Good Wednesday morning.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is still in a strong position to take over as House Ways and Means Committee Chair. But those close to his campaign remain busy whipping votes before next week’s election.
Buchanan holds seniority on the committee but faces U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith, a Nebraska Republican, and Jason Smith, a Missouri Republican. The Longboat Key Republican enjoys a good relationship with many in leadership. He entered Congress in the same class as likely incoming Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He also raised more than $4 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) for the 2022 Midterms — considerably more than Jason Smith’s $3 million. He also campaigned closely with Minority Whip Steve Scalise and NRCC Chair Tom Emmer, who respectively won elections for Majority Leader and Majority Whip.
But it’s a 35-member GOP Steering Committee that makes decisions on committee Chairs. A full member roster will be finalized this week, and Buchanan feels a lift from some decisions already made.
Florida now holds the second-largest GOP state delegation in the House, with 20 members. Buchanan had a spot on the steering committee already but now Florida gets a second spot for U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican and vociferous Buchanan advocate.
No Florida members have been chosen to chair a committee in the next Congress despite Florida Republicans netting four new seats. With Republicans set to lead a Congress with a majority of 222 to 224 members, Florida political voices argue Florida made the difference in Republicans winning the House.
Of note, Buchanan can’t vote as part of the steering committee, but he Chairs the Florida congressional delegation and boasts strong relationships with colleagues within the state, one of whom will likely fill in for him during the vote.
Boutique lobbying and consulting firm Oak Strategies is expanding into the Panhandle with the addition of former Rep. Jayer Williamson.
Oak Strategies is the firm founded by former Rep. Travis Cummings and former Sen. Rob Bradley, who chaired the House and Senate appropriations committees, respectively. The Fleming Island Republicans left office in 2020 due to term limits and launched the firm in 2021 as a side project, but it’s grown to represent clients in several industries.
Cummings told Florida Politics that Williamson was a natural fit for the firm’s first expansion, and not only because he got along well with the founding partners during the four years all three were in the Legislature.
“Northeast Florida and the Panhandle have a lot in common. There’s a lot of similarity as far as the logistics industry, the Navy, and the ports. Both are also bordering other states and have a lot of rural areas,” Cummings said.
The industrial and cultural similarities led Bradley and Cummings to float the idea of joining the firm to Williamson after he announced he would not run for a fourth term in the House. Cummings said Williamson’s experience as a business owner, in addition to his years in Tallahassee and on the Santa Rosa County Commission, makes him an ideal advocate for many of the types of clients that Oak Strategies caters to.
Former lawmakers are barred from lobbying state government until they have been out of office for two years, and the two-year clock started for Williamson on Election Day. Now that the sideline period is over for Cummings and Bradley, the two of them may make the trek back to the Capitol more often, but Oak Strategies plans to maintain a strong local focus going forward.
“Our goal is to grow responsibly and see how it goes,” Cummings said.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@ElonMusk: This is a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead.
—@ChristinaPushaw: Odd … unlike @washingtonpost journalists, I’m not seeing pornography in my feed. I’m seeing plenty of protest videos from China. Social media algorithms often show users different content based on their browsing habits …
—@DaveTrotter101: So, one day! I could only stay off of Twitter for one day. Most because of the stupidity of people in Florida Democratic politics. So, yeah, I muted Musk. That seems to have worked.
—@MarcoRubio: The railways & workers should go back & negotiate a deal that the workers, not just the union bosses, will accept. But if Congress is forced to do it, I will not vote to impose a deal that doesn’t have the support of the rail workers
—@DannyDevito: Joseph (Biden), while you’re fixing things with the railroad … get them to pass The Equality Act affording civil rights to the LGBTQ community. And extend the child tax credit. How bout the 35$ cap on insulin … all’s I’m saying; a few things already passed in the House. C’mon buddy
Every time this issue comes around, I think of my only Uncle, Bob, who died before he saw 40 – and his longtime partner Jack – and what days like today would mean to them.
There isn’t a day I don’t miss him. But I know where he is, and I know today he’s smiling down. https://t.co/Z5TbmlOuFv
— Steve Schale 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@steveschale) November 29, 2022
— H. Shirazi〚☀︎︎𓃬〛 (@ServerError403) November 29, 2022
— Amy Kaufeldt FOX 35 (@Fox35Amy) November 29, 2022
—@LangstoniTaylor: y’all start Christmas on November 1 and all the year-end lists December 1 and it’s a problem
—@Michael_Eisner: The Walt Disney Company has suffered in recent years. This is a good time for us to remember the words of Walt Disney who said, “Everybody falls down. Getting back up is how you learn to walk.”
— DAYS UNTIL —
2022 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 5; Georgia U.S. Senate runoff — 5; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 6; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 16; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 32; The James Madison Institute’s Annual Dinner — 56; Bruce Springsteen launches his 2023 tour in Tampa — 63; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 79; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 80; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 89; Tampa Municipal Election — 97; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 97; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 114; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 134; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 149; 2023 Session Sine Die — 156; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 156; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 184; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 233; ‘‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 240; Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 338; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 485; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 541; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 604; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 604; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 646; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 709; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 807; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 884. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,073.
— TOP STORY —
“Andrew Warren makes case against suspension in Day One of trial against Gov. Ron DeSantis” via Florida Politics — Suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Warren took the stand Tuesday as a federal court seeks to answer whether DeSantis had the right to suspend Warren after the rising Democrat signed a pledge against prosecuting abortion-related cases.
The trial comes after Warren accused DeSantis of violating his right to free speech. Warren has also argued the suspension “suspended democracy” and overturned the will of Hillsborough County voters, who have elected — and re-elected — him as State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit.
To watch a statement by Warren, please click the image below:
“We’re not just fighting for the job I was elected to do,” Warren told reporters. “We’re fighting for the rights of voters across Florida to have the elected officials of their choice, we’re fighting for free speech, the integrity of our elections, and for the very values of our democracy.”
After each side presented their opening statements, Warren spent two hours testifying on his own behalf, fielding questions from his attorney. Warren went through his background as a federal prosecutor and made the point that the joint statements he signed on transgender issues and abortion were not policies of his office. His office provided no training along those lines, and it wasn’t in policy handbooks or official documents.
“DeSantis: Election accountability has increased compliance” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Armed with two smooth election cycles under his guidance, DeSantis says Florida’s recent election laws have increased confidence in voting and compliance with the law. Three weeks after Election Day, DeSantis and Florida Republicans are still riding high off their sweeping victories across the Sunshine State. In three of his four years as Governor, DeSantis has signed legislation making major changes to election law. After establishing mail-in ballot drop boxes, DeSantis and lawmakers returned after the 2020 Election, inspired in part by Donald Trump’s election loss, with crackdowns on ballot harvesting and more.
“DeSantis condemns Chinese protest crackdown” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is speaking out against the Chinese government’s approach to COVID-19 mitigation, supporting protesters and suggesting “zero-COVID” should be consigned to the “ash heap of history.” DeSantis, speaking to media and supporters at Cecil Airport Tuesday in Jacksonville, said that the “people of China are right to be able to speak out and protest” against a “zero-COVID policy” that is “draconian” and “violates people’s liberties and is completely unscientific.” DeSantis has been a frequent and fierce critic of the Chinese regime, and COVID-19 has intensified those criticisms.
“DeSantis wants Congress to back Elon Musk against Apple” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis continues to go to bat for Musk, suggesting that Congress should intercede on Musk’s behalf. Tuesday saw DeSantis, who has often lauded the South African native’s positive effect on the social media platform, siding with Musk in his current battle with Apple. Musk has endorsed DeSantis for President on more than one occasion, and the Governor’s comments in Jacksonville Tuesday make it clear the endorsement goes both ways. In theory, Congress could push for more stringent antitrust legislation targeting Apple and Google, companies which dominate the market and set terms at will.
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis’ Chief of Staff, public safety czar now named in suit over migrant planes” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Two members of DeSantis’ administration are among new defendants named in a class-action lawsuit filed against the Governor over the plan to fly 49 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard earlier this year. In an amended complaint filed Tuesday morning, attorneys with the Lawyers for Civil Rights accused DeSantis’ Chief of Staff James Uthmeier and the Governor’s “public safety czar” Larry Keefe of working together with others to “deceive” migrants who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis, Florida Transportation Secretary James Perdue, and the Florida Department of Transportation are also being sued.
“Bird flu has killed thousands of Florida’s wild birds this year. Is it here to stay?” via Max Chesnes of the Tampa Bay Times — More than half of all Florida counties have confirmed or suspected cases of the extremely infectious bird flu strain this year. The epicenter of the outbreak initially appeared in Brevard County and along Florida’s Atlantic coast in early February, as hundreds of lesser scaup ducks, a common North American diving duck with a black head, began showing signs of neurological distress. It has since spread as far north as Okaloosa and as far south as Miami-Dade. The U.S. Department of Agriculture shows roughly 1,450 cases in Florida through November.
“Lobbying compensation: Smith Bryan & Myers earns $1.34M in Q3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The seven lobbyists at Smith Bryan & Myers earned an estimated $1.34 million in Q3. They represented 83 clients during the July-through-September reporting period. The top of SBM’s legislative compensation report showed four clients that paid $25,000 apiece — the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, GLP FLA and JM Family Enterprises. Another 30 legislative contracts measured at $15,000.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Nick Iarossi, Jared Rosenstein, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: City of Coral Gables
Chad Kunde: Florida Chamber of Commerce
Tyler Russell: Enterprise Florida
Timothy Stanfield, Greenberg Traurig: Bankers Insurance Company, Bankers Specialty Insurance Company, First Community Insurance Company
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Joe Biden seizes on gun control despite hurdles in Congress” via Toluse Olorunnipa of The Washington Post — Biden has begun calling vociferously on Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons despite the extremely low odds that it will enact such a ban, a reflection of how he may seek to use Republicans as a foil now that a GOP takeover of the House is putting his legislative goals further out of reach. The President’s declaration that it is “just sick” that the United States allows the sale of semi-automatic weapons. “This is one of those issues where there’s a huge disconnect between the attitudes of average Americans and Republicans,” said John Anzalone, Biden’s pollster.
“Supreme Court wrestles with Biden’s deportation policy” via The Associated Press — The Supreme Court wrestled with a partisan-tinged dispute over a Biden administration policy that would prioritize the deportation of people in the country illegally who pose the greatest public safety risk. It was not clear after arguments that stretched past two hours and turned highly contentious at times whether the justices would allow the policy to take effect, or side with Republican-led states that have so far succeeded in blocking it.
“Biden, in Michigan, sharpens 2024 pitch with focus on 2021-2022” via Toluse Olorunnipa of The Washington Post — Biden celebrated the achievements of his first two years in office here Tuesday, pledging that Americans would feel their impact in a greater way over the rest of his term, a period likely to be marked more by investigations than legislation as Republicans take control of the House. During his first policy-focused domestic trip since Democrats outperformed expectations in the Midterm Elections three weeks ago, Biden spent more time discussing the implementation of previously passed bills than what legislation he expects to pass in the future.
“At Michigan chip plant, Biden says unions ‘built middle class’” via Chris Megerian of The Associated Press — Biden reminded Americans he is a “pro-union” President as he toured a technology plant to highlight a $300 million expansion, just a day after he sided with business leaders in asking Congress to pass legislation to stave off a crippling rail strike. The South Korean company SK Siltron is expected to quadruple its production in the coming years at the plant. It’s the latest in a series of massive foreign investments in the U.S. manufacturing and technology sectors trumpeted by Biden amid a push by his administration to onshore production of key components and products, after the COVID-19 pandemic pushed long-simmering supply chain issues to the brink.
“After FTX collapse, Darren Soto draws scrutiny for letter questioning SEC inquiries” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — The collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX has attracted new attention to a letter sent to a federal agency in March and signed by Rep. Soto. The letter questioned the agency’s use of its enforcement powers to seek information from cryptocurrency and blockchain companies. Soto joined a bipartisan group of eight U.S. House members in signing the letter addressed to the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. A recent report from Reuters, citing an internal FTX document, said the SEC had made informal inquiries earlier this year into how that and other cryptocurrency firms managed customer deposits.
“Republicans to conduct review after disappointing Midterms” via Steve Peoples of The Associated Press — A decade after its last election autopsy, the Republican National Committee is moving forward with a new post-election audit designed to examine the GOP’s underwhelming performance in the recent Midterms and the party’s broader struggles in the years since Trump took power. The report, which will likely take several months to complete, is expected to explore internal concerns about candidate quality, the lack of a clear governing agenda and the party’s unwillingness to embrace early voting, among other issues. There is some disagreement about the exact focus and scope of the upcoming review.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“The GOP’s path to dumping Donald Trump will be torturous” via Henry Olsen of The Washington Post — It’s become clear that there’s a path to defeating Trump in the 2024 Republican Primaries. But that path will be torturous for the GOP to navigate. The new Republican Party breaks down into four and none has a clear plurality. Instead, the party has three factions of nearly equal size and a fourth tiny one whose votes might be decisive. The three lions are Mega MAGA, the Old Guard and the MAGA Adjacent. The minnow is the Never Trump group, which makes up about 10% of GOP voters.
“Trump brought Nazis into the GOP. DeSantis won’t expel them.” via Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine — Last week, a meeting of the minds took place in Mar-a-Lago when Trump hosted Ye and Nick Fuentes, two of the most powerful antisemites in American life. The issue is that Trump has expanded the Republican coalition to the right, activating and encompassing undisguised White supremacists, who, through their entry into the two-party system, have gained newfound influence. This is a dangerous and historically significant change to the American political scene. DeSantis has reached out to QAnon supporters and insurrectionists and suggested Jan. 6 was a setup by the FBI.
“Oath Keepers leader convicted of sedition in landmark Jan. 6 case” via Alan Feuer and Zach Montague of The New York Times — Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, and one of his subordinates were convicted on Tuesday of seditious conspiracy as a jury found them guilty of seeking to keep Trump in power through a plot that started after the 2020 Election and culminated in the mob attack on the Capitol. Rhodes was acquitted of two different conspiracy charges: one accusing him of plotting to disrupt the certification of the election on Jan. 6 and the other of plotting to stop members of Congress from discharging their duties that day.
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“Evidence of Florida’s ‘red wave’: 2 more Republicans take office on Palm Beach County Commission” via Mike Diamond of the Palm Beach Post — The “red wave” that Republicans hoped would sweep across the U.S. after the Nov. 8 Midterms never materialized. But it did in Florida and, specifically, on the Palm Beach County Commission. Most voters in the once-true-blue county voted for DeSantis and three other Cabinet positions — all of whom are Republicans. And on the County Commission, two Republicans, despite being heavily outspent by their Democratic rivals, and despite never having run for public office before, won. Those victories changed the Commission from a 6-1 Democratic majority to a 4-3 one. GOP County Chair Michael Barnett said he couldn’t remember the last time the Republican Party had three representatives on the County Commission.
“Miami-Dade Commissioner blasts FIU for hosting ‘Cuban Privilege’ author in Coral Gables” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — A new Miami-Dade County Commissioner condemned Florida International University for inviting an author to speak about her book “Cuban Privilege,” which examines advantages federal immigration law granted Cubans who came to the United States. Kevin Cabrera called the work by Boston University professor Susan Eva Eckstein “hate-filled” and “anti-Cuban.” In an interview, Eckstein said she was shocked by Cabrera’s statement because her book is an academic exploration of how U.S. policy has treated Cuban immigrants as compared to the treatment of immigrants from other countries, such as Haiti. “It’s a book that documents the unique entitlements Cubans have gotten over the years. I don’t hold it against them,” Eckstein said.
“Lawsuit claims Miami overcharged building permit fees for years, seeks $76M refund” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — A lawsuit is demanding that the city of Miami refund more than $76 million in “excessive” building permit fees collected over more than a decade. The lawsuit, filed this month by a Miami property owner, alleges that the city has been knowingly charging exorbitant fees for building permits. The suit claims the city, since revamping how it charges for building permits during the financial crisis in 2010, has turned the fees into a “hidden profit reservoir” and should be ordered to refund the surplus money under Florida law. This isn’t a suit that will affect most small builders or the average homeowner — the fees in question don’t apply to permits for single-family homes or duplexes.
“Miami-Dade scores $1.4M in federal earmarks for transit-oriented development” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade County is on track to receive $1.4 million in federal funding to support transit projects in its northeastern and southeastern corners. Earlier this month, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced 19 grant awards through Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law totaling $13.1 million for pilot programs across the country. The Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works will get $840,000 to advance the development of the Northeast Corridor, a long-planned project intended to run on Florida East Coast Railway tracks between Miami and Aventura.
“500,000 rounds of stolen ammo and explosive found in Hallandale Beach storage unit, police say” via Angie DiMichele of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The execution of a search warrant at a Hallandale Beach storage unit Monday night led to the discovery of hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition that were stolen from businesses in South Florida. About 500,000 stolen rounds inside the unit at 450 Ansin Blvd., said Maj. Ra Shana Dabney-Donovan, a spokesperson for the Pembroke Park Police Department. Authorities also found a “brick of white putty substance,” an explosive and a second unknown device, the police department said in a news release Tuesday afternoon. The Broward Sheriff’s Office’s Bomb Squad Unit took those items to destroy them. Dabney-Donovan said the rounds of ammunition were stolen from at least three jurisdictions, including Pembroke Park.
“If Sebastian OKs huge annexation, new development rules could be in place for 1,944 acres” via Janet Begley of Treasure Coast Newspapers — If the city annexes 1,944 acres of citrus property on Dec. 14, Graves Brothers Co., which owns the land, will find new regulations in place once the property is rezoned for mixed-use, multifamily development. The City Council on Nov. 21 unanimously gave initial approval to zoning allowing a mix of medium-density housing on any property designated for up to 10 units per acre. The R-10 zoning classification was established primarily to manage multi-family developments including duplexes and other types of detached and attached residential housing, community development director Lisa Frazier explained. The mixed-use zoning fits in well with her concept for developing the Graves Brothers property, which includes a second city center.
“Tourists flocked to Indian River County, generate record $4.5M for bed-tax collections” via Janet Begley of Treasure Coast Newspapers — COVID-19? It didn’t seem to stop more visitors from coming here last year than the year before, based on county bed-tax receipts. The county collected a record amount — nearly $4.5 million — from its 4% tourist-development tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals, according to the county Budget Department. Receipts are for the 2021-22 budget year that ended Sept. 30. That’s up about 23%, or $838,300 over the previous year when it collected $3.6 million. Last year’s $4,498,960 is nearly 64% higher than the county predicted in its 2021-22 budget.
“Romero Britto slated as next ‘Special Ambassador’ for Miami-Dade County” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — World-renowned artist Britto could soon become a “Special Ambassador” representing Miami-Dade’s trade and cultural interests at events in and outside the county. If approved, Britto would become just the second person to hold the unpaid position, which has remained vacant for more than five years. The Board created the “Special Ambassador” program back in 2013, “for the purpose of promoting increased interchanges of ideas, goodwill, cooperation, and understanding on behalf of the citizens of Miami-Dade County.” Appropriate candidates for the “Special Ambassador” role “should have national or international stature and shall provide symbolic representation on behalf of the county,” the ordinance said.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“Ian’s historic Orlando rainfall has experts seeking ways to fight future floods” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — Ian’s record rainfall was rated as a 1,000-year rain event by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration standards, easily overwhelming Central Florida’s stormwater infrastructure and causing widespread flooding. With climate change predicted to bring more such rain events in the future, with both greater frequency and intensity, scientists and engineers are calling for local governments to review their standards and start planning for the wetter world to come. Hurricane Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm while still 40 miles south of Orlando in the early morning hours of Sept. 29. Yet it went on to drop a historic rainfall on Central Florida.
“Student shot at Seminole High sues School Board” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — A teenager who was shot by a fellow student at Seminole High School in January has filed a lawsuit against the School Board, alleging administrators negligently ignored earlier threats by the shooter and failed to notify the victim’s mother about the danger. Jhavon McIntyre, who was 17 at the time, was shot several times on the school’s campus on Jan. 19. Now 18, he is currently attending college, according to the lawsuit filed against the Seminole County School Board this month. The suit alleges that a principal at Seminole High “saw and heard” McIntyre’s 16-year-old attacker threaten to shoot him near the school’s bus lot on Jan. 12.
“SpaceX launch aims to send landmark private lander, NASA ice surveyor to the moon” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — SpaceX looks to send a couple of moon-bound customers into space during an overnight launch early Wednesday morning from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. A Falcon 9 rocket is carrying private Japanese company ispace’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander, the first of a planned series of landers that if successful will make it the first commercial soft landing ever on the moon. Also on board is NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s briefcase-sized Lunar Flashlight, which plans to map ice in the permanently shadowed spaces near the moon’s south pole. Liftoff from Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 is set for 3:39 a.m. with a backup opportunity Thursday at 3:37 a.m.
— LOCAL: TB —
“If a recession hits Florida, Tampa Bay Chamber leaders are ready” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — Today’s economic climate may be better for small businesses than during the pandemic spring of 2020. But with inflation and interest rates rising, and the threat of a recession looming, it’s still not exactly a time of high cotton. That, said Andy Mayts, is where the Tampa Bay Chamber can help. “Market conditions, things that are outside of our control, are always going to be there,” said Mayts, the Tampa Chamber’s outgoing Chair. “But in those times is when the Chamber really thrives, because we maintain our base of running a good organization, we still try to be inclusive, we try to be a catalyst for information exchange and a place where people can continue to do business.”
“Clearwater land with lost graves of Black pioneers gets a historic marker” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — In 1954, the city of Clearwater was assured that more than 300 graves moved from the Black cemetery on the corner of Holt Avenue and Engman Street accounted for all the burials. More than 60 years later, archaeologists discovered that at least 55 graves were left behind when that land was cleared to make way for a city pool and school. At 10 a.m. Saturday, a historic marker will be unveiled on that corner as a reminder that the currently unused Pinellas County School District land should still be considered a cemetery despite the absence of headstones.
“HART board authorizes investigation into hostile work environment, double-dipping” via Olivia George of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County’s transit agency will face an investigation into allegations of a hostile work environment and the double-dipping of a top staffer who was simultaneously working for a public agency in another state, the Board of Directors unanimously authorized at a meeting Tuesday morning. The special meeting, scheduled last week, took place the day after trustees of the union representing hundreds of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority employees called for the resignation of the agency’s CEO, Adelee Le Grand. “HART has been in a downward spiral under the leadership of Adelee Le Grand,” ATU Local 1593 union representatives Ismael Rivera and Brenda Moore said in a statement issued late Monday.
“HART board considers replacing CEO as investigation into ‘hostile work environment’ begins” via Creative Loafing — Today, as the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit board launched an investigation into management, board members discussed removing the CEO while a legal team probes allegations of a toxic workplace at the transit agency. One HART Board Member went as far as to directly ask Le Grand if she would resign. “The CEO is here actually with us today,” said recently elected first-term County Commissioner Joshua Wostal. HART board member Marvin Knight called for Le Grand to be suspended pending the investigation, or to simply be fired by the board via a vote.
“Weeki Wachee springs protection rule shouldn’t be delayed, river advocate argues” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — Advocates who have fought for six years to reverse the decline of the Weeki Wachee River were dealt a blow earlier this month when officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission decided to delay a decision to enact new protection rules on the river that their own staff helped to craft. The agency is, however, poised to give the first designation of a springs protection zone to another location that has not received the same level of public scrutiny. That site is a little-known spring on the Withlacoochee River called Nichols Spring, but it does have one special distinction.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Ian’s impact: Passenger numbers in October lowest in two years at SW Florida International” via Mark H. Bickel of the Fort Myers News-Press — Monday marked two months since Hurricane Ian slammed Southwest Florida and with it came another reminder of the storm’s huge and widespread impact on the region. The Lee County Port Authority released the passenger statistics at Southwest Florida International Airport for October. Not surprisingly, the numbers were significantly lower compared to October 2021. There was a total of 432,667 passengers who traveled through Southwest Florida International Airport in October, a year-over-year decrease of 44%. You’d have to go back to October 2020 (417,305 passengers) — the year when the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. — to find a month with fewer passengers than this October.
“New Venice Mayor fulfills childhood dream; new Council members sworn in” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The swearing in of newly elected members of the Venice City Council Tuesday saw two newcomers take the oath of office, along with two returning members and the fulfillment of one childhood dream. “This has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, and my mother can attest to that,” said new Mayor Nick Pachota, who admitted that he used to daydream about being Mayor as he walked past Venice City Hall on his way to Epiphany School. “It’s going to be a lot of fun for the next three years, bringing civility back and transparency and communication,” Pachota added.
Sarasota Schools likely to dismiss superintendent — The Sarasota County School Board is likely to terminate Superintendent Brennan Asplen when it meets Tuesday, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. Asplen seemed resigned to the outcome in a statement issued Monday, saying that “a collaborative relationship does not appear to be attainable.” Trouble started brewing for the Superintendent after the district implemented a mask mandate last fall. His possible termination comes after conservatives gained a majority on the School Board in the November election. Teacher unions signaled support for Asplen, but he discouraged them from protesting, saying he did not want to be a distraction for the district.
“Have holiday shopping deals come to the real estate market? Buy a house and get a boat” via Derek Gilliam of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — While the real estate market has slowed as interest rates rise, that’s not stopping multimillion-dollar Sarasota County properties from hitting the market. Everyone loves a deal, and in the peak holiday shopping season, one property owner has offered to throw in a boat with the purchase of a $5 million Englewood estate. The 1.4-acre property at 1081 Bayshore Drive sits next to Lemon Bay Preserve with 150 feet of waterfront on the bay. Included in the sales price is a Tahoe T-16 Bowrier Runabout boat, according to a news release about the listing. The five-bedroom, five-and-one-half-bath home’s expansive floor plan features a glass-filled rear elevation showcasing the estate’s panoramic views of the bay.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
—“DeSantis presents $5.5M grant for railway at Jacksonville’s Cecil Commerce Center” via Hanna Holthaus of the Florida Times-Union
“Jacksonville City Council promises but doesn’t deliver on deciding fate of Confederate monuments” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — When a group supporting Confederate monuments flew a banner Sunday over TIAA Bank Field before the Jaguars game, it drove home that a year after City Council pledged to make a decision, none of the long-promised meetings in a “community conversation” has happened. Jacksonville City Council President Sam Newby voted in January 2022 for a plan to conduct a series of meetings about whether such monuments should remain on city property. Newby took no action to schedule any of those “community conversation” meetings during his term as president, even though the Council’s written goal in its strategic plan was to have a decision by July.
“FDLE: Pensacola sex offender unlawfully cast 2020 ballot, filled out 4 voting applications” via Benjamin Johnson of the Pensacola News Journal — Department of Law Enforcement special agents arrested a Pensacola sex offender on Nov. 22 for illegally voting in the 2020 Presidential Election and filling out multiple voter registration applications between 2020 and 2022. On Nov. 1, the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections provided documents to FDLE that showed 41-year-old Michael DeWayne Collins completed and signed a Florida voter registration application on Aug. 27, 2020; Sept. 8, 2021; July 14, 2022; and Oct. 4, 2022, and a voting history report showed Collins voted on Nov. 3, 2020, in the 2020 general election. He was charged with four counts of false swearing of voter registration information and one count of unqualified electors willfully voting, according to an FDLE arrest affidavit.
“Nassau County axes Zoom participation, Commissioners select new Chair” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — There will be no more virtual participation at Nassau County Board of County Commissioners meetings, meaning those looking to speak out must now appear in person. “In order to actually participate, they need to come to the podium, send an email, or (use) the other means that were always available to them before,” County Attorney Denise May told the Board during its organizational meeting. “For those reasons, Zoom will not be available for any Board meetings — this or your lower boards — going forward.” She said statistics show public participation through online means has dwindled to nearly nothing.
“The last ‘I love you’: Family, friends mourn 20-year-old fatally shot at FAMU basketball court” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — Basketball drove the life of Travis Huntley. A lifelong Tallahasseean, he was a familiar face on many local courts. Travis, who was known to friends and family as “TJ,” played for the varsity team at Florida A&M University’s Developmental Research School. Since leaving the school in 2019, he continued to polish his technique with old teammates and friends in pickup games around Tallahassee. His former coach called him a model athlete and hailed his respectfulness on and off the court. A former teammate said Travis’ presence gave rise to the best of his ability. “He loved the game,” his mother told the Tallahassee Democrat. On Sunday afternoon, Travis was fatally shot at an outdoor FAMU basketball court.
—“‘What can we do? What can be done?’ FAMU community grapples with ‘senseless’ mass shooting” via Kyla A Sanford and Alaijah Brown of the Tallahassee Democrat
“Northeast Florida Beaches Airport in Bay County prepares for influx of holiday passengers” via Nathan Cobb of The Panama City News Herald — For Parker McClellan, the holiday season is known to be a busy time at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. As executive director of ECP, McClellan said Monday the facility is gearing up to host an uptick of passengers throughout December and into the New Year. While McClellan said he is confident the airport can handle the increase, he noted there is a hurdle it must overcome this holiday season.
— TOP OPINION —
“Washington liars will not stop us from rescuing America” via Rick Scott for the Washington Examiner — The Washington establishment, in both Congress and the media, is so committed to the status quo that it will do whatever it takes to silence anyone who thinks differently.
The attacks against me and my plan are a predictable reaction in broken, corrupt Washington, but it’s nothing but total fiction. It’s the same political smear the Democrats use every election, and it’s a lie. These fake, tired claims that “Republicans are going to throw grandma over the cliff” are ridiculous, and people know it’s a lie. It doesn’t work anymore.
I don’t know any Republican who wants to cut Social Security or Medicare. But I do know that every Democrat in Congress voted to cut Medicare this year. I never have and never would. It’s just a lie to claim otherwise.
Yes, I put out a plan of ideas, and I don’t regret it one bit. Yes, one of them suggested sunsetting laws after five years — noting that if a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again. Washington has spent decades exploding the size of our government and wasting money, and it must be stopped.
The sad truth is that truth barely exists in Washington anymore. For today’s Democrats, words no longer have meaning. They can’t say what a woman is, they cut Medicare and then insist they didn’t, and they testify in hearings under oath and say that the border is secure. When they are talking, they are lying. For Biden and his party, falsehood is standard policy — it’s what they do.
— OPINIONS —
“The Midterms showed Democrats don’t need to pander on crime” via Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Washington Post — In the run-up to the elections, Republicans went all in charging Democrats with being weak on crime and tying Democratic candidates to the “defund the police” slogan. The GOP spent more ad money railing about rising crime than about the economy or inflation. CNN exit polls showed that voters ranked inflation as the top factor in their vote, followed closely by abortion. Only 11% mentioned crime.
“The real fight for ‘freedom’ isn’t in Florida” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It was late June in 2020, and the Palm Beach County Commission meeting had gotten ugly. Speakers insulted the Commissioners. They demeaned the county’s top health official. They threatened “citizen’s arrests.” What had prompted such anger? The Commission’s unanimous vote to require masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. To some in the Commission chamber that day and others beyond, however, the mask mandate insulted God and freedom. Beyond the missed irony, however, the GOP has devalued the meaning of “freedom.”
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Are you sitting in gridlock? How to get around Miami and Miami Beach during Art Week” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — There’s no traffic like Miami Art Week traffic because Miami Art Week traffic can be full stop. It’s the most wonderful time of the year — unless you actually want to get anywhere in Miami Beach or eastern Miami by car or SUV. Interstate 95 stays clogged between morning rush hour and afternoon rush hour, even during the usual 10:30 to 2 p.m. safe space. The Pollo Tropical versus Chipotle choice in some parts of Miami or Miami Beach comes down to “which is closest” because the fastest way to get to and from is on foot. One wrong turn and you’re in a stationary situation that might drain your gas tank.
“FPL’s first-ever commercial drone helps quickly identify and restore power outage issues” via Mike Vogel of Florida Trend — FPL has launched the first-ever commercial, fixed-wing drone of its scale designed to capture high-quality images and videos of its infrastructure and thousands of miles of power lines. Called FPLAir One, the drone can fly from South Florida to the Panhandle and back on a single flight. The device will help maintenance crews find potential issues before an outage occurs and quickly survey the damage to power lines and substations following severe weather outbreaks and hurricanes. Trained pilots from the company’s Mobile Command Center in West Palm Beach remotely operate FPLAir One.
“Name the giant flamingo at Tampa International Airport to win free flights” via Gabrielle Calise of the Tampa Bay Times — The 21-foot flamingo sculpture at Tampa International Airport needs no introduction. Subject to endless selfies ever since its arrival this summer, it’s already become a beloved mascot for travelers passing through the airport’s main terminal. This feathered friend, however, does need an identity. The airport announced a naming contest for its massive resin and fiberglass sculpture on Monday. Artist Matthew Mazzotta did title his sculpture when he unveiled his jumbo creation. The piece, commissioned for $520,000, is called “Home.” According to a news release posted by the airport, Mazzotta and the airport agreed that the character itself could use a nickname.
“Suncoast Humane Society launches reunification project” via Sue Erwin of the Englewood Sun — The Suncoast Humane Society launched a reunification project on social media for people who have lost pets in the area — an idea sparked by Hurricane Ian. “Our shelter has been damaged and we have been unable to operate as usual, but we really want to help our community, so the reunification project is one of a couple we have implemented,” Chief Executive Officer Maureen O’Nell said. “We hope this resource page helps reunify displaced pets with their people.” Just search for Suncoast Humane Society Project Re-Unification on Facebook and there will be information on how to post information on lost/found pets. The Facebook group is open to the public.
— HOLIDAYS —
“Jill Biden’s holiday decorations strike a homier note than Melania Trump’s” via Jura Koncius and Jada Yuan of The Washington Post — Everyone is familiar with those shiny glass mirror ball ornaments you can find at any big-box store, but this year, First Lady Jill Biden hung actual mirrors on the trees of the White House’s Grand Foyer. Circular mirrors. Square mirrors. Lean in, and your face will appear, clear as day. “That’s very purposeful, very intentional,” said Biden’s communications director, Elizabeth Alexander. “It’s important for the First Lady that people see themselves in the décor.” In other words, the People’s House will be filled with reflections of the 50,000 visitors expected to come through the doors in the next four weeks, some for tours, others to attend the 20-plus planned holiday receptions, ramping up for the first time since the pandemic.
“Holiday mail: U.S. Postal Service announces shipping deadlines” via Mark H. Bickel of the Fort Myers News-Press — The United States Postal Service has once again delivered its traditional holiday message to its customers: “The earlier you send, the better.” With only some lingering leftovers from Thanksgiving last week, the focus now shifts to the upcoming holiday seasons with Hanukkah (Dec. 18-Dec. 26), Christmas (Dec. 25), and Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1) leading the way. No matter what you are celebrating, the Postal Service wants to make sure your gifts and holiday cards get to their destination on time and that means planning ahead.
“Orlando Christmas trees: Buy soon and expect to pay more” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Caitlin Chicoine found a Christmas tree at Santa’s Trees to help celebrate the holiday season with her 4-year-old daughter. “I grew up with a real tree,” said Chicoine, 31, of Casselberry. “I want the smell. … I keep it up until February.” Sticking to her budget of $50 to $80 has become a little harder as Christmas tree prices have spiked across the country in recent years. Trees cost about 15% to 20% more than last year, said Warren Brown, whose Santa’s Trees lot is in its 48th year in business. All his costs are up, he said, including not only the trees and shipping, but also the office trailer and tents that they use.
—“‘Hectic’ sale of live Christmas trees leaves slim pickings in Polk County” via Sara-Megan Walsh of The Ledger
“Season of giving: Drop off a toy to help South Florida families in need during the holidays” via Kari Barnett of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — While it’s the time of year for shopping and exchanging gifts with friends, family and co-workers, it’s also the season to give back to others. With inflation affecting everything from the cost of groceries to rent, families are struggling to put meals on the table and presents under the tree. South Florida nonprofits, organizations, and volunteers are leading donation efforts to ensure everyone has a happy holiday season. The food delivery service formerly known as Delivery Dudes will accept canned food donations anytime an order is placed in Palm Beach, Broward and Martin counties through Nov. 30.
“Free bikes going to hundreds of Daytona Beach-area kids” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Christmas season is about to get merrier for hundreds of kids who will be receiving free bicycles. A nonprofit organization that has been giving away bikes for 10 years will hold its annual Christmas giveaway from noon to 5 p.m. on Dec. 17 at Derbyshire Park. If organizer Mike Jackson can raise $12,000, he expects he’ll be able to donate about 400 bikes to children of all ages at the outdoor Christmas gala. Two years ago, he was able to raise enough money to donate 500 bikes. The Walmart on Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach is making a large contribution to the giveaway by donating five bikes for every 10 Jackson purchases at the store.
“Give the gift of beach parking and a Florida State Parks pass” via Dawn Cate of the Tampa Bay Times — If you’ve got lovers of the great outdoors on your holiday list this year, consider the ultimate gifts: a year of free park-going or beach parking. You can buy an annual beach parking pass to Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County (3500 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde) for $75 for one year or $45 for six months, with discounts for seniors, veterans, etc. (Without a pass, parking is $5.) And here’s a bonus: The pass also works at Sand Key Park in Clearwater and Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs. To buy a beach parking pass, you will need the recipient’s name, phone number, address, email address and license plate number.
“‘To be of service’: Lloyd Taylor of one of Destin’s first families to lead Christmas parade” via Tina Harbuck of The Destin Log — From getting nuts and fruit in a basket as a youngster to seeing Santa, marching bands and floats parade down U.S. 98, Taylor has seen Christmas come a long way in Destin. “It’s a tremendous honor,” said the 77-year-old Taylor, who will serve as grand marshal for the annual Christmas parade. The 38th “Elf on the Shelf” Destin Christmas Parade is set to roll out at 10 a.m. Dec. 10 down Harbor Boulevard (U.S. 98) to Stahlman Avenue, and Taylor will be leading it. “I was very much surprised because I know so many other people that are so deserving to be grand marshal. It was a big surprise to me,” he said.
“More than 100 tubas to take the stage in TubaChristmas at Baytowne Village in Sandestin” via Tina Harbuck of The Destin Log — Dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters, beanies and scarves, more than 100 tuba and euphonium players will converge on Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort on Dec. 4 as part of TubaChristmas at Baytowne Wharf. “You never know how many will show up. We’ve had as many as 130 … and when you get that many together, it can get crazy,” said Bob Rockwell of Playground Music of Fort Walton Beach and coordinator of the event. What is TubaChristmas? It’s tuba and euphonium players gathering to play Christmas music. Harvey Phillips conceived the event as a tribute to his teacher William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas Day in 1902.
“West Palm Beach neighborhoods open their doors for their annual historic holiday home tours this Christmas season” via Kaylei Oliver of the Palm Beach Post — There’s nothing better than Christmas lights and holiday cheer. December marks the return of a beloved South Florida holiday tradition, as popular historic home tours resume. Visitors from near and far can get a peek inside some of the region’s oldest residences and sample a few holiday treats along the way. Flamingo Park’s home tour makes its comeback this year after a two-year break due to COVID-19. Residents will open their doors to welcome their neighbors to indulge in the holiday festivities. The 27th annual Holiday Historic Home Tour returns Dec. 11, with 11 participating homeowners letting visitors tour their decked-out halls … and kitchens, and dining rooms and more.
“Where’s the best place to see Christmas lights in Bradenton, Manatee? Take our poll” via Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — It’s holiday time here in Bradenton, and few things make the season bright like festive lights. Neighborhoods are beginning to come aglow with Christmas spirit, and local businesses and city streets are getting decked out in their holiday finest. Soon it’ll be time to hop in the car, crank up your favorite Yuletide tunes, and go enjoy the decorations. As the season begins, we want to hear from locals about your favorite places to see holiday light displays in Manatee County. Where is your go-to spot to see dazzling Christmas lights? It could be a neighborhood, a business or a local holiday attraction.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today is our kind and thoughtful friend, Mark Kaplan, VP for government and community relations at the University of Florida. Also celebrating today are state Reps. Yvonne Hinson and Bob Rommel, Eddie Borrego, Phil Compton, Amanda Fraser of Colodny Fass, Tasi Hogan formerly of The Southern Group, former Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, and our own Jacob Ogles.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.