Manatee County Democrats are taking action on the environment, trans rights, reproductive rights, voter outreach and more. We celebrated Juneteenth and look forward to fun fundraising with the Manasota Young Dems in August and our annual gala in November. Read on...
By Tracy Pratt, MCDP Chair – It is our duty as responsible citizens to respond to matters that affect the lives of all the people who live and work in Manatee County.
The past two months we had local elected officials pushing personal agendas at the expense of County business. The Manatee Democrats took strong stands against outrageous government decisions as detailed below.
Democratic-affiliated groups continue to increase public events as COVID restrictions ease. Of note were the Juneteenth celebration in downtown Bradenton, pop-up COVID vaccine clinics in Palmetto and Bradenton, and the first in-person voter registration activity in more than a year. See those stories elsewhere in this issue.
Here’s a sampling of how the Manatee Democratic Party stepped up, spoke out, and challenged the entrenched power structure in the county.
Manatee Dems Oppose Abortion Restriction Quest
The Manatee County Democratic Party supports the right of women to make their own reproductive decisions and recognizes government interference with such personal medical decisions as overt oppression of women.
County Commissioner James Satcher wants to use taxpayer money to push forward two proposals that would reduce a woman’s ability to make her own reproductive decisions. He seeks to make Manatee County the first county in the state to ban abortion clinics. A second proposal would financially incentivize women to have babies, presumably with taxpayer funds.
Let’s be clear. The County Commission does not have the authority, nor the responsibility to pursue abortion restrictions in Manatee County. That is a state matter and should be handled in Tallahassee. But the Commission, bowing to pressure from Satcher, instructed the county attorney’s office to investigate how Manatee County can become the most restrictive county in the state for access to abortion.
If the commission goes ahead, it can only result in legal challenges, and money spent to appease one local official’s sense of morality. We urge the County Commission to drop this expensive folly. See the entire statement at https://manateecountydemocrats.com/issues
Commissioner Should Leave Jokes to Comedians
Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge’s lame attempt at levity during a public meeting reinforced a growing concern throughout the county that he must refrain from partisan language and is unsuited to be in a leadership position.
His comment, “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. See the Manatee Democrats’ response at https://manateecountydemocrats.com/issues
Say No to Phosphogypsum Expansion
The Environmental Caucus stepped up to oppose mining and generation of phosphogypsum, a highly toxic and radioactive waste product that is produced in neighboring counties. In letters to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the DeSoto County Commissioners, Manatee Dems expressed outrage toward an attempt by mining concerns to expand operations. See story in this edition. See the letters at https://manateecountydemocrats.com/issues.
LGBTA Caucus Leads Protest, Raises Funds
Members of the Manatee Democratic LGBTA Caucus were on the front lines of a protest over the signing of a law that would ban transgender youth from participating in school sports. The caucus also sponsored a reception that raised funds for a youth foundation. Stories are elsewhere in this issue.
Get Engaged, Join the Manatee Democrats
Manatee County Democrats continue to work toward better local, state and federal policies for all of us. Join the fight at www.manateecountydemocrats.com/take-action
By Wil Clapper - The Hispanic Democratic Caucus of Manatee County brought three COVID vaccine clinics to underserved communities this summer. The third clinic occurred Sunday, July 11, at the Samoset Grocery and Meat Market, 3011 15th Street East, Bradenton.
Hispanic Caucus volunteers directed traffic, answered questions and helped residents complete the health forms necessary to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There was no charge for the vaccine, health insurance was not required and no documents were needed.
Prior to the event, volunteer Parent Ambassadors from UnidosNow (www.UnidosNow.org) distributed flyers to area businesses in District 215.
Earlier this summer, the Hispanic Caucus sponsored two COVID vaccine clinics at the Walmart in Palmetto. Walmart Pharmacy licensed technicians dispensed the vaccine.
By Chrissy Fairey - The Manasota Young Democrats will take a look at Good Trouble happening around Florida during their second virtual fundraiser for the year, Sunday, August 1 at 6 p.m.
“Zooming in on the Issues: Good Trouble, From the Declaration of Independence until Today” is the topic for a panel that includes Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, State Attorney Andrew Warren, President Tracey Washington of the Manatee Chapter of Florida Restoration of Rights Coalition, and President Janelle Christensen of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida. The conversation will focus on the positive things happening in Florida and Manatee County.
Gift boxes are available at the top-level donation, which will include a book, Let My People Vote: My Battle to Restore the Civil Rights of Returning Citizens by Desmond Meade, various merchandise as well as a special bottle of wine. Lower-level donation tickets are also available. Check out all the donation options and how to reserve a gift box by visiting manasotayoungdems.com.
The Manasota Young Democrats is a network of motivated young professionals, students and teens dedicated to advocating for the voice of our generation. We have engaging conversations on local issues that affect young people in Manatee and Sarasota Counties. Young Dems register new voters, advocate for causes, host meetings and train new volunteers as effective community organizers. Members have even run for office. Monthly meetings are the third Tuesday of each month.
Peter Imhoff is the current president of the Manasota Young Democrats. Other officers are: Wesley Beggs, vice president; Emma Bruno, secretary; Faye Baldwin, treasurer; David Fairey, legislative chair; Chrissy Fairey, fundraising chair; and Nancy Simpson, membership chair.
Visit manasotayoungdems.com for more information or find us on Facebook @ManasotaYoungDems.
By Randy McCrea – Although new to politics and her current elected office, Pam Coachman nevertheless has had an impact on policies and issues in the city of Bradenton.
Coachman took office as Ward 5 Councilwoman in January for a four-year term. She is the only Democrat on the current Bradenton City Council. She admits it has been a steep learning curve even with some mentoring by a few of her Republican colleagues.
Being new on the Council and working through the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, she has not been able to accomplish some of her goals. One goal is in-person “Town Chats” with her constituents.
“I have raised awareness of Ward 5 issues and opened minds to differing viewpoints,” she said. Coachman believes affordable housing, jobs, community centers and infrastructure are the major issues facing the residents of Ward 5. She is also concerned about maintaining clean water for residents and to attract tourists.
“I wish everyone knew that at one time the gap between two parallel lives of people of difference was much wider than it is now because we are on a trajectory to minimize that gap,” she said. She further noted that the gap is closing but many people are still uncomfortable around others who are different than they are.
Another goal is to inform the public of why and how their local government works and have constituents understand the workings of government. “Lack of information leads to misinformation,” she said. But she opined that she alone can’t change things without the support of at least two other Council members.
She said that she needs to communicate to her constituents the reality of how the Council works and what can practically be accomplished.
Citizens may attend Council meetings the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 8:30 a.m. City Hall is located at 101 Old Main Street (12th Street W.) in Bradenton. Information about meetings and how to view recordings can be found at https://cityofbradenton.com/minutes#.
By Wil Clapper - The Manatee Democratic Environmental Caucus sent a letter to the DeSoto County Commissioners objecting to a request to rezone more than 14,000 acres that would allow for expanded mining at a Mosaic Company site in DeSoto County. In the letter, Environmental Caucus co-chairs Ruth Lawler and Cynthia Rosso raised concerns that mined material will generate toxic waste material that could endanger residents of Manatee County. Read the letter at: https://manateecountydemocrats.com/issues
By Nancy Hughes - Toxic waste doesn't respect borders. Residents of Manatee County are aware substances detrimental to the environment roll downhill to the shore. That’s why the Manatee County Democratic Party submitted a letter to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection opposing the Mosaic Company's proposed expansion of existing phosphogypsum stacks in Polk County. Phosphogypsum is a highly toxic and radioactive waste from the processing of fertilizer. The letter reads in part, “We are concerned for the health and safety of our citizens who would be exposed to possible, and most likely probable, contamination from radioactive phosphogypsum waste passing through our county in the event of an environmental disaster such as the Piney Point incident.” To date, FDEP hasn’t ruled on Mosaic’s expansion permit. Read the statement at: https://manateecountydemocrats.com/issues.
By Patti Shannon - “We thank all those who nominated the name Lincoln Memorial Middle School and the school board for their unanimous approval,” said Susie Copeland.
Copeland, former President of the Manatee County Democratic Black Caucus, said that the school renaming is important to the African-American Community. Prior to desegregation in Manatee County, black students attended segregated schools named Lincoln and Lincoln-Memorial. Alumni of Lincoln-Memorial High School still gather for reunions. When Lincoln Memorial Academy ceased operations as a charter school, the renaming process became necessary per the Florida Department of Education. From April 22 through June 22, 126 name nominations were submitted, with 58 of them in favor of Lincoln Memorial Middle School.
By Wil Clapper - The festive atmosphere of this year’s Juneteenth Celebration in Bradenton in no way obscured the importance of the holiday as a reminder that America’s promise of freedom extends to all people.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated reminder of the ending of slavery in the United States.
“We have to address social injustice, poverty, systemic racism. We have an opportunity to put our feet firmly in the sand and let everyone know why we are here,” Manatee County Commissioner Reggie Bellamy said from a stage adjacent to the Ward Temple AME Church, 5th Street West, Bradenton. He was speaking at the fifth annual Juneteenth Celebration, hosted by Ward Temple and the 13th Avenue Dream Center, days after Juneteenth was declared a national holiday by President Biden.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19,1865 when a Union Army general brought news to Galveston, Texas, that slavery was abolished in the United States. African Americans living in Texas at the time were unaware that President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation two years prior.
“Juneteenth is when the entire country found out they were free,” said Bradenton City Councilwoman Pam Coachman. “I’m so excited to see people of all faiths together in celebration.” The crowd that visited the many booths at the celebration brought into focus Manatee County’s diverse communities.
Saturday’s outdoor festival at the Ward AME Church was one of several events of the weekend. A reading conference held at the church’s Adams Young Family Life Center and a Hip-Hop Rhythmic reading with author Vincent Taylor at the 13th Avenue Dream Center, Bradenton, filled Friday’s agenda.
Sunday, the church offered an ecumenical Father’s Day service.
Robert Powell, president of Manatee County NAACP, commented on the benefits of Juneteenth awareness. “I’m a coach and I notice a lot more young people are aware of what’s going on. They understand the importance of Juneteenth. They learn about Juneteenth and gain knowledge about it from events like this.”
By Diana Cowens, LGBTA Caucus Secretary - The Manatee LGBTA Democratic Caucus led a protest rally in downtown Bradenton on June 1, the first day of Pride Month.
Hours earlier Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that included an amendment that banned trans-girls from participating on female teams in school sports throughout the state. The Manatee LGBTA Caucus joined other groups around Florida and coordinated with the Sarasota Stonewall Democratic Caucus in organizing the protest. “We want trans-children to know that we love and support them,” said Mary Tavarozzi, of ALSO Youth, at the protest. The protest was covered by the Bradenton Herald, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Miami Herald, Bollyinside.com and Tampa-based television.
By Kent Noel, LGBTA Caucus Chair - The Manatee LGBTA Democratic Caucus' in-person get-together at the Adobe Graffiti Lounge in the Village of the Arts, proved to be a resounding success. The May event was the first live meeting in more than a year, and raised more than $1,000 for ALSO Youth, which supports LGBTQ+ youth in Manatee and Sarasota Counties. Approximately 50 people attended. Lizzie Cofrancesco took the lead in organizing the event with full participation of ALSO Youth officials. LGBTA Caucus members contributed to the event’s success.
Put Sunday, November 7 on your calendars for the Manatee County Democratic Party Gala. The annual event is the Manatee Dems’ largest fundraiser of the year and this year will be live as well as virtual. The in-person Gala is scheduled for the Grove in Lakewood Ranch starting at 5 p.m. For more information, contact Lucy Lapides, email@example.com; 941-704-5971; or Robin Sathan, firstname.lastname@example.org
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