[Opinion] The Power in Orange County, FL Politics…I See It Differently.
ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Recently, an Orlando publication published their top 12 most powerful people in Orange County and Orlando politics. And when I reviewed the list there seemed to be more than a number of names out of order and many missing. So, while certainly subjective in nature, I have decided to create my own list (“just a guy with a Facebook page”) that I think more closely mirrors the power in Orange County politics.
Let’s first begin with what I believe quantifies power and influence in politics. It comes down to responsibility and influence. And for some reason some of the heavy hitters that truly have the most responsibility in our county are often underestimated. Whether it’s being mayor of one of the largest counties in Florida or overseeing a $170 billion-dollar property appraiser and assessment process, don’t get it twisted, often those in elected office have far more power than the recently published list acknowledged.
Let’s start by posting the Orlando publication’s relatively weak and misguided list of the most powerful politicians in their published order:
1. Mayor Buddy Dyer
2. Attorney John Morgan
3. Attorney Frank Kruppenbacher
4. Attorney Mayanne Downs
5. Mayor Teresa Jacobs
6. Marcos Marchena
7. Kelly Cohen
8. Sheriff Jerry Demings
9. Chief John Mina
10. Senator Bill Nelson
11. Commissioner Patty Sheehan
12. Congresswoman Val Demings
Below you will find “Randy’s TOP 25 Powerful People in Orlando/Orange County Politics,” followed by the ones to watch. I will highlight a few.
1. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. Hands down the most powerful role and responsibility in our county. How a city attorney ranked above her escapes me. I originally met Mayor Jacobs in 2000 and I can honestly say she’s the same down-to-earth person I always believed she was. Last year, through her compassion and leadership, she finally got the respect I felt she always deserved from the LGBTQ community despite it being a tragedy that opened that door. While I support term limits, watching her term out in 2018 will be a difficult thing to see. We can only hope that Mayor Jacobs is looking at options to continue her time in public service.
2. City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Certainly the Orlando City Mayor has a substantial responsibility, but to suggest it’s more encompassing than that of our County Mayor is subjective privilege, not fact. I do predict we’ll see the Mayor announce his leaving for office to become the President of The University of Central Florida…anyone wanting to hedge a bet?
3. Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh. One to watch? I don’t think so. In addition to running what could best be described as one of the most effective property appraiser offices in Florida, Singh has taken his office to places most wouldn’t even dream. In addition to saving citizens millions through critical evaluations, he manages nearly 50 billion more dollars of assessments than his predecessor. I also believe we’ll see him soon jump into the Orange County Mayor’s race. But you didn’t hear that from me… I’m not one to gossip.
4. Attorney and Medical Marijuana Activist John Morgan. Not only has he taken the medical marijuana initiative to reality with millions of dollars, he has been a fundraising guru for Democratic Presidential candidates for years. While I don’t believe he’ll ultimately run for Governor, I do believe he has clearly established himself as a political leader in Orange County.
5. Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph. I’ve been somewhat critical of Randolph in the past, but you only need to have to renew your license or interact with his office to recognize he has taken the Orange County Tax Collector’s office to the next level with technology and convenience.
6. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings
7. Attorney and Political Power-Broker Frank Kruppenbacher
8. City of Orlando Police Chief John Mina
9. Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles
10. Orange County Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell. Time and time again I hear nothing but praise for how Russell is running the Clerk of Courts office.
11. Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond
12. Orange County Commissioner, Former Florida State House Representative and Apopka Mayoral Candidate Bryan Nelson
13. City of Orlando District 4 Commissioner Patty Sheehan
14. Orange County School Board (District 6) Member Nancy Robinson
15. City of Orlando District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill. Hill represents one of the most integral areas of our City requiring more thoughtful planning for growth than most may be willing to acknowledge. While Lake Nona and Medical City are substantial, Hill’s district truly is the heart of Downtown Orlando, making decisions in and surrounding it impactful and trendsetting.
16. Town of Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn. Mayor Bruhn is everywhere and possesses loads of clout with his fellow mayors. My guess is he’s perfectly happy being the Mayor of Windermere even if he gets the subtle urge here and there to look at other offices.
17. Orange County School Board (District 3) Linda Kobert
18. Orange County Public School Board Chair and Rumored Orange County Mayoral Candidate Bill Sublette
19. Florida Senator Bill Nelson
20. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy
21. Congresswoman Val Demings
22. Orange County Commissioner and possibly Orange County Mayoral Candidate Pete Clarke. Everyone likes “Pete,” but will that be enough to compete in a heavy Democrat town even in a nonpartisan race? We shall see.
23. Hotelier Harris Rosen
24. Timeshare Mogul David Siegel
25. Consultant and Trump Florida Hispanic Spokeswoman Bertica Cabrera-Morris. As one person suggested to me, Bertica has the ability to touch many things in our community and her brilliance is that most will never know she was there. She embodies class and hard-knocks passion for the clients she represents.
ONES TO WATCH (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)
1. Belle Isle Mayor Lydia Pisano. Pisano is one of the most misunderstood elected officials I’ve met. In fact, maybe too perfect. But be on the look out–my money is she will seek County Commission District 3 in 2018. Only time will tell.
2. Orange County Republican Party Vice Chairman Chadwick Hardee
3. Florida State House District 44 Candidate Bobby Olszewski
4. Florida State House District 49 Representative Carlos G. Smith
5. Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Eric Rollings
6. Former Orange County Clerk of Courts Eddie Fernandez. Fernandez surely must be eyeing various races looking for the right fit. And when he identifies one, he’ll be all in 150 percent.
7. Florida State House District 44 Candidate John Newstreet
8. Political Consultant and Edgewood Commissioner John Dowless
9. Florida State House District 50 Representative Rene Plasencia
10. Planned Parenthood External Affairs Director and Florida State House District 47 Candidate Anna Eskamani
11. Orange County Republican Executive Committeeman and Candidate for Florida Agriculture Commissioner Paul Paulson. Paul is scouting the state right now, putting signs up for his bid for Agriculture Commissioner in cow pastures and roadsides only road warriors can find. He’s viable and not afraid of putting his own money where his mouth is. That combination will prove, I believe, a positive combination.
12. Orange County Young Republicans President Nicholas Primrose
13. Orange County Democratic Chairman Wes Hodge
14. Philanthropist Christopher Comins. Now retired, developer and philanthropist Chris Comins, I predict, will be a person we’re going to hear more about in 2018 and 2020.
15. Florida State House District 30 Representative Bob Cortes
16. Florida Senator David Simmons
17. East Orlando Post Founder Jacob Engels
18. Orange/Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala. While I think her State Attorney role is on life support, she’s set herself up for something, by accident I believe, far greater for those that do not support the death penalty.
19. Ericka Dunlap, Candidate for City of Orlando District 5 Commissioner. As Dunlap, a former Miss America, sets her sight on this seat, if she doesn’t win, she has certainly set a path for a future as a possible spokesperson for the University of Central Florida or Government Affairs for a Fortunate 500 company.
20. Florida Senator Andy Gardner
So there you have it. It’s just my opinion. But the power in Orange County politics isn’t sitting with names people haven’t heard of necessarily. Give the credit where it’s due: to the people in those elected positions responsible for everything from our property assessments to our safety. Give credit to those that truly have impact. To me, that’s the power!
What does your list look like?
[OPINION] The Pro-Life Party is Now Targeting Children
ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Despite the current host of urgent issues plaguing America, Florida Republicans (and the national Republican Party) have chosen to focus their efforts on curbing civil liberties for historically underprivileged minority groups.
We’re grappling with the substantial increase in chronic homelessness, Florida being the fourth most uninsured state in the nation, an uptick in racist attacks against AAPI and other marginalized minority groups, and a rise in white supremacy.
And they are getting away with it.
Aside from the excessive voter suppression laws and anti-protest laws that give little regard for the first amendment or fifteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, Florida Republicans waited until the last minute of their retaliatory legislative session ending in the last week of April to strike a blow against school children who identify as trans, particularly trans girls.
One of the fiercest proponents of the bill, Senator Kelli Stargel (R – Polk County), has tried to frame the language of the bill around equality, arguing that girls’ sports should not be open to “male students” and competitors should have “equal” genetic dispositions. Senator Stargel has faced opposition not only from Democrats, but from her own daughter. Laura Stargel, a climate activist, wrote an op-ed reasoning with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to veto the transphobic legislation, at one point stating:
“This legislation relies on birth certificates at the time of the player’s birth to determine the gender-assigned team. The policy is rooted in a false stereotype of girls being unable to compete against boys. It oversimplifies sex-neutral characteristics such as skill, weight, height, strength and/or testosterone level, and the tremendous variation in athleticism within the sexes; variation that has produced incredible female athletes like Serena Williams and Simone Biles.”
The legislation has caused a series of disagreements about whether trans kids should be forced to sit out on sports or a league of their own must be instituted. In fact, neither should be the case. Transgender individuals playing sports has been a non-issue and Republicans are attempting to spark a so-called culture war.
Unfortunately, there is a grey area: One side of this culture war is completely misinformed. According to Dr. Eric Vilain, Molecular Geneticist at George Washington University in conjunction with NPR, people born with XY chromosomes often perform 10% to 12% better than those with XX chromosomes due to testosterone and that is typically presented in a small number of athletic competitions such as 400 meter runs and hand-tossing.
The difference between athletes is even smaller for Florida’s target, which are little kids. Before the age of 13, there are very minimal differences in athletic competition between those born with XY chromosomes and those born with XX chromosomes.
Without even counting the significant changes that transgender individuals go through when taking hormone-blockers – which lowers bone density, making them weaker – there are natural advantages in certain sports that far outweigh the average differences between those with XY chromosomes and XX chromosomes. To deny the significance of training, other differences would have to be made in regards to athletic competitions if legislators want to lock transgender women out or make them separate but equal by promoting a league of their own. Taller individuals have an advantage over shorter individuals when playing basketball or volleyball and shorter individuals have an advantage over taller individuals when ice skating or rock climbing, therefore, it would only be “fair” to exclude certain people from those sports as well. Instead, people appreciate the diversity between athletes.
Furthermore, such blatant legislation will only increase discrimination against transgender individuals, especially in women’s sports where many women are already targeted for the way they look or the way their body is built.
Florida is one of the fastest growing states in the country, and it is truly unfortunate to see Florida Republicans taking significant steps to curb civil liberties and rights, especially now targeting those they frequently toss into speeches about protecting. The Republican Party is no longer the conservative party of the past built on fiscal responsibility or so-called family values–they are a reactionary party grounded on conspiracy theories and social discrimination.
I urge readers to take the NCAA’s word on this: transgender individuals in sports is a non-issue. Stand with those who are transgender and defend every child’s right to play the sport that they love while learning how to work with a team and improve themselves physically and mentally.
Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Nate Douglas is a Florida National News contributor. He was the youngest person elected to public office in the state of Florida during the 2020 election is currently Vice Chair on the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District board. | firstname.lastname@example.org
[OPINION] Destroy Gerrymandering Before it Destroys Democracy
ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – In 2010, more than 60% of Florida voters opted for an amendment that would outlaw gerrymandering. This was ten years ago, yet the amendment is still relevant today. In the United States, only six states have non-partisan commissions to redraw legislative and congressional districts, apart from those six states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, and Washington – districts are redrawn by state lawmakers (with exception of New Jersey, which has a more complex process).
Partisan redrawing presents an issue for voters, especially Asian, Latino, and black voters. One of the most famous examples of this disenfranchisement is Florida’s 5th congressional district after the 2010 census. Prior to the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to take it upon themselves to fairly redraw districts, Florida lawmakers drew a district that stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando, encompassing primarily diverse urban areas.
Gerrymandering is worrying activists as well, particularly in southern states like Georgia, where there were increases in the black turnout.
GOP operatives have also made their intentions to gerrymander districts clear, with states like Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia set as the primary targets. This will be a problem for Americans because partisan gridlock in government does not help deliver promises, it only benefits Wall Street and those at the top.
The conservative-leaning United States Supreme Court ruled less than two years ago that federal courts do not have the authority to block gerrymandering. This Supreme Court vote was gross negligence that had little regard for the racial discrimination and voter suppression that gerrymandering presented for American voters.
Although the Supreme Court neglected its duties to protect American voters, there are solutions that could be considered to bring gerrymandering to a halt.
States should be responsible enough to put independent commissions in charge of the redistricting process. Independent commissions ensure that voters are picking their representatives in a fair manner instead of the system that many states have, where representatives are picking their voters. Redistricting commissions should be headed by citizens as opposed to politicians.
Furthermore, gerrymandering hurts voters in communities of color most, by ensuring that their representation is capped to only a few representatives. Independent commissions must make it a priority to get communities of color equitable and fair representation in the redistricting process, ensuring that their votes are no longer drowned out.
Gerrymandering is a corrupt process that prohibits citizens from getting equal and fair representation, oftentimes subjecting citizens to minority rule. Gerrymandering has usually been a tool used to keep members of congress in power, but states like Pennsylvania are now trying to extend the minority rule to judicial representation as well. This effort was first brought about during Republicans efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, seeing how unrealistic that was, state Republicans put their energy into retaking power of the legislative and judicial branches.
During the 2022 redistricting process, gerrymandering may help Republicans secure the seats of the representatives who voted in favor of overturning the election results after the Capitol riots on January 6th. Gerrymandering will not only have an adverse impact of communities of color, it will also lead to increased corruption. United States Representatives who undermine the democracy of the United States, such as Marjory Taylor Greene of Georgia will not be held accountable because as long as their party is able to hang on to state legislatures (through the process of gerrymandering), they will be able to gerrymander their way to holding on to those seats.
Supervisor Nathaniel Douglas is the youngest ever elected to the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors in Orange County, Florida, and the youngest elected to public office during the 2020 election. He is a contributing political opinion writer for Florida National News. | email@example.com
[OPINION] Joe Biden: An Extraordinarily Normal Inauguration
ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Under the circumstances, I think it’s safe to say that everyone expected Joe Biden’s inauguration to be extraordinary. And in a very real way, it was…by being anything but. From the moment the guests arrived at the Capitol to the one where the 46th President took his seat in the Oval Office, I was surprised by how absolutely… normal everything felt.
Nothing leading up to that day could be considered normal by any definition of the word. The fact that Biden himself would have been the Democratic contender. The absurdity of that first debate. The cries of fraud on Election Day. The horrifying assault on Congress on January 6th, just a week before. And how can we forget all that happened while a pandemic erased so much of what we considered a normal life?
I watched the ceremony with something akin to envy. Where I come from, there hasn’t been an actual inauguration in over twenty years. While democracy has been assaulted here in the States in a very real sense, in Venezuela the word itself has lost all meaning. I did not welcome, in fact, the feeling of familiarity that came over me on the 6th (not the first time I’d felt it in the past four years, by the way). It was one of the reasons why I was still nervous, even scared, two weeks later. If things like this could happen in one of the oldest democracies in the world, how could we, as a nation, recover?
Please don’t get me wrong. I believe the Inauguration was filled with many out-of-the-norm details. Let’s start with the fact that a woman of color and Asian descent took oath as vice president. Let’s single out a breathtaking poetic performance that promised, “we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.” While we’re at it, let’s see how many women were front and center, what a diversity of faces and races graced the audience. We even had a moment that was charmingly meme-worthy.
Did I feel hope, though? I’m sad to say, I didn’t. Not much. Biden takes office in a country sliced in half. He will have to work with people who question his legitimacy. He has to convince citizens (especially many of my countrypeople) that think he is part of a plot to destroy us all that he is, in fact, there to unite, to repair. He faces a world where America’s spot at the table is not as close to the head as it was. And he faces a pandemic.
But Biden knows this. And the first thing he grabbed was a pen, to sign twenty-three executive orders to start repairing damages. His first hour in the office was spent working. That told me, “I’m not here to mess around.”
Though the uneventful-yet-event-filled inauguration didn’t bring me the hope I longed for, it did bring me something that perhaps was more needed. It brought me peace.
Juan Carlos Rodriguez is an entertainment and politics writer for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org