Saturday, May 06, 2006

Shining a light on north Florida “plantation” politics

Charlie Grapski founded the online Democracy University, and was a presenter at DemocracyFest I and II. He is currently running for the State House of Representatives in Florida.

For background on this story, see the Wednesday, May 3 post at Howard-Empowered People, Charlie Grapski Arrested for Recording Meeting and the editorial ‘Alachua Gotcha’ in the May 3 edition of the Gainesville Sun. Also, thank you to Connie in the comments for passing along another article about the arrest and the issues surrounding it, State House candidate arrested in Alachua City Hall, published in the High Springs Herald.

Chaarlie Grapski being arrested
When Grapski was finished reviewing the records, police arrested him.

Charlie Grapski freed
Grapski was released Monday night on his own recognizance.

What we have down in the City of Alachua is literally a plantation mentality - and one should not forget that this state (and this county and this city of Alachua were at the heart of the good ole boy system of Florida for most of its history) was among the last to “give in” to the civil rights movement and desegregation. And this was only done by force.

The Supreme Court had to step in in the seventies to demand the “all deliberate speed” issue be taken seriously. It was not until the 1980s that Florida’s politics really began to change as a result of the 1950s and 1960s and the civil rights movement (and really all that happened was the loss of the Southern Democrats total control over the state - led to a two party system in Florida - with the viability of the Republicans - who have effectively taken over the role of the former Southern Democrats).

Folks, I am not exaggerating when I say that this was a stolen election in Florida. And this has national significance - and particularly for the Democrats and their presidential aspirations.

We all know how Florida’s election was, well, manipulated in 2000. But it has not stopped - and Florida, above all, needs to be reformed.

Florida is one of the key electoral college states - being one of the largest. And Alachua County is one of the two remaining Democratic strong-holds in the state. However - the Republicans (and locally the developers - who are often Democrats nationally but vote Republican locally) are engaged in a very strategic effort to try and find a way to take over Alachua County for themselves.

And the City of Alachua has a key strategic element in this. They are in control of that city. Literally in control - there is no semblance of legitimacy or democracy - it is run by a cabal of individuals and they use it effectively as their private plantation (indeed one of their new housing developments - and they have a large number that have now been “approved” is called “Plantation Oaks” - aptly named).

There was a major scandal with the bringing of the Dollar General distribution center, then the Wal-Mart distribution center, and likely a Wal-Mart supercenter (they want it in Gainesville - but they have not been able to break into a controlling power on the Gainesville City Commission - although they are desperately trying).

This was a major problem - and numerous illegalities. A series of lawsuits was filed - a local attorney took this on at his own expense - and they attacked him - and due to health problems he filed something late - the judge (who has been problematic in a number of other cases involving abuses by public officials) dismissed the case outright - without ruling on the merits - which is not appropriate - based on the lawyer’s error (which was caused by his health problems - which were exacerbated by the attacks on him as a result of his efforts). That is inappropriate.

We are dealing with a very real problem here - if Alachua local elections can be stolen - then they can steal the presidential election through similar means as well. This must be addressed - and again - the national spotlight is necessary to bring enough sunshine onto this situation - which is really about deep seated corruption going to the highest levels of Florida politics and involving all sorts of criminal activities (think of the worst types of such activities - and you are likely thinking of what is involved here).

Take a look at the following - it is a novel entitled Tortoise Stew by Patricia Behnke - who was an Alachua resident and had owned a local paper (she’s moved out of Alachua - as a number of people are being forced to do). Its a Carl Hiassen type novel (and Carl should get into this - he went to the University of Florida where he began his writing career) - meaning that it may be fiction, but its based upon the truth - the characters in this book - are the real characters I am dealing with.

Tortoise Stew book cover
From the review at The Author’s Den

“The bomb sat in a bag on Kelly Sands’ desk for an hour before she noticed it.”And so begins a tale of developers and politicians so intent upon their plans to destroy some of the last rural lands in north Florida, they will go to any means.

Through it all, reporter Kelly Sands remains dedicated to uncovering their underhanded methods.

From a bomb to dead gopher tortoises to a dead commissioner, Tortoise Stew takes the reader on a mysterious and murky ride through politics - north Florida style.

Clicking the graphic above will take you to the Tortoise Stew page on The book is also available at

Also - to see the Wal-Mart issue - and related issues - see:

Moon Magazine (I’ll try and see if I can digitize there articles - I don’t know if their archives are still up on the internet - I’ll see one of the founders of that magazine tommorrow and see if he has them digitized still).

The Alachua Post - this was created by those who became the ALA (Alachua Leadership Alliance) - and took on this battle a few years back. Unfortunately - they have been targetted for vicious attacks. (There is even now a “paper” - more like Fox News - in town which is “funded” very heavily (we don’t know by whom - but we do know with what intent) - and originally hired someone from the National Inquirer to set it up - they are an attack dog for the cabal running that town (plantation)).

Note that the web site for The Alachua Post is no longer accessible.