Christie: Should Lisa Rivera, accused of stealing school funds, resign?

Greenacres Councilwoman Lisa Rivera has been mum since being arrested Monday on grand theft charges.

Any way you slice it, this situation ugly.

Ugly for the Palm Beach County School District. Ugly for school students and parents. But most of all, ugly for the residents and taxpayers of Greenacres.

The arrest of District I Councilwoman Lisa Rivera on grand theft charges on Monday has the sprawling suburb in a tizzy.

After calling Monday a “terrible day,” Councilwoman Paula Bousquet said: “I’ve had some concerns about some of the decisions (Rivera) made and why they were made… It was just a sad day.”

“The impact is the exposure to the city,” City Manager Andrea McCue said. “But there was no involvement by the city. We just want to make sure we continue with business as usual.”

It’s a little hard to believe that’s really possible given that we’ve yet to hear from Rivera since she was arrested on charges of stealing more than $23,000 between 2013 and 2015 while she was treasurer at Boca Raton High School.

Her arrest on the charges, which also included official misconduct and organized scheme to defraud — all felonies —  was the second in a week of a county schools treasurer. That alone helped draw attention to the incident.

But Rivera is also a twice-elected public official who last ran unopposed. As the first elected Latina, she also ran as a change agent against the city’s “old political guard,” led by former Mayor Sam Ferreri.

No surprise then that Ferreri was not especially kind in his comments about Rivera’s arrest. He called his old nemesis’ high-profile arrest a “sad day” for Greenacres. “It’s a disgrace to the people she represents,” Ferreri said. “It’s an embarrassment to the city.”

That was before Gov. Rick Scott late Wednesday suspended Rivera in lieu of the charges against her.

The Greenacres City Council, seen here honoring City Clerk Joanna Cunningham (center) in May, is having to move forward without Rivera.

RELATED: Governor suspends Greeancres Councilwoman Lisa Rivera

That left the city council with either having to find a temporary replacement. But they are in familiar territory.

The city appointed Anderson Thelusme to fill out the remaining year of former Councilman Jonathan Pearce’s District IV seat when Pearce ran for mayor earlier this year.

Officials said the city will now advertise Rivera’s seat, and begin accepting resumes and letters of interest ahead of the July 17 council meeting where they will conduct interviews.

But this also raises the inevitable question — among others — of whether Rivera should resign her seat while fighting these charges.

Rivera hugs Marcus Stukes’ Aunt Takesha Harrell in April on the site where Marcus and his friend Matthew Makarits were shot to death in Bowman Park in Greenacres. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Curiously, she has yet to make a statement to the media or to her constituents, if for no other reason than to put the latter’s minds at ease.

Other than her denial of the allegations against her last October, Rivera and her husband — a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy — have been mum about the charges or her plans.

But, as they say, nature abhors a vacuum. Not making a statement only invites insinuations and rumors when the residents of Greenacres deserve facts and ultimately truth.

That first has to come from Rivera. If there was ever a time for that brash, no-nonsense style to take center stage it is now.

The people who voted for her, and supported her are waiting.

What do you think Rivera’s next move should be?

Goodman: Trump tweets on ‘bleeding’ ‘Crazy Mika’. Can the president please act like one?

Joe Scarborough, right, and Mika Brzezinski host MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” at NBC Studios in New York on April 14, 2010. (Michael Nagle/The New York Times)

It was just two weeks ago that a shooter with a rifle wounded a Republican congressmen on a baseball field, and pleas went out, from Republicans, Democrats and everyone else, to tamp down the hateful rhetoric.

Today, we have the president of the United States lashing out at a TV news team with undisguised rage, unmistakable sexism and intolerable vitriol.

On Twitter, President Donald Trump lit into Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough (“Psycho Joe”) and Mika Brzezinski (“low I.Q. Crazy Mika”), suggesting that he had seen the latter at Mar-a-Lago on New Year’s Eve “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”

Thankfully, the backlash has been swift, the tweets being roundly denounced by Republicans as well as Democrats. The glaring exception: the White House itself. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, seemingly deaf to the ugliness of the president’s words, said, “This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media, and the liberal elites within the media.”

The June 14 shooting at an Alexandria, Va., park, which severely wounded U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., elicited soul-searching prayers for more civility and unity in our increasingly fractious politics. Even Trump weighed in, after visiting Scalise in the hospital:

“Steve, in his own way, may have brought some unity to our long-divided country,” Trump said in the Roosevelt Room. “We’ve had a very, very divided country for many years, and I have a feeling that Steve has made a great sacrifice, but there could be some unity being brought to our country.” (CNN.com)

Today, we’re hearing much the same thing, but the catalyst isn’t some anonymous, disgruntled Midwesterner with a load of liberal resentments. It’s the leader of the free world. From earlier today:

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican whose vote is considered critical to the success of Mr. Trump’s health care plan, wrote on Twitter, “This has to stop.” She said, “We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, also a Republican, wrote on Twitter, “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.” (New York Times)

We are accustomed to thinking that the occupant of the White House represents the highest standard of respectful discourse, if not always behavior.

It is jarring to realize that it is the rest of us who must school this president on how to act like a president.

Goodman: New state law will put Florida science teaching under attack

Earth Science and Physics teacher Erich Landstrom, leading a discussion after watching a video of a meteor crashing in Russia during a freshman Earth Science class at Seminole Ridge High School in 2013 . (Bill Ingram/The Palm Beach Post)

Opening the floodgates for ideological fights over classroom content, a new Florida law is about to give climate change-deniers and evolution skeptics a fresh round of weapons to heave against science in the state’s classrooms.

In fact, it will help all kinds of people with axes to grind about what’s taught in the public schools.

Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 989, into law on Monday. It goes into effect July 1. An overhaul of the state’s policy on instructional materials, it allows any county resident — not just parents — to challenge materials used in the public schools.

According to PBS’ Frontline, Florida is “the first state to pass something like its classroom materials bill.”

A group called the Florida Citizens Alliance pushed for the measure. “We were getting a lot of complaints about religious indoctrination, political indoctrination, revisionist history and even pornography in the textbooks,” says its managing director, Keith Flaugh.

Among those complaints: books that teach that “global warming is a reality” and that “humans are just another animal.” Economics and history texts that criticize Ronald Reagan’s economic policies and fail to credit the former president for the breakup of the Soviet Union. Explicit sex in novels, including Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye.”

“Purchased at taxpayer expense, these materials teach our children that European Socialism is better than free markets and that the government is the answer to every problem,” the group’s website says. “They make use of sexually explicit material which tears down family values.”

The new law doesn’t mention climate change, evolution or any other topic, but it requires school districts to set up a formal process to field complaints from any resident about the content of educational materials, including anything in the school library or on a reading list.

The complaints must be heard by an “unbiased and qualified hearing officer” who’s not “an employee or agent of the school district.”

To help residents keep their eye out for material to object to, each district must post on its website “a current list of instructional materials, by grade level, purchased by the district.”

Who will sign up to be a hearing officer? Flaugh says members of his group would be happy to volunteer.

What this means is that every whackadoodle with an ideological ax to grind will get the chance — at taxpayer expense — to attack the school curriculum, and educators will have to defend modern scholarship.

Or as science teacher Brandon Haught has put it, hearing officers will have to consider nonsense complaints, “in essence giving protesters on a crusade nearly equal weight in the instructional-materials selection process as education and subject matter experts.”

Haught, who teaches in Volusia County, has written “Going Ape: Florida’s Battles over Education in the Classroom,” which he summarizes as “a book about the many times our state became a national embarrassment when the teaching of evolution was challenged.”

This looks like another embarrassment in the making.

But wait. It gets worse. Another new law, signed by Scott on June 9, protects students and educators who wish to express their religious beliefs in school from discrimination.

According to Frontline:

Flaugh said his group will use [the religious discrimination law] in conjunction with the instructional materials bill to contest textbooks that demonstrate “bias toward Islam and seldom mention Christianity,” and promote those that push for a Christian view of the origins of life.

“Darwin’s theory is a theory, and the biblical view is a theory, and our kids should be taught both in a balanced way,” he said.

So this isn’t just about removing so-called objectionable material from impressionable young minds. It’s about advancing a particular set of religious ideas.

That doesn’t belong in science class.

Congratulations, Florida. You’ve just opened a can of worms that’s bound to make public education more contentious. And, in all likelihood, dumber.

Goodman: Delray Beach: All American City and ‘relapse capital’ all at the same time

Suzanne Spencer, former executive director of the Delray Beach Drug Taskforce, and Delray Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Goldman speak at a 2015 press conference about heroin overdoses and deaths in the city. (Photo by Hannah Winston)

Delray Beach this week became the first city in the state to win the All America City Award for a third time.

This same week, the city also gained national attention for being “the biggest relapse capital.”

In a lengthy front-page article on Wednesday, the New York Times documented the town’s unwanted status as one of the worst-hit centers of the opioid epidemic.

“Here, heroin overdoses long ago elbowed out car crashes and routine health issues as the most common medical emergencies,” writes reporter Lizette Alvarez. “Last year, Delray paramedics responded to 748 overdose calls; 65 ended in fatalities. In all, Palm Beach County dealt with 5,000 overdose calls.”

The story rightly emphasizes that, unlike other places reeling from rampant opioid addiction, “most of the young people who overdose in Delray Beach are not from here.” They come from the Northeast and Midwest in search of drug treatment “in a town that has long been hailed as a lifeline for substance abusers.”

But as the Palm Beach Post has exhaustively reported, that treatment industry has been corrupted by bad actors who use insurance fraud to reap huge illicit profits and cynically thrust recovering addicts deeper into addiction.

“We have these people sending us their children to get healthy,” Dave Aronberg, the county’s state attorney, says in the Times, “and they are leaving in ambulances and body bags.”

Delray won the All American City Award for its efforts to advance early literacy. The honor is bestowed by the National Civic League, founded in 1894 by urban reformers including Theodore Roosevelt, Frederick Law Olmstead and Louis Brandeis.

The city founded a board that worked with schools, parents and city leaders combat the summer slide, boost school attendance and prepare beginning students for school. The result, officials said: a 25 percent bump in grade-level reading from kindergarten through third grade in Delray schools.

Delray previously was named an All American City in 1993 and 2001.

No doubt, Delray leaders would rather their city be best known for its literacy-boosting virtues. But the Times story on the seaside town’s dangerous drug reality deserves a wide audience, especially up North. Maybe it will be read as a warning to people struggling with substance abuse: Think twice before coming down here for the help you might never receive.

Christie: PBC cities risk return of ‘Corruption County’ by shorting IG’s office

Palm Beach County Inspector General John A. Carey speaks with county commissioners before the start of a meeting at the Governmental Center in West Palm Beach. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County’s Office of the Inspector General has to feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of local government.

They don’t get “no respect, no respect at all.”

Latest case in point: Despite documented success at ferreting out, and drawing attention to questionable government actions, county commissioners last month decided not to grant Inspector General John Carey’s budget request for $500,000 for additional staffers — part of a 10-person boost Carey wants over the next three years.

RELATED: Cities balk at idea of helping PB County pay for inspector general

This wasn’t some arbitrary request, mind you. The IG’s office, according to Carey, has questioned $24.7 million in costs, identified $21.9 million in potential cost savings and referred 119 cases to law enforcement, the county or Florida Commission on Ethics.

Not bad for a much-maligned agency that’s been under-funded, under-staffed and under-appreciated by many of the local elected officials it works for.

Remember that 15 of our 39 municipalities sued to keep from paying their share for running the IG’s office.

Remember also, that in response to a 2009 grand jury report citing repeated incidences by former members of the county and West Palm Beach city commissions — earning us the nickname “Corruption County” — 72 percent of voters in 2010 had had enough. They approved expanding the IG’s office to cover all then-38 municipalities, and to be funded by them.

By they way, that was a majority of voters in each and every municipality.

The will of the voters aside, however, 40 percent of the county’s cities didn’t like the idea of paying for someone to look over their shoulders. They should decide how their city’s money is spent; a rather compelling argument when budgets are tight.

That made for a protracted legal battle, which the cities eventually won in a December ruling from the 4th District Court of Appeal. The court determined that, “Notwithstanding the constitutional principle that ‘(a)ll political power is inherent in the people,’ voters may not waive a municipality’s sovereign immunity through a local referendum.”
No surprise that leaves the IG’s office in a rather tough spot. You see, it must by law provide oversight and conduct investigations not only in the county but in cities that don’t pay for its work.
Palm Beach Count Ethics Commissioner Sarah L. Shullman

County Ethics Commissioner Sarah L. Shullman told the Post’s Wayne Washington that the cities are being shortsighted in refusing to fund the office. She said that its basically contract review work, and even its fraud investigations can potentially save a city far more money than it would cost to contribute to the office’s budget.

Carey, meanwhile, is trying to stay above the fray and not bite the potential hands that might feed him.
He just wants the money for the additional staffing. “I’m trying to stay out of the argument between the cities and the county,” he said, but added that the office’s limited staffing “hurts our ability to serve the citizens of Palm Beach County, who voted overwhelmingly for our oversight. At the end of the day, I just hope we find a way to adequately fund the Office of the Inspector General.”
Yeah, good luck with that.
Carey did try to take his case to the public — albeit in an email to local media outlets the day before commissioners decided to accept County Administrator Verdenia Baker’s budget recommendation to hold off on the requested $500,000.
In a short, soft-spoken cover letter, he chided “friends and IG supporters” to:

  Please see the attached IG Update on our accomplishments to date and where we stand as a result of the end of the lawsuit over funding of your Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General.

  June marks my third year as your Inspector General.  Over the past three years, I have spoken to hundreds of business and community groups about what your Office of Inspector General is doing to guard taxpayer dollars and promote integrity, transparency and accountability in government.  If you have a group you would like me to speak to, please let me know.  I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to meet and speak with those I serve.

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker said she seriously considered Carey’s request but decided that other staffing needs were more pressing. She also did not include funding for all of Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s request for new deputies. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Commissioners and Baker, who rightfully has her eye on a likely $25 million property tax revenue shortfall from a potential expansion of the homestead exemption next year, were moved, but not enough.
While some commissioners said they support the IG’s work, their hopes lie in the cities’ “voluntary” largesse.
“I think our recourse here is as clear as day,” Commissioner Hal Valeche said. “We need to go after the cities. They are getting a service and not paying for it, and that is not right. I don’t know how we apply leverage. We can shame the cities, which is my preferred course. You just don’t get something for nothing in this world.”
I’m not sure that the municipalities get that. They seem to be under the impression that they don’t need a corruption watchdog because we’re no longer “Corruption County” — a universally despised moniker.
But what if the reason we’re no longer “Corruption County” is precisely because we have a corruption watchdog?
Is it so hard to believe that government officials will behave badly when they are convinced no one is watching? Or that no one cares enough to do anything?
As much as we’d like to move past it, we need to remember that universally despised moniker was earned. A majority of taxpayers in every municipality agreed, and voted to do something about it.
A state appellate court shot them down. But that doesn’t erase their concern or wishes.
Our municipal government officials can either go on kidding themselves — and their residents — that “Corruption County” can’t happen again, or they can pony up the money to help pay for the IG’s work to make sure it doesn’t.

What do you think? …

Goodman: Florida’s ‘war on citrus canker’ continues bearing bitter fruit

This 2000 file photo shows crews removing citrus trees in Boca Raton.

It seems hard to believe, but 10 years after the state cut down millions of healthy trees in a hapless effort to halt citrus canker disease, lots of Floridians still haven’t been reimbursed for the loss of their beloved fruit-bearing trees.

And Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t made it any easier. This month, he vetoed $37.4 million intended to compensate residents of Broward and Lee counties after years of litigation about the removal of trees around the state. The money was to be part of the 2017-18 budget recently approved by the Legislature.

On Tuesday, homeowners and their lawyers asked the Florida Supreme Court to overturn Scott’s decision, calling it unconstitutional. The veto “undermines the state’s constitutional obligation to pay full compensation for the taking of private property,” the lawsuit argues.

Folks in Broward and Lee counties aren’t the only ones waiting for overdue payments. Palm Beach County homeowners are to get $28.4 million and Orange County residents are due $35.7 million. Those sums — awarded by juries in lawsuits against the state — haven’t yet been allocated by the Legislature.

And so an unpopular — and unsuccessful — “war on canker” keeps on making people unhappy.

From 1995 to 2006, homeowners winced and protested as state and federal workers put chainsaws to their healthy trees. They removed 16.5 million from backyards and citrus groves — almost 75,000 from Palm Beach County backyards alone — to stop the fruit-blemishing disease. The campaign, said to be the largest such eradication effort ever seen, cost a ridiculous $875 million. Litigation and claims have pushed that number past $1.6 billion.

What makes it harder to swallow: It was all for nothing. As my colleague Susan Salisbury has explained:

The program was based on a flawed “1,900-foot rule” that called for removing every tree within a 1,900-foot radius of an infected tree. The theory was that 95 percent of transmissions from a diseased tree to a healthy tree occur within 1,900 feet.

Of course, that left 5 percent of bacterium at large. Unbelievably, the rule that became a law in 2002 didn’t account for the role hurricanes or even tropical storms would play in the disease that those same scientists said was spread by wind-borne rain. The wicked 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons spread the canker so far and wide that it was impossible to eradicate.

 

UPDATE 9:45 a.m. THURSDAY:

The Florida Supreme Court wants a quick response from Gov. Scott about his veto. It has given him until noon Monday to respond to the lawsuit from Broward and Lee county homeowners and attorneys.

 

Christie: U.S. hypocrisy on human rights shows in Cuba policy ‘tweak’

Nelson Avila, center, joins anti-President Donald Trump protesters, calling for open relations with Cuba on Friday in Miami. Trump thrust the U.S. and Cuba back on a path toward open hostility Friday with a blistering denunciation of the island’s communist government. He clamped down on some commerce and travel but left intact many new avenues President Barack Obama had opened. (Leslie Ovalle/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz… and lest we forget, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

All have been the subject of compliments from President Donald J. Trump during his infant presidency. From their strength in terms of silencing — even through violence — critics to their facility to write billion-dollar checks to the U.S. government, the president has not been shy about lauding these strongmen for their “leadership” in their respective countries.

President Trump has not been as willing to discuss their dark histories — former and current — when it comes to alleged human rights abuses.

That wasn’t the case last week, when the president made the grand announcement to reverse President Barack Obama’s opening of diplomatic relations with communist Cuba.

There, he drew a line of hypocrisy when it comes to what the U.S. will, and will not put up with when it comes to human rights by its partners.

President Donald Trump signs an executive order on a revised Cuba policy aimed at stopping the flow of U.S. cash to the country’s military and security services while maintaining diplomatic relations on Friday in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

“It’s hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior administration’s terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime,” Trump said.

“The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime,” Trump said. “We will work for the day when a new generation of leaders brings this long reign of suffering to an end. And I do believe that end is within the very future.”
Trump said Obama’s policy has helped Cuba’s Castro regime rather than ordinary Cuban citizens. Of course, this is all about helping the Cuban people. Hard to argue against that. And the fact that the U.S.-Cuban thaw begun by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in 2014 hasn’t noticeably resulted in less human rights abuses — jailing of dissidents, imprisoning political opponents, etc.

A little more impatience about democracy isn’t such a bad thing.

But Trump joined a chorus of Cuban hardliners during his speech on Friday on stage at the Manuel Artime Theater who don’t bother drawing a distinction between our approach to Cuba’s Castro regime versus others of the same ilk.

Truthfully, Trump’s so-called “reversal” of Obama’s policies normalizing of relations with Cuba after 50-plus failed years of isolationism was little more than a “tweak.”

In this file photo, a tour bus along Havana’s Malecon. As President Donald Trump outlined a stricter policy toward Cuba on Friday travel industry representatives scrambled to decode new prohibitions and reassure clients that the island was not off limits. (Daniel Berehulak/The New York Times)

What remains: full diplomatic relations, including an embassy in Havana; reduced immigration favoritism for Cubans, otherwise known as the “wet foot, dry foot” policy; restored commercial flights and cruise-ship visits; enhanced cash remittances and visitation by Cuban Americans; and even removal of Cuba from the list of state terrorism sponsors.

What changes: tightening restrictions on tourist travel to Cuba — technically illegal already — and instituting a broad prohibition on financial transactions with companies significantly controlled by the Communist government’s military holding company.

The rest is mostly rhetoric. Questionable rhetoric that, while it sounds good on a campaign stump, won’t amount to much in terms of helping the Cuban people.

So why bother? Especially given how hypocritical it all sounds when compared to what he administration seems fit to put up with from other de facto dictatorships when it comes to human rights abuses.

Why didn’t we here the same compassion from the Trump administration for the Turkish people who are having their rights trampled on? Would the U.S. be wrong to demand the right to a fair trial for hundreds of alleged drug dealers shot down in the streets in the Philippines? Why didn’t we here the same for the thousands of Egyptians jailed and killed by el-Sisi? And was a $100 billion buy of U.S. military hardware enough to buy our silence on Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women?

Such selective ire makes the righteous indignation from Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Jose Diaz-Balart ring all the more hollow.

Human rights are human rights. You either care about them everywhere, or you don’t care about them at all.

Goodman: Alexandria shooting shows ‘there’s too much hate’ in our politics, GOP congressman says

We don’t yet know the motives of the gunman who opened fire on Republican congressmen and staffers who were practicing at a peaceful park in Alexandria, Va., for a charity baseball game.

But the vitriol in Washington, D.C., is so intense over our politics, the divisions in America so bitter, that it is easy to jump to the same conclusion as Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., who was at the practice and survived the barrage of gunfire that severely wounded a colleague, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and wounded three others.

“This hatefulness that we see in this country today over policy differences, it’s got to stop,” Davis told CNN. This is his “breaking point,” he said. The political rhetoric of hate and division, including on social media and the 24-hour news cycle, has to end.

“I think Republicans and Democrats need to use this today, today, to stand together and say, ‘Stop! Let’s work together. Let’s get things done. We can have our differences but let’s not let it lead to such hate.'”

Even if it turns out that the shooter, identified as James Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill., had no political motive, it speaks volumes that the nation’s current animosities leap to mind when processing such unprovoked violence.

Can America ratchet down the animosities? Is this a warning of what may happen if we do not?

UPDATE 12:16 p.m.

Washington Post reports:

The man suspected of firing dozens of rounds into an Alexandria baseball field Wednesday morning has been identified by federal law enforcement officials as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill.

A Facebook page belonging to a person with the same name includes pictures of Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, and rhetoric against President Trump, including a post that reads: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”

Hodgkinson was among those taken to a hospital Wednesday, and President Trump announced that he had died from “his injuries.”

Charles Orear, 50, a restaurant manager from St. Louis, said in an interview Wednesday that he became friendly with Hodgkinson during their work together in Iowa on Sanders’s presidential campaign. Orear said Hodgkinson was a passionate progressive and showed no signs of violence or malice toward others.

 “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Orear said when told by phone about the shooting.

Orear described Hodgkinson as a “quiet guy” who was “very mellow, very reserved” when they stayed overnight at the home of a Sanders’s supporter in Rock Island, Ill., after canvassing for the Vermont senator.

“He was this union tradesman, pretty stocky, and we stayed up talking politics,” he said. “He was more on the really progressive side of things.”

When informed that the suspect’s Facebook page prominently features Sanders’s image, the senator’s spokesman Michael Briggs said:

“Our prayers go out for a full recovery of Rep. Scalise, the congressional aides and police officers who were injured. We’ve got to stop the violence.”

Munoz: Ariana Grande, my town’s world-famous star, helped a shattered city heal

Singer Ariana Grande is overcome by emotion at the One Love Manchester tribute concert in Manchester, England, Sunday, June 4. (Dave Hogan via AP)

By Valeria Munoz

Palm Beach Post Intern 

For many, Ariana Grande is just another pop star, a distant face on TV or magazines, but having grown up in Boca Raton and seen her rise to fame, I feel a certain connection to the star who shares my hometown.

Her favorite hangouts are the same ones my friends and I visit. Whenever she comes to town, it seems my school is the first to know. Many of my friends attended her Miami concert in April.

Thus, when tragedy struck during her Manchester, U.K., concert, it hit close to home.

Upon hearing about the 22 who lost their lives on May 22 and the almost 60 wounded, I remembered the concerts I had attended. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the concept. I thought about how most had been Arianators (Ariana fans, like me). I thought of all of Ariana’s dancers. And finally I thought of Ariana, who had grown up in the neighborhood a few streets from mine. And although I couldn’t imagine her thoughts, I felt overwhelming emotions.

Grande certainly considers Boca Raton her home, still. Since the attack, she sought the support of her friends and family in the very place she began her career.

Boca Raton fans of Ariana, known as the Boca Babes, gathered at Patch Reef Park on Sunday, May 28, to honor the 22 lost.

While Grande was planning the benefit concert, her fan base across the world organized meetups, gathering in locations where they released light pink balloons in the memory of those who lost their lives in Manchester.

Allan Alvarado, co-owner of the Ariana fan account @yallneedbutera on Instagram, organized the meet-up in the artists’ hometown in Patch Reef Park on May 28. A friend of Alvarado’s, Randi Cass, 16, from Stuart, also created shirts with Ariana Grande’s ribbon that has become synonymous with Manchester. Her goal was to sell 50 shirts, but she has sold 750 thus far and raised $7,270.

The t-shirt designed by Randi Cass, 16, of Stuart.

Although some people criticized Grande for leaving Manchester, Y100 Miami reported that, at first, she and her dancers were distraught and confused as to what had occurred. Her mother, Joan Grande, took several fans backstage and as a result saved their lives. The team’s exit wasn’t an act of indifference or selfishness but rather of precaution and safety.

Like many fans, I expected Ariana Grande to go on hiatus to overcome the difficulty of the bombing. However, she handled the situation with such strength and grace by taking the stage only a week after the attack at the exact venue.

The performers who joined her did a sublime job, but nothing compared with Ariana’s entrance. Accompanied by her dancers, Grande and her team held hands to symbolize their unity with the Manchester crowd. There was so much courage and reassurance in that small act of community.

In that moment, as she sang “We’re Gonna Be Alright,” I could only imagine what the little girls sitting in the Manchester hospital felt, witnessing it on TV. It’s not easy to see an idol’s vulnerability, but it is events such as these that make us realize that celebrities are human.

To see her come back, standing tall and proud, singing her hits, I felt an indescribable amount of appreciation and respect for Ariana Grande. Through her performance in Manchester, Grande has demonstrated a level of grace, proving she has since matured from the donut mishap of a few years ago.

As she said: “The kind of love and unity you’re displaying is the medicine the world needs right now.”

For young girls who attend concerts all around the world, “we’re going to be alright” is just the message they needed to hear. Grande spread a message of love through music, a language that continues to be universal.

 

Valeria Munoz, a graduate of Boca Raton High School, is a journalism major and currently an intern with the Palm Beach Post.

 

Goodman: Once smoke clears, medical pot could be session’s big winner

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, right, answers questions on medical marijuana on the Senate floor during a special session of the Legislature Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

 

UPDATE 3:15 PM: The Senate passed its bill for regulating medical marijuana early this afternoon.

“This legislation demonstrates fidelity to the Constitution by fully and faithfully implementing the constitutional amendment passed by 71 percent of voters last November,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart). “The legislation also affirms our commitment to local control by allowing local governments to regulate the location of dispensing facilities. In addition, the legislation enhances research opportunities that will allow scientists and physicians to study and improve this medicine for our fellow citizens who are suffering from serious medical conditions and illnesses.”

***

The rest of the Florida Legislature’s special session may be blowing up, but when the smoke clears, the only real achievement might be — of all things — a bill on regulating medical marijuana.

The air is thick with irony. Medical marijuana was absent from the agenda when Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders announced the special session last week. The assemblage in Tallahassee was supposed to rubber-stamp behind-the-scenes deals on education and economic development. Those compromises have fallen apart, according to a number of reports on Thursday night, and speculation has turned to how the chambers can possibly bridge their differences by today’s deadline for the session — and if not, what then?

But in the brief, three-day session, the House and Senate managed to find the compromises on medical marijuana that eluded them during the 60-day regular session, when they bickered over the number of companies that would be licensed to grow, process, distribute and sell the drug, which became legal when 71 percent of voters approved Amendment 2 in November, legalizing medical cannabis for a large number of patients with debilitating illnesses.

Medical marijuana legislation has emerged as possibly the only issue garnering compromise during this tumultuous special session. (Photo courtesy Fotolia/TNS)

One major sticking point remains. A majority of lawmakers still insists on forbidding the smoking of the substance, arguing that smoking makes it impossible for patients to get a set dose of the drug and is inherently unhealthy. Vaping and edibles are OK.

But the primary backer of the amendment, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, is promising to sue, saying that voters always believed that smoking was part of the deal.

One oddity in the bill is a gift to the state’s ailing citrus industry: the Florida Department of Health is supposed to give preferential treatment to companies that promise to convert orange juice factories and other citrus-processing facilities into marijuana grow sites. Democrats, who have little power in the Legislature, have rightly voiced outrage.

“It’s clear the language is written to benefit specific groups and specific companies,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. “They know who is going to benefit. We don’t. And they are writing a bill that benefits these groups.” (Times/Herald)

Scott and legislative leaders added medical marijuana to the special session earlier this week after enduring withering criticism that they were snubbing the people’s will by palming off responsibility for setting regulations to the health department, which has a history of taking too long and being too restrictive in getting medical marijuana to patients in pain.

Legislators from the House and Senate scrambled to reach a compromise.

The News Service of Florida explains:

The compromise (SB 8-A, HB 5A) would add 10 new medical-marijuana operators to the seven vendors already operating in Florida. The Department of Health would have to grant the new licenses by Oct. 3. The highly coveted licenses go to businesses that are responsible for growing, processing and distributing pot.

The vendors would each be allowed to operate up to 25 dispensaries — and possibly more — throughout Florida. The maximum number of retail outlets in each of five regions of the state would be based on population.

Marijuana operators also could purchase dispensary “slots” from other vendors, meaning they could potentially exceed the 25-storefront cap.

The cap on dispensaries — which would end in 2020 — and the number of medical-marijuana operator licenses would increase as the number of patients eligible for the cannabis treatment grows.

The Department of Health has issued licenses after lawmakers in 2014 passed a measure that allowed non-euphoric cannabis for some patients, such as children with severe forms of epilepsy. Lawmakers in 2016 allowed full-blown marijuana for terminally ill patients, but the November constitutional amendment legalized pot for patients with a wide range of conditions.

State Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, has been a staunch supporter of legalizing marijuana for medical use.

All in all, it’s a good step forward. And there’s a bonus. The legislation calls for a medical marijuana research and education center to be set up to conduct “rigorous scientific research” on the too-little-verified properties of cannabis as a pain-killer or healer. It’s to be at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa.

Excellent. The more facts, the better.

Here’s a look at how legalizing medical marijuana, as well as recreational marijuana, is crossing the nation.  (Source: High Supplies)