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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.


I’m so sad about my old friend Congresswoman Corrine Brown of Jacksonville – and even sadder because I’m convinced that she’s guilty of at least some of the two-dozen counts of fraud that federal prosecutors have charged. And, yes, the ultimate boss of those federal prosecutors is another African-American Democratic woman, Attorney General Loretta Lynch. That just shows that individuals have to be judged as individuals, not by race or gender or political party.

I met Corrine in 1980, when we both attended the Democratic National Convention in New York City. The Florida delegation stayed at a fairly small hotel (with West Virginia), so it was easy to get to know each other. Corrine and I both had an affiliation with the caucus of the American Federation of Teachers and quickly became friends. She especially wanted that because I found it much easier to catch cabs than she did.

Doubtless because she was black, taxis passed her by, but usually stopped for me; she stood a few feet away and then followed. I also had enough knowledge of NYC to know that if you answered a cabbie’s question about your destination while still outside the vehicle, he was free to move on – but if you opened the door and plopped down before replying, he had to take you where you wanted to go. I probably learned that from my publishing agent during previous trips to New York, but it was news to Corrine. When convention delegates answered “Madison Square Garden,” cabbies whizzed away. It was a reasonable decision for them because they did not want to get caught in the traffic and security fences near the convention. Ted Kennedy was a star, and no one wanted to risk another assassination.

Corrine was grateful for my brashness with cabbies, but I hope I didn’t teach her that attribute too well. She was elected to Congress in 1992, and the longer she stayed in office, the more impossible it was to reach her. Her staff clearly had been trained to make her nearly inaccessible. I had to precede a phone call with a fax explaining myself -- and even then, they were unlikely to follow up. That was not and is not true of Tampa’s members of Congress: Sam Gibbons, Jim Davis, and now Kathy Castor not only returned calls promptly, but they also have a history of reaching out on their own to Hubby or me for feedback on issues.

So again, it is important to know the individual or to know someone who knows. We should not tar all politicians with the same brush because, just like the public they represent, they differ from each other. Still, I’m very sad about Corrine because she is the first female member of Congress from Florida to be caught up in a scandal. We’ve had countless scandals with men, of course, but somehow that doesn’t count.


You may or may not remember that women were included in the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a joke. The act aimed to actually enforce the civil rights that former slaves had won with the 14th Amendment after the Civil War, but a century later, inequality still was the rule, especially in the South. The proposed law banned discrimination on the basis of race, but said nothing about gender (or “sex,” as it then was termed). Thinking that the idea of including women was so absurd that it would cause the bill to fail, some Southern congressmen added that amendment. To their surprise, their colleagues voted for the act anyway.

It took the executive branch a while, though, to start applying the 1964 law to cases of discrimination against women, and even longer to think about girls. NOW therefore successfully lobbied for a section of the 1972 federal education bill that required schools to end the barriers girls faced in school, especially in sports. (Yes, it also benefited boys, as they would learn more important lifelong skills in home economics than they would by being routed into building birdhouses in what was called “shop.”) Congressman Sam Gibbons supported the act, and later, my friends Kathy Betancount, a lobbyist for the Classroom Teachers Association, and the inimitable Betty Castor, as education commissioner, worked to make it reality. “Title IX” of that law has become shorthand for equality in education, especially athletics. Among other things, it meant that girls got access to the school gym at hours other than dawn or dark. Their coaches still wouldn’t be paid as much as coaches for boys, but that’s another issue.

So I was happy to hear this story from a married couple, both lawyers. It seems their little granddaughter observed boys playing a game she thought was called “rigby,” and she wanted to join. The coach, however, replied that rugby was only for boys. She went home and told her mother, also a lawyer, and the busy mother merely replied, “I wonder if that coach knows anything about Title IX.” The little kid went to school the next day, looked up at the man who was about three times taller than she, and inquired, “Do you know anything about Title IX?” She immediately was on the team.

People Sometimes Ask

where I get column ideas. That rarely is a problem, as I have a folder packed with topics I’ve never gotten around to writing. The business section of Saturday’s Times alone furnished three things on one page: the stock market, gas prices, and driverless cars.

Yes, Wall Street again closed at over 18,000 last week – more than twice as high as it was when Dubya left office. Check it out, Republicans. Moreover, this is not the inflated junk bond boom that we had back then: this is real wealth, as measured by real people, doing real work. Get real, and vote Democratic for a good economy.

Gas prices. Remember when Newt said they would rise to $6 a gallon if Obama were elected? Instead, they’ve been falling steadily over the years since the Texas oilmen left the White House. Even now, during the midst of summer tourist season, they are down enough that families can travel. I remember back around 2006 when one of my little Girl Scouts was so sad because her family couldn’t afford the gas to go to Tennessee and see her grandma. She was in elementary school then, so it’s easy to figure out that you-know-who and his petroleum biz buddies were in charge. Some family values, that.

On driverless cars, I’m all for ‘em. I’ve often thought, while going up the East Coast on I-95 or west on I-40, how sensible it would be if there were a lane in which you could just park your car and it would carry you like a moving sidewalk in an airport. I know there would be fewer accidents with machines in charge instead of today’s aggressive and angry drivers. Take the emotion and ego out of it, and highways could be truly open roads and fun again. And those of us who are approaching the top of the hill could keep our independence longer if a robot drove us to the store and to doctors’ appointments.

Finally, we were delightfully surprised to hear President Obama call Garrison Keillor on Garrion’s last Prairie Home Companion show. Apparently the president has listened to the Saturday evening radio program since he was an Illinois state senator, driving between Chicago and Springfield. As they chatted, Garrison asked if the Secret Service would allow him to drive after retirement. The president said he was negotiating that, but because the family will be living in DC while the younger daughter finishes school, he didn’t really want to drive. I can empathize: the traffic around suburban Washington probably is the worst in the nation, as those folks definitely do not get their fair share of federal funds. If, however, he got a chance to go up Highway 1 in coastal California, he said he’d love to drive. Hubby nodded in agreement.

And have you noticed that it’s hot? June set another record, and now in mid-July, the thermometer in our family room recorded the day’s exterior high as 98. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in the 44 years we have lived here. Global warming is real, and the poles are melting. Buy land in interior Canada.


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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