Opinions Archives - Page 4 of 265 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: American Exceptionalism not good in this case

The words American Exceptionalism are generally accepted to mean the good ol’ USA stands alone among the nations of the world.

Supporters say that is a good thing, and for the most part that is true. The freedoms we take for granted here aren’t available in many other corners of the planet.

But, alas, those words also stand for something dire. America is now the only nation in the world that isn’t part of the Paris Climate Accord. There is nothing exceptional about that.

That became fact last week when Syria – SYRIA! – said it would sign the pact that seeks global solutions to the effects of greenhouse gases and other factors that are causing the wild fluctuations in our weather.

We know the consequences of that better than almost any other state in the nation. The tip of the planetary climate sword has struck at Florida the last few years with increasingly deadly results.

Multiple powerful hurricanes hit us, bringing death and billions of dollars in damage. And forecasters said the other day that another La Nina is forming in the Pacific. That likely means a warmer, dryer winter here, which will increase the chances for widespread wildfires like we had this spring.

With that in mind, the Miami Herald reported that Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota just repeated his plea for the United States to remain part of the Paris pact.

In May, ahead of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the global agreement, Buchanan tried to “strongly encourage” the U.S. to keep its commitment to stay in. He repeated that Monday, calling on the president to change his mind.

Good idea.

Opponents scoff at volumes of evidence asserting that the problems are man-made – because, you know, those smart-aleck scientists think they know everything.

Buchanan is not the only Republican who believes the U.S. should join the other nations of the world in this agreement. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, whose 26th district covers parts of South Florida, including the Everglades, also has been vocal about staying in the accord.

A statement on his official webpage reads: “While we have made great strides in protecting these ecosystems, we must acknowledge the direct threats posed by rising sea levels and the erosion of our coastal communities. A crucial step in the right direction is moving past the debate of whether or not climate change is real and towards solutions that will mitigate its detrimental effect on our communities.”

The Republican Party has been mostly aligned with the scoffers on this issue, but that always seemed like a position of political pandering instead of statesmanship. It’s significant that these two GOP members who broke ranks are from districts that are in particularly vulnerable coastal areas.

Politics goes out the window when flood waters are coming into your living room.

Joe Henderson: Roy Moore and the battle for GOP’s soul

From the moment years ago when Republicans decided victory was worth whatever the cost to their party’s soul, Roy Moore has been lurking out there, waiting for his chance to scream “yeehaw” on the national stage.

Well, he is here now, Republicans. He could still be elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama, even after the Washington Post reported that when Moore was in his 30s, he had multiple sexual encounters with under-aged girls, including a 14-year-old. Polls still show a tight race.

Republicans looked the other way while Moore’s peculiar brand of public policy began gaining grassroots acceptance, including here in Florida, and now they don’t know what to do with him. Denounce him too strongly and a candidate could lose the almighty GOP “base.” Speak softly and they could soon have a pariah in their midst, one dedicated to replace them all with more people who think like he does.

Tough choice, eh? Moore is one of the heroes in a movement where what he says – and how supporters believe he will vote – is far more important than what he does, and how do you deal with that?

Yes, many prominent Republicans, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have called for him to drop out of the race “IF” the allegations are proven true. That’s not exactly a Profiles in Courage stance, given that even though the Post named his accusers, this all happened about 40 years ago.

This is how Republicans believe they have to operate since they fell in line while Donald Trump took over their party (with fewer votes than Hillary Clinton) after a campaign of lies, insults and dark imagery – and maybe with a little help from his BFF Vladimir Putin.

Trump figured, correctly, that the Republican Party would be easier to hijack than Democrats. The new GOP, as envisioned by Steve Bannon, will be filled with people like Roy Moore – gun-waving, rights-trampling, Constitution-spitting fireballs with no regard for any view but their own.

“There’s a coalition coming together that’s going to challenge every Republican incumbent except for Ted Cruz,” Bannon told Sean Hannity. “We are declaring war on the Republican establishment that does not back the agenda Trump ran on. Nobody is safe. We’re coming after all of them. And we’re going to win.”

The wingnut faction of the GOP doesn’t care about law, fairness or diversity. They wrap themselves in the flag and the Bible, but don’t really seem to have a clue what either one stands for.

They believe in their self-righteousness to the exclusion of all else. They see themselves as the only true Americans and patriots. They don’t understand why anyone would be upset over the revelations about Moore.

Is this a good time to mention Moore started The Foundation for Moral Law? It’s true. Try not to laugh.

That group is decidedly Old Testament, finger-wagging “Thou Shalt Not” about the usual things that upset social conservatives. When one of their members is exposed in the way Moore was, they dismiss it as liberal lies.

The more publicity things like this get, the more hardened their stance becomes. Their self-righteousness is reinforced by hard-right outlets like Breitbart, and even if Moore loses and Republicans are walloped in the 2018 midterm elections, the true believers won’t be deterred.

They will blame the loss on a combination of gutless mainstream Republicans and the despised liberal media. They will see statesmanship as betrayal to their ideals. They will view any loss as a temporary setback.

Roy Moore’s supporters in Alabama see this election as another step toward taking their country back from all those liberals, scientists, elitists, Hollywood types and educated smarty pants who stole it. This isn’t a threat as much as it is the plan.

Recent revelations not the only problem with Roy Moore

Florida voters have no say in the race for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. All we can do is watch in amazement and wonder what is coming next.

Alabama’s sitting Senator, Republican Luther Strange (you can’t make this up), was defeated in the GOP primary by Roy Moore, a former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Despite having the backing of President Donald Trump, Strange’s fatal flaw was being branded part of The Establishment.

Moore was expected to defeat his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. Then came the recent Washington Post story describing sexual encounters with minors nearly four decades ago allegedly involving Moore.

Moore emphatically denies the accusations, but in the era of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and others, the presumption of innocence is seemingly no longer applicable.

For example, in a Friday tweet, 2012 GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney said “Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. Moore is unfit for office and should step down.”

“Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.”

Moore’s dilemma makes it tough for one of Romney’s former key advisers. Tallahassee’s Brett Doster helped the former Massachusetts Governor win the Florida primary and go on to the nomination.

Doster, a strong conservative and good at what he does, is one of Moore’s top message guys. On the day the story broke, he revealed the campaign’s first general election ad featuring “Military, the flag and jobs.”

Doster is a good guy and a strong conservative who is four-square behind Moore. But he and his colleagues have a Herculean task in front of them.

Just for a moment, let’s imagine the creepy stuff had never surfaced. Even without the accusations, Republicans who believe in the rule of law should have plenty of problems with Moore.

I am among those conservatives who try to live by the 10 Commandments and care deeply about law and order and the Constitution. We are the ones who sometimes profoundly disagree with court decisions, but are obliged to go along because that’s how our system of government works. Plenty of liberals fall into that category as well.

In 2003, Moore refused a federal judge’s order to remove a stone monument containing the 10 Commandments from a government building, leading to his removal from the bench. After regaining his place as Chief Justice, he refused to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing same-sex marriage, which led to his resignation earlier this year.

An individual’s personal view does not trump a promise made with the left hand on a bible and the right hand in the air. Moore took an oath to “support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Alabama” in that order. He reneged.

These are not 38-year-old allegations. They are present-day facts.

One of Moore’s supporters in the 10 Commandments controversy was the state’s Attorney General, Bill Pryor. But when the judge ruled, Pryor, unlike Moore, was true to his oath.

“As attorney general, I have a duty to obey all orders of courts even when I disagree with those orders,” Pryor said Aug. 14, 2003.

Unless some irrefutable evidence surfaces somehow proving the 38-year-old allegations against Moore, he is likely to try and ride out the storm. Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead.

Trump said that if the charges are true, Moore “will do the right thing and step aside.” If not, there is a month remaining until Election Day.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is talking up a write-in campaign for Strange.

Though a long-shot, that would at least give thoughtful Republicans a place to go. It was Murkowski who lost in a 2010 primary but won the general election in that manner.

The drama playing out is made for Hollywood in more ways than one. If it ever becomes a movie, may I suggest The Life and Times of Judge Roy Moore as the title?

 

Joseph Thornton: Former Florida Death Row doctor with a Veterans’ Day message

Did you know that 18-percent of Florida’s death row is made up of veterans of our military services?

It is an important fact as we prepare to honor those who have served our country this Veterans Day. I have learned from firsthand experience that veterans sentenced to death can help us all to understand some of the failures of Florida’s death penalty, as well as how to improve our justice system overall.

I am a psychiatrist trained at Stanford University with more than 30-years of clinical experience, including 3-years overseeing medical and psychiatric care on Florida’s Death Row.

In our system, for a conviction and execution, a defendant must meet a legal standard of competency at the time of at the time of the crime, during the trial, through the appeals, and right up to the execution. However, even cases where guilt is certain, we cannot be 100-percent certain of mental capacity, yet an execution is a 100-percent final.

There is a better way.

We can learn from veterans and their experience in the criminal justice system.

Take the case of Michael Lambrix, who was executed by the state of Florida last month. Lambrix served in the Army and was honorably discharged after becoming disabled in a training accident. He became involved with drugs, was arrested for murder in 1983, sentenced to death and executed 33-years later.

Patrick Hannon, who was executed by Florida this week, had extensive drug use while in the military. However, neither of these men had the benefit of current intervention tactics deployed by the Veteran’s Administration to care for veterans with a history of trauma and drug abuse.

In response to the growing needs of veterans suffering from trauma and drug use, in 2008 the Veterans Health System established the Veterans Justice Initiative.

Florida now has 2 dozen Veteran Treatment Courts. While under the supervision of these courts the veterans must attend treatment for indicated conditions such a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse. For those with substance use disorders there is periodic mandatory urine drug testing. The objective is rehabilitation and successful adjustment to the community rather than incarceration.

If we truly want to honor those who have served in our military this Veterans’ Day, then we should expand the number of veterans’ courts and the services they provide.

We should also urge the governor to place a moratorium on executions, and not just those of veterans, but everyone on Florida’s death row.

The fact is, almost all of them experienced childhood trauma, drug use and more. The time and money Florida spends on the death penalty can be much better spent on more mental health treatment services, especially for military veterans, who deserve better treatment after sacrificing so much for our country.

___

Dr. Joseph Thornton is a psychiatrist with the North Florida-South Georgia Veterans Health System. From 2003 to 2010 Dr. Thornton served as the medical executive director of the North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center a maximum security forensic mental health treatment facility in Gainesville. Before that he was the Medical Executive Director at Union Correctional Institution.

Supreme Court brings new meaning to ‘oral arguments’

What a year we’re having in Florida’s capital city. Just not in a good way.

In April, we had the sad spectacle of Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles resigning from the Senate after uttering racial slurs in the direction of Jacksonville Democrat Audrey Gibson. Less than two weeks ago, incoming Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Clemens resigned after admitting an affair with a lobbyist.

Now, we have six women alleging misconduct on the part of powerful Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, a candidate for governor. At the same time, another potentially big story, this one involving the Florida Supreme Court, is almost being ignored.

A few days ago Florida Politics’ Jim Rosica was at the Florida Supreme Court to hear arguments on the case involving whether Gov. Rick Scott has the authority to appoint three justices to the Supreme Court the day before he leaves office in January, 2019.

The lawsuit seeks to force Scott to prove he has the authority to fill the seats currently occupied by Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who all must retire due to constitutionally-imposed age restrictions. Something weird, or suspicious – choose the word – occurred after oral arguments.

Rosica reported Pariente and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga could be heard on a hot mic, where Labarga says “Izzy Reyes is on there. He’ll listen to me.” Listen to you about what?

“There” is the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, which recommends names to fill Supreme Court vacancies, from which the governor selects.

Israel U. Reyes from Miami-Dade is one of those members. Before Reyes’ name came up, Labarga can be heard uttering “Panuccio,” and Pariente shortly thereafter was picked up saying “crazy.”

Jesse Panuccio, former head of the Department of Economic Opportunity, is also a JNC member.

Was this discussion about trying to influence the nominating process? It doesn’t look, or sound, good. Jason Unger, Chairman of the JNC, filed a public records request to try and get to the bottom of it.

Another piece of intrigue developed the following day. After the Florida Channel removed the portion that included the exchange from their website, Unger sought, and received the clip.

Jason Gonzalez, a former general counsel for Gov. Charlie Crist, posted the video only to be told to take it down by the Florida Channel. To the surprise of no one who knows Gonzalez, he refused (citing the Fair Use Doctrine) and it is now part of the YouTube universe.

On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Times reported Scott asked for documents and a copy of the recording. The request was made through his general counsel, Daniel Nordby, who is arguing the appointments case before the Court. Nordby is also a member of the 9-person JNC.

Capital watchers will recall 1998, when the outgoing and incoming governor faced a similar quandary with the impending retirement of Justice Ben Overton. Both Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush claimed authority to make the appointment, but the two agreed to both interview the candidates and decide on a nominee.

Quince was the choice and now she is part of the other end of the process.

The court will make a decision in the coming weeks, making future Chiles/Bush-type agreements no longer possible or necessary. Before they decide, calls by Republicans for Pariente and Labarga to step aside are likely to grow.

If nothing else, this budding controversy brought an all new meaning to the term “oral arguments.”

Joe Henderson: Jan Platt leaves legacy of service, integrity

As a member of the Hillsborough County Commission, Jan Platt was best known for a single word: NO! Labels like that tend to stick, but this grand lady was much, much more than that.

She fought to protect our waterways and environmentally sensitive land, and she loved to be out on the Bay with a fishing rod. She was a champion of public libraries, and one of the Tampa branch buildings is named in her honor.She was honest, at times a little cranky, but she always – ALWAYS – did what she thought was right for this community.

She was that rare public servant who said what she meant, and meant what she said.

She couldn’t be bought, couldn’t be intimidated, and she wouldn’t be swayed to vote for something because it was smart politics. Janice Kaminis Platt always spoke from a heart that was 24-carat pure.

Yes, frequently she was the leading voice of dissent as developers pushed relentlessly toward their goal of paving over every bit of green space in the county. When quick-buck artists appeared before the commissioners, they knew it was going to be a long day if Commissioner No was in her seat.

That misses the point, though. More often than not, it about what she was trying to preserve and less about what she was against.

People loved her for that.

She died last week at the age of 81. Her funeral is Friday in Tampa, and her passing triggered an outpouring of tributes.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor called her “honest, ethical” and “steadfast in her leadership.”

Former Commissioner Joe Chillura told the Tampa Bay Times that he never should have run against her in a commission race because, “It was like running against Mother Teresa.”

She was never needed more than when three county commissioners were arrested in 1983 for selling their votes in exchange for bribe money.

It shook this community to its core, but I think we all knew that if Jan Platt was still on the board, we would be OK.

And we were.

That continued after she retired in 1994 following 24 years as a commissioner and four as a member of the Tampa City Council. She stayed relatively low key until a public hearing a little over years ago about a proposed 38-story residential and retail complex near the Straz Center in downtown Tampa.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn was pushing hard for approval, and things appeared to be going swimmingly until Platt made a surprise appearance at the microphone and spoke forcefully against the project.

She succeeded in getting the project delayed, because people figured if she was against it they probably should take another look. It was ultimately approved, but the delay infuriated Buckhorn and he had some pointed things to say to me later about her interference in his plans.

Buckhorn, by the way, got over it and in a statement on Twitter noted, “During a difficult time in County government, her integrity shined brightly.”

Several months after my column on that exchange appeared in The Tampa Tribune, I ran across Jan at a reception on Davis Islands. I hadn’t spoken with her since that column ran, and Buckhorn’s quotes were a bit personal and on the nasty side.

Still, she thanked me for the piece and said she thought it was fair and accurate.

I considered that especially high praise.

I’m not sure we’ll see anyone like her again. She was an original and a community treasure.

The measure of a life well-lived can be taken in what people say about you when you die, and the size of the footprints you leave behind.

Jan Platt’s will be hard, if not impossible, to fill.

Mary Barzee Flores: ‘Impeach Trump’ must be Democratic candidates’ rallying cry

President Donald J. Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

As a former judge, I don’t make that statement lightly, but I have come to believe such steps, sadly, are necessary to restore trust, respect, and dignity to the American presidency.

That said, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — and those of the U.S. House and Senate — must continue unimpeded, particularly in light of the indictments unsealed last week against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos’ guilty plea.

We deserve a complete accounting of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and answers to whether the president obstructed justice in the course of that investigation. Any who violated our laws deserve swift and sure punishment.

I spent nearly a decade as a judge and over a decade prior as a federal public defender. I have a deep and abiding respect for the notion that no man or woman — even the president of the United States — is above the law. But prosecuting a sitting president is not as simple as empaneling a grand jury and filing an indictment in federal court. Nor should it be.

This is why the U.S. Constitution lays out the standards and procedure of impeachment. Unlike the justice system, a “crime” need not be committed to impeach a public official, nor does committing a crime necessarily warrant impeachment. Articles 1 and 2 of the Constitution grant the legislative branch broad responsibility to determine which acts rise to a level requiring the exercise of this authority.

But even in the unlikely event that Mueller’s investigation does not find that Trump himself committed criminal trespasses, it doesn’t require a team of prosecutors to make the case that this president has — in ways large and small — violated the sanctity of the public’s trust to an extent great enough to merit removal from office.

We needn’t await Mueller’s report to know that, in less than a year in office, Trump has:

– Fired an FBI director investigating his administration for failing to demonstrate sufficient loyalty.

– Hired a national security adviser who the nation’s highest intelligence officials warned was compromised by Russia.

– Pardoned a political supporter in such a way as to disrespect and weaken the judiciary’s inherent authority.

– Betrayed the trust of one of our closest allies, Israel, by passing classified intelligence to Russia, risking human lives and compromising national security.

– Appointed family members, sycophants and business partners to high-ranking government positions.

– Profited personally in office, in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

For all these reasons, and many more, this president should be impeached and removed from office.

While the White House veers dangerously off course, only the U.S. House of Representatives has the constitutionally endowed power to get our country moving back in the right direction by initiating articles of impeachment.

Unfortunately, under the leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan, this House has only acted to empower and enable Trump. This House’s own “investigation” into the president is so compromised as to be laughable. This House is still launching investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Ryan’s House will never impeach Trump — and if we don’t elect a Democratic majority next year, the Trump administration might even survive to see a second term in power.

I call on all my fellow Democrats running in 2018 to make the case against this president, to be willing to hold him to full account, and to use impeachment as a central rationale in our argument to Americans.

This needs to be a rallying cry for Democrats.

Donald Trump isn’t on the 2018 ballot — but his presidency must be. We must be willing to tell voters, “Yes, I will vote to impeach Donald Trump and restore honor, respect and decency to the presidency.”

___

Mary Barzee Flores, a Democratic candidate for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, is a former circuit court judge and federal public defender. President Barack Obama nominated her the federal bench.

Joe Henderson: Democrats win, but can they keep good times rolling?

Democrats win! Stop the presses!

Well, they should be feeling frisky this morning. They had a fist-pumping night during Tuesday’s elections, just a year after Donald Trump stunned them, and their dreams of controlling the United States Senate were crushed.

Democrats won a series of state and local elections, including nationally watched races for Governor in Virginia and New Jersey.

And in St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman held on to his seat by defeating former mayor Rick Baker, a result that not many were predicting a few months ago.

The tide seemed to turn when Kriseman’s team unloaded a series of attacks that linked Baker to Trump, along with some images that made the former mayor look more than a little angry.

That, plus some well-planned ground work, was enough to give Kriseman four more years.

Add that to the win in a September special election by Democrat Annette Taddeo over former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in GOP-held Senate District 40, and the Dems are showing a pulse as the countdown to the 2018 midterm elections officially begins.

Pundits are interpreting Tuesday’s results as a repudiation of President Trump, and obviously that is true to some degree. Let’s not get carried away, though. This is still a divided country and state.

Kriseman won, but with 51.5 percent of the vote you can’t label that a sweeping mandate. What you can say is that for now, the Democratic strategy of tying GOP candidates in even local elections to Trump is working.

We can expect more of the same in the election for Florida’s Governor in 2018. Anyone who tells you they know how that race will end is dreaming.

It seems likely that the Republican nomination is Adam Putnam’s to lose, although House Speaker Richard Corcoran could complicate that if he gets into the race. But I wouldn’t bet so much as a nickel on how the Democratic scrap will play out. That’s not a bad thing, by the way.

Unlike in 2014, where Charlie Crist proved to be an uninteresting and uninspired Democratic nominee, the party should have several good options.

Gwen Graham is going from one end of the state to the other and has the early lead in polling, but I wouldn’t put a whole lot into that just yet – not when the latest poll says 46 percent of Democrats are undecided.

We haven’t had a chance to measure the impact of the entry into the race by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and no one has a real clue yet what Orlando attorney John Morgan might do.

We also don’t know if Trump’s popularity in Florida will continue to decline, and what impact that could have. If those numbers keep sliding, they could stick to every Republican candidate and tip the balance of power in the state and nation.

Tell you what: I’m going to watch the Dec. 12 special election in Alabama for the U.S. Senate, a heavily Republican state.

Normally that wouldn’t merit more than a line or two in a national roundup, but in Roy Moore the GOP has put up a candidate that many see as an outright loon. He wants to have homosexuality outlawed. He says Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress. He still doesn’t believe Barack Obama was born in America.

He was kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court.

Twice.

Even his candidacy was a rebuke to Trump, who pushed for Moore’s opponent in the Republican primary.

Democrat Doug Jones is a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members for bombing a black church. He has campaigned as a bridge builder.

Polls show a deadlocked race.

Win that one, Democrats, and everyone will pay attention.

Joe Henderson: Would you vote for Donald Trump again?

Today’s question, class: If you voted for Donald Trump in the last election, would you vote for him again knowing what you know today?

If you didn’t vote him then, would you do so now?

Yes? No?

Wednesday will mark one year since Trump turned the world upside down with his shocking, stunning, unexpected – oh, you know what I mean. But we’ve had time to get used to him and his management style, so what do you think?

Since the election, he has been an extension of the person he was during the campaign –  frequently crude, loose with the truth, addicted to Twitter, and always ready to attack someone he perceives to be an enemy. Some people see all that as a strength.

But my question to you is this: Does that bother you more now than it did during the campaign? Or did you think, as a lot of people appear to have done, that he would put on big-boy pants when he got into office and conduct the affairs of state with proper decorum?

He promised to make America great again – “again” being the linchpin of his campaign. That seemed to be the word that resonated most with supporters.

He did appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and that made supporters happy, but so far, he has no significant legislative wins – despite Republican control of both houses of Congress.

He has warred with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, belittled House Speaker Paul Ryan, trashed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and when backed into a corner he tries to shift the focus to Hillary Clinton (and, by extension, Sessions and the Justice Department).

Pssst. The campaign is over, Mr. President. You won.

He hasn’t made much of an attempt to unite the country, preferring to appeal to a (cough) carefully targeted audience (cough) – although I guess we’ll find out from special counsel Robert Mueller if it was a little too carefully targeted, if you get my drift.

Remember in the campaign when Trump dismissed any suggestion of hacking from Russia by saying it “could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

Yeah, if that bed is in Vladivostok.

Back on point: Would you vote for him again?

Does it bother you that many top people have either left his administration voluntarily or were fired?

It’s quite a list: Chief of Staff Reince Prebius, HHS Secretary Tom Price, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Ethics Director Walter Shaub, FBI Director James Comey, and on and on.

Did it make America great again to insult important allies like Germany, Australia, Japan, France, Great Britain, and Mexico? Does that type of leadership make you want to vote for him again?

The economy is going gangbusters and he is trying to get a tax plan through. Sure, if adopted as written, rich people will benefit the most but my guess is most supporters won’t care so long as they get a sliver of the pie.

But Obamacare still hasn’t been repealed or replaced, and at this point it looks like the president and his party doesn’t have a clue how to do that. There is no border wall under construction to keep Mexicans on their turf.

His clumsy remarks after the white supremacist clash in Charlottesville, Va. made look like he was offering excuses for bigotry. He assumes he can continue to label any news story he doesn’t like as “fake” and people will continue to believe him.

We had two of the worst cases of mass murder in this country – Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas – occur since Oct. 1. And on Halloween night, eight people died in New York City during what has been called a terrorist attack.

Donald Trump, obviously, could not have stopped any of those attacks. No president could. But what he sold to enough Americans to win the election is that he “alone” – his words – could fix things.

Thus, he alone must be held accountable for the results.

Has he fixed things to your satisfaction? You’ve had almost a year to judge him.

Would you vote for him again?

 

Jeff Kottkamp: Real animal welfare reform starts with shelters

Jeff Kottkamp

State Sen. Tom Lee has proposed a constitutional amendment, as a member of the state’s Constitutional Revision Commission, that would end live greyhound racing and allow all 12 of Florida’s greyhound tracks to essentially continue operating as minicasinos.

It has been suggested that the proposal is an animal welfare proposal. There have been numerous attempts to end live racing in the Legislature over the years. All of those efforts have failed, in large part, because most members of the Legislature oppose the dramatic expansion of gambling that would result from such efforts.

The fact is — if live racing is stopped the welfare of over 8,000 majestic racing greyhounds would be put in jeopardy. If you take away the ability of the dog owners to make a living — you also take away the ability of the owners to care for the dogs.

And please don’t suggest that we can adopt out 8,000 greyhounds. While we have a robust greyhound adoption program in Florida — it would take many years to adopt out 8,000 greyhounds. When it comes to the welfare of dogs — the biggest problem we have is not greyhound racing — it’s the number of dogs killed by animal shelters.

In 2008, the Florida Senate Agricultural Committee sent out 180 surveys to municipal and private animal shelters to help determine the welfare of animals at the shelters. Only 30 shelters responded. Their responses were analyzed by committee staff and the Legislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research. The information provided by the shelters was shocking.

In 2007 alone, the 30 animal shelters that responded to the survey took in 66,513 dogs. During that same year, the responding shelters killed over 37,000 dogs. It was particularly noteworthy that municipal shelters killed more than five times as many dogs as private shelters.

It has been estimated that somewhere between 3 and 8 million animals are killed each year in pet shelters nationwide. It has also been estimated that in Florida 450,000 dogs and cats were killed by shelters just in 2012. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the shelter in Orange County killed 2,232 dogs in 2012. I think those numbers underestimate the problem — but even those numbers are horrific.

As a proud owner of two dogs that have been rescued, I believe that improving the welfare of dogs is a worthy goal. However, ending live greyhound racing would do nothing to achieve that goal. A better approach would be to lead an effort to make all animal shelters in Florida “No Kill” shelters. Such an effort would save the lives of thousands of dogs — and save the taxpayers millions of dollars.

One of the first bills I passed as a Member of the Florida House of Representatives was a bill to increase penalties for the intentional cruelty to animals. My wife Cyndie volunteered her time to help me pass the bill. In fact, without her efforts the bill probably would not have passed. Thus, I know from personal experience that, with enough commitment and effort, an animal welfare bill can be passed in the Legislature.

In addition, while in the House I sat on the Select Committee on Constitutional Amendments. At the time we were concerned that our State Constitution was being used by special interests to accomplish what they were unable to achieve in the Legislature (the most glaring example was the pregnant pigs amendment). We looked for ways to prevent the Constitution from being misused in the future.

Apart from the fact that making our shelters “No Kill” shelters is a far better way to improve the welfare of dogs than ending greyhound racing — I do not believe the greyhound issue belongs in the Constitution because it does not involve a fundamental right. The Constitution should be reserved to set forth our state’s founding principles and fundamental values — not used to circumvent the Legislative process. For that reason, I urge the Constitutional Revision Commission to reject the greyhound proposal.

___

Jeff Kottkamp is president of Jeff Kottkamp, P.A. He was Florida’s Lieutenant Governor from 2007-2011 and served three terms in the Florida House of Representatives. Kottkamp represents the Florida Greyhound Association.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons