Good Thursday morning.
Breaking overnight — “Henry Kissinger, who shaped world affairs under two Presidents, dies at 100” via Thomas Lippman of The Washington Post — Kissinger, a scholar, statesman, and celebrity diplomat who wielded unparalleled power over U.S. foreign policy throughout the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and who for decades afterward, as a consultant and writer, proffered opinions that shaped global politics and business, died Nov. 29 at his home in Connecticut. He was 100. His death was announced in a statement by his consulting firm, which did not give a cause.
Floridians aren’t fans of President Joe Biden, according to a new poll from the University of North Florida.
New survey results from UNF’s Public Opinion Research Lab show fewer than one in three Florida voters approve and 63% disapprove of the incumbent Democrat’s job performance as he closes in on the final year of his first term.
Neither Gov. Ron DeSantis nor former President Donald Trump are above water. But by comparison, Floridians are fawning over them — voters were split 48%-48% on their opinion of DeSantis and Trump was only slightly in the negative at 48%-49%.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott was the only Republican to give voters pause, but he still walloped Biden with a 39%-49% spread. Meanwhile, his likely opponent in next year’s Senate contest, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, is a virtual unknown. Just 22% of those polled have a favorable opinion of the South Florida Democrat while 30% have an unfavorable opinion. A full 48% of those polled told UNF that they didn’t know or refused to answer.
“No one fared particularly well in favorability, DeSantis being the only one treading water with equal favorable and unfavorable, while Biden is well underwater with a majority of respondents and the lowest favorability among the bunch,” Binder stated. “A lot of folks aren’t familiar with Mucarsel-Powell this early in the campaign, but we can expect that to change as we get closer to Election Day.”
The UNF poll also asked what issues are motivating voters and found housing cost is the top issue for 26% followed by the economy, jobs and inflation at 25%. Education and immigration tied for the third most important problem at 9% apiece.
The property insurance blame game got its own block in the poll. Insurance companies are the big bad according to 30% of voters, followed by individuals and lawyers defrauding or exploiting insurance companies in a distant second place with 15%. DeSantis is being blamed by 13% of voters and 12% are blaming the state Legislature.
“In the last year, housing costs and now property insurance, have emerged as pressing issues to Floridians,” said PORL faculty director and professor of Political Science Dr. Michael Binder. “Insurance companies are most responsible in the minds of these Florida voters, but there seems to be plenty of blame to go around.”
The UNF-PORL poll was conducted Nov. 6-26. It has a sample size of 716 registered Florida voters and a margin of error of +/- 4.37 percentage points,
— DAYS UNTIL —
Florida TaxWatch’s 2023 Government Productivity Awards Ceremony — 5; in-person sports betting begins at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa — 7; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 13; Zack Snyder’s ‘Rebel Moon’ premieres — 21; Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ premieres — 24; Matt Dixon’s ‘Swamp Monsters: Trump vs. DeSantis ― the Greatest Show on Earth (or at Least in Florida)’ released — 40; 2024 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In and reception — 40; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 40; 2024 Primetime Emmy Awards — 46; House District 35 Special Election — 47; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 48; New Hampshire Primary — 54; Red Dog Blue Dog 2024 — 55; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 65; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 68; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 86; Michigan Democratic Primary — 89; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 92; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 95; Super Tuesday — 96; 2024 Oscars — 101; Georgia Democratic Primary — 103; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 161; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 175; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 210; Republican National Convention begins — 228; ‘Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 239; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 260; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 268; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 323; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 326; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 357; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 442; ‘Moana’ premieres — 575; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 603; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 708; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 708; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 750; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 883; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 909; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,114; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,254; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,213; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,941.
— DESANTIS VS. NEWSOM —
After months of back and forth over details, DeSantis and California Gov. Gavin Newsom will finally get their shot in the ring tonight, with a televised debate at 9 p.m. (6 p.m. if watching from California) on Fox News.
The debate will pit a red state Governor against a blue state Governor, and two state leaders who often take jabs at one another over partisan policies — DeSantis trolls California for, as he describes it, people pooping on public streets, while Newsom has plenty of fodder with DeSantis’ relentless culture wars. It’ll also give viewers a glimpse into the alternative candidates for President — Newsom as a Democratic alternative to Biden and DeSantis as a Republican alternative to Trump.
But more than that, the debate will serve as an opportunity for each Governor to lay out policy platforms under each party banner in a format more like a presidential debate after the nominees have already been anointed.
Fox News Host Sean Hannity will moderate the debate and has promised to be a fair arbiter despite his conservative ideals and platform. Hannity has said he hopes to make the debate about red state vs. blue state, but as POLITICO reported, that might be difficult considering each participant has different ideas.
For Newsom, that’s an opportunity to tackle what Democrats see as a massive misinformation machine churning nearly unabated throughout the GOP Presidential Primary process. For DeSantis, it’s a chance to hit Newsom before he’s in contention for the White House himself.
Many Republicans and even some Democrats disenchanted with Biden and/or his advanced age (he’d be 82 when inaugurated for a second term), believe Newsom is running a shadow campaign and biding his time until Biden steps aside and lets a younger Dem take a crack at the White House.
But Newsom has repeatedly put that idea to bed, including recently on Meet the Press where he said it was time to “move past this notion that (Biden’s) not going to run.” He added that he’s looking forward to supporting Biden’s re-election.
But politicking aside, the debate is sure to be chock full of potshots and daggers, and maybe a reason for Democrats to turn the dial to Fox.
“California ‘refugees’ to bash Gavin Newsom at Ron DeSantis news conference ahead of ‘Hannity’ debate” via Bradford Betz of Fox News — Ahead of Thursday’s highly-anticipated debate between DeSantis and Newsom, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody will hold a news conference earlier in the afternoon to hear from California “refugees” who fled the Golden State for Florida. Among those featured will be a Vietnam veteran named Jay Berman, who lived in Southern California for 40 years before moving to Fort Lauderdale, because of high crime and vagrancy.
— THE TRAIL —
“Vivek Ramaswamy political director joining Donald Trump campaign” via Tom LoBianco of The Messenger — Brian Swensen, Ramaswamy’s national political director, confirmed that he will take a new job working closely with Trump campaign senior adviser Susie Wiles in the upper echelon of the Trump campaign. The move is a blow to Ramaswamy, who soared to prominence over the Summer but has struggled to maintain his momentum in the Republican Primary. Ramaswamy is polling at around 5% in support in the average of national Republican polling compiled by 538. Trump’s lead in the race has climbed to about 60% nationwide, according to 538. Swensen is a close ally of Wiles dating back to their work together on Scott’s 2010 run for Governor.
“DeSantis is running a textbook Iowa Caucuses campaign. Trump still seems like he’s going to completely blow him out.” via Brent Griffiths and John Dorman of Business Insider — DeSantis has bet his political future on Iowa. Once Trump’s best-positioned Primary foe, his reeling campaign remains hopeful it can rebound in the state that kicks off the GOP presidential nominating process and that has a history of rewarding hopefuls who slog through months of campaigning. On paper, DeSantis should be reaping the rewards. Still, for all his momentum, polling shows DeSantis lagging Trump by double digits. DeSantis would need a virtually unprecedented swing to overcome the former President’s advantage. But no candidate is like Trump. As journalist Ben Jacobs documented, the former President has seemingly maintained a fandom akin to a rock star. (“Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley have partisans. Donald Trump has fans,” he recently wrote.)
“Nikki Haley mocks ‘losing’ DeSantis, asserts her ‘Tea Party’ cred” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During a Fox News interview Wednesday, the former South Carolina Governor claimed DeSantis’ digs at her endorsement this week from Americans for Prosperity and her campaign in general were a measure of how the race was going for the current Florida chief executive. “I think that’s what a candidate says when they’re losing,” Haley said on “America’s Newsroom.” Her comments come less than 24 hours after DeSantis yoked the Koch Network and Haley as two sides of the same establishment coin. “I think that their network has taken certain positions that are conservative. Some that are not,” DeSantis said during an interview on Newsmax, where Eric Bolling asked about the “Koch Brothers” backing Haley.
“DeSantis in 43-point hole in Minnesota” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — While DeSantis may have seen the old movie “Feeling Minnesota” once upon a time, a new survey of the state’s GOP and Republican-leaning voters suggests they aren’t “feeling” the Florida Governor as a presidential candidate. The poll finds the Governor in a very distant second place behind Trump, who leads him 60% to 17% when “leaners” are added to the mix. Without them, Trump leads 58% to 15%. This is especially bad news ahead of the March 5 Primary, in which 39 delegates will be allocated on a winner-take-all basis. Meanwhile, DeSantis faces familiar competition for second place. Haley has 12% support, good for third place.
“No one in the modern era has blown a Primary lead as wide as Trump’s” via Phillip Bump of The Washington Post — Trump’s near-60% support in national Primary polling, according to 538’s average, has been topped only one time since 1980 in the year before a contested Primary fight. The candidate who beat that mark was George W. Bush in 1999, who went on to win the Republican Primary the next year. In fact, no one in the past 43 years has had a lead like Trump’s and has not gone on to win the nomination. Bush and Hillary Clinton both lost Primary contests on their way to the nomination; it’s safe to assume that Trump could too. But they also rode the momentum from strong prior-year polling to the General Election ballot. Trump is poised to do the same thing. Even if you set aside all his other advantages.
— MORE 2024 —
“Wall Street wants anyone but Joe Biden and Trump for 2024” via Laura Davison of Bloomberg — Wall Street leaders are looking past Biden and Trump, the presumed major party nominees, for long shot candidates to shake up the 2024 Election less than two months before Primary voting starts. JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said Wednesday that voters should support former South Carolina Gov. Haley as one potential alternative to Trump for the GOP nomination. “Even if you’re a very liberal Democrat, I urge you, help Nikki Haley too,” Dimon said.
“Trump predicts Chris Christie slide for ‘absentee Gov.’ DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “Ron DeSanctimonious has become an Absentee Governor of Florida, never there, not working. The same thing happened to Sloppy Chris Christie. He failed in New Jersey and left with an 8% approval rating, the lowest ever for a Governor. Get back to Florida, Ron and do what you campaigned on, which was NOT running for President. Fix the highest in the Nation Insurance problem. Oh, and you’re 54 Points down!” Trump posted to his social media site, Truth Social. Trump’s post continues a theme of periodic warnings that DeSantis is dooming his political future by running for President in 2024. It also overstates the peril of DeSantis’ position in recent polls of Floridians, which find him treading water, having squandered the political capital he had in his 2022 re-election campaign but still largely popular among Republicans.
“Biden in Colorado to blast Lauren Boebert and ‘MAGA Republicans’” via Marisa Iati of The Washington Post — Biden is visiting the district of conservative firebrand Rep. Boebert, the latest move in his effort to use Boebert and other “MAGA Republicans” as foils in a re-election campaign he hopes will shape up as a choice between him and a Republican Party he depicts as extremist. Biden will deliver remarks on clean energy at a plant in Pueblo, Colorado, which makes wind tower turbines, touting jobs created through the Inflation Reduction Act, a sprawling climate and health law that Boebert has decried as “dangerous for America.” Biden’s visit is aimed at creating a contrast between what he portrays as his efforts to help Americans and what he paints as Republicans’ embrace of chaos and conspiracy.
— DESANTISY LAND —
“Big DeSantis donors land on powerful government Boards” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis has a well-documented track record of appointing big political donors to government positions where they preside over multimillion-dollar budgets, make spending and policy decisions, award contracts, and approve permits for development and water use. “It’s exactly the kind of insider wheeling and dealing that goes on with our campaign finance system that should be illegal, but it’s not,” said Ben Wilcox, research director of Integrity Florida. An investigative report by the Miami Herald last October said DeSantis’ appointees raised more than $3 million to finance his re-election. The biggest donor at the time was Craig Mateer at $400,000. Two prime examples of it were the Governor’s hand in taking over Disney’s special improvement district and the New College of Florida, both with the Legislature’s help.
“Menthol cigarette ban proposal leaves DeSantis fuming” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “I would reverse that policy. I think it’s ridiculous what Biden’s doing,” DeSantis said on WFEA’s Morning Update with Drew Cline. The White House hasn’t yet committed to the menthol ban, it should be noted, but it’s a priority of the Food and Drug Administration. The Governor cast aspersions at prohibition, saying that “things that have been legal for a long time, when you try to take it out, then there ends up just being a black market.” A few years back, DeSantis vetoed a bill that would have raised the age to buy tobacco to 21 that would have also banned “liquid nicotine” products, contending at the time that would have empowered the “hazardous black market.”
— D. C. MATTERS —
“GOP drags freed child Hamas hostage into Biden impeachment drama” via Stephen Neukam of The Messenger — Abigail Mor Edan, 4, an American Israeli citizen whose parents were murdered in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, was famously released by the terrorists last week after seven weeks in captivity. In Washington, the toddler has suddenly become a focal point of the House GOP impeachment investigation into Biden. Republicans are publicly questioning whether Abigail was afforded special treatment and released because of her family’s ties to the Bidens. The girl’s great aunt, Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali, a prominent Democratic donor, was thrust into the spotlight for her purchase of artwork from Hunter Biden.
“Hamas hostages’ family members warn Congress that time is running out” via Laura Kelly of The Hill — The American families of hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas are issuing urgent warnings that time is running out to get their loved ones back from captivity, amid the expiration of a tenuous truce between Israel and Hamas that has seen more than 80 people released. The parents of three young men, dual citizens serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, urged members of Congress Wednesday to increase pressure on the Israeli government, the global community and the International Committee of the Red Cross to make freeing the hostages the priority agenda item in the war between Israel and Hamas.
“Almost every House member voted for resolution backing Israel — except two. Why?” via Brendan Rascius of the Miami Herald — An overwhelming majority of House members voted in favor of a resolution affirming Israel’s right to exist, while two members, one Democrat and one Republican, dissented. A bipartisan block of 412 members voted for the resolution Nov. 28 amid Israel’s war with Hamas, the Islamic militant group that governs Gaza and is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. “I’m proud that 210 Republicans and 202 Democrats set aside our differences and came together to show support for our closest ally in the Middle East,” Rep. Mike Lawler, a New York Republican who introduced the resolution, said in a statement. In passing the resolution, the House pronounced the “right of the Jewish people to live peacefully in their native land,” Lawler said.
“As Congress weighs aid to Israel, some Democrats want strings attached” via Karoun Demirjian of The New York Times — Democrats in Congress are clashing with each other and the Biden administration over a push from the left that would attach conditions to an emergency infusion of security aid for Israel. The debate is a striking departure from long-standing practice on Capitol Hill, where for decades, lawmakers have approved huge amounts of military funding for Israel with few strings attached. Now a growing number of Democrats are voicing worry about how American dollars will be used. The issue could come to a head on the Senate floor as early as next week, when Sen. Chuck Schumer, has said the chamber could begin work on a legislative package including the aid measure.
“Ukraine insists it sees no sign of NATO war fatigue even as fighting and weapons supplies stall” via Lorne Cook and Matthew Lee of the Miami Herald — Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba insisted that NATO allies are showing no sign of war fatigue and remain committed to helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia and take back occupied territory. Kuleba also said that Vladimir Putin is miscalculating if he sees any value in keeping his forces in Ukraine at least until presidential elections in the United States in a year’s time, which could usher in a new administration. “I heard a clear ‘no’ to any reference to fatigue and I heard (a) clear ‘yes’ to increased support to Ukraine,” Kuleba said after meeting NATO counterparts in Brussels.
“U.S. Congress vows to pass massive defense bill, culture wars loom” via Patricia Zengerle of Reuters — U.S. Congressional Armed Services Committee leaders vowed Wednesday that a must-pass $886 billion defense policy bill will be enacted this year, despite disputes over social issues dividing Republicans and Democrats. “I’m optimistic we will find a reasonable compromise that both chambers can support. What everyone here needs to understand is, we will enact an NDAA this year,” Rep. Mike Rogers, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said at the formal start of talks to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
“GOP speculation mounts that Kevin McCarthy will exit Congress early” via Juliegrace Brufke of Axios — Multiple GOP lawmakers expect former House Speaker McCarthy to step down from his seat before the end of the year. The potential exit of McCarthy — who privately told donors he is looking to “get the hell out” — could leave the House GOP with an even narrower majority. “I have another week or so to decide because if I decide to run again, I have to know in my heart I’m giving 110%,” McCarthy said.
“Who could replace George Santos if he’s expelled from Congress” via April Rubin of Axios — Rep. Santos predicts that he’s soon to be expelled from Congress, which would lead to a Special Election to fill the vacancy in New York’s 3rd Congressional District. Democrats are vying to re-claim a district that Biden carried in 2020, while Republicans are hoping to keep the seat that Santos flipped. New York House seats have also become an unusual battleground for a favorably blue state, in part due to redistricting. Democrats have cited Midterm losses in the state as contributing to Republicans narrowly gaining the House majority.
— STATEWIDE —
“If you back the blue, you must back Maury Hernandez” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — There are promising signs that positive momentum is finally working to help balance the scales of justice for the heroic Hernandez. This year, he’s trying again. In an inspiring way, the law enforcement community and state legislators are starting to rally to Hernandez’s side in support. This week, Hernandez appeared before a delegation of Miami-Dade state lawmakers. He was flanked by dozens of law enforcement officers, who took time off to support him. He made his case. “It would be an honor to have the support of this delegation,” Hernandez said to the delegation Tuesday. “It would be monumental to me.” Men and women of the blue and the badge have risen to support an injured brother in an emotional demonstration of solidarity.
“‘Gabby Petito Act’ would add new assessment to police domestic violence response” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and Rep. Robin Bartleman are proposing a new “lethality assessment” form to add to police procedure whenever domestic violence incidents are investigated. Companion bills (SB 610/HB 673) are being called the Gabby Petito Act. Petito’s disappearance and murder grabbed national headlines in August 2021. Not long before her death, police had responded to a reported domestic disturbance involving the young woman that was misclassified and lacked details. Petito’s father brought the idea for the bill to Book. “United as a family, we stand together in support of the legislative bill against domestic violence, advocating for justice, protection and a brighter future for all,” said Joe Petito, in a prepared statement.
“Lawmakers say expanding telehealth could make pregnancy safer” via Regan McCarthy of WFSU — The risk of death for mothers during pregnancy or in the year following childbirth is rising and experts say one of the contributing factors is lack of access to health care. Now, as part of an effort to address the trend, Florida lawmakers are looking into a plan to expand maternal telehealth. A pilot program in Florida has been using remote monitoring tools like blood pressure cuffs and glucose monitors to help ensure women who might otherwise struggle to access care, can have healthy pregnancies and recoveries after giving birth. Kenneth Scheppke with the Florida Department of Health says so far, it’s working.
“Not everyone happy as Citizens Insurance’s ‘depopulation’ drives decline of policies” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Thanks to its depopulation efforts, state-owned Citizens Property Insurance Corp. saw its first month-to-month policy-count decline in the years between September and October. While that news is soothing to lawmakers and insurance regulators in Tallahassee who are eager to reduce the company’s size, it’s not exactly welcomed by many of the policyholders who felt they had no choice but to accept offers from private-market insurers at costs projected to rise by up to 20% over the projected renewal cost of their Citizens policies. The number of policies held by Citizens dropped from 1,407,805 on Sept. 30 to 1,334,620 at the end of October, said Kelly Booten, Citizens’ chief operating officer, during a meeting of the company’s Market Accountability Advisory Board on Wednesday.
Happening today — Sen. Alexis Calatayud and Rep. Dan Daley will host Future’s Frontline Tour on bridging the partisan divide: 5 p.m., the University of Miami Shalala Student Center, Third Floor Senate Room, 1330 Miller Drive, Coral Gables.
Happening today — A community discussion on flood mitigation and storm resiliency with Rep. Lindsay Cross and experts in the field. Free and open to the public: 6 p.m., Shore Acres Recreation Center, 4230 Shore Acres Blvd. NE, St. Petersburg.
“Lobbying compensation: Ron Book and Co. once again post Top 10 report” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Book and lobbying partners Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette and Gabriela Navarro represented 100-plus clients during the reporting period, amassing more than $2.1 million in legislative lobbying revenues and tacking on an additional $500,000 lobbying the executive branch. Three contracts on the firm’s legislative compensation report measured in at $100,000 or more. Title Clerk Consulting Company provided the biggest payday at $143,000 for the quarter, followed by Performance Title Services at $128,000 and Ashbritt at $100,000. Local governments were also a substantial source of income for the team, with well over a dozen counties or municipalities retaining the firm last quarter. The set included Miami-Dade County at $35,000 and the cities of Marathon and Miami Beach at $25,000. At the top end, the firm may have earned as much as $3.07 million.
— DOWN BALLOT —
“María Elvira Salazar again lands LIBRE Initiative endorsement, ad backing” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Salazar will again defend her seat next year with support from the LIBRE Initiative, a nonprofit that engages Hispanics to advocate for libertarian-leaning policies and politicians. The organization’s political spending arm, LIBRE Initiative Action, on Wednesday announced its second consecutive endorsement of Salazar and plans to buy digital, television and radio ads supporting her re-election campaign. “Since being elected to represent the people of Florida’s 27th Congressional District, Rep. María Elvira Salazar has prioritized the need to identify solutions for some of our country’s most pressing issues,” LIBRE Initiative Action senior adviser Jose Mallea said in a statement.
“Kim Daniels’ opponent withdraws from HD 14 race” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A Libertarian who opened a campaign account to challenge Democratic Rep. Daniels in Duval County’s House District 14 has withdrawn from the race. This means that as of now, Daniels is running unopposed. Ronald Robison opened a campaign account earlier this year, saying at the time that he saw this run as a way to continue the “momentum” he started when he ran for City Council in 2023 — an election where his 131 votes in that election were good for just 1% of the vote.
“Abortion rights organization wading into Public Defender contests for the first time” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — With a bill poised to go into effect that calls for criminalizing abortions, a reproductive rights organization is wading into Public Defender contests and endorsing candidates for the first time in its 15-year history. Ruth’s List Florida is dedicated to electing women politicians who support the right to an abortion. And in that vein, the organization is throwing its weight behind Democrat Lisa McLean, who is competing in a Primary to become the Public Defender of Hillsborough County, and Melissa Vickers, a currently unopposed Public Defender candidate in the Orlando area judicial circuit. Christina Diamond, CEO of Ruth’s List Florida, called both women “exceedingly qualified” and sure to bring a “renewed dignity” to the criminal justice system.
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“Damián Pardo’s Miami victory was a historic upset. Here’s how he won” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Pardo’s victory in the runoff for the City Commission’s District 2 seat was historic. He became the first openly gay person elected in Miami, a milestone he calls a “great footnote to show how far we’ve come.” Pardo ran a mostly self-funded campaign with far fewer high-profile backers. What outside money he did accept came from friends, family and others with whom he’d fostered personal connections during his decades of civic activism. To win, Pardo needed to be more nimble, efficient and attentive than his opponent. Pardo’s grassroots bona fides proved invaluable as well. Running a more agile operation enabled the Pardo campaign to overcome deficits in size and wherewithal, and the confidence the team had that it could outmaneuver the incumbent manifested no more impactfully than on the night of the General Election.
“Palm Beach County Commission taps veteran lawmaker Maria Sachs to serve as Mayor” via Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County Commissioners selected Sachs to serve as the county’s next Mayor at a reorganization meeting on Nov. 21. Sachs, who had been serving as the Vice Mayor, replaced Gregg Weiss. Sachs, a former state Senator, won election to the Commission three years ago and represents South County. Commissioners traditionally rotate the largely ceremonial position, and Weiss’ one-year term had ended. Maria Marino was chosen to serve as Vice Mayor for the coming year, indicating she is in line to serve as Mayor starting in November 2024. Marino, who represents North County, also was tapped to Chair the Solid Waste Authority.
“After Commission pay flubs, Miami-Dade audit shows more errors. Employees owe $3M” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade’s new human resources software contributed to a payroll mess for county employees, according to a recent audit, which found lax oversight of raises and more than $3 million in overpayments that could go decades before they’re fully reimbursed. The audit ordered by Mayor Daniella Levine Cava after paycheck mistakes with county commissioners detailed broader issues with the county’s payroll system and procedures. The report by the Audit and Management Services Department details challenges with the personnel and administrative software system called INFORMS, which was purchased in 2018 under the administration of then-Mayor Carlos Giménez and implemented under Levine Cava.
“Prosecutors call Florida nursing school ‘fraud’ ring that handed out fake degrees” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — A former registrar of a Palm Beach County nursing school served as the “right-hand” woman to the school’s owner as both schemed to lure in thousands of students and charge them millions of dollars for fake transcripts and degrees so they could qualify to attain licenses as nurses, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday during opening statements of a federal trial in Fort Lauderdale. Before trial, the owner of Palm Beach School of Nursing, Johanah Napoleon, pleaded guilty to a wire fraud conspiracy, was sentenced to 21 months in prison, and paid about $3.5 million in financial penalties to the U.S. government. Former director of student services, Gail Russ, and two other defendants were accused of recruiting students from the Northeast into the alleged diploma mill scheme.
“State settles Christmas drag show complaint with Miami hotel, venue. The fine: $5,000” via Anna Ceballos of the Miami Herald — The Hyatt Regency Miami has agreed to pay a $5,000 fine to settle a legal dispute with the administration of DeSantis over a minor’s presence at a Christmas-themed drag queen show last year. The event — “A Drag Queen Christmas” — was held on Dec. 27, 2022, at the James L. Knight Center, a 4,500-seat auditorium. The show was hosted by Nina West, a star from the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and minors were required to be accompanied by an adult to attend. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced that in addition to the fine, the James L. Knight Center, which is owned by the city of Miami, has agreed to bar minors from attending any performance that “contains, depicts or simulates” sexual activity.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“Republicans walk out of Orange County Legislative Delegation meeting” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Republican lawmakers walked out of an Orange County Legislative Delegation meeting over a rule on who can run for Chair. Rules for the delegation only allow lawmakers to serve as Chair or Vice Chair if a majority of precincts in their district lie in Orange County. That effectively means only lawmakers in Democratic-leaning districts. Sen. Jason Brodeur called for that issue to be reviewed, but the Rules Committee did not recommend a change. Disallowing some members of the delegation from seeking the Chair effectively compromises the political participation of elected officials, he said.
“Linda Stewart bill repealing Disney district takeover supported 7-0 by Orange County lawmakers, but walkouts prevent quorum” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Orange County lawmakers supported a bill that could unravel DeSantis’ takeover of governance of Walt Disney World property. But a GOP walkout means another vote must be held before the bill can proceed. Sen. Linda Stewart presented a local bill to repeal the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Stewart’s legislation would re-enact Reedy Creek. “Nine months under this new Board has created over 11 major issues,” Stewart said. “There is no transparency, no RFPs (requests for proposals). The morale of the employees is horrible, and so many other politically motivated changes have occurred. It affects the Disney plan.”
“Central Florida corrections officers ready to head to the picket lines” via Shannon Butler of WFTV — The Volusia County corrections officers say they are working with low pay and even lower staffing. They took it to the County Commissioners to plead their case in October, but they still sit at an impasse with the county on a new contract. Corrections Officer Kaitilin Clark has been with Volusia County for six years. In that time, Clark said things have gotten worse, “I got to work every day knowing that I might die, and I risk that for $22 an hour.” While there’s a nationwide shortage of officers, including in neighboring Orange County, the problems here appear to be growing.
“Orange County may be on the hook to pay back OnePulse’s $400,000 in squandered state funds” via McKenna Schueler of Orlando Weekly — The Orange County government is trying to figure out whether it could be forced to foot the bill for the OnePulse Foundation, which must pay back nearly $400,000 in state funds awarded for a museum project the nonprofit scrapped last month. The OnePulse Foundation Board recently voted to dissolve the organization and canceled a separate $10 million agreement it entered with Orange County to fund a Pulse Museum. Orange County government is set to inherit a property on West Kaley Street that OnePulse bought for the project — but with that could come an obligation to pay the state back for unused funds.
“Best Foot Forward program launched in Volusia County to improve pedestrian safety” via Massiel Leyva of Spectrum News — Members of the Volusia County Council voted recently to kick off a new pedestrian and bicycle safety program. They partnered with the nonprofit organization Bike Walk Central Florida to bring the Best Foot Forward for pedestrian safety program to Volusia County, expanding on its current footprint in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. “I’ve gotten too many calls about a pedestrian killed in A1A in Ormond Beach, in Deltona,” Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower said. “It’s a serious, serious problem. So, this is a great way to combat it.”
“Daytona Beach hotel occupancy rates on downward trend” via Pamela Comme of WESH — Tourism has been on the decline in Volusia County, and hotels and businesses in the area are feeling the impacts. Krista Goodrich, Salty Dog Vacations CEO, who manages several hotels and condos in the area, said 2021 and 2022 were some of the best years for the hospitality industry in Florida. “Florida was where you could vacation during COVID,” she said. “So, everyone came here because we were open.” Since then, things have changed. “Now that you’ve got many other options, people are going places they may not have been able to go during COVID,” she said.
— LOCAL: TB —
“Pinellas County lawmakers vote to move forward with PSTA changes” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The transit agency serving Florida’s densest county is one step closer to undergoing some major changes. The Pinellas County state lawmaker delegation voted 6-3 along party lines to move forward with a local bill that would reduce the Board size of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and cut into the agency’s ability to implement transit-dedicated lanes and engage in unpaid advertising. The Florida Legislature and DeSantis must still approve the proposal first made by Rep. Linda Chaney.
“Tampa, St. Pete among best places for foreign business” via St. Pete Catalyst — Financial Times has released its second-annual Investing in America report, with Tampa and St. Petersburg placing among the nation’s top 80 cities for foreign multinational business. Tampa fell 16 spots to No. 22, while St. Petersburg plummeted from 33rd to 77th. St. Pete ranked lowest in “foreign business needs” and “openness,” and the study docked Tampa for its “quality of life” and “business environment.”
“Riverwalk reroute at old Trump Tower Tampa site is ahead of schedule” via Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times — From ice skating at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on one end of the Riverwalk to the festive lights of Water Street on the other, downtown Tampa is in full holiday mode. A tunnel along the Riverwalk to protect pedestrians during construction is expected to open Dec. 8. “They’re ahead of schedule,” said Debbie Herrington, transportation right of way engineer with the city’s mobility department. The less-than-a-monthlong closure will be significantly shorter than a prior Riverwalk reroute along another busy downtown thoroughfare during the $38 million expansion of the Tampa Convention Center. There, gates blocked the waterside for a year and a half before it reopened this Summer.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
“State lawmakers field big-dollar requests. Here are top 10 for Jacksonville area.” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Mayor Donna Deegan’s pursuit of $63 million for two riverfront parks in downtown Jacksonville tops the list of big-dollar requests that state lawmakers will consider in their upcoming Session. The University of North Florida also has a big ask. It’s in the hunt for about $40 million in state money for a new student support and academic building. Other multimillion-dollar requests include operating expenses for UF Health Jacksonville to care for the poor, expansion of Jacksonville University’s nursing program, a Hilliard sewer project, construction of a Northeast Florida Builders Association apprentice training facility, help with building the Museum of Science & History’s planned new museum, and money for the OCEARCH research center slated for Mayport.
“Tallahassee City Manager points to politics after third split review from Commissioners” via Elena Barrera of the Tallahassee Democrat — City Commissioners’ annual evaluations came back glowingly for three of Tallahassee’s four appointed officials. But for the third consecutive year, City Manager Reese Goad had split scores: He received the highest level of praise from Mayor John Dailey and Commissioners Curtis Richardson and Dianne Williams-Cox and the lowest possible scores from Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter. Each official was judged on seven distinct categories: economic development, impact on poverty, organizational effectiveness, public infrastructure, public safety, public trust and quality of life. Porter was the only Commissioner to provide each with specific feedback.
“Mayor’s panel approves alcohol consumption on Riverwalks” via Dan MacDonald of the Jacksonville Daily Record — The Mayor’s Budget Review Committee has approved a request to allow open consumption of alcohol along the Northbank and Southbank Riverwalks. It still must be approved by the City Council. Downtown Investment Authority Resolution 2023-10-06 would create two “specialty center” areas with certain limitations. The bill was based on the model along Tampa’s waterfront as well as “Sip and Stroll” events sponsored by Downtown Vision Inc.
“First Coast counties unite in fight against climate threats” via Dan Scanlan of Jax Today — Seven counties in Northeast Florida are joining efforts to reduce coastal flooding and battle increasing heat, pollution and storms. Representatives of Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties met Wednesday as part of the Resilient First Coast Collaborative, a partnership of government, business, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions and government officials. Together, they discussed how to protect the region from the effects of climate change and how to find money for the work.
“Ex-JEA CEO asks judge for two-month trial delay” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — The defense team representing ex-JEA CEO Aaron Zahn asked a federal judge on Monday for a 60-day delay in his currently scheduled February trial on fraud and conspiracy charges, a move that would push it out more than two years since his indictment and nearly five years since the tumultuous era at Jacksonville’s city-owned utility forced Zahn out. In an occasionally testy hearing before U.S. District Judge Brian Davis, the lead federal prosecutor, A. Tysen Duva, opposed moving the Feb. 5 start date, asking rhetorically, “what have (the defense lawyers) been doing?” if not preparing for trial. He also said the defense team benefited from an “unusual and extremely early look” at the government’s case during an eight-day hearing this past Summer that required prosecutors to disclose previously secret evidence they’d amassed.
“Down trees, pay fees: Pensacola looks to crack down on unpermitted tree removals” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal — Mayor D.C. Reeves is proposing an ordinance to crack down on unpermitted tree removals. Reeves said Tuesday the city’s current ordinance only allows violations of the tree ordinances to be enforced against property owners, and in some situations, homeowners are relying on tree removal companies to follow city ordinances. “I believe that tree contractors that work in the city and have a business tax receipt and a license to be able to work in the city should have the expertise when they are called by a homeowner who may or may not know the rules,” Reeves said. Reeves said the proposed ordinance would allow the city to add fines and penalties up to revoking a business license for tree removal companies who violate the city’s tree ordinance.
“Alachua County Public Schools announces Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year” via Lillian Lawson of The Gainesville Sun — Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) named its Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year Wednesday. Leroy Williams, Eastside High School principal, and Mallory Becker, Gainesville High School assistant principal, were chosen by peers districtwide based on their resumes and responses to questions developed by the state, which included topics related to teacher support and student performance. Williams began his career with ACPS in 2004 as a teacher at Lincoln Middle School. He then became a dean and then an assistant principal at Lincoln. In 2016, Williams was named assistant principal at Eastside High and was promoted to principal in 2021.
“Eglin AFB conducts controlled burn, minimal impact expected on surrounding community” via Collin Bestor of Northwest Florida Daily News — The smoke currently seen in southern Okaloosa County is from a controlled burn underway on the Eglin Air Force Base reservation for military mission support. The burn boundaries are Range Roads 235, 253, 713 and 234, which are on the Western edge of the reservation and will cover approximately 1,700 acres. Eglin officials said they think the smoke impacts should be minimal to the surrounding areas.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Hurricane Ian recovery: Feds approve $201.5M for Sarasota County” via the North Port Sun — Sarasota County’s plan for spending $201.5 million in federal Hurricane Ian recovery funds has been approved. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the county’s plan, called Resilient SRQ, opening up the community development block grant, according to an email from Sara Nealeigh, media relations officer for Sarasota County Emergency Service.
“New College wants $400 million — for a school with 698 students” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis’ trustees at this school already generated national controversy when they hired former House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a guy with no higher ed experience, as the school’s president and hiked his compensation package to up to $1.3 million a year — all to run a school that says it has fewer students (698) than many elementary schools. (Seriously, Apopka Elementary has more than 800.) But now New College wants more money — a lot more. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune recently reported that its tiny hometown college has requested a “minimum” of $400 million in additional public money to spend over the next five years and increase enrollment by a few hundred students.
“Howie Grimm wins another term as Everglades City Mayor; eight charter amendments approved by voters” via J. Kyle Foster of the Naples Daily News — Everglades City saw almost 60% of its 282 registered voters turn out for ‘Tuesday’s mayoral and City Council election. Also on the ballot were eight amendments to the city’s charter. Mayor Grimm Jr. was re-elected, defeating challenger Dulce M. Valdes, former co-owner of Havana Cafe in Chokoloskee, 117 to 46. Grimm is a commercial fisher and owner of Grimm’s Stone Crab in Everglades City. He has been Mayor for six years. He won another four-year term with a salary of $500 a month.
“Collier Commissioner faces active investigation after domestic disturbance, police say” via Tomas Rodriguez of the Naples Daily News — Marco Island authorities confirmed Wednesday that a Collier County Commissioner is involved in a domestic disturbance investigation, which the Commissioner called unfounded. Monica Lora, records clerk with Marco Island Police, confirmed an active investigation involving County Commissioner Rick LoCastro, who represents District 1. LoCastro briefly answered the phone Wednesday afternoon and said he’s not concerned. He said his attorneys anticipate the details will be released next week, and added he expects a “full exoneration.”
“Sarasota School Board selects Karen Rose as next chair, approves teachers union contract” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County School Board unanimously elected Rose as the next Board Chair and approved a new contract with the teacher’s union at a meeting Tuesday evening. Rose, who is up for re-election in 2024, previously served as the Vice Chair. The Board also elected Tim Enos, who was elected in 2022, to be Vice Chair. They will both serve in their positions until the next reorganizational meeting, which is expected to be in November 2024. “It’s an honor to serve as Chair and I’m very appreciative of the opportunity,” Rose said.
“Sarasota Sheriff’s substation becomes political, signaling rivalry for County Commission” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The former South County Sheriff’s Substation, closed in March 2019 by then-sheriff Tom Knight, now a candidate in 2024 for District 3 on the Sarasota County Commission, became a political issue Tuesday, when District 3 incumbent Neil Rainford proposed the Commission endorse reopening of the facility. Rainford brought the topic of reopening the substation up during the regular County Commission meeting and took issue with what he called a 40-mile trip for some South Sarasota County residents to travel to the main Sheriff’s Office at 6010 Cattleridge Boulevard. That is off Cattlemen Road, just north of the Bee Ridge Road exit off Interstate 75.
“Conservative education advocacy group sues Collier schools for not giving out parent emails” via Kendall Little of the Naples Daily News — The Florida Citizens Alliance is suing the Collier County School Board and its records custodian after she refused to release records that included parent information. The alliance, a conservative education advocacy group, filed the lawsuit in September after trying to get parent email addresses from the Collier School District for a few months. Collier County resident Gayle Repetto requested parent email addresses from Collier County Public Schools in March. The district’s records custodian Tiffany Myers denied the record request, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as reasoning.
“Mote’s new Science Education Aquarium one year away from making a giant splash for region” via Eric Garwood of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Your out-of-town visitors will have to make do with typical Sarasota-region attractions this holiday season, but Mote Marine Laboratory’s aquarium at Nathan Benderson Park should be ready for the next time around. Speaking recently to Sarasota County Commissioners, Kevin Cooper, Mote vice president for communications and strategic initiatives, said the organization is targeting a public opening in a little more than a year, with several milestones along the way.
— TOP OPINION —
“Before the DeSantis-Gavin Newsom debate, let’s look at their economic records” via Peter Coy of The New York Times — In a nutshell, California has the edge in median incomes, research universities and tech. Florida has cheaper housing, lower taxes, lower unemployment, a growing population and less violent crime. As the table shows, California is more unequal than Florida. While median household incomes in California are nearly a third higher than in Florida, the poverty rate is also higher.
In K-12 education, neither state excels. Forty-one percent of fourth graders in Florida test at or above the proficiency level in math, versus 35% nationally. California is below the national average, at 30%. By eighth grade the states are equally weak, at 23% at or above proficiency in math, below the (disappointing) 26% national average.
California and Florida do have some things in common. They’re both really big: the largest and third-largest states by population, with Texas in between. Both also have lots of natural disasters, beaches, orange groves and Disney parks — although Disney isn’t feeling so welcome in Florida since DeSantis started attacking it for wokeness and saying the company is seeking “to rob our children of their innocence.”
Both Governors also understand the importance of economic development. Unlike DeSantis, Newsom has avoided tangling with any CEOs in his state. He has been mostly friendly to business.
Florida’s conservative business establishment worries about Florida becoming more like California, with higher taxes and more regulation. “We can all agree that with businesses fleeing high-cost states and finding their way to the Sunshine State to do business, we must work to make sure Florida remains Florida,” the Florida Chamber of Commerce says. Likewise, Californians seem to be happy with California remaining California.
“And never the twain shall meet,” as Rudyard Kipling put it. Except, I guess, for Thursday on Fox.
— OPINIONS —
“DeSantis-Newsom debate will offer America two different visions” via Gov. Kim Reynolds and Gov. Kevin Stitt for the Washington Examiner — DeSantis won’t back down from an opportunity to expose the Left’s agenda to destroy America. He’ll take the arrows and jabs from Newsom so he can talk to the public about how he’ll deliver results. Just like he did for the people of Florida — every promise he made, he kept. He took on big fights and delivered big wins. We watched DeSantis prove that conservative principles and fearless leadership provide a blueprint for our nation’s comeback. In Iowa, we also chose freedom over lockdowns and mandates during the pandemic, passed a universal school choice program, protected unborn Iowans with a heartbeat bill, cut bureaucracy, and strengthened parental rights protections. DeSantis has shown he can translate his successes in Florida into a plan for national renewal.
“Trump attacks Obamacare again, but Floridians have embraced it. He should back off” via the Miami Herald editorial board — With Trump spouting off on social media, vowing once again to try to get rid of Obamacare, it’s hard to tell. It’s like we’re caught in a rerun of his presidency when he fought a losing battle against the increasingly popular health insurance program. “The cost of Obamacare is out of control, plus, it’s not good Health care,” he said on Truth Social over the Thanksgiving weekend. “I’m seriously looking at alternatives. We had a couple of Republican Senators who campaigned for six years against it and then raised their hands not to terminate it. It was a low point for the Republican Party, but we should never give up!”
“The Electoral College is ‘the exploding cigar of American politics’” via Gail Collins of The New York Times — No matter how it originally came together, we’ve now put the loser of the popular vote in office five times. Sure, every vote counts. But it’s hard not to notice that every vote seems to count a whole lot more if you happen to be registered in someplace like Michigan, where the margin between the two parties is pretty narrow. Nothing is going to happen to fix the Electoral College. Can you imagine trying to get a change in the Constitution that enormous? It was a long haul just to pass an amendment to prohibit members of Congress from raising their own pay between elections.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Disney to keep TV stations, Bob Iger says, in reversal from July” via Thomas Buckley of Bloomberg — The Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Iger said he’s no longer considering selling the company’s traditional TV channels, like ABC and FX, reversing comments from earlier this year. The executive, who returned to run Disney a year ago following the dismissal of his successor, Bob Chapek, had floated the idea of a sale in July. Iger said such channels may no longer be essential to the company. “My thought at the time was that I would be public with that thought process, and I went as far as saying they might not be core to the company,” Iger said.
“Travis Kelce’s bold fashion choice in Buenos Aires was made by a Florida-based brand” via Lianna Norman of The Palm Beach Post — Floridian Swifties might be particularly delighted to hear that the crazy-looking shirt Kelce wore in Buenos Aires — which also caused a whole thread of response videos — is actually from a South Florida-based brand. Here’s why the shirt Kelce wore to Swift’s mid-November concert matters to Swifties, which South Florida designer is getting attention for it, and how the NFL star has been a fashion icon for longer than he’s dated the “Cruel Summer” singer. The shirt that introduced Swift’s fans to Kelce’s bold personal style was made by J. Logan Home, a lifestyle brand based in Palm Beach, of all places. J. Logan Horne is a collector, designer, and former celebrity stylist who once styled A-listers and supermodels, like Lindsay Lohan and Karolina Kurkova.
“It’s super Miami: A Florida dialect is getting recognition” via Raquel Coronell Uribe of The Washington Post — Now, thanks to a study published this Spring, Miami, known for its beaches, basketball team, and stormy weather and politics, is getting recognition, and validation, for its unique use of the English language. In Miami, people don’t “get” in line; they “make” the line (from the Spanish “hacer la fila”). They are not “very” tired, they are “super” tired (“Estar súper cansado”). They don’t “get out” of their cars; they “get down” from their cars (“Bajarse del carro”). It’s a form of what experts call Miami English. “There are many, many, many ways of speaking American English and many regional, ethnic and social dialects,” said Phillip M. Carter, a Florida International University professor and lead author of a paper on the Miami dialect.
— HOLIDAYS —
“Why Christmas is canceled in Bethlehem” via Ishaan Tharoor and Sammy Westfall of The Washington Post — Palestinian Christians belong to the world’s oldest Christian communities, rooted in the historic cradle of Christianity. But they are diminished in number, at least in proportion to their neighbors of other faiths, and are represented in greater strength in the Palestinian diaspora around the world. Palestinian Christians comprise some 2% of the overall Palestinian population in the West Bank, concentrated mostly around Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and less than 1% of the population in Gaza. That’s prompted perhaps as much as a fifth of Gaza’s Christians who also had foreign passports to abandon the territory altogether. The rest find themselves forsaken. “They are calling to us, saying, ‘Let us leave, we either die or we leave,’” said Tamar Haddad, a regional coordinator of the Lutheran World Federation who was also part of the visiting delegation.
“See Delray Beach’s 100-foot Christmas Tree in all of its glory!” via Greg Lovett of The Palm Beach Post — Nothing says the holidays like gathering in a public square to see the light switch flipped on a 100-foot Christmas tree along with thousands of your neighbors. And so began the 2023 season in Delray Beach on Thursday, Nov. 28. The lighting, attended by young, old and Mr. and Mrs. Claus themselves, launched the 30th year of the event. For those keeping score, the tree has 18,000 ornaments and 217,980 individual LED lights and is surrounded by pure holiday fun, including ice skating, a carousel, mini-golf and opportunities to get a photo with Santa. The fun at 51 N. Swinton Ave. in downtown Delray will be open through Dec. 31. Get tickets at the Gingerbread House. Touring the tree is free.
“For Santa Lamm, it’s about giving kids their version of a shiny new baseball” via Mark Woods of The Florida Times-Union — During the holidays in the early 2000s, when David Lamm did a radio show from a remote location, they’d typically have listeners stop by and drop off toys for Christmas. It was about the third week of December and Lamm realized they hadn’t done that yet. “So, I just casually said, ‘Hey, if anybody out there wants to help some needy people, send me 10 or 20 bucks,’” he said. “In five days, we had almost $20,000,” he said. “And I didn’t know what to do with all of that money.” On the Saturday before Christmas, he’s still Santa Lamm, hoping kids can get their version of a shiny new baseball. “I didn’t do this for any reason other than I love Christmas,” he said. “I want other kids to enjoy Christmas like I used to.”
“Winter Sandyland: A blend of art, sand and community giving this holiday season” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — While the chances of playing in snow this Christmas are low, the chances of you getting to play in the sand are high. On Saturday, Dec. 16, Sand Effects will be hosting its first Winter Sandyland at The Island Resort at Fort Walton Beach, which will benefit Children in Crisis, located in Fort Walton Beach, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. “I’m super stoked,” said Jason Harwell, owner of Sand Effects. “I think this is going to be something special that hasn’t been done in our area. It brings different artists together that are just wanting to do good and give back.” Harwell, who also runs Erase the Trace Okaloosa, said that, in the past, he usually adopted a Christmas program. This year, he wanted to use his own business to make an impact in the community.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today is the University of Florida’s champion, Mark Kaplan. 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, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.