Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 10.3.21

winners-and-losers4
Maybe the state should spend less time punishing school districts and more time funding them.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is a hero to many conservatives for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis in Florida.

As we know, he is against mandates (unless it’s his mandate). He opposes lockdowns and mask requirements, sparking robust debate about his wisdom on those issues.

But as DeSantis launched into a full-campaign mode for his reelection drive in 2022, one of his biggest benefactors had some criticism for the Governor.

Ken Griffin, the billionaire hedge-fund operator who has contributed more than $10.75 million to a political committee that supports DeSantis, has some hard medicine for the Governor to swallow.

“I’ve been frustrated with his position on masks because it has overshadowed his messaging on vaccinations,” Griffin told Bloomberg News.

“He’s caught himself up in a political maelstrom of putting the concept of personal freedom first and foremost around masks, and I understand the principle. But Florida’s a really diverse state. He should have let each county make a decision on its own.”

Is this a good time to mention that the state Board of Education imposed financial penalties on eight school districts for imposing masks on students on Thursday?

The penalties are equal to the monthly salaries of School Board members. In addition, the state was authorized to withhold an amount equal to the federal grants of two districts, Broward and Alachua, received to maintain their mask policies.

So much for the idea of having each county make its own decision.

If Griffin’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was in the news earlier this year. DeSantis touted the benefits of the drug Regeneron. Citadel, Griffin’s Chicago-based hedge fund, has $15.9 million in shares of Regeneron Pharmaceutical Inc. Stories quickly circulated, implying that DeSantis was trying to boost his benefactor’s investment.

The story was probably overblown. Citadel is a $39 billion operation, and its Regeneron investment is comparatively minuscule.

Still, DeSantis’ investment in Griffin is considerable, considering how much money Griffin has donated to the Governor’s political fortunes.

Translation: Maybe he should listen to what Griffin has to say.

“I think that a really great talking point for somebody looking to run for President is to make it clear that you will do whatever it takes to protect our most vulnerable,” Griffin said. “And I think he’s lost that window of opportunity.”

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

Honorable mention — Lenny Curry: The Florida Times-Union reports that Jacksonville’s Mayor favors moving a Confederate monument from Springfield Park. That’s not always an easy position for a large Southern city leader to take, but it is the correct one.

It will cost about $1.3 million to relocate the large monument dedicated to the “Women of the Southland” and would require City Council support. The move fulfills Curry’s vow in 2020 after workers removed a statue of a Confederate soldier from James Weldon Johnson Park. Curry said then that “others in this city will be removed as well.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner — Ashley Moody: Florida’s Attorney General raised $702,995 in September, the first full month since she formally announced her reelection bid.

That’s more money than anyone other than DeSantis raised in Florida.

Moody’s political committee, Friends of Ashley Moody, began September with more than $2 million on hand. She’ll have plenty of money to fend off any Democratic challenger, assuming one emerges. No one has announced intentions to run against her.

At this rate, maybe no one will.

The biggest winner — St. Petersburg: The city scored a major coup when the powerhouse Ark Investment Management announced it is permanently closing its New York office and relocating to St. Pete.

Ark plans to start construction on a new 45,000-square-foot headquarters, the Ark Innovation Center, early next year.

The company estimates it will generate $28 million in economic impact and add about 1,265 jobs to the county by 2026.

CNN reported that Ark strategy chief Jana Haines said the area’s “vibrant and diverse talent base” and innovative public and private partnerships carried the day.

The Tampa Bay Times reported the company characterized its planned center as “a talent incubator.”

It’s designed to support Tampa Bay and tech startups and could serve as a magnet to attract top talent.

“Ark is not a traditional Wall Street asset management firm, and we are looking forward to breaking the mold further by relocating to St Petersburg, a city investing in technology, science, and innovation,” founder Cathie Wood said in a statement.

Dishonorable mention — Jacksonville: No, we don’t mean the winless Jaguars, although they certainly would deserve that.

And, seriously, doesn’t Coach Urban Meyer deserve scorn after the embarrassment he caused himself and the organization last week? Absolutely. But this isn’t about him, either.

Instead, this one is on city leaders, starting with the same Mayor Curry we praised earlier. He gets this dubious designation because of a decision to suspend curbside recycling pickup starting last Monday.

The city told residents to take their recyclables to any of 14 drop-off locations throughout the city, another dubious move. The Dumpsters quickly filled to overflowing with plastics and other materials.

Curry said this is a temporary move so city workers can pick up yard debris and other trash that has gone uncollected for months.

The problem, Curry said, is that there aren’t enough workers to keep up with demand.

“The circumstances that brought us to this place, a place that none of us have seen in our lifetimes, were beyond our control. It is a result of the lasting impacts the coronavirus pandemic has had on our economy,” he said.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser — Corrine Brown. Jacksonville.com reported the former U.S. Representative needs to work out a plea agreement or face a second trial on fraud and tax charges.

A jury convicted Brown, who served 12 terms in Congress, on conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and tax charges related to a bogus charity called One Door For Education. The group raised about $800,000 but spent most of the dough on parties, vacations, and other non-education trinkets. The children received next to nothing.

In May, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Brown in a 7-4 decision. The court ruled that the presiding judge in the original case improperly dismissed a juror.

Brown, her attorney said, needs the $42,000 she turned over to the government to arrange for counsel if she has another trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tysen Duva told the judge fraud victims had already received that money.

The biggest loser — Richard Corcoran: While deciding the most punitive measures it could inflict on school districts that defied his order against mask mandates, Florida’s Education Commissioner missed a deadline to receive $2.3B in school aid from the federal government.

Florida is the only state in the country that hasn’t applied for the aid, which many districts say they desperately need.

Hillsborough County has a $60 million operating deficit, and board members discussed asking voters to approve a property tax hike.

Other large districts also face significant budget concerns.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that Corcoran’s office disputed the idea that the state missed a deadline.

However, federal education officials said Florida’s delay in seeking the money raises “significant concerns” and represents a “failure to meet its responsibilities” that could hurt public schools.

That prompted this cavalier retort from Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary. In an email to the Sun-Sentinel, she said most of Florida’s school districts have yet to spend all of the money from the first two rounds of federal aid.

“It is difficult to take seriously the fictitious cries for urgency from these D.C. bureaucrats,” Pushaw wrote.

It raises the question: What’s more important?

Punishing districts for putting the safety of students ahead of a political stunt by the state? Or get the money they need to educate those same students in the middle of a pandemic?

The state flunked that test.

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.


16 comments

  • Theresa

    October 10, 2021 at 5:32 am

    nice

  • Alex

    October 10, 2021 at 6:20 am

    “I think that a really great talking point for somebody looking to run for President is to make it clear that you will do whatever it takes to protect our most vulnerable,” Griffin said. “And I think he’s lost that window of opportunity.”

    So his biggest contributor Griffin says he wants to be President, and he’s fucked up at being compassionate towards the weakest members of our society.

    But Mr Griffin, DeAnus is a far right tough guy in the mold of his hero Trump. He’s supposed to hate the most vulnerable.

    That’s why his supporters like him.

  • Captain Howdy

    October 10, 2021 at 8:48 am

    Pathetic little lefty troll posts its shit at 6:20 AM before the sun rises. Got no life, can’t sleep, just has to spew to stay alive

    • Alex

      October 10, 2021 at 1:10 pm

      Far right freakshow whines like a baby.

      Want a bot-bot baby?

  • Tom

    October 10, 2021 at 9:09 am

    Selective memory Joe.

    1. The AP story was a cheap shot and debunked as the Regeneron monoclonal was purchased in advance last November and Governor Ron’s valid and worthy efforts to offer it have played out affirmatively. Florida’s Covid had dropped by 83% since recent late summer surge. The 25 centers across the state have proven to be brilliant and life saving, I guess that is defending the most vulnerable.

    2. HHS, that’s this POTUS’s department released affirmatively that targeting the most vulnerable in age, the seniors from Covid was the brilliant thing to do. Florida has lead the country in getting seniors vaccinated, Governor held over 50 senior targeted events as the numbers prove.
    HHS affirmed this effort. Furthermore, the Governors effort to protect seniors in nursing homes was a step ahead compared to the Midwest and Northeast Govs. I guess that’s another example of defending the the most vulnerable. But hey why argue with facts in both examples.

    3. As for your continued cheap shots on masks and Alex’s diatribes, the Governor never, ever said they cannot be worn. He allowed parents the right to decide for their children. Novel thought.

    4. Encouraging and allowing Floridians-to work and prosper and young people to go to school is putting the whole state and preserving society.
    Compared to blue state tyrannical rule.

    Joe, it took you a week to acknowledge the Govs effort with 2000 new jobs from Orbiton and manufacturing plant in the space coast.

    Compared to this administration with a national economy that has 11 million jobs opportunities and 8.5 million unemployed. In February of 20, the unemployment rate was 3.5%. 30 year high on inflation wiping out any earning increases.

    Ken Griffin is entitled to his views just as you are. Fortunately, some of us can think on our own compared to the spewed dogma.

    More importantly, Floridians will not forget the Govs outstanding efforts as America’s Governor.

  • Charles

    October 10, 2021 at 10:25 am

    Henderson – frequently leaves a ugly scar with his brand of yellow journalism. A far left individual that has earned the moniker- Jackassery Joe.

    • E Hamel

      October 11, 2021 at 7:13 pm

      Truth hurts the lobotomized trump cult..
      Pavlov’s dogs

  • Ron Ogden

    October 10, 2021 at 11:28 am

    Government schools are slowly but inevitably becoming schools of last resort. Parents who really care about how their children learn are looking elsewhere. Gov. DeSantis’ decision to ban mask mandates actually supports government education. But the lefty establishment, convinced as always that it knows better, won’t have it.

    • Ocean Joe

      October 10, 2021 at 1:40 pm

      I understand what you think are counter-culture wars from the right to go after the left, etc. and rile up the base but I really don’t get the attack on public schools.
      My small area is heavily Republican and everybody is very supportive of our high school and two elem/middle schools.
      The Rotary club pumps out hundreds of thousands for college scholarships, the community supports the athletic programs in which home schooled kids are allowed to play, and our kids actually seem to enjoy going to school. We had a very good “christian” school which closed for financial reasons, and it’s students transferred into the public high school where a few struggle to catch up in math. Our Republican school board caved to Desantis but the staff wears masks. We currently have 40 kids out with covid out of 750 at the high school, a little over 5%. The school is A rated, with a low drop out rate and a high percentage going on to college. Nobody teaches CRT or anything close. You could sign up to sub or become a Take Stock mentor and observe your area high school in person, or you can continue to badmouth schools where you were probably either bullied or the bully as a kid. Corcoran is a hindrance and his wife’s position (owning?) a charter school is a gross conflict of interest.

      • Alex

        October 10, 2021 at 3:24 pm

        Ron wants to send his kids to bible thumper hellfire and brimstone school, and the taxpayers to pay for it.

        • Tom

          October 10, 2021 at 4:13 pm

          As usual B.S. lies from all you Manchurians. That is not what ocean joe referenced. No conflict in play, just fake news.

          Alex. Go paddle to commie Cuba.

          LMAO

      • Ron Ogden

        October 10, 2021 at 7:13 pm

        Where in the above did I say I was against public schools? I believe schools that are forced to feel the pressure of the government’s thumb often cannot educate children well. I attended both public and private schools from K-Postgrad. After 8th grade, I attended the schools I chose to attend. After 12th grade I paid every penny of the cost of my two-year and four-degrees (one a public school and the other a private school) and my nearly-completed MPA. My interest is in allowing parents and students to benefit from choices similar to the ones I had. Parents who choose to have their children educated in traditional government-managed schools have my full support. So do parents who choose otherwise. They should have your support, too.

      • Alex

        October 10, 2021 at 7:36 pm

        He dodged the question by asking a question, then bragged about his alleged accomplishments in an attempt to get some authority, then tried to blame you.

        Lol

        • Tom

          October 11, 2021 at 7:58 pm

          Alex is a deprived hypocrite.
          Don’t take him seriously.
          He really is clueless Socialist.

  • Tom

    October 10, 2021 at 2:46 pm

    Ocean Joe, what is the state law and or regulation that is the conflict? Is the superintendent’s wife not allowed to have a business venture? In this case a school.
    Is she not allowed?

    It’s grossly unfair to suggest conflict without a law to be in conflict with.

    You should offer better.

Comments are closed.


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