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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.

Bright Spots – And Differences Between Different Bureaucrats

I’m finally ready to write about the election. I had to spend time healing the hole in my heart, as like so many others, I was stunned to see the American people choose an inexperienced braggart who is proud to cheat on his taxes and laughs about his lewd behavior over a candidate with decades of service, including the Senate and the Cabinet. As it turns out, they didn’t: with detailed counting, Hillary now has some 2.5 million votes more than The Donald. The problem is that some voters are much more powerful than others. We’ll get to that later, but for now, a few bright spots.

The first is especially reassuring, as it shows that some Floridians mean what they say about wanting to shake up Washington. East of Orlando, voters kicked out a self-interested incumbent, Republican John Mica, and chose a Democratic woman running her first race. Stephanie Murphy is a business professor at Rollins College whose family escaped from Vietnam when she was young. After an education at prestigious schools, she became an intelligence analyst at the Pentagon. This is especially valuable experience, as the Pentagon is the first place Congress should look for saving dollars (and lives). Like most agencies dominated by men, it wastes a tremendous amount of resources. Anyone who has been both a soldier and an educator (and I know several) will tell you which is the more careful with tax money.

Mica always played up to such male bureaucrats. I didn’t write it, but I thought about using this space to tell you about the “first annual Lifetime Achievement” award that he got just weeks prior to the election from the management of the Federal Aviation Authority. These, of course, are federal employees -- and I thought the Hatch Act should prevent them from so obviously taking sides. I asked my daughter at the Department of Justice and she said, “Nobody pays much attention to the Hatch Act anymore, Mom.”

That clearly was the case at the FBI, where the director may have single-handedly handed the election to Trump with his last minute announcement of still another investigation of Hillary: he soon took it back, but the damage was done. On the other hand, the IRS stayed quiet throughout the campaign – even though at its beginning, Trump said that he couldn’t release his taxes due to an audit. He could have, of course, because an audit does not require secrecy on the part of the tax filer – but the IRS never injected itself into the election debate in the way that the FBI and FAA did. And lazy reporters stopped asking. Any smoke on Hillary was deemed a fire for immediate comment, but Trump conflagrations required too much work. Digging into the math is too unglamorous for today’s media.

My solution for that? Abolish Colleges of Mass Communication, or at least require their students to meet the stronger academic standards of real universities. They should take at least half of their classes in history, government, economics, statistics, sciences, and other areas that demand critical thinking. Instead, many recent Mass Com folks seem only capable of reading a teleprompter. They are all about style, not substance, and it shows most clearly on television news. Unfortunately, that’s where most voters get their information – unless they are one of the millions who unknowingly believed the fake news on websites sponsored by Donald Trump’s best buddy, Vladimir Putin.

Other Bright Spots and a Bright Idea

I’ve been accused of being a Pollyanna all my life, but you really should read the book by that name. Orphaned Pollyanna was a model for changing bad into good and cynicism into hope. Rays of such sun were slim in this election, but one Pollyanna observation is that Hillsborough County did its share for good. This is especially true of choosing Democrat Pat Kemp for an at-large seat on the county commission. More than a half-million people were eligible to vote for her, and they did – choosing someone who will be the most focused environmentalist since the glory days of the commission with Ed Turanchik and Pam Iorio, as well as the late Sylvia Kimbell and Phyllis Busansky.

That same large number of county voters – more than in several states -- surprised everyone by choosing Democrat Andrew Warren over incumbent Republican Mark Ober, which was almost as stunning as Hillary’s loss. (I should point out, though, that Hillsborough County also cast a majority of its votes for Hillary, and from that, I think we axiomatically can conclude that Democratic Party chair Ione Townsend did well.) But back to Mark, I’ve known him since he was a Democrat working for another Democrat, the late Harry Coe, and I believe he generally did a good job. It’s interesting, too, that both he and Ione Townsend are from Plant City; maybe we should pay more attention to that area.

Anyway, the best explanation for Warren’s victory seems to be that more countywide voters cast a straight Democratic ticket. In contrast to just a few years ago, Democrats now hold five of the county’s seven constitutional offices. A bit of a Florida civics lesson here: Our state constitution mandates that we elect a prosecutor (Mark Ober/Andrew Warren), a public defender (Julie Holt), a clerk of circuit court (Pat Frank), a supervisor of elections (Craig Latimer), a property appraiser (Bob Henriquez), a tax collector (Doug Belden), and a sheriff (David Gee). Only the latter two men are Republicans – and in my opinion, none of these offices should be partisan, nor even necessarily elected.

Instead of electing a tax collector, for example, let’s elect the head of the Environmental Protection Commission; instead of a property appraiser, let’s elect a person in charge of transportation. Most of all, every county should elect its chief executive or mayor. With these changes, voters could have real input into planning and policy decisions. The current system is a vestige of 19th century patronage, when administrative jobs went to (male) party hacks. I would propose changing these constitutional offices had I any hope of being appointed to the Constitutional Revision Commission that soon will meet – but with Republicans in charge of all the appointing authorities, the probability of my Democratic input is nil. Maybe you can speak to it.

Bright Spots Here and Elsewhere

Val Demings, an African American who was Orlando’s police chief, now will hold the seat next door to Stephanie Murphy. I can remember when Orlando was solidly Republican, and now two Democratic women, both racial minorities, will represent the area in Congress. Across the bay, Democrat Charlie Crist defeated incumbent Republican David Jolly, so Democrats picked up one seat in our 27-member delegation to the US House.

Despite a Democratic majority in statewide voter registration, though, Florida’s 27 House districts have been gerrymandered so that Republicans hold 17 of them – and with the exception of longtime incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, all are white men. The ten Democrats are much more diverse, with seven women, two of them African American. The three men are Jewish, African American, and Puerto Rican – and therein lies the problem for the party. I hope that white men will sit down and figure out what can motivate other white men to vote progressively.

Bright spots in other states: New Hampshire voters kicked out a woman and replaced her with another woman, as Democrat Maggie Hassan defeated incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte. Nevada chose Democrat Cathy Cortez Masto to replace retiring Democratic leader Harry Reid, and in Illinois, military veteran Tammy Duckworth defeated an incumbent Republican man. Oregon’s Democratic governor, Kate Brown, won reelection; she is the third female governor for that state, all Democrats.

Indeed, the Far West continues to lead the way. Because Democrat Kamala Harris replaced retiring Democrat Barbara Boxer in California, all three states that line the Pacific – California, Oregon, and Washington -- will have Democratic women in both of their Senate seats. On the other ocean, New Hampshire has an all-female Democratic delegation in both chambers. The media focuses so excessively on the presidency that it’s easy to miss these trends.

One other bright side, at least locally: I’ve not done a thorough analysis, but my observation is that candidates with the most illegal signs were losers. (This was not true of the national campaign, with Trump having many more illegal signs here than Clinton.) East Hillsborough, where I live, had fewer signs on public right-of-ways than usual, with the only really egregious one being a banner for Republican Marco Rubio that was attached to the fence of a county park in Valrico. I was shocked, however, by the number of illegally placed signs in South Tampa, especially on and near Westshore Boulevard. Taking them up and charging the candidates for the cost could be a good source of revenue, and I’m surprised that Mayor Bob didn’t order Code Enforcement to do more of it.

The bright spot, though, is that maybe the violators themselves will come to realize that they are wasting their money by making it clear they are desperate for legal sign locations. They don’t have enough supporters to adhere to the law and place signs only on private property, so they litter public roadways with their excessive printing expenditures. My observations this year are that the biggest law breakers were the Tolers, the husband/wife team who ran for the non-partisan school board; Pat Frank’s Republican opponent, Eric Siedel; and Bob Henriquez’s Republican opponent, Todd Jones. Voters rejected all of them, and like their signs, let us hope that their name recognition quickly fades.

A Personal Bright Spot

Donald Trump said it best when he declared, “I love the poorly educated!” This indeed was a victory of your high school’s D and F students over its A and B students. By voting against “the elite,” they redeemed themselves in their own minds for their failure to do their homework. The guys who hung out at the pool hall now can beat their chests at having beat the nerds who burned midnight oil studying for exams. But: I’ll venture to say that many of the D and F guys now live off of federal benefits paid for by us A and B folks – and we’ll see how their election victory works out for them.
If he is true to his own hypocrisy, Trump will slash those benefits.

He’ll also repeal minimum wage/maximum hour provisions that the Obama administration recently imposed – and all those Wal-Mart “associates” again will find themselves deemed management, working 60-hour weeks and ineligible for overtime compensation. He’ll do his best to break up what remains of blue-collar unions, and those in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan who provided the slim margin in a few counties that threw their entire state into the Republican column might have second thoughts. If I were head of such a union, I’d hold seminars -- probably at casino resorts, so they would come – and try to get into the heads of these guys (yes, they are mostly guys) who have been voting against themselves since Ronald Reagan made them feel more macho than Jimmy Carter.

For me personally, I’ve lived most of my life and done my share for civic good, so the bright spot is that I’ve given myself permission to sit at the back of the study hall and throw spitballs at those in front. If Hillary had won, the losers would have a bunch of “investigations” going on again, and I’d have to speak to that -- but this way, I can excuse myself. With Republicans in charge of everything from the White House to the Florida House, I’ll have lots of time to simply be a curmudgeon. Along with others, I’m thinking of ways to spend the money saved by not going to the inauguration. Have fun, my friends!


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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