Special Report from State Representative and Democratic Leader
He will discuss the NOT-SO-SPECIAL "Special Session" and what passed for Reform in the Republic controlled Legislature.
Mohammed Malik from Students for Justice for Palestine to discuss the ongoing efforts
for Peace and Stability in Palestine and Israel.
Environmental Journalist a fellow with DeSmog Blog
Luis Cuevas - Progressive Push
1. Tallahassee TWO-STEP
Backstabbing Democracy a secong time
lorida Center for Investigative Reporting
The Florida Legislature’s special session to redraw the state’s congressional districts has ended now that lawmakers passed a new set of maps. However, Democrats and others argue the maps still mirror Florida’s actual political makeup.
As the Associated Press reports, “the changes would reshape the boundaries of seven of the state’s 27 congressional districts, but it’s not certain if the revised map will result in a change the makeup of Florida’s congressional delegation…. Republicans currently hold a 17-10 edge even though President Barack Obama twice carried the state..”
Several weeks ago, Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled state lawmakers violated a set of voter-backed laws aimed at stopping the Legislature from drawing politically motivated maps.
According to Lewis, lawmakers facilitated a “secret, organized campaign” wherein partisan political operatives influenced the redistricting process in violation of the Fair Districts Amendments, which mandates the state draw districts without political party favoritism.
The lawsuit alleging the GOP-led Legislature broke those laws was filed by the Florida League of Women Voters, as well as a group of voters. Officials with the League had asked the judge to not appoint the Legislature to redraw the maps. However, the Legislature was ultimately tasked with the job with a strict turnaround.
Now, Democrats and the plaintiffs in that case are crying foul on these new maps.
According to The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times:
While the GOP legislative leaders praised themselves for creating a map that followed Lewis’ order, Democrats complained they were excluded and predicted the new map likely will be thrown out like the previous one.
“This was a dog-and-pony show, and unfortunately that’s what we’re going to send back to the judge on Friday,” said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach.
Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, called the new map “window dressing” that “doesn’t meet the goals again.”
Redistricting experts said that, if approved by the judge, the new map will change little politically.
“A lot of furniture has been rearranged but it looks like the old house with the same rooms,’’ said Michael McDonald, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida and an expert on redistricting. “I would not think any incumbents will be defeated as a result of this plan.”
The Democrat-leaning voters groups that brought the lawsuit said the new map perpetuates the flaws enacted by legislators in 2012 and said they will argue that the map should be rejected and redrawn by the court.
…“We do not believe Map 9057 complies with Judge Lewis’s order or the Fair Districts Amendments,’’ said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. ”We will continue to urge Judge Lewis to adopt a constitutionally compliant map for the 2014 elections.”
Voting for the map in the Legislature fell mostly along party lines. Even though the changes affect up to seven districts, this barely changes the political calculus in the state at all.
However, Republicans contend that’s because the maps were drawn without consideration for political makeup.
The E.W. Scripps / Tampa Tribune Tallahassee bureau reported:
State Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who led the Senate’s special session map-drawing, said that partisan data could not be considered when drawing the maps because of the Fair District amendments.
“You can’t engineer the political performance,” he said. “If you fix it, you violate the constitution.”
Democrats also took issue with the fact the new maps would specifically not become law until after 2014. They are hoping for congressional elections this year to be held on the new maps, a plan Republicans say would disenfranchise votes already cast by mail.
In his order, Lewis held out the possibility of a special election for the districts impacted, but also stated he was unsure if he could legally change election dates.
The AP also reported, “Senate Democrats offered their own alternate map that changed just three districts, but it was voted down on a 25-12 vote.”
Republicans contended that the Democratic map was unconstitutional because it lowered the number of black voters in [Corrine] Brown’s district. The federal Voting Rights Act bars states from diluting the voting strength of minorities.
As Slate’s Dave Weigel points out, this aspect of the VRA has actually help Republicans quite a bit:
The state Senate, given until Aug. 15 to draw a new map, finished its work early and voted it through. If you click that link and look for the 5th District, you may notice that it still snakes from Jacksonville, down into the Orlando area. As Alice Ollstein pointed out, “the new map proposed by state legislators would reduce Brown’s district to 48 percent African-American, while boosting her neighbor’s district–represented by Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL) from 10 to over 12 percent African-American.”
The alliance is unbroken. This is really part of the plan for continuing Republican dominance of congressional and legislative delegations for years. In every Republican-run state with a significant black population, the reliably Democratic black vote is packed into as few districts as possible—Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania. As Rick Scott showed in 2010, this is one aspect of Voting Rights Act preclearance that the Republican-run states are perfectly OK with.
There is a scheduled hearing set for Aug. 20 for Lewis to hear arguments about the new map and Gov. Rick Scott plans on signing it quickly into law.
2. Talking with pols about fracking
Several weeks ago members of the group Concerned Citizens Ohio met with a state representative to discuss fracking, injection wells, pipelines and the natural gas industry in general. Here is something I’ve noticed about these meetings: If you want officials to take action, figure out how to put them on the spot. For instance, when we met with township trustees about injection wells, they were pleasant if slightly exasperated. The state controls all that, our hands are tied, they assured us.
Now, a heated exchange like that is not my idea of success; I’d much rather have them willing to work with us. That won’t always be possible though, and getting reluctant officials on record as being unwilling to even lift a finger is useful too. If nothing else, it lets you know who you can count on. Either way, though, the idea is to bring to officials something they have unquestioned authority to act on. And make sure to keep the “something” singular. With a multiple part question or request it’s easy to pick the most favorable one, address that and ignore the rest. I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave wiggle room like that; better to pick the best available issue and stay on it.
That approach seems best suited for a legislative session or other official meeting, though. At a town hall or arranged date with a group, the best you can probably get is a promise to introduce something or a pledge to work on it. On the other hand, a more informal setting can be useful for “what the heck are you people doing, anyway?” type questions. When it comes to fracking, Republicans are usually on board, while Democrats are equivocal allies at best. In Ohio, a handful of representatives have been good on the issue, but others are already cashing in – and the national party is increasingly siding (via) with the oil and gas industry.
So approaching a Democratic officeholder with environmental or quality of life issues, no matter how heartfelt and sincerely expressed, is probably not going to accomplish much. The response will be, different studies say different things, and any anyway look at the big picture: things have really improved over the last few decades (the river never catches fire any more!) Unless some urgent problem is happening, arguments about long term risk and degradation will unfortunately not get much traction.
It seems better to go right at the main pillar of their support on the issue – jobs and the economy. The right approach can put them on the spot. Here is an adapted version of my comments (as I best remember them) at the meeting with the state rep. (Greetings etc. omitted.) Feel free to adapt them for any meetings you may have, and let me know if you have any thoughts on how to improve them:
It really bothers me to see how timid Democrats have been on fracking. Any time a Republican says “jobs” Democrats dive under the desk, but the promise of jobs is largely a mirage. Last summer the Plain Dealer reported that employment had increased less than one percent since drilling began in eastern counties. In January the Dispatch noted that the jobs aren’t there, and even the industry has started touting “auxiliary economic activity” instead. Transients come into town while the infrastructure is being built, leave when it’s done, and the community has little to show for it.
There’s a temporary bump in sales receipts for restaurants, hotels and strip clubs, but no long term benefit. It isn’t like a steel mill that employs thousands of locals at good wages year after year (and supports ancillary business as well, incidentally). Fracking has been going on here long enough for the results to be in. It doesn’t create jobs in the way citizens would like to believe, and it should now be a political for any officeholder to say so. Democrats have the evidence to hit back, and hit back hard, on those claims. A handful of exceptions like Nickie Antonio and Bob Hagan have spoken out on the issue, but most have just done a whole lot of shutting up. And it’s enormously frustrating.
3. Sewere in Key West
In most places, sewer projects are a humdrum affair. Not in the Keys.
From the era of Ernest Hemingway to the days of Jimmy Buffett, the island city of Key West got rid of its raw sewage the old-fashioned way, by dumping it into the sea.
But, in 1979, the adage “the solution to pollution is dilution” no longer was acceptable for the environmentally sensitive waters near the world’s third-largest barrier coral reef. The state demanded that Key West clean up its act, and the city of 25,000 did just that, by building a treatment plant.
The rest of the island chain, however, continued to rely on septic tanks, cesspits and other onsite disposal systems, meaning that with every flush, more nutrient-rich human waste seeped through the porous limestone and into the fragile ecosystem of a national marine sanctuary. The once-cobalt blue waters of this self-described paradise were becoming choked with algae. So the state, in 1999, ordered the rest of Monroe County to convert to central sewers.
Nearly $1 billion later, the plumbing of the Keys is within sight of the finish line. It has been an odyssey steeped in angry words, purported conspiracies, regulatory wrangling and lawsuits — even though people have agreed on the ultimate goal: clean coastal water.
The fighting is far from over. Community groups with names like Dump the Pumps and the Sir Isaac Newton Coalition are still battling with government agencies in court and in the news media.
To some, the aroma from the new sewer system carries a whiff of scandal. They accuse politicians of bait-and-switch tactics, shifting money meant for sewers into other pet projects. Funding has come from the state, the federal stimulus and an increase in the local sales tax, which is mostly paid by tourists.
“This was a daunting task, but we’re down to the last two pieces of the puzzle,” said George Neugent, the only Monroe County Commissioner who has been in office since the beginning.
Indeed, 10 of the 12 major service areas are mostly done. But the remaining two areas have been nettlesome. One unfinished chunk, the Village of Islamorada service area, has had its political problems, but a deal was worked out to pipe its sewer to the treatment plant in Key Largo. Work is now under way on the connection system for Islamorada, which bills itself as the world’s sports fishing capital and would hate to see its coastal waters further despoiled. It is scheduled for completion by the new state deadline of Dec. 1, 2015.
And then there is the last piece: the Cudjoe Regional project, running from mile marker 17 on Sugarloaf Key to mile marker 33 on Big Pine Key. It is not only the most geographically complex slice, but the costliest, at $170 million.
The Cudjoe service area, encompassing up to 10,000 of the overall network’s 76,000 hookups, includes eight islands, 10 bridge crossings, an underwater crossing (because the Niles bridge was deemed too rickety), the National Key Deer Refuge and the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge.
It includes 150 to 200 homes so remote it was deemed too expensive to hook them up to the central system. They will be getting special onsite systems paid for partly by a $3.7 million alternative technology grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, said Kirk Zuelch, executive director of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority. The authority is responsible for the construction, operation and maintenance of Cudjoe Regional.
The verdict is still out on what’s going to happen to 43 homes on No Name Key, a community that up until a few years ago wasn’t even hooked up to the electrical grid.
The Cudjoe Regional system also has attracted the biggest stink from its service area residents. Some are furious over a design change that switched about 2,200 connections from gravity pumps — harnessing the force of gravity to keep the flow going — to low-pressure grinder pumps, which operate on electricity. Among the objection to grinder pumps: They will stop working during power outages, which can last a long time after storms.
Others are also inflamed because treated wastewater will be injected into four shallow wells instead of a deep well. The latter is more expensive but would ensure that treated water is cleaner — and farther from shore — once it eventually surfaces.
Opponents say the grinder pumps — cheaper than a gravity system — are an example of the project’s designers saving money now at the expense of bigger maintenance headaches and higher future expenses.
“What’s going on is a travesty,” said Walt Drabinski, founder of the Sir Isaac Newton Coalition (so named because members are advocates of gravity pumps) and the owner of Venture Energy Consulting on Summerland Key.
“We are going to pay for this fiasco for years to come,” said real estate agent Banks Prevatt, founder of Dump the Pumps.
He and Dabrinski both say the grinder pumps can cause explosions due to buildup of gases.
According to Drabinski, there are many examples of failed grinder pump systems, including one in the Indian River County community of Rockridge in 2004. Without electricity for extended periods of times after Hurricane Frances, the city’s low-pressure grinder pump sewer system shut down. An article from the publication Government Engineering said sewage “backed up into homes and contaminated the area’s groundwater” and that the result was “entire neighborhoods became giant bacteria-producing Petri dishes.”
DURABLE, SO FAR
So far, those dire predictions haven’t come true on Grassy Key, near Marathon, where an all-grinder pump system has been in operation. Marathon City Manager Mike Puto wrote that in the first 1 1/2 years of use, the grinder stations have proven to be durable and the pumps require little to no maintenance.
But after public protests against grinder pumps for Cudjoe, county commissioners voted to spend a combined $13 million more to convert about 1,350 homes back to gravity pumps. That did not satisfy Dump the Pumps. In February, Prevatt filed a petition for a legislative hearing contesting all the connection line permits issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The hearing is set for Sept. 29.
“I’m not fighting against the sewer project,” Prevatt said. “I’m fighting to do it right. Not to do a half-ass job.”
He’s also concerned that one of those connection permits calls for using two abandoned water lines that run across the bottom of Florida Bay to hook up swanky Little Palm Island.
“There is a history of those pipes being hit by boat propellers and breaking,” Prevatt said. “They are not buried in the mud. They just lay on the bay bottom.”
The Aqueduct Authority is also catching flak from a group called Dig Deep Cudjoe, as well as two homeowner associations and various individuals upset with another design aspect.
They oppose the authority’s decision to dispose of the effluent by injecting it into four shallow wells. Each well is 120 feet deep, which allows the treated wastewater to make its way within days into the near shore waters just 75 yards away.
Jan Edelstein, Dig Deep Cudjoe’s founder, said the county could and should spend another $6 million to build a deep well, which would prevent treated wastewater from making its way into the near shore waters.
Such a well would bore about 3,000 feet deep, into the boulder zone. From there, according to the county’s own master wastewater plan of 2000, treated water would slowly travel laterally and likely not converge with the ocean floor until 15 to 30 miles offshore, where the water is deep and the small levels of remaining nutrients would do little harm. The systems in Key Largo and Key West both use a deep well.
Zuelch said the Aqueduct Authority is following state law, which requires that a deep well be built only if the average annual per day disposal rate is more than one million gallons per day. For Cudjoe, the authority requested a permit for 940,000 gallons per day (although its capacity is 2.35 million for peak times).
The Aqueduct Authority is planning to build four monitoring wells around the sewer plant to make sure the water quality does not degrade. If it does, or if the plant surpasses the one million per day threshold, then a deep well will be built, Zuelch said.
For Don Demaria, a Lower Keys commercial fisherman and underwater photographer, that’s not the way to go. He and fellow commercial fisherman Mike Laudicina, along with two homeowner associations, filed a lawsuit on July 24, claiming the wastewater numbers are being manipulated to justify shallow wells.
Tom Walker, the Aqueduct Authority’s director of engineering, said there was “absolutely no number manipulation.”
The lawsuit has drawn more dueling interest groups into the fray. Last Stand, an environmental group based in Key West, intervened on behalf of the plaintiffs, claiming treated water at the Cudjoe plant would not meet Florida’s standards for nitrogen and phosphorous.
Reef Relief, another Key West-based group, weighed in on the other side, backing the DEP and the Aqueduct Authority.
“Every delay in the completion and activation of the facility is counterproductive to the goal we have all worked so tirelessly to accomplish,” Reef Relief said in a statement.
Meanwhile, in parts of the Keys where residents and businesses already are hooked up, water quality appears to be improving. That was documented in Little Venice, a canal-side subdivision in Marathon. Water was tested for three years before a treatment plant was constructed in 2004, and then tested for four years after it was operational.
Tests found a 77 percent decrease in fecal coliform and a 57 percent decrease in enterococci bacteria, both byproducts of human waste.
Key Largo resident Stephen Frink, a world-renowned underwater photographer and publisher of Alert Diver magazine, says he personally has seen an improvement in water quality off Key Largo since that town hooked up to a central system.
“While I saw an almost immediate improvement in the canals, this year I also saw new coral growth,” he said. “And I was seeing a lot of really good fish.”
Citing the region’s other challenges, he added: “Sewers won’t fix climate change, overfishing, ocean acidification or the lionfish problem, but putting in sewers is the best thing the Keys has done.”
As the legal challenges inch their way through the courts, work is moving forward on the Cudjoe Regional system. At present, the treatment plant is scheduled to open in February. Households and businesses will hook up in phases after that, with the last ones expected to connect at the end of 2016.
Last week, Zuelch stood on the top of a closed landfill that overlooks crews in hard hats working on the plant. In the distance: a splendid view of Cudjoe Basin, mangrove islands and the Gulf of Mexico.
“This is what it’s all about,” he said. “We all want to protect our beautiful waters.”
On that, at least, everyone seems to agree.
“A billion bucks is a bargain,” said Frink. “It’s so insignificant compared to the importance of the coral reef. It’s unconscionable that it took as long as it did.”
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/08/16/4293171/the-big-billiion-dollar-stink.html#storylink=cpy
4. Green Groups Fracking Industry ties
In 2012, when Ohio’s Senate passed a controversial hydraulic fracturing bill that was supported by the oil and gas industry, environmental groups lined up against it, saying it would endanger public health. But during hearings on the bill, it gained one seemingly unlikely supporter: the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), one of the nation’s largest green groups.
The bill supported renewable energy development but it also contained several items other environmental groups said were giveaways to the industry: It allowed fracking companies to keep private the chemicals they used in fracking, changed the required distance for contamination testing around a well from 300 feet to 1,500 feet, and prevented doctors from sharing information that might be considered trade secrets, even if it was in the interest of public health.
Matt Watson, one of EDF’s policy analysts, said at the hearing, “We would like to commend the General Assembly and the governor for the thoughtful approach that has been put forward.”
The group’s support for the bill highlighted a growing divide in the environmental movement, especially when it comes to natural gas. As fracking has expanded to dozens of states across the country, environmentalists have essentially been split into two camps: those who believe the process must be stopped at all costs, and those who believe drilling is inevitable, and so it’s better to work with industry on making it safer for the environment. But a new report critical of that latter group suggests that at least in some cases, environmental organizations’ work with the industry may cross ethical lines, and at worst become tacit support of industry-backed positions.
The new report, released by Buffalo-based non-profit Public Accountability Initiative, focuses on one group called the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which is a partnership between gas drilling companies, environmental groups and other nonprofits.
CSSD’s mission is to promote safe drilling of shale — the kind of rock that fracking breaks up — in the Appalachian Basin. The group doesn’t try to hide its industry connections, and the names of the environmental groups that support it are clearly listed on the center’s website.
But PAI’s report posits that the group is less a way for environmentalists to influence the oil and gas industry than it is a way for the industry to promote its agenda with the stamp of approval of green groups like EDF.
Among the report’s findings: the group’s executive director, Susan Packard LeGros, is a former oil industry lawyer who worked with oil, gas and chemical companies. One of the group’s board members, Jared Cohon, also worked at a similar group called the Center for Indoor Air Research, which was found to have strong ties to tobacco companies. And one of the group’s new supporters, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, was started by a titan of the oil and gas industry.
“[Environmental groups] are pouring money into calming fears and calming objections,” said Vera Scroggins, a prominent anti-fracking activist in Pennsylvania. “They’re basically promoting something that’s been created by the industry.”
The new report comes a year after PAI originally looked into CSSD. That report found similar evidence of other CSSD members and supporters being linked to the oil and gas industry in ways not disclosed by CSSD.
Since that report, three non-profits dropped out of CSSD, including the Heinz Endowments, the William Penn Foundation, and the Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future.
“We disagree with the position suggested by the organization’s name that fracking can be made environmentally ‘sustainable,’ and given the pace of shale development we do not believe that the goals of protecting environmental and public health are best served at this point by standards that are voluntary and unenforceable,” Heinz Endowments said in a statement.
Several groups, including EDF, the Clean Air Task Force, the Group Against Smog and Pollution, and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council are still participating in CSSD.
Supporters of the groups say it’s important to not let perfection become the enemy of progress.
“If unconventional shale gas development is going to proceed, it needs to be done with strong and enforceable regulation and it needs to adapt so it can get better and better,” said Davitt Woodwell, the president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. “For us, the only way to do that is to understand what the industry is doing and how they operate so you can put forward strong proposals.”
Woodwell says whether you support fracking or don’t, it’s important to face reality and work to make an already-existing process better. But PAI’s executive director Kevin Connor says the working-in-tandem approach does more harm for the environmental movement than good.
“They put a friendly face on the dirty work that these industries do,” Connor said.
Regardless of whether collaboration is beneficial or detrimental, some say it’s inevitable.
Michael Yaziji, a professor at Switzerland-based business school IMD, and co-author of a book about the partnerships and conflicts between non-profits and corporations, says in a world where green groups are competing for resources and volunteers, it makes sense that they use different tactics to stand out: Some promise to make progress by working with an industry, while others build their credibility among donors and supporters by taking a strong stance against it.
“The NGOs are almost like an industry,” Yaziji said. “They serve their stakeholders — their funders and their constituents. So they have to ask, ‘what differentiates us from the competition?’”
Yaziji says the dynamic is nothing new: Cement giant LaFarge collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund on CO2 reduction initiatives for 13 years, until 2013. Oil and gas giant Shell has partnered with several organizations, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
But with fracking so prominent in today’s news, and expanding so rapidly across the U.S., it seems the collaborations are being met with more anger and passion than ever before.
“The whole premise of [this kind of collaboration] is that we can just nicely ask these companies to not pollute us, and that’s never going to work,” said Alison Auciello, an organizer for Food and Water Watch in Ohio. “They’re kind of standing directly in the way of what we’re doing.”
5. from SUMOFUS.ORG
In a breathtakingly creepy invasion of privacy, Facebook is forcing all smartphone users to install a new messaging app. The Android version of the app -- and to a lesser extent the iPhone version as well -- allows Facebook to access your phone camera and record audio, call and send messages without your permission, identify details about you and all your contacts, and send that info on to third parties.
If you want to carry on sending and receiving messages through Facebook on your mobile phone you now have no choice but to install Facebook Messenger -- and give the company access to a wealth of personal data stored on your phone.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has also admitted that his long-term plan could be to 'monetize' the app, so we need to act now before the app becomes impossible to stop.
Tell Facebook to stop invading its users' privacy and allow people to keep using the old messenger feature.
6 Moral Mondays going Nationwide
The North Carolina NAACP and its coalition partners in the Forward Together Moral Movement are mobilizing for a Moral Week of Action at the State Capitol from August 22-28 to challenge the ongoing extremist legislative attack on poor people and minorities in the state.
Across the South and the nation, coalitions in other states are coordinating their own campaigns during the Moral Week of Action at their state capitols to protest extremists that are using the legislature and governor's office to take aim at the country's most vulnerable communities.
For seven consecutive days at the end of August, North Carolinians will gather outside the offices of power to demand that Gov. Pat McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Leader Phil Berger repent for the damage their extreme agenda has already had on the people of North Carolina, repeal their devastating public policy and restore our state's commitment to put the common good at the center of public policy and governance.
Each day will lift up certain urgent issues while still recognizing the inherent connections between all social justice struggles and movements.
"We are challenging the policies of extremists who have overtaken the offices of governor and legislative leadership," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the NC NAACP. "Their attacks on the poor, working families, people of color, women and children, the elderly, immigrants and the undocumented, the LGTBQ community and other marginalized groups are unprecedented in modern times. For more than 67 weeks of Moral Monday actions, our fusion coalition has challenged this regressive public policy agenda that does not hold up to our deepest moral values and constitutional principles. We will continue to raise our moral critique and to mobilize citizens to engage in the struggle for their future during these seven days of action and beyond."
7. Moral Mondays UN-ARREST
Judges dismiss 13 cases against Moral Monday arrestees, concluding that the charges infringed on their constitutional rights to freedom of speech!
Two judges have now dismissed 13 cases against Moral Monday arrestees on the Constitutional grounds that Police Chief Jeff Weaver's order to leave the General Assembly building was not "narrowly tailored," that the Legislative rules were vague and overbroad and that the Moral Monday arrestees' constitutionally protected right to assemble, speak and redress their grievances were violated by these arrests on June 24 and July 15, 2013. These rights were protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Sections 12 and 14 of the North Carolina constitution.
On July 30, her last day on the bench, Judge Joy Hamilton dismissed five cases pending against moral witnesses, citing the recent Supreme Court decision in McCullen v. Coakley.
Two weeks later, on Aug. 12 and 13, Judge Anne Salisbury dismissed eight other cases, but broadened the constitutional grounds which supported those decisions. In addition to the "narrow tailoring" rationale, Judge Salisbury determined that the Legislative rules were unconstitutional because they gave Chief Weaver unfettered discretion to subjectively decide who to arrest and for what they could be arrested.
In addition, she decided that the rules were vague, overbroad and unconstitutionally prohibited the Moral Monday protesters from using signs, singing, praying and chanting as vehicles to speak to their legislators. It was also determined that the activities in which the protesters were engaged did not disrupt any of the legislative activities which were planned for June 24 and July 15, 2013.
Referring to the General Assembly as the "People's House," Judge Salisbury specifically noted that the North Carolina Constitution designates the North Carolina General Assembly as the place for the people "to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances" under Article I, Section 12 of the North Carolina Constitution.
"The North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement welcomes Judge Hamilton's and Judge Salisbury's decisions as just adjudications of charges that were brought against these moral witnesses," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the NC NAACP. "Like the other 932 people who were arrested in 2013 and the more than 60 who have already been arrested in 2014 at the People's House, these 13 moral witnesses were merely attempting to exercise their constitutional rights to petition their lawmakers for the redress of grievances."
So far, NC NAACP attorneys do not know how these dismissals will impact other Moral Monday cases still pending.
In response to Judge Schroeder's ruling, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, issued the following statement:
"If one elderly or young person, black, white or Latino decides she won't vote because of the shorter early voting weeks, the elimination of same-day voting, the confusing ballots without straight party voting and other sections of this voter suppression law that are still standing because of today's court decision, that is indeed an irreparable harm. The harm is irreparable to the voter...and to our democracy.
"Similarly, people who have heard all the talk about having photo ID's and decides they can't vote this November because they don't have one, will suffer an irreparable harm. The Court appears to have lost touch with the fears and rumors that pervade poor communities, and it ignores the long history of voter suppression tricks that take advantage of these fears and rumors.
"The franchise is not a partisan issue. It is a fundamental issue of our rights as guaranteed to us by the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution and by the 1868 Reconstruction Constitution here in North Carolina. It is a moral issue."
8. Dream Defenders Confront U.S. Justice Department on Police Violence Against Black and Brown Youth
Following the murders of Mike Brown, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, and Eric Garner, Dream Defenders Demand End To Police Reign of Terror
Miami - In the last month alone, police officers, sworn to serve and protect, have murdered four unarmed black men: Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; John Crawford in Denton, Ohio; Eric Garner in New York City; and Ezell Ford in Los Angeles. In Florida, the Dream Defenders are still seeking justice for 17-year old graffiti artist Israel Hernandez, who was tasered to death by police last summer. Jorge Mercado, the Miami Beach officer who committed the offense, has not been charged with the teen’s murder.
Today the statewide organization of Black and Brown youth will ask the federal government to take action.
“The police have waged war on our communities. The lack of justice for Israel Hernandez and others who have fallen at the hands of police are proof that racist police departments around the country will continue to use Black and Brown bodies for target practice,” said Phil Agnew. “It is time for the federal government to reign in the Miami Beach Police Department, the Ferguson Police Department, and other bigoted departments around the country with an established history of targeting and terrorizing communities of color.”
The Dream Defenders will confront U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, who represents the Southern District of Florida, at his office building. The group is signaling that they will not leave until he comes down and addresses their concerns.
9. Busting the Bureau of Land Management's Frackopoly
By Wenonah Hauter, EcoWatch - 14 August 14
Even without looking at a photo album, I can picture in my mind’s eye a vacation photo from the gorgeous BLM-managed (Bureau of Land Management) land near Moab, Utah. That image of my family and friends on a bicycle trip in the red rock lands, perfectly faded by time, carefully preserved for posterity. Nowhere in that photo does a fracking rig, or any telltale signs of industrial activity appear. But skip ahead fifteen or twenty years into the future, and this photo could be telling an entirely different story.
That’s because parcels of BLM-managed land like the ones near Moab Valley, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and so many others in the U.S., may be at risk from nearby fracking. President Obama’s BLM controls access to more than 700 million acres of federally owned mineral rights, some of which sit adjacent to public parks.
Some 38 million acres of that land is currently leased, and over the past three years, the oil and gas industry has drilled over three thousand new wells, 90 percent of which have been (or will be) fracked. In fact, existing and proposed drilling and fracking operations overseen by the BLM threaten public lands, nearby watersheds, air quality and the health and safety of surrounding communities in 27 states.
The mission of the BLM, according to its own website, is “to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of America’s lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” But how can future generations be expected to enjoy lands that sit adjacent to hardcore industrial activity?
Earlier this summer, the Associated Press revealed that four in 10 new oil and gas wells on BLM-managed property are not being inspected. According to AP analysis of BLM records, between 2009 and 2012, 1,400 wells deemed “high priority” were not examined for potential safety violations. The BLM simply isn’t upholding its responsibility to protect our lands, yet the Obama administration wants to allow more of these potential time bombs to tick away just miles from many of our nation’s treasures. Even one former BLM employee deemed these wells “a disaster waiting to happen.”
Last year, the agency released new rules for drilling and fracking on federal lands. If enacted, these rules would fail to protect those sacred areas from fracking. Food & Water Watch, joined by a coalition of nearly 300 environmental and consumer organizations, submitted more than half a million public comments urging the Obama administration to ban fracking on federal lands. Nearly a year later, little has happened. But this is a pivotal moment.
President Obama is nearing the end of his exhausting and contentious presidency, with an eye, no doubt, to his legacy. Will he ultimately embody the progressive values he campaigned on, or will he sell off our lands and our collective futures to Big Oil and Gas? When it comes to preserving our natural parks, will he be remembered more like Teddy Roosevelt, or will he be lumped in with the Koch Brothers?
The BLM has asked the government for $150 million to support well inspections, but Congress can do better. Our legislative branch has the power to protect our public lands from fracking, not by throwing money at problematic wells, but by banning oil and gas development on public lands altogether. That’s why Congress needs to introduce legislation to that effect.
By now, we’ve seen enough accidents at fracking and drilling sites to know that the practice cannot be safely regulated. We’ve read countless news articles about fracking contaminating water supplies, contributing to global warming and possibly causing earthquakes in regions of the U.S. that typically do not see much seismic activity. So why mar the landscapes near our treasured national lands with fracking rigs, waste pits, well sites and new roads? Is nothing sacred?
I want my grandchildren to be able to enjoy the Moab area as I have more than a dozen times over the past 25 years. But if oil and gas development continues to threaten our nation’s treasured lands, all we, and President Obama, will have left is one toxic legacy.
10. Dear Floridians' Clean Water Declaration Campaign partner:
Thank you to all who have already signed on to the attached comment letter - we are currently at 29 signatory organizations.
For those who have not, the attached comment letter is to the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers is in support of the Waters of the U.S. rule. The rule will help clarify which streams, wetlands and other waters are protected by the Clean Water Act. Federal policy changes in the last decade left many small streams and “isolated” wetlands vulnerable to pollution or destruction, and the proposed rule is long overdue.
For more information go to http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters/ditch-myth and http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters.
Info is also available at Clean Water Action’s website: http://www.cleanwateraction.org/Protecting-All-Water and in the attached fact sheet.
If your organization or business would like to sign on to the letter, please email Sarah de Flesco at firstname.lastname@example.org by close of business on September 4, 2014. In your email, please include:
1) Organization or business name
2) Representative’s name
3) Representative’s title
This comment letter is the second sign-on letter the FCWD has distributed in an effort to promote a more collective approach to voicing our water quality and water supply concerns to decision-makers. This letter is also be posted on the FCWD Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FCWDcampaign).
We encourage groups to also submit more detailed technical comments based on their individual organizations’ or businesses’ perspectives.
Thanks and regards,
11. Grayson introduces an amendment to block transfer of military weapons to local police
On 6/19/14, I introduced an amendment to block transfer of military equipment to local police. Pigs feeding at the military-industrial trough killed