MICHAEL DOBSON-TALKING FLORIDA POLITICS BLOG We Know Florida Politics

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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29Jul/170

THE CASE FOR OBAMA AND OBAMACARE

By Michael Dobson

obamacare bill signing

First, this writing is a Facebook post on this writers Facebook page. Because of the discussions that followed, it was decided to share it on our blog.

Now, about Obamacare and etc:

Here is the thing, if you are really bored, go to you tube and you will see politicians who are running for President over the past 40 -50 years talk about healthcare, education and perhaps social security. Those three things, each one of the candidates. None of them had ever done anything transformational to address those issues. Obama did, and its eating folks up.. that it was him who did it. And regarding how he did it.. how he met his goal of making sure everyone had access to healthcare and would have healthcare... not just access? Well, the structure of Obama care was the only way to accomplish that. You see, in a previous life I used to be in the insurance business.. State Farm. I understand how risk pools work and how actuaries crunch numbers.

The only way we could have healthcare for all and have pre-existing conditions covered in an affordable manner is if everyone participated in the risk pool. If everyone (in some way) paid into the pool. That reduces the risk and the cost. That is also coupled with the idea that states would allow for the expansion of Medicaid to supplement the program as well. The states that allowed for the Medicaid expansion have more reasonable premium structures than states like Florida, whose governors would not expand Medicaid to help its citizens. The way Obama care is structured, it is based on the premise used in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, which Florida uses. In Florida everyone who drives has to have PIP coverage. What that does is make sure that everyone in the risk pool ( risk of injury in auto accidents) is paying into the pool, which in turn, lowers cost in the end.. and reduces the ultimate medical cost along with eliminating the need for more lawsuits. What Obama did was what leaders  talked about and tried doing for  nearly a century, and  was unable to do.. but he did it, and he did it  the only way it could have been done.

And, like Social Security and Medicaid, we will continue to work on it for many years in the future to improve it. He said as much himself when it became law. The Republicans now better understand and the American people are just going to have to get on board. Do you remember how many people died because of not having access to health care in the past, and because insurance companies would not cover pre-existing conditions, and how parents could not cover their college aged children?That's no more. Obamacare is transcendent policy. He did what no one else could do.

Another thing, while I am at it. I had newly graduated from college and was living in  San Diego California during the recession of 1982. At its height, unemployment was 12.3 percent. The world was not in a global economy to the degree it is today yet. During the last recession, if you may recall, things were so bad that people were seriously considering taking all of their money out of the bank. No president had ever had to steer a country out of a recession in a globalized economy before.. whereby when one country sneezes, the other has a cold. So, there was no road map to fixing it. No blueprint to follow. Obama was the first to have to do so. And, he actually did it. It was difficult, he had to make hard choices, take a lot of political hits that prevented him politically from getting some of his agenda passed later on, but he steered the ship clear away from a total global meltdown. He was not a perfect president. But he proved to be the president we needed during that time, with the steady hand, cerebral deliberation, and resolve. Also, he was a pretty smart guy, devoted husband and caring Dad ... a good American.

 

Michael  Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based governmental relations professional and columnist; President/CEO of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates),Chairman of Florida Voters Campaign PAC 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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5Jul/170

Today’s Florida Democratic Party Likely Not Racist, Just Tone Death

restore right to vote

 

As leader of the Florida Democratic Party, Is Mr. Stephen Bittel  a racist? I doubt it.

Was Mr. Bittels suggestion that members of the legislative Black Caucus were acting “childish”, a racist statement? No, of course not. Does the fact that Mr. Bittel suggested that the Black caucus members were the only legislators upset about being snubbed, when Rep.  Janet Cruz and others felt the same way confirm that Mr. Bittel is a racist? No.

Does the party have a racist recent past? Yes.  Recent history and plenty of evidence show there to be a pattern of disrespect when it comes to black legislators and voters within their own ranks. For instance, in 1998 Rep. Willie Logan ( Opa Locka) was slated to become the first Black Democratic House Minority leader . Then a racist thing happen. Certain legislators suggested he would be the wrong public face or image of the party, that he would be the wrong image to face Democratic voters and donors in North Florida. To save face, the public case against what they saw was Mr. Logan’s unsuitability, was the idea that he would be an ineffective fundraiser.  Mind you, all of this was done to Mr. Logan by well meaning white Democrats, who then replaced him with a white Democrat.

Prior to that ,  during the 1992 redistricting fight, in order to have more black members in congress  the legislative black caucus developed their own redistricting plan,  splitting with Democratic Party Leadership. The Black caucus plan gave them four Black US congressional seats, while the Florida Democratic Party allowed for only one.  Historically, there are many instances whereby white Democratic leaders have given scant respect to the wishes of black voters beyond mere words.

For instance, the Democratic Party is fully aware that in Florida nearly 1.5 million taxpayers (who are disproportionately black) cannot vote because of a past felony. And the party knows that there is a chance to have that issue on the November 2018 ballot.  The Democratic Party knows this is an important issue for black voters. But, has the Democratic Party written a check to the organization seeking to secure the petitions needed to make the ballot? No.. not a red penny. Here’s why. The Democratic Party has made a “business” decision that putting resources in that initiative would be a waste of resources. That is because, as the reasoning goes, the initiative will only get the voters out to the polls that are going to vote Democrat anyway. Therefore, there is no reason to spend money on that… as their thinking goes.

For those of you sleeping, the current policy regarding restoration of voting rights is rooted in racism and has as a goal to maintain parts of Jim Crow law.  This base racism and bigotry stems from the late 18th century and early 19th century , when as a response to increased black voting after reconstruction , southern political leaders began disenfranchising voters with felony records, knowing that most would be black… as blacks get prosecuted more than whites( not necessary transgressing the law more), to reduce the black vote. So, while the Florida Democratic Party will not provide any resources into the effort, to their credit, the local Democratic Executive committees are helping, but with no money… nada from Stephen Bittel and the gang… the gang who “says” this is an important issue. Is it racist? No, but it is certainly tone death and will be regretted.

It is tone death because by not putting skin in the game on this initiative, the party is simply doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In each of the last few gubernatorial elections in Florida, when the dust settles, Democratic pundits and strategist blame the close loss on African Americans. They say Africa Americans didn’t turn out to vote as needed or anticipated. What they don’t say is that the Democratic candidate was uninspiring, which gets us back to November 2018.

The party must ask itself the hard question. Will a Chris  King or a Gwen Graham fire up the black community enough to have black voter enthusiasm at an all time high? More than likely not. The Democratic Party will then wish it had the restoration of voting rights amendment on the ballot to energize those voters, if it doesn’t make the ballot.  Disrespecting and taking the black vote for granted has come back to haunt the Democratic Party year after year. Mr. Bittel, please study your history and act accordingly. Do you   remember 1998 when a large swath of the black vote went to Jeb Bush? Well, it could happen again if the Democratic Party forgets to show the black voters some love.

Michael  Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based governmental relations professional and columnist; President/CEO of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates),Chairman of Florida Voters Campaign PAC 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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12May/170

BETHUNE COOKMAN: THE MISEDUCATION OF AN HBCU

On May 10, 2017 at Bethune Cookman Univeristy (BCU), Americans watched both a contortionist and an arsonist dance together in celebration of decorum’s defeat. I fell in love with BCU  many years ago as I walked upon its campus as a freshman in the late 70's. While I was at  BCU,  our moral and spiritual educations were so important, that  as freshmen, we were mandated to attend what was called "Chapel" each Monday. After your freshman year, it became such a major part of your routine, you continued going.

At my beloved Bethune Cookman's 2017  graduation ceremony, the long-term survival needs of all HBCUs were put asunder by passions gone awry, and distant manipulations of the political class. At that ceremony, a small school of only about 4000 students, which a majority of Americans had never heard of was given an opportunity to showcase its positive legacy stemming from the reverence our nation has for its founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. That opportunity came in the form of its influential commencement speaker, who is  the highest ranking education official in America (the most powerful country in the world), the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Instead of Bethune Cookmans graduates showing themselves to the world as being exemplified  future leaders of America, exuding grace, dignity, decorum  and respect.... to an America that did not know they exist.. to a possible extension of its support base; they instead, gave America their backs, their verbal insults... their booing.

Universities have often been the linchpin of conscious raising protest to help best define the cultural and political wars of a generation. One can easily dismiss the civil disobedience and antics witnessed at Bethune Cookman as knee-jerk immaturity brought on by youthful avarice, which is,  action before thought. One can certainly say that the students actions are largely driven by emotions rather than pragmatism, lacking any thought of  what is the best strategy to accomplish their ends. Nor does anyone know what the "ends" are that were sought.  But for our youth, the ends are rarely considered.. it’s all about the means, which often leave protest a wasteful exercise. We doth wear our emotions on our sleeves a bit too much, and get swept up into causes that are ultimately a group  electric slide of synchronized tilting at windmills.

While observing the student’s behavior toward the Secretary of Education at the 2017 Bethune Cookman  graduation, along with my witnessing the shortsightedness of it, I was  forced to remember the younger me, the me that arrived on that campus  in the late 70s. I arrived there from Bartow Senior High school, where I was a starting football player, member of the track team, basketball team, student council, chorus and ROTC.  Accept for the  person in Bartow who came back to the community after a stint in Vietnam, or was returning from  college, where their engagement in the movement of the time was more coarse or hardened ; the civil rights movement in my town was more prodding, quiet and respectful. It was also quite successful.  Growing up on Magnolia Street, a stone’s throw to the Black High School (Union Academy); each evening,  sounds from the marching band were in the air.... sort of like living near FAMUs marching band,  or BCUs marching 100. I remember it like it was yesterday. As a little boy, I remember the opening of  Carver Recreation Center (first brick and motor recreation center in the black community). It was  a block away from my house, across the street from Union Academy.  Carver Recreation was named after George Washington Carver, the renown black inventor and activist. This was done with money from the city of Bartow, as a part of its newly expanded parks and recreation program.  I remember all of the local black leaders proudly walking around to tour the new facility. Shortly after that, my neighbor  a few houses down, Mr. George Gause ( a funeral director and owner of Gause Funeral Home)  became the first African American in the Southeastern United States to hold the office of Mayor. And in 1977, he became the first African American to sit on Polk County's School Board District III, appointed by Governor Rubin Askew. All of that was big news.  I lived on what I call "teachers row". Teachers were on each side of me as neighbors and down the street. They were all graduates of black colleges, either FAMU, BCC or some other HBCU.   Also, on my street a few houses down was  the famous Coach McKinney, the beloved football coach  for our dear Union Academy fighting tigers.

In Bartow, I watched my great grandparents Luncie and Henry Foster prosper as respected business owners. My maternal and paternal grandfathers' were entrepreneurs. They would pridefully say, “I aint working for no white man, I’ll work for myself”. Guess my entrepreneurial spirit was gleaned from watching them make their own way.  I saw guys in the community like Ken Riley and Major Hazelton attend FAMU and later get drafted to the NFL where they had long careers. I saw our race not only talk about equality or opportunity, but i saw men and women do what was necessary to make their own opportunities through hard work, perseverance, decorum and dignity; and making great strides once congress passed laws that eventually made  Jim Crow a thing of the pass.

When I arrived on Bethune Cookmans campus,  I was assigned (as a part of my orientation), the books of Black Nationalist like Eldridge Cleaver with  his “Soul on Ice” or Malcolm X; then great story tellers like Richard Wright and James Baldwin. I was never exposed to those readings before. This is where the black experience, as it’s called, gets real. In the life of most blacks in America, unconsciously or (at times) in your face, early on...you  get  subtle or not so subtle messages that you are less than. Those dog whistles are to make us feel as though we are the inferior race. To be candid, that was the plantation owners tool for controlling its "property".  That form of psychological damage makes it difficult for many to ever know or realize their full potential in a free society.  What black colleges do for many of us  is breakaway the grip that the lie of inferiority holds unto the souls of many black folk in America. It frankly is a form of necessary deprogramming for many, by opening your eyes to who you are and what your value is as a black in America. They lay bare the existentialism of your cultural journey in the world, from its beginning. During such an introduction into our history as orientation, we learn that whites are the oppressor, and we the oppressed. Yes, that's harsh, but is learned nonetheless. And dare I say, history supports this view as accurate and an undisputed fact.  This awakening is a powerful and necessary step to unleash the potential of blacks in America by lifting many out of a form of self loathing.. not knowing the many contributions of our race to not only America, but the world at large. For many years, not only were black students denied an education in their own history and contributions, but that history was withheld from everyone.. a whitewashing of history.  These facts are what made the case for Black History Month, and the goal of teaching more black history in our schools. Consequently, there has been a quiet acknowledgment that for far too long our society has consciously driven the message to black youth that they are inferior. To this day, that psychological dynamic plays out in many and sometimes tragic ways.

When I graduated from  Bethune Cookman and moved to live with my dad in  San Diego California (Poway,  Rancho Bernardo), which is a very affluent community, and began my job search, I learned of the limits and blind spots of certain aspects of the orientation and my  so called black experience.  First, while at a black college, it’s pretty easy to forget that the world is not totally black… that blacks are only about 13 percent of the overall population. At a black college, its pretty easy to limit your life to the social and cultural parameters of black college life where nearly 95 percent (in those days) of everything is black.  After leaving, you learn that, despite what Farrakhan said in his lengthy speech on Bethune Cookmans campus, all white people are not the devil. You learn that you will have to perhaps convince someone of a different race or culture to give you your first job.

My father, a former executive at Solar Turbines., Inc. in San Diego, helped arrange a plethora of interviews for me with top executives with companies like Cubic, Inc., Hewett Packard, Teledyne, Inc. and others. What I learned was that, in the real world, everything is not about race. I learned that what matters most is whether or not your skill set is of benefit to a business bottom line, not the color of your skin. Later as a businessman, I’ve learned that in business, money is fungible. It does not care about the color of its owner. What matters is that you have contributions or an idea that is of value. And, ultimately in life we all learn that no matter the race or  the culture, we have more in common than we have differences. We all want our children to have opportunities we did not have, we want our children and family to be healthy, many of us pray to the same God, we care about our spouses.... siblings and extended family, we want a roof over our heads, good schools, food to eat, safe water, jobs that pay living wages, freedom and public safety.

What the students at BCC don’t know yet is that, there is nothing positive about getting national press by being disrespectful and rude to the highest ranking education official in the most powerful country in the world. There is no benefit in it.  One day they will know that colleges do not survive because of tuition or alumni donations. They depend upon Federal government and state government for major funding for operations, programs, new construction and expansion.  They will have to acknowledge that Bethune Cookman has received funding and critical support from Presidents and Governors from all political stripes. For instance, today in Florida,  a Republican ran legislature has given BCU  great support over the years and continues to do so, although Bethune Cookman College (BCC) aka BCU, as I like to call it,  is not a state college.  What they will learn as they mature, is that much of life depends on relationships.. the building and maintenance of those relationships. They will learn that you will not always agree with those you have relationships with, but you will have to find that thing that you have in common and work feverishly on that thing together.

One can disagree with Mrs. Devos political ideology. One can agree that she has had little to no way knowing or understanding black colleges, as that is not a world she inhabits. That’s not her fault, just a matter of like experience and environment she was born to. One can also agree, that although it was done  in a clumsy manner, she reached out to Bethune Cookman College... not with a clinched fist, but with an open hand, to know more about the school and use the power of her office on its behalf. One can agree that with her clumsy start, it was clear what she didn’t know,  and that in acknowledging her own shortcomings, she came to BCC to learn  more about the college. That much could be gleaned from the speech the students would not listen to.

We can agree that Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was not a millionaire, and did not build BCC by herself. She did it with the kindness of political leaders of all stripes, the United Methodist church and philanthropist who believed in the wrongness of denying blacks from getting an education for so long. And last but not least, sometimes good hearted, Christian white people say dumb things, not because they are racist, but because they simply don’t have any way of understanding what life is like traveling the earth in our skin, having to withstand how society (at times) reacts to our skin color. They can’t possibly know our experience.. how could they?

The students, similarly to the “black lives matter” movement, will have to ask themselves… now what? Who benefited and how? Who did this help and who did it hurt? To the latter, they will mature and learn that they not only hurt themselves, but also the students coming after them. Their actions diminished whatever opportunities there were to be gained at that moment to help the school develop relationships needed to grow the school, and keep it open and flourishing at a time when black colleges are struggling or closing. They did not look like or act like college educated future leaders of America, giving ammunition to decision makers who question the need for black colleges in 2017. They will now further question the quality and purpose of the education provided there.. and see it as a waste of taxpayer dollars. Yes, that conversation is going on in the halls of power. Hence, black colleges are closing.  I have been immensely blessed to go to Bethune Cookman College and have my conscious raised and my confidence embolden to tackle a world that is not always fair or kind to people of color. HBCUs are vital for many blacks in America, as it was for this writer. But, we must better protect its legacy. The students will one day learn that you can disagree with someone, but also respect their office… because at the end of the day; except for helping news outlets sell newspapers, enhancing someones social media presence, or increase the number of clicks a websites get; all the behavior displayed at the commencement on May 10th will do for you, is make you an also-ran …ending with nothing to show for the experience,  except for a T-shirt. Really?

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based governmental relations professional and columnist; President/CEO of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), Chairman of Florida  Voters Campaign, PAC, 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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27Jan/170

FRAUDULENT VOTING IS NOT THE PROBLEM; DENIAL OF VOTING FRANCHISE  TO TAX PAYERS IS

civil-rights

On January 24, 2017, President Trump asserted  that  he would have won the popular vote had it not been for 3-5 million fraudulent votes. It is  an  assertion debunked by all, but Mr. Trump  does  touch on a subject of importance. Which is, that votes and voting matter.

America’s problem is not fraudulent voting, It is systemic voter suppression and the denying of voting rights for productive and contributing citizens.

Florida remains one of less than a handful of states that does not have automatic restoration of rights for those citizens returning to their communities from incarceration. It serves society, families and communities no good purpose when citizens  who have paid their dues for a life mistake to be perpetually  marginalized  by such draconian  disenfranchisement,  when their hard work and taxes pay for the roads, the schools and contribute to those things our government is responsible for. Contrary to making our communities and families whole after that family (yes the family) has served a prison sentence, the continued disenfranchisement of that husband, father, mother or grandparent,  does nothing to allow that family to assume a place of value and inclusion into their  community.

The disenfranchising of over 1.6 million tax paying citizens has no residual benefits. Florida's policy of denying the right to vote to 1.6 million of our neighbors  lacks the basic tenants of Christianity and has no moral standing. Further, this base disenfranchisement belies certain facts of our broken  criminal justice system. In plain talk, to begin with,  the system favors the wealthy;  which is a fact that no one would deny. Therefore, those who find themselves caught into its throws are not necessarily the most guilty, or in many cases, not  guilty at all. They are simply poor, and could not buy their way out of a bad situation by obtaining  the best legal representation available. For instance, would Stanford student Brock Turner and University of Colorado’s Austin James Wilkerson ( both proven to be rapist),  escaped prison sentences,  had they been black and poor? I think we all know the answer. Moreover,  Ryan LeVin , from a wealthy Chicago family, admitted to a hit and run that killed two British Businessmen in South Florida and was not sentenced to even one day in prison. Currently, there is an impoverished black man from  Tallahassee named Daryl Myles doing a 15 year sentence in a Florida prison for taking $7.00 from another man in what is a street level crack cocaine deal gone bad. One could write adnauseam   about the disproportionate sentencing in the courts and the role race and wealth plays, but in Florida,  what is additionally egregious is the unnecessarily overly punitive societal barriers  our state erects for citizens returning  to our communities.

The mere act of voter disenfranchisement is a blatant disregard for what makes our nation remarkable. Our founders said that “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal”, but what happens in our courtrooms and later in states like ours is contrary to those founding ideals. Yes, it is true that in their debates about who could vote, the founders leaned toward property owners and white men. But in time,  the framework and  philosophical foundation of our founding documents would not let that stand. We looked into the mirror and at the meaning of those documents, and  ultimately relented to the truth that not only should all men and women be treated equally, but equitably as well. Equity is every citizen’s ability to cast a vote to determine whom would decide the fate of their families, our nation and their tax dollars.  This  is not  a partisan issue.  The right to embrace the franchise is actually a very Republican idea rooted in freedom and liberty.

Today, in congress and in state legislatures there exist a “Freedom Caucus”.  The Freedom Caucus is where  Republican lawmakers make a  commitment to "freedom" as their guiding principles in all policy decisions. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation because he read our bill of rights and our constitution as documents that placed "freedom" as the cornerstone of our democracy. Until recently, the GOP had sought to live up to that creed.

Freedom  is the right to cast a ballot, and is an  extension of liberty…. as in “Liberty For All”,  or   “Liberty University”,  which gives homage to that creed.  This idea  that when one has been jailed and/or is convicted of a crime that the right to vote has been  forfeited is misguided and  un-American.  We are a nation of redemption, of civil rights, of second chances, full participation  and of inclusion.. not alienation. Disenfranchisement is actually alienation. The emasculating disproportionate disenfranchisement  that systemically deny full citizenship to  heads of  families in one community, not only affect that individual family member, but  have essentially alienated and marginalized entire  communities. It has weakened the voice of the meek.   Such does not promote family values, build strong families, harness strong cities  or strengthen communities, and is certainly not  conservative.

This writing may never reach our governor’s desk. But, the hope is that somehow this writing will  remind us of  who we are as a nation. And, remind us of  the core ideals, values and  the Christian principles our nation was founded on.  Automatic restoration of voting rights for citizens returning to our community is a principled stand for our constitution; and the rights imbued by our founding fathers ideals for this democracy, Restorative justice that includes access to the franchise at reentry   better reflect our humanity, and Christianity.

 

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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20Jan/170

FLORIDA DEMOCRATS BEST CHANCE FOR GOVERNORS MANSION INCLUDES PEGEEN HANRAHAN

pegeen

 

By Michael Dobson

It appears that the Florida Democratic Party(FDP) has one rising star in its ranks that can break the curse that has kept the entire Florida cabinet in the hands of the Republican Party, making the Governor’s office illusive.  Alex Sink is the last Democrat to hold a cabinet seat in Florida as  CFO, and was the only Democrat to win statewide in nearly 20 years other than former U.S. Senator Bob Graham and current U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. At  the urging of Karen Thurman, Mrs. Sink  resigned the office of CFO to run a losing gubernatorial race against Rick Scott, and in recent years the Florida Democratic Party has run candidates with little to zero statewide name recognition, and without enough resources to mount a campaign to overcome that name ID challenge.

Moving forward, after a factious FDP Election for Chair  and its need to regroup for 2018,  accept for the potential gubernatorial candidacies of John Morgan or another  Charlie Crist campaign, it has no one with immediate statewide name identification, like before. Other potential candidates included Mayor Bob Buckhorn of Tampa, Mayor Jack Seiler of Ft. Lauderdale, Mayor Buddy Dyer of Orlando or  former  Congresswomen  Gwen Graham, daughter of our beloved  Bob Graham; or even perhaps a former legislator in Senator  Jeremy Ring. Clearly, to the party’s credit, it is beginning  to acknowledge that its bench is best defined in its slew of Mayors, which also include  Tallahassee’s  Andrew Gillum. Another such mayor,  and one with all the right stuff is former Gainesville Mayor  Pegeen Hanrahan, a very popular Mayor. She is being overlooked.  A quick perusal of Mayor Hanrahan’s accomplishments as reported by the media and in her various in-depth interviews via YouTube, you will find a passionate  smart and dedicated Floridian with a deep knowledge of local, state and federal government, a love for our environment, a person who is approachable, a loving mother, wife and proud Gator.  Florida has had many of Governors whom are University of Florida Alum, which Commissioner Adam Putnam hopes to become one. With regard to the key policy areas that are of concern to most Floridian, Mrs. Hanrahan is no slouch. Her deep relationship with University of Florida and its IFAS has instilled into her a real understanding of Florida’s agriculture, agriculture science, the needs and opportunities for Florida once booming agriculture industry, and as a conservationist .. well versed in our water issues. As an environmental engineer and passionate environmentalists, she made Gainesville the states leader in renewable energy production leveraging Gainesville business community to engage in the nation’s first feed in tariff, a policy that allowed Gainesville to lead the tate in solar energy production. She is telegenic, unflappable and can articulate Florida’s challenges as well as its opportunities in a manner and with the bonafides  that seems second hand. In every way, Mrs. Hanrahan would be a real challenge to the equally skillful Adam Putnam.

Once contacted about the possibility of a run for Governor, Mrs. Harahan suggested that it was a daunting endeavor, which it is, and that there are other qualified candidates that she could support. To the latter, she may be wrong. There are no other candidates with her combination of qualifications or political skill sets. She and Adam Putnam are UF grads and are both members of Blue Key. He hails from Bartow, this writers hometown, she from Gainesville. There is always an argument about from what city or part of the state is it best to launch a statewide campaign from, but after some analysis, you will find that there is no good answer. Is Lakeland a good place to launch a gubernatorial campaign? You would think so since  Governor Chiles was a native of Lakeland and served two terms as Governor. Is St. Petersburg a good place, Charlie Crist hometown? What about Ft. Myers, the adopted home of Governor Rick Scott. A transplant from Texas, Governor Jeb Bush lived in Coral Gables; while Bob Graham hailed from Miami Lakes, with  Governor Bob Martinez hailing from Tampa,  and Lt Governor as well as Governor  Buddy McKay was from Ocala. Florida’s history will tell us that there is no special place or certain demographic makeup that best suits a run for Governor as its launching pad. The candidate success relied heavily on  the resources and organization they can muster, in addition to that candidates  tenacity and work ethic to fan out relentlessly day to day and make their case to voters in every nook and cranny of this  large and diverse state. So, that candidate has to relish campaigning and is energized by the citizens in Florida he/she meets in rural and urban areas equally.  It requires  a practiced politician with innate personal traits which lend to a personal connection with voters, something   Pegeen Hanrahan has.  These traits  translate an authenticity that voters and Democratic donors hunger for, and are the same positive traits that take candidates across party lines.  If the Democratic donors really want a winner this time, perhaps letting Mrs. Hanrahan know that she has their support or (at least) there consideration will make this climb appear less daunting and more possible.  However, If she was to decide this route, there are other political entanglements she will need to maneuver as well, given her various involvements with Universities and organizations. As these thoughts marinate,  Mrs. Hanrahan continues to fan out around the state as she has for some  years, speaking to different groups about those areas of policy for which she has an expertise. She can also begin speaking on more diverse policy subjects, which will send the donors a message.  Her love for the state of Florida is itself legendary, whose eyes sparkle when the subject of Gainesville comes up.  But, when taking on the task of a statewide campaign, no matter one’s personal confidence, there has to be a level of  trust in a party and its donor base that has been nothing but fickle and at times self-defeating in the past. For those reasons, many good leaders often forgo the temptation of making a quest to lead our great state. There are only two camps for the Democratic Party to rest its head. In one camp, they keep doing what they have always done and get the same results. In the other camp, they can embrace their future, which lies in the  hands of strong  Mayors like Pegeen Hanrahan who have served multiple terms and changed the trajectory of their cities, making it more robust and dynamic. Mrs. Hanrahan has done that with Gainesville, and there are bets that she can do that for Florida as well.  There is no way of knowing if Mrs. Hanrahan could be moved to take on a run for Governor, even if she gets a sense that  she could amass the resources and support. But,  in whatever shape  the Democratic party takes in the future, Pegeen Hanrahan should be a lead player in its development. She leads the bench.

 

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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14Jan/170

THE LEGITIMATE STEALING OF AMERICA FORCES THE CROWNING OF ILLEGITIMACY IN TRUMP

 


With everything we know about the election of Donald Trump and what we are told, what  comes to mind are the sayings “Who are you going to believe me or  your lying eyes” or   ” pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”.

In this case,” that man behind the curtain” is not the flamboyant actor,  Frank Morgan, who uttered that famous line  in the role of the Grand Wizard in 1939’s Wizard of Oz, but its Vladimir Putin and (increasingly apparent) James Comey of our own FBI.  That becomes evident   when  on one hand,  we acknowledge that Russia put its heavy thumb unto the 2016 presidential election, and such is  revealed to be a multi-staged  attack on our democracy. And, on the other hand, our top cop, whom our Attorney General Loretta Lynch ceded power to, broke with protocol and inconsistently darkened the door of the Clinton campaign with what turned out to be innuendo in the form of faux official foreboding of wrongdoing. Not to be out done, Rudy Giuliani got in the game with his now infamous television interview a few days before the Comey announcement whereby he bragged that, remarkably, he knew before anyone else  what FBI Director Comey was about to do.   With all of this, pundits and our new president, not wanting to have the seeds of doubt with respect to the elections legitimacy gain root, has chosen to say, that even if the Russians did engage in activity to sway the election, or perhaps, even  though James Comey darken Mrs.  Clinton's door outside or protocol,   that it does not mean it made a difference in the election. To the latter, the remarkable conclusion for us should be.. according some ,   that therefore it didn't. Huh! Where is Tyler Perry's Madea when you need her?

Let's be clear, antics and tactics employed by the Russians did in fact seal the election for  Mr. Trump. And, what Comey did, moved last minute voters to the Trump column. You may ask, how so? Well here is the answer.

First, let's begin with what the Russians knew. They knew that a narrative had persisted for years that the Clintons where dishonest i.e "slick willie",  " it depends on what the meaning of IS is" , "whitewater" and the likes. And because Hillary herself was so scripted, never giving answers to hard questions  with the ease of what many would consider an honest genuine uncalculated answer, she played into that narrative. She looked like a liar. Hillarys’ well  deserved paranoia about the press made her parse her words to at times unintended consequences.    Secondly, Russian operatives or anyone knowing anything about Democratic politics, knew  that there is a split in the Democratic party. They knew that the split is easily exacerbated when the lead candidate is a Clinton. Why is that?  The perception exists because of Mr. Clintons  Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and its role during his administration. The DLC’s mission was  to move the Democratic party away from its more liberal policy prescriptions, some say making it Republican lite. Therefore,  In the Clinton years and beyond, many party loyalist saw the Democratic Leadership Council  (DLC) and Bill Clinton as responsible for  moving the party away from its roots. The Russians also knew that the Sanders supporters were led by passion and had a distrust of the establishment, and that Hillary represented the establishment, as she and her husband has been stalwart’s of the Democratic party's establishment and its  high net worth donor class for which they were beholden. That perception put Hillary at odds with the average Democratic voter whom  self identify as lower to middle income working people.  The Russians also  understood that American voters got much of their news from the internet. They knew   that  exposing the unseemly, but not unusual coordination  between the Clinton team and the  DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz in real time via email  correspondence, they would exacerbate the  existing split  within the party base due to  their innate mistrust of the Clintons. By design, this ultimately  tapped down any enthusiasm for a Clinton win. The Russians  (and the world),  additionally  knew that the race would be close as  political races often are. Political races are often won on the margins... close margins. The political mailings that overwhelm your mailboxes, the 30 second television spots, what you get in your email in boxes and the targeted ads that show up on your online newspapers, on Facebook and other social media platforms are all for the purpose of moving the needle just a little .. enough for a win in a closely divided nation.

So, knowing all of this, why not employ as a weapon  fake news – hacked emails designed to impact voter enthusiasm for  a candidate with a propensity for not giving direct answers, of which  themselves feed the fire of fake news?  To that end, the  Russians employed a system of  subliminally manipulating the America public  via fake news which were used as dog whistles, that in turn, acted as  tools of voter suppression spurred by untruths. The right combination of the latter surely suppressed votes by subliminally coercing many to vote against their own best interest based on faux and loudly repeated fake information, which many were  lulled into believing  as true. Psychologist who understand how our brains work have helped marketers of product employ these same techniques throughout history.  Employed properly, as Russia did,  these techniques allow for the most bizarre story communicated loudly, continuously  and with a steady beat; while also being fake propaganda orchestrated by a foreign government,  be taken as the truth.  It works really well in today's social media, multimedia environment when a country like Russia can also find willing partners eager to help it deploy its weaponry..i.e. Breitbart, Drudge etc.

Coupled with that, we had a mainstream media that would not  leave the enclave of the beltway, and come down from their mountains in Washington and New York and from their ivory towers, to grasp the basic and crass means by which most communications and news was being  disseminated and consumed to better understand what has made them irrelevant. Because advertisers still place ads in major newspapers does not mean that is where most of the general population get their news. The trend and  the power of fake news is not new. This writer noticed it in dinner table conversations with  his wife as she taught a political science class at our local community college for 15 years. She noticed that her students were getting their political news from Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, or Saturday Night Live (SNL). At one point, Jon Stewart himself described what he did as fake news, but also framed it as comedy, which it was.  The Russians paid attention. They noticed the phenomena of fake news consumption in America as a winning alternative to news delivered with "so called" journalistic integrity. The market for fake news is the same market for which educated and  rational people often purchase tabloid magazines at the checkout counter. But this fake news is more instantaneous, as its delivered to you electronically.  The headlines are bizarre, unbelievable, entertainment and for those same reasons appealing for a public seeking a jolt from the realities of their lives. Moreover, there is something about our psyches whereby we enjoy seeing a car wreck. Traveling down the highway, we are galvanized by the accident across the median...can't stop looking.  My wife calls it rubber necking.

Putin understood this about our psyches and fed us the car wreck version of Hillary Clinton on a daily basis not only to the general public, but to the party enthusiast as well... and it was all faux. And, it worked. It manipulated the general election by affecting the votes at the margins, that place where elections are won. Moving the needle just enough. On top of that, an otherwise respected FBI Director created his own source of fake news by keeping the  dog whistle alive regarding possible pending criminal charges that no serious person believe would  ever come to light, which ironically, the Director once said himself. With regard to Russia’s aim, what we political consultants often do is develop strategies to drive up the opponents negatives. We do that because, in doing so, we  either make some of the opponents voters stay home or  vote for someone else, thereby reducing the opponents vote totals. Essentially, the  Russian government acted as a political operative for the Trump campaign. It acted as a Super PAC for Trump. Todays campaigns often have third party organizations, PACs and etc do much of the same thing Russia did. The big no no for campaigns and PAC’s is  that their  cannot be any  coordination between  them. So, the question is not whether or not the Russian government moved the numbers enough to secure a Trump win. It did. The question is not whether or not James Comeys’ actions moved votes into Mr. Trumps columns. They did.  On the latter,  by his actions  Mr. Trump banked on the effect of Mr. Comeys’  involvement by traversing the nation during that last week of the election, and  repeatedly  and loudly  telling  voters (which the media carried constantly) that if Mrs. Clinton is elected, there will be nothing but investigations, and that she will  be jailed shortly after her inauguration.

What has been described are the facts. The real question remaining for our leaders  is whether or not Trumps team  coordinated or colluded  with Russia’s efforts, and to what degree could there have been coordination or collusion with Mr. Comey. We can no longer wonder whether or not the Trump presidency is an illegitimate one.  It is. We were given him by the Russians.  Do we have a cure? Perhaps not, as this is new territory. Mr Trump will accept the oath of office in a matter of days. But for many, even with the legitimacy of that transition of power, Mr. Trump would forever be an illegitimate president.  With all of that said,  this writer believes that the structure of our union, designed by thoughtful men ,  will sustain us. However,  we must continue to get at the truth as a matter of national security and to solidify our stature in the world.

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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30Dec/160

TRUTH TELLING: FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY, TALKING ECONOMIC FACTS ARE KEY

 

By Michael Dobson

In Florida, solar-and-wind-2the defeat of utility backed Amendment 1 was resounding, it allowed Florida’s rooftop solar activist to bask in the glow of victory, If only momentarily. Hence, a prolonged victory dance would be unwise, as the win did nothing to shift the levers of power that guide the energy debate. Not  with standing a state legislature entrenched in its opposition to climate change policy,  Trumps picks to lead the federal agencies that determine climate policy like the Department of Energy, the Department of Environmental Protection and Office of Secretary of State,   does not portend a lovefest on climate change policy. Contrarily, Trumps  Washington will work feverishly to eliminate all the gains made, and will move with military precision to  stifle further gains in climate change and renewable energy policy.  In our own back yard, although improved upon, there has been only tepid tangible support for the residential rooftop solar industry. Also, private investors in  large utility scale independent solar production, biofuels production , off shore wind and tidal wave energy have been simultaneously  dissuaded by a patchwork of short-term, uncertain and intermittent tax and policy incentives that often differ from state to state,  and often swing with the political winds.

But paradoxically, because of their ability to pass cost along  to rate payers, Florida’s major utilities have in fact built large-scale solar facilities on its grid. However, they have done so  only when the solar arrays are owned and operated by the utility itself. In the end, that hard  truth does not bode well for the concept of having an open and competitive market whereby large scale independent entrepreneurs who create thousands of new jobs get to flourish in the sunshine state. Consequently, the joke among renewable energy lobbyist around the country for many years has been the fact that companies like FPL used subsidiary companies to build large scale solar farms in other states whose leaders  have established renewable energy portfolio standards and other incentives, while at the same time, fighting tooth and nail to make sure those same pro independent energy production policies  never exist in Florida, their home state. As an example, in its 2001 press release announcing one of the largest independent power projects in  California, a 517 megawatt natural gas facility in Blythe California, FPL also reminds us that the same subsidiary ( FPL Energy, LLC)  as an independent producer,  has another 542 megawatts of independent power projects on California’s grid using the renewable energy resources of solar and wind, in a state that has the nations most progressive  Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard(RPS). Also,  In 2001, FPL Energy , LLC, Inc  (as an independent power producer) owned a net of 4,300 megawatts of electricity in 13 states with industry friendly  policies that created competitive environments  friendly to independent power production. Renamed NextEra Energy Resources, LLC in 2009, its footprint in the U.S and abroad  as an independent  power producer has continued to grow. In 2015, Tampa Energy and subsidiary of TECO Energy announced plans to build a 25 megawatt solar facility, the largest in Tampa, second to its very first one, a 2 megawatt array at the Tampa International Airport, which it (TECO) will also own and operate on its grid.   One can only have admiration for what FPL, Duke Energy, Gulf Power and TECO has done in Florida, developing the blueprint for  how investor owned utilities can best increase their  renewable energy footprints in-house and on their grids in a way that is best for their stockholders, which  is innate to their business model. But, to keep all honest,  it is the job of a pro-business and open market legislature to recognize that current policy does not allow for a political and regulatory environment in which truly independent and entrepreneurial power producers can exist and do business in Florida as long as the largest and most successful utilities are allowed to be the gatekeeper whom ultimately dictate whether or not it has competitors.

The economics and political realities cross in the cleareyed  question of:  how does one make it a good deal for the shareholders of large utility companies (who also own the power grid), when independent producers own energy production projects that are on their grids? Other states have found ways, and that way has begun by first having the political courage to govern and regulate in accordance to stated principles of support for open and competitive markets irrespective of long-standing relationships.  The regulatory scheme in Florida is such that citizens are precluded from selling energy generated by them to a neighbor or coop,  creating their own energy. Nor can a citizen  purchase power   from a neighbor or neighborhood coop. Ultimately,  Floridians are hamstrung to line the pocket of utility company shareholders in what is a rigged game. It’s a rigged game that provides for a regulatory monopoly that exist under an outdated  faux idea that only allows for   centralized big box publicly traded companies, municipal utilities, or electric utility cooperatives  to  provide energy in rule and law, denying others entry into the marketplace,  as a faux  national security must do. The opposite is true, as this model makes our energy systems an even easier target for potential widespread crippling cyber terror attacks; and by attacking  a single big box utility system,  an enemy could cripple a region or entire state.. to give a crushing blow to commerce and security. The latter fact was  elaborated upon to the  Florida legislature by former US CIA Director James Woolsey in 2009 when he said we need to move toward distributive energy generation for the sake of national security.

The realities explored here will persist and will only cease when elected leaders regain their independence from the moneyed interest that prevails in our politics. The madness will only cease when leaders can truly take contributions from deep pocket utility companies and at the same time vote contrary to the dividend desires of their stockholders. The  time is not now.  And, because of the vicious rapidity and lasting impact of well-orchestrated campaign attacks via instantaneous and far-reaching social media; political leaders eager to win reelection   are rarely if ever willing to exercise the political courage of yesteryear out of fear of being targeted in their next election. This phenomenon was revealed to this writer when, as a lobbyist in 2003, lobbied for a well-meaning cause that was opposed by one of the deep pocket interest groups in our state capitol. At a final crossroad, this writer was called into the office of a key legislator to receive the news that the bill would die. When the legislator was asked the naïve question, “how is it possible that he ( the legislator) was letting one single  organization ( not the legislator) decide that the bill  had to die” …..and that he was doing their biding, the representatives answer was , “ last year that organization spent $80,000 to defeat me, and I barely won reelection, and I’m not willing to face that again. Therefore, your bill is dead”. The latter was communicated in real life and is a classic example of the multifaceted transactional nature of our  politics. These realities leave the renewable energy lobby at the starting gates, allowing for only the incremental and nuanced policy changes that if its measure would be millimeters instead of inches of progress; it would represent only the changes that the opposition would allow, through their power and influence . Therefore, the renewable energy lobby consistently find themselves making compromises with an opposition that always wins…..sort of like betting against the house, when the house always wins.  Perhaps if the renewable energy lobby themselves could be counted on at election time, providing campaign contributions as well as warm bodies in their supporters campaign offices,  political courage could then surface. Today's political courage exist only in rhetoric, as a candidates need for more and more money to win makes political courage a relic that cannot be afforded.

Problem number two for the renewable energy lobby is its need for more pointed messaging. In  an unscientific poll of 20 people, you will learn that most citizens concerns about electricity goes no further than (a) whether or not the lights come on when the switch is flicked, and (b) that utility services are not too expensive. The case for renewable energy most be more compelling. Whether or not the electricity was generated by coal, nuclear, gas , biomass, solar , geothermal or wind does not matter to the most general of Florida’s population. The case has to be made by the renewable energy activist groups in a coordinated messaging campaign.

Additionally, the green  jobs created must be better defined in an honest debate.  The suggested increase in domestic income and production resulting from an increase in renewable energy must also be defined .  Otherwise,  the renewable energy lobby seeks to win by only appealing to whatever feel good nature our leaders may have , which has not reaped significant lasting improvements .

In the new political reality, there are opportunities for the renewable energy industry if it is willing to make their case as job creators and as a driver for improving our standing in domestic production; proving that the opposite is true, that renewable energy does not make our manufacturing less competitive.  These opportunities  are realized when leaders know and see the contributions to our economy resulting from a robust renewable energy industry in Florida. The renewable energy industry has a compelling story to tell. it simply need to learn to tell it. It needs to quantify their value to our economy , which will give our leaders the undeniable facts , otherwise never spoken, that will provide supportive policy leaders the undisputed  facts that allow them to  withstand the overtures and threats of the powerful, in favor of more renewable energy. Our failure at doing so  today, will continue to relegate the  renewable energy industry to being considered by many a perpetual  cottage industry. Renewable energy advocates are asked to look in the mirror and acknowledge their shortcomings, and act on that knowledge so that the opportunities in front of them are a collective success for the industry at large. Those are the real challenges of the renewable energy lobby. That challenge is  to fight their own worst instincts ... that is, the selling of the dream by holding it up as only clouds, rather than as the grounded economic facts that are securely on their sides. It’s now time to examine the truth,  and messaging that truth with the economic arithmetic that show the industry as a cornerstone for economic growth through its innovation and environmental stewardship. That is not only a winning message, but also points our nation forward toward more economic growth, security and prosperity.

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

 

 

 

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19Dec/169

Legitimacy of American Presidency Cannot Escape Review

by Michael Dobson 

There is no amount of lipstick that can pretty up this recent ugly pig of election, or the obvious questionable illegitimacy of its outcome.  Mr. Trump was alas correct. Political correctness (PC) has indeed run amuck in America. Because of PC, it seems that journalist and the chattering class, daily skate around the obvious, in their artful deflection of the truth; ever careful not to flatly say what we all already know. All are careful not to say that the Russian government has put their heavy thumb on the scale of our election, with their other four fingers manipulatively pulling the strings in the orifice of the American electoral system, to pick an American President of their choosing.  Yes, this writer understands the real desire for some to think it a constitutional crisis to have to face that fact, and for some, its also a sign of our own weakening in the world. Whatever our concerns are,  one must also consider the long-term damage we do by looking the other way, pretending it never happened and seeking to lay legitimacy on a presidency that no one would ever in their heart of hearts accept as truly legitimate without further review . These comments are not partisan..as a Hillary supporter or as a Trump antagonist; but as a citizen in love with our great country, and the ideals we hold up to the rest of the world. Other nations, smaller nations, nations without the democratic values and structures of ours, have often looked the other way and allowed for illegitimate militarized leaders to rule their nations to their bitter ruin.

As AMERICANS, WE MUST GROW UP. We must face certain truths if we are to either remain strong, if you believe us to be; or to regain our footing, if you believe it to have slipped. It will be painful and protracted, but ultimately, it would be a show of our union's  strength  if we are to acknowledge what may be an obvious illegitimacy of the presidential election. We would be exercising our duly held responsibility to protect our fragile systems, in full sight for open inspection. The integrity of our democracy which begins with our elections are larger than one man and more important than the uncomfortable and perhaps momentary  insecurity that would occur from pushing the pause button as we digest this intrusion upon our sovereign elections, and muster the courage to correct the mistake made and make our leaders legitimate.

 

In the annuals of history, you will find many disturbing factoids that parallel this moment, and their findings are not reassuring for our future. American journalist have commented on the remarkable number of military Generals whom will head governmental agencies in the new administration, as they have also commented on the number of billionaires, and more specifically those connected to Goldman Sachs to also head agencies. Because theoretically our military remains one controlled by our citizens, and although Mr. Trumps leadership style has been called authoritative by some in reaction to his rhetoric, we cannot suggest that we will be a government of military rule like those in some developing countries. However, the heavy military presence will and should be monitored to make determinations about such matters if this administration is to persist. The latter, is a reaction to a history of illegitimate leaders whom have often employed the military and engaged in rule by oligarchy as shields from the whims of the populace. And, the populace resoundingly elected Mrs. Clinton, not Mr. Trump as the vote totals indicate.

This talk of militarization can be somewhat of a red herring. From students of history, there are other, less obvious   concerns about the Russian connection and/or Russian involvement in the recent election. Those students are bothered by the similarities of Mr Trumps campaign to the White Movement from nearly  a century ago. While history shows that  while Mr. Trumps win can be credited with a variety of factors, he also benefited from  espousing positions and rhetoric  that were used in  the White Movement (or White Army). That was a movement in Russia which opposed the Red Army from 1917-1920 as  anti Bolsheviks, and like Mr. Trump, used rhetoric that was largely  nationalistic and divisive. Rhetoric from the "White Movement"  were seeds of division based on ethnicity, similar to Mr. Trumps rhetoric during the campaign.

The more we discern it, the election of Mr. Trump continues to be even more troubling as we learn that no one truly knows what Mr. Trumps policy values are. Now, it seems that much of what was espoused on the campaign trail was not to be taken seriously, but was for affect only. The president elects bumper sticker sized pronunciations fail to tell us what he thinks and how he truly sees the world. We are left with seeking to discern what we know about those he chose to head agencies without truly knowing his directives to them as he has no political record to review.  This writer believes the president elect to love America and truly want to make America great. However, his need to win and propensity to do so using any means necessary, makes us re-examine to what degree the ends truly justifies the means. We also want to know, what that axiom means in practice when the history and reliance on a safe democracy is in the balance. So yes, our leaders should openly and transparently review the impact of Russian involvement in the recent presidential election. They should do so even if it’s constitutionally uncomfortable and even if it impacts the smooth passage of leadership. There is long term unwanted consequences for a fragile nation that punts on such an issue.  Moreover, if we fail to openly investigate, discuss and review this Russian intrusion, we could learn that Mr. Trump may have just grabbed all of us by our private parts.

 

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

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