Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Decline in FAMU advocacy among numerous questionable decisions by Florida Black Caucus

The Florida Legislative Black Caucus (FLBC) was once one of the most consistent sources of advocacy that Florida A&M University had. But over the past year, the group has simply ignored a number of attacks against the university.

In 2015, FAMU lost control of a multi-million dollar college budget after 28 years and saw its alumni become a minority in the 11 appointed university Board of Trustees seats. But the FLBC still doesn’t seem to see a problem and has kept quiet.

That FLBC’s decline in commitment to defending FAMU comes at a time when news reports are raising serious questions about its operations, especially when it comes to its relationship with the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators (a nonprofit foundation).

A 2014 Tampa Bay Times article took a look at the foundation’s Scholarship Gala, VIP event, and Scholarship Golf Tournament. It reported that “the caucus foundation raised nearly $800,000 over the past three years.” According to the story: “Records of past years' fundraising and interviews with caucus leaders indicate that less than 10 cents of every dollar raised actually go to college scholarships for the students whose names were projected on large screens at the gala.”

The article added that: “In recent years, caucus foundation spending has focused on keeping staff paid and lights on in the office.”

A January 2016 article by the Florida Times-Union reported on a FLBC-coordinated visit to the Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Atmore, Ala. FLBC Chairman Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, was among the five caucus members who participated. The story said:
The lawmakers, all Democrats whose trip this month was coordinated by the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, didn’t pay for their transportation, meals or hotel rooms. All of that will be reported as in-kind donations to their re-election accounts and political committees. The legislators also received campaign contributions and a donation to the Black Caucus foundation.

It does not sit well with everyone that Narain and the others stayed overnight and were feted by the Poarch Creek Indians, who are lobbying hard for the Legislature to approve slots in Gretna.
That news report about the casino visit led the Orlando Sentinel editorial board to name Narain its “Weekly Chump” on January 27. It editorialized that the trip “was technically legal, but optically terrible — like the hunting trips Republican leaders took in 2013 on Big Sugar's tab. If Narain et al. wanted to add to the cynicism about state government, they hit the jackpot.”

The FLBC issues in the headlines and the group’s poor advocacy for FAMU show that Rattlers need to ask who the state Black Caucus is really working the hardest to represent at the Florida capitol.

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