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By Bob Frederickson

From Palm Beach Disgrace to Consent Misplaced

Only in Florida…

The company selling those pendants worn by senior citizens so they can call for help if they take a spill or suffer some other medical emergency has a commercial that is as poignant as it is effective. It features a stricken senior involuntarily reposed on the kitchen floor plaintively exclaiming to an operator: “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!’

Sadly, that phrase pretty much sums up the position the Palm Beach County election office found itself in when its antiquated voting machines overheated and subsequently broke down in the course of a state ordered mandatory post-election vote recount, leaving Palm Beach unable to ‘stand up’ and fulfill the important constitutional duties entrusted to it. 65 of the state’s 67 other counties executed those duties without much in the way of drama.  Beleaguered Broward County just to the south finished the recount on time, but was two minutes late transmitting its totals to election officials in Tallahassee, meaning the original total from election night would remain the official count for Broward, despite the recount adding over 800 votes to Governor Scott’s tally in his senate race against the incumbent democrat, Bill Nelson…a circumstance that led some observers to speculate the late transmission was intentional so those additional votes would not count. Broward overwhelmingly votes democratic. And its supervisor of elections Brenda Snipes, a democrat, has been involved in multiple controversies that critics say have demonstrated a willful disregard for Florida’s election laws.

But it was Palm Beach’s epic ‘stumble’ that led Federal judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee to say the county had made Florida the ‘laughingstock’ of the entire world.

Again…

Deja Vu All Over Again…

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result, then the city of Sarasota may have finally gone around the bend. Just witness plans to re-launch paid on-street parking in parts of the city.

The last time this was tried back in 2011, the effort blew up big time. Business owners showed up at City Hall with bags over their heads with signs that read “Bag ‘em!”

Citizens complained the meter displays were unreadable in the bright Florida sunlight; and even on cloudy days when the displays were visible, the instructions proved equally opaque.

Then commissioner Shannon Snyder suggested in 2012 that the meters be taken to a shooting range where for $5 a shot, citizens could blow them to smithereens.

Finally, the city raised the white flag.

So the meters that cost the city upwards of $500,000 (some reports had the price tag as high as $1 million) went into storage after the vendor, Milwaukee based Duncan Solutions, refused to take them back for anything close to their original purchase price…mere pennies on the dollar was the best offer.

…Which begs the question: might it have made sense to include a buy back clause in that 2011 purchase contract? But no…So confident was the city and its parking manager that the rollout would be smooth as silk.

Failure was never considered…

That’s the thing about government: it’s the one place where failure is not a roadblock to advancement…not for careers or hare-brained ideas. Just witness the aforementioned Broward County Supervisor of Election Brenda Snipes and her string of ‘successes’ over the past 18 years. She’s still there, earning $180,000 a year.

So the city will try again. The latest effort is set to commence in January on St. Armands Circle and adjacent streets when the city’s new parking garage opens. The rate will be $1.50 per hour for the prime spots on the circle and nearby streets; spots farther from those areas will be $1.00 per hour and a space in the parking garage will be $0.50 per hour.

Some might think an off-season rollout would be a better strategy, given the traffic issues on Lido during the January through April peak traffic period. But lest you forget, this is Sarasota where the credo of Alfred E. Neuman reigns supreme…

“What? Me worry?”

Quote of the Day

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”  –Albert Einstein

Feel Like You’re Being Followed?

Well, of course you are…at least when you’re online and using a search engine like Google. We’re all pretty much resigned to the fact by now. The tech giant probably knows more about you than you know about yourself.

But if you’re looking to return a little privacy to your online experience, there is an alternative search engine you might want to try. It’s called DuckDuckGo and it promises to keep all your searches private.

If you search for a car, a shirt, a lawnmower, a whatever, you won’t be inundated within minutes with ads trying to sell you the item you were just researching.

The upstart’s splash page lays out DuckDuckGo’s three guiding principles:

  1. “We don’t store your personal info.”
  2. “We don’t follow you around with ads.”
  3. “We don’t track you. Ever.”

One Train Wreck Begets Another…

You could see this one coming a mile away. After Roseanne Barr’s self-immolation with her controversial comments last summer about former President Obama’s trusted advisor Valerie Jarrett, ABC television forced the show’s creator and namesake into exile while figuring it could hold onto the show’s high-ratings with a few minor tweaks here and there…no biggie they thought…just kill off the show’s main character by revealing a heretofore unknown opioid addiction, change the name of the show to “The Conners” and Voila! Problem solved.

“Nothing to see here folks…everything’s just fine.”

But the network never did understand Roseanne’s personal popularity or the loyalty of the audience that tuned in en-masse last year for the show’s return to prime time after a 20+ year hiatus, garnering ABC the unexpected windfall of 18.7 million viewers for the premiere, making the show the surprise hit of the 2017 season.

So it was hardly a shock when the reconstituted show’s October 17th premiere this year brought in an audience only slightly more than half the size of last year’s premiere: Just 10.3 million viewers. And in the weeks since the audience has continued to steadily shrink.

Reminds me of another oft-overlooked ‘audience’ routinely dismissed by the major networks, especially their news divisions, but that’s another story…

Or perhaps just a different chapter of the same one…

It Can Always be Worse…

It was startling enough for a North Port couple to be awakened around midnight recently by the sound of a man trying to break into their home…with a shovel of all things. But things quickly got worse. Turns out the alleged intruder, Victor Revega, 27 of the 3700 block of Rodergio Avenue in North Port, was naked as a jay bird at the time.

Revega was eventually apprehended by North Port K9 ‘officer’ Dutch and his two-legged handler/partner Officer Chad Walker.

Things could have been much worse for Revega than simply being arrested, especially after he refused to roll over on his stomach as ordered by Walker so he could be handcuffed after Dutch had dutifully tracked him down.

Now I’d think you’d want to be on your stomach in a situation like this…for obvious reasons involving the protection of one’s personal ‘assets’…but no, Revega allegedly refused the order and even took a few swipes at Dutch, putting himself at even greater risk of coming up on the short end of this encounter.

His brilliant plan landed Revega a trip to Sarasota Memorial; afterwards he was arrested for unarmed burglary of an occupied dwelling, criminal mischief through property damage over $1000 and resisting arrest with violence.

Sparks Fly over SPARCC Pine View HS Video Screening

A video shown recently to Pine View High School students titled “How Do You Know if Someone Wants to Have Sex with You” (catchy, no?) sparked controversy after a parent complained it contained ‘adult content’ inappropriate for students. The screening was presented by a counselor from Sarasota’s Safe Place And Rape Crisis Center, commonly referred to by the acronym SPARCC.

The ‘How Do You Know’ video was produced by Planned Parenthood with the aim of helping individuals and couples recognize and understand the signals that define a consensual sexual encounter, and conversely, those that don’t. The video is reportedly visually illustrated with actors portraying various scenarios leading up to sexual encounters.

Problem is, the video wasn’t approved by Pine View or the district for use in its classrooms. Indeed, after the screening came to light district officials quickly released a statement calling it “inappropriate’ and ‘unsuitable.’ Also in the aftermath, the district has suspended SPARCC from any future presentations in county schools until a formal review of the matter is completed.

SPARCC released a statement saying their counselor knew the Planned Parenthood video was not approved by the school but decided to show it anyway, revealing a stunning blind spot for the importance of ‘consent’ in all areas of human interaction, not just those related to the human libido.

But as if that irony wasn’t enough, this latest controversy comes on the heels of the school district’s recent adoption of guidelines – once again without the consent or the input of parents – allowing students to self-declare their gender identity and thereby make their own decisions as to which school bathrooms they will use.

According to the guidelines, parents do not have to be consulted on the matter, or even be informed once a non-traditional gender choice has been made.

So here’s an idea: maybe the school district should get together with SPARCC and Planned Parenthood and produce a new video for parents. They could come up with another catchy title like “How to Relax and Let Sarasota County Raise Your Kids for You Since you Obviously Don’t Know What the Heck You’re Doing.”