Manatee County residents are poised to protest a potential escalation of gun violence by demonstrating against a proposal that would arm county employees during working hours.
Manatee County’s commissioners are scheduled to consider Commissioner James Satcher’s proposal allowing county employees to carry firearms while working. The topic is on the agenda for the Tuesday, July 26 meeting.
“This is yet another stupid move by James Satcher. Once again, he fails to represent his community in favor of a personal extremist position that endangers residents and wastes taxpayer money,” said Manatee County Democratic Party Chair Tracy Pratt.
“An overwhelming majority of Americans support common-sense gun policy, including the majority of gun owners,” Pratt continued. “This attempt to arm county employees will result in unnecessary deaths and injuries and may subject the county to expensive lawsuits and insurance premiums.”
County residents against the proposal will peacefully demonstrate on July 26 from 8 to 9 a.m. outside the Manatee County Administration building, 1112 Manatee Ave West, Bradenton. Demonstrators are encouraged to wear a red shirt. The organization, Moms Demand Action, will distribute red shirts at the demonstration.
Manatee Democrats join with other organizations to urge residents to contact the County Commissioners and demand they reject Satcher’s proposal. Commissioners' email addresses are available here. Residents may submit a written comment into the public record for an upcoming meeting here. The general phone number is (941) 745-3700. During the meeting, residents may offer comments by phoning (888) 788-0099 or (877) 853-5247.
Writing an opinion column in Sarasota’s Herald-Tribune, Ginger McCallum and Carol Rescigno said, “This is a dangerous idea that would irreparably harm Manatee County, its employees, its citizens and its reputation. If adopted, this policy would create a hostile workplace fraught with the threat of accidental or intentional injury or death from gun violence.”
McCallum is the local volunteer lead for Moms Demand Action Manasota. Rescigno is the president of Brady United Against Gun Violence, Sarasota.
Gun violence in America is a public safety issue and a public health disaster. Some statistics that demonstrate the magnitude of the crisis:
Manatee County Democratic Party Chair Tracy Pratt and her daughter Eleanor lead the parade of persons directly challenging Commissioner James Satcher’s proposal that would usurp a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health decisions, limit access to legal abortion services and establish a program that would incentivize women to have more babies.
Pratt read the official Democratic Party statement into the record and strongly urged the county commission to drop the abortion restriction request. Individual citizens as well as representatives from various faith-based and women’s health organizations followed Pratt to the podium.
“You were not elected to legislate my vagina, my uterus, my fallopian tubes or my ovaries,” Pratt scolded the commissioners. “Also, you were not elected to step into the relationship between me and my daughter and our reproductive decisions.”
In addition to challenging the restrictive intent of Satcher’s proposal, Pratt made the point that the county legislative body has no legal or moral basis to restrict or limit a citizen's right to make their own reproductive health decisions. That sort of legislation must be handled on a state-wide basis and has to be conducted in Tallahassee.
Satcher subsequently proposed to take $100,000 from neglected and abused children and give it to faith-based crisis pregnancy centers opposed to abortion. “Unfortunately, the measure passed even though it had not been noticed to the public and was not on the agenda,” Pratt said.
Please contact your county commissioners today and tell them to return the money to neglected and abused children, and to end this oppressive attack on women’s body autonomy at taxpayer expense. You can contact your county commissioners with this link: https://www.mymanatee.org/government/board_of_county_commissioners/contact_your_commissioner
“We will do everything we can to make sure this county commission does not waste any more taxpayer money on this folly,” Pratt concluded.
Read the Democratic Party statement below:
By William Clapper, (Jan. 6, 2022) – Manatee County’s District 2 suffered the most from the blatantly gerrymandered district map the Manatee County Commissioners approved last month.
The new District 2, as well as other redrawn districts, clearly favor personal and political agendas of four current commissioners. Redistricting criteria includes keeping social and economic similarities intact, factors that were not considered with the redrawn map. The district map was approved by a 4-3 vote with Commissioners Reggie Bellamy, Misty Servia and Carol Whitmore opposed.
“I think this [newly drawn district map] was a very, very sophisticated strategy to dilute the minority vote,” Bellamy said in media reports after the county commissioners approved a hastily prepared map that was not scrutinized by staff, or the county’s legal office.
“You really did not care about what the voters of Manatee County thought, and it caused me to wonder whose marching orders are you marching to,” District 2 resident and Manatee County NAACP Secretary Susie Copeland said in media reports.
All public input was ignored or belittled. County Administrator Hopes mentioned that the more than 200 people who spoke against proposed redistricting plans at BoCC meetings constitute a very small percentage of citizens.
“Instead of applauding citizen participation, why make light of it when at most of the meetings the seats are empty?” asked Copeland.
The Manatee County Democratic Party analyzed voter registration data to understand the effect of redrawing District 2’s boundaries. The analytics show new District 2 was subjected to packing. An estimated 13,000 voters from majority white and Republican-leaning communities were packed into District 2, which historically has a majority of minority voters.
District 2’s northern most neighborhoods, including the city of Palmetto, shifted to predominately white districts while a number of majority white neighborhoods were configured into District 2.
Redistricting also allotted a portion of Terra Ceia to remain in District 1, after James Satcher, the District 1 commissioner, said he may want to move into that neighborhood.
Commissioner Servia’s District 4 was pushed further west to 75th Street, neighborhoods previously allotted to Kevin Van Ostenbridge’s District 3. District 3 now includes most but not all of Manatee’s shoreline, negating a Commission promise of creating a total "coastal district.”
Taking a wider view of the gerrymandering that occurred nationwide, the New York Times reported, “Black elected officials across the country — ranging from members of Congress to county commissioners — have been drawn out of their districts, placed in newly competitive districts or bundled into new districts where they must vie against incumbents from their own party. Almost all of the affected lawmakers are Democrats, and most of the mapmakers are white Republicans.”
The Manatee County Commissioners are nominally non-partisan, but their actions, voting patterns and statements clearly indicate they swing heavily to Republican views and policies.
By William Clapper (Jan. 15, 2022) – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) reported earlier this month that one of the gypsum stacks at Piney Point is leaking but at a rate of less than three gallons of water per minute.
FDEP announced, “… there is no indication of any concern with the integrity or stability of the stack system, and there will be no offsite discharges at this time.” Further, FDEP’s report stated, “Seepage volume remains low and is completely contained within the on-site lined stormwater management system.”
If the situation gets worse, leaked wastewater will be pumped back into the pond on top of the gypsum stack, according to FDEP. The agency posts updates on a Piney Point web page: https://protectingfloridatogether.gov/PineyPointUpdate.
In March, 2021 toxic water gushed from the phosphogypsum waste stacks at Piney Point, causing a mass evacuation of the area. At the time, FDEP approved dumping 215 million gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay to prevent flooding of homes and businesses in case the stack collapsed.
The nitrogen and phosphorus rich stew flowed into Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay, activating a bloom of the toxic red tide algae that caused fish kills and respiratory irritation.
By Mary Moretto (Jan. 06, 2022) – The decades long saga of the abandoned Piney Point phosphate plant entered a new phase on Dec. 3 when drilling of the deep water injection well began at the site. Manatee County commissioners hope to have the well operational by the end of the summer or fall of 2022.
Environmental groups, local residents and farmers oppose the plan due to concerns about the long-term environmental impact, well failures and contaminated water seeping into the Florida aquifer.
Environmentalists announced plans to sue Manatee County over the project, alleging that the use of an injection well for wastewater disposal violates the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act through unlawful “open dumping”.
In separate lawsuits, environmental advocates and neighbors of Piney Point are suing the state and private entities for damages caused by a significant breach in a containment pond liner.
To avoid a major catastrophe, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) approved the emergency release of 215 million of gallons of hazardous wastewater into the Tampa Bay estuary. Within three months of that action, algal blooms and fish kills were reported in and around area waterfronts.
Attorneys for Gov. Ron DeSantis and the FDEP recently filed a 49-page motion to dismiss the environmentalists’ lawsuit, saying it is moot since the state is actively working to resolve Piney Point’s problems through a court appointed receivership and the $100 million in federal coronavirus relief money set aside to clean up the site.
By Mary Moretto - After a public meeting in October and the review of over 7,300 public comments and other information, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) issued a letter of intent to approve Manatee County’s permit for deep well injection and storage at Piney Point.
Manatee County Commissioners applied for the permit in April after the near catastrophic leak in a stack pond liner. The 3,300-foot deep well will pump contaminated wastewater from Piney Point’s phosphogypsum stack ponds below Florida’s aquifer, at a rate of up to 1 million gallons per day.
In September, a coalition of environmental groups notified the county of their intent to file suit against the plan, citing the potential for well failure and the injection of wastewater that could contaminate the aquifer, which is about 900 feet below the Piney Point site. The aquifer supplies drinking water and agricultural irrigation for the state.
Conservationists are also concerned about a limited pre-treatment plan to remove toxic and radioactive contaminants before the wastewater is injected into the well.
Environmentalists contend the County’s method to shut down Piney Point was promoted by DEP and industry proponents with little consideration for alternative solutions such as reverse osmosis.
Environmental advocates had previously filed a federal suit against Piney Point owners, the state of Florida and the Manatee County Port Authority over the March and April release of more than 215 million gallons of polluted water into Tampa Bay.
According to that lawsuit, the infusion of wastewater endangered the public, marine ecosystems and protected species. Nitrogen and phosphorous in the wastewater act as a growth medium for toxic red tide. Both Tampa and Sarasota Bays experienced a red tide bloom from April to November of this year.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only elected Democratic official in the state administration, stated, “It defies all logic for this agency to approve a permit, for the first time ever, to deep-well inject heavy metals, radioactive byproducts, and other phosphate mining hazardous waste from Piney Point into the aquifer, risking further environmental contamination as well as potential contamination of the local water supply, following the ecological devastation wrought by the leak and subsequent release of wastewater from this same facility into Tampa Bay earlier this year.”
Piney Point’s court-appointed receiver, Herbert Donica, has acknowledged that while not the ideal solution, the deep-well injection is the best approach in the limited time before the rainy season brings the threat of spill-over from the contaminated stack ponds. According to Donica, “After two major leaks of wastewater spilled into Tampa Bay this spring, it’s a race against time”.
FDEP’s notice of intent says it plans to approve the deep-well permit unless a petition for an administrative hearing is filed within 14 days of the Nov. 24th letter. A drilling rig and heavy equipment is already in place across the street from the abandoned phosphate plant.