Some of the Jill Wine-Banks Addressed at the Special Luncheon Presentation

OJill_at_Podium_1.jpeg  Over 200 guests were present to hear Jill Wine-Banks talk about the corruption in the Trump Administration, the Mueller Report, or what our speaker calls "Trumpgate."  President Ken Marsh kicked off the luncheon by mentioning that Jill Wine-Banks would conclude this year's annual speaker series titled "Threats to our Democracy."  Next year's theme will be "The Politics of Science Denial."  Board member Bob Gary introduced Jill Wine-Banks who witnessed first hand the abuses to our freedoms of the Nixon White House that led to his impeachment.  She was a major player in the Watergate tapes hearing, cross-examining Rose Mary Woods, President Nixon’s secretary, about the 18½ minute gap in a key White House recording.  Her experiences and wisdom are as valuable today as they were in the 1970’s.  Bob informed us that Jill is writing her memoir, which may be turned into a film.  In addition to her key role in the Watergate investigation, Jill Wine-Banks is a respected legal analyst for MSNBC and former Executive Director of the American Bar Association.  

Why All the Lies and Attempts to Cover Up?

Jill Wine-Banks started out to applause by telling us that the House is going to subpoena the Mueller Report, which the public had not seen.  We do not even have an adequate summary of the investigation at the time of her presentation.  There was definitely intrusion into our elections by Russia. There are plenty of additional investigations ahead.  Lots of questions will need to be addressed and probably more indictments.  One of the overwhelming questions, "Why all the Lies."  Our speaker asked, "If nothing happened, why the lies?"  With regards to the Barr's 4 page summary that was released on March 24,  “How could Barr make the decision so quickly? It makes no sense. We need facts. Barr misled us in his four-page memo. He must know that eventually the truth will be coming out and he’s going to look like a fool.”  

Should There Be an Impeachment?

During the Nixon investigation impeachment resulted from high crimes and misdemeanors.  Anything that threatens our national security is an impeachment offense.  We know that Russia interfered into our elections.  The Barr summary concludes there was no collusion.  Even if Mueller concluded that there is no proof of conspiracy or criminal events, the exact extent of Trump's involvement is unknown.  Barr only had three weeks to reach his conclusion of a two-year investigation.  Mueller wants Congress to make the judgement about further action.  Jill Wine-Banks did not think that Congress should begin the impeachment process, but continue the fact-finding hearings to see whether impeachment should be pursued.  The issues that led to President Nixon's impeachment are very similar to those that President Trump has been accused of.

What Do We know that Establishes Obstruction and Collaboration? 

Although the report may not conclude that the President is guilty of conspiracy, it also does not exonerate him.  The Barr summary should not be taken as the final conclusion of either obstruction or conspiracy.  Barr did not have enough time to reach these conclusions.   Barr is being deliberately misleading in his four page summary, Jill Wine-Banks told us.  There are facts that should result in a finding of obstruction.  These include the firing of Sally Yates, the protection of Michael Flynn, and the firing of James Comey.  His threats to fire Mueller and his attacks on the media are acts of trying to obstruct justice.  There is lots of evidence that obstruction occurred.  The Don, Jr. meeting and the false statements of what that meeting was about are strong indications of collaboration with the Russians.  There is lots of evidence that there was some cooperation with Russia.  Mueller did not find criminal acts, but that sets the standard too low.  

What are Some of the Remaining Questions?  Will the Report be Redacted to meaninglessness?

We still need further investigation after the report.  We still need interviews with those involved the Russia interactions and the obstruction events.  We need public hearings that will bring all the facts forward and that will hopefully stimulate Republicans to take action.  The President should be held accountable for his actions, even if they technically did not break the law.  

What Can the Public Do?

We need to get out the vote and work to find a candidate that can defeat Trump.

 

 

 

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Norma Schatz April Democratic Letter

To Plymouth Harbor Residents...and others who care                                                         April, 2019

If you have a phone or a computer, now is the time to let your legislators hear from you if you are troubled by any of the proposals being considered IN THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE.

Did you vote for Amendment 4 in the last election – to return to ex-felons (with certain exceptions) the right to vote after completing their prison terms? The Republican-controlled legislature is now sabotaging that popular amendment by adding requirements to “completion” such as any fees, court costs, restitution (Money-lender lobbyists support these add-ons and Rs would like less D voters).

Florida has four scholarship programs that provide for more than 140,000 students to attend private and religious schools, funded by tax credits at a cost to the state.  Now the proposed Family Empowerment Scholarship would use general revenue funds directly to add 15,000 students in the first year, eligibility based on income for a family of four ($68k Senate bill, $69k DeSantis, $98k House bill) – no longer based on poverty. In addition to the question of using public funds for private and faith-based education, other objections include that not all private schools meet the same school building codes, that private and religious schools do not have the same teacher certification, student assessment or curriculum requirements.

The sex and science censors ride again. The Florida Citizens Alliance is again trying to tell the schools what novels and text books they can use. The latest effort is House Bill 855 / Senate Bill 1454. Last year the Florida legislature passed a bill that allowed any resident, not just parents, to object to teaching materials. Now, according to The Tampa Bay Times the groups wants to ban nearly 100 books including “Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange and Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes to textbooks, including Harcourt Publishing’s Modern World History 9th Grade and Pearson’s Essentials of Oceanography” and further interfere with professional educators' decisions.

Again bills arming classroom teachers are moving toward a vote.

Instead of supporting access to contraception and comprehensive sex education, we have bill HB235 on Abortion. It makes performing an abortion a third degree felony when fetal heartbeat is detected and redefines a fetus as an unborn human being from fertilization; also cuts funds to organizations that operate clinics that perform abortions; exception would be clinics that only perform abortions on fetuses that are conceived through rape or incest or are medically necessary to save the life of the mother. HB 1335 requires a minor's parental consent for abortion although there is already allowance for a judge's approval. Unnecessary at best, dangerous at worst; most girls have the support of one or both parents, but too many are thrown out of their homes, punished severely or forced to carry to term. Too young to make a decision but not too young to be a parent?

HB 49 and SB 322 would protect girls and women in the juvenile and criminal justice systems from having male employees pat them down, perform a strip search, enter a housing unit without announcing themselves or view them in a state of undress and would also require that incarcerated females have access to feminine hygiene products and soap that is not lye based. 

If you want them to reject all methods of fracking, want investment in cleaning up our waters want your opinion heard on any other issue, call or write Governor DeSantis (850/717-9337 or email www.email-the-governor/) or our Florida legislators: Sen. Joe Gruters (850/487-5024 or 941/378-6049 or email http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s23 and Rep. Will Robinson (850/717-5071 or 941/708-4968).  For any Florida Rep:http://www.myflorida.com).  Last day of the regular session of the Florida legislature is May 3

 

 

Things are moving slowly in Congress but you can call Sen. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio to support making the Mueller Report public and urge the Senate to hold public hearings on the For the People Act (H.R.1  that was passed in the House of Representatives). Among other important reforms in the bill, it would strengthen our public financing system for campaigns to give more power to small-dollar donors, make campaign contributions more transparent, and make it easier for more Americans to cast a ballot.

Apr 2 – Sarasota Stands Together, 6-7:30, Selby Library. Speaker on Why Washington is Ignoring Climate Change. Apr 13 - Sarasota Dem Club lunch, 11:30, Carlisle Inn. Speaker: new CEO of local Planned Parenthood.  Call 941/379-9233 or reserve at www.reserve@SarasotaDems.com 

 

Want off this list? Comments or suggestions? 
Norma Schatz ...T 1501...x360.

 

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Mike Himowitz Presented on Threats to a Free Press

Former News Editor Mike Himowitz Spoke on Threats to our Free Press at the LBKDC March 12 Luncheon

 

Board Member Lucie Lapovsky introduced Mike Himowitz, who spent 34 years at the Baltimore Sun papers as state news editor, Washington correspondent, Baltimore County Bureau Chief,

Science, Medical and Technology editor and other positions.

Mike_Himowitz.jpgMike spoke to us on the topic of Roosevelt, Trump, Craigslist and the Media in Peril.  How do I dare mention Donald Trump and FDR in the same breath?” he asked.  Both understood the importance of new technology.  Roosevelt’s fireside chats were used to promote a radical agenda, The New Deal.  He spoke directly to the American people using radio.  Trump bypasses the traditional media and speaks directly to the American people by using Twitter.  Trump’s Twitter account has, according to CNN over 50 million followers.  Sadly, the traditional media feels obliged to repeat Trump’s Twitter rants regardless of how trivial some of them may be.  As the press criticizes Trump, it feeds on his paranoia.

“My sole credential is that I lived through the drastic changes that have transformed the media over the past few decades.  There have been many sad trends in news reporting. The market penetration of print media is much lower today than it was years ago.   “This has not been a good decade for reporters,” he told us.  There have been huge layoffs of reporters, and today’s reporters cannot get rich on a median salary that, as of 2017, is lower than school teachers who are underpaid.   When I began, the newspaper industry's profit margin was 40%, today it is 10%.   Market penetration of the print media has dropped drastically.  Large numbers of newspaper reporters have been laid off since 2007.  These sorry trends have occurred across our country.  From my own standpoint, he said, despite all of these stressors, I loved journalism because I got paid to satisfy my curiosity.

The Sun, like many other papers, was clueless with regards to the Internet. The internet, which has nurtured propaganda vehicles, has in many ways replaced the traditional news media.  We can now pick our news sources in the Cloud to support our biases.  Internet news has become an echo chamber host for propaganda machines, Fox News for Republicans and MSNBC for Democrats.  Millennials get much of their news from Facebook where there are no checks on accuracy.  Cable caused young people to begin to abandon print media in the 1980s.  Many print media sources have closed since the beginning of 2000.  The New York Daily News has laid off over half of its staff.  Companies that own both internet news sources and print news have sold off their print news.

In the old model, stories were written by experienced reporters and checked for accuracy by editors.  News reporting was separated from opinion columns.  This separation has increasingly been blurred and all but disappeared on the internet.  There is no way to totally eliminate bias from news reporting, but editors did their best to separate fact from opinion.  The free access to large volumes of shared information on the internet has nurtured malicious actors and fake news sites.  Today, anyone with a web address can become a publisher.  All of this has coarsened the quality of discussion and led to greatly heightened polarity in our political environment. And, it is easier for foreign countries to interfere in our politics.

Internet advertising services such as Craigslist, founded in 1996 by Craig Newmark, and eBay have also had a major negative impact on print media by replacing a primary source of revenue: classified ads.  Craiglist has 68 million users in the U.S.  Craigslist is free to most users.   

So, what’s left?  The largest print media newspapers are the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and New York Times.  Even these traditional news sources have cut their staffs and their profit margins are suffering. 

All this has made it more difficult for citizens to understand the reality of current politics and to evaluate the real performance of those that are elected to office.  The most disheartening aspect of all of this, Himowitz told us, is the dissolution of the boundary between news and opinion.  Even traditional newspapers, such as the Washington Post, have blurred the line between the two.   Although the traditional print media has faced its challenges for many decades, nothing compares with the drastic changes that have occurred over the past few decades, and especially the last decade.

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Organizing Corps 2020

Organizing Corps 2020 Program Overview:

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Thank you for supporting the Florida Democratic Party’s Organizing Corps 2020 and our efforts to build the talent and infrastructure needed to win in 2020. Together we’re investing in the next generation of local and diverse staff for the 2020 general election and beyond.

  • CORE PROGRAM: The DNC, the Florida Democratic Party and 6 other state Democratic parties, in partnership with 270 Strategies and The Collective PAC, have launched Organizing Corps 2020 —a new program, starting in 2019, focused on recruiting, paying, and training young people, especially people of color, to work on the 2020 presidential cycle!
  • APPLICATIONS: We are accepting applications on a rolling basis through April 8, and students can apply at www.organizingcorps2020.com
  • KEY DATES: June 10-August 2, and the program includes: a five-day national training kick-off followed by Corps members working with their local Democratic party to turn their training into on-the-ground learning through voter engagement.
  • PAY: Corps members can earn $4,000 while gaining valuable career skills in leadership, project management, and communication.
  • GOALS: Train 1,000 Corps members over the next year to join the team of the eventual Democratic presidential nominee and help elect Democrats up and down the ticket in 2020. Our first wave of the program targets college juniors this summer. We plan on running the second wave of this program for non-college students next year.




How You Can Help:

 

Below are the key things you can do to help us recruit corps members.

 

  • SHARE OUR FLYER to local colleges and youth groups.
    • Sample language: We are excited about Organizing Corps 2020, a program to recruit and train students and place them as field organizers in the key states needed to win in 2020!
    • Printable bulletin board flyer:

      Click to Download: Bulletin Board Flyer
  • AMPLIFY us on social media using @orgcorps2020 on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram
    • Sample Twitter content: If we want to beat Trump in 2020, we’ve got to build the infrastructure now to win — apply to @fladems @orgcorps2020! They will train and pay the next generation of organizers. Apply and RT so your friends will too! www.organizingcorps2020.com #oc2020 #democrats
    • Sample Facebook content: Calling all Florida college juniors: Do you want to help Democrats take back the White House in 2020? Apply for Organizing Corps 2020, our new program that recruits, trains, and pays young organizers. Learn more here: www.organizingcorps2020.com  
    • See all of the sample social media content at the top of this page.
  • RECRUIT other amplifiers to help spread the word and make sure as many people as possible know about this opportunity and apply here: www.organizingcorps2020.com
  • RECOMMEND students who have already applied by emailing  apply@organizingcorps2020.com

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Foreign policy expert, Gary Massel, presents at our February 12 luncheon

Gary_Massel_2.pngOur large attendance at the February 12 LBKDC luncheon enjoyed a timely and stimulating presentation on the Rise of Populism by Gary Massel.   Board member Robert Gary introduced Massel, who has a Ph.D in Physics, and held various high level positions in the federal government Departments of Health and Human Services and Defense before a successful career in private industry.   In the early 1970s he was a member of the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) support staff. He currently teaches foreign policy at the LBK Education Center.

Gary Massel started by describing a “Populist” as a political leader who sees society in a simple way, divided into two opposing groups - the common people, and the corrupt “liberal elite”. The Populist leader claims to represent the will of the people.  Massel told us that the rise of populism poses a threat to the world order that has existed since World War II and has produced significant gains in economic growth, reductions in global poverty, and peace between the major powers. 

So, what are the principal drivers of the growth of populism and how does the current U.S. administration compare with other populist governments?

There are two types of democracy, liberal and illiberal.  In a liberal democracy citizens choose their government and that government guarantees the protection of individual rights as is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.  In an illiberal democracy citizens choose their government, but that government does not then support the institutions and personal freedoms that ensure the government remains responsive to the people. 

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Important Gun Bills in Florida Legislature

 

State Gun Control

The 2019 session of the Florida Legislature starts today. Continue to call your representatives and ask them to support HR135, the state background check bill.

Nation Gun Control
Last week was huge for gun violence prevention, with the House passing both the Background Check Bill (HR8) and the Charleston Loophole Bill (HR1112). Rep. Vern Buchanan did not vote in favor of the latter, but we continue to encourage you to thank him for being one of eight Republicans who crossed the aisle and voted in favor of HR8. His contact numbers are (941) 951-6643 in Sarasota, (941) 747-9081 in Bradenton and (202) 225-5015 in Washington. Rep. Greg Steube voted “no” on both bills, so if you’d like to tell him you disapprove, his numbers are (941) 575-9101 in Punta Gorda and (202) 225-5792 in Washington.
 
Now, on to the Senate, where you are encouraged to call three people and tell them you back S42, the Senate version of the background check bill: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said he will not bring the bills to the floor; and our two Florida senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. Remind them that there have been far too many mass shootings, single homicides, accidental shootings and suicides in this country and background checks are bound to stop some of them. While you’re at it, thank Sen. Rubio for filing a bill for national ERPOs (extreme risk prevention orders) on the national level. And tell McConnell that 97 percent of Americans support background checks and he owes it to all of us to let the bill be heard.
McConnell’s DC office: (202) 224-2541 (you can also contact him by going to www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=contact.
Rubio’s DC office: (202) 224-304. His Tampa office: (813) 853-1099.
Scott’s DC Office: (202) 224-5274. His Tallahassee office: (850) 942-8415
 

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Futurist David Houle Presented a Vision for the Democratic Party at our January 8 Luncheon

David_Houle_3.pngBoard member Robert Gary introduced David Houle, by quoting Spanish educator Miguel de Unamuno who said, “We should try to be the parents of our future rather than the offspring of our past.” Known as The CEO’s Futurist, our speaker has spoken to or advised 4,000+ CEOs and business owners in the past eleven years, and has published several books including Entering the Shift Age and The New Health Age.

Given our unease with the Trump Administration, our uncertainty as to who should lead our party going into the 2020 election, and the issues that we should emphasize, Houle’s presentation, “A Look at the Future of the Democratic Party Through the 2020 Election and Beyond” was eagerly anticipated by an overflow crowd.

“I am a Democrat, I grew up in Chicago with a love of politics and early-on was smitten with John F. Kennedy.”   Houle became a futurist in 2007 after a successful 20-year career in the media and entertainment, working at NBC, CBS,  MTV, Nickelodeon, and CNN Headline News.

He predicted that the Democratic Party on a national level is set-up to be dominant through 2028 provided that we do not become preoccupied with the past including the 2018 elections. The Republican Party is focused on the past and obstructionism.  Democrats must convince the public that their leaders can deal with enormous challenges that lay ahead.

Forecasting who our Presidential candidate will be at this point is a “fools errand”.  Who would have predicted, for example, well before the 2008 convention, that Senator Barack Obama, a black man, with little experience, and with a Muslim name, would be the 2008 candidate for the Democrats?

The Democratic Party should stay away from attacking Donald Trump, which Houle referred to as “small ball.”  He quoted Wayne Gretzky who, when asked why he was the greatest hockey player in history answered: “I skate to where the puck is going to be.”

We need to rethink what it means to be Progressive. Democrats should focus on the issues that will be critical in 2020, 2022 and 2024.  To do this we must be analytical, disciplined and prepared to take risks.   For example, despite our preoccupation with a growing aging population, the youth vote is critical.  By 2020 millennials will be a large part of the electorate, and thus demographics favor the Democrats if we can get the youth vote to the polls.  Houle told us that the 18-34 age-group voter turnout was very high in those states where marijuana legalization was on the ballot.

Our global economy is fragile and will continue to be so going into the next election and beyond. There is $270 trillion in debt in the global economy, which is larger than it was in 2008, before the last major recession.  The voting public is and will continue to be very sensitive to economic issues.  Voters will be looking for a candidate who they trust to turn around a recession, should one occur.   

The Democratic Party does not have a clear position on immigration, a huge challenge worldwide.  A position based on “We are a nation of immigrants” is not sufficient.  By 2025 immigration will be much greater than it is today, stimulated by world climate problems, population growth and conflicts between nations.  Houle asked, “How would we deal with five to ten million climate change refugees?”  Climate change refugees from Syria have already flocked into North America and Europe. As the numbers of immigrants grow, will we continue to be a nation open to immigrants?  We must have immigration laws that reflect this future reality.  The development of these laws will not be easy and voters are likely to be very divided on the solutions.

So, which of our candidates is prepared to deal with the global economy, geopolitical challenges, health care, climate change and  the myriad of problems facing our nation and the world over the next decade?  Who is prepared to take on the international "bad dudes" such as exist in China, Iran, North Korea and Russia?  Democrats should be the party to begin the discussion of 21st century thought. The Republicans are not prepared to do this.

Going forward, the Democrats must be The Vision Party.

Information about Futurist David Houle

Website: https://davidhoule.com/

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Political Reality in February, 2019 as Seen By Norma Schatz

To Plymouth Harbor Democrats...and others who care February, 2019

The fossil fuel giants will have their way with this administration – and threaten our beaches. From US News 1/15/19: Things are happening at the federal level that impact oil drilling and, potentially, Florida. In November, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued "incidental harassment authorizations" that will allow five companies to use seismic airguns to explore potential oil and gas fields off the Atlantic coast from Delaware to Cape Canaveral in central Florida. (The “incidental harassment” is to sea life.) Attorneys General from 10 states (but not Florida) and several conservation groups are suing the fisheries service and its boss, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in an effort to impede the seismic survey process... Meanwhile, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is about to grant drilling permits, authorizing action after the seismic surveys locate fertile fields. Also, if Congress does nothing to extend the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, a moratorium on oil drilling and exploration, it will expire in 2022. Environmentalists say the subsequent legal vacuum would invite drilling in the eastern Gulf, close to Florida's west coast. Taking us further backward, Trump proposes allowing construction of new coal plants without any meaningful pollution safeguards.

And the swamp gets swampier. The nominee for head of EPA Andrew Wheeler, former coal lobbyist, acknowledged he hasn’t even read the full report written by experts at his own agency on climate change – and plans to pursue deregulation of dangerous mercury emissions and relax fuel emissions standards. Scott Hutchins, nominated as chief scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be the third member of Dow AgroSciences’ pesticide and seed division to hold a high-level position in the administration’s USDA. Lobbyists from Big Pharma now in Health and Human Services, Boeing execs in Defense, fossil fuel and water industry lobbyist at Interior; our U.N. Rep is a former Fox News person. Factoid: EPA criminal action against polluters hit a 30 year low in 2018 in the number of pollution cases it referred for criminal prosecution. Enforcement activities have also been curtailed at the Consumer Financial Protection Board, designed as a consumer watchdog agency. Are we moving more and more to a Government of and by the Corporations?                                                                                                Some good news: the U.S. House of Representatives will hold hearings on gun violence.

And in Florida – Gov. DeSantis wasted no time appointing three conservative judges to the highest state court (one not ever having been a judge but very conservative) and calling for a “Florida Deregathon”. One can only hope that what the Governor calls “hurting our businesses”, ”costly “ and stifling competition, some of the deregulation will not endanger the physical or financial health of the average Floridian when licensing requirements are relaxed. It's more than a month til the Florida legislature is in session for voting on bills. But committees are meeting, hearing and moving on proposals. In Education, requiring public schools to offer elective Bible courses and for the teaching of “controversial” science theories and concepts in a “factual, objective and balanced manner” (possibly challenging climate science and evolution). There has yet to be clarification as to whether the return of voting rights will be made difficult. Again religious and political rather than medical opinion are shaping women's reproductive rights and access to a legal medical procedure. Bills have been submitted to limit access to abortion to 20 weeks (federal law, now in jeopardy, is 24 weeks) and to 6 weeks (when a woman may not even know she is pregnant).

Some dates of interest: Feb 5 – 6 p.m. Selby Library; Dr. Dale Anderson on How Fascism Works; no charge. Feb 11 – 7 p.m. Dem Club of SRQ & Dem Environmental Caucus; Futurist David Houle on Climate Change; info & reservation: <www.sarasotadems.com>. Feb 12 – LBK lunch; info at <www.lbkdems.com>.. Feb 24 – Democratic Party King-Kennedy Dinner; info & reservation: <www.sarasotadems.org/event/kennedyking2019/>.

Your comments and suggestions welcomed here.

Norma Schatz...T-1501...x360...nrma520@yahoo.com

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LBKDC Receives an Award from The Sarasota Martin Luther King Celebration Committee

The Longboat Key Democratic Club Received An Appreciation Award At The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast

 

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On January 21, 2019 the Longboat Key Democratic Club was recognized at the 40th annual awards breakfast honoring the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Junior. The award was in recognition of our club's many years of dedication to the Newtown community in Sarasota. The award was presented by the Sarasota Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee. 

THE LONGBOAT KEY DEMOCRATIC CLUB has a longstanding partnership with the Newtown Community.  During this past election, many members of the Club canvassed in the area and began to develop personal friendships. When asked how we might strengthen our partnership, it was suggested that we organize a group to take a trolley ride and learn about the history of the area.  Friendships continued to deepened with a much greater understanding and admiration of the way contributions of residents of Newtown have made Sarasota what it is today. See Board Member Becky van der Bogert's has written a description of the tour here

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LBK Democratic Club Trolley Tour of Newtown by Becky van der Bogert

The_Trolley__3.jpgOur leader, Vicki Oldham, began the tour by informing us about the Newtown Conservation Historic District project that involved the writing of a report about the history of the area.  The first part of the tour took us through Overtown which was the first African American community in Sarasota.  This area is now known as The Rosemary District.  We learned that the community was developed because of the restrictions put on African Americans about visiting the stores in Sarasota and the “Sundown Laws” which kept anyone African American from most parts of Sarasota before sunrise or after sundown.   

We then disembarked from the trolley to offer libation to the grave of Reverend Lewis Colson, the first free African American to settle in Sarasota in 1884. He and his wife were credited with establishing the first African American Church where he served as their minister.   As we stood watching Vicki pour libation on his grave and hearing of his struggles and the obstacles he’d met, his courage and resilience were brought home to us.  We were no longer hearing stories in a textbook, but we were truly experiencing Newtown coming alive.

Boarding the trolley again I could feel a palpable sadness and need to reflect on what we’d experienced.  Just then one of our leaders, Troy, broke out in spiritual songs such as Jacob’s Ladder and Wade in the Water.  Our sadness was lifted as we became a joyous community. We were experiencing something together that was bigger than ourselves.

We then passed the first African American hotel constructed in 1925 to house visiting musicians and African American travelers who weren’t allowed to stay in other Sarasota hotels.  The hotel was appropriately named the Colson Hotel. 

As we approached Newtown we heard about the migration from Overtown that has become prime real estate for developers.  There are two opposing versions of why this migration happened.  One is that it was a “gentrification” project precipitated by some who feared having the black community so close to the town and the other is that there were many opportunities in Newtown such as the ability to own homes and a vision of a better life. With the entrepreneurial spirit, many African American businesses were founded and thrived in Newtown.

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