Handful of protesters rallies for recall bill in St. Pete listen04/18/11 Kate Bradshaw
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As tea partiers rallied Friday in Tampa to protest Tax Day, a small cluster of protesters gathered across the bay to champion a bill in the state legislature that would give citizens the right to recall state elected officials. The turnout didn’t faze the event’s organizer, who said he hopes the event would spark a meaningful discussion of government accountability.
There was no corporate sponsor. There were no hand-scrawled placards grossly mischaracterizing historical figures. Not one slick politician was flown in to perform an encore of his or her glib campaign catch phrases. Instead, beneath the shady trees at Downtown St. Pete’s Williams Park, activist Kofi Hunt was hoping to bend your ear on an idea he says is non-partisan. State Representative Rick Kriseman, a St. Petersburg Democrat, has introduced legislation that would put a question on the ballot that would ask vote voters if they’d like the right to recall. Hunt said it’s not exactly a reaction to Rick Scott.
"What it will do? One of the beautiful things about it is that it will put it up for the vote in 2012. It will be voted to see if it will be an amendment. It would have to receive 60 percent of the vote to be able to go through. Then if it went through, then we could do it. And if it went through you would have to get 20 percent of what that person got to be elected. So for instance, not targeting Rick Scott, but Rick Scott's a good example so he's been used, it would take a million votes from every single county in Florida to be able to recall him. A million total."
Hunt is an active member of several organizations, but scheduled Friday’s rally independently, and spread the word about it via social networking. He said regardless of how many people showed up, what’s important is that they start a discussion.
"We need to start a conversation and that's what this is all about, so if this starts a couple people talking out there, and a couple people calling their representatives and saying 'hey, what do you think about this', then I think this is a success no matter what the turnout was."
He said he knows many lawmakers would oppose the measure, but what he wants there to at least be discussion.
"I think if they agree with accountability, I think they'll support it. They might not, but if they don't want to, I'd like to hear their comments on it."
The handful of people in attendance were all upset with Governor Rick Scott and the GOP-dominated State legislature. Special needs teacher Mary Niemeyer said she came out to protest a whole slew of things that are happening in Tallahassee.
"I'm worried about our future, our children, students with disabilities. They want to offer merit pay because they want the most effective teachers but there's no money to pay for it and the teachers all know this. And it's like everyone is aware that we're on a sinking ship here."
Another attendee, Michael Fox, said he may not be too stoked about Rick Scott, but Representative Kriseman’s recall bill is a nonpartisan no-brainer.
"This certainly isn't just a Democratic issue at all, it's a democracy issue."
Kriseman, who was not at Friday’s event, has reportedly said he doesn’t expect the bill to pass. Firefighter Tom Tito said Friday said just because the bill is inconvenient for lawmakers doesn’t mean it can’t make its way onto the books.
"Well, we passed the minimum wage law a few years ago. I think it had maybe 70 percent. The legislature's pretty bad about petitions. They put things on the ballot that I don't believe in and they block thngs the people want, but I think if we go do the hard work of gathering petitions we can get it on the ballot."
St. Pete resident Elle Carrier said the future of Florida is at stake.
"Here's my feeling is this: I believe that people need to turn their tv off, I think people need to start thinking for themselves, I believe that people need to stop letting somebody else tell them what's right and wrong and start getting educated themselves and start speaking up for themselves because what's going to happen is that if we do not do this, in another ten years where do you think your kids are going to be? They're going to be led around by their noses, somebody else is going to tell them what they can do. They're going to tell them how they're going to work, they're going to tell them what they can eat, they're going to be telling them what they cannot eat. They're going to turn around and we're going to be slaves of our own country."
Representative Rick Kriseman filed the recall bill, HR 787, the same day Governor Scott announced he was killing the high speed rail project that would have connected Tampa to Orlando, and what supporters say would have created tens of thousands of jobs. HR 787 is currently in committee.