The Black Politico

Orlando politics and more -- from a black perspective

The Top 5 Races to Watch in Central Florida

On a national scale, there’s no question this election season will be exciting. Along the spectrum, it could be interesting and even possibly depressing, for some.

With Donald Trump being the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, the silent majority has spoken so far and they apparently agree with Trump’s anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican, anti-Women rhetoric. As for Black people, well, he has Black friends and his daughter is married to a Jewish man.

The previous sentence was written with the most sarcasm I could possibly put into words.

That’s about as much as we know about Trump’s views on how he personally and professionally feels about people of color and that’s plenty. Besides the soon-to-be bland Presidential general race, we have local races that can directly change communities of color and hopefully reshape the United States Senate. Yes, that drag of a Senate that refuses to not even so much as grant a hearing for President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

Closer to home, we need serious change in Central Florida’s Black and Brown communities and it doesn’t only come with a change in current elected and appointed officials. All races are important, however, the top 5 races to watch closely will indeed shape the next 2-4 years of Black and Brown life in Central Florida if we choose wisely.

 

  1. State Attorney: The State Attorney’s race is indeed shaping up to be both exciting and interesting as current State Attorney, Jeff Ashton, is challenged by his former employee, Aramis Ayala. Both are Democrats. While Ashton is still favored in the race, he won with an estimated 47% of the Black vote and 42% of the Latino vote. Ayala is Black and her husband is Latino which leads some to assume Ayala could have a real shot at this office based on the demographics. However, that is an assumption that all people of color vote for people of color and that’s not accurate. While it’s not impossible, it is hard to be an incumbent. Ashton is not only known for his role in the Casey Anthony trial but, quite frankly, he’s a brilliant attorney even outside of that one case. He was the first attorney to earn a conviction by introducing DNA as evidence in 1987. Ashton is favored by many because he’s more experienced and has a strong track record. He ran a successful campaign against Lawson Lamar calling out most of the things that Black and Brown people hold near and dear. Especially, the “improper” prison sentences Lamar was known for supporting.
  2. Congressional District 10: With this race, we have the potential to elect a Black woman as a U.S. Representative in this area. With the newly drawn lines, Representative Daniel Webster (R), who currently holds the seat, has chosen to run in District 11 instead of District 10, while former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings (D) shapes the race as the favored candidate. Businessman Bob Poe, Senator Geraldine Thompson and Attorney Fatima Rita Fahmy, all Democrats, also challenge Demings in the race for the seat.
  3. Senate District 13: State Representative Randolph Bracy, Jr (D), former Senator Gary Siplin (D), Environmentalist Chuck O’Neal (D) and former State Representative Bob Sindler (D) have all raised a pretty decent amount of money according to their financial reports for this Senate seat previously occupied by Senator Geraldine Thompson. While this is a hard race to call “favorites,” name recognition may be what it all boils down to. The Bracy name is well-known in the community because of his parents and their success as Pastors and their work with the community, local and national politics. But, young Bracy has to earn a “name” for himself when it comes to drafting legislation that creates positive change. Siplin brings his name recognition to the table as well as he not only served as Senator but has served the community as an attorney and was known for his backpack giveaways each year before school starts, which also happened to always be around primary elections.
  4. Senator Marco Rubio’s Current Seat: This race is known to most people as “Rubio’s seat.” It will be a knock-down, drag-out fight simply because Alan “say my name” Grayson is in the race. Grayson always makes a splash wherever he goes. He’s a registered Democrat but acts more like an Independent. As Rubio makes his exit, many believe he was always preparing himself for the role of President while neglecting his responsibilities as Senator. Rubio (R) didn’t vote on issues that had a direct impact on his constituents, Alan Grayson (D), Patrick Murphy (Republican turned Democrat) and Pam Keith (D) are all vying for former Presidential Candidate and current Senator Marco Rubio’s seat. Keith is the only woman and only person of color in this race. One thing that stood out to me when I spoke with Pam Keith is her passion for issues that matter to Black people. She is passionate about the Black Lives Matter movement which may drive younger people to the polls in her favor. Recently, in his final time as Senator, Rubio visited Orlando and went to the often talked about Windsor Cove Apartments and called the owners “slumlords”.
  5. The Race for Weed: In a sense, Attorney and activist John Morgan of nationally known law firm, Morgan and Morgan, is the favored candidate when it comes to the legalization of medical marijuana commonly called “pot” in Florida. Everyone seems to have their eyes on this race as last election cycle it narrowly failed to pass. Now, medical marijuana will be on the Presidential ballot. Presidential races always bring out more voters, so many anticipate this time around the legalization of cannabis is within reach.

Elections should not be a popularity contest nor should they propel reality show excitement in voters. Elections are serious business and shouldn’t be taken lightly. As we move forward with debates, Q&A’s with candidates and as we gather other information, possibly, we will be able to make decisions that will help create the communities we desire.

Problems still linger around Congresswoman Corrine Brown

Congresswoman Corrine Brown is accused of conspiring to commit fraud by using campaign funds for personal purposes and improperly soliciting charitable donations along with other allegations.

Carla Wiley, Director of the non-profit organization, “One Door for Education,” plead guilty to fraud and agreed to fully cooperate with federal prosecutors. Wiley will also be sentenced on June 13th for the crime.

Brown is linked to the organization that collected $800,000 dollars in donations since 2012 and only gave out a scholarship for $1000 within the same time frame. Wiley also transferred $140,000 into her own bank account.

Brown told the media, “I am clean.” However, allegations surfaced that Brown used letterhead or a logo representing the United States House of Representatives to align herself and the House of Representatives to a fundraiser golf tournament in Virginia, where the organization is based.

Allegations also surfaced that the organization hosted events for Brown and that Brown also wrote letters encouraging donors to send in money.

Some of Wiley’s statements led some to believe the trail of funds or the benefits lead back to Brown or an unnamed official.

Last month, the House of Representatives ethics committee voted to investigate Brown and her affiliation with this group.

Redistricting is also giving Congresswoman Brown a tough run at re-election. Last July, a Florida Supreme Court Judge ruled the congressional district Brown has served in for years, violated the “Fair Districts” standards approved by voters 6 years ago.

Although there were more districts involved in the gerrymandering case, Brown’s district may garner the most change for people of color.

Once the new maps were drawn and approved, it spelled disaster for Brown, her district and her upcoming election.

Last week, television stations caught up with the Congresswoman and she said, “this is not acceptable the way this is working,” in regards to the investigation process.

As reporters pressed her for information, she continued, “Do you think if I hired a team of attorneys and they tell me to zip it, or else, they would divorce me, I don’t know what you think I am gonna say!”

As for the most important of them all, Brown’s constituents, she spoke on their behalf saying, “They don’t have any questions for me, because they know me.”

Orlando’s mayoral race heats up

Orlando’s mayoral race heats up

There are three candidates running for the title of Mayor of the City of Orlando and some voters are watching this race closely. To many black people living in the inner city, this race is personal. A mini-focus group consisting of members of the Haitian, African American and Hispanic communities talked about the five top things that matters most to them and there is enough evidence to show that the swing vote, may not swing in the direction of Orlando’s current Mayor, Buddy Dyer.

One woman in our focus group made it fairly clear that Dyer is certainly no buddy to black people in Central Florida. During the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board interview, candidate Sunshine Grund said she feels as though her voice and the voice of other Central Floridians is not being heard. She said she is also running to help save the 100+ acres of wetlands that are set to be destroyed and to provide a voice to the people of Orlando.
Paul Paulson, said he is running because we have had a 17.7% tax hike this year which we can’t afford. Paulson continues, “the hardworking people of Orlando deserve much better.”
Paulson also said, “We can’t give Mr. Dyer a blank checkbook to write checks every time and spend our money.”

The top 5 issues our diverse group said mattered most are as follows:

1. Housing – Residents in highly populated black and hispanic communities say housing is deplorable and gentrification is not only in the near future but is happening now. Owners of black businesses along Church Street were upset because they were shut out of the All-Star Game years ago under the leadership of the current city mayor, Buddy Dyer.

2. The Orlando Police Department – OPD has a record of 23 reports of excessive force under the current police chief and nothing has been done about it outside of a press conference or two. Sheriff Jerry Demings’ office was awarded a grant for body cameras for all of his officers. Keep in mind Demings’ office is not receiving reports of excessive force but the Orlando Police Department, under the supervision of Chief Mina, is responsible for all 23 excessive reports. One officer was even caught on camera kicking a man while he was sitting on the curb adhering to the officer’s requests. This assault happened while another OPD officer watched.

3. Tinker FieldHistoric Tinker Field housed the Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and other baseball teams. Legends played on this field and it is also the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke before many Central Floridians in 1964. Now, Tinker Field is expected to be demolished. Although, Tinker Field is nationally recognized as a historic place within the United States, some feel that is not enough. Properly paying tribute to the historic significance of Tinker Field is unsatisfactory to many people of color who live nearby.

4. Affordable housing – For blacks looking to build businesses and thrive in the downtown area, affordable housing and rent for a business is almost impossible. City View on Church Street was initially slated to be “affordable” however the apartments alone are more than $1700 per month. While Johnson’s Diner was able to receive financial assistance to move their business from their old location to Church Street, they were still unable to make the rent and pay all of their expenses. Mathematically, the traffic around City View just isn’t quite significant enough to warrant a successful business with the overhead being so expensive.

5. Excessive pollution in the black community – Nap Ford community center sits on polluted soil. According to some community leaders, no one cares about black children and their health especially when the pollution cleanup comes with a hefty price tag. The way the situation was rectified is unacceptable to some community activists. There was a lining put underneath the school to separate the soil from the building and unfortunately, primarily black and hispanic children are still being educated on those grounds.

Residents also said they feel left out of the planning process. When it comes to the issues that plague the black community in Orlando, there is either a meeting for black community leaders or no meeting at all for issues that matter most to the community however, some black leaders want to sit at the same table with everyone and are not willing to continue to only sit alongside the same people they have sat alongside for years. As a community, if we continue to do what we’ve always done we will continue to get what we’ve always gotten. People of color can make no progress if we are not communicating with all who can help move the community forward, regardless of race.

Dyer certainly has more name recognition in this election than any of the others running against him but will that mean he will re-elected on November 3rd?

This election is about more than selecting a mayor. To many black people, it is about changing the conditions in which they live. The number of registered African American voters is significantly higher than in past years and in about four weeks, we will see whether or not the black community is ready to move forward with a new mayor.