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Uber teams up with 5 Central Florida cities to offer discount fares

A handful of Central Florida cities announced Monday that they will team up with ride-sharing company Uber to offer discounted intercity travel.

Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, Longwood, Maitland and Sanford created an organization called the “Municipal Mobility Working Group” which will participate in an Uber pilot program testing travel between cities.

“By providing people with an attractive transportation option, Uber is helping to drive a fundamental shift in the way people get around,” said Kasra Moshkani, general manager for Uber in Florida. “We look forward to continuing to work with these Central Florida cities to complement transit options by extending the reach of transit systems and offering residents a reliable, affordable alternative to driving.”

Each municipality had previously worked with Uber on a 2016 pilot program testing travel within their borders, which saw each city provide discount fares to encourage trips.

Uber said that pilot program found residents travel to “live, work and play without regard to jurisdictional lines,” and that there was a need for further pilot programs to test “boundaryless travel.”

The first phase of the pilot saw each city pick up a fifth of the tab for Uber rides ending within their borders and 25 percent of the cost of rides that began or ended at a SunRail station within city limits. In the phase 2 pilot, each city will also pay 20 percent of Uber fares for a trip that begins in another city and ends in theirs.

“The unique addition of this pilot allows Maitland residents to check out the nightlife in downtown Lake Mary; for an Altamonte Springs resident who wants to take an Uber to the Sanford International Airport; for a Longwood resident to shop at the Altamonte Mall,” Uber said in the announcement.

Altamonte Springs City Manager Frank Martz said the pilot program has already taught city officials that “people don’t travel in a box.”

“Residents travel regionally for work, shopping or dining and think of the five cities as one area rather than separate entities. For the MMWG cities, innovation has become the rule rather than the exception and we think taxpayers expect that from government,” he said.

 

Bobby Olszewski HD 44 fundraiser packed with Republican leaders

The Republican primary for House District 44 may have deeply split support from top Republicans but now that Bobby Olszewski has won he’s bringing much of that together behind his special election campaign.

Olszewski’s campaign announced a fundraiser set for the evening of Aug. 30 that will feature the current speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, the next three most-likley speakers, several past speakers, plus scores of other Republican leaders, including quite a few who had supported Olszewski’s opponents in last week’s primary.

The fundraiser is set for the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, with contributions of up to $1,000 per person.

Olszewski won the Aug. 15 Republican primary and now faces Democrat Paul Chandler in an Oct. 10 special election to fill the vacant seat representing southwest Orange County.

Among those set to attend the fundraiser are Florida Speaker Richard Corcoran and speaker designates Jose Oliva, Chris Sprowls, and Paul Renner, along with special guest U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, a longtime Olszewski supporter who also is a former speaker of the Florida House. Other past Florida House speakers Steve Crisafulli, Tom Feeney, Mike Haridopolos, and Will Weatherford also are among the named guests.

The supporters listed for the fundraiser also include Bruno Portigliatti and Usha Jain, two of the Republican candidates whom Olszewski defeated in the Aug. 15 primary. The fourth in that primary, John Newstreet, is not included, but a number of his former backers are, including state Reps. Jason Brodeur, Bob Cortes, Mike La Rosa, Mike Miller, and Rene Plasencia.

 

No bond for suspect in officers’ fatal shooting in Kissimmee

A suspect in the fatal shooting of two police officers in Florida will be staying in jail after a judge denied him bond Sunday, saying there was probable cause for his first-degree murder charge

Everett Miller wore handcuffs and shackles during a first-appearance hearing that lasted a minute and a half. When it was over, he said, “Thank you, your honor.”

Miller, 45, also is facing charges of resisting arrest and carrying a concealed weapon. Other charges likely will be filed.

Sgt. Sam Howard of the Kissimmee Police Department died Saturday afternoon at a hospital where he had been taken following Friday night’s attack in Kissimmee, Florida, located south of the theme park hub of Orlando. Officer Matthew Baxter died Friday night.

Meanwhile, detectives said they were looking for a person of interest as they proceed in their investigation.

Detectives emphasized that Maribel Gonzales King is not a suspect, but they said she was known to frequent the neighborhood where the police officers were shot Friday night. They were seeking the public’s help in locating her.

During a patrol late Friday of a neighborhood with a history of drug activity, Baxter was “checking out” three people, including Miller, when the officer got into a scuffle with Miller. Howard, his sergeant, responded as backup, said Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell.

The officers didn’t have an opportunity to return fire.

Sheriff’s deputies with a neighboring law enforcement agency later tracked Miller down to a bar and approached him. Miller started reaching toward his waistband when the deputies tackled and subdued him, O’Dell said. They found a handgun and revolver on him.

Miller, 45, was a Marine veteran and was recently involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. The early stages of the investigation show that Miller had made threats to law enforcement on Facebook, O’Dell said.

Baxter, 27, had been with the Kissimmee Police Department for three years. He was married to another Kissimmee police officer and they have four children.

Howard, 36, has served with the Kissimmee Police Department for 10 years. He and his wife have one child.

The officers were fatally shot in a district where the top prosecutor says she will no longer seek the death penalty. State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced earlier this year that she wouldn’t seek the death penalty, explaining it’s not a deterrent and it drags on for years for the victims’ relatives. The announcement came as her office was building a case against Markeith Loyd, who is charged with the fatal shooting of an Orlando Police lieutenant.

But Gov. Rick Scott on Saturday evening issued an executive order removing the case from Ayala and reassigning it.

Scott and Ayala are in a legal battle over the matter before the Florida Supreme Court. Ayala argues Scott is overstepping his authority by taking away cases eligible for the death penalty. The high court has yet to make a ruling.

A spokeswoman for Ayala didn’t respond to an email inquiry seeking comment.

Officials: Slain officers didn’t have chance to return fire

A police officer in Florida died from his injuries Saturday, a day after his colleague was killed when a suspect fired at them during a scuffle while they were on patrol. The suspect was later arrested at a bar.

Sgt. Sam Howard died Saturday afternoon at a hospital where he had been taken following Friday night’s attack in Kissimmee, Florida, located south of the theme park hub of Orlando.

Officer Matthew Baxter died Friday night, a short time after authorities say he was shot by 45-year-old Everett Miller.

Miller faces a charge of first-degree murder for the killing of Baxter. Authorities hadn’t yet said what charges he could face for Howard’s death.

During a patrol late Friday of a neighborhood with a history of drug activity, Baxter was “checking out” three people, including Miller, when the officer got into a scuffle with Miller. Howard, his sergeant, responded as backup, said Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell.

The officers didn’t have an opportunity to return fire. They weren’t wearing body cameras.

Sheriff’s deputies with a neighboring law enforcement agency later tracked Miller down to a bar and approached him. Miller started reaching toward his waistband when the deputies tackled and subdued him, O’Dell said.

They found a handgun and revolver on him.

“They were extremely brave and heroic actions taken by the deputies,” O’Dell said.

The police chief said Miller was taken to jail wearing Baxter’s handcuffs.

Authorities originally said they believed there were four suspects, but the chief said Saturday that no other arrests are anticipated.

Miller, 45, was a Marine veteran and was recently involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. The early stages of the investigation shows that Miller had made threats to law enforcement on Facebook, O’Dell said.

Baxter, 27, had been with the Kissimmee Police Department for three years. He was married to another Kissimmee police officer and they have four children.

Howard, 36, has served with the Kissimmee Police Department for 10 years. He and his wife have one child, O’Dell said.

“They are two wonderful men, family men,” O’Dell said. “They are two committed to doing it the right way.”

Separately, two other officers were injured late Friday in Jacksonville, Florida, after police responded to reports of an attempted suicide at a home where the mother of the man’s child, their 19-month-old toddler, the woman’s mother and a family friend were thought to be in danger. One of the officers was shot in both hands and the other was shot in the stomach.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said Saturday that officers Michael Fox and Kevin Jarrell are in stable condition following Friday night’s confrontation with an armed Derrick Brabham, who was killed by the officers.

In Pennsylvania, two state troopers were shot and a suspect killed outside a small-town store south of Pittsburgh on Friday night.

In a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, a suspect was fatally shot and an officer injured after they got into a struggle.

President Trump tweeted early Saturday that his thoughts and prayers were with the Kissimmee Police Department. “We are with you!” he said.

Gov. Rick Scott tweeted he was “heartbroken” by the attacks on the officers.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto said Saturday that he will ask for American flags to be flown over the U.S. Capitol and he plans to ask for a moment of silence on the floor of the U.S. House to honor the officers.

The officers were fatally shot in a district where the top prosecutor says she will no longer seek the death penalty. State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced earlier this year that she wouldn’t seek the death penalty, explaining it’s not a deterrent and it drags on for years for the victims’ relatives. The announcement came as her office was building a case against Markeith Lloyd, who is charged with the fatal shooting of an Orlando Police lieutenant.

Gov. Scott on Saturday evening issued an executive order removing the case from Ayala and reassigning it.

“Today, I am using my executive authority to reassign this case to State Attorney Brad King to ensure the victims of last night’s attack and their families receive the justice they deserve,” Scott said in the order.

A spokeswoman for Ayala didn’t respond to an email inquiry seeking comment.

1 police officer killed, 3 injured in 2 shootings in Florida

One police officer was killed and three wounded in nighttime shootings in two Florida cities where the officers were responding to suspected drug activity and reports of a suicide attempt, police said Saturday.

One officer was killed and another gravely injured late Friday night in Kissimmee in central Florida just south of the theme park hub of Orlando. The other two officers were injured a couple of hours later in Jacksonville, one of them shot in both hands and the other in the stomach. Three of four suspects in the Kissimmee shooting were arrested, and the shooter in Jacksonville was shot and killed when police returned fire.

In Kissimmee, officers Sam Howard and Matthew Baxter were checking suspects in an area of the city for drug activity when they were shot, Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell said at a news conference. They did not have an opportunity to return fire.

“They were surprised,” O’Dell said. When asked whether they were ambushed, he said, “It’s too early to tell, but it’s leading that way.”

Baxter, a three-year veteran of the department, died later in a hospital and Howard, a 10-year veteran, was in serious condition, O’Dell said. Both had families, he said.

The officers were checking three of the suspects when a fourth opened fire. One of the original three suspects fled and was being sought, and the other three were arrested. Broadcaster WFTV showed aerial footage of police cars with lights flashing swarmed a housing complex as the search continued early Saturday morning.

In the northern Florida city of Jacksonville, police responded to reports of an attempted suicide at a home where three other people were thought to be in danger, Sheriff’s Office Director Mike Bruno said.

A team of officers heard gunshots inside and feared “an active shooter situation” so they approached the house, Bruno said. The suspect then came out firing a high-powered rifle. He was shot and killed, and two of the police officers were wounded in the exchange of fire. The three other people in the house were safe, Bruno said.

Gov. Rick Scott sent Tweets about the four officers, saying “we stand with ALL law enforcement in Florida.”

When O’Dell held his brief news conference outside the hospital where the two fallen Kissimmee officers had been taken, reports already had surfaced of two more officers shot in Jacksonville to the north.

“It’s a tough time for law enforcement,” O’Dell said of those reports. “It’s getting tough to do the job.”

Standoff with widow puts brakes on giant Orlando timeshare resort

There’s a new twist in the standoff between an octogenarian widow in Florida who refused to sell her townhome and the giant developer that constructed a timeshare resort around her vacant, two-story building anyway.

In order to get a county permit for tenants to move into the new timeshare units, the company needs her signature — and she’s not giving it. That prompted the parent company of Westgate Resorts to sue Orange County, Florida, this month, demanding that the county issue the occupancy permit anyway.

The timeshare giant’s lawsuit is the latest development in the ongoing fight between Julieta Corredor and Westgate Resorts. Corredor was the last owner in her condominium development who refused to sell to Westgate so it could build the new timeshare complex in the heart of Orlando’s tourist district. The company tweaked its plans, but moved forward, building a seven-story, multimillion-dollar edifice within feet of the Corredor townhome.

The 82-year-old woman’s townhome was damaged when a contractor for the timeshare company was clearing the site for the construction of Westgate’s timeshare complex. No one now lives in the property, which was used as a vacation home by the South Florida-based Corredor family. The home, which Westgate said the family has not used in more than a decade, has now been deemed uninhabitable because of the damage.

Orange County officials have told Westgate their contractor needs a demolition permit for the unpermitted work done on Corredor’s building before it will grant the occupancy permit for one building and a building permit for the second building in the timeshare complex. That requires the signature of Corredor, who has so far steadfastly refused all of the company’s offers to buy out her unit.

“The fact that Westgate apparently undertook demolition without proper permitting from Orange County, substantially damaging Mrs. Corredor’s condominium in the process and rendering it uninhabitable, is one of the big reasons that we’re in this mess,” said Corredor’s attorney, Brent Siegel.

County spokeswoman Doreen Overstreet said the county wouldn’t comment due to the pending litigation. Corredor and her sons weren’t named as defendants in the lawsuit, although their fight with Westgate looms large over the complaint.

In emails filed with the court, a lawyer for Westgate complained that the county’s decision not to issue the occupancy permit is costing Westgate “tens of thousands of dollars every day.” The lawsuit said the company has passed all final inspections and that the county has “a clear legal ministerial duty” to issue the occupancy permit.

The county also told Westgate it needs to make repairs to the Corredor home in order to get the permit, and that also requires Corredor’s signature. That’s something she is willing to sign off on, provided she gets all the details on the proposed repairs, her attorney said.

Officials at the timeshare company said they’ve offered to rebuild the Corredors’ unit at the same or a new location and provide $50,000 in furnishings. They’ve presented an offer of a $150,000 cash buy-out, and they’ve said they’re willing to offer a comparable, newly-renovated unit in a different building. The Corredors have repeatedly said “no.”

The Corredors have said that their case is a matter of principle on property rights and that they feel bullied by Westgate.

The Corredors have two lawsuits pending against Westgate. There have been no steps toward settlement talks since the beginning of the year, Siegel said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Paul Chandler’s HD 44 campaign confident he’ll overcome residency challenge

Democratic House District 44 special election candidate Paul Chandler might use the “Bev Kilmer” defense as part of his efforts to overcome a challenge to his residency qualifications to run in this fall’s special election.

Chandler, from Lake Buena Vista, faces Republican Bobby Olszewski, from Winter Garden, in the Oct. 10 special election to fill the vacant HD 44 seat to represent southwest Orange County.

First, though, Chandler may have to overcome a lawsuit filed last week in Leon County challenging his qualification to run for office in Florida. Chandler has had a split residency between Missouri and Florida for years, and allegedly even voted in Missouri last year, but insists Florida has been his primary residence for years. The suit challenges that.

His campaign calls the suit frivolous, more of a distraction than a concern.

“We’re all confident that this is going to be a breeze,” said Chandler’s campaign Communications Director Joey Roulette. “But Paul is mainly focused on his campaign and running on the issues. This is a diversion from the campaign issues.”

Essentially, Chandler intends to prove he qualifies as having established domicile in Florida as early as 2012 when he first applied for and received his state ID card, and no later than early 2015, when his current home’s lease began. That standing is irrelevant to where he was registered to vote, and should be the basis of satisfying the state rules for residency for election purposes, his campaign argues.

That was the defense Kilmer used last year when she ran for the Florida House of Representatives.

Article III, Section 15 of the Florida Constitution requires a candidate for any legislative office “shall have resided in the state for a period of two years prior to election.” It does not explicitly define “resided,” Kilmer argued last year.

Kilmer, however, was never sued, so the public accusations about her residential status were never tested in court. The lawsuit against Chandler was filed Aug. 8 in Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit by Charles Hart, a Republican who lives in Windermere.

Chandler has not yet filed a response in court. He has hired an attorney, but Roulette was not ready to identify him Friday.

Kilmer, the former Florida state representative who served six years, left in 2005, and then ran again last year. In 2010 she had moved to Texas, and campaign materials charged she had given up her Florida residency. Questions were raised about when she moved back, and when the clock needed to start ticking to meet the Florida two-year requirement.

Among other things, Kilmer had registered to vote in Texas, something she did not change back to Florida until 2015.

Kilmer argued that she established domicile in Florida. She did appear on the ballot against incumbent state Rep. Brad Drake in an Aug. 30, 2016, Republican primary battle for House District 5. Drake crushed her, taking 74 percent of the vote.

Still a mystery in Chandler’s case is whether any of the Republican candidates from Tuesday night’s Republican primary, or their campaigns or surrogates, promoted the suit, which was handled by attorney Roger Beaubien of the Coates Law Firm in Tallahassee.

The campaigns of Olszewski and John Newstreet, who finished second on Tuesday, pointed fingers at each other. Meanwhile campaign finance records show that the campaign of Bruno Portigliatti, who finished third Tuesday night, made two payments to the Coates Law Firm totaling $650 for legal fees, including a payment made the day the suit was filed. Portigliatti, however, said that his campaign had indeed hired the Coates firm to do legal work, but it was completely unrelated to the lawsuit. He said he did not learn about the lawsuit until the day after it was filed, and was appalled that it had been filed.

Paul Chandler ties Bobby Olszewski to Donald Trump in HD 44 race

Democrat Paul Chandler has fired the opening salvo in the special election campaign for Florida’s House District 44, tying newly-nominated Republican candidate Bobby Olszewski to President Donald Trump.

“Let me be clear. A vote for Bobby Olszewski is a vote to bring Donald Trump style politics to Orange County,” Chandler stated Thursday in a news release. “Bobby supports Donald Trump on health care. He supports him on taxes. He supports all of Trump’s misguided policies. There is no place for that in District 44.”

Olszewski just won a bruising Republican primary on Tuesday, while Chandler has largely sat back, watched and listened through the Republicans’ campaign, waiting for the face-to-face race for the Oct. 10 special election to fill the HD 44 seat opened when state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle quit in the spring to take a judicial appointment.

Republicans have a sizable voter registration advantage in HD 44 and have owned the district’s seat for decades. Yet Chandler’s campaign points out that the district, which covers southwest Orange County, voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.

The district’s voters, the Chandler news release states, is “clearly rejecting not only his policies, but his politics of deceit and division. Instead of renouncing that type of politics, and those policies, Robert Olszewski supports them every step of the way.”

Chandler, of Lake Buena Vista, faces a legal challenge to his qualification as a candidate, with a lawsuit filed last week alleging he voted in Missouri last year; if he was a legal Missouri resident, that could make him ineligible to run in Florida this year. Chandler insists he has been a legal Florida resident for several years, and is fighting the lawsuit.

Meantime, he’s turned on his campaign, now that he has a Republican opponent.

“Bobby Olszewski is going to have to explain to the voters of this district why he supports Trump’s plans to strip away health care from tens of millions of people, including hundreds of thousands of Floridians,” Chandler stated. “Or why he supports giving huge tax breaks to millionaires like Trump, while the middle class struggles.”

Chandler is a former teacher and is the founder and CEO of Ohana Healthcare, a national medical records management and consulting company with offices from Hawaii to Orlando. He has pledged to focus on preserving and improving health care, stronger education, and knows how to create jobs for Florida.

“The race is on. And the choice is clear. Donald Trump style politics in Orange County, or a real plans to move the 44th forward,” Chandler said.

Scott Sturgill grabs two sheriffs’ endorsements in CD 7 race

Republican congressional candidate Scott Sturgill has earned the endorsements of Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma and former Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary in Sturgill’s quest for the nomination to run in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

“Scott has consistently stood with law enforcement and first responders. He exemplifies the type of leadership we need in Washington for Central Florida,” Lemma said in a news release issued by Sturgill’s campaign.

Sturgill, a Sanford businessman, faces state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park in seeking the Republican primary nomination to take on Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park. Among other items, Sturgill’s company Durable Safety Products produces safety equipment for first responders.

“Scott Sturgill is the kind of new blood we need in Washington D.C., said Beary, Orange County sheriff from 1993-2009. “We need leaders who are going to work with President [Donald] Trump for the American people on jobs, immigration, health care, law enforcement, and homeland security. I especially like his stance that a congressman deserves the same health care that you and I get.”

CD 7 covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County.

 

Public input sought for building memorial to Pulse victims

Officials from other national memorials will be on a panel during the first public meeting to discuss what should be in a memorial to the victims of the Florida nightclub massacre.

The foundation for the Pulse nightclub memorial said Wednesday that next month’s panel would include officials from memorials constructed to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing.

Also invited is the curator of a historic house-museum designed by famed architect Philip Johnson and an Indiana University professor who is an expert on memorials.

The owner of Pulse has said she wants the memorial in Orlando to be a place to comfort the bereaved now and educate future generations.

Forty-nine patrons were killed in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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