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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.1.22

Firearms


Good Wednesday morning from London.

Before I launch into some commentary, here are two micro-scoops from the campaign trail.

—Republican Audrey Henson is switching races, moving from the GOP Primary for Congressional District 13 to a bid for Florida House District 60.

—DNC Committee member Alan Clendenin will announce today he is running for the Tampa City Council.

Now, a few barbs from across the pond…

Memo to Nikki Fried: If you want to be the Democratic nominee for Governor, you need support from the Florida Education Association.

And, well, she doesn’t have that.

Charlie Crist does.

That may not be the final nail in Fried’s campaign coffin, but Crist certainly appears to be reaching for the hammer.

The Miami Herald was first to report that the FEA and the United Teachers of Dade were in Crist’s corner. They split the hairs a little bit, stressing that their support was not an actual endorsement, but we doubt that gives Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner much solace.

Both groups are part of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the AFL-CIO, which won’t announce its endorsements in late June.

No one can be Florida Governor without the help of the state’s teachers’ union. Charlie Crist won their endorsement.

Together, the education unions represent about 180,000 Florida teachers and education professionals.

“In a word, it’s huge,” Crist told the Herald. He added, “Public education’s in my blood.”

Fried is still throwing punches at Crist, but the polls indicate not many of them are landing. He has staked the moderate middle ground, leading Fried to question his Democratic bona fides.

At a candidate forum in Miami, Fried attacked Crist’s record when he was a Republican.

“We’ve got serious issues that are on our plate today, everything from gun violence to abortion to voting rights to health care to our LGBTQ-plus community,” Fried said, speaking directly to Crist. “These are all issues that you fought for.”

Crist used to be a favorite of the National Rifle Association, but no longer. Fried attacked anyway.

At the top of her Twitter feed, she says, “I’m Nikki Fried, and I’m the only leading candidate for governor of Florida who has never accepted a damn dime from the NRA.”

Since leaving the Republican Party and joining the Democrats, Crist’s position on those issues has reversed. Crist trails Gov. Ron DeSantis but about 8 points in most polls, but that’s still considerably closer than Fried. Maybe potential Democratic voters don’t care what Crist said a decade or more ago.

Even worse for Fried, they appear to see him as a stronger opponent for DeSantis.

Apparently, Florida teacher unions do too.

—”If Crist ducks debates, the ‘Empty Chair Charlie’ attack will return” via Orlando Sentinel

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

@SeemaForBen: A TV executive told me last week that they saw viewers simply turning off the TV when Uvalde news came on, unable to watch

@ItsJeffTiedrich: pro tip: if you have more guns in your house than you have books, you’re part of the problem

@DanielSGoldman: If you can’t buy alcohol at age 18, you should not be able to buy an assault weapon at age 18.

@NateMonroeTU: the *one thing* I’ll offer in re: to “ooof” is that back when he was sheriff, Mike Williams skipped out on public appearances all the time

@MiamiCurt: It’s early in the investigation, but it appears a Florida man may have been killed by an alligator while searching for Frisbees in a lake at a disc golf course in Largo. Gator trapper on the scene. May be the most unusual gator death I’ve ever heard.

@SteveSchale: Good reminder that if the body of water is more than 100sq feet, there’s probably a gator in there — and that’s his home, not yours.

@netw3k: the inquisitors need to figure out their chemistry issues. that locker room is toxic and it’s no wonder they struggle to catch Jedi.

— DAYS UNTIL —

‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 1; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 6; ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ premieres — 9; Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ premieres — 16; 2022 Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 27; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 36; 36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 48; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 50; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 69; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 78; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 81; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 91; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 91; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 93; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 99; 2022 Emmys — 103; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 127; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 145; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 146; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 146; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 163; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 169; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 173; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 173; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 174; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 182; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 182; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 196; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 260; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 278; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 296; 2023 Session Sine Die — 338; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 338; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 366; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 422; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 506; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 667; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 786.

—TOP STORY —

June has arrived, and it’s increasingly looking like Florida could soon face the first named storm of the 2022 Hurricane Season.

Forming in the East Pacific Ocean, Hurricane Agatha rapidly intensified into a Category 2 storm as it made landfall in Mexico on Monday morning. It is the strongest hurricane in history to make landfall in May from the eastern Pacific basin.

Two previous May storms — Barbara on May 29, 2013, and (another) Agatha on May 24, 1971 — each landed as a Category 1. Agatha arrived Monday as a strong Category 2, hitting south of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The storm intensified quickly, brought sustained winds of 105 mph — and nearly 2 feet of rain — before leveling off.

According to The Associated Press, the Governor of Oaxaca said Agatha has already killed at least 10 people and left 20 missing.

Agatha’s next stop? Meteorologists suggest a possible South Florida landfall.

Hurricane season starts right on time with Alex.

Once Agatha enters the Gulf of Mexico, the official National Hurricane Center forecast gives it a 70% chance of re-intensifying over the next five days — becoming the first named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. If that happens, it will start as Tropical Storm Alex.

Strong upper-level winds will shear the system, generating more rain on the center’s east side. There is still model disagreement between the European model and the American model regarding the track and intensity of the system.

If the system follows the European model on a northeasterly track, the farther north the system moves, the higher the rain threat in south Florida.

Spaghetti models show remnants of Agatha/TS Alex moving toward Florida — and becoming a heavy rainmaker as it strengthens. Rainfall is expected across western Cuba and South Florida and the Florida Keys by the end of the week.

NOAA forecasters predict above-normal activity for the seventh straight year, with 10 hurricanes possible.

What’s the next surprise in store for hurricane season?” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — Perhaps even more difficult than predicting how hard a hurricane might hit an area is trying to determine what surprises lay in store for an upcoming tropical season. The last two years were above-average storm-producing seasons, with 2020 breaking records with 30 named systems. It further surprised meteorologists with the head-turning Category 5 Hurricane Iota developing in the cool month of November. In 2021, Hurricane Ida shocked Americans with huge floodwaters on the Louisiana coastline and more than 1,300 miles inland.

>>>Sen. Rick Scott will hold a press conference with elected officials, law enforcement and emergency management authorities in Hialeah, Florida to highlight the importance of hurricane preparedness on the first day of the 2022 hurricane season. Imeca Lumber & Hardware, 890 E 25th St, Hialeah. 1:45 p.m.

— STATEWIDE —

‘Be a part of history’ — Ron DeSantis seeking applicants for State Guard Director” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Florida is taking names of people who want to lead the rebirth of the Florida State Guard. With a tagline saying, “protect Florida, defend freedom,” DeSantis‘ office announced Tuesday that it opened an application portal for the Director of the State Guard, a civilian force the Legislature resurrected this year at DeSantis’ behest. The Director will oversee the recruitment and training of 400 guard members and mobilize the force during states of emergency. Based in St. Augustine, the position will be part-time and pay a $400 to $500 stipend per day. The Governor’s Office says the ideal candidate has experience in military-style operations, emergency management, leadership and problem-solving.

Help wanted: The Florida State Guard needs a few good men. Image via WEAR.

Assignment editors — Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis will host a news conference as a part of his disaster preparedness initiative, Prepare Florida. City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and members of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2 will join Patronis to promote disaster preparedness in the area, 10 a.m., 1150 NW South River Drive, Miami. RSVP with Lucdwin Luck, (850) 508-9701.

Contractors group sues to stop new property insurance law” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Five days after DeSantis signed SB 2D, the measure aimed at stabilizing Florida’s troubled property insurance market, a lawsuit was filed against it in Leon County Circuit Court. On Tuesday, the Restoration Association of Florida, a trade group for contractors, filed suit against the state. The organization asks the court to strike the new law down because it treats contractors differently from other citizens and denies them access to the courts. A provision of the law ends attorneys’ fees for cases involving assignment of benefits (AOB) when a homeowner signs the benefit of an insurance policy over to a contractor who then pursues the claim with the insurer. The fees stay intact for homeowners’ attorneys.

National, international officials urge gun control policies after Uvalde, but Florida still quiet” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — National and international officials are reflecting on what to do about gun policies, but Florida is still quiet on adding more restrictions. At the state level, Fried has once again called for a Special Legislative Session to pass added gun ownership regulation legislation, in a Tuesday letter to Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls. Fried said that the Florida Legislature “must act immediately to prevent another mass shooting from occurring in our state,” meaning the Feb. 14 shooting massacre at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “If the Legislature doesn’t take action now, it will bear responsibility the next time one of these tragedies occurs,” she said in the letter.

Florida’s state reading results troubling: About 25% of third graders could read ‘proficiently’” via Danielle J. Brown of the Florida Phoenix — New results from Florida’s third grade reading exams statewide aren’t good, showing that only about a quarter of kids tested in public schools could read proficiently, meaning they scored a 4 or 5 on the crucial exam. Even a more liberal analysis by the Department of Education — one that allows kids to pass the exam with the traditional score of at least a 3 — shows a concerning picture: Just 53% of third graders could pass the 2022 reading exam, down from 54% the year before, according to statewide averages. In fact, the state’s data shows some stagnation: The 2022 results are the same as the third grade reading results back in 2015, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State again delays announcing winners of two Medicaid-related IT contracts” via Christine Sexton of Florida Politics — Florida’s health care agency has abruptly pushed back the timing of when it will reveal who has won major information technology contracts aimed at revamping the system that helps run the Medicaid program. The Tuesday afternoon announcement that the winning bids would not be disclosed for another month came minutes before the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) was set to announce the names of vendors that submitted winning proposals for two seven-year contracts that combined are worth about $173 million. This is the second time the state has pushed back the deadlines to announce the winning submissions. 

Abortion medication is legal in Florida. But for how much longer” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — There is an abortion method that doesn’t require surgery or anesthesia, and federal regulators say it can be safely performed at home: abortion medication. Florida law prohibits physicians from prescribing the drugs online or over the phone, a practice approved by federal regulators in 2020, but anti-abortion activists want to go further. John Stemberger, president of the Christian conservative Florida Family Policy Council, said he expects the state’s Republican-led Legislature will consider a six-week ban in next year’s Session if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that found that women have the constitutional right to an abortion. He believes GOP lawmakers should also focus on the medications that induce abortions at home, those who prescribe and dispense them, and those who try to mail them to women across Florida.

If John Stemberger gets his way, abortion meds will be gone.

Gas prices hit another record high at $4.57 per gallon” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Memorial Day weekend put millions of drivers on the road, and their gasoline demand helped push fuel prices to another record, hitting $4.57 per gallon in Florida. AAA reported that harsh reality Tuesday, noting the end to a slight reprieve last week when gas prices declined slightly from the earlier record set in mid-May. Monday’s state average price was $1.71 per gallon higher than last year’s holiday, and well above the previous Memorial Day high of $3.93 per gallon set in 2008, AAA noted. The price may be going up some more, AAA cautioned.

— 2022 —

‘A long-standing fighter for Florida’s teachers and students’: Education unions back Charlie Crist” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Crist’s bid to retake the Governor’s mansion secured the support of the Florida Education Association, the state’s most prominent teachers’ union, representing some 150,000 teachers and faculty at the primary, secondary and college levels. At a news conference in Miami Springs, the FEA, the 30,000-member United Teachers of Dade, and other such unions from across the state announced they are backing Crist. According to FEA President Andrew Spar, there is “no question” Crist will be the best Governor for Florida’s students. “He is genuinely committed to ensuring that every child gets the education that he or she deserves and needs, no matter that child’s race, background, gender identity, sexual orientation, ZIP code or ability,” Spar said.

Charlie Crist goes to the head of the class.

Endorsement wars heat up in Democratic race for Governor as Nikki Fried targets Crist” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Endorsement season has kicked off in an increasingly bitter battle in the race between Crist and Fried for the Democratic nomination for Governor this year. Crist’s backing by the state teachers’ union on Tuesday is just the latest endorsement announcement between the two camps, coming just days after Fried touted the support of the Democratic Black Caucus. “I’m Nikki Fried and I’m the only leading candidate for Governor of Florida who has never accepted a damn dime from the NRA,” Fried tweeted.

Val Demings formally files to run for Marco Rubio’s U.S. Senate seat” via Forrest Saunders of WTXL — Demings formally filed to run for United States Senate Tuesday morning. Demings is expected to face two-term incumbent GOP Sen. Rubio in November. And she wasted no time, Tuesday, highlighting their differences. “The voters will have a clear choice about someone who’s been in elected office since 1998 — God bless him — or someone who has put on a bulletproof vest at night, left my sons at home, tucked them in bed to go to work and protect our community,” Demings said. Demings supports late-term abortions and expanded background checks for firearms.

Kevin Hayslett wants to move from criminal court to Congress” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Radio listeners and television viewers may know Hayslett best as a local legal expert and “attorney to the stars.” But the Clearwater Republican likes to think the name recognition he brings to a congressional race reaches beyond that. “My parents moved to Clearwater in 1964. There were not many people in the town,” he said. “I mean, my dad was the eighth dentist north of Ulmerton Road.” Especially after a new congressional map drew north Pinellas County firmly into Florida’s 13th Congressional District, he feels the long-term connection to the community should bring with it some political weight. He also hopes voters will consider his success in the legal field. The lawyer has long held anyone elected to Congress should first have demonstrated prowess in their chosen industry.

Hmmm … Clearwater Mayor endorses James Judge for CD 14 — On Tuesday, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard endorsed Judge in the race for Florida’s 14th Congressional District. “I’ve known James for more than 25 years since he was a young man in a youth group at Calvary Baptist Church here in Clearwater. I know he is authentic, and I believe he is genuinely running for all of the right reasons,” Hibbard said. Judge’s campaign said the endorsement was “the first of several” it will announce in the coming weeks. Judge is one of several candidates vying for the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor in the new CD 14, which is expected to lean toward Democrats in the General Election.

James Judge gets a significant local endorsement.

Democratic consultants flag messy voter data from Party operation” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Democratic political consultants are sounding the alarm that crucial races are in danger because campaigns haven’t been able to get the critical voter data needed to target voters. It’s the latest storm created by the decennial redistricting process that has shifted boundaries and district numbers. Consultants say it’s being aggravated by bad data from the Florida Democratic Party. But the party said it’s a limited problem, affecting a handful of counties with a quick fix once data clients submit ticket requests. Still, some consultants are saying that the Florida Democratic Party did not do the proper data vetting before releasing voter information that the campaigns uploaded to get crucial information about voters in each district. As a result, campaigns have gotten the wrong list of voters for their running races.

— MORE 2022 —

Happening tonight:

Also tonight:

And:

Paul Renner endorses Chuck Clemons for HD 22” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — House Speaker-Designate Renner endorsed Newberry Republican Rep. Clemons in the race for House District 22. “Chuck Clemons is an invaluable leader, a true conservative, and committed to keeping Florida first,” said Renner. Clemons responded, “Speaker-designate Renner has the right vision to make our state the best place for all Floridians to succeed. I appreciate all the support we have received, and I am honored to represent our community in Tallahassee because this is such a critical time for our state and country.”

Renner endorses David Smith in re-election bid for HD 38 — Renner is backing Republican Rep. Smith for re-election in House District 38 in Seminole County. Renner’s endorsement also may bring financial backing from the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee, which Renner chairs. Smith, of Winter Springs, is seeking a third term. He faces a right-wing challenge in the Republican Primary Election from Drake Wuertz of Altamonte Springs. With redistricting, the southern Seminole district has become more attractive to Democrats. Three have filed to run there: Mark Caruso of Winter Springs, Sarah Henry of Altamonte Springs, and Ed Measom of Casselberry.

A.J. D’Amico adds endorsements, raises $21K in May — Democratic HD 113 candidate D’Amico finished May with another $21,000 raised and has received endorsements from several current and former elected officials, including gubernatorial candidates Crist and Taddeo. Heading into June, D’Amico, a Cuban American, has raised more than $100,000 since entering the race in November. He faces Andres Althabe in the Democratic Primary. The winner of that contest will face one of three candidates seeking the Republican nomination.

Chris Latvala to seek Pinellas County Commission District 5 seat” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — State Rep. Latvala will seek the District 5 seat on the Pinellas County Commission. He confirmed the decision with Florida Politics Tuesday after officially qualifying for the race. Latvala will be running to replace Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel, who will not seek re-election this year to the single-member District 5 seat. Latvala, who currently represents House District 67 in the Legislature, is not seeking re-election to the state seat because of term limits. And he said he is ready to take off on the campaign trail.

Matt Willhite pulls ahead in money race for Palm Beach County Commission seat” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Powered with more than $50,000 in firefighter donations last month, Democratic state Rep. Willhite took the lead over his chief rival in the money race to represent District 6 on the Palm Beach County Commission. In April, Democrat Michelle Oyola McGovern’s campaign kitty got a $20,000 donation from a West Palm Beach law enforcement political committee, Citizens for Law Order and Ethics. She raised another $10,600 for her personal account as well. But it wasn’t enough to stay in the lead she’s had for the past few months. Willhite now has an $11,000 advantage as he continues to haul in firefighter union donations. After April donations and expenses, Willhite netted $36,396 while McGovern’s net gain was almost $14,000. In total cash, Willhite has $311,509 on hand compared to McGovern’s $300,581 cash on hand.

Matt Willhite makes solid bank.

Associated Builders & Contractors endorses Kevin Marino Cabrera for Miami-Dade Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Cabrera’s campaign for the Miami-Dade County Commission gained its first organizational endorsement Tuesday when the Associated Builders and Contractors, Florida East Coast Chapter, threw its support his way. Cabrera’s campaign announced the endorsement. In a statement, Cabrera thanked the group for “placing their trust and confidence” in him. “I am committed to working at the County Commission to cut the county’s red tape and bureaucracy so we can better serve our residents and work with small and local businesses to create more jobs in our community,” he said.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Joe Biden plots inflation fight with Fed chair as nation worries” via Josh Boak, Christopher Rugaber and Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Focused on relentlessly rising prices, Biden plotted an inflation-fighting strategy Tuesday with the chair of the Federal Reserve, with the fate of the economy and his political prospects increasingly dependent on the actions of the government’s central bank. Biden hoped to demonstrate to voters that he was attuned to their worries about higher gasoline, grocery and other prices whiles still insisting an independent Fed will act free from political pressure. Like Biden, the Fed wants to slow inflation without knocking the U.S. economy into recession, a highly sensitive mission to include increasing benchmark interest rates this summer. The President said he would not attempt to direct that course as some previous Presidents have tried.

Joe Biden has a plan for fighting inflation. Image via AP.

Biden sees exodus of Black staffers and some frustration among those who remain” via Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — At least 21 Black staffers have left the White House since late last year or are planning to leave soon. Some of those who remain say it’s no wonder why: They describe a work environment with little support from their superiors and fewer chances for promotion. According to one current and one former White House official, the departures have been so pronounced that some Black aides have adopted a term for them: “Blaxit.” The exodus has raised concerns among outside observers who push for the diversification of government ranks. Some departures were for graduate school opportunities. Others went to different cabinet departments. Several said they were leaving because of family matters.

Supreme Court blocks Texas law on social media censorship, similar to blocked Florida law” via The Associated Press — A divided Supreme Court has blocked a Texas law, championed by conservatives, that aimed to keep social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter from censoring users based on their viewpoints. The court voted in an unusual 5-4 alignment Tuesday to put the Texas law on hold, while a lawsuit plays out in lower courts. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted to grant the emergency request from two technology industry groups that challenged the law in federal court.

‘Substantial reason to believe’ Reps. Pat Fallon and John Rutherford violated STOCK Act, ethics office finds” via Chris Marquette of Roll Call — There is “substantial reason to believe” Reps. According to the Office of Congressional Ethics reports, Fallon of Texas and Rutherford of Florida both violated the STOCK Act by not reporting their stock trades properly. Under the STOCK Act, members must register their securities trades over $1,000 within 45 days of the execution on forms called periodic transaction reports, also known as PTRs. The penalty for late transactions is $200. Rutherford, sworn into Congress in 2017, routinely trades securities in IRA accounts, and his periodic transaction reports “evidence a pattern of late disclosure of reportable transactions made in these accounts, which continued even after he was on notice of his STOCK Act filing obligations,” the OCE said.

Coast Guard Admiral to become first female service chief, shattering another glass ceiling” via John Ismay of The New York Times — Adm. Linda L. Fagan will shatter one of the last glass ceilings in the military on Wednesday when she takes the oath as commandant of the Coast Guard and becomes the first female officer to lead a branch of the American armed forces. Admiral Fagan, who was previously the service’s second in command, graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1985, in just the sixth class that included women. She steadily rose through the ranks, serving at sea on an icebreaker and ashore as a marine safety officer. It was not until much later in her career that she thought becoming a commandant might even be possible.

— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —

Broward’s jails have hundreds of cameras inside, but Sheriff Gregory Tony won’t release video when deputies are accused of brutalizing inmates” via Dan Christensen of Florida Bulldog — A “disturbing trend” of the brutalization of inmates in Broward County’s jails has prompted Broward’s Public Defender to call for “a full and transparent investigation into how and why these incidents continue to happen.” “I further request you conduct a review of the policies and procedures to ensure that any mistreatment of the men and women entrusted to your care does not go unnoticed,” Public Defender Gordon Weekes told Sheriff Tony in a letter in early May. The letter is the latest in a series of missives Weekes has sent to the sheriff seeking the release of videos from jailhouse cameras after allegations of inmate abuse at the fists and feet of Broward detention deputies.

Gregory Tony is having trouble with transparency. Image via AP.

Teacher faces five sexual battery charges in case involving former Broward student” via Ian Margol and Andrea Torres of WPLG Local 10 News — A former teacher and athletic director at Everglades High School in Broward County is facing sexual battery charges in a case involving a former student. Carlos Menendez, 48, has been held without bond at the Broward County main jail since May 27. The Sunrise Police Department was the arresting agency, records show. According to the arrest warrant, Menendez was the subject of local, state, and federal probes. He was teaching in Delaware after resigning from Broward County Public School. A former Everglades High School student came forward in Miramar. The victim first filed a report on Dec. 10, 2020, and said she had three pregnancy scares with Menendez as a teenage girl because he chose not to wear condoms.

She drank beers in a city car, ran Commissioner’s errands. She still works for Miami” via David Ovalle and Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — On paper, ex-con Jenny Nillo was hired as a community liaison by a tax-funded office tasked with revitalizing struggling neighborhoods near downtown Miami. But in reality, Nillo rarely went to the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency’s Overtown headquarters. Instead, investigators tailing her found she spent her days drinking gas-station beers in her city-issued car, driving to the offices of the agency’s chair: Miami Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla. Last year, investigators monitoring her movements were so concerned about her drinking that they pulled her over after she bought wine and tequila and spent an hour at Díaz de la Portilla’s home in the middle of the morning.

Miami voters will again decide on future of Riverside Wharf project in downtown” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Developers who want to build a $185 million hotel and restaurant complex on the Miami River need voter approval to build on land owned by the city. It might sound like déjà vu because voters in 2016 approved a 50-year lease so the same developers — the only team to respond to a public bid — could build a nightlife complex there. Now, the same developers want to expand their plans and extend the lease by another 50 years, while the city wants a higher rent and more significant commitment from developers to invest in the project. Voters will, in August, decide if private developers should get a century-long lease to build and operate Riverside Wharf.

Daniella Levine Cava hires two to help steer ‘future-ready’ economic development in Miami-Dade County” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Levine Cava has brought on two new staffers to help guide the county’s post-pandemic recovery and boost “future-ready” economic development. Their names may be familiar to locals. On Tuesday, Levine Cava’s Office announced the hiring of Fernando Casamayor, the county’s new chief innovation and economic development officer, and Michaeljohn Green, who will serve as deputy director of economic development. Both will play a pivotal role in attracting investments to the county, boosting employment and creating a more equitable local economy that leverages South Florida’s booming tech industry to upskill residents and connect them to new opportunities, Levine Cava said.

Weather conditions right for brush fires erupting across Treasure Coast; hot, dry to continue” via Mauricio La Plante of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Conditions have been just right on the Treasure Coast for several brush fires over the past week — dry land and storms with low rain and a lot of lightning. The conditions are perfect for starting a fire, meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Melbourne said Tuesday. Florida Forest Service officials said no one was injured and no structures burned. The “82nd Avenue Fire” in Indian River County near the Indian River Aerodrome fly-in neighborhood burned Friday to 11 acres before it was fully contained. Florida Forest Service officials reported there were no threats and no hazards. The Forest Service and Indian River County Fire Rescue worked that blaze with two dozers.

Work begins on fire-gutted Carnival Freedom funnel after passengers make it back to Port Canaveral” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Carnival Cruise Line got to work on its Port Canaveral-based ship Carnival Freedom after fire gutted part of its funnel in a headline-grabbing incident in Grand Turk last week. The inferno destroyed the starboard side of the iconic red-white-and-blue funnel on board the ship that had been on a five-night sailing that had departed Port Canaveral on May 23. More than 2,500 passengers were rescued from Grand Turk by the Carnival Conquest, which arrived on Saturday and returned the passengers two days later than expected on Monday morning.

It was a hot time on the Carnival Freedom. Image via @AirborneJM/Twitter.

Parasailing cable snapped before slamming mom and kids into Keys bridge, witness says” via David Goodhue and Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — A parasailing cable tethering a young mother and two children to a boat snapped on Memorial Day, plunging them into the water and dragging them at least a mile before they hit a Florida Keys bridge, according to the captain who rescued them. The 33-year-old woman from Illinois, who authorities have not named, was dead by the time the “good Samaritan” boat captain delivered her and the children to a restaurant in the Middle Keys city of Marathon, which police, Coast Guard and fire-rescue medics were using as a staging area for Monday’s tragedy. “The woman was deceased on the scene,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Estrada, a Coast Guard representative.

‘Still work to be done.’ Key West’s Pride has the parties, but also another purpose” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — In Key West, the rainbow-painted crosswalks on a block of Duval Street aren’t the only places in the city decked out for this year’s Pride, a celebration of the LGBTQ community. In a first for Key West, a police vehicle has been decorated for Pride, which runs Wednesday through Sunday. “I’m all about our whole community,” said Key West Police Chief Sean Brandenburg, who plans to lead a Sunday parade on Duval Street behind the wheel of the SUV. “Why wouldn’t I support a part of our community?” This week, Key West’s Pride returns to full form — complete with the Duval Street parade — since the pandemic unfolded in March 2020. Pride events happened last year but without a parade.

— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —

Orange deputy resigned facing firing over pointing gun at Lyft driver, records show” via Lisa Maria Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Deputy Troy Heyer resigned from the Sheriff’s Office nearly two years after he was accused of pointing a gun at a Lyft driver, according to records provided this month by the agency. The Sheriff’s Office intended to fire Heyer after an internal review in October determined he didn’t comply with the law or agency rules. Orlando police arrested Heyer in November 2019 on charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and disorderly conduct. His Oct. 15 resignation was included in a list of closed administrative cases requested by the Orlando Sentinel in January. Heyer was hired in 2005 and worked in the Court Services Division.

Developer eyes Orlando hotel for workforce housing” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — A developer plans to convert a rundown West Colonial Drive hotel frequently visited by code enforcement and police into a community of 150 affordable apartments. One-Stop Housing is under contract to buy the Ambassador Hotel just west of Downtown Orlando and expects closing in August and beginning work soon after, said its CEO Mark Vengroff. The Ambassador Hotel was built in the 1950s, has fallen into rough shape on the interior, and is also a hotbed for prostitution and drugs, Vengroff said. His company’s plans include adding lighting, 24-hour patrols, cameras and fencing to increase security.

Mark Vengroff hopes to make a dent in Orlando’s affordable housing crisis.

FAA’s SpaceX Starship environmental report coming in two weeks” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The Federal Aviation Administration announced one more delay for the release of its environmental assessment of the SpaceX plans to launch its new Starship with Super Heavy rocket on an orbital test flight from Texas. In a release Tuesday, the FAA said it was planning to release its final Programmatic Environmental Assessment on June 13, two weeks later than its last target of May 31. The FAA originally planned to release its Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) of the proposed flight at the end of 2021 but has issued a series of delays for the report after getting thousands of responses to the plan during a public comment period last year. The latest delay cites ongoing interagency consultation.

St. Petersburg officials set to raise Pride flag over City Hall” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is set to join local LGBTQ community leaders Wednesday morning to ring in Pride month by raising the Pride flag at City Hall. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of St. Pete Pride, the largest Pride parade and street festival in Florida. The city will celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month, which spans the entire month of June, with festivities leading into the return of the downtown Pride Parade and Street Carnival in the Grand Central District. The city will kick off the month with the flag-raising; joining Welch will be St. Pete Pride’s Board President Tiffany Freisberg and Executive Director Nicole Berman. Other events throughout the month include the Pride Lighting of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which will last from June 22-29, and the annual parade, which will take place on the evening of June 25. The street festival will follow on June 26.

St. Pete hoists the flag for Pride month.

Hillsborough taxpayers will be asked to front $2.48 million for CareerSource repayment” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County taxpayers will be asked to front the $2.48 million CareerSource Tampa Bay must repay the federal government for misspending that occurred under its former CEO. The Hillsborough County Commission will be asked to authorize the payment Thursday and the county will try to recoup the allocation from CareerSource’s insurance carrier. The U.S. Department of Labor demanded CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay repay $4.3 million in audits released in March. CareerSource centers use federal money to train workers and help them find jobs. Labor Department officials found that CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay falsified records and logged phony hiring reports.

Hillsborough sales tax plan to get $700,000 education campaign” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County is poised to spend nearly $700,000 to engage the community on a single topic, transportation. County Commissioners will consider a $699,958 work order with engineering firm HNTB Corp. to provide “support for transportation community engagement efforts” in advance of the November referendum on a proposed 1% sales tax for transportation. The work will include holding community meetings, developing and distributing printed material, answering inquiries from news media and the public, and preparing public presentations and content for social media and the web. The firm also will coordinate with the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and the Hillsborough Transportation Planning Organization on the public information campaign.

If property values are soaring, why do school districts need more money?” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — In a year of sticker shock for homeowners and renters, school leaders in two Tampa Bay counties are pitching a product that could be a tough sell: Higher property taxes to support public schools. Special voter-approved taxes are how many Florida schools are plugging gaps as state allocations have not kept up with inflation. Dozens of these measures have passed successfully. Pinellas County voters have renewed a local-option property tax every four years since 2004, and by wide margins.

Krate, Wesley Chapel’s shipping container park, debuts in June” via Bernadette Berdychowski and Helen Freund of the Tampa Bay Times — A new shopping park made of colorful shipping containers is celebrating its grand opening June 4. Located within the Grove, a strip mall off Interstate 75 in Wesley Chapel, Krate has slowly come to life with shops and restaurants, the first of which opened in September 2021. The grand opening will mark about 70% of businesses ready for the public, developer Mark Gold said, with the rest set to debut over the summer. Krate at the Grove is the latest destination in Pasco County, one of the fastest-growing counties in the state.

Military and families get free ZooTampa admission this summer” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — ZooTampa is saluting the women and men in the United States armed forces with free admission this summer. Starting Wednesday and running through Sept. 1, all U.S. active-duty military, activated or drilling reservists and National Guard members are eligible to receive one-time complimentary admission to the zoo for themselves and up to three family members. Meanwhile, the Blue Star Museums program, a partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, has a lineup of museums offering free admission to active-duty military personnel and up to five members of their families, including the National Guard and Reserve. The 2022 Blue Star Museums program began on Armed Forces Day on May 21 and continues through Labor Day on Sept. 5.

— MORE LOCAL: SW. FL —

Naples’ boxcar benefactor follows a calling to Ukraine refugee camps” via Harriet Howard Heithaus of the Naples Daily News — Jack Nortman has the story of his parents’ wedding seared into his personal narrative of family history as if he had been there. Nazi troops, on the march through Poland for Adolf Hitler’s September 1939 blitzkrieg, burst in during their ceremony. Everyone ran, including the wedding couple. “I don’t even know if they got to say, ‘I do,’” their son said. Many guests who were caught were executed and murdered in cold blood in their small Polish village. The newlyweds escaped to Russia, which could only be marginally termed an escape. Labeled “unreliable elements” in the Soviet Union, Jews, including young Rose and Morris Nortman, were herded into boxcars and shipped to a Siberian gulag as laborers.

No settlements? Hertz still pursues criminal charges against customers alleging false arrests” via Laura Layden and Katie Wedell of the Fort Myers News-Press — The new CEO at Hertz has repeatedly pledged to “do right by” customers wrongfully accused of stealing the company’s rental cars. Despite his promises, there haven’t been any settlements. That upsets Francis Malofiy, a lawyer representing hundreds of customers who allege Hertz had them falsely arrested, jailed — and in some cases prosecuted — for theft. He’s calling out CEO Stephen Scherr for failing to follow through on his promises to settle, or otherwise resolve valid claims. When Hertz exited bankruptcy nearly a year ago, the false arrest lawsuits stayed unresolved in court, as the Estero-based company focused on re-establishing itself as a rental car leader. Since then, the number of claims has continued to grow.

Stephen Scherr is accused of foot-dragging on suits against Hertz.

DeSoto Commissioners need more details from Mosaic” via Daniel Sutphin of the Port Charlotte Sun — DeSoto County Commissioners and residents want more details from Mosaic Fertilizer Co. regarding reagents in phosphate mining. Beneficiation involves separating a matrix of phosphate, sand and clay pumped into the plant from the mines. Reagents are used in that process. They consist of hydrocarbon chemical chains like fatty acids, amines — similar to amino acids — and fuel oil distilled from petroleum. Mosaic owns around 23,000 acres of farmland in DeSoto County. The company wants 14,000 of those acres rezoned to allow mining.

Charlotte County issues summerlong fertilizer ban” via the Port Charlotte Sun — Public fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorous may not be used on residential or commercial turf, or landscape plants between June 1 and Sept. 30. According to a county report, during the summer rainy season, unnecessary and improper fertilizer usage can lead to runoff that sends nutrients into waterways where they feed harmful aquatic algae. The ordinance was set up in 2008 to support healthy landscapes while also protecting area waters. The Southwest Florida Water Management District offers tips for healthy fertilizer practices: Fertilize only if needed and only when the grass is actively growing; don’t fertilize before a heavy rain; use slow-release fertilizers, which provide fertilization for 60 days or longer; always follow package directions to avoid over-fertilizing.

— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —

Bill Nelson: Future of space is in Jacksonville, as local firm Redwire works on NASA mission” via Alexandria Mansfield of The Florida Times-Union — NASA Administrator and three-term former U.S. Sen. Nelson said Jacksonville “has become the center for space technology.” Nelson recently took a tour of the technology developed at Redwire, an aerospace manufacturer and space infrastructure company. He said he would not have expected Jacksonville to take such a prominent role in space developments 50 years ago when he met his wife in the city. During the tour earlier this month at the Baymeadows facility, Redwire touted developments that will allow astronauts to manufacture and service equipment while in space, including robotics and 3D printing technology.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams won’t resign, awaits opinion on his move to Nassau County” via David Bauerlein and Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Williams said Monday he does not see “any scenario” where he would resign as sheriff amid an Office of General Counsel investigation into whether he unwittingly vacated the office by moving to Nassau County a year ago. The city’s Office of General Counsel plans to issue a binding legal opinion by Wednesday on whether Williams is still the sheriff in light of a City Charter provision that says moving out of the county automatically makes the office vacant. Williams said he believes that under state law, he remains sheriff, and has not ruled out going to court to challenge the General Counsel’s legal opinion if he disagrees with it.

Mike Williams doubles down on his residency issues.

Warrington Middle awaits its final grade. Will it be a comeback story or a final chapter?” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — If Warrington Middle School does not receive a C grade from the Florida Department of Education for this year, then state policy will force it to close after the 2022-2023 academic year and reopen the following fall as a charter school. It’s an outcome no one in the school’s administration wants. Warrington Middle School is considered a Title 1 school, and its principal, Denny Wilson, explained anywhere from 80% to 90% of its approximately 600 students live below the federal poverty line. The last time the state graded Warrington Middle School as a C school was the 2010-2011 academic year, according to Wilson, who took over as principal this fall. Ever since 2011, the school has consistently scored Ds from the state.

42 employees short: Destin needs workers, but many can’t afford to live there” via Tony Judnich of the Northwest Florida Daily News — The city of Destin has plenty of job openings but is struggling to fill them because of its lack of affordable housing. “We’re 42 employees short, and we can’t hire anybody to come to Destin,” City Councilwoman Teresa Hebert, who represents the city on the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council, said at the TDC’s May 18 meeting. Hebert shared her remarks during a Session that included requests from Destin and other municipalities for county bed-tax money to help pay for various recreational items in the fiscal year 2023, which starts Oct. 1. Among other things, the TDC preliminarily approved giving $258,000 in bed-tax money to Destin to help it manage its city parks and beach accesses in the next budget year.

Memorial for educator and Leon County Commissioner Jimbo Jackson set for Thursday” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Funeral services for longtime Leon County educator and County Commissioner Jackson are set for Thursday morning. His family will receive guests for the visitation starting at 10 a.m. at Downtown Community Church at 231 East Palmer Ave. A memorial service will follow at 11 a.m. Jackson’s family asks to make gifts to the Foundation for Leon County Schools in his memory.

RIP: Jimbo Jackson is remembered fondly by much of Leon County. Image via Our Tallahassee.

Jackson remembered as a friend to the community” via Roseanne Dunkelberger of Florida Politics — Leon County Administrator Vince Long praised Jackson’s “amazing empathy” in an article appearing in the Tallahassee Democrat. “I think that came from his many years of experience being a principal at a Title I school. He saw everything firsthand, the struggles that people deal with. And he had the very unique perspective to see it play out generationally, because he taught and was principal for kids and their parents and their uncles and their aunts.” “I was just in awe of the way we would be in neighborhoods that were not Fort Braden (School) communities but were in District 2 for the County Commission and he would know people’s names that he taught 20 years ago and know their sisters’ names and their brothers’ names and ask about their parents,” his widow, Beth Jackson, recalled.

With Jackson’s death, DeSantis and Leon voters will have say in new Commissioner” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — With the death of Jackson on Saturday, DeSantis could appoint an interim member to the Board of County Commissioner. Meanwhile, the Leon County Supervisor of Elections accepts paperwork from candidates who wish to run for the seat this year. In the three days since Jackson died after suffering long-term complications from COVID-19, the Governor’s Office isn’t immediately aware of applicants who have filed to succeed Jackson. However, the portal is open for candidates who could fill the seat until voters elect a new Commissioner in the coming months.

Walton revisiting massive beach nourishment proposal. Will the sand be an exact match?” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Eight years after it was authorized, and two years before federal funding authorization is set to expire, Walton County is working to revitalize a potentially massive beach nourishment program. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Walton County Board of County Commissioners, the County Tourism Department’s interim Director, Brian Kellenberger, got authorization to schedule public workshops on the proposal. Additionally, Commissioners agreed to write a letter to the U.S. Congress to ask that federal funding continue to be available for the program beyond its currently scheduled 2024 expiration. No dates had been set for the workshops as of Friday, but Kellenberger said they will be held sometime in early July.

— TOP OPINION —

Joe Biden: My plan for fighting inflation” via The Wall Street Journal — I ran for President because I was tired of the so-called trickle-down economy. We now have a chance to build on a historic recovery with an economy that works for working families. The most important thing we can do now to transition from rapid recovery to stable, steady growth is to bring inflation down. That is why I have made tackling inflation my top economic priority. My plan has three parts:

First, the Federal Reserve has a primary responsibility to control inflation. My predecessor demeaned the Fed, and past Presidents have sought to influence its decisions inappropriately during periods of elevated inflation. I won’t do this. Second, we need to take every practical step to make things more affordable for families during this moment of economic uncertainty — and to boost the productive capacity of our economy over time. Third, we need to keep reducing the federal deficit, which will help ease price pressures.

I welcome debate on my plan to tackle inflation and move the economy to stable and steady growth. I have a very different approach from Congressional Republicans, led by Sen. Rick Scott, whose plan would raise taxes on people making less than $100,000 and require that Congress reauthorize bedrock programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid every five years. That would make American families poorer and more economically insecure.

— OPINIONS —

Arrests in ghost-candidate case could lead to more truth” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Eight misdemeanor and four felony charges, most centered on giving and receiving relatively small donations in 2020′s hotly contested state Senate District 9 race. Three new defendants, two of whom are active in Seminole County political circles and one who earned the title “ghost candidate” by filing as a nonpartisan in a state Senate race and then slipping away to Sweden. And one very big and welcome surprise. Action has been slow in coming. More than a year has passed since the March 2021 arrests of key figures in the District 37 race. The documents released this week reveal no new connections between the three defendants and other high-profile figures. But the same types of shadowy committees with bland names keep showing up.

Second Amendment myths soon could harm Florida” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Rep. Randy Fine isn’t just dangerous when commenting on the Second Amendment. He’s dangerously wrong. After the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, the Brevard County Republican tweeted, “I have news for the embarrassment that claims to be our President — try to take our guns, and you’ll learn why the Second Amendment was written in the first place.” It’s what Fine does. He referred to a Brevard school member who crossed him as a “whore.” He called gender-affirming health care “child abuse.” In this case, however, Fine promulgated one of the Second Amendment myths at the core of Republican opposition to firearm safety. Those myths soon could wipe out Florida’s response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting.

— ALOE —

Personnel note: Sachs Media promotes Kelly Corder to Director of Media Relations” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Sachs Media on Tuesday announced that Corder has been promoted to Director of Media Relations. In her new position, Corder will assume a more significant leadership role in the firm, providing strategic media direction for the agency and its clients. “Kelly is a talented storyteller and communicator who understands how to craft a successful media strategy — something that’s vitally important in an ever-evolving and challenging environment,” said Michelle Ubben, president and partner at Sachs Media. Corder joined Sachs Media in 2019 as an account manager and was elevated to senior account manager two years later. Sachs Media said she had generated impressive national and regional outcomes for several accounts during her time with the firm.

Congratulations: Kelly Corder has moved to a critical leadership role at Sachs Media.

Heat’s Erik Spoelstra addresses Lowry conditioning, Herro drop-off, Oladipo future, keeping it together” via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Two days after his team was eliminated from the NBA playoffs by the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, Spoelstra was back at FTX Arena on Tuesday attempting to sum up the season. Some of his thoughts: He said the entirety of the season, “I feel like I still need some time to decompress.” But, he noted, “It was just a really memorable and gratifying season.” He said, “That will go down as a great season even though we didn’t accomplish the goal we set out for ourselves,” and “we became even closer because of all the adversity.”

Did NASA find hell? Scientists brace for first glimpse of world that constantly burns” via Mark Price of the Miami Herald — Humanity’s first look at conditions on a “super-Earth” 50 light-years away is expected in coming weeks via the James Webb Space Telescope, and NASA is bracing to see the stuff of nightmares. The planet, called 55 Cancri e, orbits so close to “its Sun-like star” that surface conditions could literally be like the hell of biblical description: A dimension in a constant state of burning. Data show 55 Cancri e is less than 1.5 million miles from its star — 1/25 the distance superhot Mercury is from our sun, NASA says.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to state Sen. Danny Burgess, the Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew, Carole Duncanson, and reporter Jake Stefan.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.


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