Dennis Ward, State Attorney for Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM yesterday morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.
Most of the county is quite worried about the potential for judicial consolidation between Miami-Dade and Monroe County.
Ward said, “It’s going full speed ahead. I don’t know what happens to people when they get to Tallahassee or Washington DC. This week, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, we responded to letters sent to this Judicial Circuit assessment committee that was established by the chief judge of the Florida Supreme Court at the request of the speaker of the house, Paul Renner, who’s carrying the water for Governor DeSantis. So the department heads up in Tallahassee sent letters supporting consolidation. One from the Department of Children and Families, one from the department corrections, one from the Department of Juvenile Justice. Unfortunately, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Office of the Attorney General. Each of these agencies support circuit consolidation with varying degrees of enthusiasm. We responded to that. Quite frankly, these people that run these organizations are appointed by Governor DeSantis. We said furthermore, it’s not lost on us that all but one of these agencies report directly to the executive branch. So Speaker Renner talked to our association about three weeks ago, and told us that it was a mistake to put the Keys in there, all this type of rhetoric, and then we get off the phone with him, we find out that all these agency heads have submitted these letters to the committee and I say to myself, I wonder, did he call them? Or did the governor called them and say, hey, look, I put you in those positions, I want you to come out and support consolidation. These guys are imposters. They are jokes. They have no idea what goes on in the daily affairs of the organizations that they’re put in charge of. It’s outrageous that anybody from FWC would even consider consolidating Monroe County into Dade County, the Keys into Miami when it comes to fish and wildlife issues. That is just outrageous.”
Is there a common argument used to support the idea?
Ward said, “No, and that seems to be the problem, because they don’t know what circuits are going to be combined. The Speaker of the House and the governor, they’ve not supplied them with their plan. So I mean, this is mere speculation. But when you’re appointed by the governor to that position, you know, you snap to.”
What’s the next step?
Ward said, “Look what the legislature has done this past session with bills have come before them. If Governor DeSantis wants it, it’s going to make him more of a more viable candidate for the presidency, hey, we’re going to pass it, we’re going to pass it. This is just another one of his issues that deal with prosecutors in Tampa and Orlando that he removed. He doesn’t want them to be elected again, in November of ‘24. So they want to change those circuits. We might as well throw a few others in to make it look like we’re not picking on progressive liberal Democrats. I don’t agree with some of those state attorneys policies, but why punish the rest of the state?”
A rally is scheduled for Sunday, October 8, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Juice House in Key Largo.
Ward said, “We’d like to have a big turnout there. Next Friday, not this Friday, but next Friday, is the last opportunity for people to speak in regards to this issue. If you can’t make it to Tampa, then that best thing to do is go to the JC AC info site, and sign up and speak virtually. We’d like to have as many people get on there and speak to this commission and tell them their feelings and why they feel that way. The committee will meet again and I’m worried about the executive session that they have near the end of this thing, because that’s when they’re going to formulate the response that they’re going to give to the chief judge of the Florida Supreme Court and that Chief Judge will then supply it to Speaker Renner by December 1st. Renner will make a decision on whether he’s going to put it on the legislative agenda, starting in January this year, which I’m sure that’s all going to happen. Then we fight it in the House and the Senate. And the people in the House will all lockstep in line with the speaker and they’ll ram it through the House. Then I think our only hope is what the Senate, the Senate realizing what this is, and they can stop it, they can block it. After that, if it goes through, then it’s court actions and suits.”
Could it be delayed at all?
Ward said, “Renner’s got one more legislative session, and DeSantis has three more. So, it’s time for these people to kind of like, stop cow towing to this governor and do what’s right. Why would you impact people’s lives the way they’re doing? Just so you can be president? I mean, there’s a lot to see here about the character of these individuals doing this type of thing. Is that that’s the type of individuals you want it in these positions?”
Could our representatives help?
Ward suggested, “No, and they’re afraid anyway. They don’t want to buck the leadership here. Then you don’t get monies coming to your county. You listen to them, they told the Key West Chamber, don’t worry, that’s not going to happen, it’s going to get blocked in the Senate. Well, that’s great, but I’m not going to wait to the end of the legislative session to fight this thing. I can guarantee you that Key West will be inundated with homeless people on the streets down there living in front of people’s businesses, if this thing goes through. If you don’t believe that’s not true, look at South Beach and what’s going on with the homeless there. That’s in the circuit that they want to consolidate into.”
Mark your calendars for the rally this Sunday.
Ward said, “That’s a huge issue and it’s very important and people need to pay attention and start picking up their phones and getting on social media and expressing their opinions on this thing because it’s going to have a huge impact on our quality of life in the Florida Keys, have a huge impact on our environment and our natural resources.”