What does Bodily Autonomy mean?

One of my values is: My body. My choice.

When I saw the photo in the TU of the protester at the recent “Reopen Florida” rally with a sign about bodily autonomy, it got me to thinking.

What is the difference–as it relates to bodily autonomy–between gay rights, consent to being touched, abortion, and vaccines?

The difference is that vaccines and other requirements around Covid-19 are designed to protect my body and those of my loved ones especially those with compromised immune systems. If people don’t adhere to the guidelines and suggestions, then MY body might be harmed.

I’m a freedom loving individual so I tend not to favor authoritarian laws. I would hope that everyone could be convinced to do the things that would protect the lives of others. But what should we do if people don’t voluntarily keep six feet away from us and if they refuse to take the vaccine once it’s available?

The guy, who was carrying the sign about bodily autonomy and about his desire that the vaccine not be mandated, was also carrying a sign about V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Shiva wrote that a national lockdown was unnecessary and advocated that large doses of vitamins could prevent and cure the disease.

Are people that haven’t seen the polio or measles epidemic the only ones that think vaccines are not necessary? We need to learn from history even if we haven’t personally lived it.

I do find it odd that Trump seems to be egging on these anti-vaxxers while at the same time pushing for vaccines and medications that aren’t properly tested. I don’t want to take a vaccine that isn’t properly tested. It might do more harm than good. However, I do hope everyone wants to take the vaccine that is proven safe once it is available if they don’t already have the antibody against this new virus that is infectious even when the carrier is asymptomatic.

Questions of fairness and bodily autonomy and freedom of conscience are important for our country.  It is my belief that the First Amendment to our Constitution was trying to balance the competing rights of people within a community.  It is my belief that the First Amendment should not give special privileges to certain groups but it should be used as a tool to see if a regulation or rule is too egregious. If one group can arbitrarily be exempt from the law, then perhaps the law isn’t actually needed.  And if the law is needed, then why would one group be allowed to arbitrarily be exempt?

This is being brought to light in a recent court case in Kansas. Some churches want to be exempt from some of the laws which aim to protect the community from covid-19. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization whose mission statement includes protecting religious liberty,  submitted an amicus brief about the case.  My understanding of their brief: groups can’t use religious liberty as a reason to harm others. The First Amendment should be used as a shield to protect an individual and not as a sword to harm others.

References

Link to photo of the guy carrying the Dr. Shiva and bodily autonomy sign:
http://photos.jacksonville.com/mycapture/enlarge_remote.asp?source=&remoteimageid=28581306&_ga=2.150159665.642738862.1587566705-365010665.1557152173

Link to wikipedia where I got the quote about Dr. Shiva:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva_Ayyadurai

Article about Trump and vaccines:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/09/health/trump-vaccines.html

Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued press releases regarding churches that want to be exempt from the laws aimed to reduce the spread of covid-19:
https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/kentuckys-public-health-order-temporarily-banning-large-gatherings-does-not
https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-denounces-federal-court-decision-on-kansas-public-health
https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/religious-services-shouldnt-be-excluded-from-bans-on-large-gatherings-to
https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/au-urges-4th-us-circuit-court-to-affirm-virginias-ban-on-large-gatherings-can
https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/virginias-ban-against-large-gatherings-protects-public-health-does-not-require
https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/texas-countys-mass-gathering-ban-protects-public-health-does-not-require

I used the phrase authoritarian laws but maybe paternalist laws would have been a better term.  Quote from this article:

It is paternalism for the government to tell you that you cannot imbibe noxious substances that will rot your brain. It is paternalism to tell you that you cannot indulge your hedonistic desires to the detriment of your productivity or your everlasting soul.   …

If the only consequence of reckless behavior is that engaging in it will cause YOU harm, that is one thing. You might underestimate your risk or the baneful consequences, but those are risks for you to take and you can suffer the consequences of those risks.

But in the case of COVID-19, self-harm is not the only or even the primary consequence of ignoring the recommended guidelines. The consequence of engaging in reckless behavior is that you dramatically heighten the risk of spreading the disease to others and as a consequence of significantly harming or even killing them.

November 2020 Referendum

I will vote yes on the referendum in November 2020 because the neighborhood schools need the renovations. 

I am still angry at the city council members who didn’t let us vote on this referendum in 2019. If we had voted on this in 2019, then the renovations could be happening now (2020) while the kids are out of school due to Covid-19 pandemic. (ref 1)

I am voting yes on the sales tax referendum because

  •  Most of the sales tax money generated by the referendum will go towards renovating old neighborhood school buildings and building new facilities up to code to replace temporary structures housing overflow. (ref 3)
  • The state legislature has decreased funding for many years which has prevented the school board from doing these renovations. This dedicated revenue source is needed
  • The increase in the sales tax is small.  If I spend $3,000 on taxable items per year, then I will pay into the fund $15 per year.  $3,000 times .005 equals $15.

I do have questions about the effect of HB 7097 (which was signed into law by the Governor and requires part of the discretionary sales tax to be given to charter schools). I have written (but have not heard back) my state representatives asking these questions:

1. What claw back provisions are part of Florida statutes that will allow the school district to get the money back in the event the charter school should close?
2. Does the sales tax collected have to be given to a charter school every year based on its prior year enrollment? What are the rules on how that charter school can spend the money?
3. If  the state legislature rescinds the bad part of HB 7097 in a future legislative session, will Duval County still be bound by the sharing rule since that’s what we’ll be voting on?

I am angry at the state representatives who voted yes on HB 7097 because that bill included wording which forces us to give part of our sales tax money to private investors who own buildings housing charter schools.

If we had been allowed to vote on the referendum in 2019, we would not have to adhere to the sharing rule forced on us by HB 7097 which only applies to referendums approved in November 2020 and after. Everyone knew that was coming based on the make up of our current state legislature so most of us think that is why the city council wouldn’t let us vote on the referendum in 2019. I am mad about that also.

What exactly will be on our Jacksonville November 2020 ballot? (ref 5)

I hope that something similar to this will be included in the referendum that appears on our ballot:

The school board intends that the public interest be protected by preventing the financial enrichment of owners, operators, managers, and other affiliated parties of charter schools receiving capital outlay funding. Therefore, a charter school additionally is not eligible for a funding allocation unless the chair of the governing board and the chief administrative officer of the charter school annually certify under oath that the funds will be used solely and exclusively for constructing, renovating, or improving charter school facilities that are owned by a school district, a political subdivision of the state, a municipality, a Florida College System institution, or a state university.

I assume the sales tax money can’t be used to build new charter schools since only charter schools with enrollment get a percentage but I haven’t been able to confirm that.

Ref 1 You can find the names of the city council members who stopped us from being able to vote on the referendum at this link:
https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20190827/city-council-rebuffs-school-boards-request-for-sales-tax-referendum

Ref 2 I read this article but it didn’t answer my questions:
https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20200414/schools-tax-referendum-will-be-on-november-ballot

Ref 3  Article about portable class rooms:
https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20190614/duval-schools-superintendent-wants-to-eliminate-portable-classrooms

Ref 4 Information about HB 7097 including who voted yes
https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7097

Ref 5 Duval County School District website about the referendum
https://www.ourduvalschools.org/

Ref 6 This is what will be on our  November 3, 2020 ballot:
School Capital Outlay Sales Surtax to Improve Safety and the Learning Environment
​To upgrade aging schools through repairs and modernization, to keep schools safe and to continue to promote a conducive learning environment, to improve technology, and to replace existing or build new schools, and share with charter schools for their allowable uses, shall the Duval County School Board be authorized to levy a 15-year half-cent sales surtax, with expenditures based upon the Surtax Capital Outlay Plan, and monitored by an independent citizens committee?
____ For the Half-Cent Tax
____ Against the Half-Cent Tax
Copied from:
https://www.ourduvalschools.org/post/what-would-happen-if-voters-do-not-approve-the-half-penny-sales-tax-for-education

Thoughts on Covid-19

What are the rules for quarantine once someone tests positive? Are there any fines if someone violates the quarantine orders?  (ref 1)

South Korea is being praised for their efforts in combating the virus. However (if I am reading the news article correctly), they didn’t shut down their beaches.  They put strict quarantine rules on people that tested positive. They fined people that broke the quarantine rules.  Why aren’t we fining people that break the quarantine rules while they are awaiting their test results or after testing positive for the novel coronavirus? (ref 5)  How many cities are providing quarantine hotel rooms to people while they await their test results? (ref 11)

South Korea is fining people that break quarantine orders. Governor DeSantis has ordered people coming for NY to quarantine. What’s the fine if they don’t? What steps are being taken to quarantine people that came in contact with someone that tested positive? What use is the testing if we don’t follow up with quarantines?

What questions do they ask people that are getting tests for the virus? How is the data being accumulated  to try to understand how this is spreading?. Are researchers getting information so they can determine how people are getting the virus?

People getting tested for the novel coronavirus should be asked:

1.  Have you stood within six feet of anyone in the last 14 days? If yes, where?

2. If you haven’t stood within six feet of anyone in the last 14 days, have you attended an event where more than 10 people were in attendance? If yes, where?”

How different would things be now if everyone had been required to wear a mask out in public starting back in January? A call for tests and quarantines and masks should have been happening starting in December.(ref 6) If the office dedicated to pandemics had not been disbanded in 2018, would that office have helped coordinate activities so we would have been better prepared? (ref 10)

Will future elected officials remember the lessons we learn? Will they start the production of tests and protective gear as soon as we hear of a new virus that could possibly lead to a pandemic? (ref 9)

Are the people in power making suggestions based on current available information?Their suggestions seem inconsistent.

It feels inconsistent to allow exemptions for golf courses and churches but no effort to let us walk and surf at the beach. I don’t begrudge people being allowed to golf as long as they stay six feet from each other.  But why can’t those of us that love walking on the beach be given the same privilege?

Are the beaches closed where Senator Thompson fled after testing positive for the novel coronavirus? It certainly seems the powerful get more privileges than the rest of us. Because the senator has the money to own a home on the beach, he gets to enjoy the beach that has been closed to the rest of us. (ref 1)

I have written the ACLU asking their opinion about Governor DeSantis giving special assembling privileges to some groups that he isn’t giving to other groups. I’ll let you know if I hear back.  The fact that the church in the Tampa area is a bastion of the local Republican party makes this look especially egregious. Why are churches getting exemptions that other groups are not getting? This favoritism must surely be unconstitutional. (ref 2)

Can the people in power prevent one group from being a church? That would be contrary to the religious freedom laws, yes? Who gets to define a “church”? It shouldn’t be the GOP that is in power that gets to decide who can assemble in a way that privileges certain people over others. Doesn’t it smell of a Theocracy to let churches meet but not other groups? The First Amendment demands freedom of assembly in addition to freedom of religion.(ref 4).  Why can’t a surfing club be a religion?  And part of their religious beliefs is to surf.

Make the same rules for everyone. Keep six feet apart.  And no more than 10 people in an enclosed area measuring 1400 square feet.

references
(1) Quote from article:
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Thompson was symptomatic and hospitalized on March 19 while he waited for testing results. Three days later Thompson confirmed he’d contracted the virus. … Sen. Bruce Thompson’s arrived at his beach house on the island late Tuesday night in a caravan of three cars.
https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20200402/coronavirus-florida-after-local-outcry-georgia-senator-who-tested-positive-for-coronavirus-leaves-st-george-island

(2) Quote from this article:
Warren said. “It looks like the governor is putting his own political ambitions above the lives of health care workers, law enforcement officers and the entire state of Florida.”
https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/04/02/hillsborough-officials-appeal-to-churches-after-governors-order-exempts-religious-services/

(3) Quote from article:
The North Florida PGA Section obtained the clarification from the Governor’s office with the requirement that all courses must either allow golfers the option of walking, or have one person per electric or gas-powered cart, with no exceptions.
https://www.jacksonville.com/sports/20200401/coronavirus-florida-golf-courses-still-allowed-to-operate-under-state-jacksonville-executive-orders

(4) Quote from article:
Can I go to church?
Although many churches in the Jacksonville area have switched over to streaming services online, religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship are considered “essential activities.” According to a spokesperson for Mayor Curry’s office, congregations can be 50 people or less, and people must stay 6-feet apart.
https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2020/04/01/can-i-go-to-church-and-answers-to-your-questions-during-safer-at-home-order/

(5) Quote from article:
In this way, governments around the world are facing a hard choice between these two violations of individual rights (information exposure and movement restriction). South Korea has chosen the former, but France and Italy had to choose the latter. The former requires the necessary infrastructure and a culture that tolerates a certain level of surveillance, neither of which can be created overnight.
https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-south-koreas-success-in-controlling-disease-is-due-to-its-acceptance-of-surveillance-134068

(6) Quote from link :
Simple cloth masks that cover the mouth and nose can prevent virus transmission from such individuals when they are out buying groceries or seeking medical care, according to the memos obtained by The Washington Post.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/03/31/coronavirus-latest-news/

(7) Quote from link:
Behind its success so far has been the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world, combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts.
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/03/coronavirus-cases-have-dropped-sharply-south-korea-whats-secret-its-success

(8) Why aren’t they telling us if these people followed the keep six feet away rules? This link tells us how many people have tested positive but not much else: Florida Health Covid-19

(9) Excerpt from this article: … the US has been extremely slow to roll out diagnostic testing for the Covid-19 disease. It’s unclear if there’s a specific policy or decision to blame for the current situation. It arose from a combination of manufacturing problems, chronic underfunding, and an apparent lack of foresight. But no matter the specific reason, the testing challenges, scientists tell us, make us less prepared to deal with this unfolding public health crisis that will probably get worse before it gets better.
https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2020/3/6/21168087/cdc-coronavirus-test-kits-covid-19

(10) Excerpt from article:
The top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic has left the administration, and the global health security team he oversaw has been disbanded
“It seems to actively unlearn the lessons we learned through very hard experience over the last 15 years,” said Konyndyk, now a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. “These moves make us materially less safe. It’s inexplicable.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/05/10/top-white-house-official-in-charge-of-pandemic-response-exits-abruptly/

(11) Quote from article:
Hillsborough County on Monday announced it had signed six-month renewable leases with two hotels to provide up to 360 beds for residents who either need to isolate or quarantine because of the virus.
https://www.tampabay.com/news/st-petersburg/2020/03/30/st-petersburg-mayor-rick-kriseman-warns-social-distancing-or-citation/

Charter Schools

Why is the current state legislature passing unfunded mandates that the district run schools must follow but other publicly funded schools don’t have to follow?

1002.33 Charter schools

(16) EXEMPTION FROM STATUTES
(a) A charter school shall operate in accordance with its charter and shall be exempt from all statutes in chapters 1000-1013. However, a charter school shall be in compliance with the following statutes in chapters 1000-1013:

1003.42 seems to indicate that charter schools don’t have to follow these rules:

(2) Members of the instructional staff of the public schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education and the district school board, shall teach efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historical accuracy, following the prescribed courses of study, and employing approved methods of instruction, the following:

Talking points to oppose HB 1079

Great summary of last week’s committee meeting;
https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20200122/bill-for-elected-duval-schools-superintendent-advances-in-legislature

HB 1079 is being heard: Tuesday, January 28, 2020 3:30 PM  in room 102 House Building


I think we should first say a short description of why we’re here. This is what I’ll say:
My father was in the Navy.  I went to public schools all over the United States of America.  My daughter and I graduated from Jacksonville public high schools. I feel very grateful for my public education and for my daughter’s public education. That is why I am here today.


Option one
I think the best way to have the most qualified superintendent is for the school board to interview, hire, and fire (if needed) the top administrator of the school district.

Just as the JEA board (a Jacksonville board currently appointed by our mayor) hires the top administrator, the school board needs to continue to hire the top administrator. Incompetent or unethical administrators can be removed immediately as the JEA board did with the JEA top administrator Aaron Zahn. Perhaps the board removed Zahn due to local public outcry, but still the point is that it was possible to immediately remove him. It is more difficult to remove elected officials.

The local city council can put things on our ballot. As a matter of fact, they are contemplating putting something on our ballot to change the way the JEA board is appointed.  I hope that will be on our ballot soon, but it might not make it onto our ballot until November 2020.

The point is that we’ll have lots of things on our November 2020 ballot without this horrible attack on home rule being added to my city’s ballot by the state legislature.

HB 1079 is in violation of the local bill manual which says local bills should not be used if the purpose can be accomplished at the local level.  Things can be put on our city’s ballot by the city council, the school board, and by citizen initiatives.

Senator Gibson and Representative Davis of the Duval Delegation voted no on J-1. I thank them for their no vote.  The required economic impact statement completed by Jason Fischer and the OGC should have included the cost of educating the voting public about the issue. Democracy only works when the voters understand the ramifications of their vote. We do not want taxpayer dollars and energy wasted on unnecessary ballot proposals and campaigns.


Option two

Our elected school board members are elected specifically to represent the public interest in our education system. The voters have given them the authority to make decisions specifically about our school district. The school board passed a resolution opposing J-1 (HB 1079).

Under our County Charter we have the authority in our jurisdiction to make the change suggested by HB 1079 if it is ever desired.  However there is not now, nor has there ever been community outcry for this bill or its intent.

Please vote no on HB 1079. This local bill is a horrible attack on home rule.


Option 3

HB 1079 is in violation of the local bill manual which says local bills should not be used if the purpose can be accomplished at the local level.  Things can be put on our city’s ballot by the city council, the school board, and by citizen initiatives.

Our school board plans to put on our Jacksonville ballot in November 2020 an item that will allow us to raise funds to renovate or replace district owned school buildings that have lasted over 50 years.  As you may know, school districts all over Florida have passed these referendums because the state has cut funding for capital outlay funding going to district owned school buildings.

In addition to the school board’s referendum on our November 2020 ballot, state citizen initiatives will be on our ballot.

As an aside: Please don’t vote yes on any of the bills before the current legislature that will make it harder to get citizen initiatives on the ballot. Citizen initiatives with huge support are a great way for the people’s voices to be heard.

Three initiative campaigns have, thus far, qualified to go before voters in November’s general election – Florida For A Fair Wage’s “Fight For $15”; an “open” primary proposal for state Legislature, Governor and Cabinet; and a constitutional amendment stipulating “only,” rather than “any,” U.S. citizen can legally vote. Two other prospective amendments still vying to meet the signature requirements by Feb. 1 – Ban All Assault Weapons’ and Make it Legal Florida—may also be on our ballot.

The point is that we’ll have lots of things on our November 2020 ballot without this horrible attack on home rule being added to my city’s ballot by the state legislature.

Please vote no on HB 1079. This local bill is a horrible attack on home rule.


Option four
I want our elected school board to continue to be able to conduct a nationwide search for a qualified superintendent with the academic credentials, skills and experience necessary to run a large school district. (128,000 PLUS STUDENTS, 14,000 EDUCATORS AND STAFF).

If Representative Fischer brings up the UNF poll in his closing arguments as he did in last week’s committee meeting, I hope you will do your own research on it. As Mike Binder, director of the Public Opinion Research Lab, mentioned in an article, the question was poorly worded and could have misled respondents. Plus the poll only included about 600 people that answered their phones.

Please vote no on HB 1079. This local bill is a horrible attack on home rule.


Option 5

I hope Representative Fischer will let us know in his closing arguments who in the Duval Delegation voted yes on the amendment to HB 1079. Amendments to Duval local bills have to be approved by the majority of the Duval Delegation before the amendment can be presented to the state legislative committee according to the local bills manual.

 Without approval of the amendment, HB 1079 was in violation of Florida’s Constitution Article IX Section 5. The fact that the amendment was needed to bring HB 1079 into compliance with Florida’s Constitution was a clear sign the bill wasn’t properly vetted and I thought it may have caused some on the Duval Delegation who originally voted yes on J-1 (Clay Yarborough, Aaron Bean, Cord Byrd, Wyman Duggan, and Kimberly Daniels) to withdraw their support for HB 1079 and vote no on the amendment.

 Please vote no on HB 1079. This local bill is a horrible attack on home rule.

Please use the term “publicly funded schools” not “public schools” and then add an descriptive adjective such as all, charter, private, neighborhood, magnet, or district-run

There is a reason for

Article 1 Section 3 of the Florida Constitution

Religious freedom.—There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace or safety. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

Does Kimberly Daniels want her bible study class to be a required elective in all publicly funded schools? My guess is no. Publicly funded schools aren’t the place to teach religion. There is a reason for Article 1 Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Hopefully her bill will die before reaching the full House.

It isn’t always clear what legislators mean by “public schools” now that they are funding charter schools and private schools with taxpayer dollars.

HB 463 (implicit bias training) needs to be changed so it applies to all publicly funded schools.

The sponsor of the bill needs to suggest this amendment to HB 463:

***Each charter school governing board shall require charter school instructional personnel to take the training specified at 943.1716 and 1000.05.

***Any private school receiving taxpayer dollars must require members of its instructional personnel to take the training specified at 943.1716 and 1000.05.

Summary of HB 463 which amends 943.1716 and 1000.05:

Implicit Bias Training: Requires Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission to include implicit bias training in instruction dealing with diverse populations; requires SBE to develop requirements for training for all K-12 instructional personnel & administrators in recognizing & overcoming implicit bias; requesting Supreme Court develop training requirements for judges on implicit bias.

Legislators need to contemplate why ALL publicly funded schools aren’t included when the legislature makes rules for the district-run schools. If the rules aren’t necessary, then why make the district-run schools follow them? If the rules are necessary, then ALL schools that receive taxpayer dollars should be required to follow them.

2020 SB 184 and SB 56 aim to make non-discrimination laws apply to all publicly funded schools.  

2020 SB 154 (Human trafficking) and HB 463 (implicit bias training) need to be changed so they apply to all publicly funded schools.

I spoke about SB 184, SB 56, and SB 154 when I spoke to the Duval Legislative Delegation. I had not yet read HB 463 at that time. Here is the link to my two minutes:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDSB9ICU7hI

Here is the link to my two minutes when I spoke during the public comment period at the FLDOE meeting making a similar point:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwZUQZdx5SM

HB 463 is an important bill. The Nickel Boys by Colton Whitehead was based on a true story.  It should make all of us wonder how to prevent the cruel incidents (on which the story was based) from happening again.    

A quote from an interview that Colette Bancroft had with the author of The Nickel Boys :

In 2014, they were exhuming the grave sites in Tallahassee, Florida. … When I found Ben Montgomery’s reporting, it was the summer of Ferguson, of Michael Brown being shot, of Eric Garner being killed in Staten Island. It was the same indifference to black lives, to the poor, to people with no power who cannot defend themselves. … That kind of brutality occurs whenever powerless children are failed by the system that’s supposed to protect them.

Link to article: https://www.tampabay.com/books/colson-whiteheads-novel-the-nickel-boys-draws-power-from-a-real-florida-story-20190718/

Link to article about the incident on which the novel was based:   https://www.tampabay.com/investigations/2019/08/18/they-went-to-the-dozier-school-for-boys-damaged-they-came-out-destroyed/    

People throw around the terms “choice” and “public” when they are talking about schools. But what do they mean?

Legislators need to use the term “publicly funded school” not “public school” so it’s clear what they are talking about.

I wish we’d all want all the publicly funded neighborhood schools to be great. I wish we’d fund each one so they would have adequate staff to serve the community, employ tutors, offer vocational, music, art, debate, lots of choices within the publicly funded neighborhood school.

The majority of the taxpayers should also have a choice about how our tax money (public funds) is being spent. We don’t want our public money funding schools that discriminate or refuse to teach skills that help us to get along with each other. 

Any school receiving taxpayer dollars needs to follow at least some of the same rules that the publicly funded neighborhood schools must follow. They certainly should have to follow the rules mentioned in SB 184, SB 56, SB 154 and HB 463.

Should the city council fire Jason Gabriel?

Currently the way our (Jacksonville) charter is written, the general counsel is hired and fired by the mayor. The hired attorney (the general counsel) is supposed to represent all of the constitutional officers of the local government. He has a staff of 40 attorneys. I posit that he is not fairly representing all of the constitutional officers.

How does the current general counsel interpret “any activity” as used in 21.04? JEA is not keeping the city council informed about activity related to the sale of JEA which seems to me is a violation of our city’s charter. Quote from 21.04:

“ provided, however, that JEA will not enter into any activity … without first providing written notice of such activities to the council auditor no less than 30 days before the commencement of such activity.”

The city council and the school board (not the mayor) should hire and fire the general counsel. According to 3.01 of our city’s charter, the voters would have to approve the change. Please ask the city council to put that option on our March 2020 ballot, i.e. the sooner the better before the general counsel does further damage to our city by blocking the elected city council and the elected school board from carrying out their duties.

Our current mayor was elected by 14% of the registered voters. We have seven school board members each elected by a school board district and each tasked with following Florida’s Constitution Article IX which calls for a quality free public education system. We have 14 city council members each elected by voters in his or her particular district. And we have five at large city council members elected by all of Jacksonville. The general counsel is supposed to represent all of them but appears to favor the mayor. The general counsel needs to be hired by the city council and the school board not the mayor.

Let’s posit the following:
1. The mayor wants to sell JEA (the city owned utility) to the highest bidder but the majority of the city council does not.
2. The mayor wants control of the school board’s budget but that is the responsibility of the elected school board per Florida’s Constitution.

What harm has the general counsel done regarding the sale of JEA (the city owned utility)?

If the city council had its own attorney, what advice would the attorney have offered when JEA started taking steps to sell? At the beginning of this fiscal year, the mayor and the JEA board—appointed by the mayor— aggressively started spending money to sell JEA. Consultants were hired. Agreements were made guaranteeing executive bonuses and the city absorb the pension debt if the sale should take place. Bid requirements were drafted without the city council’s knowledge. The city council has now hired its own attorneys, but is it too late? How much money has been wasted if the voters ultimately don’t approve the sale? Or worse, what if the mayor with the help of the general counsel finds a way to say the voters don’t have to approve the sale? In other words, will the mayor sell JEA whether the voters want it or not?

What harm has the general counsel done to the elected school board?

In May of 2019 the OGC (Office of the General Counsel) interpreted “shall” to mean “doesn’t have to” thereby stopping the school board from getting a dedicated revenue stream to repair the neighborhood schools. Florida Statute 212.055 (6)(b) reads as follows:

The statement shall conform to the requirements of s. 101.161 and shall be placed on the ballot by the governing body of the county.

Parents of kids in crumbling school buildings are suing to say that “shall” means “must.” Hopefully the courts will agree and the school board’s referendum will be on our November 2020 ballot. However, the delay will be a huge cost to the school board’s budget. The delay was caused by the general counsel advising the city council that they didn’t have to put the school board’s referendum on our November 2019 ballot.

Another example of how the general counsel is harming the elected school board is the two versions of State Representative Jason Fischer’s J-1 bills. They were both written by the general counsel’s office and they appear to be another attempt by the mayor to take over the school board’s budget. The first version suggested a change to our (Jacksonville’s) charter that would allow the mayor to appoint the school board. I assume that was withdrawn because of the outcry that it violated Florida’s Constitution Article IX Section 4. The second version of the J-1 bill made the suggestion that the city’s charter be changed to take away the ability of the seven elected school board members to hire and fire the main administrator that runs the school district. The city council wouldn’t make that change for the mayor so he asked Jason Fischer to do it via a local bill called a J bill. The problem is that J bills are a way to ask the state legislature to exempt Jacksonville from certain state laws. They are not a way to change our city’s charter, which is up to the city council, citizen initiatives, and to a limited extent the elected school board. Jason Fischer has been saying it is Florida’s Constitution Article VIII Section 9 that gives his J bill authority. The general counsel drafted a memo offering the same opinion.

However, Article VIII Section 6(e) clearly states Section 9 is no longer valid once Jacksonville has a charter, which we do. I hope someone sues to make that clear, i.e. Representative Fischer’s J-1 bill has no authority since Section 9 is no longer valid.

Our (Jacksonville) city council can put a referendum on our ballot to ask the voters to change our charter. It is time for a change in the way the general counsel is hired. When someone abuses power and reveals a weakness in the rules, it is time for a change.
I asked the city council not to confirm Gabriel back in July as did the second speaker in this clip:

https://youtu.be/hoVv4-ZtNbY
Article about the general counsel and the sale of JEA:

https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20191106/city-council-hears-it-canrsquot-rsquopull-plugrsquo-on-jea-sale-negotiations

Screen shot of our charter

PHOTO OF CHARTER-7.02

 

Fischer’s J-1 bill has no authority

 

I summarized this blog post during the public comment period of the November 1st Duval Legislative meeting. Audience members were limited to two minutes. I included Ms. Smith’s two minute talk in the below clip, i.e. I am the second speaker in this clip:

 

Here is the two minutes of the leader of the local Women’s March chapter also asking the Duval Delegation to vote no:

 


Many people spoke during the comment period asking the Duval Delegation to vote no.  But Fischer, Bean, Daniels, Wyman, Byrd, Daniels voted yes on Fischer’s J-1 bill.  Please consider voting those 6 out when they run for re-election. Fischer’s J-1 proposes putting something that will change our city’s charter on the November 2020 city ballot. The thing he wants on our ballot: change the Superintendent from appointed by the 7 elected school board members to elected by the voters who show up at the polls.

  • In most major cities the elected school board appoints the superintendent similar to the way other administrators are appointed by elected officials. The elected officials are able to do a nationwide search for the most qualified person.
  • We don’t need Fischer’s proposal on our November 2020 ballot. Voters will have enough other things to be considering.
  • Placing items on our city ballot or changing our city’s charter is the job of the city council, citizen initiatives, and to a limited capacity the elected school board. Certainly the state legislature can pass laws that may make parts of our charter inconsistent with state law, but it is up to the city council to fix the charter when that happens.

Below are quotes from various places that make it clear that the Duval Delegation isn’t supposed to usurp home rule by suggesting changes to our charter as Jason Fischer has done with his J-1 bills–version 1 and 2. Yet he did it anyway.  And 6 of the 8 Duval Delegation voted to let his suggestion move to the House of Representatives. If the city council wants to put the option mentioned in the second version of the J-1 bill on our ballot, they have the authority within our Charter to do that but the Duval Delegation does not.

  1. House Rules for local bills
  2. Article VIII Section 6(e)
  3. Duval Delegation Rules

1. Quote from the HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 2019 – 2020 LOCAL BILL CERTIFICATION FORM:

(1) The members of the local legislative delegation must certify that the purpose of the bill cannot be accomplished at the local level;

The form can be found at the website for the House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. What J-1 proposes can be done at the local level. The city council can propose ordinances to put things on our city’s ballot. Therefore, I don’t see how the Duval Delegation is going to be able to answer yes to question #1 on the local bill certification form. Below is the link to the committee’s website where you can find the link to the form:

https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Committees/committeesdetail.aspx?CommitteeId=3025

2.  Florida Constitution Article VIII Section 6(e) CONSOLIDATION AND HOME RULE:

… Sections 9 (FN 1)… of the Constitution of 1885, as amended, shall remain in full force and effect as to each county affected, as if this article had not been adopted, until that county shall expressly adopt a charter or home rule plan

The authority that Jason Fischer has given for local bill J-1 is Article VIII Section 9 but Article VIII Section 6(e) says Section 9 is no longer valid once Jacksonville has a charter which we do.

3.  Delegation Rules of Procedure:

 It shall be the policy of the Delegation *not* to consider any matter which is within the authority granted by the Charter of the Consolidated City of Jacksonville.

Putting things on our ballot is within the authority granted by our charter to the city council and to a limited degree to the school board so even the Duval Delegation’s own rules should have told Fischer not to propose J-1.

https://www.coj.net/departments/duval-legislative-delegation/docs/11-30-16-delegation-rules-of-procedure-(1).aspx

Below are other items related to this issue


As an addendum, I feel I must also say that version 1 of Jason Fischer’s J-1 bill was particularly outrageous as he tried to say that a J bill could exempt Jacksonville from Florida’ Constitution. Article IX Section 4 of Florida’s Constitution says that the school board must be elected. Fischer’s first version of his J-1 bill suggested the Mayor appoint the school board rather than allowing the voters to elect a school board member for their school district.


ARTICLE IX

SECTION 1.Public education.

(a) The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require. To assure that children attending public schools obtain a high quality education, the legislature shall make adequate provision to ensure that, by the beginning of the 2010 school year, there are a sufficient number of classrooms so that:

 SECTION 4.School districts; school boards.

(a) Each county shall constitute a school district; provided, two or more contiguous counties, upon vote of the electors of each county pursuant to law, may be combined into one school district. In each school district there shall be a school board composed of five or more members chosen by vote of the electors in a nonpartisan election for appropriately staggered terms of four years, as provided by law.

(b) The school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district and determine the rate of school district taxes within the limits prescribed herein. Two or more school districts may operate and finance joint educational programs.


The attorney for Jason Gabriel’s Office of the General Counsel didn’t answer the question (in the below email) in this memo which is dated October 30th:
screen shot of CRC web page for OGC memo
Note it says that it is dated 9/17/2019 but the memo was updated from its original form and is now dated  October 30th. You can find it at this link:
https://www.coj.net/city-council/charter-revision-commission

———- Forwarded message ———
Date: Fri, Oct 18, 2019 at 3:38 PM
To: <PJohnston@coj.net>
Ms. Johnston,
Does Article VIII Section 6(e) say that Section 9 is no longer valid since we have a charter?


Local bills are used to ask the state legislature to exempt a city from a state statute. However, neither one of Jason’s J-1 bills aim to do that.
Even though the 1968 amendments to the state constitution were passed in November 1968 and the voters voted in August 1967 to consolidate as of October 1, 1968; that doesn’t negate the fact that Section 6(e) says Section 9 will no longer be valid once we have a charter.

This is how 6(e) reads now:

(e) CONSOLIDATION AND HOME RULE. Article VIII, Section 9 (footnote 1) … of the Constitution of 1885, as amended, shall remain in full force and effect as to each county affected, as if this article had not been adopted, until that county shall expressly adopt a charter
Please ask an attorney available to you about 6(e) and if it says Section 9 is no longer valid once we have a charter. Jason Fischer needs to quit saying Section 9 is still valid and gives him the authority to suggest things similar to his J-1 bills.
link to 1968 changes:

https://fall.fsulawrc.com/crc/conhist/1968amen-nov.html


 

Please tell the city council to put the school board’s referendum on our ballot

I hope the city council will monitor the lawsuits brought by the school board and the parents of crumbling schools to determine if Jason Gabriel gave them bad advice. If the city council will signal to the school board that they’ll put the school board’s referendum on our ballot, I assume the school board will resubmit it to the city council.  Judge Wilkinson’s comments as quoted in a TU article:

Wilkinson said the school district has its own taxing authority and School Board. “Isn’t that a major division?” he asked. “Even the charter says its a separate body.” … “Which brings us back to the start of this,” Wilkinson said, arguing that just because School Board officers qualify as county officers doesn’t mean they’re subject to city control.

People elected the school board specifically to improve and monitor the public school system. The legislature nor the city council were elected with such a pin-pointed goal. Why do the city council and the legislature keep trying to usurp the authority of the elected school board?

Below are comments about Fischer’s J-1 bills. I would think the city council would be worried about this also. Does the Duval Delegation want to usurp the authority of the elected city council?

As of now, the below email outlines the gist of what I plan to say on November 1st at the Duval Delegation meeting which is:

Article VIII Section 6(e) says that Section 9 is no longer valid since consolidated Jacksonville has a charter. And that means that both versions of Jason Fischer’s J-1 bills have no authority. In order words, the Duval Legislative Delegation doesn’t have the authority to request that the state legislature change our city’s charter or put items on our city’s ballot. I have asked repeatedly what gives Jason Fischer the idea that he can ask the state legislature to put things on our city’s ballot or change our city’s charter. The only thing I have been told is that it is Article VIII Section 9. But Article VIII Section 9 is no longer valid since we have a charter.

I understand most people at the Duval Delegation meeting will be making the point that keeping the Superintendent appointed by the elected school board is best for our city. I agree with that premise,

However, I think the main danger of both versions of Fischer’s J-1 bill is that he thinks he can get the state legislature to change our charter and that Jacksonville is unique in that way.

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Susan
Date: Sun, Oct 27, 2019 at 10:32 AM
Subject: Please answer my simple question: Do you know what parts of Article VIII were changed in 2018?
To: <gibson.audrey@flsenate.gov>, <bean.aaron@flsenate.gov>, <tracie.davis@myfloridahouse.gov>, Daniels, Kimberly <kimberly.daniels@myfloridahouse.gov>, <cord.byrd@myfloridahouse.gov>, <clay.yarborough@myfloridahouse.gov>, <wyman.duggan@myfloridahouse.gov>, Voellmecke, Lenae <lvoellmecke@coj.net>

Do you know what parts of Article VIII were changed in 2018?
I googled and found this:

Senate Joint Resolution 5-2X proposed a new Article VIII, relating to local government … Revision No. 5, 2018, filed with the Secretary of State May 9, 2018; adopted 2018.

This is how Article VIII Section 6 begins

SECTION 6. Schedule to Article VIII.—
(a) This article shall replace all of Article VIII of the Constitution of 1885, as amended, except those sections expressly retained and made a part of this article by reference.

This is how 6(e) reads now:

(e) CONSOLIDATION AND HOME RULE. Article VIII, Sections 19, 210, 311 and 424, of the Constitution of 1885, as amended, shall remain in full force and effect as to each county affected, as if this article had not been adopted, until that county shall expressly adopt a charter or home rule plan pursuant to this article. All provisions of the Metropolitan Dade County Home Rule Charter, heretofore or hereafter adopted by the electors of Dade County pursuant to 3Article VIII, Section 11, of the Constitution of 1885, as amended, shall be valid, and any amendments to such charter shall be valid; provided that the said provisions of such charter and the said amendments thereto are authorized under said 3Article VIII, Section 11, of the Constitution of 1885, as amended.

I continue to posit that Article VIII Section 6(e) says that Section 9 is no longer valid since consolidated Jacksonville has a charter. And that means that both versions of Jason Fischer’s J-1 bills have no authority. In order words, I posit that the Duval Legislative Delegation doesn’t have the authority to request that the state legislature change our city’s charter or put items on our city’s ballot. If I’m wrong, please tell me why. I have asked repeatedly what gives Jason Fischer the idea that he can ask the state legislature to put things on our city’s ballot or change our city’s charter. The only thing I have been told is that it is Article VIII Section 9. But Article VIII Section 9 is no longer valid since we have a charter. If I’m wrong, please tell me why.

Thank you,
Susan Aertker

A Rally in Support of Public Schools

Rally begins 8 am on September 20th. I will have posters to share. Bring your own or borrow one of my posters.

Details at this link:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/protest-rally-fl-board-of-education-meeting-in-duval-stop-harming-public-schools-tickets-7210080444

 I will have 5 choices to share with people who didn’t bring their own poster:

1. If the rules aren’t necessary, why make any school follow them? If they are necessary, why are you exempting charter schools and private schools that receive voucher money?

2. Place a lien on property receiving public funds so the money can be recouped if the charter school closes.

3. Money is what made a difference in Jefferson County. Don’t starve our neighborhood schools

4. Support SB 56: A 2020 non-discrimination bill

5. Florida Statute 1003.42 (g) should apply to all publicly funded schools including private schools receiving voucher money.

Extra information about the posters.

Poster 2:
Florida Statute 1002.33 says “district school board property,” but what if the building and land are owned by private investors even though the public funded the purchase? We need legislation that says that any private investor, receiving funds to build or renovate privately owned buildings, must agree to a lien on the property so the school district can recoup the tax money in the event the charter school closes and/or the property is sold.
Even a supporter of charter schools has called for claw back provisions. A caller asks around minute 28 in the podcast at the below link: “What will happen to the profits if the building and land are sold?” Mr. Chartrand dodges the question, but Ms. Miller says there should be claw back provisions. Also please listen starting at minute 42 when the interviewer questions Chartrand’s dedication to quality education based on his actions when he was chair of Florida’s Board of Education.
https://news.wjct.org/post/81919-democrats-call-investigation-mayors-office-jax-civic-council-cole-pepper

Poster 3:
Quote from this article:
What’s obscured in the misleading narrative, though, is that Somerset’s new charter schools in Jefferson County have had millions of dollars more to work with than what was previously available to the traditional public school district there.
https://chartered.wlrn.org/millions-difference-somerset-charters/

Poster 4:
Florida Senator Darryl Rouson introduced SB 56 for the 2020 legislative session. The bill will add the following language to the Florida statutes (f.s.):
A private school participating in an educational scholarship program … may not deny enrollment to a student based on the student’s race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity;

Poster 5:
Excerpts from Florida Statute 1003.42 Required instruction.—

(1) Each district school board shall provide all courses required …
(2) Members of the instructional staff of the public schools … shall teach efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historical accuracy …
(g) The history of the Holocaust (1933-1945), the systematic, planned annihilation of European Jews and other groups by Nazi Germany, a watershed event in the history of humanity,to be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions.

public education