COVID-19, HEALTHCARE & PUBLIC SAFETY
The United States reaction to the coronavirus has been a circus of incompetence, corruption and cruelty. We are in a serious situation, a global pandemic; but we must fight fear by taking prudent action. The pandemic and the issue of masking was politicized despite overwhelming evidence supporting their use to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Our leaders must stay calm and lead by example; not exaggerate — but not minimize either. The trust of the public must be restored if we are to have any hope of educating our citizens with science, truth, and transparency. It’s essential that with protections in place, our elected officials must keep working and be visible. The State Legislature should be called back in session and be seen making budget decisions per our State Constitution. We must protect the health and well-being of our essential workforce and healthcare employees, as well as our most vulnerable citizens.
Millions of dollars to design an unemployment system that doesn’t work; millions more in so-called “fixes”, Florida is failing its citizens with the lowest weekly benefit and employer contribution, and shortest duration in the country. The Governor did accept federal help for the unemployed, but Florida was the last state to accept; and the Governor stopped the program after only four weeks.
While vetoing $1 billion from other spending in a pandemic, including affordable housing, the Governor failed to cut spending for the “roads to nowhere” — which represents a $25.5 million planning budget and a $10.3 billion estimated building cost for a project which will harm the ecosystem and provide insufficient benefit and return on investment.
Threatened with school funding and our health departments prevented from advising them, school boards were left conflicted between losing funding or spreading the virus. Now there’s chaos in the classrooms as educators quit to avoid teaching in-person and online simultaneously, at personal risk during the pandemic. The public is left wondering if students are being tested or just sent home sick when symptoms arise.
While telling everyone else to “get back to work”, my opponent and the State Legislature voted not to return to session to deal with the deficit, ignoring their constitutional responsibility.
With the pandemic, COVID-19 can complicate your health with pre-existing conditions. If you survive the infection, healthcare is more essential than ever for you and your family. We know that in the long run, poor health is expensive for you, for your employer, and for the state of Florida. My opponent consistently votes against women’s healthcare and he and the FL Legislature have reduced public health funding by 41% since 2008.
As your State Representative I will fight to improve your healthcare, not reduce it. I support full access to substance abuse and mental health services. As recommended by an external audit, the Kid Care program should be compared to other states and improvements made accordingly. Expanding Medicaid once and for all in Florida will cover 800 thousand more Floridians and the cost savings balance out due to federal taxes being returned to our state.
As a candidate for office, it’s my duty to take a position on public safety. It would be irresponsible of me not to educate the public about what statistics and studies inform us about guns in our society and in our homes. Although some citizens feel safer psychologically, guns do not make you safer. I support universal background checks for every gun sale and transfer and repealing a certain statute that only serves to escalate violence and protect people with violent backgrounds. The Stand Your Ground law in Florida began in Florida, was written by the NRA, and spread to twenty-six other states. It was strengthened by my opponent and the FL State Legislature to give civil immunity to anyone who thinks they feel threatened in public — think of a parking space dispute, or a confrontation in Costco — and that FL has over two million concealed carry permits. Be careful out there.
Having said all that, please know I support your second amendment rights should you choose to protect yourself by owning a gun and you are not a threat to yourself or others. I’ve considered it myself, and actually received training from a retired police officer that has prepared me to apply for a concealed carry permit. But I also know we can protect our Second Amendment rights and still be safer.
In four years, my opponent hasn’t sponsored one bill that changes the statutes to help solve any environmental issue. He did have time to suggest an amendment increasing Key West’s evacuation time period that would result in more development; and also voted to repeal the Key West ban on sunscreens that were damaging the coral reefs. All while representing Naples and Coastal Collier County.
On the other hand I don’t accept campaign donations from lobbyists, special interests, or corporations. I’m clean, green and sugar-free; and endorsed by Vote Water and other organizations that understand how important the environment is to our economy. I believe in people over profits, families over corporations, and democracy over greed. I know you can’t solve a problem if you don’t try and I promise to fight hard for our environment, our water, our state, and for you.
This is our home — our health, lifestyle, jobs, investments, and economy depend on clean water and 90% of our drinking water is groundwater. The Blue Algae Task Force was a great beginning, but by the time it got through the State Legislature, corporate special interests had “watered down”, pun intended, all the principles behind it.
Building the immense and costly Everglades Reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area/EAA will take 8-10 years and only serve to store water; without a plan to clean the water it will not meet the federal standards to be released into the Everglades. We spent millions in 2018 to clean up toxic blue-green algae, and dead fish and wildlife from red tide — while losing billions in property values, the fishing and boating industries, and tourism. We know that pollution is a steroid for red tide.
It’s cheaper and more effective to clean up pollution at its source. Animal waste from ranching, mining by-products, chemicals and fertilizers from industry and agriculture — we must stop pollution at its source and hold polluters accountable for the costs. In the public sector we need to recognize that water belongs to the people. It’s not for cheap sale to be bottled and sold back to us. We must address storm water run-off, aging septic tanks, and failing sanitation systems. In addition we need to protect our coastal communities by preventing oil drilling offshore and protect our water supply by preventing fracking onshore.
It is critical to take back state control of regional growth to save our wetlands, waterways, and wildlife. We should be encouraging smart growth as more economical because it requires less infrastructure and is a better tax base than sprawling suburbs. At this time of impending budget shortfall, we must eliminate, or at least shelve, the “roads to nowhere” scheme that only benefits billionaires, with a $25.5 million planning budget and an estimated cost of $10.3 billion. Not only will it harm the ecosystem, it will provide insufficient benefit and return on investment.
As the sunshine state, let’s finally encourage and subsidize solar and accept that climate change is science — and Florida is ground zero — and reduce the use of fossil fuels, work toward being carbon free. We should promote wind power, cleaner transportation and electric vehicles, and plan for resiliency, not just talk about sustainability and adaptation.
Through the Legislature and backed up by the State Board of Education with its Governor appointed Commissioner, the State controls budget, per student spending, capital spending, curriculum, books and salaries; uses testing to determine failing schools and opens them up to privatization; and ultimately approves public charter schools and voucher schemes.
Our first priority in education must be our traditional public schools. My opponent voted to reduce funding to CCPS by changing the District Cost Differential formula. The much-touted salary raises for teachers are primarily for starting teachers to try and fill the numerous vacant positions, leaving many experienced teachers facing salary compression after years of service. Public Education Capital Outlay/PECO funds are almost exclusively awarded to public charter schools and a 2019 law requires any referendums to raise funds for public education must be shared with public charter schools. While public charter schools were initially intended to be innovative efforts to offer variations not fulfilled by traditional schools, we have lost sight of that original concept.
The Florida State Constitution provides by law “for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high-quality system of free public schools” and protects religious liberty by ensuring that religion and government remain separate. Private, predominately religious schools are currently receiving public taxes in the form of vouchers. My opponent supports using public taxes for these private religious schools even when those schools discriminate — I do not.
I haven’t given up on better public schools for everyone. Vouchers for private and religious schools as well as public charter schools help some children but drain funds to realize that goal.
The current expansion of our public taxes for education doesn’t come with any of the hurdles faced by traditional public schools. Any school that receives public funding, including public charter schools, private schools, and private religious schools, should have the same oversight, standards, requirements, supervision, and accountability — and must be permitted under our State Constitution. That, sadly, is not the case in our state’s educational system today.
CITIZEN RIGHTS & CRIMINAL/JUVENILE JUSTICE
The process of voting for our citizens should be easier, not harder. I support automatic and online voter registration. Election Day should be a legal holiday and polling places should be at selected traditional public schools, not private clubhouses and churches. I support promoting voter participation by expanding early voting, scheduling the primary earlier during the school year, providing same-day voter registration, supplying return postage for mail-in ballots, and eliminating ghost candidates. Security is essential to prevent databases and voting machines from being hacked, and federal cybersecurity assistance should be requested. We should replace aging voting machines with machines that provide paper backups for each vote. We must restore trust in the voting process — it’s the basis of our republic.
Citizen Ballot Initiatives
Citizen Ballot Initiatives to change our State Constitution have become an impossible goal. For the last two decades our efforts and the will of the people have been thwarted by the State Legislature anyway — the most recent example is the 2018 Amendment 4 Restoration of Rights, approved by nearly 65% of Florida’s voter, but not adopted by the FL Legislature without adding significate changes still being litigated in our courts over the question of unconstitutionality. In the November election I encourage you to vote NO on the 2020 Amendment 4 which, if passed by the required 60% majority, would require all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections, instead of one — and was suggested by the FL State Legislature. No surprise there.
Racial inequity in Florida’s criminal justice system is unjust, ineffective, dangerous, and increasingly expensive. End the racially biased cash bail system for misdemeanors — it criminalizes poverty and even a few days in jail could mean job loss, affect housing or child custody. End mandatory sentencing and racially disparate criminal sentences. These proposals are not only just, but less expensive.
Let’s honor and respect our police and the phrase: “Protect & Serve”. Those words define the mission of the police, which is to “protect” citizens and “serve” the public. But our police are under too much pressure and our jails filled with those better served by social services. We need to fund social services, including mental health, and place the mentally ill, addicted, and homeless under the purview and care of specially trained and unarmed community officers.
Stop the school to prison pipeline. For the first time ever, there are more police officers working in Florida schools than school nurses; and more than double the number of school social workers and school psychologists. Children as young as 5 and 6 have been arrested and handcuffed in our schools. Stop arming teachers as my opponent voted for, improve the public-school regulation of police resource officers to be racially neutral, and equalize funding across public school districts. Stop expelling or suspending children for minor offenses — it rewards unwanted behavior. As a diversion technique and arrest alternative, increase civil citations, teen courts, and community service.
Decrease or stop direct file and trying children in adult courts. In Florida this decision is made by the prosecutor without involving a judge. Children are not fully mentally developed, react impulsively and don’t have the maturity, experience or full knowledge of the results their actions could have. They need their parents for advice and support; direct file removes that option. And of course, adult courts mean adult sentences and adult prisons.
Direct file is going out of fashion — only 16 states including FL remain. In FL, children as young as eight have been prosecuted using direct file. I support ending direct file for humane reasons, but it also saves money as well as potentially saving lives. In 2019 several juvenile justice bills were considered but legislators couldn’t agree on a lower age limitation for direct file. It started out at 14-15 years old, went down to 7, then all the bills died in committee. Currently there is no lower age limitation than 18 for direct file.