Rosanne Dunkelberger, Author at Florida Politics

Rosanne Dunkelberger

Josh Cooper going from Election Day to mahi mahi

Tallahassee-based opposition researcher Josh Cooper has had plenty on his “plate” the past few months.

That includes consulting for campaigns in the statewide races of GOP U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and state CFO Jimmy Patronis, as well as others nationwide.

But after the winners are called Tuesday night, he will head to Orange Beach, Alabama to dish up something much tastier than political dirt at the 7th Annual World Food Championships (WFC).

There are 10 food categories in the competition and Cooper and his teammates are hoping to earn a spot in the finals in the Seafood category when they cook up Coconut and Mango Glazed Mahi Mahi with Avocado and Mango Salsa on Thursday.

If they win the preliminary round, Cooper and sous chefs Gannon Hunt and David Lee will prepare their chef’s choice on Saturday — Crab Cake Eggs Benedict, the recipe that earned them a spot in the championship.

Lee is a partner in the Ft. Lauderdale-based firm Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, and worked as lead pollster in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Florida and Wisconsin. He and Cooper met during a campaign in 2010 and have been entering — and winning — barbecue contests ever since.

Hunt, a designer by trade, is responsible for creating beautiful plating, an important job, since presentation is a large part of the scoring.

This marks the second time Cooper and his team has competed at the World Food Championships. Their team recently had two top-place finishes and a third-place finish at the 2018 World Barbecue Cooking Contest at Memphis in May.

Cooper also previously appeared as a contestant on season eight of FOX’s hit TV show MasterChef last year and serves as a culinary contributor for Influence Magazine.

Teams from more than 40 states and 15 countries are competing for more than $350,000 in cash and prizes — the biggest payout in Food Sport history — at the event, expected to attract nearly 30,000 foodies.

Competitors will cook food on-site during the timed events that include preparation speed, specialty recipes, presentation and the ultimate taste test for E.A.T™-certified Food Sport judges.

In addition to Seafood, the other food categories include Bacon, Barbecue, Burger, Chef, Chicken, Chili, Dessert, Sandwich and Steak.

As Michael looms, potential wedding disaster turns into ‘perfect day’

At her Cape Cod bachelorette party with eight girlfriends a few weeks back, Kate Leland was confident her year of planning to the nth degree would make for a perfectly perfect wedding on Oct. 12 in Tallahassee.

“My worst nightmare,” she told her pals during a weekend filled with wine, lobster rolls and some racy temporary tattoos, “would be if there was a hurricane.”

Fast forward to Sunday, Oct. 7.

Leland and fiancé Jason Pawell were making the 22-hour drive from their home in New York to her hometown of Tallahassee, happily anticipating a week of last-minute preparations, reunions and celebrations.

And then their phones started blowing up. Welcome to your worst nightmare, Kate.

“We started getting calls, SO many calls from his mom and his brother and others,” said the bride-to-be. “They were saying, ‘It’s going to be bad. It’s going to be bad.’ and I’m like, what? It’s the first I’d really heard of it.”

That first night during a planned overnight stop in Savannah, “I pretty much cried myself to sleep,” she recalled. “And Jason was trying to console me. He was trying to keep it together.”

Their first challenge was a scramble to get a marriage license before the clerk of court’s office closed in anticipation of the hurricane.

As they neared Havana, they learned the Leon clerk’s office was closing at 5:30 p.m., just 10 minutes later. A quick phone call and a detour led them to Monticello where it closed at 6.

After their arrival, the couple heard from their vendors — caterer, photographer, videographer, florist and so on — essentially saying, ‘we’re still good if you’re still good.’

“They were all so supportive. It was amazing,” she said.

The only one who bailed was the downtown restaurant where the rehearsal dinner was to be held. Electricity was restored in time for the planned Thursday night dinner, but most of the college-student wait staff left town when the universities closed.

Kate admitted to being a tad obsessed about every little last item on her wedding day. Six months out, she had her “bathroom baskets” ready. A “planner bride” is how her wedding designer described it.

“We were so planned out, so detailed,” said Kim Youngblood, owner of New York-based Ohana Event Design. “We had spreadsheets up the wazoo. We were planned out to the point that it hurt.”

One potential sticking point was the fact that electricity was lost at the venue, Goodwood Museum and Gardens, and hadn’t been restored.

Jason, an engineer by trade, went into full problem-solving mode, buying 400 feet of LED string lights and rounding up three generators. It would turn out his extraordinary efforts weren’t required when the carriage house lit up three hours before the ceremony.

The power went out for a couple heart-stopping minutes during cocktail hour, but only Youngblood and the catering staff knew.

Her sister and maid of honor, Lauren Leland, said Kate and her mom butted heads at times about the myriad details of the wedding, but the hurricane brought what was important into focus.

“Sometimes I think about ‘Oh why did this happen?’ In some ways it’s a necessary reminder,” she said. “When stuff like this happens, it’s unfortunate, but it’s also telling us ‘do not sweat the small stuff.’ ”

And in the end, it was a perfect day.


Ed. Note — The author has known the bride since she was 2 years old and has been the playmate and BFF of her daughter in all the years since. That semi-rookie officiant is her son-in-law.

Main photo credit: Kate and Jason Pawell, by Woodland Fields Photography.

Style for the 21st century candidate (Hint: It doesn’t include a navy blue suit)

When he looks at action shots from this summer’s Republican and Democratic gubernatorial debates, Arron Gober can’t help but shake his head.

The Tallahassee-based custom clothier is very, very disappointed at the sartorial choices made by the majority of the candidates from both parties, doing his own call-and-response commentary.

“What do you see? You see dark, navy blue suits, right? Do they have any personality to them? Not really. Do they look like they have for the last 30 years? They do, don’t they?”

Of the seven, only Democrats Jeff Greene in a greyish suit and Gwen Graham wearing black and white broke the mold.

Gober implores candidates to throw out the tropes about “power” colors and rules about what reads well on television — and embrace a softer, friendlier, more approachable palette.

Which still includes blue. And maybe some subtle check patterns.

“Royal is a little-more-friendly shade; you can even get into things like your blue/gray,” he points out. And if they’re not ready to put the navy out to pasture, choose a pattern that softens it with a blue that’s a couple shades lighter.

Candidates should also update their thinking on what works for television beyond the single-colored coat and plain white shirt. “That was what everybody was told to wear, but what do we have today that throws off everything that they were taught? High Definition. Before that you couldn’t wear a small checked shirt because it would cause lines to go bzzzzzt,” he says. “Not on high definition; now you can see the pores, you can see the makeup on the face when you look at all of them because they all have it on there.” Pattern, it seems, is no longer the camera’s bogeyman.

Gober sat down in his capital city atelier and gave Florida Politics commentary on each of the gubernatorial candidates and some suggestions for how Election Day’s two survivors might up their wardrobe game in the General:

Adam Putnam

“I do like the way Putnam started out with his ads (but) I think it should have progressed into a more governor-type look. His message was there, but when I see him in work pants and a Columbia shirt every day in my Facebook ads, I’m still seeing an agriculture commissioner.”

Ron Desantis

“Ron DeSantis, he’s been in Washington for three terms. He looks like it; he looks like the rest of the guys there. They’re all red powerful ties, yellow powerful ties — the old power colors.”

Gwen Graham

“Gwen’s kind of the wild card, she has incredible style; I’ve watched her for years. She tends to know how to dress for every event. Speaking about the white jacket she wore for the Democratic debate he said, “I wouldn’t have picked that out — unless you wanted good guys wear white hats, maybe that’s what that’s for. But as a rule, she’s appropriate in a lot of things she wears when she goes from dresses to skirts to pantsuits to suits.”

Phillip Levine

“Mayor Levine, he knows what he’s doing. He’s been mayor for a long time and dresses very appropriately, but what we see in the debate … they’re all stuck in navy blue suits.”

Andrew Gillum

“Out of all of them, Andrew is one of the Top 2 dressers. He knows it’s a position, it’s a title and you’ve got to kind of dress into that. But when you see him on the campaign trail, he’s got the Andrew Gillum shirt on with a pair of nice dress slacks. And then when you see him at a FAMU game he’s decked out in FAMU attire. He gets it.”

Still, Gober was disappointed that Gillum chose the throwback navy suit for the debate. “If you’re going to be the progressive candidate, which he is, then his dress should be progressive also. It should be much more friendly, much more toned down too, even going into a soft coat — which has no shoulder pads to it — elbow patches, the works … It should be something really kind of fun that will represent him. But then when he’s governor and he’s meeting with U.S. senators, put the shirt and tie on and you know he looks really good in it.”

Jeff Greene

“I do believe Greene has some style and taste. Obviously, he’s a billionaire. But I did notice a lot of his suits had pleated pants, which are way out of date. Of all of them, he’s got one of the better senses of color. You can see it because he tries different things. He could use a little better fit and a little better coordination with ties, but those are all minor details. Greene’s image file is filled with step-and-repeat shots from Palm Beach fundraisers, where he’s wearing more colorful, casual garb which gets Gober’s approval: “He dresses appropriately for where he lives and the company that he keeps.”

Chris King

“I didn’t address King. I didn’t even know he was in the race. I almost would say it’s like the campaign, he’s not really there. But he looks fine. He falls into the exact same thing (navy blue) the rest of them do.”

‘Not a model’?​ No worries: INFLUENCE photog Mary Beth Tyson’s got your back​

They may be the masters and mistresses of Florida’s political universe, but when faced with lights, cameras and photographer Mary Beth Tyson, most of 2018’s INFLUENCE 100 were a little bit intimidated.

“What I’ve found with all of these political people is they’re not comfortable with the camera,” she says. “Pretty much all of them say to me … ‘I don’t do this. This is hard for me. I’m not a model.’, says Tyson, who shot portraits of 58 of this year’s 100 honorees.

The 38-year-old photographer has a nodding acquaintance with some of the 100, most notably her husband, Ryan Tyson. The pollster and data cruncher for Associated Industries of Florida made the 2018 list, along with his bosses, Tom Feeney and Brewster Bevis.

Tyson says she’s always loved “raw, natural, not-so-polished photography” and has cultivated a journalistic style in her 13 years as a professional. But her sensibility is dictated by her subjects and, when a more formal portrait is warranted, she’ll go for it.

Nick Iarossi … obviously is more than just a suit guy, but he really looks great in a suit, so we did that look,” she explains. When shooting Tampa investigative reporter Noah Pransky, “I put him down in a stairwell with a sidelight with a shadow to kind of make him look a little … mysterious.”

POLITICO Florida reporter Marc Caputo was a friend of her husband’s so when she shot him for a 2016 issue of INFLUENCE, “he was just like, whatever.” The result was “something a little different” — him, working shirtless in a swimming pool with his laptop, cigar in hand.

When a subject was pressed for time or stiffening up during a photo shoot, Tyson has a go-to technique that works.

“In the magazine, you see a lot of working shots that are real … They’re actually working,” she says. And sometimes when she’s shooting, Tyson says, “some pictures just scream black and white.”

Tyson was not formally trained, but was mentored by other photographers, including her aunt in her hometown of Cedar Key, who gave Tyson her first film camera and brought her along to assist in photographing weddings. “Her biggest complaint was that I shot too many pictures …. But then she would say “your composition is so different.”

After marrying and moving to Tallahassee, Tyson turned her “serious hobby” into a business and has been very successful applying her unique style to wedding photography. She has traveled across the U.S. to shoot high-end weddings. “Their bouquets probably cost more than my wedding did,” she says wryly.

With three boys — ages 8, 6 and 4 — the weekend travel became burdensome and, she says, her wedding work is “way on the back burner for now.” INFLUENCE photography is now high on her client list as well as portraits and headshots.

While Photoshop is judiciously applied in some photos, Tyson says her goal is to not necessarily to make her subjects look perfect, but to appear as the best version of themselves. “When you look in the mirror and you’re like ‘Oh, I’m looking pretty good today’, that’s what I want you to see in the magazine or in an image,” she says.

Former congressman Jason Altmire says, today, it’s hard to be a centrist

When the National Journal ranked the relative conservative-to-liberal leanings of the members of Congress, No. 218 was Pennsylvania’s Rep. Jason Altmire. He was the man in the middle.

After being elected to three terms in the state’s 4th District, he’s now-former Rep. Altmire, serving between 2007 and 2013.

Altmire wrote a book about his experiences, “Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided American and What We Can Do About It,” and was making the penultimate appearance of a six-month book tour with an appearance at The Village Square in Tallahassee Monday night.

“His record got him both a great title for his book … and a one-way ticket back home, since centrism and compromise aren’t exactly trending in Washington,” is how the event’s promotional material described his voting history.

Altmire was speaking before a receptive audience — a sell-out crowd of 160 people and a group dedicated to providing a forum for civil discourse. The Village Square mascot is a flying pig and, if the commentary should get a bit testy, offenders are reminded to be nice by a ringing bell.

That bell stayed silent throughout the evening as Altmire conversed with pollster and political strategist Steve Vancore. The pair have a history that dates back to 1990, when they met waving campaign signs during the first Congressional campaign of Pete Peterson.

Altmire said the impetus for his book was the Pulse shooting in June 2015.

“The Pulse nightclub was really the inspiration to turn random writings that I had into the book,” he told the group. “This horrific tragedy used to be something that would bring the country together in a shared sense of grief. But in this instance, it touched on every hot-button issue that exists,” referring to the fact that most of the victims were gay, the shooter was an American-born Muslim and that he had amassed an arsenal of weapons.

While the outpouring of donations and vigils and the actions of first responders showed “the best side of America,” he said, “you also saw the worst of America mostly through the social media of people who immediately took a tragedy and tried to find a way to gain political advantage.”

Altmire outlined a few common tropes about why Congress is so polarized, including closed primaries that effectively lead to representatives being elected by hyper-partisan voters on either end of the political spectrum — effectively shutting out the broad swath of moderate voters in the middle.

The Democrat also spoke about his personal experience, such as the challenge of representing a diverse district that encompassed Rust Belt Western Pennsylvania and the wealthy suburbs of Pittsburgh. One vote, in particular, would follow him throughout his time in Congress. Despite courting from as high as President Obama, he voted against the Affordable Care Act and got punished by his own party. While the president seemed to understand that Altmire’s vote “was the right vote for my district … Speaker [NancyPelosi did not speak to me for three years after that,” he said.

When Pennsylvania lost a seat in reapportionment, the new district pitted him against another Democratic incumbent. The party supported his opponent, and he lost in the primary.

But he also offered solutions.

One would be to not limit primary voters to party members, opening them to the growing number of NPA voters or giving a vote to members of the opposing party in deep red or blue districts.

An even more radical solution would be to switch Florida to a “Top 2” primary, similar to what’s being done now in California, Louisiana and Washington state. In these elections, all those running for office are on the primary ballot, and every registered voter is eligible to vote. The top two vote-getters move on to the general election.

“If you are someone who runs in that primary and you only appeal to your narrow extreme within the base of your party, you are going to lose,” he told the group. “In order to win that primary, you have to appeal not just to your own people, but the people in the center and even members of the other party. It totally changes not only the way you campaign for that seat but the way you legislate and the way you carry yourself when you vote and the way you talk.”

He also suggested that House should require 60 percent of votes to elect a Speaker rather than the 50 that is required now. “That means you’re going to have to get members of the other party to support your nominee for Speaker to have any chance to win,” he said. “When you build that coalition to get that 60 percent, you build it from the center out rather than from the extremes in. And you would start with somebody who knows how to work with both sides and accomplish something.”

Born in Pennsylvania, Altmire attended and played football for Florida State University in the mid-80s. After Peterson’s election, he worked him as a congressional aide, becoming an expert in health care policy. He worked as a lobbyist in Pennsylvania before challenging and beating a Republican incumbent. After leaving Congress, Altmire moved to the Jacksonville area, working as a lobbyist for Florida Blue. He left the company to promote his book.

House ‘assault’ derails Senate, budget chief Jack Latvala tells Tiger Bay

In the venue where newly qualified, but unlikely, candidate Rick Scott introduced himself to Tallahassee in 2010 and another potential gubernatorial candidate, John Morgan, came to visit in February, Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala paid a visit Monday to the Capital Tiger Bay Club.

While rumors swirl about Latvala’s possible 2018 run for Florida’s top spot and his fundraising apparatus runs full speed ahead, he played coy when asked about his future political ambitions.

“I’m not going to answer that specifically … I don’t think I’m finished,” he said. “I think if this session shows anything, it shows me that we still need the kind of approach that I bring up here — problem-solving and kind of a big-picture approach — the experience I have in all facets of government for 22 years.

“I’m not ready to hang it up, but I’m not ready to say what I’m doing, either.”

As the 2016 session speeds toward its planned May 5 sine die, Latvala predicted (only half in jest) it could drag on until July. And he puts the blame squarely at the feet of the House and its leadership.

After a three-and-a-half-year tug-of-war, Sen. Joe Negron was named Senate president and Latvala was given the powerful appropriations chairmanship.

“I’m very happy with the way that’s turned out,” he said. “I was hopeful we could come up here, and we could do some good,” with ambitious projects like beefing up Florida’s universities to compete for the nation’s best students, cleaning up Lake Okeechobee and other waterways, addressing a coming freshwater shortage, boosting “good-paying jobs,” and shoring up infrastructure.

“I came to Tallahassee ready to start working on these, and instead, unfortunately, we got involved in an all-out assault on Florida’s economic development apparatus …. from the House of Representatives.”

He spoke of the House’s efforts to defund Enterprise Florida completely, and dramatically slash the state’s contribution to Visit Florida, as well as an “unprecedented” attack on home rule.

Close to home for him, Latvala singled out a House bill that would preclude sports facilities or teams from getting funding from local governments or building facilities on government-owned land.

“They do that in the name of not picking winners and losers. This is the mantra,” he said. “That’s all well and good, except that that doesn’t apply to a lot of the other efforts that we’ve got going on out there.”

Latvala specifically mentioned the elimination of no-fault auto insurance and an attempt to allow Florida Power & Light, Florida’s largest electric company, to charge ratepayers to explore for gas.

During the Q&A portion, Latvala was asked whether it was “more fun” being on the inside or an outsider in the process.

“Maybe give me a couple more weeks to answer that one,” he quipped. “I generally try to cope with whatever the cards are that are dealt me. I’m on the inside now, I think, and I’m trying very hard to make the Senate successful with the team that we have in place.” The Everglades bill was one example. “Even though it wasn’t my issue, the president asked me to get involved and see if I could get it to a point where we could pass it out of the Senate,” he said.

He said he invoked a little “Latvala magic” to get the job done — an inside joke about him blowing his stack. “But it is almost unfailingly successful in getting people to compromise and getting people to get together and work toward a solution.”

About 200 people came to listen to Latvala talk, spending a half-hour before the luncheon greeting members as they walked in along with Sen. Bill Montford, who made his introduction.

Surveying the audience, Latvala got one of the biggest laughs of the day.

“I always wondered where old lobbyists went when they retired. And now I know — they’re at the Tallahassee Tiger Bay Club,” he said. “And this is probably not politically correct, but there’s actually a couple people here I thought had died. But I’m glad you didn’t.”

Eight-hour shoes and a whirlwind of press conferences

People don’t come to Florida’s Capitol without an agenda, and when they want to share it with the world, you can bet they’ll plan a news conference/media availability to share it via the Fourth Estate.

Wednesday was particularly rich with such events; I was assigned to go to ‘em all. As a babe in these particular woods, it was quite an adventure, navigating the hallways, rotundas, and meeting rooms of the Capitol complex for a full day during a busy committee week, the last one before the Session begins in earnest at noon March 7.

Gearing up for the task, I put on my decidedly unstylish eight-hour shoes, fascinated by the majority of women who navigate brick pavers of the Capitol Courtyard and stand on the building’s marble floors in pointy-toed stilettoes. The ladies know how to dress in Halls of Power. So do the men.

Pretty much everybody looks like they’re Somebody, which can make it difficult to sort out who’s the legislator and who’s the underling.

Many of the folks who cozied up to the lecterns throughout the day thought they needed no introduction. The House and Senate member directories came in very handy. Nametags, please. Nametags.

Crossing the plaza between the old and new Capitol buildings, I found a display of solar energy panels sponsored by the Florida affiliate of SEIA — the Solar Energy Industries Association. It was, unfortunately, a decidedly dreary day and the black panels — and their minders — looked a bit forlorn. But FlaSEIA President Patrick Altier assured me that while each was capable of producing 15 amps on a sunny day, it was still putting out only five amps of power.

Across the way — and garnering significantly more interest — were a pair of all-electric Teslas, available throughout the day for gawking and test drives. Interested parties could geek out over an interior display as big as a laptop computer screen and thrill at the cars’ power, which can go 0-to-60 in two seconds. The sedans aren’t solar powered, but Elon Musk gets a pass after Tesla acquired SolarCity, which recently unveiled a solar roof.

The solar lobby was in the house that day to promote SB 90, Sen. Jeff Brandes’ bill implementing Amendment 4, approved by voters in the August primary to give tax exemptions for solar power equipment.

I arrived early for the 12:15 p.m. news conference unveiling the United Way’s 2017 ALICE Report. Unfortunately, I was waiting in the ground-floor rotunda while the event was taking place on the fourth-floor rotunda, missing the first few minutes while getting my logistics right. ALICE, FYI, stands for people who are Asset Limited, Income-Constrained and Employed — basically, people working paycheck-to-paycheck and constantly on the brink of financial disaster. You can link to the whole report here. The microphone didn’t even get a chance to cool down before Reps. Shevrin Jones and Ramon Alexander stepped up at 12:30 to speak about their bills to “Ban the Box.” Alexander, a freshman legislator from Tallahassee, said his version would bar public employers and colleges from asking about criminal history in initial applications.

The day was broken up with a visit to the salad bar at Sharkey’s Capital Grill, on the subterranean LL level (not to be confused with Sharkey’s Capital Café on the 10th floor, both owned by lobbyist Jeff Sharkey). One of the items that could be picked up in the checkout line was mini-packs of Alka-Seltzer. Committee week will do that to you.

Seeking a press pass, I had to drop off paperwork at the Capitol Police/FDLE office on the way-bottom floor (L) of the Capitol. No marble down here; it’s all business in the basement. There were doors with discouraging “Do Not Enter” signs but windows allowing a view of the precious few parking spots filled with nice cars. I wonder whose they are?

All of my to-ings and fro-ings made for a lot of elevator rides with a confusing collection of level designations. But I was informed that the “main” floor with the door to the outside was PL, which one wag assured me didn’t mean Plaza Level, but “Please Leave.” A young woman told of an elevator hack that involved holding down the “close door” key allowing one to skip all the middling floors and take it straight to the fourth or fifth floors. And darned if an elevator didn’t go whisking past us to “Please Leave” as she was describing the trick.

Overheard: Newbie television reporter getting directions on how to get from Point A to Point B in the Capitol before the Matt Gaetz presser: “I just got here a week ago. I’m so lost.” I’m feelin’ ya, sir.

The House Press Room was rearranged for a pair of news conferences later in the afternoon, with blue drapes and a lectern adorned with the Official Seal flanked by a pair of flags. (If you want to feel smart and superior, a lectern is that thing people stand behind to give speeches. A podium is a raised platform so that you can see the speaker. People get it wrong ALL THE TIME.)

Gaetz swanned in, greeted as a conquering hero by the assembled Republicans who were there to support Florida House Memorials. These “memorials” are not statues or plinths or golden calves, but messages sent to Congress, urging the federal government to take action — in this case, to send federal money back to Florida in the form of block grants where it will be spent much more wisely and judiciously.

Veteran AP Reporter Gary Fineout assured me these memorials aren’t worth (insert your favorite pejorative here).

While memorials on limiting federal power, highway funding, and child welfare funding were available for perusal, the freshman congressman and House Speaker Richard Corcoran spent their time explaining why block grants made sense for Medicaid funding.

Ever the firebrand, Gaetz kicked off his remarks saying, “After six years of service in the Florida Legislature and six weeks of service in Congress, it has become exceedingly clear to me that Washington screws everything up.”

Both Gaetz and Corcoran made a case for giving more power and resources to Florida to redesign Medicaid by funding “patient-centered” health care for the “truly needy” without “overutilization” by those who don’t.

But the real fun started after the formal remarks when reporters clustered around Gaetz in the back of the room (Corcoran had ghosted), peppering him with questions about exactly how what he suggests would be implemented, and how it would improve health care for the poor.

And then off he went to make his case for the Memorial, but only after inviting the assembled press to join him the next day for his “Open Gaetz” town hall meeting in his district in Milton.

Another freshman congressman, Rep. Francis Rooney, spoke to the press at 4:30, after testifying at the House Natural Resources and Public Land subcommittee. Much of the convo about dikes, the Army Corps of Engineers, and funding went way over my head. So we’ll let Politico Reporter Bruce Ritchie spell it out in his story.

And the day was done. The YMCA Youth in Government high schoolers and oodles of schoolkids were gone. The occupational therapists were packing up their display, which included goggles that give you a look at how people with eye afflictions see the world. (Trust me; you do NOT want to get Diabetic Retinopathy). Ditto for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

Taking the elevator to “Please Leave” took infinitely less time than it did earlier in the day. All was quiet — until it started all over again Thursday.

Cindy Gruden at Capitol to support boosting cigarette tax for Moffitt Cancer funding

With former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden sick at home, wife Cindy Gruden stepped in to stump for Moffitt Cancer Center‘s request for increased funding at the Capitol.

Gruden was one of more than 75 representatives of the Moffitt Cancer Center, who came by bus and bicycle — doctors, patients, caregivers, community leaders, and researchers — Tuesday to ask the Legislature to support identical bills (SB 662 and HB 651) filed by Sen. Dana Young and Rep. James Grant. The bills would increase annual funding from the state’s cigarette tax by $8 million to help fund an ambitious plan of expansion for the nation’s No. 6-rated cancer research and treatment center.

“If he were here, (Jon) would tell you Moffitt is all about teamwork,” Cindy Gruden said. The couple live in Tampa.

“They come together, day after day, helping their patients have a winning game plan,” she said. “We’re going to kick cancer to the curb.”

Grant and Young also appeared to support the funding request.

The cause is personal for Grant. “I almost grew up without a mom who beat breast cancer twice,” he said. “The amount of research, the economic impact statewide, the type of care that any family dealing with a diagnosis as devastating as cancer, can happen here in a world-class fashion without having to leave the state of Florida.

“Being No. 6 in the country is not good enough for me; it’s going to cost some money but I think we need to set our sights on becoming No. 1 … cancer center in the United States,” said Young during a press conference in the Capitol rotunda.

“M.D. Anderson in Texas gets $250 million annually from the Legislature,” she said of the nation’s top-rated cancer center. “We aren’t even close to that, but hopefully with this $8 million increase, we will allow Moffitt to build the state-of-the-art facilities they need … to attract the best and the brightest minds to continue the fight against cancer.”

Young is ready to advocate for continued increased funding for the cancer center.

“In this budget, it will be hard to tell what kind of nonrecurring funds will be available, but we absolutely like to see this repeat each year if possible,” she said. “It may be a heavy lift, but it’s a lift worth trying because Moffitt is so important to the state of Florida.”

Last November, the Tampa Bay Times reported that the Moffitt Center announced a 10-year, $800 million expansion that will include a new hospital wing, two research buildings, a clinical support building, and additional outpatient facilities.

Dedicated to the prevention and cure of cancer, the Tampa-based facility is one of 47 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction recognizing Moffitt’s excellence in research, clinical trials, prevention, and cancer control. In addition to being the No. 6 cancer hospital in the nation, Moffitt is No. 1 in Florida and throughout the southeast. It has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Hospitals” for cancer care since 1999.

Recently celebrating its 30th anniversary, Moffitt has more than 5,200 employees and boasts an economic impact in the state of $2.1 billion. It is participating in more than 450 active clinical trials and treated more than 56,000 outpatients last year.

The facility is named in honor of former House Speaker F. Lee Moffitt, who first suggested a cancer center for Tampa in the late 1970s. During his tenure in the House, he shepherded through a $600,000 appropriation for planning and then $3.5 million in start-up funds in 1981. As Speaker, he drafted a bill earmarking $70 million from a state cigarette tax for construction. The cancer center opened to patients in October 1986. reporter Jim Rosica contributed to this report.

Table 23 expands take on ‘American cuisine’ with weekday lunch menu

Originally a hot spot for drinks and dinner, Tallahassee’s newest landmark restaurant is expanding its take on “Americana cuisine” weekdays to the lunch hour.

Table 23, located at the corner of Thomasville Road and Sixth Street in Midtown, is now serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Featuring many favorites from the dinner menu, the lunch offerings also include lighter fare, including sandwiches, salads and soups.

Appetizer offerings include Sweet Potato Hummus, Smoked Mullet Croquetas and The Southern Slate, a sampler of Table 23’s Southern-style creations — candied bacon, air-cured ham, pimento cheese, deviled eggs, pickled shrimp, cheese straws and naturally fermented pickled vegetables.

Sandwiches include burgers, turkey and arugula, grilled grouper and a stellar slow-roasted brisket. The entrée selections include dill pickle-brined chicken breast, a smoked New York strip steak, fried catfish and a grilled Gouda pork chop.

The restaurant also has expanded its Happy Hour pricing to lunchtime too — $1 off specialty cocktails and beer, $3 house wines, and half-price call and well drinks.

Group offers ‘toolkit’ for living with dementia

It just doesn’t sit well with Karen Love when people talk about people “suffering” from or being “victims” of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

“What we don’t hear much about is that people can and do live full and meaningful lives with dementia,” said the executive director of the national Dementia Action Alliance. “It’s very important that we raise money for the cure and focus on that but it’s also important that we focus on the care and look at dementia as a disability. When you have a disability mindset you automatically start thinking what supports, what accommodations, are needed to help that individual live as fully as possible.”

Her remarks came Wednesday morning during the unveiling of a “Caring Conversations Toolkit,” which includes a booklet designed for persons with mild-to-moderate dementia symptoms, another with advice for “care partners,” a packet of cards designed to stimulate conversation with a person who has the condition, and a 16-minute video.

“Florida is ground zero for dementia,” Love said, with about 500,000 people diagnosed with the condition. “And that number will increase as the baby-boom generation ages. We have an opportunity here in Florida. You can change the narrative the discussion away from being dementia tragedy to … dementia enlightenment, moving proactively to what turns out to be a long-term condition.

The toolkit was launched in Tallahassee because it’s inspiration was local resident Alexander “Sandy” Halperin, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s and has become a nationally recognized advocate. Partners in its development include the Westminster Oaks community, where he lives, and the Area Agency on Aging for North Florida.

Richard Prudom, deputy secretary of the Department of Elder Affairs, lauded regional partnerships throughout the state to enlighten the public about dementia and how to best deal with those who have the diseases.

“Every community is different, but our aim is to get it where every experience that a person with dementia has is a positive experience, whatever that is,” he said. “We’re talking about training for first responders, we could be talking about awareness for people at a restaurant or at a store. The secret is we didn’t come in to invent anything — the partnerships are already out there and all we’re doing is bringing them together and seeing great things.”

The entire toolkit ($45 plus shipping), or any of its four parts separately, can be ordered by visiting the Dementia Action Alliance store at

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons