Christie: Should people be allowed to bring guns into the Tax Collector’s office?

A line of people waiting to get into the county Tax Collector’s office snakes through lobby of the Palm Beach County Governmental Center. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

What is going on? That’s the question a lot of folks had after reading the below op-ed from Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon earlier this month.

“Just last month, our agency experienced two incidents in our service centers when customers brought guns into our workplace. Sadly, these incidents frighten employees,” Gannon wrote.

Once again, Florida’s struggles with its image as “the Gunshine State” — and state lawmakers’ efforts to allow guns everywhere — has an unexpected consequence.

The tax collector is not exactly on everyone Christmas card list. And it just so happens that the holiday season coincides with the office’s busy property tax collection season.

RELATED: Christie commentary: Guns, shopping malls are a bad retail mix

Palm Beach County Tax Collector has asked state Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, to sponsor legislation outlawing guns from tax collector’s offices.

With all of that stress, Gannon felt that this not the place for folks to bring firearms — even those with concealed carry permits. She wants there to be a law.

These days, where folks can legally carry or purchase firearms is becoming a dicey issue. Attitudes depend on where you live in the state. For example, I heard that the Dick’s Sporting Goods in the Seminole Town Center in Sanford sells guns.

Is Gannon’s request infringing on Second Amendment rights?

 

POINT OF VIEW: Protect employees, public from workplace violence

Collecting taxes and fees from the public is not an easy job. The 300 dedicated employees of the Palm Beach County Tax Collector’s Office do their best to make the experience as pleasant and efficient as possible. Unfortunately, they must also serve angry and upset clients, some of whom threaten violence.

Just last month, our agency experienced two incidents in our service centers when customers brought guns into our workplace. Sadly, these incidents frighten employees.

Last month also marked the beginning of property tax collection, our busiest season, with agency employees serving nearly 7,000 clients in person at seven service centers across Palm Beach County. I am upset to think of the tragic consequences these two incidents could have had on our agency’s employees and the public we serve.

Workplace violence must be stopped; which is why I asked state Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, to introduce an amendment to Senate Bill 134 that would have helped protect Tax Collector office employees as well as the public.

The amendment would add all Tax Collector offices to the list of places where concealed weapon permit-holders are restricted from carrying guns. Examples of places already on this list include courthouses, polling places, schools and any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality or special district. When you consider the amount of money our agency handles, the contentious nature of taxation and fees and the sheer number of clients we serve in person, it only makes sense to add Tax Collector offices to this list.

Unfortunately, Sen. Powell’s amendment did not even make it out of the Dec. 5 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. SB 134 sought to allow Floridians with concealed weapons licenses to carry firearms up to the entrance of courthouses. Fortunately, it was opposed 6-4.

The 2018 legislative session begins on Jan. 9. I urge you to contact your local representatives now to make your voice heard. We must continue to take action to protect employees and the public from workplace violence.

ANNE M. GANNON, WEST PALM BEACH

Editor’s note: Anne M. Gannon is the Palm Beach County tax collector.

Christie: Where are the #MeToo kudos for the good guy non-harassers?

CARTOON VIEW SCOTT STANTIS

The way the #MeToo movement has taken off has men in pretty much every industry quaking in their boots these days as they search their memories for any incident that could have been construed as sexual harassment by a colleague.

“Well I certainly didn’t grope anyone, but was that flirtatious comment or hug over the line?” they might ask themselves.

In truth, it’s probably a good idea. Every man has arguably been guilty of borderline boorish behavior at some point in his life. Much of it — depending on the perceived infraction, of course — attributable to being young and stupid.

However, this excuse tends to fall to the wayside the older and more mature a man is, right? Yes. Definitely.

RELATED: Commentary: From ‘Me Too’ to ‘Not One More’

RELATED: Commentary: #MeToo isn’t the right answer to sexual misconduct

That all said, a legitimate question has arisen about those men who managed to keep their boorish behavior — and hands — in check because they were “raised right”. Those male colleagues who actually encouraged their female counterparts in their careers.

With so much bad boy behavior being brought forth, are these good guys getting lost in the din?

The following op-ed from Post reader Karen Coody Cooper raises that point. Do you agree?

POINT OF VIEW: A long time coming

There is a long history bringing us to this moment where society is finally listening to women speaking out about sexual assaults from men in the workplace. Whether this movement can accomplish change hangs in the balance. Those who think women should just get over it seemingly want to give men a free pass. Admittedly, there are degrees of harassment, and this new movement will succeed only if we are collecting evidence and analyzing degrees of egregiousness.

After finishing my undergraduate work in anthropology, the dean of my department gave me a night class to teach. I felt he was demonstrating extraordinary confidence in my abilities. Instead he just wanted an excuse to see me during evening hours and invite me to a hotel room. My dilemma was that if I declined, he would probably not hire me again, nor provide stellar recommendations, or mentor me when hurdles arose. He should have been the one who could advise me on what to do in this situation. Was my career going to end before it began?

Too many young women, initially aspiring to build careers, have deserted workplaces when a male, assigned to mentor, instead moved to conquer. We need to make sure that women report any improper behaviors directed at them. Exit interviews should include asking departing employees if they experienced sexual harassment. I regret not reporting two different occurrences. Looking back, I believe in both instances, the perpetrators were repeat offenders. Our silence serves only to abet those who will harm others. Too often, we move on with our lives. Now, this movement compels us to speak, and to encourage others to speak.

Most men and women from time immemorial partnered their attributes and bonded with respect for each other. Some men, however, never develop empathy or respect for women. Some men continue to see women as conquests.

We need to thank those good men who won’t be patting our butts, the men who are supportive colleagues in the workplace, the men a married woman can have lunch with and know there won’t be come-ons, and male department heads who understand discrimination and will listen when we report the guy who keeps leaving suggestive notes on our desk. We can’t do this alone, but we can transform the world if we, men and women, work together toward the goal of ridding the workplace of sexual harassment.

KAREN COODY COOPER, LAKE WORTH

Christie: Are we painting PBC sober homes with too broad a brush?

Matthew Anderson talks with his attorney during a court hearing in May. Anderson, owner of two Palm Beach County sober homes where police responded to 28 calls last year — including six overdoses — was arrested on multiple counts of patient brokering. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

As Palm Beach County seems to sink further into an opioid crisis that continues to kill people with impunity, a question arises as to the proper villain in this tragedy.

Operators of sober homes, those treatment centers where many addicts reside to help kick their habit, are increasingly concerned that too much government time — and money — is being spent on cleaning up their industry rather than actual treatment.

That appears to be the gist of Sunday’s “Point of View” op-ed penned by licensed psychologist Rachel Needle.

One could argue that the fact that fentanyl is now killing more people than heroin in Florida bolsters her point that more focus should be on treatment.

RELATED: Fentanyl killing more in Florida than heroin: CDC report

What do you think?

POINT OF VIEW: Treatment is vital to addicts’ recovery

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg testified recently to Congress about sober home abuses.

While politicians, prosecutors and many others often speak about the two interchangeably, a sober living facility (aka sober home) is not the same as a substance use disorder treatment center (aka rehab, treatment center).

Sober homes are group homes where people who are in recovery live together. Some sober homes are affiliated with treatment centers, while others are not. Living in a sober home — and paying rent, buying their own food, living by rules, remaining sober — helps a person in recovery take responsibility for their life and regain their independence.

Palm Beach County chief assistant state attorney Al Johnson, left, Congresswoman Lois Frankel, and State Attorney Dave Aronberg, right, announce that a grand jury has issued 15 recommendations to combat the opioid crisis in Palm Beach County last December. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

A treatment center is where an individual struggling with abuse of alcohol or drugs goes to get treatment. At treatment centers, there are licensed mental health professionals and physicians involved in treatment. There are different levels of care at treatment centers, including detox, residential, day/night treatment (sometimes referred to as partial hospitalization), intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment.

“The majority of sober homes in South Florida” (which is where I can speak to) are not “flophouses.” As in all industries, there are people who are unethical and take advantage of the system. Luckily, Aronberg and the Sober Home Task Force have made significant progress with that problem in South Florida. They have written and passed new legislation, and arrested those with unethical and illegal practices.

Maybe it is time that we move on to what I see as the biggest issue (besides the societal issue we have), and that is the insurance companies.

Of course, there are negative things in the world of substance use disorder treatment, but we are leaving out a lot of the positives.

In most cases, people are not overdosing and dying because of bad sober homes. They are overdosing and dying because they are abusing substances, their tolerance is lower after being sober for a period of time, the drugs are more potent or synthetic, and because the insurance companies do not give people the time they need in treatment to have the highest chance at success. Research has shown that the longer you are in treatment, the more likely you are to remain sober. It also tells us that the longer you stay abstinent from drugs and alcohol, the more likely you are to continue being abstinent.

Unethical and illegal sober home operators are few and far between. South Florida has many great treatment providers and a lot of individuals who are getting help, changing their lives for the better, and staying sober. We should highlight some of those success stories.

Do your research on a treatment center or sober home before going or sending a loved one to make sure it is a reputable and legitimate place. I assure you, there are incredible treatment centers and sober homes in South Florida that have helped thousands of people. Let’s shift this conversation once and for all.

RACHEL NEEDLE, FORT LAUDERDALE

Editor’s note: Rachel Needle is a licensed psychologist at the Center for Marital and Sexual Health of South Florida and an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University.

Goodman: In Boynton, tempers flare as the Trump Effect takes hold

Boynton Beach Commissioner Christina Romelus. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

The Trump Effect is playing out in Boynton Beach, and it’s not pretty.

With fears of deportation on the rise in immigrant communities, first-term city commissioner, Christina Romelus, suggested that Boynton declare itself a sanctuary city. The idea was quickly shot down by the City Commission.

But some residents were so incensed at Romelus for suggesting the idea, they demanded that she resign, be voted out or be impeached.

Romelus, who was born in Haiti, has a better grasp of what being an American means than the self-proclaimed patriots demanding her ouster.

“Having differing opinions and working through those to reach a common goal is how this country was founded,” Romelus told The Post’s Alexandra Seltzer. “Asking for my resignation simply because I had the audacity to bring up a controversial issue is testament to this day and age in which we live. I think it is sad.”

She added that the “grotesque behavior” of those who have been “spewing blind hatred at me for wanting to have a discussion about this issue is alarming and merits attention.”

Romelus said she has no intention of resigning.

Good. She offers a point of view that needs to be heard.

And yes, this subject does merit attention. Let’s put the attention where it belongs: on President Donald J. Trump and the animosities and vitriol he has unleashed with his appeals to racism and xenophobia, ugly currents of American life that are usually held in check by a general sense of restraint, respect and decency.

Take sanctuary cities. This is a concept that’s been around since the 1980s, most famously when San Francisco declared itself a “City of Refuge,” claiming the moral high ground with the argument that asylum-seekers should be shielded from shortsighted federal law enforcement. Some 300 cities, states and counties now consider themselves sanctuary cities, largely on practical grounds: they don’t want immigrants and their families to be scared of relying on local police. And so they limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The republic has seemed to get along well enough with this state of affairs, despite efforts in the 2008 primaries by Republican candidates Rep. Tom Tancredo, of Colorado, and Mitt Romney to crank it into a campaign issue.

But these politicians didn’t have Trump’s gifts for drawing attention, slinging invective, devising phrases that stick in the brain, and using a single horrifying fatal shooting in San Francisco by an undocumented Mexican to represent the whole of cities’ tolerance for illegal immigration.

Take a look at how the phrase “sanctuary city” spiked in Google searches after Trump made it a campaign issue. The chart’s timeline starts in 2004. Curiosity about the subject was minimal until June 2015. That’s the month when the billionaire real estate developer/showman declared for the presidency, telling us about the Mexican “rapists” sneaking over the border.

Since winning the White House, Trump and his attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, have placed a crackdown on sanctuary cities high on their agenda. And now it’s a boiling issue, the very mention of which is seen as grounds for impeaching a city commissioner.

Such are the heightened animosities in the United States under a president who speaks of “fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville, Virginia, confrontation between neo-Nazis and people protesting neo-Nazis. Now, reprehensible views are free to roam — such as those of Cindy Falco-DiCorrado, one of the Boynton Beachers who called for Romelus to resign.

Cindy Falco-DiCorrado at the Dec. 5 Boynton Beach City Commission meeting. (Photo handout: Adam Wasserman)

According to resident Mathi Mulligan, Falco-DiCorrado told him at a meeting this month to speak “better English,” and allegedly told black residents “you’re lucky we brought you over as slaves or else you’d be deported, too.”

Falco-DiCorrado says she was misconstrued, explaining that she always tells her son and husband, who speak with accents, to improve their English. And whatever anyone heard her say about black people, she meant that “out of hardships you can rebuild again and there are blessings.”

Her denials would be more convincing if she didn’t have a Facebook page that, according to Post columnist Frank Cerabino, is filled with tripe, including a post that reads: “If you agree that racism is no longer an actual threat in this country, but a strategy that the Democrats and Liberals use to secure black votes = SHARE!!”

And her attitudes would be less significant if she weren’t a member of Boynton’s Community Redevelopment Agency advisory board.

Now it’s being asked why someone with her views should advise an agency that aims to improve neighborhoods with large minority populations. Vice Mayor Justin Katz asked her this week to resign. She returned his email with a no.

The City Commission seems sure to take up the question at its meeting next Tuesday. Mulligan says, “We will keep pressing on until the City Commission fires this white supremacist from a job that gives her direct power over the lives of people of color.”

Falco-DiCorrado insists she’s no racist but is now, herself, the victim of a “lynch mob” that’s harassing her with emails.

And so, welcome to Boynton Beach, where nerves are frayed, tensions are rising, and in no way can it be said that Boynton Beach is winning. Or being made great again.

What we need is a way to talk about these differences with a whole lot less anger. But we’re not going to have that with a president who sets a tone of disparagement toward minorities and pushes the buttons of white resentment every time he talks to his “base.”

The bully pulpit has become a pulpit that bolsters bullies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christie: Tracy-vs-FAU more about arrogance than free speech, insubordination

Fired FAU professor James Tracy arrives at federal court in West Palm Beach Tuesday morning for his wrongful termination lawsuit against the university. Tracy claims university administrators didn’t like his theories that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting never happened and instead was a charade perpetuated by the government to promote gun control. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Fired Florida Atlantic University Communications professor James Tracy wants his job back. And, according to his lawsuit, he also wants back pay and an unspecified amount in damages.

Whether that happens will be up to a federal  jury that is currently hearing Tracy’s case against the university for allegedly violating his free speech rights when officials terminated him in January 2016. For FAU’s part, university officials argue that the 11-year tenured prof was fired because he was insubordinate. They claim that he violated rules that govern university faculty when he didn’t disclose outside income from his blog — Memory Hole.

RELATED LINK: FAU boss denies Tracy claim that his firing linked to conspiracy blog

The rules violation seems relatively minor in the scheme of things. And probably could have been hashed out with union officials — if it was most other professors. But Tracy was not most other professors.

Tracy, through his blog, put forth and supported conspiracy theories about the role of the federal government in mass killings like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Boston Marathon bombing; calling them hoaxes. It was his comments about Sandy Hook that pushed the moral line on his free speech rights; but even then, FAU officials were careful not to deny Tracy his right to speak his mind outside of his job.

This, despite the fact that the university was still reeling from its share of negative publicity stemming from a couple of their own brain cramps — naming a new stadium after a prison company, and a former FAU president nearly running over students in a school parking lot.

But when the university decided to send Tracy a termination letter in December 2015, The Post Editorial Board commended them for doing so.

Veronique Pozner, the mother of one of the victims of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary, attends the funeral of her son Noah in Fairfield, Conn., Dec. 17, 2012. James Tracy, a Florida Atlantic University professor who has repeatedly promoted false theories about the massacre and harassed the Pozners, is facing termination from the school where he is tenured. (Richard Perry/The New York Times)

Why? Because, as we said then, Tracy went too far in directly attacking the still grieving parents of 6-year-old Noah Pozner — one of the school kids shot to death by a crazed gunman at Sandy Hook — even questioning whether the child ever existed.

RELATED LINK: Editorial: FAU right to say enough to professor

“The Pozners, alas, are as phony as the (Sandy Hook) drill itself and profiting handsomely from the fake death of their son,” Tracy wrote in a December 2015 response to a letter by the Pozners.

FILE — Alex Jones, conservative conspiracy theorist and operator of Infowars.com, in the control room for his right-wing radio show, in Austin, Texas. (Ilana Panich-Linsman/The New York Times)

At that point, Tracy decided to replace free speech debate with arrogance. He decided to discard the mantle of intelligent Communications professor and go all in with carnival barkers and entertainers like Rush Limbaugh, and Alex Jones of InfoWars. Jones, if you recall, was forced to issue an apology for promoting and helping to spread the theory that top Democratic officials were involved with a satanic child pornography ring at a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C.

The public backlash being what it was, where was the incentive for FAU officials to continue to ignore Tracy’s rules violations in favor of him pushing the moral envelope on his free speech rights? True, $2,500 may be construed as a “paltry sum,” as Tracy testified on Friday, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t insubordinate for refusing to report it properly.

But this case isn’t really about insubordination. Nor is it really about the First Amendment. It is really about Tracy’s arrogance.

And he knows it. That’s why he tried to walk back his attack on the Pozners. “I was distraught,” he told the jury on Friday.

But when asked if it was true that the Pozner’s son, Noah, had been shot at Sandy Hook, he stuck by his conspiracy theory. “Reportedly, yes,” he said.

Arrogance.