Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 8.29.21

The city of Tampa scored a big win and it wasn't the Bucs or Lightning.

You’ve heard it said that Republicans are all about freedom as long as they get to define what that is.

For instance, mandatory masks to fight a deadly pandemic infringes on a person’s freedom. But telling women what they can or can’t do with their bodies is okee-dokey.

With that in mind, it is not surprising that top Florida GOP leaders looked at the dangerous new Texas anti-abortion law and went, “Hey, gimme some of that!”

Abortion in Texas is now illegal if performed once a heartbeat is detected, usually about six weeks after fertilization. Most women don’t know they’re pregnant by then.

Emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to grant an injunction against the Texas law, Florida GOP lawmakers think they have a green light to pass something like that here.

Senate President Wilton Simpson told Evan Donovan of Tampa Bay’s WFLA News Channel 8 that the Legislature is “already working on it.”

“The Texas law represents a new approach, and the fact that the Supreme Court didn’t block it from taking effect is encouraging,” Simpson said in a statement.

“Abortion kills children and forever changes the life of the mother, the father, and the entire extended family. As an adoptive child myself, it’s important to me that we do everything we can to promote adoption and prevent abortion.”

We could write a whole library of books about this issue and still not cover it all. However, for purposes of this discussion, let’s focus on the part of the Texas law that basically unleashes vigilantes to stalk, harass, and take legal action in the name of preventing abortions.

The sinister nature of the Texas law is that it takes the issue out of the state government’s hands. It offers cash bounties of at least $10,000 for private citizens who bring successful lawsuits against women who seek an abortion after their sixth week of pregnancy.

It also gives carte blanche for the super-sleuths to sue anyone involved in the process. That could be the doctor, nurses, the Uber or taxi driver, or even a friend who held the woman’s hand as she walked into the clinic.

If she flies from Texas to California to have an abortion, can someone sue the airline she used and the plane’s pilot? If they drive out of state, can they sue the gas station where she filled up?

This could create a cottage industry for holier-than-thou types who become obsessed with threatening and harassing women.

Be careful what you wish for, Florida. Just because Texas is fanatical and stupid, you don’t have to play along. Find a better role model.

Now, it’s onto our weekly game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention — Florida’s school achievement: We know the dastardly virus wreaked havoc on schools last year, but it didn’t stop Florida teachers and students from getting the job done.

In its Quality Counts report, Education Week ranked Florida’s K-12 schools third in the nation for achievement.

It judges six areas: Achievement levels, achievement gains, poverty gap, achieving excellence, high school graduation, and advanced placement.

Among the highlights, Florida ranked second in graduation rate improvement, third in improvement for fourth grade math, and fourth in improvement for eighth grade reading.

“Florida continues to set the pace for the nation in education,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “We led the nation in reopening our schools last year, and our entire education community stepped up to make sure that every student received a quality education.

“In Florida, we will continue to make sure that every child has the opportunity to learn in school and get a great education.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner — Urban Meyer: The head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars is in hot water with the NFL Players Association for making sense.

Meyer admitted that a player’s vaccination status against COVID-19 was “in consideration” about whether or not to cut the player.

“Everyone was considered,” Meyer said. “That was part of the (considerations such as) production, let’s start talking about this, and also is he vaccinated or not? Can I say that that was a decision-maker? It was certainly in consideration.”

George Atallah of the NFLPA told ESPN that Meyer’s statements “have led us to open an investigation.”

Investigate all you want, but the fact is this: If teams say that vaccination isn’t a factor in whether to keep or cut a player, they’re either lying or incompetent.

The NFL opens its season Thursday night when the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys. After tap dancing through postponements and reschedulings throughout much of last season, the NFL got tough this year.

Teams unable to play because of a virus outbreak will forfeit that game instead of rescheduling.

With that in mind, it would be a dereliction of duty if coaches didn’t consider all factors while deciding a player’s status.

The NFL is all about the team, team, team. In this case, a player’s decision to put personal freedom over his teammates and coaches could jeopardize a team’s entire season.

Investigate all you want, NFLPA.

On this one, Urban Meyer is right.

The biggest winner — Tampa: No, we’re not talking about the Lightning or Buccaneers. This is bigger than that.

Forbes just named Tampa the top emerging tech city in the country.

“Tampa is responsible for over 25% of Florida’s tech jobs, and there has been a massive surge in tech jobs in recent years,” Forbes noted. “

More than 2,000 new tech jobs are anticipated in 2021, in addition to the already vibrant community.

That precisely was the goal former Mayor Bob Buckhorn pushed during his terms. After the Great Recession struck in 2008, the city staked its comeback on creating and attracting high-paying tech jobs that could compete with Austin and Charlotte for young talent.

Miami is No. 2 on the Forbes list.


Dishonorable mention — Orlando Police Department: The OPD was the subject of a scathing report recently.

The independent Bowman Group found many problems after a nine-month investigation. Its 207-page report, which cost the city $800,000, found “evidence of racial bias in OPD’s arrest practices.”

There also are issues of excessive force.

The Orlando Sentinel noted that one incident involved an officer directing a police dog to bite a homeless man sleeping under a vehicle at a fenced auto repair shop.

If only someone had shined a light on these practices earlier …. oh, wait. The Sentinel did just that.

Columnist Scott Maxwell noted the newspaper raised these issues six years ago. The city’s response was to fight, even hiring an attorney at $880 an hour to try and block the Sentinel from publishing its findings.

It didn’t work, and the practices of excessive force continued until the summer of 2020. The city hired the Bowman group in response to strong law enforcement criticism during protests over George Floyd’s murder.

Some good came out of the Bowman report, though.

The department promised to tighten procedures for using force and do a better job of collecting and organizing data on arrests. It also will purchase 900 new cameras, which automatically begin recording when officers pull a weapon.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser — Vaccination requirements: The state continues to push an absurd position on Florida businesses.

The Times/Herald reported that starting on Sept. 16, requiring customers to provide proof of vaccination can draw a $5,000 fine. DeSantis, as we know, has an aversion to anything that smacks of coercion in the name of COVID-19 prevention.

Never mind that many businesses already require proof of vaccination for employees and customers. DeSantis argues — paraphrasing here — that a person’s right to walk into your establishment and spread a deadly virus trumps the owner’s ability to protect employees and other customers.

The Times/Herald noted the Live Nation concert promoter announced that beginning Oct. 4, customers must either show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Apparently, that’s OK.

Meanwhile, the administration resumed its attack on school mask mandates. It appealed the ruling by Leon County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper that the state overstepped its authority in banning school mask mandates.

By appealing, Cooper’s order automatically stays while the next step in the legal process plays out.

Meanwhile, there was a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases among Florida students. State figures show a 23% jump from Aug. 9 to Aug. 26.


The biggest loser — Gulf and Taylor County schools: The two North Florida districts shut down last week because of COVID-19.

“COVID has impacted our community in unexpected ways,” Taylor Superintendent Danny Glover wrote on Facebook. “While we at Taylor County Schools have been able to provide safe school environments for your students during this time, we have also encountered challenging daily operating procedures.”

They plan to reopen Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend.

Glover said the district’s schools underwent cleaning during the break. Even more than that, though, is the human element.

“Staff is exhausted,” he told a USA Today-Florida reporter. “Meanwhile, those kids that are out are getting further and further behind.”

It’s the same story at Gulf, which has a 20% quarantine level.

Gulf Schools Superintendent Jim Norton noted that increasing virus rates disrupt the entire school operation. That includes support staff, food service workers, and bus drivers. He said that meant “we couldn’t effectively carry out our duties.”

“I realize school closures cause an inconvenience to some, and for that, I apologize,” Norton said in a letter to the public. “However, I truly feel it is necessary in order to build a stopgap measure that will prevent the virus from spreading more widely.”

Neither school district requires masks for students and staff.

Joe Henderson

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


  • Ocean Joe

    September 5, 2021 at 6:48 am

    Two red counties, no mask requirement, and they had to close their schools. Thankyou governor for proving yourself wrong…again.

  • Ron Ogden

    September 5, 2021 at 7:05 am

    “. . .transmission rates, which were low among the youngest kids, steadily increased with age—rather than dropping sharply for older children subject to the face-covering requirement. This suggests that masking kids in school does not provide a major benefit and might provide none at all. And yet many officials prefer to double down on masking mandates, as if the fundamental policy were sound and only the people have failed.”–a West Coast doctor, writing in “The Atlantic” (which is “The Bible” for certain wanna be Manhattan writers around these parts).

    And there are risks in masking kids, especially little ones, but nobody seems to want to consider them.

    For Joe and his fellow progressives, compulsory mask wearing has become this year’s test of political correctness, and no chance can be skipped to hoot and dance about it, particularly when you can do it at the expense of rural people who are, therefore, not the “well-educated”, urban elites for which St. Pete fancies itself to be a 21st Century hive. It’s a nasty and juvenile way to conduct politics, but it is, it appears, the way it is going to be.

    • TJC

      September 5, 2021 at 10:41 am

      Even a college freshman’s research paper would be required to provide a little more citation than “a West Coast doctor, writing in ‘The Atlantic.'”
      Give us the article’s title, edition of the magazine or date of publication, etc. Maybe even provide the good doctor’s name and credentials in regard to epidemiology.
      When little things like all of the above are missing from your claim, it sounds as if you are taking something out of context — not saying you are, just saying it sounds, uh, fishy. Smells that way, too.

    • Kathy

      September 5, 2021 at 11:21 am

      Mr. Ogden, what are the risks in masking children? Please, educate me. Thanks

      • Ron Ogden

        September 6, 2021 at 7:53 am

        Please see above.

  • Curtis

    September 5, 2021 at 7:15 am

    The ridiculously dysfunctional and awkward movements of today’s Trump party. Funny how the so called party of patriots and family values seems to be anything but nowadays. Conservatives and evangelicals continue their senseless attacks on the country they claim to love so much. The hypocrisy is real.

  • Tom

    September 5, 2021 at 8:18 am

    Curtis, you are in no position to pass judgement when you post your ID pict with potus/vpotus.
    High 30’s to low 40’s approval is telling. 53% want him to resign. Over 60% blame him for Afgany surrender. Are you in a cocoon. Vpotus is MIA and totally disengaged. Her disapproval is all time low for vice.

    • TJC

      September 5, 2021 at 10:29 am

      Ah yes, go after the VP’s popularity or, according to you, lack thereof. Dick Cheney had a good popular start, then sunk lower than your droopy drawers, Tom. You have statistical proof of your assertion, provide it. Otherwise stop quoting your Facebook friends.

      • Tom

        September 5, 2021 at 5:24 pm

        TJC, You can google it pal.
        Feel free to defend incompetent VP, she just giggles all day. I don’t care what you think. Hey & His numbers are in free fall.

        Biden was asleep in Oval Office with Israeli PM, your cocoon liberal media covered it up as usual. It did happen.
        He’s not just asleep at the wheel, he’s just a sleep.

        This POTUS & VPOTUS pol numbers are collapsing. She has dropped lower than Cheney. Btw, that’s Cruella di ville Pelosi’s bestie now. Daughter Liz.

        FYI, I always wear a belt.
        Don’t play hard ball with me pal cause I bust balls. There are a legion of your Manchurian tom a tons in pain.

        Your incompetent WH make POTUS 45 brilliant. No FDA commish named.
        2 FDA scientists quit cause of booster hurry up.

        Minority unemployment went up. Good job Scranton Joe. You are a fool.

  • Charles

    September 5, 2021 at 10:15 am

    Henderson at his best – stoking fear. This far left curmudgeon consistently embraces hypocrisy and jackassery upon waking up.
    Time to put this extremist out to pasture.

    • TJC

      September 5, 2021 at 10:26 am

      Ah, sounds like the fear is with you, Charlie boy. You again call for Mr. Henderson to go away! go away! …like a frightened little boy. Le the man write, then write like a man yourself. Stick to facts, stick to the column at hand.

  • Andrew Finn

    September 5, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    On the brighter side of the week —— Happy Labor Day !!!! —— Yet another “holiday” that we celebrate by having the 18th mattress sale of the year. We also celebrate by closing the banks and not delivering the mail to inconvenience the people that are open and running the giant celebratory sales —— WHOOPIE !!!!!!

Comments are closed.


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