So last week, I raised a question that was on the minds of an increasing number of Democratic voters I was running into: Are Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s former Democratic primary rivals going to get out on the campaign trail and stump for him?
It seemed like a rather basic question; but also a strange one given the stakes in this election. A state Democratic party energized by the charismatic Gillum has most supporters — and political observers — truly believing they have a strong chance of retaking the Governor’s Mansion after a 20-year drought. Not only that, of electing the first African-American to statewide office.
I observed that neither former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, West Palm Beach developer Jeff Greene nor former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine had been seen out stumping for Gillum since the early days following his stunning Aug. 28 primary win.
I did mention that Levine stepped up with a press release in defense of Gillum running-mate, Orlando businessman Chris King, over accusations of being anti-Semitic.
Afterwards, former Levine campaign operative Christian Ulvert reached out to let me know that Levine’s done more, and shouldn’t be “lumped in” with the others. Ulvert said that in addition to two private fundraisers, Levine has allowed Gillum’s campaign the use of a few of his former campaign offices around the state.
Noted. Financial support is important to political campaigns these days. Especially when it comes getting the message out via pricey advertising. Very important.
Arguably more important, however, is motivating people to actually vote. (After all, that is how Gillum managed to beat three more well-financed opponents in the primary.)
That’s why we asked in a poll last week: “Should Andrew Gillum’s Democratic primary opponents campaign for him in the general election?”
As of today (Monday), out of some 200 reader votes, about 72 percent gave a resounding “yes.” The post also received nearly 370 Likes on Facebook.
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One of Levine’s private fundraisers for Gillum was with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But Bloomberg went further, and actually stumped with Gillum. Following an Oct. 5 event in Coral Springs on behalf of his Everytown for Gun Safety, the possible 2020 presidential candidate appeared in West Palm Beach Oct. 6 at a Democratic Party fundraiser and then with Gillum Oct. 7 at a Century Village Jewish center in Pembroke Pines.
Voters are fickle. That’s why turnout is so crucial. Maybe it won’t matter to Democratic loyalists and crucial No-Party Affiliation (NPA) voters when they don’t see Gillum’s former rivals out on the stump with him, and they will show up at the polls anyway. Maybe.
And if you haven’t taken our poll yet, you can get to it here.
Where has West Palm Beach developer Jeff Greene been since Aug. 28?
Not since a big Kumbaya “unity” rally in Orlando days after Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s historic victory in the Democratic primary for Florida governor (minus Greene), has anyone heard from three of Gillum’s primary opponents on the campaign trail.
I mean, one can kind of understand why Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is not out stumping for Republican primary winner Ron DeSantis. Putnam was practically measuring the drapes in the Governor’s Mansion before the Parkland shooting and President Donald Trump reared his ugly head.
But the Dems always gave off this vibe of being respectful, if not friendly adversaries.
So are they low-key campaigning? Maybe recording robo-calls? Or saving themselves — and their money — for the home stretch?
Gillum, the first African-American to secure a major party gubernatorial nomination in the state’s history, picked Orlando businessman Chris King to be his running mate as lieutenant governor. The two apparently clicked and became “bros” while campaigning during the primary race.
There was less “clicking” with Graham, as the consensus front-runner became the focal point of attacks from her all-male competition. Less so by Gillum’s campaign, but more so by a PAC that supported the mayor and whose negative message he refused to publicly disavow.
Graham, the Post Editorial Board‘s pick to win the Democratic primary because it was felt she had the best shot of winning in the general, may still be smarting too much from those attacks to drop everything and campaign for her former rival. Or maybe Gillum just hasn’t asked.
Levine wasn’t heard from until a few weeks ago, when he stepped forward with a statement defending the Gillum campaign after Republicans looked to paint Gillum as an anti-Semite for bringing on King, who had made anti-Jewish comments when he was a college student. This was first dredged up during the primary campaign and King apologized then.
As for Greene, the question is not whether or not he should be out campaigning but whether he is writing any checks to the Gillum campaign, or any other Florida Democratic election efforts. If he has, it hasn’t been substantial enough to be publicized, a’ la fellow billionaire Tom Steyer. But we should remember that during the primary campaign, Greene — who wanted to radically improve public school education in Florida — did promise to financially support the primary winner and other Democrats.
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So, with time to campaign in a tight gubernatorial race coming down to the wire, one has to wonder whether Florida voters — especially those on her home turf of North Florida — will see Graham out stumping for Gillum to help give the party the best chance it’s had of taking back the Governor’s Mansion in 20 years.
It’s tough to see Gillum pulling off the victory without Graham enthusiastically campaigning for him. The same can be asked about Levine, and Greene’s ample checkbook.
But then, no political expert saw Gillum pulling off the primary upset either.
Take our poll here, and tell us what you think they should do.
For years now, coastal Palm Beach County residents has been able to watch the environmental disasters caused by toxic blue-green algae and red tide from afar.
We’ve watched our neighbors to the north in the Treasure Coast have their lives buffeted; our fellow county residents to the west in the Glades have their way of life threatened; and our fellow coastal residents in Southwest Florida shutter businesses.
But that was before this weekend. Before the red tide we’ve all been reading about elsewhere in the state was suspected of making the air so bad here that local health officials in Martin and Palm Beach counties were forced to shut down 27 miles of beaches.
Health officials, on Monday, were still trying to confirm that it is indeed red tide that forced beachgoers — especially those with respiratory issues — to stay away, and had many complaining about burning eyes.
Apropos that at the center of it all is Gov. Rick Scott and his dismal environmental record of budget cutting and lax regulation. But will county residents blame Scott for if the red tide disaster has indeed made it to our shores?
If it is red tide, this may be a game-changer for Scott — who prides himself among other things on shamelessly promoting our state’s all-important tourism industry. The embattled governor, who has already been taking hits for weeks in every coastal community he deigns to visit, usually sees Palm Beach County as a sanctuary for the Scott train. In fact, he was just here a couple weeks ago raising money in Palm Beach with former President George W. Bush.
That was then. Today, drivers can see signs for “Red Tide Rick” hanging from Florida’s Turnpike overpasses in the county. And again, if health officials confirm that red tide is the cause of the current “airborne irritant” at our beaches, Scott may have to scratch another coastal haunt off of his U.S. Senate campaign tour for a while.
Take our poll here, and let us know what you think: Is Scott’s handling of the environment to blame for the worse-than-normal red tide and toxic blue-green algae blooms?
Last week, as the fast-moving drama surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh unfolded, I asked whether his equally fast-moving confirmation process should be delayed.
Well, 60 percent of you said “yes”. Likely with the desire to hear out Professor Christine Blasey Ford on her allegations that Kavanaugh, as a drunken 17-year-old Georgetown Prep student, sexually assaulted her at a house party. She was 15 years old at the time.
But wait. That was last week. We now have what Republican supporters of Kavanaugh feared more than anything else: a second woman.
The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday night that Senate Democrats were investigating a second woman’s accusation of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh dating to the 1983-84 academic year, Kavanaugh’s first at Yale University.
Just as he did with Ford, Kavanaugh has denied the new allegations.
With regard to Ford, he denied ever attending such a party. Although Mark Judge, his best friend at the time, has written a book (and more) implying how they used to get drunk and attend such parties on the regular. Judge, now a well-known “conservative,” has said he has “no recollection” of the party that Ford has mentioned. He also has no desire to repeat that statement under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As you can imagine, in the past week Ford has been vilified by Republicans and Kavanaugh supports, as well as lifted up by Democrats and supporters of the #MeToo movement.
Conspiracies abound. The biggest being that this is an attack on a good man engineered by the Democrats to keep the nation’s highest court from leaning too far right. (Denying President Donald Trump another victory is just icing on the cake.) That the Dems withheld this information for months (it was six or seven weeks) just so they could spring it at the last minute.
The latter is ludicrous, of course, given that Ford never wanted to have her name used when this was first brought to the attention of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
Regardless of how the respected California professor came forward. She did. On the record.
So Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has spent a week walking a fine line between belittling Ford’s recollection of a traumatic teenage experience and trying to coax her (through her attorney) into testifying soonest before his committee.
The week was a news whirlwind. Grassley scheduling Ford to testify before talking to Ford about testifying. Ford insisting on an FBI investigation into her allegations before testifying. President Trump publicly questioning Ford’s allegations because she didn’t report it at the time. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell guaranteeing the Christian-conservative Family Research Council a Kavanaugh confirmation before either Ford or Kavanaugh has even testified. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a senior Republican member of the committee, saying that Ford is likely “confused” and probably has “the wrong guy.”
Gee, why would anyone think that Ford wouldn’t get a fair hearing?
Anyway, by the end of the week, there were reports that Ford had come to an agreement to testify before the Judiciary Committee this Thursday. Kavanaugh would testify the same day.
But then came Sunday.
The New Yorker said 53-year-old Deborah Ramirez described a traumatic sexual assault incident in an interview after being contacted by the magazine. Ramirez recalled that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away, the magazine reported.
In a statement provided by the White House, Kavanaugh said the event “did not happen” and that the allegation was “a smear, plain and simple.” A White House spokeswoman added in a second statement that the allegation was “designed to tear down a good man.”
Again, this is the one thing that Republicans did not want to happen, One woman willing to testify that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her can possibly be dismissed. But two — well-educated and respected — women testifying denotes a possibly disturbing pattern and adds pressure for an investigation.
As one former prosecutor said on CNN last week: “In my experience, these types of incidents are not one-offs,” he said. “There is typically a pattern of behavior… that means there’s likely more than one.”
The irony is not lost on me that on Monday, a Pennsylvania judge would decide whether 81-year-old comedian Bill Cosby would be labeled a “sexually violent predator” for alleged incidents that took place 30-plus years ago. Cosby was found guilty by a jury on all three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. But make no mistake what one the case for prosecutors was the testimony of five other women that Cosby had done the same to them.
We must remember that there is no evidence beyond two women’s allegations that Kavanaugh has done anything wrong — so far.
But politics aside, it’s difficult to see how the Senate Judiciary Committee can push ahead with this confirmation process without allowing the FBI to investigate these specific allegations.
It’s not fair to Ford and Ramirez. It’s not fair to Kavanaugh. And it’s not fair to the American people.
As the old saw goes: “What a difference a day makes.”
On Saturday, the sexual assault allegations contained in a leaked confidential letter from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was being treated like an act of political desperation on the part of Democrats.
In fact, it was being characterized as a joke by many political insiders and even veteran journalists, as this Friday image from editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson shows:
By Sunday morning, however, the allegations were no longer joke-worthy. Christine Blasey Ford, a Stanford University research psychologist, told The Washington Post that she is the woman alleging that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in suburban Maryland.
As one might expect, no one’s been laughing since. In this age of #MeToo, when powerful men are being taken down all over the place for sexual misconduct going back years, the seriousness of Ford’s allegations cannot be understated.
To that end, Wilkinson caught on quick and sent out another cartoon Monday morning:
For the record, Kavanaugh has strenuously denied that the sexual assault recounted by Ford ever happened. A Republican-leaning group is preparing to launch a $1.5 million advertising and marketing campaign in his defense; focusing I’m sure on how desperate Dems timed the release of these allegations to shut down an upcoming vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Well, mission accomplished.
There’s really no way, either politically or ethically, that the Republican-controlled Senate can move forward without a complete airing of these accusations. Truth be told, the Kavanaugh confirmation process has been a politically motivated cluster from the beginning. After being rushed by the Republican leadership, tens of thousands of pages of documents were dumped on Democratic committee members hours before the confirmation hearings began. Democrats, knowing they couldn’t stop the confirmation, fostered an almost circus-like atmosphere during the hearings.
It’s been almost laughable. Which is probably why when Feinstein released Ford’s letter, in which Ford had asked to remain anonymous, most saw it as just a last-ditch attempt to stymie the inevitable.
But then Ford, seeing this decided that she wanted to be the one to tell her story. To say that she isn’t a joke. That she alone has had to bear this trauma for 35 years; and that despite a successful career, marriage and family, the scars from being held down with a hand over your mouth while your clothes are being pulled at never really go away.
This is what Republican leaders must now navigate. They must somehow re-assure the thousands of American women like Ford. Though highly educated and successful, they carry around the memory of heinous incidents from their youth that they are loathe to discuss, even with those closest to them.
And by the way, here we are again, nearly 30 years after the infamous confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, with a group of old, white men — at least on the GOP side of the judiciary committee — presiding over a woman’s virtue.
But this is not the same culture that greeted Anita Hill.
Not taking the claims of woman willing to go public, and on the record with serious allegations of sexual assault allegations would likely carry a steep political price for the party in power.
Thus, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley has already offered for both Ford and Kavanaugh (again, who denies the allegations) to testify before the committee. But not in public.
As of Monday, Grassley and the rest of the GOP leadership still seem determined to rush this confirmation through.
That could be a mistake, especially since Ford has offered to testify publicly. Also, at least two GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona (a member of the judiciary committee) are no longer solid “yes” votes for Kavanaugh. And that can hardly be afforded with a narrow 51-49 vote margin in the Senate.
To be sure, the margin for error for handling Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh is razor thin. But the GOP also faces a political deadline in that their control of the Senate could be gone on Nov. 6.
The Senate could delay a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination to allow for a complete vetting of the sexual assault allegations against him.
Serena Williams put on a deeply disappointing display on Saturday. Her unconstrained anger over an umpire’s call ruined the U.S. Open women’s tennis singles final and completely deflated the stunning victory of a 20-year-old champion who has idolized the legendary 36-year-old icon all her life.
Yes, the chair umpire robbed Serena of a game, which basically put the uphill match out of reach for her. But Williams robbed the newcomer Naomi Osaka of something irreplaceable, the joy she should have had in winning her first Grand Slam and the clamor and attention that should now be washing over this rising star.
And yes, I know that double standards based on sexism exist in tennis, and that Palm Beach Gardens’ most famous resident could be absolutely right that umpire Carlos Ramos was excessively hard on her because of that. That’s the view of the incomparable Billie Jean King, who applauded Serena for standing up for women, and of the six-time U.S. Open champ, Boca Raton’s Chris Evert. That’s how it looked to my wife, watching TV with me as the incredible sequence of events unfolded on Saturday afternoon.
Ramos took what began as a minor infraction and turned it into one of the nastiest and most emotional controversies in the history of tennis, all because he couldn’t take a woman speaking sharply to him.
My reaction was different. I was really stunned that Serena exploded — and then wouldn’t let go. Ramos did start things off by making a questionable call: that the struggling champ had been getting signals from her coach in the stands. Ramos penalized her with a warning.
But Serena immediately turned it into a judgment of her honor and character. “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose,” she pleaded.
Never mind that the infraction was no indictment of her behavior, let alone her character. It was against the coach for gesturing. Ramos might have cooled things down right then if he had pointed that out to her.
Then, a little while later, Serena hit a backhand into the net, an unforced error, and smashed her racket in fury. Sorry, that’s not championship behavior. I hated it when John McEnroe did it, and I hated to see her do it. And she made it no more palatable by dressing it up as an act of sisterhood: Hey, women should have every right to be as obnoxious as the men!
It so happens that Martina Navritalova, no slouch as a warrior for women’s dignity, agrees with me, writing: “We cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with. In fact, this is the sort of behavior that no one should be engaging in on the court.”
For throwing the racket, Ramos properly charged Williams with a penalty. This second infraction cost her a point.
The context: We were in the second set. Williams had lost the first set, soundly, 6-2. She was losing this one. She wasn’t moving around the court well. Her serve was failing her. And Osaka had nothing but poise. The young Japanese-American-Haitian who got her training in Fort Lauderdale, now on the Arthur Ashe Stadium stage before a worldwide audience, was firm, focused, fluid and hitting with accuracy.
But Williams couldn’t drop it. She approached the chair and demanded an apology — which, c’mon, was never going to happen. Referees don’t do that, no matter the sport.
Then she went completely off the rails with a rant about being a mother and raising her daughter to “stand for what’s right for her.” Serena now seemed to me like someone carrying too heavy a load, not just a tennis champ chasing records for all-time, but a very self-conscious role model out to show that she could bounce back from a maternity leave, be a standard bearer for a new-model kind of strong, black femininity and perform at the highest level of her sport, all at the same time.
Even after the match resumed, and Osaka won another game, to lead 4-3, Williams resumed the argument and called Ramos a “liar” and “a thief.”
That was it. Penalty number three. Which meant Serena lost a full game. Just like that, it was Osaka, 5-3, and needing to win just one more game for the championship trophy.
Was that fair? Not really. Ramos could, and should, have played it cooler. But the real problem was that Williams should have got hold of her emotions before that final outburst.
It seems to me that you can’t win at anything if you don’t put your emotions on hold and focus on the challenge at hand. (Sure, the anger worked for McEnroe, but he is that unusual psychological type, the person who blows up and then feels calm and rejuvenated, no matter how anyone else around them feels.) Most of us can’t function well at all when we’re clouded by rage.
The fact is, bad calls happen. They even happen to great athletes. The job of the athlete is to compartmentalize it. Put it aside. Put yourself back in the match.
Then, after you’ve lost or won, complain and campaign all you want.
Is this hard to do? Hell, yes. I doubt that I could banish my anger from my mind if I thought my integrity had been impugned. I would be beside myself with rage. But I’m not a champion. She is. You only get to be a champion of Serena Williams’ caliber with very strong mental discipline – which she has had to employ for years, given the umpteen obstacles she was forced to overcome to dominate in such a white person’s sport.
Serena, the six-time U.S. Open champion, did not have that discipline on Saturday. In front of a crowd that really, really wanted to see her regain the crown for the first time since 2014.
All this said, I wonder why women’s tennis doesn’t insist on female umpiring. If pro-male bias is so insidious in this sport, then why not take the decision-making out of men’s hands altogether?
Every Florida primary election, thousands of voters from Milton to Marathon vent frustration about heading to the polls (or filling out a mail-in ballot) and once again not being able to vote for the major party candidate.
I understand their frustration. As a registered independent or No Party Affiliation (NPA) voter myself, it’s a little rough feeling like a player who keeps getting left out of the game. But that’s the system we all signed up for here in the Sunshine State.
Florida is one of just 11 states that have strictly “closed primaries” — that is, primaries in which only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary, and only registered Democrats in the Democratic primary.
A growing number of Floridians believe state lawmakers should think seriously about joining the 11 states that allow open primaries, in which any voter can cast a ballot in either party’s primary. Or the 24 states that have a mix of rules, with some allowing voters to cross party lines to vote, others that allow unaffiliated voters to participate.
Thought Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam would be the best gubernatorial candidate for the Republican Party? Tough.
Thought former Congresswoman Gwen Graham would be the best standard-bearer for the Democrats in the same gubernatorial contest? Too bad.
Or how about voting for your choice of which Democrat or Republican would best represent you in the state House or Senate? Sorry, you’ll have to wait until November.
Not surprising then that an increasing number of Florida voters are losing patience with this current “closed” system that shuts out some 27 percent of registered voters — read that, taxpayers.
That’s more than a quarter of Florida voters who are now choosing to identify as NPA. Why? Because they are tired of major party politics that produce lawmakers doing a poor job of lawmaking. And that’s a trend that many political observers say needs to be addressed.
A couple other factors: the number of registered voters, both Democrat and Republican, who regularly cross party lines during general elections; and the remaining “Dixiecrats” in the state who haven’t voted for a Democrat since Harry S. Truman but don’t bother to change their party affiliation.
Post readers have weighed in this over the past couple of weeks.
… In a situation where one party has an incumbent running while the other party has four or five folks contending for the right to represent their party, it is possible and very likely that people registered with the established candidate’s party will cross over and vote for the least likely candidate of the opposing party.
In Michigan, where there are open primaries, this cross-party voting has taken place on numerous occasions; when there are a number of candidates running for a position, just a few votes can make the difference in who wins the opportunity to represent the party.
By swaying the election in the primary, the opposing party can assure victory in the general election. This is called political shenanigans and has prevented many good candidates from being the choice of their own party…
I felt the pain of the letter writer who attempted to vote in the recently held primaries. I also attempted to vote 20 years ago, as a newly transplanted Florida resident, as an independent. Such an archaic, nonsensical law.
There is good news, however. The organization Florida Fair and Open Primaries is trying to add a constitutional amendment to the election ballot to change Florida primary elections from a closed political party system to a voter-nominated top-two open primary system.
I suggest that you look them up sign their petition then get everyone you know to do the same.
I highly disagree with the letter “NPA voters shut out of primaries” (Tuesday).
Primary elections are “partisan business matters” conducted by the members of Republican and Democratic parties. This is how the main political parties select their slate of candidates for a general election.
If you choose not to be a member of either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, why do you feel entitled to vote in Republican or Democratic primary elections?
Using religion as an example, why should a rabbi or ordained minister (of any faith) be allowed to have a say as to who will become the next pope of the Roman Catholic Church? The obvious answer is: They can’t; they’re not members of the Roman Catholic Church…
Independent, non-affiliated should not vote in primaries
Many independents and many non-affiliated voters feel they should have the right to vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries. Let me tell them why they don’t and shouldn’t have.
These two organizations are semi-private clubs. Anyone can join the club, but you have to join. I live in Palm Beach County. I can not vote in Miami-Dade County. If I wanted to vote in Miami-Dade, I just have to move to Miami-Dade. No one could stop me, but I would have to move.
Move to where you want to vote. New York, California, Florida, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade or Democratic Party or Republican Party.
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Clearly, this debate isn’t going away.
The two major parties are not going to do anything that dilutes their power and influence. But why should they? As mentioned above, opening their primary makes the process susceptible to bad actors.
Still, as the rolls of NPA voters continues to grow, so do their own power and influence — especially as taxpayers.
And it gets harder for state lawmakers to ignore the cries of, “I want in!”
Tell us what you think by taking our poll, and leaving a comment here.
The state’s environment could use a little more respect from political candidates this election season.
For the past several weeks, candidates have been trying to figure what issues are most important to voters. With some individual races as tight as they are, every hopeful running — be it for county commission or state senate — knows hitting on that one topic that resonates with voters can move the needle just enough to eke out a win. (Well, that and spending a lot of money on the campaign in the last couple weeks.)
Is it education? We do have a flashpoint issue in school security. There’s is also the much bigger issue of our K-12 public schools being in the bottom fifth in the nation. And Florida’s horrendous teacher pay has actually resulted in a shortage of about 4,000 teachers statewide to begin the 2018-19 school year.
Is it the economy? We do have this issue that, despite all the jobs created the last several years, too many residents complain they need two or three of them to make ends meet. That’s what happens when most of the jobs created are minimum wage. Meanwhile, the cost of housing is going through the roof in many places like, well, Palm Beach County.
Is it the environment? Or as I call it, “the Rodney Dangerfield of primary ballot issues.” Voters are witnessing a red tide causing massive fish kills, and manatee and turtle deaths up and down the Southwest Florida coast. They are watching the ongoing green goo affectionately known as “toxic blue-green algae” find its way into the backyard waterways of Treasure Coast residents. And of course, there’s that long-term, existential threat to our very way of life that everyone fears but few want to talk about: sea level rise. (That’s right, I said it.)
In a survey released by the USA Today Network and Florida Atlantic University in June, voters said the environment was their No. 3 concern after economy and school safety, respectively. But unlike these first two, environmental issues cannot seem to get and/or maintain traction on the campaign trail.
Venting on social media by irate residents about red tide and blue-green algae has gotten so bad that law enforcement is on edge.
And on August 13, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency over the ongoing toxic red tide bloom.
“The red tide, which grows offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, has drifted toward the coast and is being blamed for killing scores of animals, including manatees, turtles, and thousands of fish,” reported Palm Beach Post staff writer Kimberly Miller.
But around that same time, when he had the opportunity to confront Treasure Coast residents about the blue-green goo that’s ruining their fishing and boating, Scott elected to do the equivalent of a boating flyover — leaving residents and their questions hanging.
The governor-turned-U.S. Senate candidate isn’t much different from his political brethren on this front; though most can seem to muster a bit more face-to-face compassion. Still, when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phillip Levine tried to ride his sea-level-rise street cred to the top of the ticket, it didn’t work that well. Sure, voters like that stuff. But who can focus on an environmental threat when another candidate is accusing you of being a supporter of President Donald Trump, and guns are blazing at high school football games?
As a result, the environment gets pushed to the back-burner in a state that built its image off of sunshine and beautiful beaches. The state’s three-legged economy — tourism, agriculture and real estate — is so dependent on the environment that every storm season holds the potential to lay waste to all three. Witness: Hurricane Irma.
But so short is our attention span in this era of breaking news that environmental issues, even when they are staring us in the face daily — again, I mention toxic red tide and green algae — can’t keep a politician’s attention. Today, for example, in the wake of a mass shooting at a gaming tournament on Sunday in Jacksonville, gun control is the topic du jour.
Sigh… maybe it will be different in the general election campaign.
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What do you think?… Should the environment be a higher priority for Florida politicians?
Of course John McCain would leave words of inspiration.
At this moment in American history when the nation is riven into increasingly warring camps, the heroic former POW, Arizona senator and almost-president said this in his recently published book, The Restless Wave:
“Before I leave, I’d like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations. I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different. We are citizens of a republic made of shared ideals forged in a new world to replace the tribal enmities that tormented the old one….
“Whether we think each other right or wrong in our views on the issues of the day, we owe each other our respect, as long as our character merits respect, and as long as we share, for all our differences, for all the rancorous debates that enliven and sometimes demean our politics, a mutual devotion to the ideals our nation was conceived to uphold, that all are created equal, and liberty and equal justice are the natural rights of all….
“I want to urge Americans, for as long as I can, to remember that this shared devotion to human rights is our truest heritage and our most important loyalty.”
I didn’t agree with McCain on political positions. But I thought the world of him as a man. And I cherished how he practiced his patriotism.
He grew up with a heightened sense of duty, the son and grandson of U.S. Navy admirals. He bore torture as a POW. Yet after the war he sought common ground with the Vietnamese people and with American dissenters, like his fellow senator, John Kerry, who spoke out as a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War while McCain was a captive.
In the Senate, he evolved from uncompromising conservative to a man who looked beyond labels and caricatures to become close friends with liberal lion Ted Kennedy (who died of the same brain cancer exactly nine years before McCain’s passing on Aug. 25) and ally with Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform.
During his 2008 bid for the presidency, he famously defended his opponent Barack Obama when a woman at a campaign event called him “an Arab.”
“No, ma’am,” McCain interrupted. “He’s a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”
That moment said volumes about McCain’s character. And it shows how far, 10 years later, his Republican Party has veered from that generosity of spirit. Now the party’s leader does all he can to inflame white-identity anxiety and fan fears of the “other.”
Last year he interrupted his treatments for glioblastoma to make that dramatic appearance on the Senate floor and give thumbs-down, literally, on the Republicans’ attempted repeal of Obamacare. With a doctor’s scar prominent over his left eyebrow, he addressed his colleagues and, just for a moment, restored a long-lost dignity to the U.S. Congress.
“I hope we can again rely on humility,” he said, “on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us.
“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.”
In mourning McCain, I’ll be mourning not just a man but a sensibility. A man who exemplified the highest calling of citizenship is gone. Let the rest of us follow his lead.
At the risk of sounding cynical, they might have just saved the taxpayer’s money given Friday night’s tragic events. Although the logical argument for the new tax revenue highlight a long-overdue boost in pay of public school teachers, the emotional part of the argument is fueled by the school safety issue.
And over the last few days that emotion has been dialed up to a level we all hoped it never would.
You see, there’s school security, and then there’s school security.
That has become readily apparent in the wake of Friday night’s shooting at a football game between Palm Beach Central and William T. Dwyer high schools in that otherwise safe suburban enclave of Wellington.
The shooting wasn’t technically on campus; but I’m not sure it really matters at this point.
Much like the attendees at that football game, school officials and politicians are running scared of anything that raises doubts in the minds of parents’ and students’ that they can protect kids on a school campus.
Even before the shooting last week, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano said he wants state lawmakers to think about expanding the school-safety efforts approved during the 2018 legislative session after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
In a series of tweets last Tuesday, the Bradenton Republican implored senators to look more at school safety, according to the News Service of Florida.
“As incoming Senate President of the third-largest state in the nation — a bellwether for others — I am committed to making sure our re-examination of school safety policies does not end here,” Galvano tweeted. “Some issues simply must transcend politics. The safety of our children is one.”
In the 2018 session, lawmakers approved a wide-ranging, $400 million measure (SB 7026) measure that includes requiring schools to have safety officers, bolstering mental-health services and upgrading protections through school campus “hardening” projects.
And that’s kind of the rub here isn’t it? Friday’s shooting, which left two people injured — at least one critically — was barely on the school campus. In fact, Palm Beach County School District Police Chief Frank Kitzerow said it was an act of community violence that “barely spilled” on to the school campus. The shooting happened just outside the seating area — about 50 yards from a main road and outside the “secure” area of the stadium.
Most important, Kitzerow added, “Your children are safe. Come to school on Monday. We will be there.”
They were indeed. A couple of extra sheriff’s deputies were stationed outside Palm Beach Central High Monday morning. But more importantly, school district and sheriff’s officials are rewriting the security playbook this week to among other things, incorporate the area outside of a football stadium.
To be sure, it sounds like a knee-jerk over-reaction. But they don’t have much choice. The school board can either make adjustments so that parents and students feel better, or get hammered by those same parents and students for their lack of compassion.
As the Post’s Sonja Isger reported, those adjustments include morning kickoffs for some of the biggest games of the season and an hour earlier starts at 6 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. for others.
Once fans get to the game, only clear bags — and searched diaper bags — will make it through the gates.
And going forward, security staffing plans for football games and other large events will be devised by school police and paid for out of district accounts rather than pinning those obligations on each school. A group of principals will be putting together a list of protocols to be standard at events countywide.
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But how much is really enough? Especially when you’ve got teachers rethinking whether they support being armed and parents refusing to send their kids to any more football games.
A week ago, if you had mentioned doing either of those things to most Palm Beach County residents, the majority would have looked at you like you’re nuts.
Do you think school district officials are going too far changing when games are played?… Vote in our poll and leave a comment here.