Fall, autumn, harvest season — whatever you call it — starts today, September 23.
As John Howard Bryant described it, Autumn is “the year’s last, loveliest smile.”
The 2019 equinox began at 3:50 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. At that precise moment, the sun was directly in line with the equator.
The word equinox takes its roots from the Latin words “aequalis” and “nox,” which together mean “equal night,” according to USA Today. But as well as equal night, this equinox means the Northern and Southern hemispheres also receive an equal amount of daylight.
Day and night aren’t exactly 12 hours long on the day of the equinox because the Earth’s atmosphere refracts, or bends light, in an optical illusion that brings more daylight than there really is. Because of this, the date when day and night are of equal length is usually a few days after the autumnal equinox.
Although some people claim that the autumnal equinox is the “official” start of fall, there is no administrative or political organization that actually designates that.
Indeed, though astronomers say summer ends Monday, meteorologists and climatologists say summer ended Aug. 31, the final day of the three hottest months of the year (June, July and August).
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the summer of 2019 (June through August) was the warmest on record for the Northern Hemisphere.
While the first day of fall is Sept. 23, we won’t turn the clocks back until Nov. 3, when Daylight Saving Time ends, when clocks are turned back at 2 a.m. by one hour. That means sunrise and sunset will be one hour earlier — and you’ll get an extra hour of sleep.
Oh, and one more thing, you have no better chance today of balancing an egg on its tip.
According to this must-read primer from Vox, the notion that it’s easier to balance an egg vertically on a flat surface than on other days of the year is a myth. The amount of sunlight we get during the day has no power over the gravitational pull of the Earth or our abilities to balance things on it. You can balance an egg on its end any day of the year (if you’re good at balancing things).
“NOAA’s fall outlook: Above-average temperatures everywhere” via Matthew Cappucci of the Washington Post — The areas with the highest likelihood of warmer-than-average conditions this fall include the North Slope of Alaska, the Four Corners region and New England. “The overall retreat in the Beaufort Sea is about as extreme as our analyses have shown in the last 20 years,” wrote the National Weather Service in Anchorage. Utqiaġvik — Alaska’s northernmost town — spent an astonishing 85 days above freezing, from June 25 to Thursday. “Prior to the 1990s, it wasn’t uncommon for the longest above freezing streak to be [less than] 10 days,” tweeted Rick Thoman, an Alaska climate specialist at the International Arctic Research Center. Satellite-derived Arctic sea ice extent this season reached its second-lowest on record, behind only 2012.
Bad news for us, good news for journalism — You’ll be seeing fewer stories from Noah Pransky on Florida Politics this fall, as the former WTSP-TV investigative reporter will go public today with his new role at NBC News in New York City. The news will coincide with a big announcement from the Peacock Network as well, which will launch a new channel today, focused on in-depth and innovative storytelling. Pransky will have a role developing content for the new venture, both in front of — and behind — the camera. Look for more information when the announcements are made this morning.
As they say, the signs are there if you know where to look.
On Sept. 10, a couple of days before news broke that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political team was planning $25,000 golf games and $250,000 ‘intimate gatherings,’ Republican campaign finance guru Nancy Watkins was typing a portentous letter. You can read it online at the state Division of Elections’ website.
She advised the Division that a political committee she was treasurer of was having a “change of officer.”
That change was her husband, Robert Watkins, as chair.
The person he was replacing? Susie Wiles.
The timing is interesting, I believe, because it tends to discount the theory that it was she who leaked the confidential info that led to her downfall, disclosing what amounts to a pay-for-play effort by the DeSantis machine.
More to the point, it now seems the powers-that-be were moving against her before the story broke.
That initial story, in the Tampa Bay Times, touted how “internal documents from DeSantis’ political committee provide a rare peek into the inner workings of the main political operation behind Florida’s top elected official.”
Wiles took the fall for leaking an unflattering look at DeSantisWorld, which it said was a “concept” only — never put into effect.
So here’s the timeline: Watkins dates her letter for the 10th, It’s received by the Division at 7:59 a.m. on the 11th.
The Times’ story drops on Sept. 12. On the 16th, I tweeted news that Wiles was leaving her ‘day job’ at Ballard Partners for “health reasons.” We ran a full story on that on the 17th.
That same day, POLITICO drops its story on President Donald Trump distancing himself from Wiles, followed on the 20th by its takeout, “How Trump’s Florida ‘field general’ got kneecapped.”
And so the Wiles saga gets curiouser and curiouser.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Sunrise talks with first-term U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz, a former Green Beret who now represents Flagler, Volusia and portions of Lake and St. Johns counties. Waltz gives his take on the President’s decision to put U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Lottery chief Jim Poppell is retiring, without explaining why or what he plans to do next.
— Florida’s employment rate is staying at about 3.3 percent … almost half a point lower than the national average.
— A deep dive into the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the recreational use of cannabis.
— And on the latest adventures of Florida Women: Sometimes it’s a topless woman, other times it’s a gal with a live alligator hidden in her yoga pants.
To listen to the latest Sunrise, click on the image below:
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@JoeBiden: Eight. That’s how many times Donald Trump asked a foreign leader to investigate me and my family. Why? Because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum.
—@PaulBegala: Instead of squandering money — and moving to the fringe — to attract donors, why not a new metric: register voters? Set a minimum number of new voters registered to gain entrance to the debate. Much truer to Dem values to reward organizing & voter reg. than the money chase.
—@AndrewGillum: Today starts National Voter Registration Week. So the DeSantis administration decides it’s time to pull down RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov for “routine maintenance.” Only thing routine is the voter suppression part.
—@CarlosGSmith: Surprise visit today with @+@ to Lowell CI — America’s 2nd largest women’s prison! We heard disturbing reports of inmate abuse, so we came + talked to dozens of women. Even PREGNANT inmates get no A/C and endure 115-degree temps! We must do better!
—@Jeff_Sharon: PERSPECTIVE: #UCF has to win The American to get the G5 NY6 bid, which is what they have to do anyway. Today has no impact on that. And UCF was never going to get into the CFP top 4 anyway. Today sucks, but not as much as you think. Real season starts in a week.
—@BSFarrington: Talking with a really nice woman at a wonderful hotel in Victoria, and her daughter says, “We’re afraid of you.” She didn’t mean me and @, but Americans.
— DAYS UNTIL —
End of the third fundraising quarter — 7; Deadline to qualify for the Democrats’ October debates — 8; 850 Hemp Summit begins — 9; “Joker” opens — 11; NBA 2020 Preseason begins — 11; Triple Force Friday: the next generation of Star Wars products arrives — 11; SNL season premiere with Woody Harrelson — 12 Debut of Breaking Bad movie on Netflix — 18; CNN hosts candidate town hall on LGBTQ issues — 17; New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 25; “Watchmen” premieres on HBO — 27; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 35; Brexit scheduled — 38; 2019 General Election — 43; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 45; “The Mandalorian” premieres — 50; “Frozen 2” debuts — 60; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 70; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 88; 2020 Session begins — 113; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 114; Iowa Caucuses — 133; New Hampshire Primaries — 143; Florida’s presidential primary — 176; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 226; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 305; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 3337; 2020 General Election — 407.
— TOP STORY —
“Elizabeth Warren leads Iowa poll for the first time, besting Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders” via Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register — Warren now holds a 2-percentage-point lead, with 22 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers saying she is their first choice for President. It is the first time she has led in the Register’s poll. Biden, who had led each of the Register’s three previous 2020 cycle polls, follows her at 20 percent. Sanders has fallen to third place with 11 percent. No other candidate reaches double digits. “This is the first major shake-up” in what had been a fairly steady race, said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “It’s the first time we’ve had someone other than Joe Biden at the top of the leader board.”
— DATELINE: TALLY —
“Ron DeSantis is slow on filling Florida’s water boards. That’s a problem.” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — One reason the Southwest Florida Water Management District didn’t have enough people for its budget hearing earlier this month: DeSantis hadn’t appointed any new members. The 13-member board had just seven members — and only six showed up. It’s one of the agencies where DeSantis has not yet filled many of the board’s vacancies. “No other governor has ever had this problem that I know of,” said Emilio “Sonny” Vergara, who served as executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District from 1997 to 2003. Vergara warned that there could be legal ramifications if the vacancies mean the water boards are unable to keep to the timetable set by law for levying taxes and approving a budget.
“The secret DeSantis memos: A handy shopper’s guide to buying access” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Secret memos detailed how much DeSantis’ campaign hoped to charge lobbyists and others to spend time with Florida’s governor. The details were so specific, the Tampa Bay Times was able to compile a price list: “Golf in a foursome? $25,000. “Golf one-on-one with DeSantis? $100,000. “A 10- to 15-minute meeting? $25,000. “A dinner event? $150,000. “One hour of an “intimate and high dollar” gathering? $250,000.” I imagine sex workers devise similar rate structures. Most are smart enough not to put them in memos. Personally, I’m a Groupon kinda guy. If I spent $25,000 to golf with the guv, I’d want a deal that threw in something extra — like maybe a seat on the fish and wildlife commission.
First on #FlaPol — “Lottery Secretary Jim Poppell to retire” via Florida Politics — “Poppell is a dedicated public servant and consummate professional who agreed to continue serving our state when I became governor after a lengthy career in the private and public sectors,” DeSantis said in a statement. Poppell replaced former Secretary Tom Delacenserie, who became president and CEO of the Kentucky Lottery, and took over the agency under previous Gov. Rick Scott. “Under Jim’s leadership at the Florida Lottery, students have benefited from outstanding educational opportunities provided by the department. I thank Jim for his years of service and wish him the very best in retirement. He will be missed.”
ICYMI from last week’s ‘Takeaways from Tallahassee’ — State Sen. Rob Bradley, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, started this week’s meeting with an unusual announcement: Stay back. The Fleming Island Republican explained that he didn’t want people coming up on the meeting room’s dais — which mostly reporters and lobbyists do, to speak with lawmakers … “This is just a new protocol in the changing world we live in,” Bradley told reporters after this week’s meeting. “It’s just better we have [fewer] people gathered in one place. He added, “ … There is nothing specific that has happened that I’m aware of, at all, period. This is long-term security planning.” (The full story is here.)
Spotted at a fundraiser for Florida Senate Republicans at the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival: Senate President Bill Galvano, Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson, Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Jennifer and Rob Bradley, Travis Hutson, Kathleen Passidomo, and Kelli Stargel, as well as Amy Bisceglia and Erica Chanti of Rubin Turnbull & Associates, Allison Carvajal of Ramba Consulting Group, Hayden Dempsey of Greenberg Traurig, Robby Cunningham, Craig Hansen, Logan McFadden, Laura Boyd Pearce, Monica Rodriguez of Ballard Partners, Stephanie Smith of Uber, and Katie Webb of Colodny Fass.
“College presidents grapple with hiring, firing lobbyists” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has made no secret of his views on government entities hiring outside lobbyists. He’s not a fan. And since taking over as Florida’s education czar, the former House speaker has made his thoughts known to leaders of the state college system. Corcoran’s sentiments have sparked some college presidents to fire lobbyists who represent schools or affiliated direct-support organizations. But with little pushback, presidents, acting as the Association of Florida Colleges, voted to renew a $95,000-a-year contract with the firm The Southern Group to lobby on their behalf. Corcoran, however, doesn’t seem to be bothered that the association that represents colleges is retaining one of Tallahassee’s most powerful lobbying firms.
Delegation meetings — Monroe County Legislative Delegation, 10:30 a.m. at the Marathon City Hall, Council Chambers, located at 9805 Overseas Highway, Marathon. Alachua County (Gainesville) Delegation, 1 p.m., Santa Fe College, Fine Arts Hall, 3000 N.W. 83rd St., Gainesville. DeSoto County Delegation, 1:30 p.m., DeSoto County Administration Building, Commission Chambers, 201 East Oak Street, Arcadia. Citrus County Delegation, 2 p.m., 110 N. Apopka Avenue, Room 100, Inverness. Union County Delegation, 2 p.m., Lake Butler City Commission Chamber located at 200 SW 1st St., Lake Butler. Bradford County Delegation, 4:30 p.m., Bradford County Commission Chamber in the County Courthouse 945 North Temple Ave., Starke. Franklin County Delegation, 6 p.m., County Commission Meeting Room, Forbes Street, Apalachicola.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida’s expanding population applies pressure on water supplies” via Dale White of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Florida Office of Economic & Demographic Research says the statewide daily demand for water, 6.4 billion gallons as of 2015, is projected to increase by 17 percent in the next 20 years to more than 7.5 billion gallons as the population climbs to 25.2 million. That demand could be higher and the availability of that water lessened if climate change increases the frequency of droughts. Not one of Florida’s five water management districts, which oversee permits for water supplies, “can meet its future demand solely with existing source capacity,” Tapping new sources can be problematic and increasingly expensive. To meet the statewide demand through 2035, the EDR office estimates the costs could be between $1.6 billion and $2.2 billion.
Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will join students and school administrators to mark September as Hunger Action Month. Fried will highlight her department’s School Breakfast Challenge, and help serve after-school snacks to students. That’s at 2:45 p.m., Apalachee Elementary School, 650 Trojan Trail, Tallahassee.
Happening today — Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will speak before the Florida Blockchain Task Force, which meets to establish procedures and elect a chair, 1 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building. For information on the meeting, please contact Meredith Stanfield with the Department of Financial Services at (850) 413-2890 or Meredith.Stanfield@MyFloridaCFO.com.
Speaking of blockchain … “Seminole Tax Collector Joel Greenberg creates company to transition office to blockchain and virtual IDs” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Greenberg has formed a private company as part of his government office’s plan to migrate information from drivers licenses, property taxes and other functions onto an encrypted database using cutting-edge blockchain technology. The company is on the second floor of a Lake Mary office building connected to the tax collector’s office. Greenberg said he plans to use the blockchain-based technology as part of a pilot program to launch a digital ID program next year. The unusual arrangement comes as the 34-year-old Republican filed this month to run for reelection in 2020, despite saying in 2016 — before he ousted longtime incumbent Ray Valdes — that he would serve a single term as Seminole’s tax collector.
“College athletes could earn money through endorsement deals under bill introduced by top Florida Democrat” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The proposal will thrust the Sunshine State into a debate that is heating up nationally after California state lawmakers passed a similar bill last week over the objections of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Florida House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee said his objective is to fix a system where student-athletes can’t even accept a bag of groceries while the NCAA generates revenues over $1 billion. “Many of these kids aren’t from families that can afford to send them money, but they’re sports superstars and household names,” McGhee said. “That’s not fair.”
“Teaching African-American and Holocaust history? Prove it, Florida Board of Education says” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida law includes a list of subject areas that must be taught in the public schools. The law covers everything from the core subjects to about 20 more specific lessons such as kindness to animals, the sacrifices of military veterans and recently approved classes on mental health.
— OVER THE WEEKEND —
“Online voter registration system restored after Florida Democrats complain” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — The Florida Online Voter Registration site was offline over the weekend, angering Florida Democrats who accused DeSantis‘ administration of orchestrating the maintenance days before a national voter-registration mobilization effort. Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day, which encourages local organizations and businesses to conduct voter registration drives. Last year, more than 800,000 people registered to vote on National Voter Registration Day, according to its website. Early Sunday, the Florida voter registration site was offline. “The Division of Elections is conducting routine maintenance. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience,” the website said. Floridians who wanted to register could download an application form or contact their county supervisor of elections, it said.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Donald Trump’s Ukraine call reveals a president convinced of his own invincibility” via Phillip Rucker, Robert Costa and Rachel Bade of the Washington Post — When the July 24 congressional testimony of special counsel Robert Mueller deflated the impeachment hopes of Democrats, Trump crowed “no collusion” and claimed vindication. Then, the very next day, Trump allegedly sought to collude with another foreign country in the coming election — pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up what he believed would be damaging information about former Vice President Biden. The push by Trump and his personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, to influence the newly elected Ukrainian leader reveals a president convinced of his own invincibility — apparently willing and even eager to wield the vast powers of the United States to taint a political foe and confident that no one could hold him back.
“On Mike Pence’s new press secretary and her bizarre Florida connection” via Katherine Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — If college is a training ground for the real world, an interesting case study is that of Katie Waldman — the University of Florida alumna named this week as Pence’s press secretary. Journalists were quick to point out that Waldman was a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who had defended the agency’s divisive immigrant family separation policy. More than seven years ago, Waldman was in student government when she became involved in an incident that would help define her time there. It included an article reporting then-football coach Will Muschamp had endorsed a Waldman rival, a walk-on player who was running for student body vice president. Waldman was one of two students spotted discarding copies of that day’s Florida Alligator.
“3 Florida congressional members to Veterans Affairs: Don’t evict us from VA hospitals” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — U.S. Rep. Brian Mast opened the first-ever congressional office inside a VA facility in 2017, renting space for constituent services in the West Palm Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Joining Mast in a news conference at the U.S. Capitol were two other members of Florida’s congressional delegation: U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy, who began sharing an office at the Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lake Nona in August 2018. The VA wants all three out by the end of the year. Earlier this month, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie sent a letter to Mast supporting the evictions, saying hospital space should be used only for delivering medical care to veterans. Mast called that “a red herring.”
Happening today — Associated Industries of Florida begins a two-day U.S. Capitol summit featuring Congressional speakers Sens. Marco Rubio and Scott and U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, Mario Diaz-Balart, Neal Dunn, Mast, Donna Shalala, Greg Steube, Michael Waltz, Daniel Webster and Ted Yoho. Summit begins 2:30 p.m., National Association of Manufacturers, 733 10th Street N.W. An evening reception hosted by Scott starts 6:15 p.m., Florida House, 1 Second St. N.E., Washington, D.C.
— 2020 —
“Next one out? Cory Booker memo warns he may not be in 2020 race ‘much longer’” via Alex Seitx-Waltz of NBC News — Booker must raise nearly $2 million in the next 10 days or the presidential candidate has no “legitimate long-term path forward,” according to a memo to staff from the campaign manager. The struggling candidate’s campaign manager, Addisu Demissie, warned that after weaker-than-expected fundraising in the early part of September, the campaign needs to rake in another $1.7 million before the last day of the financial quarter on Sept. 30. “Without a fundraising surge to close this quarter, we do not see a legitimate long-term path forward,” Demissie wrote in the Saturday memo to staff and supporters. “The next 10 days will determine whether Cory Booker can stay in this race.”
“Seventeen Democratic hopefuls blitz Iowa Steak Fry as the competition for votes intensifies” via Holly Bailey, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Amy Wang of The Washington Post — Jill Van Cleave was among the thousands of Democrats — 12,342 to be exact — who descended on a muddy lakeside park here Saturday, withstanding hours of drizzle and then steady rain at the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry to listen to 17 presidential hopefuls make their pitch to voters in this all-important first caucuses state. But as the day wound to a close, Van Cleave, a schoolteacher from Marshalltown, felt as conflicted as ever. “There are so many candidates I like,” she said. With four months to go before next year’s Feb. 3 caucuses, the competition for votes is intensifying in Iowa, with most Democrats still grappling with the question of who is best positioned to take on Trump.
— FLORIDA’S LATINO VOTE —
While only a small number of newly arrived Venezuelans to the United States are eligible to vote, many Latino voters in Florida see the problems in the South American country as the “nexus of the region’s worst problems,” writes Jonathan Blitzer in The New Yorker.
Socialist leaders in both Nicaragua and Cuba rely on Venezuela for oil; Colombia has taken in more than a million refugees.
“If you solve the Venezuela problem, you get three for the price of one,” a state Republican operative told the magazine. “You’ll make the Colombians, Nicaraguans, and Cubans in Florida very happy.”
Florida has been the linchpin of a presidential campaign for more than a quarter-century — whoever wins Florida goes to the White House. Trump won the state by hundred and 13,000 votes in 2016 and is making it a priority in his reelection; launching his campaign in Orlando and making several stops in South Florida to talk about both Cuba and Venezuela.
“The Latino electorate is younger, more numerous, and more diverse than ever before, with largely progressive views on health-care and social-justice issues,” Blitzer writes. “These trends should work in favor of the Democrats. Still, the Presidential election is more than a year away, and disaffection with Republicans is hardly a guarantee of Democratic votes.”
The Republican strategy on Venezuelan immigrants is similar to the relationship built with Cuban Americans since the 1960s.
— THE TRAIL —
“Florida economists, open primary supporters clash over projected costs” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — State economists say that a proposed amendment to allow all registered voters to participate in a single, open primary listing all candidates for statewide office would have little fiscal impact on the state but would cost counties $5 million or more for each of the first three election cycles. Supporters of the amendment dispute the estimate from the Financial Impact Estimating Conference, saying it shouldn’t cost more and may even cost less. But Glenn Burhans, chair of All Voters Vote, the organization behind the petition gathering initiative, told the FIEC in a letter the amendment would require different types of primary ballots to be prepared by county supervisors of elections.
First in Sunburn — Former State Sen. Lisa Carlton endorses Donna Barcomb in HD 72 — Carlton cited Barcomb’s deep roots, well known and established experience and local knowledge in her endorsement. Carlton served Sarasota in the Florida Senate from 1998 to 2008 and served as Senate President Pro Tempore from 2006 to 2008. She previously served two terms in the Florida House from 1994 to 1998. Gov. Scott appointed her to serve on the 2017-2018 Florida Constitution Revisions Commission. “Lisa Carlton is a fixture in our local Republican Party,” Barcomb said. “She served with dignity, integrity, and is the epitome of a public servant.”
First in Sunburn — “Georges Bossous Jr. joins HD 108 contest” via Ryan Nicol Florida Politics — Bossous has become the second Democrat to challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Dotie Joseph. Bossous, who was born in Haiti and now works as a psychotherapist, said he plans to announce his campaign formally. “I’ve never run for office, but I’ve been engaged in the political sphere,” Bossous said. “If you want to bring about change, you cannot stay outside complaining. “You should get inside and try your best — with the support of your constituents and the support of the people around you — to make those changes.” While this is Bossous’ first time as a candidate for political office, he said he worked as an organizer for the Democratic Party in 2016 and has also worked with MoveOn.org.
— LOCAL —
“’I can make you disappear.’ Miami-Dade jail officer raped woman on house arrest, cops say” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — A Miami-Dade corrections officer raped a woman who was on house arrest, threatening to send her back to jail unless she had sex with him, authorities said. Officer Yulian Gonzalez was arrested and charged with four counts each of armed kidnapping and armed sexual battery. Gonzalez is an 11-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department. The officer was assigned in August to check on and supervise the 43-year-old woman, who was awaiting trial at home on a criminal charge. “You know what you have to do,” he told her, before making her perform oral sex on him, according to the warrant. He also told her: “I can make you disappear,” the warrant said.
“In a neglected Miami housing tower, residents told to move but don’t know where to go” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — A leaky air conditioner forces Gladys Portela to mop her tile floor before visitors arrive at her 14th-floor apartment in Miami’s Harry Cain Tower, one more problem in a public housing complex that’s been declared too broken down to fix. Five years after residents voted down a Miami-Dade proposal to move to a different building so that Cain could be redeveloped, Portela and more than 100 neighbors are being forced to clear out under a health emergency tied to widespread mold contamination and floors laden with asbestos. Now the Cuban-born vice president of the building’s tenant council can’t predict where she’ll move next. Miami-Dade’s housing agency notified residents it had to close the county-run Harry Cain Tower over health concerns.
“Dan Markel murder: Trial begins Monday, 5 years after slaying of distinguished FSU law professor” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Starting Monday morning, groups of potential jurors will be assessed 50 at a time by prosecutors and the attorneys for Katherine Magbanua and Sigfredo Garcia, who are both accused of killing Florida State law professor Markel five years ago. The murder of the prominent legal scholar in his garage in broad daylight has transfixed the Tallahassee community since 2014. But the 2016 arrests of three unlikely suspects from South Florida with seemingly no known ties to Markel, and the wicked murder-for-hire plot they are accused of carrying out, turned the case from one of the city’s most-enduring mysteries to a true-crime drama.
“The case against former Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown” via the Florida Times-Union — The case is tied up with the saga of the Jerome Brown BBQ Sauce manufacturing plant that went belly-up after receiving a $2.65 million loan backed by the Small Business Administration, along with a $380,000 city loan and a $210,000 city grant. Prosecutors said they lied to get money that the lender for the 2011 mortgage, BizCapital BIDCO I, LLC, wouldn’t have provided if it had known how work was really progressing on the plant. BizCapital had agreed to make the big loan in 2011, but it only released money in “draws” as Katrina Brown submitted invoices from contractors. Katrina Brown filed fake invoices from two companies where Reggie Brown was the only listed officer.
“PBSO deputy who guarded Jeffrey Epstein on work release witnessed unusual treatment” via WPTV5 West Palm Beach — What some say happened inside a high rise off Australian Avenue in West Palm Beach haunts a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy. “Could it have happened when I was supposed to be monitoring him? Yes,” the deputy said in an exclusive interview. “That kind of tugs at your heartstrings.” This is the first deputy to come forward to the media with information about convicted sex offender Epstein, and his incarceration under PBSO’s watch … “When you go against the grain, if you rock the boat, if you raise your voice about something that you don’t think is on the up-and-up, the Sheriff’s Office is very vindictive.”
— MORE LOCAL —
“State Attorney Aramis Ayala asks Ron DeSantis to have special prosecutor investigate Orlando airport sunshine complaint” via Beth Kassab of the Orlando Sentinel — Ayala asked DeSantis to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether the board that oversees Orlando International Airport violated the Sunshine Law after a state law enforcement agency declined to open a probe. A spokeswoman for DeSantis the governor’s general counsel received the request and is reviewing it. The First Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit Sunshine Law watchdog group, asked Ayala to investigate after Orlando Sentinel reports on an Aug. 28 meeting of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, during which DeSantis appointees approved a no-bid plan to hire new co-general counsels, something that had not been on the board’s agenda.
Awkward Facebook post of the weekend:
“Expect Homestead election to be a furious battle between political insiders, outsiders” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Ten men are in the running for the three open seats on the Homestead City Council — the Mayor’s seat, along with Council Seats 22 and 3. Four candidates are running for Mayor, three for Council Seat 2 and three for Council Seat 3. This year’s election will also see candidates with extensive Homestead government experience facing those who have little or no government experience. The mayoral candidates include two former mayors, a former city council member and a candidate who hasn’t held an elected city government office.
“Magic City Casino’s $750K lawsuit against City of Miami moves forward” via VegasSlotsOnline.com — A court has given West Flagler Associates, Ltd., owner of Miami’s Magic City Casino, the go-ahead to proceed with its lawsuit against the city of Miami. The company plans to build a jai-alai fronton and poker room near Miami’s Edgewater community. West Flagler sued the city in April of this year for $750,000 after the city’s commission altered the zoning code for gambling venues … The Miami Herald reported that commission Chairman Keon Hardemon, stuck up for Havenick, saying: “The way that this ordinance is written has a negative effect on only one person, and that person is you.”
“Miami Beach considers hosting Jimmy Buffett show to push out spring breakers” via Jessica Lipscomb of the Miami News-Herald — This year’s spring break was one of the most contentious in Miami Beach history. For starters, the city saw a 33 percent increase in crowd size from 2018 despite an expensive marketing campaign aimed at fending off spring breakers. City officials are hurrying to make plans to “fix” the “situation.” Commissioners are considering a partnership with Live Nation to program a series of concerts throughout March. “Jimmy Buffett and Kygo want to play the beach. They’re touring right now,” the city’s tourism director, Matt Kenny, said at the Sept. 11 commission meeting. But the partnership with Live Nation seems to be less about the music and more about pushing out a certain type of tourist.
“Workers ride this bus to better-paying jobs in paradise. They’re a long way from home” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — The route from Miami-Dade to the Keys is in higher demand these days as hotels and restaurants are back up and running — and as the options for affordable housing have dwindled through the years, and been made worse by the storm. Day and night, about once an hour, the bus goes all the way to Marathon and back to South Miami-Dade. By the time the 4 p.m. bus returns to Key Largo, it has picked up day-shift workers from the Middle Keys and Islamorada. Many people leaving the northernmost Keys are without seats on their way back home. “The people in Key Largo, they’ve been working all day, and they have to stand up,” said a passenger bound for Marathon.
“’We’re not stopping’: Orlando group raises money to keep flying aid to Dorian-devastated Bahamas” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Matt Wideman of Winter Park thought of himself as “a big Bahamas guy,” and in the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Dorian, he wanted to do something to help. Two weeks later, Wideman, his Love & Life Foundation team and their partners have flown dozens of flights on the affected islands of Grand Bahama and the Abacos, delivering tons of food, medicine and equipment and becoming a lifeline for entire communities. Now, with the immediate crisis past, they’re trying to help the Bahamas provide beds and shelter for the thousands left homeless in the storm’s wake. But he says his group and others need immediate help when it comes to two crucial things: mobilizing pilots and acquiring fuel.
“Parents frustrated with Collier schools’ communication about ex-Parkside teacher accused of molesting 20 children” via Rachel Fradette and Jessica Rodriguez of the Naples Daily News — Hector Manley, who last year taught first grade and has worked in classrooms throughout Parkside Elementary School, faces 23 charges of molesting children as young as 6 years old over the three years he was at the school. He was fired after his arrest March 1 and is in the Naples Jail Center pending trial. State laws and district policies don’t require notifying parents of children in a school who were not subject to the alleged abuse. Following Manley’s arrest, the school district shared on its Facebook page a post from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office regarding the case. But otherwise, there have been no parent meetings, emails or phone calls to parents about the case.
“Thad Altman proposes charter change for Port Canaveral to help space industry” via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY — Altman will be pushing for a change in Port Canaveral’s charter to more explicitly define the port’s commitment to the space industry. Altman plans to present his proposal to the other five members of Brevard County’s legislative delegation at their annual meeting afternoon that, coincidentally, will be held at the port. A majority of the delegation would need to vote in favor of the proposed local law at the delegation meeting for it to be moved forward at the 2020 Session of the Florida Legislature.
“State says it had no authority to shut down Penn Dutch earlier” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Despite 13 positive tests for the listeria bacterium in various parts of Penn Dutch’s Margate location, procedures for food safety enforcement prevented a shutdown of the entire store and allowed hundreds of consumers to reenter and buy what officials only later said may be contaminated food. The now-shuttered store was served Monday with 13 orders that quarantined various production areas of the building where the Sept. 9 tests came back positive for the potentially deadly pathogen listeria monocytogenes. But on Wednesday, Penn Dutch was allowed to reopen and sell its remaining products. Retail sections could not have been quarantined before the reopening because those sections did not test positive for the bacteria.
— OPINIONS —
“A rare sight: Republicans for gun safety” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — As Congress stalls and the Florida Legislature hides on gun safety, there are rare Republicans who have the courage to speak up. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos called on Congress last week to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. State Sen. Tom Lee suggested the Legislature could at least require universal background checks of gun purchasers. Where are the other Republicans who have lost their voices and their willingness to act on a national and state priority? If only there were more than a prayer that the Legislature would do something significant on gun safety. Of course, Washington is no better than Tallahassee on gun safety.
“The unconscionable inhumanity in Florida prisons. Top lawmaker calls it a ‘powder keg.’” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For decades, governors and legislators neglected the nation’s third-largest prison system, and conditions have steadily deteriorated from bad to terrible to catastrophic. “By every metric, this department is in crisis,” says Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes. “It’s a powder keg.” If state lawmakers do nothing else, they must confront the wretched conditions in Florida’s prisons. It won’t be easy. It’s an election year and a period of transition with new leaders taking charge amid fears of a recession. Besides, it’s so easy to look the other way. Nobody cares about prisons, and politicians in Tallahassee don’t work to get plaques for raising the base pay of prison guards. So, the neglect continues.
“Take steps to stop abuse at prisons” via the Gainesville Sun editorial board — It is hardly the only problem at Lowell Correctional Institution in Marion County, the country’s second-largest women’s prison. Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division investigated alleged sexual abuse At the prison. In recent months, corrections officials there have been arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking, sex with an inmate and aggravated battery involving an inmate. The state must improve conditions for inmates and guards alike. Lawmakers would help ensure resources are available for such needs by finally moving forward with criminal justice reforms that keep nonviolent inmates out of prisons, while investing in programs that reduce recidivism.
“Republicans in the Florida House won’t act on prison reform, and that makes all of us less safe” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Again, violence in Florida’s prisons that has left inmates battered, bloodied, paralyzed — or dead — has gotten lawmakers’ attention. Will irresponsible Republicans in the Florida House refuse to take even the first steps to eliminate the sources of such brutality — again? For the sake of public safety, Republican colleagues in the House should get on board. Otherwise, they will have to explain why they are saying No, in favor of continued violence behind prison walls; never-ending turnover among guards; guards who illegally supplement their low pay by smuggling in contraband; and, with no rehabilitation programs, warehousing of inmates while squandering millions in taxpayers’ dollars.
“If you challenge a developer’s dream, be prepared to pay up — or shut up” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The intent of a new state law makes you risk everything if you challenge a development decision. For if you lose, you will be stuck paying the legal fees of the developer and the government. DeSantis signed House Bill 7103 into law in May, ignoring the environmental community’s pleas to veto it. “Citizens won’t dare challenge development orders if they risk financial ruin,” warns the environmental champion 1000 Friends of Florida, which has filed suit against the law. Are Floridians no longer entitled to defend their communities from reckless development? To protect the environment from exploitation? To oppose the high and the mighty on any issue of public policy?
“Circumcisions and bottled water tell the tale of stingy/generous Florida” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post — If you’re making the “stingy” argument, consider the state policy that stopped allowing state Medicaid funds to pay for the circumcisions of poor infant boys. This was a cruel and, ultimately, a foolish bit of cost-cutting. But that just created an unintended consequence. By not continuing to fund those infant circumcisions, the state ended up incurring more than double those costs due to some of those uncircumcised boys ending up with medical complications that necessitated more expensive and painful teenage surgeries, which were covered by Medicaid. But you’d be wrong to imagine that this kind of stingy, zealous protection of public resources extends to other areas. For example, take the public water supply.
— MOVEMENTS —
First on #FlaPol — “Vern Buchanan taps Chloe Conboy as press secretary” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — She replaces Anthony Cruz, who just took on a job in the White House communications office. “I know firsthand the importance of the issues Congressman Buchanan has championed, from protecting the environment to fighting for veterans and senior citizens,” Conboy said. Up until now, Conboy worked in the Republican Congressman’s Sarasota office, where she has worked since November of 2018. Buchanan praised the Bradenton native as “a remarkably talented individual who understands our region and is dedicated to public service.”
— ALOE —
“Florida doubles down on python budget to keep them from slithering to new areas” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — Florida is nearly doubling the pay for hunters willing to stalk pythons in the last remnant of the northern Everglades as new research finds the invasive snake may be established in areas previously thought unspoiled by the apex predator. The treasured Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge west of Boynton Beach is one of the new premium-pay hunting spots designated by the South Florida Water Management District. Instead of the traditional python hunter salary of $8.46 per hour, hunters in the refuge, as well as a handful of other northern fringe natural areas, will earn $15 per hour as part of a 230 percent increase in the district’s python management budget.
“Space station hotel ‘just like going on a cruise, or going to Disney World,’ aims to be open 2025” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The Von Braun Space Station is the dream of the Gateway Foundation, that looks to build the structure in low earth orbit similar to the International Space Station and use the SpaceX Starship to get the pieces to space to put it all together. Gateway’s senior design architect for the Von Braun, Tim Alatorre, gave an interview with Dezeen, in which he said the group’s goal was to have it operational by 2025, able to support 100 visiting tourists every week.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday belatedly to Mario Bailey of Becker, Chris Clark, former Sen. Denise Grimsley, our good friend Chris Dudley of The Southern Group, Carlo Fassi of The Southern Group, Brian Melton, and, shhh, William Stander. Celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, Nicole Hagerty of HCA, John Fox, Jeff Frederick, Lisa Greer, Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, and Kimberly Diaz Scott, recently named Warren’s point person in Florida.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.