Indivisible Mandarin meets with John Rutherford

IM Members Met with US Rep. John Rutherford
Written by Ken Organes

On Thursday, March 21st members of Indivisible Mandarin attended a meeting at Representative John Rutherford’s office.

The meeting was generally cordial and featured some mutual agreement and also sharp, but polite, differences on women’s health issues and gun legislation.

Ken Organes opened the meeting by expressing thanks, on behalf of Indivisible Mandarin, for agreeing to meet with us and allow us to express our views. Ken spoke briefly about the plight of the farmers who are experiencing severe flooding in the Midwest and asked whether there was pending legislation to help them. Rep. Rutherford said that there was legislation in the works and that he would support it.

Karen introduced Indivisible Mandarin and spoke about our organization and its goals. She emphasized that we were there to open a dialogue and that, only through open, polite discourse, could progress be made. The representative agreed.

Larry Zwain thanked him for sponsoring a bill that helps to transition veterans back into civilian life, citing his son’s experience with PTSD. Larry then spoke about renewable energy and other environmental issues. Rep. Rutherford replied that he, too, is concerned about environmental issues and is co-sponsor on a bill that would forbid seismic petroleum exploration and drilling off the coast of Florida. He said that climate change and sea level rise are real and must be addressed but he’s not convinced that they’re caused by human activity.

He was amenable to considering Ted Centerwall’s proposal of an amendment to a bill advocating increased penalties for wounding or killing a police officer, that would stiffen the sentence if the weapon had not gone through a background check.

Rep. Rutherford said he is in favor of universal background checks but refused to consider any additional gun legislation. He said that he considers the Second Amendment to be the foundation of all other amendments to the Constitution. Marion Tischler, Karen Adler, Larry Zwain and others asked him about bans on assault weapons, registration of firearms and other potential gun legislation but he remained adamantly opposed.

He and Marion Tischler disagreed sharply, but politely, when the conversation turned to women’s access to healthcare including abortion. Marion took special exception with his depiction of abortions where the fetus was non-viable and terribly compromised as “infanticide.” Marion was supported in her position by Karen Adler, Dr. Philip Adler and others.

Dr. Sudhir Prabhu spoke on the negative effect of unfettered campaign finance money on our electoral process, and how it is shaping legislation. Dr. Prabhu stated that this is causing average Americans to be frustrated and feel left out of the process. Rep. Rutherford said that he agreed to some extent.

There are obviously deep philosophical differences between Rep. Rutherford and the members of Indivisible Mandarin. That being said, the main purpose of the meeting was to begin a dialog with the congressman, to express our views frankly and to open a line of communication. To that extend, the meeting was a success.

Members Show-APRIL 5-28, 2019

We joined the St Augustine Art Association. All members get to put one of their pieces in the gallery for the month of April beginning April 5th. Please join us for first Friday art walk in St. Augustine on April 5th. We’ll be hanging out at the St. Augustine Art Association.

Spring Members Show
APRIL 5-28, 2019
An exhibit of works in varied styles, media and subjects created by members of STAAA.
Opening Reception during First Friday Art Walk, April 5, 5-9pm
STAAA members only may submit artwork

More information at this link

I see the need for sensitivity and civility training

HB 741 should provide for funding and require that sensitivity and civility classes be taught in all schools. If you don’t have a solution, why pass a bill?

Video of the March 21st Florida House of Representatives Education Committee meeting:

Below are some comments made by legislators at the meeting discussing HB 741 that indicate we need civility and sensitivity courses taught in all the schools.  Around the 2 hour 6 minute mark in the video, Representative Fine answers a question with words similar to this:

“I don’t know the answer. The bill doesn’t regulate how the issue will be addressed in the schools.”

Later in the meeting, Representative Massullo mentions that discrimination is partly caused by ignorance. Representative Valdes says that she wishes we could change hearts. Representative Daniels mentioned Messianic Judaism.  Keep in mind that this bill is trying to address the problem that Representative Fine describes as a growing fever of antisemitism. Shouldn’t Representative Daniels’ remarks regarding Messianic Judaism indicate another example as to why we need classes in sensitivity? I know many people were outraged when Vice President Pence invited a Messianic Jewish Rabbi to give a prayer after the killings at the synagogue. Here is one quote from this article:

The Jewish groups argued that allowing the rabbi, whom they don’t recognize as Jewish, to offer a prayer for victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting sowed religious division at a time when Americans should be standing with Jews.
A statement from the Rabbinical Assembly, a Conservative Jewish group and one of several to object, declared that “so-called ‘Messianic Judaism’ is not a Jewish movement.

In addition to requiring classes in sensitivity, I also wish they’d include the wording of the Do No Harm Act (H.R. 1450) in the bill. Any mention of religious protection should offer a shield against religious bigotry not a sword to attack others.

I do not understand the problem or know the solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  I know that some people (including Representative Fine) see the need for this to be included in HB 741:

(b) Examples of anti-Semitism related to Israel include: Delegitimizing Israel by denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying Israel the right to exist.

In addition to antisemitism, I wish Islamophobia and anti-atheism were specifically mentioned in the bill. There are examples of anti-atheism in this country and the world.  Here is how lines 51 to 54 of HB 741 reads now:

A public K-20 educational institution must treat discrimination by students or employees or resulting from institutional policies based on anti-Semitism in an identical manner to discrimination based on race.

There are many groups worried about legislation before our Florida Congress trying to expand taxpayer money to fund unregulated charter and private schools. As it stands now, this bill won’t cover those schools. In my view and in the view of many others, this is a BIG problem. IF religious bigotry is a problem and we’re trying to solve it, then a bill should not only apply to the neighborhood schools, it should also apply to any school receiving local, state, or federal taxpayer money.

Only 24% of the registered voters voted

Only 24% of the registered voters voted in the election — in Duval County –that ended March 19th.  Why so few?

Is it because news sources aren’t giving us enough information so that we’re uncomfortable voting?  Here is a funny skit about that:

Or is it because people feel the majority always wins so why bother?  If that is the reason then would proportional representation help? 
Quote from

Proportional representation systems have the goal of ensuring that more voters receive some representation. Various systems have different ways of achieving these goals.

Why not elect the 5 city council at large seats via a proportional representation system? For example, what about the following? 

1.  10 candidates –with the most votes– win the unitary election for the at-large city council seats
2.  Those 10 candidates run in the general election.  The 5 candidates with the most votes would then serve as at-large city council representatives.

How do you think it would change if we got proportional representation? As it works now the majority get to pick all five at-large candidates.  In the election that ended March 19, the starred ones (in the below list) got the most votes in each individual election race and (even though some face run offs) will probably be our at-large representatives:

 **Lisa King , **Darren Mason,  **Tommy Hazouri,  **Matt Carlucci,  **Samuel Newby, Gary Barrett,  Connell A. Crooms, Jack Daniels, Terrance Freeman, Ron Salem, James C. Jacobs,Greg Rachal,Harold McCart, Don Redman, Niki Brunson, Chad Evan McIntyre.

I like the simple system that I stated above. I think single transferable vote is too complicated and doesn’t lend itself to easy auditing or recounts. Quote from this  LINK to the wikipedia page about STV:

The single transferable vote (STV)is a voting system designed to achieve proportional representation through ranked voting in multi-seat organizations voting districts.

I went to a Socrates Cafe on March 20th and we discussed voting.  The participants didn’t convince me that ranked voting for a single position made sense. This link offers a lot of options but they seem too complicated to me and I don’t see how they’ll solve the problem if there is still only ONE person to be chosen.

This Vox article talks about ranked choice voting.  The advantage they point out is that the advertisements are less negative. Here is a quote from another ARTICLE from Vox explaining why they like San Francisco’s  ranked choice system:

To “game” the system in a simple plurality-winner election, the basic strategy involves mobilizing your base while trying to tear down competing candidates. This involves lots of scorched-earth negative campaigning. To “game” the system in a ranked-choice voting election, the basic strategy is to try to appeal broadly and say, I’d like to be your first choice, but if I can’t be your first choice, I’d like to be your second choice. In ranked-choice voting, we’d expect soft alliances among candidates who realize that they’re both stronger through coalition building than they are by law-of-the-jungle campaigning is a link to a wonky examination of ranked choice voting. This white paper was mentioned in the Vox article.

Yea…less negative ads is appealing BUT if candidates can be nice then why won’t they do it no matter what kind of voting system we use? I worry about making the voting too complicated. According to this article Duval votes were lost due to voters completing their ballots incorrectly. My view is that we don’t need to make it more complicated.

Quote from this ARTICLE

… we know that voters often skip reading instructions. … people rush to mark their votes … Americans, including New Yorkers and Floridians, want their votes to count. Let’s help them do that with well-designed ballots that don’t create confusion, or worse — change the results of an election.

I think we need to trust our voting machines before we make voting more complicated. Quote from this article:

It is also important to ensure the scans are accurate by checking a good sample against the original paper ballots.

Quote from this article:

Florida law requires a sample of ballots to be hand-audited after each election to ensure accuracy.

Home Rule

I am VERY worried about all the preemption laws in the current state legislature.

Miami Beach saw problems with earlier preemption laws when it tried to raise its minimum wage. Cities across the state are trying to close the gun show loophole to keep guns away from people unable to pass background checks but city council members and commissioners are fearing the consequence of another older preemption law.

Cities across the state are trying to find ways to pay for the maintenance of the public buildings (libraries, neighborhood schools, etc) so as to enhance the beauty of our communities. What impact will SB 144 have on the cities’ ability to fund projects to deal with ever growing populations?

How do we stop the preemption laws in the current legislative session? I urge people to see if their legislator is voting yes on these laws aiming to take away home rule. Know what your legislator is doing BEFORE you re-elect him/her.

Quote from an article I found at the Florida League of Cities website written by Karson Turner/ Florida Association of Counties (FAC) President and a Hendry County Commissioner:

“Proposed House Bills (HB) 3 and 5 are a reckless assault on towns and taxpayers. Tallahassee politicians don’t just want to take away a town’s right to set its own laws, they also want to reserve the right to erase laws a town has already written”.

Quote from ​article titled ​”​Legislature reaches too far down, again​” in the Daily Commercial by the The Ledger (Lakeland)​ Posted Mar 15, 2019​:

“Lawmakers this year are pursuing a number of “preemption” bills whereby state legislators are wanting to decide how Florida counties and cities will govern themselves.​ People in Polk County, for example, may disagree with bans on plastic straws or local mandates on hiring practices for certain minority groups. But that doesn’t mean Miami, Fort Myers or Orlando should be blocked from enacting such rules if they want them.”

Quote from the Florida league of cities .com /advocacy/legislative-bill-summaries:

CS/CS/HB 3 was amended but the definitions included in the bill are still quite broad.

Our state legislature needs to pass laws to protect our water and air. Some might consider those preemption laws. However if one city pollutes the water supply, then that will affect the other cities. The Florida League of Cities opposed SB 1716 (Bracy) and HB 157 but the 1000 Friends of Florida supports it.

Please advocate to allow cities to pass their own minimum wage laws, their own protections for their vulnerable citizens, their own decision to ban plastic straws, and laws requiring more restrictions (than what the state decides) aimed at reducing gun violence.



How do we reduce hate?

No tax money should be going to schools tolerating religious bigotry. HB 741 should apply to all schools receiving local, state and federal financial assistance.

HB 741 adds religion to the list in 1000.05 of the Florida statutes.

Please tell the sponsors of the bill to quit imposing regulations on public schools when they aren’t willing to apply the same rules to other schools receiving taxpayer money. IF the bill is a good one, then it should apply to all schools receiving taxpayer assistance. IF it isn’t a good rule, then why should it be imposed on the public schools?

Some people call others “snowflakes” when the so-called snowflake asks people not to use racial slurs or religiously bigoted terms. The legislature is considering a bill (SB 1410) that will give voucher money to anyone claiming to have been bullied. But what happens to the bully and the other kids left in the school with the bully? We need to teach kids NOT to bully whether in the public, charter or private schools receiving local, state or federal financial assistance.

HB 741 should allocate funding to teach civility and sensitivity so kids learn not to bully and not to be insensitive to others.

I know some viewed the Convington Catholic private school boys in DC and perhaps even the Kavanaugh hearings differently than I did. BUT what I saw was several insensitive white boys. They need civility and sensitivity training as much as anyone in the public school. Did you see the part of the video where the boys *pulled* one of the two black kids to the front of the crowd to show the Black Hebrew Israelites that they had people of color in their group? Did you see the video where the one catholic private school boy said “it’s not rape if you enjoy it”? I am not saying this to condemn them. I have said stupid insensitive stuff in my life also. What I am saying is that we ALL need civility and sensitivity training.

I think it is a good idea to add religion to the list in 1000.05 of the Florida statutes. However, I think HB 741 should be amended in the following ways before it continues to the various committees in Florida’s Congress:

1. HB 741 (and 1000.05 of the Florida statutes) should apply to any school receiving local, state or federal financial assistance.

2. If it is going to point out antisemitism then it should also mention Islamophobia and anti-atheism and perhaps other minority religious groups that have felt the brunt of religious bigotry.

3. It should include funding and requirements that civility and sensitivity classes be taught in all schools receiving local, state or federal financial assistance. The class must be taught by someone certified in sensitivity training.

4. The bill should have pro-active prevention and course correction ideas MORE than punishment.

5. None of the language in HB 741 should imply that one can’t make valid criticisms of a religion. The goal should NOT be to curtail freedom of speech in such a way that valid criticisms can’t be expressed in a civil and productive manner. The spirit of the Do No Harm Act (H.R. 1450) should also be included because we don’t want freedom of religion to be used as a sword to harm others.

6. Where possible the language of what religious bigotry means should be worded in broader terms. For example re-word lines 51 to 77 of the original version of HB 741 to read

(7) A K-20 educational institution that has received local, state or federal financial assistance must treat religious discrimination by students or employees in an identical manner to discrimination based on race. For purposes of this section, the term religious discrimination includes expressions of hatred toward the religious minority, rhetorical and physical manifestations of that bigotry directed toward a person, his or her property, or toward the community institutions or religious facilities.

(a) Examples of religious bigotry include:

1. Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of a group of people based on their religion.

2. Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about a group of people based on their religion.

3. Accusing a group of similar people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single person from that group.

4. Denying the Holocaust. Perhaps the narrative could be specific as to exactly what happened during the Holocaust.

5. Accusing a citizen of being more loyal to another country just because another person of similar ethnicity or religion has demonstrated that proclivity.

The focus of the bill should be to reduce and maybe eliminate bullying and religiously bigoted language. All school children should learn that religious bigotry isn’t polite. The idea is to address hatred based on religion, yes? With the recent shootings at the synagogue and the mosque, we continue to wonder what we can do to prevent these tragedies. Can we teach people not to hate? Shouldn’t we try? Discrimination against atheists is also part of religious bigotry.

It shouldn’t be about punishment. It should be about course correction. That is why it is vital that the bill provide funding for a required course which will teach sensitivity and civility. The course should be required to be taught every year in any school receiving local, state or federal assistance. The teacher of the civility course should be certified in the field of civility and their salaries should be paid from the state treasury.

1000.05 and bill HB 741 should cover charter schools and private schools that receive voucher money.   HB 741 will add “religion” to the list in 1000.05 (2)(a). This is how 1000.05(2)(a) reads now:

1000.05 (2)(a) Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or marital status against a student or an employee in the state system of public K-20 education is prohibited. No person in this state shall, on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, or marital status, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any public K-20 education program or activity, or in any employment conditions or practices, conducted by a public educational institution that receives or benefits from federal or state financial assistance.

Sponsors and co-sponsors of HB 741:

Representatives Fine, Caruso, Donalds, Fischer, Killebrew, LaMarca and Roach

Link to bill:
Amendment to HB 741 was proposed and adopted on March 21st in the Education Committee.  It removed lines 95-99 and inserted:

(c) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or the State Constitution. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to conflict with federal or state discrimination laws.