November 29, 2016
From making policies to writing books, Former Florida Gov. Bob Graham is all for having citizens be politically involved.
Whether it’s through protesting, visiting local school board meetings or conducting public records requests, Graham, now 80, says knowledge is power — no matter the arena.
On Tuesday, Graham, also a three-term senator, and Chris Hand, an attorney and former press secretary to Graham, stopped by The Gainesville Sun to promote their new book “America, The Owner’s Manual: You Can Fight City Hall — and Win.”
They discussed the book in the evening at the Bob Graham Center on the University of Florida campus.
Graham and Hand addressed broad local topics, some outlined in the book, and national topics. They said they hope the book will help citizens become more locally productive, informative and discover what is attainable through democracy.
The book has 10 chapters, each that teaches a different skill citizens can use to make government more responsive.
Here are some of the key areas they covered Tuesday:
Donald Trump: Graham said he hopes those discouraged by Donald Trump’s presidency become more politically involved, rather than retreating from politics. Citizens who are more involved locally have the ability to enhance their lives and can better understand government’s limitations, more so than listening to debate-style rhetoric seen at the state or higher levels.
“It’s nice to take up signs and go to the streets and protest, but that’s not likely to actually change anything, whereas this would,” Graham said.
When combating false narratives and misinformation, Graham said the best antidote for “bad facts” is “good facts.”
The Sabal Trail pipeline: Graham prefaced his comments saying he has a bias in that he owns a cattle farm in Georgia that the pipeline will go through, despite his efforts to contest the construction. That said, he called the pipeline a “short-sighted, environmentally damaging idea.”
“I think it raises a number of issues,” he said. “…The basic analysis of the impact of this has not been sufficiently localized to conditions in South Florida and North Georgia.”
Increasing the state’s energy sources for electricity will be a policy that will later bite citizens, he added. Graham said Sabal Trail will increase the state’s dependence on natural gas, which is already at 70 percent. He said it all goes back to the solar energy debate.
“Are we going to be increasingly dependent upon a few plants driven by the same energy source that serve a large demographic area or are we going to move toward a greater decentralization of our electric production?” Graham asked.
Despite Florida being coined the “Sunshine State,” Georgia better deserves the moniker, Hand said, because state officials there have invested heavily in solar energy.
Newspapers: Hand said he recalls being in Tallahassee in 1998 and seeing its then-robust press centers. That is not the same story today, he said. Graham said journalism has been one of the ways to hold governments accountable. Without it, he said, corruption spikes.
“I don’t think there’s any substitute for having a strong, vigorous, aggressive press corps for effective government,” Graham said.
Though other forms of news have since increased, (blogs, broadcast, etc.) news consumers still must filter through an abundance of fake news. Graham said the “jury is still out” on whether the other forms of media are a suitable replacement. [READ MORE]