Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.13.21
Good Wednesday morning.
Hot off embargo — Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings raised $8.4 million for her Senate campaign last quarter, smashing the record for what past Senate candidates had raised at this point in a campaign cycle.
The new report follows up on the $4.6 million raised by the Central Florida lawmaker in the second quarter when she was a candidate for just a month. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the incumbent Republican Demings is challenging, reported $4 million that quarter and has yet to announce his Q3 numbers.
Demings’ campaign said it has spent millions on digital infrastructure, which it expects “will pay dividends down the road.” It enters the final three months of the year with about $6 million in the bank.
8.4 million reasons to smile: Val Demings makes some historic bank.
“This will be the strongest campaign in Florida’s history — a campaign that goes everywhere and cedes no ground,” campaign manager Zach Carroll wrote in a campaign memo. “We are reaching out to voters of all political stripes — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — who know that Marco Rubio is failing to look out for them in Washington.”
The campaign also pointed to a recent St. Pete Polls survey polling that shows Rubio is beatable in 2022. In August, that poll showed the incumbent leading Demings 48%-46%, which was within the margin of error.
“Floridians know that Rubio is a slick, spineless, and pandering politician who looks out for himself and corporate special interests, leaving everyday Floridians behind. Rubio isn’t strong enough to stand up for working Floridians anymore; he’s just in it for himself even when it hurts Florida. With this profile, Rubio will struggle to motivate the same voters who showed up for other Republicans in recent elections,” Carroll wrote.
Among Florida Republicans, Gov. Ron DeSantis has a higher favorability rating than Donald Trump, but that doesn’t mean they’d vote for him if he ran against the former President in 2024.
According to a Victory Insights poll, 55% of Florida voters have a favorable opinion of DeSantis, including 42% who said they found the first-term Governor “very favorable.” With non-GOP voters excluded, that figure jumps to 83%.
Meanwhile, 53% of voters told the pollster they had a favorable view of Trump, yet his supporters aren’t as fervent — just 35% find him “very favorable.” Among his Republican fans, the intensity jumps to 78%, putting him five points behind the Governor he helped get elected.
Oh boy: Ron DeSantis is more popular than Donald Trump among Florida Republicans. Image via AP.
Victory Insights also measured voter derision, finding DeSantis had fewer haters than the ex-President and, in a flip from the favorability ratings, those who dislike DeSantis do so less intensely. Overall, 44% of those polled said they disliked the Governor, with 35% saying they found him “very unfavorable” Trump scored 46% and 39%, respectively.
One would assume the better-liked, less-hated candidate would lead the pack in 2024, but that’s not the case. The same poll found 58% of Florida Republicans would vote for Trump if he’s listed on the Primary ballot three years from now. Just 30% picked DeSantis, with the balance preferring someone else.
Still, the pollster found DeSantis would give Republicans the best odds to pick up Florida’s 30 electoral votes next cycle. As it stands, Trump would lose to either President Joe Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris in 2024. While the early poll shows DeSantis would lose to Biden if he’s the nominee, it gives him a one-point edge over Harris.
The poll was conducted Sept. 16-18, with a sample size of 450 Florida voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@BenjySarlin: For all the noise, we’re quietly climbing toward 80% of adults vaccinated, and that’s before new rounds of mandates kick in. The first big freakout over vaccine resistance was when U.S. failed to hit 70% by July 4.
when you take a fucking meme to be literal 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩 https://t.co/dBixYtH3Pb
— Silencio Hazlobien (@SilencioDoG00d) October 12, 2021
—@RepMaxineWaters: I have been hacked, and my Twitter account has been erased. I know who has done this. I will take care of this. M Waters.
—@JoshTPM: Perhaps we could have a negotiated settlement where there’s Indigenous Peoples Day and also Fermi Day since he was actually Italian and did cool stuff, and it was never actually about what Columbus did in the first place.
—@DavidsonHiers: Really fascinated by being charged for physical copies of public records that can … be … provided … digitally
In case you were wondering, this is 50+ more TV shows and movies than are filming in Florida in October. Very frustrating.
57 TV Shows and Movies Filming in Georgia in October https://t.co/3mPdddNqOF pic.twitter.com/7DbkxcYXFT
— John Lux (@JohnLuxFL) October 6, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
’Succession’ returns — 4; ’Dune’ premieres — 9; ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ returns — 11; World Series Game 1 — 13; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 14; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 14; Georgia at UF — 17; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 20; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 20; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 23; Disney’s ’Eternals’ premieres — 23; ’Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 25; ’Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 26; Miami at FSU — 29; ‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 32; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 36; FSU vs. UF — 45; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 49; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 55; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 58; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 65; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 70; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 77; CES 2022 begins — 84; NFL season ends — 88; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 90; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 90; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 91; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 93; NFL playoffs begin — 94; Super Bowl LVI — 123; Daytona 500 — 130; St. Pete Grand Prix — 137; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 163; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 207; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 226; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 232; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 268; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 280; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 359; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 394.
— TOP STORY —
“Leon County facing $3.57 million state fine for vaccine requirement” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis has made good on his threat to fine local governments that require employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, giving Leon County until Nov. 5 to pay a $3.57 million penalty. After Leon County Administrator Vince Long made vaccines a requirement of employment, all 714 employees had to get vaccinated or fall under a select few exemptions by Oct. 1. In all, 14 employees were fired because they declined to do so. In an Oct. 6 violation notice from the Florida Department of Health, Division Director Douglas Woodlief notified Long of the fine assessed in violation of state law.
Vince Long is facing a multimillion-dollar fine for Leon County.
“Ron DeSantis floats Florida law against vaccine-related firings” via Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg — DeSantis proposed a law to shield all workers from being fired for not getting COVID-19 vaccines a day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott banned private companies from mandating the shots. Speaking Tuesday in St. Pete Beach, Florida, DeSantis said he would contest the federal government’s plan to mandate vaccines for large private-sector businesses. DeSantis didn’t think he could “unilaterally” block employers from firing the unvaccinated using executive action, although he pledged to explore all options. Instead, he suggested that the Florida legislature would probably have to take the lead.
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis on First Lady’s cancer diagnosis: ‘She just wanted to be honest with people’” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis opened up Tuesday about First Lady Casey DeSantis’ breast cancer diagnosis, calling his wife “a very, very strong woman” who hopes disclosure of her condition inspires others to seek early screening and treatment. “It wasn’t like she was in a lot of pain. I mean, these screenings and the things that you go [through] can be really, really be lifesaving,” the Governor said. Asked about the first lady by reporters, the Governor said she is holding up well.
Casey DeSantis simply wanted to be honest with Floridians. Image via Governor’s Office.
DeSantis says Florida doesn’t need an election audit — DeSantis on Tuesday said that calls for an audit of last year’s election in some Republican circles are unwarranted. Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reported that the Governor said the state had a “successful election.” … “What we do in Florida is, there’s a pre- and postelection audit that happens automatically,” DeSantis said. “So that has happened. It passed with flying colors in terms of how that’s going. But part of the reason we had a successful election is (that) we were very much tuned into this from the very beginning of my administration and made sure we didn’t have repeats of what we’ve seen throughout this state.”
“DeSantis administration wants to shuffle Medicaid managed care market” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Medicaid-managed-care contracts remain in effect for at least another 15 months, but they’re already are rumblings about changes the state wants to see made to the program before renegotiating contracts for 2023 and beyond. Agency for Healthcare Administration Secretary Simone Marstiller told members of a House health care spending panel Monday the agency wants to scrap the current 11 Medicaid Region system and replace it with one that makes “more sense” and, she said, would improve access to rural health care. “We are hoping to be able to realign our districts so that it makes more sense,” Marstiller said.
“DeSantis announces $2 million grant for St. Pete Beach wastewater upgrades” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — DeSantis announced Tuesday the state will award St. Pete Beach a $2 million grant for wastewater infrastructure improvements, funding the Governor anticipates will allow the city to finalize its system. The grant, which comes from the state’s Job Growth Grant Fund, is expected to create 1,300 jobs and generate $13 million annually, the Governor said. The funds, which the city will match, will be used to continue and finish the wastewater system overhaul. The wastewater system overhaul will provide greater hotel capacity, in turn helping local businesses. The Governor added that hotel room revenue in Florida during August 2021 was up 11% compared to pre-pandemic rates in August 2019.
Ron DeSantis touts a major wastewater upgrade for Pinellas County.
“Florida, national school board associations at odds over federal call for protection” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — The Florida School Boards Association is decrying its national organization’s call for enhanced federal involvement in protecting school board members as “federal overreach” and another reason the state chapter is withholding its dues. That Sept. 29 letter from the National School Boards Association spurred U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to issue an order. And that triggered DeSantis to decry “weaponizing” the U.S. Justice Department to intimidate concerned parents. Now the FSBA is speaking up. The NSBA letter had requested the “expedited review” of school board threats from the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education and Homeland Security, along with help from the FBI’s Security Branch and Counterterrorism Division.
“Digital driver’s licenses and IDs ready for public download next month” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Floridians could start downloading an app for digital driver’s licenses next month, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. In an update before a Senate panel Tuesday, FLHSMV officials said the Florida Smart-ID app is already live but unavailable to the public. The department is on schedule to put the digital ID public on the Apple App Store and Android Google Play store in mid-November. Senate Transportation Committee Chair Gayle Harrell called smartphones a marvelous tool for digital driver’s licenses and other identifications. The state began the process of developing digital driver’s licenses in 2014. “We all have these instruments in our pockets,” Harrell said. “They have become our way of life, our lifeline, truly, to the world.”
— DATELINE TALLY —
“Bills to expand hate crimes in Florida refiled for 2022 Legislative Session” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Nearly three years have passed since Florida State University student Maura Binkley and professor Dr. Nancy Van Vessem were shot to death at a Tallahassee yoga studio by a male shooter who had expressed hatred toward women. And the state’s hate crime law hasn’t been changed to punish crimes related to gender, gender identity, and people with physical disabilities. Binkley was among several speakers, all members of the Florida Hate Crime Coalition, at the news conference to announce legislation reintroduced by state Sen. Lori Berman and state Rep. Joe Geller to amend the state’s 30-year-old hate crime law to recognize physical disabilities, gender and gender identity as hate crime motivators.
A new bill would make the Tallahassee yoga studio shooting a hate crime.
“Florida Department of Veterans Affairs shares Session priorities” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Florida Department of Veterans Affairs briefed lawmakers Tuesday ahead of the 2022 Legislative Session, prompting one lawmaker to lambaste the federal VA’s handling and treatment of veterans. Led by Executive Director James Hartsell, the department links veterans with federal benefits, such as the GI Bill. They also help attract transitioning service members into Florida, among other missions. The return on investment, Hartsell highlighted, is significant. Florida hosts the third-largest veteran population in the nation, and many of those veterans, he said, infuse the state economy with upward of $18.4 billion.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“COVID-19 in Florida: State reports 2,124 new cases, adds 887 to total death toll” via David Schutz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida reported 2,124 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and increased its total death count by 887, according to the CDC. The latest deaths came over the past couple of weeks because deaths are counted on the day they occur, not the day they are reported. The average for new cases is down to 3,052 as of Tuesday, and the average for deaths based on the date reported was 240. There have been 3,611,767 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, and at least 57,300 Floridians have died since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalizations have been dropping since they peaked in mid-August. As of Tuesday, 3,307 patients were in Florida hospitals with COVID-19, a 27.5% decline from the previous week and the fewest patients since mid-July.
“DeSantis prediction of Florida monoclonal antibody shortage hasn’t come true” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — When the federal government cut back Florida’s supply of monoclonal antibodies in September, DeSantis went on the offensive. In social media posts and appearances at news conferences and on television, DeSantis protested what he said was a partisan and “cruel” decision by the federal government meant to penalize Florida. But nearly a month after the federal government cut back Florida’s supply, the state isn’t running low. Data reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that state hospitals had more than 21,000 doses of monoclonal antibodies on hand as of Sunday.
Despite warnings, monoclonal antibody treatments are not running short in Florida.
“There’s not much ‘tracing’ in Florida’s COVID-19 contact tracing program” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — Contact tracing can break the chain of disease transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The White House calls contact tracing “one of the core state preparedness responsibilities” in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister of Australia credits diligent contact tracing with keeping the number of coronavirus deaths in his nation to just under 1,400. But while Florida is spending tens of millions of dollars on contact tracing, it can’t say whether the program is helping slow the coronavirus. The state Department of Health doesn’t know how many calls are being made by its contact tracers because it doesn’t keep track of them, department spokesman Alberto Moscoso said.
“Orlando water emergency ends with decline of COVID-19 hospitalizations” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando’s water emergency is over, city leaders said on Tuesday, citing a downturn in the summer’s soaring demand for liquid oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients. Liquid oxygen also plays a critical role in purifying water provided by Orlando Utilities Commission. Over the nearly seven weeks of liquid oxygen shortages, the city reduced water usage by an average of 10%, averting the need for a boil-water alert. In late August, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and OUC officials urged a cutback on water usage.
“School District of Palm Beach County standing firm on mask mandate” via Stephanie Susskind of WPTV — The district is still waiting on official communication from the state about a 48-hour deadline to comply with a Florida Department of Health emergency rule which allows a parental opt-out to a school district’s mask policy. Superintendent Mike Burke has outlined four criteria the school district wants to meet before relaxing facial covering rules for students. Those criteria include the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11, fewer than 50 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, and a positivity rate below 8%.
“The mysterious disappearance of $1 million of restaurant relief funds in Sarasota” via Laura Finaldi of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — On a list of Sarasota restaurants that got more than $1 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, one stands out. The index of the top restaurant grant recipients, behind Siesta Key’s Captain Curt’s Crab and Oyster Bar, lists a $1,685,677 grant awarded to a woman named Heather Perkins, supposedly for a catering business. Problem is, Perkins said she’s never catered anything in her life. She said she wasn’t aware her name was attached to a federal grant — let alone one topping more than $1 million — until she was recently contacted by a Herald-Tribune reporter. Perkins said she was baffled that the U.S. Small Business Administration grant had her name on it.
Did Captain Curt’s Crab and Oyster Bar actually get $1.6 million in COVID-19 relief?
“Chance encounter at sports bar causes anti-vax man to change his mind” via Nick Papantonis of ABC 9 — Mark Hall was very clear about where he stood on coronavirus vaccines — never, ever would he get one. Hall then met Dr. Duane Mitchell, a neurosurgeon and University of Florida Assistant Vice President for Research, who had come to the bar for dinner after getting off work late. A video posted by the University of Florida showed Hall getting his dose, with his new friend Mitchell beaming in the doorway. Hall offered Mitchell insight into vaccine resistance and said he was trying to convince other holdouts he knew that the shots were safe and effective.
— 2022 —
“Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam joins more than 90 endorsing Charlie Crist for Governor” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Messam is backing U.S. Rep. Crist to unseat DeSantis next year. “The people of Florida need a unifier at the helm of our state, someone with the ability to unite folks from all walks of life and pave a path forward that empowers and uplifts Floridians, not tears them down, that person is Charlie Crist,” Messam said. Crist said he was “humbled and thankful” to gain Messam’s endorsement and highlighted his desire to “restore honor and civility” to politics in Florida.
A story in three parts: #FlaPol pic.twitter.com/VA3oUE2Qvb
— corey 🤠 🎃 (@coreyadamyk) October 12, 2021
Assignment editors — Crist will participate in a roundtable meeting in Miami with local Haitian community leaders hosted by Councilman Alix Duselme, President of the National Association of Haitian Elected Officials, 10 a.m., RSVP to [email protected] for location.
Spotted — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried with an op-ed on Univision.com about the battle for democracy in Florida.
First on #FlaPol — Wilton Simpson raises $600K+ for Ag Commissioner campaign — Senate President Simpson raised more than $600,000 through his campaign and political committees last month, his first in the race for Agriculture Commissioner. Finance reports show Simpson raised about $500,000 through his four political committees, with another $110,000 flowing into his official campaign account. He started October with a combined $5.68 million in the bank. Currently, he faces only nominal opposition for the Cabinet seat, which is open due to current Commissioner Fried running for Governor rather than reelection.
Spotted — In the newly announced first round of “On the radar” candidates from the National Republican Congressional Committee, part of the Young Guns program: Brady Duke (CD 7), Anna Paulina Luna (CD 13), Amanda Makki (CD 13) and Cory Mills (CD 7).
“‘Get off Zoom calls and start interacting.’ Hispanic Dems say they’re ignored in CD 20” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Rolando Barrero is the type of person a congressional candidate ought to know. Barrero, an art gallery owner and President of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus in Palm Beach County, hosts voter registration events and organizes rallies with committed party stalwarts who could help knock on doors and move the needle in a competitive election. But since longtime U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings died in April, triggering a Special Primary Election scheduled for Nov. 2, Barrero, who lives in Hastings’ district, said he’s heard from just one of the 11 Democrats running. “There’s absolutely no outreach to Hispanic voters,” Barrero said. “Only one of them made an attempt on a Zoom call to address the Hispanic community.”
“Griff Griffitts continues to crush Brian Clowdus in fundraising” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Bay County Commissioner Griffitts continues to hold a dominating fundraising lead over theater professional Clowdus. And he’s not spending money at nearly as fast a rate. Griffitts, the leading Republican in House District 6, pulled in $12,600 in September, most of that through large donations from Panama City-based businesses. That brought his total monetary contributions to $131,615. Moreover, he’s spent little of that and still holds $129,479 in cash on hand. Clowdus, meanwhile, raised $1,717 in September and has pulled in around $20,626 throughout the campaign. And unlike Griffitts, he has spent most of it and has just $7,469 in the bank.
—”David Borrero raises $14K in September for HD 105 reelection” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
—“Unopposed Vance Aloupis nears $120K after second-best fundraising month this cycle” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
—“Jim Mooney adds $10K in September for now-unopposed HD 120 defense” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics
“Pasco Commissioners pick new district lines that could cut out a school board member” via Barbara Behrendt and Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Pasco County commissioners gave a tentative nod Tuesday to new political district lines that would add the second home of Commissioner Kathryn Starkey into her district, but would also cut School Board member Alison Crumbley out of hers. Commissioners said it was not a big deal for the schools to tweak their district lines. But the move didn’t sit well with school officials, who in recent years have kept the exact district boundaries as the County Commissioners. District boundaries will now go to a public hearing in early December to be finalized. Assistant superintendent Ray Gadd told commissioners after their vote that School Board members hadn’t even seen the maps the commission was considering.
— CORONA NATION —
“Joe Biden is losing COVID-19 trust” via Margaret Talev of Axios — Americans’ trust in Biden has eroded as they’ve slowed their expectations for how quickly they can get back to their pre-pandemic lives. These findings suggest that two trends we’ve been watching for a while are not a coincidence but cause-and-effect. That’s hurting Biden with Democrats as well as independents. In our June survey, 36% of U.S. adults said they expected to be able to get back to their normal, pre-COVID-19 lives at some point within six months. Today, that share is just 13%. Most Democrats say they still have some degree of trust in Biden to provide them accurate information on COVID-19, but that trust has softened significantly.
America’s trust is slipping away from Joe Biden. Image via AP.
“White House says Greg Abbott and DeSantis putting their political ‘interests’ ahead of Biden’s vaccine mandates” via Christian Datoc of Yahoo News — Jen Psaki repeatedly criticized Govs. Abbott and DeSantis for putting the “interests of your own politics” ahead of the “interests of the people you are governing.” Psaki’s comments came during Monday’s White House press briefing as she suggested the administration did not plan to “sue” Abbott, DeSantis, or their states for seeking to block Biden‘s pending OSHA rules that would mandate large businesses to vaccinate their employees. She added that, unlike the two Republican leaders, “to get out of this pandemic, the president will use every lever at his disposal.”
“Moderna argues the FDA should authorize a half-dose of its vaccine as a booster.” via Sharon LaFraniere of The New York Times — The FDA set the stage Tuesday for a new round of decisions on which Americans should get coronavirus booster shots, releasing a review of data suggesting that an additional half-dose of Moderna’s vaccine at least six months after the second dose increased antibody levels. But the agency did not take a position on whether an extra shot was necessary. An independent advisory panel of experts will examine the available data on both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters in a two-day meeting later this week. Votes are scheduled on whether to recommend emergency authorization of boosters for both vaccines. While the panel’s votes are not binding, the FDA typically follows them.
“Across America, students are back in school. It’s working — but it’s weird.” via Hannah Natanson, Kim Mueller and Steven Burkholder of The Washington Post — Intense ideological fights over what and how educators should teach about race, racism and American history have further complicated the return to school. In at least five states, Republican-led legislatures passed laws over the summer restricting what teachers can say about race in the classroom. The battles over school mask-wearing, vaccine mandates, and how educators should teach about race, racism and American history have further complicated the return to school. Also disruptive to learning, parents and educators say, is quarantining.
Kids are back in school, and it seems weird.
“VA nursing home didn’t follow federal guidelines to contain COVID-19. 11 residents died.” via Donovan Slack of USA Today — Leaders and staff at a federal veterans’ nursing home in Illinois mismanaged a coronavirus outbreak that killed 11 residents in fall 2020, well after employees had been put on notice about the danger the pandemic posed to its elderly population, a government investigation found. A staff member exposed at home was denied a test and told to wear a mask while finishing a shift caring for residents. The employee tested positive the next day. Testing was inconsistent, even after the virus spread within the Veterans Affairs complex in Danville, in a rural part of the state near the Indiana border. Isolation of exposed individuals, even those who tested positive, was haphazard.
“Tucker Carlson makes a great point about Fox News’s vaccination policy” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — After Biden announced his policy for businesses with more than 100 employees last month, and Fox criticized it alongside stricter vaccine mandates, critics of Fox News have responded by pointing to Fox News’s vaccine policy, which is quite similar to that of Biden. In fact, Fox News does not mandate vaccines; it requires either vaccination or daily testing. Biden’s mandate calls for weekly testing. They’ve often pilloried Biden’s policy as if it were the same as the true vaccine mandates instituted by various businesses and local governments.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“A record number of workers are quitting their jobs, empowered by new leverage” via Eli Rosenberg and Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post — The number of people quitting their jobs has surged to record highs, pushed by a combination of factors that include Americans sensing ample opportunity and better pay elsewhere. Some 4.3 million people quit jobs in August, about 2.9% of the workforce. Those numbers are up from the previous records set in April, of about 4 million people quitting, reflecting how the pandemic has continued to jolt workers’ mindsets about their jobs and lives. The phenomenon is being driven by workers who are less willing to endure inconvenient hours and poor compensation, quitting instead to find better opportunities.
American workers are quitting in droves. Image via Reuters.
— MORE CORONA —
What Christina Pushaw is reading — “Southwest president says nothing nefarious behind flight cancellations, airline eyes holiday travel cuts” via Dawn Gilbertson of USA Today — After a rocky summer of flight cancellations and delays amid a travel surge from pandemic lows, Southwest Airlines thought things were looking up. The airline’s executives told employees in late September that the operation had been stable since mid-August. On-time performance, a dismal 62% in June, was back up over 80% in September. The momentum was short-lived. Southwest fell apart again over the weekend, canceling more than 1,900 flights Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, a busy fall break and holiday weekend travel day, the airline axed 30% of its flights, stranding travelers across the country. Monday cancellations were a fraction of weekend levels, but Southwest still led all carriers in cancellations, with more than 350.
There’s nothing nefarious about Southwest’s wave of cancellations, the company president says.
“COVID-19 and age” via David Leonhardt of The New York Times — The risks for unvaccinated children look similar to the risks for vaccinated people in their 50s. Nationwide statistics from England show an even larger age skew. Children under 12 (a group combined with teenagers) appear to be at less risk than vaccinated people in their 40s, if not 30s. “COVID is a threat to children. But it’s not an extraordinary threat,” Dr. Alasdair Munro, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at the University of Southampton, has written. There is obviously some distressing news in these comparisons. For older people — especially the very old, as well as those with serious health conditions — vaccination does not reduce the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization or death to near zero. That’s different from what the initial vaccine data suggested.
“Ted Cruz & Co. promote nonexistent anti-vax airline ‘strike’” via Adam Rawnsley of The Daily Beast — Republican Senators and Congressmen who have railed against vaccine mandates rushed to praise a protest by airline workers who were resisting getting the shot. There’s just one slight problem: There’s no evidence it actually exists. It all started this weekend when Southwest Airlines canceled over 1,800 flights, stranding passengers across the country. Other airlines, however, didn’t see mass flight cancellations. Denials from Southwest’s pilots’ union and the airline haven’t stopped Republican members of Congress from praising the unprovable vaccine protest and condemning the airline for mandating jabs.
“The mysterious case of the COVID-19 lab-leak theory” via Carolyn Kormann of The New Yorker — As the pandemic progressed, not everyone was convinced by the natural-origin explanation. A zoonotic spillover would likely require an intermediate animal between bats and humans, but no such species has yet been identified. Initially, the Huanan market, seemed like the source. Nearly a third of the hundred and 74 earliest known cases were linked to Huanan. And yet, patient zero likely was not. Chinese officials have said he was a middle-aged accountant who developed symptoms on Dec. 8. In May 2020, George Fu Gao, the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “At first, we assumed the seafood market might have the virus, but now the market is more like a victim. The novel coronavirus had existed long before.”
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden administration doubles down on use of Donald Trump policy to expel migrants from U.S.” via Caitlin Dickson of Yahoo News — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas doubled down this week on the Biden administration’s use of a controversial Trump-era policy known as Title 42, dismissing recent criticism from a former senior State Department official who called the policy “illegal” and “inhumane.” In a Tuesday interview aired at an international security conference hosted by the nonprofit Soufan Center in Doha, Qatar, Mayorkas said that Title 42 “is not an immigration policy that we in this administration would embrace.” Rather, he insisted, the policy is seen as a “public health imperative.”
Title 42 is a Donald Trump-era immigration holdover. Image via AP.
“Biden council will tell federal agencies to put gender front and center when making policy” via Francesca Chambers of the Miami Herald — The President’s Gender Policy Council, as early as this month, will instruct federal agencies to begin considering the potential adverse effects that their actions can have on women. Agencies will also be asked to identify areas where they can exercise their enforcement authority to prevent gender discrimination and to produce plans for how they will advance gender fairness. The directive will rely heavily on government agencies to develop concrete plans and map out their own budget and staffing needs to promote gender equality. Implementation of those plans are likely to take years. Women leaders whose input the White House sought, say they were told by the Gender Policy Council that it would provide a blueprint to federal agencies on how to proceed without detailing specific policies.
“‘Hiding the ball’: Hunter Biden complicates White House anti-corruption push” via Ben Schreckenger of POLITICO — Most recently, news broke this summer that Hunter Biden would begin selling paintings, with initial prices as high as $500,000. It was an extraordinary sum for a debut artist, and immediately invited concerns that people who wanted to ingratiate themselves with the President would overpay for his son’s art. So far, right-leaning outlets that devoted less attention to the ethical issues raised by the activities of Trump’s relatives have had a field day with the Hunter Biden story. Joe Biden has instituted strict ethics rules for executive branch personnel, a move praised by watchdog groups, even as some have called for him to do more to push for the legislative reforms he promised on the campaign trail.
— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —
“The Donald Trump nightmare looms again” via Michael Gerson of The Washington Post — It is increasingly evident that the nightmare prospect of American politics, unified Republican control of the federal government in the hands of a reelected, empowered Trump in 2025, is also the likely outcome. Why this is a nightmare should be clear enough. Democrats need to significantly outperform Republicans in national matchups to obtain even mediocre results in presidential and Senate races. And his support among Republicans has grown. Trump and his strongest supporters are in a feedback loop of radicalization.
Is the Donald Trump nightmare set to return? Image via Reuters.
“Trump won the county in a landslide. His supporters still hounded the elections administrator until she resigned.” via Jeremy Schwartz of ProPublica — Michele Carew, who had overseen scores of elections during her 14-year career, had found herself transformed into the public face of an electoral system that many in the heavily Republican Hood County had come to mistrust. Her critics sought to abolish her position and give her duties to an elected county clerk who has used social media to promote baseless allegations of widespread election fraud. Carew, who was hired to run elections in Hood County two-and-a-half months before, worried that the forces that tried to drive her out will spread to other counties in the state. “When I started out, election administrators were appreciated and highly respected,” she said. “Now we are made out to be the bad guys.”
— CRISIS —
“Can Trump use executive privilege to stall the Jan. 6 investigation?” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post — Trump is trying to do something that is without modern precedent: use executive privilege, even though he’s no longer President, to stop Congress from investigating his role in fomenting the violence of Jan. 6. Can he? Biden ultimately decides that, and the White House has said it will cooperate with the investigators. But at the very least, Trump could prevent the committee from getting what it wants just by putting up a fight that could test the limits of current presidential power vs. a former president’s rights.
“Daniel Baker sentenced to federal prison in Florida Capitol threat case” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Baker, the U.S. Army veteran turned overseas militia member who posted a violent “call to arms” online ahead of feared right-wing protests at the Florida Capitol, was sentenced Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor sentenced Baker to 44 months, or a little over 3½ years, in prison during a hearing at the federal courthouse in Tallahassee. Winsor also ordered Baker, 34, to serve three years of federal supervision following his release. A video posted to YouTube by Baker describes “My first battle against Isis in Syria, I killed many terrorists, rescued 3 VICE news reporters and saved 2 wounded friends.” Baker was convicted in May on charges that he used the internet to transmit “true threats” to kidnap or injure.
It’s hard time for Daniel Baker.
“Adam Schiff: The risk of authoritarianism is ‘greater than it’s ever been’” via Hunter Walker of Rolling Stone — Schiff, chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and head of Congress’ investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection, is adamant that the false allegations of election fraud advanced by Trump and his allies have brought us to a dangerous point. And he blames many of his colleagues in Washington, D.C., for helping push the country over the edge. Schiff’s new book, Midnight in Washington, documents his front-row seat to a moment he calls “our present unraveling.” One of the more striking elements of Schiff’s book is his up-close-and-personal description of the tensions that have developed between his Democratic colleagues and Republican members who backed Trump’s effort to overturn the election.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“House temporarily raises debt ceiling, averting default” via Alayna Treene of Axios — The House of Representatives followed the Senate on Tuesday, voting 219-206 along party lines to raise the federal debt ceiling and officially avert a potential default. While Congress has pushed off the debt limit issue, for now, the fight over a final resolution will be even uglier come December, when lawmakers need to address the problem once again. The $480 billion increase will allow the government to avoid a default at least until Dec. 3. By then, the two parties will likely be in the same spot they were just a week ago: Republicans obstructing Democrats’ efforts to lift the ceiling, and Democrats insisting they won’t extend it unilaterally via the budget reconciliation process.
House Democrats give the debt ceiling a bit more time. Image via AP.
“As Democrats dither, Biden bleeds out” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — while Democrats squabble over relatively minor differences in how much to spend over how long a time, Republicans have again gone demagogic, raising phony threats about socialism, trillions of dollars of additional debt and a Gestapo-like IRS. Democrats can’t counter the slander or sell the (broadly popular) plan, because they haven’t finalized the details. And as Democrats dither, Biden is bleeding out; his support has dropped into the low 40s. This is one of those times that proves true the adage of the great early 20th-century humorist Will Rogers: “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
“‘We suffer while you debate’: Many fear being left behind as Democrats trim spending bill” via Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Jim Tankersley of The New York Times — Democrats in Congress are curbing their ambitions for Biden’s economic agenda. Biden began his presidency with an expensive and wide-ranging plan to remake the U.S. economy. But under the duress of negotiations and Senate rules, he has shelved a series of his most ambitious proposals, some of them indefinitely. He has been thwarted in his efforts to raise the federal minimum wage and create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He has pared back investments in lead pipe removal and other efforts that would help communities of color.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Florida’s business relocation boom” via Amy Keller of Florida Trend — A decade or so ago, Kelly Smallridge and her colleagues at the Business Development Board launched an initiative called Behind the Gates to try to lure Wall Street CEOs with second homes in Palm Beach to open offices in the area. Several firms opened 2,000 to 4,000 sq. ft. satellite offices with a dozen or fewer employees. Then COVID-19 hit. “Those 2,000 to 3,000 or 4,000 sq, ft. offices now started to sign leases in the range of 10,000 up to 50,000 square feet — and company executives began to legally domicile in Florida, which means you have to be here for six months and a day,” Smallridge says.
“First 2021-22 citrus forecast predicts continued rot in Florida orange production” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The USDA is projecting another decline in Florida citrus production in its first forecast of the 2021-22 season. Analysts say 47 million boxes of Florida oranges will be produced, with 28 million boxes of Valencia oranges and 19 million boxes of non-Valencia oranges. That’s a 16% drop in non-Valencia orange production from the final 2020-21 season levels and a 7% reduction in Valencia orange production. Overall orange production would be down 11% if those projections hold. That continues a yearslong slide in beginning-of-season projections. The 2021-22 projections mark the lowest from the Department of Agriculture, dating back to at least 1996.
Florida citrus continues its rot.
“Amazon expanding in Tallahassee with ‘Project Cyprus,’ 123,115 square-foot warehouse” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Property records obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat show the world’s largest online retailer paid $3.4 million for nearly 30 acres on the southside of Northwest Passage off Capital Circle Northwest near Home Depot. The land is about 15 miles away from the construction zone that will become Amazon’s capital city fulfillment center, hailed as the biggest economic development project in the city and county’s history. “I can say they were a pleasure to deal with,” said Stewart Proctor, managing director for Ciminelli Real Estate Services in Tallahassee, adding it took about a year to complete the deal.
“How to handle break in Jacksonville’s curbside recycling? Be patient, complain, group says” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville has been without curbside recycling collections for about a week, and people who don’t want to put recyclables in their trash are thinking about what to do. The Southeast Recycling Development Council has been thinking, too, and watching many cities have trouble finding truck drivers to handle trash-hauling and recycling collection. “We certainly hate to see this situation evolving in locations throughout the U.S.,” said Jen Dabbs, outreach director for the group, which shared some thoughts on how to handle Jacksonville’s collection hiatus. If people really want to get curbside recycling back, companies are willing to set up what recyclers call alternative collection services.
“Pensacola City Council leaves door open to starting its own power utility” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — The Pensacola City Council could soon discuss whether to pursue the option of creating a city-owned utility company, rather than forging ahead with negotiating a 30-year deal with Gulf Power, but it won’t happen this week after a failed attempt to add it to the council’s agenda last-minute. The measure comes about two years into the city’s negotiations with Gulf Power to craft a 30-year franchise agreement that would allow Gulf Power, acquired by Florida Power & Light in 2019, to have exclusive rights to operate within the city. The city did previously have a franchise agreement with the company, but it expired in 2009, leaving the city working on a month-to-month agreement model.
“Bill Mutz says Lakeland mayoral challenger Saga Stevin feigned Grady Judd endorsement” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Mutz accused his challenger of trying to trick voters into thinking she was endorsed by Polk County Sheriff Judd. The only problem is that Judd doesn’t endorse municipal candidates. The mailer, sent out earlier this month by Saga’s campaign, shows Stevin in a photograph with Judd. That photo is flanked by her with former Mayor Howard Wiggs and one of her with County Commissioner Neil Combee. The mailer reads: “Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs, Sheriff Grady Judd, and County Commissioner Neil Combee with Saga Stevin.” Combee and Wiggs have publicly endorsed Stevin. Judd has not. Mutz last week told the Ledger the intent was clear.
Stuck in the middle: Both sides of the Lakeland Mayor’s race suggest an endorsement from Grady Judd.
“‘Untenable and unsustainable’: Miami Mayor stands by manager’s move to oust police chief” via Joey Flechas and Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez broke his silence Tuesday at City Hall about the controversy that has erupted around Police Chief Art Acevedo, who is suspended and facing termination as soon as Wednesday. Suarez, a key player in the hiring of Acevedo, had for weeks refused to speak publicly about whether he stands by his pick, or discuss Acevedo’s allegations of corruption at City Hall. In a news conference outside his second-floor office, Suarez stood by the decision of City Manager Art Noriega to suspend the chief and recommend his firing to the commission. But he also wished Acevedo “the best of luck in the future.”
“Town blames rival for blocking big-money detention center. Now it wants $150 million.” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A long-running feud has finally made its way to a courtroom, where six jurors will decide whether Pembroke Pines is to blame for blocking a lucrative detention center from being built in Southwest Ranches. In a lawsuit filed nearly a decade ago, Southwest Ranches claims Pembroke Pines cost the town millions by refusing to provide water and sewer service to what would have been one of the nation’s largest immigration detention centers. Town Attorney Keith Poliakoff says he plans to argue that Pembroke Pines owes Southwest Ranches more than $150 million in damages. The case hinges on whether Pembroke Pines had the right to back out of an agreement with Southwest Ranches to provide water and sewer service to the site.
“Lawsuit aims to invalidate referendum on redevelopment plan for marinas on Virginia Key” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — The future of valuable city-owned land on Virginia Key could be determined in Miami’s Nov. 2 election, but a newly filed lawsuit seeks to invalidate a ballot question that would give the current operator of Miami’s Rickenbacker Marina exclusive rights to negotiate a long-term lease. On Friday, Virginia Key, LLC, a company led by investors who twice in the last six years have sought unsuccessfully to redevelop the 27-acre property on the west side of Virginia Key, filed suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court against the city of Miami, Miami-Dade County Elections Supervisor Christina White and Biscayne Marine Partners, led by current marina operator Aabad Melwani.
“Landscape or lawsuit? Citrus County gives HOA an ultimatum” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — A homeowners group finds itself having to pay to maintain the landscaped median of U.S. 98, or risk being sued by Citrus County Commissioners. The County Commission voted 5-0 Tuesday to force the Oak Village Homeowners Association to begin maintaining about a mile of landscaping in the median due to a 2019 agreement that involved the county, Oak Village, and the Florida Department of Transportation. Under a prior HOA leadership, Oak Village, a Sugarmill Woods community bordering Hernando County, sought the agreement with the county and FDOT to plant landscaping in the median to attract motorists coming off the Suncoast Parkway heading west past the community entrances.
— TOP OPINION —
“What do all these stories of vaccine denial deaths do to our sense of empathy?” via Maura Judkis of The Washington Post — For the past two months, the internet has been a graveyard of stories about unvaccinated deaths, which make up the majority of the pandemic’s current victims. News outlets track down cautionary tales, the new mother who got to hold her baby only once, the husband and wife who died two weeks apart, the young and healthy athlete struck down in his prime, the autistic 28-year-old, and record their family’s sorrow. The narrative is even more potent when the victim expresses a dying wish for others to get vaccinated, and regrets their decision not to.
— OPINIONS —
“An encouraging turn in the pandemic” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — It’s too soon to declare mission accomplished, and the economy needs more time to recover. But the nation is approaching the winter holiday season in a better place with COVID-19. Now is the time to redouble the push for vaccinations and to make smart choices that’ll help America return to a sense of normal. Infections, hospitalizations and deaths all continued to fall last week as Florida’s positivity rate dropped below 5% for the first time since June. Data show a 33% drop in cases in Florida from the week before and the lowest weekly infection rate since early July. The brighter outlook is a credit to employers, a sharper public information campaign and the concerted effort by the federal government to vaccinate younger Americans and get boosters into the pipeline.
“We are Republicans. There’s only one way to save our party from pro-Trump extremists.” via Miles Taylor and Christine Todd Whitman in The New York Times — After Trump’s defeat, there was a measure of hope among Republicans who opposed him that control of the party would be up for grabs and that conservative pragmatists could take it back. But it’s become obvious that political extremists maintain a viselike grip on the national and state parties and the process for fielding and championing House and Senate candidates in next year’s elections. Rational Republicans are losing the party civil war. And the only near-term way to battle pro-Trump extremists is for all of us to team up on key races and overarching political goals with our longtime political opponents: the Democrats.
“Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo about to be fired; Mayor Francis Suarez, you blew it” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Suarez, this is on you. Your decision to bypass public scrutiny and secretly hire a flashy police chief has crashed and burned, embarrassing the city and distracting its police force from their vital public service mission, while stopping vital department reforms in their tracks. Shame on you. Never mind what Acevedo did wrong, though the list long. Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo, who led the charge to get rid of Acevedo, insisted the chief had not been properly vetted for the $315,000 a year job. He was right. Regardless of Acevedo’s antics, the original sin here is how he was hired.
“Diversity vs. excellence is a false choice” via Paul Cottle in the Tampa Bay Times — Fortunately, there is a way for the K-12 system to broaden access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields for all students, even those from disadvantaged backgrounds, without sacrificing excellence. And the best example in Florida of such an approach is in Orange County. To qualify for a seventh grade Algebra 1 class, Florida students generally must score 4 or 5 (out of 5) on the state’s sixth grade math Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). Instead of doing this, Orange County Public Schools recruit sixth graders from a broad range of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds with scores of 3 on the sixth grade math FSA into seventh grade Algebra 1 classes and then provides these students with an extraordinary amount of support.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis opens up publicly for the first time, about his wife’s breast cancer diagnosis.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Meanwhile, the Governor is following through on his promise to fine local governments for mandating vaccines as a condition of employment. Leon County alone was slapped with over a $3.5 million fine.
— And there is a big shake-up in the city of Miami, as its Police Chief is expected to be forced out today, just after six months on the job.
— On the Sunrise Interview, Danny Rivero is a reporter and producer for WLRN Public Radio. Rivero will break down the big shake-up in Miami’s police department. Also, he talks about why he had to block the Governor’s press secretary on Twitter.
— Democratic Rep. Allison Tant, part of the Leon County legislative delegation, speaks out against DeSantis for imposing the multimillion-dollar fine against the county for its COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Will Packer to headline FAMU Homecoming, cut the ribbon on Performance Arts Amphitheater” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Packer will headline FAMU’s Homecoming 2021 festivities with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Performing Arts Amphitheater that carries his name. “We are excited to have alumnus Will Packer celebrate Homecoming with us this year,” FAMU President Larry Robinson said. “Will has set an example for others to follow and has given back to FAMU in so many ways. His name on the Performance Arts Amphitheater for the world to see is a fitting tribute to his generosity and commitment to his alma mater.” Packer, who earned an engineering degree at FAMU, started working on his first movie, Chocolate City, with fellow Rattler Rob Hardy while still on campus.
Will Packer makes a triumphant return to FAMU for a special honor. Image via AP.
“Jon Gruden is 58. This is who he was, is, always will be. NFL has no place for him.” via Hal Habib of the Pensacola News Journal — In 2001, People named Gruden one of the world’s 50 most beautiful people. The perception we have of Gruden, now, is one that must never change. Today in news stories circulating around the world, adjectives such as misogynistic, homophobic, racist, hurtful and bigoted are being used to describe both the language Gruden prefers within his inner circle as well as a description of the man himself. This was not some one-off transgression, as Gruden tried to pass off the first inkling of trouble involving his offensive description of union head DeMaurice Smith last week.
“As red flags mount, Jaguars’ Urban Meyer must show he can handle NFL” via Gene Frenette of The Florida Times-Union — Only five games into his first NFL coaching venture, I expected Meyer to at least be more buttoned-up by now, but the Jaguars’ sideline boss seems so unsure of himself. Not too unlike a kicker who has lost some confidence. Nobody could rightfully expect Meyer to have this whole college-to-NFL transition thing down pat immediately, but he doesn’t seem to be adjusting as quickly as he should. Almost every week, Meyer looks either uncomfortable on the sideline or says head-scratching things after games. Granted, most football coaches who are 0-5 must deal with some type of criticism, but Meyer has done little so far to quell the skeptics who said from the get-go that he would struggle mightily in adjusting to the NFL.
“Lego ends marketing of different toys at girls and boys” via Christian Wienberg of Bloomberg — Lego Group will no longer target some toy sets at girls and others at boys to help break stereotypes about how children play, ending years of gender-based marketing. The decision comes after a survey commissioned by the Danish company showed that most children see toys as being for one or the other gender. Lego isn’t planning to change its products but will stop segmenting them into gender categories, Lena Dixen, a senior vice president at the world’s largest toymaker, told broadcaster TV2. Three out of four boys believe that some toys are only for girls and some are only for boys, while 62% of girls held the same view.
“South Tampa Halloween light show raises money for charity” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — A line of cars pull up at 7:45 p.m. on a recent Friday night in South Tampa. They park on the tree-lined road and get out. Neighbors amble over, kids already in pajamas. By 8 p.m., more than 50 people have found a spot on the sidewalk or across the street to watch a dazzling 20-minute light and special effects show. There is music, video, computerized dancing lights and even sparks and fireballs that wow the crowd. At the end, they cheer. Sam Johnson was a teenager when he came up with an idea to entertain and give back. The largely self-taught techie puts on three shows a night every weekend during Halloween and in December for Christmas to raise money for charity.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Adam Corey, Cesar Fernandez, Kevin Hofmann, and Amber Smith.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.