Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 5.30.21

Bravo to the Duval County School Board for taking a principled stand on schools named after Confederate leaders.

In this week’s installment of “Who Is Gov. Ron DeSantis Mad At Now?” we bring you two targets joined at the hip on a particular issue.

The Governor launched some verbal broadsides at the U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention and its ally, cruise ship lines that want to sail out of Florida.

They’re squishy on DeSantis’ insistence that ships set sail from Florida ports filled with happy and unrestricted passengers. The war of words is getting louder.

We’re going to be sailing hopefully very soon,” DeSantis said at a news conference. “But there’s not been a single elected official in this country who’s done more to liberate the cruise lines from a bureaucracy that is totally out of touch, and that quite frankly is exercising authority that they do not possess under the law.”

Well, we all hope that, but maybe some extra caution for a few more weeks isn’t such a bad idea.

The short version of the dispute is, of course, over vaccinations.

The CDC wants just about everyone vaccinated, including children. Alas, no vaccine is approved yet for anyone under 12.

“You don’t need to discriminate against people, and you shouldn’t,” DeSantis said. “CDC actually says they count the kids. So, people can’t bring their families on these cruises?”

Fair point. But that’s just one part of the battle.

The other part is the executive order DeSantis signed that bans so-called “vaccine passports.” The little white card you received after getting your shots proves you received the vaccine.

DeSantis considers that discrimination. He signed a law imposing $5,000 fines to companies for every passenger ordered to show proof of vaccination.

However, one theory goes that once passengers step onto the ship, they’re no longer subject to Florida law. The crew then could demand to see vaccination proof.

DeSantis doesn’t buy that argument.

Cruise lines are understandably jittery, though, after their experience when the pandemic first broke out. COVID-19 spread rapidly through many ships, forcing drastic measures.

Can you blame them for being extra careful this time?

Attempts to reach a compromise failed, and the issue remains in limbo.

Well, you just know how much the Governor hates any fight that he is not winning. At times, he seems consumed with this cruise ship battle.

Why, he barely had time to trash Nikki Fried last week.

Now, it’s on to our weekly game of Winners and Losers.


Honorable mention — SunPass users: As toll roads increasingly become the norm around the country, there is some good news if you pay the charges with a SunPass.

There are now 15 additional states where you can use the little time saver instead of fumbling for coins or dollar bills.

Previously, North Carolina and Georgia were the only places besides Florida where drivers could use Sun Pass.

Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia now accept SunPass Pro.

That’s because of a new partnership with E-ZPass, which will now work in Florida.

One catch: You have to shell out $15 for a new transponder.

The Almost (but not quite) biggest winner — Francis Suarez: The Miami Mayor bet big on cryptocurrency and won. His city hosted what was called “the largest cryptocurrency conference in history” and now wants to make Miami a crypto hub.

About 50,000 people attended.

You don’t have to know a Bitcoin from a buffalo nickel to see this is a big deal for Miami.

Even the venerable Miami Herald sort of agreed.

While wishing success for the gambit, the paper’s editorial board pleaded, “just don’t blame us for being a bit wary.”

The board noted Miami’s oft-infamous past, complete with cocaine smuggling and money laundering. The mortgage meltdown in 2007 hit Miami particularly hard.

“As Miami Mayor Francis Suarez continues to push Miami as a crypto hub, we hope he’s studied our history,” they wrote. “We worry about going through another boom-and-bust cycle or a wave that crashes and takes us all down with it. If we’re staking the city’s future on this, please, let’s not repeat the past.”

The notion of filled hotel rooms and restaurants, with the prospect of more in the future, tends to win out in these debates, though.

The biggest winner — Duval County School Board: Sometimes, you just have to take a principled stand. That’s what board members did when they voted to change the names of six Jacksonville schools originally named for Confederacy leaders.

The Florida-Times Union reported the changes came after a four-hour meeting filled with passion on both sides of the issue.

The schools with new names are:

Joseph Finegan Elementary to Anchor Academy.

Stonewall Jackson Elementary to Hidden Oaks Elementary.

Jefferson Davis Middle to Charger Academy.

Kirby-Smith Middle to Springfield Middle.

J.E.B. Stuart Middle to Westside Middle.

Robert E. Lee High to Riverside High.

Bonus points if you know that Lee once had a gym teacher named Leonard Skinner. The story goes, he could be tough on Lee students Ronnie VanZant, Gary Rossington, and Bob Burns.

They later formed a band named Lynyrd Skynyrd and produced the iconic tune “Sweet Home Alabama.”

There’s nothing sweet about naming public schools in honor of traitors who fought to destroy the Union, though.

Bravo to the Duval Board for realizing the Civil War is over.

There’s no need to romanticize the darkest period in American history.


Dishonorable mention — Donald Trump’s blog: If a lie falls in the forest, does it make a sound?

Apparently not.

The former President (still feels good to write that) and current Florida Man in exile stopped writing his blog because of what the Washington Post called “measly readership.”

The blog was 29 days old.

No word if it passed peacefully, but probably not. This is Trump we’re talking about.

In the last week, the Post reported that Trump’s website, which hosted his blog, attracted fewer estimated visitors than the pet-adoption service Petfinder and the recipe site Delish.

Remember, he launched the blog to recapture the spotlight and enthrall his true believers with more and bigger lies about stolen elections and stuff.

Since his banishment from major social media platforms, Trump’s online presence fell by 95%.

He won’t go down without a fight, though. He plans to launch the “Trump Media Group” later this year, including a social media platform that can’t ban him because he will own it.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser — Matt Gaetz: As if things aren’t dicey enough for Florida’s frat boy U.S. Representative, there’s word now that federal investigators want to learn if he obstructed justice.

POLITICO reported the feds want to know more about a phone call he had with a witness in the sex-trafficking probe that includes Gaetz.

“The witness in question was one of a handful of women who entered Gaetz’s orbit via his one-time wingman, former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg,” reporter Marc Caputo wrote.

That’s the same Greenberg who recently admitted to a bunch of crimes, including sex-trafficking a 17-year-old in 2017.

The obstruction inquiry, POLITICO reported, started because of a phone call the witness had with Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend. Gaetz eventually got on the line, and, well, the feds want to know exactly what he said.

If it involved anything about the case, it has the potential to be obstruction.

The witness later spoke with prosecutors, POLITICO’S sources said.

Stay tuned.

The biggest loser — Florida Department of Health: When the pandemic raged through Florida like an inferno last year, a key position in the Health Department went unfilled.

Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times reported that the job of Deputy Secretary for County Health Systems was open throughout most of 2020 until December, when an interim took over.

It’s a critical position, sort of like the traffic cop for the department. The Deputy Secretary, Contorno reported, explains emergency directives from Tallahassee to the county offices while sifting through local feedback on what is working and what isn’t.

Communication is vital in a crisis, and having an experienced voice in that position might have mitigated some of the early confusion.

“What we’ve been seeing for two years is a communication channel that only goes in one direction,” former Deputy Secretary Leslie Beitsch told the Times. “That works well in an emergency setting for a while. Now into month 14, that’s straining all aspects of the system beyond repair.”

Former Gov. Rick Scott cut about 3,700 public health jobs during his two terms, but left the Deputy Secretary in place. The person in that position left before DeSantis took over.

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.


  • Tom

    June 6, 2021 at 8:58 am

    Amazingly, Joe like Peter.
    Loser: When you amend your financial disclosure twice related to additional earnings it’s a terrible week. Doing it within hours after declaring for the states highest office is a double loser. Talk about incompetence coupled with bad advisors, just shows how not ready for prime time this shrill Fried is. Liberal scream strategy in play. But not with Joe and Peter, just point at the other guy.
    Winner: Gov DeSantis, couldn’t ask for a better silver platter offered.

  • Edward Lyle

    June 6, 2021 at 9:45 am

    Wow Joe… lean left much?

  • zhombre

    June 6, 2021 at 11:42 am

    Like Adam Smith who left TBT to become a PR flack for Democrats. Journalism has become an adjunct for the Democrat party. Or: JOURNALISM IS ABOUT COVERING IMPORTANT STORIES. WITH A PILLOW, UNTIL THEY STOP MOVING:

  • Arthro

    June 7, 2021 at 4:33 am

    Seriously, you don’t have Nikki Fried or any Democrats as biggest losers for the week??? What a joke. Let me help you because your partisanship is blinding you. Biggest Winner: Ron DeSantis, for running the state like a boss, running circles around Democrats, keeping our economy open, making Florida the number one relocation destination because of his strong leadership and sound policies. Biggest Losers: Nikki Fried for admitting she “forgot” about $350,000 in income, and Charlie Crist for continuing to be a flip-floppin pandering loser and jumping in the race for Governor where he will get crushed. There. I fixed it for you.

  • Mickey Dee

    June 7, 2021 at 6:02 am

    This whole Nikki Fried thing isn’t news and the writer is right not to mention it. Just because the Republican’s apparatus got together to try to make a big deal out of a none news item by trying to make it a news item doesn’t make it news. People amend financial disclosures and the likes all the time. Its NOT news. There is a obvious process for doing so.. as its done so often. The news there, if there is any, is that Gov Desantis and the GOP is so afraid of Nikki Fried that it went through those lengths to show their fear by letting everyone know that they will attack early and try to define her out of the box. The news is that they are afraid of Nikki Fried, not Charlie Crist.

  • Tom

    June 7, 2021 at 9:31 pm

    Please Mickey, No one is afraid of Nikki Fraud, no need to be. She’s a joke. Liar, deceit, sensationalist and a do nothing, How is that for starters. We will see when fraud is investigated.
    Yes, I know and you and all the Dums would be as understanding related to the Gov. What a joke and yes the reporters are ignoring it. Get ready for a blowout.

  • Tom

    June 9, 2021 at 2:26 pm

    Hey Mickey, sorry but Joe did a fair piece on it.
    I think it is a big deal now. Fraud Fried is off to a disastrous start, may not recover.

Comments are closed.


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