Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.13.21

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Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Good Monday morning.

The Seminoles had arguably the worst weekend in program history. On Saturday, fans watched Jasonville State University QB Zerrick Cooper lob a walk-off touchdown pass to hand FSU its first-ever loss to an FCS team.

FSU could rationalize game one’s narrow defeat as a “quality loss” — if there is such a thing. There’s no way to spin losing to JSU, though. Worse yet, Seminole fans can’t even make fun of the Gators for losing to Georgia Southern anymore.

Zerrick Cooper hands FSU its first-ever loss to an FCS team.

Speaking of the Gators, they had a good weekend besting the USF bulls 42-20. They moved up a couple of spots to No. 11 in the AP Poll and are still a top-10 team in the USA Today Sports AFCA Coaches Poll.

Hopefully, fans enjoy it while it lasts because it’s unlikely they’ll improve to 3-0 when the Crimson Tide rolls through Gainesville next week. The reigning champs did show a couple of cracks Saturday, but opening odds still have them as the 14-point favorite.

The Hurricanes weren’t exactly impressive in their game against Appalachian State on Saturday. They managed a two-point win in game two after losing to Alabama by 31 points in their opener. Keyshawn Smith was technically the leading receiver, catching four passes for 70 yards.

But UM facilities manager Craig Cromer and his wife, Kimberly Cromer, had the best catch of the day.

For seven years, the couple have had season tix, and they’ve hanged an American flag over the railing at every game. It came in handy when a stray cat slipped from the upper deck. Here’s the amazing moment, complete with play-by-play from the broadcast suite.

Of course, Buccaneers fans had a good weekend, too. Tom Brady threw for 371 yards and four scores in the season opener, leading the team to a 31-29 win over the Cowboys. And the biggest data nerds in the business say they’ve got the best chance (13%) to win it all this season, followed by the Chiefs (12%)

We couldn’t be happier that football season is back. It’s a minor, but welcome, distraction from the reality that this weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Americans chose to mark the anniversary in many ways — name readings, days of service, moments of silence. It was a defining moment in American history. Over the years, it has both united and divided, saddened and angered us.

There have been many weekends since then, but we’ll never forget.


LSN Partners announced another major expansion this week.

The bipartisan, full-service consulting firm announced nine additions to the team, including a trio of hires at its Washington D.C. office and several others who will bolster its presence in South Florida.

“We don’t just advise our clients; we become a part of their team and work to achieve objectives together. Our 2021 expansion exemplifies LSN’s commitment to offering more expertise as we seek to continuously improve,” LSN Founder and Managing Partner Alex Heckler.

The hires include new Senior Adviser of Transportation and Infrastructure Elliot “Lee” Sander, who has served as a chief executive at several transportation companies.

Jose Fuentes is being promoted to Partner at the Washington office, and the firm is welcoming Tom Quinn as a new one. Neil Ohlhausen is also joining the firm’s Washington office as a Senior Associate.

In South Florida, LSN named Adele Valencia as a new partner in its Miami-Dade practice. Meanwhile, the Broward practice is bringing on Pratima Raju and Joshua Freeman as associates and Lisa Castillo as Chief of Staff.

Finally, the firm touted the recent addition of communications vet Mike Hernández, a messaging and PR guru who specializes in corporate and political messaging, crisis message management and company communications.

“This addition of stellar individuals to our current extraordinary team will enable LSN to continue to provide clients a global reach with a local perspective and optimistically successful results,” said Marcelo Llorente, Managing Partner at LSN.


@RepJoseOliva: I would respectfully advise my pro-life former colleagues of the House (of whom I count myself among) to defend the unborn but not through legal contraptions as seen in the current Texas law. We do not strengthen public interest by weakening its institutions. Similarly, I respectfully advise my democrat friends (whom I proudly call friends) to seek public safety (vaccines) but not through sweeping mandates that set precedents for future abuse. Both sides must preserve the institutions that curtail anxious acts. A momentary win, at any cost, will lead to a cost no defender of the long-term public interest should advocate. Break-downs beget break-downs. Our form of representative gov’t is cumbersome, but it is the only form that guarantees freedom.

Tweet, tweet:

@MikeStucka: Florida reported 1 of 26 COVID-19 deaths reported in the world on Friday, @JohnsHopkins data shows. It’s more than 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States, and is at a level similar to all of Africa. Florida 2,448 … United States 11,413 (21.4%) … World 62,559 (3.9%)

@DrTomFrieden: If you live in Florida or Mississippi, you’re 10x more likely to be killed by COVID today than if you live in a state with sensible protection policies. Political interference with public health action kills.

@allison__news: Former President (George W.) Bush, “So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment … On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand and rally to the cause of one another. That is the America I know.”

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@svdate: NEW — Florida kids have to get 16 — count ’em — 16 separate shots to go school. Dress codes tell them what they can and can’t wear, down to the width of tank top straps. But COVID shot mandates? Masks? Absolutely not, says Ron DeSantis.


California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 1; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 1; Apple launch event for new iPhones — 1; Alabama at UF — 5; Dolphins home opener — 6; Jaguars home opener — 6; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 7; The Problem with Jon Stewart premieres on Apple TV+ — 17; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 18; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 18; MLB regular season ends — 19; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 20; World Series Game 1 — 33; ‘Dune’ premieres — 37; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 44; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 44; Georgia at UF — 47; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 50; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 50; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 53; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 53; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 55; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 56; Miami at FSU — 61; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 66; FSU vs. UF — 75; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 79; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 88; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 95; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 100; ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 103; NFL season ends — 118; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 120; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 120; NFL playoffs begin — 124; Super Bowl LVI — 153; Daytona 500 — 160; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 193; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 237; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 256; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 262; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 298; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 310; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 389; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 424.


Joe Biden administration opens investigation into Florida’s school masking policies” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida — The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office is claiming that it could violate the rights of students with disabilities. “[The U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights office] is concerned that Florida’s policy requiring public schools and school districts to allow parents to opt their children out of mask mandates may be preventing schools in Florida from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” Suzanne Goldberg, acting assistant secretary for civil rights, U.S. Department of Education, wrote in a letter to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. The Education Department launched similar investigations into five other states.

The feds put Richard Corcoran on notice. Image via Colin Hackley.

Court sides with Ron DeSantis, reinstates school mask mandate ban pending outcome of appeal” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — DeSantis and his administration won approval to reinstate a hold on a Leon County judge’s ruling that said the state could not enforce a ban on strict mask mandates in schools, as the court battle continues. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal pointed to “serious doubts” about a parent-led lawsuit that contends the Governor overstepped his authority when issuing an executive order that aimed to bar strict mask mandates in schools. “Upon our review of the trial court’s final judgment and the operative pleadings, we have serious doubts about standing, jurisdiction and other threshold matters,” the order states. “These doubts significantly militate against the likelihood of the appellees’ [parents’] ultimate success in this appeal.”


Florida adds 100,012 coronavirus cases, 2,443 deaths in past week” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida officials on Friday reported 100,012 coronavirus cases over the seven days from Sept. 3 to Sept. 9, an average of nearly 14,300 infections per day. It’s a 20% drop in cases from the week before and the lowest weekly infection rate since late July. New cases fell for all age groups for the second week in a row. But new infections remained concentrated among Florida’s youngest residents. Nearly one-third of infections were among those under the age of 20. The latest tally brings the total number of cases to 3,409,165 since the pandemic’s first two cases in Florida were reported 18 months ago.

Florida COVID-19 hospitalizations drop, but infections are still hitting younger people hard. Image via Bloomberg.

4 kids among Florida’s COVID-19 death toll as state sets another record for fatalities” via Ian Hodgson and Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — The death toll from Florida’s COVID-19 surge is continuing to rise, as is the number of children succumbing to the virus. The state verified 2,448 deaths from the coronavirus this week, including four children under 16 years old. It’s the third straight week that Florida has set a record number of deaths, and it’s the largest jump in child fatalities since the state switched to weekly reporting on June 4. However, despite the rise in deaths, the number of new infections is continuing to wane. Daily deaths may continue to rise even as cases fall. It typically takes weeks for an infected person to succumb to COVID-19 and weeks more for their death to be recorded and vetted by state and federal agencies.

Florida hospitals continue to report fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU patients” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — In a continuing downward swing, 11,701 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services report on Sunday from 259 Florida hospitals. That’s 521 fewer patients than Saturday’s report from 260 hospitals and 950 fewer patients than Friday’s from 261 hospitals. In Sunday’s report, COVID-19 patients take up 20.06% of all inpatient hospital beds compared to 20.75% in the previous day’s reporting hospitals. Of the people hospitalized in Florida, 2,828 people were in intensive care unit beds, a decrease of 57 for the second consecutive day. That represents 43.22% of the ICU hospital beds at the 259 hospitals reporting data, compared to 43.58% the previous day.

Florida leads nation in monoclonal antibody treatments” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics+ in the Ormond Beach Observer — For a month, DeSantis has responded to Florida’s COVID-19 crisis by barnstorming the state, urging people who catch the virus to get monoclonal antibody treatments right away. The message appears to be taking hold. It also might be calling enough attention to Florida’s COVID-19 summer surge that Floridians also are flocking to vaccination sites. As a result, Florida is moving out of the summer with momentum on two fronts — significantly rising vaccination rates and what appears to be the nation’s most aggressive effort to promote monoclonal antibody treatments for people sick with COVID-19.

Bus driver shortage leaves some students waiting for hours” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — School districts say they are desperately trying to fill hundreds of vacancies, attributed to COVID-19 and a labor market short on job seekers. They’re doing heavy marketing online and on TV and considering higher pay. Experts say that the labor market is bad for districts trying to hire drivers, competing with companies like Amazon and FedEx. Right now, school bus driver pay is about $3 an hour less than other jobs requiring a commercial driver’s license, said Siri Terjesen, a professor and associate dean in the College of Business at Florida Atlantic University. The jobs are seasonal when school is in session, which may not be attractive to people who want to work all year.


Masks still mandatory in Sarasota schools despite new court ruling” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A judge siding with DeSantis in the ongoing battle over mask mandates will have no impact on whether children in Sarasota County Schools have to wear a mask to school. On Friday, the 1st District Court of Appeal granted a stay to a prior ruling that prevented the governor from enforcing a ban on mask mandates. The stay means that the state could punish School Boards that attempt to make masks mandatory. Sarasota County School Board attorney Dan DeLeo said the most recent ruling would not impact Sarasota’s current mask-mandatory policy. He said to expect future rulings on the issue, but the big question will be whether districts like Sarasota will get in trouble for requiring masks.

Despite a court ruling, mask mandates in Sarasota schools are staying put. Image via AP.

Pinellas School Board member Caprice Edmond to try again for school mask mandate” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Edmond is not giving up on the issue of school masks. The Pinellas County School Board member failed to get majority support for her Aug. 24 call to hold a special meeting to implement a districtwide student mask mandate. With the board’s next regular session just days away, Edmond announced on Friday she would try again. “Tuesday, Sept. 14, at the School Board meeting, I intend on proposing a mask policy with a medical opt-out,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

—”Polk County’s COVID-19 cases decline for second straight week” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger

Leadership or medical privacy? Schools go-to guy for COVID-19 was evasive on being vaccinated” via Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — For nearly a week, the man who has led the Palm Beach County School District’s nearly two-year response to COVID-19, helping craft policies and coordinate with county health leaders, was unwilling to say he’s vaccinated against the illness and answered in a way that would have led most to conclude he wasn’t. “I’m a private person. I could tell you I was or that I was not, but that would have no bearing on the work I’ve done or continue to do,” district Chief of Staff Jay Boggess last week. Friday, as this story prepared to go to press after everyone from the superintendent to the school board had weighed in, Boggess issued a statement, saying he had been vaccinated.

Alachua County wants UF, Santa Fe College to mitigate COVID-19 with mask mandates” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The resurgence of COVID-19 infections caused by the delta variant appears to be straining town-gown relations in the state’s biggest center of higher education. Alachua County is asking the University of Florida and Santa Fe College to do more than recommend face coverings for students, faculty and staff; the County Commission sent a letter asking them to require it. A letter sent to the presidents at both schools said the county had exempted the two institutions from the requirements of a countywide state of emergency when Alachua County declared one early last month.

Coronavirus-sniffing dogs unleashed at Miami airport to detect virus in employees” via Kim Bellware and Adela Suliman of The Washington Post — Employees at Miami International Airport who go through the standard security check for weapons and other prohibited items now have another layer of screening before they start work: a sniff test from Cobra and One Betta. Cobra, a female Belgian Malinois, and One Betta, a Dutch shepherd, are 7-year-old dogs trained to detect the presence of the coronavirus. The keen-nosed canines are part of a pilot program at Miami International. Cobra and One Betta will spend their shifts sniffing the face coverings of employees passing through a checkpoint to detect the presence of the virus in sweat, breath and scents due to metabolic changes that the virus causes in the human body.

COVID-19-sniffing dogs bring another layer of security to the Miami airport. Image via AP.

Pediatric COVID-19 vaccine trial underway in Orlando” via Cheryn Stone of Spectrum News 13 — Pfizer is the only FDA-authorized vaccine for ages 12 and up, but many families want to know when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available for younger children. The FDA released information Friday confirming necessary clinical trials are underway. Andrew Roy was able to get his two sons into a clinical trial in Orlando through Pfizer. He says his 7-year-old and 5-year-old both received their first shot Tuesday and go back in three weeks for a second. “I’m really proud of them for how brave they were, not only getting the shot, but they had to have blood taken, and they were both so excited to tell me about how brave they were,” Roy explained.

Broward, Arsht and Kravis centers set the stage for a COVID-19-era theater experience this fall” via Arlene Borenstein-Zuluaga of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida’s premier performing arts centers will all require masks and negative COVID-19 test results to attend any ticketed performance. On Friday, the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach announced rules similar to what the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale and the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami had announced earlier this week in advance of the fall season. “We are united with other major performing arts centers in the state and across the country to ensure that we create a safe environment for our artists, staff, volunteers, guests and audiences,” said Georgiana Young, Senior Director of Programming for the Kravis Center.


Florida Medicaid enrollment inches closer to 5 million” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida’s Medicaid enrollment continues to inch closer to the 5 million mark. The information posted to the Agency for Healthcare Administration website shows that 4,917,093 people enrolled in the Medicaid program at the end of August. That’s about a 1% increase from the previous month. Data show Medicaid Region 11 leads the state in terms of numbers of people enrolled in the program, with (819,971) beneficiaries being served either by a managed care plan or through traditional Medicaid, referred to as fee-for-service. Medicaid Region 11 comprises Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Florida buys armored weather stations as climate changes makes hurricanes stronger” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — Florida is investing millions of dollars in hurricane-hardened weather stations as climate change stokes worsening catastrophes and the nation’s primary weather gauges surrender to high winds and power outages. Since 2019, nearly $3 million has been dedicated by state lawmakers for the Florida Severe Weather Network — a series of armored instruments that are solar-powered, cellular, provide real-time information, and can withstand wind gusts up to 185 mph. The move follows severe storms such as 2017’s Hurricane Irma, where complete failure or loss of multiple functions occurred at eight weather sites monitored by the National Weather Service in Miami.

More severe storms mean a greater need for hurricane-hardened weather stations. Image via STEM.

Homeowners looking at $168 million tab to spot failed insurance companies” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics+ — Florida homeowners could be forced to pick up the tab on two failed insurance companies. Insurance regulators could soon stake $168 million in assessments on Floridians’ property and casualty insurance bills to help pay for the loss of two insurance companies that collapsed this year. The Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA), which picks up property and casualty insurance claims when insurance companies go insolvent, has asked the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) to levy a 0.7% assessment on insurance companies in 2022, which would give FIGA an additional $168 million. That would help offset a deficit that could grow to $226.4 million by the end of the year.


DeSantis reappoints four to Ethics Commission” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis reappointed four members of the state Commission on Ethics, including members he appointed last year. The Governor appointed former Reps. Travis Cummings and Jim Waldman in December, but they earned another nod Friday. Other reappointments made Friday include former lawmaker John Grant and former state attorney Willie Meggs, both of whom the Governor previously appointed in 2019. The Florida Commission on Ethics is an independent commission responsible for investigating and issuing public complaints of breach of public trust by public officers and employees. Commissioners generally serve two-year terms.

Travis Cummings gets to keep his gig on the Ethics Commission.

Happening today — The Triumph Gulf Coast Board, which administers the Deepwater Horizon disaster settlement funds, meets to examine a $15.88 million proposal for the Milton Interchange Park in Santa Rosa County and a $15 million dredging project for Port of Port St. Joe, 1:30 p.m. Central time, Northwest Florida State College Center for Aviation Excellence, Bob Sikes Airport, 3152 Airport Road, Crestview.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jorge Chamizo, Charles Dudley, Melissa Ramba, Floridian Partners: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Brian Logan: SAP Public Services

Julie Madden, Kimberly Smoak, Thomas Wallace: Agency for Health Care Administration

Will Rodriguez, Corcoran Partners: LiFT Academy/LiFT University

Milan Thompson: Florida A&M University

— 2022 —

DeSantis milks out-of-state travel to lay possible 2024 foundation” via Marc Caputo and Gary Fineout of POLITICO — His visit to the Midwest is one of at least a dozen out of state trips he’s taken since May. He has gone everywhere from Southern California to Kentucky to the outskirts of Milwaukee and to New Jersey. Since most are campaign visits, they are not included on his public schedule and the governor rarely informs the public of his out-of-state travel. He also visited the Texas-Mexico border in July with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, where they ripped President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.

DeSantis delights record crowd at Pasco GOP dinner with Biden barbs” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis has sparred with Biden in news conferences, on Fox News and, on Friday, he brought the fight to the Saddlebrook Resort where he rallied Pasco County Republicans at the party’s annual Reagan Day fundraiser. In front of the friendly audience, DeSantis said Biden was “obsessed with attacking the state of Florida,” and he foreshadowed more clashes to come. DeSantis didn’t say the word “vaccine” during his 20-minute remarks, which this latest spat is about. Biden proposed a rule change to mandate that workers at businesses with more than 100 employees be inoculated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly tests. Biden offered his response to Republican threats earlier in the day. “Have at it.”

Ron DeSantis wows the crowd at the Pasco County GOP Reagan Day Dinner. Image via Masella Jr/Twitter.

Fundraising committee for DeSantis posts $5.5 million haul for August” via Jeffrey Schweers of The Tallahassee — DeSantis has raised a lot of money for someone who hasn’t officially filed for office yet. His political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, raked in $5.5 million from every state in the union in August during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the total to $96 million. The largest amount DeSantis received in August was $500,000 from the Republican Governors Association. Billionaire business owners Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein of Lake Forest, Illinois, founders of Uline and Donald Trump super donors, contributed $250,000 each.

DeSantis’ biggest backer Ken Griffin spends big on politics” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics+ — Griffin, a Chicago-based hedge fund billionaire, has long been a huge contributor to Republicans, and he stands this year as the biggest donor to Florida’s 2022 gubernatorial election. In April, Griffin contributed $5 million to the Friends of Ron DeSantis committee, fueling DeSantis’ reelection effort thus far. Griffin’s gubernatorial race donation stands as Gov. DeSantis‘ largest donation from an individual, political action committee, or business. It also appears to stand tied as the largest check an individual has ever cut to support any statewide candidate in Florida, not counting candidates who wrote seven- or eight-figure checks from their own wealth to support their own campaigns.

Charlie Crist taps former Biden-Kamala Harris campaign lead to top senior voter push” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Crist announced Friday that Lou Grossman of Sarasota, who served as seniors vote director for the 2020 Biden-Harris ticket, will serve as a top adviser for his campaign’s senior outreach efforts. “I am thrilled to welcome Lou Grossman to our team in our fight to build a Florida for all,” Crist said in a statement. Floridians 65 and older are a vital voting bloc, comprising more than a fifth of the state population, or about 4.51 million residents. A veteran of local and state campaigns, Grossman’s résumé on senior interests is broad and deep. He is the founder and president of the Sarasota County Seniors Democratic Caucus and a board member of the State Seniors Caucus and State Seniors Organizing Council.

Happening tonight — A fundraiser to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee; guests include Sens. Ben Albritton, Jim Boyd, Joe Gruters, and Ed Hooper, Dolphin Aviation, 8191 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

Tina Polsky adds $13K in August, now holds more than $133K for SD 29 reelection” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Polsky pulled in $13,000 in August as she now faces a challenger for her Senate District 29 seat. Brian Norton filed to run for the seat in late August. A first-time candidate in 2020, Norton served as the GOP nominee in the SD 29 contest last fall. However, Polsky topped him in the General Election, earning 56% of the vote to Norton’s 44%. But with the redistricting process ahead, Norton has refiled with the hopes SD 29’s new shape may be a bit more favorable to Republicans. Polsky starts with a significant head start in terms of fundraising. She currently holds more than $133,000 between her campaign account and political committee, Americans for Progress.

Shevrin Jones raises more than $180K in August for SD 35 reelection” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jones collected more than $180,000 in August, his strongest fundraising month since he won the Senate District 35 seat last November. Jones is seeking reelection next year, just two years into his first term, because of the state’s reapportionment process after the 2020 Census. The Senator, who served eight years in the House before running for the SD 35 seat, is unopposed thus far. Last year, Jones emerged from a six-person field to secure the Democratic nomination in SD 35. He followed that up with an easy win in November, facing only a write-in candidate in the heavily Democratic district. It’s unclear how redistricting will affect the precise boundaries of Jones’ district, but he’ll likely remain a favorite come November.

Ileana Garcia raises $75K+ in August, best fundraising yet for SD 37 defense” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Garcia had her best fundraising month ever in August, raking in more than $75,000 between her campaign and political committee to defend her District 37 seat next year. With more than a year before the 2020 General Election, Garcia now sits on more than $256,000. How much of that she’ll have to spend to stay in office remains to be seen. So far, no one has announced plans to run against her. But considering she unseated incumbent José Javier Rodriguez last year by just 34 votes in a race rife with election meddling (not by her), some may perceive her hold on the district at least somewhat tenuous.

Robyn Hattaway starts HD 50 campaign with $20,000 raised” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Hattaway has laid a strong claim to succeed fellow Rene Plasencia in House District 50 by raising more than $20,000 in her first month. Much of that came in a late-August fundraiser that featured Republican Sens. Tom Wright and Debbie Mayfield, former Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and former Rep. Jason Steele on the host committee. Hattaway, of Merritt Island, is one of three Republicans vying for the open seat now representing eastern Orange County and northwestern Brevard County. Neither of the others, Chris Wright nor Angel Perry, both of Orlando, have shown much fundraising prowess yet in several months on the trail.

Robyn Hattaway posts some strong bank.

Hillary Cassel edges Jeremy Katzman in HD 99 August fundraising” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Cassel raised nearly $12,000 in August, just barely edging out Katzman in fundraising for the month. Katzman added a little over $11,800 during August, putting him less than $200 shy of Cassel’s total. Cassel has largely dominated the fundraising game in the House District 99 contest. But last month, Katzman posted his best fundraising totals since January, helping him close the gap between him and Cassel. In August, Barry Faske, the third and final candidate competing in the HD 99 Democratic Primary, added just $2,000. Though Katzman was nearly even with Cassel in August fundraising, Cassel maintains a hefty cash-on-hand advantage.

Michael Góngora drops reelection bid, total of 14 candidates qualify for Miami Beach election” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — The ballot is now set for Miami Beach’s Nov. 2 election, with a total of 14 candidates qualifying Friday to campaign for three commission seats and the Mayor’s job. The biggest wild card leading up to the qualifying deadline, incumbent Commissioner Góngora, dropped his bid to seek reelection in Group 3 following a judge’s order barring him from running due to city term limits. Góngora instead filed Thursday to run for Mayor in 2023, which he said was initially his plan before his supporters told him to run for reelection. He also threw his support behind the newest Group 3 candidate, Planning Board Member Alex Fernandez.

Naples City Council candidate to start rehab after surviving stroke” via Omar Rodríguez Ortiz of the Naples Daily News — Naples City Council candidate Bill Oppenheimer will start a four-week rehab procedure after surviving a stroke last weekend, according to Kim Collins, an acquaintance of Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer was admitted to NCH hospital in Naples, but he is gaining back some of his strength and doctors are pleased with his initial recovery, Collins wrote Tuesday in a Facebook post. Collins also wrote Oppenheimer is optimistic about his recovery. “He needs our prayers and encouraging words right now. He will need time to recover and heal,” Collins wrote Monday. Oppenheimer declined to comment, Teddy Collins, an acquaintance of Oppenheimer, wrote to the Naples Daily News via text message.


How at-home coronavirus testing is becoming part of Biden’s plan for managing the pandemic” via Derek Hawkins and Fenit Nirappil of The Washington Post — The COVID-19 response plan Biden unveiled envisions a sweeping expansion of coronavirus testing, aiming to make quick-turnaround test kits cheaper and more accessible than ever as the country tries to quell the wave of infections driven by the delta variant. Leaning on test manufacturers to ramp up production, the administration wants to send hundreds of millions of rapid and at-home tests to local clinics, schools and other establishments nationwide in hopes of making it easier for people to catch infections and contain outbreaks early.

Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate further stresses supply of rapid tests” via Sharon Terlep and Brianna Abbott of The Wall Street Journal — America’s COVID-19-testing infrastructure, from drugstores to diagnostics manufacturers, is bracing for a surge in demand following the Biden administration’s order that most large U.S. companies mandate their workers get vaccinated or be screened weekly for the virus. Makers of over-the-counter COVID-19 tests continue to boost production, while laboratories and companies are ramping up operations that some had scaled back after the virus largely retreated earlier this year. Meanwhile, according to consulting group Mercer, employers are already having a more challenging time securing bulk tests to screen employees as retail pharmacies and other testing providers ration supplies.

At-home COVID-19 tests are the latest tool in the Biden administration’s pandemic strategy.

New CDC studies show waning vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization in elderly” via Erin Banco of POLITICO — COVID-19 vaccines continue to work well at preventing severe disease for the vast majority of Americans, but they are becoming less effective at blocking infection. Two analyses suggest that as the delta variant spread this summer, the shots became less effective at keeping people 75 and older out of the hospital. Breakthrough infections are still rare, and unvaccinated people still face significantly higher risks of illness and death from the virus. They were about 4.5 times more likely to become infected, and more than 10 times more likely to need hospitalization or die from COVID-19 than were fully vaccinated people.


Vaccine mandate spawns new fear: finding and keeping workers” via Tom Krischer and Barbara Ortutay of The Associated Press — The new federal vaccine requirement announced by Biden has created another worry for large businesses: With help wanted signs up almost everywhere, some could lose valuable employees or won’t be able to find new ones. Biden announced sweeping new orders Thursday that will require employers with more than 100 workers to mandate vaccinations against COVID-19 or offer weekly testing. The new rules could affect as many as 100 million Americans, although it’s not clear how many of those people are currently unvaccinated. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, says the vaccine mandate could go a long way to boost the economy.

Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate is putting pressure on businesses. Image via AP.

U.S. stock market faces risk of bumpy autumn, Wall Street analysts warn” via Caitlin McCabe of The Wall Street Journal — Analysts at firms including Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank AG, and Bank of America published notes this month cautioning about current risks in the U.S. equity market. With the S&P 500 already hitting 54 records this year through Thursday — the most during that period since 1995 — several analysts said that they believe there is a growing possibility of a pullback or, at the least, flatter returns. Behind that cautious outlook, the researchers said, is a combination of things, including euphoric investment sentiment, extended valuations, and anticipation that inflation and supply-chain disruptions will weigh on corporate margins. BofA Securities said they saw little to be excited about, asking, “What good news is left? … A lot of optimism is already priced in.”

‘Black capitalism’ promised a better city for everyone. What happened?” via Michael Corkery of The New York Times — Corporate investments in Black businesses were seen as an antidote to racial unrest in the 1960s, a way to ease the tensions that threatened the reputations of burgeoning corporate hubs like Rochester. Some of those efforts in Rochester were quite bold and innovative at the time. Looking back now, though, the long-term challenges of achieving those ambitions shows the limits of social activists partnering with big business and how such efforts may not make a substantial dent in the systemic issues of poverty and racism affecting the broader Black community. It is a disheartening case study for the many companies that have made public commitments to promote equity and inclusion this year.

U.S. producer prices rose in August as supply chains remained under pressure” via Reuters — U.S. producer prices increased solidly in August, leading to the biggest annual gain in nearly 11 years, suggesting that high inflation is likely to persist for a while as the unrelenting coronavirus pandemic continues to pressure supply chains. There are, however, signs that inflation could be nearing its peak, with the report from the Labor Department on Friday showing underlying producer prices rising at their slowest pace in nine months in August. High inflation is eroding households’ purchasing power, contributing to downgrading economic growth estimates for the third quarter. The producer price index (PPI) for final demand rose 0.7% last month after two straight monthly increases of 1%. The gain was led by a 0.7% advance in services following a 1.1% jump in July.

Restaurants close dining rooms again as delta-driven infections spread” via Heather Haddon of The Wall Street Journal — Restaurants’ plans to return diners to indoor tables are unraveling. Given the delta-driven surge, chains such as McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A are slowing their dining rooms’ reopenings. Other restaurants are again losing customers and trying to squeeze more diners into outdoor patios while the weather allows. COVID-19’s resurgence is creating whiplash for restaurants, which have slogged through a year and a half of pandemic-related disruptions. Sales that had steadily grown earlier in the summer have fallen in the past five weeks, data from restaurant analytics firm Black Box Intelligence showed. According to Labor Department figures released earlier this month, bars and restaurants lost 41,500 jobs in August, the largest monthly decline of any single sector. It was the food service industry’s first monthly decline since December.

Disappointed consumers temper U.S. economy’s main growth engine” via Olivia Rockeman and Reade Pickert of Bloomberg — American consumers’ hopes of completely and quickly escaping the clutches of COVID-19 have been dashed by a more contagious variant, renewed mask mandates and uncertainty surrounding in-person returns to schools. A pickup in inflation, including higher food service, fuel and household energy costs, has also dimmed prospects for more robust spending and economic growth. By one measure, consumer sentiment slumped in August by the most since the darkest days of the pandemic. Another fell to its lowest since February. Economists at Goldman Sachs Group cut their estimated spending to a 0.5% annualized decline in the current quarter. They also reduced their fourth quarter consumption growth projection to 3.5% from 6%.


Be prepared for winter COVID-19 wave, Boris Johnson to warn” via Heather Stewart, Rowena Mason, Peter Walker and Aubrey Allegretti of The Guardian — England must head into an “uncertain” winter fully prepared for a new wave of the pandemic, Johnson will warn next week as he unveils a blueprint for to avoid shutting schools and pubs again. The Prime Minister’s COVID-19 winter plan for England will set out “contingency” measures — which could involve the reintroduction of some nationwide restrictions such as social distancing or masks — that would come into force if case numbers and hospitalizations begin to overwhelm the NHS again. On Tuesday, Johnson is expected to announce his plan for avoiding a total lockdown, including the introduction of COVID-19 boosters and the biggest ever flu jab campaign, to be administered at the same time.

Boris Johnson warns of a cruel winter in Great Britain. Image via AP.

Vaccine skeptics hobble Germany’s fight against COVID-19” via Deutsche Welle — It’s nearly mid-September, and many people in Germany seem to have almost forgotten about the COVID-19 pandemic as they go about their lives. Beer gardens and restaurants are packed; people are talking about the upcoming elections or their vacations. German lawmakers, however, have been sounding the alarm: the percentage of people who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus has been hovering around 62% for days. The rate is too low to be truly prepared for the winter, when the risk of infection is likely to rise again, especially from the highly contagious delta variant of the virus. Experts believe that the country needs a vaccination rate of over 85% to weather the risk.

France’s former health minister charged over COVID-19 response” via Axios — France’s former health minister Agnès Buzyn has been indicted and accused of “endangering the lives of others” during her response to the pandemic. Buzyn was health minister when the pandemic exploded in France last year. Buzyn, who was accused Friday of “failing to fight a disaster,” is the first French official charged over the coronavirus crisis. The indictment was handed out by prosecutors of the Court of Justice of the Republic as part of their investigations into the handling of the health crisis by the French government. It came hours after prosecutors interviewed her. Before her interview, she had told reporters that it was “an excellent opportunity for me to explain myself and to set the record straight.”

— 20 YEARS —

George W. Bush compares ‘violent extremists at home’ to 9/11 terrorists in 20th-anniversary speech” via Amy B Wang and Caroline Anders of The Washington Post — On the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that changed his presidency, Bush warned there is growing evidence that domestic terrorism could pose as much of a threat to the United States as terrorism originating from abroad, and he urged Americans to confront “violence that gathers within.” Without naming it, Bush seemed to condemn the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol when a pro-Trump mob overran the complex in a violent siege that resulted in the deaths of five people. Bush compared those “violent extremists at home” to the terrorists who had hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001, and crashed them in New York City, Arlington, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.

George W. Bush decries the rise of ‘violent extremists’ in the U.S. Image via AP.

‘Our generation’s Pearl Harbor’: First responders, officials remember 9/11 at Wellington commemoration” via Chris Persaud of the Palm Beach Post — Stanley Kriegman had stepped out of Penn Station in New York City on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, on his way to work as a parking garages security director when the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil happened a few miles south of him. Two hijacked airplanes had crashed into the twin towers at the World Trade Center. The next day, Kriegman, a retired New York City police sergeant, headed down to ground zero to help civilians recover their vehicles and clear them out of the garages. Twenty years later, Kriegman spoke Saturday morning to an audience of more than 100 people gathered at Wellington’s Patriot Memorial next to City Hall.

South Florida 9/11 events touch on range of emotions as participants honor, remember 20th anniversary” via Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Tony and Nancy Yallo were among thousands of South Florida residents who gathered to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 on Saturday, and they were among dozens who gathered at Centennial Park and Amphitheater in Boynton Beach. Their flagpole at home flew the American flag at half-staff. Before going to the ceremony, they played taps and Amazing Grace at home. The Yallos weren’t alone in their solemn acknowledgment. James Caster, a retired New York City firefighter, said he remembers 9/11 “like yesterday.” Caster, a 10-year Boynton Beach resident who also lived 12 years in Plantation, got choked up explaining the significance of 9/11.

Remembering 9/11: Retired NYPD officers give back to first responders in South Florida” via Jeff Weinsier of WPLG Local 10 News — Twenty years later and the pain and memories of Sept. 11, 2001, are still very vivid to a husband and wife team in Coral Springs. Both were New York Police Department officers at the time, and since retiring to South Florida, they have dedicated their lives to helping others. “When someone said, ‘20 years is coming,’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ You relive everything,” Irving Rodriguez said. “It seems like it was yesterday. So I get emotional when we talk about it,” Maria Rodriguez added. “I was assigned to ground zero for two years straight, and we had no days off.”

After surviving 9/11-related illnesses, they face another great risk: COVID-19” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — Richard Yodice, a 66-year-old New York native who lives in Boynton Beach, hasn’t been infected by COVID-19. But he’s certainly been affected by it. Like many others who developed life-threatening health conditions after participating in post-Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attack recovery efforts, Yodice has lived as a hermit for much of the past 18 months. He had little choice. A Consolidated Edison electric utility employee in New York City for most of four decades, Yodice spent three straight weeks working 12-hour shifts within view of ground zero, helping restore power to lower Manhattan. His first shift came hours after planes struck the World Trade Center’s twin towers.


Agencies that required vaccines before Biden’s push see early success” via Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times — Biden’s new coronavirus vaccination mandates have prompted some backlash, but the two federal departments that already require vaccinations say their actions are doing what they intended: getting more shots in arms. Since the Pentagon announced last month that active-duty military personnel would be required to be vaccinated, the percentage of service members with at least one shot has risen to 83% from 76%. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, which issued a vaccine mandate for its 115,000 front-line health care workers seven weeks ago, 82% of those employees are now fully vaccinated, up from 77%, and the number of shots it has given to all of its workers has more than doubled since early July.

Vaccine mandates work, some federal agencies show. Image via AP.

Republican threats to Biden’s vaccine mandates unlikely to succeed, experts say” via Adam Edelman of NBC News — Nearly two dozen Republican governors, as well as the GOP itself, have vowed to file lawsuits or take other actions to block Biden’s newly announced vaccination mandates; but legal experts say they’ll have a hard time successfully making their case in court. Biden issued two executive orders mandating vaccines for federal workers and contractors and announced new requirements for large employers and health care providers that he said would affect around 100 million workers, more than two-thirds of the U.S. workforce. Following the announcement, Republicans across the country slammed the moves.


Donald Trump makes surprise visit to New York police and firefighters on 9/11” via Jon Levine, Joe Marino, Larry Celona and Tina Moore the New York Post — Trump made a surprise visit with New York City police and firefighters Saturday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. In remarks to assembled guests, the former President sharply rebuked Biden and the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan. “It was gross incompetence, and I hate to talk about it on this day,” Trump said. Trump praised New York’s Finest, telling the crowd, “if they let you do your job, you wouldn’t have crime in New York!” As some in the crowd nodded their heads, The Donald jokingly warned them to “just stand and just be perfect.”

Donald Trump makes a surprise appearance in New York on Sept. 11. Image via AP.

Trump and son get in booth for alternative broadcast of Belfort-Holyfield bout” via Patrick Reilly of The New York Times — Trump provided ringside commentary for a pay-per-view boxing event Saturday night that saw former heavyweight world champion Evander Holyfield lose in a first-round technical knockout to MMA star Vitor Belfort. Trump received a warm welcome from the crowd at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, which erupted into cheers when his name was announced as the evening’s special guest. He and son Donald Trump Jr. called the entire four-fight card for the Triller “gamecast,” giving live analysis and discussing his experiences in the boxing business. Earlier on Saturday, Trump visited New York City police officers and firefighters to commemorate the anniversary.

Democrats wanted Trump gone. Now they want him on the ballot.” via David Weigel, Colby Itkowitz and Gregory S. Schneider of The Washington Post — Democrats are growing confident that California Gov. Gavin Newsom will prevail in Tuesday’s recall election, averting political disaster by energizing liberal voters. Across the country, his party is paying close attention to how he’s doing it: Warning Democrats that if they stay home, Trump and his agenda will prevail. “Trumpism is still alive all across this country,” Newsom said at a campaign stop in East Los Angeles. “Is it any surprise the entire Trump organization is behind this recall?”

GOP 2024 hopefuls tread carefully around Trump” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Mike Pence leaned into his faith. Ron DeSantis highlighted his credentials as a fighter. Ted Cruz sarcastically mocked the opposition. At a steak fry here just across the Missouri River from Iowa, the first-in-the-nation presidential state, some of the party’s leading prospects for the 2024 GOP nomination began carving out their lanes and test-driving messages on Sunday. Nearly absent from their remarks? Trump, who received only a few passing mentions. DeSantis, the Florida Governor who left the steak fry soon after he spoke, blasted speculation he was focused on anything but the midterms.


Capitol Police inquiry into Jan. 6 riot recommends disciplining six officers” via Emily Cochrane of The New York Times — Three officers were singled out for unbecoming conduct, one officer for failure to comply with directives, one officer for improper remarks, and one officer for improper dissemination of information, the Capitol Police said in a statement on Saturday. None of the officers, or details about the recommended penalties, were identified. No criminal charges will be filed after the U.S. attorney’s office did not find sufficient evidence to do so. The internal inquiry, conducted by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, covered 38 investigations, although investigators failed to identify 12 officers involved in the cases. According to the statement, one investigation into an unidentified official who was “accused of unsatisfactory performance and conduct unbecoming” remains open.

Investigators call for disciplinary action against six police officers for their part in the Jan. 6 riot. Image via Reuters.

Capitol riot defendant files request for removal of ankle monitor, citing loud beeping” via Celine Castronuovo of The Hill — A Capitol riot defendant who prosecutors believe is a member of the Proud Boys has asked a judge to remove the GPS ankle monitor he was ordered to wear as part of his conditional release, noting that the device has “started beeping loudly” around potential business clients. Lawyers for Gabriel Augustin Garcia argued in a motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier this month that their client, who owns a roofing business, has had his work interrupted by the ankle monitor since he was released on bond earlier this year.


Democrats make immigration case to Senate parliamentarian” via Caroline Simon and Suzanne Monyak of Roll Call — The Senate parliamentarian heard arguments on a plan by Democrats to include immigration provisions in a budget reconciliation bill, bringing Congress one step closer to passing a path to legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants for the first time in decades. Democratic lawmakers are pushing for the inclusion of provisions that would provide a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, undocumented farmworkers, temporary protected status holders and essential workers. Following years of failed negotiations, partisan battles and outside advocacy, Democrats aim to pass the bill through a budgetary maneuver allowing only partisan votes.

House Democrats eye 26.5% corporate tax rate” via Richard Rubin of The Wall Street Journal — The tax increases would be part of the House Ways and Means Committee’s plans to pay for the party’s priorities in a fast-moving budget bill. Those items include an expanded child tax credit, a national paid-leave program, and renewable-energy tax breaks. House Democrats also are considering raising the minimum tax on U.S. companies’ foreign income to 16.5% from 10.5% and increasing the top capital-gains tax rate to 28.8% from 23.8%. Lawmakers are also expected to raise money by expanding IRS enforcement. Until now, House Democrats have been coy about their tax increase plans as they try to navigate between moderates worried about the economic impact of raising taxes and progressives eager to tax the rich and expand the social safety net.

Democrats eye a boost to the corporate tax rate. Image via AP.

Joe Manchin, Bernie Sanders at odds over $3.5 trillion budget resolution” via Julia Cherner of ABC News — Sen. Manchin reiterated his call on Sunday for a strategic pause on the $3.5 trillion budget resolution, while Sen. Sanders doubled down on the need to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure and budget reconciliation bills. “The urgency — I can’t understand why we can’t take time to deliberate on this and work,” Manchin said. Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee chairman, said he believes both bills will be passed. “I think we’re gonna work it out, but it would really be a terrible, terrible shame for the American people if both bills went down,” Sanders said in an interview that followed Manchin. The budget resolution calls for investments in climate change policy, child care, and other social programs, and is broader in scope than the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Inside the preparations to grill Anthony Blinken on Afghanistan” via Jonathan Swann and Zachary Basu of Axios — Secretary of State Blinken can expect the most aggressive questioning of his career when he testifies Monday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and on Tuesday before Senate Foreign Relations. Republicans see the hearings as their first chance to directly confront a top-ranking Biden official about the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Democrats see it as a moment in which they must reject GOP efforts to blame Biden for 20 years of bipartisan mistakes. If and how the U.S. recognizes the Taliban government is a key question now that an acting Cabinet in Afghanistan has been formed — one with the leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network and an FBI-wanted terrorist as interior minister.


Former Cuban political prisoner given eviction notice. Mayor Daniella Levine Cava steps in” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Ana Lazara Rodriguez, the former Cuban political prisoner who has been waging a legal battle since February to remain in her home, received an eviction notice on the door of her Miami home Saturday morning. According to the notice, she had until Monday to vacate the premises, but that was until Levine Cava stepped in and ordered the Miami-Dade Police Department to postpone the eviction until Tuesday. “It’s important to make sure Ms. Rodriguez has every opportunity to seek remedy in the legal system,” Levine Cava said.

Daniella Levine Cava helps keep Ana Rodriguez from being kicked to the curb.

Surfside Mayor terminates leases at his Miami Beach building, citing ‘intensive’ fixes” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Facing criticism over his stewardship of an apartment building with a few crumbling balconies and a balky elevator, the Mayor of the town where the Champlain Towers South fell has ordered tenants of his Miami Beach complex to leave the premises to make way for repairs, and declared their leases “terminated.” In a Thursday night email to tenants of the Lois Apartments on Normandy Isle, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett ordered residents to leave in the next 45 days to do “a tremendous amount of work” on the structure, which was battered by Hurricane Irma in 2017. “We regret that this work will create potentially dangerous conditions for residents,” Burkett wrote in the email, titled “Lease Termination.”

New materials can make Florida condos more durable. Almost no one uses them” via Krishna Sharma of the Miami Herald — Unlike many diseases that afflict aging humans, there are already cures for the most common, serious, and expensive threat to thousands of aging buildings along Florida’s coast, a malady that structural engineers have dubbed “concrete cancer.” The symptoms show up first as rust-stained columns or cracked balconies — telltale signs the steel reinforcement inside them is corroding. It’s a slow but relentless process that can be super-fueled by salty sea air and tidal flooding. Today’s high-rises are constructed with tougher codes and better waterproofing than decades-old condominiums like the collapsed Champlain Towers South in Surfside. But some research engineers believe there are even better ways to build along the beach with improved materials that can resist or even eliminate corrosion.

As some push for ‘zero tolerance’ in South Beach, county police chief says it won’t work” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — With Miami Beach politicians and commission candidates calling for zero-tolerance enforcement of minor crime in South Beach, the director of the Miami-Dade Police Department told city leaders Thursday that approach would not work to reduce crime in the entertainment district. Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez, who was invited to meet with the commission as Miami Beach City Hall once again grapples with public safety concerns from residents in South Beach, said police would “not get anything done” and breed mistrust from the community if officers were to enforce every crime, like minor drug possession. “Policing in today’s world, it’s not zero tolerance,” he said.

PortMiami fiscal cliff now more than a year off as cruises return and revenues grow” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics+ — PortMiami, which had been facing the possibility of tapping into savings to maintain operations if cruise travel doesn’t return to full capacity, appears to have escaped that fate. The harbor’s top money man says several developments in the past few months — including a $67 million infusion from the federal government — have made that contingency unlikely. “We see a pretty confident path that if cruises come back to a reasonable version of normal even by fiscal 2023, in part because of the state itself and certainly because of the county’s support, we won’t have to dip into reserves,” PortMiami Chief Financial Officer Andy Hecker told Florida Politics.

Pompano Beach church treasurer accused of embezzling almost $400,000, officials say” via Chris Perkins, Eileen Kelley and Yvonne H. Valdez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — He had been a faithful member and treasurer of the church for years, but when husband-and-wife pastors started questioning Abraham Velazquez-Velazquez why they were getting notices that their rent hadn’t been paid, he stopped attending. The Velazquez-Velazquez family remained regular congregants at Centro Cristiano Restauracion Divina until recently when Velazquez-Velazquez was arrested on allegations that he embezzled close to $400,000 from the church over a five-year period. Court records say Velazquez-Velazquez used some of the money to buy a dog while putting the church on the brink of closing down.

‘Wiped away:’ Historically Black community in Boca fears redevelopment will drive them out” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Generations of families have lived in Dixie Manor for 80 years. They’ve raised children and grandchildren, seen families come and go. But now, they say history — and their homes — are in danger of being destroyed. The Dixie Manor public housing community, home to 350 people, is facing the possibility of demolition and rebuilding from developers. Residents of the mostly Black neighborhood at 1350 North Dixie Highway fear that they’ll be forced to relocate permanently if it changes from public housing to affordable housing. “It’s being wiped away,” said John Martin, 65, who lived in the neighborhood for 30 years.

Palm Beach private island returning to market for at least $120 million” via Darrell Hofheinz of the Palm Beach Daily News — A private island in Palm Beach is headed back to the market with a price tag of at least $120 million, according to the developer whose investment group paid a recorded $85 million for it in July with plans to renovate a 1930s-era house there. Todd Michael Glaser is expected to list the 2.27-acre property this fall. But the price would soar, perhaps to $200 million — or possibly more — if the sale includes the town-approved renovation-and-expansion project. No property in Palm Beach has ever carried a publicly marketed price tag approaching $200 million, according to records in the Palm Beach Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service.

A charmer or a bully? Marlon Bolton carves his path with charisma and confrontation” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Whatever you say about Bolton, there’s no denying he’s determined. Whether sparring with political opponents or facing criticism of his church, or navigating his rocky personal life, the Tamarac City Commissioner — so far — has always come out on top. Young and confident, he was the first Black person ever elected to the Tamarac City Commission, and voters returned him to office overwhelmingly despite a bruising campaign rife with falsehoods and racial allegations. But now Bolton, 36, might face his biggest challenge yet. He is under state investigation after allegations that his evangelical church improperly obtained federal loans meant for COVID-19 relief.

Say what you will about Marlon Bolton; he is determined to overcome personal, professional challenges.

Justice Department to review new Pasco intelligence effort” via Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times — The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting an “intensive review” of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office’s latest intelligence program, federal officials said this week. The Justice Department sent a letter to the Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 6, two weeks after the Tampa Bay Times reported that the Sheriff’s Office had promised increased police scrutiny for people whose criminal histories included violent crimes and drug offenses. The Justice Department, which gave the Sheriff’s Office a $700,000 grant to help fund the program in 2018, directed the agency to “immediately pause its activities under this award” so it could review the program. It said it would work with the Sheriff’s Office to convene a group of community leaders, federal law enforcement agencies, and social service organizations to ensure best practices are followed.

Plea deal to let rock star Rod Stewart, son avoid trial in 2019 New Year’s Eve row at Palm Beach hotel” via Julius Whigham II of the Palm Beach Post — Stewart and his son Sean have reached a plea agreement that would allow them to avoid a trial on battery charges stemming from a New Year’s Eve 2019 incident at a Palm Beach hotel, court records show. County Judge August Bonavita canceled a trial scheduled to begin next week and set a plea-in-absentia hearing for Oct. 22. The move allows Rod and Sean Stewart to enter a plea without having to appear in court. Messages left Friday for their attorney, Guy Fronstin, were not immediately returned. Rod Stewart, 76, and Sean Stewart, 41, each was charged with simple battery after an altercation involving a security guard at The Breakers on Dec. 31, 2019.

WSVN’s Diana Diaz is leaving TV news for a $32.6 billion health care company” via Rod Stafford Hagwood of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — After 23 years, Diaz is exiting WSVN-Ch. 7. The news anchor of the FOX affiliate’s morning and noon broadcasts says her final day on-air will be Thursday, Oct. 7. The station has not named her replacement. “I’m so overwhelmed with emotion,” Diaz tells the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “This is not a job; this is a family. I feel like I’m going off to college. I have spoken to just about every single anchor, employee, the management, the ownership and have had very teary-eyed conversations with almost all of them.” The news stunned her colleagues, especially since she had recently returned to the broadcasts after a bout with COVID-19.

This group wants to save a Florida Keys lighthouse. The feds gave them the job” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Fittingly, Rob Dixon was dockside on the waters of the Florida Keys when he learned that he and others had a shot at restoring a piece of maritime history. The Alligator Reef Lighthouse was first lit in 1873 and sits 4 miles off Islamorada in the Upper Keys. Dixon, a longtime charter boat captain in Islamorada who still runs boats, checked his email to find a message from the U.S. Department of the Interior. It said the federal government was handing over ownership of the lighthouse to the nonprofit he helps run. “Goosebumps, just goosebumps,” said Dixon, 60, president of the Friends of the Pool, Inc., which announced the acquisition this week. “I couldn’t believe it.”


Vaccine mandates are hard. So is COVID-19” via The Washington Post editorial board — Biden was skeptical about vaccine mandates last December, but his attempt to persuade people to get vaccinated fell short as the delta variant sent infections skyrocketing. Now, he wants all large businesses in the United States to impose a vaccine mandate on their employees or have them show a negative test once a week. This significant extension of executive authority over the private sector will almost certainly run into logistical and legal hurdles and meet political resistance, but the effort is justifiable at a time of national emergency. The death toll from this pandemic now exceeds all the U.S. military combat deaths in all wars in the 20th century. It just makes no sense to go on being savaged by a virus when an effective tool to fight it is widely available and free.


The Trump coup is still raging” via Kevin D. Williamson of The New York Times — What happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was not a coup attempt. It was half a coup attempt, the less important half. The more important part of the coup attempt, like legal wrangling in states and the attempts to sabotage the House commission’s investigation of Jan. 6, is still going strong. These are not separate and discrete episodes but parts of a unitary phenomenon that, in just about any other country, would be characterized as a failed coup d’état. As the Republican Party tries to make up its mind between wishing away the events of Jan. 6 or celebrating them, one thing should be clear to conservatives estranged from the party: We can’t go home again.

DeSantis’ presidential plans aren’t ‘nonsense’ to Florida voters” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics+ — Gov. DeSantis said it’s “nonsense” to think he will run for President in 2024. But while his mouth says no, his actions have long said something else. He also allowed the speculation about his presidential ambitions to go unchecked for months until asked about it at a recent news conference. “All the speculation about me is purely manufactured. I just do my job,” DeSantis said. “I hear all of this stuff, and honestly, it’s nonsense. So you know, I don’t know what to say to those rumors.” Well, he could say, “I’m absolutely not running for President in 2024,” but he won’t do that. Gotta keep those options open, along with all of that free media from Fox News.

Memo to House Ethics Chair Ted Deutch: Punish this Congressman” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — When first heard from, Madison Cawthorn, the new congressman from the North Carolina mountains, was firing up the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, intending to overturn Biden’s election. He spoke provocatively. But he did not explicitly suggest the ensuing violence in the halls of Congress, and he claimed to deplore it. That baptism of irresponsibility in the national spotlight seems to have taught the 26-year-old only how much more he might get away with. The House must discipline Cawthorn because his own party won’t. The spineless minority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, has brushed off Nancy Pelosi’s appeal to his undetectable sense of responsibility.

A chance to end the digital divide in Florida” via Siottis Jackson of The Florida Times-Union — Days into the new school year, spiking COVID-19 cases have parents and educators across Duval County wondering and worrying about a possible return to virtual learning. It’s a harsh reminder of the urgent need to close Florida’s digital divide and ensure that every family — urban and rural, rich and poor; Black, White, and Hispanic — are connected to broadband. That’s why the pandemic’s resurgence in Florida and across the country makes passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill even more urgent. After months of negotiation, a bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate approved a plan that includes $65 billion to help connect every American.


Gov. DeSantis kicks off the week with a win — his ban on mask mandates is back in force. Now he’s ready to spar with Biden’s vaccine mandate.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins says she simply can’t forget the lives lost, and credits mask mandates for keeping a tough situation from getting worse.

— Overcoming a breakthrough case of COVID-19, Congressman Darren Soto visits Sunrise to dive into his legislative priorities and what’s on the horizon for Florida from Washington.

— The Orlando Democrat is officially out of quarantine and is able to go back on the Hill in Washington to continue his work. On the Sunrise interview, Soto shares his experience dealing with COVID-19, his treatments and tips for those working in Florida’s Capitol.

— During DeSantis’ tour to promote monoclonal antibody treatments, Republican Congressman Gus Bilirakis praised the treatment for helping him recover faster, as well as Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

SeaWorld’s first Howl-O-Scream: What we saw” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The very first SeaWorld Orlando’s Howl-O-Scream debuted Friday night, sporting a sea-sirens theme and other haunting elements we expect from a fright fest. Because it’s the first year for Orlando’s Howl-O-Scream, we didn’t have an established routine or expectations for scare zones. We found ourselves relaxed and thus vulnerable to the kind of scare actor who appears out of nowhere and is staring at you. There’s a pay to scare option after the Arctic house. Go beyond the bar, and you can press the scare button to frighten folks in the house remotely. You watch from afar. It’s the spooky equivalent of spraying water-ride passengers. (It’s four scares for $5 or 10 scares for $8.)

SeaWorld’s first Howl-O-Scream goes interactive. Image via SeaWorld.

‘This is my first catch.’ Meet the Miami fans who used American flag to save falling cat” via David Wilson of the Miami Herald — Craig Cromer is a facilities manager at the University of Miami and has had Miami Hurricanes season tickets with his wife, Kimberly Cromer, for about seven years. At every game, they hang an American flag over the railing right in front of their seats. Their rescue mission to catch a stray cat as it fell from the upper deck, Kimberly said, is “probably the strangest thing that’s happened.” You would hope so. Early in the second quarter of No. 22 Miami’s home-opener against the Appalachian State Mountaineers, a murmur rose from the student section at Hard Rock Stadium. The students, many attending their first-ever home game, noticed a cat dangling from the upper deck.

What Kevin Sweeny is reading — “Kevin Costner books concert in St. Augustine” via Tom Szaroleta of The Florida Times-Union — Costner is taking a little time away from the camera to go on tour with his Americana band, Modern West. The band’s tour includes a stop at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre on Oct. 25. Costner formed the band in 2007 and has released four albums. The latest, “Tales from Yellowstone,” features songs written from the perspective of the character Costner plays on the Paramount Network show, “Yellowstone.” The band will be at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25.


Belated best wishes to Allison Watson Bubriski, top lobbyist Jeff Hartley of Smith Bryan & Myers, and Elizabeth Wester. Celebrating today are Berneice CoxRosemary Goudreau O’Hara, Will McKinley, and Melissa Joiner Ramba.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Last updated on September 13, 2021

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

One comment

  • Tom

    September 27, 2021 at 7:42 am

    Interesting but not surprised. No coverage of
    America’s Governor in the lead in recent GOP poll, excluding ex POTUS 45.

    Huge wins this week for Governor on environmental initiatives and economic issues.
    Both roll lead to stronger Florida in coming 15 months.

    Dems continue to flounder at all levels.
    Nationally, State and local. Dems lying campaign losing credibility.

Comments are closed.


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