Thursday, November 27, 2008

Secrecy and discrimination threatens democracy

Secrecy and discrimination threatens democracy

By Edward A. Slavin Jr.
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 05/19/04

Secrecy and authoritarianism threaten to end our democracy.

Thank you for "Sunshine Sunday." Let's extend the Sunshine law and defeat proposed loopholes. The St. Augustine Record reported Feb. 7 that Broward County Administrator Roger Desjarlais threatened a volunteer, used the Internet to track down his cellular telephone number and called at night, stating, "I can make your life very difficult," over a routine Sunshine law request for records from his office. (His official Web site brags he has an annual $2.5 billion budget and more than 7,000 employees.) "One volunteer was almost arrested," the report found. This lawbreaking was documented by 30 Florida newspapers. Gov. Jeb Bush's office and other government offices statewide illegally demanded that citizens identify themselves to obtain records, an outrage, creating bureaucratic delays (even claiming they thought information requesters might be "terrorists" from whom "children" must be "protected").

St. Johns County's sheriff said at his "roast" that he enjoyed being sheriff because people were afraid to criticize him. St. Augustine's police chief, a "lifelong Republican," seeks to replace him, with one party primary expected to select the next sheriff.

Bush and Cheney? Only a CEO could love them as they sacrifice the environment and public health to benefit contributors. Oil prices skyrocket with two oilmen as our unelected president and VP. Enough secretive dictatorships. I object to unfriendly, uninformed, unprogressive, unenlightened, ukases of authoritarian governments that are guilty of:

1. Management failures globally, locally leading to a crisis in confidence due to two separate events when one African-American was crippled following a fight with the Police Department and another African-American died following an incident with sheriff's deputies ...

2. Secretiveness, including lobbyist efforts to make constitutional amendments tougher to pass, seeking to thwart the Florida Hometown Democracy amendment.

3. Seemingly selective, discriminatory city annexations of new areas to snag more property taxes while failing to annex part of African-American West Augustine, thereby denying equal city services.

4. Overdeveloping -- "willful, heedless destruction of natural beauty and pleasures," as Robert Kennedy would call it. Is there anywhere in Florida that effectively regulates development, zoning and planning (an area that an influential Department of Justice Law Enforcement Assistance Administration study found is rife with corruption throughout the country)?

5. Ejecting entertainers and artists from St. George Street, destroying its unique character as the street uglifies, with too few plants and too much trash. When will our new mayor and commission kindly keep their promise to return the "busker" entertainers to St. George Street?

6. Land grabbing rip-offs (e.g., walled-off St. George Street park, community encroaching Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, and airport and county ceding of Ponte Vedra Beach access parking right of way).

7. Attacking diversity while proposing, inflicting and enforcing unequal laws.

8. Maladroit election procedures if not actual financial corruption -- including the U.S. Supreme Court halting the Florida recounts, resulting in Florida not counting 20,000 mostly African-American votes in Jacksonville -- and gerrymandering electoral districts by a combination of single-member districts requiring countywide elections. Computer voting without paper records is being inflicted in several counties, with Florida officials opposing election "monitors" because they might alarm voters.

9. Governments dominated by one political party, promoting 1-8.

I object. Have you registered to vote?

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© The St. Augustine Record

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