It's not quite as painful as Cersei's walk of shame through the streets of King's Landing, but, by God, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples and Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole, D-Plantation are walking down those cold, stone steps -- figuratively speaking -- every day of the week.
They get email. They get phone calls, they get texts and letters, and they get slammed across all platforms of social media.
All because they introduced HB 631, a bill dealing with customary use -- public access to private beachfront property. The intent of the new law is to allow customary use practices to continue, but in a way that is more transparent, efficient and cost-saving while requiring active dialogue between local governments and private property owners. The idea was to avoid costly legal challenges.
The walk of shame is going to escalate for Passidomo.
She's about to be publicly humiliated at the 2018 Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association conference in Clearwater Sept. 19-21 when Walton County Commissioner Cecilia Jones calls her out in front of the whole assemblage. All paid for by Walton County taxpayers.
Certainly it's an indication of the County Commission's position generally. Incumbent Jones was defeated at the polls in August. She only has six more weeks to serve. Yet, the rest of the commission voted 4-0 over the Taxpayers Association's objection to send her and her good friend, Commissioner Tony Anderson, to the conference -- at $1,000 each.
Jones argued she deserves to attend. After all, she said, she was the commissioner who spearheaded the customary use movement. (None of the commissioners suggested, at least on the record, that Jones' crusade for repeal of HB 631 might have been instrumental in her August defeat.)
"The lady that sponsored the bill (Passidomo) is going to be there and I'd like to look her straight in the eyes and tell her what chaos and what havoc she's caused in Walton County," Jones announced. "That we have neighbors fighting with neighbors and that we really don't appreciate someone from South Florida meddling in Walton County business." (A clip from the meeting is shown below, or can be seen here.)
Commissioner Jones doesn't think a state senator should "meddle" outside her district? Really? Where did she go to school? This is high school civics stuff.
My guess is, Jones will bomb at the conference because Passidomo will use it as an opportunity to explain, as she always does when challenged, why 631 is a bill that actually will strengthen customary use.
Incidentally, Edwards-Walpole, who fields her share of abuse -- but still listens and replies "to help people understand the law" -- is not attending the conference. "I wasn't invited," she told me Thursday night.
Astounding, at least to me, is that the two ringleaders for HD 361 repeal, restaurateur Dave Rauschkolb and attorney Dan Uhlfelder, imply to followers, the media, anyone who will listen, that "an email exchange" between Passidomo and powerful former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is the "smoking gun" behind a plot that will lead to the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately declaring customary use unconstitutional.
I think Dave and Dan have looked into so many cameras since July, they have Hollywood delusions: One day they'll make a movie and tell our story!
But, I ask you, do Huckabee and Passidomo sound like a pair of plotters to you?
Huckabee in his Jan. 17 email: "I'm one of those beachfront owners whose title goes to the mean high water line (the wet sand)," he wrote to Passidomo on Jan. 17. The email followed a number of entirely transparent committee meetings at the Capitol, most of them televised on The Florida Channel. "Walton Co. taxes me on that property and I pay handsomely for it! I actually don't mind people who simply want to enjoy the beach and certainly not walk on or past. … What beachfront owners object to is illegal taking of taxed and titled property without compensation or even consideration. In fact, we are demonized as 'greedy, selfish and rich' owners who want to deprive the poor of their 'rights.' ..."
Passidomo in her response: "Thank you for a detailed and thoughtful email to my Senate website. ... She then agreed with his assessment that, “when dealing with a government taking of private property for public use, neither the state nor local government has the right to do so without a judicial determination.” (Did I miss something? Was that some fiendishly clever code for "You can count on me to take their beaches away, Mike"? )
Huckabee in a Jan. 19 email to Passidomo: “The county is spending my tax money to take my property, and then I have to spend additional money to fight them to keep it from happening. I’m grateful for your efforts. It’s not a political issue in my mind but a constitutional one. Either private property rights mean something or they don’t."
Actually, you can see and click on the full email exchange, which Passidomo provided in an attachment just below this story.
"I am happy to provide all my emails to reporters who ask for them," Passidomo told me. "I answer everybody who writes to me, the ones who like what I've done like Mike Huckabee, and the ones who tell me I would make a better cleaning lady. I like people to know their comments were heard."
Passidomo also provides on her website a full explanation of how she came to work on 631 and present the bill to the Senate. Cecilia Jones might want to dial that up before next week when she leaves for Clearwater.
If Huckabee had emailed before the committee meetings, before the bill was first discussed, there wouldn't be so many people today laughing at the notion of a conspiracy theory. Nevertheless ...
Rauschkolb, after he saw Huckabee's email: “This is simply proof after months of speculation that Gov. Mike Huckabee used his considerable political influence to push for Florida House Bill 631. Gov. Huckabee, who, after only being a resident for a short time, quickly found his way into coordinated actions along with a small number of beachfront owners and lawyers.”
This is how Dave wants to characterize the issue, to keep it alive. He insults people's intelligence.
Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News confronted Huckabee directly, asking how much involvement he had in 631.
“The extent was doing what you see,” he told the reporter in an email sent soon after the question was posed. “Sending an email like any other voter can do.
“If the critics accuse me of some ‘big’ role, don’t they think I’d have better access than the public response form on a senator’s website?” Huckabee asked. “That’s just how ridiculous the misinformation has been. And the bill does not prevent customary use. It just ensures that it isn’t adjudicated by the same body that legislates it. It’s a pretty straightforward constitutional separation of powers issue.”
On Thursday morning, Rauschkolb, the man many in Walton County call "the Irony Poster Boy," the man working hard to make all beaches public while he lives in a private, gated beachfront community -- displayed a photo on a Facebook site (and displayed on this page) that sums up the complexity of Walton County history and the kind of baloney the Dave-and-Dan team peddle: an artsy shot in a gated community ... of a private boardwalk ... to a private beach ... over a "public" coastal dune lake. A sight perfect for Dave, but the rest of us? Not so privileged. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Sunshine State News has removed the photo referenced here from readers' view at the request of Rauschkolb's attorney, David Pleat. The child shown is Rauschkolb's daughter. Though SSN is not legally obligated to do so -- Rauschkolb uses his children regularly on public Facebook pages and they appear with him in TV news stories -- SSN nevertheless has extended this courtesy to the Rauschkolb family.)
Sen. Passidomo, steel yourself. Cecilia Jones will have come a long way to get in your face. I don't think you can say anything to change her mind but I don't think you'll stop trying. Good luck.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith