I have over 45 years of public service to my state and country and have spent much of the past seven years back home in Gainesville heavily engaged in public policy as an "active citizen". I will continue to stay engaged, both as a neighborhood leader, and as a monthly contributor to the Gainesville Sun. Visit the "News" section to see a collection of my monthly opinion pieces published in the Sun. Visit the "Issues" section to see other writings.
This Op-Ed, focused on American health care issues, was posted online at gainesville.com today (9-27-2021) and will be printed in the Sun's Issues Section on Sunday, October 3, 2021. It is based upon my life-long experience with the US military health care system, as well as long years spent in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in the service of the United States, watching how others prefer to do health care.
Here is an Op-ED regarding the reluctance of local State Attorney's to investigate and prosecute cases involving political corruption in their own circuit. Posted online on August 31, 2021; to be published in the Gainesville Sun's Issues Section on September 4, 2021.
This Op-Ed addresses the still unfulfilled need to protect the independence of the FBI Director and the various agency inspectors general as they continue their work to ensure accountability for official misconduct. We can't wait until the next election to get this done. Now available online at gainesville.com, it will be published in the Issues Section of the Gainesville Sun on August 1, 2021.
This opinion piece was published by the Gainesville Sun on July 4, 2021 (online on July 2nd).
What does it mean to be a “patriot”?
Lt Col, USAF (Ret); GS-15, DAC (Ret)
As we celebrate this Fourth of July, it is more important than ever to consider what it means to be a patriot. In this deeply polarized nation, altogether too many people believe that if they “wrap themselves in the American flag”, that demonstrates their love for this country and its values. It has always made me uncomfortable to hear anyone describe themselves as a “super patriot” (especially if they haven’t served) when in reality, it often seemed they were ignorant of the nation’s core values. Simply “flying the flag” is not enough to tell me that someone is a true American patriot.
Recently, one writer wrote:
“The country has a variety of citizens and each and every citizen contributes or makes (the country) what it is at present. Some of the citizens are highly conscious of their actions and wish to change the country for the better, a few are those who are too busy dealing with their own lives and seldom think about where the country is going, and the rest are – well, just there, doing almost nothing for the country.”
The writer further said:
“A patriotic citizen is more or less like the conscious citizen, he/she wants to know what is happening in the country and they show their love by wanting to change the bad things about the country. A patriotic citizen will look at the bigger picture and give up his/her individual interests for the interest of the country.”
What country do you suppose the writer was talking about? Not America, but India. The writer, “Nandini”, posted this in a blog called indianyouth.net. However, the description could fit any democratic country where citizen participation is valued, including the United States.
Others observe that in a democracy, we must distinguish between “patriotism” and “nationalism”. In an essay at www.studymode.com, a writer says:
“Nationalism means to give more importance to unity by way of a cultural background, including language and heritage. Patriotism pertains to the love for a nation, with more emphasis on values and beliefs. When talking about nationalism and patriotism, one cannot avoid the famous quotation by George Orwell, who said that nationalism is ‘the worst enemy of peace’. According to him, nationalism is a feeling that one’s country is superior to another in all respects, while patriotism is merely a feeling of admiration for a way of life. These concepts show that patriotism is passive by nature and nationalism can be a little aggressive. Patriotism is based on affection and nationalism is rooted in rivalry and resentment. One can say that nationalism is militant by nature and patriotism is based on peace.”
Confederate soldiers fighting in the American civil war surely believed they were patriots, although seeking to preserve slavery as a way of life. In the 20th century, soldiers in Germany and Italy surely believed they were patriots, even in support of an oppressive ideology and fascist, autocratic governments.
Americans who stormed the national Capitol on January 6, 2021 also believed they were patriots seeking to right a perceived injustice and “save the country”. They have told us so on national television. In court, several now admit they were duped by the “big lie” and blind loyalty to an autocratic leader.
All were caught up in movements that conflicted with basic democratic values. In the last two examples, these “patriots” were blindly following leaders seeking to preserve, extend, and enlarge their personal wealth and power, much like a cult leader.
Every soldier wants to believe the cause they are fighting for is just. That basic truth is essential to unit morale and “esprit de corps”. This is especially true today of those who served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the carnage that ensued and the unimaginable economic cost and human tragedies that have been documented. There is nothing more demoralizing to an army than the slow realization that their sacrifice, and those of their friends who didn’t come home, was likely in vain, or even unjust.
In contrast, Americans who fought in the Korean War often feel their sacrifice was worth it when they visit, as South Korea today enjoys a vibrant economy and a successful democracy. The same is true of those who fought against fascism in World War II. In short, the core values of democracy were worth fighting for.
It cannot be “my country, right or wrong”. True patriotism in our democracy demands an informed citizenry that understands and supports the core values enshrined in the United States Constitution.
Here is the text of my comments, which begin at Minute 58:37 of the linked video:
I am Robert Mounts, speaking on behalf of myself and the University Park Neighborhood Association (UPNA).
First, Mr. Mayor, I would like to place into the record three items which have been handed to the Clerk, Mr. Terrill Arline’s February 5, 2021 letter, an excerpt of the 2nd District Court of Appeal decision in the Charlotte County case he cites, and a copy of UPNA’s letter of June 9, 2021.
Next, I would like to read two key passages from the court’s decision:
". . . when, as here, public officials delegate their fact-finding duties and decision-making authority to a committee of staff members, these individuals no longer function as staff members but 'stand in shoes of such public officials insofar as application of Government in Sunshine Law is concerned.' "
"Because the authority of final project approval has been delegated to the DRC (Development Review Committee) by Charlotte County ordinance, county staff members who serve on the DRC function as public officials. Hence, any DRC meeting at which quasi-judicial action will be taken is subject to Florida's Sunshine Law."
This is the same authority given to our Technical Review Committee (TRC), which allows final approval of development plans by staff review only, without a public hearing.
- In short, every development plan approved by our TRC is subject to challenge for violation of the Sunshine law. I believe that is what Mr. Arline meant when he wrote that this system was perhaps "unconstitutional", as it is a denial of due process of law.
- In our common law system, we are governed by both statutory and case law, that is, the rulings and precedents provided by court decisions.
- You might be able to claim ignorance of a court decision, although "ignorance of the law" is no excuse, but confronted with a court decision so obviously on point as the Charlotte County case, the city's continued refusal to comply with the law would be both willful, and flagrant.
- The city's obligation to follow the law starts now; you don't really need to pass an ordinance to do so, although Commissioner Johnson's proposed amendment requiring greater public participation, which also contemplates some sort of "board approval" is a step in the right direction and should be passed.
Lastly, as some pushed back on a requirement for “board approval” at the March meeting, the "by-right" process heralded in the backup as a "best practice" to lower the cost of housing relies on a false premise in this college town, as no developers have rushed to build affordable housing here under existing "by-right" rules, despite the absence of an allegedly costly public hearing. Instead, they are building luxury student apartments, available by the room at market rate. That's what got us Seminary Lane.
I offer a copy of my remarks to the Clerk.