Blog Entries: 1 to 10 of 17
The Primary Races Go Into High Gear
Last week it was the Curmudgeons' forum at the Cultural Center. Tonight there is another forum in Rotonda West (see Events section of this website for details). Julie has been fielding calls from voters looking for help in deciding who to cast their primary vote for. Today I got one too, and was thankful that tonight's Rotonda West forum is local to that person. But there are websites to help you educate yourself, and the Charlotte Sun has been running a series of interviews and recommendations. Here, if you need a hand, are a few other resources:
VOTE411.org. All Charlotte Candidates are listed, and most have already submitted their answers.
bereadytovote.org. Florida League's own website, with a link to vote411, also has info on the amendments for November ballot.
charlottevotes.com. This is Paul Stamoulis, supervisor of elections for Charlotte County, excellent website. Look under elections, click on candidates, and find out more about the candidates for local elections.
floridabar.org. This is the Florida Bar website, with "the Vote's in Your Court" section on appellate judges' biographies to help us decide on merit retention races in November. They also have excellent explanations of the different votes and why we do it this way.
People who don't vote elect bad leaders
One of member Martha Hoover's favorite truths is a variant on the above headline. Her version goes more like this: Bad Leaders are elected by folks who don't vote. If you have been following political news lately, you are either very happy or grinding your teeth, depending on your point of view. But despite all the talk, never forget that every vote counts. Even in gerrymandered districts. Even if your spouse and you disagree. Even when the ballot will be longer than I can every remember. Thirteen proposed state constitutional amendments. A local school board referendum. Maybe even a partridge in a pear tree and guacamole in your canal.
A pundit this week describes one of our current national maladies as "truth decay." We have been encouraged by the spirit, gumption and national leadership of the survivors from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. They remind us tired older folks that some things are really important. And we keep watching those already in elected to office to look for signs of intellectual life and courage.
Never fear. The League is again strongly at work to help educate every voter on issues, where polling places are, helping folks get to polls. But never to tell voters which candidate to cast their precious votes for. I hope they listen. I hope they appreciate our interest and our help. If an organization you belong to wants us to provide the League's excellent presentation on constitutional amendments, let us know. We are ready with our power point and training from an interactive webinar. We will even provide handouts.
And I hope we work to end our collective silence to avoid conflict with neighbors who we believe (or know) think differently from us. Maybe even start some friendly dialogue. Try to find things we agree on, not what we can't stand. "Tell me why you like that idea?
No matter who you decide to vote for, please read up on your choices and then VOTE in our primary on August 28.
The People's House is worth reading
David Pepper wrote a novel long before the 2016 election in which he posited a foreign government interfering with our election. I heard the author interviewed on PBS, and he said he arbitrarily picked Russians as his perpetrators. The Russians in his book have a purpose grounded on a need for US Congressional approval of some controversial infrastructure to make their business prosper. Pepper's good guy protagonist is a newspaper reporter in Ohio, where Pepper is chair of a major political party in real life, having graduated from Yale and Yale Law before trying public office on his own.
So what, you may ask? Just today I heard about an experiment in IT sophisticated Austin, Texas with university help to develop an electronic voting system with a paper receipt to each voter, which the Texans thought would be free from tampering. They tried to get a manufacturer to use their open source schematics to build the machines, but nobody took their offer. Just such a paper receipt plays a major role in Pepper's book. If I told you more, you would miss the excitement of the reporter's book chase for the bad guys. Pepper is a great plot-twister. He is less successful in describing characters we could care about, and his short chapters jump around in time and from one point of view to another, but he writes with a purpose: protecting our election systems from harm by pointing out weaknesses we need to fix.
PS: Pepper has a new book out with the same protagonist. It's called "The Wingman". I can't wait.
National Walk-Out Day
From member Rosemary Litsky, who attended the National Walk-Out Day with students on Friday, April 20:
Today, parents, grandparents, teachers, and citizens from Indivisible, supported the amazing students from Florida Southwest University and local Port Charlotte High schools, who courageously showed up for the Walk-Out and then marched three miles to rally on the steps of our County Courthouse.
We were so inspired by their leadership, strength, and determination to fight for sensible gun laws to help end the epidemic of gun violence in our schools, churches, and communities.
- They delivered impassioned speeches and shocked us about how scared kids today are scared of going to school each day, and expecting a shooter when they hear a loud noise in the classroom.
- They implored folks to call their Congressmen, and get registered to vote.
- They held a minute of silence to remember the kids shot at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and the many souls that have been lost to gun violence in our country.
These kids are our future, and we are so proud of them.
Our state's first web based council meet
Last night, Thursday, several of us attended via computer or phone an interactive state Council meeting. We adopted state budgets for both our action and advocacy arms, we saw one minute progress reports with photos from around the state, we learned the new state office will be located in Orlando, and we learned that our dynamic current state president is moving on. Pam Goodman has accepted a position with Ruth's List, a pro-choice partisan Florida group aiming to help women candidates in Florida. That made me curious. Who is "Ruth"?
Ruth's List is named for Ruth Bryan Owen, the first woman elected to Congress from the South. A widow and mother of four children, Ruth successfully ran for office in 1928, eight years after women were given the vote. Her district stretched from the Georgia line to Key West -- and she drove her district during her campaign in her car "The Spirit of Florida." In Congress, Ruth sponsored a bill to create a Cabinet-level Department of Home and Child and wrote legislation to create Everglades National Park.
In 1933, President Roosevelt appointed Ruth minister to Denmark, a diplomatic first for women. In 1948, President Truman named her an alternate delegate to the U.N. General Assembly.
Ruth Bryan Owen is a stellar example of the kind of difference Florida women can make as elected officials. And Ruth's List was founded to elect more trailblazers like Ruth Bryan Owen to office in Florida.
1,111 Counted in Punta Gorda March
I don't care what WINK TV said, I was there. Someone with a click counter reported 1,111 people crossing the Peace River Bridge. That didn't count me or the others manning booths for various supporting organizations. Bryan Boutan said 50 Charlotte High School students planned the march. All the speakers I saw (between interruptions to register voters or explain that our neat T shirts were not for sale, you had to register to vote or join the League to earn one) were students. The weather cooperated, and after registering as many as we could, talking up free student memberships in the League, and gathering up our supplies and banners, we went home to watch the Washington, DC rally. Another big boost of pride in our next voting generation. And boy, did they remind us, that every year another five million will reach voting age. And they will remember who met with them or who avoided them when the Parkland student traveled to Tallahassee, the Fort Myers for the CRC hearing, then Washington, DC. I am so proud of this generation, and I hope they will allow the League to reach out and assist (NOT take over) this wonderful, productive movement to give us hope for a better future for our United States.
One of the best signs I saw (on TV) was "ARMED WITH A BRAIN". Keep it up, students. There are more of us with you than you know. One northerner said his 98 year old mother ordered him to come, even though she could not. So not all your supporters were visible on Satuday, March 24. But enough were that I am sure some of our so-called representatives are quaking in their loafers.
March is Women's History Month
March is women's history month. We celebrated black history at our last monthly meeting with Martha Bireda and her son Jaha Cummings. I remember Martha's mother, Bernice Russell, as a quiet but powerful voice in Punta Gorda. Her image and four other PG women pioneers are being memorialized in a new mural along northbound 41 just south of Olympia. It is fitting that they are being portrayed on a stairway. Will there be a glass ceiling at the top?
There are two other giants in women's history I want us to remember and learn from. For this I am drawing from a wonderful biography of Clementine Churchill by Sonia Purnell. Though focused on Clementine ("teen" not "tyne" per the author), the book also focuses on Eleanor Roosevelt and the different paths these two wives of powerful leaders took. Purnell's premise is that Clemmie, as Winston called her, was indispensable to Winston, and though her absolute dedication to his comforts, the well-being of the country, and his career took a toll on her health, she was a vital key to Britain's lure of the US into WW2, thru dining table diplomacy and her charm. She also had to manage Winston's stubborn streak, do a lot of local campaigning to assure his local parliamentary seat, and attempt to dissuade him when he went rogue. She did not always prevail. But generals and diplomats came to rely on her as their last and best resort to turn his behavior. When he was blamed for the WW1 disaster at Gallipoli and turned out of the Admiralty, she bought him painting gear to take his mind off things. She struggled to set a fine table on meager resources while he was out of national government (somewhat boosted by wartime stipends and grateful gifts of US steaks or champagne). She was outspoken in both wars at providing for the munitions workers and canteens for service personnel, and was successful at raising funds for Russian health care that brought her honors from Stalin, whom neither Winston nor she trusted. Privy to secret info and sent forth as a virtual spy for her husband, she magnified his own efforts, but at great cost to her own ambitions.
Clementine corresponded with and met Eleanor Roosevelt, who unlike her UK counterpart, was not privy to FDR’s secrets or plans. Nevertheless, she did gain recognition, especially after FDR’s death before the end of WW2. I remember reading Eleanor’s regular columns in magazines. She did a great deal for women’s rights, and tried to influence her husband to consider the plight of Jews and other refugees, but without great effect. (For another side of Eleanor, perhaps embellished, try The Muralist by B. A. Shapiro, who told us at a recent Friends of the Punta Gorda Library luncheon that the book sparked from her reading that Eleanor’s last words were, “I wish I could have persuaded Franklin to do more about the Jewish refugees” or words to that effect.)
Who are your favorite women heroines?
Youthful Energy Achieves Results
Not only did the Parkland students show bravery during and just after the attack on their school. They bussed to Tallahassee, and received a predictably two-faced welcome. The legislature had already voted down pending legislation before their arrival, and many state legislators did not face the future voters who had something to tell them. That did not stop them; it gave them a problem to solve, and they kept up their protests.
As I write, which is Thursday evening, the Parkland students, and those they have inspired in many places in this country, have achieved more in one week that I could have expected. More than 18 schools had walkouts to demonstrate solidarity with other students who are fed up with talk but no action on protecting students (and all of us) from gun violence. And this issue almost tops the Mueller probe in newsworthiness.
Today the bank known as the official credit card provider for the NRA (National Rifle Association) has announced it will end its affiliation with that group.
Four Northeastern states, including New York, have announced plans to share information among themselves to assure that those with mental illnesses or violence in their public records are known throughout the affiliated states. They have also agreed to STUDY the effects of gun violence, which is currently prohibited under federal law, and to share any results they uncover.
These are great starts.
Tomorrow, Governor Scott and others in state government will announce their plans for reform measures on the availabiity of weapons of war at least in this state. If for one am not expecting much from Governor Scott, whose ambition is self-evident, but whose caring persona is very recently applied.
But most important, as someone whose energy levels are nowhere near as dynamic as the Parkland students, I am energized by their efforts, and I urge others to help channel that current energy to even more productive results. Why not study what "a well regulated militia" means in terms of the second amendment? As one person interviewed today said, I cannot buy a tank or a fighter plane for my driveway and personal use. Why can every idiot buy these weapons of war? And as pointed out tonight, our government outlawed "machine guns" in the Capone era. When did we forget that lesson?
I am also heartened by the awareness of the Parkland students that if they are not listened to, as soon as they are able, they WILL register and WILL vote to oust those who do not listen or heed the wishes of their constituents.
Just heard that Alamo, Enterprise and National Car Rental are ending their affiliations with the NRA. You go, students, and keep it up. We have been waiting for your voices. I am only sorry that it took such a terrible event to amplify your voices.
Gun Violence - A Never Ending Tragedy
It's happened again, and this time it was close to home. Kids and teachers huddled in closets while classmates are slaughtered by a cold-eyed killer with a semi-automatic rifle. This gut-wrenching news may be losing its shock value - a tragedy itself - but it will never be shrugged off. New generations who aren't jaded yet on the ways of politics are demanding an end to policymakers' quiet complicity in these acts of domestic terror.
One of the most heartening things to see in the aftermath of the massacre in Broward County is the steely resolve of Parkland students, who have more common sense than the majority of legislators in Florida when it comes to advocating a common sense approach to gun control. They don't accept this as a "mental health" issue - they're demanding action now to limit the availability of weapons of mass destruction, a legitimate label for the AR-15 and similar military-style assault weapons. The AR-15 in particular has had a prominent role in at least a half dozen domestic gun massacres in recent years.
Linguistic Tip: Stop talking about "guns." These are "WMDs." Much scarier - and it shows how distinct they are from the language of the Second Amendment.
The Florida League has long been an active advocate for getting these WMDs out of the hands of civilians, and encourages local chapters to help drum up support for changes in Tallahassee. That's one way you can get (or stay) involved.
Another is Everytown for Gun Safety
. They can show you ways to put pressure on your local legislators (as well as Congress members and Senators) to DO something. I don't know about you, but I'm mad as hell and I just can't take it any more. Let's support in every way we can these energetic young people in doing what our own generation failed to accomplish.
Ex-Felon Voting Rights Update
The Florida League of Women voters and its collective chapters (including ours) is celebrating the fact that over 1.1 million Floridians signed petitions to place ex-felons voting rights on the ballot. It will appear as Amendment 4 in the November General Election.
Several members of our Charlotte County League chapter participated in collecting signatures, forwarding them on to the coordinators in Tallahassee.
This petition drive created some strange bedfellows in terms of leadership demographics. There was our own group (predominately older white, middle and upper income women) working in tandem statewide with felons rights advocates, many of whom tend to be young, black and male. While the ladies circulated petitions at civic events, club meetings or farmers markets, their counterparts were at sneaker conventions and Rap concerts manning their own tables.
For the ladies, it was probably a somewhat tougher sell to talk about felons and voting in a context where few of their potential signers had much direct experience with people who have served prison time for felonies. In the black communities, more people know someone who has been directly disenfranchised by a prior felony record. So, hats off to all you ladies who bravely made the case that ALL citizens deserve the right to vote.
The second part of our journey begins NOW with educating voters on this amendment through speaker opportunities, social media, mainstream media, and grassroots networking to assure that Amendment 4 wins approval.