Brevard Public Schools has a new ally in informing the public about the proposed half-cent-on-the-dollar sales tax that would fund school improvements.
Retired Army Col. Danny McKnight of Rockledge has recorded videos to encourage voter support of the half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 4 ballot. Previously, pro surfer and Cocoa Beach native Kelly Slater was featured in videos with a similar message.
McKnight, who retired from the Army in 2002, is best known for commanding an Army Ranger unit in a mission into Mogadishu, Somalia, that was depicted in the movie “Black Hawk Down.” Currently, McKnight travels the country as a motivational speaker.
McKnight, who graduated from Cocoa High School, talks in one video about the leadership skills gained at school, the inspiration he gained from having top-notch teachers, the importance of sports and music programs, the need for a well-educated military and how having quality schools affects society.
“We need to stop for a moment and think: How did we get where we are today? And it started with education,” McKnight said in the video. “And if we don’t support our kids getting the same kind of education we did, we failed. It’s the quality of education we want them to have, because their future starts when they go to school every day.”
Michelle Irwin, a school district spokeswoman and the director of community relations, mentioned McKnight’s videos during an informational meeting last week on the sales tax.
Irwin said people supporting the sales tax might want to consider sharing the McKnight videos so people understand the issue’s implications. She said the videos might be particularly effective with “an older crowd” and those with military connections.
She also noted that social media could be a way to spread the word, saying people can share the videos via Facebook and Twitter.
The proposed sales tax, if approved by voters Nov. 4, would raise $33 million a year for six years — a total of $198 million — that would be used by the district for facility improvements, school security and education technology at 82 schools in the district. Of that total, $10 million would be set aside in reserve to help pay for unforeseen critical needs.
If approved, the half-cent tax for school projects would increase Brevard County’s total sales tax to 6.5 percent.
Half-cent political committee plans a post-primary push
Among the 250 people attending last week’s Brevard Public Schools forum as a spectator was Adrian Laffitte, chairman of the political committee Brevard-Save Our Students, which is supporting the half-cent sales tax.
Laffitte said after the meeting that his organization is preparing an advertising, billboard, direct mail and sign campaign it will put into gear after the Aug. 26 primary.
Laffitte, who recently retired from Lockheed Martin Corp. as the director of Florida government relations, said the committee will “focus on marketing — getting the word out” about the importance of the sales-tax proposal during the 2½ months leading up to Nov. 4.
The committee so far has raised $76,072 in cash and $11,677 in in-kind contributions, and spent $9,154.
It has received donations from some prominent local businesses and organizations. Among them: Victory Casino Cruises ($5,000), Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex ($3,000), the architectural, engineering design and construction services firm BRPH ($2,500), The Viera Co. ($2,500) and Bright House Networks ($500).
Three sitting school board members — Karen Henderson, Michael Krupp and Andy Ziegler — also contributed to the committee, as did Superintendent Brian Binggeli, former Superintendent Richard DiPatri and other top school district administrators.
SeaWorld and number of local hotels and restaurants provided in-kind contributions for a silent auction and door prizes at a golf tournament fundraiser.
Crist receives 2nd check from matching funds
Former Gov. Charlie Crist is getting some help for his challenge to incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. And it’s coming from Florida taxpayers.
Crist on Friday received more than $474,000 when he received his second check of public matching funds. He has now received slightly more than $1 million in state money to assist his campaign.
Crist is not the only politician getting taxpayer matching help during the 2014 election. Former state senator Nan Rich has received slightly less than $200,000. Crist and Rich are Democrats. But all three Republican incumbents running for state Cabinet spots have also received taxpayer funds. Crist also accepted public money back in 2006 when he ran as a Republican.
Any candidate running for a state office can qualify for matching money from taxpayers. The GOP-controlled Legislature tried to repeal public financing of campaigns, but voters defeated the constitutional amendment in 2010.
The amount of matching money each candidate receives is based on how much money is raised from Florida residents. Donations from corporations or out-of-state residents can’t be matched. Those who accept the matching money must abide by spending limits, but that limit does not apply to money spent by outside political committees or parties.
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If you have political news to share, contact Enterprise Editor John McCarthy at 321-752-5018 or [email protected]