Jenny Wojcik is hardly the kind of person you'd expect to find protesting a Republican governor and legislature.
She's a staunch conservative who likes poking holes in her liberal friends' arguments.
And yet on Tuesday evening, this proud Republican stood amid a sea of placard-waving protestors who were decrying Gov. Rick Scott's plans to cut funding for everything from schools and veterans to the sick and disabled.
"I had to speak up," said the 38-year-old elementary school teacher.
"With every other round of cuts in this state, I just thought I would close my door, keep my head down and do my job. Well, I can't just do my job anymore. That's the problem.
"They have cut so much of education already — the music, arts, sports. I love what I do and can't imagine doing anything different. But what we are giving them now is not the best anymore. It's just not OK anymore."
So Wojcik spoke up Tuesday.
She was joined by more than 600 others at a rally in downtown Orlando.
And that group was joined by thousands more in about 30 cities around the state.
They were teachers and nurses; police officers and the unemployed.
They were Democratic advocates for the sick and Republican parents who had lost children to pill mills.
All were angry and wanted to be heard.
I wonder if Florida's politicians will listen.
Oh, listening to the masses was all the rage when it was done in the name of Tea Parties. Florida politicians not only praised the protests, they encouraged people to participate — even deemed them "patriots."
So will they listen now?
I hope so. Because I believe in the power of the people. I always have — no matter who is speaking up.
Back in 2009, when others were trying to marginalize the health-care protestors, I described many of them as "genuinely frustrated and intelligent people" who should be heard.
When Nancy Pelosi and the White House were trying to patronize and downplay the movement, I wrote: "Democratic elitists are too quick to dismiss the unrest, further enraging very real people with very real concerns."
I believe in listening to people who take the time to speak up.
And the Republican politicians who run this state used to say they would, too.
The people are speaking up — in a way they have not before.
Do you consider them "patriots" as well?
And I heard them say that they are sick of seeing Florida try to balance its budget on the backs of rank-and-file Floridians.
They are sick of watching lawmakers jack up the costs of getting a driver's license while handing tax breaks to out-of-state corporations and millionaire investors.
There is, after all, enough money out there to take care of our under-funded schools; to properly pay our underpaid teachers and social workers; and to avoid cuts that will mean less take-home pay for janitors and office assistants who barely make above-poverty wages as it is.
There is also enough money to avoid the drastic cuts that Scott has planned for the state's offices of veterans affairs, persons with disabilities, elderly affairs and children and families.
It simply takes standing up to the vested interests.
Florida, after all, is not Washington, D.C.
Our state is not broke. We do not have a deficit-spending. Our budget is balanced each and every year.
Nor are Floridians overtaxed. We have one of the lowest tax rates in America for both corporations and individuals, who face no income tax here.
Our problem is that Tallahassee lawmakers have spent the last decade cutting breaks to special interests and to the wealthy — and making the most vulnerable residents pay the price.
We've given breaks to yacht-buyers, out-of-state retailers, beachfront mansion owners, wealthy investors, bottled-water companies and law firms.
And yet Scott wants to double down on these failed policies.
For what? So that we can take another $3 billion out of public schools and cut the Agency for Persons with Disabilities by another 20 percent?
The people of Florida are saying no.
They are speaking up.
Are you listening to the patriots now?
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