MICHAEL DOBSON-TALKING FLORIDA POLITICS BLOG We Know Florida Politics

7Oct/180

History Shows Gillum Not In FBI Cross-hairs

A view

In America, when it comes to a black man, its usually hunt him down, hang him and ask questions later or never. It's been that way since Africans were bounded and dragged to this country for free labor; and despite decades of work to make justice work equally, we are still nowhere near that because of biases that flourish in the system itself.

Anyone will tell you that blacks are 10 times more likely to be prosecuted for the same crime than a white person.

Nowhere in the history of America, has a black man, named as a suspect in an FBI investigation that last nearly two years ....who the FBI deem to be guilty of a crime, was not arrested by now... accept for when that's not true i.e. Gillum is not a named suspect.  Actually, there is rarely any instances where a black man with only a small degree  of guilt based on just a smidgen of evidence was not charged and arrested. And in the case of Andrew Gillum,  if named as a part of an investigation ( which he is not)  and with evidence gathered in investigation that has lasted nearly two years, coupled with the fact that he  was not charged and arrested a long time ago, is the sunshine and bright light of the truth, a truth that is not politically convenient.

That truth? Whether you agree with his policy proposals or not, one thing is clear, Andrew Gillum IS NOT under FBI investigation, and he is not guilty, because if those two things were true, his black ass would have been in jail a long time ago. That's the way America rolls broh.

 

 

 

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7Aug/180

Is Bob Graham the most influential Democrat in Florida?

by Michael Dobson:

 

Coming of age in Florida during the 1970’s, my earliest memories of Florida politics were of the names Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles. Then came Tom Gallagher, Bob Butterworth and Bill Nelson.  Back then, Florida politicians were mostly homegrown, and usually affiliated with the University of Florida, which was known as the boy college back then, before FSU and UF became co-ed.

So, when Gwen Graham announced her candidacy for Governor, atlas… a familiar name from the old Florida. Distractors  immediately said  she was simply running on her father Bob Graham’s name, and that it  wouldn’t work (if she was)  because  her father had not been on a Florida ballot since 1998, had not been in public office for more than a decade, and it has been over 30 years since he was the Governor of Florida. For them, it meant little that Bob Graham left the Florida Governor’s office with an approval rating of 83% and it never got below 73%, while Scott has at times struggled to be above 40%. They also said many of today’s Floridians have no idea who Bob Graham is. Well, this writer begs to differ.

First, the most reliable native voting demographic in Florida (ages 50-64) knows full well who Bob Graham is. Additionally, for the last few years, Bob Graham's focus has taken him to environmental conservation rally’s around the state, speaking in front of environmental groups, at Rotary clubs.. you name it,  to talk about civic engagement , environment, and education to name a few. Bob Graham has not been quiet. Consequently, many have fallen under the spell of the Graham magic. It’s easy. Here’s a guy who is a native Floridian from a pioneering family, is unassuming,  a former Governor who everyone calls one of Florida’s best, a known policy wonk, a Governor who did work days.. whereby he did ordinary jobs working side by side with ordinary citizens at their  jobs  (which his daughter emulates). Something his daughter does... even up to election day.

Then there’s the always present notepad in his shirt pocket.. which he uses when you talk with him (I wonder what he was writing when he and I met some years ago), and  the neckties with “Florida” imprinted all over them. Also, who can forget his role as the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Commission ….whereby he led the Joint Congressional Investigation into   9/11 .... and whom the world listened to as he gave a comprehensive oral report on the investigations findings. Then there is The Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. It is there where   Floridians young and old learn more about Bob Graham, and pine for a Florida of yesterday when his type of leadership was the standard… to deal with contemporary realities.  

In her recent interview with the Tallahassee Democrat Editorial Board, Gwen Graham answered questions using examples of real life she experienced on her work days, about what she learned from others. In those answers you saw her wonkiness regarding arcane policy detail at work.. especially regarding the environment.  I saw her father in her. Then there is Adel Graham wearing her now famous green and white dress with the word Graham imprinted on the fabric in various places forming what could easily be tacky, but instead, an eye catching design. Adel Graham also makes Facebook post in support of her daughter. Then to top it all, get this…. Gwen Graham’s ex-husband is her Campaign Treasurer. 

In early interviewers, she disarmed those who said she’s running on her father’s name. She said  yes I am…  that she loves him, is proud to be his daughter,  proud of his service, that he’s been  a great example for her, and that she also seeks his advice. She reiterates that in this recent article by the Huffington Post here.  Her approach to public policy is deliberate, and studied… a lot like her dad.   

Watching this Democratic field and hearing their echoes and concerns for the common man, I am reminded of the loftier explanation of why the Democrats symbol is a Donkey. That explanation considers the symbol to be Biblical, contrary to the story of Andrew Jackson taking up the Donkey in 1828 when his opponents called him a jackass.  For some, the Democratic Donkey symbolizes the New Testaments telling of Jesus riding of a Donkey into Jerusalem, instead of a regal horse.... which would have been a symbol of power and wealth. Some scholars say Jesus chose the Donkey because it is an animal of the common man. Which is what ' opponent Chris King comes close to saying when he says his religious faith is a "curiosity" in the Democratic party. " 

Above may explain the big broad tent, the party for all, care for the little guy...the  common man or women, being a welcoming home to those of all sexual persuasions, nationality, race and religion..... its strength. That’s what’s at stake in this election for many, the needs of the common man. If not simply the common man, this election is also a grab for the old Florida,  where environmental stewardship is brought back to its proper place.  It's a place Mr. Graham helped foster, and is guiding his daughter to its rediscovery.   Perhaps this is Bob Graham’s swan song…. even endorsing candidates like Sean Shaw, a candidate for Attorney General. In the end, we may find that Bob Graham still has the Midas touch, as his daughter leads the pack…  he having  never lost a race, possibly making him the most influential Democrat in Florida.

 

Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, founder of Dobson, Craig and Associates, publisher of Talking Florida Politics and founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Reach him at Michael@dobsonandcraig.com.

 

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29Jul/180

PENSACOLA’S NEW MAYOR SHOULD BE LAWRENCE POWELL

 

Lawrence powell

*photo from the Pensacola News Journal

It’s difficult for me to cross the bridge to enter Pensacola, and not think of a city i once lived in called San Diego. I often think of the San Diego my father move to back in the 70’s before San Diego got new  leaders, many of whom were from the outside,  who saw the potential… and slowly with a new set of eyes on the city, transformed San Diego into one of the most beautiful  and prosperous cities in America, with a booming economy which understood the value added by the military and what it brings to the city with regard to investments in technology and research to have attracted tech giants like Solar Turbines, Nokia,  Cubic, Qualcomm, Kyocera and many others. It too has a port, have beaches and universities. Accept for the picturesque mountains of Northern San Diego County, Pensacola has much of the same … but lacks leadership with a vision to see beyond what it has always been. Pensacola could be so much more.

Like many cities, it suffers from an echo chamber of ideas, with communities that still fight the battles of the 60s to remain oddly segregated still.  Perhaps the old fights are comfortable and too familiar to let go. Then, the citizens of Pensacola thought the answer would be to change its charter to now have a strong Mayor system of city government. Yes, it could be the answer. But the selection process made the idea a dud. The city selected a well-meaning young man whose only claim of fame was not anything having to do with government or policy, but of him being a male model. Yes, the kind of guy who looks pretty good in a television commercial or mail piece, but no articulation or vision about governing. Not that models are not deep thinkers deserving of roles in government, but the fact is, this one had a resume completely void of any hint of interest in government or policy.  That Mayor has decided to not seek re-election and the City once again has a great opportunity to claim its rightful future.

Any lessons learned? Well, sort of. Citizens were taught what they DO NOT want in a future Mayor.  The voters would be better off considering their first “Strong Mayor” nothing more than a trial balloon, because what it did was (as stated above) let them know what it is they truly do not want in a Strong Mayor.  So, truth be told, the role of Strong Mayor in the City of Pensacola has not been defined yet. The five candidates running for Mayor are sort of at a lost. Because there was never a vision or agenda from their predecessor, they are left with having no place to start from. So up until the debate hosted by the Pensacola News Journal, on the campaign trail they were left with tracing only the outlines, to not color in the picture, by promising the voters that they  will not be the other guy… that they will do something as novel as… wait, wait for it……. they will  talk to the City Council,  and attend City Council  meetings. No agenda, no vision… just that they will actually talk to the City Council and have a collaborative working relationship with them. Then they are left with what is the closest thing to a vision…the main one being a discussion of what to do with a Port that is bleeding money. The city has infrastructure issues, gentrification that is… pricing out historic residents, a limited and undertrained workforce, an employment base which fails to retain the best and brightest, leaders who are more interested in their own pocket books than that of other citizens, and a skeptical voting population who believes they are trapped by the greed and self-dealing… with them never having a voice.  Not much talk about technology, which is a ripe industry for Pensacola… an industry that connects them to the city’s military presence, and that fact is largely because its leaders interest are mainly real-estate development… their professions.  The PNJ debate has changed the trajectory of the race, because the voters  got to see the candidates address some pretty tough questions. Some of those issues otherwise never mentioned, as referenced above , were touched on

So alas, we see the picture more fully, Pensacola has a great opportunity before it. It can now pick the right Mayor. But first, since the role has never been defined, it may be of benefit to clear some things up. First, the skillset and temperament of a Mayor does not make any current elected official a logical or natural choice. Why? It’s a different skill set. Its leadership, integrity and a fidelity to citizens above oneself. Some cities, like Tallahassee,  has a weak Mayor system. It’s a system whereby the Mayor has a vote on the commission, but has other responsibilities the other commissioners do not have.. mostly as the   ambassador for the city. Other than that, the Mayor is another member of the commission or council. In Pensacola, the Mayor has no voting authority with the council and has an executive office that is completely separate from the council.. with the ability to make some decisions unilaterally without much input. The current cast of characters for the 5 person race in Pensacola is a sitting county commissioner who have served 12 years on the commission, a sitting City Councilman who is completing his second term to serve 8 years, a Christian radio personality, two very thoughtful and engaging millennial’s, and a 20 year retired military vet ( in a military town) who is   retired military veteran Lawrence Powell who returned home to Pensacola in 2006 and immediately got involved In his community to include managing a few local campaigns and creating an at risk program for youth. He is a leader on the ground in the community where it counts, and is involved In  his community in a multitude of ways… mainly serving the least of them .

Powell Ad 1

 

The Mayor’s race is nonpartisan. But since we are grownups, let’s admit that the idea of non partisanism is a bunch of hooey. The two elected officials are Republican (Robinson and Spencer) , so is the Christian radio host( Mr. Mayo). The only registered Democrat is Lawrence Powell, while Johnathan Green and Drew Buchanan are NPA. Mr. Powell is also an Africa American minister. So you guessed it, the three Republicans are fighting for the same base while a few are trying to pilfer some African America votes by collecting on IOU’s from some. The latter exercise and those acquiescing to such overtures is reminiscent of the phenomena of the many former slaves who did not know slavery was over after the emancipation proclamation. Pensacola actually has a chance to elect an African American military veteran in a military town. Having lived other places before returning to Pensacola, Mr.  Powell has a vision of what Pensacola can be outside of the echo chamber, if only the voters would listen. Perhaps, just maybe the city will pick a leader this time… and not just a politician. Then it can know what it’s so called Strong Mayor is supposed to be. And in doing so, remove the entrenched remnants of the old south to bring Pensacola screaming into the 21st Century. Pensacola does not need a politician, it needs a leader. It does not need anyone whose business portfolio, and personal wealth is enhanced by the decisions that can come out of the Mayor’s office…. which is a recipe for graft.

Full disclosure, Lawrence Powell is my friend. That is how i’ve gotten a measure of the man, and know he’s earned and is deserving of the many medals that has adorned his chest in service to our great country. These opportunities do not come often for a city trying to find its way. Here’s your chance Pensacola.

Michael Dobson is a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist, founder of Dobson, Craig and Associates, publisher of Talking Florida Politics and founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Reach him at Michael@dobsonandcraig.com.

 

 

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3May/180

IN 2018:IS RICK SCOTT THE NEW GEORGE WALLACE AND IS THAT THE U.S. SENATOR HE WANTS TO BE?

George_Wallace_Press_Conference_Speech_SF_still_624x352

ScottScho

by Michael Dobson

 

Florida Governor Rick Scott and our cabinet stubbornly standing in the way of the right to vote for tax paying citizens who are disproportionately minorities here in the 21st century, makes for an eerily familiar feeling. It  feels a lot like that fateful day in Alabama, some five decades  ago when Alabama Governor  George Wallace stood at the entrance of the University of Alabama to deny African America students access to that historic university.... all  in the name of  keeping segregation alive and well.  Mr Wallace later denounced his stance. But, will Gov Scott? Will he do so  when there is no longer a need for political advantage born out of such policies.. like Wallace? Only time will tell.

Most states have come to realize that permanently disenfranchising tax paying Americans who have made a mistake, paid their debts to society and wanting to be a contributing member again, is contrary to the promise of America.  They've learned that most citizens agree that it is wrong.

In the most recent poll by North Star Opinion Research and EMC Research Voters overwhelmingly support felon voting rights amendment ..... considered a bipartisan poll, it says  that nearly 3 quarters of voters believe Gov Scott and the Cabinet is wrong.   While their talking point is usually a statement suggesting that ..."it"s for the victims", no victim has spoken up and suggested that once someone  has done their time for  a non violent offense, that he/she should not be able to vote. Is it the assumption that those who decide to register to vote would then vote for his opponent, or would be a Democrat.... or African American voting Democrat. Scholars tells us  its a naked disenfranchisement scheme for political advantage. They tell us that was the original intent of this disenfranchisement scheme in the first place, as pointed out by the Kentucky Advisory Committee to the United States Commission On Civil Rights, when  its findings gives us a bit of history by telling us " In the ensuring decades after the civil war, ex-felon statutes were adopted in a number of states for the expressed  purpose of limiting the right to vote  of African Americans". So, to the "it's for the victims" crowd, history tells us something else.

Then there is this assumption (as inferred above) that giving the right to vote will make Democratic voting rolls spike, well I beg to differ. The proof is in scanning the Florida Division of Elections Website. Doing so, you will  notice a Republican Candidate by the name of Fredrick Dee Buntin is running for governor. You may also notice that his address is Dade Correctional Institution ( aka DOC), where he is housed as an inmate in the Florida Department of Corrections(state prison), and is doing a life sentence there. Yes, you read right...he is an inmate in the Florida State Prison system and is registered on the State of Florida's Division of Elections website... running for governor as a Republican.  Is  Governor  suppressing the vote for upcoming elections because "he can do whatever he wants" ?  Does the governor's  office not read the same history books we all do and know that without a shadow of doubt this practice owe its roots to base racism, and a disenfranchisement that is aimed at denying African Americans the right to vote, with the southern governors who came up with this scheme explicitly saying that was the aim for this policy knowing that African Americans would be prosecuted (for the same crimes) at a  higher rate than others, and would be disproportionately sentenced to jail or prison. Much of this is covered in Janell Ross's"The race-infused history of why felons aren’t allowed to vote in a dozen states". Since the latter article, a few more states has eliminated the regressive barriers which prevented the  voting of non violent citizens who've been convicted of a felony in the past, and paid their debts.

Is it pandering to a  white vote that  Trump revealed, as interestingly discussed in Charles Blows The Lowest White Man, so as to blazingly  perpetuate Jim crow in the 21st century and still get elected to the United State Senate in one of the most racially diverse states in the country? George Wallace saw the damage done, and the winds of change sweep the nation.  He was an old and crippled man when he did so. What is it that an older man sees when there are no more mountains to climb? Did he remember his beginnings and the humanity learned... but it took awhile?

I often think of Governor Scott's story about his youth. You know, the one when he says during a difficult time his family lived in public housing. Given that, why is it that one of the first things Mr Scott  did  as governor was to pursue a measure (later ruled unconstitutional) to drug test welfare recipients....but not lawmakers, or himself.  Have'n been accused of overseeing  the largest Medicaid Fraud of its time, and escaping prosecution largely because he had the best representation money can by; how can he not know that more than half the folks he wont let vote,  would never have a record had they a smidgen of his wealth.That... "there by  the grace of God there go I".

I suspect that the governor knows what is morally right. And,  I suppose he knows that the history books are correct. So, Is this who this good man wants to be? Do our leaders want to be compared to George Wallace and as torch bearers for the ugliest period in  American history... embody  symbols of racial backwardness and oppression?

As a Floridian  who lived through the pain and turmoil of the 60s in Florida,  I know first hand what we went through as a state. I remember what we went through  to get us to a place where we could live in more harmony, where all citizens could have self respect, could have second chances.... where families knew that the state had its back, where families rich and poor got to enjoy the many things that make Florida special.  Sometimes I wonder if our governor, not a native Floridian like this writer, in his travels around the state,  truly understands it and its people. Does he understand  what we've gone through and what we don't want to go back to. Does he not have a sense of history and the compass to gauge the aspirations of common Floridians?  Everyone does not blame the next man for their lot. Floridians  believe in taking responsibility and paying their debts to society when they error-ed.  And when the payment is made in full, they believe their mistake should be thrown out into the lake where their is a sign that says, no fishing allowed... that they get a second chance. That's who we are as a nation.  That's who we are as a state.

Governor Scott, the people are speaking loud, and their voices will become their votes   on election day to right this wrong. If not for suggested pure political purposes, the right thing could be done  now. Instead,  those whose rights you could give, but will not give.... will have to wait for the passage of an amendment that will surely pass. Yes, the current legal skirmishes will  keep many from the voting rolls on November 6, 2018. Perhaps that's helpful to some in closely contested elections in Florida. But, Is  a democracy that is based on equality and rights of speech,and  the idea of freedom and liberty  suppose to be simply a suggestion ... to be used to fit certain personal or political motivations simply because you can ? Is there not a higher calling.. beyond politics, the contest or an exercise in raw power to suit individual whim? Will Florida be that sunny place, we peddle to others; or is it going to be that ugly  and mean place where we deal from the bottom of the Jim Crow card deck ... just to keep certain Floridians permanently locked out of society, contrary to our great nations promise and what our great lady of the statute of Liberty says to us. Florida leaders, please do not continue to make us look like some racist throw back to a time we can admit was not our shinning moment.

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based  lobbyist,Founder/ President of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), Publisher of Talking Florida Politics, Founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association (FREPA), President of The Dream Foundation,Inc and a writer/blogger on politics and public policy. Michael@dobsonandcraig.com, Michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@talkingfloridapolitics.com

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20Feb/180

Andrew Gillum Secures A Permanent Place on Florida’s Statewide Stage, Nearly Cracking The Black Code Illusive To Others

By Michael Dobson

Gillum DEC

Andrew Gillum

 

With some  excerpts from “Seeing Our Difference” a memoir  by Michael Dobson to be published in August 2018

Gillum_1375_ccWatching Andrew Gillum campaign for governor has (for me) been akin to watching someone draw a map by artistically  stringing together the deep footprints of those who came before them. It's a map for a future trip in a future time, while the mapmaker adds his own footprints.  In America, only a handful of black political candidates (in recent memory) have been able to convince  voters in their respective states to elect them statewide. There was U.S. Sen. Edward W. Brooke ,a U.S. Sen Corey Booker of New Jersey, Deval Patrick Gov Massachusetts, Ken Blackwell of Ohio, U.S. Sen Tim Scott of South Carolina, there was also U.S. Sen Carol Mosely Braun  of Illinois, Gov Douglas Wilder of Virginia, U.S Senator Kamala Harris,   U.S. Senator and President Barack Obama; and while not as the lead candidate...most recently, Justin Fairfax on ticket as Lt Governor of Virginia (as did another former client,  Jennifer Carroll of Florida before him). Not mentioned, but lest not forget,  some statewide offices of lessor clout ( not Governor or U.S. Senate) which blacks have been elected to over the years.

In 2002,  I had a front row seat  to some of the reasons why, as a statewide manager (Campaign Coordinator)  for  Florida Gubernatorial Candidate Daryl Jones.  In that experience, I  saw first hand the challenges black  candidates face in Florida when campaigning  statewide. In that particular year (2002) Janet Reno, Bill McBride and Daryl Jones were the Democratic candidates for Governor. The perch from which I viewed that event was up close and personal. That experience also  led to my being contacted by the congressman Jim Davis in 2006, when he was  campaigning for governor. His campaign  needed  my input as they pondered who to add unto the ticket as his running mate. Ultimately,   Daryl Jones  was added to the ticket and  my advise became of some value to that  statewide campaign. Consequently,  Daryl Jones predated Jennifer Carroll as a black on a Florida statewide gubernatorial ticket ( as Lt. Governor).  Later, I observed from a distance  Kendrick Meeks 2012 statewide campaign. Doing the analysis, and in my experience talking to voters from coast to coast, I’ve learned that the reasons black candidates in Florida don’t win statewide are deep-seated  and painful to acknowledge. But at the same time, what I learned  underscores a clear-eyed reality about  the largest swing  state... mired in the history of its racial past.

Before we get into  the first person feedback I received  during the campaign of Daryl Jones in 2002, please remember who he was.  Daryl Jones was a  State Senator from Miami, a distinguished lawyer, fighter pilot, and  President Bill Clintons  nominee for  Secretary of the Air Force in 1998. Considered one of the smartest guys in the Florida Senate, Daryl was respected by both sides. Additionally, newspapers often described him as having movie star good looks.  But both the blessing and course was that Daryl Jones, as a candidate, was not neatly packaged into a stereotypical black box. He grew up in Jackson Mississippi  and is Catholic. Now, while that should not matter, the latter  did. For some, he did not seem in his element at a rollicking and soulful black church, a place a black man was expected to be at ease.   I guess we can say that the black community simply  did not “feel” him.. as one of theirs, along with some other black centric political baggage to be discussed.  Meaning, he found himself at odds with some members of the Black Caucus. The fatal error, which created  distrust among some key black legislators, resulted from a mistake he made while representing the Black Caucus as its chair in unilateral negotiations with Gov Bush over the governors  controversial "One Florida" initiative. As Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, in unilateral discussions with Gov Bush, Daryl  entered into an agreement with the Governor, which essentially committed the caucus to  a position which portrayed it  as giving into the governor. He did so without  consulting the caucus. His acquiescing to chair an advisory committee ( created by the Governor) to assist with the Governors "One Florida" scheme, as Chair of the Black Caucus was found to have  misrepresented the caucus. While, he back peddled and admitted to the mistake, it did not prevent a  severe backlash from other black legislators, whose disdain led to the  infamous “One Florida” march and statewide  political event of the day. It was a protest of what was being reported as Governor Bush's proposal to eliminate minority contracting in state government,  under pressure from an outsider by the name of Ward Connelly who nationalized the  issue. Truthfully, “One Florida” was Governor Bush's attempt to temper what  Mr. Connelly was pushing with  Florida in his cross-hairs. When  I found myself entering the state capitol with Mr. Connelly making a beeline to the Governor’s office, it was clear to me that the earth was about to shake in Florida.  Gillum has better political instinct to have made that error, but he could benefit from some of Daryls prodding, maturity and understanding of the long game. Regarding the political instinct, consider this, by pure serendipity or coincidence, Andrew Gillum entered the statewide stage in Florida as the FAMU  student body president who led a student march to the State capitol and organized a sit in  to protest the 2000 elections  and protest  Jeb Bushes "One Florida"  .  He also protested the  Governor being the FAMU commencement speaker .  At the same time Daryl Jones was plotting a run for Governor.

Michael and Daryl Jones0001

Michael Dobson and Daryl Jones

On the campaign trail in 2002, I also witnessed the  depths of a   psychological oppression  inextricably in-bedded in the deep south post Jim Crow. The latter showed itself  when talking to black voters like myself, who often voiced  lament by saying  “ Florida is not  going to elect a black for governor”, and/or  “he does not have a chance in this racist state”.   These comments came about  as I made rounds throughout the state at countless DEC meetings, NAACP Banquets, churches, Urban League Dinners  and etc. Oddly,  whites  (at least to my face)  would say, “ he is so smart and would be a good governor”;  and would ask,why are blacks not supporting him. Then they would ask  if Kendrick Meek or Tony Hill was supporting him. Their support was important since both were considered heroes to the black cause after their sit in at the Governors Office, which led to the “One Florida” March of Tallahassee;  then led to the first “get your souls to the polls” GOTV program. But, given the mistake Daryl made earlier with respect to One Florida, there was no forgiving him from some.  The story has never been told before, but the Daryl Jones campaign faced a  conundrum that was all about race. When whites did not see blacks supporting Daryl, disregarding the fact that blacks only represented about 13 percent of the voting populace, it made whites also see it as a fools  errand to support him. For some of them, it made little sense to support a black candidate for whom his own people (and their key leaders) did not wholeheartedly support.

Fast forward to today, clearly Andrew Gillum is no Daryl Jones.  For instance,  the current Chair of the legislative Black Caucus, Perry Thurston  as have most African American leaders endorsed Andrew Gillum. There was never such a public endorsement for Daryl from the Black Caucus, which was disappointing. To his credit, the one black lawmaker who enthusiastically supported Daryl was then State Senator, and now Congressman Al Lawson, a true friend and servant. It can be said that Mr Lawson  has never turned his back on a friend. The conventional wisdom then (and less so now)  is that a white electorate in Florida will not elect a black statewide.  We  saw this phenomena play out before Daryl Jones, when in 1994 an appointed Commissioner of Education, the late Doug Jameson  launched a statewide campaign to win the position outright. He was toppled by a popular  educator from Martin County Florida by the name of Frank Brogan, although he was new to the statewide stage.   Donald Trump has shown us why that seems to be the case, while on his watch, bigotry no longer hides . With clarity, today we better know that there are  good people who would never vote for a black for Governor or U.S. Senator, nor will they vote for a women for Governor, U.S. Senate or President. Yes, Barack Obama won two presidential elections. But,  there is a reason for that…mainly that once in a life time there can be an instance where a candidate comes along who transcends race. The latter is a fact that no one wants to blurt out, but its true. A good chunk of the electorate saw Obama as mix race and ivory league educated …. therefore acceptable.   That will never happen again.

In 2002,  blacks  did not believe it to be possible in Florida, and it therefore became  a foregone conclusion. No disrespect , but Daryl did not have the political skill of an Barack Obama.   The belief  that a black can't win will never be  explicitly communicated  to the candidates face. It will be communicated through surrogates and campaign consultants. The consultants  will rarely  share such base racist conversations  with the candidate, who is giving their all. It defeats the purpose.   Doubling as Daryls body man on occasion, after a day of legislative meetings,   Steve Bousquet of the Saint Pete Times contacted Daryl and wanted to accompany us on a trip to a little black church about 45 minutes from Tallahassee. He wanted to interview Daryl and write  about the campaign. I drove while Steve and Daryl talked. In the story,  Steve described  Daryl’s discomfort, stiffness and unease in  keeping up with the rhythm  of the gospel music at that church.… as a catholic boy trying to fit in at this black church. The article while skirting the "One Florida" controversy also lets the reader know that Daryl Jones was a very qualified and worthy candidate for governor.   Over many months, we   traversed the state, having our share of what I coined rubber chicken events (the menu of baked chicken) , which were usually banquets where Daryl would be allowed to speak.  Looking back at those days, I often think of a conversation I had with my dad some years ago, who had moved back to Florida after spending most of his adult life in San Diego. He talked about the relationship between blacks and white in the south, as he see it now, after being away for so long.  He said, the good thing about the south is that blacks and whites had an actual relationship.. a dysfunctional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless. A part of that relationship is that we can get along and be cordial, but we're to know that the white population  will not allow you (a black) to be governor of our state. The way the thinking goes is that, those who still have a firm grip on power, wont have that. Normally  and unfortunately some blacks  in  the south understand that to be fact, and dutifully accept it as such, as some also cow towed to Jim Crow.  And therefore, vote accordingly. But today is different. There is a new swagger amongst our youth, which is spreading,  and Gillum emulates it.

When blacks (in 2002) said to me that a black could never become governor of Florida, my rejoinder was often, “ well he could, if you would vote for him”, it meant nothing. Many black voters were so concerned with being on the wrong side of the winning vote, that they would not chance it. .. as if there would be some unknown punishment for supporting the black candidate. Again, that is no more.

On election day in 2002, I remember as if it was yesterday sitting in the campaign office in Miami(Doral) monitoring the outcome, and calling our supporters from around the state. A lady from North Florida was aghast at the returns she was seeing and lamented that she did not understand why Blacks did not support Daryl in large numbers in the large urban areas. She saw him as the best candidate ever, and one blacks should be proud of. She couldn’t understand the depths of a collective psychological trauma that remained from slavery to Jim crow and beyond, and the trauma coupled with racial infighting that allowed that to occur.

Be it the lack of the ability for black candidates to compete financially with their white counterparts or other issues of programmed assumed inferiority in  the electorate , whatever the reason, while today is different and better, most believe Florida is still not ready to elect a black statewide. But to his credit,  Mr.  Gillum   has indeed pieced together a formidable coalition, albeit a a very liberal one.... while Florida general election voters are far from liberal or progressive. To that end, if a swarm of locust take Gwen Graham and all others away, leaving Gillum standing, there is still no way he wins a general election. And, it will not be because of race. Deviating from race a bit... or emotions... but clinging unto pragmatism,  let's consider what a great campaign consultant and a treasure chest of money can do on television all day.… everyday with the FBI investigations into Tallahassee, coupled with a  Mayor who has not even completed his first term. The media campaign against him in a general election will be insurmountable. Moreover, Mr. Gillum does not have the superior experience his contemporaries like Edward Brooke and Doug Wilder suggest in interviews in a research writing by Judsen F. Jeffries. In it , they suggest that a black statewide candidate needs twice as much experience than a white candidate. On that score, unfortunately,  Mr Gillum experience starts and finishes here: He has been student body president at FAMU , and a city commissioner and Mayor of a mid-sized town, for  which he did not finish his first term. he also held positions as mostly an organizer for People for the American way and other more liberal leaning organizations

But to be sure, Mr. Gillum is a skillful politician, and is  still young. He entered the statewide stage as a charismatic college leader in 2000, has firmly planted himself in our political consciousnesses with his current juggernaut of a campaign, broadening his footprint on that stage, and his feet are firmly planted to never leave that stage which beckons and where he belongs. He is now learning what the bit map is for electoral victory for a black candidate in Florida, and will likely be the first to crack the code. Blessedly, he has the time to do so. More importantly, while Mr. Gillums fundraising has not kept pace with some of the other candidates, he has shown that as  a black candidate he can indeed generate respectable fundraising numbers; unlike Daryl Jones, Newell Daughtrey for CFO, Willie Logan in his independent statewide run for U. S. Senate, or for Perry Thurston; with an exception  of  Kendrick Meek in his run for U. S. Senate.. who ran a credible and admirable campaign .  It would be  hard to deny that Mr. Gillum has outpaced all other African American candidates for Governor in Florida.

With Gillum, blacks see a new possibility.. a possibility that was missing in 2002 with Mr. Jones… not out of personal deficit, but because of an evolution in how we engage, how we now see ourselves, and a new national swagger. There is an awoken giant in America today far greater than what existed in 2002.  The self-defeating post slavery nature that manifested itself in self defeating psychological oppression  has largely waned, perhaps as a result of Obama. As brave men like Daryl Jones, Kendrick Meek and  Andrew Gillum fan around the state.... further developing the bit map for the victory, which  will one day occur for an African-American candidate in Florida, our gift in the interim, is a closer look in the mirror of who we are as a collective electorate and how we understand each other. If Mr Gillums victory is not at the polls in 2018, it will  instead be his permanent place on the statewide stage.. as a place holder for a sure future victory.

 

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based  lobbyist,Founder/ President of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), Publisher of Talking Florida Politics, Founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association (FREPA), President of The Dream Foundation,Inc and a writer/blogger on politics and public policy. Michael@dobsonandcraig.com, Michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@talkingfloridapolitics.com

 

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1Feb/180

Florida MLK license plate proceeds being withheld and Floridians cant “Live The Dream”

by Michael Dobson

mlk tag 2On January 31, 2018, the Tallahassee Democrats headline following the Presidents State of the Union address read  that President Trump wants us to Live The Dream. Well in Florida, it seems our leaders are focused on taking the dream away, if you consider  the nations first specialty license plate bearing the image of Dr Martin Luther King, the "Live The Dream" license plate. A license plate for which proceeds through the Dream Foundation Inc,  goes to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Florida, the March of Dimes, the State Association of Healthy Start Coalitions and the Community Partnership for the Homeless,  has had its proceeds held up by the state for 3 years. Those proceeds have been held up because the foundation itself was a victim of alleged theft.  But now, the foundation and the organizations that are primarily focused on addressing critical needs in the minority community are being victimized again. For the last three years, they have  been  victimized by our government, in its withholding of proceeds. Now, It admits to no longer having any reason to do so.

the dreamThe Sickle Cell Disease Association of Florida is in no way a large organization, and the 25% of proceeds provided to them from the plates sales are not simply passive income, but for them , those monies  are critical resources. Today, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has indeed agreed to a way forward, but that way is being held up by process. For reasons that seem mind-boggling, it is suggested that the Department  needs the legislature to tell them its okay to release the proceeds that the statute already directs them to provide since the passage of the legislation authorizing the plate in 2004... more than a decade ago.

One could hardly argue against the suggestion that this license plate is purchased solely by black Americans. They do so by paying an extra $25 (on top of regular license plate fees) with their hard-earned money at Florida's various tag offices. They do so believing that they are investing back into their own  communities.  To that point, it is also important to note that of all of the organizations in Florida, The Dream Foundation, through the Live The Dream license plate, is the only organization that is a vehicle for African-Americans statewide to reinvest in their community, while also celebrating the legacy of a man who the world knows as a great humanitarian who made America better live up to its ideals. For three years, the idea of that reinvestment  has not been realized.

This note is a clarion call to the Black Caucus  and all conscientious legislators to step up to the plate and help Senator Rouson and others  make sure that the wishes of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motors Vehicles, in their good faith, be carried out... and that the resources from the sales be provided  where statute dictates once again so that those individuals investing in their communities through its purchase, once again see that investment come full circle. We often talk about "pulling oneself up from his/her boot straps", or lament that minority communities have a duty to reinvest in their own community.... to not depend on the tax payer dollars, but yet, here we have a program that allows communities of color to do just that... and through a lack of desire to simply do the right thing process wise, those efforts are stymied.

It is simply a travesty that this has gone on as long as it has, and it's simply  time for Florida to truly allow communities of color to "Live The Dream" .

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based  lobbyist,Founder/ President of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), Publisher of Talking Florida Politics, Founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association (FREPA), President of The Dream Foundation,Inc and a writer/blogger on politics and public policy. Michael@dobsonandcraig.com, Michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@talkingfloridapolitics.com

 

 

 

28Dec/170

Michael Dobson: Musings on 2017 Florida Politics,our culture, and 2018 predictions from an old hand

Michael_Dobson_1

by Michael Dobson, Publisher of Talking Florida Politics

There has been no year like 2017 ever in American Politics. While we are bringing more attention to bad behavior (as we should), what we may have done is assured ourselves that the really accomplished and talented among us, would never subject themselves to the public humiliation of serving the public.

Over 35 years ago, I was introduced to major politics... hanging out with my father Jerome (Jerry) Foster when I lived in San Diego, God bless him. He cared enough about giving his 23 year old son valuable exposure to business and politics to take me along with him to every San Diego strategy meeting and  fundraiser held for George Dukemajin,  who was a candidate for Governor in California in 1982. He won. It was a historic and epic contest because it pitted Dukemajin against the popular Black Mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley. That was my first political campaign. My father was a Republican business man in San Diego. Yes, I met all the famous and infamous California politicians of that period including Brent Wilkes,  Governor Pete Wilson and Congressman Duke Cunningham; all of which my father was involved with .. at times not to his advantage as in this Washington Post article about my dad Jerome Foster circa Duke Cunningham scandal.

I later got involved in Florida politics at local political organizations in Gainesville and in Tampa through the 80s, and later as an intern in the Florida legislature in the mid 90s after pursuing an MBA from Florida A&M University. No one can argue that politics is not occasionally  a pretty sleazy business, and at times make usually well meaning people do some pretty awful things whenever sex, money and power intertwine. I would also argue that good and  more often than not ...innocent people sometimes get hurt in the cross-hairs of muckrakers in search of the best headline.. you know, the supermarket tabloid type. It is an honorable calling and I admire the men and women who take up the calling. It is much easier to sit in our living rooms.. in our chair and complain. But, its a great sacrifice to risk the slings and arrows of an angry public to leave your comfortable life, and serve the people. When you know what they sacrifice, you will learn than it is not the selfish act many have learned to believe it is.

In the famous movie "Inherit The Wind" Gene Kelly's newspaper man character famously said that the role of newspapers were to " Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." While I'm not in the journalism business, am not a reporter and do not pretend to know all things about that industry, I do believe that good journalist today find themselves forced to go places in their writing and their stories that they would not have in the past. As uncomfortable for some as it is, it is due to the way in which the industry has changed.. as print media is in a death grip to remain relevant in this new information age ...which is still being defined itself, as it changes with each new social media platform, competitor or app. But good journalism persist nonetheless.

The year 2017 in the Florida state legislature will be remembered for the number of resignations and special elections, not to mention the type of political gamesmanship that was usually only known to the insiders.. not the in your face kind we see today, which makes great headlines. The resignations are being mirrored in other state legislatures around the country, as allegations are being leveled toward men in power who have abused those powers. Additionally, you have to throw in the fact that we are  painfully learning that all communication ( including with your wife) can become a public record ripe for public consumption and used to sell/increase online newspaper clicks. Yes, in the early "you got mail" days, we would occasionally get peeved when we learned that an email we thought was personal, was forwarded and shared with others (which happens without question today); but today what is being shared is  a video, text communication, a voicemail, a photo or an entire audio conversation. We also learned that state lawmakers have been spied on, in video. My hunch is that we will learn what's on the video tape in 2018.

Yes, the old stories are true about politics in Tallahassee. Even this writer had a tab at the preferred watering whole near the Capitol, like other lobbyist; which lawmakers drank from, and bills were often written and deals were cut right there. Yes, in the old days ...at the end of every legislative session, you would see some interestingly clothed young women who posed as lobbyist ...show up, to walk the capital as "closers".. employed by certain lobbying firms to "meet" with lawmakers.  There were no term limits, no one resigned, great environmental legislation was passed and much of what are the public policy pillars that allows Florida to continue growing was crafted then. Even with all the debauchery, many lawmakers ( at the end of the day)  sided with their constituents. The money did not drown things out then to the point that constituents did not know what really was being done. And, in the end, lawmakers wanted to get reelected. Those who did not partake in the extracurricular, which were many, held the others feet to the fire when what a lobbyist wanted was not good government. Yes,  bad things still happen of course.. "Bo's  Bridge to Nowhere" and many items like that. Back then, most legislators had a deeper connection with Florida.. were second or third generation natives and saw Florida a bit  differently than some today. It's a bit different when its your adopted home rather than the one of your forefathers. But that to has made Florida special... the fact that we are made up of people from many different places.

My concern is that moving forward, we will not have the most talented among us be willing to serve anymore. We have made the public flogging that will either occur in the campaign itself or after being elected, not worth it. This is a national problem. Why do you think John Morgan is not going to be a candidate for Governor? Is it because he can astutely telegraph what that campaign will be like after decades of lawsuits as a trial attorney.. some lawsuits not very attractive to the average joe; and blow back from his own public statements, which some considered entertaining? The latter is only further  speculation because Mr Morgan can surely and have spoken for himself on that. But I will say, a comfortable man will not give up his comfort, and risk having his legacy in tatters. For one second, do you not think Jack Latvala wish he would have stayed retired from public service and just continued to have a few lobbying or political clients for which  he could  still hang out in Tallahassee, to have an occasional drink with  old friends, with his legacy in tact? No old school pol like Latvala could have imagined the buzz saw that is today's politics.. with cameras, spies and etc.

In Tallahassee, a City Manager (Rick Fernanez) is in deep do do because he accepted free football tickets. However, one could also argue that the scandal is made more real because he tried to hide it. Some years ago, our firm.. with some extra football tickets we did not need,  provided a City Manager some free football tickets. We did not lobby local government ( had no local government clients), but were just being friendly. Nothing to gain. But I suspect that more than one member of the Tallahassee political class has received free FSU football tickets from time to time, and that is why they are reticent to punish Rick Fernandez. That's a likely truth that you will never hear in polite conversations. Should they accept football tickets? Well, to this writer, its okay as long as its reported and does not exceed a certain value. If a public official is willing to sell out the citizens for a measly football ticket, then they are surely of low degree and should never have their coveted position. But admittedly, for some,  even a transparent system for receiving low value gifts would not be acceptable. The legislature grappled with that while crafting its lobbying gift ban, and that was the initial compromise.

Then,  there was also a time (pre internet and social media on steroids) where a politician could ride out a scandal, simply because the news cycle was more forgiving. But, in this area  of 24 hr media competition that never sleeps and a willingness to  look under any electronic rock, no politician today can withstand it. That's why the less stubborn ones quickly resigned  once they determined that their story would be good business for news outlets. Your story will be front and center as long as it sells.  So, with these realities, what kind of political leaders or candidates will we have in the future?

Pre-Harvey Weinstein, during one of the after dinner conversations at our home, my teenage son discussed how he does not tell a girl " that color looks good on you", " that looks pretty on you" or etc anymore; that he does not say anything to girls  anymore out of fear that they will consider him creepy. It was the first time I was made aware of the phenomena today's young men and now old school men have to come to grips with regarding our interaction with women. While it is true, that some men have often felt that a certain degree of privilege has allowed them to act badly, there are many good men ( and young men like my son) who have the utmost respect for women, whom now have to be afraid to have a friendly conversation with someone of the opposite sex. For the latter, I fail to see how this bodes well for the future.  It seems to contradict nature, as there   often is a natural attraction between the sexes that begin with innocent conversation, the type of conversation our young sons are now afraid to have. It is my prayer that this gets worked out, and that the #MeToo hashtag , and the movement it spurred does not inadvertently set women back as some from a recent article which my friend Jennifer Green is quoted in laments.

But before all of this is worked out, unfortunately I predict 2018 to be a brutal one. I predict more resignations, more hard hitting reporting ...as more look like tabloid style hit pieces, because as my dad use to say.. everyone has to eat. What that means is that news organizations are simply seeking to survive in a very competitive environment, and yes, the reporters have to eat,  pay their mortgages, braces for kids and etc.  I also predict some surprises in the race for Governor. Reading the article in the Root about the two Stacys, made me go back to remember 2002 when I was a statewide campaign coordinator (manager) for Florida State Senator Daryl Jones, an African American who the media called the first African American candidate for Governor in Florida with a serious chance of becoming Florida's Governor. Because of that experience and a lot that is echoed in the Root article, I know the headwinds Andrew Gillum face. But, he is indeed a naturally gifted politician, more so than his opponent. However, by comparison between the two African American serious candidates for governor in recent memory,  he  lacks Mr. Jones experience for the job of Governor. But the good news is that, in this new world where a lack of substance is not a handicap, and salesmanship can get you into the White House, it may  be difficult to completely count Mr Gillum out unless Graham picks up her fundraising tremendously. On the Republican side, the race is still forming with Adam Putnam still in the drivers seat. Being a native of Bartow just like Mr Putnam, I cant help but have a bit of pride about the idea of Mr. Putnam becoming the second person from Bartow to hold the Governors Mansion .. second to Governor  Spessard Holland.

Hold on to your seats, we are in for a ride in 2018. It'll be fun though! Happy Holidays yall.

 

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based  lobbyist,Founder/ President of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), Publisher of Talking Florida Politics, Founder of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association (FREPA), President of The Dream Foundation,Inc and a writer/blogger on politics and public policy. Michael@dobsonandcraig.com, Michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@talkingfloridapolitics.com

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8Dec/170

Yvonne Hayes Hinson: Restructuring the tax code should be a bi-partisan effort with precision and consideration for vital programs

Yvonne

by Yvonne Hayes Hinson, Florida Candidate for U.S House of Representatives, Dist 3

The current federal administration has us all gripped with apprehension over the
Tax Cut and Jobs Act. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the
effects of the new tax cut legislation would raise the deficit by an estimated $1.5
trillion dollars over the next ten years. The statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act
(PAYGO) requires new laws be deficit neutral. The Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) is required to maintain PAYGO scorecards – without budget
balances in place; OMB would decide where to cut or to sequester funds.
That score card has certain restrictions:
1. PAYGO law limits reductions to Medicare to $25 billion for a given year.
That’s an extremely hard jolt to Medicare recipients. This is perhaps just
one of many unintended consequences.
2. The law limits many programs from cuts including low income programs,
Social Security, and Veterans Affairs. There are so many exemptions that
some programs would have to be eliminated all together in an effort to
neutralize the effects.
3. The deficit balance still exceeds the amounts being lawfully sequestered;
even after OMB recommendations.
The GOP vision according to The Rachel Maddow Blog, “is to overhaul the
federal tax code, redistribute wealth to the top, scrapping healthcare benefits for
millions, and then targeting social-insurance programs like Social Security and
Medicare”. Is this the vision of the GOP electorate or the vision of misguided
wealthy people who sit at the top and fail to consider the needs of the remaining
constituency?
We the People want to know what lies ahead if this Tax cut and Jobs Act is passed.
What are its unintended consequences? Citizens are spending hours listing the
possible effects of many dire program needs. The damage that’s done will far
outweigh its few benefits. The deficits could hit levels that this country may never
recover. This country is in need of a tax code restructuring. But it should be a
bipartisan effort carefully crafted with an unprecedented degree of precision.
Fiscal analysts should be included every step of the way. We the people deserve
better than this.
Yvonne Hayes Hinson, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, CD3

 

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18Nov/170

FAILURE  TO GET  THE RESTORATION OF VOTING RIGHTS AMENDMENT ON THE BALLOT IN FLORIDA, WOULD BE A FAILURE BY THE COMMUNITY MOST IMPACTED

civil-rights

By Michael Dobson

We may be witnessing a shame,  a sham and a missed opportunity.

It would be a shame that Florida's African American community could never live down, if the restoration of voting rights amendment is not on the November 2018 ballot.   The initiative has to meet a deadline of  February 1, 2018 for turning in the requisite number of legitimate  petitions for the Restoration of Voting Rights Constitutional  Amendment in order for it to make the November 6, 2018 ballot in Florida.  It’s not looking good, and that’s indeed a shame.

With more than 20 years experience in  Florida politics, I am aware of the amount of money and organization required to obtain the petitions needed for a constitutional amendment that reaches Florida’s ballot, and the muscle needed for a win on election day. This petition effort and its lack of success has for a long time concerned this writer. Early on, I was concerned that   the organization behind the initiative lacked the wherewithal to succeed. Also, from a distance, the petition gathering looked like a  PR campaign  for an  individual,  rather than a cause that we all should care about.  

Upon checking with the Florida Division of Elections office on November 14, 2017 and having staff patiently answer my many questions about the Felon Voting Rights Ballot Initiative,  the reality became clear. The trajectory was not moving toward success.  For instance,  with   2 ½ months away from a February 1, 2018 deadline, the certified petition  count  by the State Division of Election stands at  358,000, after nearly three years or more.  By February 1, 2018, Florida's supervisors of elections must have had received  766, 222 certified/legitimate  petitions, with certain proportionality standards met determinant upon a formula that uses county and congressional district demographics. Meaning, all petitions can’t come from simply the most populated counties.   The Supervisor of Elections offices  then have 30 days to submit their count of certified petitions to the Florida Division of Elections. 

The issue of felon voting rights , no matter how you try to frame it,  is seen by all as an issue specific to the African American Community, although it affects many other  demographics.  That fact alone signifies a nations wink and nod to its knowledge  of the inherent institutional biases that exit in the criminal justice system.  In my memory, this  would be the first effort to place  a constitutional amendment on the ballot for an issue that predominantly impacts  African Americans. So, let me be clear, failure of the ballot initiative, would be  a  failure of and by Florida's African American  community. That failure would be a bad mark for civil rights organizations and on the African American church community.  Further, the failure would-be both symbolic and real. It would be a failure of Florida’s black community  to coalesce around a cause that affects it disproportionately.  It would also be a failure of the Caucasian community  and its churches to help right a wrong that’s not disproportionately done to them, but to their brother instead.

Why has this been so difficult? Well, there are some hard  and unsettling truths. First, this IS a partisan issue, and any attempt to suggest it is not is in the end disingenuous. It is also  an unattractive issue, as there  is a kneejerk  recoil from the pious among us when you ask that they sign a petition to help anything with the word ”felon” in it. Moreover, there are  problems  rooted into some of the dynamics within the African American community itself, that has left the effort flat. These are  dynamics  that well meaning committed  liberal leaning organizations that support issues of importance in the Black community,  often fail to understand.  Those in charge of the purse strings often do not  understand  that the credit for any  success has to be as a collective, not individual based. When it is the latter, which it is in this case, unfortunately a high level of animus stifles the movement, making execution impossible. There are cultural truths about power sharing and collaboration in the African America community that, If not dealt with or understood, can leave any good cause in tatters.   Moreover, resources has to be shared with a large number of organizations or individuals who are often left wanting  when resources are made available to target the things they work on in the trenches daily, with no fan fare… or money.    

As an illustration of what’s not always understood by funders, some years ago, certain African America members of the legislature had a dust up with the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) about their  discontinuing  the practice of giving the electives a budget which they controlled  to hire people in their district for get out the vote (GOTV) efforts.  They tried to explain to the FDP that without money to spread around, to get buy in from community leaders  and hire folks easily, it could not produce high voter turn out. In this case, the funders of the felon voters rights amendment will have thrown its dollars down a rabbit whole if it does not understand that truth and others. For instance,  It is a colossal mistake for them to  appear to have  cast their lot financially into only  one organization (and connected ones), and not the whole community and a broad  swath of organizations.  Also, when funders decided that it would not fund other organizations seeking to help  the host organization  to accomplish its shared goal, they  further doomed their fate.

So, then there is the sham. If televised or radio interviews tell you that there is 600,000-750,000 petitions,  and the state of Florida only reports 358,000, trust the official figures and know that there is a lot of work to do. With that petition jujitsu, unfortunately , some key supporters have lost faith… coming to believe they cannot trust what the campaign is saying.   These  remaining  few months  are  crucial for this important ballot initiative. It’s a test for the African American community and for the organizers. Now, does it have a chance of making the petition deadline with 2 ½ months remaining? Yes it can, but it will  not if a correction in the approach is not made  to change the current trajectory.  

What I know is this, when the right to vote was essentially forever stripped of the 1.6 million Floridians who cannot vote today, there was no march on Tallahassee, there wasn’t any organizing from the streets or the pulpit. Each year  African America legislators file bills to reverse the current policy so that the   right to vote is restored automatically, and legislative leaders  never placed those bills on the agenda to be heard.  Those bills are DOA, each legislative session. And yet, there is not marching to the State capital or outrage in the streets about it. So, should we be surprised about where we found ourselves? Are we talking a good game, but not willing to back it up with work and action? Was William Shakespeare correct,  that  “the past is prologue”. If so,   it’s hard to understand how the deadline can be met.

If there is a chance, someone will need to call a huddle that  includes all interested participants,  and not be shy about sharing monetary resources. If there ever was one, this is indeed an all hands on deck moment for the African American community. Failure would leave  the African American community  appearing quite impotent... then irrelevant. The effort of those working on it daily from the beginning deserves a lot of respect and credit. But now,we are in a different place.  Turning around what is historically a racist policy,  rooted in efforts by southern governors to squash black voting after reconstruction, is an opportunity  to set the record straight about who we are as a state. It allows us to say that  Florida believes in second chances. Then the African American community would have also channeled the hopes and  spirit of Maya Angelou, to in the end say  “Still I Rise”. 

Michael Dobson is President of Dobson, Craig and Associates with over 20 years experience in Florida politics in Florida's Capital,  Chairman of Florida Voters Campaign Founder of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association(FREPA) and Director of The Dream Foundation,Inc (overseeing Florida's MLK license plate)

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22Aug/170

Heather Heyer: Brought as a lamb to slaugther for us, in Charlottesville

      By Michael Dobson

Heather Heyer

Heather Heyer

The death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017 is a story told centuries before her slaying. Flashpoints in human history has often required the spilling of blood.. of a lamb going to slaughter toward our salvation and a reckoning.
Heather Heyer grew up before us as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground: she had no form or comeliness; and when we shall see her, there may be no beauty that we should desire her no more than others. She was despised and rejected of common men; a person of sorrows, and acquainted with grief : and we hid as it were our faces from her; she was  despised by those with hardened hearts, and we esteemed her not. Surely Heather has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem her stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But she was wounded for our transgressions, she is killed for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace is upon Heathers blood; and with her stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray;  everyone of us have turned to what is selfish; and the universe has laid upon her the iniquity of us all. She was oppressed, and she was more than afflicted, yet she did not complain nor open her mouth: Heather was certainly brought as a lamb to slaughter , and as a sheep quietly before those who destroyed her for us.
The  paragraph above was the taking of editorial license with Isaiah 53: 2-7. You don’t have to be a believer to accept the biblical nature of the events in Charlottesville. And, if you chose not to accept that, at least accept that the history we are witnessing is rooted in already experienced human patterns. The words are made even more real when we consider the awful remarks made by the Grand Dragon of the North Carolina KKK about Heathers death.
History is replete with moments whereby innocent blood was shed as a flashpoint to a critical juncture in human history. These moments remind us of where we are and who we are. To suggest this critical time in human history is only passing is naïve. Its not, its where we look into the mirror to face the regressive nature  of our own evolution. Heathers death acts as both a test and wakening for America. Americas  blueprint, which is laid out in  its multilayers of documents, like the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights , the Declaration of Independence, are actually where our allegiance exist and what defines us, not an affiliation to any political  party’s dogma. What we learned in Charlottesville and its aftermath is, not only do we often cling to political dogma, but also to prejudices of yesteryear. Doing so provides us comfort and familiarity in a changing world.  It's a world in dire need of leaders who are statesmen and patriots, instead of those who ignore what they know to be decent, simply  to hold unto a narrow base their pollsters identify as crucial.
To the latter, It is without fidelity to any political party that I say we have a President that has given legitimacy and cover to the most evil and anti- America elements of our society, and has pushed us to the brink of a race war. It seems a disdain for who we are as a nation.
Because of the conversations we are having with  family and friends, and via social media  feeds; we now walk around a bit naked, looking at each other with suspicion as we interface in the everyday routine of living in our communities. We look at the person across from us, or next to us,  wondering what side  they are on in the racial discussions of the day. We are looking  at each other differently because we better know that  the enemy among us is  … well, us. The enemy is just the boy next door… normal .. not with horns or anything that lets us know when we are in the enemy’s presence. Our eyes are now  open to the  sheet wearing racists or Nazi’s who walk among us with their festering hate.
For Heather Heyers death to matter, as her mother Susan Bro intimated, and for history to be fulfilled as written, we must not ignore what we see. We must not be passive. We must act.  Our  leaders have to exercise real political courage again by not  putting party before country, to stand up and repudiate what is contrary to our nations principals. They must acknowledge that it is they who must steer the ship and that we are in crisis. Blood is on the streets on Charlottesville, the lamb was silent and taken to slaughter; now patriotic men of substance must put country first even if it means risking their own political futures simply by doing something larger than themselves, which they are called upon to do by a universe larger than them. This moment has its own blueprint, which is found in the oldest of books and annuals of history.  May  Heather Heyer , who died that we be awoken by her spilt blood, rest in eternal peace. And, may God bless  her family and our great nation.  The silent lamb leads us. Thank you Heather.
Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based governmental relations professional and columnist; President/CEO of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), and renewable energy policy leader as founder of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Can be reached at michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@dobsonandcraig.com

 

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