Democratic Executive Committee Meeting on Zoom - Tuesday, October 26, 6:00-7:00 pm
All Democrats are welcome to attend this online meeting. Carol Learner, chair of Protect Our Public Schools Manasota (POPS), will address the State’s continued campaign to direct funding from public schools to private school corporations. She will be joined by other members of POPS during a Democratic Executive Committee presentation, Tuesday, October 26, 6 to 7 p.m.
POPS Manasota was established to address the growing threat of school privatization in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Florida legislators over the years, have funneled millions of dollars of school district capital budgets to charter schools and corporate run institutions.
The Manatee County Democratic Party joins POPS in the belief that free, quality public education is a right for all children and is necessary for the optimal functioning of a democratic society.
The Manatee County Democratic Party is urging the Manatee County School Board to follow the expert advice of pediatricians, epidemiologists, and public health officials. Protect our children. Require the wearing of masks to mitigate the spread of COVID until it is safe to do otherwise.
See our full statement to the School Board below.
Manatee County Democratic Party Encourages
Return of COVID Protocols in Our Schools
Statement to the Manatee County School Board emergency meeting
August 16, 2021
By Tracy Pratt
Manatee County Democratic Party Chair
The Manatee County Democratic Party supports scientifically validated efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect our children, teachers, and school staff to the best of our community’s ability.
The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Florida Department of Health recognize the proven effectiveness of masks and social distancing in mitigating the spread of this dangerous disease. We encourage the Manatee County School Board to follow the guidance of these non-partisan, scientific bodies.
Therefore, we encourage a return to the same protocols as last school year, in order to provide our children and our community the same level of protection. We need these protocols now more than ever as the Delta Variant is ravaging our Florida communities, and overwhelming our hospitals with record levels of admissions.
We also call out Governor Ron DeSantis’ order forbidding mask mandates in our schools as big government overreach. Decisions protecting the students and staff in our county schools should belong to our county. The Democratic Party supports local rule. We are disappointed the Republican Party is unable to see the wisdom of this position, which they have historically claimed to embrace.
As always, the Democrats are avid supporters of strong public schools – because that is what is best for our community. To ensure strong public schools we need to trust in our local elected officials to determine what is best for our communities.
As such, we encourage this board to make the decision that is best for our students, teachers and school staff. We encourage you to seek and utilize the advice of scientific and public health experts – and those experts recommend masks.
The Manatee County Democratic Party sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis sharing its recommendations for selecting a candidate to fill the current vacancy on the School Board. The letter does not recommend a specific individual. Instead, it outlines what we believe the citizens of Manatee County want and deserve in our next school board member.
See our full statement below.
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:
[The prospect of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater rushing to the Gulf of Mexico by way of Piney Point is a real threat to Manatee County. Manatee Matters takes an historical look at the situation at Piney Point.]
By Mary Moretto – For decades, companies have consumed vast areas of Florida for mining operations and the production of fertilizer. While the mining industry has contributed to Florida’s economic growth, processing raw, natural resources creates mountains of toxic waste and lagoons of contaminated water. The legacy of mining further created the environmental disaster in Manatee County known as Piney Point.
The mining companies reaped their profits and ran, leaving Florida to deal with repeated threats to public safety and the environment. Much of the blame for situations like Piney Point rests with state and local authorities who kowtow to the industry and green-light temporary solutions to a perpetual and escalating environmental problem.
Producing phosphate fertilizer creates a toxic and slightly radioactive waste byproduct called phosphogypsum that is stored in huge piles called stacks. The two phosphogypsum stacks at Piney Point represent the highest elevation in Manatee County.
Piney Point’s stacks are topped by ponds filled nearly to the brim with hundreds of millions of gallons of a mixture of fertilizer processing waste, dredged material from Port Manatee and storm water.
In April, workers found a breach in one of Piney Point’s plastic liners, which signaled the possibility that a 20-foot wall of contaminated water could inundate the surrounding area. More than 300 homes and businesses in Piney Point’s shadow were evacuated while the Florida Department of Environment Protection (FDEP) released 215 million gallons of wastewater into Tampa Bay to reduce the pressure and temporarily repair damage to the liner.
The wastewater from the ponds is nutrient-rich and is thought to be a factor in red tide blooms as well as the rapid die-off of seagrass, which is the main food source for manatees.
The phosphogypsum stack’s radioactive dust has been linked to respiratory effects in humans and animals, and the contaminated ponds seep into groundwater and wells.
The environmental crisis at Piney Point prompted conservation groups to sue the state, FDEP, HRK Holdings LLC (former Piney Point site owner) and the Manatee County Port Authority. The suits charge that the state had known for decades that Piney Point, “threatens imminent and substantial endangerment to Floridians' lives, health and environment.”
Separately, Neighbors of Piney Point joined in a class-action lawsuit against bankrupt HRK citing the “toxic contents” on its land.
In June, a letter from the Manatee Democratic Party to FDEP opposed the Mosaic Company’s recent application to increase phosphogypsum stacks in Polk County because waste from that operation would eventually find its way to Piney Point.
In August, a judge appointed a bankruptcy receiver to clean up and oversee closing of the facility.
Manatee County assumed control of the site and presented a plan to inject contaminated water 3,000 feet below underground sources of drinking water. Manatee County appropriated $10 million for the well project and FDEP approved the concept as the cheapest and quickest way to resolve the problem.
An injection well concept was explored in 2012. But environmentalists, scientists and residents raised concerns about the well’s impact on the aquifer. The Manatee County Commissioners scrapped those plans.
Those who live in the shadow of Piney Point are not the only ones who suffer. As more is learned about the way local officials handled Piney Point, tourism dollars may dry up, developers will not attract home buyers and businesses will leave Manatee County for safer areas.
Source: Manatee Matters Newsletter September/October 2021
The Manatee County Democratic Party and the Democratic Environmental Caucus are taking a stand on phosphogypsum stacks in our state. Read our letter to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Click here to read our request for Desoto County to deny Mosaic's request to expand their stacks.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has been presented with viable, researched opportunities to alleviate the situation at Piney Point and other phosphogypsum stacks in the state for many years. Unfortunately, it often takes a crisis to bring action. Read eleven recommendations and action items from the Manatee Democratic Environmental Caucus.
Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge’s lame attempt at levity during a recent public meeting reinforced a growing concern throughout the county that he is unsuited to be in a leadership position.
His comment at a June 2021 budget workshop that “Democratic ballots go here, and that would be the garbage can,” was wholly inappropriate, in poor taste and most importantly a violation of the commissioner’s oath to be non-partisan. He turned to Commissioner Reggie Bellamy and said, “Just teasing you, Reggie,” in an attempt to pass off his remark as a joke.
At a time when Florida, like 14 other states, institutes restrictive voting laws, our Manatee County Commissioners should respect the principle that all voters want to cast their ballots freely, safely and equally.
Van Ostenbridge’s insulting comment came after Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett explained that his staff had researched potential cost increases, brought on by the passage of SB90 by the Florida legislature, a bill that impinges on our right to vote by mail.
At the very least, the Commission leadership should demand a public apology from Commissioner Van Ostenbridge to the voters and strongly demand that he refrain from partisanship in his position of Commissioner.