Pensacola, Florida
Thursday October 30th 2014

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The Buzz 7/17/14

Battle Over Congressional Districts Continues Florida Senator Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) knew that no matter how the commission drew the new lines for the congressional districts in Florida those boundaries would be challenged in court.

On Thursday, July 10, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis struck down the map of the state’s congressional districts drawn by Gaetz’s commission and approved by the Florida Legislature in 2012

Lewis’ order was the first to address the state’s congressional map under the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts constitutional amendments, approved by voters in 2010.  Her ruling specifically took aim at the districts represented by Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown and Republican Congressman Daniel Webster. Brown’s district, which winds its way from Jacksonville to Orlando, had been criticized as one of the worst examples of gerrymandering in the nation.

Gaetz wasn’t surprised about the lawsuit when Inweekly interviewed him a week before the ruling.

“As we went around the state with 26 public hearings before we started developing redistricting scenarios, we were told by people who came to the hearings and testified that no matter what we did and no matter how the lines were drawn that we were going to get sued,” Gaetz said. “There were people who came and said we really don’t care what you do we’re going to sue you. They turned out to be right.”

He said, “Those who can’t win at the ballot box will always try to win in the courts.”

On Tuesday, July 15, Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford shocked those who thought the Legislature would appeal Judge Lewis’s ruling. Weatherford and Gaetz said lawmakers will redraw the districts but want the changes to take effect with the 2016 elections, not the upcoming 2014 elections.

Wedgewood Hires Attorney They will not be ignored. Wedgewood residents have complained to the state and county about the construction debris pits that surround their neighborhood. Now they have agreed to legal representation.

The residents of Wedgewood, Rolling Hills and Olive Heights met at the Marie Young Community Center on Sunday afternoon and agreed to have retired Circuit Judge Ken Williams to represent them.

According to Gloria Horning who attended the meeting, the neighborhood groups will seek an injunction against Rolling Hills C&D to halt any dumping.

“The dump site rises out of the ground nearly three stories high sits in the middle of an historical African-American community,” Dr. Horning said.  “The stench from the site is very prominent throughout the community especially at the community center that is a hub of activities for children of all ages. The water in the community has tested positive for arsenic and lead, raising health concerns for the long time residents.”

Judge Williams spoke with the residents and fielded questions ranging from how they may receive immediate relief to how long they could expect the court battle to last. The residents were asked to gather their health records.

The overall tone was for the residents stay united for the long battle, according to Horning.

Morgan Inducted A friend of the newspaper and one of the state’s top investigator reporters, Lucy Morgan, was recently inducted into the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame.

Morgan, who is retired, won a Pulitzer in 1985 with colleague Jack Reed for revealing corruption in the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, resulting in the sheriff’s resignation. In 1973, she was sentenced to eight months in jail for refusing to reveal an anonymous source. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction and her case established a limited right for journalists to protect the names of sources.

Her investigation into the Florida’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) was the basis of this newspaper’s report on the city of Pensacola’s pension funds (Inweekly, “Feed the Beast,” April 24, 2008). Morgan was a frequent guest on “IN Your Head Radio.”