YOUR DAILY WEEKLY READER: expressway idiocy, staring at the sun, guns kill people, rich getting richer



CAN WE PLEASE JUST KILL THE EXPRESSWAY AUTHORITY NOW?: “A handful of politicians, lobbyists and government officials plotted to take over Orlando's Expressway Authority and use the agency's $300 million budget to their advantage, according to records and testimony released by the State Attorney's Office. The aim was to put their friends in charge of the agency, further their own careers and direct lucrative contracts to associates, say documents and the sworn statements by eight people associated with the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority. Among those allegedly involved were agency board member Scott Batterson, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott indicted on three bribery-related charges last month; former state Rep. Chris Dorworth, Batterson's friend since middle school and now a lobbyist; and state Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad, also a Scott appointee. The documents released last week reveal a torrent of behind-the-scenes maneuvering — including talk of seizing power and handing out multimillion-dollar contracts over $47 of beer at a Baldwin Park bar. But the public knew none of it until the turmoil burst into view during an Aug. 28 meeting of the expressway authority's five-member board. That's when Batterson joined fellow board members Marco Peña and Noranne Downs in a 3-2 vote to seek a successor to agency Director Max Crumit. Just two days before that board meeting, Batterson had come to Crumit and told him he should quit because Batterson had lined up three votes to fire him, Crumit claimed. Batterson denied that claim, but it sparked the investigation because board members by law can only discuss agency business in public, not privately. In a sworn statement to investigators, Crumit said Batterson threatened: ‘We're going to vote you off the board, which would be ugly and you don't want that and we don't want that.’” (via Orlando Sentinel)


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YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY ONE STARING AT THE SUN: “Florida legislators addicted to campaign contributions by the electric utilities are parroting the industry line that solar power is too expensive and unreliable to count on as a significant energy source. Yet the business community is saving money and reducing carbon emissions by making major investments in solar despite the lack of direction or support from the state. Once again the private sector is ahead of state government, and Florida's next governor should provide stronger leadership with a vigorous renewable energy policy that does more than protect the utilities. Pinellas County's Great Bay Distributors has announced it will build a 1.5-megawatt solar array at its massive new facility off Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg, which will be the largest private solar system in the state. The $2.6 million system will pay for itself in six years, thanks to help from federal tax credits, and it will cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 44,000 tons over its 30-year life cycle. Great Bay, the largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products in Florida, also expects to reduce its electric bill by as much as 40 percent. No wonder the big utilities feel threatened. Great Bay is going big on an idea that is catching on across the state. Falling prices on solar panels and improvements to technology have made solar a more affordable option. Pinellas Park manufacturer Polypack installed solar last year (about one-fifth the size of Great Bay's) that cut its electricity bill from $4,800 to $212 in March. The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System facility in Pinellas is saving $189,000 a year in electric costs with a solar system it installed in 2012. And as the Tampa Bay Times' Ivan Penn reports in an article published today, falling prices for solar and upgrades in battery storage and other key components could change the economics even more dramatically in the near future.” (via Tampa Bay Times)


INTERESTING TAKE ON WHETHER OR NOT VIOLENCE CAN BE PREVENTED AT ALL. IF THE PSYCH WARD DOESN’T HELP (IT DOESN’T), WHAT WILL? MAYBE WE SHOULD ALL JUST HAVE MORE GUNS, RIGHT?: “In the wake of this weekend’s mass murder at the University of California Santa Barbra, people are again asking—as they have after each of the nation’s recent mass shootings—what could we have done to prevent this. There were obvious indications that Elliot Rodger was planning something terrible, a spectacular crime against women that he outlined in YouTube videos and a lengthy manifesto that would bring him infamy.  His family was concerned enough to contact the local Sheriff’s office and ask them to perform a mental health check on their son. Sheriffs arrived to find Rodger lucid, denying intentions of violence, and described him as articulate and shy. What they didn’t know was that he was hiding an arsenal of handguns and ammunition and a document that would later prove that he was lying about not intending violence, that in fact he had spent a year devising plan to attack a sorority house that symbolized his suffering at the hands of women who rejected him and refused him the sexual gratification he felt entitled to. After murdering seven people, injuring many others and then committing suicide the investigation immediately turned to the question of whether the Sheriffs who visited him hadn’t made a mistake in not detaining him for psychiatric observation. The question of whether law enforcement and mental health professionals hadn’t failed in their duty to their communities by failing to forcibly detain those who would go on to commit mass shootings has been raised after most recent episodes of such violence.” (via the Atlantic)


BACK UP! YOUR SURGING WEALTH IS BLINDING ME!: “The median CEO pay package hit $10.5 million last year, according to the Associated Press, cracking eight figures for the first time since the wire service began calculating the statistic. The median compensation number rose by 8.8 percent from 2012 and has now climbed by more than 50 percent over the past four years. By contrast, average weekly wages for working Americans rose just 1.3 percent last year, the AP notes. That disparity is all too typical of the modern U.S. economy. CEO compensation has increased 127 times faster than worker pay over the past three decades. According to the wire service’s figures, the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay now stands at 257 to 1. That is a slightly more optimistic portrait of the relationship between earnings at the top and middle of the income distribution than other recent analyses. The real ratio of CEO to worker pay is more like 273 to 1, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and in some sectors of the economy it is as high as 1,200 to 1. There are a variety of different methods for determining what a typical CEO earns, and the AP’s estimate confirms some other recent analysis of 2013 compensation for the top officers at large public companies. A USA Today review earlier this year found the same $10.5 million median figure. But that earlier analysis was based on a smaller pool of companies — 200 of the S&P 500, as opposed to 337 of those companies captured in the AP study — so Monday’s figures strengthen the evidence that median CEO pay has breached the $10 million mark. Corporations can afford to reduce the gap between top earners and frontline employees. Even after taxes, corporate profits hit a record $1.68 trillion last year. These companies are holding about $2 trillion in profit offshore to avoid U.S. taxes. Big business icons like Walmart and McDonald’s could start paying their workers enough to escape poverty with only negligible 1 to 2 percent increases in their prices.” (via ThinkProgress)

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