Category Archives: Blurbs

Free the Ocklawaha: Why Removing Rodman Dam Makes Environmental Sense

This article was original published by the Ocala Star-Banner on July 15. Whitey Markle is the Conservation Chair of the Suwannee-St. Johns Group of the Sierra Club and has worked as an environmental and conservation advocate for most of his adult life.

By White Markle

The old Ocklawaha River must run free. Rodman Dam must be removed.

How long can the politicians and bureaucrats continue to play with the Rodman Dam scandal? Since the Cross Florida Barge Canal was deauthorized by President Richard Nixon in 1971, the dam — since renamed the George Kirkpatrick Dam — has remained, symbolizing political chess in a very serious environmental game. Until the game ends, Silver Springs, the Ocklawaha River and the mighty St. Johns River will suffer.

Additionally, the lower Ocklawaha, below the dam, is filling up with salt water as a result of the lack of fresh water that would run daily if the dam didn’t exist. Silver Springs and the subsequent springs of the Ocklawaha are the biggest source, about one-third, of the fresh water that feeds the St. Johns River.

All of this is unnatural and needs to be removed.

Read the entire article here.

The CIW’s Fast for Fair Food, March 5-10


The fast has always been a powerful tool of protest, making an effective statement through the personal sacrifice of the sustenance most of us take for granted.

Now, like Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez before them, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are fasting to erase the gap between farm and supermarket, specifically the gap that corporations like Publix like to create in order to avoid cooperation with the farm workers.

The CIW is a grassroots, community-based organization of approximately 4,500 immigrants (mostly Haitian, Mayan Indian and Latino) fighting for farm worker justice in the fields.

On March 5, approximately 50 farm workers and their allies will start the Fast for Fair Food (ingesting only liquids) outside the Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Fla., that will endure though March 10.

On March 10, the biggest day of action, there will be a silent protest outside of the Publix located at 3636 Harden Blvd. in Lakeland, followed by a three-mile march to the grocer’s headquarters at Airport Road and Publix Corporate Parkway in Lakeland where the demonstrators will break their fast. Consumers, organizers and friends from around the state are welcome. For more information, visit

“Are they going to continue to turn their backs, or are they going to do the right thing?” asked Joe Parker of the Student/Farm Worker Alliance.

Why Publix? Because the Florida-based megagrocer has refused to come to the table with the CIW after more than two years of actions and efforts by the farm workers and their allies to negotiate. Because the CIW just wants Publix to agree to pay a penny more per pound for its tomatoes and to sign onto the Code of Conduct for fair treatment of farm workers in the fields.

“Publix continues to say this is a labor dispute between the farm workers and the employers,” said Oscar Otzoy, a member of the CIW in a translated interview. “But we as workers know, and the community knows, that it’s not a labor dispute.”

In fact, 90 percent of the farm workers’ employers – the tomato growers who sell their crop to Publix – in Florida have already signed an agreement with the CIW through the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange. Beyond that, 10 additional corporations have also signed agreements with the farm workers, signing on to both the penny more per pound of tomatoes purchased from the growers (which is transferred to the workers) and a Code of Conduct preventing abuse and exploitation in the fields. Even more interesting is the fact that the most recent corporation (Feb. 10 of this year) to give into the CIW’s demands is Trader Joe’s, a megagrocer just like Publix, proving it is possible and that this struggle is not a labor dispute.

“This is not just about higher wages,” Otzoy said. “It’s about having a voice and having respect.”

Black History Month Events at the Civic Media Center

Feb. 6, Monday, 7p.m. – Film showing of “Black Power Mix Tape,” newly released archival footage of 1967-1975

Feb. 12, Sunday, 4p.m. – 6th presentation in a series of workshops on Essential Afrikan History with Kali Blount

Feb. 17, Friday, 7p.m. – Film showing of “Power to the People,” followed by a discussion, and then live music from The Babylonians at 9p.m.

Feb. 20, Monday, 7p.m. – Film showing of “Sankofa,” a mystical classic of slavery and resistance by Haile Gerima

Feb. 22, Wednesday, 7p.m.Samuel Proctor Oral History Project of UF presents on the group’s recent trips to Mississippi for local interviews

Feb. 27, Monday, 7p.m. – Film showing of “Through the Door of No Return,” a documentary following a film maker who traces his father’s ancestry back to Ghana

The Civic Media Center is located at 433 S. Main Street in Gainesville.

25th Annual Winter Solstice Concert, Dec. 17

Gainesville Veterans for Peace will be hosting its 25th Annual Winter Solstice Concert on Saturday, Dec. 17. For a quarter century now, the anti-war group has been bringing together peace musicians, artists, organizations and advocates at a concert celebrating the Winter Solstice.

This year’s line-up includes Drums of Peace, John Chambers, Lauren Robinson, David Beede, Kevin O’Sullivan, Scrub Hill Billies, Talking Stick, Quartermoon, the Heavenly Semi-Angels and others.

The Winter Solstice Concert will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (4225 NW 34th St.). Doors open at 7p.m., and the concert begins at 8p.m. Tickets are $10 to $30 on a sliding scale.

Advanced tickets can be purchased at Hyde & Zeke Records (402 NW 10th Ave.) or by calling (352) 375-2563. People who purchase tickets in advance must arrive by 7:30p.m. to assure a seat. Unclaimed seats will be opened up for those in line after 7:30p.m., with no preference given to advance ticket purchasers, until all 400 seats are filled.

Outside the event, organizations and groups from the Gainesville area will set up informational booths and tables. Attendees are encouraged to bring clothing, food and personal items to be collected and distributed by Helping Hands Clinic. Refreshments will also be available.

Parking is available at the event but is limited (carpooling recommended!), and parking attendants will be present to assist drivers.

For more information about the Winter Solstice Celebration, visit the Vets for Peace Website.

Move to Amend Tour Comes to Gainesville – Dec. 7, 1pm

What:   Move to Amend Tour with David Cobb

When:   Wednesday, December 7, from 1-3pm

Where:   Civic Media Center, 433 S. Main St.

Cost:      Free (donations to Move to Amend and Civic Media Center are appreciated)

Move to Amend is a coalition of over 143,000 people and organizations whose goal is to amend the United States Constitution to end corporate rule and legalize democracy. His presentation is part history lesson and part heart-felt call-to-action! For a list of organizations affiliated with the national Move to Amend coalition, see:
David Cobb, longtime campaigner against Corporate Personhood and 2004 Green Party presidential candidate, is touring Florida giving his talk “Creating Democracy & Challenging Corporate Rule.” David is an organizer and national spokesman for
Local individuals and organizations supportive of the Move to Amend agenda are invited to attend and participate in a discussion about organizing an active Move to Amend chapter in Gainesville/Alachua County. If you are interested in joining this effort but cannot attend the Wednesday event, please email and request to be added to the MTA mailing list. You will be notified of future meetings and events in this area.
As a part of the MTA Tour, David is offering two day-long “Activist Training” workshops in West Palm and Tampa. No past experience is necessary to attend. All events are open to the general public, Activist Trainings are $50-$100 sliding scale, public talks are free. For more information about the Florida MTA Tour or to register for trainings:

District Court of Appeal Rules in Favor of Public Education Funding

Report courtesy of Citizens for Strong Schools

In a major legal victory for the local group Citizens for Strong Schools and other public education advocates across the state, the 1st District Court of Appeal has rejected the Florida Legislature’s request to dismiss a lawsuit on educational funding and policies.

In an 8-7 vote, the court ruled that the issues raised in the lawsuit are “of great public importance” and asked the Florida Supreme Court to hear the case.

“We’re thrilled with the ruling,” said Mark McGriff, chairman of Citizens for Strong Schools, an education advocacy group established in 2008. “It means state leaders can’t prevent us from having our day in court.”

The Gainesville-based non-profit Southern Legal Counsel filed the lawsuit back in 2010 on behalf of Citizens for Strong Schools, an Orlando-based group called Fund Education Now and several parents from Duval County. The lawsuit alleges that the state has not lived up to its obligation to provide a ‘uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system’ of public schools.

That obligation is spelled out in Article IX of Florida’s Constitution, which also says that public education is the state’s ‘paramount duty.’ The language was added to the Constitution in 1998 after 72% of Florida voters approved it. Since then, the state has cut school budgets dramatically and shifted more of the responsibility for funding schools onto local communities.

Lawyers representing the legislature, the Board of Education and the Department of Education raised a number of objections to the lawsuit, including a contention that the courts have no role in interpreting Article IX. Circuit Court Judge Jackie L. Fulford rejected that argument back in August of 2010, but state leaders appealed her decision to the District Court of Appeal.

In the court’s majority opinion, one judge wrote that the case “involves a clash of two extremely important precepts,” namely the power of the legislature to fund schools and set educational policy and the right of citizens to demand that the language they added to the constitution be followed–and to appeal to the courts if they believe that’s not happening.

He also wrote that “the defendants are here seeking to derail proceedings in the trial court before they can conclude here.”

Jon Mills was Speaker of the Florida House in 1986-88 and was a member of the Constitutional Revision Commission that drafted Article IX. He is currently teaching law at the University of Florida and is working with the Southern Legal Counsel on the case. He said he fully expects the Supreme Court to take on the case.

“This is a confirmation that the ‘high quality’ provision in the Constitution means what the public thought it meant and that the court believes it’s enforceable,” he said. “That’s the biggest step forward yet and puts us in the best position we could be in at this point.”