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Hillsborough Democrats blast Confederate monument vote as ‘white supremacy, white privilege’

Two days after Hillsborough County Commissioners made national news by voting to keep a Confederate monument in front of its County Courthouse Annex, the Hillsborough Democratic Party says the commissioners who did so “should be ashamed of themselves.”

Four commissioners, all Republicans, voted to maintain a statue built in 1911 of a Confederate soldier in front of the courthouse. They also approved Crist’s proposal to add a mural behind the monument, showcasing what Crist called “love and diversity” of the community.

“The votes cast by Sandy Murman, Stacy White, Victor Crist, and Ken Hagan are an abomination,” says Ione Townsend, chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee in a statement. “We ask these commissioners to dig deep and find the moral courage to call for a reconsideration of this issue and put Hillsborough County on the right side of history.”

The two lone Democrats on the board — Les Miller and Pat Kemp — as well as Republican Al Higginbotham — voted to remove the monument.

Townsend said the vote to not remove the statue “was a continuation of white supremacy and white privilege policies,” and says “WE MUST stand up against these racist and divisive policies. We can and will express our beliefs at the ballot box in November of 2018.”

That’s easier said than done on a county commission that has been dominated by Republicans for two decades.

White will be running for re-election to his District 4 seat in conservative eastern Hillsborough County, while Murman and Crist will be running for new countywide seats after serving eight years on the board.

Hagan is also running for a new four-year term in District 2, which he previously served on from 2002-2010. He has spent the past six and a half years representing District 5, but intends to return to the north Hillsborough seat next year. He has already collected more than $200,000 in campaign contributions.

Then again, the changing demographics of the district in terms of a larger Latino population saw the county go further left in the 2016 election. Although Hillsborough has maintained a reputation for being one of the ultimate swing districts in the country during the presidential votes, the county went for Hillary Clinton by more than six percentage points last year, while the entire state went for Donald Trump.

Kemp easily won in the only countywide election, and Democrat Andrew Warren pulled off a major upset by defeating 16-year-GOP incumbent Mark Ober in the race for State Attorney.

On Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn issued a statement clarifying that it was Hillsborough County, and not Tampa, that made the controversial vote.

The statement was akin to what happened in 2005, when then-Mayor Pam Iorio announced that “gays and lesbians are part of our diversity and deserve our respect,” days after the Board voted to ban “Gay Pride” events.

As of late Friday, two of the four GOP commissioners responded to Townsend’s statement.

“I really have no response to this,” responded White. “My remarks from the meeting this past Wednesday really speak for themselves and basically rebut everything in the DEC’s statement.”

Victor Crist said he was “shocked” by what he called “hypocritical” remarks, since he said it was the Democratic Party who supported the monument from the beginning.

“Over the last 65 years that it’s been in its current location, most of those years have been under the Democratic County Commission, and every year that money had to have been appropriated to maintain it, the Democrats voted to do so,” he said. ” So all of a sudden now after 135 years of Democratic support, they’re going to turn around and criticize other people? You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

This is Townsend’s full statement:

Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners who voted on June 21 to leave the Confederate monument up in front of the courthouse should be ashamed of themselves. The votes cast by Sandy Murman, Stacy White, Victor Crist, and Ken Hagan are an abomination. We ask these commissioners to dig deep and find the moral courage to call for a reconsideration of this issue and put Hillsborough County on the right side of history. We also call all Democrats and residents of Hillsborough County who support the constitutional rights of all citizens and find the vote on June 21 to be unacceptable to CONTACT THESE COMMISSIONERS AND ASK THEM TO RECONSIDER THEIR POSITIONS AND VOTE “YES” on the removal of the Confederate statute.

Let us be clear!! The Civil War was fought over the oppression of the civil and human rights of African Americans. It was NOT a war of states’ rights or northern aggression as it is often referred to in the South even in 2017. The South fought this war to protect the interests of rich white Southerners who depended on slavery to maintain their lifestyle and wealth. After the Civil War the United States of America passed the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments abolishing slavery, giving citizenship to former slaves, guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law, and voting rights for African American men (women of all races did not get the right to vote until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920).

Jim Crow laws, designed to perpetuate segregation, were passed by southern states and local governments unwilling to abide by these new constitutional amendments in the later part of the 1800s. These laws by were an attempt to circumvent the new rights granted to all Americans. After yet another 100 years of continued suppression of rights guaranteed by the Constitution, Martin Luther King and many civil rights activists, some of whom lost their lives in this cause, worked tirelessly to make this oppression part of our public discourse.

This culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Resistance to equality continues today in the form of new Jim Crow laws being passed by Republican controlled states. New voting rights laws have been passed under the guise of unsubstantiated voter fraud resulting in oppression of voting rights especially in communities of color. Mandatory sentencing even for minor offenses and discriminatory criminal justice practices has a disproportionate effect on people of color, resulting in the filling of for-profit prisons. Is this not another form of discrimination, oppression, and slavery? These actions and sentiments have emboldened militarized police forces to shoot unarmed African American men, women and children.

The vote on June 21, 2017, at the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners to not remove a Confederate Statue from a public space was a continuation of white supremacy and white privilege policies. Symbols of the Confederacy are divisive, painful, racist, and are meant to intimidate a portion of our citizens who, because of white supremacy, have never realized complete freedom in the Land of the Free. A Confederate statue in front of a courthouse is particularly offensive. The vote was shameful and was the result of people working to perpetuate this abomination of racist thought and action on our body politic. White Supremacy was on full display at the County Commission meeting. WE MUST stand up against these racist and divisive policies. We can and will express our beliefs at the ballot box in November of 2018.

More endorsements come rolling in for Darden Rice’s re-election

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice is announcing an extended list of new endorsements Thursday for her District 4 re-election bid.

As a popular first-term Council member and longtime civic activist, Rice enjoys a wellspring of support from elected officials, colleagues and well-wishers on both the local and state levels.

The growing list of endorsements includes several prominent local elected officials: State Sen. Darryl Rouson, State Reps. Ben Diamond and Wengay Newton, as well as St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, and City Council colleagues Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, Karl Nurse, Jim Kennedy and Charlie Gerdes.

“Darden is truly dedicated to the people of St. Petersburg,” Nurse said Thursday. “She has a passion for public service that shines through the work she does, especially when it comes to constituent services. I’m proud to support Darden again in her race for City Council.”

Also lining up behind Rice are Pinellas County Commissioners Pat Gerard, Janet Long, Ken Welch and John Moroni, Pinellas County School Board Member Rene Flowers, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and Tampa City Council Members Mike Suarez, Yolie Capin, Harry Cohen and Charlie Miranda.

Welch praises Rice’s “great work” for both for the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

“Her leadership on important issues like fair wages and the environment have a positive impact on all of us every day,” he says. “I’m looking forward to continuing our work together during her second term on Council.”

In addition to her work on the environment – the Sierra Club and Florida Conservation Voters are among her earliest supporters – and for social justice, Rice also recently proposed a landmark Defend Our Democracy ordinance for the city of St. Pete, which seeks to stem big money spending in municipal elections.

On a 4-3 vote Thursday, council members supported Rice’s proposal that would require corporations spending more than $5,000 in city elections to certify they are not entirely or partly owned by foreign interests.

“I’m honored to have the support of my colleagues in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and around Tampa Bay,” Rice says. “It’s important in local government to work cooperatively to make positive change, and I look forward to four more years of progress.”

Rice is also being endorsed by former Florida Gov. and current Congressman Charlie Crist, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who is now a Democratic candidate for Florida Governor. She also has earned widespread support from various neighborhood leaders in District 4, a non-partisan seat covering large sections of North St. Pete.

As an active labor union advocate, Rice won the backing of the West Central Florida Labor Council, Service Employees International Union, Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association and St. Petersburg Association of Fire Fighters.

In her re-election bid, Rice is facing only a single challenger, USFSP student Jerick Johnston.

Joe Henderson: Hillsborough commissioners vote to preserve history, but what kind?

I’m still waiting for anyone who can find real nobility in the slaughter we euphemistically call the Civil War.

War, by its nature, is anything but civil. More importantly, what was so noble about the bloody conflict that four Hillsborough County Commissioners felt it was worth preserving a monument to a time where racial strife tore the nation apart.

What are they honoring?

Southern history? The war was fought over the South’s insistence on holding on to slavery. Look it up. Just Google “articles of secession” and read. It’s right there.

The racial strife remains today, too. Just read the news.

In Miami, State Rep. Shervin Jones tweeted about being taunted with racial slurs at a meeting about changing the names of streets in Hollywood named for Confederate generals. He said he was called a “monkey” and the N-word — he spelled it out; I won’t.

The commissioners who voted Wednesday to keep the monument at the county courthouse in downtown Tampa couched their decisions in all the modern language of the day. It’s history, they said. They say the statue of two Confederate soldiers — one marching to war, one coming home — is a tribute to the men who fought and died in the nation’s bloodiest conflict.

The Confederate flag is part of history too, but that didn’t stop South Carolina from removing it from the state capitol after a racist maniac murdered nine black worshippers at a church service.

It would be hard to believe the upcoming election campaigns of the commissioners who voted to keep the status quo — Stacy White, Ken Hagan, Victor Crist and Sandra Murman — didn’t have a lot to do with this. It’s fair to say there are a lot of voters who viewed this as another attack by the politically correct police, and three of the four face potentially tough election fights. White represents a safely conservative district.

Crist, as he often does, tried to have it both ways. Commissioners agreed with his pitch to have a have a large mural celebrating the county’s diversity painted behind the Confederate monument.

Well, you can do that and STILL move the existing monument to a more fitting location — a museum perhaps.

I’m still shaking my head over Murman’s suggestion that the county start an education program to address Hillsborough’s ongoing problem with racism.

Perhaps the four commissioners who voted to keep this punch-in-the-gut to the black community could be the first ones to sign up.

Votes like this have far-reaching ramifications. As Mitch Perry reported on SaintPetersBlog.com, the story became national news. Headlines of major publications and CNN reported “Tampa” officials made the decision.

Technically true, I guess.

But Mayor Bob Buckhorn will have none of that.

“There is no honor in treason and there is no valor in enslaving people because of their race,” he said. “That statue represents the worst of humanity, not the Tampa that we aspire to be. This decision doesn’t speak for our city and the people that I represent.”

This comes at a time when Gov. Rick Scott is on a mission to poach jobs from Connecticut. At a meeting there he told people they should “give up, capitulate” and move to Florida. I can’t imagine the Hillsborough vote will help his cause.

Next up: The Hillsborough School Board is expected to consider renaming Robert E. Lee elementary school. I can hear the arguments now against the change. It’s history. It’s tradition.

True.

Bad history. Bad tradition.

So was the monument, but I guess that doesn’t matter when one is looking for any reason not to do the right thing. We shouldn’t pretend the Civil War didn’t happen. We just shouldn’t keep fighting it today.

Bob Buckhorn: It was Hillsborough, not Tampa, which voted to keep Confederate monument

“Confederate monument in Tampa will stay put” is the headline published on CNN’s website on Wednesday, shortly after the Hillsborough County Commission voted 4-3 to keep a statue of a Confederate soldier in front of the annex of the county courthouse located in downtown Tampa.

“Officials in Tampa decide not to move Civil War monument,” is the headline in the Washington Post.

“Tampa leaders won’t remove Confederate Monument,” reads the headline in the Orlando Sentinel.

On Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn sought to make sure everyone knows that it was the government of Hillsborough County – and not the city he runs – which made that controversial vote.

“There is no honor in treason and there is no valor in enslaving people because of their race,” said the Mayor. “That statue represents the worst of humanity not the Tampa that we aspire to be. This decision doesn’t speak for our city and the people that I represent.”

The board’s 4-3 vote on Wednesday has angered many parts of the community, and made the region somewhat of an outlier from what other metropolitan areas that Tampa compares themselves have done with Confederate monuments of late. As CNN reported, “It was a rare negotiated outcome in the national debate over the place of divisive Confederate memorials.

On social media on Thursday, angry citizens noted that all four commissioners who supported the proposal to maintain the monument – Stacy White, Victor Crist, Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman – are all running on the 2018 ballot, and they vowed retribution at the polls.

That remains to be seen, however.

Hagan is running (again) in District 2, the Northern Hillsborough County Commission seat that has been maintained by Republicans for years. He’s also already raised over $200,000 in that race.

White is running for reelection in District 4, the eastern Hillsborough County seat that is considered the most conservative region of the county.

Crist and Murman are running in Districts 5 and 7, respectively, both countywide seats where theoretically they could be challenged by a strong Democratic challenger.

Bob Buckhorn says Tampa is doing plenty to combat climate change

Although Bob Buckhorn isn’t likely to sign onto a Sierra Club pledge putting Tampa on record as attempting a 100 clean energy portfolio by a certain year, his administration says he’s doing plenty to combat the negative implications of climate change on the city.

Buckhorn did join St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman in signing on to a group of over 300 mayors earlier this month who say they intend to fully the intended mission of the Paris Climate agreement, which President Trump has said the U.S. won’t abide by.

“This mission, and similar efforts happening around the city, overlap Sierra Club’s mission,” Buckhorn said in a statement, issued as approximately two dozen activists descended on City Hall on Monday to drop off nearly 2,000 petitions calling for him to join on the Ready for 100 campaign.

The organizers said they are putting the pressure on him now to sign the pledge because they want him to join the list of more than 100 mayors who will have joined the Ready for 100 campaign and plan to hold a press conference this Friday afternoon touting the plan at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in Miami Beach.

Buckhorn will be at that meeting, but won’t at that press conference.

Dayna Lazarus from the group Organize Florida led the activists into the lobby at City Hall, where she and other activists placed the petitions calling on the mayor to join the “Ready for 100” campaign on an administrative aide’s desk.

“We do a lot in this city on sustainability,” Buckhorn spokesperson Ashley Bauman told Lazarus. “And we’re doing everything in our power to combat sea level rise and climate change, and we really appreciate the work you’re doing.”

Bauman went on to add that Buckhorn is frequently asked to sign onto such pledges, and reminded her of his earlier pledge to work on pushing for the city to live up to aspirations of the Paris agreement.

“We are incredibly grateful for speaking out in support of taking action on climate change, and today we are presenting him an opportunity to take that action,” said Lazarus.

The activists then held a press conference outside of City Hall immediately afterward where speakers talked about the dangers of sea level rise, a resonant issue considering that the Tampa Bay area region is considered to be in the top ten in the nation that is most vulnerable to this phenomenon.

“When you talk to the folks who live in South Tampa and Port Tampa neighborhoods, they are painfully aware that sea level rise is happening,” said Lazarus. “They’re having to deal with the ways to school and work, property damage, rising mosquito population and mold and flood insurance is now so expansive in those neighborhoods.”

“Tampa is running out of time,” warned Tampa Bay Sierra Club Chairman Kent Bailey. “Only a determined, deliberate action to immediately shift to 100 percent renewable energy can save Tampa Bay from disaster.”

While it’s been more common for Buckhorn to ignore signing on to such pledges during his six years in office (in spite of the Paris agreement), administration officials point to the work that the mayor did last summer in lobbying for a $251 million draining improvement program to address serious flooding issues that plague Tampa neighborhoods every summer when the rainy season begins. The City Council passed the measure on a 5-2 vote, with only Frank Reddick and Charlie Miranda dissenting.

It came nearly two years after that same City Council rejected a similar proposal. 

City Councilman Guido Maniscalco applauded Buckhorn for signing onto the Paris climate accord with other mayors, and believes he should sign the Sierra Club pact as well.

“It’d be a step in the right direction,” he said. “It’d be sending a positive message that Tampa wants to be at the forefront and a leader and maintaining the conversation for better renewable energy sources, which will be benefit everyone.”

Last year, the City of St. Petersburg became the first city to sign on the Ready for 100 pledge. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer recently followed, and the Sarasota City Commission was scheduled to vote Monday on whether they will sign on to the plan.

Although there have been reports that St. Pete plans to aim for a 100 percent clean energy portfolio by 2030, that’s not accurate, says Sharon Wright, St. Petersburg’s sustainability coordinator. No specific year has been set (as of yet) to try to achieve that goal, she says.

 

Shawn Harrison kicks off HD 63 re-election bid at Tampa Theater June 29

Republican state Rep. Shawn Harrison is holding a campaign kickoff party later this month to launch his re-election bid in House District 63.

The event, hosted by House Majority 2016 and featuring special guest Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, is Thursday, June 29, beginning 5 p.m. at the historic Tampa Theater, 711 N. Franklin St.

Included on the extensive list of local GOP leaders making the host committee are House Speaker Richard Corcoran from Land O’Lakes, and Speakers-to-be Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor. Also on the committee are Tampa-area state Sens. Dana Young and Tom Lee; state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia; former House Speakers Will Weatherford and Dean Cannon; former state Rep. Seth McKeel; former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Hillsborough County Commissioners Victor Crist, Stacy White and Sandy Murman; and Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick, among others.

Harrison first served District 7 on the Tampa City Council in District 7 in 1999, the first councilman elected to represent New Tampa since its incorporation.

Harrison next served HD 60 in the Florida House from 2010 until Democrat Mark Danish defeated him in 2012. In 2014, he won a rematch against Danish for the redrawn HD 63. In 2016, Harrison won re-election against Lisa Montelione, who resigned a seat on the Tampa City Council for a House run.

Questions or RSVP requests can be directed to (813) 774-0193.

Event in remembrance of Pulse victims set for Ybor City tonight

Less than 48 hours after a gunman shot 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando a year ago, thousands gathered in Ybor City to honor the victims.

On this first anniversary of what is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Ybor City will again be the site for the Tampa Bay community to come together to remember the victims of that attack.

The vigil at Centennial Park begins at 7 p.m.

“We’re calling it a night of reflection,” says Carrie West, who helped create The GaYBOR District Coalition a decade ago. Tampa Pride, the GaYBOR district and Equality Florida are among the groups organizing the event.

The City of Tampa began acknowledging the anniversary of the tragedy on Friday, when it began flying flags at half-staff and added the pride flag above Old City Hall.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn was joined by Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos at a blood drive on Monday.

“One year after this horrific event only confirms my words following last year’s tragedy, ‘Orlando is a strong and resilient community’ and has joined together to overcome this immeasurable loss,” Buckhorn said on Monday. “Tampa stands united with Orlando and will remain steadfast partners to combat hate of any sort. Love will always be more powerful than hate.”

The city also released this video on Friday.

 

Tampa recognizes anniversary of Pulse victims with Pride flags, video

Unlike their friends in county government a few blocks east on Kennedy Blvd., Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn‘s administration is recognizing the anniversary of the mass shooting of 49 people at the Pulse LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, which took place one year ago June 12, 2016.

The city is hanging the rainbow Pride flag from the top of Old City Hall this weekend; the rainbow colors will be featured over the five downtown bridges.

Tampa is also showing solidarity with Orlando in a new thirty-second video titled, “Dear Orlando,” which features footage from the vigil held in Ybor City two nights after the massacre last June, as well as a march in Ybor during the city’s Pride festival in March.

Rick Kriseman to hold fundraiser — in Tampa

Rick Baker held a fundraiser in Clearwater last week, leading some to chortle that he had to travel all the way to North Pinellas to help boost his coffers in his bid to return as St. Petersburg mayor.

Democrats said there weren’t enough Republicans in St. Pete to prop up the former two-term mayor.

But Baker is not the only mayoral candidate who is venturing beyond the city limits to soak up campaign cash.

On June 20, Rick Kriseman will be at a fundraiser held at the Tampa law firm of Shuemaker, Loop & Kendrick.

Among those listed as hosts for the event: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa City Council members Luis Vieira, Harry Cohen, Mike Suarez and Yolie Capin, and other bold-named Democrats like Alex Sink, Betty Castor and Jim Davis.

Kriseman has already reported raising more than $400,000 in fundraising as of the end of April. Baker entered the race last month. Neither candidate has released their fundraising totals for the month of May.

 

 

Bob Buckhorn crosses party lines to help Shawn Harrison’s bid for re-election

In 2016, Democrats targeted a handful of Florida House districts they believed they could flip from red to blue.

One of them was Hillsborough County’s House District 63, where the Florida Democratic Party put some money behind Lisa Montelione in her bid to oust Republican incumbent Shawn Harrison.

After a close race, Harrison ultimately prevailed, 51 to 49 percent.

Although off-year elections are traditionally harder for Democrats, there is hope that an energetic resistance to Donald Trump could make 2018 a year of opportunity.

But as Harrison already begins looking forward to getting re-elected next year, he’s getting assistance from one of the biggest Democrats in the region, Bob Buckhorn. The Tampa mayor is listed as a special guest at Harrison’s June 29 campaign kickoff fundraiser at the Tampa Theatre.

“I support people who support the City of Tampa and our legislative issues,” Buckhorn told FloridaPolitics.com in a text message. “Shawn has consistently been willing to advocate on behalf of issues that were important to the City, even if it meant going against their leadership of his own party. He never forgot what it was like to be a local elected official and has been a voice of reason in a political party that has made local government a target. It seems to me that we are all better served when our elected officials care more about their community that their political issues.”

Harrison has voted against the majority of his party in a few notable cases, such as when he supported a hybrid version of Medicaid expansion a few years ago. He also supported economic incentives for Enterprise Florida, a position Buckhorn backed and which earned him the public rebuke of Gov. Rick Scott at an appearance at MOSI early this year.

As House Minority Leader, Tampa state Rep. Janet Cruz was charged with attempting to get as many Democrats elected to the House last fall. She’s also close with Buckhorn and had no issue with him backing Harrison.

“Nothing new,” Cruz told FloridaPolitics.com. “Buckhorn served for many years with Harrison on Council. I believe they became good friends then.”

With Americans saying that they’re tired of partisan bickering, some would say the Buckhorn-Harrison connection should be celebrated. However, that’s not the way some Tampa Democrats see it.

“Flabbergasted” was the term used by Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ione Townsend after learning of the Mayor’s efforts.

“I’m disappointed because the mayor claims he’s a good Democrat,” said Hillsborough County Democratic Committeeman Russ Patterson, adding that he’s aware that Buckhorn and Harrison are friends. “Friendships are allowed to cross party,” he added.

“I’m not surprised,” said public relations executive Tom Hall, who teamed up with former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and others last year to form The Hillsborough Society, which raised over $40,000 to support local Democrats in Hillsborough County in 2016 and is actively recruiting candidates for 2018.

Hall cited Buckhorn’s support for Republican Pam Bondi against Democrat George Sheldon in the 2014 attorney general’s race, and his refusal to back Democrat Charlie Crist in the gubernatorial race that same year as moves that Democrats haven’t forgotten about.

“I think that those two were big mistakes, and the Democrats that I know and talk to have not forgiven him for that,” said Hall, adding that his group is looking for a good Democrat to challenge Harrison in 2018.

Buckhorn won’t be the only elected Democrat from Tampa at the Harrison fundraiser. City Councilman Frank Reddick is also listed on the fundraising announcement. Reddick endorsed Harrison over Montelione last year.

Montelione did not return a request for comment.

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