- Chris Sprowls book program
- Cruise Ship CDC recommendation
- Disney WOKE Florida
- Federal judge Florida voting law
- Florida Republicans Disney dispute
- Florida voter suppression
- Florida voting restrictions
- Jacksonville Fox News
- New Worlds Reading program Florida
- Orlando Gudes sexual harassment
- Ron DeSantis Disney dispute
- Sen. Shevrin Jones HBCU
- Tampa City Councilman Orlando Gudes
You would burn up a calculator trying to count the billions of dollars Disney World generated for Florida since it opened in 1971.
Sure, the Mouse put plenty of those billions into the pockets of its employees and executives, but it didn’t stop there. Disney made Orlando an international destination, which required more hotels and restaurants. That led to the expansion of the Orlando International Airport.
The Disney cruises out of Miami and Port Canaveral pumped more money into the local economy. In turn, Disney execs gave large sums of cash to Tallahassee politicians to make sure the company got pretty much whatever it wanted.
That’s what makes the sudden fissure between Disney and Gov. Ron DeSantis over the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill so fascinating.
Under pressure from employees to take a more aggressive stance against the new law, Disney CEO Bob Chapek began speaking out against the measure. DeSantis didn’t like that, but that was mild compared to his reaction after a tweet from Disney urged the Legislature to repeal the bill.
“We remain committed to national and state organizations working to achieve that,” Disney said.
It was game on, with DeSantis and other Republicans invoking the “W” word: WOKE.
“I think they crossed the line,” he said. “We’re going to make sure we’re fighting back when people are threatening our parents and threatening our kids.”
What line, exactly, did Disney cross here?
It’s reasonable to ask why DeSantis believes it’s out of bounds for Disney executives to exercise their First Amendment rights by speaking out against this law. If that speech turns to activism, isn’t that what people on both sides of the aisle do every day?
I’m just asking for a friend.
DeSantis looks unbeatable in his quest for a second term in Tallahassee, and this stance certainly won’t hurt him with the Republican base. But with this ideological standoff growing more heated every day, it’ll be interesting to see if independent voters get turned off by all the noise.
Right now, those voters love DeSantis, but things can change quickly in politics.
Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.
Honorable mention: Chris Sprowls. Florida’s outgoing House Speaker has a passion for promoting reading to school kids.
He was the architect of a $200 million program that has sent about 336,000 free books to elementary school students who need to improve their reading skills. The plan is to deliver a new book each month to those students.
Also, more than 100,000 students in K-5th grade enrolled in the state’s New Worlds Reading program. Students with a “substantial reading deficiency” receive nine books a year.
Children in the initiative pick topics that interest them, then receive books matching those interests. Parents also receive a worksheet and activities to stimulate reading.
The program got a boost when Sprowls announced another $50 million in corporate donations to the cause.
“We all believe that access to books is something that can change a child’s life,” Sprowls said. “You give a child a book, and their face lights up.”
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Shevrin Jones. The Miami Senator and Florida A&M graduate received a prestigious appointment to the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
In making the announcement, the White House lauded Jones’ record of public service.
“He served in the Florida Legislature, championing meaningful bipartisan legislation including two consecutive bills to secure dignity for incarcerated women,” the release said.
The announcement also praised Jones’ push for a statewide expansion of a clean syringe exchange program and other noteworthy achievements.
The Board of Advisors seeks to enhance HBCUs through private sector partnerships, including schools, to create a pathway for students interested in attending those institutions.
The organization also addresses school modernization and affordability.
The biggest winner: Cruise ship passengers. We know how stormy the seas have been for this industry since the pandemic began. However, things are calm enough now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped its COVID-19 risk advisory for passengers longing for a getaway on the waters.
The CDC warned cruise ship passengers were at risk regardless of their vaccination status just three months ago. It put the travel warning for cruises to Level 4, which is the highest level. That came following reports of outbreaks on multiple ships.
Things have changed since then.
The CDC now says travelers can make their own risk assessments.
Translation: Bon voyage!
Dishonorable mention: Jacksonville. The Bold New City of the South (as Jax calls itself) was ambushed on Fox & Friends Thursday morning.
Host Brian Kilmeade was on the mic as the 7 a.m. segment began.
“The city of Jacksonville’s got such great potential. They’ve got these bridges. Beautiful scenery,” Kilmeade said.
But then … BOOM!
“They’ve got to rebuild that city,” Kilmeade said. “It’s just a mess. The city needs to be revitalized. It has all this potential, overlooking the water.”
Where in heaven’s name did that hot take come from?
The host did offer a bouquet — sort of — to the city’s NFL team. The Jaguars have a combined 15-49 record in the last four years, including 4-29 in the previous two seasons.
“I think they’ve added like seven or eight free agents. This might be the year with a brand new coach, where they probably get on the winning side of things,” Kilmeade said.
Stay in your lane, bro.
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Voting restrictions. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker declared two key parts of Florida’s new voter (cough) “security” law unconstitutional.
In a scalding 288-page opinion, Walker ordered the state not to enforce the enhanced restrictions on the use of ballot drop boxes and third-party voter registration efforts. Critics had decried the original law as using scare tactics of voter fraud to justify suppressing minority voters.
We didn’t make this the biggest loser, as DeSantis is confident he will win on appeal.
“This is a judicial equivalent of just pounding the table,” DeSantis said.
He’s probably correct.
However, if that’s the case, Walker pounded so hard he nearly broke the table.
“At some point, when the Florida Legislature passes law after law disproportionately burdening Black voters, this court can no longer accept that the effect is incidental,” Walker wrote.
“Based on the indisputable pattern set out above, this court finds that, in the past 20 years, Florida has repeatedly sought to make voting tougher for Black voters because of their propensity to favor Democratic candidates. In summation, Florida has a horrendous history of racial discrimination in voting.”
The biggest loser: Orlando Gudes. He resigned as Chairman of the Tampa City Council after a damning report painted him a sexual harasser with a hostile work environment.
However, Gudes said he wouldn’t resign entirely from the Council despite calls to do so.
“Everyone has their day to be vindicated. I’m waiting for that day to happen,” Gudes said.
He may have a long wait.
Among the allegations that investigator Thomas Gonzalez found credible is that Gudes made numerous sexual and homophobic remarks to a female aide while in the workplace.
“This investigation has produced evidence the employee’s supervisor created a hostile working environment by comments and conduct which a reasonable person of the employee’s sex would find offensive and which the employee did, in fact, find offensive.”
While Gudes was not accused of making sexual advances, Gonzalez wrote that he had “frequent offensive conduct and abuse.”
Mayor Jane Castor said that if Gudes had been a city employee instead of an elected official, she would have fired him.