Art Otero (left), whose past credits include stints at the Florida Housing Commissioner for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Vice-Presidency at the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly of Osceola County, had campaigned on his record as a business leader and on promises to expand the local airport as a means to bring jobs to Kissimmee.
Representatives from the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union have said that the move blurs the lines between the separation of church and state, even as they admit that courts have allowed the use of the specific phrase in other areas (it remains on our dollar bills, for example).
Otero, himself, says that his resolution is based on patriotism rather than religious belief. But other statements he made last week to The Orlando Sentinel are putting that into question. From Wednesday's paper ("Kissimmee wants 'God' in its city logo"):
Commissioner Art Otero, who proposed the addition, said he was prompted to suggest the change because he doesn't agree with the direction the country is going under the Obama administration, which he referred to as "socialist." He said his initiative was not based on faith but on patriotism.Sigh.
"This nation has been moving toward more liberal postures such as homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion and the legalization of marijuana,"Otero said. "I'm against that way of thinking. Those are not the values upon which this nation was founded. I think we need to fight for the values we're losing."
Patriotism, I believe, refers to a love of nation and not to a desire to use legislation to invade the privacy of your own country's citizens. And, while having the words "In God We Trust" on a city logo wouldn't necessarily impact my personal life one way or the other, it's Otero's obvious religious-based rationalization that irks those of us who think it indicates he might go further if allowed.
As for those campaign promises to work to improve the city's economy? The Sentinel reports that changing all city logos on on city vehicles, decals and official stationery would cost the city upwards of $200,000 from taxpayer's money. Chump-change to some, but go tell that to some of the local community service organizations that have seen their budgets cut during the current economic downturn or to people who have lost their job in Kissimee.
Unfortunately, the Commission is said to be agreeable to adopting the measure and Carlos Irizarry, the one Commissioner who raised issues about it during the initial presentation, later changed his mind and said he would support it because it was important "to support Christianity and faith".
At least he is upfront about crossing that line between church and state while he is at it. Shame on Otero and the other Commissioners for going for the measure in the name of fake Patriotism.
UPDATE: An update of sorts (since the article was written back on the 23rd but I just found out about it). Watermark, an LGBT publication covering areas of Florida, including Orlando, has been covering the issue ("Kissimmee commissioner comes out as anti-gay"). Their article includes interviews and reactions from Kissimmee Mayor Jim Swan, openly gay city commissioner Cheryl Grieb who says she refused an apology by Otero, and Florida resident Vicki Nantz who says she e-mailed a complaint to the Kissimmee City Commission only to get back an automated message that read "The following email message was blocked due to offensive or sexual content." She was finally able to send the message on a third try when she changed the word 'gay' in her message to 'LGBT' (thanks for the heads-up!).
Also, in the above local FOX News clip from July 24, Mayor Swan says that he initially backed Otero's measure but has since backed off:
Sounded to me like it was, ah, 'I don't like anybody with an alternative lifestyle, and that's why I'm doing it' by one of my Commissioners, and, ah, I mean that's, that wasn't my motivation. And, ah, ah - so, you know, with that out there in the community now, I don't feel it's appropriate for us to change anything.UPDATE 2: Great OpEd piece from Daryl E. Owens in the July 25th issue of the Orlando Sentinel ("Politicos take liberty with the Lord's name").
UPDATE 3 (7/29/09): Kissimmee commissioners have voted 4-1 against changing the city's logo. The only vote in favor was Otero's