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Richard Corcoran battle over Pitbull, Visit Florida contract sets the right tone

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

There has been a lot to like about the tone new House Speaker Richard Corcoran has set in Tallahassee. There is a new emphasis on ethics and disclosure of how the people’s representatives do their business — and more importantly who they do it for.

We all benefit from that.

That includes, especially, Corcoran’s insistence this week that details of the $1 million promotional contract between Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion arm, and rapper Pitbull be made public.

Pitbull’s production company, PDR Productions, balked, claiming the details were a trade secret and disclosing them would be a third-degree felony. Visit Florida officials also argued that letting the world know details of that contract would the state’s tourism industry at a disadvantage.

That’s not a little deal, of course. In 2015, tourists generated $89.1 billion for the economy here.

It’s ironic, though, that the marketing arm of the Sunshine State would want to keep business in the dark.

That’s why Corcoran sued Pitbull’s company to force details of the contract into the sunlight. Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Pérez, released the contract himself after the issue became a big story.

So all is well and a teapot-sized tempest is stilled, right?

Not yet. Hopefully, it’s just the beginning. This was Corcoran’s latest way of letting everyone know that things are going to change in Tallahassee.

It was never about the contract itself or the wisdom of using Pitbull to promote the state. The cost, frankly, seems reasonable and fair considering the potential return on investment. Pitbull is a fine ambassador for Florida in the highly competitive fight for tourism dollars.

But there was that slippery slope his company and Visit Florida tried to use as a defense, claiming Florida could be hurt if other states knew details of what we’re up to here.

Maybe so.

If other states want to operate in the dark, though, that’s their problem. Florida once had the strongest sunshine law in the country, and despite the efforts of legislators over the years to chip away at it, the law remains a bedrock principle of how the public’s business should be done.

I don’t think there is any question that this contract likely would have remained secret under many other Speakers. It would have been easy for Corcoran to keep the details hidden under that “trade secrets” argument. Besides, it’s only $1 million, right?

What Corcoran said instead, and backed up with his actions, is that there is no “only” when it comes to doing the right thing.

Refreshing.

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Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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