Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 11.28.21

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The Major League Baseball lockout means more to Florida than just the potential loss of entertainment. It could mean a potentially catastrophic loss of revenue for the 15 cities in our state that host spring training.

The Florida Sports Foundation estimates that spring training generates an annual economic impact of $687.1 million per year for the state. That doesn’t include the uncounted millions in free media when reporters send game reports and team updates to Northern cities still shivering in February and March.

The Foundation said that since 2000, more than 29 million fans attended Florida spring training games, including 1.5 million in 2018, before the pandemic struck. Obviously, not everyone was from out of state, but it’s still quite a loss if the games are interrupted.

So, what’s MLB’s first lockout in 26 years all about?

Duh.

Money, of course.

This piece from ESPN explains the issues well.

This is not a strike; players initiate that. The owners took this action when the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players union expired on Dec. 1, and it brought baseball’s normally active offseason to an immediate halt.

Players can’t use team facilities for rehab or anything else, and club officials cannot discuss the issues with reporters. It’s as if MLB as we know it doesn’t exist.

Traditionally, lockouts don’t end quickly. No one will be surprised if this impacts spring training, which, of course, would create an economic ripple effect throughout Florida.

The last work stoppage in 1994-95 — players were on strike because owners tried to implement a salary cap — led to the cancellation of the ’94 World Series. In the spring of ’95, owners tried to force the issue by using essentially anyone who was breathing and had any baseball experience as replacement players for the actual major leaguers.

The issue dragged on until April of that year, before U.S. District (and future U.S. Supreme Court) Judge Sonia Sotomayor issued a preliminary injunction against the owners’ plan to use replacements in regular-season games.

The only good news for Florida through all that is that owners agreed to expand to St. Petersburg in 1998, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were born.

Will it be as ugly this time as back then?

Stay tuned.

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

Winners

Honorable mention: Anna Paulina Luna. The other Republican candidates in CD 13 can probably get on with the rest of their lives now. Luna essentially wrapped up the GOP nomination with the recent news that the Big Guy himself, Donald Trump, will hold a fundraiser for her Tuesday at Mar-a-Lago.

Tickets for the private reception cost $1,000.

Luna has been on Trump’s good side dating to the 2020 election season when she unsuccessfully challenged Charlie Crist. Trump endorsed her then, endorses her now, and the fact he is helping her rake in more cash is the lights-out signal for GOP rivals Audrey Henson, Amanda Makki, and Matt Tito.

In an October survey from St. Pete Polls, Luna had 36.7% support — compared to a little more than 11% for the other three candidates combined. Luna’s support jumped to 62.4% when pollsters asked respondents who they would support if they knew Trump endorsed that person.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Florida National Guard. Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to increase the Guard’s budget by more than $100 million next year.

The Pensacola News Journal reported that DeSantis also wants to re-establish a Florida State Guard civilian volunteer force.

“I’m proud to say that this budget is going to have major investments to support Florida’s National Guard,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Pensacola. “In fact, we are recommending more than $100 million to support our National Guard to ensure they have the means necessary to carry out their mission ….”

Much of the increase, $87.5 million, will expand the Guard’s existing readiness center in Miramar. The Governor also wants to build three new armories across the state.

The biggest winner: Florida newspapers. If you’re one of those hipsters who laugh at that “dinosaur” known as newspapers, you might want to reconsider.

Newspapers still do important investigative work that makes a difference.

For instance, the Orlando Sentinel published an investigative piece about how top executives from Florida Power & Light were involved with political consultants who orchestrated a scheme to promote spoiler candidates in three key state Senate elections last year.

Reporters Jason Garcia and Annie Martin used documents and shoe-leather reporting to show FPL’s involvement with Grow United, a nonprofit described by the Sentinel as the center of “the ‘ghost’ candidate scandal.”

They also connected FPL CEO and President Eric Silagy to the scheme, reporting that he “personally coordinated with those consultants on campaign contributions made through their nonprofits.”

The paper also reported that ” … records also show FPL has donated more than $10 million in recent years to other dark-money nonprofits controlled by some of the same consultants.”

FPL denied the allegations.

“Neither FPL nor our employees provided funding, or asked any third party to provide funding on its behalf, to Grow United in support of Florida state-level political campaigns during the 2020 election cycle,” a company spokesperson said.

“Any report or suggestion that we had involvement in, financially supported, or directed others to support any ‘ghost’ candidates during the 2020 election cycle is patently false, and we have found absolutely no evidence of any legal wrongdoing by FPL or its employees.”

The good work didn’t stop there.

The Tampa Police Department announced it is ditching its controversial Crime Free Multi-Housing program, where police encouraged landlords in public housing to evict tenants for even minor crimes.

That decision is in apparent response to a Tampa Bay Times investigation of the tactics in September. About 90% of those evicted were Black.

TPD instead will merge existing neighborhood watches, the crime-free program, and Business Watch Tampa. In other words, the police will still be on guard but will work closely with residents and will not send letters to landlords about minor criminal activity.

Finally, as we watch the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell — pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s one-time girlfriend — it’s worth remembering how his empire collapsed. It was through the work of the Miami Herald, particularly reporter Julie Brown, whose dogged work uncovered his perverted actions.

Translation: Support your local newspaper.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Three Buccaneers. The NFL suspended three current Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Antonio Brown, safety Mike Edwards, and former Bucs receiver John Franklin III — for three games.

Their crime?

Violation of COVID-19-related protocols.

Brown and Edwards are eligible to return on Dec. 26 against Carolina. Edwards, now a free agent, can return then, too, provided a team signs him.

Last month, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Brown’s former chef said the player had obtained a fraudulent vaccination card.

The Bucs had previously announced that all players and staff had vaccinations.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: St. Pete’s mayoral ball. Well, this was embarrassing. Since 2006, the Junior League of St. Petersburg has staged a ball to celebrate the city’s new Mayor.

However, the 2022 event is off, not because of COVID-19 or any such thing. Organizers canceled the event after Mayor-elect Ken Welch, soon to be the city’s first Black Mayor, said he wouldn’t attend.

It was a circus theme with the title “Under the Big Top.” However, that brought back unwanted memories of when Blacks could not attend a circus in segregated St. Petersburg.

Oops.

Welch called the situation a “teachable moment” for a city that is about 70% White.

Meanwhile, the Junior League said it will focus harder on diversity and may plan a celebration for Welch at a future date.

The biggest loser: Our peace of mind. News that the omicron variant is now in multiple states in our country didn’t exactly leave anyone with the “peace on earth” sentiment of the Christmas season.

Experts tell us it’s highly infectious, but, for now, that’s about all. Vaccines may work well against the bug, or they might not. Infected people might have mild symptoms, but they could get really sick and die.

You might not need another vaccine booster if you’ve already taken one, but you also might need one.

You know those masks you put away weeks ago, thinking the worst had passed? Better dig ’em out.

By now, we should have a good understanding of the times in which we live. This pandemic has gone on for nearly two years, giving new meaning to the phrase “gone viral.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, millions of women in this country recoiled after a majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices seemed to signal support for a restrictive abortion law in Mississippi.

Although the court’s decision won’t come out until next June, many see the end of Roe vs. Wade as inevitable.

That may not necessarily be true, as the justices appeared to support the notion of letting individual states decide the issue. But that would mean women in Mississippi (and probably Florida) would have to travel to a more liberal state like New York or California if they want an abortion.

Breathe in, breathe out.

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.


7 comments

  • Ron Ogden

    December 5, 2021 at 5:58 am

    “. . .millions of women in this country recoiled. . .”
    And as many, quietly as is their way, applauded.

  • Alexann

    December 5, 2021 at 8:05 am

    Not this one!

  • Tom

    December 5, 2021 at 9:42 am

    More importantly America’s Governor and wonderful First Lady held a forum on mental health advocacy a few days ago. Governor announced $12 million for continued funding as First Lady has continued to support efforts to do so. In light of Covid, adults and young people mental challenges this is a continued effort to help make a difference.

    Continued support by Governor and First Lady to continue to promote this program is needed.
    The testimony was very powerful. First Lady Casey, wonderful example as always.

    Great job!

  • Tom

    December 5, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    Where’s the scum bag peter h, weasel liar ignorant fool. Hiding under Lincoln legs ass with Wilson and Schmidt:

    How’s Alex, how was the shock therapy? New meds. Still disturbed.

  • Tom

    December 6, 2021 at 8:12 am

    Florida continued to be the lowest Covid infection state in USA.

    Compliments to Governor Ron and his continued leadership.

    61,000 have regretfully perished. Erroneous advocate extremists have attempted to suggest larger amount wrongfully.

    Florida Media has attempted to ignore and did play the lowest infections in country.

Comments are closed.


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