The high-speed rail amendment had a champion, a longtime proponent of fast trains who happened to be a millionaire and was not afraid to take on Jeb. The proponents went to the voters to force Jeb to reconsider a decision he had made in 1999: undoing the long-standing state policy to bring high-speed rail to Florida. True, after more than a decade, the project seemed mired in endless delays.
But set aside for a moment the relative merits of keeping or canceling the bullet train. Jeb failed to understand that there was a much more reasonable way to build a consensus that high-speed rail should be terminated, than the method he chose, which was to decree this by fiat.
Others agreed with me and my "Palm Beach Post" editors that we could not let the governor-elect get away with this one or we would see a guy used to the unaccountability of the private sector set up his government office on that model. A group of us newspapers got lawyers to draft a lawsuit under the state's open records law.
His staff came to our editors with a compromise: they would not admit that a transition team was, in fact, a public body subject to the open records law, but they would give us full access to all the documents we were seeking. We took the deal. It was a huge mistake.
But the more that Jeb's "system" got into place, the longer it took for Jeb's press office to turn over documents. There was, naturally, a good reason for delaying the release of these records, at least from Jeb's point of view. These documents, most particularly the email correspondence among his own staff, were generating damaging press coverage.
The longer you could delay the release of this harmful material, the less its likely impact and the more likely that the reporters in question would have lost interest and moved on to more fertile ground by the time they finally received it.
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