Winners & Losers: The FCAT, Area Food Banks
Let's see who was up and who was down this week...
BAND OF LOSERS: Four Nassau County department heads - Butch Hartman, Daniel Salmon, Brenda Rothwell and Lee Pickett, who attended a recent hurricane conference in Ft. Lauderdale, but were caught engaging in all sorts of tomfoolery on the public dime. Suspicious county employees hired a private detective to follow the bunch around and take video. There's nothing obviously illegal yet, but the hedonistic quartet clearly wasn't in a "business only" mindset during the trip. They missed some conference sessions and generally took a lackadaisical attitude while away from taxpayers. At one point on the video, Rothwell traumatizes the residents of South Beach by stumbling onto a balcony naked and lighting up a cigarette. Shame on these turkeys for wasting the public's money, doing a disservice to Nassau's citizens and embarrassing the First Coast in front of the entire state. Nassau Sheriff Tommy Seagraves has turned the incident over to the FDLE to investigate, as an independent agency which has no stake in the outcome.
Flashback: In 2007, Rothwell made news in Nassau for seemingly never reporting to work at her job in Animal Control. How much does this clown make on an annual basis?
WINNER: JEA, for replacing rotting utility poles throughout the city. Much has been made of rising utility rates and whether the prices are justified. However, JEA's rates are still among the lowest in the country, and the service is generally quite reliable, particularly considering that Jacksonville sprawls over a gargantuan area and has consistently grown by metes and bounds even during the recession. People tired of paying should get into the water and power business themselves - solar panels and well-drilling equipment are available to anyone with the cash. What's that, too expensive and too much trouble? No one to turn to when your lights go out? Don't want to take the risk of a septic tank and drainfield? Thought so. Build your own kingdom or shut up, cowards!
LOSERS: Another fearsome foursome, William Hayes, Christopher Robert, Walter Greene and Justin McMillian, attacked three corrections officers at the Duval County Jail at 3 AM on Monday. Temporarily taking over a control room, they tried to open up other cells to let other prisoners out. Ultimately, their miniature rebellion was crushed when a bunch of other guards arrived and proceeded to beat them all senseless. An attempt to incite a prison riot in a facility with a police headquarters downstairs is a clear indication that they weren't in jail for using their brains to begin with. No doubt these guys will probably now all get much longer sentences and be sent somewhere more escape-proof with far scarier cellmates. Raiford, for example, doesn't have neighborhood drunks - it's more of a PMITA kind of place. Good luck, losers!
WINNERS: Area food banks, which are currently strained due to an unusually high demand for food, and lower incoming supplies. The weak economy has left some people out of work for an extended period of time, and food banks are picking up the slack to keep families fed. This institution is normally staffed by an all-volunteer force and has little in the way of a budget, mostly operating out of borrowed space from area churches and nonprofits. If you have the time or the food to give, please consider donating one or both to your local food banks - either Second Harvest or one of the many independent banks around town. There's also a Pet Food Bank available - they have to eat too.
LOSER: The FCAT, which relentlessly terrorizes Florida's students almost every day before finally coming around near the end of the school year and putting them out of their misery. The state-mandated test has become a model of "teaching to the test" and most students, teachers and administrators are tired of the horrible FCAT workbooks and repetitive, overscripted lessons. Recent results have been called into question by some schools, causing two audits to be launched, which found the scores to be accurate. Now some school districts are considering a lawsuit against the state. A test can be one measure of a student's performance, but making it the sole overriding factor sends a message to students that the State of Florida believes that they are too lazy and stupid to want to learn on their own, and thus have to be beaten into educational submission. Shame on the FCAT and its promoters for killing creativity in the classroom and dividing the state's educational system with a wedge for their own selfish gain.
WINNER: Scott Keeler, who recently built a quaint covered bridge on his Westside property near Normandy Blvd. Covered bridges were originally an innovation meant to signficantly extend the lifespan of regular wooden bridges, which don't have to be replaced so often if their guts are shielded from the elements. They're also shown to be extremely effective at getting folks to sign on to the idea of getting married and having babies. Keeler has opened the bridge to host weddings and other special events, and is building a house with a giant porch on the property to provide even more capacity. His first client, recent bride Diana Monell who married her husband Jonathan Fanning on the property, is now working as his publicity agent. They've set up a website at thekeelerproperty.com to take requests from potential customers.