Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.14.21
Good Tuesday morning.
The Sachs Media team grew by three this week, with the addition of Taylore Maxey, Chloe Swicegood, and Natalie Hernesman.
They join an already impressive lineup of top communications professionals who offer a full suite of capabilities, including strategy, public relations, public affairs, crisis communications, research, digital and social media, creative, marketing, and video production.
“As we’ve navigated many organizations through the pandemic, our roster of clients has continued to grow — and so our roster of communicators has grown with it,” said firm founder and CEO Ron Sachs. “These newest colleagues add knowledge, skills, and abilities that will make an important difference for all our clients.”
Taylore Maxey, Chloe Swicegood, and Natalie Hernesman will make a formidable team at Sachs Media.
Maxey joins Sachs Media’s public relations team as an account manager. The Troy University alum most recently served as press secretary for the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, where she oversaw communications and marketing campaigns for the state’s affordable housing programs and resources.
Hernesman, who graduated from USF with honors earlier this year, was hired as an Account Coordinator. She comes to the firm from the USF NewZRoom, where she worked as a reporter uncovering newsworthy content across the Tampa Bay area, including political reporting during the 2020 elections.
Swicegood will also be serving as an Account Coordinator. Before joining the Sachs Media team, she graduated from FSU with a bachelor’s degree in English, concentrating on editing, writing, and media, and with a minor in political science. During an internship, while pursuing her degree, Swicegood worked for a Florida-based nonprofit, where she helped veterans obtain career opportunities in STEM fields.
“These three communicators are a tremendous addition to our team and will help serve our diverse clientele,” said Sachs Media President and Partner Michelle Ubben. “With their diverse backgrounds, they’ll bring unique and individualized perspectives to our agency.”
Did you hear the ding when Sunburn hit your inbox? First, why are you awake? Second, get decent and step outside so you can catch the back half of the Geminid meteor shower.
The celestial event, named for the Gemini constellation, is thought to be a Palladian asteroid with a “rock comet” orbit. It and the Quadrantids are the only major meteor showers not originating from comets.
And, unlike those born under the Gemini zodiac sign, it’s reliable and predictable — it happens between Dec. 4 and Dec. 17 every year.
Read Sunburn first, then go outside.
Trekkie-sounding lingo aside, there will be as many as 160 meteors streaking across the sky every hour. It peaked during the 2 a.m. hour, but the show isn’t over. It doesn’t matter where you are, either, as the Geminid shower can be seen from anywhere in the world.
Moonlight can make it difficult to see the meteors, as can light pollution, so make sure to turn off the lights and your phone screen — after you finish scrolling through Sunburn, of course — to up your chances of seeing the action.
It may sound like a hassle, but according to Bill Cooke, the top astronomer at NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, it is one of the “only two meteor showers worth going out for.”
For those who slept in, the other one is the Perseids. You can catch it in July.
— Elon Musk named Time Person of the Year: “In 2021, Musk emerged not just as the world’s richest person, but also as perhaps the richest example of a massive shift in our society,” wrote Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal of the Tesla and SpaceX CEO. 2021 was a good year for Musk. He became the world’s wealthiest person, buoyed by rises in Tesla stock, and launched the first-ever mission to Earth’s orbit with a crew consisting only of tourists and no professional astronauts. Person of the Year was birthed in 1927, then under the heading “Man of the Year,” and has since grown to consider groups, movements, or ideas that wielded the most influence. Last year, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris shared the honor. But it’s not always an honor to be named. For example, Adolf Hitler was named Time’s Man of the Year in 1938 for wielding negative influence. Indeed, Musk’s notoriety isn’t always seen as a positive. As Felsenthal noted, Musk is often “a blunt instrument that often seems to revel in division and aggressive mockery.
— Donald Trump’s planned social media upstart has money, but no product: Sticking it to ‘Big Tech’ in October, the former President announced he was launching a new company, Trump Media & Technology Group, to provide “a fountainhead of support for American Freedoms” and “even the playing field” in a media market that has “swung dangerously far to the left.” But there are some glaring problems. Its “proprietary” technology turned out to be a rip-off from Mastodon, an open-source social network anyone can use and an existing conservative social media network, Gab, already uses. TMTG also planned to launch a beta version of TRUTH Social in November to invited guests, but that never happened. The company also has not announced anyone involved in building its technology, listing officers merely by a first name and last initial. Further, U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican and big-time Trump fan, is leaving Congress to be the company’s CEO. Nunes has no experience in the media business and once sued a fictional cow for making fun of him on Twitter. Read more about this massive social media mirage here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@kakape: Denmark’s @#o. It estimates that # will become the dominant variant in Copenhagen this week, with more than 10,000 cases per day expected — an all-time pandemic high.just released a new risk assessment on
“We’re heartbroken. We’re overwhelmed.”
Minnesota hospitals take out full-page ad in @StarTribune, pleading with residents to *get vaccinated and boosted* and take other steps to protect themselves. pic.twitter.com/XnJYyZJMX8
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) December 13, 2021
—@RichardGrenell: I had stage 3.5 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I also had COVID, so I work hard to NOT wear masks. Stop telling people what to do. My body, my choice.
Started baking over weekend, & we have a few more days of baking left. Today, we started delivering our Butterscotch Rum Cakes to all Fire Stations in #District13. Thank you to all the firefighters for your service & for risking your lives every day! Happy Holidays!🎄🎅👨🚒🧑🚒 pic.twitter.com/eORlMuFtb7
— Linda Stewart (@LindaStewartFL) December 13, 2021
—@OnePeloton: if we can put that spot together in 48 hours, you can do your workout today
— DAYS UNTIL —
’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 3; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 8; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 15; Private sector employees must be fully vaccinated or tested weekly — 21; final season of ‘This Is Us’ begins — 21; CES 2022 begins — 22; Ken Welch’s inauguration as St. Petersburg Mayor — 23; NFL season ends — 26; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 28; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 28; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 28; Florida Chamber’s 2022 Legislative Fly-In and Reception — 28; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 29; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 31; NFL playoffs begin — 32; ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 38; ‘Billions’ begins — 40; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 52; Super Bowl LVI — 61; ‘The Walking Dead’ final season part two begins — 68; Daytona 500 — 68; Special Election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 — 70; CPAC begins — 72; St. Pete Grand Prix — 73; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 79; The Oscars — 105; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 148; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 167; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 170; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 207; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 218; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 262; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 297; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 332; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 335; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 367; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 430; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 591; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 675; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 955.
— TOP STORY —
“UF trustee chairman was back-channel to Ron DeSantis office over pandemic decision” via Fresh Take Florida — The chair of the University of Florida board of trustees served as a liaison with the office of DeSantis when administrators were considering temporarily moving some college classes online due to the pandemic. Morteza “Mori” Hosseini, who was elected chair in 2018, is already under scrutiny over questions about his role in politically tinged decisions affecting the school. The newly disclosed texts showed the chair communicating with the university’s President, Kent Fuchs, the evening of Aug. 13, as the delta variant was sweeping the U.S. They were discussing reports surfacing that some colleges on the main campus were preparing to move all their classes online for the first three weeks of the fall semester, which ends this week.
Mori Hosseini was a direct backdoor channel from UF to Ron DeSantis.
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis announces four-day holiday weekends for state workers” via James Call of USA Today — DeSantis gave state workers an end-of-the-year holiday surprise: A couple of four-day weekends to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. Since the two holidays fall on Saturday this year, typically a day off for many state workers, employees have the Friday before off as part of the paid holiday observations in their collective bargaining agreement. But DeSantis said he will also close state offices on two Thursdays, Dec. 23 and 30, as part of the holiday observance.
They don’t call him ‘DeSanta’ for nothing.
DeSantis names Sarah Arnold as St. Johns County Commissioner — Arnold, of Saint Augustine, is the Director of Resource Development for the United Way of St. Johns County. A 2019 Saint Augustine Record “40 Under 40” honoree, she serves on the boards of the Dream Big! Foundation and the Child Guidance Center of Jacksonville. Arnold is a member of the Rotary Club of St. Johns and volunteers with Armstrong Meal Distribution and Read for the Record.
“Eric Lipman, former Florida Elections Commission lawyer, pleads guilty to child porn charges” via Jeff Burlew of The Tallahassee Democrat — Lipman, former general counsel to the Florida Elections Commission, pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges involving child pornography. Lipman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute, receive and possess child pornography and one count of distribution of child pornography, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida. Prosecutors said he faces up to 20 years in federal prison, with a minimum mandatory sentence of five years. After his prison term, he must serve between five years and life on supervised release.
“‘See you soon, DeSantis’: YouTuber Dave Rubin moving to Florida” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Political commentator Rubin will soon become the latest conservative pundit to resettle in Florida. Rubin is the host of the “The Rubin Report,” a conservative-leaning talk show based in California. The channel, as of Monday, boasted more than 1.65 million YouTube followers. In a video published Monday, Rubin lamented the Democratic-controlled state’s high taxes, crime rate, and problems with homelessness. He and his fellow employees will settle in the Sunshine State later this week. “This has been a long time coming,” Rubin said in a Twitter post featuring a picture of him alongside DeSantis. Rubin is the latest to participate in what he describes as a “Blue State Exodus.”
— DATELINE TALLY —
Tina Polsky, Emily Slosberg bills would expand hate crime law — Sen. Polsky and Rep. Slosberg, both Boca Raton Democrats, filed legislation that would expand the state’s hate crime statutes to allow government, public and private organizations to be classified as victims of misdeeds motivated by race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability. The lawmakers said the bills were (SB 1208/HB 883) drafted following the vandalism of a Delray Beach intersection decorated to honor those murdered at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. “When acts of hate are perpetrated against individuals, we pursue and reprimand those responsible in order to serve justice and reaffirm the human dignity of the victims. When acts of hate are perpetrated against public property or government entities, we must do the same,” Polsky said.
“Anthony Sabatini removed from House panel over unexcused absences” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Florida House has removed Rep. Sabatini from a House panel for unexcused absences during the upcoming Session’s interim meetings. Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican who frequently clashes with House Republican leadership, was marked absent at two Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee meetings this year without being excused, once on Oct. 21 and once on Dec. 1. Under House rules, committee members are allowed one unexcused absence on any given committee. Taking two unexcused absences results in a member’s automatic removal. Sabatini requested an excused absence from Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee Chair Thad Altman the day before his Oct. 21 absence.
Little by little, Anthony Sabatini is fading away from the Capitol. Image via Colin Hackley.
Happening today — The Miami-Dade County legislative delegation meets: Sens. Manny Diaz Jr., Ileana Garcia, Shevrin Jones, Jason Pizzo, Ana Maria Rodriguez, Annette Taddeo; Reps. Vance Aloupis, Bryan Avila, Christopher Benjamin, David Borrero, James Bush, Demi Busatta Cabrera, Kevin Chambliss, Nicholas Duran, Tom Fabricio, Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin, Joe Geller, Michael Grieco, Dotie Joseph, Jim Mooney, Daniel Perez, Alex Rizo, Felicia Robinson and Anthony Rodriguez, 9:30 a.m., Stephen P. Clark Government Center, County Commission Chamber, 111 N.W. First St., Miami.
Daisy Morales, Farm Share to hold food giveaway today — Rep. Morales will host a food giveaway at E3 Community Church on Tuesday. The event is a partnership with Farm Share, E3, Lady Storm Foundation and Dedicated Senior Medical Center. Food will be distributed first-come, first-serve from 10 a.m. while supplies last. “For families who live with food insecurity, these events help reduce the economic burden on households that may be struggling. Many of our neighbors are in much-needed assistance to feed their families. The free food distribution is to help those in need of the most basic necessity of food,” Morales said.
Dianne Hart to host Christmas toy giveaway — Tampa Democratic Rep. Hart is partnering with a half-dozen or so community organizations to hold a drive-thru Christmas toy giveaway on Saturday. The event will be held at New Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 2511 E Columbus Dr. in Tampa, starting at 10 a.m. and running until the last toy is claimed. “I am looking forward to this great event. There are people in the community that are still feeling the effects of this pandemic and could use a helping hand, and that’s what we intend to do. It is my hope that this will help parents provide a wonderful Christmas holiday for their children,” she said.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Monday’s Florida COVID-19 update: Seven-day case averages and hospitalizations are on the rise” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — Florida has reported 3,865 COVID-19 cases and 66 new deaths, 35 of which occurred in the last two weeks. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,717,079 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 62,073 deaths. In the past seven days, the state has added 41 deaths and 2,106 cases per day, on average, according to Herald calculations of CDC data. The seven-day case average is the highest since Oct. 21. The CDC rates the community transmission for each South Florida county as “substantial.”
“University of Florida opens investigation after report claims pressure against COVID-19 research” via Danielle Ivanov of The Gainesville Sun — The University of Florida is investigating possible violations of its research integrity policy following a 274-page faculty committee report that included claims of pressure to destroy and barriers to publishing COVID-19 data. It is the latest development of UF’s academic freedom saga. The issue has developed into a nationwide debate over academics, freedom of speech, politics, prestige and money that has reached as far as UF’s accreditor and U.S. Congress. David P. Norton, the university’s Vice President for research, said UF Research and the UF Office of Compliance and Ethics had initiated a formal investigation. He added that its results would be “made public once completed” but did not specify a timeline.
University of Florida researchers are feeling the pressure not to study COVID-19.
“Florida Surgeon General’s ad aside, COVID-19 can hospitalize healthy people” via Dawn Harris Sherling for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A new YouTube video put out by the Florida Department of Health wants to strike a positive tone. It is encouraging Floridians to get healthy and be more active, and in so doing, keep themselves from getting sick with the novel coronavirus. And yet, as positive as the ad is, the counterfactual runs beneath it and underlies a common misconception still held by many that if you get sick from COVID-19, it’s because you were unhealthy, to begin with. People demand to know what preexisting conditions COVID-19 victims had. Or, perhaps, were their weights in the obese range? There are many reports of family members denying that their loved ones died of COVID-19, suggesting that it was “pneumonia” or some other ailment.
“Florida Department of Health rejects complaint against Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo” via Jeffrey Schweers of USA Today Network — The Florida Department of Health rejected a complaint alleging that Ladapo violated state medical laws by publicly casting doubts about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and promoting unproven treatments against the disease. “We have determined from our review that we can take no further action because the health care provider has not violated any laws or rules regulating this profession,” Investigation Manager Anthony Jusevitch told Dr. Howard Goldman in a letter. Goldman, a Delray Beach eye doctor, filed a complaint on Oct. 29 claiming that Ladapo, also head of the Department of Health, made public pronouncements about COVID-19 that he knew to be false. The DOH would not confirm or deny if a complaint against Ladapo even existed.
“Orange County finds omicron variant in wastewater” via Caroline Catherman, Skyler Swisher, and Stephen Hudal of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County has found the omicron variant in wastewater, Sarah Lux, spokesperson for Orange County Utilities, said Monday. A preliminary test of the wastewater plants Monday in Northwest and South showed signs of the omicron variant. Lux said people infected with COVID-19 shed the virus in their stool, even if they aren’t feeling sick and showing symptoms. By collecting wastewater and sending it to a lab for analysis, scientists can get a snapshot of COVID-19′s prevalence in a community. Since May, Orange County has participated in the CDC Health and Human Services National Wastewater Surveillance System, monitoring wastewater from its three water reclamation facilities for concentrations of COVID-19 RNA remnants.
— 2022 —
‘Remove Ron’ tops $500K raised — A political committee dedicated to defeating DeSantis in 2022 has raised more than $500,000 since it was founded in January. A news release from the committee, “Remove Ron,” said it has accepted more than 25,000 donations, has 160,000 people on its email list, and has amassed more than 140,000 Twitter followers. “Since he’s been Governor, Ron DeSantis has done everything he can to sow the seeds of division, question proven science, and make the state of Florida less safe,” said attorney and PAC founder Daniel Uhlfelder. “We are incredibly thrilled and humbled by this early outpouring of support from everyday Floridians and Americans who want to protect our democracy from a man intent on taking it down in Florida and then nationally.”
Is ‘Remove Ron’ gaining traction? Image via Daniel Uhlfelder.
“Val Demings returns fire at Marco Rubio for ‘doing nothing’ to curb rising gun violence” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Demings returned fire at Sen. Rubio’s repeated assertion that she’s been a “do-nothing Democrat” in Congress, using the same phrase Monday to describe his inaction on gun violence. Standing in front of 3,000 vases spread across Bayfront Park in downtown Miami that are part of a new memorial by gun-control advocacy group Gifford Courage, Demings took aim at Rubio, whom she’s running to unseat next year, in her first Miami appearance since announcing her 2022 Senate bid. “Why doesn’t Sen. Marco Rubio support universal background checks? We can do better, (and) doing nothing is not an option,” she said.
—”Former U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler, Peter Deutsch endorse Eric Lynn for CD 13” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics
Florida Family Action backs Blaise Ingoglia for SD 10 — An anti-abortion advocacy group, Florida Family Action, endorsed Spring Hill Republican Rep. Ingoglia for Senate on Tuesday. “Blaise Ingoglia has a long history of outstanding leadership both to his local constituents and statewide for the party. As a conservative, his voting record is rock solid. He is the clear choice in this Primary race for state Senate District 10,” said Florida Family Action President John Stemberger. Depending on how SD 10 is redrawn ahead of the 2022 elections, Ingoglia could face fellow GOP Rep. Ralph Massullo in the Primary. Ingoglia has about $2 million on hand between his campaign and committee accounts, while Massullo had netted about $385,000 through November, but started his Senate campaign on Dec. 7 by lending the campaign $1.5 million.
Assignment editors — Rep. Nick DiCeglie and family are hosting a Christmas party, 5:30 p.m., Bascom’s Chop House, 3665 Ulmerton Rd., Clearwater. RSVP to [email protected].
“Gayle Harrell adds nearly $50K in November with big bump from Florida Medical Association” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Harrell pulled in more than $49,000 in November as she runs to secure a second term in the Senate. Last month, Harrell announced she’d likely seek Senate District 29 next year. Harrell currently represents Senate District 25. But the state’s decennial redistricting process is shifting those Senate district boundaries, placing her into SD 29. The Senate’s proposed maps aren’t final, and things can still change as lawmakers determine the final maps to be used during the 2022 election. While the process continues, Harrell is still listed with the state as a candidate in SD 25.
“Rosalind Osgood emerging as the winner in the SD 33 money race to succeed Perry Thurston” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Osgood is resigning that position to run for Senate District 33 and is emerging as the clear leader in the money race to succeed Sen. Thurston. Thurston resigned to represent Congressional District 20. His open Senate seat attracted three candidates who qualified in the race to succeed him. With the Primary looming Jan. 11, Osgood raised $10,675 for her campaign in November and spent $18,796. She also has a new political committee, Democracy Forever, based in Coral Springs, but it hasn’t raised any money yet. Osgood’s most significant expenditures were on T-shirts, lawn signs, and door hangers, for which she spent $8,010 on Triad Events & Promotions in Delray Beach. She also paid Gabriel Sheffield of Fort Lauderdale $6,360 for videography and camera package rental.
—”Tina Polsky nets $23.5K in November as she mulls move to SD 34 race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
—”Sam Garrison has more than $600K on hand after strong November fundraising” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
“Jessica Baker raises $50K in November for HD 12 bid” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — First-time candidate Baker stretched her fundraising lead over two Republican competitors in November, as new House maps continue to materialize. Baker raised $44,825 for her campaign account and has more than $174,000 on hand after two months on the trail. Jordan Elsbury, the former Chief of Staff for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, and Women Building the Future, Sen. Jennifer Bradley‘s political committee, were among Baker’s donors last month. The Friends of Jessica Baker political committee raised an additional $5,500 and has nearly $93,000 on hand. Former four-term Rep. Lake Ray, who represented HD 12 from 2008 to 2016, raised just over $11,000 last month and has $154,000 on hand.
“Garrett Dennis kicks off House campaign with $40K raised in November” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Dennis, a Democrat, is running for House District 13, a seat currently drawn to favor Democrats. Incumbent Rep. Tracie Davis is running for the Senate. In November, Dennis raised $14,793 to his campaign account from 73 contributions, many of them as small as $1. More sizable donations came from Jacksonville land-use lobbyist Steve Diebenow, former City Council candidate Sunny Gettinger, and the Committee for Economic Development, chaired by another Jacksonville lobbyist, T.R. Hainline. In November, Dennis’ political committee, Forward Progress, hauled in $26,100. Donors often associated with Republican candidates, such as Ambassador John Rood and the Vestcor Companies, were listed on the committee’s debut filing.
“Nick Duran endorses lawyer A.J. D’Amico as his preferred successor in the House” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — With Rep. Duran planning to exit the House one term ahead of schedule, he’s now endorsing D’Amico as his preferred successor. Duran represents House District 112, but proposed redistricting maps appear to place Duran’s home in House District 113. Duran is serving his third term in the House after winning re-election by six percentage points. But he’s walking away from a fourth term and wants D’Amico to fill his shoes. “I’m proud to endorse A.J. D’Amico for the Florida House,” Duran said in a Monday statement. D’Amico filed for the race in late November. He works at the Mase Mebane Seitz law firm in Coconut Grove. The proposed new HD 113 boundaries would cover parts of Miami and Key Biscayne.
Nick Duran gives the thumbs-up to lawyer A.J. D’Amico for Florida House.
—”Unchallenged Juan Fernandez-Barquin raises $20K to defend HD 119 in Miami-Dade” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics
“Jim Mooney war chest nears $80K to defend HD 120 seat” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Mooney raised $15,000 in November for his unopposed re-election campaign in House District 120. Much of it came from two sectors: media and telecommunications, and medical and pharmaceutical industries. The Islamorada Republican now holds close to $80,000 between his campaign and political committee, Friends of Jim Mooney, which didn’t post any funding last month. Florida Internet & Television, a trade association headquartered in Tallahassee, gave $1,000, as did NBCUniversal Media and Comcast Corp. Mooney’s spending was sparse last month. His only two disbursements, totaling $2,200, were reimbursements to himself and his legislative assistant, Lee Young.
“Chris Latvala rakes in $96K in November as he mulls 2022 or 2024 Pinellas County Commission bid” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Rep. Latvala brought in $96,000 in November for an eventual bid for Pinellas County Commission, state and local campaign finance records show. Latvala, who currently represents House District 67 in the Florida Legislature, is not seeking re-election due to term limits. Instead, he plans to run for Pinellas County Commission. He’s currently filed to run for District 5 in 2024. Commissioner Karen Seel currently represents the district but is not expected to seek re-election. But Latvala also has his eye on a potential 2022 bid for District 4, which would pit him against incumbent Dave Eggers in a competitive GOP Primary. Whatever Latvala decides, he’ll have the funding to be a formidable candidate.
— CORONA NATION —
“As U.S. nears 800,000 virus deaths, 1 of every 100 older Americans has perished” via Julie Bosman, Amy Harmon and Albert Sun of The New York Times — As the coronavirus pandemic approaches the end of a second year, the United States stands on the cusp of surpassing 800,000 deaths from the virus, and no group has suffered more than older Americans. All along, older people have been known to be more vulnerable, but the scale of loss is only now coming into full view. Seventy-five percent of people who have died of the virus in the United States have been 65 or older. One in 100 older Americans has died from the virus. For people younger than 65, that ratio is closer to 1 in 1,400. The heightened risk for older people has dominated life for many, partly as friends and family try to protect them. “You get kind of forgotten,’’ said Pat Hayashi. “In the pandemic, the isolation and the loneliness got worse. We lost our freedom, and we lost our services.”
A sobering statistic for American seniors. Image via AP.
“15 sobering stats that tell the tale of the coronavirus in the U.S.” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — The United States has hit another ugly milestone in the fight against the coronavirus, with 1 in 100 people ages 65 years or older having died of it. It’s merely the latest in a string of data points that put the toll of the pandemic in stark relief, even as much of the political debate over the virus seems to be moving past it, despite a steady toll of more than 1,000 deaths per day. While Republicans have long opposed mask and vaccine requirements and argued against other coronavirus mitigation measures, even some prominent Democrats are moving in a similar direction. Two Senate Democrats voted against Biden’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large businesses last week, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis this weekend signaled that he wouldn’t mandate masks statewide.
“Vaccine holdouts in U.S. military approach 40,000 even as omicron variant fuels call for boosters” via Alex Horton of The Washington Post — The number of active-duty U.S. military personnel declining to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by their prescribed deadlines is as high as 40,000, with new Army data showing that, days ahead of its cutoff, 3% of soldiers either have rejected Biden’s mandate or sought a long shot exemption. While overall, the vast majority of service members are fully vaccinated, military analysts have characterized the number of refusals and holdouts as a troubling indicator in a rigid, top-down culture where decision-making often is predicated on the understanding that the troops will do as they are told. It also suggests the nation’s divisive politics have influenced a small but significant segment of the Defense Department, historically an apolitical institution.
“California is reinstating an indoor mask mandate.” via Jill Cowan of The New York Times — California will once again require residents to wear masks in indoor public settings everywhere in the state, amid uncertainty surrounding the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant and rising case rates as the holidays approach. The mandate will go into effect on Wednesday and remain until at least Jan. 15. The state will also require unvaccinated people attending so-called mega-events to show proof of a negative coronavirus test result from within a day, if it’s an antigen test, and within two days for a P.C.R. test, and formally recommended that travelers returning to California get tested within a few days of their arrival. “We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services, told reporters.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Nearly 70% of Americans disapprove of Joe Biden’s handling of inflation, new poll finds” via Bailey Aldridge of the Miami Herald — The majority of Americans in a new poll disapprove of how Biden is handling rising prices in the U.S. The poll found 28% of respondents approve of how Biden is handling inflation while 69% disapprove. It also found that Biden’s approval rating has recently slipped on handling other vital issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery. Biden recently said inflation is a real problem and that he thinks it’s the “peak of the crisis.” He said he believes inflation would decrease with the passage of his Build Back Better plan, which faces hurdles in the Senate after passing the House in November, “because it’s reducing costs for ordinary people.”
Voters say Joe Biden’s handling of inflation is an epic fail.
“Virgin Atlantic lost money for years. Will a pandemic reboot stop the red ink?” via Benjamin Katz of The Wall Street Journal — Shai Weiss, who took over as CEO in early 2019, cut costs and laid off nearly half the staff. He ditched Virgin’s cumbersome fleet of 747s and hit up investors for emergency cash. The perennially money-losing company launched new passenger routes across the Caribbean and Asia and made cargo a central part of the business. Although the omicron variant has added some new headwinds, Virgin is ramping up its schedule again. It’s too early to know how quickly airlines, including Virgin, will recover from COVID-19 disruptions. But if Weiss’s strategy for Virgin Atlantic brings it to profitability, he would succeed where previous CEOs have tried and failed, often in much better days.
“Future of Work: Requiring workers to return to the office is a ‘doomed approach’” via Danielle Abril of The Washington Post — Stewart Butterfield’s idea of the future of work is pretty clear cut: Don’t ask workers to return to the office. It’s a “doomed approach.” Slack’s chief executive and co-founder believes the pandemic has charted a new course for the way we work, and employees are dictating much of the terms. That means increased pressure for more efficient tech tools and flexible policies on where and how people work. Butterfield said he quickly learned that workers could be equally productive and creative working remotely than in-person, learning that may not have come without the pandemic-fueled closure of the company’s offices last year.
— MORE CORONA —
“Boris Johnson reports U.K.’s first known death of patient with omicron variant” via Karla Adam and William Booth of The Washington Post — Prime Minister Johnson said Monday that Britain had registered its first death of a patient with the omicron variant, while U.K. health officials warned that the new version of the coronavirus was spreading at jaw-dropping speed. “I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognize the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population,” Johnson told reporters during a visit to a vaccination clinic. He urged people to quickly increase their protection with a booster shot. On Monday, long lines formed outside vaccination clinics, with people waiting to get a first, second or third dose. The Prime Minister’s office did not immediately offer any details about the person who died.
Boris Johnson has some bad news about omicron. Image via AP.
“Car crash deaths have surged during COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s why” via Emily Baumgaertner and Russ Mitchell of The Los Angeles Times — It was a tally that shocked the experts: 38,680 deaths on U.S. roadways last year, the most since 2007, even though pandemic precautions had dramatically reduced driving. One possibility was that stressed-out Americans were releasing their anxieties on the wide-open roads. The latest evidence suggests that after decades of safety gains, the pandemic has made U.S. drivers more reckless, more likely to speed, drink or use drugs and leave their seat belts unbuckled. Experts say that this behavior on the road is likely a reflection of widespread feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“WH aims to restore faith in government by improving services” via Josh Boak of The Associated Press — Biden signed an executive order Monday aimed at rebuilding the public’s trust in government by making it easier to do things like renew passports, apply for Social Security benefits and get aid after natural disasters. The idea is to put the public and customer service at the center of federal operations, saving time, energy, frustration and potentially money by offering better and more efficient services for the millions of routine interactions people have with the government. The measure aims to reduce the current bureaucratic runaround, under which people often have to visit offices, endure long phone calls or struggle with the delays of mail and fax machines when trying to contact federal agencies.
Joe Biden wants government services to be more efficient, to rebuild trust with Americans. Image via AP.
“Tensions with Kremlin over Ukraine pose a test for the Biden administration” via Stephen Collinson of CNN — Tensions between the Kremlin and the West are locked in a worrying cycle, with no sign yet that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been moved by threats of economic retaliation if his troops invade Ukraine. The showdown is a test for the Biden administration, whose rushed withdrawal from Afghanistan led some to question Washington’s stomach for wielding power abroad. Also undermining long-term influence is the possibility that Trump or another autocrat-friendly Republican will be back in power in 2025. However, the White House has done an effective job corralling allies to multiply diplomatic pressure on Moscow. The West’s chorus of threats could work. But it is risky since the hostile rhetoric may make it more difficult for Putin to climb down without a tangible payoff.
“With ‘diplomatic boycott’ of the Olympics, Biden seeks middle ground” via Anthony Faiola of The Washington Post — Olympic boycotts tend not to work. Biden is taking a different tack ahead of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. Last week, the White House announced that no U.S. government officials would attend The Games, though athletes could still compete. The “diplomatic boycott” aims to protest Beijing’s human rights abuses, and especially its treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. China stands accused of incarcerating more than 1 million Uyghurs in harsh “political education” camps and prisons, while indoctrinating their children and engaging in torture — charges China denies.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Republicans blame Biden for inflation. So, what’s their plan?” via Paul Waldman of The Washington Post — For all their criticism and concern, what do Republicans actually think we should do about inflation? If you think the Biden administration is doing the wrong thing to address this problem, what’s the alternative? They themselves don’t seem to know. You can get a clearer answer on what we shouldn’t do: pass the Build Back Better bill, because they claim it’s just more government spending, and that’s bad. When they make that claim, they studiously avoid the question of what we actually spend money on. Republicans don’t worry about inflation when they vote to spend trillions of dollars on the military. It’s only when Democrats propose spending that might improve people’s lives that Republicans suddenly begin squawking about inflation.
Do Republicans have a better idea?
“Justices won’t block vaccine mandate for New York health workers” via The Associated Press — The Supreme Court refused Monday to halt a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers in New York that does not offer an exemption for religious reasons. The court acted on emergency appeals filed by doctors, nurses, and other medical workers who say they are forced to choose between their jobs and religious beliefs. As is typical in such appeals, the court did not explain its order, although it has similarly refused to get in the way of vaccine mandates elsewhere. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. “Now, thousands of New York health care workers face the loss of their jobs and eligibility for unemployment benefits,” Gorsuch wrote in a 14-page opinion that Alito joined.
“Joe Manchin raises red flags over Dems’ agenda ahead of Biden talk” via Burgess Everett of POLITICO — Manchin is raising deep concerns about the structure of Democrats’ climate, and social spending bill, a warning sign for Democrats as the West Virginia senator prepares for a Monday conversation with Biden. With Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pressing for action by Christmas, the phone call between Biden and Manchin comes at a critical moment. And Manchin made clear Monday that he’s not yet sold on the sweeping $1.7 trillion proposal. Manchin is the key holdout for the party-line bill in a 50-50 Senate, and he’s concerned about rising debt, persistent inflation, and the bill’s true costs.
“Manchin, Biden discuss ‘different iterations’ of spending bill as Democrats seek consensus” via Tony Romm of The Washington Post — Biden’s economic agenda remained in political limbo on Monday, as Senate Democrats returned to Washington and set about confronting their simmering differences ahead of a self-imposed holiday deadline. The chief obstacle remains Sen. Manchin, who has repeatedly refused to endorse the measure. In a sign that the tense debate has entered a more serious phase, Manchin spoke directly with Biden on Monday evening to discuss the path forward. Exiting the conversation, the senator told reporters the two talked about “different iterations” of the bill, though Manchin declined to share specifics. “Anything’s possible here,” Manchin said about the prospects of a vote before Christmas. Asked if he intends to continue negotiating with the White House, he replied, “I’m engaged, we’re engaged.”
“Vern Buchanan urges Biden to tap Florida ports to solve supply chain woes” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The co-chair of Florida’s congressional delegation says there’s an answer to America’s supply chain crisis: Ship more goods to Florida ports. Buchanan sent a letter to President Biden advocating for increased use of Florida’s maritime facilities. “As the holidays approach, American businesses and families are feeling the effects firsthand of the continued supply chain bottlenecks,” Buchanan said. The letter uses cooperative language but urges the administration to act fast and fully utilize Florida infrastructure. Florida’s 16th Congressional District, which Buchanan represents, notably includes Port Manatee, a cargo port in Palmetto.
— CRISIS —
“Texts: Donald Trump Jr. pleaded to Mark Meadows to have father condemn Jan. 6 attack” via Sarah Mucha of Axios — The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection unanimously approved a resolution on Monday to recommend that Meadows be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena. The committee’s focus on the former White House chief of staff brings them one step closer to the former President. Texts read aloud head of the vote showed Trump pleading with Meadows to have his father urge an end to the Capitol assault. “He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” Rep. Liz Cheney, the vice-chair of the committee, read aloud from one text. “The Capitol Police tweet is not enough.“ “We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
Donald Trump Jr. urged Mark Meadows to talk some sense into his father. It didn’t work, Image via AP.
“Donald Trump’s PowerPoint coup plotters were crackpots. We may not be so lucky next time.” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — A review of a publicly available version of the PowerPoint similar to the one in the committee’s hands, as well as its authors, suggests Meadows would more properly be held in contempt of competence. They had the will, and possibly the means, to overthrow the 2020 election, but the would-be coup was attempted by clowns: Sidney “Kraken” Powell, the MyPillow guy, Rudy Giuliani of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, and now one Jovan Hutton Pulitzer. It’s tempting to dismiss charlatans like these and Trump aides such as Meadows, who relied on crackpots. But it’s little comfort that democracy was saved only by the bumbling of the coup plotters. Next time, we may not be so lucky. And if you don’t think that’s a real threat, I’d like to sell you an ancient Roman sword I found near Halifax.
“Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot suspect could be jailed after rifle found in home” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — One of the five Polk County residents charged with participating in the U.S. Capitol riot faces the prospect of being jailed until his trial after FBI agents found a rifle in his home. Federal prosecutors are seeking to revoke bond for Joshua Doolin of Polk City. Doolin was indicted in June on two misdemeanor charges related to the Jan. 6 riot, and the conditions of his release prohibit him from having any weapons. Doolin faced a status hearing on Dec. 6 before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols of the District of Columbia. Nichols deferred a ruling on the prosecution’s request to revoke Doolin’s bond.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Donald Trump’s dark-money machine gets a makeover — and new owners” via Roger Sollenberger of The Daily Beast — While Trump spent the last year licking his election wounds and consolidating power in the Republican Party, his allies were busy reconfiguring a constellation of outside spending groups that have helped bankroll his political movement for years. Trump’s influential “dark money” machine appears to have almost entirely turned over, capping the overhaul off with the apparent sale of a pro-Trump nonprofit earlier this year. The changing of the guard at the nonprofit, formerly known as America First Policies, illustrates how difficult it is to get a clear picture of the outside money fueling Trump’s movement. Lloyd Mayer, an expert in nonprofit law at the University of Notre Dame, cast these anti-transparency developments as “troubling,” saying they strike at the heart of federal sunshine laws.
Donald Trump’s dark money machine is getting a reset. Image via AP.
“Lawyers clash again over subpoena for Trump’s financial records” via Charlie Savage of The New York Times — One of Trump’s lawyers urged a federal appeals court to quash a congressional subpoena seeking years of financial records from his accounting firm, arguing on Monday that the demand is too broad and could open the door for lawmakers to routinely harass and intimidate future Presidents. “No prior Congress has demanded this kind of information, but every future Congress will if this court upholds the subpoena,” Cameron Norris said. “There’s no principled way to limit the fallout to President Trump.” But Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the U.S. House, urged the appeals court to uphold the subpoena. He argued that the subpoena was well within the authority of Congress, especially since the House reissued it after Trump left office.
“The Trump administration violated federal law by silencing staffers during the COVID-19 outbreak” via Jason Leopold of BuzzFeed News — Michael Caputo, who was HHS’s assistant secretary of public affairs for several months in 2020, warned employees that they would run afoul of written policies for dealing with the press if they agreed to media interviews without his approval. Two government watchdog organizations filed a formal complaint with the Office of Special Counsel arguing Caputo’s directives violated HHS and CDC employees’ free speech rights as well as the anti-gag provision in the 2012 federal Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. Freddy Martinez, a policy analyst at Open the Government, said the special counsel’s ruling “confirms that Trump-era officials unlawfully gagged scientists during the outbreak of the pandemic” and “is an important step in holding government officials accountable for their secrecy during the pandemic.”
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Redistricting could carve up Tampa’s lone congressional seat; City Council says ‘no thank you’” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — With both House and Senate drafts of Florida’s congressional maps showing a divided Tampa, City Council members on Friday sent a letter to redistricting committees asking to keep the city’s congressional district intact. “For some time, Tampa has been represented by one member of Congress. This has provided for cohesive leadership and accountability throughout our great city,” Tampa City Council Chair Orlando Gudes said in the letter. There are four current drafts in the Florida Senate Committee on Reapportionment and two in the Florida House Redistricting Committee. All would split Tampa into multiple districts.
“Mayor Buddy Dyer: Downtown Orlando is ‘well-positioned’ to grow post-pandemic” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Facing questions from a gathering of a few hundred local and business leaders, Mayor Dyer handicapped the city’s odds of hosting World Cup matches as favorable, championed its efforts on addressing homelessness and housing affordability and pitched Orlando as a city prepared to take on a post-COVID-19 world. “The most important thing, quite honestly, is managing the growth and doing that right,” Dyer said, in response to a question from University of Central Florida President Alexander Cartwright. “And then investing in two things: housing — especially affordable housing — and transportation.” Such investment could help bolster the city’s bid for World Cup matches in 2026, which Dyer gave a rare thumbs-up to DeSantis, whose administration signed off on $5 million last week toward bolstering the city’s bid.
Buddy Dyer says Orlando is poised to come roaring back.
“Ken Welch invited to White House along with other newly elected mayors” via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times — Mayor-elect Welch will be hosting his third and final “Community Conversations” to hear public input for his upcoming tenure Monday night from Washington, D.C. That’s because the Mayor-elect is one of 10 newly elected Mayors and current Mayors invited to the White House on Tuesday to meet with senior officials and Cabinet secretaries. They will discuss the American Rescue Plan, the bipartisan infrastructure law, and the Build Back Better agenda, along with other key priorities for cities. “I am honored to be invited to the White House to talk with other incoming mayors and Biden administration officials about key issues facing St. Petersburg and other cities,’’ Welch said in a statement. “It’s an excellent opportunity to brainstorm solutions to challenges that are important to our residents ….”
“Miami-Dade court clerk accused of pocketing over $109,000 in divorce filing fees” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Every time a Miami-Dade resident files for divorce, they must pay a filing fee. But in over 200 cases, investigators believe, that money actually wound up in the pockets of a longtime court clerk, authorities said. Tyrone Smith Jr. surrendered over the weekend to face charges of first-degree grand theft and organized scheme to defraud. In all, an audit by the Miami-Dade Inspector General’s Office revealed, Smith processed 201 cases in which the filing fees were never filed, to the tune of nearly $109,000 in stolen cash and checks meant to be deposited in the coffers of the clerk of courts. Smith, a full-time employee since 2007, worked as a deputy clerk in the section of Miami-Dade’s family court, where people file new lawsuits and complaints.
Tyrone Smith Jr. is accused of pocketing divorce fees. Image via Miami-Dade County.
“Woman killed by Brightline train in Fort Lauderdale” via Eileen Kelley of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A woman was struck and killed by a Brightline train in Fort Lauderdale Monday morning, the second fatal train crash in three days in Broward County. The incident happened about 8 a.m. near 100 Northwest Sixth Street. The woman, a pedestrian, was in her early 70s. She was taken to Broward Health Medical Center, where she later died. The previous deadly strike happened in Hollywood on Saturday. Deadly train strikes had plagued the private train company since its first death during a test run, some five months before it officially opened in January 2018.
Finally — “Tallahassee’s downtown Turlington Building getting a bath” via the Tallahassee Democrat — Its long-awaited exterior sprucing-up has begun. For the last few years, swathes of the top of the building have been marred by black streaks. This week, workers could be seen gingerly walking on its angled roof and rappelling down its sides. The three-decade-old edifice, commonly known as the Turlington Building, is the home of the Florida Department of Education. It’s named after former state Education Commissioner Ralph Turlington, who also was a Florida House Speaker. He died in May at the age of 100. The building’s renovations are being overseen by the Department of Management Services.
— TOP OPINION —
“‘Left-wing stuff’? DeSantis’ view of climate crisis is dangerous” via Pam McVety for the Orlando Sentinel — You need to pay attention to how DeSantis is running Florida government. While speaking in Pinellas County on Dec. 7, DeSantis referred to climate change as “left-wing stuff” and neglected even to use the word “climate change.” Let me warn you that if DeSantis is willing to force the continued use of fossil fuels, he will likely be on board with the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC’s) new campaign to push anti-climate legislation across the country. ALEC is concerned that the fossil fuel industry is being discriminated against. It wants states to compile lists of entities that could include churches, universities, colleges, banks, businesses, and others that are fighting climate change by boycotting fossil fuel companies
— OPINIONS —
“We have a solution to the supply-chain crisis, which Biden administration is ignoring” via Carlos Giménez and Rick Scott for the Miami Herald — We came together to introduce the Supply Chain Emergency Response Act, a common-sense solution to get Washington working. Our legislation redirects $125 million of unspent, unobligated CARES Act funds to facilitate cargo vessels currently on hold along the West Coast to dock in the East. The legislation also allows Governors to use unspent CARES Act funds to help offset port fees. Our bill prohibits any member of the Chinese Communist Party or any company owned, in whole or in part, by it from being eligible. Florida’s ports are ready and able, and it is our hope that all of our colleagues work with us to quickly pass bill to provide a common-sense solution to this supply chain crisis.
“For every COVID-19 death ‘partisanship’ should be listed as a ‘contributing cause,’ expert says, but politicians on both sides of the aisle are still pointing fingers” via Sarah Al-Arshani and Bryan Metzger of Business Insider — The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the U.S. for almost two years, but experts told Insider politics have played as much of a role as the virus itself. “For every single death certificate that has COVID-19 as a primary cause of death, partisanship should be listed as a contributing cause. This pandemic was politicized from day one,” Brian Castrucci, President and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation. Castrucci, an epidemiologist, said politics had played a huge role in America’s inability to get the pandemic under control, especially as several states push to limit the role of public health officials or fight against public health efforts like vaccines and mask-wearing.
“DeSantis’ executive order on immigration could trigger constitutional crisis” via Avery Means of The Gainesville Sun — It has become evident over the past couple of weeks that both sides of the political spectrum are frustrated with the current administration for the way it is handling spikes in immigration, particularly from Central America. The kind of change Biden campaigned on during his run for office was supposed to be quick, efficient and drastically different from his predecessor, but there has been little change in policy or the numbers of deportations, both internally and at the border itself.
“Listen, you U.F. brainiacs: Our wise Governor will let you know what to think” via Diane Roberts of Florida Phoenix — Hosseini, chair of the University of Florida Board of Trustees, is not happy, not happy at all. How dare a bunch of weirdo so-called “scholars” complain about being forbidden to testify against DeSantis’ fine new election laws or teach a class with a title where the words “critical” and “race” appear way too close together? He assures us he is 110% (maybe even more) in favor of “the First Amendment rights of our faculty and their academic freedom to teach, research, publish, and exercise their rights as citizens.” Undermine Our Wise Governor? Don’t these eggheads know they work for him? “Let me tell you,” said Hosseini, “our legislators are not going to put up with the wasting of state money and resources, and neither will this board.” Nice little university you’ve got there, Gators. Be a shame if anything happened to it.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Health advocates sound the alarm about Florida’s growing drug-overdose statistics.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— New Reporting shows the University of Florida Board of Trustees chair was a back-channel to the Governor’s office.
— And DeSantis’ open invitation is catching on as another conservative political commentator announces plans to make the Sunshine State home.
— Two Sunrise Interviews today. First up is Corbin Bolies, a reporter with Fresh Take Florida, who uncovered University of Florida Board of Trustees chair was a back-channel to the Governor’s office in deciding whether university classes should go online when the delta variant was surging.
— Melanie Brown-Woofter, President and CEO of the Florida Behavioral Health Association, will talk about the alarming rise in drug-related deaths and tips for being vigilant about holiday stressors that can trigger anxiety and depression.
To listen, click on the image below:
—JINGLE, JINGLE —
“Gaylord Palms Epic Christmas event is back” via WFLA — There is so much to see at Gaylord Palms Orlando, including Mission: Save Christmas, the Alpine Village, Christmas walk, and so much more! The Christmas events at Gaylord Palms in Orlando are things people travel from all over Florida to experience. From enjoying the lights and shopping to riding down the infamous Gaylord Palms snow tubing, which is a mechanized snow play space you can slide through factory conveyor belts that have frozen solid and ride tubes down a thrilling plummet slide or hilly ice coaster at Snow Factory.
Gaylord Palms is ready to go all-out for the holidays.
“Jacksonville family’s holiday lights display featured on ABC’s ‘Great Christmas Light Fight’” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Doug Alred is known for his role at the helm of the long-standing Gate River Run and his place in the running community. But to TV viewers across the country, he’s now the Christmas lights guy. That’s because last week, Doug and his wife, Jane, were featured on ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” where families show off their extreme home light displays for a chance at winning $50,000. The Alreds didn’t win, but locals know it’s not their first race.
“Professional holiday light installers supply cheery, convenient Christmas decor — for the right price” via Patrick Connolly of the Orlando Sentinel — While some homeowners are busy putting the final touches on their holiday displays, unraveling dozens of strands of twinkle lights while juggling gift shopping and trimming the tree, others are content to pay someone else to put up the lights. Professional holiday lighting is a seasonal but growing service as families find themselves spending more time at home, some with additional spare cash on hand looking for a little extra holiday cheer, all without the hassle and labor of putting up decorations themselves. “Christmas is an ‘emotional purchase,’ even when times are rough and bad. People still want to celebrate it, and COVID-19 really brought that out last year and this year,” said Bennie Alegria, co-owner of Lighting Pros.
— ALOE —
“Gas prices dropped in Florida, but not as expected. What will you pay at the pump?” via Jeff Kleinman of the Miami Herald — Gas prices dipped in Florida the past week, but not as much as fuel analysts expected. According to AAA, the price per gallon in the state slipped 3 cents to average $3.27 a gallon. The auto club and fuel-industry analysts predicted prices would go down even more, but concerns over the omicron variant and the effect on the economy cut into those expectations. “After plunging two weeks ago, the crude market regained strength last week,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said. The most expensive markets to get gas in Florida: West Palm Beach-Boca Raton ($3.44), Naples ($3.35) and Fort Lauderdale ($3.33).
When will it end?
“Simply Healthcare Plan announces $574,000 in Florida community investments” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Simply Healthcare Plan in the last two months has invested $574,000 to help address community needs across Florida, targeting the funds at mental health programs, food initiatives and scholarships for licensed nurses. “With these investments, it’s our goal to set Floridians up for success,” Simply Healthcare Plans President Holly Prince said. “Whether it’s ensuring a parent can feed their family at night, supporting a mom through pregnancy, navigating a cancer diagnosis, providing health care workforce training, or helping those struggling with depression, we want Floridians to have access to the tools they need to live a healthy and fulfilling life.” In all, the health plan has donated more than $1 million to community programs this year, according to a news release.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Julie Ingoglia, Kyra Jennings, Judge Terry Lewis, Dinah Voyles Pulver, former Rep. David Santiago, and Ian Whitney.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.