Jeff Brandes Archives - Florida Politics

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Old he-coon reunion

December 12 will mark twenty years since the passing of Florida’s former Democratic U.S. Senator and Governor Lawton Chiles.

Yet, still to this day, the mark left on Sunshine State politics is very visible.

Most Democrats will tell you he’s the best governor in modern Florida history. And Republicans aren’t quick to dispute.

Then-state Sen. Lawton Mainor Chiles, Jr. walks along a Florida highway. Remembered by Democrats as the best Governor in Florida history, Chiles died twenty years ago Dec. 12.

Supporters, staffers, successors and opponents are celebrating Chiles’ legacy this weekend at the Chiles Jubilee — the first-ever reunion of his close friends, family and colleagues.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is delivering welcome remarks this morning at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa. Former Florida U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham is the featured keynote luncheon speaker.

A series of other events are scheduled, including a panel discussion on the state’s crusade against Big Tobacco, featuring former Attorney General Bob Butterworth. Those in attendance will have a chance to share their favorite memory of Chiles following an evening reception.

Chiles is known notably for his unique campaign strategies and his flashy, southern command of language.

To boost his name recognition during his 1970 bid for the Senate, Chiles embarked on a 1,003-mile, 91-day walk across Florida from Pensacola to Key West.

During a 1994 debate with former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who will deliver remarks at today’s reunion via video, Chiles — in response to being branded an “old liberal” — notably quipped: “The old he-coon walks just before the light of day.”

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

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

Take 5

Recount confirms DeSantis victory — With little change in overall margins following Florida’s state-ordered machine recount, Republican Ron DeSantis again declared victory in Florida’s race for Governor. The win was just 0.4 percent, a spread of 33,652 votes. DeSantis described the results as “clear and unambiguous” in a statement following the recount. DeSantis invited his opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum, to a summit to discuss bipartisan observations made on the campaign trail. “We have both traveled the state and met Floridians from all walks of life,” DeSantis said. “Sharing these experiences will, I believe, help us unite our state and build toward unity on behalf of the people of Florida.”

Agriculture Commissioner race in limbo — Following the completion of the machine recount of the Agriculture Commissioner race on Thursday, Democrat Nikki Fried led Republican Matt Caldwell by 5,307 votes, a slightly narrower lead than the 5,326-vote gap reported in the initial tabulation of the race. A manual recount of the race is underway. It’s the only race for Cabinet that will require further consideration. Republican Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County Circuit Court judge, will replace term-limited Pam Bondi in January. Moody defeated her Democratic opponent, Sean Shaw, by six points. Republican Jimmy Patronis will continue to serve as the state’s Chief Financial Officer. He was appointed to the post last year when former CFO Jeff Atwater resigned to take a job as CFO of Florida Atlantic University. Patronis defeated his Democratic opponent Jeremy Ring by three points.

Judge reschedules Senate discrimination hearing — U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle has rescheduled oral arguments for Nov. 30 in a case filed by the Florida Senate after allegations by a legislative aide that she was a victim of sexual harassment and retaliation. The arguments had originally been scheduled for Nov. 8 but were canceled, reports the News Service of Florida. The Senate is seeking to halt the EEOC investigation. Earlier this month, lawyers for the Senate wrote “the ongoing EEOC action violates the Florida Senate’s sovereign and constitutional rights,” including “violat(ing) the Senate’s sovereign immunity.” Rachel Perrin Rogers, a chief assistant to Senate Republican Leader and future Senate President Wilton Simpson, filed the complaint with the EEOC alleging in part that she faced retaliation for sexual harassment claims.

Incoming Speaker names top aide Carol Gormley, a health care policy expert and veteran legislative staffer, incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva. Gormley has worked as a legislative staffer for former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Before being elected to the Senate, Rubio had served a stint as Speaker of the Florida House. In 2012, Gormley worked in the state Senate as a senior policy adviser to then-Senate President Don Gaetz. More recently, she was a senior policy staffer to immediate past House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Senate starts filling out leadership — State Senate President-elect Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, on Wednesday announced his selection of Sen. David Simmons as Senate President Pro Tempore, the upper chamber’s second-in-command post. Simmons, a Longwood Republican, is a longtime state lawmaker, having served an eight-year stint in the state House before being elected to the Senate in 2010. “We have all seen David’s unmatched work ethic and tireless determination to fiercely advocate for the issues and causes he supports,” said Galvano. The Senate is expected to approve Simmons’ appointment on Tuesday, when the chamber meets for Organizational Session. Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva announced his leadership team last week, along with committee assignments.

Putnam criticizes new trade proposal

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is criticizing some of the new trade terms proposed between the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

The term-limited Republican Cabinet member delivered remarks to members of the U.S. International Trade Commission on the USMCA this week, declaring it “anything but a fair and level playing field for Florida’s producers.”

Adam Putnam criticizes the USMCA, President Donald Trump’s replacement to NAFTA.

The USMCA is expected to serve as President Donald Trump’s replacement to NAFTA.

Putnam told commissioners that specialty agricultural products are “unfairly subsidized and are pouring into the U.S. market in high volumes at prices significantly below the cost of production, resulting in negative repercussions on U.S. producers and causing disproportionate economic injury to Florida’s specialty crop industry.”

He added: “Our department, Florida’s Congressional delegation and industry groups have fought hard to protect our specialty crop industry since the inception of NAFTA, and we will continue to do so as this new agreement moves forward.”

DEO highlights apprenticeships

Both job seekers and employers stand to reap enormous benefits from apprenticeships, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

“Apprenticeships help Florida’s employers recruit and keep the talent they need to remain competitive,” DEO Executive Director Cissy Proctor said this week in news release noting National Apprenticeship Week.

Apprenticeships keep Florida employers in the game, says, DEO Executive Director Cissy Proctor.

Getting an early jump on skills training helps novice job seekers gain hands-on experience in prospective fields. It can also help with finances, as apprenticeships are typically accompanied by wages and can reduce or replace student debt.

The DEO in partnership with the Department of Education and CareerSource Florida recently secured the national Apprenticeship USA grant to help build out early skills-based training programs in the Sunshine State.

“We are proud that Florida’s public education system offers students of all ages and backgrounds pathways to reach their academic and career goals,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Instagram of the Week

 

The week in appointments

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group

Alyssa Beck, 23, of Jacksonville, is an advocacy specialist with the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

Kevin Higgins II, of Riviera Beach, is a former security specialist with PSC Security Services.

Both are appointed for terms that end at the pleasure of the Governor.

Children’s Trust Governing Board of Miami-Dade County

Marissa Leichter, 41, of North Bay Village, is a program manager with the Florida Foster Care Review. Her term is through March 17, 2020.

Tiombe Bisa Dunn, 44, of Miami, is a psychologist with the School Board of Miami-Dade County. She is reappointed for a term through March 17, 2022.

Sanford Bohrer, 70, of Pinecrest, is a partner with Holland and Knight, LLP. He succeeds Miguel Balsera and is appointed for a term through March 17, 2019.

Nicole Gomez, 34, of Miami Beach, is an associate with LSN Partners, LLC. She is appointed for a term through March 17, 2021.

Richard Dunn Jr., 57, of Miami, is a senior pastor with the Faith Community Baptist Church. He succeeds Maria Alonso and is appointed for a term through March 17, 2019.

Lourdes Gimenez, 63, of Miami, is a former administrative director with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She succeeds Lileana De Moya and is appointed for a term through March 17, 2022.

Constance Collins, 60, of Surfside, is the President and Founder of Lotus House Women’s Shelter. She is appointed for a term through March 17, 2021.

 

OIR’s Murphy wins top honor

One of the insurance field’s highest honors has gone to Susanne Murphy, deputy commissioner for property and casualty in the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

That’s the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Robert Dineen Award for outstanding service and contributions to the state regulation of insurance. She shared the honor with Mel Anderson, a deputy commissioner in Arkansas.

NAIC President Julie Mix McPeak, Deputy Commissioner Susanne Murphy, Commissioner David Altmaier.

Murphy was cited for her advocacy for expansion of the private flood insurance market in Florida and elsewhere, and for helping to lead the state’s recovery from the hurricanes that have hit in recent years. She’s also known as an authority on insurer solvency.

“I cannot be more proud of Susanne and her recent recognition as being acknowledged at the national level for such a prestigious award is quite an achievement.,” Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said. “Susanne Murphy is a prominent player in our nation’s insurance arena, and we are extremely fortunate to have her expertise here in the Sunshine State.”

Irma claims still stack up

Insurance claims arising from Hurricane Irma have surpassed the 1 million threshold, and they’re worth more than $11 billion.

The actual numbers as of Wednesday were 1,002,821 claims, valued at $11,082,199,367. Some 92.4 percent had been resolved.

By far, the largest number of claims came from Miami-Dade County, at 128,661, followed by Collier at 95,273, Broward at 84,042, and Lee at 84,032.

Hurricane Irma is still giving Florida headaches one year later.

The Office of Insurance Regulation had no records identifying the origins of 11,049 claims. The storm made landfall on Sept. 10, 2017, and proceeded to ravage the length of Peninsular Florida. Homeowners have three years to file claims.

“Following Hurricane Irma, and the recent landfall of Michael, we have continued urging residents to contact their insurance company as soon as possible,” Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said. “This is done to limit AOB abuse, the occurrence of additional non-covered damage from interfering and prolonging the claims process, and expediting consumers’ path back to normalcy.

As always, consumers who have insurance-related questions or concerns are urged to contact CFO Jimmy Patronis’ Insurance Consumer Helpline by calling 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.

State regulators provide for hurricane victims

Helping hands have come from across the state and country to the aid of those affected by Hurricane Michael.

This week, even the state Office of Financial Regulation chipped in, providing more than 385 lbs., of non-perishable food and other items to support ongoing relief efforts.

Left to right: Chief of Investigations Steve Horn, Interim Commissioner Pam Epting, Director of Securities Lee Kell, Director of Financial Institutions Jeremy Smith, Director of Consumer Finance Greg Oaks.

The powerful Category 4 storm that swept through the Panhandle and Big Bend on Oct. 10.

“I am proud of our team, and their generous efforts to help friends and neighbors in the Panhandle region who were impacted by this devastating storm,” said Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting. “As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, these donations will benefit families who need them most.”

Donations were delivered to Second Harvest of the Big Bend, a regional food bank serving 11 counties in the Big Bend area.

State reopens hurricane-battered park

Falling Waters State Park in Chipley is again open for day use after briefly closing its gates following Hurricane Michael.

Falling waters state park
Falling Waters is home to the highest cascade in the state.

“Thanks to the hard work of park staff and volunteers, Falling Waters State Park is open for day use,” said Florida State Parks Director Eric Draper. “We hope to reopen all of the state parks impacted by Hurricane Michael as soon as possible.”

As its name suggests, Falling Waters is home a quiet cascade, in fact, the largest one in the state.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Falling Waters suffered significant damage from the powerful Category 4 storm, sustaining downed trees, debris, and structural damage.

Just seven of the 31 state parks closed because of the storm remain unopened.

Utility association recognized for Irma outreach

For its outstanding communication efforts exercised before, during and after Hurricane Irma in 2017, the Florida Municipal Electric Association recently took home an award from the American Public Power Association.

The ‘Award of Merit,’ presented during the American Public Power Association’s Customer Connections Conference in Orlando, honored the “use of social media to communicate information about hurricane preparation, mutual aid coordination, power outages and power restoration efforts in advance,” of the powerful storm, according to FMEA.

Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director, pictured with Coleman Smoak, chair-elect, American Public Power Association and general manager, Piedmont Municipal.

“Not only were we able to get timely information out about outages and power restoration numbers, we were also able to increase the general public’s understanding of the power restoration process and priorities,” said Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director. “We proudly accept this award and thank the American Public Power Association for bestowing this honor upon us.”

According to FMEA, other members of the group received similar distinctions. Among them: Orlando Utilities Commission, Lakeland Electric, Kissimmee Utility Authority, Beaches Energy Services and Keys Energy in their respective categories and classes. The Florida Municipal Power Agency also was recognized.

University system launches campaign

Those tasked with overseeing the state’s 12 public universities want others to know more about the good work that comes out of each institution.

The State University System announced this week the Our Success is Your Success campaign, an effort to promote universities’ impacts on “social mobility, scientific research, and economic growth.”

A new campaign from the Florida State University system is helping to promote cooperation for “social mobility and economic growth.”

“Our message is simple: When our State University System prospers, so does the rest of the state,” Board of Governors Chair Ned Lautenbach said of the campaign.

To market the good news, the campaign will use social media and other communications. It is being carried out in coordination with the Florida Student Association.

The effort will be carried out by the Florida Student Association, which will host the first-ever State University System day at the capital on February 6.

Florida College System awards Best Practices

Four Sunshine State colleges were recently awarded the Florida College System Chancellor’s Best Practice recognition.

“The Chancellor’s Best Practice Awards is an opportunity for our colleges to showcase innovative program strategies that have proved successful at their colleges and in their communities,” said Chancellor Madeline Pumariega. “The best practice awards recognize colleges for creating successful programs and then sharing the high impact practices with all institutions in the Florida College System.”

The higher education panel distinguished Florida Gateway College for its Second-Chance Pell Pilot Program, which offers education access to inmates upon release.

Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega recognized four state colleges for their ‘Best Practices.’

North Florida Community College took home the award for its
“Dual Enrollment Video Conferencing Model,” which caters to rural high school students seeking college credit.

Pensacola State College received the recognition for its Bellwether Virtual Tutoring Program, which helps an estimated 1,000 students each year find individualized help for their studies.

At Polk State College, the award honored the Establishing Leaders in Teacher Education (ELITE Program), which “provides a seamless pathway from high school to college to employment for aspiring teachers, helping students meet local workforce demands through an affordable fast-track pipeline,” according to the Florida College System.

State featured at medical trade show

Enterprise Florida, the state’s principal economic development organization, this week set up shop at MEDICA, the world’s largest medical trade show.

Joining Enterprise Florida at MEDICA’s Düsseldorf, Germany, were nearly 50 other Florida companies. The annual trade show this year spanned Monday through Thursday.

Florida is represented by a record number of Florida-based companies, and this year also marks the 30th consecutive year Florida has attended the show.

The state’s strong representation at the international event is a good sign for Florida’s medical services industry. Last year, Florida companies reported more than $122 million in sales following the show.

“We are so appreciative of the companies that are joining EFI at MEDICA this year,” said Joe York, Vice-Chairman of Enterprise Florida’s Board of Directors. “Events like MEDICA help Florida’s small and medium-sized businesses expand internationally and showcase their products and services to the life science industry.”

In terms of industry size, Florida is the second-ranked state for medical device and pharmaceuticals manufacturing. Nearly 30,000 Floridians work in biotechnology, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and medical device manufacturing industries, according to Enterprise Florida.

‘Course change’ for license suspensions?

Some free-market think tanks are trying to reform the state’s practice of suspending driver’s licenses for crimes not related to operating an automobile.

The James Madison Institute and Reason Foundation released a joint study this week arguing the practice hurts Florida and its taxpayers because it leads to increased court costs and unemployment.

The state suspends licenses for a series of nondriving offenses, the study points out. Among them: most drug crimes, failure to appear in court and failure to pay child support.

Driver’s license suspensions “cut off a vital lifeline for individuals in the workforce,” says Sal Nuzzo.

“These suspensions cut off a vital lifeline for individuals in the workforce, and can herald an endless cycle of fines, court costs, and liabilities that make escaping the criminal justice system nearly impossible,” write Sal Nuzzo, JMI’s vice president of policy, and James Craven, a senior fellow of criminal justice reform at Reason Foundation.

Nuzzo and Craven recommend the state reconsider using license suspensions as a punitive or compliance measure. Other states like California, they note, ended suspensions for minor offenses. In some cases, they suggest giving judges more discretion over suspending licenses, or opting out of the practice entirely.

FSU snags global distinction

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities recently recognized Florida State University its strategies to internationalize the institution.

Sally McRorie, FSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, accepted the 2018 Platinum Level Institutional Award for Global Learning, Research & Engagement last Sunday.

McRorie, along with a team of FSU leaders, accepts the prestigious national award from APLU President Peter McPherson.

The association said FSU had an “extraordinary global-engagement” network. The school received the only ‘Platinum’-level award at the ceremony.

“I think we’re contributing to FSU’s reputation as a place where students can really experience engaged learning in multiple areas, including international study,” said assistant provost Stephen McDowell. “But it’s not only about people who travel abroad. Florida State also creates opportunities on campus for people to engage with students, faculty and speakers from other countries.”

The university also advances its international mission through more than 100 international agreements with partners in 32 countries. In total, FSU faculty members have established affiliations with about 200 institutions worldwide.

More than $1 million in scholarships for study-abroad classes and assists talented students in other countries. International students with at least two semesters abroad can enroll for later classes at FSU and pay in-state tuition.

Hometown hero honored

A shooting earlier this month at a Tallahassee hot yoga studio left two dead and five others injured rocked the nearby community.

But without Joshua Quick, who confronted the shooter allowing others to escape, the casualties could’ve been worse.

In his final City Commission meeting, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum gives the key to the city to Joshua Quick, the man who helped save lives during a shooting at a hot yoga studio last month.

For his actions during the tragedy, Quick was awarded an honorary key to the city by the Tallahassee City Commission, including Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude,” Quick said, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. “I cannot overstate my gratitude to everybody — the first responders and even the people who were in the yoga studio with me who saw firsthand what transpired.”

A law school student at Florida State University, President John Thrasher announced on Friday that the university would begin raising funds to relieve Quick of his tuition and related expenses.

Capitol Directions

In realm of innovation, Florida ’gets there first‘

There’s a 50 or so mile stretch of California coast where a staggering amount of the western world’s innovations are born.

From San Francisco to Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino, entrepreneurs with big ideas flock there for two reasons: proximity to a highly specialized workforce and access to an embarrassing amount of the most risk-tolerant capital in the world.

Out of this environment, good concepts give birth to billion-dollar companies, seemingly overnight. But as idyllic a spot as Northern California is for a startup to be born, it is likely the most hostile place in America for a disruptive idea to come of age — and that’s where Florida enters this story.

Its long been said that wherever America goes, if Florida isn’t there yet, it will get there first.

This aphorism, usually a reference to evolving demographics, multilingual communities and global connectivity down to the municipal level, has taken on a new meaning in recent years.

Florida is increasingly looked to by industry disrupters as a market ready to embrace innovation.

Continuing to embrace this role will be essential to carving out Florida’s place in the new global economy as the Sunshine State is poised to make its claim as the tourism (and innovation) capitol of the world.

Example 1A: Home sharing.

Airbnb, the mega-unicorn hospitality company that gives people the ability to plug their biggest asset, their homes, into the global tourism industry, injected nearly half a billion dollars directly into our state’s economy in 2017. The company reported that its hosts, everyday Floridians, earned $450 million last year while also remitting $45 million in taxes.

Meanwhile, back in Airbnb’s hometown and birthplace of San Francisco, the company is slogging through a well-documented fight with regulators and hoteliers who in some cases are seeking to ban the activity outright.

If you know any millennials, you’ll know how ridiculous a position this is.

Home sharing platforms like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway aren’t going anywhere, and if Florida is going to continue to be a dominate force in tourism deep into this century, a big reason is going to be because it leans into home sharing. Why not start early and set an example for the rest of the world to follow?

Elon Musk’s fully electric Tesla Model S is the most innovative automobile since the Model T, and that’s just the start. Their sales model is innovative and perhaps most importantly of all, their approach to curbing global climate change is innovative: produce a product so cool, the positive effects on sea level rise are an afterthought to everyone outside of Miami Beach.

While some states are banning the sales of Tesla (which, like Airbnb, is represented in Florida by the lobbying firm — Southern Strategy Group — that seems to specialize in representing disruptive clients), the first new publicly traded U.S. automaker in over 60 years, Florida is full steam — or, full charge — ahead. And why wouldn’t we be? Does anything fit the Florida brand better than a cool ride you can feel good about taking down A1A?

One of Musk’s other concerns, SpaceX, is the odds-on favorite to send the first humans to Mars. The company is targeting a launch date sometime in the 2020s when the next great explorers will takeoff from right here in Florida for an adventure which will surely enthrall humanity for generations to come.

Elon for Governor, anyone?

Florida looked prescient back in 2012 when through the leadership of then-Rep. Jeff Brandes, the state passed one of the nation’s first autonomous vehicle testing bills. At the time, AV’s seemed like technology for a distant future, now, barely half a decade later, the entire country is scrambling to get the technology first.

While California is placing more and regulations on AV operations, Florida would be smart to continue to lead in this space.

The undisputed industry leader, Waymo, recently hired lobbyists in Florida, signaling a potential interest in the state.

AV is widely regarded as the next massive shift that will change the way we live our lives, and the title of AV innovation center of the world is still up for grabs. If Florida can wrangle that flag away from California, it’s hard to overstate the long-term impacts it will have on our economy.

For an excellent example of a local government embracing innovation, you don’t have to look any further than my hometown of St. Pete.

The city entirely re-imagined permitting and compliance by bringing in tech company OpenCounter to automate and streamline those processes. The result is potential entrepreneurs can get businesses off the ground faster.

It’s innovation to promote innovation; as a local business owner, I love it.

State agencies and local governments throughout the state should look for similar solutions that the private sector embraces. Companies like Salesforce and Slack come to mind.

There’s a reason the biggest companies in the world embrace cutting-edge enterprise software and for Florida, doing so could increase efficiency, improve the interaction with citizens, and make the public-sector work environment much more competitive.

There is a lot of reason to be hopeful that Florida will continue on this current trend of embracing innovation. Incoming presiding officers, Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva are both champions of innovation and are expected to let industry disrupters prove their mettle in the free market.

State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced his office would look to become the national leader among the states in cryptocurrency regulation.

These are exciting times to be alive, the world is changing faster than ever, and it seems like us lucky folks in Florida are going to have a front-row seat.

In fact, it might not be long until Florida is known as the innovation (and tourism) capitol of the world.

Autonomous vehicles

FITCon 2018: Cable could be the key for ‘connected communities’

The cable industry was once a titan of video, and while millions of customers still have coaxials screwed into the back of their sets, the business is rapidly shifting toward one focused on broadband internet and the myriad opportunities it brings, from self-driving cars to connected communities.

State Rep. Jason Fischer, Rick Cimerman of the National Internet & Television Association, and Chris Spencer of GrayRobinson participated in a Thursday panel at Florida Internet & Television’s FITCon 2018 that detailed how cable companies could provide the foundation for these emergent technologies to deploy safely and successfully.

“We have 66 million broadband customers today 52 million video customers and 31 million voice customers,” Cimerman said. “So we really consider ourselves the broadband industry. And by the end of this year, the statistic we have in here, and I think it’s a little low, but it says that 70 percent of people across the country will have gigabit internet speeds available to them from cable operators.”

Some perspective on those speeds: A gigabit works out to 125 megabytes a second, or about 25 typical iTunes song downloads within the blink of an eye.

With that kind of bandwidth becoming more readily available month-to-month, cities can start thinking about implanting sensors in roads to aid autonomous vehicles, or placing smart light poles in public parks to tamp down on trespassing, or crime, after dark.

The possibilities extend far beyond that, and new uses are being discovered as cities become more familiar with the technology.

“In Washington, D.C., a system has been implemented with sensors in all of the public trash cans and of course waste management — not the company but the service — is a big deal. So, by putting these sensors in the receptacles they are able to better know when to pick up, using sort of UPS-style technology to reduce emissions save money,” Cimerman said.

“But there’s been a side benefit that’s important in a city like Washington DC: rodent control. It turns out they’re much more able to figure out where they need to take action based on where the garbage actually is,” he continued. “So, that was sort of an unintended but happy consequence of deploying sensors for waste management purposes.”

That’s Washington, but what about Florida?

Spencer, a former aide to St. Petersburg state Sen. Jeff Brandes, said the Sunshine State is unique in that it was the “second state in the country to adopt legislation on autonomous vehicles back in 2012” and “also the first state in the country to repeal a law on autonomous vehicles, basically.” That AV law was replaced with another making it legal for self-driving cars to ride down the road without a passenger on board.

“That was a that was a smart inclusion in statute back in 2014 and no one else would be paying attention aside from Representative Fisher and Senator Brandes and a few other very select members of the Legislature,” he said.

The new tech will require quite a bit of capital outlay from cities and the private sector, but Fischer said that the state government sees developing “connected communities,” including investments in getting Florida AV-ready, as a top priority.

“Eventually in a couple decades driving a vehicle is going to be like riding horses. Fun to do but you don’t do it to work,” Fischer said. “There will be another autonomous vehicles bill this Session … and there will be another Smarter Cities Challenge grant that’s modeled off of the federal grant.

“I know that our leadership is behind it on the House side, but I’m not sure about the Senate side. Senator Brandes is our champion there and hopefully we’ll get leadership to fully buy into it. We’ll have something in that space. We’re going to try to aggressively move in that direction,” he concluded.

The money for those programs has come out of the state’s general revenue fund in past years, but Spencer said another potential silo of funds, fittingly, is the state Department of Transportation budget.

“We should also be trying to take advantage of the fact that we have billions of dollars — like billions of dollars — every year in transportation infrastructure that goes through the [Metropolitan Planning Organization] process, that goes through the state process, through the work plan. There are components of that that can be that can be leveraged I think,” he said.

In addition to AV and connected communities, an “internet of things” powered by cable infrastructure could play a major role in the health care industry.

“The federal Department of Transportation had a challenge grant and Columbus Ohio won the first one. One thing that was interesting about their submission was it was not straight on, you know, transportation related, but rather it was health related,” Cimerman said. “It had to do with the number of chronic disease patients, particularly diabetics, in Columbus that had issues because they could not get to appointments on time or keep appointments partly related to the transportation system.

“So, they wrapped in sort of an interesting story and they won that first challenge grant,” he said.

2018 Autonomous Vehicle summit brings industry to Tampa

The annual Autonomous Vehicle Summit is coming to Tampa again this year, Nov. 27-28 at the Tampa Marriott Waterside.

This year’s speakers include a variety of professionals in industries both in and outside of the driverless vehicle world.

Topics will cover not only what the future of driving technology holds, but how it plays out in everything from architecture and land use to finance and mobility.

More than a dozen speakers are lined up for the two-day summit.

“The summit is not just about autonomous cars, but how it will shape cities in a modern world,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, who champions emerging technology as a solution for longstanding issues in the state.

At the state level, Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary of Strategic Development Tom Byron will describe how Florida’s transportation agency is considering the future of technology in its highway and transportation plans.

Brandes

“His goal is to paint a picture that Florida is open for business and that this isn’t your parents’ FDOT,” Brandes said. “This is an FDOT that is looking for innovative solutions.”

Another speaker, Itay Michaeli, will take on another angle: How companies and investors are shifting resources in the automotive industry as autonomous vehicle technology becomes more and more advanced. Michaeli is an analyst for Citi.

Going even deeper into investing trends, two venture capitalists are slated to talk about why autonomous vehicle technology is the talk of the latest in startup capital.

Dawn Gunter from the Tampa office of the company Gensler will discuss how architecture and cities will change with the emergence of autonomous vehicles.

“It will be things like flat parking garages and new drop-off zones to what do we do with gas stations,” Brandes said. “Do they become gyms in the future because everyone has electric cars?”

There’s also a land use opportunity to monetize city curbs. In much the same way cities use parking meters to collect fees for parking, cities could use smart curbs to let delivery drivers reserve space in front of a building to deliver packages.

The summit will also feature a panel of business owners who are already doing business in Florida including a company that uses automated trucks and a company that operates an autonomous shuttle in the retirement community in Central Florida, The Villages.

Summit attendees can also participate in demonstrations including driverless vehicles, cars equipped with connected vehicle technology, electric scooters, and electric bikes.

A complete list of speakers is on the summit’s website. Organizers also invited presumptive GOP Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, who has not confirmed his attendance.

No surprise here: Jeff Brandes trounces Lindsay Cross

Florida Senator Jeff Brandes will keep his Senate District 24 seat representing parts of St. Petersburg.

Brandes stomped his Democratic challenger, Lindsay Cross, 54 percent to 46 percent.

Cross was an underdog candidate in a difficult matchup against a well-known incumbent. She fought a hard battle right up until Election Day, but couldn’t bridge the gap created from her late entrance into the race and inability to keep up with Brandes’ campaign finance war chest.

Brandes is a popular politician in Florida respected across party lines. He gained respect from many Democrats after supporting legalizing medical cannabis and pushing for relaxed regulation over the industry once voters approved it.

He’s also made a name for himself pushing for more access to autonomous vehicle technology and other innovative solutions to modern day problems. Brandes is a bill-sponsoring machine in Tallahassee, proposing often bipartisan legislation ranging from allowing students to use computer coding as a language requirement to regulating “delivery robots” to serve as a sort of Uber of commerce.

Cross waged a strong grassroots campaign. She managed to stretch her limited funding by using creative marketing strategies. Rather than buying up expensive television ads (she did have some), Cross focused on alternative sources to reach voters like Hulu, Netflix and Pandora.

She also used social media as a strong outreach tool. In the final two weeks of her campaign, Cross began posting daily videos on Facebook highlighting issues in her race.

While not overtly negative, Cross attempted to beat Brandes on local issues. An environmental scientist by trade, one of Cross’s biggest appeals to voters was her commitment to sound environmental policy protecting drinking water, Florida’s myriad waterways and combating climate change.

She also hammered away at red tide, which is still plaguing Pinellas County beaches, driving visitors and residents away from the beaches and costing jobs. Cross blamed Brandes for supporting polluters, including the sugar industry.

She also opposed Brandes’ commitment to Florida’s network of charter schools, noting traditional public schools shouldn’t have to share funding with for-profit educators that only teach 10 percent of Florida’s school children.

But Brandes’ vast name recognition and expansive fundraising lead gave him a strong advantage.

Brandes raised more than $2 million compared to Cross’s less than $200,000.

Cross entered the race late after another candidate, Carrie Pilon, bowed out to tend to family medical matters. Her late start left early fundraising efforts sluggish and didn’t give her enough time to build funding momentum to even come close to matching Brandes.

The race isn’t necessarily an upset for Democrats. Unlike other Florida races, Cross was not expected to have a viable shot at upending Brandes’ reign in the Senate.

Blue wave or not, Pinellas Democrats are fired up

Tampa Bay-area Democrats are pooling resources for get-out-the-vote efforts in St. Petersburg.

Congressman Charlie Crist joined candidates Lindsay Cross, Jennifer Webb and Sean Shaw at Webb’s House District 69 campaign headquarters in the Tyrone area to call voters who have not yet cast a ballot either on Election Day or during early voting.

“Do you have a plan to vote,” Cross, who is running for Florida Senate against incumbent Jeff Brandes, asked. “You do. Will you be voting Democrat?”

There was a pause, followed by a grin.

“Probably. Ok, we’ll take probably.”

Cross and the others chuckled as she hung up the phone.

About 20 volunteers crammed into the small office, cellphones in hand. Cross and Webb sat on the floor under a window — Cross’ shoes sat next to her in a clear indication of a race hard traveled.

Senate District 24 candidate Lindsay Cross phone banks on Election Day.

Everyone, including the candidates, had stacks of voter information. Most of the names on the list were Democrats, but some were no party affiliation or third party. All had not voted, but had an estimated probability of voting of at least 50 percent.

There were thousands upon thousands of names. Democrats need those voters to head to the polls on Election Day. As of 1 p.m., 4,000 more Republicans had cast a ballot than Democrats.

“That’s pretty normal,” said Pinellas County Democratic Party Chair Susan McGrath. “We’ll see a surge this evening when people start getting off work.”

Pinellas County Democratic volunteers phone bank on Election Day.

That optimism was universal.

“I feel really good,” Crist said.

He thinks Democrats will win back enough seats in Congress to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. But he’s not sure if that will be by a landslide or a nudge.

“It’s just hard to say,” he said.

Crist’s seat is safe. He’s widely favored to defeat Republican George Buck for his Congressional District 13 seat. Cross, on the other hand, is facing a tough challenge against an incumbent who has outraised her by $1 million.

“I feel great,” Cross said, heading out the door to wave signs on the busy 66th Street near Tyrone Mall.

Outside, two teenagers saw the politicians coming and going, some carrying signs, all wearing campaign T-shirts. They asked some questions. A few minutes later they showed up with their dad.

“What time should I pick them up,” he asked.

His kids wanted to stay to phone bank.

Lindsay Cross with Martin O’Malley, Chris King on Election Eve

Senate candidate Lindsay Cross was up before the sun Monday prepping for her final day of campaigning before Election Day. She started the day at her St. Petersburg home on the patio for a “coffee chat” with voters.

“If you have already cast your ballot, thank you,” Cross said, coffee mug in hand and cicadas chirping in the background. “If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for?”

Cross’ Facebook video implored voters to support progressive ideals including gun reform, environmental protection, affordable healthcare and public education reform.

Later, Cross campaigned with Florida’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee Chris King and former Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley.

In another video with the two, O’Malley tells Florida voters, “win back your state.”

“All of these elections are so close. We need all of you to get to the polls. As I said earlier today, get a whole bus load,” Cross said, standing between the two men. “Go and rent a van, bring all of your friends and family. Make sure you get to the polls. There is no excuse.”

Cross is running an uphill battle against incumbent Republican Jeff Brandes for the Pinellas Senate District 24 that includes parts of St. Pete.

“What I’ve told people all across the state of Florida, don’t just elect Andrew Gillum and Chris King, but send some great state senators to Tallahassee,” King said. “Lindsay represents that kind of choice for Tampa Bay and over here in St. Pete.”

Cross has a huge funding disadvantage against Brandes. He’s raised more than $1.5 million in his campaign to keep his district red. Cross has raised about $208,000.

Republicans nationwide are typically out-raising their Democratic challengers, but Cross’ disadvantage is even deeper because she entered the race late after former candidate Carrie Pilon bowed out of the race.

Still, Cross isn’t backing down despite being the underdog. She’s been campaigning full-time, seven days a week for weeks and is using social media as a cheap campaigning arm.

Her ads have run on platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Pandora that are less costly than traditional media buys. That strategy also targets younger voters who are more likely to consume media on streaming platforms than on cable television or radio.

Cross ended her video with O’Malley and King saying she was looking forward to popping the champagne Tuesday night at her election night party at the Getaway.  

Brandes and his supporters have fired back at her campaign platform, tying it to progressive all stars like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and, now, Gillum. Those efforts included, direct mail, television ads and a website called “Liberal Lindsay Cross.”

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Planning pays off

Financially, Florida is equipped to weather the financial losses incurred by Hurricane Michael.

That’s according to Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who this week cited a recent analysis of the state’s financial resiliency from credit reporting agency Moody’s Investment Service.

“The news from Moody’s Investors Service that Florida will not only weather Hurricane Michael, but our response and resiliency is viewed as a credit positive, is the news that the impacted communities and our state need to hear at this time,” Patronis said.

CFO Jimmy Patronis says preparation, planning was key to keeping Florida financially healthy during hurricane season.

Indeed, Moody’s concluded the estimated $702 million cost of Hurricane Michael would be reimbursed by the feds, “a credit positive,” per Moody’s.

While that estimate is likely to increase as the need for individual assistance and transitional support assistance unfolds, “the state maintains ample reserves to manage unanticipated budget needs, including storm-related expenditures.”

Those same reserves were a driving factor behind Florida’s bump to a AAA credit rating — the best achievable — in June.

At the local level, a similar narrative of financial resiliency is applicable. Per Moody’s, “local governments in Florida are in a healthy financial position, despite two hurricanes in the past two years, partly because of federal financial assistance and strong local reserves.”

“Our solid fiscal health has put us in a good position to not only recover but come back stronger than ever,” Patronis said.

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

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

Take 5

Bondi approves marijuana-based drug — Attorney General Pam Bondi this week issued an emergency rule allowing a new drug for child epilepsy patients that contains CBD, a ‘non-euphoric’ chemical from cannabis. According to Bondi, as many as 4,000 Floridians, many of whom are children, could use the drug, known as Epidiolex. A delay or disruption to the rule could “result in serious bodily harm to seriously ill Floridians.” According to the filing, Bondi intends to follow up with the 2019 Legislature to memorialize the rule through legislation. The term-limited Attorney General has used her authority “to schedule 133 chemical compounds commonly used in deadly synthetic drugs,” according to Bondi’s spokesman Whitney Ray. But, this week’s news marked the “the first time she has used her authority to de-schedule a drug.”

Scott asks Supreme Court to reconsider nominee ruling — Lawyers for Gov. Rick Scott this week petitioned the state Supreme Court, arguing justices may have “misapprehended” Scott’s arguments in the legal fight over who has the authority to fill three upcoming high court vacancies. Justices earlier this month ruled that the next Governor will have the authority to appoint the three new justices. But this week, lawyers for Scott said that ruling the focused on the “scope of the gubernatorial appointment power.” This time, Scott’s lawyers are making an argument about the nomination process. The ruling that determined the next Governor can appoint the new justices also ruled that the nominating process “begins to run only when the governor with the authority to appoint has taken office,” as reported by the News Service of Florida.

Supreme Court rules in car-weapon case — Florida Supreme Court justices in a 6-1 decision this week upheld a lower court’s classification of a car as a “weapon” in a manslaughter case. Adam Shepard, reports the News Service of Florida, fatally struck Spencer Schott with a car in January 2011. Once convicted, Shepard received a harsher sentence because the car was reclassified as a “weapon.” The high court affirmed the reclassification this week: “Here, the plain and ordinary meaning of the word ‘weapon’ includes not only those objects designed with the purpose of injuring or killing another, such as guns, clubs or swords, but also any object used with the intent to cause harm,” Justice Jorge Labarga wrote in an opinion joined by Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson. “This is evident in dictionary definitions, which consistently define ‘weapon’ to include objects used as weapons, even if they were not designed for that purpose.”

Former Speakers kick-start Michael relief effort — Former Republican Florida House Speakers Will Weatherford and Allan Bense this week launched the 850 REBUILD Initiative, challenging other entities and people to “donate, volunteer, visit and invest” in the Big Bend and Panhandle areas hit hardest by Hurricane Michael, which swept through North Florida Oct. 10. Kicking off the effort is a $25,000 donation from Bense, who presided over the Florida House from 2004-06. By enlisting help from several nonprofit organizations, along with public-private agencies VISIT Florida and Volunteer Florida, the coalition hopes to accomplish its multipronged goal. “This effort, REBUILD 850, is about making sure the Panhandle is not forgotten,” said Weatherford. Complementing REBUILD 850 is news last week that VISIT Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency, intends to spend $5.1 million on an advertising effort in support of tourism in the affected region.

Early voting ballots mount — More than 2 million Floridians already have voted ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm election. Republicans cast — via by mail or early voting — nearly 920,000 ballots by Friday morning. Just more than 880,000 ballots returned through the same period came from registered Democrats. The remaining 200,000 ballots came from nonparty affiliated voters. Remaining vote-by-mail ballots requested by Republicans total nearly 380,000. Democrats have yet to return nearly 500,000 vote-by-mail ballots requested. In the Aug. 28 primary election, approximately 4 million Floridians cast ballots by mail or at early polling locations. Early voting locations are required to stay open through Saturday. In eight counties in the North Florida region hit hardest by Hurricane Michael, early voting locations have the option to stay open through Election Day.

Scott invests in final phase of Everglades highway lift

The Tamiami Trail, the portion of US 41 pavement that connects Tampa to Miami, could soon see ramped up efforts to lift a portion of the road over the Everglades.

Gov. Rick Scott this week directed the state Department of Transportation to pour $3.5 million into the final phase of the highway project, which seeks to raise portions of the Tamiami Trail to allow more water to flow south through the Everglades.

Gov. Rick Scott announces a $3.5M investment to finish Everglades highway project.

Scott, who’s running for the U.S. Senate, faulted the federal government for remaining “$1 billion behind in its commitments.”

“With today’s announcement, we are proving once again that when Congress fails and stalls, Florida acts,” Scott said. “During my time as Governor, we have worked relentlessly to protect and restore the Everglades, and I am proud to direct even more funding today to help complete the Tamiami Trail project which raises nearly 6 miles of this important road allowing billions of gallons of water to flow south.”

The Governor also is directing the state Department of Environmental Protection to request an additional $40 million to help complete the project.

Job Growth Grant Fund dishes out $28M

Eight more job-growth projects will soon be underway with monetary support from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.

Gov. Rick Scott approved $28.6 million in grants this week, noting the funded projects are expected to improve public infrastructure and enhance workforce training in the Sunshine State.

Gov. Rick Scott approved nearly $30 million for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, funding an additional eight job-growth projects.

“The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund supports job growth through projects that allow communities to meet the changing infrastructure and workforce needs for their regions, encouraging business to invest and expand in Florida, which means more opportunities for Florida families,” Scott said.

With the latest batch of awards, more than $113 million in funding has been doled out to 41 communities across the state since the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund was established. More than $39 million has been awarded to 15 rural communities.

The grant fund, overseen by Scott and the Department of Economic Opportunity, has since July received more than 90 proposals requesting more than $531 million in funding. A list of the latest funded projects can be found here.

Instagram of the Week

November is ‘Family Engagement in Education Month’

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is highlighting the need for schools and families to coordinate in support of children during November.

Dubbed “Family Engagement in Education Month,” the awareness initiative seeks to convey to communities the “crucial role of parents and families” play in a child’s education.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is promoting Family Engagement in Education Month.

“We know that when parents and families are involved in a child’s education, the result is higher student achievement and more students prepared for future success,” said Commissioner Stewart. “I encourage all Florida families to get involved throughout the school year, stay informed and continue to make their child’s education a top priority.”

According to the education department, a multitude of positive results is more likely to occur when a parent gets involved in a student’s success. Among them: higher grades, test scores and graduation rates, along with increased motivation and self-esteem.

Online, the education agency has published a toolkit for parents or those looking to help spread the word.

Fundraiser seeks to restock Panhandle bookshelves

Five Florida bookstores are teaming up with the Florida Department of Education and Florida Education Foundation to fund grants that will help schools impacted by Hurricane Michael restock their libraries.

On Saturday and Sunday, the booksellers participating in the “Re-book Re-build” program will dedicate a portion of sale proceeds to the grants. The stores include Bayou Books in Niceville, Books & Books in Coral Gables, MacIntosh Books in Sanibel Island, Tallahassee’s Midtown Reader, and Story & Song in Fernandina Beach.

First Lady Ann Scott, a longtime child literacy advocate, is helping restock libraries after Hurricane Michael.

The resulting grants are expected to help districts and educators in the Big Bend and Panhandle regions purchase books. Those unable to visit one of the stores can give a tax-deductible donation to the Florida Education Foundation.

Commending the effort is First Lady Ann Scott, who spent her eight years at the Governor’s Mansion in part by promoting child literacy.

“Reading has always been important to our family, and I truly believe that a strong foundation of literacy is important for students to achieve their dreams and career goals,” Scott said. “The Re-book to Re-build program is a wonderful opportunity to help impacted schools receive the resources necessary for students to succeed.”

Detzner delivers E-Day update

The 2018 election is three days away and to help Floridians prep for polls, Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent out a “readiness update” with some last-minute info for those yet to cast their ballots.

“I encourage all Florida voters to get to the polls and exercise their right to vote,” Detzner said. “This year’s ballot is long and includes many constitutional amendments, so it is critically important that voters review their sample ballot ahead of time.

Voters in hurricane-ravaged counties can vote early Monday and Tuesday, per an executive order from Gov. Rick Scott.

“Voters can even fill out their sample ballot and bring it with them into the polling place to make casting their official ballot quick and easy. I also encourage eligible voters to take advantage of early voting in their county to avoid the potential for long lines on Election Day.”

The window has closed for requesting a mail ballot, but the door hasn’t shut on early voting yet. Detzner’s refresher: EV will be available in all counties through this evening, and a handful of counties — Bradford, Broward, Charlotte, Duval, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Seminole, St. Lucie, Suwannee and Volusia — will keep the doors open Sunday as well.

Those in the counties hardest hit by Hurricane Michael — Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf and Jackson — will be able to vote early on both Sunday and Monday thanks to an executive order issued by Gov. Scott last month.

Child safety group grades legislative candidates

It’s almost universal for interest groups to grade state lawmakers based on their actions during each legislative session.

But Stop Child Predators, a national child safety advocacy group and nonprofit organization that has spent the last 13 years combating the sexual exploitation of children, is assessing candidates even before they get to the Legislature.

Safety advocates at Stop Child Predators are taking a proactive approach to grade political candidates.

A newly released report card from the group grades more than 30 candidates from both major political parties running for the state House and Senate.

For the most part, candidates did well. Those who took the survey were asked “for their position on topics such as the civil statute of limitations for sexually abusing children, Jessica’s Law and legislation to regulate short-term rentals, which have made tools like sex offender lists obsolete by replacing neighbors with a revolving door of strangers with no way of knowing who is renting the home next door,” according to Stop Child Predators.

“It is encouraging to see our candidates advocate for legislation to improve the safety of our communities,” said Stacie Rumenap, president of the organization. “Our top priority must be to protect our precious children, and these candidates have clearly made child safety a major legislative priority.”

Regulators consider repair help program

State regulators have scheduled an emergency meeting to consider a proposal by Florida Public Utilities Co. that could help Hurricane Michael victims finance electrical repairs to their homes.

The Public Service Commission scheduled the meeting for 1 p.m. Monday in Tallahassee.

State regulators are considering helping pay upfront costs for electrical repairs from Hurricane Michael damage.

The utility would pay upfront costs for electrical repairs to homes and then recoup the money from the customers over the following year. The program would be optional and would finance repairs up to $1,500.

Hurricane Michael caused major damage in Jackson, Calhoun and Liberty counties as it moved north, caused all Florida Public Utilities Co. customers in the region to have power outages.

As of Thursday, the utility said it had restored power to 97 percent of customers in the region who can have electricity but that 9 percent of homes cannot be reconnected because of damage to electrical equipment that is the responsibility of the customers.

“In an effort to assist customers faced with the prospect of having to repair customer-owned electrical equipment in order to have service restored, FPUC proposes to offer a temporary program that would allow customers the opportunity to have the repairs made as expeditiously as possible, but with payments spread out over a reasonable period of time.”

— From the News Service of Florida

FSU research seeks to curb wrong-way driving

Wrong-way crashes are the least common, but the most fatal.

That’s what caught the attention of Walter Boot, a cognition and perception expert at Florida State University.

FSU researchers are using virtual reality simulators to help prevent wrong-way driving. (Image via FSU)

Determined to reverse the fatal results of wrong-way driving, which kills nearly 350 people each year, Boot and a team funded in part by the Florida Department of Transportation set out to identify and evaluate effective countermeasures.

Boot recorded live footage of wrong-way countermeasures in use, and those recordings were then uploaded to FSU’s driving simulators. The team then recruited 189 drivers to get behind the wheel of the simulators to test each countermeasure.

“We tested new technology-based, radar-triggered road alerts to determine which worked best,” Boot, an associate professor at FSU’s Department of Psychology, said.

“The evidence we collected suggested these detection-triggered countermeasures will be more effective than traditional wrong-way countermeasures.”

Haunted by hazardous waste?

The Leon County Solid Waste Management Division is collecting haunted TVs and ghoulish light bulbs at the monthly Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Collection. That takes place today, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Public Works Operations Center, 2280 Miccosukee Road.

Businesses and other agencies must call (850) 606-1816 to make an appointment, Monday through Friday, to drop off their items at the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center, 7550 Apalachee Parkway. Some fees will apply.

The monthly Leon County Hazardous Waste and Electronics Collection is a hit. (Image via WCTV)

Leon County can’t accept old Halloween costumes (no matter how toxic they look), residents can bring up to 50 pounds of hazardous waste, in addition to their electronics. Only one large-screen television per vehicle will be accepted. Propane tanks must weigh less than 40 pounds, and there is a limit of one tire per participant.

There is also a limit of 25 fluorescent tubes per vehicle at the collection event. Medical sharps, medicines and radioactive waste cannot be accepted. The division cannot take bulky items such as appliances (refrigerators, stoves/ovens, washing machines, dryers, etc.), furniture, yard waste, construction and demolition debris, household garbage or Styrofoam.

Due to limited space, loads over 50 pounds will be directed to the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center, 7550 Apalachee Parkway. Additionally, residents can visit the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center during normal business hours — Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, call the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center at (850) 606-1803 or visit LeonCountyFL.gov/HHW/Collection for the complete collection schedule and safe packing guide.

Dat’s a lot of debris

How about 20,000 dump trucks’ worth?

That’s the amount of debris in Tallahassee caused by Hurricane Michael, which tore through north Florida last month, delivering a glancing but still strong blow to the capital region.

Tallahassee has more than 20,000 dump trucks worth of debris from Hurricane Michael.

City Commissioner Scott Maddox posted on Facebook this week that city workers have so far “collected 240,000 cubic yards of debris, … surpass(ing) the 202,000 cubic yards that were picked up in 2016” because of Hurricane Hermine.

Storm debris can be “vegetative” (leaves and branches), shingles and siding from homes and buildings, and anything in between.

“With more than 100 trucks in the field, crews continue to work from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week to clear the remaining debris and clean up our city,” Maddox said.

City, County seek hurricane feedback

Leon County Government and the City of Tallahassee will host a “community dialogue session” to talk disaster response and recovery efforts for Hurricane Michael.

On point: Officials want to know how to meet the needs of the community best during future disasters.

At this meeting, staff will give a brief overview. Following the presentation, residents will have an opportunity to share feedback that will be used to enhance future response efforts. Representatives from emergency management agencies will also be in attendance to answer questions.

That’s Thursday, Nov. 6, at 6 p.m., Trinity United Methodist Church, in downtown Tallahassee, 120 W. Park Ave.

If you can’t attend, send comments to stormrecovery@LeonCountyFl.gov or ContactUs@Talgov.com.

New cigar bar slated for capital

It feels like it’s 1996 all over again.

Urban Tallahassee reported last month that the old Lester & Company Fine Jewelry store at 926 N. Monroe St. will become the city’s newest cigar lounge.

The Lester and Company Fine Jewelry store on Monroe Street will be making way for Tallahassee’s newest cigar bar. (Image via Urban Tallahassee)

“The proposal includes renovation of 2,366 square feet of existing interior building and the addition of 1,079 square feet of outdoor patio space,” the site reports.

By the looks of the “coming soon” sign out front, the bar is an offshoot of Cigars of Tally, the Market Street outpost that’s been around for several years and owned by Lila Jaber and her husband, Saed.

Jaber, a former Public Service Commissioner, is now Regional Managing Shareholder for the Gunster law and lobbying firm. She confirmed the news, saying they plan to open early next year.

The development also means Fuma Cigar Social, the cigar bar next to Lucky Goat Coffee also on North Monroe, will have competition within walking distance.

Calling all animators

The Florida Animation Festival is again accepting submissions for its fourth-annual exhibit.

Held each year at Tallahassee’s All Saints Cinema — formerly an operating passenger-rail Amtrak station — the festival is the only North Florida showcase to recognize and screen world-famous animation. It was launched in 2016 by The Tallahassee Film Society in partnership with The Pod Advertising to honor animation talent.

An audience awaits a showing at the 2016 Florida Animation Festival. (Image via Florida Animation Festival)

But what makes the festival unique is that it’s evolved from airing existing animations to almost entirely screening submissions from artists. In its third year, 90 percent of screened content came from submissions.

Two Florida State University faculty members, Jonathan Stone and Tom Mikota, work on the Florida Animation Festival’s organizing committee. Filmmakers at FSU are encouraged to submit their work.

The festival is set to take place June 13 through June 16 in 2019. Submissions can be entered here.

Beer festival will help Michael relief

The 2018 Florida Tap Invitational continues Saturday in Tallahassee, and now there’s an even better reason to drink the state’s craft beer there.

Organizers will donate a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to Volunteer Florida and the Florida Disaster Fund. Volunteer Florida is the state’s lead agency for volunteers and donations before, during and after disasters.

Bring a jacket; it’s getting chilly out! Florida tap invitational general admission tickets available at the door and online FLTapInvitational.com.

“Our neighbors in the Florida panhandle were hit hard by Hurricane Michael,” a news release said. “We also will be collecting hurricane relief supplies for our neighbors in need at the festival Saturday.”

The Sixth Annual Invitational is presented by Proof Brewing Company and For the Table Hospitality, and sponsored by Visit Tallahassee. The two-day event is one of North Florida’s largest beer festivals. For more info, click here.

Capitol Directions

‘Werewolf’ Lindsay Cross: Republican spending priorities are scary

Senate candidate Lindsay Cross wants voters to know the current Republican-led Legislature’s spending priorities are far scarier than ghosts and goblins this Halloween.

Cross took to Facebook donning a wolf mask Wednesday in condemnation of conservative priorities.

Cross is running against incumbent District 24 Senator Jeff Brandes, a Libertarian-leaning Republican.

“It’s clear that your priorities are not their priorities,” Cross said. “During his time in office my opponent has voted to lower taxes for oil drillers and limit the rights of people that have been unpaid.”

Cross begins her Brandes slay with a common talking point among Democrats facing Republicans this election in Florida: Conservatives should stop funding for-profit charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools.

“Last year, he and the Republican Legislature gave three times more of our taxpayer dollars to for-profit charter institutions than our own public schools,” Cross said. “Meanwhile, children sat in classrooms with sweltering temperatures, broken AC and mold.”

Cross was referring to Hillsborough County’s public schools. That district, which Cross would not represent, is asking voters to approve a one half-percent sales tax increase to fund overdue renovations to school air conditioning units and clean mold from some of its older schools, including Plant High.

Charter schools received $346 million in Capital Outlay funds in 2016-17, and in many years have gotten more money than traditional public schools, according to a study by the government watchdog group Integrity Florida.

That’s despite charter schools educating just 10 percent of Florida’s nearly 3 million students.

Cross also blasted Brandes over the Legislature’s raiding of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Lawmakers have been using the fund, which collects money from doc stamps on real estate transactions, to balance the state budget since the early 2000s. The fund is supposed to be used for affordable housing projects.

Tying Brandes to that practice isn’t direct, but his support for budgets including misappropriated Sadowski money supports the claim. Brandes suggested starting a task force to address affordable housing issues, according to the Miami Herald.

“Don’t be tricked by Jeff Brandes. He’s not working for you. I’ll help to end their frightening budget priorities and work for your budget priorities,” Cross ends her video.

Senate District 24 represents parts of Pinellas County including north St. Petersburg.

Responding to Pittsburgh shooting, Lindsay Cross blasts Jeff Brandes on gun record

State Senate candidate Lindsay Cross is adding a new bullet point to her list of campaign priorities after the deadly mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday that claimed 11 lives.

A minute-long video being shared on social media shows a somber Cross sitting in a church pew wearing a black dress demanding “common sense” gun legislation aimed at reducing gun violence and mass shootings.

“It is past time that we have leaders who will stand up and fight for the safety of our communities,” Cross said.

That includes banning military-style assault weapons, eliminating the gun show loophole that allows consumers to purchase guns without a background check and ensuring felons and mentally ill individuals aren’t able to obtain firearms.

Cross blasts her opponent, Senate District 24 incumbent Jeff Brandes, for not standing up to the gun lobby.

“Jeff Brandes brags about being a lifetime member of the NRA and will never do what is truly needed to keep our community safe,” she said. “While I uphold the second amendment, I will never put the interests of the NRA over our people.”

Brandes was one of several Senate Republicans who faced a swift backlash from the National Rifle Association for supporting a gun bill that was ultimately approved earlier this year that, among other things, increased the age to buy guns from 18 to 21. NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said at the time that Brandes and the other lawmakers would not receive the group’s A or A+ rating because of their support.

Cross shot the video one day after the Pittsburgh shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in which Robert Bowers used an AR-15 assault rifle to gun down members of the Jewish congregation. He told law enforcement officers after he surrendered that he wanted all Jews dead.

Bowers was a legal gun owner. He was charged with 29 different criminal violations including hate crimes. Bowers could face the death penalty.

“Our schools and places of worship should be refuges for learning and hope not the site of the next bloodbath,” Cross said.

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