The Florida Tea Party targets free speech for political candidates


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Peg Dunmire, chairman of the Florida Tea Party, says campaigning for Congress was a daily hassle.

ORLANDO – During its relatively brief existence, the Tea Party of Florida has championed constitutional principles like a balanced budget, limits on federal powers over the states, and low taxation.

Now the party’s new chairman is ready to add another cause to the list: freedom of speech, particularly when it comes to the campaign trail.

“I’m here to tell you that every day my First Amendment rights were challenged,” said Peg Dunmire. “We’re going to include this (issue) and go after First Amendment barriers.”

Dunmire was the Florida Tea Party’s candidate in the state’s 8th Congressional District, where she challenged incumbent Democrat Alan Grayson. Both candidates lost to the Republican nominee, former state Sen. Dan Webster.

Dunmire, who recently took over as party chairman from Fred O’Neal, said her campaign turned into an endless series of frustrations, since she often times found it next to impossible to actually meet and greet the voters, or even do something as simple as put up a sign promoting her candidacy – including on her own front lawn.

“We set a standard for Peg,” said political consultant Doug Guetzloe, who serves as an advisor to the Tea Party, “where if she didn’t get threatened with arrest, she wasn’t doing her job.”

Peg Dunmire wants to champion free speech for political candidates.

Dunmire said the frustrations started at her own home, when she put up a political sign – and was promptly told by her homeowner’s association that it had to go. Dunmire lives in the sprawling Hunter’s Creek development, where signs on front lawns are almost entirely prohibited — with one obvious exception.

“I was working with a homeowners association that prevents you from having a sign on your own lawn,” Dunmire said. “At Hunter’s Creek, only one sign is allowed, a For Sale sign. Sometimes you can also put up a little security sign. That’s ridiculous.”

 The next headache she encountered on the campaign trail, Dunmire said, was keeping up with the rules on where the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office would allow candidates to greet voters. Dunmire said she’d go to places she assumed were public property, only to find the property wasn’t so public after all – and her campaign activity wasn’t at all welcome or encouraged.

One good example: an Orange County public library that served as an early voting location.

“I go over there on the first day to greet voters, and I am threatened with arrest by the police,” Dunmire said.  The reason: the library was located in a shopping plaza.

“The public library is considered private property because it was in a shopping plaza,” she said. “If somebody objects, they call up security and they say ‘We’re sorry, but this is private property.’ And they kicked me out.”

Dunmire visited a community college in Marion County that was hosting a Jazz concert. She went there to shake hands with voters.

“I would say, ‘Excuse me, may I introduce myself,’ “ she said. “After half an hour of doing this, security people came up to me.”

She got a similar reaction while visiting the Fashion Square Mall, where she purchased every ticket available for a movie playing that night, and handed them out to voters in the mall. Once again, security intervened.

“They tell you that you’re somehow soliciting,” she said. “Free speech supercedes that.”

The 8th Congressional District includes parts of Orange, Osceola, Lake and Marion counties. No matter which county she went into, Dunmire said, campaigning was a hassle.

“I’m a property owner in Celebration, even though I live in Hunter’s Creek,” she said. “I went to one of their events, Oktoberfest. They threw me out.”

The biggest surprise, Guetzloe said, was when they got kicked out of a church.

The Tea Party couldn't even campaign outside a polling place held at a local church, Doug Guetzloe says.

“We got threatened with arrest by the pastor of a church which was a polling place,” he said, while Dunmire added, “I said to him, ‘Sir, you do get paid for having this be a polling place,’ and he reamed me out, saying it doesn’t even cover the cost of his electricity.”

“We ran into this everywhere,” Guetzloe said. “And I mean everywhere.”

Dunmire said she wants the Tea Party to go after restrictions that make it difficult, if not impossible, for candidates to shake the hands of voters.

“This is a big deal that I think all of our parties need to address,” she said. “Political candidates can’t be successful if they can’t get their message out.”

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Guetzloe keeps up the fight for free political speech


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ORLANDO – Doug Guetzloe smiles when he notes that people think of him today as the guy who just went to jail.

Political consultant Doug Guetzloe says despite initial media reports to the contrary, he isn't going to jail anytime soon.


“I had people say to me in Publix last night, ‘Hey, I thought you were in jail,’ “ Guetzloe said.
In fact, Guetzloe never did go to prison, despite initial media reports indicating otherwise, and he doesn’t expect to, either.
“It’s because the media doesn’t follow up on what happens,” he said. Continue reading

Orange County commissioners target ‘Pill Mills’


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Orange County commissioners are worried about the use of pain medications sold at so-called Pill Mills

ORLANDO – Dr. Jan Garavaglia has seen a lot of deaths by accidental overdose in her position as Orange County’s medical examiner, but what’s starting to change is what the victims are overdosing on.

“Usually what we see in Orange County are the heroin and cocaine deaths,” said Garavaglia. Today, though, more people are being brought into her morgue because they were using prescribed drugs – not illegal ones.

 “The number of accidental deaths from prescription drugs continues to accelerate alarmingly,” Garavaglia said. “In 2010, we’re going to equal or surpass 2009 for accidental prescription drug deaths. These are not intentional deaths by suicide. These are people trying to get high. One pill is good, two is better, three is even better.”

And while there are deaths among young people in their teens, twenties and thirties using these drugs, Garavaglia added that “I’m seeing older people dying from it, and I don’t think these people know they’re addicted to it.”

On Nov. 9, Garavaglia took part in a workshop organized by Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, to focus on the growing problem of so-called “pill mills,” where doctors write prescriptions for pain killing medications that in some cases can be highly addictive.

“The abuse of prescription drugs is our country’s fastest growing drug problem,” said Lin Lindsey, director of the Center for Drug Free Living Addictions Receiving Facility. “We’re seeing this increase at all of our drug prevention programs.”

Lindsey noted during the workshop, held at the Orange County Board of Commissioners office in downtown Orlando, that addictions to heroin recently made up 47 percent of the patient base at her forty-bed inpatient detoxification stabilization facility, while “the pharmaceuticals – and that included all the pain pills – was 50 percent, with Methadone at 3 percent.

“This past October, we jumped to 83 percent for pain pills, 15 percent for heroin and 2 percent for Methadone,” she added.

Dr. Charles Chase, vice president of the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists, said these pill mills often set up shop near bars, hoping to find people who want to get high.

“These are clinics that primarily engage in treatment of chronic pain,” he said. “Often times these pain clinics will stay open late to accommodate people coming out of the local bars.”

Carol Burkett, director of the Orange County Drug Free Living Coalition, said adults 50 and older are increasingly at risk for becoming victims of pain medications.

“Two million older adults use prescription drugs non-medically,” she said, adding that they typically get their pills in one of five ways: from family and friends, doctor shopping, at pill mills, from street dealers, or through theft, usually by stealing prescription drug pads from their doctor’s office.

“Pill Mills, which are considered pseudo-pain clinics, may ask very few questions, if any,” Burkett said. “Pill mills can bring in $25,000 a day. Broward and Palm Beach counties have 200 known pill mills. There are some that say ‘No wait, walk in’s welcome for chronic pain.’ “

The pain medication Oxycodone is particularly troubling, Burkett said, adding, “Florida led the nation in dispensing Oxycodone, more than any other state.”

Equally troublesome, she said, is that there are 61 pain management clinics in Orange County alone.

“We have more pain management clinics in Orange County than we do Burger Kings,” she said.

Crotty said he organized the workshop because he wants county government to limit the number of pain-management clinics and their hours of operation.

“The problem isn’t granny dying from cancer and needing pain relief,” he said. “It’s about young people.”

Garavaglia said in many of the cases she’s worked on, parents are shocked to learn their children had access to legally prescribed drugs.

“I’ve talked to parents and they’re so angry that their children can get access to these medications for nebulous pain,” she said.

In some instances, she said, it’s the parents themselves who are prescribed the pills. They wind up not using them, but they also don’t throw out the pills.

“They can be very expensive,” Garavaglia said of the medications. “People don’t want to get rid of them because they say ‘Someday I might have pain,’ but they do get stolen.”

Crotty – who did not seek re-election this year and will be replaced by Teresa Jacobs – said he hopes fellow commissioners act on this problem.

“I think you’ve got a pretty angry mayor – and a pretty angry commission, too,” Crotty said.

As she was getting ready to leave the workshop, Garavaglia noted that “I have seven bodies — and one appears to be a prescription drug death – waiting for me.”

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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