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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Devil in the Details: Demographics

Pew Research does an excellent job of objectively exploring questions that few of us think to ask. They’ve released a study showing how much urbanism (and to a lesser extent, sub-urbanism) increasingly characterizes our nation. The country’s 100 most populous counties now have a solid majority of all citizens.

Urban counties rose from a slight majority in 1976 and now are heading towards two-thirds. Moreover, the people in these cities are young – and Democratic. Republicans won 43 of the 100 counties in 1976, but in 2012, Mitt Romney carried just 14. If I were a Republican, I’d find that stat very scary.

Mayors such as our Sandy Freedman, Pam Iorio, and Bob Buckhorn are creating cities that are fun to live in, and young people are responding by moving downtown. After leaving the Tampa Museum of Art last week, I sat in Curtis Hixon Park and watched the sun go down over the turrets at the University of Tampa. The sunset reflected in a river that is much cleaner than it was a generation ago – thanks to politicians such as Mary Figg, who sponsored the SWIM bill in the legislature.

People strolled on the Riverwalk, which is beautifully complete under Mayor Bob. I see walkers stop to read the plaques on our historical statues and occasionally hear them exclaim, “I didn’t know that!” I remember how Hubby and I joined in the 1976 bicentennial attempt to build a riverwalk. The slogan was “To Get Aboard, Buy a Plank,” and we did. It was near the Fortune Street Bridge for a few years, until another Mayor Bob dismantled the project. I’ll let you guess which parties the two represent.

Demographics become real when you watch people walking their dogs on Tampa’s great “front lawn.” Kids splashed in fountains intended for that purpose, and teens climbed creative statuary. Some were doing hula-hoops – something I’ve not seen in a while. In addition to the art museum, we have an inviting library, performing arts center, children’s museum, photographic gallery, and a bit further away, the history museum, the aquarium, and several other thematic parks. Soon we’ll have more on the western side of the river.

There’s no good reason anymore to fight traffic to live in Carrollwood or Brandon, which was the case back in the 1970s. The same is true all over the nation. And because of enlightened policing led by people like Jane Castor, crime is way down. Per person, today’s cities may be safer than small towns and rural areas where people are more likely to have guns. It’s not Richard Nixon’s world anymore, and “law and order” is no longer an effective slogan.

Which Brings Me to a Non-Existent Crime Wave

You may have noticed that courts are striking down laws passed by Southern legislatures that allegedly are intended to prevent voter fraud. That there are no cases of massive fraud, or even tiny fraud, doesn’t matter to them. These crime-avoidance guys – who also preach small government – are insisting that you present a photo ID, along with your voter registration card, when you go to your polling place.

Who possibly could find that a burden? Well, let’s start with those people who live in cities with transportation systems good enough that they don’t need a car – or a driver’s license. Or those people who don’t have a driver’s license because they are too poor to buy and maintain a car? Or elderly folks who didn’t have their license renewed the last time it came up? (My mom was one of those.) Or simply people who live in precincts where the polling clerks know them, but who find now that those clerks are obligated to deny them a ballot because they don’t have an approved ID.

Conservatives like to say – and probably really have convinced themselves – that everything was better in the past. Well, how did we vote in the past? We didn’t have anything beyond our paper registration card, and that worked fine. Why this new insistence on two forms of identification? Could it be because the people most likely to lack a photo ID are also most likely to vote Democratic? Could it be that legislatures dominated by such faux conservatives want to discourage minorities from voting by creating another barrier? Do they want them to give up on government?

Besides being undemocratic, it’s also stupid. That’s because a true voter-fraud scammer could easily avoid the photo ID requirement by voting by mail. If you cast an absentee ballot, no state mandates that you prove the identity of the mailer with a picture. I’m clueless on even seeing how such a law could be crafted. Instead, the insistence on photos is applicable only when a person is there to be identified, and thus it seems to be aimed at people who are accustomed to voting in their own precinct. They may be uncomfortable with changing to mail, and a true conservative would allow them to continue to do what they have in the past. That’s local governance at its best.

I have to admit, though, that I’ve stopped voting the old fashioned way because mail is so much easier. And mail has the advantage that if I die before election day, my ballot already is there. It’s anonymous and can’t be sorted out. Voting the registrations of dead people, of course, long was the popular way to steal elections. With good supervisors such as our Craig Latimer, however, the dead and the deadwood of non-voters (who don’t respond to contact attempts and probably have moved) are thoughtfully and carefully deleted from voter lists.

That was not true under Buddy Johnson -- and you know which party he was. Our daughter stayed as a registered voter in Hillsborough County for years after she had moved, despite attempts from both her and us to get her off. I kept checking to see if she still was there, and long after she had registered in Virginia, she was. I always wondered if Buddy and his buddies had a plan to use those registrations to win a close race.

So, there are many ways to cheat that don’t involve photo IDs. If there is fraud, it comes from people who have the time and resources to create cons. It may not even be fraud in their minds; they just were asleep in civics classes. I’ve known two people -- both older, affluent, white men – who patronizingly told me that of course they were entitled to cast ballots both here in Florida and Up North because they owned property in both places. I’m waiting for “conservative” legislators to start investigating that.

Just Fun

I read the newspaper funnies every day and am so glad that the Times kept those that ran in the Tribune. “Shoe” is not a particular favorite, but I wanted to comment on a recent one. Shoe is sitting in front of his TV, beer in hand, and the TV voice says: “In medical news, DNA scientists have proven that George Washington was, indeed, the father of our country.” Grin.

Except he wasn’t, and neither was James Madison the Father of the Constitution, if we talk about “father” as lower case. Both men married widows who had children from their previous marriages, and neither had a child by his wife. Dolley Madison and Martha Washington were young enough to have borne more children, so I’ve concluded that these founding fathers were infertile. Shoe inspired me to think you’d like to know that.

Here’s another idea inspired by a cartoon. In addition to “Doonesbury,” my all-time favorite is “Calvin & Hobbes.” It’s no longer being run, so I have to go to books for an occasional dose. My thought was inspired by one in which Calvin’s teacher, Miss Wormwood,” says that “Show and Tell” is over, and Calvin should put his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, in his locker. Calvin is horrified: “He’ll suffocate!” Miss Wormwood relents and says he can put the tiger under his desk, whereupon Hobbes takes on his real tiger persona – which includes helping Calvin with schoolwork. The last frame shows Calvin whispering, “What’s seven and three?” Hobbes replies, “Seventy-three.”

Before he went into philosophy, Hubby’s field was math, and that always was my poorest subject. I learned more from him as an adult than I ever learned in school. My mind was confused from Day One because no one explained the difference between “enumeration” and “addition.” I’m not sure if they do yet. Addition is counting, as in one, two, three, while enumeration is numbering, as in 1st, 2nd, 3rd. With subtraction, I was confused about what happened to the numbers in between: if you take three from seven, anyone can see that the answer is four – but does that four begin after the third or end at the seventh? Exactly which number has been taken out? You can see that Hobbes and I have similar minds.

OK. A punch line that doesn’t need a joke: “I don’t care who you are, you old fatso, get those reindeer off my roof!” Similar lines from TV: “You pull a gun on a man, it sets the tone for the whole evening.” And, “The first time my canary died…”


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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