New Senate-passed redistricting map confirms Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres gerrymander—but DeSantis proposal is a wild card

The transfer of north Fort Myers (left arrow) and Lehigh Acres (right arrow) into the 17th Congressional District in the map passed by the Florida Senate. The red lines denote the existing district lines. (Map: Florida Senate/Arrows: The Paradise Progressive.)

Jan. 21, 2022 by David Silverberg

By a vote of 31 to 4 the Florida Senate yesterday, Jan. 20, passed its version of Florida’s new congressional districts.

The new map makes only slight changes to Southwest Florida’s congressional districts but it does take a chunk of Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres out of the current 19th Congressional District and puts it in the 17th Congressional District to the north.

Those districts include considerable Black and Hispanic populations and dilute any potential Democratic voting blocks in the 19th, making both the 19th and 17th districts, already heavily Republican, even more so.

The Senate completely ignored a map submitted on behalf of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), which made radical changes to Florida’s congressional districts. DeSantis has indicated that he may veto the Senate map, since he has to sign off on any congressional boundary changes.

The Florida House has yet to weigh in with a final version of its congressional map.

The Senate map

An overview of the Senate-passed congressional redistricting map. Red lines denote existing district boundaries. (Map: Florida Senate)

The map approved yesterday by the Senate (S000C8040) largely keeps existing boundaries and numbers.

This map was chosen and shepherded through the committee process by Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-27-Lee County) who chaired the Senate’s Reapportionment Committee.

From the outset, Rodrigues said he was committed to avoiding the experience of the 2010 redistricting, which was challenged in court and took six years to litigate before final maps were approved.

The initial round of maps proposed by the Senate received a “B” grade from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, an academic, non-partisan evaluation by Princeton University. It largely kept existing districts intact, while giving Florida its new 28th district. The B meant that the map was considered “better than average for the category, but bias still exists.”

As of this writing the new maps have not yet been graded by Princeton.

The Senate map keeps Fort Myers’ River District in the 19th and makes Park Ave. the boundary line between the 19th and the 17th in the west. State Road 82 becomes the boundary between the 17th and the 19th until it reaches Rt. 75 in the east.

It also puts the 19th District portion of Lehigh Acres solidly in the 17th.

The initial draft of this map was denounced by Democratic congressional candidate Cindy Banyai. “This is gerrymandering,” she stated in a Nov. 19 press release. “Most of the people who are no longer in FL19 are minorities, our Black and Latino neighbors. It’s well known that this district has always been a giveaway to the Republicans, but this clear targeting of our communities of color should alarm everyone.”

The DeSantis map

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed map for Southwest Florida congressional districts. Red lines denote existing districts. (Map: Florida Senate)

The DeSantis proposal (P000C0079) largely follows county lines.

Under the DeSantis proposal, all of Lee County would constitute the 19th Congressional District. Collier County would constitute the bulk of a re-numbered 26th District, along with a chunk of Broward County as far east as Hialeah, the Cuban-American stronghold that provides the center of gravity for the current 25th District. A newly re-numbered 18th District would cover an immense swath of land including all of Charlotte County. Today, much of this area is contained in the 17th District.

An overview of Gov. DeSantis’ proposed congressional district map for Florida. Red lines denote existing boundaries. (Map: Florida Senate)

Analysis: Outcomes

It remains unclear whether the Senate or DeSantis maps will prevail when it comes to congressional districts. (The Senate also redrew state Senate districts. House districts will be redrawn by the state House. These do not need the governor’s signature to take effect.)

“We have submitted an alternative proposal, which we can support, that adheres to federal and state requirements, while working to increase district compactness, minimize county splits where feasible, and protect minority voting populations,” stated Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary. “Because the governor must approve any congressional map passed by the Legislature, we wanted to provide our proposal as soon as possible and in a transparent manner.”

The controversies over the dueling maps will not center around Southwest Florida. The battles are emerging over heavily populated districts on the east coast in Democratic areas like Miami and Jacksonville. According to The Florida Phoenix, it appears “DeSantis’ proposed congressional map favors Republicans in 18 districts and Democrats in 10. Under the existing map, Republicans control 16 seats to the Democrats’ 11” whereas the “Senate draft contains 16 districts that went for Donald Trump two years ago and 12 likely to skew Democratic — a gain of one seat.”

Under the Senate map, existing representatives would remain largely in place, with Rep. Byron Donalds (R) representing the 19th, in which he does not reside, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) representing the 25th, and Rep. Greg Steube (R) representing the 17th.

Under DeSantis’ map, Donalds would have to choose whether to run in a 19th District that’s even further from his home—meaning a dual commute to Lee County as well as Washington, DC—or stay where he lives in the 25th and face off against fellow Republican Diaz-Balart.

If Donalds decided not to run in the DeSantis 19th, it could open the door to a new contender of any party.

For his part, if Diaz-Balart decided to run in the DeSantis 26th District, he would suddenly have a population center to contend with in a relatively urbanized western part of his district. Until now, the western part of the 25th was barely populated and Diaz-Balart could concentrate his attentions on Hialeah and his Cuban-American constituents with the occasional trip out to Immokalee serving as a show of some degree of concern for western constituents.

Though the redistricting process is far from over, the Senate map has the greatest likelihood of passage, although DeSantis’ wild card could still change the outcome of the game.

Maps must be finalized by June 17 when candidates qualify to run in the new districts. They’re more likely to be finalized by March 11, the last scheduled day of the legislative session.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate!

Naples Rep. Bob Rommel pushes Big Brother in Florida classrooms

Bill would put teachers under video surveillance

State Rep. Bob Rommel of Naples. (Image: Tampa Bay 10 News)

Jan. 14, 2022 by David Silverberg

A bill to place video cameras in Florida classrooms to put teachers under full-time surveillance, introduced by state Rep. Bob Rommel (R-106-Naples), had its initial reading on Tuesday, Jan. 11, the first day of the Florida legislative session.

House Bill (HB) 1055, Video Cameras in Public School Classrooms, “Authorizes school districts to adopt policy to place video cameras in public school classrooms; provides requirements for such policy; provides for viewing video recordings; provides DOE [Department of Education], school district, school, & certain employee responsibilities.” (A link to the full text of the bill is at the conclusion of this article.)

If passed in this legislative session the bill would take effect on July 1.

The bill has been referred to the Education and Employment Committee and its early learning and elementary education and secondary education and career development subcommittees, and the House Appropriations PreK-12 subcommittee.

Under the bill’s provisions a teacher would have to wear a microphone while teaching. Cameras would be installed in the front of classrooms. If a recording is interrupted in any way a written explanation must be filed. School principals would be the officials responsible for holding and administering the recordings and the bill specifies the circumstances under which recordings can be shared or deleted.

Rommel, who represents a legislative district running along coastal Collier County from Bonita Beach Road to Naples to Everglades City and Chokaloskee, was quoted in a television news interview saying, “Children are our most precious assets in the state of Florida and we should make sure we do everything we can to protect them and teachers too. There are incidents, a teacher/student incident, and we want to make sure we protect everyone in the classroom.”

He pointed out that “It’s not live-streamed. So, the teacher’s privacy and how they teach their class is not going to be infringed on.”

(Editor’s note: The Paradise Progressive reached out to Rommel’s office requesting a telephone interview on this subject. As of this writing the request has neither been answered nor acknowledged.)

HB 1055 immediately raised questions from the Florida Education Association (FEA), the largest teachers’ union in the state.

In a statement, Andrew Spar, FEA president, stated: “We have questions about this bill regarding parental rights and other issues. Could law enforcement or the district use the video to investigate a situation dealing with a student without parental knowledge? Can the video be used by law enforcement if a student harms another student or a school employee? Can a teacher use the recording to show that they did not get assistance in a timely manner after calling the office? Can it be used as evidence to show how effective a teacher is in the classroom?”

There is also nothing in the bill discussing the cost of the surveillance or funding for implementation.

A variety of interested parties are already lining up to lobby on the bill including the Lake County School Board, Hillsborough County Schools, and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, although none had issued public statements on their positions as of this writing.

Yesterday, Jan. 13, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, weighed in on Twitter, stating: “omg no. Florida will not be a surveillance state!!!”

Commentary: Big Brother in the classroom

As though teachers are not under sufficient pressure now, between COVID, mask mandates, remote learning, school shootings, physical threats, anti-public education sentiment, charter school competition, and underfunding as well as low pay, low benefits and general lack of respect, under HB 1055 they would now be subject to constant surveillance in their classrooms.

“Morale is not high in education with teachers and this is just going to look to teachers as another way to catch them,” Angie Snow, an elementary educator in Hillsborough County, said in an interview broadcast on Tampa Bay 10 News. “An allegation is all it takes for a parent to get access and then there’s critiquing and criticizing of everything else.”

Indeed, the presumption behind HB 1055 appears to be that teachers are guilty of something and only the right video footage is needed to catch them.

With that in mind, HB 1055 has been carefully crafted to avoid appearing as part of the ideological assault on educators and school boards.

Although Rommel has espoused conservative, highly ideological views in all his campaigns and previous representation in Tallahassee, he’s couching this bill over concern about “incidents” in classrooms. These are defined in the bill as “an event, a circumstance, an act, or an omission that results in the abuse or neglect of a student” by another student or school employee. There have indeed been incidents of violence and altercations and even shootings in schools like Parkland.

But unlike police body cameras that routinely record footage of potentially violent, dangerous and evidentiary events, classrooms are—or should be—peaceful places. For the most part, what goes on in the vast majority of Florida classrooms the vast majority of the time is teaching and learning.

The extremely rare physical threat or altercation simply doesn’t justify the expense, the difficulty, and the complications—not to mention the simple indignity—of putting microphones on every teacher and installing video cameras in every classroom. If there’s an instance of violence and a security officer has to be called, his or her body camera should provide a sufficient record of any incident.

The real purpose of this legislation is to surveil teachers to punish them—or dangle the threat of punishment—for any heretical ideas they might impart in the classroom, with any party at all playing the role of accuser, inquisitor—and potentially, plaintiff.

HB 1055 fits in nicely with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed Anti-WOKE [Wrongs to our Kids and Employees] Act, giving anyone the ability to sue teachers for teaching critical race theory. Citing video evidence, no matter how far-fetched or flimsy, plaintiffs can head to court on any pretext to financially destroy underpaid teachers even if the plaintiff doesn’t win the case.

From a practical standpoint, there’s simply no need, on a daily, ongoing basis, to record every moment in every classroom—not to mention the Orwellian implications of constant monitoring.

While Rommel is at pains to note that camera footage would not be live-streamed and would have to be released by principals, the fact is that this bill is clearly driven by extreme opponents of classroom COVID precautions and content of which they disapprove—i.e., “wokeness” and critical race theory.

Indeed, in Naples, Rommel’s home district, the only praise for the bill has come from Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes III, the extreme Trumpist farmer and grocer who in August called for the “take down” of teachers’ unions by “force.”

“If these teachers have nothing to hide they shouldn’t mind!” he stated on Facebook on Jan. 1.

This is a bad idea and a bad bill that should not get past the subcommittee stage.

*  *  *

To register an opinion on HB 1055, contact the following legislators (e-mails can be sent through their linked pages):

Education Committee

Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee

Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee

PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee

The full text of HB 1055 can be read here.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate!



A very partisan non-partisan election: The race for Naples City Council

Naples City Councilman Ray Christman. (Photo: Campaign)

Jan. 11, 2022 by David Silverberg

Voters in the City of Naples, Fla., will get an early preview of the nation’s electoral battles on Feb. 1 when they go to the polls to select three at-large councilmembers, who will represent the entire city, rather than specific districts, for the next four years.

Despite the officially non-partisan nature of the election, Councilmember Ray Christman is being targeted by rightist Republicans for defeat. The reason? At one time, they say, he was a registered Democrat, although he is now officially a non-party affiliated voter. The same goes for candidate Ian Rudnick.

Candidates do not have party affiliations listed on the ballots.

But this year’s partisan twist introduces the possibility that an otherwise open and welcoming Naples could see imposition of a far-right (for Naples) conservative agenda. Traditionally, municipal elections focus on very local issues like development, the environment, quality of life and economic growth.

It’s a test of the movement of Trumpism into the grassroots and its outcome could have an impact beyond just the Naples City limits.

There are 19,115 residents in the city, according to the 2020 Census. Of those, 16,497 are active voters eligible to cast ballots, according to the Collier County Supervisor of Elections.

In addition to Christman, Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison is seeking re-election. The other candidates for the three open seats are Rudnick, a retired Naples Police Force officer; Beth Petrunoff, a retired General Electric executive; and newcomer John Dugan.

Ian Rudnick (Photo: Campaign)

Under the city’s rules, the top vote getters will take the open seats. All candidates presented their positions at a forum hosted by the Gulf Shore Association of Condominiums, on Thursday, Jan. 6, covered by The Naples Daily News.

The target

Christman told the forum that his priorities were the same as they had been when he first ran: protecting the environment; managing development; sustaining quality of life; and maintaining a transparent, ethical and responsible government. He pledged to be open, communicative and represent the entire community. He expands on these positions in detail on his campaign website, Ray Christman for Naples City Council.

Christman has extensive credentials for municipal government. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., he grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. He attended Florida State University and received a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and headed Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, then served as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Commerce.

He’s been deeply involved in technological development and environmental conservation, from his first job at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to his 2014 efforts to pass the Florida Water and Land Legacy Act, which now provides state funding for water and land protection. He worked to adopt a new City Ethics Code after an ethics commission was created by referendum. 

Amidst the COVID pandemic, he helped establish a city-based vaccination site to inoculate residents against the virus.

The targeters

John Dugan (Photo: Campaign)

Leading the charge against Christman is candidate John Dugan and a political action committee, Collier County Citizens Values Political Action Committee (CCCVPAC).

“Be informed, all Republican voters residing in the city need to vote to replace Raymond Christman,” states the CCCVPAC website. “He is a sitting City Councilor that was a registered Democrat until recently when [he] changed to be registered Non-Party Affiliated (not Republican). State election reports show his residence made donations to Democratic candidates running for Governor named Andrew Gillum and running for State Representative in District 105 Javier Estevez.”

Dugan was an at-large member of CCCVPAC before resigning on Aug. 31 to run for the City Council.

The PAC is currently headed by Russell Tuff, former chairman of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee. As CCCVPAC reveals on its website, Tuff has provided paid services to Dugan and to Michelle McLeod, a candidate for the Collier County Commission and a city council member ousted in the 2020 city election.

CCCVPAC says it has rated all the candidates based on “values” but in fact only Dugan filled out its questionnaire and received its only rating. The PAC recommends that voters vote only for Dugan.

“Only one candidate, John Dugan, completed our questionnaire,” states CCCVPAC. “Apparently, the other candidates did not want to be rated on our values. Since that is the case, although you can vote for up to three candidates, we are recommending you vote for only John Dugan, who wasn’t afraid to state his values up front and have them communicated to the community.”

When it comes to his platform, on his campaign website Dugan opposes COVID precautions like mask and vaccination mandates.

He states that “Growth is inevitable” and “When we take a No Growth position, we do not prepare adequately for projects that happen without proper planning which creates acrimony and problems that could have been avoided. We have a fiscal responsibility to allow redevelopment which increases city revenue while maintaining tax rates.” He also supports water infrastructure improvements and beach renourishment.

Dugan is originally from Boston, Mass., and graduated from Northeastern University with a major in accounting and a degree in business administration. He spent his career at Accenture, a management and technology consulting company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, retiring as a partner in 2009.

CCCVPAC calls Dugan “a rock-solid Republican and not a ‘Party Switcher.’ He was instrumental in fundraising and getting out the vote for the Republican party during the last election cycle.”

Commentary: A very partisan non-partisan election

On March 17, 2020 Naples City voters threw out the mayor and three City Council members in a startling sweep of the city’s government.

In addition to the city’s purely local issues, the election results, coming on the same day as the Florida presidential preference primary, were viewed by some observers as a repudiation of President Donald Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic response and voter unhappiness with a very conservative status quo in the city.

CCCVPAC doesn’t see it that way. As it puts it on its website: “It is clear that the last City Council election could have had a better result for the Republican Party.  Two Non-Party Affiliated candidates were elected.  The final election vote tally showed 3,751 Republican did not vote – 44% of the City Republicans did not vote.  By Party, Republicans were the largest no shows on election day by more than 2000 votes!” [sic, capitalization and syntax theirs].

The fact, though, is that the Naples City Council election is supposed to be non-partisan. Prior to Trump’s hyper-politicization of all of American life this was largely the way business was conducted. While there might be differences of opinion on various decisions or courses of action, party labels were generally irrelevant to the conduct of the city’s business.

That has now changed and Dugan and CCCVPAC are kicking the partisanship up a notch. Their chief complaints against Christman and Rudnick have nothing to do with those candidates’ actual positions on city matters—their unforgiveable sin is that they were once registered Democrats and don’t march in lockstep to conservative Republican decrees. This betrays an intolerance of diverse viewpoints and an effort to impose a single, rigid ideological approach on the city’s government. It’s undemocratic—with a small “d.”

It’s also not the way to govern a city whose chief challenges have to do with local matters like infrastructure maintenance, water and environmental quality, growth management and tourist hospitality.

This election will have consequences on a variety of fronts.

For those Naples City residents who don’t want to see the imposition of a rightist ideology on the city and want to keep the Council focused on real issues affecting all its residents, the choice is very clear: Ray Christman should be returned to office and John Dugan should be defeated.

This will be an election decided by mobilization of supporters on each side.

Having an election in February is often very tough anywhere in the country where winter is usually at its worst. But in Naples the weather should be pleasantly warm and the sunshine abundant. Voting by mail eliminates the possibility of contamination by Omicron and even at the polling place, social distance and a mask make a difference. Besides, most sensible Naples voters have already gotten vaccinations and boosters for their protection.

As of Jan. 10, 680 mail-in ballots had already been cast, representing 4.12 percent of the electorate.

In-person voting will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 1. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is 5 pm on Saturday, Jan. 22.

Early voting begins Wednesday, Jan. 26 and runs until Saturday, Jan. 29 from 10 am to 6 pm daily at two locations: the Norris Center in Cambier Park, 755 8th Avenue South, and the Supervisor of Elections Office at 3750 Enterprise Ave.

There will be drop-box locations for mail-in ballots at the Supervisor of Elections Office and the Norris Center (locations above), and at the Collier County Supervisor of Elections satellite office at 2335 Orange Blossom Drive.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate!

Planned Parenthood prepared for challenging year ahead

Improved patient navigation, offshore options being considered

Stephanie Fraim speaks to a gathering of Planned Parenthood supporters on Dec. 7. (Photo: Author)

Dec. 29, 2021 by David Silverberg

With major challenges to women’s health choices looming in the new year, Planned Parenthood of Florida is already preparing to adapt to a changed political and legal landscape, according to Stephanie Fraim, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

The changes include renewed and vigorous lobbying of relevant legislators and preparations to serve women’s health needs throughout the region.

Fraim spoke at a “Voices for Planned Parenthood—Let’s Get Loud!” gathering in Bonita Springs on Dec. 7. (Full disclosure: the author was a speaker on a panel at the event.)

Stephanie Fraim (Photo: Author)

“As you know Florida is poised to put in place whatever restrictions the Supreme Court puts in place whether that is a six-week Texas ban or the 15-week ban we heard arguments on last Wednesday or an overturning of Roe,” said Fraim.

“…Make no mistake, [anti-choice advocates] are clearly looking to the legislature to restrict access to abortion care and this legislature and this governor have our rights clearly in their sights,” she told the audience. “Of course we will fight every [anti-choice] law that Florida tries to implement.”

Fraim said Planned Parenthood would be fighting attempts to restrict choice on two fronts. The first was legislative and legal.

“As I said, we’re going to challenge the law that impacts our care but the real battle is going to happen at the ballot box. Right? We need people in our state house and Capitol that actually care about women and people’s health care.”

Fraim urged her listeners to get involved politically, support the Planned Parenthood Action Fund political action committee and in particular to express support for state Rep. Ben Diamond (D-68-St. Petersburg) and Sen. Lori Berman (D-31-Palm Beach County) who on Nov. 23 sponsored the Reproductive Health Care Protection Act (House Bill 709 and Senate Bill 1036) to protect women’s health care.

“On the second front, caring for our patients, getting them care and getting them to care, we will continue as Planned Parenthood to provide every bit of reproductive health care we’ve always provided and provide abortion care up to whatever the law allows, whether that’s six weeks or 15 weeks,” she said. “And, we are at the beginning stages of building one of the largest patient navigation systems in the state, connecting it to one of the largest patient navigation systems in the country.”

Planned Parenthood is putting together teams to help patients get to the health care services they need, she explained. As an example, Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma saw a 500 percent increase in patients when Texas passed its restrictive anti-choice law. Florida’s Planned Parenthood is seeing an increase in Texas patients as well.

“If we lose the right here [in Florida], we will turn that and begin moving patients out of the state to where they need to go,” she said.

As an additional option, “we are thinking about a boat off the east coast of Florida. We seriously are.” A boat could legally provide women’s health services in international waters. Fraim said she had been contacted by a pilot with a float plane who could ferry patients to any vessel.

“I know, it’s horrifying,” she acknowledged. “But this really isn’t a ban on abortion, it’s a ban on safe abortion.”

A Supreme Court decision on Mississippi’s abortion ban is expected in June of next year. A challenge to Texas’ ban on abortions is ongoing, although on Dec. 10 the Supreme Court allowed it to remain in force.

In the meantime Planned Parenthood is actively seeking financial support. Until Dec. 31 all donations up to $500,000 will be doubled, thanks to a matching grant provided by an anonymous donor.

Liberty lives in light

(c) 2021 by David Silverberg

SWFL reps vote to let Meadows dodge Congress, allow US default–but contempt charge, debt ceiling bills both pass

The United States Capitol.

Dec. 15, 2021 by David Silverberg

In a pair of momentous votes last night and in the early hours of this morning, the US House of Representatives voted to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress and to raise the debt ceiling, keeping the United States from default.

Southwest Florida’s representatives voted against both measures, which passed on largely party-line votes.

House Resolution (HR) 851, which held Meadows in contempt for refusing to respond to a congressional subpoena, passed at 11:03 pm by a vote of 222 to 208. Republican Reps. Liz Cheney (R-at large-Wy.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-16-Ill.) voted for the measure.

Senate Joint Resolution 33 raising the US debt ceiling to $2.5 trillion, passed at 12:20 am by a vote of 221 to 209. Kinzinger was the lone Republican to approve the measure.

The Meadows matter

Meadows had initially agreed to cooperate with the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, turning over e-mails and documents related to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. He then changed his mind and refused to testify before the committee despite a subpoena compelling his testimony.

The congressional contempt resolution passed last night will now be referred to the Department of Justice for enforcement.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) took Meadows’ side against the House of Representatives, in which he serves.

“Everyone supporting the political witch-hunt, known as the House Select Cmte on 1/6, amplifies a charade intended to subject Trump-supporting Americans to a kangaroo court of injustice & political theater. Unfortunately, Mark Meadows is another American on the Dems’ hit list,” he tweeted yesterday, Dec. 14. He added in a further statement: “Holding the former White House Chief of Staff in contempt is a disgrace to the rule of law and Congressional oversight credibility.”

Former President Donald Trump Donalds formally endorsed Donalds the same day.

On the day of the attack, Donalds characterized the rioters rampaging through the Capitol Building as “lawless vigilantes” and the attack itself as “thuggery.”

As of this writing, neither Reps. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) nor Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) had commented on the Meadows resolution.

Debt ceiling

The vote raising the US debt ceiling averts a default on US financial obligations. With the House approving the already-passed bill from the Senate, it now goes to President Joe Biden for signature. It will extend the nation’s borrowing capability into 2023.

In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Nov. 29, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned: “I cannot overstate how critical it is that Congress address this issue. America must pay its bills on time and in full. If we do not, we will eviscerate our current recovery.”

Donalds expressed opposition to raising the debt ceiling in a Dec. 9 interview with Jan Jeffcoat of The National Desk, a television program carried by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. “We’re just blowing trillions of dollars out the back door, then running to the bond market to say give us more money. If we’re going to increase the debt limit on the nation’s credit card, I think that what we’re doing is highly irresponsible.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Banyai slams Trump endorsement of Rep. Byron Donalds

Democratic congressional candidate Cindy Banyai. (Image: Banyai for Congress campaign)

Dec. 14, 2021 by David Silverberg

In a bid to tighten his control of the Republican Party, former President Donald Trump yesterday, Dec. 13, formally endorsed Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) for re-election, a move slammed today by Democratic congressional candidate Cindy Banyai.

“Donald Trump’s endorsement of my opponent can only lead to one thing— the continuation of the Trump administration,” stated Banyai in a message to supporters. “We will not stand for this any longer, and we need to keep our momentum going to show Byron Donalds and Donald Trump that we can defeat them.”

The endorsement was made from the Twitter account of the Trump War Room and stated that Donalds had been “a terrific advocate for the people of Florida and our Country” and had Trump’s “Complete and Total Endorsement.” (Capitalization as given.)

“Thank you, POTUS Trump, for your ENDORSEMENT and your unwavering support,” Donalds responded on Twitter. “Americans feel the pain of the America Last policies supported by the Biden-Harris administration and undoubtedly miss your America First agenda. I’ll always fight for the forgotten men and women of our nation.”

“I want to put our community first,” Banyai stated. “Byron Donalds is only interested in his allegiances to corporations, and harmful politicians like Trump. We cannot afford to have a representative who proudly posts pictures of himself with someone who has repeatedly damaged our country.”

Donalds and his wife Erika met with Trump during the latter’s nighttime visit to Naples on Dec. 3 and was photographed with Trump and his wife Melania.

The Donalds endorsement was one of a slew of endorsements issued by the Trump War Room yesterday. Trump is reaching down into state and local races to ensure a vise-like grip on the Party at all levels.

In addition to Donalds, Trump endorsed Angela Rigas who is running for Michigan state representative in the 86th District, Jacqueline “Jacky” Eubanks running for Michigan state representative in the 32nd District, and Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-13-Texas), who had served as the White House physician from 2013 to 2018 and Assistant to the President and Chief Medical Advisor, a newly-created position, in 2019.

Rep. Byron Donalds, Donald Trump, Melania Trump and Erika Donalds at the Dec. 3 Naples event. (Photo: Office of Rep. Byron Donalds)

Liberty lives in light

(c) 2021 by David Silverberg

Publix heiress passes, was active conservative funder in Georgia

Carol Jenkins Barnett in an undated photo. (Photo: Publix)

Dec. 10, 2021 by David Silverberg

Publix heiress Carol Jenkins Barnett, an active funder of conservative political causes, especially in Georgia, passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 7, at the age of 65.

“It is with great sadness that Publix Super Markets shares the passing of Carol Jenkins Barnett, former chair and president of Publix Super Markets Charities,” the company stated in a press release issued the next day. “In 2016, she was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.”

Barnett was deeply involved in the 2020 Georgia campaigns of Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue for the US Senate. The Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust gave $100,000 to a super political action committee (PAC) called the Keep America America Action Fund. The super PAC could spend unlimited amounts of money on issues rather than candidates and it pushed hard for a Republican victory in the Jan. 5 Georgia runoff elections.

Both Loeffler and Perdue lost their races in Georgia. Perdue is now running as a Trumpist candidate in the Georgia Republican gubernatorial primary against current Gov. Brian Kemp.

Barnett also contributed $100,000 in her own name to the Georgia Senate Battleground Fund, $10,000 to Purdue Victory Inc., $2,800 to the Purdue for Senate campaign and the same amount to the National Republican Senate Committee, headed by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.).

In North Carolina she contributed $2,800 to the re-election campaign of Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), who succeeded in keeping his seat.

Barnett was a daughter of the chain’s founder, George Jenkins. According to the press release she was born and raised in Lakeland, Fla., the company’s headquarters. She began working in the Publix chain in 1972 as a cashier at the Grove Park Shopping Center in Lakeland and later worked in Publix’s corporate marketing research and development department. In 1983, she was elected to the Publix board of directors where she served for 33 years. Her net worth was $2.1 billion, according to a 2020 Forbes magazine estimate.

She was active in philanthropic and charitable work, contributing to organizations such as United Way, Florida Partnership for School Readiness, and Family Fundamentals. She became president and chair of Publix Super Markets Charities, an outgrowth of a charitable foundation launched by George Jenkins in 1966.

Also politically active among the Jenkins family members is Julie Jenkins Fancelli. According to a Nov. 18, 2021 Pro-Publica article, “Texts Show Kimberly Guilfoyle Bragged About Raising Millions for Rally That Fueled Capitol Riot,” Fancelli contributed $3 million to the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol.

Fancelli was also active in the Loeffler and Perdue races.

To read more about Publix political activities, see “Publix: Where politics bring no pleasure.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Like a thief in the night, Trump steals into and out of Naples

A person disembarks from Donald Trump’s airplane at the Naples Airport on Friday, Dec. 3. (Image: NBC2 News)

Dec. 6, 2021 by David Silverberg

Former president Donald Trump made a brief, furtive sortie into Naples on Friday night, Dec. 3, flying into Naples Airport.

In contrast to the hoopla and publicity surrounding his previous appearances while both in and out of office, Trump’s initial destination was kept secret from the public, then revealed as being the Naples Airport. There, an event took place in a hangar on the airport grounds amidst a heavy security presence.

NBC-2 News also reported that Trump visited a private home in the rich Naples neighborhood of Port Royal.

The visit’s purpose was to raise funds. The ultimate recipient of the funds was not publicly revealed by the organizers nor was the sponsoring organization, although arrangements were made by WHIP Fundraising based in New York, a professional event and fundraising company.

Attendance at the event cost individuals $10,000, couples $20,000 and families or groups of four $30,000. Donors were allowed one photo with the former president.

In stark contrast to his fleeting Naples incursion, Trump’s previous visits to Southwest Florida were heavily publicized and he traveled with an extensive entourage. Two were held during his presidential campaign in 2016. He also held a large rally at what is now Hertz Arena in Estero on Halloween, Oct. 31, 2018, and made a campaign visit to Fort Myers on October 16, 2020.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Chunk of Cape Coral moved to new congressional district in Florida House draft maps

An overview of Southwest Florida congressional districts as proposed by the Florida House Redistricting Committee. (Map: House Redistricting Committee)

Dec. 2, 2021 by David Silverberg

–Updated at 3:00 pm with redistricting timeline.

A large chunk of Cape Coral would move from Florida’s 19th Congressional District into a newly re-named 18th Congressional District according to new draft redistricting maps released Monday, Nov. 29, by the Florida House Redistricting Committee.

The redistricting aims to create congressional districts of equal population throughout the state. The goal is to have 769,221 people in each district if possible. Florida must also accommodate a new 28th Congressional District.

Under existing boundaries, the 19th District is overpopulated by 65,791 people or .086 percent more than the ideal and so must lose population to surrounding districts. The question is: where?

The House proposal contrasts with maps released on Nov. 10 by the Florida Senate Redistricting Committee. Those drafts moved North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres into the existing 17th Congressional District.

Instead, both drafts released by the House committee (H000C8001 and H000C8003) take a piece of Cape Coral from the 19th and put it in a newly renumbered 18th District.

The new 18th

Cape Coral (left arrow) and parts of Lehigh Acres (right arrow) change congressional districts in new maps proposed by the Florida House Redistricting Committee. Red lines denote existing district boundaries. (Map: House Redistricting Committee; arrows, The Paradise Progressive.)

The new 18th would include Charlotte, Hendry, Glades, Highland, DeSoto, Hardee and Okeechobee counties with pieces of Sarasota and Lee counties—roughly the same territory as the current 17th.

The 18th would also get a chunk of Cape Coral from the Lee County line, down Burnt Store Rd., to SW Pine Island Ln. (Rt. 78) as far east as Del Prado Blvd., North, then to Hancock Bridge Pkwy., stopping just short of Rt. 41 (N. Cleveland Ave.). It then just follows the Caloosahatchee River east to Interstate 75.

In a gain for the 19th, the draft maps give a chunk of Lehigh Acres back to the 19th, although the bulk of it remains in the new 18th.

Collier County lines

Changes propsed for the 19th District in Collier County. Red lines denote existing district boundaries. (Map: House Redistricting Committee)

In the southern part of the 19th District, the 19th gains a bit along Golden Gate but then loses a chunk of East Naples including Lely, Naples Manor and Lely Resort.

It also loses some swampland further south—and the tiny community of Goodland, which would celebrate any future Buzzard Lope contests and mullet festivals in a newly re-numbered 26th District.

That 26th District largely keeps the shape of the previous 25th, spreading across Collier County, encompassing Immokalee and keeping Hialeah, its Cuban-American center of gravity and population.

Analysis: An F grade for the House

The two draft congressional maps from the state House Redistricting Committee have come under fire for their partisan gerrymandering.

H000C8003 (which is identical to H000C8001 as far as Southwest Florida is concerned) was given an overall grade of F from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which found it significantly biased in favor of Republicans. The FiveThirtyEight.com redistricting tracker found it similarly biased, creating 15 Republican-leaning seats statewide, where before there had only been one.

Much of this bias takes place in the congressional districts on the east coast in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area where there are significant Democratic populations.

As far as Southwest Florida is concerned, cutting out a chunk of Cape Coral is less radically partisan than cutting out minority communities in North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres. Those changes were in the state Senate draft, which came under fire from Cindy Banyai, the Democratic congressional candidate in the 19th Congressional District.

From a partisan standpoint, the Cape Coral area being moved into a new district in the House drafts is mostly Republican anyway, so moving it into a new, heavily Republican 18th District won’t make that much of a difference.

It needs to be noted that in addition to the Senate and House drafts, there are proposals from individual Floridians who submitted maps, since the process was thrown open to the public.

A map submitted by Curtis Steffenson signficantly redraws congressional districts in Southwest Florida. Red lines denote existing boundaries. (Map: House Redistricing Committee)

A congressional map from Curtis Steffenson (P000C0054), released the same day as the House maps was much more radical in its redrawing than the committee maps, although not necessarily more partisan. It would significantly alter the 19th Congressional District, splitting Lee County in half and putting all of Collier County including Naples and Immokalee into a new 20th District that would go as far east as the county line.

It’s an interesting concept and demonstrates how flexible the lines can be. However, it is very uncertain how seriously the state legislature will be taking this and other draft maps submitted by the public.

All redistricting must be completed and finalized during the Florida legislative session that begins on Jan. 11, 2022 and before the candidate qualifying period beginning on June 13, 2022.


To register an opinion on potential redistricting, go to the state redistricting opinion form, here.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Trump coming to Naples on Friday for private fundraiser

Then-First Lady Melania Trump walks among the White House Christmas decorations in 2018. A hangar at the Naples Airport will be decorated like the Trump White House for a fundraiser with former president Donald Trump on Friday. (Image: White House)

Nov. 3, 2021 by David Silverberg

Former president Donald Trump will be briefly stopping in Naples on Friday, Dec. 3 at 7 pm, for a private fundraising event.

The event will be taking place at a hangar at the Naples Airport and is only for donors, according to Richard Johnson, writing in the New York Daily News.

The hangar will be decorated in the Christmas color scheme that former first lady Melania Trump used at the White House during her tenure.

The location was undisclosed to the general public on the event’s website.

Donors have a choice of three packages for admission to the event. A $10,000 contribution gets a single admission and a photo with Trump. A $20,000 contribution provides admission for a couple and a photo. A $30,000 contribution gets a family or up to four people access to the party and a photo.

The event is billed as an Evening of Celebration. “With sunshine over your head, and presents under the tree, this event will give you a lifetime of festive memories! Tickets are extremely limited,” states the event website.

The purpose and final destination of the funds raised is not provided on the website.

Liberty lives in light

©2021 by David Silverberg