Posts

George Zimmerman and the Inalienable Right to Self-Defense

George Zimmerman was released from custody on Friday after posting a $1 million bond. Mr. Zimmerman faces second-degree murder charges. He has invoked Florida Statue 776.012, known as the “Stand Your Ground” law, as the basis of his justification to shoot Trayvon Martin.

A stand-your-ground law states that a person may use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first. In some cases, a person may use deadly force in public areas without a duty to retreat. Under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the “stand your ground” law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit. Florida statute 776.012 states:

Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.

The right to self-defense has been addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Beard v. U.S. (158 U.S. 550 (1895)) the SCOTUS found that a man who was “on his premises” when he came under attack and “…did not provoke the assault, and had at the time reasonable grounds to believe, and in good faith believed, that the deceased intended to take his life, or do him great bodily harm…was not obliged to retreat, nor to consider whether he could safely retreat, but was entitled to stand his ground.”

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. declared in Brown v. United States (256 U.S. 335, 343 (16 May 1921)), a case that upheld the “no duty to retreat” maxim, that “detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife”.

The question is: Did Mr. Zimmerman use the necessary force to “prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself”?

The fact that Trayvon Martin was unarmed does not prevent the use of deadly force. The determination of “imminent death or great bodily harm” is determined by the person being attacked, not the attacker.

In a Fox News interview noted trial attorney Alan Dershotitz stated, “This affidavit submitted by the prosecutor in the Florida case is a crime. It’s a crime.”

“If she [Angela Cory, the Florida state attorney and special prosecutor who Gov. Rick Scott appointed to handle the case] in fact knew about ABC News’ pictures of the bloody head of Zimmerman and failed to include that in the affidavit, this affidavit is not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Dershowitz said. “It’s a perjurious affidavit.”

Even worse, Dershowitz warned that by overcharging Zimmerman, Cory may have planted the seed for riots if he is acquitted, as Dershowitz predicted will happen.

“If there are riots, it will be the prosecutor’s fault because she overcharged, raised expectations,” Dershowitz said. “This prosecutor not only may have suborned perjury, she may be responsible, if there are going to be riots here, for raising expectations to unreasonable levels.”

He said it is quite possible Zimmerman was guilty of a lesser charge, but the affidavit does not support a second-degree murder charge.

Florida Statute 776.012 allows defendants to make their self-defense case at a hearing presided over by a judge and without the use of a jury. If the judge deems self-defense was justified, the case can be dismissed without going to trial.

Florida Stand Your Ground Law:

2011 Florida Statutes CHAPTER 776 JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE

776.012 Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.

776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.

(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

(2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person; or
(b) The person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used; or
(c) The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or
(d) The person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.

(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

(4) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

(5) As used in this section, the term:

(a) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night.
(b) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest.
(c) “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, which is designed to transport people or property.

776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.

(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
(2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
(3) The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1).

776.041 Use of force by aggressor. —The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:

(1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or
(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:

(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
(b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.

Obama Turning Americans into “Economic Slaves”

Florida Congressman Allen West (R-22) stated at a Port Saint Lucie campaign speech President that President Obama wants to turn Americans into “economic slaves.”

At the event Congressman West spoke about the importance of lowering taxes, minimizing regulations on business and bringing jobs back to Florida. Congressman West criticized President Obama on his failure to create private sector jobs.

“Self-esteem comes from doing esteemable things. Sitting at home and getting a check from the government is not going to help your self-esteem. What it will do is make you an economic slave to people living in a far, far, distant place,” West remarked.

Congressman West stated, “He does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of ‘American’. He’d rather you be his slave and be economically dependent upon him.”

Congressman West said during a Conservative Black Forum said that President Obama “doesn’t have a vision for the black community” in America. Congressman West’s website notes:

“In the beginning, in chapter one, it talks about over the past 30 years, billions of dollars have been poured into black communities across the country in hopes of curing well-documented socio-economic problems including failing schools and adequate housing, rampant crime and drug abuse, black on black killings, unemployment and more,” West said. “Despite the courageous efforts of many local institutions, agencies, school leaders, grassroots organizations and community residents, the problems remain.”

“In many instances, these problems have grown worse,” he continued. “I believe it will take new ideas and new voices to find solutions, and that is exactly why we’re here. We’re here today to talk about economic freedom as opposed to economic dependency. We’re here today to talk about four basic conservative principles and how they can apply to economic revitalization for the black community: That’s limited government, being fiscally responsible, individual industrialism that leads to self-sufficiency and the free market that grows business, and lastly and most importantly, it’s about equality of opportunity which comes from a good education.”

West points to the black community’s 14 percent unemployment rate as an indicator that the current economic policies aimed at helping minorities aren’t working, adding that “if you understand actual unemployment, it’s probably closer to 18 or 20 percent.”

On top of that, West pulled out statistics showing how blacks aren’t proportionally represented population-wise in the percentage of new start-up businesses around the country.

“60 percent of new startups are in the white community, 23 percent of new startups [are] in the Hispanic community, 5 percent [of] new startups [are] in the Asian community and, with 13 percent of the population, you’re only seeing nine percent of new startups coming out of the black community,” West said.

Over the more than two-hour-long discussion about issues facing these communities and possible solutions, President Barack Obama hardly came up. After the event, West told The Daily Caller that’s because Obama “doesn’t have a vision for the black community and economic development.”

“He doesn’t have a vision for America,” West told TheDC. “So, I think that’s why we see all of these horrible economic indicators turning in the way that they are. His vision is just to get re-elected and that’s not what I’m here talking about.”

West issued a warning concerning the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. “Now we find ourselves in a situation where the tax code of the United States of America is being used as a weapon against the American people. It is being used for behavior modification. That is exactly what came from the Supreme Court decision last week,” said West.

Congressman West is campaigning for a second term in the U.S. House in Florida’s newly-drawn district 18. He faces County Sheriff Bob Crowder in the GOP primary on August 14 for a chance at the party’s nomination.

FL Primary Voting Registration Ends July 16, 2012

With a primary election approaching, here is voter information from the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office:

In order to register to vote in Florida, you must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States of America
  • Be a Florida resident
  • Be 18 years old (A person who is otherwise qualified may preregister on or after his/her 16th birthday and may vote in any election on or after his/her 18th birthday.)
  • Not now be adjudicated mentally incapacitated with respect to voting in Florida or any other state
  • Not have been convicted of a felony without your right to vote having been restored
  • Provide your current and valid Florida driver license number or Florida identification card number. You must provide the last four of your Social Security number if you do not have a Florida driver license number or a Florida identification card number. If you have not been issued any of these items, you must write “NONE” in the box indicated on the Voter Registration Application.

How to Apply to Register to Vote

  • Fill in the Voter Registration Application online. If you wish, you can print the application and write your information in with a black ballpoint pen.
  • For the Voter Registration Online Application in Spanish select this link.
  • Print the application out.
  • Verify that all the information on your application is complete. The office where you register, your decision not to register, your Social Security number, Florida driver license number and Florida ID card number will remain confidential and will be used only for voter registration purposes.
  • Sign your application. The application requires an original signature because you are swearing to or affirming an oath.
  • Mail your application to your county supervisor of elections. (Requires first class postage stamp.) You may also hand-deliver the application to any supervisor of elections office in the state, a driver license office, a voter registration agency or armed forces recruitment office, or to the Division of Elections.
  • If your application is complete and you qualify as a voter, the supervisor of elections will mail you a voter information letter as official notification that you are registered to vote. Make sure all of the information in your letter is correct. If you do not receive a confirmation letter within 8 weeks, or if you have any questions, call your supervisor of elections.

NOTE: You must be registered for at least 29 days before you can vote in an election.

If the information on the application is not true, the applicant can be convicted of a felony of the third degree and fined up to $5,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 5 years.

English WINS in Florida Court

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an earlier ruling from the U.S. District Court that product manufacturers and distributors are not obligated to provide warnings in languages other than English. The ruling applies to both assembly instructions and manuals for consumer products. This is the second victory for English in the courts in the past few months. The Arizona Supreme Court recently defended English proficiency as a requirement to run for public office.

This new ruling stems from a 2009 incident when a Florida resident who understands only Spanish bought two propane heaters from Home Depot in Miami. The woman mistakenly used the heaters indoors, even though they were outdoor-only heaters, and the resulting fire caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to her home.

The woman sued both the manufacturers of the heaters as well as Home Depot claiming they were liable since the safety and assembly instructions on the heaters were provided not in Spanish, but only in English.

Subsequently in 2010, the U.S. District Court ruled that the woman exhibited “willful ignorance” in assembling the products without understanding the instructions and neglecting to seek additional assistance, and just last week, the Eleventh Circuit concurred that the English-only safety warnings were adequate and noted that even though the woman did not speak English, the pictures on the instructions were perfectly clear.

The English Language Unity (ELU) act has been introduced in Congress – S. 503 and H.R. 997. The English language advocacy group Pro-English supports the ELU act.

Saving Billions with Fly Ash

What is fly ash, you may ask? Have you ever heard of the Roman Pantheon?  It stands today because it was built with volcanic ash (a.k.a. fly ash). Similarly, bridges built with fly ash can be designed to last for a century and highways for 80 years. Fly ash can double the lifespan of a construction or infrastructure project; significantly lower maintenance costs; allow more roads, bridges and buildings to be built on fewer dollars; and ultimately create more jobs.

Why is fly ash important to both Florida and the United States?

According to Mike Murtha, President of the Florida Concrete and Products Association, “Currently, the federal transportation committee is considering an amendment allowing fly ash to continue to be used. This amendment is critical for Florida. Without this amendment, the fly ash industry will be heavily over-regulated by the federal government. If the industry is washed out it would cost 30,000 Floridians their jobs.”

The federal transportation bill is set to be decided on by the end of June, so this is a hot topic for the building industry. From a study done by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), recycled fly ash is used in 95% of Florida’s concrete products that build transportation infrastructure projects all across the state. The use of recycled fly ash concrete has saved the state more than a $180 million over the span of five years as it makes structures stronger and longer lasting, as well as decreases the need to mine virgin resources from the ground.

Where does fly ash come from?

Fly ash is one of the residues generated in combustion, and comprises the fine particles that rise with the flue gases. In an industrial context, fly ash usually refers to ash produced during combustion of coal. Fly ash is generally captured by electrostatic precipitators or other particle filtration equipment before the flue gases reach the chimneys of coal-fired power plants, and together with bottom ash removed from the bottom of the furnace is in this case jointly known as coal ash.

Coal has become a target for environmentalists, President Obama, and former Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Coal-fired plants in Florida and across America are not being built, closing or converting to natural gas plants. As this occurs, fly ash is becoming scarce.

According to Murtha, “Fly ash is crucial to American transportation infrastructure — in 2010 alone, more than 55 million tons of fly ash was recycled for construction purposes. Concrete represents 15 percent of the total cost of building and maintaining transportation infrastructure in the United States each year. More than 75 percent of that concrete — $9.9 billion worth — utilizes fly ash as a partial cement replacement blend. In some states, fly ash is used for virtually all concrete projects. Without fly ash, many of our nation’s largest transportation projects would not have been possible.”

The cost of closing coal fired plants has other implications. Fly ash is one of them.

WATCH DOG RADIO – FLORIDA: Mike Murtha, President of the Florida Concrete and Products Association, will be a guest on Watch Dog Radio – Florida on Wednesday, June 27th from 11:40 to Noon EST. You may tune in on WWPR AM 1490 or listen to the live stream over the Internet at www.DrRichShow.com.

Florida Reps. Sandy Adams and Allen West demand Investigation of SWAT-ting hate crimes

By Dr. Rich Swier – Florida Representatives Sandy Adams, District 24, and Allen West, District 22, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the growing threat of “SWAT-ting” and its costly ramifications.  Eighty-seven members of Congress signed the letter.

Rep. Adams and West note, “Lately, there have been a string of threats directed at conservative bloggers where individuals call emergency dispatchers under the guise of another person’s name with fraudulent claims of a violent crime taking place. These claims then cause local law enforcement to rapidly respond to the home of innocent Americans, and in some instances they have done so with guns drawn.”

“Even more egregious, SWAT-ting is quickly becoming a scare tactic used against political bloggers in an effort to stifle their First Amendment rights,” notes Rep. Adams and West.

The majority of SWAT-ting cases utilize voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) connections between the suspect’s computer and a distant telephone network, then dialing 911. This technology allows the caller to falsify their identifying information, making it almost impossible for emergency dispatchers to identify or track the origin of the call.

Rep. Adams is a former law enforcement officer, and finds “SWAT-ting is of great concern to me”.

“This practice is incredibly dangerous and it is only a matter of time before somebody gets seriously injured. It not only puts the victims in harm’s way, but it endangers the entire community,” note Reps. Adams and West. In the letter Rep. Adams and West urges Attorney General Eric Holder to “investigate these cases to determine whether any federal laws have been breached, and to prosecute those crimes accordingly. Nobody should have their lives put at risk for exercising their First Amendment rights.”

The letter notes, “Just last month, a popular blogger in the state of Georgia, Erick Erickson became the victim of the latest SWAT-ting. During the Erickson’s family dinner, sheriffs deputies were dispatched to Erickson’s home after receiving a 911 call…”

The letter warns, “While none of the SWAT-ting victims have incurred physical harm from these hate filled ploys, we are gravely concerned that future victims may not find themselves so lucky.”

Rubio supports cleansing Florida voter rolls

rubio-afp

Florida Senator Marco Rubio stated unequivocally, “I wouldn’t characterize it as an effort to purge Latinos from the voting rolls.” At a Bloomberg News breakfast today, June 14th, Senator Rubio went on to say, “I would characterize it as twofold. No. 1 is, I think there’s the goal of ensuring that everyone who votes in Florida is qualified to vote. If you’re not a citizen of the United States, you shouldn’t be voting. That’s the law. And, I mean — I mean, what’s the counter to that, that we’re willing to tolerate 100 illegal voters on our rolls? So I do think that — I mean, why — how could anyone argue against a state identifying people who are not rightfully on the voter rolls and removing them from the voter rolls? They shouldn’t be voting.”

The Department of Justice letter to Governor Scott reads:

… Your June 6 response has provided no information that allows us to change our view that the State’s new list maintenance program for verification of citizen is a “program the purpose of which is to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official list of eligible voters,” and that this program is being conducted within the 90-day quiet period established by the (National Voter Registration Act). Likewise, you have provided no information indicating that the program fits within any of the statutory exceptions for programs that may be conducted within that quiet period.

Instead, it appears that Florida has initiated a new program for system voter removal, which may ultimately target more than 180,000 registered voters …

… In these circumstances, continuing with any future mailings on this basis during the 90-day quiet period, or removing persons form the voter registration list for failing to respond to the State’s inquiries to date, violate Section 8 of the NVRA. Please immediately cease this unlawful conduct.

According to John Fund and Quin Hillyer, both Senior Editors at American Spectator, there is no 90-day quiet period in the NVRA for purging illegal voters from the rolls. According to Quin Hillyer, who helps craft Section 8 of the NVRA, it requires Florida to do what it is doing now. Section 8 was put in place to insure voter rolls were maintained in proper order with only legal voters on it.

Senator Rubio noted, “What is the argument in favor of leaving people on the rolls that aren’t qualified to vote in the United States?”

Scott Walker Recall Victory sends ripples across Florida

walker060612

There appears to be a tsunami building and the epicenter of the earthquake that caused it is Madison, Wisconsin. Democrats across Florida are shuttering as it was one of their own, Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (FL CD-20), who said this recall election was a harbinger for November 6, 2012.

On May 27, 2012 Debbie, Chair of the Democrat National Committee, stated, “And so what I think the implications will be is that ultimately I think Tom Barrett will pull this out. But regardless, it has given the Obama for America operation an opportunity to do the dry run that we need of our massive, significant, dynamic grassroots presidential campaign, which can’t really be matched by the Romney campaign or the Republicans because they’ve ignored on-the-ground operations.” [My emphasis]

Greta Van Susteren reports DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on the results of the Wisconsin recall election, “Despite the disappointing outcome of tonight’s election, there is no question that over the past year this recall effort sent a message to Scott Walker that his brand of divisive politics is offensive and wrong. Thousands of Wisconsinites mounted this effort in the face of a flood of out of state, secret and corporate special interest money– amounting to a massive $31 million war chest for Governor Walker to just $4 million on our side.”

The Washington Post reports, “I don’t think that this is anything other than an important election for Wisconsin voters, for Wisconsin working families,” Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told me in an interview here Tuesday afternoon.”

Can you say backpedaling? I thought “D” meant drive and “R” meant reverse? Maybe D means Debbie drives Democrats off a cliff?

Republican Party of Sarasota County, Florida Chairman Joe Gruters released the following statement regarding Governor Scott Walker’s decisive victory in Wisconsin’s recall election:

“I would like to personally congratulate Governor Scott Walker on his victory in today’s gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin. After millions of dollars spent and hundreds of thousands of man hours logged by big labor, the National Democratic Party and even the local Sarasota County Democratic Party, Americans headed to the polls tonight and sent an overwhelming message in support of free enterprise and against both big labor and liberal policies.”

“This free enterprise & conservative message was sent loudly in Wisconsin tonight and will be echoed across the country as we approach November. Rather than turning to the government for dependence, Americans are coming together in support of growing the economy and creating jobs while also shrinking the size of government and cutting spending by enacting common-sense, conservative policies. The Wisconsin results will empower Conservative leaders across the country, like our Governor Rick Scott, who are willing to stand up in support of free enterprise and make the tough decisions to ensure that their citizens are living in free country that is of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Florida is a key swing state in November. President Obama in 2008 carried Florida by just over 200,000 votes out of 10 million votes cast, a margin of .02%.

The line in the sand is clear. Bigger government, more national debt and union control or small government, a balanced budget, debt elimination and free markets. It appears the voters in Wisconsin picked the latter.

This victory does not bode well for Democrats in Florida, especially with Debbie Wasserman-Schulz calling the shots for the party.

RELATED COLUMNS:

Wisconsin recall by the numbers

Walker, Republicans win big in Wisconsin recall races

ANALYSIS: Walker win vaults Wisconsin governor into vice presidential discussion

Florida’s 2012 Wedge Issues

wedges in bucket

As November 6, 2012 approaches, and both political parties begin posturing, their messages are becoming clearer. Every election has wedge issues. Issues will appear that drive voters to pick one candidate over another. Florida is a microcosm of America. Florida is a critical state to carry and I believe will determine the outcome of the Presidential election and which party controls the U.S. Senate.

I see three wedge issues in Florida, which will carry the day on November 6th. They are: the national debt, gay marriage and competence. I also believe two groups will have a major impact on elections in Florida at every level. Please bear with me as I explain.While the economy remains a major issue so does the burgeoning public debt at every level of government. This issue is a concern especially among women with children. The Washington Times reports, “The debate over whether to raise the legal limit on government borrowing has riveted Americans, with a large majority worried about the potential consequences regardless of whether Congress votes to allow the national debt to keep increasing. But when pressed to name their biggest concern, nearly half of respondents say they are alarmed by the prospect that the debt could grow beyond its current limit of $14.3 trillion, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll. Only 35 percent say they are more worried about the risk of default and economic destabilization if Congress does not raise the debt limit.” [My emphasis]

View Point Florida  found in a May 2012 poll that, “[W]hen asked whether or not deficit spending was necessary to grow the American economy, 30% of respondents stated that such spending was in fact necessary, while 61% said the economy could be boosted without deficit spending. . . We see similar numbers when voters are asked if raising revenue or cutting spending should be the primary focus of Congress or the Florida Legislature in dealing with budget deficits. Just 26% of respondents said the federal government should focus on raising revenue to balance the budget, to 67% who prefer it focus more on cutting spending. The preference for spending cuts rises to 72% when voters are asked the same question about Florida’s state government, with just 20% of respondents saying Tallahassee should focus more on raising revenue.”

Gays and marriage are a toxic combination in Florida. Used in the same sentence they create a very negative reaction for Floridians. Quinnipiac University did a Florida poll and found: On the issue of same-sex marriage, Florida voters, who have banned such unions in the State Constitution, now say they oppose them 50 – 40 percent. Men oppose same-sex marriage 55 – 35 percent while women are divided 44 – 46 percent. Support is 57 – 33 percent among voters under 35 years old. Opposition is 52 – 38 percent among voters 35 to 54 years old and 55 – 36 percent among voters over 55. When given a three-way choice: 36 percent favor gay marriage; 34 percent back civil unions; and 23 percent oppose all legal recognition.

Competence has become a wedge issue in Florida. Elected officials that pander or are incompetent are frowned upon by Floridians. According to Quinnipiac University, “Romney is viewed as better able to handle the economy, 50 – 40 percent.” Competent clearly trumps likable in Florida. Floridians are less concerned about what Mitt Romney did with his money than what President Obama is doing with taxpayers money. Comparing Bain Capitol investments to federal government spending is a loser here  in the Sunshine State.

Florida is a key swing state and a must carry for President Obama. Floridians are shifting towards traditional positions on the national debt, marriage and electing a competent leader. I believe this reflects the growing influence of two Florida groups: the TEA Party and Evangelicals. While the media wants you to believe the TEA Party is dead may I suggest it is very much alive and kicking people out of office. The TEA Party has matured and is now taking leadership positions in the Republican Party at the local and state levels. I am seeing the TEA Party supporting local candidates at the city, county and school board levels and having an impact on local policy decisions within the Republican Party infrastructure. There are still those old guard Republicans that are pushing back but the TEA Party is winning overall. We are three or four election cycles away from a complete constitutional conservative takeover of the Republican Party.

President Obama has decided to make social issues like gay marriage top of mind. By doing so he has already lost. Pollsters and media outlets are playing the “gay marriage will make no difference at the polls” record over and over. However, I will tell you that a few percentage point shift on social issues like gay marriage, the attack on religious freedom and abortion is energizing the one million Evangelicals who did not vote in the 2008 election in Florida. This group is energized, now more than it ever has been, with Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Ministers, Rabbis and Reverends energized and preaching the values in our Constitution from the pulpit.

The President has created these wedge issues in the hope of energizing those who voted for him in 2008. What he is missing is by creating wedges he has shown himself to be a great divider rather than the great uniter he touted himself to be.

I predict Florida will go deep red in November. What do you think?

RELATED COLUMNS:

USA Today: Real Federal Deficit Last Year – $5 Trillion

MassResistance.org: Two Men are Friends Not Spouces Catholic Chruch Sign

City of Sarasota accused of violating Florida anti-trust law

city of sarasota logo

Government contracting has become a major sticking point in Sarasota County, Florida and now at the City of Sarasota Commission level. Sarasota County government has had problems within its contracting process. Staff was allowed to operate in a manner that brought discredit upon the County Commissioners. The County has lost not only their administrator but the confidence of the people. In March 2011 former County employee Rodney Gene Jones was arrested for accepting bribes from contractors. Jones was arrested under the Florida Anti-Trust Act of 1980.

Whenever our elected officials become too dependent on staff and committees bad things can and usually do happen. Fast forward to today. Are we seeing a repeat of what happened at the county level with the City of Sarasota? The filing of a complaint involving Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation may give us a clue.John C. Minder P. E., P. S. M., President of Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation, has been a Registered Professional Engineer in six states including Florida and a Registered Professional Surveyor & Mapper in two states including Florida. John has lived in Sarasota County for thirty years.Recently John submitted a routine proposal to the City of Sarasota. His proposal was ultimately denied, which is fine until John began checking into how his bid was scored and who scored it. What got John’s interest was an anonymous letter he received about possible staff malfeasance on a county contract due to improper scoring.

John submitted a formal complaint to the City Commissioners.  In his complaint John states, “It is our professional opinion that the … scoring of points out of a possible 100 points was arbitrary and capricious by two of the Engineering Technicians on the Selection Committee.”

The complaint points out, “Although we are not trained investigators it is our professional opinion there appears to be collusion between the scoring of points by Engineering Technician’s Proposer No. 1 and Proposer No. 5 of 66.5 points or at a minimum a lack of professional qualifications to be on the Selection Committee. It is also our professional opinion that there is some sort of a connection between Bayside Engineering, Inc. of Tampa, FL and some members of the Selection Committee.”

The complaint concludes, “Our appeal to the City of Sarasota, FL City Commissions of the violation of CHAPTER 542 OF THE FLORIDA ANTITRUST ACT OF 1980 includes the arbitrary and capricious scoring of points by some of the members of the Professional Review Selection Committee. Some members of the Professional Review Selection Committee were not Registered Professional Engineers but they were reviewing the qualifications of Registered Professional Engineers when they were not qualified Registered Professional Engineers.”

Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation requested signed notarized statements of the professional opinions of each member of the Selection Committee in their ranking of Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation based on the written Proposal submitted by Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation.Deputy City Administrator Marlon Brown acknowledged John Minder’s information request and provided all information requested except for the notarized statements. Marlon in an April 20, 2012 e-mail to John stated, “As shared with you when you met with me, I stated that our policy did not require that a written and notarized reason from each committee member as to why you were not chosen or short-listed be provided. You stated that this would help you with future proposals. I understood that but I did not feel comfortable doing as you requested. As a courtesy, I shared with you that I would check with the City Attorney’s Office to see if they agreed or disagreed with providing the information. I have done that and unfortunately, the City Attorney agrees that this should not be done. I also shared with you that if you had a problem with our procurement policy that you have the right to share those concerns with the City Commission at any Commission meeting under citizens’ input or you can do so when we bring the revisions to the policy to the City Commission (date to be determined). Sorry that we could not be of further assistance. Have a great weekend.”John did appear before the City Commission and made them aware of his concerns. According to Deputy City Administrator Brown one request for proposal was in fact cancelled because of John’s showing that the specifications were flawed. Marlin also said that no evidence of any collusion or special treatment in this particular bid was found.

Mayor Suzanne Atwell has spoken of an accountable City of Sarasota, FL and City Staff. In the Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation case answering their request was a first step in accountability and transparency. It is fitting and proper for elected officials to be highly sensitive to the citizens they represent.

Citizens like John, you and I must be constantly vigilant of government, its hired staff and appointed committee members colluding to give special treatment to any firm. As government becomes more elitist and arrogant so do staff and appointed committee members. At times it seems staff and committees run roughshod over citizens and businesses without proper oversight by elected officials.

It is the duty of elected city and county officials to protect the property rights of citizens, not abuse them. Accountable means to the people, period.