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Our perspective: Gigs and garlands

By Staff writer, For The Ledger, On 10 October 2016, Read Original
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Our look at some recent highlights and lowlights in Polk County and elsewhere.

The release of some of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s tax returns has raised the issue how much taxes the wealthy should pay. Democrat Hillary Clinton’s secrecy — evidenced by the scandal of home-brew email server and her refusal to release transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street big shots — and struggle with the truth have raised the specter of Richard Nixon. With that in mind, today reminds us when both of those matters were embodied in one person.

On Oct. 10, 1973, Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew, resigned ahead of pleading no contest to charges of income tax evasion. Agnew was accused of taking $100,000 in bribes while serving as governor of Maryland. In exchange for his plea, Agnew was sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $10,000. Stephen Sachs, Maryland’s then-attorney general, derided the plea bargain as “the greatest deal since the Lord spared Isaac on the mountaintop.” Agnew’s resignation also was the first time the relatively new 25th Amendment’s succession provision was triggered, as Nixon chose Gerald Ford to succeed Agnew.

GARLAND: Hurricane Matthew killed at least 17 people in the United States, including four in Florida, knocked out power for hundreds of thousands, made tens of thousands living along the Atlantic Coast weather refugees from their homes, and caused record flooding in the Carolinas. Yet Polk County was spared the misery experienced by some many others. "It turned out to be a non-event event," Pete McNally, Polk County's emergency management director, told The Ledger after Matthew had passed by. For that we should be thankful. But while their skills were largely not needed — this time — we extend a big garland to those who helped prepare the community and stood ready to help, including first-responders, hospital workers, shelter operators, power company workers, emergency management officials and nonprofit staffers.

GIG: We gig Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher. Earlier this year Bucher relocated a polling precinct from a South Florida mosque after claiming she had received a bomb threat related to its use for voting in Florida’s primary election in August. Last week, the Council for Islamic-American Relations, or CAIR, revealed that Bucher told Boca Raton police that she made the decision to move the precinct before allegedly receiving the bomb threat. In a press release the group blasted Bucher for not telling the truth and CAIR-Florida Executive Director Hassan Shibly noted that Bucher’s earlier position “only served to incite the very types of threats she claimed to act against.”

GIG: Speaking of possible terrorism, we gig whoever sent suspicious white powder to the Tampa headquarters of the Mosaic Co late last month. The incident, which is being investigated by the FBI, followed the delayed revelation of the sinkhole-related rupture that drained a gypsum-stack holding pond on Mosaic’s Mulberry plant of 215 million gallons of contaminated water. Whether meant as a joke or a threat, the powder delivery should be prosecuted.

GARLAND: We got another lesson about the risky life of police officers, as two Palm Springs, California, law enforcement officers were killed over the weekend while handling a domestic disturbance call. Against that backdrop, we applaud Ashton Bardwell, the wife and daughter of police officers, and Dan Derringer, owner of Derringer Firearms in Lakeland, who have started a nonprofit group, Shield the Badges, to raise money to purchase special bullet-proof vests for Lakeland police officers. The vests guard against high-velocity ammunition.

GARLAND: We commend the new National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington for recognizing a piece of Polk County history. The museum, which opened Sept. 24, features an exhibit for L.B. Brown, who had been a slave as a child before rising to become a prominent Bartow business owner. The exhibit recognizes Brown’s house in Bartow, which is a renowned historical and tourist location.

GARLAND: As for history, we salute Polk County Honor Flight, Cornerstone Hospice in Winter Haven and American Legion Post 8 in Winter Haven for helping some military veterans get a thrill similar to that experienced by those who participate in the Flight to Honor trips to the World War II monument and other historic sites in Washington. The groups united to allow 41 veterans deemed too frail to make the one-day, round-trip excursion to the nation's capital to take the trip via virtual reality. It's the next best thing to being there, and we're glad these aging veterans got to experience it.

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