Good Monday morning
Shumaker Advisors announced Monday that former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is joining the firm as Managing Principal of its U.S. Cities Practice.
At Shumaker, Kriseman will focus on economic development and urban planning, while working with clients locally and nationally. Kriseman will also join the Shumaker law firm as of counsel in the Public Policy and Government Affairs service line.
“We are honored to have Rick join Shumaker Advisors. His vision to achieve economic growth while focusing on sustainability and purpose inspires us all,” Shumaker Advisors president and CEO Ron Christaldi said. “It is a compliment to our team that Rick believes in our ability to make a true impact, and we are excited for more success ahead.”
Kriseman served as St. Pete Mayor from 2014 to 2022.
“Tampa Bay has incredible potential. With our top leaders and greatest minds working together, the region’s future is brighter than ever,” Kriseman said. “I am honored to join the prestigious team at Shumaker Advisors and to work with their clients who are committed to ensuring that our communities become better places for all.”
The announcement comes a few weeks after Shumaker Advisors announced that former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn had joined the firm to work on economic development opportunities and urban development strategies across the state.
Franco Ripple is leaving Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s office to serve as vice president at Direct Impact, a Washington-based public affairs firm and part of the international BCW Group.
Ripple served in several roles at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services since Fried’s inauguration, including as Director of Communications and Director of Strategic Initiatives. He also consulted on her successful 2018 campaign.
At the department, Ripple oversaw a communications shop that built Fried’s profile with frequent local TV hits, national cable appearances, and strong earned media, as well as rollouts of major initiatives.
Ripple’s entry into public affairs and politics came 20 years ago as a White House Intern in the (George W.) Bush administration in 2002, followed by bipartisan Capitol Hill internships. Part of every campaign cycle since 2004, he has served on gubernatorial, congressional, state legislative, and presidential campaigns, most recently as North Florida Director for the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris campaign.
He also spent five years at the CATECOMM public relations firm, consulting on advocacy communications, earned and paid media, digital campaigns, and public engagement for corporate, association, governmental and nonprofit clients.
Ripple will continue to be based in Tallahassee.
For your radar — Matt Isbell posted late last night 3,500 words on redistricting, specifically what may happen to Florida’s 5th Congressional District. Be sure to give it a read by clicking here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
Border Czar @kamalaharris is in Honduras celebrating socialists.
I spent the day supporting LEOs at the border addressing the crisis @JoeBiden created.
— Ashley Moody (@AshleyMoodyFL) January 28, 2022
—@ChrisSpencerFL: If the Biden infrastructure bill is such a big deal for you, then why do you know so little about it that you think this CDBG-MIT funding was in it? It was actually appropriated after Hurricane Irma.
—@RepValDemings: Yesterday, neo-nazis rallied in Orlando. But America beat their disturbing ideology before, and we’ll do it again. As a police commander, I saw similar rallies, and I also saw that for every nazi, there were a hundred Floridians there to stand up for what’s right
This is from today. TODAY.
I’ve been trying to find the words. I have none. Just anger. @GovRonDeSantis when are you going to condemn and make clear that hate and anti-semitism will not be tolerated. But you won’t do that because these people are your base. pic.twitter.com/UoVDCphPK5
— Michele Rayner-Goolsby (She/They) (@micheleforfl) January 30, 2022
—@VoteRandyFine: This is crap. @ has stood with the Jewish people more than any Gov in America. I hate these ppl more than anyone. If I saw it live, I’d need bail. But these idiots can’t even spell Brandon right. So let’s put the anger where it belongs — at these people.
—@MarcoRubio: One day, we will learn just what kind of deal with the devil the @ made in exchange for the last two weekends of playoff games
—@GiancarloSopo: Patrick Mahomes could still go to the Super Bowl if Mike Pence would just have the courage to do what is right.
— Jenn Ungru (@GennX) January 31, 2022
—@JamesGrantFL: (Tom) Brady’s retirement leaking in the middle of Gasparilla is about as Tampa as it gets.
—@Cam_Joseph: Not sure there’s a more rewarding feeling in journalism than closing all the tabs after you pub a story
— DAYS UNTIL —
XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 4; Super Bowl LVI — 13; Will Smith‘s ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ reboot premieres — 13; Discover Boating Miami International Boat Show begins — 16; season four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ begins — 16; Spring Training report dates begin — 17; Synapse Florida tech summit begins — 17; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 20; Daytona 500 — 20; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 23; Suits For Session — 23; CPAC begins — 24; St. Pete Grand Prix — 25; Biden to give the State of the Union address — 29; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 32; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 51; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 53; The Oscars — 55; Macbeth with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga begin performances on Broadway — 57; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 62; federal student loan payments will resume — 90; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 95; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 116; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 122; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 159; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 172; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 190; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 214; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 249; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 284; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 287; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 319; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 382; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 417; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 543; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 627; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 907.
—TOP STORY —
“Clash over election rules pits civil-rights groups vs. state, national Republicans” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — In a voting-rights case that will have national ramifications, DeSantis, top members of his administration, and two Republican national committees will convene in federal court Monday to defend Florida’s 2021 election reforms against state, national, and local plaintiffs who say the reforms suppress voting by Black voters, Latino voters, and others. At issue is Senate Bill 90, adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by DeSantis in May, immediately drawing lawsuits. It restricts the use of mail-ballot drop boxes widely used in the 2020 elections to accommodate record voter turnout during the COVID-19 pandemic. Opponents describe the measures as voter suppression, designed to make voting more difficult, especially among certain populations, and are asking a federal court to overturn the law. The trial starts Monday.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“Ron DeSantis vows to stamp out the ‘vicious ideology’ of ‘wokeness’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — In a crystallization of his argument for re-election, DeSantis on Friday night went on the offensive against “wokeness,” a “vicious ideology” and a variant of what he called “cultural Marxism.” “This wokeness is dangerous, and we have to defeat it on all fronts,” DeSantis told the Common Sense Society during a speech Friday night. DeSantis said the movement intends to make conservatives “second-class citizens.” DeSantis suggested that priorities of Democrats, such as expanding the Supreme Court, abolishing the Electoral College, and “making D.C. a state, so you get two radical Senators for life,” are not issues that “many Americans are talking about over their kitchen table.”
No migrant flight companies have state contracts, state records show — DeSantis has said he wants companies that transport unaccompanied migrant minors to be ineligible for state contracts, but the state has no contracts with any of the corporations involved. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has compiled a list of companies that have contracted with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, but none of the companies on the list have any business with the state government. However, a handful of names on the list are not immediately identifiable, such as “World ATL.” Other names, such as “Elite Air,” are used by multiple companies. FDLE said it did not have any further information on the companies and that the information it did have came from an unnamed “source.”
“‘Storm-prone state’: DeSantis pledges $80 million for climate adaptation in South Florida” via Anna Jean Kaiser and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — DeSantis announced the state would award $80 million in grants to South Florida cities and counties to deal with stormwater and flood-control problems, with nearly $40 million going to two Miami projects. “As a storm-prone state, we need to make sure we’re mitigating the effects of these weather events,” DeSantis said at a news conference at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades on Friday morning. Miami will receive $19.8 million to improve stormwater infrastructure in the southwest part of Wynwood, and $18.4 million to alleviate chronic flooding in East Little Havana.
“Senators plan overhaul of coastal resiliency measures” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Sen. Jason Brodeur has filed an amendment fleshing out his bill to address rising sea levels, part of an effort to improve a 2021 law on environmental policy. During his first week in office in 2019, DeSantis signed an executive order on the environment that established the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Brodeur’s bill (SB 1940) would codify a Statewide Office of Resiliency within the Governor’s Office and place the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) as the head of the office. But with Brodeur’s proposed changes to that bill, the one-paged measure would expand to more than 20 pages and include tweaks to state processes within DEP and beyond. The bill, including Brodeur’s amendment, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. It would be the proposal’s first of three committee hearings.
“Hurricane Catastrophe Fund reform could save insurance consumers $1 billion a year, backers say” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida home insurance customers could get a substantial break from rising rates, saving about $150 a year, if they no longer had to pay into the state’s hurricane insurance reserve fund and if insurance companies could access those reserves more easily, with fewer overall claims losses. Reforms proposed in the state Legislature by state Sen. Jeff Brandes could save Florida consumers $750 million to $1 billion a year in insurance costs, he said. The savings would come from two major reforms to the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.
“Pending bill puts a high price on home rule” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — A fast-tracked Senate bill, approved by a near party-line vote of 22-14 last week, is an unnecessary and punitive act of financial intimidation that defies the concept of home rule. The Republican leadership on the Capitol’s fourth floor seems intent upon letting business operators sue local governing boards for passing local ordinances that have an impact of 15% or more on their profits. It’s a potentially crippling financial threat, giving business owners and their lawyers nothing to lose for harassing local governments and giving mayors and other local officials a weighty incentive to play it safe and not do much of anything, for fear of getting sued.
“Florida Democrat delivers an emotional critique of ‘anti-woke’ bills: ‘ My opinion matters just as much as your opinion’” via Tim Craig of The Washington Post — The anger had been building inside Rep. Ramon Alexander for more than a year as he sat alongside his Republican colleagues in the Florida Legislature. One of the state’s highest-ranking Black legislators, Alexander watched as the state GOP responded to Black Lives Matter protests by making it easier to charge some demonstrators with felony charges. He watched Republicans impose new restrictions on voting by mail over the objection of Democrats. And he watched some GOP lawmakers downplay the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which Alexander considers a violent effort to disenfranchise Black voters.
“Advocate pushing for ‘essential caregiver’ bills takes fight to Legislature” via Kent Justice of News4Jax — A Jacksonville woman is pushing to secure rights for every caregiver to see their loved one, pandemic or not. Mary Daniel is taking her fight to the Florida Legislature, which is moving into the fourth week of the Legislative Session. At the same time, Daniel is also fighting for change on the federal level. Daniel and her husband, Steve, have an incredible love story, partly because of tragedy. Her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at just 59 years old. Now 68, he’s in a long-term care facility that shut out Daniel and others when the pandemic crashed down on the world in 2020.
“Former Sen. Charlie Dean honored with college building name, endowment” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — It was 1962, and a young Dean was trying to find his footing in life. The son of Citrus County’s Sheriff, Dean graduated from Citrus High School and attended Florida State University, but it didn’t work out well. He joined the Marines and, after fulfilling his commitment, gave higher education another try. This time he attended Central Florida Community College in Ocala, now College of Central Florida, where he would earn an associate degree. He followed that with a bachelor’s at Florida State, then a master’s at Rollins College. And then, success: schoolteacher, counselor, Citrus County Sheriff, state Representative, state Senator.
— SKED —
Happening today — Democratic Rep. Felicia Robinson will host an online news conference to oppose a bill (HB 7) that deals with issues such as race-related instruction, 11:15 a.m. Zoom link here. Meeting ID: 85028918609. Call-in code: NoOnHB7.
— The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee meets to consider SB 1658, from Sen. Aaron Bean, enabling the Governor to bypass the state Cabinet in appointing the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, 3 p.m., Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
— The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider SB 262, from Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, to allow parents of adult children to pursue mental pain and suffering damages in wrongful-death lawsuits alleging malpractice, 3 p.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets to consider SB 1928, from Chair Ed Hooper, to update regulations for household moving services, 3 p.m., Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
— The House Appropriations Committee meets to consider HB 3, from Rep. Tom Leek, to help recruit and train law-enforcement officers, 3 p.m., Room 212 Knott Building.
— The House Ways and Means Committee meets to consider HJR 1 and HB 1563, from Rep. Josie Tomkow, to increase the homestead property-tax exemptions to classroom teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, child-welfare services professionals, members of the U.S. armed forces, or the Florida National Guard, 3 p.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.
“Judge rules former Sen. Frank Artiles must release more documents in election fraud case” via Bianca Padró-Ocasio and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Former Florida Sen. Artiles will have to turn over some bank records, credit reports, cellphone communications, and other digital documents to be used as evidence in a high-profile corruption case against him, a Miami-Dade circuit judge ruled on Friday. But the files, which are part of the discovery in a wide-ranging criminal case involving dark money and a “ghost’ candidate in a Miami election, will be limited to anything produced between Jan. 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021. That period expands beyond when investigators have alleged Artiles paid a no-party candidate more than $40,000 to run and sway the outcome of the state Senate District 37 election.
“State Ethics Commission clears former JEA board member who later became privatization consultant” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — The Florida Commission on Ethics decided a former member of the JEA board of directors and vocal privatization advocate didn’t violate the law when, during his term on the board, he discussed becoming a paid consultant to help the utility get acquired by a private company. That board member, Alan Howard, eventually did become a privatization consultant to JEA through a $75,000 contract with his law firm after his term on the board had expired. The finding of no wrongdoing closes the book on one of several controversies that arose during the contentious JEA privatization campaign more than two years ago.
“New phone, who dis? Florida cracking down on anonymous political text messages” via Fresh Take Florida — Ever receive one of those irritating political texts during an election, praising or criticizing a candidate and wonder who was behind it? The Florida Election Commission is cracking down on political texts that don’t explicitly say who paid for them, with new rules intended to improve transparency for voters and stem the spread of misinformation. Under the proposed new regulations, it will fine groups that break the new rules $200 to $250 for each text, amounts that could add up to tens of thousands of dollars for wayward texts blasted during a campaign. Even for honest campaigns, one consultant estimated that complying with the new rules could double their costs by adding characters to texts with limited lengths. The Election Commission disputed that estimate.
“Florida may ease new graduation rules for class of 2022” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s high school class of 2022 is the first facing the higher hurdle to graduation state leaders erected four years ago. Given the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, many educators fear it will be an unfair obstacle. In Central Florida alone, more than 10,000 teenagers are struggling to meet test score requirements needed for a diploma just months before graduation. The State Board of Education may decide to help by delaying a rule adopted in 2018. At its Feb. 9 meeting, the board will consider whether to put off implementation of a tougher test score rule that kicks in for this year’s seniors.
What Shannon Shepp is reading — “The next big squeeze: Florida orange juice could skyrocket in price” via Laura Reiley of The Washington Post — The next grocery item families could see skyrocketing in price: Florida orange juice. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report earlier this month, the state’s orange crop will be the smallest since World War II. And the threats to Florida’s “liquid gold” continue: Weather forecasters predict this weekend’s freezing temperatures in Florida will further hurt the season’s crop. Florida is the country’s largest producer of juice oranges, at its peak producing 244 million boxes of oranges annually. The USDA predicts that it will fall to only 44.5 million this year. Demand for orange juice had cooled in recent years as consumers became concerned about sugar in fruit juices. But COVID-19 brought it back.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida logs more than 1,000 new COVID-19 deaths for first time since delta variant wave” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — As the omicron wave of the coronavirus recedes across Florida, the scope of its deadliness has begun to take shape. For the first time since mid-October, Florida logged more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in a week, state health officials reported Friday. Viral fatalities rose by 1,192 since Jan. 21, data from the state Health Department shows. That’s nearly twice as many new victims reported last week, and more than seven times as many four weeks ago. And the omicron death wave appears to be rising as fast as the delta variant surge from last summer. During delta, it took six weeks for seven-day death totals to skyrocket from a low of less than 200 to more than 1,000. During this recent swing, health officials counted just 122 new deaths during the week ending Dec. 24, but in the six weeks since then, under omicron, that tally has grown, breaking 1,000 this week.
“Sunday Florida COVID-19 update: Hospitalizations down by another 171 people” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — Continuing a trend that began over a week ago, the number of Florida hospital patients with COVID-19 fell by 171. There were 9,440 hospital patients who tested positive with COVID-19 in Florida in data reported to HHS from 261 hospitals. That’s the same number of hospitals in Saturday’s report. In the latest report, patients with COVID-19 take up 16.22% of all inpatient beds, compared to 16.47% among Saturday’s reporting hospitals. Of the people hospitalized in Florida, 1,445 were in intensive care units, a decrease of four from Saturday. That represents about 22.70% of the state’s ICU beds, compared to 22.75% the previous day.
“Pandemic tensions deepen in Florida as DeSantis digs in” via Alexander Nazaryan of Yahoo News — The omicron wave appears to have crested in Florida, but you wouldn’t know it from the acrimonious battles Florida politicians have been fighting over the pandemic. DeSantis this week lashed out at Washington, and Democratic lawmakers protested the confirmation of Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who has expressed skepticism over vaccines and masks. Few states have received as much scrutiny throughout the pandemic as Florida, where DeSantis has rejected many of the safety measures recommended by health officials while also downplaying the efficacy of vaccines. DeSantis has spent the week charging the Biden administration with withholding monoclonal antibody treatments developed by Regeneron.
“DeSantis enlists Dwight Eisenhower in his war against Dr. Anthony Fauci” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Warning against “COVID authoritarianism” in a speech to the Common Sense Society, DeSantis invoked Eisenhower in his latest cautionary tale. In his Presidential farewell speech, Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex having an outsized role. DeSantis wanted to highlight a secondary message, however. “Eisenhower talked about how government was more involved with funding scientific research and how there was a danger that public policy could be hijacked by a scientific and technological elite,” DeSantis said. The Governor’s remarks were part of the right-of-center Common Sense Society‘s gala event Friday night at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Orange County schools extends mask requirement for all adults” via Matt Reezer of WFTV — Orange County Public Schools said the requirement applies to all employees, volunteers, visitors and vendors while in OCPS buildings and vehicles. The mask requirement does not apply to students. However, district officials said they “strongly encourage the use of face masks by students.” Orange County Public Schools had reinstated its mask requirement for all adults on Jan. 3. At the time, the district had cited the increase in COVID-19 positivity rate. On Wednesday, OCPS said the district will no longer be able to provide excused absences in cases where parents keep students home due to increased COVID-19 cases.
“Volusia Clerk of Courts short-staffed partly by COVID-19 asks people to use website” via Frank Fernandez of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Volusia County Clerk of Courts is experiencing “extreme staffing shortages,” in part due to COVID-19, and is asking people to be patient and check the clerk’s website at clerk.org for information and services. Volusia County Clerk of Court Laura Roth wrote in an email on Thursday that 21 people were out of the office due to COVID-19; either they or a household member were positive for the virus, Roth wrote. She wrote that seven employees are out from one division, hurting the call centers. Five of those are COVID-19-related, while two are for other reasons, she wrote. The clerk’s office is already stretched thin because while it has approximately 230 employees, it should have about 260, Roth noted.
—“Polk COVID-19 infections decline for 2nd straight week” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger
“Soros pours $125M into super PAC ahead of midterms” via Elena Schneider of POLITICO — Soros is seeding a super PAC with $125 million, an enormous investment that will aid Democratic groups and candidates for the 2022 election cycle and beyond. The group, Democracy PAC, has served as Soros’ campaign spending vehicle since 2019, channeling more than $80 million to other Democratic groups and candidates during the 2020 election cycle. The new, nine-figure investment from Soros aims at supporting pro-democracy “causes and candidates, regardless of political party.” Soros added that the donation to the super PAC is a “long-term investment,” intended to support political work beyond this year. Soros’ son, will serve as the PAC’s president.
“Petition drive to bring sports betting to Florida folds” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — There will be no proposed constitutional amendment to legalize online sports betting on the 2022 General Election ballot. One organization behind the push in Florida has conceded it cannot get enough petition signatures verified in time to qualify by next Tuesday’s deadline. Florida Education Champions, the organization funded by the big daily fantasy sports platforms DraftKings and FanDuel, announced Friday it is reassessing long-term options, still hoping one day to get voter approval for legal online sports gambling in Florida. The other proposed gambling constitutional amendment drive, for a North Florida casino driven by the Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s committee Florida Voters In Charge, has not given up its campaign.
“Florida Voters in Charge defends its pro-gambling petition effort after being investigated for fraud” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Florida Voters in Charge, a political action committee that has come under fire as supervisors of elections from all over the state report suspected fraudulent pro-gambling initiative petitions being turned in at their offices, has responded to what it says are “careless allegations” made against it. FVIC legal counsel Jim McKee said allegations of wrongdoing “in many instances” are being made by people and groups motivated to prevent a proposal to amend the state constitution and expand casino gambling in Florida from appearing on the ballot. In early December, supervisors of elections from six Florida counties notified the Secretary of State’s Office that fraudulent constitutional initiative petitions were being received by their offices from signature collectors working for Florida Voters in Charge.
“How 2 Black women conquered Senate primary politics” via Maya King of POLITICO — As Black women running in two of the nation’s most closely watched Senate races, Rep. Val Demings and former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley are poised to make history if they’re successful in November. But that’s only part of what makes their campaigns stand out this year. Demings and Beasley have drawn notice, and a heavy dose of respect within their party, for accomplishing a feat that has all-too-frequently eluded candidates of color, especially Black women: Managing to clear their Senate primary fields of heavyweight competition. Demings and Beasley still face nominal competition for the Democratic Senate nomination. But thanks to their political muscle-flexing, they are largely free to focus the bulk of their attention and resources on winning the general election in November.
“She believes: Annette Taddeo launches 67-county campaign for Florida Governor with RV tour” via James Call of USA Today Network — With her “I Believe” RV tour, Taddeo said she intends to visit all 67 Florida counties by Memorial Day to introduce herself to voters. State police closed the parking lot to the public park across from the mansion’s front gate, preventing Taddeo from using it as a staging area for a news conference. “We’re not going to let them dictate what we talk about,” said Taddeo. The turnout in the 44-degree morning was limited to about a dozen supporters and campaign staff and a handful of reporters. Taddeo harshly criticized DeSantis and the Republican-dominated Legislature for pushing an agenda she said was focused on inflaming a culture war instead of, among many other things, addressing building codes in the wake of the Surfside collapse.
Not spotted — Florida’s 13th Congressional District race is noticeably absent from David Wasserman’s Top 25 Republican House primaries to watch from The Cook Report. Left open after Congressman Charlie Crist mounts another run for Governor, CD 13 has been considered by many a significant focus for the GOP to flip in the midterms. Republican Anna Paulina Luna is touting an endorsement from Donald Trump, while her opponent, analyst Amanda Makki, boasts several top endorsements and was recently named a “Woman to Watch” by U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s group E-PAC, which supports the campaigns of Republican women. Local business owner and former prosecutor Kevin Hayslett, a self-described “Trump Republican,” has also just entered the race.
“Vern Buchanan raised $316K in 4Q, $1.7M in election cycle to date” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Buchanan pulled in another $316,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021. That means the Longboat Key Republican has built up more than $1.7 million as he prepares to run for a ninth term in Congress. “I’m humbled by such a strong show of support,” Buchanan said. “People are responding to my positive agenda of recovery and rebuilding, protecting veterans’ benefits and safeguarding Social Security and Medicare.” Notably, the $1,707,712 he has collected includes none of Buchanan’s own money. The wealthiest U.S. House member representing Florida has offered self-funding to his campaigns before, but this election cycle has been paying debt down instead. The heavy influx of dollars comes as Buchanan positions himself to be the next U.S. House Ways and Means Committee chair, one of the most powerful positions in Congress.
“Janet Cruz collects nearly $90K in days leading up to Session” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Sen. Cruz raised nearly $90,000 ahead of this year’s Legislative Session as she continues her re-election campaign for Senate District 18, her campaign announced this week. Cruz collected $86,416 in the time before Session, split between $22,416 raised by her campaign and $64,000 fundraised by her political committee, Building the Bay. “We’re all hands on deck for this race,” Cruz said in a statement. Throughout the 2022 cycle, Cruz has raised $693,409. And Cruz’s most recent haul will be her last through March, while the Legislature is in Session, sitting lawmakers are barred from fundraising, both for their campaign accounts and political committees.
“Mike Caruso moving north to newly configured House District 87” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. Caruso said redistricting means he’s going to be spending his weekends house-shopping, as he plans to move north to the new House District 87. The Delray Beach address he’s called home since the 1980s is currently in House District 89, and that’s being reconfigured. The redistricting effort has renumbered his district and shifted its boundaries further west. The district no longer stretches along Palm Beach County’s coastal area. Instead, it is roughly bounded by Highland Beach and Boynton Beach, extending west mostly along Military Trail. The Democrat-Republican split of his newly reconfigured district he’s called home for decades shows it’s getting bluer, and it also draws in Rep. Joe Casello.
Interesting — “Dan Gelber calls on Florida Democrats to open their primaries” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Miami Beach Mayor Gelber is calling upon the Florida Democratic Party to open its Primary elections to independent voters, a move he suggested might do no less than help save democracy itself. In a letter to Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz, Gelber expressed strong and foreboding thoughts about political divides increasing in breadth and intensity, dubbing them threats to democracy. Political parties must find ways to bring independent voters and their generally more moderate views back in, broaden political appeals, and temper divisions, Gelber argued. He suggests that the way to do that would be for political parties to open their primaries to them. The Democrats should go first, just because they can, Gelber urges. The former state Senator does not mince words in criticizing the GOP.
— CORONA NATION —
“Most Americans say pandemic will be over when virus becomes comparable to seasonal flu” via Amy Cheng and Adela Suliman of The Washington Post — As the coronavirus pandemic enters its third year, a new poll indicates that only a small minority of Americans need COVID-19 to be largely eliminated before they will regard the health emergency as over. By contrast, 83% of the 1,161 respondents said they would see the pandemic as a thing of the past once the virus evolves into a less severe, occasional presence in life, not unlike the seasonal flu. That’s a view taken by many public health experts and the countries that are pushing for “living with COVID” policies once the virus becomes endemic, or at “a point at which the infection is no longer unpredictably disruptive.” Seventy-three percent of respondents said getting vaccinated was important to ending the pandemic. Democrats were almost three times more likely than Republicans to believe that widespread immunization is essential.
“Embattled CDC rethinks pandemic response after criticism of guidelines” via Felicia Schwartz of The Wall Street Journal — The CDC is looking to reassert itself in the country’s COVID-19 response amid criticism it has sown more confusion than it has offered answers. According to the agency, the first orders of business are upgrading data collection that has hobbled decision making and clearing up messaging that has confused many. Yet the steps may not be enough to fix problems at the nation’s premier public-health agency exposed by the pandemic. And the CDC may not have much time, as a new variant could emerge after omicron crests. “Moving fast and risk-taking in a setting of ambiguity is not CDC’s strength — it’s not what they do,” said Charity Dean, previously a California Department of Health official who resigned during the pandemic.
“Boosters exacerbate the Republican-Democrat vaccine gap” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — In part because of these gaps in outcomes, and because Republicans are significantly less likely to get vaccinated, the pandemic’s death toll has registered very disproportionately in red areas. Now new data suggest the gap in protection between red and blue is growing significantly. While much has been written about the partisan vaccination gap, the gap is now larger with boosters. To date, the survey shows about 9 in 10 Democrats and 6 in 10 Republicans have gotten vaccinated. But when it comes to those who are vaccinated and boosted, Democrats are about twice as likely to be in that group, 62% to 32%.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Despite omicron hurdles, strong economic recovery appears on track” via Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post — Even as the U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in decades in 2021, the recovery has more recently flashed troubling warning signs, with soaring inflation, whipsawing financial markets and slowing consumer spending complicating the rebound. The economy grew at a blockbuster 6.9% annualized rate in the last three months of the year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Thursday, as growing business investments, consumer spending, and a rush by companies to bolster inventories helped drive GDP much higher in the final months of 2021. That strong reading still masks pressure from the omicron coronavirus variant that began sweeping through the nation late last year. This variant has left a swift and discernible imprint on retail sales, inflation, and even new claims for jobless benefits.
“Tipping has soared during the pandemic” via Nathan Bomey of Axios — From restaurants to ride-sharing, Americans are tipping a lot more than they did before the pandemic. The past two years have upended how we express appreciation to the people who provide us food and services. We’re leaving tips much more frequently, in part because a lot more transactions are prompting us to, sometimes before the service that we’re tipping for has been completed. Immediately before the pandemic, people tipped on about 63% of in-person credit-card transactions that provided an option to tip. By August 2021, they were tipping on about 66% of such payments. The average tip amount was about 20%, pre-pandemic. It has risen slightly, to about 21%.
— MORE CORONA —
“‘It’s just stressful’: Students feel the weight of pandemic uncertainty” via Jacey Fortin and Giulia Heyward of The New York Times — The school shutdowns in the spring of 2020 were hard enough for students. But this winter, as the omicron variant drove a spike in coronavirus case numbers, the disruptions began to feel like they would never end. Some school districts extended winter break or returned temporarily to remote learning. And some schools, already struggling with a nationwide labor shortage, were forced to cancel classes after staff members called in sick. Many students are still scrambling to catch up academically after months of struggling to learn online, and some switch schools or dropped out altogether. A sense of profound isolation persists. There are feelings of loneliness and angst. Many students feel that an entire system has failed them, leaving them to take on additional responsibilities far beyond what is typically asked of young people.
“In the wake of the omicron wave, single parents are drowning” via Caitlin Gibson of The Washington Post — About 3 in 10 families with children are headed by single parents, and 75% of those parents are mothers. Single-parent families comprise more than 10 million households in America, yet some of those said they often feel like outliers, especially during the pandemic, and especially during this stage of the pandemic. Many parents say they’ve felt painfully overlooked: by school systems who expect them to be able to accommodate virtual learning; by employers who aren’t flexible when a day care closure upends a workweek; by lawmakers who have withdrawn financial safety nets; and by health guidelines that are often impossible for a solo-parent household to follow.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Can Joe Biden, Republican Governors work together to implement infrastructure law?” via Alex Roarty and Bryan Lowry of the Miami Herald — President Biden and Republican Governors rarely see eye to eye on anything. Will the new infrastructure law be any different? Federal officials and state governments have begun an ambitious partnership this year to implement a trillion-dollar upgrade to the nation’s infrastructure, money made available last year when Biden signed into law a new spending bill that Congress passed with bipartisan support. It’s a process everyone agrees will require cooperation between the Democratic-led government and 28 Republican Governors, many of whom will have broad discretion about where to spend the money they receive from the federal government. It’s a difficult feat to pull off when deep political polarization makes cross-aisle cooperation a rarity. But for Biden’s administration, it’ll be a necessity.
“Biden’s vow of Black justice a nod to his most loyal voters” via Nicholas Riccardi of The Associated Press — As he struggled to survive the 2020 Democratic Primary, Biden made a striking pledge before voting began in heavily African American, must-win South Carolina: His first Supreme Court appointment would be a Black woman. On Thursday, with his poll numbers reaching new lows and his party panicking about the midterm elections, Biden turned again to the Democratic Party’s most steadfast voters and reiterated his vow to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer with the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. The striking promise reflects Black women’s critical role in the Democratic Party and the growing influence of Black women in society. It’s also a recognition that Black women have been marginalized in American politics for centuries.
“A top candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court has roots in Miami” via Ariana Figueroa of Florida Phoenix — With the retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Breyer by this summer, Biden has said he will fulfill a campaign promise of appointing a Black woman to an open seat on the highest court in the land. A top contender, who was even vetted by the Barack Obama administration in 2016 as a potential nominee to the Supreme Court, is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Born in Washington, D.C., she grew up in Miami, where she graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School before going on to Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Biden said on Thursday that he plans to announce a nominee by the end of February.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Republicans relish Biden’s troubles, eyeing a takeover of Congress” via Annie Karni of The New York Times — Republicans on Capitol Hill are using Biden’s failures to fuel their bid to retake control of Congress, focusing on his collapsing legislative agenda, his unfulfilled promise to “shut down” the coronavirus pandemic and rising voter anxieties over school closures and inflation as they seek a winning message for this year’s elections. Biden’s troubles have frustrated Democrats, prompting calls for a major course correction. At the same time, they have delighted Republicans, who have been intent on rehabilitating themselves in the eyes of voters after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol last year. Republicans believe they are finally able to capitalize on what they view as a historically advantageous environment. Republicans have spotlighted so-called kitchen-table issues like rising gas and home heating costs.
“Marco Rubio calls on HUD to address Florida’s section 8 properties with failing REAC scores” via Florida Daily — Last week, U.S. Sen. Rubio urged U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sec. Marcia Fudge to immediately address several of Florida’s Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance properties with failing Real Estate Assessment Center scores that had previously experienced inspection delays. “ … failing scores and ongoing delays highlight an urgent need to address the unsafe and unsanitary conditions that many Florida families have been facing on a daily basis,” a letter to Fudge read.
“Federal judge throws out oil lease sale in Gulf of Mexico” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — A federal court has rejected a plan to lease millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for offshore oil drilling, saying the Biden administration did not adequately take into account the lease sale’s effect on planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, violating a bedrock environmental law. The decision by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington sends the proposed lease sale back to the Interior Department to decide the next steps. The judge said it was up to Interior to decide whether to go forward with the sale after a revised review, scrap it, or take other steps. Environmental groups hailed the decision and said the ruling gave Biden a chance to follow through on a campaign promise to stop offshore leasing in federal waters.
— CRISIS —
“Committee investigating Jan. 6 attack issues subpoenas to 14 bogus Trump electors in states Biden won” via Felicia Sonmez and Beth Reinhard of The Washington Post — The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob has issued subpoenas to 14 individuals who cast bogus electoral votes for the former president in seven states won by Biden in 2020. The move comes as two Democratic Attorneys General asked federal prosecutors in recent days to investigate whether crimes were committed in assembling or submitting the “alternate” Trump slates. This week, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco confirmed prosecutors’ consideration of what she termed the “fraudulent elector certifications.”
“Donald Trump suggests he might pardon some Jan. 6 defendants” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Former President Trump suggested Saturday that he might pardon people associated with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol if he were to win a second term as president. “Another thing we’ll do — and so many people have been asking me about it — if I run and if I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly. We will treat them fairly,” he said at a rally in Conroe, Texas. “And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons. Because they are being treated so unfairly.” The assertion comes amid efforts by Trump and some of his fiercest supporters to rewrite the history of Jan. 6, baselessly claiming the attack on the Capitol was instigated by the FBI and that the approximately 50 pretrial detainees held in connection with the attack are “political prisoners.”
Trump is literally admitting he attempted a coup here: https://t.co/dFevTdEgIS
— Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) January 31, 2022
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Trump facing legal, political headwinds as he eyes comeback” via Jill Colvin of The Associated Press — As he prepared to tee off at one of his Florida golf courses, a fellow player introduced Trump as the “45th President of the United States.” “45th and 47th,” Trump responded matter-of-factly before hitting his drive. The quip was a reminder that the former President often has another presidential run on his mind. But the declaration belied the growing challenges he’s confronting as a series of complex legal investigations ensnare Trump, his family, and many associates. The probes, which are unfolding in multiple jurisdictions and consider everything from potential fraud and election interference to the role he played in the Jan. 6 insurrection, represent the most serious legal threat Trump has faced in decades of an often-litigious public life.
“Books, speeches, hats for sale: Post-presidency, the Trumps try to make money the pre-presidency way” via Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Trump’s advisers sent a “breaking” alert a few weeks before Christmas to his political supporters, informing them of a new opportunity to show their “loyalty” through a book of photographs. The book, based largely on photographs in the public domain, and sold unsigned for $75 and over three times that with Trump’s signature, has been published by a new company founded by his son, Donald Trump Jr. It paid the former president a multimillion-dollar advance for signing copies, writing captions and helping curate photos.
“Do Republicans love Trump as they once did?” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — No one should underestimate Trump’s standing within the Republican Party, especially the passionate allegiance of a substantial part of the GOP base. But there are signs that, since the assault on the Capitol last year, his support within the party may not be quite as robust as it once was. The suggestion that he has slipped comes with a sizable caveat. Majorities of Republicans have bought into Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. A Washington Post-University of Maryland survey, completed at the end of last year, found that more than 6 in 10 Republicans said there is solid evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Nearly 6 in 10 say Biden’s election was not legitimate.
—LOCAL NOTES —
“Feds try to block victims of Surfside condo collapse from accessing crucial evidence” via Nicholas Nehamas and Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — After the deadly Surfside condo collapse, crucial pieces of evidence were trucked away from the disaster site and stored in a Miami-Dade police warehouse. The evidence is key for federal investigators and attorneys for victims. But now, NIST and Miami-Dade County are trying to prevent experts for the attorneys from testing and sampling the materials. “At this time, NIST will maintain exclusive custody and control of the debris to ensure the integrity of its investigation,” the letter to Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez III stated. “ Judge Michael Hanzman appeared outraged when informed of NIST and the county’s actions.
“The towers and the ticking clock” via Matthew Shaer of The New York Times — Even in the most rigorously built structures, secured to the face of the earth by heavy pylons driven through yards of shifting sand, the coastal environment has inevitably taken its toll. Facades are pitted by the salt and sea air. Balconies are crumbling. Pool decks are spidered with cracks. And water, and rising sea levels, are a fact of life. Meaningful reform has long been notoriously hard to enact. Florida has roughly 1.5 million residential condo units, among the most of any state, and a highly lucrative condo and co-op industry.
“Criminalizing free speech? Group challenges Miami Beach law used to cuff people filming cops” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — After last year’s unruly spring break on South Beach, the Miami Beach City Commission passed an ordinance that allowed for the arrest of people who “interrupt” and get too close to cops doing their job on the streets. The result: Miami Beach police, over a crowded weekend in July, arrested over a dozen people, almost all Black and in the process of video recording police officers. Since then, nearly every one of those cases has been quietly dropped. But in one of the few remaining cases, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers asked a court to dismiss the case against an Ohio tourist, saying the ordinance unconstitutionally punished the right to free speech. Given the opportunity to defend the law in court, Miami Beach’s city prosecutor last week backed down, simply dropping the case.
“Jacksonville City Council member gets litigation letter from firm snared in dark-money controversies” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Matrix LLC, an Alabama consulting firm that has been drawn into controversies across Florida over political dark money, sent a legal notice to Jacksonville City Council member Garrett Dennis demanding he retain a broad array of records that might be in his possession because they could be relevant to a contentious legal fight between Matrix and its former employees. That legal fight, playing out in courtrooms in Alabama and Jacksonville, has reverberated across Florida. Matrix owner Joe Perkins has accused his former CEO, Jeff Pitts, and other former employees of going “rogue” and working on secret projects with a Florida client whose description in court papers matches Florida Power & Light, diverting millions in fees from Matrix in the process.
“Citrus County officials want state to build turnpike extension” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Citrus County’s elected leaders agreed Friday that the “no-build” option for a possible Florida Turnpike extension is no option for them. Instead, members of the County Commission, School Board, and City Councils of Crystal River and Inverness said they would focus on ensuring whatever route the Florida Department of Transportation chooses has minimal effect on the community and its residents. “The no-build scenario is no scenario,” Commission Chair Ron Kitchen Jr. said. Kitchen chaired the annual Citrus County elected leaders’ summit, an idea he started seven years ago as a way of gathering policymakers together at least once a year to discuss issues of mutual interest. Friday’s meeting at the Lecanto Government Building opened with a presentation from turnpike officials about the proposed project, which would link the turnpike at Interstate 75 in Wildwood with U.S. 19 between Crystal River and Chiefland.
“2 Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies found dead in St. Augustine” via Jacob Langston of Spectrum News 9 — Two Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies were found dead Saturday evening at a vacation rental home in St. Augustine. The deputies involved were in a romantic relationship and were heard arguing in a bedroom by fellow deputies that were on vacation with them, followed by the sound of gunshots, the sheriff’s office said. The preliminary investigation shows that the gunshot wound to Det. Daniel Leyden was self-inflicted, and he was the only shooter. Leyden worked in the Criminal Investigations Division, and the other deputy found dead was assigned to Uniform Patrol District III.
“Woman goes bankrupt after suing Disney” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Xonia Book sued The Walt Disney Co. three times in nine years. Court records depict what happened next after Book lost twice at trial and fought a third pending lawsuit in her long legal war against a multibillion-dollar company: She filed for bankruptcy. In a recent interview, Book said the experience caused great stress in her life — from her marriage to her family and her health. It’s ruined her credit, too. Book sued over allegations that the company discriminated against her and wouldn’t promote her because she’s Colombian. She also accused Disney security director Melissa Merklinger of sexually harassing her when they took a photograph together at a Disney event.
— TOP OPINION —
“For first time ever, Florida is tackling illiteracy at the doorstep” via Chris Sprowls for Florida Politics — Starting last year, the Florida House set out to champion literacy like no other state legislative body has done. Now, it’s important to talk about these programs so that every Florida parent can know and take advantage of the good things happening in our state for children’s literacy. To identify the challenges in the elementary school system, we established the RAISE program in House Bill 7011. Research also shows that we have to reach children early in development to ensure that they can be prepared for success when it comes time to learn to read. We created the New Worlds Reading Initiative, the largest state-funded free book delivery program for kids in the nation.
— OPINIONS —
“Why Florida is lurching to the right” via The Economist — DeSantis recently released his “Freedom First” annual budget. If that sounds like a campaign slogan, it’s no accident. DeSantis is using Florida as a peninsular podium to advertise his policies. In his proposed $100bn budget, he is pushing for a special police force to oversee state elections, which he calls an “election integrity unit,” and wants to make it easier to penalize companies that “facilitate illegal migration” to Florida. He envisages bonuses for police officers who move to Florida and wants to create a state militia of volunteers that could work with the National Guard in emergencies. What explains Florida’s lurch to the right? Recently the number of voters registered as Republicans exceeded the number of registered Democrats for the first time in modern history. Republicans see momentum on their side. Chris Sprowls says people moving to Florida are “realizing that there’s a reason that they chose to come here,” which is, Republican policies.
“When lawmakers get quiet, it’s time to worry” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The bills with bland titles and vague wording that can be impenetrable even to experienced politicos. The bills nobody seems to care about, except the people who are paid to care. A committee took up HB 977. The legislation governs the sale of tax certificates, liens against land and buildings owned by people who have failed to pay their property taxes. Big investment firms flood the auctions with bids, placed through thousands or even tens of thousands of shell companies. An investigation exposed the practice, and several tax collectors took steps to shut down the thousand-armed bidders by requiring a deposit from any entity that wanted to place a bid. HB 977 would strip these local elected officials of that power, making it easier for big companies to swoop in and dominate the auctions once again.
“Why secret searches for Florida university presidents are just a bad idea” via Judith Wilde and James Finkelstein for the Tampa Bay Times — The University of South Florida and the University of Florida are two of the four Florida public universities in the hunt for new Presidents, a process that should be open, both for philosophical and practical reasons. We have yet to identify any empirical evidence that supports the claim that “secret searches” result in hiring the best candidates and we’ve been studying this for 10 years. The Senate version claims that “if potential applicants fear the possibility of losing their current jobs as a consequence of attempting to progress along their chosen career path … failure to have these safeguards in place could have a chilling effect on the number and quality of applicants.” We doubt that.
“Legislators not putting Jacksonville voters first in state House redistricting” via Matt Schellenberg of Florida Phoenix — It is an absolute disappointment that the Florida House Committee on Redistricting has totally embarrassed itself with a district in Duval County that crosses the St. Johns River. Crossing the St. Johns River over a three-mile bridge enables incumbent state Rep. Wyman Duggan to keep his seat but disfranchises people living in Jacksonville’s Southside. Has the committee never heard of community interest and having compact districts? The plan being floated in Tallahassee eliminates a compact and community-centered district on the Southside and creates a district specifically designed for the benefit of political consultant Tim Baker’s wife, Jessica.
Gov. DeSantis laid the battle lines ahead, and the enemy is clear — wokeness. In a speech before a right-leaning group meeting in Palm Beach, the Governor called “wokeness” a disaster, cultural Marxism, and a danger to America, particularly America’s conservatives.
Also, on today’s Sunrise …
— Is this Legislative Session any different from those that came before? Veteran legislative reporter Gray Rohrer says there’s something of a pandemic hangover this year.
It’s Day One on the job for Rep. Daryl Campbell. He won the Special Election to represent HD 94, and — after some hiccups — the Secretary of State has certified his election.
Yeah, it was cold in Florida Sunday morning — iguana-dropping cold.
To listen, click on the image below:
— OLYMPICS —
“Sport, politics and COVID-19 collide at the Beijing Winter Olympics” via Emma Graham-Harrison and Vincent Ni of The Observer — Hosting the Winter Olympics during a pandemic was always going to test the Chinese government by putting its ever-growing ability to exercise political control and virus containment on a collision course with its enthusiasm for international prestige and status. The 2022 Winter Games, which open on Friday, are being held at a time of particularly intense western criticism of China over human rights abuses, from the mass persecution of Uyghurs in far western Xinjiang, labeled a genocide by the United States, and other groups including Tibetans. There is so little trust in the host nation that many countries have told their athletes to take burner phones, and cybersecurity experts warned a health app for Olympians could spy on them and steal health and other personal data.
“Sealed off: Inside the ‘closed loop’ at the Beijing Winter Olympics” via France 24 — Media and workers have to stay in approved hotels within the “loop,” the organizers’ alternative name for a coronavirus bubble, designed to protect participants from the virus and the Chinese population from the foreign mini-invasion. Wire fences seal off the area containing the Olympic venues and media center in Beijing from the rest of the capital, and the only way in is by shuttle bus or approved taxi. Security guards bar the way of anyone who tries to walk out of the hotel grounds. Bags are scanned as guests leave their hotels. Before boarding the bus, they must walk over to two cabins where staff in full protective gear awkwardly carry out mouth swabs from behind a plexiglass screen.
“U.S. Olympic bobsled team dealing with COVID-19 ‘nightmare’” via Henry Bushnell of Yahoo News — The United States bobsled and skeleton team has been dealing with COVID-19 trouble a week before the Olympics, with multiple positive tests affecting travel plans in recent days. One bobsledder, Josh Williamson, revealed Wednesday that he had tested positive. He was not the only team member affected. Sources said that multiple coaches, support staff, and at least one other athlete have tested positive. A USA Bobsled and Skeleton official confirmed the team’s delegation had “had multiple positive COVID-19 tests” but did not provide further details. Olympic rules, however, present extra hurdles. According to updated protocols finalized late last week, Williamson will need four consecutive days of negative tests, plus a fifth-day buffer, before he can depart.
— ALOE —
“Hundreds of volunteers with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful clean up Gasparilla litter” via Malique Rankin of WTSP — Gasparilla is the third-largest parade in the world. That means the litter left behind could probably hold some world records of its own. After the pirates have cleared out, all that’s left behind are thousands of beads scattered across the streets, in the trees, and on the sidewalks of downtown Tampa. “Our efforts today are to collect as much trash we can, and also recycle the beads that were collecting,” Debbie Evenson, executive director of Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, said. “I want to say in 2020, we collected about 5,000 pounds of litter and debris,” Evenson said.
“Robocops could be patrolling some Orlando theme parks by end of year” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Soon, guests strolling through Orlando’s theme parks might find themselves walking alongside an unusual companion: a robotic security guard. If the machine is from Robotic Assistance Devices, as CEO Steve Reinharz hopes, it won’t be easily mistaken for a person. Shaped more like the Mars Rover than the humanoid T-800 from “Terminator,” ROAMEO 2.0 stands 6-and-a-half feet tall and gracefully cruises on four wheels despite its 750-pound mass. But as these machines begin patrolling at amusement parks, they raise questions about employment, security and ethics. Though experts say robocops won’t be taking human jobs anytime soon, they acknowledge their use has to be closely monitored.
“Elon Musk offers $5K to UCF freshman, asks him to stop tracking his private jet” via Nelly Ontiveros of the Orlando Sentinel — A UCF freshman received a $5,000 offer from Musk to take down his Twitter account, which tracks the billionaire’s private jet. Jack Sweeney, a 19-year-old freshman at UCF, manages @ElonJet, a Twitter account that uses a bot to track Musk’s private jet. Sweeney said he created an algorithm that tracks flight data through a plane’s transponder, the report said. The account caught the attention of Musk, who messaged Sweeney asking him to take the account down due to security risks, the report said. “Never intended for it to create a security concern,” Sweeney said in their private conversation.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Florida Politics rising star, Jason Delgado, as well as U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, the super-sharp Kelsey Deasy of Bascom Communications and Consulting, former #FlaPol’er Ryan Ray, and Ben Sharpe.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.