Good Friday morning.
Technically, every pro sports season has an opening day. After all, the season must start sometime, right?
However, the vibe for Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is different. It mixes pomp, circumstance, tradition, and hope better than other sports. It remains the gold standard for these things.
When I was a kid growing up near Cincinnati, opening day for my beloved Reds came with a parade and — best of all — an excused absence from school if you could produce a ticket stub. I managed that once.
It also meant that we could finally look forward to the promise of warmer weather. Opening day was the demarcation line between the heavy coats of winter and the short sleeves and swimming pools of summer.
It’s slightly different for Florida’s two big-league teams — the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins. It’s not a transition to those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer Nat King Cole sang about.
We usually measure winter here in hours, not months. And for all its quirks, fans who make it to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg are really glad the place is air-conditioned.
But it will still be special when the Rays open the season today against Baltimore at 3:10 p.m. The team and fans have a lot to celebrate from last year and plenty of hope for what lies ahead in 2022.
Start with celebrating last season’s 100-win season — a first in franchise history — and an AL East championship. That means another banner in the outfield. Sure, it ended with a thud in a first-round playoff wipeout against Boston, but let’s not dwell on that.
Look at that roster. Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Wander Franco, is destined for superstardom that we’ve never seen around here. It’s not a stretch to think he could become this year’s Most Valuable Player; he’s already that on the Rays.
And don’t worry about him leaving any time soon. He signed an 11-year, $182 million contract, an unprecedented move for the Rays.
The opener is also an excellent opportunity for Rays’ starting pitcher Shane McClanahan, who played college ball in neighboring Hillsborough County at the University of South Florida. It’s his first opening day start.
It’s a different story for the Marlins, who open in San Francisco. The Fish were 67-95 last season, and although they made several lineup upgrades in the offseason, they’re not expected to compete seriously. Their division includes the defending world champion Atlanta Braves.
Miami also had offseason palace intrigue. Derek Jeter resigned as the team’s CEO after 4 ½ years following a suspected falling out with owner Bruce Sherman. Jeter was the one who was going to rebuild the Marlins into perennial contenders, but it hasn’t happened.
Still, that’s the beauty of Opening Day. We don’t know for sure what the season will hold. It will all play out as April blends into the game’s natural mile markers like Memorial Day, July Fourth, the trading deadline, and Labor Day.
It unfolds one game at a time.
And if your favorite team should lose the opener, don’t despair. There are still 161 remaining chances to get it right.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@BarackObama: Congratulations to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for her appointment to the Supreme Court. This is a great day for America, and a proud moment in our history.
—@Baseballot: Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation preserves the 5–4 balance on the Supreme Court: 5 Harvard grads, 4 Yale grads.
—@MaElviraSalazar: At the airport headed back to the free state of Florida after a productive week in Washington Ready to get rid of plane mask mandates once and for all by passing #
—@AmandaMarcotte: (N)one of these right-wing “boycotts” are really boycotts. Boycotts are organized economic pressure campaigns. Rejecting “Frozen” and then watching “Star Wars” is not a boycott.
—@JimmyKimmell: NOTE to @RepMattGaetz — stay indoors. It’s Girl Scout cookie season
—@MDixon55: Just a reminder, many of your baseball teams will lose today, and furthermore will likely disappoint you this year
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 10; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 14; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 20; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 20; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 21; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 28; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 34; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 48; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 49; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 55; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 60; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 91; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 104; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 123; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 135; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 147; 2022 Emmys — 157; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 182; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 200; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 200; ‘Black Panther 2′ premieres — 217; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 217; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 222; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 227; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 227; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 228; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 252; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 333; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 350; 2023 Session Sine Die — 392; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 476; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 560; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 840.
“Election officials want Florida’s congressional lines in place before end of April” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Courts should give the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis one more shot at producing a map, say plaintiffs in a federal case. But judges should be prepared to impose a map of their choosing before the end of the month if elected officials can’t get their act together.
“Plaintiffs ask this Court to set a briefing schedule that will permit it to hold a hearing and decide upon a new map as early as the last week in April,” reads a legal brief. “That will give the Legislature one last chance to draw congressional lines that the Governor will accept.”
Common Cause of Florida, Fair Districts Now and other plaintiffs filed a suit in federal court last month, asserting that judges must intervene if lawmakers and the Governor couldn’t move in concert. The lawsuit landed days after the Florida Legislature, on March 4, passed a congressional map (H 8019) that sought to address DeSantis’ stated concerns about a North Florida congressional district, and also attached a secondary map (H 8015) that left a current configuration of that district largely intact. But DeSantis already promised to veto the map when it passed, which he did on March 29.
Personnel note: Annette Taddeo taps Mara Strobel-Lanka as communications director — Democratic Sen. Taddeo’s gubernatorial campaign announced Thursday that Strobel-Lanka has been hired as communications director. Strobel-Lanka most recently worked as campaign manager and communications director for Tracye Polson’s campaign for Jacksonville City Council. “I’m extremely proud of the team we continue to build. Mara’s work on the Polson campaign gained statewide attention, Taddeo said. “She will be a valued addition to a staff teemed with hard workers, industry innovators, and, most importantly, young people who believe in a Florida where we can all thrive.”
Steny Hoyer endorses Ben Diamond for CD 13 — U.S. House Majority Leader Hoyer on Thursday endorsed state Rep. Diamond in the Democratic Primary for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. “Ben Diamond was inspired to run for office by his grandfather and my dear friend, Congressman Dante Fascell. Dante was an excellent representative for Florida, and I know he served as a wonderful role model to Ben, in whom I see the same values of integrity and honesty that his grandfather brought to his work every day in Congress,” Hoyer said. Diamond is one of several Democrats running for the St. Petersburg-based seat, which is open due to incumbent U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist opting to run for Governor rather than re-election.
“Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor announces congressional bid” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Vice Mayor Ben Sorensen is jumping into the race to succeed Rep. Ted Deutch representing Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. He’ll be the third Democrat to get in the race and the second military man. “In my campaign, and as a legislator, I vow to go the extra mile to do the hard work and step out of my comfort zone to challenge the problems others write off as too difficult to solve,” Sorensen wrote. The candidate who wins the Democratic nod in the August Primary Election will be the heavy favorite to win the congressional seat, given the area’s Democratic lean.
Climate groups slam Republicans for oil industry ties — Climate Power and the League of Conservation Voters launched an ad campaign Thursday calling out U.S. Reps. María Salazar and Carlos Giménez for accepting campaign contributions from oil companies while voting against clean energy legislation. “It is the height of hypocrisy for a member of Congress who represents a district hammered by deadly climate-fueled wildfires or tropical storms to take Big Oil’s money and vote against clean energy investments,” said Pete Maysmith, LCV’s senior vice president of campaigns. “It’s time for Big Oil’s allies in Congress to feel the heat for amassing campaign contributions from price-gouging oil and gas executives.” The Florida ads debuted alongside others targeting Republican representatives in California and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
‘The best choice’: AFSCME Florida endorses Janelle Perez for Senate — Perez, a Democratic candidate in Senate District 38, just picked up an endorsement from the Florida branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest trade union of public employees in the nation. Perez’s campaign announced the endorsement Friday. In an accompanying statement, she credited the commitment government workers showed during the pandemic for Florida’s economic recovery. “Our local economy has bounced back stronger than ever because our local workforce never gave up, and that dedication merits the support of state leaders who believe in investing in our employees,” she said. “I’m so proud to be endorsed by the essential public servants who work every day to promote opportunity, protect democracy, and support our community.”
“Griff Griffitts raised more than $100K in March for HD 6 bid” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Griffitts raised more than $100,000 in March, which fortified his odds in the GOP Primary race to replace term-limited state Rep. Jay Trumbull. The Griffitts campaign to date has raised more than $250,000. “I couldn’t be happier with the success we’re having on this campaign,” Griffitts said. A Bay County Commissioner, Griffitts represents District 5, encompassing all of Panama City Beach. He is also co-owner of a construction business.
Save the date:
Andy Thomson brings in another $88K in March — Boca Raton Democrat Thomson raised another $88,000 for his campaign to succeed Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg-King in House District 91. Thomson’s campaign said it added $58,000 through the candidate’s official campaign account, including $30,000 in loans. Another $30,000 was added through the newly launched Running with Andy Thomson Political Committee. Combined with the $70,000 Thomson raised in February, the campaign has pulled in $158,000. “I’m honored by the support received so far. Our message is resonating, and we are seeing support for the campaign grow both financially and through endorsements. Voters are looking for a problem solver and consensus builder to focus on solutions that move our state forward. I am ready to take on that charge,” Thomson said.
Music exec who signed Alice in Chains launches Florida political committee — An entity known as Embrace Equality has made $85,000 in contributions for Florida politicians and political committees and pumped $360,350 into a Florida-based political committee also called Embrace Equality, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. The entity has mostly funded Democratic politicians and committees, including a $25,000 contribution to Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. According to Public Concepts founder and Republican consultant Randy Nielsen, the entity is operated by Nick Terzo, known for signing grunge band Alice in Chains to Columbia Records in 1989. Asked about his venture into Florida politics, Terzo told POLITICO Florida, “It’s not all that interesting, don’t let your imagination run wild.”
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis awards state Medal of Freedom to Nuremberg trials prosecutor” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — DeSantis on Thursday awarded the state’s Governor’s Medal of Freedom to Benjamin Ferencz, the last living prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials, in which Nazi regime members stood trial for their role in the Holocaust and World War II. Before doing so, he signed SB 1360 into law, which removed the scheduled expiration date for the Medal of Freedom award in state law, set for July 1. He also stressed the importance of educating younger generations about the Holocaust. “When you start talking about that World War II era … a lot of the firsthand experience is fading,” DeSantis said.
“The DeSantis administration has started sending more than $600 million to Florida’s biggest corporations” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — The Florida Department of Revenue said Thursday that the agency has begun distributing what will ultimately total nearly $625 million in corporate tax refunds — thanks to legislation DeSantis signed in 2019. The DeSantis administration began sending the refunds out a few weeks after the end of the 2022 Legislative Session — a Session in which Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature slashed $100 million from a program meant to help build affordable rental housing and cut millions from hospitals that care for some of the state’s most vulnerable children and families. Ninety-nine percent of Florida businesses won’t see a penny of these tax refunds. They are only for companies that pay Florida’s corporate tax, and the state’s biggest corporations only pay Florida’s corporate tax.
“Economists blast sales tax holidays as gimmick with little benefit” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — The Legislature last month unanimously approved $1.1 billion in tax breaks over the next two years that lawmakers say are aimed at easing the tax burden on average Floridians. But economists across the board debunk them as politically popular, feel-good gimmicks that sidestep meaningful and lasting tax reform and provide negligible relief or savings. State politicians applaud those measures and a monthlong suspension of the state’s 26.5-cent gas tax in October, as efforts to help working families deal with soaring inflation. “It makes them look good, particularly during an election year,’ said Diane Yetter, founder of the for-profit Sales Tax Institute in Chicago.
“CSU forecasters predict another active hurricane season with 19 tropical storms, nine hurricanes” via Doyle Rice of USA Today — After two of the most active hurricane seasons on record in 2020 and 2021, top hurricane forecasters on Thursday said we should expect another above-normal season this year. For the season, which begins June 1, meteorologist Phil Klotzbach and other experts from Colorado State University, among the nation’s top seasonal hurricane forecasters, predict 19 named tropical storms will form in 2022, of which nine will become hurricanes. An average season has 14 tropical storms, seven of which become hurricanes. If the prediction holds, it will be the seventh consecutive above-normal season. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its wind speed reaches 74 mph.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“DeSantis signs fleet of behavioral health bills as post-pandemic need rises” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Behavioral health care providers scored major wins Wednesday as DeSantis signed nearly a dozen bills ranging from plans to modernize mental health treatment to a measure to prevent suicides among veterans. The Republican Governor signed 42 bills, including 11 addressing mental health and substance abuse. The signings come after another year of health care experts sounding the alarm on the psychological toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the Governor and First Lady Casey DeSantis have touted behavioral health as the administration’s priorities. Their support has drawn praise from mental health and substance abuse advocates.
“Governor signs bill mandating more opt-out information on step therapy programs” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Managed care plans and insurance companies will soon have to provide customers with more information about step therapy programs, including how to opt out of them, thanks to a bill DeSantis just signed into law. On Wednesday, DeSantis signed HB 459, which establishes protocols managed care plans and insurance companies must follow for programs with specific sequences in which prescription drugs, medical procedures and other treatments must be used for a health condition. Such a program, which includes the initial use of cost-effective, less-risky drug therapies and a progression to costlier and riskier therapies, if necessary, is known as a “step therapy” or “first fail requirement” program.
“Randolph Bracy, others forming bipartisan Central Florida crypto caucus” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — State Sen. Bracy, state Sen. Jason Brodeur and other Central Florida lawmakers are forming a new bipartisan, state and federal cryptocurrency caucus, to focus on the legislative challenges and opportunities of virtual money. Bracy, the Ocoee Democrat running for Congress this year, is interested in finding ways to make cryptocurrency more widely available, particularly in minority communities, so that no one is left out if bitcoin and other virtual monies become broad avenues of business capital. Brodeur likewise is looking at ways to expand the currencies’ availability, while at the same time looking at regulatory controls to increase trust.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“From Miami to the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson makes history as first Black woman justice” via Bryan Lowry and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — Jackson’s legal journey started at her family’s dinner table in Miami. It has culminated with a historic appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Jackson will succeed Justice Stephen Breyer on the nation’s high court after the Senate voted 53 to 47 Thursday to confirm the judge’s lifetime position. Senators gave an enthusiastic standing ovation when Vice President Kamala Harris read out the historic vote result Thursday afternoon. Jackson will be the 116th person to serve on the court. All but seven of the justices who came before her have been white men.
—”From judge to justice in six weeks: How Chuck Schumer got Jackson confirmed” via Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett of POLITICO
“Marco Rubio and Rick Scott vote against Supreme Court’s first Floridian” via Bryan Lowry of the Miami Herald — Sens. Rubio and Scott both voted against confirming the first Floridian to the Supreme Court. Incoming Supreme Court Justice Jackson, the first Black woman confirmed to the nation’s high court, was a year ahead in school at Miami Palmetto Senior High School when Rubio was a student at nearby rival South Miami Senior High School in the 1980s. Rubio repeatedly called Jackson’s personal story inspiring in the weeks leading up to Thursday’s vote, but he telegraphed his opposition to Jackson early when he said their one-on-one meeting did not ease his concerns. Rubio offered a generalized allegation of judicial activism.
“‘He kept a promise’: How Jackson’s confirmation boosts Joe Biden’s legacy” via Alex Roarty and Francesca Chambers of McClatchy — For a President besieged by surprise crises from new coronavirus variants to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the unexpected opening on the Supreme Court allowed Biden to reassert control over his presidency and fulfill a promise of special importance to his most loyal base of supporters. Prominent Biden allies say that putting the first Black woman on the Supreme Court will play a consequential role in how future generations of Americans view his tenure, particularly if Jackson continues to serve on the high court for decades after he exits politics. Jackson’s confirmation comes at a critical moment in Biden’s presidency, with his presidential approval rating near a personal all-time low and federal elections just months away.
“Biden at war: Inside a deliberate yet impulsive Ukraine strategy” by Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager and Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post — As the war enters its seventh week, Biden has left his distinct imprint on the crisis — in ways both intentional and not, and in ways that have both clarified and complicated the situation. The President is considered a foreign-policy hand — the former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — with a broad aversion to military adventurism. Early in his presidency, he unilaterally pulled out of the 20-year war in Afghanistan. And with Ukraine, he has certain clear lines he hasn’t crossed — a no-fly zone above Ukraine or U.S. combat troops on the ground. He does not want the conflict to escalate into a direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia — a possibility he likens to “World War III.”
“Biden bets strong job market will shield economy from slump” via Josh Boak of The Associated Press — The U.S. economy faces plenty of threats: War in Ukraine, high grocery bills, spiking gasoline prices, splintered supply chains, the lingering pandemic, and rising interest rates that slow growth. The Biden White House is betting the U.S. economy is strong enough to withstand these threats, but there are growing fears of a coming economic slump among voters and some Wall Street analysts. The next few months will test whether Biden built a durable recovery full of jobs with last year’s $1.9 trillion relief package, or an economy overfed by government aid that could tip into a downturn. On the line for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections is whether voters see firsthand in their lives that inflation can be tamed, and the economy can manage to run hot without overheating.
“This nixed natural-gas project shows you just how absurd Biden’s energy policy is” via Victoria Coates and Jennifer Stefano of The New York Post — In 2018, New Fortress Energy applied to build an $800 million natural-gas processing plant there to purify and liquefy millions of gallons of gas from the Marcellus Shale, which would then move by rail and truck to the export facility in New Jersey. The target operation date was the first half of 2022. Instead, New Fortress Energy announced last month it would suspend the long-delayed project indefinitely after fanatical environmental groups obstructed it through repeated legal action against Gibbstown. New Fortress decided to cut its losses after a long fight: It was easier to placate these organizations by allowing the necessary permits to expire than risk the ongoing expense and reputational damage they threatened.
“Former White House aide testified that Matt Gaetz asked for a blanket pardon” via Axios — Eric Herschmann, a Republican lawyer who served as a senior adviser to Donald Trump, testified to the Jan. 6 committee that Gaetz asked the White House on multiple occasions for a “blanket pardon,” three sources told us. The committee asked Herschmann about pardons. Last April, The New York Times reported that Gaetz asked Trump administration officials for a pardon. But the news of Herschmann testifying to the Jan. 6 committee Wednesday about the pardon request is new.
“Gaetz narrowly avoids being called a ‘smug little shit’ in official Congressional Record” via Bess Levin of Vanity Fair — On Tuesday, the conservative lawmaker used a House Armed Services Committee hearing about the Defense Department’s 2023 budget to berate Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over the military’s supposed failures, which he pinned on the Pentagon’s alleged embrace of “wokeness.” Sounding like a bratty teen yelling at his parents, Gaetz lectured Austin.
“Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene dismiss national hymn push for ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Amid a push to make official the status of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as the national hymn, two Republican members of Congress dismissed the notion Thursday. Reps. Gaetz and Greene spent several minutes slamming the song known as the Black national anthem on Gaetz’s Firebrand podcast, suggesting it wasn’t worthy of veneration and arguing no one knew the song anyway. The bill (HR 301) cleared the House Judiciary Committee this week and appeared likely to pass on the floor of the House of Representatives this month.
“Carlos Giménez’s bill would terminate COVID-19 mask requirements on planes and trains” via Bryan Lowry of the Miami Herald — U.S. Rep. Giménez introduced legislation Thursday that would prevent the Transportation Safety Administration from requiring passengers on airplanes to wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. The legislation would effectively strike down the TSA policy that requires masking on planes, trains and subways. The TSA directive, adopted early in the pandemic, was extended in March through April 18. Another extension is possible amid concerns of a new wave. Gimenez introduced his legislation the same week several members of Congress, including Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, announced that they had tested positive for COVID-19. It also comes as Congress is locked in negotiations over the next round of COVID relief funding.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Manhattan DA: Donald Trump criminal investigation is continuing” via Michael R. Sisak of The Associated Press — Refuting suggestions that he’s lost interest in going after Trump, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Thursday a criminal investigation into the former President and his business practices is continuing “without fear or favor” despite a recent shake-up in the probe’s leadership. In a rare public statement, Bragg denied that the three-year investigation was winding down or that a grand jury term expiring this month would impede his office’s ability to bring charges. Citing secrecy rules, the district attorney said he couldn’t discuss details of the probe but pledged to publicly disclose findings when it’s over.
“DOJ plans to investigate boxes of records taken to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago” via Matt Zapotosky and Jacqueline Alemany of The Washington Post — The Justice Department has begun taking steps to investigate Trump’s removal of presidential records to Mar-a-Lago, some of which were labeled “top secret,” people familiar with the matter said. The people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter, said the probe remained in the very early stages. It’s not yet clear if Justice Department officials have begun reviewing the materials in the boxes or seeking to interview those who might have seen them or been involved in assembling and moving them.
— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —
“Whistleblower who clashed with former Jacksonville Inspector General was fired” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — The whistleblower who was instrumental in convincing city officials to launch an investigation into former city Inspector General Lisa Green was fired earlier this year. The whistleblower, Andrew McFarlane, the office’s former director of investigations, maintains he was fired “without cause” and was provided no reason for his termination in February by interim Inspector General Sheryl Goodman. McFarlane filed a wide-ranging complaint after leaving the office, alleging his termination was retaliation for his role as a whistleblower and for having raised concerns about how the office was handling a remarkably long-running investigation into the former head of the city’s Office of Sports and Entertainment. The results of that investigation have still not been released.
“Power lines and power plays in Jacksonville’s quest to attract biggest cargo ships” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — If “river deep” has been the rallying cry of Jacksonville and other East Coast ports battling to win the business of big ocean-crossing cargo ships, the related question of “how high up” has also emerged in that costly race. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey completed a $1.7 billion project in 2019 that raised the Bayonne Bridge to 215 feet so the biggest cargo ship ever to call on the East Coast could sail under its historic arch. The North Carolina State Ports Authority paid $11.5 million for Duke Energy to raise power lines spanning the river at its port in Wilmington, finishing that in 2020.
“Homeless man described by sister as mentally ill is first arrest in Florida voter fraud investigation” via Fresh Take Florida — The first of 10 felons charged with election fraud is back in the county jail where he was first accused of signing up as an ineligible voter during a jailhouse registration drive in 2020. Kelvin Bolton of Gainesville was arrested at a local homeless shelter, St Francis House, court records showed. He was held Thursday in the Alachua County jail on a $30,000 bond on third-degree felony charges of perjury and fraud. Of nine other felons charged here in the voter fraud investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, seven were already serving time in state prisons on unrelated felony charges, and two remained at large. Prosecutors said Bolton still owed court fees from a previous felony conviction when he registered to vote as a Republican and cast a ballot in the last presidential election.
“New draft of Leon County Schools LGBTQ guide needs work, critics say” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — Advocates say, at first glance, the school district’s draft of the new LGBTQ+ guide needs some work. The draft, which went to members of Leon County Schools’ LGBTQ+ School Support Guide Committee last week, is missing critical elements from the original document that made it helpful for transgender students, said Chris Sands of PFLAG Tallahassee, an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, their families and allies. Last Friday afternoon, Assistant Superintendent Alan Cox emailed committee members a draft of the district’s revisions.
“Fernandina Beach bond proposal delayed, opinions mixed” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — Faced with a debate on a possible bond issuance, the Fernandina Beach City Commission has decided not to decide. “I would like to delay consideration of the motion until the next meeting,” Commissioner Chip Ross said following 40 minutes of discussion, “for everybody to go home and think about what we’ve talked about and talk to whoever you talk to about these things.” The bond resolution included projects priced out and included shoreline resiliency and downtown revitalization. The waterfront stabilization project is estimated to cost north of $15.8 million, but that may be a soft estimate.
— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —
“Newest Tampa City Council member says her views on police have evolved” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — On Tuesday, just after Tampa City Council members selected her to replace John Dingfelder, Lynn Hurtak drove to North Tampa to meet the city’s Police Benevolent Association union leaders. She heard that they had opposed her selection and wanted to address the matter head-on. President Darla Portman wasn’t available, but Wednesday, they met to hash things out, Hurtak said. Chief among the union’s concerns were social media postings from recent years in which Hurtak indicated support for defunding police in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer.
“Vandals strike Ukraine murals in Fort Myers, as defiant Alliance vows to make more” via Charles Runnells of the Fort Myers News-Press — The 4-by-8-foot murals depicting Zelenskyy — one against a backdrop of a Ukrainian flag — can be seen by traffic passing on busy McGregor Boulevard. The vandalism was discovered Monday morning: Red, white and blue paint mixed with metallic stars and smeared across both murals. “It was just really, crushingly disappointing,” said Shari Shifrin, director of the Fort Myers Mural Society, which commissioned the murals. Fort Myers artist Erik Schlake, who made the free-standing murals with Bokeelia’s Roland Ruocco, says he wasn’t exactly surprised by the vandalism.
— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —
“Two coaches join former Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ racial discrimination lawsuit” via Daniel Oyefusi of the Miami Herald — An amended complaint to the former Dolphins head coach’s lawsuit, originally filed on the first day of February, lists former Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks and former defensive coordinator Ray Horton as plaintiffs. The suit, which originally listed the NFL, Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos as defendants, now also includes the Cardinals, Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans. The amended complaint alleges Wilks, who was head coach of the Cardinals for the 2018 season and fired after a 3-13 finish, was hired as a “bridge coach and was not given any meaningful chance to succeed.” Wilks, who is Black, “was replaced by Kliff Kingsbury, who the complaint notes is white and had no NFL head coaching experience.
“MiamiCoin gets off to a rocky start” via Heather Gillers of The Wall Street Journal — Miami is the first U.S. city to earn revenue from a city-branded cryptocurrency project, getting about $5.25 million from the launch of “MiamiCoin.” Buyers of the digital token have had a rockier experience: MiamiCoin’s value has fallen by half since it made its debut last summer. The mining of municipal-linked coins is an early experiment blending the chronically cash-strapped bureaucracy of local governments with the cash-flush world of crypto. Proponents such as Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, whose city is hosting a bitcoin conference this weekend billed as the nation’s largest, imagine a future in which municipal coins become nearly ubiquitous. For cities, tapping the crypto market can mean a fresh source of cash. Miami said it has used the revenue from MiamiCoin to help fund rent subsidies for low-income residents. The city’s operating budget is $1.37 billion.
“Miami voters to weigh in on century-long Riverside Wharf lease” via John Charles Robbins of Miami Today — City of Miami voters will get a second chance to weigh in on a vast mixed-use downtown project at an August special election that would add a luxury hotel and a site lease up to a century. In December, MV Real Estate Holdings, along with Driftwood Capital, announced Riverside Wharf, a hospitality-driven entertainment complex on the historic Miami River. The public-private partnership involves the city, which owns the site on the river’s east bank and leases it to Riverside Wharf LLC. Voters approved the original lease in 2016, as the charter requires. If approved by voters and by the city and developer in a final lease, the move would add 50 more years to the lease and permit the Wharf to build a hotel at its expense.
—TOP OPINION —
“Why so many COVID-19 predictions were wrong” via Jerusalem Demsas of The Atlantic — In August 2020, the Aspen Institute released a report warning that 30 million to 40 million people in the United States were at risk of eviction, a number equivalent to roughly one in 10 Americans. But in December 2021, Princeton’s Eviction Lab found that in the 31 cities where it had collected data, all but one recorded fewer eviction filings than the historical average. Not only was the prediction startlingly off-base, evictions actually declined. The survey found that roughly 25% of women were considering leaving the workforce “or downshifting their career” that year. As the Harvard economist Claudia Goldin has noted, much of the media coverage of this finding failed to note that 20% of men were also considering leaving the workforce or cutting back.
— OPINIONS —
“Congress is choosing to prolong the COVID-19 pandemic” via Gavin Yamey and Boghuma Kabisen Titanji of The Washington Post — Congressional negotiators have reportedly decided to remove foreign aid from their bipartisan emergency COVID-19 funding package. If they do not correct this error, they will be choosing to prolong the pandemic, leading to needless suffering and death and harming the global economy and our own. While it is true that coronavirus cases have fallen in the United States, we should be stepping up our efforts to vaccinate the world. We should recommit to and further invest in country-led vaccination campaigns in low- and middle-income countries. While high-income nations were starting to offer fourth vaccine doses, 2.8 billion people had not had even a single dose as of March, and booster doses for low-income countries are barely discussed.
“The left learns the limits of corporate power” via Megan McArdle of The Washington Post — Over time, progressives established a power base among the young professionals staffing major corporations, and now they eagerly push companies to stake out positions on issues of the day, from climate change to LGBTQ rights to guns. Many of their campaigns have been successful, which is why more and more product categories are getting divided along partisan lines. Now, they are trying to sunder Disney from its cozy relationship with the state of Florida — an effort that won’t work, except possibly to entrench the conservative politicians whose votes they are trying to change. In the process, the left may finally learn what conservatives used to know: The corporate power they once so feared is much less fearsome than they imagine.
“New law doesn’t protect kids, it targets LGBTQ youth like us” via Fabiana Montenegro and Crow Hartman for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — We are two students in Miami-Dade County who proudly participate in the Alliance for LGBTQ Youth’s ChangeMakers Leadership Institute. We were lucky enough to learn about this program, which supports our mental health and grows our leadership skills, through school. Yet, since the introduction of this bill, we have felt afraid, anxious and less safe at school. This law effectively commands the erasure of LGBTQ people, the stigmatization of queer and trans youth and encourages open homophobia and transphobia. HB 1557 has been masked as a call for protecting parental rights within the state’s school systems. As a result, it has been too easy for misinformed adults to support the bill, entrenching the ignorant, false notion that making LGBTQ identities taboo will “keep the gay away.”
— WEEKEND TV —
Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Democratic consultant Reggie Cardozo, Republican consultant Anthony Pedicini and Florida Politics Publisher Peter Schorsch.
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.
Full Circle Florida with Paul LaGrone on WFTS Tampa Bay: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, ABC News political Dir. Rick Klein, former Congressman Jim Davis and USF professor Dr. Susan MacManus.
In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of National Volunteer Month and the struggles nonprofits are having bringing in volunteers for their organizations. Joining Walker are Melissa Neeley, CEO at the Ryan Nece Foundation; Corey Simon, CEO at Volunteer Florida; and Barb Girtman, District 1, Volusia County Council.
Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A look at lawmakers’ push for a Special Session on property insurance; and Sen. Jim Boyd will also discuss the issue.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Sen. Linda Stewart will discuss legislation passed by Tallahassee lawmakers, including the state’s record-setting budget.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Rep. Cord Byrd, Jacksonville City Council President Sam Newby, and Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp owner Ken Babby.
— ALOE —
“Mickey Mouse can start hugging again at Disney parks” via The Associated Press — Mickey Mouse will soon be able to hug again. For nearly two years, costumed characters at U.S. Disney parks have kept their distance from visitors because of the pandemic. They haven’t been able to give hugs, sign autographs or interact up close with fans. That is about to change in a few weeks when the parks reintroduce traditional character greetings. As soon as mid-April, personal interaction between visitors and costumed characters will be allowed again at Disneyland in California, Walt Disney World in Florida and on Disney cruises, the company said late last week in a blog post.
“Bumps, bruises force FSU to experiment with offensive line matchups in spring” via Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel — As Florida State closes in on the completion of spring football camp, the Seminoles have dealt with their share of bumps and bruises. In some cases, it’s forced the coaching staff to adjust how they’ve been able to utilize and evaluate players at certain positions. One of those has been upfront on the offensive line, where injuries have required FSU to dive deeper into its depth chart. For the first time in several seasons, the Seminoles feature multiple players with starting experience, including Darius Washington (20 games started), Robert Scott Jr. (18), Maurice Smith (17) and Dillan Gibbons (11). FSU also added a pair of transfers in tackle Bless Harris (7) and center Kayden Lyles (16), who arrived in January.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
The best of birthday wishes to former Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. Also celebrating today are Miami Man and “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, Jim Cordero of the Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida, Elizabeth Hirst, and Jesse Phillips. Early happy birthday wishes to Emily Duda Buckley and Alli Liby-Schoonover.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.