elginjones3web.gifHISTORIC PRESIDENT
Barack Obama set records and made history on his way to becoming the 44th president of the United States in 2008. This week, he signed into law an overhaul of the nation’s health care system. In doing so, Obama joined the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson as presidents who, in the face of steep opposition and countless odds, spearheaded landmark social legislation, and ushered it into law. President Theodore Roosevelt was the first to advocate universal health care in 1906, and later included it in his platform as an unsuccessful third-party candidate in the 1912 presidential election. Since that time, there have been numerous presidents who launched unsuccessful attempts at reforming the nation’s health care system. Most, including the 42nd president, William “Bill” Clinton, failed. Lobbyists spent an estimated $600 million trying to derail the legislation, but President Obama prevailed. The stunning accomplishment emerged even though not a single Republican member of Congress supported the measure, and they may end up on the wrong side of history.

On Tuesday, March 23rd, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum joined 13 other state attorneys general in filing lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of landmark health care reforms that President Barack Obama signed into law the day before. The attorneys general contend it is unconstitutional to mandate that people must obtain health care. Like other Republicans around the nation, McCollum opposed this health care legislation. As a former union official, I, too have concerns about some aspects of the new law. But overall, I would say that it helps untold millions of people. Instead of wasting energy trying to block the legislation, Republicans should have been genuinely engaged in improving it. Instead, they joined fringe groups and political despots in their attempt to distort the facts, and derail any reforms. These organizations also engaged in brutal insults, despicable conduct, and not a single Republican, party chairman Michael Steele included, has stood up to repudiate these activities. McCollum says it is not political, and we can only take him at his word. Even so, his position appears to be a stunt, and perhaps even a moral mistake, designed to put him into the national spotlight. Fair or not, he is now viewed as aligning himself with these fringe elements. 

While the nation and much of the world were focused on the historic signing of health care reforms into law on Tuesday, March 23rd, another major initiative took place. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid completed a major jobs incentives bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law. House Resolution 2847 grants employers who hire people who have been unemployed for at least 60 days an exemption from Social Security payroll taxes through December. Companies will also get a $1,000 tax credit on their 2011 tax return for every new worker hired and retained for at least 52 weeks. Good.

Broward County

If you don’t know Gregory Salters and John Rhames, you should. The FBI has been training command-level law enforcement officers since 1935. On March 19th, the 240th class graduated from the coveted and elite FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. Salters, a major with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, and Rhames, an assistant chief with the Lauderhill Police Department, became just the ninth and tenth blacks in Broward County to ever complete the training. Following Chief Frank Adderley, Salters is only the second black officer with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department to graduate from the academy. In Lauderhill, Rhames is also only the second black from that department to graduate from the course.

The late city of Pompano Beach Mayor E. Pat Larkins died of brain cancer in February 2009. He was the city’s first black mayor. A post office at 2351 West Atlantic Blvd. in Pompano Beach was renamed in his honor on March 20th. U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings filed and sponsored legislation in Congress that led to the honor.  Larkins is credited with spearheading infrastructure improvements and development in the northwest Pompano Beach district where he lived.

Burgess Hanson is the acting city manager of Deerfield Beach, and while he did inherit a mess of a workplace, he must still manage, as opposed to “acting” like a manager. He has not seen fit to address alleged abuses by senior managers. There are several sexual harassment cases targeting managers, but absolutely no action has been taken against a single one, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, including witnesses. At the same time, Hanson has fired several workers, including some who are witnesses in cases pending against the very manager who recommended their terminations. Thankfully, members of the city’s civil service board overturned those ill-advised decisions.
Miami-Dade County

Daniel Gonzalez Oropeza, 45, of Miami is being held without bail on a second-degree murder charge. Police say Oropeza stabbed his roommate to death on March 22nd during a dispute. Exact details have not been released, but the incident occurred at an apartment the two shared in the 400 block of Northwest 12th Avenue.

Jackson Health System CEO Eneida Roldan has notified officials with the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation that the publicly funded medical services organization is laying off 548 employees, effective May 6th. As many as 4,500 workers could be laid off, but a deal reached with the labor union will keep that from happening, at least until Oct. 1st. Jackson operates several hospitals and clinics in Miami-Dade County, and is facing a $230 million deficit this year.

Corey Poitier, a Republican candidate running for the U.S. District 17 congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, called President Barack Obama “Buckwheat.”  Buckwheat is the negatively stereotyped, ignorant and fumbling black child character in the “Our Gang” TV shows and movies. Poitier’s slur came during a  March 22nd meeting of the Broward Republican Executive Committee, where Poitier criticized the president’s health care reform legislation. The overwhelmingly white audience cheered him on, and went into a roar. I won’t insult Poitier, but he is an embarrassment.