Christy McLaughlin, SWFL conservative activist, candidate, arrested for DUI, property damage – Updated

Nov. 28, 2022 by David Silverberg

Correction: This story corrects an earlier version based on an erroneous source. Updated Dec. 1 with precise location and new detail.

Christina “Christy” McLaughlin, 27, a two-time Republican congressional candidate and conservative activist, was arrested Friday, Nov. 25, and charged with driving under the inluence of alcohol (DUI) and damage to property, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).

Christy McLaughlin (Photo: CCSO)

After refusing an alcohol test, McLaughlin bonded out of custody, according to CCSO.

The crash occurred at Immokalee Rd., and Lakeland Ave.

On Sunday, Nov. 27, at 2:51 pm, Mclaughlin posted on Facebook: “To my friends, I am fine.”

Political profile

In 2020, McLaughlin ran for Congress in the 19th Congressional District, the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island. She was defeated in the primary election.

In 2022 she sought the Republican nomination for Congress in the 23rd Congressional District in the Miami area, which includes the towns of Weston, Davie, Pembroke Pines, and Aventura. She was defeated by Joe Budd on Aug. 23 in a nine person race. (Budd was defeated in the general election by Democrat Jared Moskowitz.)

McLaughlin has been an advocate for extreme conservative causes. She hosted an event in Naples on Dec. 3, 2020 at which Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys group, was an unannounced speaker.

Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio and Republican congressional candidate Christy McLaughlin (center) pose at The Mercato in Naples, Fla., on Dec. 3, 2020. (Photo: Facebook)

She also organized a Naples welcome party for conservative activist and operative Roger Stone on Jan. 3, 2021 that featured a heavy Proud Boys presence.

Christy McLaughlin welcomes Roger Stone to Naples on Jan. 3, 2021. (Photo: Facebook.)

She was present at the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and riot at the US Capitol Building. In an op-ed she wrote for the Washington Times, she blamed the riot on leaders of the US Senate and House of Representatives.

 Christy McLaughlin addresses a crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2021. (Image: Christy McLaughlin/Facebook)

The Paradise Progressive reached out to McLaughlin by e-mail for this report but had not received a reply as of this writing.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Stefanik stomps Donalds in contest for third slot in Republican congressional leadership

Rep. Elise Stefanik. (Illustration: Donkey Hotey/Wikimedia Commons)

Nov. 15, 2022 by David Silverberg

Today Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-21-NY), the sitting chair of the House Republican Conference, crushed a challenge by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) to take her seat by a vote of 144 to 44.

The House Republican Conference is the primary caucus and forum for communicating the Party’s message among Republican representatives. It also hosts the caucus’ meetings and is the third highest position in the House Republican hierarchy.

Donalds was the candidate of the House Freedom Caucus, an extreme, conservative, invitation-only group of Republican members.

Today’s vote was taken by the Republican members of the House who are organizing their caucus for the 118th Congress that takes office in January. While some members recommended that the vote be postponed until all House races were decided, sitting members chose to proceed anyway.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-23-Calif.) was endorsed for the position of Speaker of the House by a vote of 188 to 31 against challenger Rep. Andy Biggs (R-5-Ariz.). However, since the Speaker is considered leader of the entire House, the Speaker’s election takes a vote of the entire 435-member chamber when the new Congress takes office in January. The winner will need 218 votes.

By a voice vote, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-1-La.) won election as House Majority Leader, the highest position in the Republican caucus.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-6-Minn.), chief of the Republican campaign team was elected House majority whip, the second highest position in the leadership.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

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Election 2022: Red tide sweeps state, Southwest Florida—and what it means

Cartoon by Andy Marlette. (Creators Syndicate)

Nov. 8, 2022 by David Silverberg

On Election Day, Nov. 8, a red tide swept Florida and its Southwest region.

As of this writing, 11:00 pm, the national results for the House of Representatives and US Senate were not yet available.

In Southwest Florida, in what was hardly a surprising result, Republicans took all seats that they contested.

In the emotional, hotly-contested non-partisan election for Collier County School Board, incumbents Jory Westberry (District 1), Jen Mitchell (District 3), and Roy Terry (District 5) were all defeated, according to unofficial results from the county Supervisor of Elections.

Statewide, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) defeated Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.). Republicans also took all state Cabinet positions. In the contest for the US Senate seat, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) defeated Rep. Val Demings (D-10-Fla.).

Congressional contests

In the 19th Congressional District along the coast from Cape Coral to Marco Island, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) kept his seat, winning Collier County by 70 to 30 percent for Democrat Cindy Banyai and Lee County 67 percent to 33 percent.

In the area that includes Charlotte County, incumbent Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), retained his seat, defeating Democratic challenger Andrea Doria Kale by 70 to 30 percent.

In the newly renumbered District 26, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart beat Democratic challenger Christine Olivo 72 to 28 percent in Collier County.

Collier County

Come January, Collier County will be governed by two commissioners backed by extreme farmer and grocer Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes III, who helped fund their campaigns through his Citizens Awake Now Political Action Committee.

In Collier County District 2, Oakes-backed Republican candidate Chris Hall defeated Democrat Barbara “Bebe” Kanter by 70 to 30 percent. In District 4, Dan Kowal won his seat in the August primary.

Republicans took all seats for the state legislature and Senate.

Lee County

In Lee County Republicans swept the county commission seats they sought. In the one contested race, District 5, the winner was Republican Mike Greenwell by 69 percent to Democrat Matthew Woods’ 31 percent.

Collier County School Board

In the unusually hotly contested Collier County School Board election, incumbent school board members Jory Westberry in District 1, Jen Mitchell in District 3 and Roy Terry in District 5 were all defeated. Jerry Rutherford won District 1 by 65 percent, Kelly Lichter won District 3 by 58 percent and Tim Moshier won District 5 by 60 percent.

Lee County School Board

Lee County will begin choosing its school superintendents through a popular vote under an initiative that passed 63 to 37 percent.

In the non-partisan School Board election, Sam Fisher won in District 1, Debbie Jordan won in District 4, and Jada Langford Fleming won in District 6.

Judges and amendments

All judges up for a vote retained their seats.

Statewide totals for the three constitutional amendments were not available at posting time.

Analysis: What’s likely next

The Trump-DeSantis Florida fight

The opening skirmishes of an epic battle between two vicious, disparaging and domineering personalities began just before the election.

On Sunday, Nov. 6, DeSantis was snubbed from attending a Trump rally with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in Miami.

At that rally, Trump gave DeSantis the nickname “DeSanctimonious,” a sure declaration of war (although one unlikely to resonate with MAGA followers who don’t know the word.)

But now, with DeSantis resoundingly returned to the governor’s mansion, it will be all-out war between the maestro and the protégé as they both struggle for the Republican nomination in 2024. As a World Series played between two New York teams is called a “subway series,” so this battle will be a “Florida fight” as the two state-based personalities vie for dominance.

This is likely to be the conflict the media focuses on for the next two years. Every move, every utterance, and likely every fart and burp from these two will be scrutinized and analyzed for its effect on the presidential race. Any other political news will be eclipsed. More importantly for Floridians, the fight will distract from the governing of the state as DeSantis gives his real attention to the presidential race.

It’s worth noting that Trump will be 78 years old on Election Day, Nov. 5, 2024 but he seems so full of bile and hate he’s unlikely to die before then, possibly the only thing that could head off this clash. He’s unlikely to be stopped by indictments, investigations or even convictions. He and fellow miscreants will be protected by Republicans in Congress and the states.

Southwest Florida’s swamp stomp

The DeSantis-Trump rivalry will reverberate throughout Florida as their respective adherents choose sides. Until now both men largely represented the same ideological agenda but the time has come to choose sides.

Beyond that rivalry, however, Florida’s extreme MAGA state legislators will likely lock in their advantages with further voter suppression, more voter restrictions and efforts to narrow the franchise in every way possible, aided by a completely politicized judiciary. The legislature, already a DeSantis rubber stamp, will become even more submissive, with Republican supermajorities that will do more than just uniformly endorse any DeSantis demand. They’ll be trying to boost his presidential chances and also ensure that neither Democrats nor any other party that might arise ever have the remotest chance of attaining office again. Florida will so effectively be a one-party state that even Kim Jong Un will be envious.

This is to say nothing of state legislative efforts to outlaw all abortion, which will likely happen regardless of the fate of a national ban.

Drilling down to local specifics, in Collier County, politics and policy are firmly in MAGA hands at the county level.

This could mean that MAGA radicals may try again to nullify federal law as they did with an ordinance originally introduced in July 2021. Then, the proposal failed by a single vote of the Board of Commissioners. If that ordinance or a version of it passes, Collier County would be cut off from all federal grants, aid and funding. In the event of another hurricane it would get no help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose assistance was essential in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

County budgets will be facing mindless, unnecessary ideologically-driven cuts that will erode the quality of life and the efficiency of county services and infrastructure.

More particularly, county policy will likely reflect the preferences and priorities of Alfie Oakes. That will mean no public health restrictions regardless of circumstances or assistance in the event of a public health crisis like that of the COVID pandemic. It will also mean reduced to non-existent enforcement of county rules, regulations and ordinances he opposes.

The standard of education in Collier County is likely to take a nose-dive, driven by ideological and religious priorities, its budgets cut and new ideological restraints imposed on teachers and curriculum.

Also, with the School Board firmly in Oakes-backed hands, it is entirely possible that major school food contracts may be awarded to Oakes Farms, probably on a non-competitive basis.

Hard but not good

The voters have spoken and in Southwest Florida, the demographic preponderance of Republicans voting their registration ensured a sweeping victory.

Notably, given the results, no one who denied the results of the 2020 presidential election is yet arguing that this election was rigged or a sham or a fraud.

As the “Bard of Baltimore,” journalist HL Mencken, put it back in 1915: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Indeed. The majority of Southwest Floridians and other Sunshine State voters seem to know what they want. They’ll be getting it “good and hard” for the next two years.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Early voting active in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties

Activists show support for their candidates outside the Headquarters building of the Collier County Public Library in Naples. Jen Mitchell, incumbent candidate seeking re-election for District 3 of the Collier County school board, is to the left in the green shirt. (Photo: Author)

Oct. 28, 2022 by David Silverberg

Voting is active and robust throughout Southwest Florida, according to county supervisors of elections.

In its first day of early in-person voting in Collier County, 6,132 ballots were cast at polling stations yesterday, Oct. 27. Combined with 36,630 mail-in ballots, Collier’s turnout is at 16.85 percent of 253,830 eligible voters. So far, 56.15 percent of the ballots were cast by registered Republicans, 25.84 percent by registered Democrats and 16.92 percent by non-party affiliated voters.

Early in-person voting in Lee and Charlotte counties has been under way since Monday.

In Lee County, turnout is running at 19.65 percent, with 18,779 votes cast in person and 83,006 ballots mailed in. Lee County has 518,035 eligible voters. Of ballots cast, 52.28 percent were from registered Republicans, 27.37 percent from registered Democrats and 19.11 percent from non-party affiliated voters.

Charlotte County has the highest turnout of the three coastal counties with 20.75 percent of 152,778 eligible voters having cast ballots so far. Of these, 9,395 votes were cast in person and 22,309 votes were mailed. According to the Supervisor’s office, 50.36 percent of ballots were from registered Republicans, 29.58 percent from Democrats and 18.14 percent from non-party affiliated voters.

Because of the damage and disruption caused by Hurricane Ian, early in-person voting in Lee and Charlotte counties continues until Nov. 7. In Collier County, it concludes on Nov. 5.

Times and locations for early in-person voting are posted on the respective supervisors’ websites.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

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Collier County condemns bigotry, anti-Semitism and hate in proclamation

Illustration by Rose Wong.

Oct. 25, 2022 by David Silverberg

Full disclosure: The author was the drafter of the proclamation covered here.

Today, the Collier County Board of Commissioners proclaimed the county’s condemnation of bigotry, anti-Semitism and hate towards all people.

The proclamation made at the Commission’s regularly scheduled general meeting came amidst a rise in anti-Semitic expressions nationally and incidents locally, as well as a general increase in expressions of intolerance and prejudice (proclamation image below).

The proclamation was introduced by William McDaniel (R-5), chair of the Commission. It was approved by all commissioners.

This author spoke in favor of the proclamation, stating “President George Washington famously wrote that the United States gives ‘to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.’ This proclamation puts Collier County squarely within that fundamental, patriotic American tradition.”

Also speaking was Rabbi Adam Miller of Temple Shalom in Naples. Miller noted that Temple Shalom was 60 years old and when he became rabbi, one of the oldest congregants related that when she was being shown local properties the realtor told her that she should stay on Florida’s east coast with other Jews.

The current proclamation, said Miller, was valuable for everyone because “it expresses respect and engagement” with the whole community.

Also present to lend support was Rabbi Ammos Chorny of Beth Tikvah Congregation, Naples; Rev. Tony Fisher, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples; Vincent Keeys, president of the Collier County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and Bebe Kanter, Democratic candidate for county District 2.  

Significance of the proclamation

No proclamation is going end hate or bigotry or anti-Semitism. However, amidst a rise in prejudice, especially during a heated election period, there is value in a formal statement condemning those sentiments.

The proclamation puts Collier County officially on the record against that kind of bias.

Deterrence

Very importantly, the proclamation may deter hate crimes, violence and expressions of anti-Semitism. It “condemns any call to violence or use of violence for any purpose at any time; and resolves to actively and vigorously oppose, investigate, and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law any advocacy of violence, acts of violence, or crimes manifesting hatred against any person, property, or institution based on faith, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, or national origin.”

Given that there have been instances of anti-Semitic vandalism and leafletting in neighboring Lee County, this may protect Collier County from similar incidents. Anyone contemplating such actions, if made aware of the County’s position, may decide not to break the law.

It also makes vigorous investigation, pursuit and prosecution of hate crimes a priority for county law enforcement.

The denunciation of violence also comes amidst advocacy of violence and violent political rhetoric.  Most immediately, yesterday, Oct. 24, Christopher Monzon, a supporter of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), was brutally beaten by four men while passing out campaign flyers in Hialeah.

The proclamation also repudiates the kind of overtly anti-Semitic allegations made locally by Katie Paige Richards, who claimed to be campaign manager for Collier County School Board candidate Tim Moshier. On a national level, rapper and singer Kanye West (who now prefers to go by the name Ye) has tweeted anti-Semitic tweets, sparking anti-Semitic demonstrations and leafleting in California.

An anti-Semitic demonstration on an overpass in Los Angeles, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 23. (Image: TMZ)

Hospitality

With Southwest Florida recovering from Hurricane Ian and its hospitality and tourism industries damaged, the proclamation makes clear that Collier County is an open, welcoming place and ready to receive all visitors and guests.

This is important on a global basis as people make their vacation plans and the tourist season rolls around. They will be carefully examining Southwest Florida.

Despite the physical damage resulting from the storm, at least Collier County’s welcoming attitudes and commitments are intact, as made clear by the proclamation.

History

It is a sad fact of history that after a natural disaster there is frequently scapegoating and persecution of minority ethnic, racial or religious groups. It seems that people must vent their frustration and anger resulting from a natural calamity. But since they can’t take it out on the storm, fire or flood, they take it out on each other—and it’s at its worst when it’s officially sanctioned.

There are numerous examples of this.

Reaching back in history, after the Great Fire of Rome in the year 64 of the Common Era, the emperor Nero sought to deflect suspicions of his own arson by blaming and persecuting Christians in the Roman Empire and especially in the city of Rome itself. In 1666 during the Great Fire of London, with Britain at war with Holland, Londoners attacked foreigners living in their midst while the fire raged.

In the United States, people of Irish extraction were blamed for the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, giving rise to the legend of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, a sly canard against them. In 1889, after the Johnstown Flood in Johnstown, Pa., survivors, some of Eastern European extraction, blamed ethnic Hungarians for a variety of lurid crimes and alleged atrocities. In 1906 after the San Francisco earthquake, the discrimination and prejudice against the city’s Japanese community was so great that it threatened to cause war between Japan and the United States. President Theodore Roosevelt had to intervene on behalf of the community. In 1927, after the Mississippi River and its tributaries severely flooded there was a savage wave of lynchings of blacks when the waters receded. During the 2019-2021 COVID pandemic, goaded by President Donald Trump, attacks on Asians rose exponentially.

In an example of better behavior and the positive influence authority figures can have, after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 (a deliberate, man-made disaster), President George W. Bush and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani successfully tamped down any retaliation against American Muslims.

“I ask you to uphold the values of America, and remember why so many have come here,” Bush said in a speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 20, 2001.  “We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them.  No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith.”

So far Southwest Florida has not seen any of this kind of scapegoating in the wake of Hurricane Ian. The Collier County anti-bigotry proclamation may go some way toward preventing it in the days ahead.

A reaffirmation

There is a power in reaffirmation and recommitment—just ask couples who renew their wedding vows.

The Collier anti-bigotry proclamation may seem to simply restate principles and values that all decent people share. But sometimes it’s things that seem most self-evident and obvious and taken for granted that need reaffirmation.

Further, these values and principles have long been under assault, along with democracy itself. They can no longer be taken for granted or assumed to have power on their own.

The proclamation makes clear that Collier County is a place of tolerance that “abhors bigotry, discrimination, prejudice, and all forms of hate against all people regardless of faith, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, or national origin,” as it states.

Beyond just setting an example for Southwest Florida, the Collier proclamation can serve as a template for every town, city and county in the nation as they reaffirm their allegiance to common values and principles. The village-to-village fight can be waged for good.

Collier County’s issuance of the anti-bigotry proclamation puts it squarely within the fundamental, patriotic, American tradition expressed by President George Washington at the dawn of the nation in 1790. He wrote that “…happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

And now Collier County has again made clear that applies in Southwest Florida as well as everywhere else.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

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Collier County Commissioners expected to condemn anti-Semitism, bigotry at Oct. 25 meeting

A meeting of the Collier County Board of Commissioners on July 13, 2021. (Photo: Author)

Oct. 20, 2022 by David Silverberg

Full disclosure: The author drafted the proclamation discussed in this report

The Collier County, Florida, Board of Commissioners is slated to vote on a proclamation condemning hate crimes, bigotry and anti-Semitism at its meeting next Tuesday, Oct. 25.

The item is on the Commission agenda for the meeting as Proclamation 4A, the first such proclamation to be considered at the meeting.

The proclamation (text below) is scheduled to be introduced by Commissioner Bill McDaniel (District 5) chair of the commission. It is expected to pass unanimously, having previously been on the “consent agenda” of items that commissioners vote on to approve as a block.

Consideration of the measure was held over from the Sept. 27 meeting, when Rabbi Adam Miller of Temple Shalom in Naples protested that it was being considered on the second day of Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year and requested a postponment.

The proclamation puts Collier County’s opposition and condemnation of hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism on the public record. It commits the county to “actively and vigorously oppose, investigate, and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law any advocacy of violence, acts of violence, or crimes manifesting hatred against any person, property, or institution based on faith, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, or national origin… .”

The proclamation was initially inspired by a number of anti-Semitic incidents in Lee and Collier counties, in particular the anti-Semitic expression of Katie Paige Richards, who claimed to be campaign manager for county school board candidate Tim Moshier.

However, since that posting in early September, additional anti-Semitic expressions have been made by singer and rapper Kanye West (who now goes by the name “Ye”) and former President Donald Trump, who accused American Jews of being ungrateful for all he had done for Israel.

The Commission meeting will convene at 9:00 am at the Collier County Government Center, 3299 Tamiami Trail East, 3rd Floor in Naples. Residents can sign up to address the Commission prior to the meeting. Public petition speakers are limited to 10 minutes and general address speakers to 3 minutes.

Text of the proclamation:

WHEREAS, Collier County, Florida is an open and welcoming place to residents, guests, and visitors from all over the world;

WHEREAS, Collier County, Florida adheres to laws and regulations and upholds the Constitution and Amendments of the United States of America;

WHEREAS, Collier County, Florida provides equal justice under the law and protection to all law abiding residents and visitors;

WHEREAS, Collier County, Florida supports democracy and democratic forms of government;

WHEREAS, Collier County, Florida abhors bigotry, discrimination, prejudice, and all forms of hate against all people regardless of faith, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, or national origin.

NOW THEREFORE, be it proclaimed that the Board of County Commissioners of Collier County, Florida condemns anti-Semitism in all forms and expressions; condemns all forms of discrimination, prejudice, and hate against any person or group of people regardless of faith, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, or national origin; condemns any call to violence or use of violence for any purpose at any time; and resolves to actively and vigorously oppose, investigate, and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law any advocacy of violence, acts of violence, or crimes manifesting hatred against any person, property, or institution based on faith, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, or national origin, and will provide to bigotry no sanction and to persecution no assistance.

DONE AND ORDERED THIS 25 Day of October, 2022.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

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President Joe Biden is no stranger to Southwest Florida

The former Biden property on Keewaydin Island. in 2016 (Photo: Derrick Moreno)

Oct. 3, 2022 by David Silverberg

When President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden come to Southwest Florida as scheduled on Wednesday, Oct. 5, they will not be coming to unfamiliar territory.

Biden’s connection to Southwest Florida is through his brother, James Biden Jr., who bought a vacation home on five acres of Keewaydin Island for $2.5 million in 2013. He then sold it for $1.35 million in February 2018. This was after Hurricane Irma struck in September 2017.

Joe Biden spent Christmas 2013 on Keewaydin with the family.

The exact status of Keewaydin Island is unclear as of this writing, as is the fate of the house that Biden Jr. once owned.

Further to the south, the iconic dome homes of Cape Romano are now completely submerged due to Hurricane Ian.

Biden’s stops and itinerary in Southwest Florida for his Wednesday visit have not been publicly released. However, a common practice for officials is to do a flyover of an affected area to get an overview of the damage. Biden can be expected to do the same before meeting local officials and victims on the ground. If the flyover includes Keewaydin Island, he may get to see the house where he once visited—or at least what’s left of it.

Presidential visits to disaster-stricken areas can have a major impact on speeding recovery and assistance, particularly if the president is familiar with the region.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

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Southwest Florida reps vote to shut down government helping Southwest Florida–Updated

Fort Myers Beach after Hurricane Ian. (Image: News10)

Oct. 1, 2022 by David Silverberg

Updated 9:00 am with Senate votes.

As Southwest Florida digs out from Hurricane Ian, its representatives in Congress voted to shut down the federal government that is aiding the devastated region.

Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) all voted against the Continuing Appropriations and Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2023 (House Resolution (HR) 6833), to keep the government operating.

Despite their opposition, the bill passed the US House by a vote of 230 to 201, with 10 Republicans voting in favor of it. It had earlier passed the Senate by an overwhelming vote of 72 to 25. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) voted against the bill, while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was absent.

President Joe Biden signed it into law last night, Sept. 30, just before government funding ran out.

Under the bill, the government will continue operating at current spending levels until Dec. 16.

The bill includes $18.8 billion in spending for disaster recovery efforts. In addition to Florida’s needs, it funds efforts for Western wildfires and flooding in Kentucky.

The bill also funds the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is assisting hard-hit Southwest Florida. The region sustained what is likely to be many billions of dollars in damages from the direct strike from the Category 4 hurricane.

Charlotte and Sarasota counties in Steube’s 17th District were especially devastated.

If Donalds, Steube and Diaz-Balart had succeeded in stopping the bill with their negative votes, the government would have shut down and there would be no money for search and rescue, emergency response and the beginning of recovery.

In addition to keeping the government functioning, the bill provides $12.4 billion to assist Ukraine in its fight for survival against Russia.

However, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) emphasized the aid to Florida in a speech supporting passage of the bill.

“Alongside this critical package for Ukraine, this legislation directs significant funding to help American families devastated by disaster,” she said.  “We continue to hold all the families affected by Hurricane Ian in our hearts and prayers during this difficult time, but we need money to help them.  The $2 billion or more in the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding in this bill will go toward supporting Florida as well as Puerto Rico, Alaska and other communities hit by disaster.  But again, we need more. 

“And we’re also allowing FEMA to spend up to its entire year of funding, giving the agency access to an additional $18.9 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to quickly respond to disasters, especially appropriate now with Ian. And we will need more,” she said.

Despite many public statements and social media postings related to Hurricane Ian, Southwest Florida’s congressmen did not explain their votes against funding the federal government and disaster recovery money.

In his many tweets related to Hurricane Ian and his support for other measures to aid Southwest Florida, Donalds did not address his vote to shut down the government.

His Democratic opponent, Cindy Banyai had to evacuate her home and was without communications. “I rode out the Hurricane and have surveyed the damage. My job is to speak truth to power and that means we need some answers,” she tweeted, issuing a statement saying that “I know many people want to see unity at this time. But if you’re mad, like me, after all is said and done with Hurricane Ian, we need something better.”

For his part, Steube noted in a tweet that FEMA had approved assistance for affected individuals in Polk County but did not address his vote against further government funding.

Diaz-Balart also made no statement regarding his vote against federal funding and operations.

In contrast, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-23-Fla.) noted: “We cannot leave communities behind that are still picking up the pieces from disastrous floods, wildfires and hurricanes and even basic water system failures. This funding bill comes to their rescue.”

Even Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a determined and relentless critic of Biden, had to acknowledge the importance of the federal role in coping with the storm and its aftermath. “My view on all this is like, you’ve got people’s lives at stake, you’ve got their property at stake and we don’t have time for pettiness,” he said before Ian made landfall. “We gotta work together to make sure we’re doing the best job for them, so my phone line is open.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

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Can Florida’s politicians meet the test of Hurricane Ian?

Hurricane Ian, photographed yesterday while a tropical storm. (Photo: NOAA)

Sept. 26, 2022 by David Silverberg

Politicians can strike any poses they want, maneuver any way they like, fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time—but they can’t avoid, evade or disguise a natural disaster.

Hurricane Ian will be a major test of the leadership and management abilities of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the entire slate of incumbent office holders seeking election this November. It could make them or break them—and DeSantis’ performance will be judged in light of his 2024 presidential ambitions.

Generally, a natural disaster favors an incumbent. An official in charge can display leadership, command and competence that win favor and respect in a way no challenger can match.

It’s hard to remember now but a sterling response to a disaster was shown by Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York on Sept. 11, 2001. Throughout a day of chaos and terror, including times when he was physically in danger, Giuliani never broke down, never disengaged, never cowered, never panicked, and never abandoned or betrayed his responsibilities or his role as a chief executive and leader. That performance won him a place as Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” and the sobriquet “America’s Mayor.” It was arguably the best response by any elected leader to any major disaster in American history.

By the same token, while people may not necessarily remember a good response, they never forget a bad one.

A classic example of this was the response of another New York mayor, John Lindsay, to an unexpected blizzard in 1969. His failure to dig the city out and keep vital services running essentially put an end to his political career.

When Hurricane Irma struck Florida in 2017 then-Gov. Rick Scott (R) acquitted himself relatively well, issuing updates and successfully managing evacuations and then the post-storm clean-up. There were no major or glaring failures in his decisionmaking and response.

The same could not be said of his response to the Big Bloom of red tide that tormented Florida’s Gulf coast in 2018. Then, his bumbling response and public frustration led to him actually being hounded from a rally by an angry crowd in Venice and fleeing in his campaign bus.

His successful handling of Irma was no issue in his 2018 Senate bid, while his red tide response hurt him, if not sufficiently to keep him from winning.

Hurricane Ian will be DeSantis’ first real big test. Until now he was dealing with human events that he could fudge, spin or manipulate to his advantage. Putting migrants on a plane did not take a genius of organization.

But natural disasters are forces beyond the ability of politicians to bend to their will. They are relentless and pitiless. Politicians can fail spectacularly in confronting them.

One of the most glaring examples of such a failure came in February 2021 when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) abandoned his state for a vacation trip to Cancun, Mexico. He left behind savage winter storms and freezes that knocked out electric power and cut off drinking water to millions of suffering Texans. Recognized at the airport, he became the target of fury and mockery, leaving a blot on his career that will likely never be erased.

So what should Floridians look for in their elected officials now and how should they be judged? Some criteria are:

Engagement: Are the officials fully engaged, alert and aware of events and developments?

Communication: Are officials communicating vital information effectively to constituents and citizens?

Presence: Are officials present where they are needed and where they can most effectively respond?

Decisionmaking: This may be hard for citizens on the ground to judge in real time but are officials making clear, rational, effective decisions given the information in their possession? These decisions must withstand scrutiny after the event.

Compassion: This is a very subjective quality but it’s one that is very important both for political careers and for the morale of disaster victims. Do officials seem to care what has happened to people as a result of the disaster? This requires walking a very fine line between genuine sympathy and blatant exploitation of tragedy.

Effectiveness: Executives, especially top elected officials like governors, county executives and mayors, need to not only weather the storm, they have to successfully manage the cleanup and recovery. Do they marshal the forces and obtain the resources and funding to do that?

It’s also in the post-disaster phase that legislative officials like members of Congress have a vital role to play. For example, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) made no effort to get any funding for his district when he had the chance to submit earmark requests to Congress. Will he similarly ignore his district’s people this time should they need assistance in the wake of Hurricane Ian?

A disaster—or even a threat short of a disaster—tests everyone. People have a right to expect the best from leaders they have elected who are seeking their next vote.

Hurricane Ian is coming at a politically sensitive time in Florida. The response could have a major impact on the future of the state and the country. Every citizen should be alert not only to the storm and its dangers but to the way it is handled by those in office.

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To learn more about past disasters and responses, see the author’s book: Masters of Disaster: The political and leadership lessons of America’s greatest disasters.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Collier County Commission reschedules anti-bigotry resolution vote to Oct. 25

A meeting of the Collier County Board of Commissioners on July 13, 2021. (Photo: Author)

Sept. 22, 2022 by David Silverberg

Full disclosure: The author is the drafter of the resolution described below.

The Collier County, Florida, Board of Commissioners has rescheduled a vote on a resolution condemning bigotry, hate crimes and anti-Semitism for Oct. 25.

The resolution was scheduled to be passed at the Commission’s general meeting on Sept. 27 as part of the “Consent Agenda,” routine matters passed en bloc, without separate discussion of each individual item.

However, Rabbi Adam Miller, Temple Shalom, Naples, protested to Commission Chair Bill McDaniel (R-District 5) that the meeting fell on the second day of the Jewish High Holy Day of Rosh Hashonah, the New Year. He requested that it be rescheduled until after the Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Sukkot, when he could mobilize other community and religious leaders to support it.

McDaniel agreed.

The resolution, below, is now scheduled to be considered as a separate item at the Commission’s general meeting on Oct. 25.

In its entirety the resolution states:

WHEREAS, Collier County, Florida is an open and welcoming place to residents, guests and visitors from all over the world; and

WHEREAS, Collier County, Florida adheres to the laws and regulations and upholds the Constitution and Amendments of the United States of America; and

WHEREAS, Collier County, Florida provides equal justice under law and protection to all law-abiding residents and visitors; and

WHEREAS, Collier County, Florida supports democracy and democratic forms of government; and

WHEREAS, Collier County, Florida abhors bigotry, discrimination, prejudice and all forms of hate against all people regardless of faith, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation or national origin.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF COLLIER COUNTY, FLORIDA: condemns anti-Semitism in all forms and expressions; condemns all forms of discrimination, prejudice and hate against any person or group of people regardless of faith, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation or national origin; condemns any call to violence or use of violence for any purpose at any time; and resolves to actively and vigorously oppose, investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law any advocacy of violence, acts of violence or crimes manifesting hatred against any person, property or institution based on faith, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation or national origin, and will provide to bigotry no sanction and to persecution no assistance.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!