Sunday, July 31, 2011

Demanding Civil Rights from the Florida Redistricting Commission

Sen. Don Gaetz Chairman of the Florida 2011 redistricting hearing committee
Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos
Sen.Thad Altman
Rep. Rich Workman
Rep. Steve Crisifuli
Rep.  John Tobia

Dear Senator Gaetz, et al:
·         I ask you to show cause for why I wasn’t permitted  my prescribed three minutes time to finish my comments during the redistricting hearings at our Brevard County Commission Chambers, July 28, 2011.
·         I also ask that you explain the overwhelming show of law enforcement (AKA ‘force’) in order to suppress my civil rights under Amendment I of the U.S. Constitution.
·         I also ask that I be permitted to address you again, start to finish, for the three minute period, uninterrupted, provided I stay to topic and refine my message.

These terms seem more than reasonable given how you treated me.
My treatment at your heavy hands seems to mark a relative low-point in state partisan politics. Not a major low point, just a minor one; a cruddy little one that didn’t need to happen. Three officers and another unknown man in a suit to escort one citizen away from a microphone?
(My portion begins at 25:25)
Suffice it to say this hints to similar treatment of other citizens in the future which is why I take the time here. Better to nip this in the bud now.
With budget cuts, the removal of one road patrol officer affects an entire force. Everyone shifts to cover. This is a fact I am aware of in my former capacity of a news reporter. It is a fact you are aware of in your capacity as a public official, or should be.
By the way, were you all aware that serious accidents were recorded on Northbound I-95 in Jacksonville while two members of the highway patrol were tasked to baby sit this meeting from the terrible likes of me? Do the families of those injured by speeding motorists know where two members of the highway patrol were that morning?
The founding fathers were forced to shout louder with every assault on their liberties.  We were taught this in public school.  Many of us feel certain history will be among the first subjects to go the way of the dinosaur in the new corporate/voucher model some of you voted on with very little thought as to consequence. And we know the reason for that can be found in teachable moments just like this one.
As a former newspaper reporter I can tell you I have never witnessed such an event in all my time covering Brevard and Indian River County Commission meetings and hundreds of city council meetings. Never once have I seen a non-violent, non-cursing, flabby obviously harmless citizen removed to the back of the room so quickly and expeditiously for the impertinence of satire or meandering off-topic, as you say, Senator Gaetz.
”Junta, Pol Pot, joke,” When did these words become so dangerous to the legislative process? Since when is a three-minute time limit – and I wasn’t even there yet – the basis of a near-arrest? Pol Pot, after your treatment of me, IS relevant. I am amazed at how MUCH relevance he has! That a mere metaphor could illicit this sort of response (one Pol might have appreciated) is astounding.
The public expression of no-confidence in this or any process is feedback that is vital to the historic record. Let us agree it is not yours to decide by which editorial standards they may be deleted from the record, provided the expressions are not obscene or threatening. Let the market decide if you’ve earned the comments. Let history judge them.
The urge to purge our rancor at elected bodies, particularly those remaining ever-unavailable, who also seem bent on the destructive fascist course, does not diminish simply because the similar terms were said on previous days.
Disgust, and distrust are valid well-earned sentiments. Like love, these can come back to you when the collective cynicism of your elected body spawned them in our hearts. You should accept and learn from them. To rage at raindrops for their number is equally logical as begrudging honest rancor, no matter the volume or flavor in the expression thereof.
Your choice in applying force, menace, and in equal measure, the choice of some of you to sit idly by ignoring its application, is destructive to the public trust.
With the exception of Senator Gaetz, you all, listed here, are from Brevard County. Making you, technically, my neighbors! This further dilutes the meaning of a word which has been stretched threadbare by politicians.
You favored, or at least didn’t interrupt, those fawning presenters who had precious little to add in the way of substance.
When does one go to a meeting merely to slather praise on the moderators and nothing more? Was this entire event merely for the expression of gratitude at your expensive, imperious presence?  Nothing submitted for view in a “transparent format” is still nothing. Still a null-set.
What an absurd event you all seemed to demand from us per show of force. Amid the kissing of small confused children and urging them to speak as well, there were NO maps to go off of.
You are legally obligated to provide a forum for “feedback” on the redistricting plan. There must be “feed” first, for there to be “back” second, as any electrician or guitar player will tell you. The topic was apparently, “redistricting exists;  it happens.” And…? With this amorphous cloud as the framework how is “Pol Pot” precisely off topic any more than Ponce de Leon? I could say “gerbils”, and be equally on or off topic.
What a colossal “dog ate my homework” moment.  And to think there are 26 of these meetings in all!
What a disservice we do as citizens of democratic society NOT to give you a ration of chips for this nonsense. We would be shirking our duty NOT to give you the business, as it were, even just a little bit.
I should be given the chance to once again speak before the redistricting committee. I have something important to say. Data, actual facts,  that I never got to.
 My personal observations shared here, I vow to leave out.  I know you’ll thank me for it.
I will sharpen the message, if it pleases Your Lordships. I will practice and rehearse again so that it clips the wire under three minutes. I will bend my comments, and tailor them to your topic of voting districts, and the upcoming elections. I will not use the words Pol or Pot.
But in the end, I have a right to be heard by the commission, not shouted down, not tripped up in mid sentence before my time is up; not escorted away from the microphone as though I were a dangerous lunatic.
It is my right as a citizen of this state and this country.

David Kearns

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