Takeaways from Tallahassee — Respect & dignity

Blue Tally Takeaways (4)
The foundation of good policing: mutual respect and dignity.

Respect and dignity

A year ago, in the wake of the George Floyd murder, the Florida Police Chiefs Association launched a committee to explore ways police could improve their relationship with the communities they serve.

On Friday, the FPCA Subcommittee on Accountability and Societal Change released a report with suggestions that, while numerous, boil down to police and the public making a conscious effort to treat each other with respect and dignity.

According to the report, police can strengthen their relationship with the public by adopting “procedural justice” — a term encompassing listening, acting fairly, and explaining their actions to the people they serve. Non-law enforcement can bridge the divide by recognizing that police are humans and that mistakes aren’t always malicious.

“These are difficult issues, and sometimes difficult conversations, but the Subcommittee’s work is an example that progress and success is possible — especially at the local level,” FPCA president and Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety Department Director Stephan Dembinsky. “The FPCA recommends that local law enforcement agencies and their communities use this document to engage or expand this conversation.”

Stephan Dembinsky says a new report suggests closer relations between police and communities start with dignity and respect.

The report has 32 pages of bullet points suggesting ways law enforcement agencies and community groups can be part of the solution.

St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway chaired the committee, which included law enforcement leaders from communities of all sizes — from Orlando to the FSU campus. Holloway said the subcommittee’s reports apply “to agencies of all sizes and demographics.”

“By working together, utilizing these guidelines, we will be acting as one agency with one voice,” he said.

The panel also included the heads of community groups, such as Urban League of Greater Miami CEO T. Willard Fair, and top academics, such as Dr. Randy Nelson, the program director at Bethune-Cookman University’s Center for Law and Social Justice.

“Law enforcement needs to be able to engage our Black and Brown communities on non-law enforcement issues,” Nelson said. “If they don’t, we will never get over the stigma of these communities associating the police with negative actions. Communities and the police have equal responsibility for this engagement. Only then can lasting partnerships that improve public safety be developed.”

Kareem Spratling, a shareholder at Bryant Miller Olive, stressed that the report was not a potshot at police but a set of good faith recommendations to make for a brighter future.

“After reading these reports by the Subcommittee, I hope that law enforcement leaders will first understand that reform and supporting the police aren’t mutually exclusive. Any organization that doesn’t constantly evolve to support the people you serve is one that is destined to fail,” he said.

He added, “Communities need to review these recommendations and acknowledge that most officers are good and want to do the right thing. They need to be just as likely to uplift them as they are to disparage them.”

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Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers, and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado, Haley Brown and the staff of Florida Politics.

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

No school mask mandates — Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Friday to prohibit schools from implementing a mask mandate in the upcoming school year. The order itself authorized Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to “pursue all legal means available to ensure school districts adhere to Florida law.” Among other methods, the state may withhold funds from noncompliant school boards. The order comes as the delta variant of COVID-19 spreads across the U.S. and Florida. According to the Florida Department of Health, 6,999 kids below 12 tested positive for COVID-19 last week. DeSantis introduced the executive order in Cape Coral with the words “Free to Choose” emblazoned across a podium.

Daily briefings make a comeback — Lamenting a “void” of COVID-19 data in Florida, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried hosted a series of independent pandemic briefings this week at the state Capitol. The briefings mark the first since DeSantis suspended daily COVID-19 reports in early June. The daily updates, Fried said, are based on data shared by the Florida Department of Health with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Throughout the week, Fried has repeatedly criticized DeSantis for making Floridians “jump through hoops” to access timely data. Also a gubernatorial contender, she’s called on businesses and local governments to take the initiative on public health measures.

DeSantis chimes in on abortion — DeSantis and a slew of Republican Governors signed onto an amicus brief this week that challenges the constitutionality of abortion in the United States. The brief challenges the two landmark Supreme Court decisions: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. Among other contentions, DeSantis and 12 other Governors argued the issue is best managed at the state level. “Rather than creating a federal constitutional right, the Court should leave regulating abortion to the States, where the people may act through the democratic process,” the brief stated. In a statement, a spokesperson for DeSantis said the Governor “believes in the sanctity of life and the protection of the unborn.”

Mayors defy DeSantis, issue mask orders — Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings signed an executive order this week that requires all county employees to wear masks indoors and mandates all nonunion employees get vaccinated. It also encourages, but doesn’t mandate, other public and private sector employers to require workers to wear masks and get vaccinated. Disney did both. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava went a step further, ordering county employees and residents visiting county facilities to mask up. The mandates came despite a new state law that severely limits local government emergency orders and a DeSantis decree that expressly forbids them from mandating masks or enforcing them with fines. Levine Cava was blunt, saying, “I am going to enforce the mask mandate.”

Roundtable echo chamber — With no advance notice to the public, DeSantis this week held a roundtable discussion with a set of doctors and school personnel who, unlike most of their peers, are fully behind the Governor’s anti-mask crusade. Panel members claimed that masks don’t prevent the spread of COVID-19 and “are nothing more than a symbol of fear and anxiety.” The vast majority of medical professionals, public health experts, and scientists disagree. The roundtable also saw DeSantis warn that any federal or school district mask mandates would be met with a Special Session to “provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely.”

Cashback

A joint federal and state investigation led to the $113,000 in restitution for the Florida Medicaid program.

According to a news release from Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office, the investigation found an Ocala neurologist allegedly submitted false claims for “medically unnecessary and unreasonable” prescription drugs.

“Defrauding Florida’s Medicaid program is not a victimless crime; it harms the taxpayers of our great state. My Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigators work hard to protect taxpayers by identifying, investigating, and stopping fraud exploiting this taxpayer-funded health care program—and recovering lost funds whenever possible,” Moody said.

Florida Neurological Center, LLC, and its owner, Dr. Lance Kim, reached a settlement agreement with prosecutors that allows them to avoid liability, but have agreed to pay $800,000 to resolve allegations stemming from the investigation that Dr. Kim fraudulently prescribed drugs.

Florida Neurological Center owner Lance Kim will pay a six-figure settlement to drop a Medicaid fraud case.

According to the statement from the Attorney General’s office, one drug that Dr. Kim allegedly falsely prescribed is Acthar Gel, which cost government health care programs more than $32,000 each time Dr. Kim prescribed a five-day supply.

According to the joint investigation, the defendants allegedly submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid from January 2013 through July 2020.

SRO of the Year

Moody also announced the 2021 Florida School Resource Officer of the Year Monday.

Corporal Elissa Elders of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office took the honor.

A news release from the Attorney General’s Office stated Elders had shown exemplary work in protecting and engaging with Pine View Middle School students for the past seven years.

“Corporal Elders is a shining example of what every school resource officer should aspire to be — a role model, mentor and friend to the students at her school. Corporal Elders does not limit her role to just providing security on campus; she goes above and beyond her professional requirements to personally engage with and better the lives of the students she serves,” Moody said in a written statement.

Elissa Elders of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is recognized for going above and beyond.

Elders is a 15-year law enforcement veteran and has served as a school resource officer for the past seven years at Pine View Middle School, acting as an advocate and resource to students, faculty or staff.

Moody presented the award virtually during the Florida Association of School Resource Officers conference in Orlando.

“From founding and sponsoring multiple clubs on campus, to participating in school productions, Corporal Elders is just as dedicated to being present for students once the school day is complete. Thank you, Corporal Elders, for all that you do to enrich the lives of the students you serve—leaving a lasting impact far beyond their time at Pine View.”

The news release from Moody’s office cited a time during last year’s remote learning, when Elders went “above and beyond” to make a student’s birthday special by attending a virtual birthday party, complete with a decorated patrol car, birthday cake and signs.

Elders also began the School Resource Officer for a Day program, selecting students to spend the day patrolling the campus and have lunch with Elders.

Bigs in Blue turns 2

A mentorship program pairing with officers with children is continuing to grow in Florida, according to Moody’s office.

The Bigs in Blue program gives law enforcement a chance to mentor youth who might be facing adversity. Officers who participate spend one hour a week mentoring youth in their communities.

The program was started in 2017, but it wasn’t until 2019 when the Office of the Attorney General entered a partnership with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and Big Brothers Big Sisters to encourage more law enforcement to join the program.

Ashley Moody’s Bigs in Blue program celebrates its second anniversary.

A news release said Moody got the idea when in Tampa to present an award to the Tampa Boys and Girls Club of America Moody “saw firsthand the impact the Bigs in Blue program has in the areas it serves.”

Since the partnership, there has been a steady increase in participation in the program. There are currently 400 active matches with law enforcement officers through more than 46 agencies in Florida.

“I am thrilled to see the growth of this important mentorship program that brings positive influence into the lives of children. I’m even more excited to see how bonds built today through Bigs in Blue will improve lives and communities down the road. Bringing together law enforcement mentors with at-risk youth is one way we can bridge communication gaps, reduce crime and build a Stronger, Safer Florida,” Moody said in a written statement.

The Bigs in Blue program is a nationwide program administered by Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Go West

Florida is sending more firefighters to help battle wildfires in Montana.

Agriculture Commissioner Fried and the Florida Forest Service (FFS) announced Thursday 20 more firefighters would be headed to Montana.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, above-normal temperatures, low humidity, and “dry fuels” are challenging wildland fire managers. The latest statistics show 83 large fires have burned more than 1.7 million acres in 13 states.

The National Preparedness Level was elevated to five on July 14, which indicates the highest level of wildfire activity.

Nikki Fried is sending more reinforcements to battle Montana wildfires.

Including the firefighters from Thursday’s announcement, the FFS currently has 104 wildland firefighters supporting Western wildfire suppression efforts in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

Fried, in a written statement, applauded Florida’s firefighters for helping with the fires out west.

“As the devastating wildfires continue to threaten our fellow Americans across the West, I am incredibly proud of our well-trained wildland firefighters and personnel who are choosing to leave their homes and families to help their fellow firefighters,” Fried said in a written statement.

“We continue to pray for the safety of all those on the front lines in this fight.”

Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service, indicated Florida’s support to extinguish the Western fires would continue.

“We’re going to continue to support our Western counterparts throughout this fire season. Our thoughts and prayers remain with everyone working tirelessly to protect residents and their homes as well as our country’s natural resources,” Albury said in a written statement.

There are zero active wildfires in Florida, according to a dashboard from FFS.

Tax-free

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is reminding Floridians to take advantage of the upcoming 2021 Back-to-School Sales Tax.

From July 31 to August 9, Floridians can purchase select school supplies and clothing items tax-free. Shoppers can also enjoy tax exemptions on the first $1,000 of laptop and computer purchases.

Now, Patronis said, is the time to stock up.

Jimmy Patronis tells Floridians to stock up on back-to-school supplies.

“Getting ready for the school year can be an expensive time for Floridians, and this tax break will help families ensure their children have all the supplies they need to reach their full academic potential this school year,” Patronis said in a news release.

According to the CFO’s office, tax exemptions apply to select items:

— Certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item.

— Clothing, footwear selling for $60 or less per item.

— Computers and accessories up to the first $1,000.

The popular school tax break, the oldest of the tax holidays, primarily lightens the burden of back-to-school costs for families and gives everyone a break on the specified goods.

“A huge thank you to Gov. DeSantis and the Legislature for passing and signing this important sales tax holiday,” Patronis said. “Don’t miss out on this great opportunity!”

More information and a list of qualifying items can be found online.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission — The Governor appointed Timothy Cerio to the Supreme Court JNC. Cerio is the current general counsel to Citizens Property Insurance Corporation and a former general counsel to Gov. Rick Scott. He has also served on the 1st District Court of Appeals Judicial Nominating Commission. He is a graduate of the University of Florida, where he earned his bachelor’s and law degrees. He was appointed to a term ending July 1, 2024.

Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees — DeSantis named Anthony Barbar to the FAU Board of Trustees. Barbar, of Boynton Beach, is a past chair of the board currently working as the president and CEO of Barbar and Associates. He is an FAU alum and volunteers with the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, Boca Helping Hands and the Palm Beach Atlantic University Board of Trustees. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse — House Speaker Chris Sprowls appointed Rep. Christine Hunschofsky to the commission. The Parkland Democrat sponsored the House version of a bill creating the commission (HB 1447), signed into law last month. The commission will meet for the first time before Sept. 1 and quarterly after that. Sprowls said, “Hunschofsky’s experience working with mental health providers as Mayor of Parkland and as a state representative and her personal passion for assisting victims of mental health and substance abuse provides unique and important insight into the needs for our state.” Hunschofsky thanked Sprowls, adding that the “worldwide pandemic has exacerbated the mental health and substance abuse crises in our state and it’s critical we begin our work to address the important need for our state.”

Sen. Superhero

The Children’s Campaign presented an award to Republican Sen. Keith Perry this week for proposing one of the largest juvenile justice reform bills in decades.

Under the proposal, the state would’ve been required to expunge the nonjudicial arrest record of certain minors who complete a diversion program for any offense.

DeSantis, however, vetoed the legislation. Current law limits the pathway to expunction to misdemeanor offenses.

Keith Perry is awarded for his work on juvenile justice reform.

“I am a firm believer in second chances, particularly for our youth,” Perry said. “Allowing kids who have been arrested for certain felony offenses to expunge their records gives them the opportunity to continue their education, get a job and join the military. It’s the right thing to do and aligned with prior juvenile justice reform of the Florida Legislature over the past decade.”

For his efforts, the Children’s Campaign presented Perry with the Superhero Protector of Children Award.

The award is presented to those “who envision and/or lead transformational change for children.”

“The common denominator for receiving a Superhero award is the large-scale transformative change that can be achieved,” explained Roy Miller, president of The Children’s Campaign. “It recognizes system reform that fundamentally changes children’s lives for the better.”

According to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, over 45,000 youth in Florida were arrested in 2019-20.

Over two-thirds (67%) of those arrested involved Black and Hispanic youth. Only 40% of Black youth who were eligible received diversion for 2019-20.

A day in the park

Speaker-to-be Paul Renner toured the Washington Oaks Gardens State Park on Friday as a guest of the Florida State Parks Foundation and the Florida Park Service.

The tour included a brief on the various issues affecting Florida’s 175 parks and trails.

“We had a wonderful visit at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, where friendly staff and volunteers shared their vast knowledge of native plant species, preservation practices, and the rich history of the Gardens,” Renner said.

Paul Renner takes a walk in the park.

Alongside Florida State Parks Foundation President Gil Ziffer, the tour also included a brief on new developments at the park.

Florida’s parks attract 28 million visitors a year and support more than 33,500 jobs. What’s more, the parks have an economic impact of roughly $2.4 billion.

“Thank you to the individuals working at Washington Oaks Gardens and across our State Parks System for their dedication to ensuring that our 175 award-winning Florida State Parks and Trails continue to provide a substantial environmental and economic benefit to our state,” Renner added.

Renner, who will serve as Speaker of the House from 2022 to 2024, is an attorney and a navy veteran.

The Florida State Parks Foundation works to protect and preserve state parks and trails.

Fibroids Awareness Month

The virtual event was held to raise awareness of uterine fibroids.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that 80% of all women will develop uterine fibroids at some point during their lives. Because many women don’t experience any symptoms, the incidence of uterine fibroids may be even higher.

Fibroids are considered benign or noncancerous, but they can lead to pain and other complications.

This forum, hosted by Rep. Anika Omphroy, was intended to provide participants with an understanding of fibroids and resources to support women managing life with fibroids.

Anika Omphroy spotlights women’s health at the 2021 Fibroids Awareness Virtual Forum.

The event was part of Fibroids Awareness Month.

New York Congresswoman Yvette Clarke spoke at the event.

Clarke will receive the first Fibroid Fighters Champion of the Year award for her efforts, introducing the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act of 2021. The bill will provide an estimated $150M to the National Institutes of Health for fibroid research and education. It is expected to be voted on later this year.

Martin County gets certified

Martin County this week became the latest addition to the Certified Local Government Program, Secretary of State Laurel Lee announced.

Established in 1980 by the National Park Service, the Certified Local Government Program is a federal, state and local preservation partnership.

“I am pleased to welcome Martin County as Florida’s 79th Certified Local Government,” Lee said in a news release. “Certification provides Martin County with new opportunities for technical assistance and state or federal grant funds as they seek to complete a countywide survey of historic and archaeological resources.”

Built in 1889, Sewall House served as a home for one of Martin County’s pioneers. Locally designated as a historic site in 2009 and restored with grant assistance from the Division of Historical Resources, it is now a community facility available for rent.

Martin County now joins more than 2,000 Certified Local Governments in the United States. To join, the county passed a preservation ordinance and created a historic preservation commission.

“The Historic Preservation Board’s goal is to raise awareness of Martin County’s distinctive history through the designation of local historic structures and landmarks,” a news release explains. “Through historic preservation, it aims to preserve the county’s unique community identity and raise awareness of its architectural and archaeological legacy.”

As a Certified Local Government program member, Martin County is now eligible for training, technical assistance, and grant funding to further its preservation efforts.

More information on Martin County’s historic preservation program is available online.

Grants available

Volunteer Florida is planning to hand out $568,000 in grant funding to Florida’s nonprofits.

The grant money, announced Monday, will be used for the recruitment and retention of volunteers. According to a written statement from Volunteer Florida CEO Corey Simon, the grants are part of the national Volunteer Generation Fund.

“With this year’s available Volunteer Generation Fund grants for Florida’s nonprofits, we are stepping up our game to recruit and retain thousands of skilled volunteers to serve in our local areas of need,” Simon said.

Corey Simon is touting nearly $570K for Volunteer Florida nonprofits. 

The money will be distributed across 27 grants, and Volunteer Florida, in a news release, said it would prioritize organizations supporting rural communities or increasing economic opportunities through workforce development.

The money will support about 10,800 volunteers who will collectively contribute 81,000 hours of service throughout the state of Florida, which is valued at $2,131,920, according to Volunteer Florida.

Volunteer Florida is the state agency that manages national service programs and advocates for volunteerism throughout the Sunshine State. It also coordinates volunteers and donations before, during and after disasters, including managing the Florida Disaster Fund.

Funding for the grant program came from AmeriCorps, the federal agency responsible for volunteering and national service.

Submissions for the grants are due by 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 13.

Boatload of cash

A bailout for the state’s sinking cruise ship industry is on the horizon, and praise is coming in from stakeholders in Florida’s ports.

DeSantis announced Thursday $250 million of federal relief money from the American Rescue Plan is being distributed to the state’s struggling cruise industry.

The money was allocated in April during the state’s budget conference, but the budget didn’t go into effect until July 1. With DeSantis’ announcement, the state’s 15 ports should soon receive the much-needed dollars.

Florida ports are getting a wave of American Rescue Plan money.

“This much-needed financial infusion will help ensure Florida’s ports continue to deliver necessities to businesses and consumers,” Michael Rubin, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council, said in a written statement. “With cruise ships sidelined for more than 16 months, Florida has lost about 169,000 jobs and nearly $23 billion in economic activity through 2020. We thank Gov. DeSantis, Senate President Simpson, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, and DOT Secretary Thibault for their leadership.”

The funding is specifically to support the financial recovery of Florida’s ports.

“This relief funding is incredibly important to Florida’s seaports and the many thousands of jobs that depend on our success. Our role and responsibility as economic drivers for the state of Florida could not be fulfilled without our partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation. We thank Gov. DeSantis, the Florida Legislature, and Secretary Thibault for their support of our mission delivering economic prosperity to our communities,” Canaveral Port Authority CEO Capt. John Murray, Chairman, FSTED, said in a written statement.

Awards season

The Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) handed out two awards: one for an officer and another for a civilian.

Detective Doris Tracey of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office was selected as the 2021 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. That award, sponsored by SaferWatch, is presented annually at the FSA Summer Conference to “commend an officer who has shown bravery, service, and honor in the line of duty,” according to an FSA news release.

The release described Tracey as excelling at “strong community engagement.”

For her commitment to community engagement, Doris Tracey is named 2021 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

Tracey worked for the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office since November 2013, serving in patrol and school resource divisions. She is currently assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division as a detective.

Tracey also serves as a swimming instructor and has held the lead role in the agency’s Special Olympics activities for several years.

The FSA Civilian of the Year award is required to go to a civilian employee at a Sheriff’s office.

This year the Florida Sheriffs Association’s Civilian of the Year award went to Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office employee Dan Ijpkemeule, who works in the aviation department. That award is sponsored by the Florida Sheriffs Risk Management Fund.

Ijpkemeule has fixed and maintained public safety aircraft, including the Sheriff’s Office’s aircraft, for the last 17 years.

Ijpkemeule, according to the FSA, has earned the reputation of being the “go-to guy” for anything because of his “technical knowledge and ability to continuously learn about new products and techniques.”

Lineworker appreciation

Two utility associations want Floridians to send thank you notes to the state’s nearly 1,000 public power line workers.

The coordinated social media campaign between the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) and Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) was launched Thursday.

Called “Drop Us a Line,” the campaign asks customers of Florida’s public power utilities to post positive comments about lineworkers on their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts that will then be shared on FMEA and FMPA’s social media platforms the last week in August, which coincides with Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day on August 26.

Lineworkers are honored for their work to keep us all powered up.

“Lineworkers are hometown heroes, and in honor of Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day, we wanted to involve our communities and their customers in this annual recognition,” Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director, said in a written release. “Not only do lineworkers spend their days doing routine maintenance on our electrical systems, but they are also standing by nights, during the weekend, and on holidays to restore power when needed. We greatly appreciate what they do, and we wanted to share the appreciation of the people they serve through this campaign.”

Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day was created by the House of Representatives in 2012.

It was designated in memory of Marc Moore, a lineworker for Lakeland Electric, who died while on the job in 2002.

“Linework can be a dangerous job and is often done in challenging conditions. It is also a job that can take lineworkers away from their families and homes,” Jacob Williams, FMPA General Manager and CEO, said in a written statement. “We encourage all Florida public power customers to take part in this campaign to let the lineworkers know the impact they have had on their lives.”

Packed trophy case

Leon County walked away with seven awards from the 86th annual National Association of Counties (NACo) conference.

The annual NACo Achievement Award Program recognizes innovative county government programs that improve a government’s services to residents.

Three of the awards for Leon County, which is home to Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee, were for COVID-19 economic relief programs.

Another award went to Leon County for its “Created Equal” program. For that program, the county partnered with a nonprofit to set up a series of public discussions designed to bring citizens together to discuss race relations issues in the community.

Rick Minor celebrates Leon County’s seven awards for innovation in county governance. 

“We are very honored that our county’s response to the pandemic has been recognized, alongside our commitment to innovative technology,” Leon County Commission Chairman Rick Minor said in a written statement. “Citizens can be proud of the award-winning County programs that have provided COVID-19 relief and education in areas like human services and economic development.”

Here is the full list of 2021 NACo awards Leon County received:

— Created Equal named “Best in Category” for the category of Arts, Culture and Historic Preservation

— Leon CARES in the category of Community and Economic Development

— COVID-19 Economic Disaster Relief (CEDR) Grant Program in the category of Community and Economic Development

— COVID-19 Local Emergency Assistance for Nonprofits (LEAN) Program in the category of Human Services

— COVID-19 Communications and Public Information (Including “the Alligator Graphic”) in the category of Civic Education and Public Information

— Short-Term Vacation Rental Safety Plan in the category of Risk and Emergency Management

— “Make it Count” Census Education and Awareness Campaign in the category of Community and Economic Development

National Night Out

The city of Tallahassee wants to foster positive relationships between law enforcement and the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD). So, TPD is hosting a free community event in Cascades Park.

The event isn’t exclusive to Tallahassee. It’s part of National Night Out, which started in 1984. This year more than 30 million people in over 10,000 communities from all 50 states are expected to participate in the annual event.

National Night Out helps bring police, communities closer.

TPD’s version of the event on Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. will have a DJ, face painting, free “goodies,” and pet adoption opportunities.

According to a news release from the city, the point of the event is to “send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.”

TPD will send that message by promoting local anti-crime programs at the event through “strengthened neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships.”

“National Night Out is a chance for neighbors to meet neighbors. It also allows residents to get to know the officers serving their community,” TPD Chief Lawrence Revell said in a written statement. “We understand the importance of bridging the gap between law enforcement and citizens, and this is another fun way to build connections.”

TPD will partner with the Tallahassee Fire Department, Florida Highway Patrol, Emergency Medical Services, Animal Control, City of Tallahassee Parks, TPD Advisory Councils and Mission BBQ for the event.

Plastic-free future?

A Florida State University (FSU) research team discovered what the school says could be a “game-changer” for sustainable materials.

An announcement from the school Wednesday said their research team, led by associate professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Justin Kennemur, has developed a new plastic derived from pine sap.

A news release called the discovery “a significant step in the right direction for new plastics and is a gateway discovery that could lead to several new materials.”

“What we know currently is this glassy, thermally stable plastic can be melted and shaped at a higher temperature and cools into a hard plastic at ambient temperatures,” Kennemur said.

“One of the next goals is to learn some of the mechanical properties of these polymers. However, this material has many structural features that mirror the plastics we use every day, so there is promise for a multitude of applications,” Kennemur added.

The team’s findings were published in the journal ACS Macro Letters.

“Ninety-nine percent of plastics today are produced from finite fossil fuels with increasing demand and limited geographic availability,” Kennemur said. “Producing materials from renewable resources, and particularly pine sap, which may be harvested without killing the tree, is a noteworthy effort.”

The team has filed a patent for the material they discovered.

To watch a video of the research, click on the image below:

Honorary Doctors

Two honorary degrees will be awarded during Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) Summer 2021 commencement ceremony.

Recipients will be Tom Joyner, an accomplished broadcaster, and Adora Obi Nweze, the longtime president of the Florida State NAACP Conference.

“Florida A&M University takes great pride in honoring Tom Joyner and Adora Obi Nweze in recognition of their transformative work,” FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., said in a written statement. “Tom Joyner changed the landscape of broadcasting and set the bar for fundraising in support of HBCUs. Adora Obi Nweze has been a tireless warrior for civil and voting rights. Congratulations to both of them.”

Both will be awarded Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

FAMU’s honorary doctorates: Broadcasting legend Tom Joyner and Adora Obi Nweze, longtime president of the Florida State NAACP Conference.

Nweze has been president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP since 2000. During her career, she has spearheaded lawsuits on issues such as The One Florida Initiative, the Voting Irregularities of 2000 and voter disenfranchisement, the Florida Department of Corrections, school vouchers, felony disenfranchisement, and affirmative action, according to a news release from FAMU.

Nweze also had a 40-year career in Miami-Dade County public schools working in Exceptional Student Education (ESE) and as a principal.

Nweze, formerly known as Johnnie Raye McMillian, received her bachelor’s degree from Fayetteville State University and master’s degree from the University of Miami.

Joyner hosted a radio show called The Tom Joyner Morning Show. That reached nearly 8 million listeners each week in more than 105 cities nationwide.

Joyner created The Tom Joyner Foundation to help students in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). His foundation has raised more than $60 million.

Joyner holds a degree from Tuskegee University in Alabama.

He could not attend the ceremony, but his son Oscar, a FAMU School of Business & Industry graduate, will accept the award on his dad’s behalf.

Capitol Directions

Staff Reports


4 comments

  • Tom

    July 31, 2021 at 7:30 am

    Shocking, unaccounted staff reports attack, ridicule anything Governor Desantis. Amazing, Shameful. Such hard working staff.

  • Ron Ogden

    July 31, 2021 at 8:11 am

    “Non-law enforcement can bridge the divide by recognizing that police are humans and that mistakes aren’t always malicious.”

    “Non-law enforcement.” Illiterate construct. What are you trying to say: “everybody else”?
    Everybody else “can bridge the divide by “recognizing that police are humans. . .” What in hell did you think they are? Try this sentence: “. . .by recognizing that members of racial and ethnic minority groups are humans. . .” How does that phrase sound in your mouths? Would you endorse a report that suggested you didn’t think minority groups were human? Of course not! But you can blithely use that phrase about police officers. What stupefying hypocrisy. Every day police officers are called upon to risk their lives–their very lives–for the sake of people who are so damnably hypocritical that changing their minds to accept that police are “human” is considered a noble reform. Damned vicious proggies. Here’s the solution: the next time someone is beating the hell out of your spouse and you call the police, the first thing the police officer will do upon arrival is ask you, “Do you really consider me human”? And then act accordingly, even if it means waiting five minutes while you mull over your answer.

  • Melinda k Maddox

    August 1, 2021 at 11:48 am

    I’m a retired white lady in Haines City Florida
    I’m watching the news this Sunday morning here in Florida the extra $300 you Governor, stopped giving people in need did NOT improve the employment issue much if at all. Yet in doing so it has really hurt people that really needed it. Not that you or anyone in Florida government would know because you all have good jobs and don’t have to be concerned about electricity or car payments or insurance payments etc. and all the people dragging there feet on processing rents to landlords to keep people in their homes!! I’ve been waiting on landlord money for two tenants for 4 months!!! I believe the processing department for this help must think it’s coming out of their pockets the way they are not processing the applications. The first round of this money Polk county paid me in 4 weeks. It’s not that way not. So you see you cutting off the $300 federal money for needy people the federal rent money isn’t getting out either!!
    Get your people off their butts!!!!!

  • Andrew Finn

    August 1, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    “TAKEAWAYS FROM TALLAHASSEE – RESPECT AND DIGNITY” — They took respect and dignity away from Tallahassee a long time ago. Maybe next election, we can try to get some of it back.

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