Terry Roen, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 3

Terry Roen

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts reports fourth quarter earnings up 6 percent

Guest spending at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts helped boost fourth quarter earnings for the Walt Disney Company by 6 percent to a record $55.6 billion.

Higher average ticket prices and room rates, along with increased food and beverage spending caused Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ revenue to increase 5 percent to a record $17 billion, according to the report. Operating income jumped 9 percent to a record $3.3 billion.

Both Disney World and Disneyland’s domestic hotels reported occupancy rose more than 2 percent in the fourth quarter, to 86 percent, compared with the previous year. Hotel spending rose 1 percent.

“We’re very pleased with our performance for the year, delivering the highest revenue, net income, and earnings per share in Disney’s history,” the company’s CEO, Bob Iger, said in a statement.

The growth in parks and resorts helped offset losses of pre-opening expenses at Shanghai Disney Resort and lower advertising and affiliate revenue and higher programming and production costs at ESPN. Disney Channels also reported a decrease in revenue and sales.

The quarterly reports bodes well for Orlando, where both Disney World and Universal Orlando are building new hotels. Disney plans to open Flamingo Crossings with 500 hotel rooms in January near ESPN Wide World of Sports and Universal just announced its sixth hotel, Aventura, with 600 rooms, would be built next to its Volcano Bay Water Park.

Bob Cortes wins Seminole County’s House District 30

Incumbent Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes won another two years in House District 30 by defeating political newcomer Ryan Yadav.

Cortes gathered 39,304 votes, or 53 percent, ahead of Democrat Yadav’s 34,324, or 47 percent of the vote.

“This is the culmination of two years of hard work,” said Cortes. “I knew it was going to be a tough race in an election year but I’m happy that my constituents approved of my work.”

Cortes said he plans to spend the next two years working to improve education in Florida and will continue to lower taxes to encourage job growth. He also said since he is of Puerto Rican descent, he would continue to help Puerto Ricans in their transition to settle in Florida.

Cortes was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2014. The former Longwood city commissioner and mayor is the owner of Cortes Towing Service.

HD 30 covers much of south-central Seminole County including portions of Altamonte Springs, Longwood, and Casselberry, as well as part of north-central Orange County, including Maitland and part of Winter Park. District 30 is one of three in Central Florida that all swung the Republicans’ way in 2014, ousting Democratic incumbents.

Key Haven residents vote against mosquito test

Residents of Key Haven voted decisively against a referendum to allow genetically modified mosquitoes to be released in a test to control the spread of Zika virus, while residents of Monroe County voted to approve the test.

The vote is non-binding and the district’s board of commissioners will have the final say on the test.

Key Haven had 419 residents, 65 percent, vote against the measure, while 224 people, or 35 percent, voted to approve the referendum. About 1,000 people live in the unincorporated community on Raccoon Key, an island about a mile east of Key West.

Monroe County voters also weighed in on the referendum with the majority favoring the test. County residents recorded 23,218, or 58 percent, for the test and 16,912, or 42 percent, against the measure.

Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease linked to devastating birth defects, is expanding throughout Central and South America and creeping toward the U.S.

The British biotech company Oxitec planned to release three million male mosquitoes on Key Haven.

Key Haven was chosen because the mosquito species known as Aedes aegypti — the same kind that carries Zika — sparked a yearlong dengue fever outbreak in 2009 that infected at least 88 residents.

The proposed test angered many residents in the Florida Keys. They campaigned against the referendum saying they didn’t want to be guinea pigs for an experimental technology that could fly into their homes.

The modified insects — nearly all male — are created and bred in a lab with a genetic variant. When these GMO mosquitoes mate with females in the wild, up to 97 percent of their offspring can’t survive, according to Oxitec. If enough GMO mosquitoes are released and mate, the population eventually declines.

Mila De Mier, a real estate agent and single mother of three boys who lives a few miles from Key Haven, led the protest. Among her biggest concerns are the lack of long-term research on the mosquitoes, the fact that not all the offspring die immediately and concerns that the mosquitoes could permanently affect the local environment.

Last year she launched a Change.org petition that has garnered national coverage and more than 168,000 signatures, more than double the 75,000 people who live in the Florida Keys.

Republicans win two Brevard County races

Republicans won handily two Brevard County races for state House seats.

House District 51

Republican Tom Goodson won the HD 51 seat in Brevard County.

He received 50,163 votes, or 60 percent, over Democrat Mike Blake’s 33,971, or 40 percent of the vote.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, who currently represents District 51, could not seek re-election because of term limits. Goodson currently represents House District 50, but switched to the District 51 race to face Blake, a Cocoa City councilman.

HD 51 includes the Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, and Rockledge areas.

House District 53

Republican Randy Fine was named the winner of the HD 53 race.

Fine received 46,205 votes (57 percent) over Democrat David Anthony Kearns’ 34,987 votes (43 percent).

Republican House Speaker hopeful Fine, 42, is a small-business owner and decided to run after becoming angry about his son’s public education. Kearns, 53, is a Palm Bay real estate agent.

HD 53 covers the southern portion of Brevard County.

Republicans steamroll to win U.S. House races

Republican incumbents strolled to victory Tuesday over their Democratic opponents in three U.S. House races.

District 6

Republican Ron DeSantis, a two-term Republican incumbent who ran for the U.S. Senate this year before dropping out this summer, won Florida’s 6th Congressional District race to defend his seat. DeSantis, of Palm Coast, beat Democrat Bill McCullough, a political newcomer from DeLeon Springs.

DeSantis won with 59 percent of the vote or 212,923 votes to McCullough’s 41 percent or 150,447 votes.

CD 6 runs heavily Republican and stretches from Jacksonville’s southern suburbs south to New Smyrna Beach.

District 8

U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, who is completing his fourth two-year term in Congress, held on to his seat. He defeated Democrat Corry Westbrook, lead specialist for oceans policy at the World Wildlife Fund, by a wide margin in Florida’s 8th Congressional District.

Posey won 244,097 votes, or 63 percent, while Westbrook took 125,698, or 33 percent of the votes.

CD 8 includes all of Brevard and Indian River counties along with a section of east Orange County including parts of Avalon Park, Bithlo, Christmas, and Wedgefield.

District 11

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster will continue his long career as a lawmaker, but in a new district.

Webster, a three-term Republican incumbent in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, beat political newcomer Dave Koller for Florida’s 11th Congressional District.

Webster won 256,541 or 65 percent of the vote, while Koller had 123,649, or 32 percent.

Webster switched to CD 11 after redistricting last year. His Orlando-area district was redrawn to favor Democrats so he decided to run in the heavily Republican 11th District.

Webster’s experience in the state Legislature and his six years in Congress gave him strong name recognition over Koller.

CD 11 encompasses parts of Lake, Sumter, Marion, Hernando, and Citrus counties.

Orlando attorney wins seat on Soil & Water Conservation

Attorney Michael Barber won the District 1 seat in Orange County’s Soil and Water Conservation race.

The former assistant state attorney beat Environmentalist Maria Bolton-Joubert and Star Grayson, Congressman Alan Grayson’s daughter, for the win.

Barber garnered 159,987 votes or 42 percent of the vote over Bolton-Joubert’s 145,714 (38 percent), and Grayson’s 76,628 (20 percent).

“I know it was a tight race with Maria Bolton-Joubert and her heart was in the right place,” said Barber, an Orlando resident. “I connected with the people through social media and she took a more traditional approach with signs. I didn’t see much campaigning from Star Grayson at all.”

Barber said he is hoping to become an advocate for water quality and to use his seat to bring more public awareness to this important issue. He practices criminal and education law with the Umansky Law Firm in Orlando.

All three candidates are young. The 30-year-old Barber beat Bolton-Jobert, 34, and Grayson, who turned 18 this month.

Grayson filed for the seat when she was 17 and turned 18 in time for the election. The loss means the Grayson family lost all three of their election races this year. Alan Grayson lost his bid for the U.S. Senate and his wife, Dena, lost a race for the U.S. House.

Florida DEO demands $77M back from Sanford Burnham

Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute has two weeks to return $77.6 million in taxpayer money it received as an incentive to build a Central Florida research center.

However, the nonprofit research center has balked at the demand and claims they should not be required to repay the state.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) claims the troubled nonprofit has breached its contract to provide jobs and remain in the state for 20 years. The state wants Sanford Burnham to return half of the $155.3 million it gave in incentives to move to Central Florida. Under the 2006 agreement, the California-based research giant agreed to create 303 jobs at its Lake Nona site by July 1 of this year. But according to the latest state report, they were 66 jobs short of meeting that goal.

The DEO Innovation and Incentive Funding Agreement was supposed to last for 20 years, but 10 years into the contract, Sanford Burnham Prebys (SBP) began looking for a way to leave Florida blaming a decrease in federal research grants as its state incentives ran out. If the nonprofit leaves halfway through the deal, the state argues it should get half the money back.

Sanford Burnham tried to broker a deal with the University of Florida to take over the research facility but UF backed out last week.

In an Oct. 28 letter sent from Karl Blischke, DEO’s director of strategic business development, to Sanford Burnham, it said the state “released funds in the good faith belief that our partner would carry out their legal obligations under the agreement. Unfortunately, Sanford Burnham has assumed the posture that it will leave Florida prior to satisfying its contractual obligations.”

Knox Bell, the San Diego attorney representing Sanford Burnham, sent a letter to DEO Oct. 31 responding to the allegations. Knox said that while the research center was unable to reach the 303 jobs in the agreement, it served as “a primary catalyst for Medical City at Lake Nona, a dynamic, prosperous and successful cluster that has created 5,000 new jobs.” He went on to say that according to the DEO agreement SBP should use “reasonable best efforts to create the 303 jobs” and there were no dollar damages or penalty, if the target was not reached.

Knox also said that the Lake Nona operation has “suffered substantial annual operating financial losses over the past few years.” He blamed the losses on the reduction of National Institutes of Health funding and the 2008 recession.

The changing economic conditions prompted Sanford Burnham to propose a gift transfer of all of its Lake Nona assets to UF and Knox said the nonprofit was surprised when UF decided not to proceed in October. He said that Sanford Burnham will continue to operate on an “as is” basis while exploring other alternatives. The attorney asked for further discussion between both parties.

The DEO has requested that the money be returned by Nov. 15, if Sanford Burnham plans to leave Florida.

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