Commissioner John Tobia presented his first resolution before the Brevard County Commissioners earlier this month.
“Whereas Puerto Rico’s debt crisis in large part is the result of socializing private industry,” he began, “the burden placed on federal taxpayers to remedy the decades of mismanagement and socialization would be untenable…”
PROMESA was, he claimed “an attempt to independently become sustainable.”
Having completed these remarks, Tobia went on to state his resolution:
“Resolved, the Brevard County Commission does hereby request that the United States Congress refrain from extending statehood to the commonwealth of Puerto Rico.”
The resolution was followed by silence. Tobias moved that the resolution be approved, and — following more silence — the chair of the meeting asked for a second. “No second, the motion fails,” he concluded.
The video above ends at that point, but news sources reported that attendees of the meeting cheered. Discussion of the motion went on in spite of its death for lack of a second. Several speakers, including Anthony Suarez, president of the Puerto Rico Bar Association of Central Florida, clarified for Tobia that the debt’s effect on U.S. taxpayers would not be changed by statehood. Another commissioner remarked that Tobia’s comments were “disrespectful” of Puerto Rico. Others objected that Puerto Rico’s political status is not relevant for Brevard County.
But the resolution and the strong negative response to it are additional evidence that the political status of Puerto Rico is in fact important to people living in the states.
The current territorial status has led to millions of Puerto Ricans’ moving to the states, to the loss of healthcare professionals, and to austerity measures that may lead to a humanitarian crisis on the Island. States are facing the cost of increasing numbers of new residents coming from Puerto Rico, requiring additional services in bilingual education and healthcare. Puerto Ricans living in the states, now a greater number than those living on the Island, naturally care deeply about the human rights issue of Puerto Rico’s status, and other Americans are beginning to become more aware of these issues as well.
Congress must take action of some kind in response to Puerto Rico’s demand for statehood. Brevard County didn’t accept the suggestion of refusing statehood to Puerto Rico in hopes of dodging responsibility, perhaps because most of the commissioners understand that the United States cannot dodge that responsibility. Resolutions to support Puerto Rico’s demand for statehood may be more effective.