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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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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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





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


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


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
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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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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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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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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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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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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