Former Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Ryan Matthews and governmental consultant Angela Drzewiecki are joining the Government Affairs and Lobbying Team at GrayRobinson.
The pair come to the firm from Peebles Smith & Matthews, a government and public affairs firm specializing in local government, utilities, environmental and infrastructure issues for the last 30 years.
“We are thrilled to have Ryan and Angela join GrayRobinson’s Government Affairs and Lobbying Team,” said GrayRobinson President and CEO Dean Cannon. “They bring in-depth knowledge of the function and operation of local governments, municipal utilities, and Florida’s regulatory and permitting processes, as well as the overall legislative process, which bolsters the legal and advocacy service offerings our robust team provides within these essential sectors.”
Matthews and Drzewiecki are bringing some clients, including the College of Florida Keys, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Ground Water Association, Florida Municipal Insurance Trust, Florida Sheriffs Association, MetroPlan, Orlando Utilities Commission and Toho Water Authority.
They will also continue to serve clients represented by both firms, including the city governments of Kissimmee, Orlando and Tampa, as well as the Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities, Florida Municipal Electric Association, Florida Municipal Power Agency, JEA, Monroe County and the Village of Islamorada.
Matthews joins GrayRobinson as a shareholder in the Tallahassee office, focusing on environmental, land use and local government issues. Drzewiecki, who joins GrayRobinson as a government consultant in the Tallahassee office, will focus on appropriations, law enforcement and general local government issues.
“Angela and I are delighted to be joining GrayRobinson,” he said. “Having worked with Dean Cannon and members of the firm over the years, we are proud to become a part of a team whose caliber of service consistently ranks them among the top producing and most highly acclaimed lobbying and law firms in Florida.”
For many, today is the last Friday before all hell breaks loose in Tallahassee.
For Ron Pierce, he’ll be celebrating his birthday — the last one before the big 5-0.
Although RSA Consulting may have just celebrated its 13th birthday, Ron has been part of the Tallahassee scene for nearly 25 years, building a reputation as one of the hardest-working (and most genuine) people in The Process.
Please join me in wishing Ron a very happy birthday!
The Florida Chamber Foundation will hold its 2022 Economic Outlook & Jobs Solution Summit virtually this afternoon, delivering viewers an in-depth look at where the state economy stands and where it could be at the dawn of the next decade.
The summit launches at 1 p.m. and will feature talks by some of the top experts in the business community. After opening remarks from Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson, Wells Fargo Senior Economist Mark Vitner will overview the national economic landscape.
A dozen other talks and discussions follow. One panel, titled “Demand Outpaces Supply: When There Are More Open Jobs Than Talent,” will feature Polk State College President Angela Garcia Falconetti, St. Petersburg College President Dr. Tonjua Williams, and Miami-Dade College Madeline Pumariega.
Later, Susan Fiorito, a professor and dean at FSU’s Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship, will discuss the rise of entrepreneurship with Shane Smith, the Central Florida Director for the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship.
As with other Florida Chamber events, the organization will use the opportunity to showcase its extensive economic research — Chamber Foundation EVP David Gillespie is set to deliver an update on the organization’s workforce research, and Sean Snaith, the director of UCF’s Institute for Economic Forecasting, is slated to detail the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2022 Economic Forecast.
A full agenda and registration details for the 2022 Economic Outlook & Jobs Solution Summit are available online.
The new year brought a new name for the Florida Children’s Council, which this week rebranded as the Florida Alliance of Children’s Councils and Trusts, or FACCT for short.
FACCT is a nonprofit organization that serves as the statewide umbrella organization for the Children’s Services Councils and Trusts. It engages with businesses, agencies, and other key stakeholders to support Florida’s children, youth and families.
The organization pools the collective strengths of individual Children’s Services Councils and Trusts to advocate for sound, evidence-based statewide policies such as prevention and early intervention systems.
United under “a new purpose-driven name,” the organization said it will continue to provide data-driven “FACCTs” based on statewide and local outcomes to Florida decision-makers, business leaders, agencies, and communities to ensure children are healthy, educated, and prepared for a successful future.
Along with the new name comes a new logo that invokes FACCT’s “cradle to career” approach to child welfare — literally — by illustrating an infant, child, graduate, and briefcase-carrying worker standing side-by-side at sunrise.
More information on the organization and its work is available on FACCT.com.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@marcorubio: The upscale liberals who control the media and Democrat party believe Jan 6th was another Pearl Harbor or 9/11. And the rest of America, including many Democrats, think they are nuts
—@RepValDemings: Honoring this evening all who protected democracy, and our Capitol on that tragic day 1 year ago. My prayers remain with the victims, my fellow members of Congress, staff and our Capitol police. God bless America.
—@RepStephMurphy: To see so many of my colleagues attempt to whitewash the events of #January6th is disheartening. How can you take them seriously as legislators when they sow disinformation and undercut our Constitution?
—@RepGregSteube: Today @VP made history as a national disgrace. Nearly 3,000 people died on 9/11, and about 2,400 were killed at the attack of Pearl Harbor. Her blatant disregard for the legitimacy of those tragedies by correlating them to 1/6 is reprehensible.
—@DarrenSoto: I was in the chamber on #January6th and saw the violent insurrection firsthand. Tonight, I was proud to stand with our constituents in #FL9 as we remember this terrible tragedy. Together we will defend our democracy!
—@ShevrinJones: You have to be a sick person to compare the #January6th insurrection to the demonstrations that took place after the killing of a Black man. Let’s be clear, if Black/Brown people would have stormed the Capitol, they would still be cleaning the blood from the stairs, TODAY!
—@SpencerRoachFL: Jan 6th, 2021: a day to be commemorated, not celebrated. A mob defiled the Capitol, literally (by smearing feces on the walls & in the halls) & figuratively (by disrupting the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in the 246-year history of our Republic.) Never again.
—@KKFla37: (Ron) DeSantis this AM shows again he’s much more in tune with the GOP base than (Donald) Trump is. In reference to Jan. 6 he discussed the FBI, the corporate media, the DC/NYC elites, Nancy Pelosi, Floridians don’t care, etc. He’s perfectly Nixonian in the themes he hits. DeSantis actually went to Harvard not Whittier but he seems to be Nixon reincarnated in so many ways. Cultural tough talk, pushes the right’s buttons about elites, the media & the Northeast while compiling a record that is ideologically inconsistent.
—@ScottMorrisonMP: Mr. (Novak) Djokovic’s visa has been canceled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID; we are continuing to be vigilant.
NFL season ends — 2; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 4; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 4; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 4; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 4; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 5; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 7; NFL playoffs begin — 8; ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 14; ‘Billions’ begins — 16; Red Dog Blue Dog charity event — 18; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 28; Super Bowl LVI — 37; season two of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ begins — 423; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 44; Daytona 500 — 44; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 47; CPAC begins — 49; St. Pete Grand Prix — 49; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 56; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 75; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 77; The Oscars — 79; federal student loan payments will resume — 114; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 119; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 140; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 146; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 183; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 194; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 238; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 273; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 308; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 311; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 343; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 406; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 441; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 567; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 651; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 931.
— TOP STORY —
“On Jan. 6 anniversary, Joe Biden calls out Donald Trump for ‘web of lies’ about 2020 election” via John Wagner, Amy B Wang, Mariana Alfaro, Eugene Scott and Felicia Sonmez of The Wall Street Journal — President Biden decried the violent mob of Trump supporters who breached the Capitol a year ago, saying that “democracy was attacked” and urging Americans to ensure such an attack “never, never happens again.” Biden took direct aim at former President Trump, who he said could not accept his loss and “created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.” In a searing speech, Biden vowed to defend American democracy and said Jan. 6 represents not its end but rather a rebirth of “liberty and fair play.” Democratic House leaders have planned a full day of commemorative activities, including testimonials from lawmakers, commentary from historians and a prayer vigil. Most Republicans are not participating in the day’s events.
To watch part of Biden’s speech, click on the image below:
— STATEWIDE —
“‘This is their Christmas’: DeSantis jabs at news media on Jan. 6 anniversary” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis lashed out Thursday at Democrats and the news media, saying they plan to use the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as an opportunity to “smear” Trump supporters. “This is their Christmas,” he told reporters at a morning news conference in West Palm Beach. DeSantis characterized the D.C. and New York “journalist class” as obsessed with the incident. He also lambasted pundits and others who equate the riot to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. Hijackers killed 2,996 Americans during the 2001 attack. Five died and 150 officers were injured during the Jan. 6 riot. “It’s not something that I’ve been concerned about in my job because, quite frankly, it’s not something that most Floridians are concerned about,” the Republic governor added.
“DeSantis, Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan: Jimmy Patronis wants feds to turn over discussions about the trio” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Patronis is seeking answers as to why the Biden administration throttled shipments of monoclonal antibodies to Florida. Patronis filed a record request about a slew of federal leaders, asking for any correspondence about the coveted post-infection treatment. He is also seeking public records containing conversations about DeSantis, Rogan and Carlson, among more than a dozen figures, state agencies and news outlets. Those three, notably, are among the more outspoken critics of the federal government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The request applies to messages sent between 17 high-ranking federal employees, including Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, among others. “If they’re conspiring to hold back lifesaving drugs, we’ll find out,” Patronis tweeted.
“DeSantis blasts NASCAR’s ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ rejection” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis waded into yet another controversy regarding the NASCAR driver who first elicited the infamous “Let’s Go Brandon” chant. NASCAR rejected the attempt by cryptocurrency coin LGBCoins.io to sponsor the car of driver Brandon Brown. LGB is shorthand for “Let’s Go, Brandon,” which is a phrase opponents of the President have adopted to mean “F*** Joe Biden.” A NASCAR source told CBS that Brown and the company both knew the sponsorship and its “derogatory and vulgar euphemism” would be rejected weeks ago. But DeSantis framed the rejected sponsorship as a reflection of language “sanitized” in the service of the current President. “It’s as much a rebuke to some of the corporate media out there as it is to Biden himself,” DeSantis said.
“DeSantis out of breath in video prompts COVID-19 speculation” via Brendan Cole of Newsweek — On Wednesday, was in Kissimmee, Osceola County, to announce that nearly $10 million would be awarded to support semiconductor and other tech manufacturing. But as DeSantis stood at the podium behind a sign that read “Manufacturing Florida’s future,” his voice wavered as he spoke. A video of the news conference has been widely shared, with some suggesting that his apparent difficulty in getting to the end of sentences was caused by a COVID-19 infection. There has been no official confirmation that he has the virus.
“FPL makes unusual public attack on Miami Herald after solar power coverage” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Florida Power & Light has launched an unusual public attack on the Miami Herald and its senior Tallahassee reporter over coverage of the utility company’s lobbying on solar power policy, criticism the paper’s top editor called “unfair.” FPL this week published a piece on its website criticizing the news organization for not posting the entirety of an editorial opinion piece written in response to a Dec. 20 Miami Herald story co-authored by Capitol Bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas about the company’s role in preparing legislation affecting rooftop solar power generation in Florida. FPL’s post was titled: “Truth Matters: Why is the Miami Herald afraid to let its readers hear opposing voices?” In a statement issued Wednesday, Herald Executive Editor Monica Richardson defended Klas and the paper’s reporting and said the state’s largest utility company “has crossed the line into an unfair attack.”
“Virtual reality charter school shows off technology at digital launch event” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — America’s first virtual reality charter school will start classes on Aug. 22. Erika Donalds, the founder of Optima Classical Academy, said students can begin enrolling in a lottery to get a digital seat in the classroom at the high-tech endeavor. At a virtual news conference, Donalds, through a 3D rendered avatar, said this type of virtual instruction will be unlike anything students have experienced, whether during the pandemic or before it. “Parents have been upset at substandard virtual offerings made available during the pandemic,” Donalds said. “This is the gold standard,” she added.
“Man’s greed and ignorance choked this Florida river to near ruin but rescue plan underway” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — An untouchable reserve of freshwater will be earmarked for South Florida’s only nationally recognized wild and scenic river under restoration plans up for discussion early this year. In public workshops that begin Jan. 25, South Florida Water Management District officials will review how water will be restricted from future use to replenish the Loxahatchee River, which has gagged on saltwater flushes from the Atlantic Ocean since roads and homes scarred its natural watershed. Lawrence Glenn, the district’s division director for water resources, said protecting the future water needed for the restoration is a routine part of the process required by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“Decades later, EPA still working on cleanup of Florida’s ‘Mount Dioxin’” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — Across the country, the EPA is now dealing with 1,571 Superfund sites. New Jersey has 114, more than any other state. Florida doesn’t lag far behind with 92. The Superfund site I want to talk to you about is pretty nasty on several levels. Hold your nose while I tell you the tangled tale of the Escambia Wood Treating Company. It was bad because the EPA itself screwed up the cleanup. The agency ended up having to relocate about 400 households from the neighborhoods around the site. this is just one Superfund site. There are 91 more in Florida, each one with its own story of official incompetence, political influence and corporate greed.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“Nikki Fried bashes bill that would remove DEP head from Cabinet vetting” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Fried is criticizing a new bill drafted in the Florida Senate that would remove Cabinet review from the confirmation of the head of the Department of Environmental Protection. SB 1658, filed Thursday by Sen. Aaron Bean, would streamline the confirmation process for acting Secretary Shawn Hamilton. The measure removes the requirement that the appointment of the Secretary of Environmental Protection be subject to the concurrence of three members of the Cabinet. The Bean bill contemplates no other changes. The Senate would still confirm the Governor’s appointee. With three Republicans and one Democrat in the Cabinet, the outcome of a confirmation vote may not be in doubt. Nevertheless, Fried sees the attempt to sidestep Cabinet review as another attempt by DeSantis to diminish her role.
“Democrats want to verify Florida’s Holocaust and slavery history lessons are up to par” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — As DeSantis raised issues about how children learn history, Democrats are introducing legislation that would penalize schools that don’t properly teach African American and Holocaust history. Under the bill, private schools, charter schools and public-school districts would be required to submit evidence to the state that the topics are being taught as state standards dictate. Sen. Lori Berman filed the Senate version (SB 1398). Rep. Geraldine Thompson filed the House version (HB 51), with Rep. Anna Eskamani serving as a co-sponsor.
“Central Florida lawmakers say redistricting, budget and gathering in Tallahassee safely are key Session issues” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The 2022 Legislative Session will be dominated by the passage of the state budget and redistricting maps, perhaps sucking up most of the Session’s air. But lawmakers also think that just being there in an open Capitol may become a big challenge too. That was something of a consensus for four lawmakers during a 2022 Legislative Session preview roundtable hosted by the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida Thursday. Everyone shared their wish lists, except Dennis Baxley, who predicted that the budget and the redistricting maps would be plenty. Hawkins hopes to push through his bill to facilitate electrocardiogram testing in high school athletes (HB 59) and promote semiconductor technologies.
“Senate accuses ACLU of Florida lawyer of violating redistricting rules” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Senate has accused a staff attorney of the ACLU of Florida of misinformation after he appeared as a private citizen before a redistricting committee to present a map he had drawn but failed to identify his employer, which had no role in the submission. Senate Committee chairperson Ray Rodrigues sent a memo to all 40 senators on Nov. 22 accusing Nicholas Warren of violating Senate rules when he presented his map at a Nov. 17 committee meeting without identifying himself as a staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida. Warren testified that he submitted the map to show the committee it was possible to avoid putting two Black communities on opposite sides of Tampa Bay into the same Senate district.
“Outgoing Sen. Jeff Brandes still chasing a legacy in prison reform” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — In 2014, a Department of Corrections official stood before a panel of lawmakers and described how prison guards had walked an inmate into a scalding hot shower and left him there, pleading, as his skin peeled off. The Republican Senator from St. Petersburg listened in disbelief. Newly minted as a member of the criminal justice committee, he felt out of place. It wasn’t his expertise. Senate leaders put him on the committee anyway. Over the next few years, Brandes went from a tourist in Florida’s criminal justice world to an authority determined to make a sweeping change to what he saw as a crisis.
— MORE TALLY —
“Proposed legislation would compel Governor to move faster on legislative vacancies” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The Governor’s power to set special election dates would get clipped according to a bill proposed Thursday from lawmakers spurred to action after an unprecedented delay in getting current vacancies filled. Since U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings died last April, DeSantis’ has not moved to set election dates until lawsuits asked a judge to force him to act. The result: The longest congressional vacancy in U.S. history, according to some analyses, and early voting that started on New Year’s Day 2022, a postal holiday. State Sen. Tina Polsky and State Rep. Ben Diamond announced they’d filed companion bills (SB 1586 and HB 1217) to get DeSantis and subsequent Governors moving faster. The bills call for a Special Election no later than 180 days after a vacancy has occurred.
“Proposed bill would take away car dealer requirement to transfer title within 30 days” via Shannon Behnken of WFLA — When you buy a vehicle in Florida, the law requires dealers to apply to transfer the title into your name within 30 days. If they don’t, the state can fine the dealer or even suspend or revoke their license. This law gives regulators the power to help make sure consumers can register their cars in their names. But Sen. Tom Wright filed a bill that would take that requirement away, and critics say it gives more power to dealers and curt consumers. Senate Bill 1346 would amend existing legislation so that a dealer no longer “must” obtain a title in the purchaser’s name. Instead, the bill would replace “must” with “should.” The proposed legislation literally strikes out words that give the state regulators power. Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, whose office processes titles, was stunned when notified of this bill.
“Step Up For Students gets another clean bill of health” via reimaginED — For the seventh year in a row, the Florida Auditor General reported no major findings in its annual operational audit of Step Up For Students, the nonprofit scholarship-funding organization that administers scholarships for low-income students, bullied students, and those with special needs. The 2020-21 operational audit examined the period between March 2020 and February 2021, covering the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. During this period, Step Up For Students paid $610.1 million in Florida Tax Credit Scholarships (FTC); $338.9 million for the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES); $134 million for the Gardiner Scholarship; $2.5 million for the Hope Scholarship; and $2.1 million for the Reading Scholarship.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“COVID-19 update: Testing rate hits record high as Florida reports 67,369 new cases and over 8,500 hospitalizations” via David Schutz of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida reported 67,369 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday as daily testing reached record levels, according to data from the CDC. A record 146,665 tests are being reported on average per day as of Dec. 29, the most recent data available for testing rates. The rise in testing has driven the state’s average daily cases to a record every day for 12 consecutive days, reaching 56,595 as of Thursday. Miami-Dade County’s average daily case rate of 3,678 per 100,000 population is the second-highest of the nation’s 3,143 counties reporting data to the CDC. Richmond County in New York, which includes Staten Island in New York City, has the highest rate.
—“Florida COVID-19 update: Rolling seven-day case average decreases for first time in 26 days” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald
“DeSantis on his need for a COVID-19 test: ‘I’d only test if I had symptoms.’” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Afterspent a few minutes sounding short of breath, he paused at a news briefing Wednesday to tell his audience “excuse me” while quickly moving his head and recomposing himself. DeSantis’ appearance sparked questions across social media about whether the Governor needed to get himself tested for COVID-19. But on Thursday, he said he was symptom-free and feeling fine. Testing hasn’t been necessary, he said, a position that coincides with him advocating that testing be done only for people with symptoms from the highly contagious virus. The Governor has held multiple news conferences across Florida this week, appearing without a mask at the lectern while standing in the company of the directors of his key agencies.
DeSantis seems… winded? pic.twitter.com/WAwz3X5WaH
— Ric Swartzlander (@ricswartzlander) January 5, 2022
“DeSantis announces 1 million at-home COVID-19 tests will go to seniors, ignores vaccines” via Chris Persaud and Katherine Kokal of The Palm Beach Post — The state plans to send up to 1 million at-home COVID-19 test kits to nursing homes and “senior-heavy” communities across Florida, DeSantis announced Thursday at a nursing home in West Palm Beach. He also discouraged asymptomatic younger people from using them. “If you’re just young and healthy, you don’t need to be going out and getting tested every day,” DeSantis said at the Rehabilitation Center of the Palm Beaches. He noted that seniors are more likely to “parlay” a positive test result into getting treatment.
“‘Recipe for disaster’: Florida Department of Health releases new COVID-19 testing guidelines that contradict CDC’s” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — Days after Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said he would prioritize “high value” testing, the Florida Department of Health released new COVID-19 guidance that contradicts the CDC and recommends fewer people get tested. The CDC recommends people get tested if they have had close contact with someone with COVID-19, if they have COVID-19 symptoms, or if they are not fully vaccinated. It notes that people can spread COVID-19 even if asymptomatic, so testing is crucial. Public health experts worry the new Florida DOH guidelines, released in a one-page document on Thursday, could exacerbate the current COVID-19 surge.
—“COVID-19 testing recommended for symptomatic residents who are elderly, pregnant or immunocompromised, but not others” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics
“Up to 80% of Florida will have caught COVID-19 by end of omicron wave, UF report says” via Marlei Martinez of WESH — Most of the state’s population will become infected with coronavirus in the latest omicron wave. UF biostatisticians have been studying the way that the omicron variant behaves. They say data shows that omicron is twice as infectious as delta and spreads quicker, too. “So, you combine those two things, and you get a very fast, large epidemic,” said Ira Longini. Longini is a UF professor and one of the researchers who worked on the report. So, how large of an epidemic are they predicting? “Probably 70 to 80% of the state will either get infected in this wave or have been infected in a prior wave,” Longini said.
“First cruise cancellations hit as every U.S. ship now under COVID-19 watches” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — As the omicron variant of COVID-19 rages across the U.S., the spread has forced at least one cruise line to call off some sailings from Florida. Norwegian Cruise Line said it had canceled the remainder of an 11-night Panama Canal sailing of the Norwegian Pearl that departed Miami on Monday as well as a planned nine-night Caribbean sailing of the Norwegian Getaway from Miami “due to COVID-19 related circumstances.” The ships are not alone, with the CDC monitoring case reports onboard every vessel sailing with passengers from the U.S. The CDC stated that for the two weeks from Dec. 15-29, all cruise lines reported 5,013 COVID-19 cases, compared to 162 from Nov. 30-Dec. 14.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“COVID-19 update: Testing rate hits record high as Orange County positivity rate climbs to over 40%” via David Schutz of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County remained the county with the state’s highest average positivity rate as Florida reported 67,369 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and daily testing reaching record levels, according to data from the CDC. A record 146,665 tests are being reported on average per day as of Dec. 29, the most recent data available for testing rates. The rise in testing has driven the state’s average daily cases to a record every day for 40 consecutive days, revised CDC data shows, reaching 56,595 as of Thursday. On Wednesday, 8,532 patients in Florida hospitals had COVID-19, the highest number since Sept. 19 and a nearly fourfold increase since Christmas, data shows.
“Archdiocese of Miami: Masks required for Mass and schools” via The Associated Press — The Archdiocese of Miami is requiring masks again for anyone attending Mass or school as COVID-19 infections spike across South Florida. An archdiocese statement issued Wednesday says the mask requirement affects all Mass services and church gatherings across its 109 parishes. A similar requirement was reimposed for students and staff at Catholic schools in South Florida on Jan. 1, before classes resumed following the holidays. “We need to be cautious, and we need to be proactive,” Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman said. “We believe that wearing a mask and social distancing can help prevent the spread.” Archbishop Thomas Wenski had lifted the mask requirement for fully vaccinated parishioners in November as coronavirus caseloads dropped significantly following a summer wave caused by the delta variant of COVID-19.
“MacDill AFB raises health alert level as COVID-19 cases rise” via Stephen Adams of WTSP — MacDill Air Force Base is raising the alarm in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Tampa Bay region and on base. Citing an 800% communitywide jump in new cases — primarily due to the omicron variant, the commander is raising the military installation’s health protection condition level. Citing an 800% communitywide jump in new cases — mostly due to the omicron variant, the commander is raising the military installation’s health protection condition level. The level is being taken from HPCON Bravo+, which indicates moderate community transmission, to HPCON Charlie, recognizing “sustained” and substantial transmission. Due to the update, MacDill further limits gatherings and limits dining to takeout only.
“Cleveland Clinic Florida postpones non-urgent surgeries as COVID-19 surges, visits limited” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Cleveland Clinic is postponing all non-urgent surgeries that require an overnight stay at all of its Florida hospitals, including its Weston campus, to help make room for ill patients and alleviate a strained workforce that is amid a staffing shortage. Hospitals affected by this change include: Cleveland Clinic Weston Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Martin South Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Martin North Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital. Currently, surgeries and procedures at its outpatient surgery or endoscopy centers will not be postponed, Cleveland Clinic Florida said Thursday. Cleveland Clinic has outpatient centers in Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties.
“Your trash hasn’t been picked up yet? COVID-19 is delaying service in South Florida” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Garbage haulers say their trash pickups are falling behind schedule because of COVID-19, reeling from an “unprecedented number of staff out.” Already, many people across South Florida are experiencing delays. Republic Services, a garbage hauler that serves several cities in Broward, is among those figuring out how to keep up with service. Coconut Creek city spokeswoman Yvonne Lopez said it was a “regional problem” and blamed the omicron variant of the coronavirus. “Due to staffing shortages, Republic Services is running behind on some services.” She said delays in both garbage and bulk pickup were expected over the next two weeks “as they are working on additional resources to eliminate their current challenges.”
— 2022 —
“DeSantis top ‘second choice’ for GOP 2024 voters in another poll” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Yet another survey shows that Republican Primary voters would prefer DeSantis as their 2024 nominee if Trump decides not to run again. While Trump was the preferred candidate among 55% of the 306 Republicans surveyed in a December poll from the University of Massachusetts, DeSantis was the runner-up. DeSantis had 20% backing as a “first choice” candidate. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s 7% was good for third place. When respondents were asked who their “second choice” candidate was, they liked DeSantis even more. The survey showed 37% of those polled picked DeSantis, with Sen. Ted Cruz at 15% in second place for the second choice. Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence tied for third place, with 13%.
“How will messaging about Jan. 6 attacks affect outcome of 2022 midterm election?” via Alex Roarty of the Miami Herald — Last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol left an indelible scar on politics in Washington and laid bare the country’s growing threat of political violence. That doesn’t mean it’ll have a big influence on the next election. In the year since the Jan. 6 riot, Democrats have grudgingly accepted that the unprecedented attack has been marginalized as an issue for many key voters, overtaken by broader kitchen-table concerns about the rising cost of living and culture war-inflected battles over schools and coronavirus restrictions. Even if the party continues to talk about the attack, as Biden did during a speech Thursday in the Capitol marking the anniversary, Democratic strategists are skeptical it’ll play more than a minor role on the campaign trail later this year.
“Nikki Fried to Floridians after COVID-19 tests expire: ‘You need a better leader’” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Fried apologized to Floridians Thursday after the leader of Florida’s pandemic response confirmed up to 1 million unused COVID-19 tests expired in state custody. Fried’s apology came hours after Division of Emergency Management (DEM) Director Kevin Guthrie confirmed the expiration. A longtime critic of DeSantis, Fried accused the Republican Governor of reckless leadership amid the pandemic. She also characterized the incident as the latest example in a long line of leadership failures. DeSantis, she argued, has proved himself “ill-prepared” to manage the state. News of the expiring tests came to light in late December after Fried published a warning on social media.
Dennis Ross contemplates return to Congress — Ross’ former chief of staff Anthony Foti confirms to Florida Politics that the one-time conservative lawmaker is putting plans in motion to return to Congress. For eight years (2011-2019), Ross represented Florida’s 12th Congressional District — later changed to CD 15 — which covered Brandon, Plant City, Lakeland, and Bartow. In 2018, he announced he would not seek re-election. After leaving Congress, Ross became a distinguished professor of political science at Southeastern University and launched the American Center for Political Leadership (ACPL) in the Jannetides College of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership.
“Jayer Williamson announces he will not pursue re-election in 2022” via Tristan Wood of Florida Politics — Rep. Williamson announced Thursday he will not be seeking re-election in 2022 and will be stepping away from politics. In a statement, Williamson said he had been approached with ideas of running for Congress, state Senate and Agriculture Commissioner over the past year. However, he decided to step out of the political arena after spending the holiday season reflecting, praying, and having conversations with his family. While the decision is a lot to process, it was easy for him to make. In his statement, Williamson also took shots at unnamed public officeholders “at every level” that “have created and perpetuated a toxic political environment far removed from the fact that we are elected to serve the public.”
HD 11 candidate’s campaign website skirts election rules — Republican Emily Nunez launched a primary campaign against incumbent Rep. Cord Byrd this week, but her fundraising operation is raising eyebrows. Nunez, an acolyte of Rep. Anthony Sabatini, set up a campaign website that does not include campaign disclosure information required by the state Division of Elections. Additionally, the website directs supporters to donate to a political committee, “Conservative Leadership Coalition,” a practice that runs afoul of state elections law. Sources tell Florida Politics that Jacksonville attorney and former Duval County Judge Jerilynn O’Hara plans to file a complaint against Nunez with the state Commission on Ethics and Division of Elections.
“Letters to operatives targeted in ‘ghost’ candidate probe to be released” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Letters from Miami prosecutors informing several key figures in Florida’s “ghost” candidate scandal that they are facing the possibility of criminal charges are to be publicly released, following a court hearing Thursday. Attorneys representing former state senator Frank Artiles objected to the public release of certain evidence they deemed “private” during the hearing but did not argue to shield from disclosure the letters, which alerted three individuals and a nonprofit organization that they are also under investigation. Attorneys representing Artiles had requested to keep nonpublic other records prosecutors in the case have collected, including Artiles’ credit report and files collected from his personal laptops and cellphone.
— CORONA NATION —
“Rapid nasal COVID-19 tests feared to be returning false negatives” via Caitlin Owens of Axios — There appears to be yet another layer to America’s coronavirus testing chaos: People may not test positive on rapid nasal tests until after they’re infectious, which would make the tests an unreliable measure of whether it’s safe to gather. Rapid tests have been hailed as a way to weather the Omicron surge without mass disruption to everyday life. But they’ve been in short supply for weeks, and now new research suggests there may be significant limitations to their usefulness with this variant. among a case study of 30 people who took nasal rapid antigen tests and saliva PCR tests at the same time, four of them transmitted the virus following a false negative rapid antigen test.
“More Americans are eligible for boosters. But getting shots in arms hasn’t been easy.” via Azi Paybarah of The New York Times — The Biden administration has primarily responded to the near-vertical rise in coronavirus cases by pushing for more people to get not only their initial doses of vaccine but booster shots as well. Even as the United States has moved rapidly to expand who is eligible for boosters, progress in persuading COVID-19-fatigued Americans to get them has stalled. According to federal data, about 62% of Americans, about 206 million people, are fully vaccinated. But according to a CDC database, only about 35% of Americans had received a booster since mid-August, when additional shots were first authorized, even as eligibility has greatly expanded.
“For CDC’s Rochelle Walensky, a steep learning curve on messaging” via Sharon LaFraniere, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland of The New York Times — Two days before Christmas, with the Omicron variant driving a near-vertical rise in new coronavirus cases, the director of the CDC alerted the White House that she planned to recommend that people infected with the virus isolate for five days instead of 10. The director, Dr. Walensky, had faced previous criticism for issuing recommendations that confused the public and, in some cases, caught the White House off guard. Determined to avoid that this time, she briefed other top Biden health officials on her proposal so they would all be on the same page, according to two people familiar with her actions.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Mounting omicron infections force businesses to scramble, threatening economic recovery” via David J. Lynch of The Washington Post — The omicron coronavirus variant is slowing the economic recovery, making worker shortages for already-shorthanded employers more severe and leading consumers to pull back from spending on restaurants, hotels and airlines that have been battered by two years of pandemic upheaval. Since it was first detected in southern Africa late last year, the highly contagious coronavirus variant has sparked restrictions on business activity in several countries. David Nayfeld, co-owner of Che Fico, an Italian taverna in San Francisco, said he spent more than $5,000 on rapid coronavirus tests in December before opting to temporarily close for the last two weeks of the year.
— MORE CORONA —
“India medical agency flags worries over Merck COVID-19 drug” via Archana Chaudhary of Bloomberg — The head of India’s main medical research agency said there were “major safety concerns” over Merck & Co.’s COVID-19 drug that may impede its addition to the country’s viral treatment list. Even though India’s drug regulator last week approved Merck’s molnupiravir for emergency use, Balram Bhargava, the director-general of the state-funded Indian Council of Medical Research, said the government has yet to decide on whether to recommend molnupiravir, even as coronavirus infection rates in the country soar to more than 90,000 a day, the highest level since mid-June. India’s hesitation comes after the U.S. FDA approved molnupiravir last month for emergency use, shortly after Pfizer Inc.’s rival COVID-19 medicine was cleared by the same regulator.
“Chicago schools to shut for 3rd day amid debate with union” via Sophia Tareen of The Associated Press — Leaders of the nation’s third-largest school district canceled classes for a third consecutive day amid increasingly tense negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union over remote learning and other COVID-19 safety protocols. The union told teachers to stay home starting Wednesday during the latest COVID-19 surge while both sides negotiated. During negotiations, the move prompted district officials to cancel classes each day for students in the roughly 350,000-student district. In a Thursday message to parents, district officials said classes would be canceled Friday, but “in-person learning and activities may be available at a small number of schools” based on how many staff show up; a small percentage of teachers have continued to come to schools during what the district has labeled an “illegal work stoppage.”
“Study offers reassurance on COVID-19 shots, women’s periods” via Lauran Neergaard of The Associated Press — Research published Wednesday tracked nearly 4,000 U.S. women through six menstrual cycles and, on average, the next period after a shot started about a day later than usual. But there was no change in the number of days of menstrual bleeding after the COVID-19 vaccination. “This is incredibly reassuring,” said Dr. Alison Edelman of Oregon Health & Science University, who led the research and said it’s important to tell women what to expect. Some women have reported irregular periods or other menstrual changes after their shots. The National Institutes of Health is funding studies to examine if there’s any link. Edelman said one theory is that when the immune system revs up at certain times in the cycle, “our body clock or what controls the menstrual cycle can have a hiccup.”
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Some health advisers to Biden’s transition team call for a new COVID-19 strategy in the U.S.“ via Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times — On the day Biden was inaugurated, the advisory board of health experts who counseled him during the presidential transition officially ceased to exist. But its members have quietly continued to meet regularly over Zoom, their conversations often turning to frustration with Biden’s coronavirus response. Now, six of these former advisers have gone public with an extraordinary, albeit polite, critique and a plea to be heard. In three opinion articles, they are calling for Biden to adopt an entirely new domestic pandemic strategy, one that is geared to the “new normal” of living with the virus indefinitely, not to wipe it out.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“GOP election deniers get corporate PACs’ cash again in 2022 bet” via Bill Allison of Bloomberg — Corporations have resumed donations to Republican lawmakers who objected to certifying the 2020 presidential election results the day a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, betting that the GOP will retake the House in November’s midterm elections. Political action committees for business interests, including Koch Industries Inc., Valero Energy Corp., United Parcel Service Inc., and Lockheed Martin Corp., together have given $16.1 million to the 147 Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying Biden’s 2020 Presidential Election victory over Trump, a Bloomberg analysis of Federal Election Commission disclosures show.
“Matt Gaetz stokes ‘blood libel’ FBI conspiracy, wants Marjorie Taylor Greene leading Jan. 6 committee” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Gaetz said that when Republicans take control of the House, they should not disband the Jan. 6 committee. Instead, they should put controversial Rep. Greene in charge and turn the sights on blaming Democrats and the FBI. The Panhandle Republican, who on Jan. 6 infamously blamed the Capitol riot on Antifa protesters, now wants Congress to investigate if FBI informants stoked violence that disrupted the certification of Biden’s electoral victory over Trump. He appeared with Greene on Steve Bannon’s podcast to discuss Jan. 6. The most consequential moment may have come when he asserted Greene should chair the Jan. 6 Committee next year.
“Darren Soto reflects on Jan. 6 with horror of what nearly happened, hope for what is happening now” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A year ago, Jan. 6, 2021, there was a moment inside the U.S. Capitol when Rep. Soto and others huddled in the House of Representatives gallery as gunfire sounds coming from the corridor had him genuinely fearing he and other lawmakers might be assassinated. And there were moments Soto recalls from that day that he believes saved the American democracy: when the state election certification boxes were sealed and secured from theft and when congressional leadership decided Congress would return that day to finish the job of certifying the 2020 presidential election, rather than abandon the Capitol, as many in security were advising them to do. If either had not happened, he believes a constitutional crisis could have suspended America’s democracy.
“Dick Cheney, once a villain to Democrats, hailed in surprise Capitol visit to mark Jan. 6” via David Jackson and Savannah Behrmann of USA Today — A surprise guest popped up at a Jan. 6 memorial event Thursday, and he turned out to be a prominent Republican: Cheney. “I am deeply disappointed at the failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the Jan. 6 attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation,” the former vice president said in a statement after attending a minute of silence ceremony on the House floor. Dick Cheney, a former Congressman, was accompanied by his daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney, the only Republicans to attend the ceremony to mark the violent insurrection of a year ago.
— CRISIS —
“Trump and Jan. 6 rioters face broad legal threat in New Year” via Erik Larson of Bloomberg — One year after thousands of Trump supporters overran the U.S. Capitol while Congress was working to certify Biden’s election as President, the government is still pursuing charges over the attack. So far, more than 725 people have been charged with a variety of crimes stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, from breaking the Capitol’s windows to assaulting police officers. Most have pleaded not guilty, setting up the potential for a swell of trials this year. There’s also the question of whether the former President or his closest allies will be criminally charged with inciting the riot. Meanwhile, the nation’s top Republican is fighting half a dozen civil suits for his role in the events, and Trump insiders are challenging subpoenas from the House committee probing the roots of the assault.
“Conservative networks minimize insurrection on anniversary” via David Bauer of The Associated Press — At one point Thursday afternoon, Rep. Adam Kinzinger was on CNN recounting what he was doing a year earlier when the U.S. Capitol was attacked. At the same time, MSNBC was reporting on the Justice Department probe into what led up to the riot. Yet Fox News Channel aired a video of a painting dog to illustrate a discussion about people maxing out on screen time. The anniversary was the top story on the CNN and MSNBC morning news shows. Yet between 6:20 and 9 a.m. on the agenda-setting “Fox & Friends” show mentioned the anniversary twice — once in a news headline package and another as an aside by host Brian Kilmeade to suggest Biden wanted to direct attention to topics that were less damaging to him.
“The battle to prevent another Jan. 6 features a new weapon: The algorithm” via Steven Zeitchik of The Washington Post — For many Americans who witnessed the attack on the Capitol last Jan. 6, the idea of mobs of people storming a bedrock of democracy was unthinkable. For the data scientists who watched it unfold, the reaction was a little different: We’ve been thinking about this for a long time. The sentiment comes from a small group working in a cutting-edge field known as unrest prediction. The group takes a promising, if fraught, approach that applies the complex methods of machine learning to the mysterious roots of political violence. Centered since its inception several years ago in the developing world, its systems since last Jan. 6 are slowly being retooled with a new goal: predicting the next Jan. 6. Last month, three retired generals warned in an op-ed that they saw conditions becoming increasingly susceptible to a military coup after the 2024 election.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Pro- and anti-Trump crowds gather in West Palm Beach as ex-President, Governor weigh-in” via Antonio Fins, Gerard Albert III and Julius Whigham II of the Palm Beach Post — The main event got canceled, but Palm Beach County remained in the spotlight of the Jan. 6 insurrection anniversary. Supporters of Trump gathered along Southern Boulevard in West Palm Beach. And an “anti-Trumpism” candlelight vigil convened near downtown as well, not far from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate across a bridge in Palm Beach. The day kicked off with DeSantis in town for a COVID-19 briefing. Asked about the 2021 deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the electoral vote election of Biden, DeSantis dismissed the anniversary as “politicized.”
“Ex-Trumpers set to plot how to try and take down Trump” via Meridith McGraw and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — A group of former Trump administration officials are banding together to block their former boss from entering office again. The meeting of the group, announced by former White House press secretary and chief of staff to the first lady Stephanie Grisham, is scheduled for next week where they will discuss how to “try and stop” former President Trump and the “kind of violence and rhetoric that has been talked about and continues to divide our country.” In an interview with CNN on the morning of Jan. 6, Grisham said about 15 former Trump administration officials, some she said, who ranked higher than her, have held informal discussions and plan to meet in person. It’s unclear if the gathering of Trump alums next week will form a formal political entity.
“Karl Rove blasts Republicans who back Trump’s false 2020 claims” via Mark Niquette of Bloomberg — Rove unleashed a sweeping attack on members of his party who have echoed Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election and the subsequent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, urging them to put patriotism ahead of political interests. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Thursday marking the anniversary of the assault, Rove asked Republicans how they would respond if, after Trump won the 2016 election, Democrats had claimed fraud, stormed the Capitol, attacked police officers, and threatened violence against GOP leaders to stop legally certified Electoral College votes for Trump. Rove said Republicans would not have accepted such action as merely a “protest,” called the rioters “patriots,” or justified the attempt to change the outcome of a presidential election as Trump.
“Cyber Ninjas, the Sarasota firm hired to conduct an election review in Arizona, ordered to pay $50,000 a day in sanctions” via John Wagner of The Washington Post — Cyber Ninjas, the firm hired to conduct a partisan review of election results in Maricopa County, Arizona., has been ordered to pay sanctions of $50,000 a day until it turns over records from the review sought by the Arizona Republic newspaper. A superior court judge in Maricopa County found the Florida-based company in contempt of court Thursday and ordered the sanctions, according to the Republic. Maricopa Superior Court Judge John Hannah had previously ordered the company to turn over emails, text messages and other documents to the publication.
“Jared Moskowitz’s swearing-in to Broward Commission is moved up for ailing dad” via Brittany Wallman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The County Commission swearing-in of Moskowitz has been moved up to next week, to accommodate his ailing father, a Broward Democratic power broker who has cancer. Moskowitz, 41, appointed to the southwest Broward seat by DeSantis, will be sworn in on Jan. 12 at 2:30 p.m. in Parkland City Hall so that his father can attend. Mike Moskowitz, 68, a lobbyist, lawyer and powerful presence in Broward politics for decades, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and his health is declining. He is eager to see his son seated on the County Commission, Jared Moskowitz said, and if possible, wanted to swear him in personally.
“New St. Petersburg Mayor, City Council members sworn in on historic day” via Colleen Wright and Margo Snipe of the Tampa Bay Times — Ken Welch, a St. Petersburg native who grew up in one of its redlined neighborhoods and attended one of its segregated elementary schools, was sworn in Thursday as its first Black Mayor. While COVID-19 precautions and the Mayor’s own positive test derailed some of the pageantry, community leaders cheered during the virtual ceremony shown at the city’s Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum and students in at least 22 Pinellas County schools tuned in to witness what was once unimaginable. They saw Welch, who was experiencing mild cold-like symptoms from the coronavirus, sworn in at his Lakewood Estates home by 6th Judicial Circuit Judge Michael J. Andrews. They watched him put his left hand on a Bible carried by his 19-year-old daughter, Kenya. They listened as he recited the oath of office.
“Pinellas County Superintendent Mike Grego to retire” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Grego will retire on July 1, he announced Thursday morning. Grego’s retirement will conclude his 42-year career in public education, with the last decade spent serving Pinellas County. In a video posted by Pinellas County Schools, Grego read a statement detailing his decision to step down and highlighting his accomplishments during his tenure. “Over the last decade, we have tackled the challenges of the district head-on, bringing needed stability and a renewed focus on student achievement,” Grego said in a statement. Grego highlighted the district’s improved graduation rate, which rose to 92% in 2021 from just under 70% when he was first hired in 2012.
“‘We need help in Miami’: Former police chief begged for federal investigation” via Nicholas Nehamas, Jay Weaver, Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — When then-Miami police chief Art Acevedo accused city commissioners of corruption amid a battle to save his job last year, he went all the way to Washington, D.C., for help, asking for a federal “intervention” in his city. Two weeks before he was fired, Acevedo emailed Department of Justice officials an eight-page memo accusing commissioners Joe Carollo, Alex Díaz de la Portilla and Manolo Reyes of improperly interfering in police internal investigations and other misdeeds. “I and our department are in dire need of assistance,” Acevedo wrote to DOJ on Sept. 28. The FBI is unlikely to pursue Acevedo’s allegations. That’s because, by memorializing his concerns in a memo that quickly leaked to the media, Acevedo blew the chance of a federal undercover operation.
“Miami-Dade School Board is in a rush because ‘Superintendent has already been identified,’ activist says” via Hatzel Vela of WPLG Local 10 News — T. Willard Fair said he is worried about the way the Miami-Dade School Board is going about hiring Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s replacement. Fair is the President and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Greater Miami, Inc. He co-founded the Liberty City Charter School and the FBI honored him for his “We Rise Education Village” initiative. “It’s done. The next Superintendent has already been identified. He will be a controlled person,” Fair said after attending the school board’s public meeting on Wednesday. “I saw politicians doing what they had to do to conceive and deceive the public.” School board members voted to start the hiring process by accepting resumes from applicants during the next seven days.
“Who would be exempt from 2 a.m. Miami Beach drinking cutoff? First proposals released” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Two months after Miami Beach voters approved a nonbinding referendum calling for a rollback of alcohol sales in the city, the city administration released a memo Thursday outlining potential options to impose a 2 a.m. booze ban with exceptions for certain businesses. Although a vote is not expected, Miami Beach commissioners will consider the five “draft options” and discuss their preferred approaches at a special meeting. The sale and consumption of alcohol are generally allowed until 5 a.m. in Miami Beach. Some areas, like the South of Fifth and Sunset Harbour neighborhoods, already have a 2 a.m. cutoff, but some businesses are currently exempt because they were previously licensed for 5 a.m. sales.
“New FAU research pins Indian River Lagoon pollution problems on leaky septic tanks” via Max Chesnes of Treasure Coast Newspapers — When it comes to pollution in the Indian River Lagoon, everyone has a boogeyman. In a year when a record manatee die-off put lagoon pollution under a microscope, some blame Lake Okeechobee’s freshwater discharges for eviscerating sea grass. Others point to deluges of stormwater runoff choking the estuary with nutrient-dense fertilizers from nearby farms. For Brian Lapointe, a Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute scientist, one polluter should carry most of the blame: Human waste leaking from septic tanks. “It’s the single-biggest boogeyman that we can do something about to really save the lagoon,” Lapointe told TCPalm in a recent interview.
“Graduation rate up in Miami-Dade schools; Broward schools report slight decline in 2020-21” via Sommer Brugal of the Miami Herald — High school graduation rates in public schools in Miami-Dade County increased during the 2020-21 school year, while rates in Broward County declined slightly for the first time in at least three years, the Florida Department of Education said Tuesday. In the 2020-21 year, Miami-Dade achieved a graduation rate of 90.1%, an increase of 0.5 points from the previous year, records show. In Broward County, 89.1% of high school seniors in public schools graduated last school year, a decline of 0.3 points from the previous year’s rate of 89.4%, data show. Both districts’ graduation rates include charter school data. Nevertheless, Broward schools Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright applauded the hard work of students, teachers and administrators.
“Inter Miami stadium complex negotiations are done, Mayor says. Crucial vote looms” via Joey Flechas and Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald — Negotiations over the proposal to build Miami Freedom Park are complete, according to Miami’s Mayor, paving the way for a crucial City Commission vote to either endorse or derail plans to redevelop Melreese golf course into a massive $1 billion shopping center, hotel, park and soccer stadium complex for the soccer club partly owned by retired footballer David Beckham. “We have an agreement, in principle,” Mayor Francis Suarez told the Herald in an interview Thursday. “The agreement is obviously subject to approval from the City Commission.”
“Palm Beach County public schools lose their second police chief in eight months” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — The police chief of Palm Beach County’s public schools is resigning after just eight months on the job. Police Chief Daniel Alexander submitted his resignation Thursday to take an administrative job at a government agency in Virginia, school district officials said. His last day will be Jan. 21. Alexander — who served as Boca Raton’s police chief before joining the school district as deputy chief in 2019 — is the district’s second police chief to step down in the past year. The previous chief, Frank Kitzerow, resigned in April amid growing tension between the police union and the district’s leaders.
“Brevard County parents form new group to counter Moms for Liberty as school divide deepens” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — Families for Safe Schools began in April on Facebook as a group called “Mandate Masks in Brevard County schools.” It gained momentum as a counterpart to Moms for Liberty, a vocal conservative parent group with a prominent presence at School Board meetings. School Board meetings, once sparsely attended events, have become a new front in America’s culture wars over the last year as the nation struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic and growing demands for social justice, inclusiveness and greater racial accountability. Moms for Liberty started out as a local organization pushing back against what they viewed as progressive school policies undermining parental rights. It now has chapters across the county. The parents who formed Families for Safe Schools have essentially taken a page from the conservatives’ playbook to fight back for their beliefs.
“United Airlines is canceling flights into and out of Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — United Airlines has announced that as of March 4, it will discontinue flights into and out of Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. The carrier is one of five presently operating out of one of the country’s fastest-growing commercial airports. But Okaloosa County Airports Director Tracy Stage said the airline’s decision to cancel its flight schedule should not have a significant impact. “It actually will open up some much-needed gate space,” Stage said. Stage said he did not expect United’s departure to be permanent. Airline officials had informed Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport that the decision had been made to take a yearlong hiatus while it addressed “a significant shortage of pilots.”
“Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs transcends troubled times” via Anastasia Dawson and Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — They say all who dive into the chilly waters of Spring Bayou on Jan. 6 feel a little lighter when they emerge, cross in hand or not. And this year, on the anniversary of the Capitol insurrection and with COVID-19 lingering, parents expressed a special appreciation for any extra blessings their families might take home from the 116th Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs. Last year, the pandemic put a damper on the town’s signature celebration. For the first time since World War II, there was no “dove bearer” girl present to release a bird before the group of boys dove into the water.
— TOP OPINION —
“Biden is right: Trump’s wounded ego was the main reason for Jan. 6” via Max Boot of The Washington Post — In what may be the most powerful speech of his presidency so far, President Biden delivered a searing (and overdue) indictment on Thursday of his predecessor, never mentioned by name, for inciting a mob attack on the Capitol exactly a year ago. Biden identified the central truth of the insurrection: “The former President of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election … because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost.” Trump was willing to stage an assault on more than two centuries of democracy in America simply because his all-encompassing ego will not allow him to admit that more than 81.2 million voters repudiated him.
— OPINIONS —
“Trump can never lose” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — Trump did the country and himself a favor by canceling the news conference he had planned for Jan. 6. But the press statement he released instead on Thursday underscores that the former President will never admit that he lost the 2020 election, no matter the cost to the country or his supporters. The former President still accuses Democrats of perpetrating “the real insurrection, on Nov. 3. ”Trump will not change, and Republicans who think a campaign to vindicate 2020 is the key to victory in 2022 will lose again.
“Are we really facing a Second Civil War?” via Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times — Barbara F. Walter, a political scientist, has interviewed many people who’ve lived through civil wars, and she told me they all say they didn’t see it coming. “They’re all surprised,” she said. “Even when, to somebody who studies it, it’s obvious years beforehand.” Even now, despite my constant horror at this country’s punch-drunk disintegration, I find the idea of a total meltdown hard to wrap my mind around. But to some of those, like Walter, who study Civil War, an American crackup has come to seem, if not obvious, then far from unlikely, especially since Jan. 6. It’s absurd to treat Civil War as a foregone conclusion, but that it now seems distinctly possible is still pretty bad. The fact that speculation about Civil War has moved from the crankish fringes into the mainstream is itself a sign of civic crisis, an indication of how broken our country is.
“Here’s when we expect omicron to peak” via Jeffrey Shaman of The New York Times — The Omicron variant is spreading widely and infecting large numbers of people, including the vaccinated and those previously infected with the virus. While spikes in cases have been the norm for the past two years, there are clear indications this wave will differ substantially from previous ones. The record number of cases in the United States and globally is largely because omicron is more contagious than other variants and has a greater ability to evade immunity to infection. At the same time, early evidence indicates that it’s less common for people infected with omicron to experience severe disease and end up in the hospital. This has important implications when estimating just how disruptive omicron will be in terms of deaths, hospitalizations, and work and school interruptions.
“With omicron, let’s not fight the last war” via Fareed Zakaria of The Washington Post — In the words of one headline, “New York’s Omicron Surge Points to a Wave of Mild Cases.” If the pattern holds up, it is crucial that we approach this phase of the pandemic differently rather than fighting the same way we did against the last variant. The United Kingdom Health Security Agency released an important analysis on Dec. 31; the findings are tentative. Even so, the analysis estimated that one’s risk of being hospitalized with omicron is half as high as with the delta variant, and the risk of needing emergency care is only one-third as high. More significant is the distinction between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The U.K. analysis, which looked at the AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, estimated that people with two doses plus a booster shot are 88% less likely to be hospitalized than those without vaccinations.
— WEEKEND TV —
Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Florida Politics Publisher Peter Schorsch, political consultant Anthony Pedicini; attorney and activist Sean Shaw.
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU with moderator Rob Lorei: John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History Emeritus, USF-St. Petersburg, Ray Arsenault; Florida Citrus Mutual Director of Government Relations Matt Joyner; Northside Coalition of Jacksonville Community Activist and veteran journalist Ben Frazier.
In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A preview of the upcoming Legislative Session with Reps. Tom Leek and Fentrice Driskell.
Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A preview of the 2022 Legislative Session, including the top items on the Governor’s agenda, and a one-on-one interview with CEO of VISIT FLORIDA Dana Young on how this Session could determine the organization’s fate.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Congressman Darren Soto will look back at the Jan. 6 insurrection and discuss his firsthand account of what was happening in the House as the attacks took place.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with attorney Sean Pittman and Leon County School Board member Darryl Jones.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist; Republican CD 20 candidate Jason Mariner.
— ALOE —
“Lin-Manuel Miranda and ‘Hamilton’ cast members perform song during Jan. 6 event” via Marina Pirofsky of USA Today — Miranda and cast members from the musical “Hamilton” gave a virtual performance on Thursday during a Jan. 6 event on Capitol Hill. Miranda, the creator of the Tony Award-winning musical about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, introduced the performance. The cast sang “Dear Theodosia,” a song the characters Hamilton and Aaron Burr sing to their children in the musical. “We are all stewards of the American experiment, working to pass down to our children and our grandchildren a more perfect union that treats all its citizens with fairness and equity,” Miranda said.
“First launch of 2022 lifts off from Florida’s Space Coast” via WESH — With the successful launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 Thursday afternoon, the 2022 launch season has officially kicked off. And it’s going to be a busy one. Today’s SpaceX Falcon 9 launch kicked off the year at the Kennedy Space Center. It launched another batch of their Starlink satellites. “Everything on the Cape is really starting to pop. There are several launches back to the moon, which is exciting because we have not put anything on the moon in a very long time. And the moon is a big target because the Russians are going back, the Japanese, the South Koreans, the Indians. So, the moon is going to be busy this year,” Dale Ketcham of Space Florida said.
“The clever way Disney stops crowds from forming in their theme parks” via Josie Klein of The Sun — Visitors to Disney theme parks can wear wristbands, called magic bands, which are used to gain access to the parks, as hotel room keys and to make payments at shops and restaurants. According to a Disney superfan called The Mouselets on TikTok, each magic band contains a chip, so when the band is placed on a touchpoint, such as a hotel room door, it will be read and will open. Disney has placed sensors all over the park that pick up the number of magic bands in the vicinity, including in ride queues, so staff can see exactly how busy areas are getting. That means staff can monitor where crowds are building and disperse them.
“Will Disney ever win best picture? ‘West Side Story’ is another loophole chance” via Clayton Davis of Variety — Walt Disney Studios has conquered the box office, but when will it have its big Oscar moment? The 98-year-old studio has never won the Oscar for best picture with a film bearing the iconic castle’s opening logo. Over the years, Disney has had a stronghold on categories such as animated feature. This shouldn’t be too surprising for a family-friendly studio, considering the Academy’s genre bias and its favoring of dramas and biopics. However, with an evolving voting membership, could the Oscars give the top prize to a Disney movie? The only viable live-action film with the Disney logo in 2021 is Craig Gillespie’s “Cruella,” hoping at best for costume or makeup recognition.
“Carey Family Foundation shopping spree puts smiles on children’s faces” via Emmett Hall of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Former Miami Hurricane and Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Vernon Carey and his family brought some holiday cheer to South Florida families with a shopping spree at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Pembroke Pines. Creating happy memories for family members from the Carver Ranches Boys & Girls Club continued afterward with lunch provided by Hooters of Pembroke Pines. The Carey Family Foundation also provided gifts for several families from the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Lauderhill and Deerfield Beach locations. In addition, gift donations were also provided to the children at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. Since 2015, The Carey Family Foundation has provided a back-to-school shopping spree at Dick’s Sporting Goods as well as its holiday shopping spree.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Mark Lane of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Diane Roberts, Chris Spencer, and Jonny Torres.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.