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Saturday August 2nd 2014

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Rant & Rave 10.14

LOVE THE IN Just a few words to tell you how much I enjoy your paper. I really enjoy the news briefs, Rick’s editorial, whatever lead story you have and, just like eating a dessert, I save my favorite part for last: News of the Weird.

I get my paper at Tastee Freez in Milton. Thank you for being prompt with your delivery every week. Sure enough on Thursday, there is the new paper. This week I was surprised and impressed that your paper had a theatre story. I love live theatre! I think more people would go if they knew more about plays and where they are playing and what they are about. I love movies too, but a live show is nothing but fun.

The Loblolly is a fine place and cozy. Your writer did an excellent job with the story about the Loblolly. I haven’t been to Theatre West, but now I want to see a show there. Your writer made it sound like a good time. Any more theatre stories you can keep coming?

Any possibility you could do some reviews on shows like the Weekender does? It is fantastic to have someone who knows theatre to go watch the show first and then write about it. Love your paper! Thank you for the ear.

—Emily Reynolds, Milton
FISHING FOR FOREIGNERS Anecdotal evidence suggests that Hispanics are being stopped disproportionately more often than their non-Hispanic counterparts in Georgia’s Gwinnett County. But you’d never know that empirically, thanks to the virtually nonexistent record keeping practices of the Gwinnett County Detention Center.

Many of these stops are upheld in courts because they violate traffic laws. However, voluminous personal accounts from those in the Latino community infer these stops are pre-textual immigration checks. In other words the police, incentivized by the 287(g) participation in their county (a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that authorizes state and local law enforcement agencies to act as immigration enforcers), routinely racially profile Latino drivers to justify traffic stops resulting in “license checks” to determine immigration status.

One would imagine that in this day and age, racial profiling is a thing of the past, and the motivation by police to stop a driver is based on legitimate safety concerns.  However, with the debate over illegal immigration heated, the political gain proves to be too rich for local officials. There is little disagreement that immigration enforcement in this country has become an abject failure. However, instead of embracing pragmatic solutions to what has become an invaluable part of the economy, taking the hard line comes a little late. This tardiness has manifested itself into the simple mentality of “Where are your papers?”

What’s more, the practice is legal. In 1996, the Supreme Court found that any traffic offense committed by a driver was a legal basis for a stop despite the subjective intentions of the police officer. Essentially, as long as the police officer can back up a pre-textual stop as one relating to a traffic offense, the stop itself is legal and not in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure clause. An officer, for example, can take the stand and testify that they pulled someone over because they were Hispanic, so long as they also didn’t stay perfectly within their lane on the highway. This case set the stage for minor traffic violations to turn into fishing expeditions by police with ulterior motives.

Racial profiling is racism. It breeds distrust in the legal system and prevents people from reporting crimes. Sacrificing the integrity of privacy rights and trampling the Costitution to ensure that a few more illegal aliens are deported next week is a travesty upon the U.S. justice system.

—Jeremiah Jarmin, Atlanta, Ga.
PRO AMENDMENTS 5 AND 6 Voters should choose politicians, not the other way around. On Nov. 2, Florida voters have an opportunity to reclaim their right as citizens to select their own government officials…instead of government officials selecting them.

Proposed Amendments 5 and 6 are designed to reduce gerrymandering. Politicians use gerrymandering to distribute voters into districting pockets that are more likely to get them reelected. The resulting districts are often oddly shaped and designed to favor incumbents and political parties.

It’s easy for politicians to do that, because they’re in charge of redistricting. Every 10 years, after the U.S. Census, Florida’s legislature redraws voting districts according to population changes.

But there are no hard and fast standards for how those districts should be shaped.  Because we have no rules for redistricting in the Florida Constitution, politicians end up manipulating it to protect themselves. In effect, politicians are choosing their voters, instead of the other way around.

The League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area, along with Movement for Change, NAACP Florida, League of Women Voters of Florida, AARP Florida, Florida’s Legislative Black Caucus, Florida Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, Florida League of Cities, Florida Association of Counties, Democracia Ahora, and ACLU of Florida are part of a Fair Districts Florida coalition to encourage voters to vote “YES” on Amendments 5 and 6.

Amendments 5 and 6 would set boundary redrawing standards for Florida’s legislative districts and the U.S. Congress. The two ballot amendments were approved via citizen initiatives in which more than 680,000 petitions were verified.

The proposed standards include:

—Districts shall not be drawn to favor an incumbent or political party;

—Districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice;

—Districts must be contiguous: as equal in population as feasible;

—Districts are to follow city, county and geographical boundaries when feasible.

Those standards will, for the first time, provide citizens with concrete, legally definable guidelines with which to challenge future gerrymandering attempts. Politicians don’t like that because it’ll make the usual political wheeling and dealing they use to cling to power just that much harder.

Please don’t forget to vote “YES” on Amendments 5 and 6 on Nov. 2, and give the power to choose elected officials back to voters, where it belongs.

—Deborah Nelson, president, League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area