It was the one tiny hole in Florida’s post-election day progressive fallout shelter – the only opening through which a forgiving straw could be inserted as a means of dispensing the necessary alcoholic salve to numb the wounds of political obliteration – so naturally, there’s a Democrat out there looking to stick a piece of gum in it. On Nov. 2, Floridians tried to wrap their heads around the gaping yawn of redistricting (fact: there is nothing more boring), passing “Fair Districting” Amendments 5 and 6 by a notable 63 percent, thereby insuring that no longer would the Sunshine State fall victim to the ills of the worst word ever: gerrymandering.
The whole idea behind the amendments’ respective campaigns was logical: Legislative districts probably shouldn’t be drawn like tall skinny stick figures with their arms outstretched into whatever gated community is home to the most pale and affluent – and therefore probably Republican – voters. In fact, districts should mind existing geographical boundaries (county, city) instead of stretching a thin congressional torso between Jacksonville and Lake Okeechobee. Also, they shouldn’t pigeonhole minorities. Everybody wins, right? Yes.
Well, not if you’re a minority already in office. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville (and Orlando?), immediately countered the will of the people the day after the election, filing a lawsuit in tandem with her colleague U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, to stop Amendment 6 well before it even started to do anything. If their argument is to be believed – and it isn’t – the new law will pose a threat to six existing Florida legislative districts where minorities already hold a majority or something close to one; by reaching around their elbows to get to their asses, the representatives came upon the belief that this new legislation is in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. Translation: They’d prefer that this whole redistricting effort not challenge their own personal incumbencies, thank you very much. The only minorities that matter are the ones that are already in power.
Because it’s what they do, the American Civil Liberties Union jumped into the battle on Dec. 16 with their own motion to intervene in the suit. The ACLU contends that the State of Florida itself is too broad of a party to effectively argue for Amendment 6 seeing as both Brown and Diaz-Balart are, by definition, Floridians. Nope, this would be a job for the pros.
“We hope the federal courts reject this bizarre analysis of the Voting Rights Act by which the protection of minority voting rights is transformed into a law that protects minority office-holders,” ACLU executive director Howard Simon said in a statement. “The ACLU intends to defend the people’s amendments and put an end to gerrymandering.”
Could you pour a little booze through that hole while you’re at it?
Although he may look like a substitute gym teacher harangued into a remedial U.S. History detention stint, in reality Gov.-elect Rick Scott would probably prefer that you not even mention the word “teacher” in his presence. Why? Because teachers are inefficient and fat, always griping about blackboard erasers and influenza, forever running to their union bosses with hangnail tears. Dagblammit, we don’t need teachers – or any of the necessary socialization that comes along with the public education experience – not when we can have the big Double-V: virtual schools and vouchers.
According to a Dec. 15 Mother Jones piece, details of Scott’s miseducation plan are starting to roll out and they look exactly like the robot excrement you might expect from a disgraced executive automaton. It’s a big mess of privatization and payouts, apparently, one that could see parents getting an annual $5,500 check to cover the learning needs of their own spawn; the rich will naturally win out because “private” schools will simply up the ante, while the poor will have to settle for a sort of mass-market education or a laptop. As for everyone!
If Scott’s plan sounds familiar, that’s because it is (or because you’re smart!). The whole voucher nonsense dates back to Gov. Jeb Bush; the fuck’em-if-they-can’t-learn education reform torch he lit is now being rather publicly hoisted by one Michelle Rhee, a sort of mouthy go-to-gal for the pundit news cycle these days, thanks to her efforts (and some say failures) at saving the Washington, D.C., public school system as its chancellor. Rhee, not coincidentally, is part of Scott’s current transition team, and though there are rumors that he’ll pluck her out of the free-market sky and plop her down for a paid position in his administration, for now it’s all idle speculation. A Scott spokesperson recently told the Miami Herald that the gubernatorial dome of uncertainty “definitely wants her to stick around.” That’s not how substitute teachers work! Substitutes for teaching on the other hand …
Just as we were marveling at how long it had been since a member of Food Not Bombs was last put in handcuffs, Orlando’s senior anarchist Ben Markeson called to notify us that on Dec. 15, he had finally received the honor of being escorted from a food-sharing event at Lake Eola Park in a police squad car.
Markeson was charged with resisting an officer without violence after inserting himself into discussion between an OPD officer and a Food Not Bombs volunteer. According to the charging affidavit, the volunteer was idling in a car parked at the end of Osceola Avenue when the officer told her that there was no parking or stopping allowed in the area. The volunteer acknowledged this, but didn’t stop the homeless denizens of the park from continuing to unload food from the car (probably because they were hungry). The officer then told the volunteer to turn off the car.
Markeson told the officer that the car needed to remain on to avoid a parking violation, though he was evidently unaware that even idling, manned (or in this case, wo-manned) cars were recently forbidden on this particularly prudish cul-de-sac. New signage, believed to have been put up Nov. 30, not only outlaws parking within the circle, but also stopping in it or standing around it. (The city could use a good editor: The sign features a “no parking” symbol, followed simply by the phrase “STOPPING OR STANDING.”) A kerfuffle of the he said-he said variety ensued – the arresting officer contends that Markeson’s inimitable howl was raised to unseemly levels of resistance; our anarchist denies making a peep – and old Ben ended up in the pokey.
Markeson has retained lawyer Jacqueline Dowd as his counsel, who, as we reported last month, will also be representing Food Not Bombs in a February re-hearing of the group’s federal lawsuit against Orlando’s group feeding ordinance. Dowd finds it ridiculous that standing or stopping would be outlawed at a sidewalk-lined circle that seems to encourage, well, stopping and standing. “I wonder what the circle is for, then,” she says. “Maybe to drive around for the fun of it, to make the kids in the backseat dizzy?” Hilarious!
Naturally, Markeson believes the police presence near the park was calculated intimidation, not routine parking duty. “I’d seriously doubt you’d find police leaning against their cars any other day of the week, doing parking enforcement [next to the park],” he says.
Orlando police spokeswoman Barbara Jones, on the other hand, says in an e-mail that officers are doing parking enforcement “all the time” in the area. Also, pigpen progressive Markeson is kind of hard to miss. Oh, no! Here he comes now!