Monday, May 07, 2007

Local Talent: Steve Bosquet of the SPTimes Cuffs Around Language

Will lawmakers' pet projects withstand the same scrutiny they gave local budgets?

By STEVE BOUSQUET: Tallahassee Bureau Chief SPTimes
May 7, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Florida lawmakers spent the past two months criticizing cities and counties for excessive spending.

Now it's their turn to be held Wordy: Dump. accountable.

Now it’s their turn to be accountable.

The new state budget is stuffed with local projects sponsored by individual lawmakers.

Wimpy passive verb:

Edit: Lawmakers’ local projects stuff the state budget. 13 versus 6 words

They spent millions on the kinds of projects that cities and counties are preparing to cut from their own budgets under the Legislature's threat of mandatory property tax reductions. Wordy

Edit: They spent millions on projects the legislative property-tax-reductions threat caused cities and counties to cut from their budgets. 29 versus 18 words

Most of the projects are funded with one-time pots of nonrecurring money that under the state Constitution generally can't be spent for ongoing programs or salaries. Wordy - passive verb-redundant adverb

Edit: One-time nonrecurring money the state Constitution forbids using for ongoing programs and salaries funds most of the projects. 26 versus 18 words

So, while state employees won't get a pay raise, the budget includes $2-million for an expo in Wakulla County, $1.5-million for a rowing training center in Melbourne, and $50, 000 for an orchid festival in Miami. Good sentence: you get a star on the frig.

Fort Lauderdale's Las Olas Boulevard, one of the state's ritziest addresses, awaits $1.3-million for "streetscape improvements." Upscale Coral Gables gets $100, 000 for a trolley depot. Frig star

Over the past eight years, Jeb Bush vetoed billions worth of projects - $449-million last year alone. He's gone, and lawmakers are as protective as ever of their right to tap the public purse for a boat ramp or a courthouse annex. Pulitzer bound

Some projects have a broad public benefit. The ones that don't are called "turkeys."

Passive verbs make boggy sentences.

Edit: Ones that don’t will earn “turkey” label.

Gov. Charlie Crist will decide which are which, using his line-item veto. He has not issued criteria for evaluating projects.

"Time will tell,” Crist said. "I think it's very important to be judicious, to review each of those items and try to have a measure if it's in the public interest."

Smiles aside, several of the governor's opening initiatives were ignored or slashed.

One problem with passive verbs is they hide the actor.

Edit: Smiles aside, lawmakers ignored or slashed several of the governor’s initiatives.

May 6, 2007

"The Legislature was beaten up by Jeb Bush in a lot of ways,” said lobbyist Ron Book. "But Charlie Crist will get plenty of what he wants and he'll get what he needs."

Ron Book gets the raspberry for that quoted passive verb; but you get the one for omitting a comma in the quote. Your forgot that for two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction get a comma before the coordinating conjunction.

Lawmakers blamed the trimming of Crist's budget priorities on tight fiscal times caused by a slide in tax collections, not on any philosophical disagreements.

Use a second preposition for parallelism.

Lawmakers still found hundreds of millions of dollars for projects in their hometowns, largely one-time expenditures for parks, water systems, courthouse renovations and anticrime programs. They paid for them using one-time money, which is largely not allowed for continuing programs. They also socked away more than $1-billion in the state's rainy day fund.

That “which” clause suffers from vague pronoun reference, thus puzzles the reader. Do you mean “by using one-time money”? What about “They paid for them with one-time money disallowed for continuing programs”? Dump those redundant adverbs. I would eschew “socked away.” The Pulitzer committee will turn up its nose at that moss-grown cliché and sniff that you are a linguistic hillbilly.

Health care advocates said Crist could have used his bully pulpit to get the bill passed. On May 1, he sent a one-sentence letter to Pruitt that said: "I respectively request your assistance in placing the following bill on the Senate Calendar for consideration."

Respectively”? It’s possible Crist said that--he's no Rhodes scholar, but I respectfully suggest you are the villain.

I will puke if I read "bully pulpit" one more time. I bet those legislative Panhandle scholars never heard the term in Tallahassee and that you will have to use flash card to teach them this locution. The use of such hoary cliches probably has sealed your reputation as the press intellectual of the capitol.


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