Christie: Should West Palm’s lone Confederate monument be removed?

Confederate flag on large stone monument at Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

The issue of whether to take down monuments to the Confederacy is a hot, divisive topic.

From Louisiana to Virginia to yes, Florida, debates are raging in cities and counties over strong, deep-seeded feelings for or against the statues, plaques and graveyards set aside by Confederate supporters decades ago.

Speaking of graveyards, for instance, West Palm Beach in May began wrestling with one of its own when it came to a monument to Confederate soldiers that’s been at Woodlawn Cemetery since 1941.

As pieces of history honoring the Confederacy fell from city to city, the issue caught fire here, West Palm Beach. Why? Because standing directly behind the American flag, a 10-foot tall marble monument is unmistakable when visitors drive through the front gate of Woodlawn. A Confederate flag is carved into the side with words honoring that army’s soldiers who are buried there. Early in her term, Mayor Jeri Muoio worked to remove all Confederate flags and symbols on city property, but the monument is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

A Confederate statue is seen in a small park in Tampa. The Hillsborough County Commission on July 19 is revisiting its vote not to remove the 106-year-old monument. (AP Photo/Tamara Lush)

Florida was pro-South in the Civil War and the third state to secede. After the war, the bankrupt state started to attract migration through tourism, which is why it’s common to find Union and Confederate veterans buried at places like Woodlawn.

But the issue of Woodlawn is especially sensitive for blacks in West Palm Beach because they weren’t allowed to be buried in the cemetery until 1966 when, under pressure, the City Commission approved it. Under the old rule, 69 white victims of the 1928 hurricane were buried at Woodlawn while 674 black victims were dumped into a mass grave at 25th Street and Tamarind Avenue.

So in May, William McCray, a black resident and well-known commission gadfly, demanded the removal of the monument.

But again, while the cemetery is public property, the monument is privately owned by the United Daughters of The Confederacy. And a local spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1599 said the city should back off.

“This honors the men who were buried there,” Jimmy Shirley told the Post’s Tony Doris. “It’s where it’s supposed to be.”

He said the Confederate’s history deserves to be told along with the Union’s side. Children should know fully about the U.S. Civil War to understand the foundations of the country, so to take down the monument would be misguided and wrong, he said.

The statue of Confederate general J.E.B. Stewart on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Shirley’s not alone in that thinking. And the issue from finding its way onto the Post Opinion pages. As with the following Letter to the Editor published on July 21:

Erasing Confederacy is form of prejudice

It’s easy to look back and say slavery is bad, because under no circumstances would we in this day condone someone enslaving another person. However, it was the way of the South and it is part of our history.

It is absurd to put Southern slave owners in the same category as Nazis and Japanese soldiers. The Confederates were trying to preserve their lifestyle. It doesn’t compare to the intentional atrocities committed by the Japanese and Germans during World War II.

Erasing traces of the Confederacy is committing a form of prejudice exhibiting the very behavior people are protesting.

LANA COMPTON, WEST PALM BEACH

We also had letters with the opposite view:

Confederates’ ‘duty’ was not honorable

Regarding the letter titled, “Statues honor men who did their duty” (June 28), the writer seeks to create an equivalence between a Confederate soldier to whom she is related, yet possibly never met, to conscripted soldiers like my grandfather who fought the Japanese in World War II, while also condemning General Sherman who, also, did his duty.

This equivalency is absurd and insulting. The writer’s great-grandfather committed treason and then, like most Confederates, cut a deal when the Union forced them to disavow the Confederacy or die.

What did Confederates fight for? The right to use people as chattel. She fails to acknowledge how fighting for the Confederacy was acting in approval of slavery despite her great-grandfather not owning slaves.

Doing your duty means putting your life on hold to fight for a cause greater than yourself that is on the side of humanity. Union soldiers can claim that moral high ground, as can Allied soldiers from World War II.

Confederates and conscripted Nazi soldiers who “did their duty” during WWII do not get these same honors.

DANIEL TRIA, LAKE WORTH

In the case of West Palm, the city’s law department has also been investigating if the city can tell the group to move the monument.

Take our poll, and tell us where do you stand on this issue:

Christie: Narcan worth considering in PBC schools, board chairman says

Palm Beach County School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw says the country’s growing opioid crisis may force the school district to consider stocking the anti-overdose drug, Narcan, on school campuses. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

The tragic death last month of a Miami-Dade County fifth-grader after he somehow came in contact with the powerful drug, fentanyl, has many public school district officials concerned about the health and safety of students.

Count Palm Beach County School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw among them.

While careful not to outright condone stocking the life-saving, anti-overdose drug Narcan (a brand name for Naloxone) on Palm Beach County school campuses to counteract potential opioid overdose situations, Shaw says it is worth discussion when considering the school district’s responsibility to protect kids on those campuses.

I’d have to agree. The overdose deaths stemming from the county’s opioid epidemic, chronicled exhaustively over the past year by The Palm Beach Post, has yet to show any signs of abating. It’s no stretch to assume that this crisis would, at some point, spill over into our school campuses.

So, it would make sense then for school nurses — the front line of defense on health emergencies — to be prepared.

For Shaw, the question had first come to mind because the opioid overdoses reminded him of an incident he had dealt with many years ago as a local school principal.

“A girl had come to school with a couple of vials of blood for a sort of show-and-tell,” he recounted. “It turned out that her mom or sister was training to be a phlebotomist, and had drawn some of the girl’s blood. The girl asked to take the vials to school to show her friends, and the mom or sister said sure.

“That got me to thinking of all things that kids could be exposed to on a school campus,” he continued, “and how much the use of opioids is spreading; not just in our community, but everywhere it seems.”

And that got Shaw wondering whether school nurses were properly trained to handle a potential overdose situation; and then whether Narcan should be at their disposal.

RELATED: Editorial: New sober-house laws are good, but we need bigger plan

The 46-year veteran of Palm Beach County schools is obviously right to be concerned.

Because this plague is getting worse. Opioids, mainly fentanyl and heroin, have killed 2,664 people in Florida in the first six months of this year — an average of 14 people per day. At this rate, fatal overdoses will outpace last year’s count by 36 percent.

In Palm Beach County alone, overdoses spiked to 311 in the first five months of this year, 20 percent more than the first five months of 2016. And Palm Beach County’s 590 opioid overdose deaths in 2016 were an all-time high for the county and nearly twice as many as in 2015, according to a Palm Beach Post analysis of records from the medical examiner.

RELATED: Miami boy’s death shows powerful opioid’s chilling potential

And then there’s the tragic death of 10-year-old Alton Banks. Authorities believe that Alton, who lived in Miami’s drug-ridden Overtown neighborhood, died on June 23 after coming into contact with fentanyl — but they are still trying to pin down how.

Alton died after a visit to the pool in Overtown. He began vomiting after coming home and was found unconscious that evening. Preliminary toxicology tests show he had fentanyl in his system.

Miami-Dade County authorities believe that Alton Banks, 10, died by somehow coming into contact with the powerful drug, fentanyl.

“We don’t know where he got it. We don’t believe he got it at his home,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said last week. “It could be as simple as touching it. It could have been a towel at the pool.”

She added: “We just don’t know.”

The case has underscored how frighteningly prevalent fentanyl has become — and how potent it is. Exposure to just tiny amounts can be devastating.

Indeed, fentanyl is so powerful that some police departments have warned officers about even touching the drug. Last year, three police dogs in Broward County got sick after sniffing the drug during a federal raid, according to officials.

But where does the school district’s responsibility begin? “You’ve got the bus stop… the bus,” Shaw mused. “Then, of course, you have the campus.”

The answer, at first, may first appear simple, especially since everyone wants to protect schoolkids.

There are some, however, who worry that having Narcan on hand can also become a crutch and stop some people from taking personal responsibility. Those arguments echo those of past opponents of setting up needle exchanges and distributing condoms to stop the spread of AIDS, who argued that such moves were just encouraging drug use and sex.

RELATED: Akron, Ohio, schools to get anti-OD med Narcan, but not everybody agrees

Point taken. But it falls flat for Matthew Davis, a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and head of general pediatrics at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

“Health care workers in hospitals and first responders in communities have had naloxone on hand for decades, but there is no evidence that having naloxone as an antidote has encouraged Americans to try street drugs and abuse prescription opioids,” Davis wrote in an email to NBC News last week. “Similarly, we would not expect teens to abuse opioids because naloxone is available in their schools.”

Naloxone, he wrote, must be “part of comprehensive drug use prevention programs in schools and communities, to try to reduce drug use among teens.”

“Making naloxone available in junior high and high schools is smart public health policy, given what is known about teens’ misuse of prescription opioid medicines and teens’ use of heroin in the U.S. today,” he added.

Having naloxone on hand “is just like putting a defibrillator on the gym wall for a heart attack, or having injections of epinephrine available for someone who can’t breathe because of a severe allergic reaction,” he wrote. “They are tools made available to save lives.”

Margaret Cellucci of the National Association of Schools Nurses (NASN) echoed those sentiments.

“The school nurse is often the first health professional who responds to an emergency in the school setting,” NASN said in its position statement.

“When administered quickly and effectively, naloxone has the potential to immediately restore breathing to a victim experiencing an opioid overdose,” it said.

To be sure, with 187 school district campuses, the financial cost of taking on this responsibility could be a factor as well. The demand fueled by opioid overdoses has also pushed up the price of Narcan for cities and counties around the country.

Earlier this month, Martin County Commissioner Ed Fielding discussed the possibility of limiting the number of times Martin County Fire Rescue crews would use Narcan to revive a person who has overdosed on multiple occasions. Talking about the Fire Rescue budget, he said he’d gotten the idea from Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office representatives during their recent visit to Martin County to discuss the region’s opioid epidemic.

According to Fielding, Alan Johnson, assistant state attorney for Palm Beach County, told him “what we’ve had to come up with is, after so many, we do not administer Narcan again.”

But State Attorney’s Office spokesman Mike Edmondson said Fielding’s comments were not accurate and the agency has had no discussions about restricting the usage of Narcan.

McKinlay

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who has been out front on the opioid epidemic, pushed back even harder.

“It’s the most horrific, disgusting proposal I have ever heard in my life,” she told the Post’s Julius Whigham. “It’s not our job to play God.”

Be that as it may, the issue of stocking Narcan is not likely to go away. Not for municipalities. Not for counties. And, as fall creeps ever closer, not for school districts.

Goodman: 1.5M Floridians could lose coverage, but Obamacare foes forge on

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks to reporters as he walks toward the Senate floor on Capitol Hill, July 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The healthcare replacement bill that Senate Republicans are intent on pushing toward a vote this week, despite being declared dead a few days ago for lack of support within their own party, would mean the loss of health coverage for almost 1.5 million Floridians.

And if the GOP succeeds in repealing Obamacare without enacting a replacement, that number of newly uninsured Floridians would rise to about 2.3 million. So say estimates from the Urban Institute.

Those figures match up with Congressional Budget Office analyses showing that, nationwide, the Senate bill would strip coverage for 22 million Americans by 2026; 32 million, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed with no replacement.

No wonder the Republicans’ bumbling efforts to fulfill their most fervid promise of the Obama years are going so badly. The Senate replacement bill is so unpopular that only 12 percent of voters in key Trump counties think it’s a good idea, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows.

Yet Gov. Rick Scott still sees political gold in attacking Obamacare tooth and claw. The Senate 2018 hopeful said in  Boca Raton this week, “I think you’ve got to understand Obamacare’s been a disaster. It’s caused health care prices to skyrocket.”

As if the problem of soaring healthcare costs didn’t exist before the ACA went into effect five years ago.

And Florida’s Republican U.S. senator, Marco Rubio, was ready last week to vote to repeal Obamacare without replacement, saying the health care law “has been bad for our country” — until that notion collapsed for lack of votes within a single day.

Rubio has hardly bathed himself in courage in this debate. Claiming to be undecided for weeks, he has refused to hold face-to-face town halls because, he said, activists will “heckle and scream at me.” And it appears he won’t meet with constituents who want to see the present law improved instead of voted or sabotaged into extinction.

Florida Voices for Health, a coalition of about 25 advocacy groups for expanded access to healthcare, has repeatedly sought to meet with Rubio, spokeswoman Louisa McQueeney told the Palm Beach Post Editorial Board. They’ve visited all his offices around the state. “The staff is very, very nice,” McQueeney said. “They take our materials. And then it just goes into a black hole.”

So Voices for Health proposed a “tele press conference call” and offered to give him written questions in advance. No response.

They sent Rubio a letter on July 10, asking that he commit to making sure that no Floridians lose coverage, that there are no cuts or caps to Medicaid and that no one is denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. They say he hasn’t answered.

The foes of the Affordable Care Act have done all they could over the past five years to badmouth the law. Scott, like other hardline Republican governors, refused to take advantage of the chance to expand Medicaid. Nevertheless, almost 1.5 million Floridians bought policies on Obamacare’s healthcare.gov marketplace — many of whom were going without insurance before.

Even if the Senate bills fail again this week, President Trump could fulfill his predictions of Obamacare’s death spiral by withholding the money to subsidize insurance companies to help sign up low-income customers. Just the uncertainty of future funding has caused some carriers to drop out of marketplaces.

And depending on what the Senate comes up with, Medicaid could be in for diminishment, either through cuts or caps or a restructuring to block grants. That’s a cloud over 4 million Floridians, including one half of the state’s children and 60 percent of seniors in nursing homes.

It’s bizarre that America is in this position. According to a Fox News poll last week — yes, Fox News — 60 percent of Americans want to keep Obama and for lawmakers to fix it. Seventy-four percent want Republicans to reach out to Democrats and find a compromise. That includes 59 percent of Republicans.

Yes, you read that right.

The public wants common-sense solutions, but the political system — wrapped up in tribal wars, ties to campaign contributors, the burning desire to score political wins … you name it — looks incapable of providing them. The very real danger is that millions of people will get hurt in the wreckage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christie: No easy answer for fate of undocumented Palm Beach restaurant manager

In this undated photograph Francisco Javier Gonzalez, manager of Pizza Al Fresco, with his wife Tara Gonzalez, and daughter Aviana, left, Bianca, center, and Karina, right. (Photo curtesy Gonzalez family)

The question of what should be the fate of Francisco Javier Gonzalez has made its way onto the Post’s Opinion pages.

In today’s Letters to the Editor, two local readers weigh in. But first a little background:

Gonzalez, the manager of the Pizza Al Fresco restaurant on Palm Beach’s trendy Worth Avenue, is facing the risk of deportation under President Donald Trump’s new immigration policy.

Gonzalez, who before this had routine annual check-ins, got a three-month reprieve Thursday night. He was scheduled to check in at 10 a.m. today with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in Broward County. During a routine check-in earlier this year, Gonzalez was told he would have to return to the Broward County ICE office in three months for another check-in, at which point he could face deportation.

RELATED: Restaurant manager facing deportation gets 3-month repreieve

Because of where the married father of three little girls works, Gonzalez’s case has garnered a great deal of attention from some high-powered folks.

In fact, an online petition had more than 6,100 signatures on Thursday — including some of Palm Beach’s most elite socialites.

But Gonzalez’s case is a little complicated. According to the Post’s Jennifer Sorentrue, “he came to the U.S. to live with his brother when he was 15 years old using what he thought was a valid visa. After high school, he returned to Mexico to visit family members. When he came back to the U.S., he was told at the airport that his visa was not valid. He was deported and ordered not to return for a 5-year-period. Gonzalez didn’t wait. He crossed the border illegally”

And so here we are.

And here are the two letters appearing in today’s editions of the Post:

Undocumented man should have sought legal ways to become a citizen

Oh, how sad, an undocumented, nice person is in danger of deportation. Your front page story, “Palm Beach restaurant manager could face deportation next week,” (July 8), might raise sympathy if you had asked, “Why hasn’t this person become a U.S. citizen after all these years?” There are legal avenues which might have been followed, including marriage to a legal U.S. citizen, as a start. What did Gonzalez do in 21 years other than riding his bike to avoid being caught?

TED TASK, WEST PALM BEACH

Deporting worker, tearing apart his family is wrong thing to do

I am responding to the recent stories about the possible deportation of Javier Gonzalez.

I often hear my fellow conservative friends tout the quote: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re young you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative when you’re old, you have no brain.” This story about possibly deporting Gonzalez, a productive man married to an American citizen with three young American children is outrageous and, simply, wrong. I challenge people to reflect on the possibility that the heart and the head can work together for the sake of common sense. I don’t think this is what people intended when they voted for a president who said he would get rid us of criminals who are here illegally. Tearing apart established American families is, in a word, “heartless.”

So where do you come down on this sensitive topic?…

Goodman: Palm Beach County is right to weigh suing opioid makers. Pam Bondi should, too.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay at a workshop on the opioid crisis organized by state officials, May 1. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has the right idea in exploring legal action against Big Pharma for its role in the opioid crisis.

Several counties, in New York and California, and states including Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois have sued companies like Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson for spending millions on marketing campaigns that “trivialize the risks of opioids while overstating the benefits of using them for chronic pain,” as Ohio’s lawsuit states.

The Cherokee Nation has sued distributors, including Wal-Mart and Walgreens, along with drug-makers for allegedly making huge profits while “flooding” helpless communities. The city of Everett, Wash., has gone after Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, for allegedly allowing the drug to be funneled into the black market.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi

Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi, also ought to be thinking about suing the drug makers and distributors. Maybe she is. According to a spokesman, she is on the executive committee “of a multi-state investigation involving opioid manufacturers that has been ongoing for some time.”

But if a lawsuit from Florida is in the offing, she’s being awfully quiet about it. Her spokesman, Whitney Ray, offered no further details, not even the identities of the “multi” other states. “Given that this multi-state investigation is ongoing we cannot discuss it further at this time,” he said Wednesday in an email.

(Bondi’s office said Thursday morning that this particular investigation is not related to the nationwide crackdown on addiction treatment centers with 412 arrests on fraud charges, announced by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.)

On Tuesday, the Palm Beach County Commission unanimously backed McKinlay’s request that legal staff review the options for suing the companies whose products have helped fuel a crisis that has left hundreds dead in the county.

Such a lawsuit would resemble the uphill, but ultimately successful, courtroom fight against Big Tobacco. It led, in 1998, to the largest civil-litigation agreement in U.S. history, involving 46 states and six other jurisdictions. Tobacco companies agreed to make annual payments, in perpetuity, to fund health programs and anti-smoking campaigns.

Such action is just the sort of thing we were talking about in our editorial Sunday in the Palm Beach Post, urging that state leaders think bigger about attacking a catastrophe that is growing markedly worse:

Opioids, mainly fentanyl and heroin, have killed 2,664 people in Florida in the first six months of this year – an average of 14 people per day. At this rate, fatal overdoses will outpace last year’s count by 36 percent.

In Palm Beach County alone, overdoses spiked to 311 in the first five months of this year, 20 percent more than the first five months of 2016.

By filing suit, Palm Beach County would be attempting to get back some of the large sums it’s been forced to pay out for additional law enforcement, emergency rescue and health care resources.

Warning: A lawsuit is likely to take years, and may not succeed. In the cases against Big Tobacco, lawyers were able to argue that smokers suffered and died because they used cigarettes as they were designed to be used. It’s different with opioids, as The Atlantic‘s Alena Semuels explains:

Customers are not using the pills as directed, and so it is harder to blame the pharmaceutical companies for the effects of that misuse, according to Lars Noah, a professor of law at the University of Florida. In addition, doctors, not consumers, were the ones targeted by the aggressive marketing campaigns undertaken by pharmaceutical companies, so it can be difficult to link consumer deaths with aggressive marketing.

But Everett, Wash., alleges that Purdue has failed to comply “with clear regulations – as well as a 2007 consent agreement with Washington State – that required them to monitor suspicious orders and notify authorities if they suspected illegal activity.”

“Purdue placed profit over the health and safety of our community, and we can see the tragic results of that decision throughout Everett,” Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, said in a statement.

Drug giants like Purdue aren’t solely to blame, of course, for the addiction crisis that is plaguing Palm Beach County. But they bear some large portion of responsibility.

The county commissioners have already pledged to execute a list of recommendations to battle the crisis at ground level. If, at the same time, there’s any chance that they can pry some of the money it must spend on this deadly calamity from the companies that are making big profits from drug sales, it should take it.

And so should the state of Florida. Bondi likes to sound tough on this issue. She was a strong backer of the new law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday in West Palm Beach, stiffening penalties against drug dealers who carry the deadly synthetic opioids fentanyl and carfentanil. Her position on President Trump’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission gives her clout. She ought to use it.

Munoz: ‘Tweens’ shouldn’t look at Kendall, Kylie as perfect role models

The latest controversy involving Kendall (left) and Kylie (right) Jenner raises questions about them as role models.

Valeria Munoz

Palm Beach Post Opinion Intern

The Kardashians just can’t seem to catch a break this year.

First Kendall Jenner’s “groundbreaking” Pepsi commercial dissed members of the Black Lives Matter movement; and don’t even get me started on Rob Kardashian’s restraining order ordeal with estranged girlfriend Blac Chyna. Now, Kendall and Kylie are facing a backlash in regard to their newest graphic t-shirts featuring musical icons.

You may think “it’s just clothes, how could they go wrong?” Well trust me, the sisters went very, very, wrong.

The t-shirts feature images of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., as well as rockers Ozzy Osbourne and the Doors — just to name a few. But the musicians’ original album cover art are overshadowed by Kendall and Kylie’s initials, faces and even Kylie’s pool selfie. Priced at $125, the limited edition shirts were removed from their store’s website — but not before two people purchased a Tupac shirt.

Graphic tees paying homage to bands are all the rage from Target to Brandy Melville, but the Jenner sisters completely missed the point. Rather than make the musicians the center of the design, using the legendary logos as a background completely minimized the importance of those symbols.

The sisters’ ignorance to music history was disrespectful to the musicians and their families. Many relatives have spoken out. The Doors’ former lawyer has filed a cease-and-desist lawsuit, and Michael Miller, a photographer for Tupac, is also attempting to sue the duo. The Kendall and Kylie brand has since issued a statement saying “the allegations are completely false and the lawsuit is baseless.”

Profiting off of musicians’ images doesn’t make the duo “edgy,” “trendy,” or “vintage.” It exposes just how oblivious they are to rap and rock culture. They seem to be just as clueless as a teen who buys a band shirt, yet can’t name one song by that band.

Believe it or not, kids — specifically “tweens” (8-12 years) — are growing up with Kendall and Kylie as role models. Whether they are good role models is certainly up for debate, but they are constantly in the public eye. And if their millions of followers on Instagram and Twitter is any indication, the sisters have quite an influence over their young fans; the same fans who watch their show, and buy their lipstick.

Having said that their designs were “randomly selected and not well thought out,” Kendall and Kylie might want to spend more time on their designs and consider the repercussions of their actions and less time on profiting off of others’ legacies.

Munoz, a 2017 graduate of Boca Raton High School, is an intern in the Palm Beach Post Opinion Department.

Christie: Williams accident shines light on problem Northlake Blvd. intersection

Palm Beach Gardens resident and tennis player Venus Williams arrives for the grand opening of the Wellington Tennis Center June 09, 2015, in Wellington. Williams design company was involved in the design of the pro shop at the new facility. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

The June 9 fatal accident involving tennis great Venus Williams has a lot of folks scratching their heads about who’s really at fault here.

RELATED: Cars in Venus Williams crash could be examined next week

The attorney for the family of Jerome Barson, the Acreage man who died from a fractured spine on June 22 as a result of the accident, believes Williams is at fault. The Barson family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Williams.

Linda and Jerome Barson were involved in a June 9, 2017, crash involving tennis star Venus Williams at Northlake Boulevard and BallenIsles Drive in Palm Beach Gardens. Jerome Barson died two weeks later. Photo Provided By Barson Family

But Williams’ attorney says she was in the intersection on Northlake Boulevard legally because she had a green light when she entered.

» RELATED: Venus Williams involved in fatal Palm Beach Gardens crash

Well, at least one Palm Beach Post letter writer has brought up a third party he believes may also have to answer questions about this tragic accident: the city of Palm Beach Gardens.

Gardens resident George Poncy says in a letter published in today’s editions of the Post that the intersection was always a fatality in waiting:

The newly released surveillance video of the Venus Williams crash confirms what any Steeplechase resident already suspected. Venus’ car was held up by a vehicle exiting BallenIsles that turned left in front of her, violating her right of way. Left-turning cars out of BallenIsles routinely cut off vehicles proceeding straight across the intersection. This is not the first fatality at that location — a few years ago, a young motorcyclist was killed, and there have been several other serious crashes at the same intersection.

The claim that the light turned green for east-west Northlake Boulevard traffic may be true, since the video appears to show three cars in all three eastbound lanes cross the intersection moments after the crash — indicating they likely had been stopped waiting for the light to change. Williams, having been cut off midway across Northlake, would have been unable to see the light, which at that point was directly overhead. The real party at fault here is the left-turning unidentified vehicle as well as Palm Beach Gardens, which has failed to correct a serious problem with the left-turning traffic out of BallenIsles. This situation has been a fatality waiting to happen, and now it has.

The location of the June 9, 2017, crash involving tennis star Venus Williams at Northlake Boulevard and BallenIsles Drive in Palm Beach Gardens on Thursday June 29, 2017. (Meghan McCarthy / The Palm Beach Post)

Why the police initially blamed Williams is problematic, and indicates they did not understand the hazard that existed (and still exists) at that intersection. The proposed examination of the vehicles involved is just a lawyers’ dance. Both vehicles might have avoided the accident with greater diligence, but neither created the problem.

A solution to the left-turning traffic out of BallenIsles routinely cutting off vehicles with the right of way moving in the opposite direction needs to be found, whether a left-turn arrow or some other means. As it stands, probably 100 tickets could be issued every day for this violation.

RELATED: Venus Williams crash: What caused ‘other traffic’ at intersection

It appears that regardless of what happens in the Barson family lawsuit against Williams, there’s a bigger issue here that deserves the attention of Gardens officials, and maybe even county transportation officials.

Christie: Trump a role model for kids whether he (or we) likes it or not

Friday’s Post Editorial CARTOON VIEW by award-winning cartoonist Lee Judge criticizing President Donald Trump for not being a good role model.

I love our readers. A phone call from one this morning critical of our choice of today’s editorial cartoon (above) touched an ongoing public debate about President Donald J. Trump.

“What is this supposed to be about?” the caller asked.

You see, among all the criticisms from the left (and right) about President Trump, an underlying theme appears to be either his fitness for the office or being a “role model” for our kids.

By the way, which side do you fall on this?…

 

The deluge of commentary from liberals is, of course, no surprise. But a steady stream of criticism from (establishment) conservatives can also be counted on.

Even the large stable of syndicated editorial cartoonists (about two dozen) that The Palm Beach Post subscribes to are not immune from this debate. Their takes often make for biting, some might say harsh, criticism of how President Trump’s actions and words raise questions about whether we should be shielding our children’s eyes and ears from his latest Twitter rant.

The cartoons, as is their wont, can evoke some pretty emotional and negative criticisms of their own from some readers as to their fairness, or bias for or against the president.

Then again, the cartoons are the opinions of the cartoonists, so by that very definition they are biased. The real question is whether or not they’re unfair. Let’s leave that one for another day.

Anyway, today’s cartoon by award-winning cartoonist Lee Judge, of the King Features Syndicate, sparked a bit of emotion (via phone calls) from a couple of readers.

The cartoon (above) depicts a little boy pulling a little girl’s hair in a sandbox, as one of the parents says: “Look at that… He’s acting presidential.”

The cartoon is obviously a shot at President Trump. It was sent in the wake of his Twitter war with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Recall that what stood out most from that highly publicized back-and-forth was the president’s comments about Brzezinski.

Well, there you go.

You know, the president could just go the route of NBA legend Charles Barkley and just declare that he’s not a role model.

 

 

Or maybe we should just take Barkley’s advice.

Munoz: Mandatory recess, long overdue for elementary school students

DELRAY BEACH — In this May 2010 photo, Megan Meehan, 9, a third-grader, on the bicycle during recess at Morikami Park Elementary School. (Gary Coronado/ The Palm Beach Post)

By Valeria Munoz

Palm Beach Post Intern

Kids are learning to connect with technology these days, but they are disconnecting from each other. Thus, Florida’s new law mandating 20 minutes of recess for students K-5 is long overdue.

Although the sweeping education law, based on House Bill 7069, has been criticized by many educators including Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa as it cuts public schools’ construction money in order to share with charter schools, one of its few silver linings is required recess.

Communication, understanding, and coexistence cannot be taught from an app. When I was in elementary school, negotiating who got to have the good jump rope or basketball, having monkey bar races, and playing endless rounds of tag, left us exhausted but content. We learned the importance of patience as we anticipated recess anxiously. And we worked together to remind the teacher if the lesson went into playground time.

With more public schools incorporating different levels of learning (gifted, advanced, and regular) the difficulty in course load is growing. While the boost in learning is appreciated, some of the pressure needs to be alleviated from students’ shoulders. Allowing children to put down their pencils and workbooks for a set amount of time will help them return to their studies more refreshed, relaxed, and alert.

Of course, with freedom comes responsibility; teachers will have to keep an attentive eye for any bullying lest anyone try to be the “king/queen of the swings.”

Limestone Creek elementary school students in Ms. Wimer’s fourth grade class play during recess on the school’s playground, Wednesday, February 24, 2016. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids should spend at least 60 minutes exercising each day.  Not only does it provide them with physical benefits, but recess allows students to interact with their peers and make their own decisions in regard to friendships, a skill they will definitely need by the time they get to high school.

When we reached fifth grade, some kids decided to think they were “too cool” for recess and would sit on the side. But once they hit middle school, it was a different story. And in high school? Those same students were asking for the return of recess.

In short, enjoy recess while you still have it, because one day you may find yourself in an Advanced Placement (AP) block classroom wishing the break lasted longer than five minutes.

Valeria Munoz, a recent graduate of Boca Raton High School, is starting college as a journalism major. She is now an intern at the Palm Beach Post

Goodman: Florida should resist Trump’s bogus vote-fraud fishing expedition (but probably won’t)

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, right, meets with then President-elect Donald Trump in Bedminster, N.J., on Nov. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

At least 44 states have pushed back against the White House’s jokingly named Election Integrity Commission’s request for detailed voter information — none so colorfully as Mississippi’s “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico” — but Florida is still ostensibly making up its mind.

“We are reviewing [the request],” Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for the Florida Secretary of State, said Tuesday afternoon in an email.

Here’s a suggestion to Revell’s boss, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner: Just say no.

MORE: Florida one of few states still silent about Trump voter data request

But this being the administration of Gov. Rick Scott, I don’t expect him to take the advice.

Last week, the voter-fraud panel sent a letter to all 50 states, asking their top election officials to send all available information, if publicly available in their state, about voters’ names, birth dates, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and their voting history going back to 2006.

Some of the resisting states simply don’t like the idea of the federal government amassing a master list of voters.

But some see this for what it is: an attempt by President Trump to find the phantom 3 million to 5 million “illegal voters” he claims, without a scintilla of evidence, to have voted for Hillary Clinton. It’s his explanation for losing the popular vote last November.

And at the same time, this sweep looks intended to amass a national database which will be used to spot supposed cases of voter fraud, Republicans’ favorite rationale for passing laws to suppress the vote.

It doesn’t take a deeply conspiratorial imagination to think that. The commission’s letter was written by its vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — perhaps the most avid vote-suppressor in politics.

Just yesterday, Maryland became the latest state to refuse the commission, on the advice of its Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, a Democrat, who called the request a “repugnant” maneuver to “intimidate voters and to indulge President Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote.”

Frosh continued: “Repeating incessantly a false story of expansive voter fraud, and then creating a commission to fuel that narrative, does not make it any more true. There is no evidence that the integrity of the 2016 election in Maryland — or any other state — was compromised by voter fraud.”

Some of the 29 states are offering only partial information because their states prohibit the release of certain items. Ironically, one of the state officials unwilling to fork over everything, as requested by Kris Kobach, is Kris Kobach. He said Kansas won’t share Social Security information with the commission.

That’s Florida’s most likely route. Voter registration information is public record in Florida. In fact, it’s easily downloadable. So Trump’s commission should have no problem scooping up lots of data about Florida voters.

But some things cannot be made public, by law: Social Security numbers, driver license numbers and Florida I.D. numbers. Voters’ signatures can’t be copied.

Apart from that, the Scott administration will probably want to help Trump’s bogus crusade as much as it can. It has a history in this sorry pursuit.

In 2011, Scott ordered his then-Secretary of State, Kurt Browning to “identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls.” The non-citizens were supposed to be identified by comparing the voter rolls to the motor-vehicles department  records. Soon enough, the database matching coughed up 182,000 names. But Browning considered it so inaccurate, he refused to pass it along to county election officials. He resigned in February 2012. The new man, Detzner, was happy to comply.

Thousands of Floridians — no surprise, most were Hispanics, Democrats and independents — began receiving letters, informing them they’d be scrubbed from the voter rolls unless they produced proof of citizenship in 90 days. But before long, Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher, along with the supervisor in Hillsborough County, refused to participate; the information was too old and too haphazard to trust. One of the targeted voters was a Brooklyn-born, 91-year-old World War II veteran living in Broward County.

Within weeks, all the state’s elections supervisors, including 30 Republicans, refused to take part in the purge, but not before about 85 people were tossed off the rolls. Federal courts eventually declared the scrubbing illegal.

So: We know from our own recent history here in Florida that these database searches for suspicious voters are prone to error.

We also know from plenty of studies that the supposed evil of widespread voter fraud is … well, itself a fraud.

As the Philadelphia-based national political writer Dick Polman (a former colleague of mine) writes:

An election specialist at the Loyola School of Law, Los Angeles, crunched the national numbers from 2010 and 2014, and found a grand total of 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation – out of one billion votes cast.

Elsewhere, the Brennan Center at New York University Law School found that the fraud rate in America is somewhere between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent; it’s more likely, said the center’s report, that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”

Elsewhere, two studies at Arizona State University found 10 voter impersonation cases nationwide from 2000 to 2012.

Elsewhere, another national study looked at fraud cases from 2000 to 2012 and concluded that “the rate is infintesimal.”

All told, at least a dozen more studies, and court opinions, have reached the same conclusion. And lest we forget, when Pennsylvania’s ruling GOP tried to enact a photo ID law in 2012, ostensibly to thwart widespread statewide voter fraud, the GOP’s lawyers were compelled to admit in court papers that they were unable to cite a single case.

None of this, sad to say, is likely to sway Rick Scott. Which is too bad for the cause of genuine election integrity.