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.

______________________

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

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Collier County Commission to consider resolution condemning hate, bigotry, anti-Semitism

Collier County residents hold a candlelight vigil at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation to protest hate and bigotry in the wake of violence in Charlottesville , Va., on Aug. 14, 2017. (Image: Author)

Sept. 21, 2022 by David Silverberg

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

The Collier County, Florida, Board of Commissioners will be taking up a resolution condemning bigotry, hate crimes and anti-Semitism at its next general meeting next Tuesday, Sept. 27.

The resolution is officially on the meeting’s agenda as item 10A, although that could be changed if deemed necessary by the county manager. The general business portion of the meeting begins at 10:00 am.

In its operative paragraph the resolution condemns anti-Semitism, discrimination, prejudice and hate. It states that the county resolves to pursue and prosecute hate crimes against people, property and institutions and, to paraphrase President George Washington, “will provide to bigotry no sanction and to persecution no assistance.”

(The full text is below.)

Commissioner Bill McDaniel (R-District 5) and chair of the Board, is expected to introduce the resolution.

The resolution comes amidst a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Southwest Florida.

Although the resolution is an expression of opinion rather than an ordinance imposing penalties, it nonetheless puts the county on the record opposing all forms of hatred, bigotry and discrimination.

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.

The Board of Commissioners will be meeting at 9:00 am on the third floor of the Collier County Government Center, 3299 Tamiami Trail East in Naples. Public petition speakers are limited to ten minutes and general address speakers to 3 minutes.

To reach the commissioners:

Rick LoCastro

Andy Solis

Burt Saunders

Penny Taylor

William L. McDaniel, Jr.

Chair

Liberty lives in light

©2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Primary election sets up epic battles in November—Updated

Collier County Commission candidate Gerald Lefebvre and a supporter of school board incument Jen Mitchell outside the North Collier Park polling place yesterday. (Photo: Author)

Aug. 24, 2022 by David Silverberg

Updated with additional information on Congressional District 17, official counts from Lee County and spelling correction.

The Sunshine State and its southwest corner are headed into what will definitely be epic battles for key offices in the Nov. 8 general election.

Incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will face Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.) for governor.

Incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio (R) will face Rep. Val Demings (D-10-Fla.) for United States Senator.

Incumbent Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) will face Aramis Ayala (D).

Republican Wilton Simpson will face Democrat Naomi Blemur for Agriculture Commissioner.

In the 19th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) will be facing Democratic candidate Cindy Banyai.

In the new 26th Congressional District (formerly the 25th), incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz Balart (R) will face Democrat Christine Alexandria Olivo.

In the 17th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) will face Democrat Andrea Doria Kale. The Republican primary in the 17th District was canceled when Steube ran unopposed.

Collier County

Collier County had all its precincts reported and the full election count completed by 8:08 pm.

In the race for Collier County Commissioner District 2, Chris Hall won his race with 50 percent of the vote and will face Democrat Barbara “Bebe” Kanter.

Daniel Kowal won his race for Collier County Commissioner District 4 with 42 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Penny Taylor.

In the non-partisan school board races for districts 1, 3 and 5, no candidate won 50 percent of the vote plus one, meaning that all districts will be decided in the general election among the top two vote getters.

In District 1, incumbent Jory Westberry will face Jerry Rutherford.

In District 3, incumbent Jenn Mitchell will face Kelly Lichter.

In District 5, incumbent Roy Terry will face Timothy Moshier.

In the non-partisan election for County Judge Group 3, Chris Brown defeated Pamela Barger by 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent.

Lee County

According to official results from the Lee County Supervisor of Elections, in State House District 77, Tiffany Esposito defeated Ford O’Connell by 70.68 percent to 29.32 percent.

For the Lee County School Board, only Armor Persons made it over the 50 percent mark in District 5, with 54.85 percent of the vote.

Otherwise, in District 1, Sam Fisher will face Kathy Fanny in the general election.

In District 4, incumbent Debbie Jordan will face Dan Severson.

In District 6, Jada Lanford Fleming will face Denise Nystrom.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Primary election sets up epic battles in November

Voters cast their ballots in 2018. (Photo: Author)

Aug. 23, 2022 by David Silverberg

The Sunshine State and its southwest corner are headed into what will definitely be a rockin’ and rollin’ general election.

The results of the 2022 primary elections set up epic battles for key offices.

Incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will face Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.) for governor.

Incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio (R) will face Rep. Val Demings (D-10-Fla.) for United States Senator.

With 56 percent of precincts reporting, incumbent Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) will face Aramis Ayala (D).

With 55 percent of precincts reporting, it appeared that Republican Wilton Simpson would face Democrat Naomi Blemur for Agriculture Commissioner.

In the 19th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) will be facing Democratic candidate Cindy Banyai.

In the new 26th Congressional District (formerly the 25th), incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz Balart (R) will face Democrat Christine Alexandria Olivo.

Collier County

Collier County had all its precincts reported and the full election count completed by 8:08 pm.

In the race for Collier County Commissioner District 2, Chris Hall won his race with 50 percent of the vote and will face Democrat Barbara “Bebe” Kanter.

Daniel Kowal won his race for Collier County Commissioner District 4 with 42 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Penny Taylor.

In the non-partisan school board races for districts 1, 3 and 5, no candidates won 50 percent of the vote plus one, meaning that all districts will be decided in the general election among the top two vote getters.

In District 1, incumbent Jory Westberry will face Jerry Rutherford.

In District 3, incumbent Jenn Mitchell will face Kelly Lichter.

In District 5, incumbent Roy Terry will face Timothy Moshier.

In the non-partisan election for County Judge Group 3, Chris Brown defeated Pamela Barger by 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent.

Lee County

The Lee County supervisor of elections had not posted official results as of this writing. However, WINK TV was reporting results as of 8:40 pm.

In State House District 77, Tiffany Esposito was leading Ford O’Connell by 71 to 29 percent.

For the Lee County School Board, only Armor Persons made it over the 50 percent mark in District 5, with 55 percent of the vote.

Otherwise, in District 1, Sam Fisher will face Kathy Fanny in the general election.

In District 4, incumbent Debbie Jordan will face Dan Severson.

In District 6, Jada Lanford Fleming will face Denise Nystrom.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

SWFL reps vote against clean energy, drug price reductions, tax equality but can’t stop House passage of Inflation Reduction Act

Final vote is huge win for Joe Biden, Southwest Florida, seniors.

Members of the House of Representatives and others applaud last night as House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi displays her final, signed copy of the Inflation Reduction Act. (Photo: Reuters, Leah Millis)

Aug. 13, 2022 by David Silverberg

The United States House of Representatives last night, Aug. 12, passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (House Resolution 5376) by a straight party-line vote of 220 to 207.

All Southwest Florida representatives, Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), along with 204 other Republicans voted against the bill.

The House vote finalizes legislative consideration of the measure, which had already passed the US Senate. President Joe Biden may sign it into law at any time.

The bill invests $370 billion in clean energy and reducing harmful, climate-changing emissions. It moves to cap and lower drug costs for seniors and all Medicare recipients. It also protects lower and middle income Americans from crippling insurance increases, as well as many other measures.

Among elements relevant to Florida, the bill makes major new investments in solar energy and provides tax credits for people and businesses that go solar. It provides funding for prevention and mitigation of wildfires and other climatic impacts.

For coastal communities like those in Southwest Florida, the bill appropriates money for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to take resilience actions against climate change and funds improved weather forecasting. NOAA will also be able to buy new hurricane-hunting aircraft.

“When you hear about what this means to America’s working families, how can you vote against lowering health care costs and prescription drug costs for seniors and underserved communities as we continue to fight inflation?” asked House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) in a floor speech.

“How can you vote with Pharma at the cost of America’s seniors and America’s working families?

“How can you vote against protecting future generations from rising sea levels, raging wildfires and crippling droughts? 

“How can you vote against reducing the deficit or asking billionaires and companies and wealthy avoiders of taxes to pay their fair share?  And I’m not talking about people who work the system.  I’m talking about people who illegally do not pay their taxes,” she said.

However, Donalds, among other Republicans during the 3-hour debate spoke against the bill in his own 1-minute floor speech, in which he argued that “this terrible bill” will increase energy costs.

“This bill will only make the economic pain & suffering worse,” he also argued on Twitter. “Why would I vote for a bill that increases taxes & royalties on American energy when prices are skyrocketing?”

In another tweet he denounced increased enforcement of tax laws. “The American people are tired of having the government breathing down their necks. Yet, that’s exactly what the Democrats want more of. The addition of 87,000 NEW IRS agents is more government intrusion on your life and mine. We The People just want to be left alone.”

Steube was similarly scornful, tweeting: “This bill wastes over $350 billion on Green New Deal priorities like tax breaks for people who buy ‘green appliances’ and solar panels. The American people want relief from inflation – not more spending.” In another tweet he stated: “We cannot spend ourselves out of this recession. The Democrats’ Inflation Expansion Act cuts jobs and raises taxes on millions of Americans across all incomes during 40-year high inflation.”

In his own tweet Diaz-Balart called the bill “the Manchin-Biden deal” after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.), whose support was critical in getting it through the Senate. He stated it “does not reduce inflation. Americans are paying $2 more per gallon on gas since Biden took office. Food, housing prices & rents are UP, hurting American families. It raises taxes on Americans. More reckless spending is not the solution.”

On the other hand, Cindy Banyai, Democratic candidate in the 19th Congressional District, was jubilant at the bill’s passage, tweeting, “Thank you Democrats for passing the Inflation Reduction Act! Time to invest in America!”

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

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SWFL Reps. Donalds, Steube, vote against active shooter alert system; Diaz-Balart breaks ranks

Lee County sheriff’s deputies practice an active shooter drill. (Photo: Lee County Sheriff’s Office)

July 14, 2022 by David Silverberg

The US House of Representatives last night, July 13, voted to establish a national system to alert and coordinate federal, state and local responses to active shooter incidents despite the opposition of Southwest Florida Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) and 167 other Republicans.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) broke ranks with his colleagues and party and voted for the bill.

The Active Shooter Alert System Act (House Resolution 6538) passed the House by a vote of 260 to 169, with 43 Republicans joining the Democratic majority.

The bill creates a federal coordinator for an Active Shooter Alert Communications Network similar to the Amber Alert System for missing children. The coordinator will work with federal, state and local governments to operate the network and establish procedures to respond to active shooters. The Government Accountability Office will monitor progress on the system.

“This vital legislation that we’re doing today will quickly warn communities when a gunman opens fire: a common-sense, life-saving measure widely supported by law enforcement,” said House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) in a floor speech

The bill passed in response to a spate of mass shootings including the one on May 24 at Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers were killed following a botched, uncoordinated law enforcement response. It was introduced in February by Rep. David Cicilline (D-1-RI).

Initially, the bill failed in the House in June when congressional supporters were unable to gain a two-thirds vote of the entire chamber to suspend the usual House rules and vote for passage. Yesterday’s vote required a simple majority.

As of this writing, none of Southwest Florida’s representatives had issued statements on any platform explaining their votes.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Banyai emerges as leading pro-choice voice in Southwest Florida politics

Democratic congressional candidate Cindy Banyai exhorts the crowd in Fort Myers, Fla., at a demonstration denouncing the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, this past Saturday, June 25. (Photo: Campaign)

June 27, 2022 by David Silverberg

In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s ruling last Friday, June 24, to overthrow the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion, Cindy Banyai, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 19th Congressional District, has emerged as the leading political candidate supporting women’s choice in Southwest Florida.

All regional Republican officeholders and candidates are either on the record against choice, praised the decision or have not expressed an opinion.

In a lengthy statement issued the day of the decision in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Banyai stated: “The day we feared has come. Far right extremists have succeeded in stripping us of our rights. The partisan corruption of the Supreme Court has eroded trust in our institutions. The Dobbs ruling is yet another blow to our democracy and to freedom.”

Banyai, the mother of three, continued: “I believe we all deserve human dignity, to live life on our own terms. This means deciding when and where to have a family. Failing to recognize abortion as health care and the value of body autonomy will put lives in danger.

“The partisan corruption of the Supreme Court has eroded trust in our institutions. The Dobbs ruling is yet another blow to our democracy and to freedom.”

However, she exhorted her audience: “Do not lose hope, though. We must keep fighting—for our rights, for our children, and our democracy.”

Republican reaction

Given Southwest Florida’s Republican dominance, Banyai’s stance makes her the region’s only pro-choice political figure.

Banyai’s opponent, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), praised the Supreme Court’s ruling and has long been on the record against women’s choice, making it a fundamental part of his 2020 election campaign.

Among the region’s state legislators, state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-28-Naples), the incoming president of the Florida Senate, was also quick to praise the Dobbs decision.

“I am grateful to see the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. These defenders of the Constitution have given the states rights to do what is right. Here in Florida, we will continue to defend life,” she tweeted following the decision announcement.

While retiring state Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-27-Fort Myers) has not issued a statement on the Dobbs decision, during his campaign for office in 2020 the nastiest charge that his supporters could hurl against his primary opponent, Heather Fitzenhagen, was that she supported choice, to the point that she was said to be a clone of House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.).

As of this writing, Jonathan Martin, head of the Lee County Republican Party and the primary candidate seeking to succeed Rodrigues in the newly-drawn 33rd Senate District, had not commented or stated a position on the Dobbs decision.

In Florida the defining legislation on choice was the Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality Act (House Bill (HB) 5), which put new restrictions on abortions in the state, prohibiting them after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It was approved by the House by a vote of 78 to 39 on Feb. 17, approved by the Senate by a vote of 23 to 15 on March 3 and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on April 14. It goes into effect this coming Friday, July 1.

Lee and Collier counties’ state representatives, all Republicans, voted for HB 5.

Statewide response

On a statewide basis the picture was different but predictable, with Republicans praising the decision and Democrats condemning it.

DeSantis issued a statement: “For nearly fifty years, the U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited virtually any meaningful pro-life protection, but this was not grounded in the text, history or structure of the Constitution. By properly interpreting the Constitution, the Dobbs majority has restored the people’s role in our republic and a sense of hope that every life counts. Florida will continue to defend its recently-enacted pro-life reforms against state court challenges, will work to expand pro-life protections, and will stand for life by promoting adoption, foster care and child welfare.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidates condemned the decision.

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.): “Today’s Supreme Court decision to overturn nearly fifty years of progress by dismantling Roe v. Wade is shameful, harmful, and wrong. Without the protections of Roe, radical Republican governors and legislators, including those in Tallahassee, will now have the power to outlaw abortion entirely, regardless of the circumstances.”

State Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried: “This is a tragic day for women in America. The freedom to make our own choices about our lives, our bodies, and our healthcare is fundamental to our humanity. It’s absolutely devastating to have those rights taken away. It’s not an exaggeration to say that women and girls will die as a result of this decision.” She vowed: “In Florida, for now, we still have a provision in our state constitution that protects abortion rights – although that is in question as well. I promise that we will fight with everything we have to keep that from being overturned.”

Both of Florida’s Republican US senators praised the decision while Democratic senatorial candidate Val Demings condemned it.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

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