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TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 8/11/20-Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaks during a news conference on resuming collegiate sports, Tuesday in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Emails & Opinions

Joe Henderson: Gov. DeSantis’ tough talk must mean it’s election time

Is the political calculation to distract from racial disparity?

Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled several get-tough proposals Monday aimed at curbing what he called disorder and tumult in many cities across the country.”

That can only mean one thing. The election must be drawing near.

Yep, the Governor and top Republicans have a bunch of tougher penalties they want for those who loot in the name of protest. The cherry on top is a threat to prohibit state grants and aid to local governments that slash law enforcement budgets.

Define slash, please?

The inference, of course, is that large cities like Tampa with Democratic mayors are soft on crime. Not so. Mayor Jane Castor is a former Police Chief. Trust me, she can kick tail with the best of them. They already arrest bad actors.

In May, when parts of Tampa burned in the aftermath of George Floyd‘s death, looters paid the price. Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, a Democrat, leveled 113 felony and misdemeanor charges against 57 individuals.

Anyway, the Governor – joined at the hip with the bone-spurred gunslinger in the White House – needs to look tough. Maybe it will deflect attention away from the millstones around his neck.

Like, for example, the broken unemployment system that ain’t been fixed, despite promises it would be.

Or, that the jobless rate in August was an unacceptably high 7.4%. Sure, it’s the lowest rate since the pandemic started. That’s great news unless you’re among 7.4%.

The state lost 456,100 jobs since August 2019, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The Florida Hospital Association said the state ranks third in the nation for those without health insurance. The job losses, no doubt, are driving that number.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if the Governor had taken decisive action early instead of blaming the pandemic on other states, or, cough cough, the media.

Or that teachers all over Florida are resigning or taking leaves of absence because of COVID-19. Many who stayed on report extra stress levels. At least 600 Florida teachers requested living wills over the summer before they were required to report to the classroom or lose their jobs.

Pay no attention to that, though, because it’ll be better if we crack a few heads during protests calling for meaningful reform.

Too bad that approach didn’t work with COVID-19, but viruses can be notoriously uncooperative.

Look, no one says those who commit lawless acts should receive a cookie and glass of milk if they promise not to do it again. Lock ’em up and let them reflect on the error of their ways.

While that’s going on, though, why not address the root causes of the violence?

Blacks, in many cases, have every reason to be extra fearful of police. Let’s work on that by addressing systemic racism.

Those at the bottom end of the economic scale shouldn’t be doomed to a life of working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Bring the best minds together and come up with a plan to close the gap. There might be less unrest in the streets that way. And Black and Brown residents shouldn’t have to fear they’ll be shot over a busted tail light, for wearing a hoodie a shade too dark or for strolling out for a bag of Skittles. Even if they broke the law, the punishment should fit the crime. Having your carotid artery crushed under the weight of an officer’s knee doesn’t fit that bill.

And say the following words slowly so they sink in: Health care is a basic human right for everyone.

Every. One.

Do those things and maybe you won’t have to worry so much about disorder and tumult.

But in the meantime, look over here at this shiny distraction.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
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