Florida county officials pass resolution mocking columnist

Officials in Brevard County, Fla., passed a resolution last week offering sarcastic praise for a former Florida Today columnist who recently got a new job at the Miami Herald.

The five Brevard County commissioners approved the resolution that they said was “honoring” Isadora Rangel during a Feb. 9 meeting after she departed her role as engagement editor and opinion writer for Florida Today’s editorial board. 

Commissioner John Tobia read the resolution aloud, starting by listing her qualifications before it turned more critical, according to a video reported by Florida Today.

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“Whereas because of her eloquent prose the circulation of Florida Today dropped only 16 percent during her tenure,” Tobia said. 

“Whereas her dedication to Brevard is exemplified by her accepting a position with the Miami Herald a mere three years after coming here,” he added. “And whereas her liberal views will be sorely missed by the Brevard Democrats alike...”

Following the resolution’s initial approval, Commissioner Bryan Lober requested two amendments be added, which both addressed Rangel’s Brazilian citizenship.

“Whereas throughout her employment with Florida Today, Ms. Rangel never once let the fact that she’s forbidden from voting in this county deter her from commenting on our politics and criticizing numerous elected officials,” Lober said in an approved amendment.

“Whereas ... Ms. Rangel deserves recognition for selflessly remaining in this country, not withstanding our nearly tenfold higher per capita GDP and approximately one-sixth the murder rate of the country from which she hails,” he proposed in an amendment that commissioners laughed at but dismissed.

In her previous position, Rangel had frequently disapproved of the commission and its members in her pieces, as columnists are supposed to give opinions about the news, unlike other reporters. 

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Florida Today executive editor Mara Bellaby issued a response to the resolution in an editorial in which she called the commissioners’ move “petty and mean-spirited.”

“Clearly Tobia and Lober and the other commissioners saw Rangel as a thorn in their side and seemingly feel relief that she was so successful here as to earn an opinion writer’s job in a bigger market,” Bellaby wrote. “I feel nothing but pride in Rangel’s work for Florida Today, and I have seen the impact her journalism and engagement efforts had on our county.”

The newspaper’s executive editor also countered that it grew its digital subscriptions by 33 percent last year and noted commissioners prioritized the resolution over actions regarding COVID-19, calling it “embarrassing.” 

Rangel also reacted to the resolution in a tweet, saying, “When the Brevard County Commission passes a resolution ‘honoring’ you, taking up the public's times and a commissioner makes a bunch of xenophobic comments because you got under their skin.”

Lober stood by the resolution in a statement to The Hill, saying “if she can dish it, she should be able to take it” and that her “job should have been to report the news, not to contort it to fit a recurring, prejudiced agenda.”

"My wife and I are both the products of lawful immigration; neither of us would exist but for immigrants. To suggest that I have anything against legal immigration is simply untrue," he added.

Tobia told The Washington Post that the resolution “pretty much speaks for itself,” adding, “We wish her well, but we certainly took a couple of jabs, as she often did in the newspaper.”