Repair of the Neighborhood Schools

schools in need of repair
Above is a photo from this article: https://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/local/duval-county-public-schools-needs-108b-to-revamp-repair-all-158-school-buildings/891619289
Quote from that article:

$1.08 billion. That’s how much the Duval County School District needs to get all of its school buildings back in tip-top shape. The Jacobs Engineering group, hired by the district, worked on a study to help figure out how to solve this problem.

These are a few quotes from this article from December of 2018:

A decade ago, Duval had about $103 million a year to spend on capital needs, Soares said, but over the years state budgets and changes in how districts are allowed to raise money for schools shrunk that pool. Now the district needs about $80 million a year to keep up with major and minor school repairs, but it only got $22 million, he said.

The state Legislature is likely to make some additional capital dollars available this year, Greene said, but it likely will earmark that to be used only for certain school safety items. [Unfortunately they did not.  They earmarked $158 million for charter schools but none for the neighborhood schools.]

Board member Warren Jones noted that Duval is one of the few major urban districts that doesn’t have a secondary source of revenue for building costs. Many districts in the state, including some in the First Coast, have raised sales taxes or imposed impact fees on development to raise money for schools, he said.

These are a few quotes from this article:

But the underlying issue is sound: Local schools don’t have enough money. Curry just can’t seem to bring himself to directly address it. As always, it’s a political game. Because if he were against it — which he is — then he’d need to come up with some other plan to help pay for the school system’s decrepit buildings.

Quote from this article:

The payments are known as “impact fees.” Developers of new residential neighborhoods pay these fees to the school district to offset the impacts that new students are expected to create. But state law has been unclear as to whether those funds can be used only for future construction or to help pay off schools already built.

A Republican speaks out about the GOP legislators continually funding charter schools and money for vouchers without funding the neighborhood schools. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

The charter management companies signed these contracts with our local school districts and they said that they could educate our children for 95% of the FTE or whatever that number is over time. And every year since, they’ve come to THIS legislature to ask for more money. They wanted PECO, and we gave them PECO. They wanted $158 million, we gave them that. And now they want a part of the local option millage and we’re gonna give them that. Well I’ll tell you what… I don’t know about you all but, to me, that is just intellectually dishonest. And I’m wondering when this Senate will stand up and say “enough is enough.”

The GOP dominated Florida legislature just screwed us by passing HB 5. Quote from HB 5: ” … must be approved in a referendum held at a general election”

(16) “General election” means an election held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in the even-numbered years,

I hope the school board will bring this up when they try to figure out how they are going to pay for the repair of the neighborhood schools. The GOP dominated legislators gave $158 million to the repair of charter schools and nothing to the repair of the neighborhood schools.

I hope that charter schools aren’t going to get any of the money from the sales tax increase.  They are getting plenty of money from the GOP state legislators.  We need to fix the neighborhood schools.

Quote from this article:

In that piece, Strauss includes a lengthy analysis by Burris asking whether charter schools can be rehabilitated and reconnected to their original mission. Her conclusion—after weighing the frequency and seriousness of scandals, the persistent evidence of discrimination and segregation, and the depletion of public school funding—is “a resounding no.”

Quote from this article http://folioweekly.com/stories/roadblock,21440:

This year, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund conducted a poll showing 78.5 percent of respondents favored a small surtax to support our schools.

What is the future of public K-12 education?

public education

I hope the school board will bring this up when they try to figure out how they are going to pay for the repair of the neighborhood school buildings. The GOP dominated legislature gave $158 million to the repair of charter schools and nothing to the repair of the neighborhood schools. Quote from this article:

The final budget deal included $158 million earmarked for charter school building maintenance and repairs.

It is so very sad that Florida legislators are taking away the powers of the voters. The neighborhood schools educate the majority of the kids. If we want to fully fund the neighborhood schools, then the voters should be able to make that choice. We keep hearing that charter schools save us money by paying teachers less money and offering fewer benefits. So why do the charter schools need the additional funds provided in HB 7123 (mentioned in this article) and the $158 million earmarked in the budget?

This is what I would prefer:

Public money ONLY goes to the neighborhood schools. Everyone is involved in making the neighborhood schools GREAT!  The grounds of the school are kept beautiful and available as use as a park during non-school hours. Plenty of funding for music, art, debate club, quality science and math, tutors, social workers, mental health counselors. Each school has resources to successfully assimilate a wide diversity of students. Anti-discrimination rules (mentioned in 1000.05 of the Florida Statute) and anti-bullying rules are addressed via education and counseling.

What do you prefer?

Did people in Florida intentionally allow pro-voucher candidates to win? IF even some Floridians want our tax dollars to be funding religious schools, why? What is their goal? How can we compromise without hurting our children?

In my view private schools receiving taxpayer money should (at a minimum) follow the nondiscrimination rules of 1000.05. 

HB 741 hasn’t been added to the statutes yet, so this is the 2018 version of Florida Statute 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.

HB 741 (new anti-discrimination rules for public schools) was passed unanimously in the house and the senate.   Why didn’t the legislators make it clear that HB 741 and Florida Statute 1000.05 should be applied to ALL schools receiving public funds either directly or indirectly? 
The new governor said
“For me, if the taxpayer is paying for the education, it’s public education…”  
The above is a quote from this article.  BUT what does that mean exactly? Anyone know? Does it mean the private schools receiving voucher money have to follow the rules of Florida Statute 1000.05? I am guessing that Representative Fine’s HB 741 and Florida Statute 1000.05 will NOT apply to private schools receiving voucher money.  #750747 to SB 7070 was not even allowed for consideration.  Excerpt (from not even considered for a vote proposal) #750747:
—An eligible private school shall NOT discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity,  national origin, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status and must comply with the provisions of s. 1000.05.

In my view, the legislators should have passed #750747 so that private schools receiving taxpayer money would be required to  follow the nondiscrimination rules of 1000.05. 

$91.1 billion state budget for 2019-20.
The budget includes $250,000 for legal fees for the state Department of Education. House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings, a Clay County Republican, says the money could be used by the department to defend expected legal challenges of the Legislature’s recent decision to expand the use of publicly funded vouchers to send students to religious schools.

Step Up for Students is profiting from vouchers. They are using taxpayer money to get  voters to the voting booth and vote for pro-voucher candidates.  This is a quote from a 2017 article (and the legislators increased the funding this year):

In all, Florida has a nearly $1 billion voucher system that allows certain children to leave public schools for private ones. Step Up will earn about $18.4 million off the vouchers this year [2017].  Step Up is is a chief advocate for school vouchers.  Step Up helps write the laws that govern vouchers which by design don’t require private schools to have certified teachers, curriculum that follows Florida’s academic standards or facilities with modern technology or textbooks. 

Quote from a 2017 article (when religious schools got the voucher money via the tax credit scheme):

Like many of the Christian schools that take state voucher money, TDR uses one of a handful of popular curricula that, as one administrator explained, teach Bible-based history and science, including creationism. 

Paraphrased from article:

Florida dumps another $130 million into wild west of unregulated, unaccountable voucher schools. Sullivan and the rest of her GOP peers keep dodging standards. 

The GOP dominated legislature gave $158 million to the repair of charter schools and nothing to the repair of the neighborhood schools. Quote from this article:

The final budget deal included $158 million earmarked for charter school building maintenance and repairs.

This is outrageous also. This is the PECO budget last year:

Maintenance, Repair, Renovation and Remodeling Charter Schools $145 million

I do hope this causes people to NOT re-elect Speaker of the House Oliva. This bill that he just pushed and got passed takes away voters’ powers. This bill HB 7123 would have even retroactively changed what the Palm Beach County voters approved.  Quote from article:

House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami, mandated that extra funds raised through a referendum would be shared with charter schools, instead of what Palm Beach County recently did in requiring new taxes go only to traditional public schools.

I sent an email before they voted on HB 7123:

———- Forwarded message ———
Subject: HB 7123
To: <bryan.avila@myfloridahouse.gov>, <kimberly.daniels@myfloridahouse.gov>, <tracie.davis@myfloridahouse.gov>, <jason.fischer@myfloridahouse.gov>, <clay.yarborough@myfloridahouse.gov>, <cord.byrd@myfloridahouse.gov>, <gibson.audrey@flsenate.gov>
Representative Avila,

Thank you for suggesting this Amendment No. 743867 Approved For Filing: 5/3/2019 7:45:10 PM that reads as follows:  “,,, discretionary operating millages levied by school districts, apply to such levies authorized by a vote of the electors on or after July 1, 2019.”

Why don’t you also suggest an amendment that allows the voters to vote on referendums that will increase property taxes but the generated funds will ONLY go to the neighborhood schools? We keep hearing that charter schools save us money. So why do they need the additional funds? Please let the voters decide. Please don’t take away the powers of the voters. The neighborhood schools educate the majority of the kids. I am also hoping that the legislators will expand the community school concept for the neighborhood schools.

Going forward, no one should use the word “public” schools since the definition is no longer clear. We now have neighborhood schools, charter schools, and private schools receiving public money either directly or indirectly via the tax credit scheme. Governor DeSantis blurred the definition of public education with this statement: “If the taxpayer is paying for education, it’s public education …” ,

Thanks,
Concerned Florida taxpayer living in Jacksonville

Well….at least this part is good news.  Quote from the final version of HB 7123 that passed, i.e. at least it didn’t retroactively change already passed referendums.

485 Section 17. The provisions of this act relating to s.
486 1011.71, Florida Statutes, amending the use of certain voted
487 discretionary operating millages levied by school districts,
488 apply to such levies authorized by a vote of the electors on or
489 after July 1, 2019.

Another EXTRA going to charter schools. Even if the school district chooses to NOT arm their teachers, a charter school can still opt to receive the taxpayer money to arm their teachers.  It is lines 224 to 238 that talks about the taxpayer paying charter schools to bring guns into the classrooms.  I find it weird that they call their “bring guns into the classrooms” the guardian program. Lines 224 to 238 of SB 7030:

A charter school governing board in a school district that has not voted, or has declined, to implement a guardian program may request the sheriff in the county to establish a guardian program for the purpose of training the charter school employees. If the county sheriff denies the request, the charter school governing board may contract with a sheriff that has established a guardian program to provide such training. …. The sheriff conducting the training pursuant to subparagraph 2. will be reimbursed for screening-related and training-related costs and for providing a one-time stipend of $500 to each school guardian who participates in the school guardian program

More information about it: http://folioweekly.com/stories/will-the-taxpayer-be-liable-if-a-gun-in-the-classroom-causes-harm,21373

We need to FULLY fund the neighborhood schools in Florida before we fund charter schools and subsidize tuition at private schools.  Quote from article:

Education Week tracks per-pupil spending.  Florida spends $9,737. Vermont spends  $20,795.  Investing in students works. Kids from the best-funded schools, mostly in the Northeast, tend to score highest on national tests and get admitted to top universities.

 

Ask legislators to amend SB 7030 before the 4-24-19 vote.

This is the definition of the third reading and it looks to me there is a
chance for amendments: “Debate on final passage occurs; a two-thirds vote is required to amend at this stage.”

Please ask the legislators to amend SB 7030 so that the taxpayers are NOT giving the charter schools extra taxpayer money to arm their teachers. And please make sure the taxpayers will not be liable for accidents if a charter school decides to arm their teachers. SB 7030 gives the charter schools the option of arming their teachers BUT the taxpayer should not be forced to fund that decision.

Funding for school safety should not be limited to armed personnel. The school district should have more flexibility in deciding how to use funds to secure their schools. Please advocate for amending SB 7030 to allow the school districts to spend the money however they choose to reduce risks.

The GOP dominated legislature wants  the school districts to have the option of letting teachers bring guns into their classrooms. Most school districts are going to choose NOT to let teachers carry guns while they are teaching. Please amend SB 7030 to delete the language that says that the appropriated funding must be used exclusively for weapons to be brought into the classroom.

Panic buttons or metal detectors might be a better use of the funds. Please let each school district decide how to use the money.

guns in schools

Lines 234 to 238 of SB 7030 currently reads as follows:

c. The sheriff conducting the training pursuant to subparagraph 2. will be reimbursed for training-related costs and for providing a one-time stipend of $500 to each school guardian

Please ask the legislators to amend SB 7030 so that the taxpayers are NOT giving the charter schools extra taxpayer money to arm their teachers.

On another note, the per student funding that the legislators are giving to charter schools and private schools should not be more than 70% of what the neighborhood schools get. Neighborhood schools act as hurricane shelters, adult schools, parks for the neighborhood, etc. Plus my belief is that most parents want their kids to go to a school close to their home. Please make all the neighborhood schools GREAT before you subsidize the private schools with my taxpayer money. Also please make all the anti-bullying and anti-discrimination rules that apply to the neighborhood schools also apply to the charter and private schools receiving voucher money.

Letter to Aaron Bean about using our taxpayer money to bring guns into the classrooms

April 18, 2019

Senator Aaron Bean
405 Senate Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100

Honorable Senator Bean,

Funding for school safety should not be limited to armed personnel.  The school district should have more flexibility in deciding how to use funds to secure their schools.  Please advocate for amending SB 7030 to allow the school districts to spend the money however they choose to reduce risks.

My understanding is that YOU want the school districts to have the option of letting teachers bring guns into their classrooms. Most school districts are going to choose NOT to let teachers carry guns while they are teaching.  Please amend SB 7030 to delete the language that implies that the appropriated funding must be used exclusively for weapons to be brought into the classroom.

Panic buttons or metal detectors might be a better use of the funds. Please let each school district
decide how to use the money.

guns in schools

Lines 234 to 238 of SB 7030 currently reads as follows:

The sheriff conducting the training pursuant to subparagraph 2. will be reimbursed for training-related costs and for providing a one-time stipend of $500 to each school guardian

Charter schools and private schools receiving voucher money should make do with whatever per student funding that the legislators have already allocated to them.  And it should not be more than 70% of what the neighborhood schools get.   Neighborhood schools act as hurricane shelters, adult schools, parks for the neighborhood, etc.  Plus my belief is that most parents want their kids to go to a school close to their home. Please make all the neighborhood schools GREAT before you subsidize the private schools with my taxpayer money.

How is a Legislator Supposed to Vote When a Bill Isn’t Perfect?

Some Florida Senators and Representatives voted no on bills banning fracking because the bills didn’t ban all fracking. Environmentalists felt the omission was intentional and encouraged legislators to vote no on any bill that didn’t ban ALL fracking. SB 314 is the good law. Whereas SB 7064 fails to include a ban on matrix acidizing that threatens Florida’s sources of potable water.

I listened to a committee meeting discussing SB 588 designed to take away home rule regarding the banning of plastic straws. GOP legislators introduced a bill to prevent a county from banning plastic straws and then added wording to the bill about generators at gas stations. Why did they do that? If a legislator didn’t like the preemption bill concerning plastic straws, then would the legislator be forced to also vote no on the part of the bill that would keep gas stations open during a hurricane evacuation?

What is a representative to do IF a bill isn’t perfect?

Senator Gibson’s quote from this article:

I am a champion for all people, all races and all religions. And there’s a lot of misinformation and seemingly deliberate efforts to try to paint me as someone I am not.

Senator Gibson had asked that a bill (mentioned in the article) be more broad in terms. She wondered if singling out one religion might have unintended unwanted consequences to the group being singled out.  I also feel it would be better if Representative Fine used the following wording (instead of the wording in lines 61 to 78 of HB 741 that he used):

Bigoted language includes: calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of a group of people based on their religion, race or gender; making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about a group of people based on their religion, race or gender; denying a well documented atrocity.

The above wording was copied in part from Representative Fine’s bill EXCEPT he made the wording specific to ONE minority religion. I rephrased his wording so that bigoted language was defined more broadly.

I also have other issues with Representative Fine’s bill HB 741. Why doesn’t SB 1272 (and the companion bill HB 741) drafted by Representative Fine apply to ALL schools receiving public monies either directly or indirectly? It only applies to the neighborhood schools and the magnet schools. Why didn’t Representative Fine want the bill to apply to charter schools and private schools receiving voucher money?

Another thing causing me to worry about Representative Fine’s bill (as it was worded when Senator Gibson voted no on the bill) is that adding religion to 1000.05 of the Florida Statutes might allow the evangelical dominionists to have more power to use religion as a sword to harm others.

We need the wording of the Do No Harm Act whenever we’re adding religious protection so the law can be used as a shield against discrimination and not a sword to harm others. RFRA taught us that sometimes people use what was meant to be good legislation in a way that harms others. Whenever religious freedom is added to the laws, the following wording should also be added:

This religious freedom law should not be interpreted to authorize someone to cause harm to another.

HB 741 adds religion to 1000.05 of the Florida Statute. Here is how the statute (before adding religion) 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, ….

I am not saying that HB 741 doesn’t have the potential to be a good bill. It merely needs to make the wording broader with the goal of preventing bullying of people based on religion, race,  gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, disability, or marital status.

More information about the rise of bullying based on religion, race and gender:

https://www.adl.org/take-action

The current legislature and governor are diverting more and more taxpayer money to charters and private school vouchers. Why aren’t these anti-discrimination and anti-bullying laws applying to those schools?

 

Does bigoted language increase feelings of hate? Are feelings of hate growing in our country?

A few quotes from an article (Bigotry and the English Language by TA-NEHISI COATES) that explores the definition of bigotry:

Wes Alwan’s definition of a bigot as someone who is wholly unpersuadable, wholly without conflict, and wholly without doubt, is a description of a myth. … Wes Alwan’s understanding of the word “bigot” is ignorant of the word’s current usage, especially its usage by those most affected by bigotry.

Link to the article:
https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/12/bigotry-and-the-english-language/281935/

This is a good time to point out that taxpayers are funding charters and private schools that do not need to follow the rules of the neighborhood schools. How horrible will we feel if a charter school or a school receiving voucher money turns out to be some sort of white nationalist propaganda mill? There is no reason SB 1272 (and the companion bill HB 741) shouldn’t apply to any school receiving public money, either directly or indirectly.

SB 1272 and HB 741 lay out the words of antisemitism. As Coates says in that Atlantic article, words trigger feelings of discrimination. Those not within that minority group may NOT understand how hurtful certain words might feel. When bigoted people use certain words they are signaling those other bigoted people within their bigoted group. I think that is the reason that Representative Fine goes into such detail as to what words signal antisemitism in his bill HB 741. Experts in drafting laws and in Jewish history and current affairs should consider that the law would be more effective if it was drafted in broader terms rather than specific terms. For example, instead of specific language, what about substituting lines 61 to 78 of HB 741 with these broader terms as to what constitutes bigoted language:

(a)
1. Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of a group of people based on their religion, race or gender.
2. Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about a group of people based on their religion, race or gender.
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.

Link to the bill:
https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_h0741c2.docx&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=0741&Session=2019

Please write your representatives and ask that SB 1272 (HB 741–the companion bill) be amended. Racial, gender or religious bigotry should NOT be tolerated in any school receiving public funds, either directly or indirectly. The language of the Do No Harm Act (H.R. 1450) should be included because we want freedom of religion laws to be used as a shield against discrimination and not as a sword to harm others. Require that civility classes be taught. Prevention and education are the keys to reduce bigotry.

Link to information about the Do No Harm Act:
http://www.protectthyneighbor.org/do-no-harm-act

In addition to describing bigoted language, SB 1272 (HB 741-the companion bill) wants to add religion to this statute. Here is how the statute (before adding religion) reads:

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, ..

SB 1272 goes before the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee on April 8th. Jacksonville Florida Senator Audrey Gibson is on that committee. Please write to the Honorable Audrey Gibson about this issue before April 8th. Feel free to use any of the points I used in my email to the Florida Senator:

To: gibson.audrey@flsenate.gov

Honorable Audrey Gibson,

SB 1272 is on the agenda for the Judiciary committee for April 8th at 4 pm. The bill addresses antisemitism and adds religion to Florida statute 1000.05. PLEASE ask for these amendments to be added to the bill before voting yes:

1. SB 1272 (and the companion bill HB 741) should amend 1000.05 of the Florida statutes so that the statute applies to any school receiving local, state or federal financial assistance. Religious, racial or gender bigotry should NOT be tolerated in any school receiving public money, directly or indirectly. How horrible will we feel if a charter school or a school receiving voucher money turns out to be some sort of white nationalist propaganda mill? Now is the time to make sure that 1000.05 covers all schools receiving local, state or federal financial assistance.

2. In addition to specifically mentioning antisemitism, please also mention anti-atheism and other minority groups that have felt the brunt of religious bigotry.

3. The bill should include a requirement that civility and sensitivity classes be taught in all schools receiving local, state or federal financial assistance. All school children should learn that religious, racial and gender bigotry isn’t polite. The idea is to address hatred, yes?

4. The language of the Do No Harm Act (H.R. 1450) should be included. Our First Amendment religious clauses and other religious protection laws should be a shield of protection from discrimination not a sword to do harm to others.

The comments during the House Education and the House Judiciary committee meetings (discussing HB 741) made it clear why we need civility and sensitivity classes in all the schools. People testified in those committee meetings about the discrimination they or their friends have experienced in life.

I am worried that adding religion to the Florida statutes (without safeguards) might cause unintentional consequences (similar to what happened with RFRA). Americans United for Separation of Church and State as well as the ACLU supported RFRA decades ago. They did not predict how it would be used to harm others. They are now promoting the Do No Harm Act to fix the problems caused by RFRA. In my view, the wording of the Do No Harm Act should be included wherever religion is given special protection in state or federal laws. Our First Amendment religious clauses and other religious protection laws should be a shield of protection against discrimination not a sword to do harm to others.

Sincerely yours,
Concerned Jacksonville citizen

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:
https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/VideoPlayer.aspx?eventID=2443575804_2019031312

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:

https://religionnews.com/2018/10/31/jewish-groups-decry-messianic-jewish-rabbis-prayer-at-pence-rally

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 https://www.fairvote.org/how_proportional_representation_elections_work:

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   https://www.fairvote.org/how_proportional_representation_elections_work 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

 
http://www.voteguy.com/rcv-academic/ 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.

https://dos.myflorida.com/elections/voting-systems/certified-voting-systems-and-vendors/