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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.


There is nice, if tragic, irony in that the most frightening global epidemic in decades comes on Trump's watch.  We have known for long time that he can't stand the sight of physical suffering, much less go anywhere near it to help the sufferer.  Remember the elderly man who fell at Mar-o-Logo, and Trump called the blood on the floor "disgusting?"  And the woman there who was bleeding from a facelift?  In both cases, his response was "get 'em out of here!"  Don't look; don't see; everything is about me.  That ought to be his slogan.


When the coronavirus first hit, his automatic response was to call it a Democratic and/or media hoax. He further demonstrated his egotistical disregard for science by appointing that well-known epidemiologist, Mike Pence, to be charge of stopping the oncoming germ.  But plagues know no borders, and it has come.  To no one's surprise, during the days with the first American deaths, he was playing golf in Palm Beach. 


According to the latest White House leakers, he has hinted that journalists who fly Air Force One might deliberately contact the disease so that they can infect him.  Can you imagine an Obama or a Clinton or even a Bush so full of himself and so paranoid?  Those former presidents would be in the hospitals and at the CID and the NIH, reassuring the sick and promoting the medical professionals. 


Instead, the Trumpeter cut their budgets.  When he finally held a press conference, the podium featured himself, Pence, a bunch of well-dressed guys from the business end of medicine, and one woman from the world of health science.  She was the only speaker whose comments were sensible, and unlike the men, she did not praise "the strong leadership" of Dear Leader.




What the guy in the Oval Office cares most about, of course, is the epidemic's negative effect on the inflated stock market – and he's not alone in that.  Nor is he alone in his inability to see that the real economy – the macro, not the micro -- is a chain, and one link inevitably affects the next.  Trump's statements strain credulity – and yet, the strongest "slap my forehead" comment for me was by one by a legislative "leader" in Tallahassee.  Next year's budget goes into final form during March, and when a reporter asked this neophyte -- who nonetheless chairs an important committee -- about possible loss of revenue from the coronavirus, he had no better sense than to reply, "I hadn't thought about that."


Hadn't thought about it.  Apparently cannot trace a connection between a worldwide disease and worldwide commerce and the money that flows into the public treasury.  Hadn't thought about the cancelled airline flights and cruises, nor the hotel and restaurant cancellations, and other damage to Florida's economy during the height of the tourist season.  Apparently he doesn't drive past service stations and notice that gas prices are down to their lowest level in forever.  That is not because petroleum companies decided to be charitable to spring breakers – it's because spring breakers are not coming. 


Even though they are college kids, they may be smarter than this legislator, and some appear unwilling to risk their lives by handling door knobs at rest stops.  This legislator and -- I'm sorry -- other Young Republicans like him apparently have been so insulated, so spoiled by a birthright sense of entitlement, that they cannot conceive of uncertainty.  They stick to their mantra of more tax breaks for the already rich, unable to envision that the state's money pile doubtless will decrease.  That is virtually inevitable, and it is beyond pitiful that those with power don't listen to those with sense.  Let's elect grown-ups.




Those self-centered Young Republicans aren't always frat boys; some are sorority girls.  I usually can recognize them by their expensive haircuts and elegant jewelry.  They have adopted the dress-for-success mandate that professional women – many of us feminists – began preaching in the 1980s.  Their mothers, however, always have dressed for success:  it's just that their mothers' measure of success was getting a husband whose presence got you into the country club. 


These young women care more about their business titles, and I have spent a lifetime seeing that they have that choice.  Few have joined the pro-choice or other feminist causes, but we'll let that go and instead separate the issues of reproductive rights and sexual harassment from that of domestic violence.  I'm old enough to remember when none of this was spoken aloud.  They certainly were not common topics in legislative halls.


I joined a few dozen other Tampa women to change that.  Most of us were affiliated with NOW and/or Stop Rape.  The anti-rape goal now is part of Hillsborough County's Crisis Center, but back then we were considered weirdos.  Sadly, I remember that even my best male friend in the legislature teased me by saying that he thought there was no such thing as rape.  He's dead now, so I'll name him:  I'm sorry, mutual friends, but it was George Sheldon.


I don't know if Rep. Pete Skinner of Lake County still is alive or not, but he opposed the legislative bill that we drafted so that rape victims did not have to pay for the test kits to prove the crime at trials.  Tampa General's fee was outrageous -- $145, as I recall -- but Pete Skinner thought that the public should not have to for the evidence in this particular crime.  He said to my face – I kid you not – that, if it were free, women would get tested because we like vaginal exams.


That is just part of what we had to face back in the 1970s – and on our own time, our own dime.  Issue by issue, battle by battle, we created a world in which younger women not only did not have to endure such humiliations, but even could profit from society's genuine problems.  And that's all I can bring myself to say about Tiffany Carr. 


Except that someone should have looked deeper when she got her job via another woman who also thought that the rules didn't apply to her.  Remember Columba Bush, who attempted to bring in $19,000 worth of clothes from Paris without paying the appropriate taxes?  And remember that Columba Bush was the chief person promoting Tiffany Carr when the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence began?  And it all was under an umbrella of doing good, so that any criticism from the likes of NOW women sounds churlish.




Tiffany Carr got away with stealing millions from Florida taxpayers because the coalition's board allowed her to do so.  I have seen that pattern, too, and want to renew my warnings about it.  For background on this, let me say that if I had my life to live over, I would not have spent as much time on unpaid work as I did.  It's too late now, but I gave up many thousands of potential earning hours.  I'm not patting myself on the back, but just stating facts to bear out what I want to say about public and non-profit boards.


I served on the Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women, as the appointee of Commissioner Fran Davin; the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to the School Board, as the appointee of the late Cecile Essrig; the CAC to the Environmental Protection Agency, representing the late Phyllis Busansky; and the CAC to the County Commission (Pam Iorio).  At the state level, I spent eight years on the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, as the appointee of Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford, and under Governor Lawton Chiles, I was a trustee of Hillsborough Community College.


In these roles, it was not unusual to see executive directors similar to Tiffany Carr – and many sycophantic board members who followed the CEO around as if they were servants to the boss, not vice versa.  Even if unconsciously, the media also played a role in reversing the status of who worked for whom.  Especially with HCC, the Tampa Tribune repeatedly took the side of the paid executives over that of the unpaid board members.  


Mother Trib's editors accused us of "meddling" with a righteous president and refused to believe that corruption was endemic at HCC.  The faculty generally was desperate for administrators who had the college's interest at heart, but management proved arrogant and manipulative.  Once, for example, they put the sale of the Ybor City campus on a meeting's consent agenda!  They were counting on us not to notice, and with the routine adoption of the consent agenda, the land legally could be sold to a developer.  I noticed, and there were nights after board meetings when I told Hubby where to look if I turned up dead.


Sunshine laws prevented us board members from talking to each other, so finally we had to take the risk of speaking out in open meetings.   Eventually about two dozen top administrators either resigned or were let go.  After we finally fired the president (well, actually, our chairwoman presented him with a retirement contract that he couldn't refuse), the interim president (sent to us by the American Association of Community Colleges) said that in his vast academic experience, he never had seen an administration so adept at ripping-off the taxpayers. 


Thus the lesson from Tiffany Carr:  It is terribly important that people who accept board appointments do more than merely attend meetings and ceremonies.  They should listen to the organization's lower ranks and never, ever accept CEO dictates that board members cannot speak to employees or clients or vendors or anyone else.  Although Sunshine does hamper communication between members of public boards – especially prior to e-mail – it is the right direction for good governance.  Open meetings, open records, regular outside audits, and nothing ever in secret.  I hope Tiffany Carr gets prison time.  That, indeed, would be a role model.



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