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Who’s the driving force behind Florida’s statewide paid sick time initiative?

27 May Marleine-Bastiene

Marleine Bastien, with bullhorn — Photo Credit

By Tom Tillison

Left-leaning community organizers in Florida are back for another bite of the apple with mandatory paid sick leave.

After being throttled in getting a local ballot initiative passed in Orange County in 2012, they want a bigger bite this go-round — a statewide constitutional amendment.

Organize Now, the architect of the previous effort, filed with the Florida Division of Elections last week to get the issue on the 2016 ballot.

Dictating compensatory practices to businesses is a union-driven effort that has deep ties to “pure democracy” community organizers like Organize Now, the de facto successor to now-defunct ACORN Florida that’s led by Stephanie Porta.

The 2012 effort was funded primarily by Washington-based Leadership Center for the Common Good, another “re-branded” ACORN organization, according to the nonpartisan government accountability group Cause of Action.

But the pro-union, community organizer ties go even deeper.

Brian Kettenring, the former head of ACORN Florida, was the executive director of LCCG when it contributed nearly $100,000 in support of the effort in Orange County.

The proposed constitutional amendment was filed last Wednesday by Family Always Come First, Inc., a political action committee formed by Organize Now.

Unfortunately, families are more likely to come last when prices increases and layoffs result from the PAC’s failed liberal policies.

The registering agent for Family Always Come First was Madeline Garcia, the chief financial officer at Organize Now, who’s also listed as the PAC’s treasurer.

Miami-based activist Marleine Bastien is listed as the PAC’s chairman. The selection underscores how critical South Florida will be to the ballot initiative’s success. Born in Haiti, Bastien is the founder and director of Haitian Women of Miami, Inc.

Timothy Herberlein is named as the co-chairman. Long active in the Tampa area, the Sierra Club staffer is a board member of Florida Institute for Reform & Empowerment (F.I.R.E.), the training arm of Organize Now.

With Organize Now based in Orange County, that covers the Miami, Tampa and Orlando markets in the quest to obtain the 683,149 signatures needed by Feb. 1.

The real question here may be will these community organizers be permitted to piggyback the medical marijuana ballot initiative in gathering signatures.

Well, John Morgan?

2016 election battle lines being drawn in Florida with statewide ballot initiatives

25 May earnedsicktime


By Tom Tillison

When it comes to safeguarding free market principles, the wolf is always at the door.

The 2016 presidential election is still a year and a half away, but the battle lines are already being drawn in Florida with a number of statewide ballot initiatives, including two feel-good issues popular in the polls — a minimum wage increase and paid sick leave.

With medical marijuana expected on the ballot again in 2016, it’s debatable whether the forces behind the new initiatives are hoping to drive the vote or take advantage of the increased turnout of Democrat-leaning voters in a presidential election.

Either way, “pure democracy” progressives determined to undermine the free market see the concept of the electorate voting themselves benefits being too tempting to pass on.

Orange County-based activists who were beat back at the local level in 2012 are vying to get paid sick leave on the 2016 ballot as a constitutional amendment.

Led by “Family Always Come First, Inc.,” a political action committee formed by Organize Now, the de facto successor to now-defunct ACORN Florida, the ballot initiative was filed last week with the Florida Division of Elections.

That it was filed the same day as the minimum wage ballot initiative — no less than $10 an hour — makes for an interesting coincidence.

The 2016 Earned Sick Time Amendment ballot summary states: 

“Requires that employers with 5 or more employees provide paid sick time and all other employers provide unpaid sick time.”

“Requires” as in mandated. Forced. By law. 

A Florida legislative task force determined last year that it’s not government’s role to regulate an area that should be determined within the negotiations of the employer/employee relationship.

But the initiative goes well beyond paying workers when sick and unable to work.

The parameters have been expanded to not only cover illness or injury, but to also include “medical care, care of family member, domestic violence or sexual battery needs, workplace or school closures due to public health emergency or compliance with quarantine.”

If successful, the impact on small businesses could be devastating, with higher prices and layoffs a likely result.

Organize Now, funded in part by labor unions and left-leaning nonprofits based in Washington, is led by state director Stephanie Porta, who has experience with statewide ballot initiatives — she was involved in a successful 2004 minimum wage increase while employed with ACORN Florida.

The driving force behind Orange County’s sick leave initiative, Porta saw more than $100,000 flow into her coffers in support of that effort, with much of the funding coming from the D.C. based Leadership Center for the Common Good, a tax-exempt, union-linked 501(c)(3) that trains community organizers to “rage against capitalism,” according to Capital Research Center.

Organize Now recently advertised for a campaign manager and a Central Florida field director to drive the statewide paid sick leave effort, so it’s clear the money pipeline is in place.

Next step is to acquire the nearly 700,000 valid signatures needed to get an amendment on the ballot — no easy task.


If the GOP ran the American Revolution

23 Nov

Election 2014: ‘Well, God isn’t a Democrat tonight’

7 Nov dems

demsThe 2014 midterm election is finally behind us, and the results could not have been worse for Democrats — be it nationally, statewide or locally.

Political experts are calling it a wave election, although locally you could just call it a bloodbath.

Orange County Democrats not only saw their entire Florida House delegation go down in defeat, but lost on all four ballot initiatives, including their crown jewel, Question C.

A somewhat surprising turn of events, considering the Democratic Party holds a lead of nearly 100,000 registered voters — the Oompa Loompa Tan Man bagged 36,000+ more votes in Orange County than his Republican opponent, Gov. Rick Scott.

Nevertheless, before we move on to new battles, we thought we’d gloat one last time by taking a look at the reaction of some of the local progressive activists as Election Night unfolded, courtesy of social media.

As the polls closed on Tuesday, Scott Randolph, the “leader” of the progressive movement, and former chairman of the local party, posted some stats to let the foot soldiers know they had good reason to hope:


But Randolph’s numbers only served to set the ACORN faithful up for a harder fall.

Their favorite newspaper man, Scott Maxwell, was an earlier harbinger of bad news. Maxwell was posting election results on his Facebook wall, and within the first hour he noted that things were looking bleak for the local Florida House delegation.

He posted another update 20 minutes later, which would prove to be his last for the evening — apparently he could take no more of the devastating news.



By this point, there was no escaping the hard truth. Everything the ACORN folks had worked so hard for was going down in flames. Social media grew quiet for a while, presumably as the bad news settled in.

Among the first to accept the harsh reality was Stephanie Porta, community organizer extraordinaire. Ever the consummate professional, she blamed it all on evil capitalism!


The evening had turned into a nightmare, but loyal aide and Orange County Tax Collector Community Relations Coordinator Kelly Quintero tried to sum things up with this message of encouragement:


All the excitement proved to be too much for the progressive movement’s high strung non-Sentinel scribe, Billy Manes:


Susannah Randolph was next to add to the drama of what was proving to be a difficult night:


Of course, Randolph took it better than some. I’m still awaiting a reply from the Guinness Book of Records, but this next message could be a contender for most “F-bombs” in a single post. Suffice it to say, this is one unhappy camper:



On Orange ballot, Maxwell asks you to limit your own common sense

28 Oct

We know monkeys are intelligent, but who could have guessed that they are able to craft ballot language for charter questions?

And use legal dictionaries and dart boards to boot!

That’s the assertion Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell made last week when he offered his folksy two-cents on four potential changes to the Orange County charter voters will be deciding on in the upcoming election.

The thought of monkeys and dart boards conjures up a vision of the columnist throwing darts at a board covered with images of the Republican commissioners as he penned his missive — better known as “the hacks on the commission,” as he labeled them in his column.

In this scenario, can there be any doubt that Commissioner Fred Brummer’s mug would be resting on the bulls eye?

Not only does Maxwell continue the myth that professional activists well compensated by labor unions and other liberal organizations are nothing more than “citizens,” he eagerly embraces the potential for them to “take democracy into their own hands.”

See Orange County Now Voting Guide Here!

In addressing Question A, he looks past our representative form of government to talk about being able to “directly petition” the commission. This is known as direct democracy, which often goes by another name — mob rule.

The expanded 150 day time limit allows locals more time to better understand how ballot initiatives may affect the community before voting on them, and for this reason alone voters should vote YES on A.

He tells readers that Question B will “ban” them from addressing economic issues, which is disingenuous. These issues can certainly be addressed through those elected to represent the community — that is what they are there for. If you don’t like their decisions, vote them out.

The economic issues he speaks of — favored by labor unions — will limit local opportunity. Voting YES on B will prevent out-of-state special interests from forcing a job-killing agenda on Orange County.

Maxwell gets it right on Question C, vote NO — even a broken clock is accurate twice a day.

He ripped those behind Question D for combining two issues, but wasn’t nearly as harsh on Democrats for doing the same thing on C. In the end, this issue will help protect Orange County from polarizing political agendas — and establish term limits — and voters should vote YES on D.

In baseball jargon, a great pitch is preceded by a proper setup, and in this case, Maxwell’s setup stinks. Which means Orange County voters can’t trust that he’s throwing strikes — vote NO on C and ignore Maxwell and vote YES on Questions A, B and D.

If you’re going to call me an extremist, do it for the right reasons

7 Oct

If I had a nickel for every time I was called an extremist, I’d have a lot of nickels.

Just this weekend I was told I have “extreme thoughts,” coming from a person who stands against those who disparage members of the community who act or think differently than others.

Realizing that folks who throw around the extremist label are just repeating a narrative that has been drum-beat into their psyche by the political class and a complicit media, I typically don’t push back — funny how we’re more receptive to messaging that is consistent with our core beliefs.

To expect a fair, open-minded discussion here is expecting a world that never was, and never will be. But in a moment of frivolity, and boredom, I decided to inquire as to why this individual saw me as extreme.

I participate in political discussions on a Facebook page dominated by liberals, but much of that time is dedicated to exposing professional activists on the left who have a penchant for claiming to represent the community — a ruse the local media can’t get enough of.

But rarely do I delve into my personal beliefs, and the moral busybodies on the left, trapped by the bounds of their own self serving sanctimony, seldom ask.

I admit that I was part of the tea party early on, at least until I had my fill of self serving charlatans driven by ambition who succeeded in pushing themselves to the forefront. People hoping to take advantage of the Republican Party’s vast resources who not only turned a blind eye, but in some cases were complicit as the party began to exert its will on the movement.

When I realized that I could still advocate for issues and candidates that are important to me without the tea party, and in the process surround myself with folks who had their priorities in order, I bid adieu to those out for personal gain.

But all that aside, when I asked for clarification on what constitutes “extreme thoughts,” the response was to be asked about my views on same sex marriage.

An interesting inquiry, considering I have invested little time on the issue.

My personal belief is that, regardless of how you feel about “marriage equality” — the new code word for same sex marriage — that ship has already set sail and those who believe in the sanctity of marriage where left on shore.

At the same time, it’s hard to argue that it’s not discrimination to tell a man and woman they can marry, but tell two people of the same sex they cannot. Which I stated in my response to him, along with the belief that it’s not government’s role to decide who we can marry.

Never did I say whether I support same sex marriage or not, but my answer seemed to pass muster. Convinced he would not call me an extremist on that issue alone, I asked for other reasons but none were forthcoming.

While marveling at the idea that a single issue could result in me being seen as a person who holds extreme or fanatical views, I wondered if this was a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

I get it that the push for marriage equality is part of a bigger pursuit by the gay community for “all the semblances of normalcy,” as Erick Erickson stated. But to cast aside the religious convictions of so many who feel otherwise and force them to approve, then I ask: Who’s the real extremist?

But this is not about same sex marriage, it’s about being called an extremist. And if you choose to assign that label to me, at least do it for the right reasons.

I believe government has grown too large and is involved in too many aspects of our lives; I believe government spends too much; I believe there are elements in both parties out to secure votes by expanding entitlements in America; I believe there is an ongoing effort to undermine the free market system in America, or at least what’s left of it, and move the country away from self reliance and personal responsibility; I believe there are those seeking to remove God from our society.

And I believe the Marxist-inspired “progressive movement” in America, heavily funded by organized labor, plays a pivotal role in all these things.

I oppose the progressive-led Democratic Party with all my being, seeing it as a clear and present danger to the great experiment known as the United States of America; I thoroughly dislike what the Republican Party represents and am astonished that the elitists who control it are so easily outclassed by the left in all but self enrichment; I am disgusted with what the tea party has become; and find the Libertarian Party’s only redeeming quality to be that they can be counted on to do more harm than good.

Come to think of it, maybe I am an extremist.

Rick Singh ‘guest column’ in Orl Sentinel prompts questions of abuse of power, unethical journalism

6 Oct

By Tom Tillison

Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh was given a platform by the Orlando Sentinel on Sunday as a “guest columnist” to state his opposition to Orange County Charter Proposal Question D — which would establish Term Limits and Non-Partisan elections for constitutional offices.

For clarity, constitutional offices include the Orange County Sheriff, Tax Collector, Clerk of Courts, Supervisor of Elections, and yes, the Property Appraiser.

While not surprised that the Sentinel would give Singh, a progressive Democrat, such a platform, my initial thought was to wonder how long I would have to wait to see an opposing point of view given the same opportunity.

But the more I thought about it, the more outraged I became.

It seems to be an easy reach to say that were it not for his position as an elected official, Singh likely would not have been given this advantageous opportunity — despite their dwindling numbers, the Sentinel still reaches enough folks to sway the direction of local issues. (Just ask a few Republican politicians.)

Folks may or may not agree that it makes sense to remove politics from constitutional offices — who wants a partisan Sheriff? — but to allow an elected official who stands to directly benefit from not adopting this measure to publicly advocate against it in the hometown newspaper certainly gives the appearance of impropriety.

At a minimum.

The more vocal among us may say, as an elected official, it’s an abuse of power.

With Orange County Democrats holding an edge of almost 100,000 registered voters, Singh would certainly benefit when he is up for reelection in 2016 if he can place his party affiliation next to his name.

Yet, he dares to claim that making these offices non-partisan “will only heighten political partisanship.” But it doesn’t take much imagination to suggest that he’d be the first to scream from the heavens IN FAVOR of non-partisan elections if Republicans held the 100,000 advantage.

It’s a given that Singh’s actions here are self-serving, and sadly, we’ve come to accept that as the norm from politicians these days.

But are the actions of the Orlando Sentinel so easily swept aside? Is it acceptable that an elected official was given a platform to push an issue that he stood to gain from? Are there no standards left for ethical journalism? At a minimum, do they not owe it to the community to provide balance and offer an opposing point of view from someone of equal stature?

A lot of questions I know, but the future of Orange County is going to be rather dismal if residents don’t start seeking answers soon.


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