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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.

Making Lawmakers Obey the Law

I'm a little late on this, but it doesn't matter because the issue goes on and on and on and therefore always is timely.  What I'm late on is quoting the Times' excellent business writer, Graham Brink.  He wrote back on May 18:  "Some things seem inevitable.  Snowbirds return, beach bars play Jimmy Buffett, and Florida lawmakers pillage the affordable housing trust fund.  They did it again this year, sweeping $240 million to other purposes, leaving just $85 million… This is the 12th year in a row that Republicans who control the state House have steered [away] at least half of the money."


I remember back in the 1990s when we, the voters, created that trust fund.  The lead sponsor was the late Bill Sadowski, a terrific legislator from South Florida who unfortunately died too soon.  I'm not sure, though, that even if he had lived, if we wouldn't be up against these betrayers of public trust because they also steal from other supposedly dedicated funds.  We have put several measures on the ballot that voters adopted, especially for the environment and land preservation, and they also are ignored by the frat boys who run Tallahassee today.  Just last year, you know, we voted to restore the voting rights of felons who have served their prison time – and now, again, lawmakers are undermining the law we adopted.


It's no wonder that people get discouraged about democracy when those at the top so clearly spurn the will of voters.  After two decades of dominance by such arrogant "leaders," you would think that people would decide they've had enough and vote in new lawmakers who respect the law.  The only solution, I think, is to get voters to realize the difference between the issues and the candidates:  we want affordable housing and land conservation and lottery money going to supplemental education and restoration of voting rights -- but most of the time, we ignore our own initiatives and just elect the guy with the slickest ads.


To be sure, Tampa voters disproved this recently, when they soundly rejected the biggest spender.  And Tampa voters continue to elect an all-Democratic city council that pays attention to ordinary folks and has no scandals.  The County Commission got better last election, too, and now has only one member with the temerity to go to court to overrule what we voters said we wanted with a transportation tax. 


It's the legislature, by far, that chooses to be unaccountable to voters.  They get away with that because districts are drawn so that no one knows who their "representative" is -- and especially because we have so many suburban newcomers who simply vote for the name they hear most often.  Is there anyone out there who wants to create an educational program for newcomers?  One that would teach Florida history and government?  I think many newcomers would value that opportunity, and there certainly is a tremendous need for it.


Community Change


Images of St. Pete Pride this year were especially colorful and gay, in more than one sense of that word.  Happy people of all ages, colors, and sexual orientations filled the streets, and merchants made money.  Diversity sells, and welcoming this new market – and their straight, but not narrow peers -- has absolutely transformed St. Pete.  When Hubby and I moved here in 1972, it was a city asleep.  Gray heads nodded on green benches, and downtown was filled with boarding houses that were chic in the 1920s, when the city boomed, but were shabby fifty years later.  Business store fronts were close to empty, and you could forget about anything innovative in terms of cuisine or entertainment.


I remember, too, the debate over restoring the Vinoy.  Many people thought it would be a waste of money and argued against it, but it proved key to reviving the town.  To be sure, there were some failures, notably the Florida International Museum, but visionaries pushed their visions, and other museums and art galleries flourished.  Today there's the Dali and the Chihuly and many more options, as well as the older yet very good Petersburg Museum of Fine Art.  I always loved the iconic Pier, but I'm betting its replacement will be even better, and another draw for tourists and for the sophisticated folks who now live there. 


It's those people who make the difference:  the town transformed because it began welcoming newcomers who did not fit in previously.  It also finally recognized some of its own longtime residents, the African Americans who did the work that made white winter residents comfortable.  You may remember the controversy after black power advocates destroyed a demeaning mural in city hall.  Conservative politicians raged, but eventually this longtime Republican enclave of Midwestern retirees evolved into a Democratic city that elected blacks, women, and gays.  Everyone is better off now, economically and socially.  Communities can consciously change.


What's In a Name?


Every time I see John Bolton on TV, I think about how disappointed Frances Bolton would be in him.  Frances Bolton is one of my heroes from World War II.  A Republican in the days when Republicans could be good guys, she represented Cleveland in Congress, and well before the US entered the war, she foresaw the need for nurses and successfully pushed several bills to improve their status.  She also gave her own money to that and other women's causes; a Standard Oil heir, she probably was the wealthiest member of the House at the time.  Yet she never sought luxury and cared so much about the welfare of the Army Nurse Corps that she went to Britain in 1944, while Hitler was sending buzz bombs.  Then she followed the troops after D-Day and was in Paris two days after its liberation.  When Republicans regained the House in 1946, she chaired a Foreign Affairs sub-committee on Africa – for which she was sneeringly labeled "the African Queen."


I should mention two other things.  Her husband died while he was in the House, and Republicans arranged for her to fill out his term.  They not did intend that she run in her own right, however, and when that became clear, she organized women and won without party support.  The second interesting fact:  her son, Oliver Payne Bolton, was elected to Congress from an adjacent district in 1950.  They set a precedent as the first mother/son team, but he was much less good at governing.  Ungrateful for her mentorship, he famously was quoted as saying: "Mother, keep the hell out of my district!"  Voters didn't like that attitude, and his career was brief, while she won fifteen elections from 1938 to 1968.  Her loss that year was largely because of her support for the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon.  See below.


But to answer the original question, apparently there is no kinship between our current John Bolton and the thoughtful, progressive Frances.  He was and is from Maryland, and his first political experience was with Students for Goldwater in 1964.  In 1968, when Frances was losing her election because of Vietnam, young John used college to evade serving in a war that he said he supported.  Not exactly Frances and buzz bombs, is it?  I wonder if our modern chicken hawk even knows of the African Queen.  Or any other history.


What's In a Name? Part II


I've also been thinking about former President Gerald Ford lately, mostly because of the analogies to Mike Pence and what might happen if Donald Trump left office in disgrace the way that Richard Nixon did.  (Yes, I trust that my readers are old enough to understand these references from the 1970s and that all of the people were/are Republicans.)  I never had wondered before, though, about any connection between Gerald Ford and the Ford Motor Company.  They both were based in Michigan, so I did some googling around.  Turns out to be an interesting story, although not exactly the one I thought it might be.


Gerald Ford was born Gerald King in Nebraska in 1913.  When he was just days old, his mother, Dorothy King, fled to her Michigan family, saying that her husband, Leslie King, was abusive.  I almost never doubt women who make that allegation, but I'm inclined to give Mr. King a hearing because he paid child support until 1929, when the stock market crashed, and he had no money.  Gerald was 16 then, and his mother had been married to his stepfather since he was four.


Nor did he change his name immediately after the child-support payments stopped.  It was not until 1935, after his King grandparents died, that Gerald King became Gerald Ford.  He was 22 then; his stepfather never legally adopted him; and his mother sued for inheritance from her ex-in-laws' estate.  Only after that did he change his name to Gerald Rudolph Ford, an Anglicized version of his stepfather's name, Gerald Rudolff Ford. 


And yes, there appears to be some connection to the car industry, as the older Gerald Ford founded the Ford Paint and Varnish Company in 1929.  The president's stepbrother, Richard Ford, ran it through the 20th century and also served as a trustee of the Ford Foundation.  In an interview prior to his death in 2015, he said that he didn't know about Gerald's non-biological status until he was an adult.  In any case, while his biological father moved to Wyoming, the future president made a name for himself on the University of Michigan football field.  That works better for guys.



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