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Bill to name state road Arnold Palmer Expressway clears senate

The Florida Senate passed a bill to rename a section of State Road 408 in honor of Arnold Palmer Wednesday.

SB 480, sponsored by Altamonte Springs Republican Sen. David Simmons, earned unanimous approval in the floor vote, as well as its lone committee stop in the Senate Transportation Committee.

In addition to renaming the state highway in honor of the golf legend, the bill contains a $1,000 appropriation for the Department of Transportation to place markers designating the “Arnold Palmer Expressway.”

The bill’s House companion, HB 225 by Orlando Republican Rep. Mike Miller, has already worked its way through two committees with unanimous votes and currently waiting on approval from the House Government Accountability Committee.

Palmer spent much of his life living in Orlando and owned the Bay Hill Club and Lodge. In addition to his golf-related businesses, Palmer and his wife donated their money and namesakes to the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.

Palmer died last year at the age of 87.

 

Brightline brings in new CEO, moves other executives

Brightline, the private, for-profit intercity passenger railroad that plans to open service in South Florida this summer and one day send a 110-mph train to Orlando, announced the hiring of a new CEO and other executive moves Wednesday.

Dave Howard, a former Major League Baseball executive from New York, was named chief executive officer.

Former Brightline President Michael Reininger was named executive director of Florida East Coast Industries, Brightline’s parent company, where he will lead new development and growth opportunities.

Patrick Goddard was promoted to chief operating officer of Brightline.

Brightline, formerly known as All Aboard Florida, plans to open service between West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami this summer with trains that travel up to 79 mph. Sometime in the future – the timetables are in flux due to litigation and financing issues – the company wants to extend service from West Palm Beach to Orlando, with trains traveling up to 110 mph for most of the route, and up to 120 mph between Cocoa and Orlando International Airport.

“We are poised for tremendous success this year and excited to complete our leadership team as Brightline makes the dramatic transition from building to customer operations,” Reininger stated in a release. “Dave Howard is a proven executive with the leadership qualities that will ensure our customer service and experience are unparalleled.”

Howard has assumed full responsibility for all aspects of the passenger rail business, effective March 6. He previously served in the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, in expanding responsibilities with the New York Mets for more than 20 years, and as president of MSG Sports, the New York based cable and sports entertainment company that owns Madison Square Garden. The Brightline release praised him for having “customer-focused experience and hospitality orientation.”

Carlos Smith, Jeff Clemens introduce decriminalize pot bills

Orlando Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Lake Worth Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemens want people to stop going to jail or prison for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

The pair of lawmakers introduced bills this week that would make possession of one ounce or less of cannabis – described as a “personal use quantity” to be a civil violation, rather than a misdemeanor. Punishment would come in the form of fines and community service, rather than jail time.

Smith filed House Bill 1443 and Clemens Senate Bill 1662.

Unlike a similar ordinance enacted by Orlando last summer, in these bills police would not have the option of the civil penalty or a misdemeanor. When Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orlando Police Chief John Mina declared support for that ordinance Mina pointed out that extenuating circumstances, such as a belligerent violator, could lead police to choose an arrest over a ticket.

Smith cited data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that shows over 90 percent of misdemeanor drug arrests – about 40,000 a year – in Florida involved marijuana. The data also show a steady decline in such arrests, from 49,000 in 2010 to 39,000 in 2015.

He also cited an ACLU report that determined Florida spent $228 million enforcing marijuana laws in 2010.

“These draconian marijuana possession laws have wasted taxpayer dollars, unnecessarily filled up our state prison system, and distracted law enforcement from focusing on apprehending dangerous criminals,” Smith stated in a news release. “We should be creating opportunities for people to succeed – not creating obstacles and ruining lives over minor infractions or youthful indiscretions. It is past time for the legislature to end the unjust incarceration of Floridians for non-violent drug offenses. If Amendment 2 was any indication, public opinion on marijuana has changed drastically over the years. Tallahassee politicians must catch up with where a majority of Floridians already are.”

NASA’s $19.5B plan headed for Donald Trump’s desk

President Donald Trump will get his first chance to signal his vision for space now that both houses of Congress have approved a $19.5 billion bill cosponsored by both Florida senators to continue NASA’s programs.

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the one-year spending plan late Tuesday, calling for continued support for commercial space companies launching from Kennedy Space Center, continued support for the International Space Station and the first steps in NASA’s planned Journey to Mars.

The U.S. Senate approved the Senate Bill 442 in February, creating the prospect that a NASA budget could be approved and signed for the first time since 2010. It would offer a slight increase over the $19 billion NASA operated under last year. The bill is largely lifted from the one the Senate passed late in the last session, too late to be considered by the House.

The bill is entitled “NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017” but it largely funds a continuation of NASA’s current policies and programs, with some new demands from Congress for clarifications of what NASA wants to do.

The spending plan is largely good news for Florida, authorizing and funding programs that are redefining Kennedy and adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as rocket-launching home to a growing private space industry. It also calls for reports from NASA to Congress on how the private sector is doing in taking over lower-Earth orbit space activity.

“This legislation that secures Florida as a key player in future efforts and successes of the aerospace industry and space exploration,” said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, the state’s space industry development corporation.

“This bill reaffirms the framework for sustainability of the space program, further supporting Brevard’s growing government and commercial space companies,” stated Lynda Weatherman, president & CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.

It recommits to NASA’s desire to build a Mars mission in coming decades and provides funding for development of the agency’s Space Launch System super rocket and Orion crew capsule, but also requires NASA to submit a detailed roadmap on exactly what it wants to do in deep space.

That report likely would clarify NASA’s next steps, whether it be the agency’s intended but sharply-criticized plan to visit and perhaps retrieve an asteroid from deep space, or to return to the moon.

“Florida remains an indispensable player on the cutting edge of our nation’s space program,” cosponsor Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio stated in a news release. “This bipartisan legislation will foster innovation, support NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs, improve collaboration between the agency and commercial space sector, and benefit thousands of workers across Florida, particularly at Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.”

“This bill marks the beginning of a new era of American spaceflight by explicitly directing NASA to put humans on Mars and helping our commercial space industry continue to grow,” cosponsor Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees NASA, stated in his own news release.

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, a Republican from Lake County who sits on the House Subcommittee on Space, called the spending vital to national security, international standing, and economic growth and innovation in Florida’s public and private sectors.

“This bill invests in critical research programs and provides policy guidance for future manned space exploration projects,” Webster stated. “The reauthorization received broad bipartisan support, which is a clear indication of the breadth of support that exists for our space program. This is a good first step to make America’s Space Program more successful and reaffirms our commitment to reaching our next frontier – a manned mission to mars.”

Added U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democratic member of the House Subcommittee on Space:

“This is an important bill that deserved overwhelming bipartisan support – charting a path to new horizons for our nation’s space program. When NASA and the aerospace industry wins, Florida is a beneficiary, growing our state’s innovation capacity and economy.”

Emily Bonilla clashes with other Orange commissioners over parks appointee

New Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla has to be getting used to being a kicked-around rookie on the Board of Commissioners, especially as an outspoken Democrat on a Republican-dominated panel, but Tuesday she got taken down by all of her fellow commissioners.

“I feel it is pretty disrespectful,” Bonilla told them during Tuesday’s meeting, after none of the other six members, including Mayor Teresa Jacobs, agreed to second her nomination of her trusted advisor to the county’s 11-member Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

That brought strong retorts from others, including Democrat Commissioner Victoria Siplin, who insisted she meant no disrespect but essentially told Bonilla she needed to learn how it’s done. But Bonilla stood by her indignation.

The spat involved involved a parks advisory board seat that is designated for a representative from her District 5, covering northeast Orange County. The incumbent, Bobby Beagles, was nominated to the panel by Bonilla’s predecessor, Republican Ted Edwards, whom she beat in November after a highly-contentious election campaign. Even though Beagles’ term has not expired, Bonilla wanted him off, replaced by University of Central Florida naturalist Ariel Horner.

Several commissioners, led by Jennifer Thompson, objected, arguing that Beagles was respected, that he had done nothing to deserve to be thrown off the board, and that he was a key player, arranging for a $1 million grant, in establishing a new park in the district, in the hamlet of Christmas. You just don’t throw someone like that off a county board without cause, Thompson argued.

Jacobs then lectured Bonilla on commission protocol, particularly about respecting political rivals and their appointees. Jacobs also told her to not think of the District 5 parks seat as hers, but rather simply as one to which she could make recommendations, that the appointment always would be up to the full board, and the board had no obligation to back her.

Bonilla tried anyway, got no second, and then expressed deep frustration that the other board members refused to support her.

The dispute, Bonilla’s frustration, and Jacobs’ rebukes signal something deeper than just a simple board appointee. Bonilla was a smart-growth activist who toppled an institution in Edwards, and while she came onto the board promising to work closely with all commissioners, she also came with the expectation that she has a reform agenda to pursue, and she has pushed it. In just three months, on a board not accustomed to open fighting, she and Jacobs already have clashed frequently in open meetings, and the mayor has lectured her on protocol on several occasions.

Tuesday, Thompson and Jacobs suggested a compromise, which Bonilla reluctantly accepted, and the board unanimously approved. It leaves Beagles as the District 5 representative, but puts Horner into another open seat on the parks board, one set aside for a natural resources expert.

“It had nothing to do with him,” Bonilla said later of Beagles. “It had to do with my vision for someone I can work with.

“I can still work through her [Horner] for what our district needs,” she added.

Protests at Marco Rubio’s office say focus is on access, not booting him

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio lost leases on his offices in Tampa and Jacksonville in part because of landlord’s impatience with the incessant barrage of protests out front.

Is Orlando next?

The plaza in front of the downtown Orlando office building housing Rubio’s Central Florida office was the site of another protest Tuesday, as it has been almost every Tuesday this year.

This time, it was For Our Future and other groups pressing a combination of state, local and federal liberal causes as part of the statewide Awake The State rallies.

The building itself was occupied by protesters for most of a day and night last July when more than a hundred people staged a sit-in, demanding that Rubio consider gun restrictions in response to the horrific massacre at the Pulse nightclub just a couple miles away. Ten protesters were arrested for refusing to leave that night.

On Monday to the Florida Times-Union (and again Tuesday morning for FloridaPolitics.com), a Rubio spokeswoman in Jacksonville charged that the leases were yanked not because protesters were explicitly targeting the Republican senator but because they were targeting President Donald Trump,  using Rubio’s offices as a platform.

“For the second time in another major region of the state, the unruly behavior of some anti-Trump protesters is making it more inconvenient for Floridians to come to our local office to seek assistance with federal issues,” Christine Mandreucci asserted in a statement she had earlier provided to the Times-Union.

Orlando’s protesters aren’t entirely disputing that Rubio is not the primary target of their ire, but said as long as the senator refuses to respond to them they would assume he is doing nothing to address their concerns. Tuesday’s protest, for example, largely focused on state lawmakers and Trump, though most speakers called on Rubio to get involved in issues ranging from health care to Muslim bans, and from abortion to Israel.

“We would like to remind people like Marco Rubio who said that he would be a check on Donald Trump. He refuses to met with people, he refuses to have a town hall, he refuses to talk to us, so we’re holding it here,” said Mitch Emerson of For Our Future.

And they said they have no interest in causing the senator any problems with his landlord — Seaside Office Plaza is managed by Highwoods Properties.

“Truthfully, the one goal that I have, and the one goal that we have in general, is we would like our voices to be heard,” said Melanie Gold, a primary organizer of the Tuesday rallies.

 

Planned Osceola Parkway extension through park draws fire in Orange meeting

Osceola County Expressway Authority plans to run a new highway through an Orange County nature park drew strong fire Tuesday at the Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting, but Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the commissioners were uncertain they could do anything about it.

Several dozen people came to the meeting to appeal to Jacobs and the commissioners to take a stand against the expressway authority’s planned route for an eastward extension of the Osceola Parkway, a multi-lane, divided, limited-access tollroad, because those plans now call for it to enter south Orange County for a few miles and then cut through the middle of the Split Oak Forest Forest Park, which is on the Orange-Osceola counties line.

That preserve offers 2,000 acres of undeveloped scrub oak forest with what supporters call unique habitats for wildlife and plants, and was set up more than 20 years ago as a mitigation bank, and became a popular hiking and nature spot. Numerous speakers from the Audubon Society, the League of Women’s Voters, other groups, and individual conservationists and environmentalists lined up Tuesday to urge the commission to stop the road, or at least to move the alignment so it does not go through the park.

“We’re here to get your commitment to protect Split Oak,” said Marge Holt, chair and conservation chair of the Sierra Club Central Florida Group. She offered them a proposed county resolution and urged them to put it on a future agenda.

Consultants Paul Cherry and S. Clifton Tate of Kimley-Horn told the board that the Split Oak alignment was selected in part for safety reasons, because other potential alignments would force tight curves to get around area lakes and development. They also noted the proposed $250 million highway extension would cost far more in other alignments due to far more home relocations.

The Osceola County Expressway Authority’s plans are longterm, part of the authority’s 2040 vision to circle Kissimmee and St. Cloud with expressways connecting into those in Orange County. But at the authority’s April meeting its board will consider signing off on the planned route.

Yet that might be all the Osceola County Expressway Authority does. That agency is currently in plans to merge with the Central Florida Expressway Authority, which would then take over all of the Osceola authority’s roads, projects and plans.

And that left Jacobs and the Orange County commissioners in a potential difficult situation. The Orange commissioners might have the power to stop an Osceola project from extending into Orange County. But, except for the fact that Jacobs and Orange Commissioner Jennifer Thompson have seats on the nine-member CFX board, they would have no direct power to tell the Central Florida Expressway Authority what it can or cannot do.

With a potential resolution in hand, Jacobs asked the board’s legal counsel to check to see what the county could do.

“I think when it’s Osceola we probably had authority. I’m not sure when it becomes Central Florida Expressway Authority,” Jacobs said. “Once it transfers, I don’t think we do.”

The Central Florida Expressway Authority may be taking the plan back to square one. Because the authority will inherit all of Osceola County Expressway Authority’s projects, it also will inherit all of that agency’s liabilities and longterm construction and maintenance commitments. As a result, the Orlando-based Central Florida Expressway Authority is negotiating with Kimley-Horn to conduct an entirely new feasibility study for the Osceola Parkway project. That is a very early step in the process of road planning.

For 1st time, Casey Anthony speaks about case

Casey Anthony knows that much of the world believes she killed her 2-year-old daughter, despite her acquittal. But nearly nine years later, she insists she doesn’t know how the last hours of Caylee’s life unfolded.

“Caylee would be 12 right now. And would be a total badass,” she told The Associated Press in one of a series of exclusive interviews. “I’d like to think she’d be listening to classic rock, playing sports” and putting up with no nonsense.

But discussing Caylee’s last moments, the 30-year-old Anthony spoke in halting, sober tones: “I’m still not even certain as I stand here today about what happened,” she said.

“Based off what was in the media” – the story of a woman who could not account for a month in which her child was missing, whose defense involved an accidental drowning for which there was no eyewitness testimony – “I understand the reasons people feel about me. I understand why people have the opinions that they do.”

This was the first time Anthony spoke to a news media outlet about her daughter’s death or her years since the trial. Her responses were at turns revealing, bizarre and often contradictory, and they ultimately raised more questions than answers about the case that has captivated the nation.

It’s been almost nine years since Caylee went missing, and six since the circus-like Orlando trial that ended in her mother’s acquittal. The trial was carried live on cable networks and was the focus of daily commentaries by HLN’s Nancy Grace, who called her “the most hated mom in America,” and, derisively, “tot mom.”

Anthony views herself as something of an Alice in Wonderland, with the public as the Red Queen.

“The queen is proclaiming: ‘No, no, sentence first, verdict afterward,'” she says. “I sense and feel to this day that is a direct parallel to what I lived. My sentence was doled out long before there was a verdict. Sentence first, verdict afterward. People found me guilty long before I had my day in court.”

The child was supposedly last seen on June 16, 2008; she was first reported missing, by Casey Anthony’s mother, on July 15. A day later, Casey Anthony was arrested on charges of child neglect. She told police that Caylee had disappeared with a baby sitter.

A utility worker working in a wooded area near the Anthony home on Dec. 11 found skeletal remains that were later determined to be Caylee’s. Experts would testify that air samples indicated that decaying human remains had been present in Casey Anthony’s trunk.

In the end, prosecutors proved Casey Anthony was a liar, but convinced the jury of little else. The government failed to establish how Caylee died, and they couldn’t find her mother’s DNA on the duct tape they said was used to suffocate her. After a trial of a month and a half, the jury took less than 11 hours to find Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse.

Still, the Florida Department of Children and Families concluded that Anthony was responsible for her daughter’s death because her “actions or the lack of actions … ultimately resulted or contributed in the death of the child.” And just this month, former Circuit Judge Belvin Perry Jr., who presided at the trial, theorized that Anthony may have killed Caylee accidentally when she was using chloroform to calm her.

She was convicted of four counts of lying to police (though two counts were later dropped), and served about three years in prison while awaiting trial. A thousand people were there to see her released.

She admits that she lied to police: about being employed at Universal Studios; about leaving Caylee with a baby-sitter; about telling two people, both of them imaginary, that Caylee was missing; about receiving a phone call from Caylee the day before she was reported missing.

“Even if I would’ve told them everything that I told to the psychologist, I hate to say this but I firmly believe I would have been in the same place. Because cops believe other cops. Cops tend to victimize the victims. I understand now … I see why I was treated the way I was even had I been completely truthful.”

She added: “Cops lie to people every day. I’m just one of the unfortunate idiots who admitted they lied.”

She paused.

“My dad was a cop, you can read into that what you want to.”

At the trial, lead defense attorney Jose Baez suggested that the little girl drowned and that Casey Anthony’s father, George, helped cover that up – and sexually abused his daughter. Her father has vehemently denied the accusations.

Anthony doesn’t talk about her parents much, other than to say she was disappointed when they took money from television’s Dr. Phil and appeared on his show. The host donated $600,000 to Caylee’s Fund, a nonprofit started by Anthony’s parents. At the time, he said George and Cindy Anthony would derive no income from the money. The nonprofit was later dissolved.

Asked about the drowning defense, Casey Anthony hesitated: “Everyone has their theories, I don’t know. As I stand here today I can’t tell you one way or another. The last time I saw my daughter I believed she was alive and was going to be OK, and that’s what was told to me. “

Anthony lives in the South Florida home of Patrick McKenna, a private detective who was the lead investigator on her defense team. She also works for him, doing online social media searches and other investigative work. McKenna was also the lead investigator for OJ Simpson, when he was accused of killing his wife and acquitted; Anthony said she’s become fascinated with the case, and there are “a lot of parallels” to her own circumstances.

“I can empathize with his situation,” she said.

An Associated Press reporter met Anthony as she protested against President Donald Trump at a Palm Beach rally.

It’s unclear why Anthony agreed to speak to the AP. She later texted the reporter, asking that the AP not run the story. Among other things, she cited the bankruptcy case in which she has been embroiled since 2013: “During the course of my bankruptcy, the rights to my story were purchased by a third party company for $25k to protect my interests. Without written authorization from the controlling members of this company, I am prohibited from speaking publicly about my case at any time.”

In addition, she said she had violated a confidentiality agreement with her employer, and remains under subpoena and subject to deposition in her bankruptcy case.

Yet she had participated in five on-the-record interviews over a one-week period, many of them audiotaped.

She still dreads the supermarket checkout line for fear she’ll see photos of her daughter on the cover of tabloid papers. Her bedroom walls are decorated with photos of Caylee and she weeps when she shows off her daughter’s colorful, finger-painted artwork.

Still, she asserts she is happy. For her 31st birthday she plans to go skydiving. She enjoys taking photos, mostly of squirrels and other wildlife. And she loves her investigative work.

“I love the fact that I have a unique perspective and I get a chance to do for other people what so many others have done for me,” she said. Someday, she said, she’d like to get a private investigator’s license and work for a defense team.

She talks of working on a DUI manslaughter case where the accused took a plea deal.

“I look at him and I think this kid almost lost his life for something they can’t definitively prove that he did,” she said. “I’ve lived it firsthand. I didn’t do what I was accused of but I fought for three years. Not just for me, but for my daughter.”

Occasionally she goes out with friends to area bars and has struck up a few short-lived romantic relationships. When she’s out in public, men are attracted to her long, dark locks and petite frame, and often pay for her signature drinks: either a Fat Tire beer or a Jack Daniels and diet coke, with a lime wedge. But news that she is there spreads quickly; people whisper and snap photos, and she retreats to her newly purchased SUV so she can return home, alone.

Anthony speaks defiantly of her pariah status.

“I don’t give a s— about what anyone thinks about me, I never will,” she said. “I’m OK with myself, I sleep pretty good at night.”

Victor Torres seeks to save call-center jobs

State Sen. Victor Torres has introduced a bill to force call center operators to give extended notices if they intend to shut down or move call-center jobs out of state or overseas.

The Orlando Democrat filed Senate Bill 1632 to require call centers that reduce their staffs by more than 30 days relocate outside of Florida to give notice to the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation 120 days in advance.

It also requires the department to establish an inventory list of call centers and numbers of employees, and create financial penalties for companies not in compliance with notification requirements. The bill also would bar non-compliant companies from obtaining certain state grants, loans, or tax benefits for five years.

Torres’ bill is a companion to House Bill 815, which state Rep. Robert Asencio, a Miami Democrat, filed last month. They have dubbed the bills the ‘Save Florida Call Center Jobs Act of 2017.’

Both Miami and Orlando have numerous call centers, and a press release issued by Senate Democrats said nearly 350,000 Floridians are currently employed in customer service and support call center jobs today in the Sunshine State. The release also states that those jobs are draining away, as companies outsource to states or countries with cheaper labor.

“Off shoring and out-sourcing of jobs may be good for the corporate bottom line but it has tragic consequences for the working men and women of Florida,” Torres stated in the release.

Under federal law, large employers already are required to submit 60-day “Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification” notices to the state Department of Economic Opportunity for large layoffs or closings.

Asencio said there is a cyber security issue involved in job center relocations.

“Call center workers often handle sensitive financial, health care and personal information that Floridians have a right to know is secure and protected,” he stated in the release. “When that interaction involves state business, it is only proper that their tax dollars are being used to support a secure and professional call center here in Florida. Not only is this about the good jobs that call centers support in communities across the state, it is about ensuring that we are at the forefront of data security.”

This bill will require existing call centers planning to relocate outside of Florida, or reducing their staff by more than 30 percent, to notify the Department of Business & Professional Regulation 120 days in advance of any relocation or downsizing. It also authorizes DBPR to establish an inventory list of call centers and number of employees and create a financial penalty for companies not in compliance with the notification requirements. Once on the non-compliance list, the bill would also bar these companies from certain state grants, loans and tax benefits for five years.

The AFL-CIO has expressed support.

“We thank the sponsors of the new legislation for their leadership and for recognizing that taxpayer money should go to strengthen Florida’s economy. It shouldn’t be used to ship jobs overseas,” Don Abicht, President of CWA Local 3122, which represents Florida’s communication workers said. “The ‘Save Florida Call Center Jobs Act of 2017’ is an important bill that would help American workers, protect American communities, and benefit American consumers’ safety.”

Fourth Democrat, Nicolette Springer, enters Orange County commission race

A fourth candidate has filed to run for the Orange County Commission’s District 4, with the entry of Lake Nona criminologist Nicolette Springer.

Springer, 39, a Democrat, is running for the southeast Orange County district seat being vacated in 2018 by Republican Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, who is term-limted.

She joins three other Orlando Democrats who already have filed in the race: Kevin Lance Ballinger, 57; Maribel Gomez Cordero, 50; and Priscilla Velazquez.

Springer is a wife, mother, professor, and social scientist with a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from UCF, and is a criminologist with a specialty in mental health and substance abuse. She also notes in a news release issued by her new campaign that she is the daughter of an immigrant and a truck driver.

She expressed interests in smart growth and attention for roads roads and school overcrowding.

“When our new public schools open, they are often already at capacity. The roads we drive on are crowded and congested, and even more residents are expected to move here,” she stated. “Most importantly, our elected leaders do not always keep the promises they make to residents.

“We have a need for smart development that includes safer roads for both drivers and pedestrians,” she added. “We live in a county of over one million people, more than double the population of Rhode Island, yet we have an outdated public transportation system with no permanent funding.”

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