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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Forgotten no more

The Forgotten Coast, coined for the swath of shore stretching Mexico Beach to St. Marks, suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Michael.

But thanks in part to the efforts of two Tallahassee creatives, the region won’t be left behind.

In the days following destruction, Jesse Taylor, a local graphic designer with Marketing for Change, teamed up with Alex Workman, of We Are The Workmans and Aerial Tallahassee, to design a memento for the devastating storm.

The final product: a campaign titled “Never Forgotten Coast,” brandishing an outline of the Sunshine State with a heart intersecting the Big Bend and Panhandle regions affected by the hurricane. The campaign name is complemented by an infinity symbol seen from where the heart intersects the coastline.

‘Never Forgotten Coast’ is a reminder of the urgency in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Michael.

Taylor told us the message isn’t Florida-specific. Instead, it’s something that anyone watching the news around the nation can recognize — the regional slice of life hit hardest by Hurricane Michael.

On their own time, Taylor and Workman crafted the campaign with a sense of urgency. “It was important to get the message out there as soon as possible,” Taylor told us.

While a long road of recovery awaits some of the areas of the Forgotten Coast, the campaign’s reception has been stellar.

Workman and Taylor already have received more than 600 orders for their premier product, a T-shirt (available here) displaying the impactful design. All of the proceeds will go to Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe nonprofits aiding in relief efforts.

In the capital city, the image has galvanized the community. Taylor and street artist group BAET Collective have finished a mural on a building on Adams Street south of Monroe at Catalina Cafe’s new headquarters.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Scott issues hurricane update — As of Friday morning, the climbing death toll attributed to Hurricane Michael had risen to 24 in Florida, 34 nationwide. A sweeping update issued from Gov. Rick Scott’s desk Friday highlighted the state’s ongoing efforts across the regions hit hardest by the storm’s path, which made landfall more than a week ago in Mexico Beach. Approximately 7 million meals, 2 million gallons of water and 3 million pounds of ice are being distributed, according to Scott. As of Friday morning, 105,648 residences were still without power. Thirteen shelters currently operating under the state’s direction are inhabited by 2,393 Floridians. Currently, there are no fuel shortages in the affected areas. “Governor Rick Scott is in constant communication with federal, state and local emergency management officials and state agency leaders to ensure that communities impacted by Hurricane Michael are receiving the resources they need,” reads a media release accompanying the update. Peruse the extent of the state’s full recovery and relief efforts here.

State extends early voting — Supervisors of elections in eight Florida counties Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington can now extend early voting, beginning next Monday, under an executive order issued by Gov. Rick Scott this week. The order extends the registration date for poll watchers to noon, Oct. 26, 2018. In the named counties, which were hit particularly hard by the Hurricane Michael, vote-by-mail ballots can be forwarded to different addresses. Fax and email ballots were not permitted, as they remain “an unreliable method for returning ballots,” according to the Department of State. “The Department shares the Governor’s commitment to ensuring that all registered voters from counties devastated by Hurricane Michael are able to exercise their right to vote safely and securely in the upcoming General Election,” Secretary of State Ken Detzner said.

Next Governor will name new justices — A long-disputed legal battle over who has the authority to name three new Supreme Court justices came to a close this week when the high court ruled that outgoing Gov. Scott cannot appoint replacements for the court’s three upcoming vacancies. “The governor who is elected in the November 2018 general election (most likely Democrat Andrew Gillum or Republican Ron DeSantis) has the sole authority to fill the vacancies that will be created by the mandatory retirement of Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince,” the court’s one-page unsigned order said. Scott has publicly said he’d replace the departing jurists. The successful challenge to his remarks was brought forth by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.

Senate seeks halt to harassment probe — The state Senate request to end an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation into a top aide’s sexual harassment and retaliation claims will be heard Tuesday. The Senate’s legal complaint, filed earlier this month, counters that “the ongoing EEOC action violates the Florida Senate’s sovereign and constitutional rights,” including “violat(ing) the Senate’s sovereign immunity.” Rachel Perrin Rogers, chief assistant to Senate Republican Leader and future Senate President Wilton Simpson, says former Sen. Jack Latvala repeatedly groped her and made unwelcome comments about her body over a four-year period. The Senate is seeking a “temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction” to suspend that inquiry. The Tuesday hearing will be procedural in nature rather than focused on substance, according to U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle.

Session shaped by hurricane remains uncertain — Incoming legislative leaders Sen. Bill Galvano and state Rep. Jose Oliva told The News Service of Florida this week that they’re prepared to convene lawmakers to address needs prompted by Hurricane Michael. Gov. Scott and state agencies have the authority to request legislative relief, despite the 2019 Legislative Session’s March start date. “If the governor identifies an unmet need that requires swift legislative action, we will certainly work with him to address it,” incoming Senate President Galvano told The News Service. “In the here and now, if the governor or any agency needs resources or assistance for issues created by Hurricane Michael, the Florida House stands ready to help,” Oliva said.

State leaders criticize telecommunications post-Michael

After Hurricane Michael left crippled communications infrastructures throughout the state, some state leaders are voicing their frustration.

“Families understand that the telecommunications industry, like the power companies and other services, experienced catastrophic damage to vital infrastructure — but that does not change our expectation that each telecommunications company will be open and communicate a clear plan on how they intend to quickly restore service while treating families fairly,” Gov. Scott said in a strongly worded media release this week.

CFO Jimmy Patronis meets with Donald Trump during a tour of damage from Hurricane Michael. Patronis asked the FCC this week to help harden wireless communication networks in case of disaster.

Scott also outlined expectations he has for telecoms companies. Among his demands: the ability to switch providers without penalty, bills waived for October for families affected by the storm, and an open and transparent plan to restore power.

In a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis expressed the need to better prepare telecommunications infrastructure for catastrophes.

“After more than a week of wireless service failures in Hurricane Michael’s hardest hit areas, I urge you to recommend industry-wide measures that would help prevent downed telecommunications for extended periods of time,” wrote Patronis. “FCC recommendations on best practices to preposition equipment so companies are prepared to come in and make repairs quickly after a hurricane passes, for example, could ultimately save lives by getting communications back up to aid first responder search and rescue operations.”

Florida timber suffers billion-dollar damage

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is pegging Hurricane Michael’s toll on Florida’s timber industry at $1.3 billion.

“This is a catastrophic loss to the forest industry in the Florida Panhandle,” said Commissioner Putnam said. “We are committed to helping Florida recover from this devastating storm and will continue to work closely with the agriculture industry on hurricane-related damage assessments.”

Florida’s timber industry could take a multibillion-dollar hit from Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane Michael, which made landfall more than a week ago as a Category 4 storm, swept through nearly three-million acres of forestland, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the Florida Forest Service.

The Big Bend and Panhandle counties in the storm’s path: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington — all among some the top timber-producing counties in the state.

“As the downed forest debris dries, the potential for wildfire conditions increase,” said Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “It is critical for the Florida Forest Service to continue clearing trees and hurricane debris from roadways to re-establish fire lines and accessibility to timberlands.”

Long-term caregivers, heroes of the storm

Among those most affected by Hurricane Michael’s devastation were long-term caregivers in Florida’s Panhandle.

During the Category 4 storm, the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) set up shop at the state’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), working in partnership with the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Health to keep member centers informed and ensure each facility followed established emergency preparedness plans.

Working tirelessly to keep residents safe, long-term caregivers were among the true heroes of Hurricane Michael.

Before, during and after Michael, FHCA continued to work with federal, state, and local government officials as well as transportation and utility partners to coordinate evacuations and power restoration.

In a natural disaster of this magnitude, where everyone faced extreme challenges, those in the long-term care profession worked tirelessly to meet the unique needs of each resident who was affected by this historic storm.

As a result, FHCA caregivers brought every resident safely through the hurricane, even as their own homes were without power, damaged and belongings swept away. In response to Michael, the FHCA is continuing to gather and deliver essential supplies to facilities in affected areas from Marianna to Panama City to Blountstown.

FHCA is committing to supporting them and their families while they continue to ensure Florida’s long-term care residents are safe and secure during this demanding time.

Instagram of the Week

State-backed program offers hurricane housing solution

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is helping families displaced by Hurricane Michael find affordable rental housing through online tool Socialserve.

Together, the two entities will conduct “extensive and frequent surveys with rental property owners in the impacted counties regarding available and suitable housing for households that cannot return to their homes,” according to the state.

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is ready to help families impacted by hurricane Michael find affordable housing. (Image via Naples Daily News)

“Florida Panhandle families have had their lives turned upside down by this monstrous storm,” said Florida Housing Director Trey Price. “Florida Housing stands at the front lines efficiently providing long-term housing assistance and resources to those in need.”

Gov. Scott added that the service “will help many Floridians get back to a sense of normal life sooner.”

Florida residents displaced by Hurricane Michael can visit the affordable rental housing locator service here to find available units in Florida.

Health department: ‘Drain and cover’ after Michael

The Florida Department of Health is reminding Floridians to take precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses as counties impacted by Hurricane Michael continue to clean up.

“Drain” any standing water, the health department advises. “It only takes a bottle cap of water for some mosquitoes to breed and multiply,” reads an alert from the agency.

Health department officials are reminding Floridians to drain any standing water to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

“Cover” skin with clothes or repellent, and doors and windows with screens, the agency advisory continues.

“Although there are currently no areas of active, ongoing transmission of Zika in Florida, it is important to remain vigilant to protect ourselves and neighbors from mosquito bites in and around our homes,” adds the health department.

Old tires, playgrounds, gutters and troughs are among many household items that can harbor mosquito breeding sites. The department has created a public service announcement on the Drain and Cover method, available here.

Florida Lottery: ‘Win big this weekend’

Two state-run lotteries are offering a combined $1.47 billion jackpot this weekend.

The Mega Millions lottery recently rose to an estimated $1.0 billion, and the Powerball jackpot rose to $470 million, according to the Florida Lottery.

This week’s Mega Millions is reaching the one-billion-dollar mark.

Both lotteries start at $40 million and roll until someone wins. Floridians can win the Mega Millions by matching five white ball numbers (1-70) and the golden Mega Ball number (1-25). Powerball players can win by matching the five white ball numbers (1-69) and the red Powerball (1-26).

There are more than 13,000 Florida Lottery retailers peppered across the state. The Mega Millions jackpot number was pulled Friday night. The Powerball jackpot drawing will be Saturday evening.

Police chiefs make mark in post-Michael relief

A group representing some of Florida’s first responders deployed members from locations across the state after Hurricane Michael came through Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend areas.

“Hurricane Michael was the first Category 4 storm on record to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle and it devastated several communities in its path,” Florida Police Chiefs Association President David Perry said in prepared remarks.

FSU Police Chief David Perry praises the influx of law enforcement officers to help the Panhandle after Hurricane Michael.

“Just as they did before and during the storm, men and women in law enforcement and public safety continue to answer the call to protect and serve during the recovery efforts.”

Perry, who serves as the Florida State University Police Chief, said hundreds of sworn personnel from the FPCA traveled to impacted areas following the storm.

“These officers are working with local law enforcement and state agencies to distribute supplies, keep people safe on our roadways, answer calls for service, perform welfare checks, and maintain a public safety presence in areas with infrastructure damage and limited communication,” he added.

Analysis: High school students lack access to necessary coursework

Nationwide, millions of students lack access to courses that would help them transition into college or a career, according to a new report from ExcelinEd.

“For example, not a single state offers Algebra I or Biology in all high schools,” said ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque. “Additionally, the data reveal a disturbing pattern of inequity: as the percentage of minority or low-income populations in schools increases, access to core courses decreases.”

A new report finds high schools lacking in the coursework needed to successfully transition to college or the workforce.

After analyzing data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection, ExcelinEd also found that access to education is inequitable. “It is worse for schools with high populations of minority students and schools with high populations of low-income students,” reads the report.

The solution? The group recommends states individually audit course offerings and levels of access; inform families of courses necessary for students to achieve beyond high school; and identify policy solutions to help reduce access problems.

The full report can be viewed online here.

Walmart mobile pharmacy sets up shop in Marianna

Walmart is offering a unique service for those who are unable to get needed medicine in Marianna, which suffered extensive damage after Hurricane Michael hit the community last week.

Located at 2255 Highway 71, the Walmart mobile pharmacy seeks to help offset patient demand while the Marianna Walmart Supercenter gets back on its feet.

It will operate daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., providing prescriptions, immunizations and general resources for those affected by the storm. According to the retailer, it is capable of issuing up to 3,000 prescriptions per week. It is 53 feet in length and 17 feet wide, boasting a waiting area and space for immunizations.

A temporary solution: Walmart deploys its mobile pharmacy trailer to Marianna.

The makeshift solution, announced Tuesday, prompted a commending response from Gov. Scott.

“Thank you to [Walmart] for opening your mobile pharmacy in Marianna to support FL families impacted by Hurricane Michael that are in need of prescriptions, immunizations and resources,” Scott tweeted.

Uber, Lyft chip in hurricane relief

Two private-sector ride-sharing companies did what they could to help those displaced or stranded after Hurricane Michael.

Shortly after the storm, Uber began offering free rides up to $25 each to and from state-approved evacuation shelters in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. The service is ongoing, under the promotion code “MICHAELSHELTER.”

Uber, Lyft offer free rides to state-approved evacuation shelters for Hurricane Michael.

Similarly, Lyft offered rides up to $15 each across Panama City, Tallahassee and Albany, Georgia. That promotion ended Friday, Oct. 12.

According to Uber, teams had coordinated “with local officials to understand where these services can be most helpful.”

Before the storm made landfall, Lyft says it “donated to a Relief Rides program and partnered with United Way’s 2-1-1 program to help those in need evacuate.”

Study ranks Florida 23rd in ‘political engagement’

The Sunshine State isn’t the best but is far from the worst in terms of how politically engaged its electorate is.

A new study out this week from personal-finance website WalletHub put Florida at the 23 spot in “2018’s Most & Least Politically Engaged States.

That’s better than some of the state’s larger counterparts like Texas, New York and California, which ranked 41, 44 and 24, respectively. But Florida lags well behind Washington, D.C., Maine and Utah — the top three finishers.

Florida falls somewhere in the middle, in terms of political engagement (or lack thereof).

“In order to determine where Americans are most involved in politics, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 10 key indicators of political engagement,” the company’s Communications Manager Diana Polk wrote in an email. “They range from ‘percentage of registered voters in the 2016 presidential election’ to ‘total political contributions per adult population.’”

On average, ‘blue states’ were more politically engaged than ‘red states,’ according to WalletHub. A little more than 60 percent of the country’s electorate participated in the 2016 election, compared to 36 percent participation in 2014’s midterm.

FSU film student wins Student Academy Award

Shae Demandt is the latest rising star of Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts.

Earlier this month, Demandt secured the Student Academy Award in the Alternative category for her documentary, “Reanimated.” One of just 20 students from around the world to win, Demandt is now also eligible to compete in the Oscars. She is the ninth student in the college’s history to receive the honor.

FSU film student Shae Demandt gives a speech as she accepts her Student Academy Award in Beverly Hills. (Image via FSU)

“Reanimated” zeros in “on the long-shuttered Miami Marine Stadium, once a prized and popular 6,500-seat venue for boat races, concerts, rallies and sporting events,” according to the university. Abandoned after the 1982 Hurricane Andrew swept through the area, the stadium has since evolved into “a barren cement behemoth gleaming with vivid art.”

In her acceptance speech, Demandt said that during her childhood she would let her imagination run in order to “escape the real world.”

“However, when you get older you’re forced to stay in the real world and you have to leave that part of your childhood behind,” she continued. “But as I got older, I realized that filmmaking could be the part — could be the medium — where I could relive my childhood fantasies.”

Relief fund helps FSU med students

A fund has been established to help medical students, faculty members and staff of the Florida State University College of Medicine who have been left reeling after Hurricane Michael.

John P. Fogarty and Alma Littles, respectively the dean and the assistant dean of the college, sent a memo this week announcing the creation of the fund.

Dean of FSU College of Medicine John Fogarty announced a fund to aid students, faculty and family affected by Hurricane Michael.

“In the past week, some at the College of Medicine have seen trees slice buildings in two. Some have lost family homes to ferocious winds. Some have gone days without air conditioning or news from the outside world. Some have lost a refrigerator full of food and can’t afford to replace it. More than one person experienced a death in the family,” the memo said.

The FSU College of Medicine established a “rural medical education program” in Marianna in 2005. It offers students the opportunity to spend their third year of medical school in a rural community.

Marianna was one of several rural Northwest Florida communities in the path of the deadly storm, which made landfall last week in Mexico Beach with 155 mph sustained winds, making it just shy of a Category 5 storm.

“This somber occasion provides an opportunity to also give thanks that we are part of a College of Medicine centered on a mission of togetherness and service. We thank you for being a part of our family,” the memo about the fund said.

 ‘48 Hours’ to spotlight Tallahassee murder

CBS mystery show “48 Hours” will examine the enigmatic murder of Mike Williams at the 10 p.m. slot this Saturday.

Williams went missing more than 17 years ago, but his body wasn’t discovered until last year, after Tallahassee real estate appraiser Brian Winchester confessed to shooting Williams during a duck hunting trip at Lake Seminole in Jackson County.

After 17 years, Mike Williams’ cold case finally heats up.

Winchester claimed that Williams’ wife, Denise, was a co-conspirator. Denise Williams’ trial is set for December.

Featured prominently in the hourlong special is Jennifer Portman, who covered Mike Williams’ disappearance for the Tallahassee Democrat and currently serves as the paper’s news director.

A preview of the special is here.

Capitol Directions

The News Service of Florida and Tallahassee correspondent Michael Moline also contributed to this week’s edition.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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