Subtle threats of a segregation lawsuit loom large over development hearing.
By Jacob Engels
Long time observers of growth in Seminole County were deep in discussion about last night’s epic planning and zoning vote on former Representative Chris Dorworth’s master-planned River Cross community. The 7-0 rejection would seem to be a setback for Dorworth, but the looks on the faces of both sides told a different story.
When asked for quote, Dorworth replied via text:
“Seminole County’s Rural Boundary is a bait-and-switch lie misused by a biased county staff with at least two biased county commissioners. It will not survive judicial scrutiny. It is time to restore home rule to the cities of eastern Seminole County and end the harassing, property rights stifling bully tactics employed to protect a few homeowners at everybody else’s expense.”
For much of the night, race was the 900 pound gorilla in the room.
Lowndes Drosdick Doster Kantor & Reed wunderkind attorney Tara Tedrow, in administering the most thorough and lopsided decimation of a staff analysis/report seen in Central Florida, advanced the question of the impact exclusionary zoning laws may have on promoting racial segregation in Seminole County’s rural boundary. It is a serious question that may ultimately invalidate the rural boundary in its totality.
The crowd often angrily accused the attorney and her client of “playing the race card”. Katrina Shadix, Democratic nominee for Seminole County Commission District 2, shocked the audience by reasoning that the rural area didn’t need more black people because it had plenty of black bears.
“And since we threw the race card around… the bears are black. They deserve homes, too.”
How a candidate for political office in 2018 could think it was a good idea to liken African-American residents to animals is breathtaking and telling.
One long-time political observer present at the meeting not involved in the project but familiar with the politics, offered the following insight:
“The optics of this are catastrophically bad for Seminole County. You had an all-white staff assuring the all-white speakers (there were 55 speaker cards for opponents and no people of color spoke) opposing a project that the all-white planning zoning commission recommended opposing a project to the all-white county commission on the basis that there are no racial diversity issues in eastern Seminole County. To make matters worse, Seminole County was under a consent decree from the federal government in 2004, when the voters passed the rural boundary in the first place because of segregation in its school system. This county has an ugly past between our segregationist history and, more recently, the Trayvon Martin controversy. In this case, it seems Seminole County government is the HMS Titanic and the rural boundary is the iceberg. This collision is going to be ugly.”
(Editors Note – One speaker, identifying himself as Landon Thomas, described himself as “Latin”. Not sure if he was saying Hispanic or Roman.)
The observer is not being overly dramatic.
The Central Florida Post conducted extensive research on Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel’s voteseminole.org web page regarding changes in the racial composition of the precincts inside and outside of the rural boundary. We identified the precincts that comprised the rural area and the precincts that comprise the urban area and built out a comparison for racial demographics of the voters in both. This isn’t by any means a perfect analysis, but it offers a glimpse in to what might be coming down the road. Because precincts don’t perfectly match the rural area there could be some difference, but likely not much of one:
Here are a brief summary of findings:
YOU ARE SIGNIFICANTLY MORE LIKELY TO BE A VOTER OF COLOR IF YOU LIVE IN THE URBAN AREA THAN YOU ARE IF YOU LIVE IN THE RURAL AREA:
* 503% MORE likely to be a black voter in the urban area vs the rural area
– 2.05% Rural vs 10.16% Urban
* 246% MORE likely to to be a Hispanic voter in the urban area vs rural area
– 5.82% Rural vs 14.31% Urban
* 68% MORE likely to be an Asian/PI voter in the urban area versus rural area
– 1.68% Rural vs 2.82% Urban
YOU ARE SIGNIFICANTLY LESS LIKELY TO BE A VOTER OF COLOR IF YOU LIVE IN THE RURAL AREA THAN YOU ARE IF YOU LIVE IN THE URBAN AREA:
* 68% LESS likely to be a Black or Hispanic voter (7.87% Rural vs 24.47% Urban)
* 65% LESS likely to be a person of color (Black, Hispanic or Asian/PI) (9.55% vs 27.29%)
If litigation rears its ugly head, imagine the questions that will be asked of the county?
– Why would you support a moratorium on applications in the rural area – the only way to racially diversify the area in compliance with the Fair Housing Act – until after the next election?
– The county employs two lobbyists, local powerhouse Alex Setzer and Southern Strategy Group. When a legislative committee amended house bill 883 last session to require the voting electorate to ratify rural boundaries every ten years, the county actually hired a third lobbyist, powerful Rick Scott confidante Bill Rubin, to kill the bill. Why would you hire a third lobbyist to disenfranchise your voters from voting on a rural boundary every ten years?
Think about that for a second. Seminole County hired a third lobbyist to kill a bill that would have given its voters a chance to opine on a part of its charter every ten years, and it turns out that part of its charter might just harken back to Seminole County’s painful racist past.
I say only this to the Seminole County Board of County Commissioners: “ICEBERG! DEAD AHEAD!”
Jacob Engels is an Orlando based journalist whose work has been featured and republished in news outlets around the globe including Politico, InfoWars, MSNBC, Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Daily Mail UK, Associated Press, People Magazine, ABC, Fox News, and Australia’s New Dawn Magazine. Mr. Engels focuses on stories that other news outlets neglect or willingly hide to curry favor among the political and business special interests in the state of Florida.