Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Mailbag: Rick Scott, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Tampa strip clubs

Some of our readers' comments recently have been as colorful as these mailboxes.
Some of our readers' comments recently have been as colorful as these mailboxes.

In the world of Florida politics, 2012 started with a bang: Gov. Rick Scott finished his first year in office, the legislative session began, and a Republican presidential primary is set for Jan. 31.

Here at PolitiFact Florida, we kicked off the session by fact-checking Scott’s "State of the State" address.

Readers let us know what they thought of our efforts. (Comments are edited for style and length.) You can always drop us a line, too, via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Taxes in New York vs. Florida

During the "State of the State" address, Scott made the point that taxes in Florida are much lower than in New York. "Our temperature outdoors is about twice as high as yours, and your tax burden per citizen is about twice as high as ours," Scott said.  We rated Scott’s statement  on taxes Mostly True. He’s right about the ratio, but New York has also experienced more economic growth recently.

We got mixed reviews on our check.

"Excellent review, however, I think that you left out an important factor in evaluating each state's tax burden. And that is, where does each state stand in terms of revenue vs. expenditures?  The financial well being of each state is a factor in terms of the tax burden that is expected for residents and corporations in the future."

"You must be a Democrat.  Stop being so picky and push for your state, not against your governor."

Another reader said we should fact-check his comments on temperature -- in kelvins.

"Florida's temperature is not twice as high as New York’s. The temperature scale he is probably referring to is the Fahrenheit scale  -- which is not a ratio scale. … To calculate what temperature is twice as high as New York's, you have to use a Kelvin scale (which has a true zero). If Florida were twice as warm as New York, it's average temperature would have to be about 550 degrees Fahrenheit."

Education funding

Another reader said we misfired in our rating of Scott’s claim that his budget "includes $1 billion in new state funding for education." We rated it Half True, because some of the funding is making up for other shortfalls.

"When will any of you in the media get this right on what Rick Scott is really doing? You're right it doesn't even get halfway back to the levels he cut. … What he is doing is giving back $790 million to K-12 which, by the way is in no way, shape or form ‘roughly’ $1 billion. These two are not even remotely equivalent. And, as Sen. Nan Rich said, he is making that happen by taking away from health care services. Therefore, what he has done is issue another GD lie (pants on fire) straight out of the gate and you like every other media outlet have fallen for his gag."

Time to check the doughnuts

New Times Broward-Palm Beach gently mocked our fact-check of Scott’s anecdote about selling doughnuts.

Scott said in his speech that he sold out 240 dozen doughnuts on his first Let’s Get to Work Day at a Tampa donut shop. We rated that False; it was actually closer to 80 dozen.

"‚ÄčIt might seem a little ridiculous that PolitiFact took the time to find out whether Gov. Rick Scott really sold more than 240 dozen doughnuts over a couple hours, as he claimed during his State of the State address. It's a little more ridiculous that PolitiFact returned with a verdict of Mostly False. … Apparently he's embellishing his doughnut sales."

Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s voting record

We fact-checked a charge from Republican Karen Harrington that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the Democratic National Committee, has missed a lot of votes. Harrington said, "In 2011, (Debbie) Wasserman Schultz missed 62 congressional votes — one of the worst records of any member of Congress."

We Wasserman Schultz 62 votes, but she also had a better record than several members of the Florida delegation. We rated the statement Half True.

A couple of readers said we were too easy on Wasserman Schultz.

"I vigorously take issue with your Half True rating on this. You confirmed the allegation that Wasserman Schultz did in fact miss 62 congressional votes as was stated. So that part of the statement is absolutely True. … If she is in the worst 10 percent based on these statistics, which you confirm, that would seem to make the statement ‘one of the worst records of any member of Congress’ substantially accurate. … By any objective standard, this statement is at least Mostly True, if not plainly True. I’m afraid your ideology is showing."

"I think you are being too kind to Wasserman Schultz.  Calling someone in the bottom 10 percent ‘one of the worst’ is a bit of a stretch, but one that should bring the rating down to Mostly True, not Half True.  The fact that other Floridian delegates have worse records is immaterial; it just means that they are among the worst, too. That being said, keep up the good work!  This kind of rational analysis is sadly lacking in current politics."

Tampa as strip club capital of the world

We couldn’t resist fact-checking a state legislator from Fort Lauderdale, who said that it’s okay if Miami gets casino gambling since Tampa is the "strip club capital of the world." We found that Tampa doesn’t merit the title, in either quantity or quality, according to those in the strip club industry.

One reader said we hadn’t fully debunked the title but suggested an alternate moniker.

"The reality is there is really nothing to account for Tampa's pretty extraordinary ranking of third nationally in number of strip clubs per capita. It's not a big city, and it's not a big convention magnet. I have lived in Miami, and few people can name or locate even one strip club there. They are invisible. But people all over the country can name at least one or more Tampa strip clubs. They seem to be everywhere. So why are there so many? Perhaps that's a different story than whether or not it is the 'capital.' Its new title should perhaps be 'Strip Club Mecca.'"

Another reader said we should have investigated the rules for lap dances in Tampa, or better yet, not have checked the claim at all.

"I have heard frequently that Tampa's lax enforcement of rules intended to prohibit 'lap dancing' or 'friction dancing' -- the 'six foot rule' famously supported by Bob Buckhorn when he was on the City Council -- is not the norm.  I have no way to learn whether this is true, but you could have investigated it. Better yet, you simply could have chosen a better topic.  I respectfully submit that you could have recognized that such an amorphous statement as 'strip club capital of the world' is not susceptible of evaluation as True or False.  This is not the only time PolitiFact has rendered judgment on a matter of opinion not susceptible of objective determination, but as a faithful daily reader, I make bold to hope it may be the last."

Meanwhile, readers on Facebook from other states said their cities clearly had the most strip clubs anywhere.

"Fort Wayne, Ind., has the most strip clubs I have ever seen in one place, and they have a $3 steak dinner, too."

"I live in Houston, and I'd swear it is Houston. Hell, Rick's Cabaret is even publicly traded on the stock market."

"Can't take that away from Portland! Come for the strip clubs, stay for the euthanasia!"