Sunburn — The morning learn of what’s scorching in Florida politics — 9.1.21

Good Wednesday morning.

First in #FlaPol — Charlie Crist posts $700K for August, with grassroots spike — Crist’s campaign for Governor is touting a solid August fundraising haul. The $700,000 raised last month follows four months of campaigning across the state promoting the theme of “Florida for All.”

The August numbers also represent a 268% increase in the number of small-dollar contributions of $200 or less.

Charlie Crist makes solid bank in August.

Crist said in a statement Friday: “Floridians across the state are crying out for change as Gov. (Ron) DeSantis’ heartless leadership has landed our communities and families back in the depths of the pandemic.

“Our campaign’s call for compassionate, level-headed leadership and a Florida for All is resonating with folks from the Panhandle to Key West, and I could not be more humbled by the support we’ve received just four months in.

“These resources will continue to fuel our fight for a better tomorrow, helping us reach Floridians from all walks of life to build the Sunshine State we desperately need and deserve.”

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If you’ve got a call, an appointment, or an errand to run at 11:45 a.m., consider pushing it back a few minutes.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has marked that time slot for a statewide moment of silence to recognize the Floridians who died from COVID-19.

Fried, as most know, is the only Democrat holding statewide office in Florida. As such, about half the state may be tempted to brush off her request as an attempt to politicize the pandemic.

If that’s your gut reaction, do your best to shelve it.

Put aside partisanship for a moment tomorrow to honor those lost to COVID-19.

Close your eyes and count to 100 in your head if you have to, then move on with your day.

Maybe it’s a purely symbolic gesture, but the raw humanity of the pandemic has too often been lost as the crisis has stretched into a second summer, and stories of new variants, overflowing hospitals and waning vaccination numbers dominate the headlines.

As of Tuesday, nearly 45,000 Floridians had died from COVID-19.

Each one had a family, friends, and a routine. Maybe you didn’t know any of them personally, but they were people.

At 11:45 a.m., try to forget what your voter registration says (for a minute) and remember them instead.

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First in Sunburn — Fried is naming Democratic campaign veteran Farah Melendez as her campaign manager in her bid for Governor. Melendez is currently managing Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s reelection campaign and is National Political Director for the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA).

“Nikki is exactly who Floridians need at the top of the ticket to beat Ron DeSantis,” Melendez says in a statement. “She brings something entirely new to the process and we’re going to build our program around that. It will be unlike any campaign in Florida history — more organized, more talented, more diverse, more multilingual, and importantly, more inclusive of Florida voters.”

Farah Melendez is coming to Florida to shake things up for Nikki Fried.

In 2019, Melendez built a coalition of reproductive, labor, and pro-democracy groups to create the first-ever national pro-choice standard for Attorney General candidates. In 2017, she launched DAGA’s Women’s Initiative, recruiting women from around the country to run for Attorney General.

“We’re going to shock the nation in 2022,” Fried predicts. “I couldn’t be more excited for a powerful, tested, and dynamic woman to lead this campaign. We are promising something new, and that starts at the top.”

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Senate Republicans putting on the Ritz — Top Senate Republicans will be at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort in Naples Nov. 8-10. The event is billed as a “Spa & Golf Event,” benefiting the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the campaign arm for GOP Senate campaigns. The invite says Nov. 8 will feature a VIP Dinner, while Nov. 9 will feature spa time and golf along with dinner. More details will be made available closer to the fundraiser date.

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Rep. Danny Perez hosted most of the 2018 class of House Republicans in Miami last week for a gathering earlier this month to bolster camaraderie ahead of the 2022 Legislative Session.

Perez, of Miami, is on deck to become House Speaker in 2024, after Rep. Paul Renner’s term.

Daniel Perez hosts a moment of camaraderie for 2022.

He told Florida Politics that the gathering was meant to provide lawmakers an opportunity to spend time together in a relaxed atmosphere before the start of committee weeks and Session.

The two-day event, held Aug. 18-19, also gave attendees a taste of Miami and a slice of Magic City culture to bring back to their home districts — each was gifted a set of dominoes like those often seen in the city’s parks.

There wasn’t a set curriculum. Instead, members participated in a free-flowing conversation on Perez’s goals for his term as Speaker and how those goals could synergize with class members’ own priorities to ensure each member is successful in 2022.

“I loved the opportunity to congregate as a class outside of Tallahassee. While I had to travel the farthest to get there, being with a group of such talented and principled conservatives, led by such a strong Speaker Designate, was well worth the trip,” Rep. Alex Andrade said. “It got me even more excited to serve with Danny and the rest of our team for the next four years.”

___

They’ve got a new name, but their mission remains the same.

The Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists on Wednesday officially becomes the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthesiology.

The name change is part of a yearlong national rebranding process meant to advocate for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesiologists and advance science within the field.

The shorthand version, of course, remains the same. FANA will continue representing the 5,400-plus nurse anesthesiology professionals in the Sunshine State, as it has done since 1936.

“The administration of anesthesia by nurses began more than 150 years ago and has been an essential part of what CRNAs do in caring for patients in every setting including traditional hospital and obstetric surgical suites, interventional pain management, critical care units, ambulatory surgical centers, and on the front lines,” said John McDonough, one of Florida’s only CRNAs granted permission to use the title “nurse anesthesiologist.”

FANA’s announcement comes alongside a similar change at its parent group, now known as the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology.

The national association unveiled its new logo and core purpose, “CRNA focused. CRNA inspired,” during its Annual Congress, held Aug. 13-17 virtually. The AANA’s Annual Congress is the largest educational event in nurse anesthesia.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

2 week moving average in cases:
Louisiana -50 percent
Florida -28 percent
Missouri -14 percent
Mississippi -8 percent
Oregon +28 percent
Delaware + 42 percent
Minnesota +47 percent
Pennsylvania +63 percent
Every region is going to tangle with Delta, alas.https://t.co/OQNNo7RHIO

— Kyle Smith (@rkylesmith) August 31, 2021

@SecCardona: Last week, a court blocked Florida’s blanket ban on universal masking in schools. Districts in Florida & across the country should be implementing masking policies to keep students & educators safe. We’ve also reminded district leaders that federal pandemic relief funds can be used to cover any financial penalties imposed on them by the state as a result of local efforts to protect the health & safety of those on school grounds. We will continue to monitor this situation and stand with parents, students, and the hardworking educators & staff who are doing all they can to have a safe & healthy in-person school year.

@NikkiFried: Two entire Florida counties have shut down schools completely due to COVID-19, and at least eleven are dealing with funding threats for trying to stay open safely. This is Ron DeSantis doing.

@LMower3: The state could speed up the process if they weren’t so worried about political blowback. Records go through multiple reviews for political, not legal, reasons. It boggles my mind that dept. spokespeople, not records custodians, are the ones handling our requests.

@EvanAxelbank: A speaker at a Hernando Schools masks discussion just threatened to “take their rights back” “by force, if necessary.” That is also not our system of government.

Tweet, tweet:

COVID-related deaths in @TMHFORLIFE are the highest they have ever been. Though this does not represent the total for August, it is well past January’s record of 43 deaths. @TDOnline pic.twitter.com/UktK5azuv8

— Christopher Cann (@ChrisCannFL) August 31, 2021

@JimHenryTally: Expecting a great atmosphere for FSU-ND at Doak Sunday night. 7400 tix remain, including the 2500 the Irish returned. FSU students have claimed nearly all of their 16K allotment. COVID-19 remains a concern (there will be fans who stay away) but plenty of excitement building.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Boise vs. UCF — 1; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 2; Notre Dame at FSU — 4; NFL regular season begins — 8; Bucs home opener — 8; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 13; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 13; Alabama at UF — 17; Dolphins home opener — 18; Jaguars home opener — 18; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 19; The Problem with Jon Stewart premieres on Apple TV+ — 29; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 30; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 30; MLB regular season ends — 31; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 32; World Series Game 1 — 45; ‘Dune’ premieres — 49; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 56; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 56; Georgia at UF — 59; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 62; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 62; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 65; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 67; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 68; Miami at FSU — 73; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 78; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 79; FSU vs. UF — 87; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 91; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 100; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 107; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 112; ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 115; NFL season ends — 130; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 132; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 132; NFL playoffs begin — 136; Super Bowl LVI — 165; Daytona 500 — 172; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 205; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 249; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 274; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 310; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 322; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 401; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 436.

— TOP STORY —

Florida changed its COVID-19 data, creating an ‘artificial decline’ in recent deaths” via Sarah Blaskey, Ana Claudia Chacin and Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — As cases ballooned in August, the Florida Department of Health changed the way it reported death data to the CDC, giving the appearance of a pandemic in decline. On Monday, Florida death data would have shown an average of 262 daily deaths reported to the CDC over the previous week had the health department used its former reporting system, the Herald analysis showed. Instead, the Monday update from Florida showed just 46 “new deaths” per day over the previous seven days. The dramatic difference is due to a small change in the fine print. Until three weeks ago, data collected by DOH and published on the CDC website counted deaths by the date they were recorded — a common method for producing daily stats used by most states. On Aug. 10, Florida switched its methodology and began to tally new deaths by the date the person died.

In Florida, some fuzzy math in COVID-19 reporting. Image via Reuters.

—”Weekly COVID-19 deaths in Florida now 10 times what was seen in early July” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith sues Florida health agency demanding daily COVID-19 numbers” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — A Democratic state lawmaker from Orlando and an open government group are suing the Florida Department of Health for not providing detailed, daily statistics about Florida’s surging COVID-19 cases in violation of the state’s open-records laws. Rep. Smith and the Florida Center for Government Accountability filed suit late Monday evening in Leon County Circuit Court, alleging the DOH isn’t providing data and reports that should be publicly available. “The DeSantis administration has consistently refused to release COVID-related public records, which not only hurts our efforts to contain this deadly virus, it is also unlawful,” Smith said Tuesday.

Carlos Guillermo Smith is taking the state to court over COVID-19 reporting.

—“A tale of two Governors: COVID-19 outcomes in Florida and Connecticut show that leadership matters” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Unencumbered by state expectations on masks, Florida private schools have varied approaches to policies” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — While the Florida public school sector continues its battle over whether school districts have the right to mandate masks among students to combat COVID-19, private schools are largely left to decide on their own what’s best for their kids. And the methodology regarding mask mandates varies among private schools. In Northeast Florida, a private school called Little Star Center located in Jacksonville does not have a mask policy in place. The Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, which oversees Catholic schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, recently decided to implement a mask mandate for all schools due to the rising COVID-19 cases.

FHA cancels annual event — Citing the current COVID-19 surge, the Florida Hospital Association on Tuesday said it had canceled its annual event, Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reports. The meeting, scheduled for Oct. 6 at The Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes, was to be headlined by former White House COVID-19 adviser Deborah Birx. “The toll it is taking on staff, the weeks of recovery ahead, and concerns about hosting a large gathering in the near future, we received consistent feedback in support of canceling this year’s meeting,” FHA President and CEO Mary Mayhew said in an email announcing the cancellation.

—“‘It’s a horrible way of going’: Doctors share scenes from overwhelmed hospitals” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics

— CORONA LOCAL —

Widow urges vaccination at funeral of St. Petersburg officer who died of COVID-19” via Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times — Standing in front of roughly 100 family members and officers in The Coliseum, the police officer’s widow offered a warning at her husband’s funeral Tuesday. “I promise you,” Karen Weiskopf said of the coronavirus, “it’s grueling, dangerous — and it will destroy you.” Her husband, St. Petersburg police Officer Michael Weiskopf, died Aug. 27 after about a month of battling COVID-19. He was 52. “This was not Mike’s time,” Karen Weiskopf said. “He made a risky decision not to vaccinate.” Before the funeral, the Department of Health offered coronavirus vaccines starting at 9 a.m. in a tent outside the Coliseum. Karen Weiskopf wanted to use her husband’s death as a way to encourage others to get vaccinated, police said.

At the funeral for her husband, who died of COVID-19, Karen Weiskopf urges vaccinations.

‘It’s heart-wrenching’: Polk music teacher dies from COVID-19, union president says” via Staci DaSilva of WFLA — A music teacher and an elderly bus driver join a tragic and growing list of COVID-19 deaths among Polk County Public Schools faculty and staff, the head of the teachers’ union said. Only one staff member who died from COVID-19 this month was actively working at the time of their exposure. At Chain of Lakes Elementary School in Winter Haven, students and staff wore purple Tuesday to remember music teacher Erica Miller. She died from COVID-19. Miller had not returned to campus this school year, a spokesperson for Polk County Public Schools said.

AdventHealth changes to red status, citing downward trend in COVID-19 admissions” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — Effective Wednesday, AdventHealth Central Florida will roll back some of the measures created by the hospital’s shift to black status about four weeks ago. The shift down to red status, which a news release attributed to a slowdown in COVID-19 hospital admissions, resumes more surgeries. When under black status, all hospital-based outpatient procedures were deferred to reduce demand on hospital resources. But on Aug. 23, the hospital system resumed some outpatient procedures.

Tweet, tweet:

AdventHealth, Central Florida’s largest hospital system, is moving from black to red status, which will allow for additional deferred surgical procedures to move forward. System is still caring for a significant number of COVID-19 patients but admissions are slowing.

— Skyler Swisher (@SkylerSwisher) August 31, 2021

Duval Schools report almost 1,500 COVID-19 cases; 2 schools remain closed due to outbreaks” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — Duval County Public Schools has almost 1,500 COVID-19 cases on its campuses in the fourth week of the 2020-21 school year. The school district reported 1,496 cases as of Monday night, 1,319 students and 177 staff, according to its COVID-19 online dashboard, which records cases at each location. Last week, the district topped 1,000 cases, a milestone that took months to occur in the 2020-21 school year. The high numbers come as Florida school districts were ordered to remain open and in-person, despite a summer surge of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.

Richard Corcoran threatens to withhold Duval School Board salaries over mask mandate” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — The state Education Commissioner has challenged the legality of Duval County Public Schools’ mask mandate, arguing that it violates parental rights to “direct … the education” of their children. Starting Tuesday, the mandate requires students wear masks unless they have a doctor’s note. The controversial measure was designed to control COVID-19 on all Duval campuses, which on Monday reported almost 1,500 cases of the virus to date this school year. But Corcoran sent a letter to the Duval County School Board on Friday informing them that he had launched an “investigation of noncompliance” into the mandate.

NFLPA opens investigation after Jacksonville Jaguars’ Urban Meyer says vaccination status a factor in roster cuts” via Michael DiRocco of ESPN — Meyer said he and general manager Trent Baalke took a player’s vaccination status into consideration during final roster cuts. Meyer said Tuesday that it was considered because of the more stringent COVID-19 protocols imposed on unvaccinated players who test positive or are identified as high-risk close contacts compared with the protocols for vaccinated players. Rosters were cut to 53 players Tuesday. Meyer’s comments did not go over well with the NFL Players Association. George Atallah, the assistant executive director for external affairs for the NFLPA, said via email that Meyer’s statement “led us to open an investigation.”

Tweet, tweet:

Woman said she is an RN with 2 kids, told the Lee County FL Sch Bd last night: “You are all demonic entities. All of us christians are sticking together to take you all out. These doctors that were sneering at us like we’re scumbags, they need to go back to f*cking med school.” pic.twitter.com/sXl7yQ6HO8

— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) August 31, 2021

Taylor County Schools close Thurs., Fri. to reassess pandemic operations” via WTXL — Taylor County Schools will be closed to students and staff Thursday and Friday, Sept. 2 and 3, while the district reassesses and devises new and additional plans in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Taylor County Superintendent confirmed the district will shut down because the elementary school had 22 teachers out at once due to COVID-19, quarantining, or their child having to quarantine. Taylor County School District Superintendent Dr. Danny F. Glover, Jr. said Taylor County Schools had provided safe school environments for students during this time, but it has also encountered challenging daily operating procedures. Teachers will collaborate on instruction and professional development on Thursday, and the administration will reassess daily operations.

Walton County Schools report substantial rise in COVID-19 cases, over 900 in quarantine” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — The number of positive COVID-19 cases recorded among students and staff in the Walton County School District more than doubled in the week between Aug. 19 and Aug. 26. At the same time, the number of students and staff quarantined due to either on-campus or off-campus exposure to COVID-19 also more than doubled compared to the first week of school, rising from 405 people to 911. Walton County Schools Superintendent Russell Hughes said that except for the on-campus exposure numbers related to quarantining of students and staff members, the school district’s COVID-19 statistics do not necessarily indicate that all reported cases originated or were subsequently spread in a school or other district facility.

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis makes Florida’s interim environmental secretary permanent” via Zachary T. Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — Shawn Hamilton is now the full-time secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection after leading the agency this summer on an interim basis. DeSantis announced the appointment Tuesday, saying in a statement that Hamilton “brings a strong, proven record of environmental stewardship and management of award-winning state parks and conservation lands.” Hamilton has worked for the department for 13 years and has served as deputy secretary over lands and recreation since February 2020. He was appointed the agency’s interim leader in June.

Seminole Tribe trying to scuttle lawsuit challenging Florida gambling deal” via the News Service of Florida — The Seminole Tribe is trying to scuttle a federal lawsuit challenging a new gambling deal with the state that calls for the Tribe to operate sports betting in Florida. Lawyers for the Tribe on Tuesday filed court documents seeking to intervene in a lawsuit filed by two pari-mutuel facilities and arguing that the lawsuit should be dismissed. Owners of Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room in Southwest Florida filed the lawsuit July 2 in Tallahassee, contending that a sports-betting plan that lawmakers passed in May violates federal laws. Lawmakers backed the plan as part of a gambling “Compact” negotiated by DeSantis and tribal leaders this spring.

Tweet, tweet:

BREAKING: Governor Ron DeSantis files motion to dismiss federal lawsuit challenging Florida gaming and sports betting compact. @GovRonDeSantis says FL case should be tossed b/c he has sovereign immunity, the pari-mutuels lack standing to sue, and the Seminole Tribe were omitted. pic.twitter.com/nQlRwdOofZ

— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) August 31, 2021

Kelly Skidmore wants Florida to lead on ‘blue economy’ investment” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Skidmore is pushing for more investment and focus on the so-called “blue economy” in Florida, arguing the state should emerge as a worldwide leader in new technologies. “The blue economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs,” Skidmore explained. Monday’s meeting was another in a series of expert panel discussions Skidmore has hosted during the summer. During the talk, Michael Jones, president of TMA BlueTech in San Diego, emphasized investment and research related to the blue economy.

Happening today — The Pasco County legislative delegation holds a public meeting: Senate President Wilton Simpson, Sens. Ed Hooper and Danny Burgess; Reps. Amber Mariano, Ardian Zika and Randy Maggard, 9 a.m., Zephyrhills City Hall, 5335 Eighth St., Zephyrhills.

Happening today — The state university system’s Board of Governors meets to discuss the 2022-2023 legislative budget; committees start at 8:30 a.m.; full board meeting begins at 11:15 a.m., Florida International University, Graham Center, 11200 S.W. Eighth St., Miami.

Police Chiefs, Sheriffs associations dedicate September to honor fallen officers” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) and the Florida Sheriffs Association issued a joint proclamation Tuesday, designating September as a month to remember the state’s fallen officers. The associations, along with Attorney General Ashley Moody, encourage officers to wear mourning bands throughout the month to honor the roughly 21 officers who died in Florida in 2021 alone. The proclamation comes as law enforcement officers face a resurgent on-the-job hazard: COVID-19. More than 220 law enforcement officers have died nationwide, including 115 from complications related to COVID-19.

Florida Ports Council elects 2021-22 officers” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Florida Ports Council Board of Directors announced Tuesday that it had elected its slate of officers for 2021-2022. Jonathan Daniels, Port Everglades Chief Executive and Port Director, was elected chair, and Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee Executive Director, was elected vice-chair. David Wirth, Marina and Port Manager for Port St. Pete, will continue as secretary/treasurer for the FPC Board of Directors. Florida Ports Council President and CEO Michael Rubin said the officers “are talented leaders, fully vested in ensuring Florida’s ports continue to be a strong economic engine for Florida. We look forward to their service and leadership guiding the Florida Ports Council over the next year.”

— 2022 —

For your radar — “Donald Trump acolytes poised to push out Senate dealmakers” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — If Senate Republicans seem conservative now, just wait until next year. The 2022 midterms could usher in a wave of full-spectrum MAGA supporters who would turn the GOP conference an even deeper shade of red — and make the Senate a lot more like the fractious House. In the five states where Republican Senators are retiring, the primary election fields to succeed them are crowded with Trump supporters who have made loyalty to the former president a cornerstone of their campaigns.

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, leading the Republican Senate race, is among the Trump supporters squeezing out moderates. Image via AP.

Nikki Fried finally files financials, amends forms from prior year” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Fried filed financial disclosures nearly two months after an official deadline and hours before accruing fines. Her latest Form 6 disclosures show her net worth as of Dec. 31 sat at $970,244. That’s a significant drop from her updated net worth at the end of 2019 of more than $1.46 million. As far as her most recent filing, Fried now reports assets of about $1,333,619 and liabilities of around $598,374. Her disclosure includes her state income of $126,814. Her stake in Ignite Holdings now sits at $130,464, down from $190,260 in 2019. Assets also include her Leon County home, valued at $745,000, checking accounts, and a health savings account totaling about $210,682.

Crist back on the trail urging vaccination” via Mark Lane of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Crist was in town Thursday, talking up vaccines and doing the kind of public service messaging that normally is part of a governor’s job. A job, it may be recalled, that Crist once held. “He ought to be doing what I’m doing,” Crist complained of DeSantis. “So today, I’m doing his job. This is what a real governor would be doing, is barnstorming Florida and reminding people how important it is to get vaccinated.” DeSantis had also been in town earlier as part of his barnstorming tour of Florida making COVID-19-related public service pronouncements, but he emphasized monoclonal antibody treatment, something a COVID-19 patient would seek after getting infected.

Sean Shaw backs Crist for Governor” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Shaw, the 2018 Democratic nominee for Attorney General, is throwing his support behind Crist for Governor. “Gov. Crist is someone we need to lead Florida forward and restore civility and decency back in the Governor’s mansion,” Shaw said. The former state Representative served as Florida’s consumer insurance advocate when Crist was a Republican Governor; Crist won election in 2006 and served a single term before seeking higher office, and now serves in Congress. Shaw said he was impressed by Crist’s wiliness as Governor to stand up to the Republican-controlled Legislature and ensure diversity in Florida’s courts. He recalled attending the appointment of James E.C. Perry, the last Black Justice on the Florida Supreme Court and a Crist pick.

Sean Shaw gives the nod to Charlie Crist. Image via Facebook.

Three GOP operatives got shares of $550,000 mail buy during 2020 Florida election” via Samantha J. Gross and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Three prominent Republican operatives got a cut from a more than a half-million-dollar payment meant for “mail,” which was paid for by a dark money group that is part of an investigation into a vote-siphoning scheme during the 2020 election, records show. Ryan Smith, a GOP consultant who owns Tallahassee firm ‘96 Consulting; Ryan Tyson, a prominent Republican operative and pollster, and Alex Alvarado, a strategist and stepson of the printer who brokered the mail-piece project, all received a cut from $550,000 directed toward an Orlando printing company.

Woman involved in ‘ghost’ candidate scheme also had role in Central Florida House race” via Annie Martin and Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — A lobbyist who recruited a friend to put her name on a political committee involved in Florida’s “ghost” candidate scandal also had a role in getting an Osceola County man’s name on last year’s ballot as a no-party candidate in a local House district election. Lobbyist Macy Harper signed the check that paid the filing fee for Leroy Sanchez, who filed to run as an independent to represent House District 42, which covers parts of Osceola and Polk counties. Sanchez, the brother of a prominent Republican donor who contributed to one of his opponents, didn’t actively campaign but drew thousands of votes.

As redistricting looms, Florida Chamber releases in-depth data on current maps” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — As lawmakers prepare to draw and approve new district maps, the Florida Chamber of Commerce has prepared a comprehensive assessment of how the partisan lean in the state’s current districts have shifted over time. The Florida Partisan Performance indexes, or FPPs, cover all 120 state House districts, 40 state Senate districts, and the state’s 67 counties. Similar to Cook PVI ratings, the indexes assess the relative partisan lean of each district or county compared to the state as a whole. For state legislative districts, the scores are calculated by comparing the district’s election results to the presidential results in 2016 and 2020, as well as the gubernatorial election in 2018.

Facebook’s new moves to lower News Feed’s political volume” via Sara Fischer of Axios — Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S. The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content. Moving forward, Facebook will expand some of its current News Feed tests that put less emphasis on certain engagement signals, like the probability that a user will share or comment on a post, in its ranking algorithm.

— CORONA NATION —

“Poll: Vaccine hesitancy may be crumbling” via Margaret Talev of Axios — Vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. is showing signs of crumbling, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index. Fewer adults than ever now say they won’t take the shot, and in the past two weeks, there has been a sharp increase in the share of parents who plan to get their younger kids vaccinated as soon as it’s allowed. Many factors are playing a role — including the delta variant’s strength, kids’ return to school and FDA approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine — but the biggest drivers appear to be the rise of mandates.

Vaccine hesitancy is dwindling in numbers. Image via AP.

Google data: FDA approval nudged more vaccine interest” via Neal Rothschild of Axios — Full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine appeared to drive an uptick in intent about getting vaccinated, though it wasn’t as impactful as the COVID-19 surge or vaccine mandates, Google Trends data suggests. The FDA approval is one of the last levers the Joe Biden administration hopes would prod the vaccine-hesitant. U.S. searches for “how to get COVID vaccine” rose 13% in the week the FDA approved the Pfizer jab, compared to the week before. The searches increased 76% on Aug. 23, the day the FDA announced the decision, and peaked two days later before trending back down.

States pull back on COVID-19 data even amid delta surge” via Andy Miller of KHN — Two state government websites in Georgia recently stopped posting updates on COVID-19 cases in prisons and long-term care facilities, just as the dangerous delta variant was taking hold. Data has been disappearing recently in other states as well. Florida, for example, now reports COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations once a week, instead of daily, as before. Both states, along with the rest of the South, are battling high infection rates. Public health experts are voicing concern about the pullback of COVID-19 information. Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the trend “not good for government and the public” because it gives the appearance of governments “hiding stuff.”

COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against severe disease has not dropped much, CDC says” via Maggie Fox of CNN — Overall effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines has not dropped much yet for most vaccinated Americans, CDC vaccine advisers were told Monday. CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met Monday to discuss the potential eventual need for booster doses of coronavirus vaccine, although they did not vote. The White House has said it’s planning to offer booster doses at the end of September, although it’s up to the FDA and the CDC to decide on this. So far, in data that goes through July, the vaccines still appear to provide strong protection, the CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver told ACIP Monday.

GOP Governors fight mandates as the party’s COVID-19 politics harden” via Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times — In Florida, DeSantis has prevented local governments and school districts from enacting mask mandates and battled in court over compliance. Greg Abbott has followed a similar playbook in Texas, renewing an order last week to ban vaccine mandates. And in South Dakota, Kristi Noem has made her blanket opposition to lockdowns and mandates a key selling point. The actions of Republican Governors, some of the leading stewards of the country’s response to the virus, reveal how the politics of the party’s base have hardened when it comes to curbing COVID-19. As some Republican-led states, including Florida, confront their most serious outbreaks yet, even rising death totals are treated less politically damaging than imposing coronavirus mandates of almost any stripe.

Comparing the red-state pandemic response now to blue states in early 2020 is dishonest” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Treating a death in New York in April 2020 as functionally equivalent to a death in Florida in August 2021 is simply dishonest. The vast majority of deaths occurring now are preventable in a way that was absolutely not the case 16 months ago. Since the pandemic began, there have been about as many deaths as a function of the population in blue states as in red states. But that’s only because of the big increase in red-state deaths recently, especially in Florida, which has tallied 327 deaths per million residents in the past three months. Since May 1, 2020, there have consistently been more deaths in red states as a function of population than in blue states since last summer.

Comparing COVID-19 cases in New York in 2020 to Florida in 2021 is disingenuous. Image via AP.

This is the moment the anti-vaccine movement has been waiting for” via Tara Haelle for The New York Times — Over the last six years, anti-vaccine groups and leaders have begun to organize politically at a level like never before. They’ve founded state political action committees, formed coalitions with other constituencies, and built a vast network that is now the foundation of vaccination opposition by conservative groups and legislators across the country. They have taken common-sense concepts — that parents should be able to raise their children as they see fit, and that medical decisions should be autonomous and private — and warped them in ways that have set back decades of public health advances. But those who are baffled by the outsize influence of the anti-vaccine movement must understand how carefully its leaders have navigated their way to this point.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Wall Street sees nothing but good news, even when it’s bad” via Matt Phillips of The New York Times — Deaths and hospitalizations related to the coronavirus are soaring, and many businesses have shelved plans to return to the office. Staffing shortages and supply-chain bottlenecks linger, while consumer confidence has fallen. And yet, the stock market continued its quietly remarkable year in August. The S&P 500 index is up over 20% for 2021 and has more than doubled in value since it hit bottom in March 2020. It’s an ascent that looks out of step with the reality of the virus in many parts of the country, but most investors are confident of two things: The Federal Reserve will keep interest rates at rock-bottom levels, and the federal government won’t be shy about spending heavily to keep the recovery going.

Everything is awesome on Wall Street. Image via AP.

— MORE CORONA —

Pandemic will push U.S. mortality up through 2023, new government report predicts” via Aaron Gregg and Lenny Bernstein of The Washington Post — The federal government expects U.S. mortality rates to be elevated by 15% over pre-pandemic norms in 2021 and not return to normal levels until 2023, according to a report released Tuesday by the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare programs. The trustees concluded that these elevated mortality rates, along with lower immigration and depressed fertility rates, have significantly affected the trust funds supporting both programs in the short-term. But the virus’ long-term effects on America’s retirement and health care systems remain unclear, as the pandemic still appears far from over. The CDC estimates that since Feb. 1, 2020, the U.S. has suffered between 613,000 and 783,000 more deaths than it typically would in that time.

Death is not taking a holiday in 2023. Image via AP.

—“New York Gov. Kathy Hochul directs $65 million for booster shots in New York if federal regulators approve them.” via Grace Ashford of The New York Times

We don’t know enough about risks to the vaccinated” via Faye Flam of Bloomberg — A year and a half into the pandemic, Americans are more confused than ever about the risks they face, and that goes for experts and laypeople alike. Cases and hospitalizations are going up in almost every state, but the messages we’re getting are mixed about the risks to the fully vaccinated. In a limited number of states that do such reporting, 12% to 24% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 are fully vaccinated. We’ve heard that the vaccine is wearing off fast in Israel, where COVID-19 is in a raging surge, and that in the U.K., the majority of recent deaths have been among the vaccinated.

70% of adults in the European Union have been fully vaccinated.” via Elian Peltier of The New York Times — Around 70% of adults in the European Union have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, E.U. officials said, a milestone that puts the bloc among the world’s leaders in vaccinations despite a sluggish start earlier this year and worrying discrepancies among member states. After a fumbling start, the European Union overtook the United States in vaccinations last month, as campaigns taken together across the bloc’s 27 countries grew at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world. Tuesday’s announcement marked the meeting of a self-set deadline that once seemed far out of reach.

Blood clot risk much higher from COVID-19 than with vaccines” via Grace Gitau of Bloomberg — COVID-19 patients face a much higher risk of developing blood clots than those vaccinated with AstraZeneca PLC or Pfizer Inc.’s shots. For every 10 million people who receive the first dose of AstraZeneca, about 66 more will suffer from a blood-clotting syndrome than during normal circumstances. This figure compares with 12,614 more incidences recorded in 10 million people who have tested positive for COVID-19. The study followed 29 million people who received their first doses of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine between December 2020 and April and also tracked about 1.7 million COVID-19 patients.

They’re called mild cases. But people with breakthrough COVID-19 can still feel pretty sick.” via Fenit Nirappil of The Washington Post — People who develop breakthrough cases of COVID-19 are learning a mild case may not seem so mild to the person enduring the infection. Those cases can be as modest as a few days of sniffles, but, in other circumstances, can spawn debilitating headaches and fatigue. But public health authorities and scientists stress that research overwhelmingly shows that coronavirus vaccines keep people out of the hospital and that most breakthrough cases are mild or moderate. Seven vaccinated people who ended up sicker than they expected shared their stories and said they did not want to doubt vaccines. Instead, they said they want to help fellow vaccinated people weigh their risks as they decide when to wear a mask.

The ivermectin boom is the inevitable product of our crass culture wars” via Natalie Shure of The New Republic — Whoever runs the FDA’s Twitter feed has just about had it with the widespread off-label use of ivermectin, a generic anti-parasitic drug commonly used in veterinary medicine, as well as a treatment for diseases like river blindness in humans, as an alternative to the COVID-19 vaccines. “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the agency quipped, alongside a link to an explanatory article titled “Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19.” Despite its surging popularity, there’s no good evidence that ivermectin is effective against the coronavirus. The largest and most reputable clinical trial to date found the drug offered no clinical benefit whatsoever, and much of what’s been sold as promising evidence to the contrary has been debunked.

There is no evidence ivermectin is effective against COVID-19.

Ohio judge orders hospital to treat COVID-19 patient with ivermectin despite CDC warnings” via Jake Zuckerman and Terry DeMio of USA Today

—“Pennsylvania’s Governor announces a mask requirement for schools.” via Daniel E. Slotnik of The New York Times

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Joe Biden tries to move past Afghanistan fiasco” via Natasha Korecki, Christopher Cadelago and Laura Barrón-Lopez of POLITICO — The United States officially ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan. Now, Biden and fellow Democrats are racing to put the conflict’s tumultuous exit behind them. Consumed with combating the most intensive crisis of Biden’s presidency over the last few weeks, White House officials are plotting a way forward that hinges tactically on Biden’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and passage of his sweeping economic agenda on Capitol Hill. The cold political calculation is based on a belief inside the White House that Americans, by and large, will ultimately process the withdrawal from Afghanistan as a necessary, albeit difficult, act, even if they harbor lingering doubts about its execution.

Joe Biden puts Afghanistan in the rearview. Image via AP.

Biden’s critics lost Afghanistan” via Ross Douthat of The New York Times — I guessed that the military and the national-security bureaucracy would be able to frustrate the desire of every incoming U.S. President to declare an endless-seeming conflict over, and I was wrong. But in every other way, the withdrawal has made a case for an even deeper cynicism — about America’s capacities as a superpower, our mission in Afghanistan, and the class of generals, officials, experts and politicos who sustained its generational extension. At the same time, the circumstances under which the Biden withdrawal had to happen doubled as a devastating indictment of the policies pursued by his three predecessors, which together cost roughly $2,000,000,000,000 and managed to build nothing that could survive for even a season without further American cash and military supervision.

Biden’s top-down booster plan sparks anger at FDA” via Sarah Owerohle of POLITICO — The Biden administration’s decisions over when to administer coronavirus vaccine boosters are triggering turmoil within the FDA, frustrating regulators and sparking fear that political pressures will once again override the agency’s expertise. FDA officials are scrambling to collect and analyze data that clearly demonstrate the boosters’ benefits before the administration’s Sept. 20 deadline for rolling them out to most adults. Many outside experts, and some within the agency, see uncomfortable similarities between the Biden team’s top-down booster plan and Trump‘s attempts to goad FDA into accelerating its initial authorization process for COVID-19 vaccines and push through unproven virus treatments.

New COVID-19 aid ‘has not trickled down’ to Jacksonville nonprofits, White House team is told” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Rivers of taxpayer money that Congress allotted to help America’s communities rebound from COVID-19 pandemic strains haven’t reached some organizations helping those hurt worst, nonprofit leaders told White House representatives visiting Jacksonville Tuesday. “Although there is a lot of funding … it has not trickled down. No one is getting richer,” Susan King, president and CEO of the nonprofit Feeding Northeast Florida, said during a roundtable talk with members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team about the pandemic and food insecurity. Agape Community Health Center CEO Mia Jones said her organization weathered a $500,000 financial hit in July, delivering pandemic-related services that weren’t in her budget.

DeBary restaurant owner says she doesn’t want business from Biden supporters” via Danielle Lama of Fox 5 New York — The DeBary Diner is turning heads with a sign posted on the front door. It reads, “If you voted for and continue to support and stand behind the worthless, inept and corrupt administration currently inhabiting the White House that is complicit in the death of our servicemen and women in Afghanistan, please take your business elsewhere.” The restaurant’s owner, Angie Ugarte, says she posted the message the same day 13 service members were killed in Afghanistan. So, what do the customers think? “I’ve had people come to the door and look at it and turn around and walk away. And I’ve had people come into the kitchen while I’m cooking and say, ‘Hey, I love your sign,’” Ugarte said.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —

Trump’s political operation paid more than $4.3 million to Jan. 6 organizers but questions remain about the full extent of its involvement” via Anna Massoglia of Open Secrets — Trump’s political operation reported paying more than $4.3 million to people and firms that organized the Jan. 6 rally since the start of the 2020 election. However, questions remain about the full extent of the Trump campaign’s involvement in the “Save America” rally on the day of the Capitol attack as a House select committee’s sweeping requests attempt to shine some light on that day’s events. On Friday, the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol sent letters requesting information from 15 social media companies. On Aug. 25, the select committee sent requests to federal agencies for records related to the riot.

Trump allies paid millions to set up the rally that led to The Capitol riot. Image via AP.

Can Trump use executive privilege to stall the Jan. 6 investigation?” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post — Trump is trying to do something that is without modern precedent: use executive privilege, even though he’s no longer President, to stop Congress from investigating his role in fomenting the violence of Jan. 6. Can he? His claim is shaky, legal experts say. It’s not up to Trump whether he gets to claim executive privilege for information within the federal government. It’s up to the Biden administration since Biden is in charge of the federal agencies that have the records. That’s likely why Trump’s statement about how he is going to invoke executive privilege reads like it was written to Biden, not Congress. The tone is President-to-President — as opposed to an overreaching Congress.

What Ron DeSantis is reading — “Trump to head to Iowa with an eye on 2024” via Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Trump plans to hold a rally in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa as he continues to tease a third run for the White House. Details for Trump’s trip are still being worked out, but it comes on the heels of visits to the state by other high-profile Republicans also eyeing a run for President. This summer, a steady parade of top GOPers have held fundraisers and political events in Iowa to support the party and rub elbows with GOP leaders who will prove instrumental in the early presidential caucus state. Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence, as well as his former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, and secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, have all traveled to Iowa this year for GOP fundraisers or to address conservatives in the state.

‘They have better things to do’ — Major Republican donors are staying away from Trump” via Brian Schwartz of CNBC — Several of the Republican Party’s biggest and most influential donors are signaling that they don’t plan on helping fund Trump’s political operation, at least for the moment. Wealthy financiers such as Stephen Ross and Larry Ellison have instead opted to spend money on the GOP’s efforts to take back Congress during next year’s midterm elections or have shown support for potential 2024 presidential candidates. Donors are also concerned about how Trump’s organization is spending the piles of money it has raised from smaller donations. The Trump PACs had over $100 million on hand after the first half of 2021. CNBC has previously reported that his PACs spent nearly $8 million on legal fees and over $200,000 on Trump’s properties earlier this year.

— CRISIS —

Capitol riot lawyer John Pierce goes missing with COVID-19 excuse and 17 pending cases, prosecutors say” via Dan Mangan of CNBC — Pierce — who is representing 17 criminal defendants in Capitol riot cases — has gone missing from court appearances amid conflicting excuses that include a claim he is hospitalized with COVID-19 and is on a ventilator, a court filing says. Federal prosecutors warned a judge in the filing that Pierce associate Ryan Marshall — who has been appearing in Pierce’s absence over the past week — is not a licensed attorney. “The United States thus finds itself in a position where this defendant and 16 other defendants charged in connection with the Capitol Riot appear to be effectively without counsel,” prosecutors wrote Chief Judge Beryl Howell of Washington federal court. Pierce’s clients include members of the far-right Proud Boys and Oath Keepers groups.

John Pierce is MIA. Image via AP.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Man charged with $25M extortion scheme promising pardon for Rep. Matt Gaetz” via Josh Gerstein, Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO — A Florida developer and fraud convict was arrested Tuesday on a charge that he tried to extort $25 million from the father of Rep. Gaetz in exchange for a presidential pardon that would shut down a high-profile, criminal sex-trafficking investigation into the Republican congressman. Stephen Alford, was indicted on charges of wire fraud and destruction of property subject to a seizure warrant. The indictment alleges that in March and April of this year, Alford attempted to get Gaetz’s wealthy father, Don Gaetz, to pay the large sum as part of a complex deal dubbed “Project Homecoming.”

John Rutherford calls for Biden’s resignation” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — “It’s official: President Biden has left Americans stranded at the hands of the Taliban. He now must resign immediately or face impeachment proceedings in the House. There WILL be accountability for his despicable actions!” Rutherford’s call for immediate resignation, issued via Twitter, does not appear to be heeded. The third-term legislator has not been shy in calling for prominent Democrats to leave the public sphere as the U.S. has wrapped its two-decade military commitment in Afghanistan. Rutherford isn’t an early adopter of the calls for Biden to resign. Republicans in Congress and far beyond have urged Biden to step down.

John Rutherford jumps on the bandwagon.

Brian Mast joins calls for Biden to resign” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Mast on Tuesday became the latest member of Florida’s Congressional Delegation to demand Biden resign. “President Biden doesn’t deserve to be commander in chief, but it’s not surprising that he, along with his senior Administration officials, are resisting calls to resign,” Mast said. The Stuart Republican has heavily criticized the administration’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. He stepped up criticism significantly after the deaths of 13 U.S. service members in suicide bombings outside the airport in Kabul; a tragedy Mast attributed immediately to Biden’s actions. In calling for Biden to quit less than a year into his presidency, Mast turned Biden’s own words from an address on Afghanistan against him.

Happening today — U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows are set to appear at a meeting of the Republican Women of Southwest Florida Federated, 11:30 a.m., Hilton Naples, 5111 Tamiami Trail North, Naples.

— LOCAL NOTES —

New body cameras and blunt assessment are good steps for Orlando police” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Six years ago, the Orlando Sentinel investigated the use of force by the Orlando Police Department. After spending nearly a year crunching data and painstakingly combing through police reports, the Sentinel found that OPD used force, whether it was pepper spray, police dogs, stun guns, or fists, at a greater rate than several similar-sized departments. The research also showed Orlando officers were more likely to use force on Black citizens and suspects. And that just a few officers were responsible for a large number of the sometimes-violent confrontations.

Chris Dorworth asks Seminole to remove 67 acres in rural boundary for future development” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — In a move that quickly drew opposition from residents, Dorworth submitted a request with Seminole County this week to remove 67 acres from the county’s rural boundary so he can develop a pair of “world-class master-planned” residential communities just north of Oviedo. The two parcels of former farmland, long known as Pappy’s Patch, sit at the northeast side of Florida Avenue and DeLeon Street in the county’s Black Hammock area and within Seminole’s voter-approved rural boundary, where residential development is restricted to one home per 5 acres or one home per 10 acres.

Chris Dorworth wants to reserve a slice of Seminole County for development, to the dismay of residents.

Several Pasco County teachers face state fraud investigation” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — An undisclosed number of Pasco County teachers have been placed on administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates them for what is being called a fraud case. “We are investigating several teachers,” FDLE spokesperson Gretl Plessinger said. “At this point, only Hudson High School is involved.” The case, which is associated with the teachers’ work, stems from a complaint that the department received in April, Plessinger said. She stressed that no children are alleged to have been physically harmed. She would not name the teachers. “We’re still gathering information and conducting interviews,” Plessinger said. “So, at this point, we’re not able to say a lot.”

Will the U.S. Census change your Pinellas County Commission district?” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — As the Florida Legislature gears up for what’s expected to be another politically thorny redistricting process, Pinellas County this week is launching its first-ever citizen initiative to propose any changes to Board of County Commission district boundaries. Voters in 2016 passed a referendum creating the Pinellas County Redistricting Board, which will meet for the first time on Wednesday and be advised by local government consultant Kurt Spitzer. The last redistricting, which occurs once a decade after each U.S. Census to adjust for population shifts, was handled by county planning staff.

Miami-Dade County may get a 35th city — but first a fight over higher property taxes” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Are the residents of Biscayne Gardens ready to break away from Miami-Dade County government and form their own village? County commissioners will decide Wednesday whether to find out and hold a November referendum to form Miami-Dade’s 35th municipality. If the item passes at the commission’s first regular 9:30 a.m. meeting since July, the real fight begins, with opposing sides competing for support from the proposed municipality’s roughly 18,000 voters.

Environmental group celebrates after Miami-Dade snubs proposed wall construction in Biscayne Bay” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is backing a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rework its plan to build a wall through Biscayne Bay after Miami-Dade County rejected the original proposal. The Back Bay Study would have utilized various construction projects in the bay, such as flood gates, mangroves, building infrastructure upgrades, and the wall. But Miami-Dade County rejected the $4.6 billion project Monday, forcing the Army Corps to return to the drawing board. Environmental advocates, such as EDF members, have pushed for investment in projects more directed at improving the local ecosystem and helping ameliorate the effects of climate change.

Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer elected Florida League of Mayors president” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Florida League of Mayors has elected Boca Raton Mayor Singer as the association’s next president. The league is an association founded in 2005 by and for mayors to advocate for the interests of mayors and their cities. Singer will serve one term as president, succeeding outgoing president and Palatka Mayor Terrill Hill. “I want to thank my fellow Mayors for the trust they’ve placed in me to lead this association,” Singer said in a statement. On top of the COVID-19 pandemic, the incoming association president faces policy hurdles. DeSantis and the Legislature have passed bills limiting the power of local governments. Among those is a measure limiting how long local governments can implement emergency orders.

Congrats to Scott Singer on his new gig at the Florida League of Mayors. Image via The Boca Raton Tribune.

Miami’s hottest new address Is a house floating out on the water” via Nikki Ekstein of Bloomberg — Miami may be a city with a penchant for five-star hotels, many with eye-popping art and sprawling pool complexes and yet, the most exciting place to sleep there may soon be a boat. And no, it’s not a nine-figure yacht. In January, the coolest place to rest your head in Magic City could be a veritable floating mansion, hovering above the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean, where room service gets delivered by a valet on a motorboat, and the only pool is the one on your private rooftop deck.

‘My whole life revolved around him’: Ann Bowden reflects on life with and without Bobby Bowden” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat — While Ann Bowden continues to mourn the death of her husband, Bobby Bowden, she is uplifted by their journey together and the good times they shared. Ann also appreciates the support from the community, pointing to the impassioned public service at the Tucker Civic Center that honored the legendary Florida State football coach’s legacy. The 2 ½-hour event ended with a performance from the FSU Marching Chiefs. “I expected to see him throw a cap into the audience,” Ann said of Bowden’s tradition of tossing his FSU hat into the north end zone stands at Doak Campbell Stadium after home games.

— TOP OPINION —

America is leaving thousands of people behind in Afghanistan. This is a moral disaster.” via The Washington Post editorial board — Enormous as it is, the number of people evacuated by air from Kabul since the end of July, about 122,000, is not large enough. Thankfully, many thousands of American citizens, third-country nationals and Afghans who worked directly for the U.S. and allied military forces or embassies made it out. Those left behind appear to include many local journalists who worked for U.S.-supported media, such as the Afghan service of RFE/RL. Painfully emblematic, too, is the experience of the American University of Afghanistan, all but a few of whose roughly 4,000 students, faculty, alumni and employees remain in Kabul. Plans already are being developed, officials say, for continued efforts to extract people.

— OPINIONS —

The bitter truth: There’s still no rhyme or reason to COVID-19” via Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review — Vaccines help a great deal. That much we know. Beyond that, though, the coverage of the virus has mostly been partisanship and witchcraft. A few days ago, The New York Times ran an excellent piece on the terrible spike in Florida. “Exactly why the state has been so hard-hit,” it concluded, “remains an elusive question.” Many of the Times’s readers were frightfully upset by this blunt assessment of the facts. It remains the case that the most vitriolic voices in our COVID-19 debates are little more than glammed-up conspiracy theorists.

Do Republicans actually want the pandemic to end?” via Jamelle Bouie of The New York Times — Rather than work with him to vaccinate the country, Biden’s Republican opposition has, with only a few exceptions, done everything in its power to politicize the vaccine and make refusal to cooperate a test of partisan loyalty. The party is, for all practical purposes, pro-COVID-19. If it’s sincere, it is monstrous. And if it’s not, it is an unbelievably cynical and nihilistic strategy. Unfortunately for both Biden and the country, it appears to be working. Florida has been reporting more than 20,000 new infections a day and has averaged 262 COVID-19 deaths — the most of any state, at least in absolute numbers. Who does DeSantis blame for these outcomes? Biden.

The slow and steady decline of the vaccine skeptics” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — The Axios/Ipsos poll shows 20% of Americans now say they are either “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to get the vaccine, and 14% have effectively ruled it out. Both represent the lowest numbers recorded. The numbers aren’t hugely different from where they have been in recent weeks, but overall, the trend line is moving steadily downward. Through the first four months of the year, the number of skeptics had stayed mostly in the 30% range. Since polling on child vaccinations began in May, at least 40% of parents have said they were unlikely to vaccinate their children as soon as it became possible, but that number dropped to 31% in the new poll.

Common sense triumphs over DeSantis on masks. It’s time for him to use some, too” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board — We can only hope we’re one step closer to DeSantis‘ overdue epiphany of enlightenment now that a Florida judicial circuit court has shown, well, enlightenment by tossing aside DeSantis’ attempt to ban several school districts from enforcing mask mandates to protect students while COVID-19’s highly contagious Delta variant enjoys relatively free rein across the state. In short, the court treated DeSantis’ quest to keep Sarasota County and other school districts from implementing mask requirements with the same level of dismissiveness that the governor has consistently shown for mask-wearing in general.

Will DeSantis call off the anti-mask attack dogs?” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — At the latest meeting of the Palm Beach County School Board, members would like to talk about anything but masks. Important topics are on Wednesday’s agenda. The board must discuss high school readiness and how to get more students reading at grade level. First, though, comes “Student Protocols due to COVID-19.” They include this: “Students must wear facial coverings unless they are provided an exemption due to a 504/ADA accommodation or when eating/drinking/or outside.” Board members already approved the strictest mask mandate in Florida, but they want to give Interim Superintendent Mike Burke the flexibility to enact and relax protocols for any infectious disease.

Ron DeSantis’ offer of hurricane aid was the right thing to do” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — Gulf Coast states understand, maybe better than anyone, what a major hurricane can do. We know that recovery from calamity can take months, if not years. It’s part of the price of living where we do. When that bill comes due, it’s time for politics to take a seat. Maybe Floridians breathed a sigh of relief when Hurricane Ida headed toward Louisiana and Mississippi. However, we also know it easily could have come toward us. If it had, other states would have reached out to help without hesitation. That’s why DeSantis deserves a nod of appreciation from all Floridians for immediately sending Urban Search and Rescue teams to Louisiana and Mississippi.

Kasey Lewis: The advantage of having young advocates at The Capitol” via Florida Politics — Young client advocates come with a fresh perspective being at the beginning of our careers. We think creatively and bring a diverse set of skills that can help develop innovative solutions to achieving legislative goals/priorities. We have also built strong personal and professional relationships with the corps of traditionally younger members of the legislative staff, who play an influential role in serving the members of Florida’s Legislature. This can provide younger advocates with a leg up in winning a coveted meeting slot on a lawmaker’s calendar, additional opportunities to vet legislative concepts, and access to build a greater level of trust with both the member and their staff. That is a recipe for success in Florida’s fast-paced lawmaking environment.

— ALOE —

Jeremy Renner, Kyle Chandler star in new drama from ‘Yellowstone’ creator” via Tyler Hersko of IndieWire — Paramount+ is rounding out its drama roster with the star-studded “Mayor of Kingstown,” which is slated to premiere November 14 on the streaming service. The 10-episode “Mayor of Kingstown” hails from Taylor Sheridan, the co-creator of the Emmy-nominated “Yellowstone” series, as well as “Yellowstone” series regular Hugh Dillon. “Mayor of Kingstown” follows the McLusky family — power brokers in Kingstown, Michigan, where the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry. Tackling themes of systemic racism, corruption, and inequality, the series provides a stark look at their attempt to bring order and justice to a town that has neither.

To watch the trailer, click on the image below:

Help stuff holiday care packages for US military at NFL Kickoff Experience” via Daisy Ruth of WFLA — The United Service Organizations and the NFL are teaming up to prepare 10,000 care packages for service members during the 2021 NFL Kickoff Experience. The event will take place at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in Tampa on Sept. 9 from noon until 11 p.m. Tickets are free, but NFL One Pass is required to reserve a ticket. Those attending the NFL Kickoff Experience can visit the USO booth, help assemble care packages, and learn more about USO’s mission to give back to the military community through football. Those volunteering will help prepare snack packs, including popular food and drinks, to bring a taste of home to our troops.

‘It wasn’t as bad as everyone was saying’: After blasting DeSantis, comedian Bill Burr visits Florida” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Just a few weeks removed from vilifying DeSantis for blocking local Florida governments and school districts from passing mask mandates, comedian Burr offered an updated take on the state after a recent visit. “I got the idea that I was going to go to Florida, and it was going to be zombies walking around trying to vomit black sh** on me, and I was going to die and never see my family again,” Burr said. “I’ve got to be honest with you; it wasn’t as bad as everyone was saying.” The Grammy-nominated stage, television, movie and podcast personality performed back-to-back shows Saturday, Aug. 28 at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood as part of an ongoing tour running through the end of the year.

Bud Light is launching a pumpkin spice spiked seltzer” via Jordan Vainsky of CNN — From coffee to candy to macaroni and cheese, it’s possible to think that pumpkin spice has peaked. Not so fast. Bud Light is releasing its first-ever hard seltzer featuring the fall flavor. The alcoholic beverage includes a blend of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla flavors that the company describes as “literally the taste of fall.” The new drink, available nationwide beginning Sept. 6, is part of a new fall-themed variety pack. The 12-pack also includes toasted marshmallow, maple pear, and returning favorite apple crisp. The latter flavor was released last year as part of a holiday-themed pack.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to James Ballas, the father of Dayton and Jett, the best interns in Tallahassee, and husband to our dear friend Erin Ballas. It’s also Rep. Emily Slosberg‘s birthday.

___

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


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