Orlando – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Amy Mercado, Carlos Smith hear opinions on schools and guns bill

What are progressive Democrats to do when faced with an omnibus school safety and guns bill that has a few things they like but doesn’t have any of the major provisions they’ve insisted on, and also includes something that they worry might be a poison pill?

Democratic state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Amy Mercado of Orlando laid that out as their dilemma Saturday during a town hall meeting in Orlando. The meeting included high school students, survivors of the 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, along with school representatives, teachers, a mental health organization and Orange County School Board Member Daryl Flynn.

Smith and Mercado heard what sounded like universal opposition to provisions in the House school safety and guns bill that would authorize teachers and other school employees to become gun-carrying marshals, a provision that the two lawmakers agreed they could not support.

And the bill doesn’t come anywhere near what Smith and Mercado have been pushing for their two years in the Legislature, bans on the sales of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Yet there are the provisions, in the current bill, providing funding for mental health services, and for school counselors, as well as the bill’s limited gun reforms, including raising the minimum age for purchases, and the banning of bump stocks.

Is this a take-what-you-can-get and fight for the rest later moment? Smith and Mercado sought constituents thoughts, heading into Monday’s beginning of a hectic final week.

With dozens of amendments already on file on the House side and an uncertain direction for the Senate’s version during Saturday’s special session, Smith and Mercado acknowledged they did not know the language of every amendment. Mercado noted that she has an amendment awaiting the House version to make sure potential school marshals aren’t covered by “Stand Your Ground” protections allowing them to shoot someone just out of fear.

But many of the items in the bills have been sought for years.

“There’s going to be a lot of things in this bill that we don’t like, but there are some things that we do like. Anything that is funding for mental health, as Representative Mercado and I said, there have been a lot of people yelling for that for a long time,” said Eric Welch, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater  Orlando. “So anything that is funding for mental health… that we can get behind is certainly something that the mental health community can get behind.”

Many of the most powerful thoughts came from Pulse survivors talking about what they have suffered and what they have sought since that June 12, 2016, massacre in Orlando, and from students invited into the discussion from Orlando’s University High School, who spoke of how they have been affected by the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“It should not have to be that when I go to the bathroom in 7th period, and I’m concerned that, what if something happens and I’m in the bathroom? That’s not OK,” said University High student Athena Jain-etienne.

“I will provide in the future for my children so they will not have to have this concern… that they are not coming home,” she added.

Democrats’ Orlando billboard proclaims ‘Rick Scott did nothing’ after Pulse

Democrats have launched billboards in Orlando and Tallahassee that declare that Gov. Rick Scott did nothing to address gun safety following the June 12, 2016, Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

The Florida Democratic Party has leased two billboards, and the one in Orlando went live Friday. The message charges that the Republican governor’s commitment to addressing gun violence since the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lacked in the days following the Pulse mass shooting.

Specifically, the 612 days that transpired between the two tragedies.

The Democrats’ message is one of several in rotation on that particular digital billboard in Orlando. It cites an editorial published in the Sun-Sentinel of South Florida and presents this message to drivers heading westbound on Colonial Drive toward downtown Orlando:

“612 DAYS BETWEEN PULSE & PARKLAND.

“RICK SCOTT DID NOTHING.

–The Sun Sentinel”

The billboard faces the route downtown from one of Orlando’s largest Hispanic communities, Azalea Park. Many of the 49 people murdered at Pulse were Hispanic as the mass murder occurred during the popular nightclub’s Latino night. That east-side community was particularly hard hit.

The Tallahassee billboard will go up at Magnolia Road and Mahan Drive, facing inbound traffic, and go live on Sunday.

“Rick Scott’s long record of opposing common-sense gun safety measures shows exactly who he is: a self-serving politician who says one thing and does the opposite — while Floridians pay the price,” Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Penalosa said in a news release announcing the billboards.

“He broke his promise and did nothing to make Floridians safer from gun violence after the Pulse tragedy because he was more concerned about looking out for his political interests and the agenda of his gun lobby backers. Now he’s ignoring the clear calls from Parkland students and gun safety advocates by refusing to back an assault weapons ban.“

The Sun-Sentinel editorial that the billboard cited criticized Scott and President Donald Trump‘s responses to the Parkland shooting, as well as Scott for refusing to consider a ban on assault weapons in the wake of the Pulse shooting.

It didn’t explicitly refer to the period between Pulse and Parkland or enumerate the days.

The editorial stated: “After Sandy Hook, Pulse, the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting or any other mass shooting, Scott did nothing on guns or school safety.”

Scott’s office responded Friday with the following statement: “Following the terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub, Governor Scott proposed and took action on ways to make our state safer against threats of terrorism. The Governor proposed and then signed $5.8 million for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to add 46 counterterrorism agents to the Terrorism Task Forces. This year, the Governor also proposed $1.3 million to the FDLE for incident command vehicles and emergency ordinance disposal vehicles to strengthen counterterrorism and intelligence efforts.”

With train bills dead, safety study language appears in Senate budget offer

With the derailment of bills seeking state regulation of the private Brightline passenger train system, state Sen. Debbie Mayfield has gotten language inserted into the Senate budget plan that would authorize a safety study of the train.

The budget proposal includes new language that would authorize a transportation research center at the University of South Florida to conduct a study of the safety of high-speed passenger rail that is planned to one day extend from Miami to Orlando, and an overview of whether state officials can regulate such systems.

The overview specifically would have to include assessments of whether Florida can review and identify any road and street crossings that would need to be improved for safety reasons, and whether Florida can then require specific improvements.

The language appears after the fate of Mayfield’s Senate Bill 572 and its counterpart in the Florida House appears clear. The bills are dead, as SB 572 stalled in the Senate Community Affairs Committee and House Bill 525, sponsored by Republican state Reps. Erin Grall of Vero Beach and MaryLynn Magar of Tequesta, never got out of the station. Those bills sought to require Florida to practice regulatory oversight and control over the Brightline system.

Mayfield, of Melbourne, was not immediately available Friday to discuss the budget language.

Brightline officials and their political allies have maintained that trains always have been under the regulatory purview of the federal government, and that it’s not appropriate for the state to get involved. They also insist their system already is being assembled to the highest possible federal requirements for high speed rail, even though their trains technically are not high-speed trains.

Brightline, formerly known as All Aboard Florida, began running passenger train service in January between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale with trains that can reach a maximum speed of just 79 mph. The next extension, to Miami later this year, will go no faster. The company’s longterm plans call for a train from West Palm Beach to Orlando that could go 110 mph up the coast and 120 mph between Cocoa and Orlando International Airport. Officially, under federal guidelines, the more rigid rules for high-speed rail is for trains that exceed 125 mph.

Much of the opposition to the train has come from the Treasure Coast, where many people and political figures are concerned about the trains passing through urban areas and crossing scores of streets and roads at speeds up to 110 mph. Brightline has not announced any plans for any stops in cities Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, or Brevard counties.

Mayfield, a Melbourne Republican, has become particularly urgent in her calls for state regulatory control since revelations in recent months that several people already have been killed by Brightline trains along the lower-speed tracks in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

In every case, however, the incidents involved pedestrians or bicyclists who ignored warning lights, train whistles, and other obvious signs of an oncoming train and stepped or peddled around or under crossing gate arms, onto the tracks, into a train’s path.

The Senate budget language calls for the USF Center for Urban Transportation Research to study any passenger rail operation in Florida where at least one  segment of the train’s route would have the train travel at least 80 mph. Brightline currently is the only operation that would qualify.

The language instructs the USF center to submit a report by Nov. 1 to Gov. Rick Scott, the president of the Senate, and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

Orlando airport board votes to send ultimatum to TSA

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Board of Directors voted Wednesday to tell the federal Transportation Security Administration that if it does not start pleasing Orlando International Airport officials more the airport will seek to replace federal screeners with a private company.

The board essentially is telling the federal agency that Orlando International Airport leaders are so fed up with what they contend has been a lack of communication, cooperation and accountability by the local TSA leadership, that they’re willing to pursue the extreme measure of becoming just the second or third major airport in America to throw out TSA screeners and replace them with private security.

In a nutshell, the board told TSA Wednesday it wants the local TSA leadership replaced with someone who will work with local officials to cut wait times and improve passenger satisfaction levels, and if the agency won’t do it, Orlando will. Both GOAA Board Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher and Airports Executive Director Phil Brown told the board they have repeatedly tried to get TSA to address their concerns about wait times, passenger satisfaction levels, operational flexibility, and dealing with new rules coming out of Washington D.C.

“I’m taking the gloves off with this: there is a leadership problem at TSA locally,” Kruppenbacher said.

“I don’t think any of us really desire deep in our hearts to go down this road but we’ve talked and talked, and so this is like, we’re moving in this direction,” he said.

Among the seven board members, there appeared to be a wide range of what was in their hearts regarding whether and how aggressively Orlando should begin what could be a year-long process of switching to private passenger screening services.

On one hand, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer voted against the ultimatum-laiden resolution approved Wednesday. He argued that the board was already sending a clear message, and didn’t need to actually begin a game of chicken with federal officials, heading toward something that at least a few of the board members appeared to not really want, private screeners.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs was not far from Dyer’s position, but she grudgingly, after several rewrites of the resolution, voted yes.

On the other hand, a couple of the board members, notably Ed Fouche, appeared adamant, sounding convinced that Orlando International Airport might be better off with a private passenger screening company.

Kruppenbacher contended he was more with Jacobs, but did not want to show any weakness to the agency, not after years of frustration. And so he sought a firm resolution that would have to be stopped if negotiations between the airport and federal officials succeed in the next 60 days, not a stopped resolution that could be restarted if such negotiations fail.

“I’m sorry; it’s time to go to Washington and tell TSA we mean business,” Kruppenbacher said.

Private screening at airports is available through the TSA’s Screening Partnership Program. The vast majority of the 22 airports that have opted into the program, such as those in Bozeman, Roswell, and Tupelo, are small, and they include four in Florida: Key West, Sarasota, Punta Gorda, and Orlando-Sanford. Only the San Francisco and perhaps Kansas City airports are in Orlando’s class. San Francisco International Airport is a little bigger, in terms of passenger counts, while Kansas City’s is less than half of Orlando’s size.

A switch to a private passenger screening service would come first with Orlando submitting an application to the TSA, while Orlando simultaneously begins interviewing and researching the 15 or so companies authorized by TSA to do the work.

The board struggled with how far members wanted to go Wednesday in a stare-down with the TSA, leading the resolution to be recast at least twice.

Kruppenbacher wants Airports Executive Director Brown and key staff and board members to meet with TSA. And before Wednesday’s meeting, Dyer arranged a meeting with airport officials, federal officials and the Central Florida congressional delegation, notably U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Darren Soto, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, for March 30. [Word that such a meeting already had been arranged, critical to a process that had not yet been voted on, and involving more than one GOAA board member, clearly irked Jacobs, who only found out about it when Kruppenbacher first mentioned it. Dyer tried to ease her by saying Demings actually arranged it, and texted him about it earlier Wednesday.]

Ultimately, the board offered a 60-day window for TSA to “meet the triggers,” in Kruppenbacher’s words. Those triggers were not explicitly spelled out.

“The step we would take today is to begin the process; the board will not be formally voting to file the application,” he said.

The matter has come up before in past years, previously pushed aggressively by then U.S. Rep. John Mica, who fought a long political battle with the TSA and its unions, and wanted to have his hometown airport become a leading example of one that abandoned the agency.

This time the matter appeared to be more driven by airport staff, as Brown laid out a case Wednesday for why TSA screening operations had become disappointing and frustrating in light of the airport’s standards and objectives. Essentially, the agency appeared unable or unwilling to participate in big-theme-park levels of customer service and satisfaction, what airport officials long have called “the Orlando Experience.”

Kruppenbacher expressed annoyance that TSA officials left Wednesday’s meeting early.

Meanwhile, many of the thousand or so TSA employees at Orlando International Airport could lose their jobs and their federal pensions if Orlando switches to a private company. A number of TSA employees and union officials, some from other aviation unions such as flight attendants, spoke Wednesday, pleading with the board to not switch to a private security company.

“Screeners, you’re in the middle of it, but this is not about you,” Kruppenbacher said.

The screeners and others insisted no private company could offer more dedication to safety than they do.

Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, noted she was working out of Boston the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists, screened by pre-TSA private security screeners, boarded two planes there and crashed them into the World Trade Center. Air safety is very personal for those in the business, she reminded everyone.

“It could have been me on that plane that fateful day. Instead, it was my good friends…. We can never go back to giving private companies the enormous responsibility of airport screening,” Nelson said.

Chris King, Philip Levine both busing to gun-reform rallies in Tallahassee

The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is sponsoring buses to transport gun-law advocates from St. Petersburg and Orlando to a rally in Tallahassee Wednesday, and the campaign of his rival candidate Philip Levine announced Tuesday it would be doing something similar next Monday.

King, a Winter Park businessman, will be joining protesters on a bus heading from St. Petersburg Wednesday, and will attend the rally for gun law reforms being organized in Tallahassee as a reaction to last week’s mass-shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which killed 17, his campaign announced Tuesday.

At least 100 students of that high school are expected at the rally, with the theme #NeverAgain. Some school districts, including Leon County in Tallahassee, are offering excused absences from the classroom for students to attend.

Meanwhile, Levine’s campaign announced it was helping organize another rally for gun law reforms for next Monday in Tallahassee called Rally in Tally for Gun Reform.

Among those that will be joining King on one of the buses will be members of Fired Up Pinellas, Indivisible FL-13, The League of Women Voters, and other groups, his campaign indicated.

In an internet post last week, King vowed that, if elected governor, he would take on the National Rifle Association, and push to ban assault weapons. King also renewed his declaration of support for expanding Medicaid, saying it would provide access to quality, affordable healthcare and mental health services to hundreds of thousands of additional Floridians.

The event that Levine’s campaign announced it was helping organize for next Monday, “Rally in Tally,” also involves the Women’s March Florida and the Miami-Dade and Broward Democratic Party, Levine’s campaign said. There also will be buses coming from cities across Florida for that rally.

“We are coming to Tallahassee with a simple message: enough is enough. We have had it with the chipping away at our gun laws, year after year. The latest incident, which allowed a disturbed 18-year old in Broward County to commit this atrocity, is the final straw,” Levine said in a news release.

The other two major Democrats running for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, already are Tallahassee-based.

Orlando City Council votes to allow home sharing vacation rentals

Orlando city officials took one of the biggest steps of any Florida city in recent years to ease laws that restrict vacation rentals, approving an ordinance Monday to allow owner-occupied rentals in single-family residential zones.

The move, approved 6-1, takes effect July 1, ending what has effectively been a 26-year ban on vacation rental homes that predated the rise of the Airbnb-style, online, home-sharing industry.

Orlando’s law even predated the term “vacation rental,” covering it in city zoning codes with the term “commercial dwelling units,” a code quirk that some had suggested might make the city’s law potentially vulnerable to legal challenge, though it has not been so challenged successfully.

Nonetheless, Orlando officials conceded that as many as 2,000 vacation rentals might be operating in Orlando anyway, or at least were being listed on Airbnb and other vacation rental home marketing companies such as HomeAway, as available for rent by the night, to tourists and other visitors. As the new city ordinance takes effect this summer, most of the current vacation rentals could come into compliance with Orlando codes.

Orlando is among a handful of cities and counties that had laws restricting or prohibiting vacation rentals already on the books in 2011 when the Florida Legislature began pushing to reduce such local laws and regulations. Orlando’s and the other pre-2011 laws were grandfathered in.

With the Florida Legislature pushing this Legislative Session to allow more vacation rental opportunities, Orlando city officials decided to give the rapidly-growing, tourism-based industry, and the homeowners relying on it for income, more legal room in Orlando.

The city’s new ordinance does not go as far as state law requires for cities and counties that did not have pre-2011 laws. Orlando’s law requires the owner to occupy the house, or at least to occupy half a duplex if a duplex is involved.

Orlando also will require local registration, a mandate that a Senate bill would prohibit of cities.

Orlando left much of the accompanying regulation open, for the City Hall staff to develop before the law goes into effect July 1.

“Like a lot of public policy you are trying to balance disparate views,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said afterward. “We want to help the people that would like to participate in a program like Airbnb while at the same time setting up enough rules and regulations to protect our single-family neighborhoods.”

Tom Martinelli, public policy director for Airbnb applauded the ordinance’s passage, calling it “a good day” for people who like to stay in vacation rental homes, and for people who host them.

“These smart, thoughtful regulations will allow Orlando residents across the entire city to share their homes for supplemental income and welcome more visitors to the City Beautiful,” he stated.

Commissioner Tony Ortiz, expressing strong concerns about what vacation rental homes might do to single-family neighborhoods, voted no. He first offered an amendment that would have limited vacation rentals to multifamily residential zones rather than single-family zones, but it died.

Much of the debate Monday at Orlando City Council appeared to be over how to define “owner-occupied,” particularly dealing with duplexes. Commissioner Robert Stuart argued against allowing owners of duplexes to rent out one unit while living in the other, contending that it would encourage more and more of such duplexes to be turned into rentals.

Commissioner Patty Sheehan took the opposite perspective, arguing that the vast majority of duplexes already are [long-term] rentals, and the ordinance would encourage people to buy them so that they could live in one side and make money off the other.

There also was concern about what the city can do, at any rate, with the 2,000 apparently-illicit vacation rental homes. Essentially, now, the city enforces its ban only when the code enforcement department is called up to respond to a noise or parking or some other issue.

That will remain true whether the city legalizes the use or not, Commissioner Jim Gray noted; code enforcement officers essentially would require warrants to determine who is actually sleeping in a house.

Mike Miller announces CD 7 campaign finance team led by Todd Wilcox

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller has announced his campaign finance team for his run for Congress, to be led by businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate Todd Wilcox and to include former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, former Florida Senate President Toni Jennings and a large number of key Central Florida figures.

Miller, of Winter Park, aims to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park in Florida’s 7th Congressional District next November. First, though, he must get by a few other Republicans in the August primary, notably Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill who has, until now, shown an advantage on the money side.

That advantage could start to fall away, with Miller staffing his finance committee with the likes of former Walt Disney World President Dick Nunis; timeshare magnate David Siegel; two former Florida House Speakers, Steve Crisafulli and Dean Cannon; and a host of major players in Florida and Central Florida political fundraising and operations, lobbying, and Republican politics, including Oscar Anderson, Brian Ballard, Daryl Carter, Pat Christiansen, Earl Crittenden, Tre Evers, Charlie Gray, Micky Grindstaff, Phil Handy, Marcos Marchena, Harvey Massey, John Miklos, Rusty Roberts, and Rick Walsh.

CD 7 covers north-central Orange County and all of Seminole County.

Wilcox, president of Patriot Defense Group and a former Army Green Beret and CIA officer, went after Murphy in a news release issued by Miller’s campaign.

“As a former member of our military, I know we need members of Congress who will vote to fully fund and support our men and women in uniform,” Wilcox stated. “Playing games, like our current congresswoman is, supporting the Pelosi Democrats and perpetuating the Schumer Shutdown is irresponsible. I’m supporting Mike Miller because I am confident he will take the tough votes to protect Americans.”

Orange County opens to proposals to salvage from Sanford Burnham center

After watching the county’s biggest tax incentives package turn into its biggest economic development bust, Orange County on Tuesday began in-depth deliberations with at least two and possibly more players offering to salvage a heavily-subsidized Lake Nona biomedical research laboratory that is soon to be departed by Sanford Burnham Prebys.

On Tuesday the Orange County Commission heard pitches from Florida Hospital and the University of Central Florida as the central players in two proposed deals to take over the Sanford Burnham Medical Discovery Institute  at Lake Nona, and then heard a request from a possible third player, Orlando Health, that the county take its time, and openly seek other proposals.

One pitch, from Florida Hospital,  offered no cash return to the county or the other partners who had invested in the Sanford Burnham deal, while the other, from UCF, offered rent, and reimbursement of some of the money Sanford Burnham still owes the state.

The county, along with the city of Orlando, and with the developer of Lake Nona, Tavistock Group, are trying to figure out what to do with the $80 million, state-of-the-art laboratory building constructed at Lake Nona, since Sanford Burnham announced in 2016 that it no longer sees a viable way of succeeding there and intends to walk away.

The California-based non-profit pharmaceutical research institute had come to Lake Nona after receiving $40.7 million from Orange County, $32.7 million from Orlando, $155 million from the state, and $17.6 million from Tavistock’s development company for that project, the Lake Nona Land Co.

Any decision on what to do with the state-of-the-art laboratory building the public monies built, and which Sanford Burnham intends to abandon, will have to be from a unanimous agreement among the county, the city of Orlando, and Tavistock, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said Tuesday.

Tuesday at the Orange County Commissioners meeting, UCF appeared to have an early political advantage, though Florida Hospital made a bold pitch for national preeminence, and former Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner, now a vice president with Orlando Health, urged officials to open to other proposals.

Jacobs harshly questioned Florida Hospital over having developed at least the beginnings of its proposal in long-term private talks with Sanford Burnham that left the county and other public stakeholders literally locked out.  Commissioner Emily Bonilla later said that she already prefers the UCF proposal, and she believes other commissioners do too.

The hopes held 12 years ago by state and local officials was for more than just 300 or so high-paying, high-tech jobs the Sanford Burnham projected it would create at Lake Nona, a projection it never came close to achieving.

Sanford Burnham once was considered a cornerstone of what is being developed as Orlando’s Lake Nona Medical City complex of hospitals, medical education, and research institutions, which officials hoped would one day rival huge medical center complexes in other cities, notably in places such as Boston and Houston. While hospitals and medical education have come to Lake Nona, the research component – the component expected to generate the big, long-term, private has not really sprouted. The cornerstone institute, Sanford Burnham, withered compared with expectations before the institute announced the Lake Nona closure.

“It wasn’t so much about the direct jobs at Burnham, and Burnham wasn’t going to be paying property taxes. What Burnham was going to do was be the magnet and bring in all those pharmaceutical and life-science companies,” said Deputy Orange County Administrator Eric Gassman.

The assets may still have considerable longterm value, but Jacobs also talked about having been burned.

“I’ll be candid with you: Sanford Burnham, we invested a lot in their success. We took a huge risk for their success and our success. As gracious as I’m trying to be about their failure, it was a colossal failure, from an economic standpoint,” she said.

Deborah Robison, Sanford Burnham vice-president of public affairs sent a statement to Florida Politics clarifying the non-profit institute’s position that since 2015 it “has investigated many alternative academic, corporate and clinical strategies, and has been working together with local partners and stakeholders, to identify a solution for the long-term sustainability of biomedical research at the site. That is still our goal.

“We have remained in contact with local and state stakeholders, and deeply appreciate their interest and vision for Central Florida. SBP has identified two credible long-term solutions that would not only sustain but also expand biomedical research at Lake Nona, including a proposal to integrate with the University of Florida, which was not completed, and a substantive plan from Florida Hospital,” she wrote. “Ultimately, a decision on the future of the biomedical research enterprise at Lake Nona ultimately lies in the hands of the state and local stakeholders. During this decision making time-period, SBP is not in the process of shutting down, nor have we announced a closure – medical research is continuing, research grants are being awarded to scientists and important scientific papers are being published in prestigious journals.”

Working with the Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida Hospital, which already has other facilities at Lake Nona and had partnered on research with Sanford Burnham, asked the county and the others to give it the building. In exchange, the hospital company proposed creating a multi-use cancer research and treatment center that would include basic and translational research, precision medicine research, clinical genomics, Phase I clinical research, drug discovery, and a stem-cell laboratory.

Florida Hospital projected 205 jobs, with an average salary of $85,000, by the fifth year of operations.

The proposal emphasized that the UF-Moffitt partners know what they’re doing, and have done their homework, have a proposal that is essentially “shovel ready,” and have the credentials and ability to turn the center into a National Cancer Institutes-designated comprehensive cancer center, of which there is currently only one in Florida: the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

“We believe our plan will achieve not in 20 or 25 years but in the very near future a NCI designated cancer center here, in Florida, in Lake Nona,” said Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Steven Smith.

Yet all of that homework had Jacobs and some of the commissioners questioning whether Sanford Burnham and Florida Hospital had been working together for a while on a deal that might not be in the best interest of the county and other public sectors, which already are feeling burned by Sanford Burnham’s deals. Jacobs in particular peppered Florida Hospital officials about a confidential, non-compete agreement. Ultimately, she got Florida Hospital officials to agree to turn over a copy of that agreement to the county before Orange County would consider Florida Hospital’s proposal.

The University of Central Florida’s proposal is to team up with Hospital Corporation of America and other companies, also to create a multi-use cancer research and treatment center, this one tied in with UCF’s teaching hospital and medical school at Lake Nona. The UCF partners would pay the county $2 million a year in rent to take over the building, and also  promised to pay $11 million the state of Florida says Sanford Burnham owes state taxpayers. Their buildup would be slower than that proposed by Florida Hospital, but bigger, ending after five years with 302 full-time jobs, and some of the partners, notably HCA, would be there on a for-profit basis, paying some taxes.

UCF Board Chairman Marcos Marchena said the university also invested in the Sanford Burnham programs, to the tune of $18 million.

“This comprehensive cancer center will delver a new level of cancer care to our community, expand biomedical eosins at medical city, and create jobs and increase opportunities for medial research. our for-profit partners will also generate revenues for Orange County, both in the form of rent and taxes,” Marchena said.

Gardiner, senior vice president of external affairs and community relations at Orlando Health, asked for the county and others to open to other proposals.

“I would encourage you, I stand here today with not a specific ask, other than, this should be opened up to every not-for-profit in our community,” Gardiner said.

Val Demings picks up Democratic primary challenger in CD 10

Orlando businessman Wade Darius is seeking to challenge U.S. Rep. Val Demings in a Democratic primary this year for Florida’s 10th Congressional District.

Darius, 36, chief executive officer of TD Homes Marketing of Orlando, said Monday he is challenging Demings primarily out of his belief that she has not been aggressive enough in opposing the immigration and economic policies of President Donald Trump or to bring home enough grant money for the people of the 10th Congressional District. Darius filed last week with the Florida Division of Elections to seek to qualify for the ballot.

Demings is a former Orlando police chief and freshman member of Congress representing western Orange County.

Darius also said he is concerned about criminal justice issues, notably prison reform, which he said is needed, and police brutality, which he alleged Demings did not address when she was police chief.

A Haitian immigrant to Miami as a child, Darius said immigration policy was his primary concern, especially considering the very large Haitian and El Salvadoran communities in CD 10, two communities facing mass deportations under Trump’s policies.

“We know our district is vastly populated by immigrants,” he said. “You must be on the side of the people.”

Married and the father of five, Darius’s background has been in banking and real estate before he founded TD Homes Marketing, which he said last year helped 200 people arrange to get at least $15,000 in down-payment assistance toward the purchases of homes.

He said his campaign will refuse to raise any money from corporations because he believes there is a required quid pro quo response to all such donations. He said his campaign will be funded by himself and his family. He started that off by donating $500 to start a Go-Fund-Me account for his campaign.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló coming to Kissimmee, Orlando

The governor of Puerto Rico is coming to Kissimmee and Orlando Friday and Saturday to meet with Puerto Ricans in Central Florida and provide information about his administration’s efforts toward recovery from Hurricane Maria and preparations for displaced islanders to return home.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló will be leading a town hall-style meeting in Kissimmee on Friday and will be appearing at various events on Saturday.

Kissimmee and Orlando have received the bulk of Puerto Rico evacuees who have fled the island to Florida since Hurricane Maria devastated the island Sept. 20-21. The Florida Division of Emergency Management reports that nearly 300,000 people have come from Puerto Rico to Florida, primarily through Miami and Orlando, though it is unclear how many have stayed.

Rosselló will be holding a town hall at 10 a.m. at the Kissimmee Civic Center. He’ll also be meeting with various Puerto Rico leaders and business owners in Central Florida on Friday Saturday.

Rosselló will be explaining disaster relief efforts on the island and benefits available there and in Florida, answering questions, and seeking to provide assurances about when displaced Puerto Ricans can to return to their homes, said Luis Figueroa, former Florida regional director for the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration.

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