Not sure exactly what the “call to arms” was in Steve Stefanides’ column of October 17. With his concern about money in politics, was it a criticism of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United that allows unlimited amounts of corporate dollars to influence elections? No question, that decision challenges the impact of American citizens on election outcomes. And if that is the clarion call, how do average citizens overcome the massive fiscal thumbprint on democracy caused by that current reality?
Or was it his concern about the power that resulted in a call for term limits in Washington? Must say, in my experience attempting to garner support for child–centered legislation in three different states, two without term limits and one with, I did not find that those limits had a positive impact on the wellbeing of the state’s citizens. I’m neutral on the issue; but found that with Florida’s term limits, some of our more excellent elected officials actually know the specifics and ins and outs of proposed legislation, and some of the less excellent simply don’t. In those cases where they didn’t, it was long term staff members who assumed powers for which they had never been elected. And it was far more profitable to invest time engaging with staff in these instances than with the ill-informed politicians. Term limits can have negative impacts on legislators’ interest in garnering intimate knowledge of the issues at hand. That’s particularly true when attention is focused on terming out timelines and the next, higher, election to pursue.
In the argument for term limits, the column lists two long term Democrat legislators with negative implications because of the length of time served. Ted Kennedy, stewarded legislation related to Head Start, Bilingual Education, Voting Rights for 18–year–old’s, Federal Cancer Research, Meals on Wheels, Title IX, Individuals with Disabilities, Fair Housing, Military Child Care Act, Mammography Quality Standards, Elimination of Limits on Mental Health Care Benefits, Children’s Health Program (CHIP), and much, much more. Further, the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) was the beginning of the fulfillment of Kennedy’s dream that American citizens should have the same access to health care as the citizens of all other first world countries, something now supported by the majority in this country.
The column also listed John Dingell as someone who, perhaps, had served too long. Dingell was involved with things that a lot of people around here seem to care about, among them: The National Wilderness Act, the Water Quality Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Amendments, Criminal Background Checks, etc.
So, yes. They served for long periods of time as nationally elected officials; however, they also appear to have done some good work for the American public during their tenures.
Can’t help but wonder why Don Young, the Bridge to Nowhere Republican Representative from Alaska, reelected for 24 terms and in Congress for some 48 years, wasn’t mentioned. Young’s pretty well known for some of his eye-raising comments. Among them: Jews were put in ovens because they were unarmed, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was not an “environmental disaster, but a natural phenomenon,” domestic violence can be avoided by drinking by yourself instead of together.
His congressional behavior is just as interesting—his use of a walrus penis as a gavel, holding a ten-inch knife to the throat of John Boehner, head butting a camera in response to a reporter’s questions, etc.
Disillusioned? Yes. Disappointed? Absolutely. Despite all of the well-intentioned philanthropy in these wonderful communities, Florida still has the second largest number of uninsured children, surpassed only by Texas. And in my former work life and community involvement, I have seen the impact of that lack of care. You can’t talk about building a 21st–century workforce when children can’t see a doctor for their pain, or have their aching teeth fixed. Our elected legislators have consistently refused to act on Medicaid expansion, and Florida now is one of only twelve remaining states in that category.
Disillusioned? Absolutely. Reading the local press about how our previous Governor and state legislature increased all kinds of provisions to take in massively higher numbers of foster children, but failed to fund an increase in DCF staff, can have that kind of impact. The articles document that some 700 to 800 children in Florida’s foster care have been abused since 2015, as employees assigned cases moved beyond numbers humanly possible to cover.
Reasonable gun legislation? Again, something the majority of American citizens support, 61% in a Quinnipiac poll 8/19, and 60% according to Pew Research 10/19. However, despite our horrific history here in Florida of students being slaughtered, it’s likely that once again the same old candidates who have consistently stood against legislation that would improve the well-being of our citizens, particularly our youngest and under-served citizens, may be re-elected.
Why? Because the closing sentiment in Steve’s column is spot on, “We cannot expect others to carry the heavy load of responsibility for our future, for it is the responsibility of us all if our communities and our nation are to continue to thrive and prosper in the future.” If things are to improve, citizens must become engaged and deeply consider the issues at hand, not just the political labels. Should health care be expanded in this state as it has in 38 other states? Should the Department of Children and Families be adequately funded so that these horrific incidents of child abuse be curtailed? Should reasonable background checks for gun purchases be implemented?
Your answers to these questions should be reflected in the people you vote for.
Dr. Kathleen Reynolds