Category Archives: Leon County

Today is Election Day, Vote!

Campaigning in Leon County during 2012 early voting

Campaigning in Leon County during 2012 early voting

Today is election day and everyone has done their job.

Thousands of volunteers from around the state have made phone calls, knocked on doors, pestered you to sign petitions and hundreds of others will be driving the disabled to the polls today as they have been for the last ten early voting days.

Absentee ballots were tracked and mailers (occasionally making accurate statements) were made and sent.

Prospective voters have been bombarded with television ads of democrats distancing themselves from Obama while posing with a gun and insisting they’ll defend the Second Amendment. Some republicans meanwhile, in apparent seriousness, explained that the “myth” of global climate change is “proved” false because God said he’d never flood the world again after Noah’s aquatic adventure in antiquity with two of every animal.

Debates were had on live television. . . Even a small portable fan famously did its job.

Attorney General Pam Bondi takes her campaign so seriously that, with Governor Scott’s blessing, she rescheduled the execution of Marshall Lee Gore so she could attend a political fundraiser.

Democracy in a free and imperfect society is not an inexpensive affair.

$473,137,991.31 has been contributed from 1,533 political organizations and committees during the 2014 Florida General Election cycle. Of that, $458,702,602.49 was spent. This is in addition to what the actual candidates and campaigns spent. If you wish to kill what’s left of your soul, you can find where the money came from and where it went by searching through the Florida Division of Elections database here. In county races, judicial races, soil and water conservation districts, and community development districts, you need to go to your local supervisor of elections website to track down their financial reports–a list of each county supervisor’s website by county in alphabetical order can be found here. For information about municipal (mayor and city commissioner) fundraising you will have to call the municipal clerk for your city as only some will publish those documents online.

Lots of money has been expended in fighting for your attention.

They chose their government with guns.  (Mass graves in the Bosnia Hillside. I traveled here in 1999.)

They chose their government with guns. (Mass graves in the Bosnia Hillside. I traveled here in 1999.)

Overseas, more than 160,000 U.S. troops are defending our safety, security, freedom to engage in very imperfect speech, and our right to vote from foreign and domestic threats.

There are ninety-five people who are vying to be responsible for those troops and who otherwise claim to have a vision for our nation’s future. They are running for the United States House of Representatives in 27 Florida congressional districts. If you happen to live in Florida’s Second Congressional District, I would particularly like to highlight the candidacy of moderate-Democrat Gwen Graham–an attorney and education advocate who happens also to be the daughter of popular former Florida Governor and Senator Bob Graham. You can visit her website here to learn more.

Five names will appear on the ballot for office of Governor, with a further five candidates available for election as write in candidates. These are the websites for the two major political candidates, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.

Many people will leave the rest of the ballot blank. Consider not doing this. Importantly, we get to decide who our state’s chief prosecutor is–which is pretty neat!  Also, if you plan on voting for Amendment Two (medical marijuana legalization) than you had better stay in your voting booth long enough to vote for George Sheldon–because, in my opinion, if Pam Bondi is reelected she will do everything in her power to prevent the implementation of medicinal marijuana no matter the will of the voters or the will of medical practitioners!  These are the websites for the major political candidates for Attorney General, George Sheldon and Pam Bondi.

As respected political commentator Matt Isbell explains, as most real power over our daily lives is wielded by local government, it is important to focus on your local county commission races. His extensive analysis can be found here. Or, if you prefer to wait a day, it’ll probably end-up being cut and pasted on Politico, the Daily Kos, or the Huffington Post. He grew up in Cooper City, and really hopes incumbent commissioner, and part-time alleged cartoon super-villain, Jon Sims gets voted off his boyhood local council.

I have also prepared individual county guides in local, judicial, and special district elections for Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Leon counties.

In any event, whoever you support–everyone has done their job.

Now it is our turn to do our job.

Vote!

If you have trouble voting, call 844-FL-Votes.

Richard Junnier behind the scenes

In 2012, Attorney Richard Junnier served as Chair of the Leon County Democratic Party and Executive Committee. He practices law throughout the state of Florida, often on issues related to election and campaign finance law. His law firm’s website is www.JunnierLaw.com.

Leon County Guide to County and Special District Elections (November, 2014)

Campaigning in Leon County during 2012 early voting

Campaigning in Leon County during 2012 early voting

Remember to vote early.  Here is a list of all Early Voting Sites in Leon County.

Thank you for visiting the Adventure Lawyer’s “Leon County Guide to County and Special District Elections.”

This guide is intended to help undecided voters throughout Leon County identify relevant information relating to potentially otherwise unknown candidates when deciding which individual most deserves your vote. It lists all candidates for each contested county, judicial, and special district board election appearing on the November 4, 2014 ballot.

Using the Guide

Campaign Websites

Directly under each candidate’s name is a link to their campaign website or their campaign Facebook page.  If a candidate has both, the link generally attaches to their website which will then contains its own link to their campaign Facebook page, if they have one. If I was unable to find a candidate campaign website or a campaign Facebook page, there will be the statement “No Website Found.”

Campaign Finance Records

Directly under each candidate’s link to their campaign website or Facebook page, or the words “No Website Found,” is, when available, a link to each candidate’s most recent campaign finance report as of October 30, 2014. This link is titled “Latest Campaign Finance Report.”  If I was unable to find a posting of their most recent (or any) posting of the candidate’s campaign finance report, instead of a link, you will find the statement “No Campaign Finance Information Found.”

Because whether or not their campaign finance reports are published timely by third parties is beyond the reasonable scope of responsibility of the candidate, it may be appropriate not to hold their status of “No Campaign Finance Information Found” against them.

Political Affiliation

Except for judicial races, the political affiliation of each candidate, as recorded by the Leon County Supervisor of Elections, is stated next to the name of each non-judicial candidate. Though these are non-partisan races this information is provided for voters who are strongly affiliated with a particular political party and wish to vote for members of that party in local non-judicial offices.

In a very few instances I was unable to confirm a candidate’s voter registration status, and therefore, their party affiliation (if any). For those few candidates the words “Could Not Confirm Voter Registration” appear in place of their party affiliation. In almost every case they are probably registered, they just may not have updated a name change or they may have a name submitted for the ballot that is different from their legal name–such as when someone gets married, takes her spouse’s last name, but keeps her maiden name for election purposes due to its familiarity with voters. Also, sometimes, their name has simply been misspelled in the database.

In other words, consider not penalizing the candidate just because we couldn’t divine the universe of possibilities when looking up candidate names through the database.

For those candidates stated as “NPA,” that simply means that their voter registration states that they have “No Party Affiliation.”

Incumbency

Some voters believe that incumbents should be retained if they perceive that the current Commission or Board is doing a good job as a whole. Conversely, dissatisfied voters  may wish to “vote the bums out” (though please consider first making sure that the incumbent on the ballot hasn’t been the one trying to solve the problem.) Therefore, if a candidate is an incumbent, it is so stated next to their names.

Outlier Candidates

For the vast majority of candidates, the only information the Guide provides are their names, party affiliation, and, when available, links to their campaign websites or, as of October 30, 2014, their latest campaign finance reports.  Occasionally, however, there is an outlier candidate worthy of special attention.

Sometimes, it’s a positive highlight members of the general public may not commonly know: Leon Soil and Water Conservation District Two Candidate Stan Peacock is considered by those who work with the board to be one of the most competent, thorough, and committed member that the Board has ever had.

Unfortunately, other times, a candidate may have a noteworthy unorthodox past or demeanor, that those who do not often pay close attention to local politics may not be aware: Leon Soil and Water Conservation District Two Candidate William Helmich‘s sole occupation is as an ultra-right wing conservative consultant, and he can’t even be bothered to file campaign Finance reports. (He has simply not filed his previous four reports even though large amounts of money are being spent.)  Three people, including myself, called the Supervisor’s office to verify this wasn’t just a paperwork snafu.

In the event that a candidate may be an outlier, a small note is made beneath their name, campaign website link, or phrase “No Website Found,” and their Latest Campaign Finance Report or phrase “No Campaign Financial Information Found.” The representations and accusations are not my own, so I include a link to news reports (and one Youtube video) in citation of the statements made. In these cases, I hope you will do further research on your own.

All statements are intended as statements of opinion and are not statements of fact. I have done my best to exclude negative nonsense.

Personal Notes

Because Leon County is where I live and where I base my law practice, I occasionally have worked with, or have a personal relationship with, a candidate for public office. Usually my opinion is a positive one–most people who are active in Leon County politics, whatever their personal beliefs and opinions, are outstanding human beings and truly dedicated to public service. In a very few cases it’s a negative opinion.

In any event, if I have worked with or know the candidate personally, I offer a brief personal note of what I know about them.

Personal notes may not include links, because they are my personal opinions formed through experience and not something I learned through secondhand sources.

Also note that as I am a past chair of the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee–I might be biased!

Media Coverage

When available, I offer a link to the Tallahassee Democrat or WFSU’s analysis of each race.

Senator Bill Nelson at the  National High Magnetic Field Laboratory--Leon County is a place that believes in science.

Senator Bill Nelson at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory–Leon County is a place that believes in science.

First District Court of Appeal Judicial Retention Races

You can find information on the judges who are up for judicial retention at the Florida Bar’s website here.

The Leon County Commission

At-Large, Group Two:

The Tallahassee Democrat endorses Nick Maddox.

Curtis Baynes DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report

Nick Maddox (Incumbent) DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report
Personal Note: Nick has always been one of my favorite Commissioners to work with and he cares deeply about Leon County. He was instrumental in funding the Leon County Mental Health Court and countless other initiatives.

District One:

Bill Proctor talks with the Tallahassee Democrat.

Weser Khufu’s Rebuttal to the Tallahassee Democrat’s Endorsement.

Weser Khufu DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report

Bill Proctor (Incumbent) DEMOCRAT
No Website Found
Latest Campaign Finance Report
Personal Note: I have worked with Commissioner Proctor on several issues, particularly those related to social mobility, mental health, and veteran affairs.  At public meetings he expresses his District’s frustration through bellicose language and tone–he wants to make it clear to his constituents that he is fighting for them–but when the cameras shut off and the crowds disperse, in my experience, Commissioner Proctor works respectfully, pragmatically and diligently with his colleagues and community activists.  He is also one of the most enigmatic folks I have ever (and it was always a pleasure) worked with.

Leon Soil and Water Conservation District

Learn more about the Leon Soil and Water Conservation District here.

Here is WFSU’s coverage of these races.

District Two:

Stan Peacock (Incumbent) DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report
Personal Note: It is my experience that Stan is considered by pretty much everybody who works with the Board to be the most competent, thorough, and committed member that the Board has ever had. He has a degree in biology and a doctorate in Optometry. One of the candidates in the District Four race suggests that there are no science experts on the Board–considering Stan’s eminent qualifications, that is not a fair assessment.

William Helmich REPUBLICAN
No Website Found
Latest Campaign Finance Report
Caution: Bill Helmich sends out mailers attempting to betray himself as a Democrat when he is actually Vice Chair of the Republican Executive Committee of Leon County. Although he is spending large amounts of money, we don’t know who it’s from, because he hasn’t filed a campaign finance report with the Supervisor of Elections since September in an apparent naked flouting of Florida Campaign Finance Law. (Three people, including myself, called the Supervisor’s Office to verify this claim.) He once tried to create havoc at one of my Democratic Executive Committee meetings by storming in yelling nonsense about yard signs but–oops–choose to try this at meeting dedicated to a Sheriff and State Attorney candidates’ forum. When he abruptly popped in he was confronted by a largely uniformed audience–the protest deescalated quickly. He once sent a letter to my leadership team claiming I broke an election law by quoting a statute but omitting the text that very plainly mangled his argument into nonsense. His letter is here. My response is here. I followed it up by spending 10K on a second round of “If you like Rick Scott, than you’ll love Steve Stweart ads.” I never heard back from him after that. Bill Helmich should not be trusted to supervise our county’s water supply.

District Four:

Ryan Truchelut NPA
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report

Brian Lee DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report
Personal Note: Brian helps run an alternate-energy/environmental NGO and has demonstrated an ability to persuade conservative legislators and a “I’m not a scientist” Executive Office of Governor to do basic things to prevent the whole of south Florida from being submerged under the ocean before the next fiscal quarter. He has also proven his ability to raise money through both fundraisers and grant applications. He has been volunteering and actively engaged with the community for many years. Brian was also a key player in President Obama’s 2008 north Florida campaign.

Capital Region Community Development District 

Learn more about the Capital Region Community Development District here.

Seat Three:

Eli Nortelus (Incumbent) DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report

Luis Rojas REPUBLICAN 
No Website Found
Latest Campaign Finance Report
Note: If you scroll through his campaign contributions list, you might note an issue with where most of his donations are coming from.

Piney Z Community Development District

Learn more about Piney Z Community Development District here.

Seat One:

Delores Ann Pincus REPUBLICAN
No Website Found
No Campaign Finance Information Found

Hugh Hauck REPUBLICAN
No Website Found
Latest Campaign Finance Report
Note: Though it is of little relevance to a community development district race, if you care, Mr. Hauck is endorsed by Personhood Florida, a pro-life political action committee. 

Seat Three:

Johnny Patrick Devine DEMOCRAT
No Website Found
Latest Campaign Finance Report

Cheryl Hudson (Inclumbent) REPUBLICAN
No Website Found
No Campaign Finance Information Found

Rick Scott Rescheduled an Execution so Pam Bondi could go to a Fundraiser

Pieter Bruegel's ("little") Tower of Babel

Pieter Bruegel’s (“little”) Tower of Babel

In August, 2013, Governor Rick Scott rescheduled the execution date of Marshall Lee Gore from September 10th to October 1st.

Marshall Lee Gore raped, strangled, and stabbed Robyn Novick and dumped her body in rural Miami-Dade county. Marshall Lee Gore also killed Susan Roark after a chance encounter at a convenience store.  Susan Roark was 19.

Their names were Robyn Novick and Susan Roark.

Why would Governor Scott delay the execution of a teenage murdering maniac?  Was it because the Supreme Court was concerned that Gore was too mentally ill, thereby reducing his moral culpability and personal agency, (so the argument goes) to execute?

No.

Rick Scott delayed the execution of a rapist-murderer because on the day of the scheduled execution, September 10, 2013, Attorney General Pam Bondi had also scheduled a campaign fundraiser.

There was a conflict in her schedule you see–so she decided to change the date of what she presumably considered the less-important affair–the execution of the murderer of Robyn Novick, 30, and Susan Roark, 19.

It was her kickoff fundraiser, so perhaps she was concerned about the arrangements her wealthier supporters had made? Maybe she felt uncomfortable asking them to rearrange their calendars to accommodate an execution?

I wonder if the families of of Robyn Novick and Susan Roark thought it was inconvenient for themselves to rearrange their calendars to accommodate a political fundraiser? Or, instead, did they think it one further indignity for their loved one’s memory to endure?

It was a parting shot from the state of Florida expressing we don’t really care about you; we just pretend for the cameras. 

Governor Scott says he didn’t know the Attorney General’s reason when she asked for the delay.

I guess Rick Scott didn’t believe that the lives of  Robyn Novick and Susan Roark were even important enough to ask why.

But they were still going to kill somebody over it–provided they could agree on a convenient time.

As somebody who works and researches human rights issues, both domestically and in the field, I believe that a legitimate government should never kill its citizens. However, if there is going to be an execution, this is how it should take place.

Therefore, it’s not that I’m angry that this person lived for another three weeks; I would have been content to have let him breath until his natural death provided it be behind bars. I’m angry about why–this evil who was so evil he didn’t know he was evil–breathed the extra three weeks.

If you do support the death penalty and wonder why the Supreme Court allows appeal after appeal about the Constitution’s “cruel and unusual clause” and the “arbitrary application” argument–this is why.

You Can Make all those Damn Political Phone Calls and Mailers Stop by Voting Early

As you can see from this picture, I am obviously non-partisan.

As you can see from this picture, I am obviously non-partisan.

Adventure Lawyer’s cocktail party factoid of the day:

If you vote early or return your absentee ballot, all those annoying calls from politicians and political parties and other groups will stop within about 24 hours.

This is because at the end of each day the major political parties request and receive files from each supervisor of elections so that the candidates in each party can update their databases which track which voters have already voted. If you have already voted, they take your name out of their call list because there is no longer an incentive to contact you.

So you have the power to stop those harassing calls today!

Vote Early!

The Division of Elections maintains a list of statewide early voting sites here.

All early voting sites are listed in Spanish here.

Because sometimes the Division of Elections database is slightly out of date, here is where you can vote early by each county in alphabetical order.

Alachua County

Baker County

Bay County

Bradford County

Brevard County

Broward County

Calhoun County

Charlotte County

Citrus County

Clay County

Collier County

Columbia County

DeSoto County

Dixie County

Duval County

Escambia County

Flagler County

Franklin County

Gadsden County

Gilchrist County

Glades County

Gulf County

Hamilton County

Hardee County
Note: Finding the info on this site requires an advanced degree in cryptology from MIT, so, to save you the hassle, Early Voting is at the Supervisor of Elections Office, Monday October 20, 2014 through Saturday November 1, 2014, 8:30am – 5:00pm.)

Hendry County

Hernando County

Highlands County

Hillsborough County

Holmes County

Indian River County

Jackson County

Jefferson County

Lafayette County

Lake County

Lee County

Leon County

Levy County

Liberty County

Madison County

Manatee County

Marion County

Martin County

Miami-Dade County

Monroe County

Nassau County

Okaloosa County

Okeechobee County

Orange County

Osceola County

Palm Beach County

Pasco County

Pinellas County

Polk County

Putnam County

St. Johns County

St. Lucie County

Santa Rosa County

Sarasota County

Seminole County

Sumter County

Suwannee County

Taylor County

Union County

Volusia County

Wakulla County
Note: Apparently the Supervisor of Elections website wants to keep its early voting program a secret. Early voting will be at the SOE Office, 3115‐B Crawfordville Highway, Crawfordville October 25 ‐ November 1, from 8:00 am ‐ 7:00 pm.

Walton County

Washington County

Why it’s Important to Support President-designate Thrasher

After the shuttle dropped us off at Doak Campbell Stadium, it was time for pictures with the Seminole cheerleaders! Living the dream, though, perhaps not my own.

After President Barron’s shuttle dropped us off at Doak Campbell Stadium, it was time for pictures with the Seminole cheerleaders! Living the dream, though, perhaps not my own.

To my fellow Seminoles:

Some of us supported Mr. Thrasher’s hard-fought endeavor to be the next President of Florida State University. To those, it is appropriate to acknowledge congratulations and our allegiance to FSU.

To those, including myself, who are disappointed in the duly appointed Board of Trustees’ decision, many warned of a potentially consequential academic brain-drain and drop in FSU’s reputation as a deeply committed Carnegie One Research University.

The decision having been made, it is time for us to come together to prevent such dire predictions.  

Some have expressed their discontent with promises to discontinue alumni donations, to cause the enterprises or research foundations they helm to withhold grants, and most seriously, a few, among them some of the great scientists on Earth, have suggested that they will resign research and teaching positions at the Florida State University we all love.

Well, that’s not very helpful.

Please, don’t do that.

I will borrow the farsighted argument of David Cameron on the eve of what was the potential Scot succession:

John Thrasher will not be here forever.

The current roster of the Board of Trustees will not be here forever.

Rick Scott will not be here forever.

Even the Koch Brothers, will not be here forever.

Until a meteor hits us at just the right angle, the predicted next ice-age sets in, or leaders with a worrying overconfidence in a better afterlife press the button mutually assuring our destruction, the future of our institution and its Voltaire garden of works must continue to be cultivated–even under challenging economic and political circumstances.

This is because:

Thanks to FSU’s advances in cancer research, such as Taxol, a world with children suffering from cancer does not have to be forever.

Opposite the spectrum of human development, recent discoveries from FSU’s Bienkiewicz Laboratory give us hope that our coexistence with Alzheimer’s Disease does not have to be forever.

If FSU researcher Albrecht-Schmitt’s work with “californium” is repeatedly replicated through peer review, radioactive waste, does not even have to be forever.

Disagreement with the majority of a thirteen-person committee is insufficient cause to jeopardize our role in our university’s future accomplishments and continued academic leadership in the world.

Moreover, the John Thrashers of the world, the science-deniers, the pray-the-gay away folks–they may want you to resign from your research and teaching positions. They may want to promptly replace you with people arguing the “other side” of climate change, evolution, tobacco’s role in cancer, sexual equality, and other celestial teapots. They may want you to “go gentle into that good night.”

Your resignation may merely be misidentified as surrender to those who appreciate and understand you most–your supporters, your students, your colleagues who cite your works, those whose livelihoods depend upon your grants and lab budgets, and the segments of our society who do not wish to be drowned under rising sea levels.

It is understandable that you may yearn to succumb to the serene siren’s song that the world isn’t fair and doesn’t appreciate your tireless effort–many of you have suffered divorce and alienation in your quest for knowledge helpful to a seemingly apathetic and unappreciative universe. Consider, however, explaining to a kid with cancer that you suspended your research while looking for employment and funding elsewhere because politics plays too much of a role in Florida’s higher education–you may find an unsympathetic audience.

You chose and endured great hardship to be public intellectuals, and you therefore voluntarily chose to be responsible as scientists, philosophers, artists, and academicians to “rage against the dying of the light” in a world where science-deniers, the nihilists, and wealthy special interests occasionally win the day at the ballot box.

The community needs you to fulfill that responsibility now more than ever.

Some of you have tenure–he cannot make you leave; only you have that power–don’t cede it.

To consider changing where you live and where you work just because the titular head disagrees with you is to give him far more power than he, or his supporters, actually have or deserve.

The faculty, TAs, and students collectively have more actual power to determine the direction of FSU than a single human being–whatever the net-worth of his supporters and whatever his title.

Meanwhile, he has offered to fundraise a billion dollars in one hundred days.

Enthusiastically support him in this endeavor–then spend every dollar of it producing peer reviewed experiments and empirical research to prove his and the Koch brother’s ideas wrong.

If you are feeling particularly charitable, consider giving him a chance. Wait for him to make actual objective mistakes while sincerely working with him to help succeed in bettering FSU before demanding his tarring and feathering. It is possible he wants to pour all of his energy into making this school be the best it can be on its own terms and that he is able to divorce his personal opinions from the process–he wouldn’t be the first political leader to do such in search of a legacy.

The only other remedy is to go get the pitch forks while others rally the village people and see if that makes him more likely to listen to your grant proposals and objections.

In my limited experience in life, this strategy rarely works.

Whatever you do, please don’t give up. Continue to donate; continue your support–FSU is bigger than one man and it is bigger than all of us. It is an idea of intellectually honest cooperation to further the sciences, the humanities, and the observable truth.

Don’t let our transient disagreement with the transient Board of Trustees in its choice of a transient leader distract from the accomplishment and promising future of a 150 plus year Carnegie One Research University and its hundreds of thousands alumni and the hundreds of millions who have, knowingly or not, benefited from its discoveries.

The decision of who shall be FSU’s next President is done.

Please join me in offering full support to FSU’s Seventeenth President-designate, the Honorable John Thrasher.

If his actual job performance suggests such allegiance is unwarranted, I have confidence that we will respond appropriately.

In the meantime, one of FSU’s greatest strengths and defense mechanisms is its sense of humor. I chose to go to FSU for the same reasons I chose to be amongst most people and institutions I associate with–because of a demonstrable lighthearted humor, cooperation,   and kindness.

So, say now, why are all the Environmental Science textbooks at Strozier Library now in the “fiction” section?

Of course, they won’t be. (But it’s still okay to make a joke here and there.)

Remember, “the fun never stops.

Respectfully,

Richard Junnier, Esq.

President, Junnier Law, P.A.
Immediate Past Chair of the Leon County Democratic Party

From November 2012 through January 2013, Richard served as a member of a White House Work Group assembled to successfully discuss and organize grassroots opposition to the Sequester, the Fiscal Cliff, and federal debt default.

From November 2012 through January 2013, Richard served as a member of a White House Work Group assembled to successfully discuss and organize grassroots opposition to the Sequester, the Fiscal Cliff, and federal debt default.

My Comment to the FSU Board of Trustees on their Potential Appointment of a Creationist President

Junnier Law, P.A., Richard Junnier, Esq.

Junnier Law, P.A., Richard Junnier, Esq.

September 17, 2014

Dear Honorable Florida State University Board of Trustees:

I believe it is wholly inappropriate to appoint an individual who neither believes in evolution nor climate change President of a Carnegie One Research University.

Today, FSU is known for being on the cutting edge of cancer research, hosting a Nobel Laureate who helms the world’s largest electromagnet, and, ironically, producing a meteorology program that is one of the world leaders at studying climate change.

I fear that if Mr. Thrasher is appointed–virtually overnight–with the assistance of sensationalist news outlets and blogs, the hyperbole of the Daily Show, a well-deserved sardonic interview aired on the Colbert Report, and being the punchline of a succession of jokes on late night monologues–we will instead be known singularly as the University with a creationist President.

It’ll just be another jab at a state that appears to get nothing right.

Beyond that, there is his temperament to consider.

His conduct during his campus student-faculty discussion evidenced an individual not responsive to questions or criticism. When two students–quite appropriately–laughed at his “I’m not a scientist” answer to a question about the existence of climate change, he threatened to discontinue the proceedings.

That is unlikely the optimal attitude necessary to foster debate and discuss diverse ideas among a group of wily and confidently opinionated faculty and students. When I interview candidates and they threaten to leave the employment interview, as a rule, I move on to the next applicant.

He also obfuscated a series of questions including those as basic as quizzing his knowledge of the scientific method and evolution. A President should be able to offer concise and responsive answers to complicated questions let alone basic ones. It is embarrassing that students and faculty even thought such questions were necessary–but apparently they were.

If Mr. Thrasher is appointed, I easily imagine our university’s top talent will get their CVs in order and high school students interested in science and engineering will look elsewhere for their college education. Sure, he can probably fund raise $1 Billion; but our reputation is worth far more than that.

Bill Nye (the Science Guy) appeared at FSU last night to give a lecture. During the Q&A he was asked about the prospects of potentially having a creationist university president: “Well, I find it heartbreaking.”

I do too.

Respectfully,

Richard Junnier, Esq.
Junnier Law, P.A.

White House Florida Leadership Work Group

Outside of the Eisenhower Executive Building.

Outside of the Eisenhower Executive Building

 

In November of 2012 I was invited to the White House as part of a Florida Leadership Work Group. Our task was to discuss and organize grassroots opposition to the Sequester, the Fiscal Cliff, and the impending federal debt default. I will not bore you about the discussion, what we organized, or about ultimate success during a surreal moment of political-economic history. Instead, I thought I would share what it is like to be asked to the White House as a political advocate.

The Invitation is by email.

It is in a forwarded email actually–transitionally sent through someone more important than the ultimate recipient–which requests that an RSVP be made to a third-person, who is also more important. The ultimate invitation is signed by yet a fourth person of consequence, on behalf of his boss who is so consequential she doesn’t even send her own emails. It is she who will be the host and President’s representative at the meeting.

At the time, I was Leon County’s DEC chief, and my invitation was sent courtesy of the Vice Chair of the Florida Democratic Party. I was requested to respond to the ex-director of the President’s Florida Campaign (who was the organizer of the event) and the actual invitation was from the White House Office of Public Engagement. Our host would be Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States.

Yes, it was impersonal; yes, the date was unfeasible, (the meeting was scheduled for the Monday after Thanksgiving, which was only a few days away); yes, there was a dress code problem (I was visiting family in south Florida and my suits were in Tallahassee)–never-the-less, after rereading the email several times trying to discern whether it might be a prank or I might be misunderstanding something–I excitedly picked up the phone to friends and family: “I’ve been invited to the White House!”

Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States

Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States

“White House” really means the Eisenhower Executive Building.

“White House,” it turned out, unless you are an ambassador, cabinet member, or medal of honor recipient–means “Eisenhower Executive Building.” They do not tell you this in the invitation or the numerous follow-up emails and conference calls until you are in Washington. (Perhaps an invitation to “White House adjacent” would be less inspiring in getting guests to ditch their families during a holiday and travel last minute at great personal expense to discuss economics with policy wonks.)

Any suggestion, even if done with humor, that the Eisenhower Executive Building is not the White House, will be met with aggressive dissent by staffers who work at the Eisenhower Executive Building but apparently explain to friends and family that they work at the White House.

Indeed, the Presidential standard and crests are everywhere. Our huge meeting room, decorated with photos of more important people in more important meeting rooms, even came stocked with the obligatory dark blue curtain for press conferences and podium, each marked with the White House’s official crest. Our invitation, the agenda, the souvenir “thank you” note casually signed “Barack Obama,” every stick of stationary proudly reads: “The White House.” A high-school projector at the fore illuminates the opening slide with “Welcome to the White House.” A similar greeting awaited at the double-oak door in the form of a large sign accompanying a buoying voice from a government employee.

I found out the fun way what happens when you walk through those doors! You are very enthusiastically told  by the Secret Service that this is not the "exit" you wanted.

I found out the fun way what happens when you walk through those doors! You are very enthusiastically told by the Secret Service that this is not the “exit” you wanted.

The signage is necessary.

Like many of our most-protected buildings, the publicly-apparent security apparatus of the EEB is designed primarily to keep unauthorized people out. There are multiple outer-compound checkpoints guarded by very serious, but extremely polite, police and Secret Service. (I suppose politeness is a prerequisite since they know your experience with them is immediately followed by a meeting with a head of government.) But once you are in, you are in. You have a bright green “V” pass and, as long as you don’t do something objectively stupid like open a door marked “National Security Agency Only,” you pretty much have free reign over the place, and aside from subtle markings like “Presidential Council of Economic Advisors” or “Remote Nuclear Command” everything on every floor looks the same.

Getting lost, I had to ask someone who clearly had Jack Bauer’s job to show me to the bathroom. (He was super-nice about it; I swear everyone who works at the EEB must have been sent for customer service training at the Ritz Carlton.)

Before the White House asks for your advice; you are sent to their partisan think-tank to be told what your advice will be.

When you are invited to the White House as part of an issue-specific problem work group, before the “discussion,” you are first diverted for hours of seminars and lectures at their public policy think-tank. They tell you that you are there for lunch, but its really more like accepting the free Disney weekend invitation from a timeshare realtor. It’s not “mandatory,” but seeing as they physically walk you from their downtown building to the EEB Secret Service check-in station, attendance is “highly encouraged.”

The lunch itself was buffet–sandwiches, fruit, salad, fancy lemon water–the sort of nightmare scenario that keeps tea-partiers awake when Fox tells them that the First Lady is conspiring to take over the cafeterias of public schools. I think Michael Bloomberg catered.

The lectures and seminars were presented by some of the top intellectuals in taxation and economics, and since I have relevant post-graduate degrees in what they were explaining, I was very entertained as I watched political operatives try to argue and object to peer-reviewed empirical information. After silently laughing for two hours, in an effort to be productive, I began asking friendly leading questions so the experts were able to connect to the operatives in a language they could understand. I’m a little ashamed to admit that there were a few people in the room who apparently didn’t know such basic things as the difference between “debt” and a “deficit.” The reader might not know either, but the reader probably wasn’t asked to advise the Obama administration on economic matters during a national crisis.

With school over, we were escorted the half mile to the conspicuously guarded entrance to the White House-EEB Complex.

You are divided into geographically overlapping groups, told to disclose your political resources, and collectively come up with a plan.

I was a part of the north Florida group which consisted of two representatives from Jacksonville (an influential banker and the director of the Jacksonville Field Office, I think), the Chair of the Franklin County DEC (representing rural counties), and a God of north Florida fundraising (representing the 2nd Congressional District), and myself. For those who care about such things, of the three women and two men, two were African-American and three were Caucasian, with one representing the GLBTA Community.

To begin, there were warm-up, team-building, nonsense exercises reminiscent of mandatory corporate retreats–where there is a lovely park or golf course but you cannot go because you are too busy falling backward into a colleague you wouldn’t trust to refrain from stabbing you in the back let alone catch you.

Time passed. Once we came up with our plan, we presented it to the group at large for comments and suggestions. Then we listened to the other plans and made comments and suggestions. A part of the plan required the participation of elected officials who, theoretically–very theoretically–would listen to me as the Chair of (and chief fundraiser for) their county’s political executive committee.

This gave rise to the most fun series of phone calls I have ever made in my life.

Obviously the response I got from various leaders is of the deepest confidentiality, but I think its important to make one broad note:  The most accommodating, unhesitating, and helpful, leaders--by far--were those publicly perceived as being very conservative.  They made no demands, no nuance, and no complaints. They did their work quietly. They asked for no credit.

Obviously the response I got from various leaders is of the deepest confidentiality, but I think its important to make one broad note: The most accommodating, unhesitating, and helpful, leaders–by far–were those publicly perceived as being very conservative. They made no demands, no nuance, and no complaints. They did their work quietly. They asked for no credit.

“Hi, this is Richard. I’m calling from the White House.”

Generally, I don’t have difficultly getting a local or regional elected official to take my call. If they’re very busy they might call back in a few hours or text me that they’re in the middle of something.

But there is a unique urgency implied when you leave a message on their cell phone–or even more fun–with their assistant, that you:

  1. are calling from the White House;
  2. after an hours long meeting helmed by the President’s chief advisor; and
  3. the Leader of the whole freaking Free World, the most powerful person on Earth, a human being so exalted and important that hundreds of people are trained for the full-time employment of dying for him if necessary–he, the President of the United States, is tasking YOU with an assignment.

Public meetings were disrupted, private meetings were abruptly ended, at one point I had a majority of a local commission returning my call at the same time.

Influence and access has never been something I have cared much about, aside from how it effects my ability to advocate, but I have to admit, this was about the most fun you can have while wearing a suit. To add to the ambiance, as I made the calls, I was energetically pacing the outside halls.

It was all very “West Wing.” 

Follow-up Meetings and Status Sessions were done telephonically.

Obviously the response I got from various leaders is of the deepest confidentiality, but I think its important to make one broad note: The most accommodating, unhesitating, and helpful, leaders–by far–were those publicly perceived as being very conservative. They made no demands, no nuance, and no complaints. They did their work quietly. They were successful. They asked for no credit.

Perhaps it was because they were retired military, merely out of habit, unconditionally heeding the call to action from the Commander-in-chief.