Thursday, February 28, 2019
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
First, some school districts have opposed improvements to the hazardous walking conditions statute because a requirement to transport students around conditions that are more realistically defined than they currently are might also require districts to transport more students, purchase more school buses, and hire more school bus operators, all other factors remaining equal, possibly at a greater cost to districts.
Second, the legislature has been very reluctant to approve legislation that isn’t revenue neutral. Past proposals that have improved the definition of “hazardous walking conditions” would have required the approval of additional revenue from the legislature, had they been approved. That continues to be an obstacle to change unless there is a balancing of costs embedded within the proposal.
- That students of all ages are endangered by hazardous walking conditions, and
That the hazardous walking conditions criteria ought to be credible and it should consider the elements of safe infrastructure design.
- The hazardous walking conditions criteria and associated state funding should apply to the transportation of students of all ages.
- A safe and suitable walkway should not be 4 feet wide, it should be 5 feet wide as is required in the construction of sidewalks per the Florida DOT Green Book.
- The statute should be clear that no part of a drainage ditch or any part of any other stormwater runoff facility or system, including side slopes, is a suitable walkway for students.
- Railroad crossings, bridges, and overpasses that lack paved walkways are not suitable walkways for students.
- Students should not be required to cross a roadway between intersections or outside of marked crosswalks in order to acquire a safe walkway parallel to the road.
- The walking route that is utilized in calculating eligibility for transportation should be used in the application of the hazardous walking conditions criteria.
- Qualifying traffic volume should reflect the fact that morning traffic near schools generally flows toward school in the morning and away from school in the afternoon. Furthermore, the traffic volume measurement should be focused and specific to the period during which students would walk to or from school because 15 minutes on either side of that period would be irrelevant to the matter and would distort the true sense of the traffic volumes that students encounter. The proposal also allows for traffic to be counted manually if existing traffic engineering records are not specific enough.
- Qualifying traffic volume should be at a threshold that genuinely reflects a hazard to students.
- Whether a crossing site is controlled or uncontrolled, roads consisting of more than two lanes of traffic and have a posted speed limit of 35 mph or greater should be considered hazardous for students.
- Any crossing site where it is likely that student pedestrians would encounter traffic turning from left turn lanes, lanes where a right turn on red is authorized, and free-flow right turn lanes should be considered hazardous for students. The Florida Greenbook acknowledges the importance designing roadways, sidewalks, and crosswalks in a manner that eliminates conflict between motorists and pedestrians, and limiting the use of vehicle traffic flow facilities such as those included in the proposal.
Sunday, February 24, 2019
In spite of the Commission’s 3-2 vote to convene the committee, the issue has already been drawn out enough that several commissioners already know where they stand. On one side, there are those who believe that the naming of the current bridge in memory of Senator Philip D. Beall, Sr. should pass on to the bridge that is being built in its place. On the other side, there are those who believe that the new bridge should be named to honor the memory of Pensacola native General Chappie James.
After several citizens spoke on the matter, some of them veterans who supported naming the bridge in honor of General James, Commissioner Bergosh was the first to speak from the dais.
He went to great lengths to tell the audience that he is not anti-military. In doing so, he talked about his family members who served or are serving in the military, but then he strayed off and essentially undermined his own assertion by insulting the veterans he said he supported. He should have just said that he's a huge supporter of the military and veterans and let it go at that.
Then, Commissioner Bergosh went on to discuss the record of Senator Beall, Sr. He said that he found it "disingenuous" and "disgusting" that those who had unveiled disturbing aspects of Senator Beall, Sr.'s record were dragging the Beall family's name through the mud "out of convenience or faux outrage of today's values juxtaposed against the historical realities of 200, 300, 400 years ago."
Then, he referred specifically to “the realities of history in the '30’s in the South.” So, what are the "realities of the '30's in the South" that Commissioner Bergosh was referring to?
They refer in part to the fact that in 1935, Senator Beall authored a bill that ultimately became one of the now-infamous Jim Crow Laws that excluded African Americans from voting in Florida Democratic primaries. That's not dragging his name through the mud; that's a fact of history and when he did it, the 15th Amendment of United States Constitution, ratified in 1870, forbade the denial of African Americans the right to vote. The 15th Amendment declares, "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
For context, state legislatures and courts throughout the South worked persistently for decades to circumvent the 15th Amendment. The entrenchment of Southern society in the supremacy of whites and the fixation that Democrats had on preventing Republicans from diluting the political influence of Southern whites by permitting African Americans to vote was clear and pervasive. When Senator Beall submitted his bill to exclude African Americans from voting in Democratic primaries, the Pensacola News Journal published an editorial that endorsed that effort: "Pensacola is a city of white folks. Negroes have their place. A great majority of them are good citizens. But, when we are selecting men who are to govern us, we do not want any balance of power to be in the hands of the colored people."
During the Commission meeting, Commissioner Bergosh seemed to pardon segregationists in the 1930s as merely being products of their time when he said that the 15th Amendment didn’t specifically preclude poll taxes and literacy tests and other workarounds whose consequences would disenfranchise African American voters. However, this isn't about poll taxes and literacy tests. The fact is that Senator Beall's efforts to disenfranchise African Americans weren't nearly as subtle or nuanced as the poll taxes and literacy tests were. His actions were quite overt and direct.
So, the question is whether we should hold Senator Beall's political actions in the 1930s against him in 2019. In my view, he was part of the problem in the South where as a leader, he permitted the racist attitudes that prevailed in the South before the Civil War to persist and undermine efforts to provide full rights of citizenship to African Americans after the Civil War. It should be no real surprise that within the "rank-and-file" citizenry at the time, the Jim Crow Laws like the one that Senator Beall wrote would be well-received. As we remember that Senator Beall didn't merely vote for a Jim Crow Law, he wrote one, we also must acknowledge that leaders of courage change flawed and immoral paradigms; they don't perpetuate them. What Senator Beall did might have been good politics in Pensacola in 1935, but it wasn't courageous leadership. We can't excuse that kind of leadership today simply on the basis that it was the going rate at the time.
With respect to memorializing figures in history, Commissioner May said, "Symbols do mean things. There's no place to ever to think that monuments and things that happened don't affect our daily life today."
There is no prism of “today’s values” in the scrutiny of Senator Beall's record. History has demonstrated that it was wrong for southern state legislatures to circumvent the Constitution in order to continue the institutional discrimination against African Americans. Period.
Senator Beall, Sr. passed away in 1943, 8 years after he took office as a senator. Commissioner Bergosh informed the public that Philip Beall, Jr. who succeeded his father in office after his death distinguished himself during World War II and had been held in a German POW camp after being shot down.
What Commissioner Bergosh didn't tell the audience was that Senator Beall, Jr., having served with distinction during the war which ended in 1945 and succeeded his father in the senate in 1947, was a member of the infamous “Pork Chop Gang” that worked vigorously to preserve segregation in the 1950s and 1960s in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.
I can't help but contrast that record with General James' record. He was the first African American four-star general in the armed forces, having flown combat missions and been decorated several times for valor in the Korean and Vietnam Wars as evidenced by his three Distinguished Flying Crosses and twenty-two Air Medals. (So yes, he too was a combat veteran.) As for his family, he, like Senator Beall had a son who followed in his footsteps. One of General James' sons joined the Air Force and became a three-star general.
"I'm a citizen of the United States of America and I'm no second-class citizen either and no man here is, unless he thinks like one and reasons like one and performs like one. This is my country and I believe in her, and I will serve her, and I'll contribute to her welfare whenever and however I can. If she has any ills, I'll stand by her until in God's given time, through her wisdom and her consideration for the welfare of the entire nation, she will put them right." - General Chappie James speaking to members of the Air Force Officers Association in the aftermath of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King
I believe the decision-making on the naming of the new bridge should be deliberate and deliberative, but it shouldn’t be unnecessarily drawn out. I don’t see that engaging a committee to arrive at a conclusion that it appears most of the commissioners already have is necessary. As Commissioner Underhill said at the meeting, "I don't need a committee to tell me what other courses of action there might be. This (naming the new bridge in honor of General James) is the right course of action."
And there's a flaw in the premise that this issue must be discussed with all of the “communities,” identified at the Commission meeting as African-Americans and other minorities, and military members, etc. As Commissioner May said at the meeting, "Chappie James wouldn't want a bridge named after him because he's an African American; he'd want a bridge named after him because he's a Great American." So, to position the matter properly, the decision whether to name the bridge in honor of General James is not about simply honoring an African American or a military person, it’s about honoring a Great American who served his country with extraordinary distinction.
It's worth saying here that Commissioners May and Underhill clearly and eloquently stated positions in support of naming the new bridge in honor of General James. Both staked out compelling positions that our symbols and memorials are meaningful in our daily lives and that "merit" should be the standard by this these things are determined.
It's my belief that the manner in which these two men, Senator Philip Beall, Sr. and General Chappie James handled the burden of leadership in their times is important to our community and that honor and merit should be the new "reality" by which they are recognized and revered.
I also believe that the public monuments and memorials that we erect today should represent the best among us: our best people, our most-esteemed principles, and our fundamental core values. That is how these structures can best and most positively affect the daily lives of people today.
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Senator Richard B. Russell was a democrat United States Senator from the state of Georgia and President Pro Tempore of the Senate when he died in office at the age of 73. He served in the Senate for more than half his life (38 years) and before that, he served as Governor of Georgia and as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. He spent 50 of his 73 years in politics.
In 1956, Senator Russell co-authored the "Declaration of Constitutional Principles" (also known as the "Southern Manifesto") in opposition to racial integration in public places. The manifesto, signed by 101 mostly-southern congressmen (99 democrats and 2 republicans), was written in response to the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision which took much of the starch out of the Court's 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision which legitimized the separate but equal segregationist doctrine.
A year later, Russell opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 which was advocated by President Eisenhower and created the six-member Commission on Civil Rights and established the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice. It also authorized the U.S. Attorney General to seek court injunctions against the deprivation and obstruction of voting rights by state officials.
Three years later, the Congress approved the Civil Rights Act of 1960 which expanded the enforcement powers of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and introduced criminal penalties for obstructing the implementation of federal court orders. It also required voting and registration records for federal elections to be preserved. Senator Russell voted against this act as well.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in public accommodations, facilities, and schools, created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to monitor employment discrimination in public and private sectors, and provided additional capacities to enforce voting rights. Of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Senator Russell said, "We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our states." The "we" to which Senator Russell was referring was a bloc of 18 Southern senators (17 democrats and 1 republican) who filibustered the bill in the Senate for 60 days in an attempt to block the legislation through Senate rules.
Senator Russell voted against all four of those key acts of Congress.
Russell was selected to serve as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and President pro temporare of the Senate in 1969, he died in 1971, and the Senate Office Building was named for him in 1972.