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5 Uncomfortable Truths About Living in Florida

Florida Activism
by Amanda Machado Mar 26, 2015

1. Its government officials are not allowed to use the words “climate change” and “global warming” in any official communications.

Just this month, former employees of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection claimed that the word “climate change” and “global warming” were not allowed in any official communication within the department (emails, reports, official documents, etc.). Employees claimed the policy affected educational efforts, reporting, and public policy decisions dealing with Florida’s environmental issues.

Even though the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed through a group of 27 international scientists in a 2014 report that climate change should be taken seriously, Governor Rick Scott has repeated that he has “not been convinced” about global warming.

Florida’s position on this issue can result in detrimental consequences: Some scientists argue that Florida is the state most susceptible to the effects of global warming in the country, according to scientists. Parts of the state are already literally in danger of being submerged due to sea level rise. It threatens a third of the state’s beaches. The New York Times and The Guardian recently wrote about the particular risk cities like Miami face because it’s built on porous limestone, making it vulnerable to allowing rising seawater to disrupt the city’s foundation and infrastructure.

2. A white person has never been executed for killing a black person in Florida…yet 66% of people sentenced to death in the state are black.

Florida leads the nation in death row exonerations — 24 since 1973. In that same amount of time, 76 prisoners have been executed. This means that for every three inmates Florida executes, the state determines one should be set free. This troubling ratio is partially the result of poor structural policies in the judicial system. Defendants are often given exhausted, overworked public defenders who can’t give their clients the right amount of energy and attention for a fair trial. Jurors can also recommend a death sentence without a unanimous vote, based only upon a majority vote.

Yet disturbingly, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, “since 2009, 66 percent of people sentenced to death under [state attorney] Angela Corey’s watch were African American…And that’s in a state that’s 16 percent Black.” The ACLU also argues that “no white person has ever been executed for killing an African American” in the state of Florida. The rest of the country somewhat follows the same pattern: According to a Think Progress article, nationwide, only 20 white people have been executed since 1976 for killing a black person while 269 black defendants were executed for killing someone who is white.”

3. It leads the nation with the most unhealthy cities in one state.

A new study from ranked four Florida cities in their top 25 most unhealthy cities list. The rankings were based on population data around physical fitness, the percentage of doctors highly-rated using the study’s algorithm, and the percentage of residents with health insurance coverage. Jacksonville ranked 10 with a health index score of 34.6 out of 100. Orlando ranked 14th, Tampa 15th, and Miami 16th. No cities from Florida made the top 25 “most healthy” cities list.

In other health rankings, Florida doesn’t fair much better. Two Florida cities, Pensacola and Jacksonville, also rank in the top 10 in the United States for most toxic drinking water. A 2007 report by the United Health Foundation ranked Florida as the 6th least healthy state in the nation based on levels of obesity (a quarter of Floridians are obese), binge drinking, preventable hospitalizations, infant mortality, occurrence of infectious disease, and access to insurance. Insurance access also has a significant racial component: the report found that 43.8 percent of Hispanics lack health insurance compared to only 17.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

4. It’s home to the world’s largest confederate flag.

Standing at 30’ by 50 feet and weighing over 100 pounds, Brandon Florida’s Sons of the Confederate Veterans memorial proudly declared Florida to be home to the largest confederate flag in the world. The flag was first raised as a message to county commissioners who refused to acknowledge the group’s celebration of “Southern Heritage Month”. A sign beneath the flag claims the site is “dedicated to the Confederate forces who fought, bled, and died in defense of their homeland, against ruthless invasion and who strove to protect America’s birthright of Constitutional liberty and freedom dating from 1776.”

Just this year, the flag was replaced with a smaller Third National Flag, not because of complaints from black locals, but instead to honor the 150th year anniversary of Florida’s secession from the Union with hopes of attracting more visitors to the park.

5. It has one of the most disenfranchising voting systems in the country.

Florida lawmakers have tried several tactics for making voting inaccessible, like cutting the early voting period in half or imposing complicated requirements to make it almost impossible for voter registration groups to conduct their work (For example, one mandate required these groups to submit completed registration forms within only 48 hours of completion). In 2000 and 2004, Florida hired private companies to clean voting registration rolls of felons who had registered to vote. Close to 1 million Floridians, or about 9 percent of adult citizens in the state, cannot vote because they have felony records. According to a Think Progress article “Florida’s voter purge, which targeted roughly 180,000 people, was illegal…The lists of flagged individuals — many of whom had Latino-sounding names — also turned out to be largely inaccurate.”

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