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Staff Reports

Sally Bradshaw’s Midtown Reader offers up suggestions for summer reading

You know what Florida politicos are reading; now it’s time to let some literary experts weigh in.

Sally Bradshaw, a longtime adviser to former Gov. Jeb Bush, opened Midtown Reader in November. The 1,500-square-foot bookstore located in Tallahassee’s Midtown neighborhood is working to build a community of book lovers in the capital city, hosting a variety of literary events and cultural programs.

We reached out to Bradshaw, an avid reader, to see what the team at Midtown Reader recommend we pick up this summer. And don’t worry — it isn’t all politics.

Midtown Reader recommends:

— “The Magpie Murders,” by Anthony Horowitz: Who doesn’t love a good Agatha Christie-like murder mystery? But this story, set in a sleepy English village, is actually a mystery within a mystery, where book editor becomes detective to solve the death of her mystery-writing author. A #1 Indie Best bookstore pick for June, you won’t be disappointed in this fun read.

— “Hunger,” by Roxanne Gay: Gay is all the rage in indie publishing world right now, and her memoir does not disappoint. Raw and real, she tells the story of our love/hate relationship with food through her own experience and challenges, including an unspeakable act of terrible violence which she experienced as a young girl. Gay’s courage and honesty are remarkable, and inspiring.

— “Marriage of a Thousand Lies,” by SJ Sindu: Sindu, who received her PHD in creative writing from FSU and now teaches at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, has written a debut novel that is honest and moving — a complex story about a Sri-Lankan family and a strong female protagonist who struggles with her own identity against a backdrop of deep traditions and community. Booklist calls it a “timely tale with themes of immigration, free will, identity and personal choice.”

— “The Lion’s Paw,” by Rob White: A great book to read with your 2nd through 5th graders (and if you grew up in Florida it was probably read to you by your 4th grade teacher), the Lion’s Paw tells the tale of three unlikely friends — two orphans and a runaway — who travel across Florida in a stolen sailboat to search for the elusive Lion’s Paw seashell, which they believe will bring the runaway’s father home. Originally published in 1946, and only recently republished by White’s family, it’s a classic adventure story with wonderful old illustrations. We’ve sold so many we can’t keep it in stock!

— “Daring to Drive,” by Manal al-Sharif: This memoir of a Saudi woman whose life changed because of her education is sure to be a summer best-seller. The daughter of a taxi-driver who ultimately landed a job as a computer security engineer, Manal begins to see and challenge the confines of her fundamentalist society. Library Journal calls it “fascinating, powerful and heartbreaking.” We call it a great and empowering story.

— “The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road,” by Finn Murphy: College dropout Murphy has driven more than a million miles in the eighteen-wheeler he named “Cassidy”, moving people’s belongings from coast to coast. His experience of life on the road as a professional mover is part storytelling, part social commentary. Funny and honest, Murphy takes readers on the road trip to end all road trips.

— “House of Spies,” by Daniel Silva: From London, to St. Tropez, to Casa Blanca, legendary Israeli spy, assassin, and art-restorer Gabriel Allon yet again fights terrorism and searches for the world’s most dangerous man. Silva has maintained his #1 NY Times best-selling status for book after book.

— “The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming of Age Crisis — And How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance,” by Sen. Ben Sasse: Too many helicopter parents, too many participation trophies, too many government programs to which our youth are becoming entitled. And did you know that 1 in 3 kids between the ages of 18-34 lives with their parents? Sasse, Republican US Senator from Nebraska and former college President has the answer to this crisis — or at least some answers to reverse the trends and get our kids back on track.

— “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate,” by Sen. Al Franken: Candid and of course really funny, Franken describes his unlikely run for public office and the eight-month recount that followed along with the challenges of serving in a polarized Washington, DC. It’s been named the “best political book of 2017” by New Republic and “compulsively readable” by Booklist. And did I mention it’s really funny??

Need another suggestion? Bradshaw said she’s reading — and hand-selling — “Kingdoms in the Air: Dispatches from the Far Away,” by Bob Shacochis, this summer.

More Florida Forest Service firefighters to head out West

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam Thursday said he’s sending 24 more wildland firefighters from the Florida Forest Service to help fight fires out West.

“After selflessly battling one of the worst wildfire seasons in Florida history, our firefighters will help protect other parts of our country from wildfire,” Putnam said.

The latest deployment makes a total of 91 Florida Forest Service firefighters battling western wildfires. Crews will potentially be sent to Utah, Montana, California, and South Dakota, he said.

The National Interagency Coordination Center will fly state and federal firefighter crews from Tampa to Salt Lake City, Utah, where they will receive assignments.

“Florida Forest Service firefighters have proven their bravery and ability time and again when fighting Florida’s wildfires,” State Forester Jim Karels said. “They are exceptionally well-trained and know how to suppress wildfires aggressively and safely.”

18 apply for openings at Public Service Commission

Eighteen people have applied for three openings on the state’s Public Service Commission, according to a list released Tuesday.

Tuesday was the deadline to apply for the seats now held by Commissioners Art Graham and Ronald Brisé, which are up at the end of the year. Both men have reapplied for their positions; they were last reappointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2013.

Applications for a third PSC opening, created when Commissioner Jimmy Patronis stepped down to replace Jeff Atwater as the state’s CFO, aren’t due till July 28.

Among the applicants: State Rep. Tom Goodson, a Brevard County Republican; former PSC member and former state Rep. Kenneth Littlefield, a Pasco County Republican; and Associate Public Counsel Erik Sayler.

The commission regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities. A commissioner’s pay is $131,036 per year.

The Public Service Commission Nominating Council, which is responsible for “screening and nominating applicants,” released an updated applicants list, below. Commissioners are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate.

Ed Hooper endorsed by Florida Professional Firefighters

Ed Hooper has received the endorsement of Florida’s Professional Firefighters.

The organization announced during its 73rd annual convention in Sarasota this week it was backing Hooper, a Clearwater Republican, in his Senate District 16 race in 2018. In a statement, Jim Tolley, the organization’s president and CEO, said it was honored to have worked with Hooper during his time in the Florida House and looked forward to the “same relationship in the Florida Senate.”

“We are excited to have a firefighter in the Florida Senate. Your 24-year career in the fire service, as well as your service on the Clearwater City Council, gives you unique insight into the needs of today’s fire service,” said Tolley. “We believe that you will continue to faithfully serve the citizens of Florida as a Florida Senator. Likewise, your leadership will serve the interests of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services and the men and women who have made the protection of life and property their life’s work.”

Hooper is vying to replace Sen. Jack Latvala in the Florida Senate in 2018. Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Francis Rooney to go python hunting in Big Cypress swamp

Rep. Francis Rooney is going python hunting.

The Naples Republican announced Monday he plans to take part in the South Florida Water Management District’s python elimination program on Aug. 10. The program aims to eliminate the Burmese python, an invasive species, which damages the Everglades ecosystem and its native wildlife.

“I am looking forward to hunting these devastating and invasive snakes,” said Rooney in a statement. “The python is a predator impacting the delicate balance of the ecosystem across the Everglades and the State of Florida.  Innovative ideas such as the Python Elimination Program incentivize members of the public to assist in removing this invasive species and remind us that we all have a vested interest in restoring the Everglades.”

Rooney is the latest Florida politician to head out on a python hunt. In May, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera joined python hunter Tom Rahill on a hunt in South Florida. The Miami-Dade Republican killed a 15-foot Burmese python with a pocket knife during his trip, posting photographs on social media.

POLITICO Florida reported at the time Lopez-Cantera grabbed the snake, and Lopez-Cantera helped pulled it out when they realized how large it was. The lieutenant governor then killed it with the knife.

The South Florida Water Management District renewed the program in June, after the pilot program eliminated 158 snakes in about two months. The district’s governing board also expanded the area where python hunters are allowed to access to include Broward and Collier counties. Previously, the hunt was only allowed in Miami-Dade County.

“Joining this hunt is a worthy challenge,” said Dan O’Keefe, the chairman of the SFWMD Governing Board in a statement. Having also experienced the program firsthand by participating in a live hunt, I cannot say enough about the tremendous work of our bounty hunters working long hours and enduring the harsh summer elements to rid the Everglades of this destructive python threat.”

Rooney is scheduled to go python hunting in the Big Cypress National Preserve on Aug. 10.


Personnel note: Peebles & Smith becomes Peebles, Smith & Matthews with hire of Ryan Matthews

Peebles & Smith is now Peebles Smith & Matthews.

The firm announced Monday that Ryan Matthews, who most recently served as the interim secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, has joined as a principal.

Peebles and Smith is a well-regarded boutique lobbying firm whose list of clients heavily tilted toward local government clients. On the roster include  the cities of Cape Coral, Gainesville, Kissimmee, Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa and Winter Park.

Few Capitol insiders are considered as expert on municipal issues like Peebles and Smith.

“Ryan’s government background, both at the DEP and the Florida League of Cities, make him an ideal addition to the firm,” said Bill Peebles, founding principal and managing partner. “One of the primary reasons we are changing the name of the firm to Peebles, Smith & Matthews is to ensure our clients know they will be represented by each of our unique talents and skill sets.

Gov. Rick Scott appointed Matthews as interim DEP Secretary earlier this year. He served in that role until Noah Valenstein, the state’s new DEP Secretary took over the helm at the DEP.

Prior to being named interim secretary, Matthews held several other positions at the state’s environmental agency, including deputy secretary of regulatory programs and director of the Office of Water Policy.

Prior to joining the DEP, Matthews was the assistant legislative director and member of the Office of General Counsel at the Florida League of Cities.

Matthews received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, a juris doctorate degree from Florida Coastal School of Law, and a master of laws in environmental law from the University of Denver.

Jose Mallea releases ad featuring Jeb Bush ahead of HD 116 primary

Jose Mallea is bringing in some star power — Florida politics, style — in the final days of his special House District 116 primary campaign.

On Monday, Mallea campaign released a Spanish-language radio advertisement featuring former Gov. Jeb Bush. The ad comes just one week before the special Republican primary in the race to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who resigned effective Sept. 26, in House District 116.

“Governor Bush is one of Florida’s greatest leaders, and I am honored to have him behind our campaign,” said Mallea in a statement. “I plan to keep working hard in the home stretch of this primary to make sure District 116 has a representative in Tallahassee who will work hard for conservative policies that will improve education and increase opportunity for everyone.”

Bush endorsed Mallea in May, saying in a statement at the time that Mallea, a senior advisor to his 2016 presidential campaign, was “the right leader for District 116.”

According to a translation of the advertisement provided by the Mallea campaign, Bush calls Mallea a “trusted friend that’s going to defend us.”

“Jose will use his Republican values to work for you in the Florida Legislature,” he says in the advertisement, according to the translation provided by the campaign. “That’s why I am asking for you to vote for Jose on July 25.”

Mallea faces Daniel Perez in the July 25 primary. The winner will face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in the Sept. 26 special general election.

Diaz resigned to run in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal, in Senate District 40. The primary in that race is also scheduled for July 25.

AAA: Gasoline prices still could rise despite recent leveling off

Gas prices “have held relatively steady for the past two weeks, but now face upward pressure,” according to a recent advisory from the AAA.

The national average for one gallon of regular unleaded is $2.25—that’s a penny less than a week ago, but three 3 cents more than this time last year, a news release said. Data comes “from credit card swipes and direct feeds from 120,000 gas stations nationwide.”

In Florida, gas prices averaged $2.13 on Sunday, a half cent lower than last week and three 3 cents less than last year.

“Gas prices could inch a little higher this week,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman. “Refineries are running on all cylinders, cutting into excess crude stocks. That helped push oil prices higher last week, which puts upward pressure on prices at the pump.

“The increase on the retail-side may only amount to as much as 5 cents by the end of the week,” he added. “While this could be the start of a gradual uptick in gas prices, drivers are likely to continue saving at the pump compared to what they paid earlier this year.”

The least expensive gas price averages in Florida are in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater ($2.01), Orlando ($2.04), and Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice ($2.07).

The most expensive gas price averages in Florida are in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton ($2.24), Pensacola ($2.23), and Miami ($2.22).

Personnel note: Mark Kaplan named chair of Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy 2017-18 board

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has tapped Mark Kaplan to serve as the chairman of the board.

The organization announced recently that Kaplan, the vice president of public affairs at Mosaic, will serve as chairman of the 2017-18 Board of Directors. Kaplan, according to the literacy organization, brings extensive legal and policy background to the board, as well as expertise in finance and education.

Kaplan is no stranger to the Bush family. Prior to joining Mosaic in 2007, Kaplan served as chief of staff to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He also served as the executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and a member of State Board of of Education.

Kaplan received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Florida State University College of Law. He has been a member of the foundation’s board since 2014,

The foundation also announced John Engler, the former three-term governor of Michigan and the former president of Business Roundtable, will serve as vice chair. Engler, who made improving education a top priority during his time in the Governor’s Mansion, also served 20 years in the Michigan Legislature.

“We’re fortunate to have a board composed of talented, dedicated leaders who who share not only our passion for changing lives through literacy, but also our commitment to being good stewards of the contributions made by our generous donors,” said Liza McFadden, president and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, in a statement. “With an incoming chair and vice chair who bring decades of policy experience, as well as a new member with expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship, this year’s board is set to help us continue to maximize our efforts.”

The foundation also announced Chris Frangione, the vice president of prize development and execution for XPRIZE, has joined the board.

The 2017-18 board of directors is:

Mark Kaplan, chair, of The Mosaic Company;

— Former Gov. John Engler, vice-chair;

Jean Becker, chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, secretary;

David Bere, Nonni’s Foods, treasurer

Jeb Bush Jr., Jeb Bush Jr. & Associates;

Peggy Conlon, former president and CEO of the Ad Council;

Craig Denekas, Libra Foundation;

Chris Frangione, XPRIZE;

Timothy Gage, Comcast;

Doro Bus Koch, Barbara Bush Foundation Honorary Chair;

Tricia Reilly Koch, BB&R Consulting;

Liza McFadden, Barbara Bush Foundation; and

— Former Gov. Bob Wise, the Alliance for Excellent Education.


Constitutional review panel announces committee assignments

The state’s Constitution Revision Commission announced committee assignments, consisting of “10 standing substantive committees and two standing procedural committees,” it said in a Friday news release.

“Establishing committees for the CRC means we can move forward on developing proposals that will benefit Florida families, businesses and students,” Chairman Carlos Beruff said in a statement.

“Each commissioner brings a unique set of talents and experience to this process,” he added. “Committee assignments are based on preferences expressed by individual commissioners while also ensuring each committee consists of a group with diverse backgrounds and complementary strengths.”

The commission, which already has held several public hearings, is empaneled every 20 years to go over the state constitution and suggest amendments that go directly on a statewide ballot. Voters still must OK any changes with 60 percent approval.

Here are the standing substantive committees:

Bonding and Investments (Article VII): Chair, Chris Smith, Vice Chair, Jose “Pepe” Armas; Don Gaetz, Frank Kruppenbacher, Rich Newsome, Darryl Rouson, Bob Solari. 

Declaration of Rights (Article I): Chair, Lisa Carlton, Vice Chair, John Stemberger; Erika Donalds, Emery Gainey, Marva Johnson, Arthenia Joyner, Gary Lester. 

Education (Article IX): Chair, Marva Johnson, Vice Chair, Nicole Washington; Erika Donalds, Tom Grady, Darlene Jordan, Belinda Keiser, Patricia Levesque, Chris Sprowls, Pam Stewart.

Ethics and Elections (Article VI, part of Article II): Chair, Hank Coxe, Vice Chair, Frank Kruppenbacher; Don Gaetz, Brecht Heuchan, Arthenia Joyner, Rich Newsome, Sherry Plymale, Bill Schifino, Chris Smith.

Executive (Article IV): Chair, Darlene Jordan, Vice Chair, Chris Sprowls; Pam Bondi, Jose Felix Diaz, Don Gaetz, Belinda Keiser, Chris Nocco, Pam Stewart, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.

Finance and Taxation (Article VII): Chair, Fred Karlinsky, Vice Chair, Tom Grady; Jose “Pepe” Armas, Jeanette Nuñez, Darryl Rouson, Chris Smith, Nicole Washington.

General Provisions (Articles II, X, XI, and XII): Chair, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, Vice Chair, Emery Gainey; Brecht Heuchan, Fred Karlinsky, Gary Lester, Jeanette Nuñez, Sherry Plymale.

Judicial (Article V): Chair, Bill Schifino, Vice Chair, Anna Marie Hernandez Gamez; Pam Bondi, Tim Cerio, Hank Coxe, Arthenia Joyner, Tom Lee, Roberto Martinez, Carolyn Timmann.

Legislative (Article III): Chair, Jose Felix Diaz, Vice Chair, Belinda Keiser; Jose “Pepe” Armas, Lisa Carlton, Tom Lee, Patricia Levesque, Darryl Rouson.

Local Government (Article VIII): Chair, Erika Donalds, Vice Chair, Chris Nocco; Emery Gainey, Bob Solari, John Stemberger, Carolyn Timmann, Nicole Washington.

Here are the standing procedural committees:

Rules and Administration: Chair, Tim Cerio, Vice Chair, Sherry Plymale; Lisa Carlton, Hank Coxe, Jose Felix Diaz, Erika Donalds, Marva Johnson, Fred Karlinsky, Carolyn Timmann.

Style and Drafting: Chair, Brecht Heuchan, Vice Chair, Carolyn Timmann; Tim Cerio, Anna Marie Hernandez Gamez, Tom Grady, Darlene Jordan, Frank Kruppenbacher, Gary Lester, Roberto Martinez, Jeanette Nuñez, Chris Sprowls.

Grady, an attorney and former state representative, was named Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott to take the place of Jimmy Patronis on the commission. Patronis stepped down from his seat there and on the Public Service Commission to become the state’s new Chief Financial Officer.

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