In secret, behind locked gates, our Nation's Oldest City dumped a landfill in a lake (Old City Reservoir), while emitting sewage in our rivers and salt marsh. Organized citizens exposed and defeated pollution, racism and cronyism. We elected a new Mayor. We're transforming our City -- advanced citizenship. Ask questions. Make disclosures. Demand answers. Be involved. Expect democracy. Report and expose corruption. Smile! Help enact a St. Augustine National Park and Seashore. We shall overcome!
Judge rules portions of Florida's election law unconstitutional
There are very few actual cases of voter fraud across the country.
Credit: roibu - stock.adobe.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal judge on Thursday struck down portions of Florida's controversial election law that placed restrictions on voting rules despite there being no evidence of widespread fraud.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker found portions of the law to be unconstitutional, including when ballot drop boxes could be used. The law mandated that they be guarded and available only when elections offices and early voting sites are open, with an exception to those in supervisors' offices.
Walker also struck down new requirements on third-party voter registration organizations and found "engaging in any activity with the intent to influence or effect of influencing a voter" as written as part of the new law also is unconstitutional.
"The solicitation definition can be read to prohibit 'line warming' activities," Walker wrote. "Line warming refers generally to the non-partisan provision of aid to voters waiting in line to vote, such as giving out water, fans, snacks, chairs, ponchos, and umbrellas."
The League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matter and the Florida Alliance For Retired Americans filed a lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 90 almost as soon as it was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in what appeared to be a made-for-TV ceremony on Fox News in May 2021.
The organizations were joined by several individual voters in their legal challenge of what they described as Florida's voter suppression bill.
DeSantis contended he believes the law is necessary to beef up enforcement of voter ID rules, ban ballot harvesting and prohibit the mass-mailing of ballots. He and Republican Party leaders have promoted the changes as attempts to deter fraud that have been championed by former President Donald Trump in his failed bid to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
There are very few actual cases of voter fraud across the country — research and reporting have shown it is not widespread despite some politicians' claims. "Voter impersonation is virtually nonexistent, and many instances of alleged fraud are, in fact, mistakes by voters or administrators," according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Those in support of the law "argue that SB 90 makes minor prophylactic changes to the election code," Walker wrote. "Plaintiffs, on the other hand, allege that SB 90 runs roughshod over the right to vote, unnecessarily making voting harder for all eligible Floridians, unduly burdening disabled voters, and intentionally targeting minority voters—all to improve the electoral prospects of the party in power.
"...Having reviewed all the evidence, this Court finds that, for the most part, Plaintiffs are right."
10 Tampa Bay has reached out to the governor's office for comment.
Cynical, sinister St. Johns County Airport Authority Chair BRUCE MAGUIRE arrogantly blocked a motion to start a safety committee, throwing cold watger on it, demanding it do nothing to uncover past misconduct that could create liability.
Any functioning government organization worth keeping investigates disasters and learns from them. But under one-party Republican misrule, our nonpartisan Airport Authority wants to do nothing to learn the truth or assign "blame."
What errant nonsense.
What wicked noisome nasty nostrums
Incurious, imperious BRUCE MAGUIRE lacks empathy wisdom and ethics. He swore an oath, as an Air Force officer, as a County Commissioner, and as an Airport Authority board member to uphold our Constitution and laws.
To oafish BRUCE MAGUIRE: honor your oath or resign. Now.
Airport Authority Executive Director EDWARD WUELLNER said little, allowing MAGUIRE to answer several questions posed to WUELLNER.
WUELLNER's back was turned to every single public comment speakers. He was sitting in a fancy chair and could have easily swiveled around to look the speakers in the eye. Instead, he turned his back, looking silently at the Airport Board members, like a Dull Republican Lord of All He Surveys at our Airport.
Perhaps we should ask Mr. Wuellner to swivel his chair and look at public comment speakers, instead of glowering at the Board members with hurt looks.
Ms. Fox's preventable March 2 death was largely due to the Airport's willful, wanton recklessness in:
not having a fully staffed 24/7 fire station,
not unlocking the gate for emergency responders,
delays in unlocking the door to the fire station's airboat.
Did Chairman BRUCE MAGUIRE's undemocratic bossiness and unquestioning support of the Airport Authority Executive Director[s mismanagement contribute to pilot Marianne Fox's preventable death on March 2, 2022?
I am outraged
You should be, too.
The Airport must be held accountable by federal and state fora.
The Airport needs a new Executive Director.
The Airport also needs a new lawyer.
Ineffectual, conflicted lawyer DOUGLAS NELSON BURNETT, (St. Johns Law Group), looked like the cat who swallowed the canary, as MAGUIRE spouted nonsense, as if he were CEO of a wicked evil tobacco company,
Our courts and administrative agencies will sort it out
Voters: vote out bumptious bigoted BRUCE MAGUIRE.
Let justice be done though the heavens fall.
From St. Augustine Record:
St. Johns County Airport Authority Board could form a safety review committee
It was just one of the recommendations that came out of Monday evening's board meeting, the first since the crash which landed the aircraft upside-down in a marsh off the runway.
Since then, questions have been raised about the time it took first responders to reach Marianne Fox, the 49-year-old aerobatics pilot who ran into engine trouble and tried to make an emergency landing.
The crash is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, but officials from the airport and St. Johns County Fire Rescue say the delay in getting aid to Fox was mostly caused by difficulty in locating and then accessing the plane in the marsh.
Fox was trapped in the pilot's compartment of the Extra NG before being extricated by crews who arrived by airboat nearly 45 minutes later.
Some of the issues that may have played a part: an alleged delay in opening a gate for first responders; the airport's fire station being unmanned at the time; and the inability of emergency or airport personnel to sight Fox's plane.
Several attendees of Monday's meeting expressed concerns about safety to the Airport Authority Board, a five-member elected panel, during the public comment period.
Len Tucker, vice president of the St. Augustine Pilots Association, said in recent years there have been other cases of aircraft overshooting the runway and delayed response times.
"I think we can do better. I'm sure ways to cross the marsh; I know of vehicles that can cross the marsh. … And I think it's incumbent on us as the airport to not leave any stones unturned," Tucker said.
Patricia Chris, an information technologist from St. Augustine, said that when there is a technological crisis three questions are usually asked: "What went wrong? How do we fix it? And how do we prevent it from happening again?"
Chris said the airport needed to be not just reactive, but proactive.
"Your county constituents pay for it and rightly expect a reasonable disaster plan because things go wrong," Chris said.
Chris also asked the board to imagine what kind of fallout there might be if an aircraft — commercial or otherwise — crashed into the marsh with "precious tourists" onboard.
Bruce Kreis, past president of the St. Augustine Pilots Association who has a hangar at the airport, was a witness to the recent crash.
"The response to this accident has brought the public attention to the airport's failure in lack of security that appears to have resulted in a tragic death," he told the board, adding, "The responsibilities and priorities of this airport should be first and foremost public safety; it just doesn't appear to me that it is."
In a March 22interview with The Record, St. Johns County Airport Authority Executive Director Ed Wuellner said the airport follows all Federal Aviation Administration regulations, including safety protocols for the layout of the airport and in preparing for emergencies. Throughout the year, the airport helps fire rescue personnel understand the airport, its layout and operations, he said. Fire rescue officials also regularly train on how to respond to an airplane wreck.
Airport Authority Board member Reba Ludlow pressed her colleagues on the urgency of establishing a safety review committee to look at such issues as emergency vehicle access to the airport; what response resources the airport and which might it need to add; and coordination of emergency agencies.
Board member Justin Mirgeaux said he was open to a discussion about safety but that it steer clear of assigning blame to any particular party.
Board chairman Bruce Maguire added that if a committee were formed it would have to be careful in how it examined and articulated safety protocols in place at the airport, especially in relation to the March 2 crash.
"If we start to delve into what we consider problems at our airport … is that going to open up the airport for a liability issue on something that's already happened?" Maguire said.
Maguire suggested Ludlow draft and present an overview of the mission of a safety committee, how it would be composed and what its duties would be, perhaps by next month's authority meeting. Members would then vote on the measure.
Record reporter Sheldon Gardner contributed to this report.
More corporate abuses of power in the news -- HERTZ falseely charged hundreds of people with car theft after they rented from HERTZ. That really hurts.
Cab you imagine being arrested by lawmen for a crime you didn;'t commit, becusee the CEO and General Counsel of a Benedict Arnold Corportion doesn't give a fig about you and your rights? It boggles the mind.
Corporations are abusing their power, and police powers.
HERTZ is an arrogant oligopoly, which also owns Dollar and Trifty.
Looks like HERTZ ought to fire its CEO and General Counsel.
HERTZ's corporate culture leaves much to be desired. Some twenty years ago,, I worked on a case with one of its former lawyers, who told me that HERTZ refused to allow OSHA inspectors to use a thermometer behind the rental counter at Newark Airport, demanding that OSHA get a search warrant. HERTZ Newark Airport employees allegedly suffered cruel temperature variations -- too hot or too cold, and their cold employer could only think up lousy louche legal legerdemain, rather than investing in making its employees comfortable.
What a turkey farm.
From Washingotn Post:
Hertz claims thousands of renters steal cars. Customers argue they’ve been falsely accused.
February 11, 2022|Updated February 15, 2022 at 10:21 a.m. EST
Some spent days in jail; others, months. One woman alleges she was arrested more than two years after she returned the vehicle she was accused of stealing. All claim that the rental company Hertz — or its subsidiaries, Dollar or Thrifty — reported them to police for stealing cars for which they had properly paid.
Now Hertz has to publicize its number of theft accusations. In a ruling Wednesday, a federal judge in Delaware sided with the request from attorneys for 230 customers who say they were wrongly arrested.
The total still depends on whom you ask. Hertz said it reports to police 0.014 percent of its 25 million annual rental transactions — or 3,500 customers. Attorneys for the renters said they believe the number is closer to 8,000.
Francis Alexander Malofiy, one of those lawyers, said Hertz’s tendency to report missing cars to police without investigating first is unacceptable, either way.
“This is not a question of if it’s happening. It’s a question of how many people it’s happening to,” he said Friday in an interview.
Hertz, which has been battling these allegations since 2019, maintains that it reports renters to police only after “exhaustive attempts” to reach them.
The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were many weeks or even months overdue returning vehicles and who stopped communicating with us well beyond the scheduled due date,” the company said in a statement.
At several points in the coronavirus pandemic, securing a rental car has resembled a nightmare, even absent potentially false theft allegations. Car shortages have made customers desperate for vehicles as prices soared in tandem.
Hertz, specifically, has faced additional problems: It emerged from bankruptcy in June months after getting hit with a lawsuit alleging it had withheld a time-stamped receipt that could prove a man innocent of murder. Then, in a viral Twitter thread, a different customer posted a scathing letter she had written to the company to complain about her “Kafkaesque customer service” experience.
On Thursday, Julius Burnside described what he said was his experience renting a car from Hertz in 2017.
“Turned it in, paid for it, kept my receipts, went about my life, found out there was a warrant for my arrest and subsequently went to jail,” he told MSNBC.
Other people told “Inside Edition” that they were similarly arrested after Hertz accused them of stealing cars for which they had paid. A charge of felony auto theft against Paul-Anthony Knight was ultimately dismissed, the TV program reported, but not before he served jail time.
Colorado resident Drew Seaser told CBS News he was stopped by customs officers at an airport and informed there was a warrant for his arrest in Georgia, where Hertz alleged he had stolen a rental car. Seaser said he had never been to Georgia or rented a vehicle from Hertz.
Those kinds of false theft allegations have not abated, attorneys for the customers said.
“Despite active litigation on false-police-report claims, Hertz customers continue to be arrested and that ‘tiny fraction’ continues to grow,” the lawyers wrote in court filings, citing previous comments from a company lawyer that a “tiny fraction” of customers is wrongfully arrested.
The problem sometimes arises when Hertz cannot find one of its cars in a physical parking lot or its computer system, Malofiy said. So, he said, the company reports the vehicle missing.
Other times, Malofiy said, the confusion is caused by a customer swapping cars during their rental period or extending the time frame. If the credit or debit card charge fails to process correctly, he said, Hertz’s system generates a theft report.
Malofiy said the company does not update its police reports if a payment ultimately processes — leaving customers to flounder in the criminal justice system. In 2020, a spokesperson for Hertz told the Philadelphia Inquirer that a stolen-vehicle report “was valid when it was made” and that it was “up to law enforcement to decide what to do with the case.”
The company’s method of dealing with missing cars amounts to offloading responsibility for its inventory to taxpayer-funded law enforcement, Malofiy said.
“We’re having police act as a strong arm for private corporations and private vehicles,” he said, “when this is not what taxpayer dollars are supposed to be used for.”
Is Jacksonville businessman Shad Khan a ruthless, cynical unethical businessman, pulling the plug on the Black News Network, firing 230+ employees without any explanation, severance, or other benefits?
Black News Channel, the TV news service launched in early 2020 to be a voice for people of color, is ceasing operations Friday afternoon.
A memo to employees from BNC’s chief executive, Princell Hair, confirmed The Times’ earlier report of the closure plans. The company is filing for bankruptcy, and live programming will end at 2 p.m. PDT/5 p.m. EDT. The channel will air repeats for the rest of the month.
The Tallahassee, Fla.-based outlet, whose majority stakeholder is Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, failed to meet payroll on Friday, a day after telling employees that paychecks would be delayed.
The announcement means BNC’s staff of 230 — a vast majority of whom are people of color — are out of work. They have been told benefits will last through next week and there will be no severance, according to one person briefed on the plans.
Khan was no longer willing to invest further, according to people briefed on the matter. The channel has been shopped to a number of media companies, including Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, but there were no takers. The company endured several rounds of layoffs in recent months.
“During the past few months, we have endured very painful workforce reductions at all levels of the network as we worked to achieve our financial goal of a break-even business,” Princell said in the memo obtained by The Times.
“This has forced all of you to do more with less, and your contributions have been remarkable. Unfortunately, due to challenging market conditions and global financial pressures, we have been unable to meet our financial goals, and the timeline afforded to us has run out.”
The channel reached more than 50 million cable and satellite households, but was unable to generate a significant audience.
The entity entered the cable news landscape at a time when consumers were shifting away from traditional TV. Most video-based TV start-ups and niche services are turning to streaming platforms.
The average audience for BNC was fewer than 10,000 viewers, according to Nielsen data, though it had been growing in recent months.
The failure to meet payroll and the expected announcement of a shutdown stunned and angered employees at the channel. Many of the staffers came to BNC from larger, established news organizations because they believed in the mission of a TV service that provided news and information for a diverse audience
From Tallahassee Democrat:
Black News Channel Files for Bankruptcy With Up to $50 Million in Debt
Florida-based network had shut down operations last Friday just two years after launching
In its Monday filing, the Tallahassee-based network listed $10 million-$50 million in liabilities, and estimated between 200 and 999 creditors are owed money.
“They filed for bankruptcy faster than they paid their employees the money they’re owed,” one former employee told TheWrap on Tuesday. “I received a partial payment this morning for two weeks of work. They still owe me for another week.”
That former staffer was one of roughly 230 who were let go last Friday when the channel ceased operations; the network plans to air repeats for the rest of this month.
The channel, known to viewers as BNC, was founded by former GOP congressman J.C. Watts and veteran broadcast executive Bob Brillante with a mission to provide news for and about underserved communities. Just months after the launch in February 2020, Brillante was ousted and Princell Hair joined BNC as CEO in the fall of 2020. Hair added several hours of daily live programming, eventually launched a short-lived streaming channel, and hired hundreds of employees.
The hiring spree came as Shad Khan, the billionaire owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, injected a reported $50 million dollars into the network and became the principal investor. Despite the infusion of cash, insiders told TheWrap little of it was used for marketing. Instead, BNC’s management team looked to the media to get the word out, including the Tallahassee Democrat, which in September 2021 published a profileof Hair with the headline: “Black News Channel thriving under new President and CEO Princell Hair.”
Twelve weeks later — in December 2021 — the network began laying off dozens of employees.
BNC was also hit with a class-action lawsuit filed by 13 former and current female employees alleging discrimination and a “sexist” workplace (executives denied the accusations).
A Nielsen ratings analysis compiled by TheWrap found of 124 cable news channels in 2021, BNC came in 123rd with an average of 4,000 viewers on any given show. Fox News was No. 1 with an average 2.361 million primetime viewers each evening.
Last Thursday, the network’s human resources department sent out an email saying employees would not be paid as scheduled the following day. “The March 25 payroll deposit will be delayed. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” said the memo from human resources VP, Nicole Collins. “We are actively working to resolve this matter quickly, and will advise you with an update as soon as possible.”
On March 25, BNC staffers learned the channel had reached the end of its journey. As employees were notified by phone that the channel was ceasing operations, Hair sent out a memo to staffers saying he was “saddened and disappointed.”
“During the past few months, we have endured very painful workforce reductions at all levels of the network as we worked to achieve our financial goal of a break-even business. This has forced all of you to do more with less, and your contributions have been remarkable,” Hair said in the memo obtained by TheWrap. “Unfortunately, due to challenging market conditions and global financial pressures, we have been unable to meet our financial goals, and the timeline afforded to us has run out.”