Good Thursday morning.
Red tide is wreaking havoc on the Gulf Coast, setting the stage for environmental issues claiming the spotlight in 2022 elections throughout the state.
Pinellas County beaches are among the most popular recreation spots in the land. St. Pete Beach ranked No. 1 in America and No. 5 globally by Tripadvisor. Other nearby beaches routinely score high in the rankings as well.
But the draw of warm, Gulf waters and sand-filled summer days have been replaced by the odious stench from thousands of tons of dead fish and other sea creatures, victims of a vicious red tide that shows no sign of abating.
On Wednesday, Fox 13 reported that two massive grouper washed ashore along the Pinellas coastline. One weighed 400 pounds and required a backhoe to remove.
As of July 13, 614 tons of dead fish were by Pinellas County, including 477 tons in St. Petersburg.
Speculation centered on the Piney Point disaster in April, where officials drained more than 200 million gallons of polluted water into Tampa Bay to prevent a catastrophic breach in the containment wall.
“Never, ever, have I seen it this bad,” local fisherman Glen Nguyen told The Washington Post.
With Florida taxpayers on the hook this year for a $100 million budget appropriation to begin cleanup at Piney Point, Florida politicians are already beginning the finger-pointing and politicking. While the toxic leak hasn’t been directly blamed for this year’s red tide, many are making that leap. And St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Ken Welch on Wednesday tweeted that it was directly related to climate change.
Nearly four years ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis coasted to victory largely on an environmental message that resonated among voters, even Democrats. His early months in office saw some who might otherwise oppose the Republican Governor find refreshing relief in his commitment to clean water, including Everglades restoration.
But with red tide now dominating headlines, DeSantis and his allies face a bevy of criticism, most recently for so far failing to, like his predecessor, declare a state of emergency to allow state resources to aid in the crisis. On Wednesday, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman pleaded with the state to get involved and lamented they had not already. And Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s sole statewide elected Democrat running for her party’s nomination to challenge DeSantis, this week already began messaging against what she argues is a failed response.
The signs all point to one thing: The environment will again be a top issue as Republicans vie to maintain, and grow, control in Florida.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@marcorubio: The regime in #Cuba continues its violence against the Cuban people demanding #Libertad. We are still receiving horrifying accounts from people inside the island despite the cellphone & internet blockage. They are horrifying #CubaLibre #SOSCubaLibre
—@MarioDB: While the regime brutally assaults protesters, blocks internet access, and denies the #Cuban people their basic human rights, where is the UN Human Rights Council? The OHCHR? Our own representative to the UN (@USAmbUN)? The silence is reprehensible. #SOSCuba
—@RepMariaSalazar: #SOSCuba When the Ayatollah shut off the internet in 2019, @mikepompeo took decisive action — setting up a secure channel for people to upload videos of the atrocities being committed. The Castro regime has shut off the internet in #Cuba. Where are @POTUS & @SecBlinken?
—@RepValDemings: The communist and socialist regime in Cuba has delivered tyranny instead of freedom, poverty instead of prosperity, and unrest, and COVID-19 instead of safety. Democracy and a free economy are the right path forward.
—@SenMannyDiazJr: The Cuban people are acting for their #Freedom & are helpless against the attacks by the communist regime’s oppression forces it’s time for President [Joe] Biden to recognize this and take action #SOSCuba #HumanatarianIntervention @Hola_Otaola
—@ShevrinJones: Supporting humanity should never be an either-or situation that’s driven by ‘what’s good politics.
— Rep. Bryan Ávila (@BryanAvilaFL) July 14, 2021
—@RepDotieJoseph: GOP: You can’t say you support #Cubans (#Venezuelans or any other group you’re courting for political gain) AND block immigration reform at the same time. You’re either for immigrants* quest for #freedom, or you’re not. You can’t be both. *Violent criminals & terrorists excluded
—@ajhoward121: These widespread protests in Cuba are taking place because Cubans now have access to the internet, and they are able to get organized. This was one of the conditions Obama requested for reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba. But then again, you know that.
—@browardpolitics: Democratic @LeaderBookFL (along w/ @BobbyPowellJr & @loriberman) try to hoist Florida Republicans with their own petard over new state anti-riot law now that key element of Republican base is taking to the streets.
—@TPFabricio: Do not block the roadways. We are demanding that @POTUS take action and intervene in Cuba and help liberate our brothers and sisters from the tyrannical Marxist regime. Blocking our roads will bring negative attention to this matter.
—@TheRickWilson: One side is going to nationalize the election of 2022 best. That side will have a decisive strategic advantage. Proceed accordingly.
—@MeganSquire0: Part 1 of this good article covers hatejacking: tiki torches, OK symbol, Pepe frog, polo shirts, white boy summer shades, on and on. I’ll go ahead and add the punctuation: white power “subculture” is weak and derivative. It does not invent; it just steals from others.
— Benjamin J. Kirby (@bkirby816) July 14, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
Jeff Bezos travels into space on Blue Origin’s first passenger flight — 5; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 8; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 8; the NBA Draft — 13; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 15; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 22; Marvel’s What If …? premieres on Disney+ — 27; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 34; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 40; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 50; NFL regular season begins — 56; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 61; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 67; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 71; ‘Dune’ premieres — 78; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 78; MLB regular season ends — 80; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 85; World Series Game 1 — 104; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 104; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 110; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 110; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 114; Disney Very Merriest After Hours will debut — 116; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 127; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 134; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 148; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 155; NFL season ends — 178; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 180; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 180; NFL playoffs begin — 184; Super Bowl LVI — 213; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 253; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 295; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 322; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 358; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 449; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 484.
“White House says violent crackdown in Cuba over protests is ‘unacceptable’” via Michael Wilner and Bryan Lowry of the Miami Herald — The Cuban government’s crackdown on protesters is “unacceptable” and has largely stopped protests across the island nation, the White House said on Wednesday. The Biden administration is still undergoing a comprehensive review of its Cuba policy, and recent developments will factor into its response, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. The protests in Cuba “have largely stopped because of the regime’s violent crackdown and retaliatory measures against Cubans in exercising their fundamental and universal rights,” she said. “This is unacceptable.” Biden earlier this week called the rare protests in Cuba a “clarion call for freedom” and said they were unlike any protests the nation has seen.
“Ron DeSantis wants Joe Biden to help bring internet access to Cuba” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis wrote Biden asking him to “assist in providing internet access to the people of Cuba standing up against communist oppression.” “At first, the world could see the images and videos of this mass movement, but now the tyrannical regime of President Miguel Díaz-Canel has shut off access to the internet. The Cuban people have lost their ability to communicate with one another, and many Floridians born in Cuba have no information on the safety of their loved ones. Equally important, the world has also lost the ability to see what is happening on the ground as the Cuban people rise in support of freedom. Technology exists to provide internet access into Cuba remotely, using the innovation of American enterprise.”
—“Marco Rubio wants Biden to call in the United Nations to stabilize Cuba” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
“Florida Dems to Biden: Don’t blow ‘golden opportunity’ on Cuba” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Trump and the GOP dominated Florida’s elections last November in part due to Trump’s hard-line Latin America policy and rhetoric. Now, in Cuba’s historic uprisings, Florida Democrats see what many are calling a “golden opportunity”: a chance for Biden to help bring democracy to the island and, as a result, attract the Hispanic voters that he hemorrhaged eight months ago. “This is a ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’ opportunity,” said state Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Democrat from Miami representing a district that Trump won. Yet there are worries Biden could blow it by being too slow to move, too timid in his actions, or by embracing the messaging from progressives who have been reluctant to strongly denounce the Cuban regime.
“Kathy Castor calls for peaceful transfer of power in Cuba” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Castor is joining the chorus of support for Cuban protesters, rallying with Tampa Democrats Wednesday in solidarity with one of the largest anti-government demonstrations Cuba has seen in decades. “We are inspired by the protests of the people in Cuba and here in Tampa, for freedom on the island of Cuba,” Castor said. State Sen. Janet Cruz, Hillsborough County Tax Collector Nancy Millan and Tampa City Council member Luis Viera joined Castor at José Martí Park in Ybor City. The group spoke about the crisis facing Cuban citizens and emphasized their support for those protesting the communist regime. Cruz explained this current movement as a turning point in the fight for liberation, with Cubans risking their lives to protest the government.
“If Biden bungles the bloodshed in Cuba, Democrats can kiss our vote goodbye forever” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — A stirring, two-paragraph statement on the second day of protests isn’t nearly enough from the leader of the free world when the suffering is 90 miles from U.S. shores. “Where is Biden? Where is Biden,” shouted Cuban American demonstrators Tuesday in Tampa, showing their support for the #SOSCuba movement. Good question, but what do we get? Alejandro Mayorkas, the Cuban American Secretary of Homeland Security, telling the victims don’t even think of coming. Wrong answer, President Biden. If Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez unleashes another Mariel, as he has threatened, you had better send a fleet of Navy ships to the Florida Straits. Your people are bungling the response.
“Video: Miami police Chief clashes with Proud Boys member at Cuba protest” via Joshua Ceballos of the Miami New Times — In a recently surfaced video, City of Miami Police Department (MPD) Chief Art Acevedo is seen clashing with a member of Miami’s Proud Boys chapter, cursing at him and calling him a “fool” during a #SOSCuba demonstration over the weekend. The video, sent from an encrypted email address to Miami City Manager Art Noriega and other Miami city officials, shows police attempting to control a crowd of demonstrators on SW Eighth Street this past Sunday night when a man begins to argue with Acevedo. The video was posted to YouTube by Miami news blogger Elaine de Valle of Political Cortadito.
To watch the video, click on the image below:
“Cuban government uses special units to intimidate protesters on the island” via Hatzel Vela and Veronica Crespo of WPLG — Graphic video out of Cuba recounts a violent encounter with special units the Cuban government uses called “Boinas Negras,” to intimidate protesters on the communist island. It is exactly what Leticia Ramos Herrería, an outspoken member of the Ladies in White, an organization that engages in peaceful protests for freedom in Cuba, described hearing about. She said the armed black-clad men are attacking unarmed Cubans. In a video on social media, Marbelis Vazquez recorded the moments when these men entered her home. She said they shot her husband and took him away in a wheelbarrow, leaving a puddle of blood inside her home, with her children present.
“Cuba shut down the internet to quell dissent. How does that work?” via Adriana Brasileiro of the Miami Herald — Blocking access to the internet to crack down on dissent is not unusual in Cuba. It’s a tactic that has been used on varying scales before, including a massive data blackout in January after a group of about 30 artists gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture to demand greater civil liberties. The Cuban government can do that because it owns Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba, or ETECSA, which controls Cubacel, the sole cellular network and data provider. The telecommunications company owns all internet and telecommunications infrastructure in the country to control traffic and decide on targeted disruptions.
— 2022 —
“Poll: Without Donald Trump in the race, DeSantis dominates 2024 GOP White House hopefuls” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Trump remains the king of the GOP. DeSantis is looking like the crown prince. For months, DeSantis’ stature has been expanding within the party, marked by growing buzz among grassroots activists and GOP consultants who admire the pugilistic style of politics he wields against progressives and the media. He’s consistently won GOP straw polls of presidential hopefuls, provided Trump doesn’t run in 2024, and he even edged out the former President in favorability in one of the informal surveys. Without Trump running, the poll shows DeSantis gets 39% of the theoretical GOP primary vote, and Pence is 15%.
“Touring Lee County waters, Charlie Crist promises environmental enforcement” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — From the back of a vessel just off Sanibel Island, Crist decries any suggestion Florida boasts some great plan to protect the environment. “I don’t think what this administration has done on the environment has worked at all,” Crist told reporters. He’s challenging DeSantis next year and undercutting any narrative the sitting Republican Governor has been an environmental champion. While DeSantis has devoted millions to water restoration, he doesn’t keep scientific leaders in charge of the Department of Environmental Protection and won’t provide the agency with any teeth to enforce legislation, Crist argued.
—”Florida Republicans outgun Democrats by $1.9M in Q2 fundraising” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics
—”‘Send lawyers, (gambling) and money’: A look at the 2022 ballot initiatives on betting” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
“Nick DiCeglie pulls in $35K in June for Senate bid” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — DiCeglie raised $35,000 last month for his campaign to succeed Sen. Jeff Brandes in Pinellas County-based Senate District 24. Rep. DiCeglie, an Indian Rocks Beach Republican, currently serves House District 66. He has held the seat since 2018. His path to the Senate is mostly clear as Brandes faces term limits and SD 24 has a strong Republican lean. If he does end up facing a major challenger, he’ll likely have the cash to remain competitive. June saw him pull in $25,000 for his affiliated political committee, Economic Freedom Committee, and $10,560 for his official campaign account.
—”Annette Taddeo campaign brings in $10,000 in June, mostly from grassroots fundraising” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
—“With $30,000 June haul, Ileana Garcia’s reelection war chest grows to $151,000” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
“Broward Commissioner Lamar Fisher adds $46K in June for reelection” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Fisher raised just under $46,000 in June, posting the highest monthly fundraising mark of any County Commission candidate yet this cycle. Fisher represents District 4 on the County Commission. He first won that seat in 2018. He officially filed for reelection in early May but posted just under $8,000 in fundraising then, including a $500 self-loan. The District 4 incumbent picked up the pace in June, giving him more than $53,000 total raised for his reelection effort. Fisher retains nearly all of that cash on hand. Fisher brought in $12,000 during June from various auto tag and transportation firms. Fisher collected $5,900 from architects, contractors and developers.
“Mark Bogen raises more than $21K in June for Broward Commission reelection” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Bogen added more than $21,000 in June, giving him nearly $57,000 raised this cycle in his bid to seek a second term on the Commission. Bogen has served on the Commission since 2014. He represents District 2. The engineering sector was the most generous to Bogen in June. He raised more than $6,700 from engineers and engineering firms. Bogen added more than $5,400 from the construction, developer and real estate sectors. He raised $3,000 from retail and hospitality donors and another $2,500 from lawyers and law firms. Bogen’s $21,000 follows $34,000 raised in May. He has the most cash on hand of any Commission candidate as of June 30, close to $57,000.
“Alexandra P. Davis nets $12K in June as she seeks Broward Commission seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Davis added another $12,000 in June as she seeks to succeed Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief in District 8. Davis is running to replace the term-limited Sharief after the two faced off for the District 8 County Commission seat in a heated contest in 2014. Davis has now brought in just over $22,000 total since filing for the contest in May. That number includes just over $1,000 in loans from Davis to her campaign. Davis’ June donations were spread among several sectors. She collected a handful of maxed-out $1,000 donations from various individuals and South Florida-based firms, such as the Teja & A Associates consulting firm and H.A. Contracting Corp. The high-powered law firm Greenspoon Marder also donated $500 to Davis in June.
“Indian River County to start redrawing County Commission districts; School Board to follow” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Population growth in North County likely will trigger redrawing of County Commission boundaries. District boundaries, by law, must be drawn with populations as equal as possible. They’re revisited about every 10 years, after the release of U.S. Census figures. Indian River is beginning the process next month with a tentative redistricting plan, although 2020 Census data is not expected until September or October, County Attorney Dylan Reingold told County Commissioners Tuesday. Districts 1 and 2, in North County, likely will see the most changes, based on development changes over the past 10 years, said Property Appraiser Wesley Davis, a former County Commissioner who went through redistricting.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“DeSantis promotes new Florida civics education program offering teachers $3,000 bonuses” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Civics education in Florida schools continued Tuesday on a bumpy course under DeSantis, who touted a new, $3,000 bonus program for teachers after vetoing civics literacy legislation just last month. DeSantis struck down the civics literacy measure only weeks after the state’s Board of Education complied with his demand and banned the teaching of so-called critical race theory in Florida’s K-12 schools. Critical race theory, which explores the impact of slavery and racial injustice on society, is not directly taught in Florida schools. However, talk of the concept has inflamed conservative TV, and the Governor was quick to respond.
Nikki Fried deploys firefighter crew to Montana — Agriculture Commissioner Fried said Wednesday that a team of 20 Florida Forest Service firefighters had been sent to Montana to help contain wildfires. “It is heartbreaking to see our neighbors to the west suffering through record heat waves and major wildfires impacting a dozen states. Know that Florida is here to help, deploying our wildland firefighters and personnel who are exceptionally well-trained and fully prepared to support suppression efforts,” Fried said in a statement. In addition to the crew headed to Montana, the Florida Forest Service currently has 71 wildland firefighters, and support personnel deployed to Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.
“Florida pays lawyers $675/hour to defend unconstitutional legislation. They keep losing” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — A federal judge has blocked yet another Florida law from taking effect, one that attempted to imprison anyone who donated more than $3,000 toward getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot. DeSantis signed a law making it a crime to donate more than $3,000 to a Florida amendment drive. Yet his own political committee has taken donations as high as $5 million a pop. A federal judge appointed by Donald Trump said the law was unconstitutional.
“New leaders to take over at Board of Education” via News Service of Florida — State Board of Education members Tom Grady and Ben Gibson were named the board’s new chairman and vice chairman during a meeting Wednesday. They replace outgoing chairman Andy Tuck and vice chairwoman Marva Johnson. Grady, an attorney and former state Representative, was originally appointed to the board in 2015 by then-Gov. Rick Scott and was reappointed by DeSantis in January. Gibson, an attorney who previously served as deputy general counsel under Scott, was appointed by Scott in 2017 and reappointed by DeSantis. Grady said he would try to emulate Tuck’s “balance of patience as well as firmness” in the post. The state education board will meet next on August 18 in Miami, the new leaders’ first meeting at the helm.
Personnel note: Daniel Russell named chair of 2nd Circuit JNC — On Wednesday, Dean Mead attorney Russell was appointed chair of Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission. DeSantis named Russell to the JNC, which selects nominees to fill judicial vacancies, in 2019. He served as vice-chair of the commission for the 2020-21 term. “I am honored to be selected as chair, and I look forward to leading the commission in its efforts to identify and put forward qualified candidates to serve with Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit,” Russell said. Russell is of counsel in Dean Mead’s Government Relations & Legislative Advocacy Practice Group. His practice focuses on civil and administrative litigation, government relations, and regulated industries. Russell is also a former general counsel of the Florida Lottery.
— STATEWIDE —
“Death toll now 96 in Surfside collapse. Some families still wait for news of missing” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — It’s been six days since authorities found the body of Maria Gabriela Camou in the rubble of the Surfside condo collapse, but her family says funeral plans must wait until the search crew finds her husband of 40 years, Miguel Kaufman. “We thought the next day they would find Miguel,” said Maria Ines Camous, whose sister died in the collapse. “God willing, soon. I thought it would be immediately.” Standing in front of a makeshift memorial set up for her sister and playing “Ave Maria” from one of their cellphones, Maria Ines and her brother Bernardo Camou said they traveled from Uruguay to be with their nephews and to tend to the memorial on Harding Avenue.
“‘The building next to us is gone’: 911 calls from Surfside give grim picture of tragic morning” via Angie DiMichele of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In the early morning hours of June 24, police and fire rescue departments across Miami were inundated with calls to 8777 Collins Ave, the site of one of the deadliest building collapses in U.S. history. Nearly two dozen callers repeated that now-infamous address to dispatchers over the course of an hour. The 911 calls from the morning of the tragic Champlain Towers South collapse provide a grim picture of what witnesses and those inside the portion of the building that remained standing experienced: confusion, terror, panic. The first call came at 1:16 a.m., and first responders were dispatched to the collapse site within minutes.
“Panicked Surfside 911 calls show clearer timeline of collapse, suggest possible explosion” via Sarah Blaskey, Aaron Leibowitz, Ben Conarck and Syra Ortiz-Blanes of the Miami Herald — Minutes before the Champlain Towers South Condo partially collapsed in the early hours of June 24, people reported an “explosion” in the garage of the building, according to just-released recordings of emergency calls to Miami-Dade police and fire rescue. Early callers also described an “earthquake” causing the garage’s ceiling to fall in before the rest of the building went down. “It seemed like here it was an earthquake here,” said one caller at 1:17 a.m. “The garage, everything — seemed like something underground — everything exploded down.” Experts interviewed by the Herald said those words — “explosion” and “earthquake” — hint at a possible trigger that could have caused the collapse of the pool deck slab.
“‘Joyful’ Mora family — Juan, Ana and Juan Jr. — lost in Surfside condo collapse” via Cassidy Alexander of the Palm Beach Post — Every time Mora Sr. answered the phone, it was the same way: “Dimelo!” he shouted, drawn out like a broadcaster. “Talk to me.” Mora was like that, said his friend, Isai Frometa: Talkative, friendly, joyful. Mora Sr., 80, was found dead after the collapse of Champlain Tower South in Surfside. His wife, 70-year-old Ana Mora and their son, 32-year-old Juan Mora Jr., were also dead. Miami officials announced their deaths last week. Mora Sr. was a radio operator during the Bay of Pigs, for which he served some time in prison before moving to the U.S. He was in sales before he retired.
“Citizens Insurance wants more home inspections, which could drive up owners’ costs” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — More customers of state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. could be required to let inspectors scrutinize their homes for unacceptable risks and shell out high costs to fix those problems. Consumers who can’t afford to make the fixes won’t qualify for Citizens coverage and could be left with nowhere to turn. Inspections could identify thousands of uninsurable properties, Citizens officials said. Citizens is proposing to increase the number of annual home inspections it conducts from 5,205 in 2020 to 90,695 by 2025. The increase is needed, the company says, to enable the company to set prices for its policies more accurately and reduce the number of claims that customers file.
“NOAA says South Florida is in for more high tide flooding in 2021 — again” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — South Florida can expect even more days this year where the high tide keeps rising, causing flooding even on sunny days. While unsurprising for anyone familiar with sea level rise’s expected impact on the coastal region, this prediction is the conclusion of NOAA’s annual high tide flooding outlook, released Wednesday. Last year, NOAA predicted that the Virginia Key tide gauge would record three to six flood days from May 2020 to April 2021. It recorded six. From May 2021 to April 2022, NOAA is raising its prediction to four to seven days, but that’s likely an undercount for many South Florida residents.
“The towering spirit of Mary McLeod Bethune of Florida” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Everyone in Florida — and America, for that matter — should take pride in what took place last weekend in the small Italian village of Pietrasanta. Dignitaries from Florida beheld the formal unveiling of the statue of a great Floridian, McLeod Bethune, an educator, feminist, and civil rights leader who became one of the most prominent African American women of the 20th century. Soon, the statue will occupy a place of prominence in Washington. Dr. Bethune will be the first African American to represent a state in the Statuary Hall. (Each state is allowed two representatives; the other Floridian is John Gorrie of Apalachicola, a doctor who studied tropical diseases and is regarded as the inventor of air conditioning.)
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“COVID-19 summer surge: Is the virus seasonal in Florida?” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Researchers believe the novel coronavirus follows a seasonal cycle, spiking in the winter months when people’s immunity is low and the climate is cold. Why, then, has the number of new COVID-19 cases risen in Florida during the summer months, resulting in more hospitalizations and even more deaths in late June and July? “This is a seasonal pattern,” DeSantis said at a news briefing on Tuesday. “We knew it was going to be low in May, and it was, and we knew as we got to the end of June, July it would go up because that’s what happened last year.”
“Florida leads nation in new Obamacare enrollment” via News Service of Florida — In all, 1.5 million people in 36 states that use a federal health-insurance exchange enrolled in plans available under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, between Feb. 15 and June 30. With 413,409 Floridians enrolling, the Sunshine State accounted for 27% of the selections made nationwide, the data show. In January, Biden signed an executive order authorizing a special enrollment period between Feb. 15 and Aug. 15 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the average monthly premium for health insurance coverage through the federal marketplace fell 25% in April after more generous premium tax subsidies were included in the American Rescue Plan Act.
“COVID-19 spreads on Miami-Dade County Commission as Joe Martinez tests positive” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — A second Miami-Dade Commissioner tested positive for COVID-19 this week, as the virus continues to spread through the legislative body’s staff as well. Martinez said Wednesday he’s considering going to the hospital because of back pain following his diagnosis. He said he doesn’t think he caught it last week in the Commission chambers, days before the Commission’s chairman, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, tested positive. Instead, Martinez, who is vaccinated, thinks he contracted it from his wife, who was feeling ill before Martinez developed symptoms, tested positive this week and was not vaccinated. “I think it’s a coincidence,” Martinez said of him and Diaz contracting the virus at roughly the same time. “I didn’t get near him.”
“Palm Beach County plans how to spend $290 million in federal COVID-19 rescue money” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — Just as they had done for its share of CARES Act dollars more than a year ago, Palm Beach County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a blueprint to spend another multimillion-dollar economic relief package from the federal government to help with recovery efforts through the coronavirus pandemic. The county already received half its $290 million share from the American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by Biden in March, and will get the remaining $145 million in May 2022. While business grants and government expenses dominated how Palm Beach County spent its $261 million from the CARES Act in 2020, the county is limited differently in how it can spend these new dollars.
“‘It’s time’: PBC schools chief said COVID-19 sparked family concerns that drove decision to resign” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — As the youngest schools superintendent in Palm Beach County’s history, Donald Fennoy said he didn’t plan to step down after just three years in office. Then the coronavirus pandemic happened. “COVID,” he said Wednesday, “has accelerated my five-year timeline.” The past year — a year that included emotional school-reopening debates, organizational crises, and the deaths of his in-laws from COVID-19 — made the 45-year-old executive and father of two reconsider his priorities. That reconsideration came to a head last weekend when his parents visited his family at his Wellington home for the first time in more than a year. Seeing his aging father together with his school-aged son and daughter, he said, forced him to reassess.
“Internal email: COVID-19 patients in Baptist Health ICU ‘shockingly young’” via Jim Piggott of News4Jax — In an email sent to Baptist Health employees last week, hospital leaders warned of a resurgence in new cases of the coronavirus and said new patients requiring intensive care in recent days are “shockingly young.” “We recently lost one patient under age 40,” said the email. Baptist Health told employees in the email that, like other Jacksonville-area hospitals, it has been experiencing an increase in COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization. The email was sent as Florida and the nation started to see more and more cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 crop up. Dr. Timothy Groover, chief medical officer at Baptist Health, told News4Jax 98% to 100% of patients requiring hospitalizations are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
“Lenny Curry urges vaccinations as Duval County trails state for shots” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville Mayor Curry urged people Tuesday to get vaccinated as Northeast Florida faces a rise in COVID-19 infections coupled with a slowdown in people rolling up sleeves for shots. The most recent data from the Florida Department of Health shows that 48% of Duval County residents aged 12 and older have been vaccinated, which is substantially less than the statewide average of 58%. Jacksonville had two mega-sites giving vaccines at Regency Square mall and Gateway Town Center for months, plus another community site at Edward Waters University for vaccinations. But Duval County ranks 32nd among Florida’s 67 counties for its vaccination rate. “The data proves that the shots work,” Curry tweeted. “If you haven’t already, get the vaccine.”
“Duval faces surge in COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions” via Raymon Troncoso of WJCT — Duval County is facing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and new hospital admissions amid a national decrease in vaccination rates. According to the Florida Department of Health, which shifted from releasing daily COVID-19 reports to weekly ones, the state added 23,697 new cases during the week of July 2-8. That same report had Duval County reporting 2,127 new cases, the highest number of cases in the county since Feb. 11, for a 15.7% positivity rate, the highest of any Florida county with a population over 1 million. Within that same population group, Duval has the lowest vaccination rate for residents aged 12 and older at 48%. Florida’s rate is at 58%.
— CORONA NATION —
“Delta variant widens gulf between ‘two Americas’: vaccinated and unvaccinated” via Apoorva Mandavilli and Benjamin Mueller of The New York Times — The spread of the variant has prompted a vigorous new vaccination push from the Biden administration, and federal officials are planning to send medical teams to communities facing outbreaks that now seem inevitable. Nationwide, the numbers remain at some of the lowest levels since the beginning of the pandemic, but are once again slowly trending upward. But scientists say that even if the numbers continue to rise through the fall, Americans are unlikely to revisit the horrors of last winter. Still, there are likely to be isolated outbreaks in pockets of low vaccination, he and other scientists predicted. The reason is simple: The pattern of the protection against the coronavirus in the United States is wildly uneven.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Jerome Powell says Fed still expects inflation to ease” via Nick Rimiraos of The Wall Street Journal — Inflation “has been higher than we’ve expected and a little bit more persistent,” Federal Reserve Chairman Powell said in a semiannual report Wednesday to House lawmakers. His appearance came a day after the government reported the fastest monthly rise in consumer prices in 13 years, largely because of special factors, including a semiconductor shortage reducing the supply of autos. Pandemic-related bottlenecks and other supply constraints created “just the perfect storm of high demand and low supply” that led to rapid price increases for certain goods and services, he said. Higher inflation readings “should partially reverse as the effects of the bottlenecks unwind.”
“U.S. tourism is rebounding from pandemic, Fed’s Beige Book finds” via Brody Ford of Bloomberg — The Beige Book survey, based on information gathered by the Fed’s 12 district banks from late May to early July, showed some businesses reporting record demand for leisure hotels and air travel, particularly in outdoor vacation destinations such as Cape Cod. However, growth was held back by continuing labor shortages, which have led some businesses to reduce capacity and increase wages. Demand for business travel remains weak, the Beige Book found. According to the report, “Atlanta, Miami and Orlando were among the top destination cities for Memorial Day weekend, kick-starting the summer travel season. Hotel occupancy levels at lower-priced hotels were elevated, but demand for higher-priced hotels dependent on business travelers remained weak.”
“As economy recovers, loan approval rates increase for small businesses” via Rohit Arora of Forbes — Small business loan approval percentages at big banks climbed slightly from 13.5% in May to 13.6% and small banks’ approvals rose from 18.7% in May to 18.9%, in June 2021, according to the latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index. The pandemic opened up opportunities for many banks. Many smaller banks that had not fully automated their small business loan application procedure are now heading in that direction. Banks that participated in the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lending to help small businesses survive the pandemic often gained these small businesses as customers, and now that the PPP is over, they may again be able to help them by providing traditional term loans and SBA loans.
“Federal eviction prevention funds slow to reach Florida renters experiencing pandemic-related hardships” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Thanks to legislation signed by Trump, money began flowing from the federal government early this year to help renters struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By Feb. 10, the U.S. Department of the Treasury had distributed $25 billion to states and local governments. Florida received $871 million, and 32 local governments around the state garnered another $570 million. Yet, Florida paid out just $100,000 through the end of May, while local governments distributed $62.2 million, according to a report put out earlier this month by the Treasury Department that examines the first phase of the Emergency Rental Assistance program. The report showed Florida ranked near the bottom in aid distributed by states and U.S. territories. Even Guam delivered more assistance.
— MORE CORONA —
“Passenger booted from Royal Caribbean cruise says she doesn’t have COVID-19” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — A passenger kicked off a Royal Caribbean International cruise after testing positive for COVID-19 on board said she doesn’t have the virus. On July 7, the company removed Laura Angelo, 57, and her travel partner from the Freedom of the Seas ship in Nassau, The Bahamas, and flew them home to the U.S. after Angelo tested positive for COVID-19 during the second day of the cruise. Angelo’s COVID-19 test results shared with the Herald show Angelo tested negative at least two times after returning home to New York City. Both Angelo and her travel partner were unvaccinated and said that the cruise company mislabeled them as vaccinated during the boarding process in Miami.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“White House to hold second eviction-prevention meeting with local officials as housing concerns mount” via Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post — As concerns grow about a nationwide eviction crisis later this summer, the White House will once again convene city officials across the country to find ways to keep people in their homes and ramp up the amount of rental relief reaching tenants and landlords. According to a White House official, the second meeting is set for July 21 — 10 days before the final eviction moratorium from the CDC expires on July 31. Similar to the initial meeting last month, the focus will be on bringing together state and local governments, courts, legal aid groups, landlords organizations and tenant advocates to make plans to keep evictions out of court, raise awareness about rental relief and expand other eviction diversion programs.
“Biden pitches huge budget, says Dems will ‘get a lot done’” via Alan Fram and Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — Biden made a quick foray to the Capitol on Wednesday hunting support for his multitrillion-dollar agenda of infrastructure, health care and other programs, a potential landmark achievement that would require near-unanimous backing from fractious Democrats. The President spent just under an hour at a closed-door lunch with Democratic senators in the building where he served for 36 years as a Delaware senator and where his party controls the House and Senate, though just barely. Democrats’ accord on their overall $3.5 trillion figure was a major step for a party whose rival moderate and progressive factions have competing visions of how costly and bold the final package should be. A top-line spending figure, while significant, is merely an initial move that leaves the toughest decisions for later.
“Biden administration looks to set up ‘red phone’ to China for emergency communications” via Kylie Atwood of CNN — The Biden administration is examining the possibility of setting up an emergency hotline with the Chinese government similar to the so-called “red phone” established between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, which allowed for direct communication with the Kremlin as a way to avert nuclear war. While the concept is still in its infancy and has yet to be formally raised with the Chinese, the Biden administration wants to develop a rapid communication tool that could be folded into a broader effort to reduce the risk of conflict between the US and China, according to a US official and another source familiar with early conversations about the device.
— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —
“Trump has found his Jan. 6 martyr” via Aaron Rupar of Vox — On Jan. 6, Ashli Babbitt was part of a mob that came within feet of laying hands on members of Congress who were still being evacuated from the Capitol. She was shot and killed by U.S. Capitol Police. All of this is on video. During Trump’s impeachment trial for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, the impeachment managers played a video of these events. The deadly use of force by law enforcement always merits critical scrutiny. Instead, there’s a campaign to mythologize Babbitt. Trump has recast Babbitt as a martyr — a victim whose tragic fate encapsulates why Trump supporters have good reason to feel aggrieved.
“Arizona county to spend $3M on voting machines after audit” via Jonathan J. Cooper of The Associated Press — The GOP-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors said the machines were compromised because they were in the control of firms not accredited to handle election equipment. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, had said she would seek to decertify the machines if the county planned to use them again. The state Senate hired Cyber Ninjas, a small cybersecurity consulting firm led by a Trump supporter who has spread conspiracy theories backing Trump’s false claims of fraud, to recount all 2.1 million ballots and forensically review voting machines, servers and other data. The firm had no prior experience in elections, and experts in election administration say it’s not following reliable procedures.
— CRISIS —
“House select committee on Jan. 6 riot to hold first hearing July 27” via Jacob Knutson of Axios — The House’s select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot announced Wednesday it will hold its first hearing July 27 with law enforcement officers to examine the deadly rampage. The select committee is moving forward even though House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has yet to choose Republican members to be appointed to the panel. The select committee is meant to be comprised of 13 members, five of whom were to be chosen with consultation with McCarthy, though Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the final say as to who sits on the panel. Pelosi chose former GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney to serve.
“Agency clears Orange deputy married to Proud Boys member arrested in U.S. Capitol riot” via Katie Rice and Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — In a report, an internal investigator wrote that he had not found any evidence that Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Sarah Jackman had any advanced knowledge of her husband, Arthur Jackman’s alleged role in storming the Capitol. However, the report also revealed the deputy described the Proud Boys in glowing terms in an interview with agency investigators, calling the group a “men’s only fraternal organization” that involves attending Bible study, and not a hate group or for “right-wing extremists.” She also described her husband as the vice president of the group’s Orlando chapter. “Deputy Jackman stated the Proud Boys are pro American, pro-family, and very patriotic,” Sgt. J.C. Rodriguez of the OCSO Professional Standards Section wrote in his report.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Rubio attaboys DeSantis’ anti-Fauci swag” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio and DeSantis appear to share the same sense of humor. Rubio weighed in on new promotional materials from DeSantis’ reelection effort on Wednesday’s Fox and Friends, including “Don’t Fauci My Florida” beer koozies and T-shirts released as the delta variant of COVID-19 threatens the limits of Florida hospitals. “You want to know what I think? I think it’s funny,” Rubio raved about the campaign props targeting Dr. Anthony Fauci, the controversial point man for the nation’s coronavirus response. For Rubio, these latest comments continue a summer of criticism of Fauci.
“Democrats call on Biden to pause Haitian deportations after Jovenel Moïse assassination” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — A group of House Democrats is calling on the Biden administration to halt deportations and make changes to Haitian immigration policy a week after the assassination of Haitian President Moïse. The co-chairs of the House Haiti Caucus, including Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings, wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday, arguing that Moïse’s assassination “further destabilizes the country” and justifies immediate action. Their demands include having the Department of Homeland Security publish a notice in the Federal Register officially enforcing the Biden administration’s decision to extend Temporary Protected Status, a designation that allows Haitians in the U.S. since 2011 to live and work without the fear of deportation.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Gary Yordon, former employee of Scott Maddox, testifies in J.T. Burnette trial” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Yordon spent much of Wednesday on the witness stand in the public corruption trial of Burnette. Yordon testified about his work on behalf of the McKibbon Hotel Group, which wanted to build a hotel at the corner of Monroe and Tennessee streets and sought contract extensions on the land with the City Commission in 2013 and 2014. Federal prosecutors allege Burnette paid Maddox a $100,000 bribe in exchange for his abstention on a City Commission vote in February 2014 that effectively killed the McKibbon hotel project. Maddox had Yordon represent McKibbon through his own company, The Zachary Group. Yordon said that was designed to deflect criticism from Erwin Jackson, a longtime City Hall observer who publicly lambasted Maddox over his involvement with McKibbon.
“Pipeline agreements approved to raise Keystone Heights lakes, settle legal fight” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — A plan to pipe water from Black Creek to shrunken lakes at Keystone Heights cleared a critical hurdle Tuesday as a state water agency approved agreements with four water utilities to settle a convoluted legal fight. There are still barriers, including approval by the boards overseeing Jacksonville’s JEA, the Clay County Utility Authority, Gainesville Regional Utilities, and the St. Johns County Utility Department. Cost-sharing participation agreements laying out terms for the utilities are scheduled to be brought to each of their boards over the next two weeks. If they’re all approved, the utilities’ lawyers have agreed to withdraw petitions filed this spring at the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings challenging management district rules to protect water levels at Lake Brooklyn and Lake Geneva.
“Former deputy Zachary Wester sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for drug planting” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Former Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy Wester will spend the next 12 years in prison after being found guilty of planting drugs on multiple motorists. The former patrol deputy for JCSO was accused of planting meth and paraphernalia in the vehicles of a dozen innocent motorists during traffic stops in 2017 and 2018. Prosecutor Tom Williams asked that Wester be sentenced to 15 years in prison, nearly 10 years more than the statutorily calculated sentence, based on the charges and mitigating factors. Williams told Circuit Judge James Goodman the scoresheet calculation doesn’t consider the surrounding circumstances: that Wester’s falsified court records were used to convict people of crimes they didn’t commit in the same courthouse where he was found guilty.
“Leon County pauses on renaming downtown Tallahassee street after Barack Obama” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County Commissioners paused — at least briefly — on naming a downtown Tallahassee street after Obama, saying they would like to see a more significant road be dedicated. But the 5-2 vote Tuesday night also revealed hesitation from some about leaping into renaming East Pensacola Street as “Obama Street,” which some said could appear to be a partisan move to honor the Democratic 44th President. Commissioners Brian Welch and Kristin Dozier voted in opposition to a motion to direct county staff to continue looking for a roadway other than East Pensacola Street to name after Obama. Welch, who said he voted for Obama, said he was hesitant to add to the climate in national politics that has turned distasteful and sparked deep division.
“Tallahassee, Leon County approve $6.2M in federal funds for homeless services” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — At a joint workshop of the Leon County and Tallahassee City commissions on homelessness and affordable housing, Commissioners approved $6.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for related services. “This is a game-changer, but it’s not the end,” Mayor John Dailey said. The meeting was held Tuesday morning at City Hall. The money will be split among the Big Bend Continuum of Care and the Community Human Services Partnership. It’s intended to streamline homeless services, add beds and leverage local funding to make the region more competitive when seeking federal funding.
“Will $6.5 million, new task force be catalysts for fixing Pensacola’s homelessness crisis?” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — Homelessness has long been an issue in the Pensacola area. A recent influx of funding — $3 million that Pensacola has dedicated to addressing homelessness and $3.5 million in state funding mark the first large-scale effort to create solutions. Connie Bookman, the founder and CEO of Pathways for Change and the co-chair of the Homeless Reduction Task Force of North West Florida, said the group’s work kicking off at the same time as millions of dollars roll in presents a real opportunity. She points to the Kearney Center in Tallahassee — an initiative often referenced by city officials in talking about homelessness — as a positive example of change and something the task force hopes to model in Pensacola.
“Santa Rosa County Administrator Dan Schebler resigns” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Schebler, who has been with the county since 2017, submitted his letter of resignation to the Board of County Commissioners Chair Dave Piech on Tuesday afternoon. Per his contract, Schebler will continue to serve as county administrator for the next 90 days. The Board of County Commissioners will discuss the next steps, including Schebler’s replacement, at a future meeting. Brad Baker, the county’s current public safety director, has been named acting assistant county administrator effective Monday, July 19. Schebler had recently come under fire from some residents for misspeaking at an April meeting when he said the county had applied for Small County Outreach Program funding. The county, in fact, had missed the deadline and the opportunity to potentially receive SCOP funding.
“Santa Rosa’s new hangar for Leonardo Helicopters could pave way for aviation hub” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Santa Rosa County officially opened its new aviation customer service hangar at the Peter Prince Airport in East Milton on Wednesday morning, setting off what county leaders hope will be years of working with aviation companies to put the county on the map. Leonardo Helicopters will be the hangar’s first occupant. It will move into the hangar for the next two years as the company builds its permanent maintenance facility at the Whiting Aviation Park. “We’re still building our full-blown aviation repair center, but our primary mission is always to support the U.S. Navy,” said Joseph Richards, general manager of TH helicopter maintenance in Leonardo’s Florida division. “It’ll take three or four years, but with that will come plenty of job creation.”
“Hundreds of Airbnb owners are delinquent on county taxes and they have no idea” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — The county’s Tourism Development Tax rate increased from 4% to 5% in April, meaning that property owners who rent their homes on sites like VRBO and Airbnb must send five cents of every dollar they make in rental income to the county, in addition to any state taxes owed. The problem is that there’s been a disconnect between the county’s tax increase and the property owners who either haven’t updated their tax rates on the rental sites or haven’t been collecting the new rate, leaving hundreds of Airbnb owners delinquent on their TDT taxes. Airbnb and VRBO collect local taxes on behalf of owners in some Florida counties but don’t collect them in Escambia County.
“Alberto Carvalho’s foundation will keep $1.57 million donation and give it to teachers” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Most Miami-Dade County public school teachers will receive a $100 gift certificate from a nonprofit foundation started by Superintendent Carvalho when he was second in command at the district in 2008, despite a recommendation late last month by school district investigators that the money donated to reward the teachers be returned. The board of the Foundation for New Education Initiatives, which includes 11 members of the community, including prominent lawyers, a former U.S. Congressman and business executives, unanimously voted Monday to keep the money and get it to the teachers as soon as possible.
“Parkland shooter back in Broward court ahead of September trial” via Terrell Forney of WPLG — Parkland mass shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz stepped back into a Broward courtroom — not a virtual hearing — for the first time in over a year Wednesday. This time, attorneys argued over access to his medical records regarding a violent jailhouse fight between Cruz and a jail guard that occurred two and a half years ago. “We all know there can be internal injuries; we know there can be injuries people can suffer on the skin. So, we need to have the medical injuries so we can have the exact extent of the injuries, and we need to have the prior records because it is the defense who put that at issue,” explained prosecutor Maria Schneider.
“Collier Commission rejects Bill of Rights sanctuary county law, opts for resolution” via Jake Allen of Naples Daily News — Collier Commissioners voted Tuesday night to reject an ordinance establishing Collier County as a Bill of Rights sanctuary county after about six hours of public comment on the item. The ordinance failed by a vote of 3-2. Commissioners Penny Taylor, Andy Solis and Burt Saunders voted against the ordinance’s adoption while Commissioners Rick LoCastro and Bill McDaniel voted in favor. The ordinance was proposed to protect against the overreach of the federal government and would have created civil and criminal penalties at the local level for violating an individual’s constitutional rights.
“Rural growth plan changes approved by Collier County Commissioners” via Laura Layden of Naples Daily News — Collier County Commissioners have approved long-anticipated changes to a program designed to discourage urban sprawl, protect wildlife and preserve farms and ranches on swaths of rural land. After years of delays, the board voted Tuesday unanimously to adopt a handful of revisions to the county’s Rural Lands Stewardship Area program, as county staffers and the Planning Commission recommended. Revisions to the program, known as the RLSA, have been in the works since 2008, after completing the first five-year review. For various reasons, including the Great Recession, the changes lagged, losing momentum.
“St. Lucie County set to start $17 million South Hutchinson Island beach-repair project Nov. 1” via Olivia McKelvey of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A $17 million project to rebuild eroded dunes and beaches on South Hutchinson Island is to begin Nov. 1. The beach renourishment is a partnership among the county, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. About 800,000 cubic yards of sand will be used for the 3.3-mile restoration between the Martin-St. Lucie county line and just south of the Florida Power & Light St. Lucie Nuclear Plant. Reducing storm damage to homes, condos, businesses and roads — such as State Road A1A, a major hurricane evacuation route — as well as maintaining the beaches for recreational use and preserving sea turtle nesting habitats are among project goals.
“Sugarfire is ready to open its first Jacksonville restaurant. But first, it needs employees.” via Teresa Stepzinski of The Florida Times-Union — Veteran restaurateur Shy Patel is ready and eager to introduce Northeast Florida to the signature dry-rubbed ribs, brisket, and pulled pork proven popular throughout Sugarfire’s restaurants in the Midwest, Colorado and Texas. But there’s just one problem: The restaurant planned to open on July 19. But because of the continuing restaurant labor shortage, “that’s not going to happen,” Patel said. Instead, he’s planning for a July 26 opening. Patel said the franchise has been unable to hire enough cooks, servers, cashiers, and other workers to staff the new restaurant at 12959 Atlantic Blvd. near Girvin Road in East Arlington. “If anybody is interested in a good job, let us know,” he said.
— TOP OPINION —
“Mac Stipanovich: Florida’s Cuba protests — GOP hypocrisy, pettiness and a lot of gall” via Florida Politics — The unrest in Cuba provided more evidence of just how politically impoverished, morally bankrupt, personally petty, and hyperpartisan we have become. Omari Hardy got the ball rolling by expressing his support for the Cuban people in a post on Twitter, but he could not resist pointing out that the protests in Cuba would be felonious aggravated riots under House Bill 1, the anti-riot measure recently passed. DeSantis’ nominal press secretary and actual Twitter Troll-in-Chief and Diva of Deflection and Deception, Christina Pushaw, soon found herself in a tight spot as pro-Cuban demonstrators blocked major highways in several Florida cities, which is unlawful under HB 1, and others pointed out the hypocrisy of praising protests in Cuba that would be riots in Florida.
— OPINIONS —
“DeSantis’ anti-riot law didn’t apply as Cuba protesters shut down a Miami-Dade road. Hmmm …” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Gov. DeSantis should have just laid it on the line when a reporter asked about the scores of Cuban American demonstrators and their supporters who shut down a portion of the Palmetto Expressway in Miami-Dade County. Instead, he deflected, talking about protesters in Cuba. However, implicit in the question was whether the Governor’s vaunted anti-riot law — created in the wake of George Floyd demonstrations — would apply in the case of the demonstrators blocking streets and an expressway in Miami-Dade. Their cause is righteous, of course — bringing down Cuba’s oppressive and regressive regime. Florida’s misbegotten anti-riot law leaves even peaceful demonstrators subject to being arrested if a protest is arbitrarily deemed a “riot.”
“Cuba’s pain is not Washington’s gain” via Clara Ferreira Marques of Bloomberg — The likely outcome is that Havana will muddle through, leaning on officials’ lengthy crisis experience and hanging on for the relief that will eventually come with the pandemic’s ebb. Yet, there is considerable risk here. Havana needs to make haste and press ahead with liberalization, plus creating a fully-fledged private sector if it is to revive an economy that shrank 11% last year. Cubans will take convincing to believe that reform efforts are genuine. As Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz said, people do not eat plans. But Washington can do its part too. U.S. hard-liners argue that keeping the squeeze on will bring democracy. In fact, in a region where the opposite of the status quo is often chaos, the opposite is true.
“In Dallas or Havana, democracy is worth the trouble every time” via Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Tampa Bay Times — Call it a tale of two cities. One is Dallas, where thousands of so-called “conservatives” gathered in support of Trump and his ongoing efforts to delegitimize a free and fair election that he lost. The other is Havana, where thousands of Cubans took to the streets to demand an end to a 62-year reign of communist repression. Not to put too fine a point on it, but in Texas, they flipped off democracy. In Cuba, they reached for it with both hands. It was the embodiment of an old aphorism: One person’s trash is, indeed, another person’s treasure.
“Military and critical race theory — this is why we shouldn’t teach soldiers to hate U.S.” via Mike Waltz for Fox News — There is no denying the military — and the United States — has a history of racism and a checkered past. We should understand that. But this isn’t a history course. As academic proponents of CRT Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic have put it: “Unlike traditional civil rights, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.” Why are we teaching cadets to question the principles of the Constitution? I can’t think of anything more dangerous to unit cohesion and morale than to think your fellow soldier of color’s advancement contributes to your White rage.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida’s education bureaucracy is putting pressure on Hillsborough County schools. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is furious that the local board voted not to renew the contracts of four charter schools. But supporters of the School Board say these charters didn’t live up to their contracts, and the commish is playing politics.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— The state Board of Education has also approved new standards for civics, government and Holocaust education backed by the Governor.
— If you’ve got kids under the age of 17, check your bank account. Today is the day the new child care tax credits included in the American Rescue Plan take effect.
— Another batch of Floridians heads to Montana to help fight wildfires. More than 90 members of the Florida Forest Service are now deployed out West.
— And finally, two Florida Man stories: A City Councilman accused of being a fugitive from Costa Rica, and the other needed a double lung transplant because he kept putting off his COVID-19 shot.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Oh, baby! Hippo calf born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom bonding with mom” via Daisy Ruth of WFLA — There is even more exciting animal baby news in Florida, as a brand-new Nile hippopotamus calf was born on Monday at Disney World. Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment Facebook page introduced Animal Kingdom’s newest resident on its Facebook page in its very first photo. “Our animal care experts are giving the calf plenty of room to bond and nurse with mom,” the post said. Disney World said to stay tuned for more updates on the baby, in addition to more baby photos, in the coming days. A bit closer to home, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay just welcomed a baby giraffe named Stanley. Stanley made his big arrival the same night the Tampa Bay Lightning won their back-to-back Stanley Cup championship.
“Disney introduces new Summer Fun ticket for Florida residents” via ClickOrlando — Disney just announced its Summer Fun Ticket. The Florida resident deal became available Tuesday and will be offered through Sept. 17. The four-day ticket allows Florida locals to visit Disney’s theme parks for $215, plus tax. That’s a value of $54 a visit, before tax. Specially priced two and three-day Florida Resident Summer Fun Tickets are also available. For added flexibility, tickets can be used on consecutive or nonconsecutive days.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to our dear friends Tom Piccolo and Ron Sachs, as well as former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Michael Grant and Brigette Bello.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.