It was with utter astonishment that I read the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial Tuesday on the so-called “citizens’ sick-leave initiative,” as it has been consistently portrayed by the newspaper.
Of course, thanks to the research of Parquet Public Affairs, which pulled the curtain back on who’s really behind the effort, we know this wasn’t some citizen-led effort.
When it comes to exposing deception, it doesn’t get much more decisive than that.
The measure was a ballot initiative, launched by the activist group Citizens for a Greater Orange County, to force businesses with 15 or more employees to provide paid time off for employees who are sick or need to care for a sick family member.
The Sentinel Editorial Board knows these are not your everyday “citizens,” yet it continues to mislead the residents of Orange County — albeit, after offering the obligatory disclaimer that it agrees “with opponents of the initiative who don’t think that the government should be deciding which benefits employers provide to their workers.”
The Sentinel’s coverage on the issue has been exhaustive. When you add in the number of articles on a related story known as “text-gate” – about commissioners texting with lobbyists who were fighting the measure in the run-up to the board’s vote — it reaches levels of obsession.
Much of the paper’s coverage centered on “special interests” that intervened to prevent the sick leave measure from reaching the November ballot.
But Sentinel readers would be shocked to know that labor unions and far-left groups in Washington, D.C., and New York were the driving force behind the front group, Citizens for a Greater Orange County, pumping in tens of thousands of dollars in financial support.
Those groups included Unite Here, Leadership Center for the Common Good, Family Values @ Work and Communication Workers of America, among others.
Readers should also know that the Orange County Democratic Party is part of the Citizens’ coalition — even though the Sentinel named the Republican Party five times in an article that attempted to spell out who was behind the effort to block the initiative from going before voters.
But the deception doesn’t stop there. Tuesday’s editorial also took pains to point out that “organizers turned in the signatures ahead of the deadline for the November ballot.”
That’s simply not true.
For starters, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs gave the group until Aug. 10 to turn in petitions, a deadline it blew. The petitions were turned in three days later — the day before the Republican primary — and signatures still had to be verified by the Supervisor of Elections Office.
Then there was the tipping point: allowing Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles to print the ballots in a timely manner. To do so, and placate the “citizen-led” effort, Cowles shortened the number of days his office said was needed to accomplish the task, extending the time allotted to get the measure on the ballot. If only every candidate had so liberal a standard.
Ironically, this was all reported in the Orlando Sentinel, but ignored by its Editorial Board.
Then, the Editorial Board had the nerve to lecture Orange County commissioners on “public trust”?
The Sentinel editorial said commissioners should have been focusing on winning the battle of public opinion against the sick-leave initiative, instead of scheming to keep it off the ballot. The newspaper has been working overtime to shape such distorted public opinion.
In the end, the real issue was about outside groups with deep pockets coming into the Central Florida community, pushing an ideologically driven issue. The commissioners responded by trying to protect not only local businesses, but local residents affected by those businesses.
Perhaps, they pushed the envelope a little too far, but that doesn’t excuse the outright deception perpetuated on locals — many of whom were foolish enough to look to the local newspaper to keep them informed.