and allow the governor to appoint five — is even worse.
Legislators should leave most of the seats in the hands of local officials — not fundraisers looking to award their buddies an engineering contract.
To be clear, my beefs with political appointees certainly aren't limited to road boards — or to the Republican Party.
We've seen Democratic appointees make messes at the airport. (Eons ago, when Democrats actually had clout in this state.) And who can forget Lynx's Las Vegas scandal — when Jeb Bush's appointees were caught playing the slots and boozing it up with contractors on what was supposed to be a taxpayer-funded work trip?
This is what happens when political operatives get posts that should be held by experts and watchdogs.
You see, the entire appointment process is largely predicated on campaign donations. If you deliver big bucks to a governor, you can get a seat on a board.
Just last year, a respected aviation exec, Dave Gordon, said he was denied a seat on the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority after he refused to cut another $10,000 check to one of Rick Scott's campaign committees. He already had contributed $5,000.
It's not always that way. Solid appointees sometimes get through. We've even had a few at the expressway authority, where board chairman Walt Ketcham seems well-intentioned and past member Tanya Wilder shook things up. But they are the minority.
That's why local boards should be filled with local people who are accountable to the citizens they represent — and whose bank accounts they impact.
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