Week in Review 8/13/17

I’m relaunching the Straw Hat, a weekly news roundup focusing on news and calls to action in the North Central Florida area. This week Trump threatens funding of GPD, president Fuchs green lights a Nazi to speak at UF, and thousands are set to die from the opioid crisis. Quite a week to start back up. I’ll likely be launching a weekly podcast soon to provide additional commentary and analysis. Stay tuned for updates.


Local:

  • Richard Spencer, a literal Nazi, is slated to speak at the University of Florida’s  Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on September 12th. His talks attract other Nazis who instigate acts of violent, such as the terrorist attack in Charlottesville this past weekend. UF President Fuchs has put out a statement denouncing his rhetoric but supporting his free speech. This is another in a long line of tepid responses to racist incidents on the UF campus. Call 1-866-UF-Facts and tell President Fuchs that there’s no place for Nazi’s at UF. (Gainesville Sun).
  • A proposed giant phosphate mine in Union and Bradford Counties has gained traction again. The process of phosphate mining is highly destructive and would damage the Santa Fe River and our aquifer.  Earlier this year Union County Commissioners put a moratorium on new mines but the Bradford County Commission is moving forward with hiring a consultant on August 17th. You can contact the Bradford County Commission at bocc@bradfordcountyfl.gov or (904) 966-6327 and tell them to put a moratorium on phosphate mining in Bradford County. (link)
  • The City of Gainesville will be voting on the Gainesville Votes initiative on Thursday (8/17), which would move Gainesville city elections from the spring of every year to the fall of every other year. This would save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and at least double the number of voters in city elections. You can email all city commissioners at citycomm@cityofgainesville.org to support further democratizing our local politics.
  • Alachua County fired manager Lee Niblock in a surprise 4-1 vote on Tuesday (8/8). This is a big deal as the manager has a lot of leeway to carry out policies passed by the Commission. Niblock was receptive and cooperative with unions and the living wage movement while at the County but he upset too many commissioners. He angered the African American community with his firing of a prominent worker on her 25 year service award day (she was white but he tried to rally the African American community against her), he upset progressives by proposing retention bonuses for upper management, and he worried the environmentalists for meddling with tree planting funds and having a sloppy history with Plum Creek. (Gainesville Sun)
  • The City of Gainesville Police Department is set to lose $63,771 from a federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant from the Trump administration for being a so-called sanctuary city. This is silly for a number of reasons but the most obvious is that the City of Gainesville cannot enforce a sanctuary policy. There’s no clear definition to what a sanctuary city is but the most cited definition is that they do not hold undocumented immigrants past their scheduled release date without a judicial order. That is, they don’t violate the 4th amendment of the US Constitution. If the federal government tells the Alachua County Sheriff they have a judge’s order to deport a person they’ll hold them. If not it’d be unconstitutional to hold them past their release date regardless of their immigration status. Seems simple enough but what’s really silly about this is that the Gainesville Police Department doesn’t have anything to do with booking because everyone in the County arrested is processed through the Alachua County Sheriff’s office. Not only is the idea of punishing a so called sanctuary cities laughable; the punishment of the wrong agency is just sloppy politicking. The cherry on top of this poorly thought out Trump policy is that it’s very likely illegal. The National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius ruling which stopped the Medicaid expansion under the ACA says that you cannot use funding cuts to coerce states into adopting federal policy. I’m sure this will be included in the recently filed lawsuit from Chicago against the the administration. Follow Madres Sin Fronteras to get involved in the immigrant rights struggle in Gainesville. (Daily Single)
    • Miami complained to Trump that they were not a sanctuary County so they were removed from the list. I hope Gainesville wears this attack as a badge of honor. (Miami Herald)
  • The Sabal Trail Pipeline sprung a leak in Marion County this week. The trail was protested throughout North Central Florida leading to mass arrests and a death. (WCJB)

State:

  • After the Pulse Club Massacre Governor Scott made closed door promises to outlaw discrimination against LGBTQ+ people by private employers. It’s been over a year since this promise was made and the Governor isn’t responding to requests for updates. (News Journal)
  • Trumpcare may be mostly dead but the uncertainty of healthcare is going to drive costs up. Over the past 2 years premiums in Florida have gone up by double digits and the number of insurers have shrunken from 10 to 6 under the Affordable Care Act. But with Trump threatening to cut subsidies this could mean even higher premiums and increases of over $300 for typical ACA market recipients in Florida (Sun Sentinel)
  • Florida let $20.4 million in federal money for dealing with addiction expire without replacing it. The last year we had a complete picture of the crises was 2015 which saw 3,900 opioid deaths in Florida. The trend has been going up and it is predicted we will reach well over 6,000 deaths in 2017. We are in an epidemic and clinics are going to start closing or turning people away. Gov. Scott did declare a public health emergency which allowed the state to use some $27 million in federal funding to deal with this crisis but that money cannot go towards detox, drug treatments programs, or crisis centers. The federal government has also taken it’s first steps in declaring a nation state of emergency but Trump has hinted that the funds will go towards tougher law enforcement rather than treatment which public health professions believe will actually work (Naples News and Politico)
  • There’s a nursing shortage in Florida. The prediction is that there will be a 50,000 nurse deficit by 2025. We’ve known about it for years and the Florida legislature has been attempting to deal with it since 2009. Their solution was to deregulate nursing schools which doubled the number of programs to ~350 and increased enrollment by 54%. The problem is that these students still have to pass the state license exams and they’re failing at ridiculously high rates. Many of these unregulated and non accredited nursing schools are closing which is leaving students with large debts and little to show for their effort. The best results come from expanding traditional nursing programs like at Santa Fe College and the University of Florida but the state has been reluctant to ditch their ideological drive for privatization. (Sun Sentinel)

National:

  • Trump’s department of interior has repealed an Obama era rule that would have made it harder for energy companies to hide the value of national resources extracted from federal and tribal lands. The rule was put in place because it’s estimated that US taxpayers missed out on $30 billion over the last 30 years due to loose oversight. (Returners)

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