Sunday, August 29, 2021

FL Supporters Amplify Need for Biden's Free Community College Plan


Florida News Connection

By: Trimmel Gomes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Despite the raging pandemic, college students are flooding Florida classrooms and campuses this week as the fall semester begins. At the same time, allies of President Joe Biden contend in order to "Build Back Better," as his plan is dubbed, the first two years of community college should be free.

During a Thursday virtual news conference by the labor union United Faculty of Florida, Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., said the change would make drastic improvements in students' lives, who are often saddled with debt.

"Two years of free community college would be a life-changer, a game-changer for so many," Soto asserted. "Additional investments in education in the American Family plan reduce student debt for future teachers as well, which we know is critical for so many."

A divided U.S. House on Tuesday passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution with the free college proposal, which now has to gain approval of the spending hawks in the Senate.

Republicans have been blasting the overall American Families Plan as a "reckless tax and spending spree," arguing it would lead to higher inflation and a suffering economy.

Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, is a community college graduate, and used the proverb about teaching a man to fish to explain the need for free community college.

"All those of us that are Latinos and Latinas in the minority community, you know, that's all we're asking for," Cruz remarked. "You know, we're not asking for the handout of your fish, we're asking for the opportunity, and a chance to equalize our opportunity."

According to the Pew Research Center, among all U.S. adults, 63% favor making tuition at public colleges free. However, the issue is heavily favored by Democrats, while Republicans are divided by age and education level.

Content for this Post is provided by Florida News Connection, a bureau of Public News Service.  Public News Service is a member of the The Trust Project.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Redistricting – Changing the Political Face of Florida

WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search of Robin  

It's that time of the year again following the census when states are faced with the requirements for redistricting.

Redistricting is the process of drawing political boundaries for electoral and political districts in the United States and in Florida, in particular, and is usually done every 10 years following the census.

The US constitution requires that each representative in the US Congress represent an equal number of citizens and mandates a census to determine the number of citizens and apportion the seats to the state.

Since redistricting, is in the hands of the Florida State Legislature which is predominantly Republican in political stance, there are always confusion and angst in both political parties, Republican and Democrat regarding the redistricting process.

The most common political battles surrounding redistricting involves something called gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering BALLOTOPEDIA

The term gerrymandering refers to the practice of drawing electoral district lines to favor one political party, individual, or constituency over another. When used in a rhetorical manner by opponents of a particular district map, the term has a negative connotation but does not necessarily address the legality of a challenged map. In this context, proponents may counter that the map has not been gerrymandered but has been drawn to conform with overlapping, potentially conflicting redistricting standards. The term can also be used in legal proceedings and documents; in this context, the term describes redistricting practices that violate federal or state laws.

From Common Cause by: Ellen Freidlin, of Fair Districts Florida; A Guide to the 2022 Redistricting process in Florida:

Criteria for State Legislative and Congressional Districts

“The FairDistricts Amendments (passed in 2010) established constitutional requirements for the Legislature to follow when drawing state legislative and Congressional districts. If the rules are not followed, there are grounds for a legal challenge.

Tier 1 criteria:

No apportionment plan or district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent – no partisan gerrymandering; and

Districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice – no racial gerrymandering.

Tier 2 criteria (must be followed unless doing so would conflict with the Tier one standards or federal law):

Districts shall consist of contiguous territory;

Districts shall be as nearly equal in population as is practicable;

Districts shall be compact; and

District lines shall, where feasible, follow existing political and geographical boundaries.”

Criteria-Driven Legislative Redistricting with Judicial Approval:  (FairVote)

“Based on the approach taken in Florida, this reform would continue to allow the state legislature to adopt district maps, but it would require it to do so according to criteria set by statute. At the end of the process, the maps would have to be approved by the state Supreme Court as complying with the criteria.”

As citizens of Florida, we are merely observers in the redistricting process here in Florida, which ofttimes appears to be more of a cross between a circus sideshow and an opera.

Rarely do members of the Florida House or Senate request or even want, for that matter, public input on redistricting issues. This is a political process reserved for the politicians and the political insiders who want to gain the greatest political advantage in their counties and in the state legislature.

It's a good idea to follow these proceedings. We all hear a lot about it on the news both electronic and print and off times if there are significantly egregious changes proposed you may even see some legal action.

The greatest impact may be new opportunities for additional members of the state house in districts that have experienced significant population growth over the last ten years. Once redistricting is complete, in the next election cycle, we'll have all these potential new political opportunities on the ballot.

That's the time you want to start paying attention.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Sunday, August 22, 2021

It's Time to Vote for Saint Petersburg's Next Mayor


WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD

Election Day in St. Petersburg FL is drawing nearer. In fact, mail in ballots are already due.

The mayoral race began with a large list of candidates and has gradually narrowed down to two prominent names, former county Commissioner Ken Welch, and former City Council member Robert Blackmon.

These two candidates present a stark contrast in the direction Saint Petersburg will go.

Ken Welch for St. Pete Mayor?

Ken Welch, a longtime political fixture in Pinellas County, is significantly grounded in the past. Part of the issue in Saint Petersburg, has been the continuing problem of mayors who simply can't see past 34th St to the West. Welch has already indicated at least a hint of this myopic approach.

There has long been too much focus on downtown Saint Pete, and the Tampa Bay Rays, while to the West, Tyrone Mall continues to slowly disintegrate and investment to the West has been small to say the least.

Ken Welch is a consummate politician with a long list of financial supporters, and political endorsements, and a long list of favors to repay.

Saint Petersburg Does Not Need a Career Politician as Its Next Mayor

Robert Blackmon is new to politics serving his first elected political office as a Saint Petersburg City Council member. Blackmon, however, brings a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective that encompasses the entirety of Saint Petersburg.

Former administrations have spent decades and literally millions of dollars trying to resolve problems in South Saint Petersburg while ignoring, in many instances, the rest of the city. Blackmon would appear to have a broader view and a wider perspective of how all Saint Petersburg can be included in the future.

The city administration could also use a little refreshing and that refreshing should be holistic and represent again all areas of the city, all ethnicities, and all people. Robert Blackmon can make that happen.

While it may not appear so, this election for Saint Pete Mayor has long range consequences for the entire city. Like all other cities, the new census data shows that Saint Petersburg is changing in its makeup. And those demographic changes need to be recognized, embraced and addressed.

Ken Welch is a career politician. He spent his entire life playing politics and there is no reason to expect that he will significantly change his approach once he's the chief operating officer of the city of Saint Petersburg. One might see Welch’s connections with the Pinellas County Commission as an asset when it comes to dealing with problems like the Tampa Bay Rays and Tropicana Field redevelopment, but others looking carefully will probably see it as more of a liability.

Blackmon brings a fresh look, significantly fewer political debts to pay, much more of a true business and management-oriented approach. Blackmon can relate to the changing demographics and the new millennial mindset that requires significant adjustment as it relates to virtually every part of the fabric of our society.

It's time to stop looking backward for leadership. It's often been said, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the true definition of insanity.”

That may or may not be the case, but in this election, new ideas, new approaches, new concepts, and fewer entanglements and commitments should make for a better Mayor.

I think Robert Blackmon is St. Petersburg’s best choice.

Whatever you do, whoever you support if you live in Saint Petersburg and are registered to vote, vote in this election. 

Every vote counts.

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Friday, August 20, 2021

COVID-19, Governor Ron DeSantis and His Own Florida Sinkhole

WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search Of Robin  

Governor Ron DeSantis has continued to expand his own personal version of the Florida sinkhole for the past week.

Doubling down, on his “no mandated masks” the governor continues to make national headlines as someone who openly defies the reality of science and the practicality of protecting Florida’s children.

Check out this article from The New York Times By Patricia Mazzei: As Covid Surges in Florida, DeSantis Refuses to Change Course.

Governor DeSantis and the Florida Board of Education have thrown local County School boards into a hysterical disarray of poor choices, bad decision making, political intrigue, and protecting themselves and their district’s revenue flow by threatening everything from withholding funding to withholding salaries of school board members and school district administrators.

In many ways, this could look like a schoolyard fight between a couple of groups of children who just genuinely don't like each other but, in this case, there is so much more at stake.

The scientific and medical facts that this pandemic is spreading rapidly through schools, including both students and staff is a documented reality.

Still, mostly for political purposes, I believe, the governor and his resident pet in kind, Richard Cochran, continue to use the Florida public educational system as a political football to curry favor with the anti-vaxers and the conservatives on the far right.

In general, I don't have a lot of really good things to say about most school boards in Florida, the way they are run, and the way they are used for political purposes.

In this case, the school boards, and their leadership, both political and hired, face a dilemma that they really shouldn't be dealing with. And it's not necessarily just COVID-19.

DeSantis has threatened them all personally. He threatened to take away their pay; he threatened to take away their jobs, and he's threatened to hold them accountable. And they're not really sure what “accountable” means.

Lost in all of this are the kids. There are those that would be just perfectly happy to go to school, wear their mask, get their education, go home at night, do their studies, and act like kids normally act. Then there are some, probably most notably the children of those you see on television screaming about you can't force my kid to wear a mask, who want to openly challenge the school board and educational administration system over something that borders on insane.

For years, there have been dress codes, in many cases uniforms, and many other rules and restrictions implied and imposed by the educational system to further the educational environment.

It seems almost impossible to believe that these people consider their little darlings so sensitive that wearing a mask will somehow affect their ability to learn and their psyche as human beings.

What most of these children are going to look back and finally figure out is that their parents, we're idiots.

They would propose to put at risk everybody else in the educational system for the sheer benefit of their child to sit in their seat no mask, grinning defiantly at their teacher.

All of this we owe to the governor of the state of Florida: Ron DeSantis.

The governor opened this sinkhole, and he keeps digging it bigger and deeper. We can only hope it finally swallows him up.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Piney Point Pollution Could Overflow with Storms, Hurricanes

Florida News Connection

August 17, 2021


By: Trimmel Gomes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Due to the recent tropical weather systems threatening the region, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is seeking an emergency court hearing to transfer control of the troubled former phosphate processing plant at Piney Point from its owners to avoid another environmental disaster.

In court filings, lawyers for DEP said owner HRK Holdings "has demonstrated its inability to continue to maintain, repair or close the stack system."

Glenn Compton, director of the environmental group ManaSota-88, said the state's urgency is decades overdue, but he is glad to see something is being done to protect Tampa Bay.

"We're just one more storm away from another catastrophic event at Piney Point," Compton asserted. "And also we need to realize that we're not just talking about one holding pond that has leaked, but we have two other holding ponds that are at critical stage."

In April, the ongoing issues with the fertilizer processing plant garnered national attention when a leak in a holding pond, called a phosphogypsum stack, forced operators to release 215 million gallons of nutrient-loaded wastewater into the bay.

The DEP stated it remains committed to overseeing HRK's management of Piney Point and the eventual closure of the site, through the emergency hearing.

Compton added he hopes the state will do more to protect the environment beyond the issues at Piney Point.

"The state of Florida will hopefully realize there's a true cost to the environment and to the public health and the taxpayers when it comes to permitting phosphate mining and not linking the phosphogypsum waste disposal to the mining that's approved at the beginning of the process," Compton contended.

Many groups already have linked recent red-tide outbreaks in the region, which killed more than 1,700 tons of marine animals, to the Piney Point discharges. Groups have been able to pinpoint the trail of dead fish through the Florida Fish and Wildlife's red tide map.

If a judge agrees with the state and appoints a receiver, the Department of Environmental Protection said it will pay for costs with funds from the Legislature.

Comment By E. Eugene Webb PhD:

What Is The Lesson Learned From The Piney Point Near Disaster?

Content for this Post is provided by Florida News Connection, a Bureau of Public News Service.  Public News Service is a member of the The Trust Project.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Inflation or Greed Why Are Prices Up?


WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search of Robin  

What Is Causing Inflation?

You are hearing a lot of talk about inflation lately, but if you're like me, you really don't need all the talk you've already noticed that prices for almost everything are going up.

Everybody is asking the same question, what is all this inflation caused from?

The bankers, economists, and financial people stick to the classical definition of inflation as detailed below from Investopedia.

From Inestopidia

“What Is Inflation?

Inflation is the decline of purchasing power of a given currency over time. A quantitative estimate of the rate at which the decline in purchasing power occurs can be reflected in the increase of an average price level of a basket of selected goods and services in an economy over some period of time. The rise in the general level of prices, often expressed as a percentage, means that a unit of currency effectively buys less than it did in prior periods.

Causes of Inflation

An increase in the supply of money is the root of inflation, though this can play out through different mechanisms in the economy. Money supply can be increased by the monetary authorities either by printing and giving away more money to the individuals, by legally devaluing (reducing the value of) the legal tender currency, more (most commonly) by loaning new money into existence as reserve account credits through the banking system by purchasing government bonds from banks on the secondary market.”

Not too surprisingly, I have a different view. As you read through the definition above you may have noted that the classical definition of inflation is when the government pumps more and more money into the economy somehow causing the prices of goods and services to rise. It's difficult to get a definition of that somehow.

I think the real root cause of inflation is greed.

It is difficult to come to grips with the fact that current inflation is the result of the amount of money that government is putting into the economy. If you look around in whatever news document, blog post, or newspaper you're looking at you'll probably find another article regarding how little of the money that's been obligated by the government to be dispersed to the public has actually found its way into the hands of the purchaser.

Traditionally, inflation has always been low when the Republican Party is in control of the federal government and frequently grows when the Democratic Party and their new deal, big deals, socialist policies are in control of the government.

Here's a new theory.

I think the reason why prices are going up right now is quite simple. It's because they can.

During the previous administration businesses at all levels super large, large, and small we're somewhat reluctant to go on a price increasing binge not knowing exactly what the federal government might do to curtail the inflationary spiral should it begin.

It is, I think, true, for the most part, that Republican politicians and policy makers pay more attention to and are more concerned with the inflation rate than are their democratic counterparts.

Republicans and their supporters worry greatly about inflation while the Democrats and their supporters simply think the solution to rising prices is for the government to give away even more money.

What we have now are businesses, large and small, taking advantage of the fact that the Democrats don't have their eye on the inflation ball they have their eye on social welfare.

The people running large businesses today are not dummies.

They know that they can get away with gradually increasing prices, and they are not going to incur the wrath of the federal government. And, as those large businesses increase their prices, the price increasing fever trickles down all the way to your local Barber shop.

So, the actual answer to why are prices going up is simply because they can.

Now, sooner or later, if the Democrats continue to pump massive amounts of money into the economy, it’s certainly going to have an inflationary impact.

But the guy who's responsible for inflation right now is the guy running the big company that has seen fit to Jack up prices regardless of what his costs are. Using as excuses, he must pay more people more money. He can't hire people. His goods and services have gone up, and most of that is a fabrication.

The only way we're going to get inflation back under control is for the Republican Party to win back at least one of the houses of Congress, if not both, and put the brakes on government handouts and put the spotlight on those who are really causing the inflationary upward spiral.

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Friday, August 13, 2021

GoFundMe, Federal Aid Offered to School Officials in Masking Disputes

Photo: Florida News Connection

Florida News Connection

August 12, 2021

By: Trimmel Gomes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As the DeSantis administration continues its attempt to block school districts from imposing public-health protections on students, Democrats are fighting back by promising to launch a GoFundMe campaign.

This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to dock the salaries of district superintendents and county school board members who mandate mask wearing in schools.

Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, and his colleagues said if the governor moves forward, they will launch the GoFundMe effort.

"The number one goal that we have here is to make sure we're protecting children, and if the federal government is going to help, we're going to accept that help," Powell asserted. "If the governor intends to defund public education, then we as Democrats will do everything in our power to fill the gap."

The Governor's statement was met with instant rebuke by many, including Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hannah, who said, "You can't put a price tag on someone's life, including my salary."

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted federal American Rescue Plan money intended to help Florida schools respond to COVID could also be used to help fill the gap.

Masks are a key coronavirus-prevention tool that don't pose health risks to kids, and the CDC has recommended their use in schools.

Powell argued the governor is simply playing politics.

"Playing political football with the lives of children or with the lives of people who live here in the state of Florida is not conducive to the ultimate goal of making this state a better place than when we found it," Powell contended.

Last month, DeSantis issued an executive order forbidding schools to issue mask mandates. At least three school districts, in Alachua, Broward and Leon counties, have appeared to defy the governor's order.

Content for this Post is provided by the Florida News Connection, a bureau of the Public News Service.  Public News Service is a member of the The Trust Project