MAXWELL:  Hey, guys, snubbing Jeb just isn’t cool

3/1/2000 – Printed in the EDITORIAL section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper



To: Florida Legislative Black

Yo! Sen. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, and Rep. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, I do not like to trash brothers, but, hey, you dudes are really beginning to show your color. You know what I mean by “showing your color.” You had a thing going on, but you have blown it big time.

Check it out: Last month, you made black Floridians proud by holding a sit-in in the offices of Gov. Jeb Bush when he refused to meet with you to discuss his One Florida Initiative, which will end much of affirmative action in state contracts and college admissions. I mean, you had Jeb jumping, making him exclaim (the governor said later that he was referring to journalists) “kick their asses out.”

But you screwed up Thursday by snubbing Jeb’s invitation to a luncheon with the Legislative Black Caucus at the Governor’s Mansion. All right, so Jeb was serving chicken and rice, but that is no reason to act stupidly and turn down the invitation.

The obsequious Jim Hargrett, Willie Logan and Rudy Bradley, along with Al Lawson, attended the luncheon, and, for the first time that I can recall, I agree with one of their actions.

But I digress. Never snub Jeb, Florida’s only governor. Yes, he has a privileged-white-boy attitude, but black lawmakers should never turn down an invitation. Get with the program, K&T. You were responsible for keeping 13 other black lawmakers away from the Governor’s Mansion. Even black caucus chairman Sen. Daryl Jones, D-Miami, who often impersonates an intelligent person, told Jeb to shove his old drumsticks.

Here is an excerpt from Daryl’s missive to Jeb: “The majority of members have expressed their concerns with a short luncheon. We respectfully request a 6 p.m. dinner meeting mid March, in order to allow all 20 members of the Black Caucus to engage in substantive dialogue to discuss the One Florida Initiative, in addition to major issues in our districts.”

A St. Petersburg Times editorial about the snub hit the mark: “If members of the black caucus really were interested in establishing a dialogue, they’d have been much better off meeting with the governor Thursday and speaking their minds. They always could have tried to schedule another meeting if Thursday’s lunch didn’t resolve things. If they were interested only in perpetuating a political issue, Thursday’s luncheon snub may have served their purposes.”

Sen. Betty Holzendorf, one of the governor’s harshest critics, supped with Jeb at the mansion and used the occasion to tell him that she thinks his affirmative action and public education policies stink. At least Holzendorf, who will never be one of Jeb’s pet African-Americans, met with her nemesis. She showed respect for Jeb’s office, and I bet that Jeb gained a bit of respect for her, too.

And, of course, I bet that Jeb respects K&T today much less. Whatever political capital the duo earned with their sit-in, they mostly squandered it with their snub.

My advice to K&T? When the governor schedules a luncheon, be there with napkins in your collars.

I cannot sign off without commenting on remarks that Rep. Bradley, R-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Hargrett, D-Tampa, made about the luncheon.

Bradley: “I think it’s irresponsible not to be here. I think it’s irresponsible behavior as it relates to your voters.” Bradley, who was elected as a Democrat and who turned Republican out of self-interest, has no moral standing to counsel anyone about being responsible to voters.

Hargrett, running off at the mouth: “Some of the older and wiser heads are here today.” Indeed, Hargrett may be old, but I find nothing wise about his head. He, too, was elected to represent the principles of the Democratic Party but instead has adopted the Republican line. Like Bradley, he is no paragon of loyalty and has no right to chide black lawmakers. If Jeb offered legislation bringing back separate-but-equal schools, Hargrett would be front and center bowing and scraping.

Darn, I digress again. My wish is that Jeb continues to reach out to the black caucus. By the way, thousands of blacks will demonstrate outside the Capitol on March 7, when the governor addresses a joint session of the Legislature, the first day of the annual session. The Rev. Jesse Jackson will be the featured speaker.

Let the people demonstrate. But K&T should be inside _ in their seats in the chamber. Do not be stupid two times in two months.