Rick Scott

White nationalist speech at UF: Should I stay or should I go?

Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and University of Florida President Kent Fuchs are urging students, faculty and others to shun firebrand white nationalist Richard Spencer, who’s speaking at the college tomorrow.

But Florida Democrats issued a press release this morning saying they support peaceful protestors and it’s incumbent on those who disagree with Spencer to speak out.

“The Florida Democratic Party reiterates its support for all peaceful protesters who are standing up and speaking out,” Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel said in the release. “We have a moral obligation to refute hate and bigotry whenever they present themselves. White supremacy is an evil we cannot ignore. When leaders like our governor fail to challenge the President for embracing white supremacists, it becomes all the more urgent that the rest of us speak out—clearly, unequivocally, and loudly. We must let it be known that we reject hatred in all its forms.”
Responding to a request by Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency for the county. The executive order allows for coordination between state and local law enforcement agencies. Darnell said her request wasn’t based on any heightened security risks, but was a preventative measure.

Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting this morning, Bondi said she was praying “nothing happens” and urged students not to go to the event, while saying “there is no place for espousing these horrible, horrible views.”

Bondi said law enforcement will be well-prepared.

But, she added, “There is just no place right now for this, but you know with free speech, if he’s going to get up there and do it, then he’s going to do it. But we are going to make sure that our students and our citizens are protected.”

Spencer, the head of the National Policy Institute, was among the speakers at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly when a car plowed into a group of counter-protestors. Heather Heyer was killed and dozens of others were injured.
Clashes between Spencer supporters, some of whom are white supremacists and others who back his white separatist ideology, and “Antifa,” or anti-fascist, groups have taken place on other campuses where Spencer has spoken.

Alt-right speech in Hogtown: “It’s just words”

Tension continues to build in advance of alt-right activist Richard Spencer’s appearance at the University of Florida Thursday,.

Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting this morning, Attorney General Pam Bondi said “there is no place for espousing these horrible, horrible views.”

Yesterday, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County. County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said she requested the emergency declaration so she could make sure she had the necessary resources, just in case.

Spencer was one of the key organizers of an August “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly when a car plowed into a group of counter-protestors. Heather Heyer, 31, was killed, and dozens were injured.

Appearances by Spencer in other college towns also sparked melees, causing concern by state and local officials who fear similar clashes in Hogtown.

Bondi defended Scott’s emergency declaration when asked if it might worsen an already tense situation.

“This guy’s out there espousing violence and hatred and anger and if we know that he’s going to be doing that, it’s our duty as a state … to have the resources available up front,” she said.

Spencer supporters point the finger at counter-protestors, who’ve pledged to show up en masse on Thursday, as the reason for the precautions.

Cameron Padgett, a Georgia State University student who helped organize Spencer’s speech in Gainesville, posted a video on Twitter yesterday, with an update about how to get tickets for the event at UF’s Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

The center was originally supposed to distribute the tickets for the 2:30 speech, Padgett said.

But organizers quashed that after learning that tickets could have been turned in for free drinks, or even money, Padgett said in the video.

“It almost seems to me that people don’t want to hear Richard Spencer speak. You know, they’re just words. We’re not even there yet, in Gainesville, at all and they’re already enacting a state of emergency based on protestors already there,” Padgett said. “What’s the state of emergency being enacted on? It’s the protestors that are there at the event, or at the venue right now. So we’re there to peacefully show up and speak, you know, words only, and if you want to debate and engage in a conversation, then I welcome everybody to be there. I think it will be a good event. I have full faith in the police to do whatever they need to do to make sure that the speech is delivered properly and safely.”

Rick Scott to docs: Get involved. Somebody’s going to win the next election.

Addressing the Florida Medical Association last week, Gov. Rick Scott encouraged doctors to “get involved in the political process” because “somebody is actually going to win” the next election.

Scott, who’s leaving office next year due to term limits, noted that the legislative session that kicks off in January will be his last.

“I’ve got about 458, 459 days to go,” he told a group of doctors attending a day-long opioid summit in Tampa on Friday.

“I don’t say that because I don’t like the job. This is a great job. And there’s a lot of people trying to get it,” he joked, before giving the docs some advice.

“I would recommend that everybody get involved in the political process, because somebody is actually going to win. And it’s better that you’re involved in the process and you understand what they think and how they’re going to govern and you participate in it,” Scott told the physicians at the event hosted by the FMA.

The influential doctors’ group has a lot of clout in the Capitol, with a cadre of top-shelf lobbyists and a reputation for being able to kill legislation it views as unfriendly. The FMA’s PAC has contributed over $4 million to candidates and committees over the past six years, and that doesn’t include separate contributions made individually by doctors or their practices.

Scott, who’s mulling a run for the U.S. Senate next year, then went on to make a pitch for the job he’s done since he took office in 2011.

“If you like to try to have a positive impact on people’s lives, I don’t think there’s a better job than being governor of a state like Florida,” he said. We’ve been able to, because of people like you, we’ve added over 1.4 million jobs. We’ve paid off 25 percent of the state debt. I’ve cut 5,000 regulations. We have about 20,000 new jobs a month. We have about 350,000 people moving here a year. One hundred thousand of those people are moving from another country. We’re the best melting pot around. We’re at a 46-year low in our crime rate. So this state is absolutely on a roll. There is no place like Florida right now.”

Then he veered back to encouraging the docs to get involved.

“It’s really important that you guys are politically active because somebody will win the next election. If you’re not active, it might be somebody that you disagree (with), so I’d do everything you can to get the person that you believe in is going to do the right things for this state elected,” he said.

Dems ask Scott for relief centers to aid in expected Puerto Rican migration

As conditions continue to deteriorate in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, Florida Democratic legislators are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to set up relief centers for Puerto Rican evacuees.

Friday’s ask comes as Scott, who traveled to the island yesterday, meets with President Donald Trump in Washington to give him an update of what’s going on in Puerto Rico and the Sunshine State, still recovering from Hurricane Irma.

The situation in Puerto Rico is growing dire, the Democrats wrote in a letter to Scott.

“Now more than a week removed from Maria’s landfall, nearly 3.4 million Puerto Ricans remain without power, the telecommunications grid for the island is in tatters, citizens are running low on cash due to the lack of functioning ATMs necessary to purchase supplies and are faced with an inability to process debit transactions, and large areas outside urban centers remain inaccessible as roads continue to be blocked by fallen debris or are washed away completely,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, and a handful of House and Senate members wrote to Scott.

The disaster could result in “hundreds of thousands” of evacuees fleeing to Florida, home to more than 1 million Puerto Ricans already, the Democrats wrote.

“To prepare for this influx of hundreds of thousands new Floridians, we believe it is vital that the state respond proactively to ease their transition and reduce the mental and financial strain this process is sure to inflict on many families,” they wrote.

The “relief centers” could provide”one-stop access to local, state, and federal officials who could offer guidance on housing aid and availability and other services, the Democrats suggested.

The request for the relief centers comes a day after Florida U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio called for the “cavalry” — in the form of the U.S. military — to come to the rescue in Puerto Rico.

 

Dems mauling Maul’s disaster creds

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Democrats and other critics of Gov. Rick Scott are creating a storm over Wesley Maul, the governor’s pick to head up the Florida Division of Emergency Management with two months left in the hurricane season.

The Florida Democratic Party questioned Maul’s qualifications, who’s now the division’s chief of staff and will take over as interim head of state emergency ops from Bryan Koon on Sunday.

“We need an experienced leader at the helm of our emergency management operations, and no one would disagree that Wes Maul is totally inexperienced and unprepared for such an important role,” FDP spokeswoman Johanna Cervone said in a statement. “Rick Scott has a clear record of propping up unqualified political appointees, but this is unacceptable.”

American Bridge 21st Century PAC, a progressive “super PAC” that targets Republicans, also piled on, outlining the resumes of prior division leaders to highlight the contrast with Maul.

“Wesley Maul’s resume would only be impressive to Tallahassee lobbying firms,” American Bridge said in a memo released Thursday. “He has only one year of experience working at the Division of Emergency Management. He has no degrees or professional credentials in emergency management. Just four years ago, Maul was a mattress delivery associate while enrolled in law school. Following that, he was a travelling (sic) aide to Rick Scott, handling the governor’s personal calendar and making sure the governor stuck to his schedule.”

Here’s the snapshots of Maul’s predecessors, provided by American Bridge :

  • Koon (Division of Emergency Management Director from 2011 to present), previously served as director of emergency management for WalMart. He was also a watch commander for the White House Emergency Operations Center.
  • David Halstead (2010-2011), had been with the division since 1998, including the 2004 hurricane season when he was an emergency services branch chief.
  • Ruben Almaguer (2009-2010), was a deputy director at the division after having worked as a division chief for the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department.
  • Craig Fugate (2001-2009), had also been a deputy director for the division before being appointed to the top job by Gov. Jeb Bush. Fugate, a Democrat, had spent a decade as emergency manager for Alachua County.
  • Joe Myers (1993-2001), was director of emergency management in North Carolina for eight years prior to taking the job in Florida.

Maul, who joined DEM in May 2016, spent about three years in the governor’s office. His duties, according to Maul’s LinkedIn page, included running Scott’s daily schedule and coordinating travel.

Prior to going to work for Scott, and while earning his law degree at the University of Florida, Maul spent a year as a delivery associate at Mattress Town of Gainesville, which the LinkedIn page said increased “average daily delivery capability by 211% through improved inventory analysis, logistics, and sales operations.”

In a press release announcing Koon’s departure this week, Scott called Maul a “valued member” of his team since 2013.

“As Chief of Staff at DEM, Wes has worked countless hours helping lead our state through Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew and now Irma,” Scott said in the release. “Since earning his law degree at the University of Florida, Wes has devoted his life to serving the families of our state and I am confident in his ability to lead DEM as Interim Director as we continue to recover from Hurricane Irma.”

By Jim Turner.

Watch out for that bear!

State wildlife officials are advising motorists to watch out for hungry bears — on the road.

The latest video from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid conflicts with black bears, focuses on what motorists can do to avoid driving into the path of the wandering creatures.

“Bears are most active around dusk and dawn, and therefore most vehicle-bear collisions happen during these times of day,” the commission noted. “To reduce the risk of hitting a bear, motorists should stay alert and drive cautiously around heavily wooded areas, roads with curves and areas marked with bear warning signs.”


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/235622570″>Vehicle Collisions with Bears</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/myfwc”>My FWC</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

The video — “Collisions with Bears“ — specifically notes that motorists should take extra caution when traveling in or around the Ocala National Forest in Lake and Marion counties, where about half the incidents resulting in the death of a bear occur.

In 2016, the state recorded 231 bears killed by vehicles in Florida, down from 248 in 2015 and 245 in 2014. In 2012, when bears were removed from the state’s list of threatened species, 285 bears were killed on Florida’s roads. 

The state agency started rolling out the videos nearly a year ago as a means to help people get along with black bears in large part by teaching people how to avoid interacting with the lumbering animals.

The agency, which has backed down from bear hunts for the past few years, has $515,000 to match with local government funding to help people and businesses buy bear-resistant trash cans and hardware and to have modified dumpsters. The amount is down from $825,000 last year.

Roughly 4,000 black bears are estimated to live in Florida, from the forests of Southwest Florida through the Panhandle.

By Jim Turner.

Law professor: “Nobody” executing Death Row inmate

Chance Meyer, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who previously defended prisoners sentenced to death, penned an op-ed in advance of the execution of Cary Michael Lambrix, scheduled for Oct. 5.

Meyer, an instructor and adjunct professor at Nova’s Shepard Broad College of Law, contends those involved in the execution process — including Gov. Rick Scott — maintain that they are merely following state law in ordering and performing death by lethal injection.

Here’s Meyer’s take on the proces:

Nobody is going to execute Michael Lambrix

On Thursday, October 5, around 6:00 in the evening, in the lethal injection chamber at Florida State Prison in Bradford County, nobody is going to execute Michael Lambrix.

Nobody on the team of corrections officers that performs the lethal injection will be the one who executes Lambrix. Department of Corrections procedures give each officer a discrete task in the overall process, so nobody is responsible for the end result. The tasks are “requisite,” so nobody has to choose whether to perform them. The officers’ identities are “kept strictly confidential,” so nobody has to be anybody.

The officers just follow orders from the warden. And the warden just follows orders from the Governor.

On September 1, Governor Rick Scott sent the warden a death warrant ordering Lambrix executed.

In the warrant, Scott explained that a Florida statute “requires that I set a . . . date for execution . . . .” In other words, he didn’t choose to have Lambrix executed. Nobody did. He just followed orders from the Florida Legislature.

The Legislature passed the statute in 2013, as part of the so-called Timely Justice Act. At that time, legislators explained that their intent for the act was “that capital postconviction proceedings be conducted in accordance with court rules, and that courts strictly adhere to the timeframes . . . established therein.” In other words, the Legislature was not giving new orders. Nobody was. The Legislature was just trying to ensure that everyone would follow court orders.

A court ordered Lambrix executed, but neither the judge that issued the order nor the jurors that voted for the execution are responsible.

Lambrix was sentenced in 1984. His judge made the critical findings necessary to impose the death penalty. Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that only juries, not judges, can make “the critical findings necessary to impose the death penalty.”

In 1984, his jury’s recommended sentence of death was not unanimous. Since then, the Florida Supreme Court has held that a “jury’s recommended sentence of death must be unanimous.”

So nobody made a lawful decision to execute Lambrix.

“[T]umble[ing] down the dizzying rabbit hole of untenable line drawing” is how Justice Lewis of the Florida Supreme Court describes the legal regime that permits defendants like Lambrix to be executed. Nobody understands it.

So, on Thursday, October 5, around 6:00 in the evening, in the lethal injection chamber at Florida State Prison in Bradford County, nobody is going to execute Michael Lambrix.