Disses and Disclosures As DeLorenzo Agrees to Give Back Waste Pro’s $500
Pierre Tristam | November 3, 2011
Frequent commenter Will dropped a few lines last night about the Jason DeLorenzo-Waste Pro matter, referring to today’s Observer re-endorsement of DeLorenzo as “fair and balanced with a historical perspective that’s completely missed by most of the writers above.” From the looks of it the fair-and-balanced talking point is the Sesame Street parody of the day (see the full comments here and here).
Invoking the Palm Coast Observer in these pages and knocking my commenters all in one breath was ballsy of Will if not quite with a full pair. In these matters signing one’s name and affiliations would be nice, considering the irony of speaking of objectivity and disclosures behind a fake name. Speaking of disclosure: I have nothing against Jason personally and little against him politically. Based on his less-than-Methuselahan age alone I’d have been happy to give him my vote unreservedly. If there’s an issue with his campaign with the $500 donation he pocketed from Waste Pro, as there must be, it’s entirely of his own creation.
So is the reserve he’s inspiring in those who’d have otherwise voted for him, though this morning Jason told me that he will (unequivocally) return the $500 to Waste Pro. That’s a good re-start.
Back to you, Will. Since it’s not only Jason’s judgment that’s in question here but how and why this story is being reported and commented on, I have to jump in. The historical perspective you’re referring to is a red herring. This is about the timing of a donation in the here and now that raises serious questions of ethics and judgment, questions that should be raised even more by Jason’s subsequent explanations and hedging. And that history of yours is no feather in Jason’s cap. To the contrary. The Observer’s contorted explanation about Jason’s opposition to the 10 percent franchise fee on commercial haulers (the bit about the fee giving national haulers an advantage and benefiting Waste Pro has to be a distinguished entry in the classics of disingenuity) couldn’t have made the point better: he was a shill for those companies and against the city’s financial soundness. Residents pay that franchise fee, masked as it is in the city’s 7 percent skim off the Waste Pro contract. Why shouldn’t commercial haulers?
Jason later said that I’d misunderstood: It’s not the franchise fee that gave the large haulers the competitive advantage, exactly. He had a problem with the fee because it was a tax hidden as a fee. “If you’re going to tax me, just tax me, don’t hide it in my garbage bill.” Agreed. Nor would the haulers have been allowed to line-item the fee. The annual fee would have been about $2,500 a year, a steep fee for smaller haulers, and the haulers would have had to show the city their books. I still don;t have an issue with the fee, let alone with haulers showing their books: they’re doing what is essentially a very public business. They should show their books.
The Observer piece then argues against itself again and again with its examples: “Holsey Moorman is on the board of the Florida Hospital Flagler. Does that mean he can’t be trusted to vote on issues regarding the hospital?” Of course not. Example: last year, without ever mentioning for the record that he was on the board, he unsurprisingly dissented in the 3-2 vote preventing the hospital from having its electronic sign out front. He just took a nice $400 donation from Dave Ottati, the hospital CEO. The Observer quotes Frank Meeker’s employment with the St. Johns River Water Management District. “Does that mean he can’t be trusted to speak objectively on lawn-watering policies or desalination?” Meeker’s uncritically swallowing desal’s boondoggle-rich potential aside, you really think he could have regained his job at the district with all that lobbying he did—after being laid off a few months ago—if he hadn’t been the district’s advocate? You get the idea, though to say that we live in a politically dirty town isn’t saying much. Dirty politics is a tradition as old as the first humanoid habitats of East Africa. So is the papering over of the dirt—in this case, with the convenient intercession of a trash hauler—with ingenious rationales, kind of like those Clinton invoked in ’93 and Cain is invoking now against their bimbo eruptions. Let’s just not pretend that those rationales make everything hunky-dory.
You’re right: the Observer piece is as “fair and balanced” as any work of journalism that lives down to that conceit can be, understanding that it was a re-endorsement: papers have a long tradition of doing what they can to get their favorites elected. More power to them, but let’s not confuse the meaning of endorsement from a paper whose owner’s daughter is running Jason’s treasury.
And there is that matter of journalism, and that snide little jab at Dennis Cross in the second graph—Cross “who first noticed the donation,” as if to suggest that Cross was up to a little smearing all on his own, though these financial reports are detailed and public for the asking. Again, the Observer argues against itself and the quality of its journalism—and mine, and the News-Journal’s: the failure here is ours as local media. That financial report came out a couple of weeks ago. I’m in the habit of looking at those reports religiously. I failed in this case. I hadn’t even requested it. The donation had to be pointed out to me (hold your britches: it wasn’t Cross, though it would have been irrelevant had it been him), the point being that the Observer, the News-Journal and FlaglerLive should have been falling all over each other in their analysis of those reports and reporting their findings immediately. Instead, we were asleep, displaying once again the reliably shoddy quality of our local journalism and having to play catch-up. No wonder dirty politics thrives in this town. With media like ours, the foxes must be ecstatic.