Ilene Lieberman, after months of no-shows and call-ins to Broward County Commission meetings, has finally returned to public service. She's on the dais now -- after fellow Commissioner Chip LaMarca made it an issue last week and more heat came from the media.
UPDATED 10:58 AM: Almost an hour in and Lieberman has spoken only one word, no, in regards to pulling any agenda items for discussion. More coming on this, including better photo.
UPDATED 11:19 AM: Commissioner Stacy Ritter just recused herself from the debate and vote on the county's settlement with her arch-enemy, Brenda Chalifour. The county is set to pay Chalifour $20,000 to settle her lawsuit after her wrongful arrest at a county meeting in 2007.
"Because I'm trying to be a good girl today, I will try to refrain from commenting," said Ritter.
It passed unanimously with Ritter abstaining.
-- There was at least one voice of dissent during Rick Scott's unveiling of his state budget plan before a crowd of right-wing Tea Party zealots in a church in Eustis. From the Orlando Sentinel:
When the governor complained that Medicaid was killing state budgets all over the country, one man yelled out, "It lined your pocket though, didn't it?"
The heckler was roundly booed. The crowd sided with Scott's insistence that he had nothing to do with the Medicare fraud case against Columbia/HCA, the giant hospital chain he put together. That fraud investigation led to his ouster as CEO in 1997 and ultimately resulted in $2 billion in fines against the company, though Scott was never charged with wrongdoing.
The Tea Party people have a knack for looking the other way at Scott's shady past. If they are all about fighting corruption, as one commenter claimed yesterday, why do they forgive the massive fraud committed by Scott's company?
Yesterday the Tea Partiers cheered Scott's budget proposal to drastically cut education for the state's children, health care to the catastrophically sick, and the jobs of thousands of state workers, among other things.
The Orlando paper quoted an attendee at the event, Evelyn Logas, as saying, "I don't need the government. I can take care of myself. I want government out of my life."
Wow, that's quite a line. I called Logas, a Tea Party activist, this morning to chat. Inside, see what she said. Hint: She needs government.
Logas, 81, told me she worked much of her adult life as a... government-paid social worker in health care. As for her claim that she doesn't need government, she is now living on social security and limited savings and admits that without Medicare, she couldn't afford any kind of substantial medical care.
She worked for a time at the now-defunct Florida Crippled Children's Association, which was funded by the state of Florida.
"It was an agency that took care of those that needed help," she said. "Children that had polio and things like that. The state had this agency that took care of them. It was a great agency. It was state-funded."
I told her that part of Scott's budget slashing would come at the expense of people who are catastrophically ill. "Oh, that's not true," she said. "He didn't say that yesterday. That's just the media reporting it to make him look bad."
Logas says she also saw waste in the system, which prompted her to leave that agency. At one point, she went to Greece, where both her parents immigrated from before she was born. "It was wonderful," she said. "I was born for European living. Their life is very simple, uncomplicated. They work hard, but they know how to play too."
I told her that was surprising, since the Tea Party seems to have all kinds of disdain for Europe, especially its health-care system. She backtracked a bit on the greatness of Europe at that point, saying that people from Greece don't go to the hospitals there because they are "afraid they are going to die."
"They come to America for health care," she claimed.
Both of Logas' parents are immigrants, but she says she's getting sick of the way ethnic groups are dividing the country.
"Our religion is Greek Orthodox, all those people that came from Europe from all the countries came over here and assimilated and embraced the American way of life," she said. "That's what made America great. Now they have divided us. Now it's Italians and it's black Africans and it's the Latinos, and it's terrible. We are Americans. You know, the ACLU, all this crap and all this baloney."
Logas said she became dead-set against government handouts while working for Orange County Department of Social Services.
"I remember when I was working for the county, there was a woman, black, and she had six children and was living on welfare, on social security," Logas said. "Her husband who would come in and impregnate her got killed, and now all her little kids are living on social security. I knew things had to change."
She said that despite the fact that she lives off of social security and some savings now, she wants to end the social program. She also backed George W. Bush's plan to "privatize" social security by tying it to the stock market. And she says that though she now relies on Medicare, she wants to do away with that too.
"Why do we need Medicare and insurance to get in the way between patients and doctors?" she asked rhetorically. "Let people pay their own way, and let agencies step in when they can't. That's the way it used to be done."
Logas said she wants to end the Department of Education and get the federal government out of public schools altogether. Only local and state governments should fund public schools, she said. When I noted that Rick Scott was slashing $4.8 billion from the education, she balked. "He said there would be no more cuts in education," she said.
Here's the thing: Logas cares, there's no doubt about that. She's involved in the public debate, and for that, she should be commended. But she's misinformed on serious issues, and she hasn't a clue as to how to fix the problems facing the state. Logas' own solutions -- ending social security and Medicare -- would make it impossible for her to afford hospital bills and likely force her into near-poverty. Welcome to the Tea Party; drink at your own risk.
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