Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of February 7, 2021

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran can take a victory lap, but Brevard County Commissioners embarrassed themselves.

My wife and I had already spent about two hours waiting to receive our second COVID-19 vaccinations at Tampa’s University Square Mall when a National Guardsman approached our car.

Could we prove we had an appointment?

“Because if you can’t, we can’t let you receive the shot,” he said.

He told us he already turned many other people away.

Fortunately, we produced emails confirming our appointments, and he let us pass. Even then, it took another 45 minutes to receive the vaccinations. But as details of the logjam at the mall hit the local news and continued the following day, we wonder why there isn’t better communication and coordination.

Traffic stretched around the large parking lot and backed up onto busy Fowler Avenue. There were reports of some cars running out of gas while waiting in line. Hillsborough later advised people going to the mall for their shots to fill up with gas before arriving.

Look, I get it. This is a massive undertaking, and the medical people deserve a standing ovation for their work. Somewhere, though, the left hand isn’t talking the right.

For instance, after our first shot, we received a CDC card as a record of our vaccination. It included the day of our second appointment. Many people apparently thought that was all the proof they needed to get the second shot, but that isn’t so.

They either missed the part about the email or never received one. Either way, those people waited a long time for nothing. Workers should have met those people far earlier so they could turn around instead of making them sit for hours.

Snafus plagued Hillsborough’s effort from the start.

Early on, the county’s website crashed from the volume of people trying to get an appointment. The state took over, and reservations were easier to get. However, sites like University Square couldn’t handle the crowds desperate to receive their shots.

On the day of our second shot, we discovered that many people were there for their initial vaccination. Wouldn’t it make more sense to administer those shots on alternating days? That might help things go more smoothly.

The Publix vaccine program finally reached Hillsborough last week, and that will help. Remember, though, most of the vaccinations around the state have gone to those age 65 and over. That’s about 20% of Florida’s population, so millions of people still need their shots.

A better system needs to be in place before then.


Honorable mention: Walt Disney Co. Huh? As Bloomberg reported, the company just reported a 99% plunge in quarterly income, but its stock closed Thursday at an all-time high.

What gives?

Disney+, that’s what.

Its ballyhooed streaming service’s 26 million subscribers at the end of 2019 grew to more than 95 million in one year. Netflix remains the streaming leader with more than 200 million subscribers, but Disney has come to play.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Francis Suarez. Miami’s Mayor is a Republican, and although the office he holds is nonpartisan, he made a significant across-the-aisle move.

He joined other U.S. mayors at the White House to discuss COVID-19 relief with President Joe Biden.

That attitude is in marked contrast to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who rejected federal assistance with the vaccine distribution without actually knowing details.

Suarez recently co-authored an Op-Ed for the Tampa Bay Times with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. They advocated for the passage of Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan.

In this political atmosphere, this move practically qualifies Suarez for sainthood.

The biggest winner: Richard Corcoran. Florida’s Education Commissioner took his share of jabs over his executive order last summer, requiring all schools in the state to open for in-person instruction.

COVID-19 cases were spiking then, and teachers were more than a little skittish about returning to their classrooms.

They absolutely should have that option, and it will not come out of the emergency order,” Corcoran said at the State Board of Education meeting in Hillsborough.

When Corcoran makes up his mind about something, it stays made.

So, he might feel a little smug satisfaction now after the CDC announced that schools are safe for in-person instruction with proper precautions.

“We know that most clusters in the school setting have occurred when there are breaches in mask-wearing,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a call with reporters.

The CDC even said schools could open without vaccinating teachers immediately, although they’ll eventually receive their shots.

Do you think there’s any chance Corcoran might celebrate this development with a fine cigar and a glass (or two) of top-shelf wine?

The odds are pretty good on that.


Dishonorable mention: Addison Davis. The Superintendent of Hillsborough County public schools wants everyone to wear a face mask. However, he was caught on camera without one during the victory celebration for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Along with several other local leaders, I attended the championship presentation at the port to celebrate our partners, the Buccaneers, and their historic win,” Davis told the Tampa Bay Times.

“I wore my mask throughout the event, only taking it off briefly for a few photos and then putting it back on for the remainder of the time I was in attendance.”

The Times said that video evidence appears to confirm Davis’ point. Social media reaction, however, was unforgiving. A screenshot of a smiling Davis received wide circulation and condemnation.

Perhaps that topic can come up at the next meeting of the Hillsborough County School Board.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Rick Scott. Gee, Senator, couldn’t you at least appear to pay attention during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump?

According to a pool report from inside the U.S. Senate chambers, Scott doodled on a blank map of Asia during the presentation by Democrats. On the previous day, Scott appeared to study a map of Southeast Asia.

He later expressed his disdain for the trial.

This is a complete waste of time,” he told reporters. “It’s not doing anything to help American families, it’s not helping people get jobs, it’s not helping get the vaccine out … it’s vindictive.”

Um, the impeachment was about investigating an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the attempt to overturn the election results. That’s not a waste of time. It’s kind of, oh, your job!

The biggest loser(s): Brevard County Commissioners. County Commissioners throughout Florida have a serious and important job. Decisions they make can impact their communities for decades. Serving the voters requires commissioners who understand the weight of the office.

Apparently, though, that is a bar too high in Brevard.

Florida Today Executive Editor Mara Baraby explains why that is true.

After detailing myriad challenges facing Brevard, Baraby noted, “… they deemed it important enough to vote not once, but twice, on a petty and mean-spirited resolution directed at our former Engagement Editor Isadora Rangelwho started a new opinion job at the Miami Herald this week.”

“How embarrassing for them.”

Both resolutions passed 5-0.

Commissioner John Tobia’s snarky resolution noted, “Whereas, because of her eloquent prose, the circulation of Florida Today dropped only 16% during her tenure, according to Dan Christensen of the Florida Bulldog.”

Commissioner Bryan Lober wanted to add a line about how Rangel, as a Brazilian citizen, can’t vote in Brevard elections but still criticized elected Republicans.

Boo-freakin’ hoo, snowflakes.

Commissioners, you’re in the public eye. The public purse finances your existence as elected leaders. Criticism is part of the game. Grow up!

Oh, and that line about a 16% circulation drop?

“Here are some facts,” Baraby wrote. “We grew our digital subscriptions by 33% in 2020, and we reach more than 1.2 million people at every month.”

A fair percentage of those people now understand the Animal House approach at the Brevard County Commission to the public’s business.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Claudia Thomas

    February 17, 2021 at 2:29 pm

    I wholeheartedly support your biggest loser selection. As a forty-year resident of Brevard, I have become more and more embarrassed with our local politicians, and this current group of pathetic babies is the worst. I can only hope we have finally hit bottom and voters will come to their senses.

  • Lisa Z.

    February 17, 2021 at 3:47 pm

    I have been a resident of Brevard County since 1966. Never have I been so insulted by the behavior of our county commission and so embarrassed for my county.

    The boorish behavior of John Tobia should have been condemned immediately by the other commissioners. Instead, Bryan Lober added to it while the other three commissioners remained silent or snickered and rolled their eyes. Such juvenile and vindictive conduct would not be acceptable in grade school; it is totally unacceptable and unprofessional at a local government level.

  • Jennifer S.

    February 17, 2021 at 3:56 pm

    Agree with your biggest loser selection. Frankly it is disheartening to see our county make national headlines time and time again for all the wrong reasons, and the disdain our elected officials have for the underserved in our community is VERY apparent. The swamp is alive and well in Brevard County.

Comments are closed.


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