Good Thursday morning from London, where it looks like I will remain, at least through the weekend. I’m starting to recover from COVID-19, but I continue to test positive for the virus. I’m stuck here until I test negative — or until 10 days have passed since I first officially tested positive, which was Monday.
Let’s begin today with something apolitical, but, as the son of a chef, near and dear to my heart: the awarding of Michelin stars to Florida restaurants.
Today is when chefs and restaurateurs learn if they earned a coveted Michelin star (or two or three).
According to Tampa Bay Times food critic Helen Freund, Michelin star recipients will find out “in real time” during a live ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. “Bib Gourmand,” “Sommelier of the Year,” and “Exceptional Cocktails” awards will also be announced at the ceremony, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. in Orlando.
The state will join only four other Michelin Guides in the U.S.: New York, Washington, Chicago and California.
“We anticipate that the guide will help improve the perception of Orlando as a destination offering quality dining experiences, which is important to both leisure visitors and meetings and conventions,” said Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit Orlando. That region alone boasts more than 6,000 restaurants representing 40 different international cuisines.
Tourism officials say a Michelin Guide for Florida will draw national and international visitors seeking quality dining. Shortly after the announcement, the Orlando Sentinel reported VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism arm, paid $150,000 to partner with Michelin — and that Visit Orlando spent another $348,000 on top of that.
The Miami Herald wrote that Miami and Tampa’s tourism organizations contributed “in line with the other partners” for the Michelin honor, according to Rolando Aedo, chief operating officer of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Chefs are quick to steer clear of the politics of the partnership and focus on the excitement and anticipation of earning a star.
“It’s an honor to be in a state that’s going to be reviewed by Michelin,” said chef Ferrell Alvarez, the owner of Rooster & the Till in Tampa. His restaurant, along with a handful of others in the three cities, is the subject of much Michelin buzz among restaurant lovers in the state.
The guide began as a booklet for motorists in France in the late 1800s, when brothers and tire company owners Andre and Edouard Michelin “produced a small red guide filled with handy information for travelers, such as maps, information on how to change a tire, where to fill up with fuel, and for the traveler in search of respite from the adventures of the day,” according to the company’s website.
In 1926, it began rating exceptional restaurants with stars. The company says the guide now ranks over 40,000 establishments in over 24 territories across three continents, and more than 30 million guides have been sold worldwide.
Michelin says its stars are awarded for “outstanding cooking” and consider ingredient quality, consistency, techniques and flavors when reviewing. Michelin reviewers, called “Inspectors,” are full-time employees who try to review as much of a restaurant’s food as possible. They’re sent around the world to eat at various destinations.
Any restaurant can get a star. Décor and service allegedly don’t play a part, although chefs say they want their front-of-the-house to be as seamless and professional as the kitchen when faced with a possible review.
“This is going to enable us to charge a proper amount of money to provide not only a better experience for everyone, but it’s going to have a major trickle-down effect,” he said, adding that it will allow owners to pay employees more, which is a bonus after a tough couple of years in the pandemic.
Brenda Popritkin, a South Florida-based writer and podcaster who has written extensively about her love for food, restaurants and traveling around the U.S. to dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, says she was “overjoyed” to hear the news that the guide is coming to Florida. She’s dined at 61 restaurants in the U.S. that have been awarded stars and can’t wait to see which are on the Florida list.
—”On the eve of Michelin Guide results, Florida chefs are split on whether or not it really matters” via Faiyaz Kara and Ray Roa of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay
—”Michelin predictions: Which Miami restaurants we think will get Florida’s first stars” via Carlos Frías of the Miami Herald
—“The Michelin Guide is coming to Florida. Should Orlando care?” via Faiyaz Kara of Orlando Weekly
Which restaurants in Miami, Orlando, and Tampa could get a Michelin star — or two or three? Here are some of the establishments enjoying early buzz, according to our sources.
— Ariete: Located in Coconut Grove, with local ingredients and fresh-off-the-boat ceviche, Chef Michael Beltran runs this elegant restaurant.
— Itamae: Sleek and trim, this Japanese-Peruvian sushi, ceviche and tiradito restaurant in the Design District has an ever-changing menu.
— Stubborn Seed: Casual, cool, and hip dining on South Beach with Bravo’s Top Chef Season 13 winner, Chef Jeremy Ford, at the helm. Features an eight-course tasting menu and a la carte offerings.
— AVA MediterrAgean: Michael Michaelidis, the head of cuisine, earned five Michelin stars at two Singapore restaurants and hopes for a repeat with his Greek-inspired eatery in Winter Park.
— Kadence: A nine-seat, reservations-only Japanese restaurant that offers fish flown in twice-weekly from Japan and Florida-sourced crab, mullet and greens.
— Knife and Spoon: Situated in the Ritz-Carlton, this seafood and steakhouse boasts award-winning Chef John Tesar (who was in Anthony Bourdain‘s bestselling memoir “Kitchen Confidential” and in “Medium Raw” under a pseudonym).
— Bern’s: A classic steakhouse with a massive wine list and quirky décor serving quality food since 1956.
— Koya: This is an intimate, eight-seat, tasting menu-only restaurant that opened in the middle of the pandemic and has thrived with stunning courses of fresh sushi and sashimi.
— Rooster & the Till: Located in Seminole Heights, 80% of the food is sourced within a 100-mile radius.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@JimSciutto: Two children “pulverized” and “decapitated” by gunshot wounds in Uvalde, says the pediatrician who treated them. Those poor children, their poor families. I’m sick to my stomach.
—@CharlieCrist: Ron DeSantis is more focused on “protecting” kids from drag queens than keeping them safe from school shootings.
—@ByJasonDelgado: @ is slamming the door today on calls for a Special Session addressing gun violence. “With all due respect to these leftists, they just want to come after your Second Amendment rights.”
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) June 8, 2022
—@Jason_Garcia: At this point, is there *any* coherent rationale for delaying a gas-tax cut for SIX MONTHS other than that’s what was best for Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ re-election campaign?
—@Mdixon55: Citizen’s policies approaching 900k. Added 12k just last week (mostly Lighthouse). Member of Citizens’ advisory panel called Special Session bill a “bandage.” CEO said it had “loophole.” Florida property insurance market woes continue
—@NathanBrandWA: Seems relevant this morning … “I want to tell you (Neil) Gorsuch. I want to tell you (Brett) Kavanaugh: You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you.” — Democrat leader Chuck Schumer
—@AdamParkhomenko: A dude with a gun was arrested near Brett Kavanaugh’s house today. So today is the day when Republicans show us they care way more about their Supreme Court pet than an 11-year-old in Texas.
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Jurassic World Dominion’ premieres — 1; Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ premieres — 8; 2022 Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 19; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 28; 36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 40; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 44; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 62; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 70; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 73; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 83; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 83; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 85; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 91; 2022 Emmys — 95; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 120; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 137; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 138; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 138; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 155; FITCon 2022 begins — 161; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 161; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 165; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 165; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 166; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 174; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 174; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 188; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 252; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 270; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 288; 2023 Session Sine Die — 330; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 330; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 358; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 414; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 498; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 659; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 778.
—TOP STORY —
“Ron DeSantis spokeswoman belatedly registers as agent of foreign politician” via Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — A spokeswoman for DeSantis this week registered as a foreign agent of a former President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, belatedly detailing work she performed for the politician between 2018 and 2020.
Spokeswoman Christina Pushaw made the disclosure following contact from the Justice Department. She began her work in 2018 as a volunteer in the post-Soviet country, Sherwin said, and was ultimately paid $25,000 over two years.
Pushaw had written openly on social media of her work for Saakashvili, who was arrested last year when he returned to Georgia after eight years in exile. Associated with factions critical of the Kremlin, Saakashvili led Georgia from 2004 until 2013 and entered Ukrainian politics after that country removed a pro-Russian President in 2014.
“Nobody in the public believes their garbage!” @GovRonDeSantis blasts “Legacy Media” outlets after he is asked about a report that his Press Secretary @ChristinaPushaw being a foreign agent. pic.twitter.com/C26sA0YO2f
— Chris Nelson (@ReOpenChris) June 8, 2022
— STATEWIDE —
“Gov. DeSantis vetoes Everglades, Lake O water bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis has vetoed legislation to address water quality in Lake Okeechobee, a priority of Senate President Wilton Simpson. DeSantis, who issued a rare policy statement during the recent Legislative Session criticizing the bill’s initial version (SB 2508), said he vetoed the proposal after complaints from environmental groups. “I’ve heard you. We have vetoed that today,” DeSantis said. The bill, as written initially, sought to ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not reduce the amount of water available to “existing legal users.” But Sen. Ben Albritton later amended the legislation to ensure that the latter language did not impact SB 10, a 2017 law giving flexibility on how water can be moved throughout the region.
“DeSantis: ‘Leftists’ view ‘law-abiding citizens,’ Second Amendment as target of gun control” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — With Florida’s Democratic lawmakers demanding a Special Session on gun control, DeSantis says Democrats are coming after the Second Amendment. Rep. Joe Geller, the Aventura Democrat who began the call for a new Special Session, says their proposed topics were supposed to draw the Republican majority to the table following last month’s mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. But in answering a question when explaining Democrats’ outline, the Governor spurned Democrats’ proposals, likely damning the long shot effort: “With all due respect to these leftists, they just want to come after your Second Amendment rights. Let’s just be honest; that’s what they want to do. They don’t want you — they view you, as a law-abiding citizen, as the target of what they’re trying to do.”
“DeSantis exploring crackdown on drag shows for kids” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Following an outcry over viral videos of a Dallas Pride Month drag show aimed at kids, DeSantis says he is looking into preventing bringing children to such shows. At least one Texas Republican lawmaker has vowed to file legislation to ban drag shows in the presence of minors. And Howey-in-the-Hills Rep. Anthony Sabatini, an outspoken right-wing Republican running for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, called for an “emergency Special Session” on the matter, citing “Pride on the Block: Drag Show for Kids,” advertised for West Palm Beach last Sunday. Asked about Sabatini’s call, DeSantis said, “I’ve asked my folks to look. We have child protective statutes on the books. We have laws against child endangerment.”
Was this really an issue? — “DeSantis says no to subway systems in Florida cities” via Caden DeLisa of The Capitolist — DeSantis on Monday rejected the idea of using Floridian infrastructure funding reserves to implement a series of subway systems throughout the state’s largest urban areas. When asked by a reporter at a news conference, DeSantis stated that any form of enhanced public transportation is unlikely at best and seen as unfeasible to implement. DeSantis also spoke against using taxpayer dollars to fund such a project. “But, on infrastructure, we had the highest amount of money we’ve ever had for the [Florida Department of Transportation] work plan in the history of the state. We’ve always funded it, and we’ve always done a good job,” he said.
“DeSantis scraps another Cabinet meeting, canceling state business; Nikki Fried calls it ‘an insult’ to Floridians” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — The three Cabinet members — Fried, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — are top statewide elected officials who conduct the state’s business, along with the Governor. Fried, a Democrat seeking her party’s nomination to campaign against Republican DeSantis in November, said DeSantis’ office gave no reason for canceling a Cabinet meeting set for June 28 and a June 29 meeting of the Board of Executive Clemency. The notice arrived via a terse email from Caroline Redshaw, DeSantis’ aide for Cabinet affairs.
“Florida has a unique right protecting abortion. Its framers designed it that way.” via Kathryn Varn of the Tallahassee Democrat — Patricia Dore’s pitch to add a new right to the Florida Constitution invoked a future that looks a lot like today. What if, the law professor asked a colleague more than 40 years ago, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade? It was hard to imagine back then, just a few years after the landmark court decision made abortion legal nationwide. The 1973 Roe decision said Americans have a right to be left alone from government intrusion, extending to abortion. Critics pointed to what they saw as a fundamental flaw: The federal Constitution doesn’t expressly mention a privacy right. Instead, the justices had cobbled one together from several amendments.
Citizens policy count continues climb — Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is approaching 890,000 policies as the property insurance market’s woes continue. Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reported that the state-backed insurer added more than 12,000 policies in the past week, with many of the new customers coming from Lighthouse Property Insurance Corp., which is one of the multiple insurers in receivership. In Q1 2022, Citizens wrote 101,000 new policies. By comparison, COO Kelly Booten said that the insurer wrote 81,000 policies for all of 2019. Reforms passed during the Special Session are not expected to have much impact, according to Citizens Market Accountability Advisory Committee member Lee Gorodetsky, who referred to the legislation as a “bandage.”
“The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments over penalties for local gun restrictions” via Gina Jordan of WFSU — The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday morning to challenge a 2011 state law surrounding guns. Leon County government is part of that case. A preemption law passed in 1987 says municipalities cannot have gun regulations stricter than those passed by the state. The 2011 law boosted penalties for such occurrences. It includes language that allows local leaders to be fined and even removed from office for enforcing such policies. The city of Tallahassee was sued in 2014 by gun rights groups over two ordinances that were no longer being enforced but had not been repealed. An appeals court sided with the city but did not rule the preemption law unconstitutional.
“‘Please communicate your existence’: New gambling commission urged to crack down on ‘gray’ games” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida’s new Gaming Control Commission (GCC) is still making new hires and scouting leases and building designs, but those involved with the gambling industry want them to get the word out and start cracking down on so-called “gray” slot machines. “Please communicate your existence to local elected officials and local law enforcement,” longtime gambling industry lobbyist Marc Dunbar told the Commission Wednesday. “It’s going to be important as they move forward looking at these kinds of operations.” Dunbar was referring to a proposal in Jacksonville to legalize “gray” slot machines, named such because they operate in an alleged gray area of state law. The state has said electronic games are illegal and denied licenses to operators.
— 2022 —
“‘I don’t do straw polls’: DeSantis deflects 2024 buzz” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis has outperformed Donald Trump in several informal surveys at various events in recent weeks. It’s led to an increasing number of stories on a seemingly trending phenomenon. But DeSantis sidesteps the question: “I don’t do straw polls. They just put my name into these things, you know? It’s just, like, so what am I supposed to do? Like they sell merchandise and everything. I kind of would like to get royalties on that.” DeSantis continues showing a national reach as a potential alternative to the former President. Last weekend, the Western Conservative Summit 2024 straw poll in Colorado saw 71% approval for a DeSantis run, four points ahead of Trump. No other candidate drew even 30% support, suggesting that DeSantis continues to consolidate the “anybody but Trump” lane.
How mature — “Conservative commentator Dave Rubin gave DeSantis an anti-Joe Biden ‘Let’s go Brandon’ T-shirt during interview” via Kimberly Leonard of Business Insider — DeSantis has new anti-Biden swag. Conservative commentator and activist Rubin gifted the Republican Governor a “Let’s Go Brandon” T-shirt when he appeared on “The Rubin Report” live show in Orlando. The chant has become a stand-in for the chant “F-ck Joe Biden” in GOP circles and is often seen on flags, bumper stickers and T-shirts among grassroots Republicans in Florida. “It seems that he should put it on right now and rip it off Hulk Hogan style,” Rubin said as DeSantis, a Republican, held the shirt up and smiled.
“Chelsea Piers in NYC should cancel event with DeSantis, say local LGBTQ pols” via Shant Shahrigian of the New York Daily News — Pride Month in the heart of Chelsea, one of the birthplaces of the modern LGBTQ movement, is no time for DeSantis to come to the Big Apple, says a group of local lawmakers. State Sen. Brad Hoylman and two fellow LGBTQ Democrats call on Chelsea Piers to cancel an event at one of its venues set to feature the conservative firebrand next Sunday. They say his backing of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law — which restricts discussion of sexual identity and gender at Florida schools — makes him unworthy to speak in Chelsea during Pride.
“Governor candidate Nikki Fried calls for massive effort to ‘change the culture of America when it comes to guns’” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Fried said Tuesday she’d like to see a massive effort along the scale of the efforts that turned cigarette smoking into something less glamorous — and thus less popular — than it was decades ago. “If you ask this newest generation about cigarette smoking, they respond with disgust. That’s because we put money into changing the conversation,” Fried said at a campaign appearance in Fort Lauderdale. She criticized politicians who brandish guns in their political advertising.
— MORE 2022 —
“Internal poll shows Randolph Bracy is clear front-runner in crowded CD 10 contest” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A new poll commissioned by Democratic Sen. Bracy shows he is the clear front-runner in Florida’s 10th Congressional District. The polling, done by Impact Research of Maryland, a top political research firm in the country for Democrats, including Biden, finds the Ocoee Democrat has strong name recognition and is well-liked among voters. Straight up, 29% of likely Democratic Primary Election voters in the new CD 10 said they would vote for Bracy. He easily leads activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost, who has had robust fundraising and has attracted numerous endorsements, yet drew just 9%; civil rights lawyer Natalie Jackson, favored by 5%; the Rev. Terence Gray, 2%; and Jeff Boone and Teresa Tachon, who each got 1%.
“Miami Beach’s Raquel Pacheco launches campaign against Ileana García for state Senate” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Pacheco, who ran twice unsuccessfully for Miami Beach’s City Commission, is announcing she’s running for Senate District 36. Her announcement is paired with two endorsements, from Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Lauren Book and Ruth’s List Florida, the state organization that backs Democratic pro-abortion-rights women. Pacheco is filing her paperwork with the Florida Division of Elections later Wednesday. García had been unopposed for a week since her primary Democratic opponent, Florida Rep. Michael Grieco, dropped out of the race.
“More candidates file for House seat left open by Ramon Alexander’s exit” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Two more candidates have filed to run for the Florida House seat left open by state Rep. Alexander’s exit amid a sexting scandal from what had been a quiet and uncontested re-election campaign. Gregory James, a local pastor known for his efforts to help incarcerated people reenter society, and Sharon Lettman-Hicks, a consulting firm owner and CEO of an organization that fights for the civil rights of Black gays and lesbians, recently filed for the District 8 race. Lettman-Hicks and James join a crowded Democratic Primary field that includes five other candidates: Hubert Brown, a lawyer; Trish Brown, a community advocate; Gallop Franklin, a pharmacist and college professor; Delaitre Hollinger, a historic preservationist; and Marie Rattigan, a community organizer.
“Danny Burgess backing Carolina Amesty in HD 45 contest” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican Sen. Burgess is putting his chips on Amesty in the crowded Republican battle for the new House District 45 seat in Central Florida. Burgess, of Zephyrhills, and the former Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, is weighing in on one of the hottest contests in Florida, a high-stakes battle for the district that will represent the Walt Disney World area across southwestern Orange County and Northwestern Osceola County. “Carolina is a true conservative with a heart for public service and the values that will cause her to fight for Florida’s small businesses and working families,” Burgess said. “Carolina will take the same energy that has made her a successful businesswoman and educator to the Florida Legislature, and I fully endorse her campaign.”
“Bill Olson leaves U.S. House race to challenge Josie Tomkow in the Florida House” via Gary White of The Ledger — Olson, caught among a group of Republican challengers to U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, is instead now challenging a Republican incumbent for the Florida Legislature. Olson of Davenport has filed to run against Tomkow in Florida House District 51. Tomkow of Polk City is in her third term in District 39, covering northern Polk County and part of Osceola County. The Florida Legislature redrew the 80 districts of the state House this year in response to the 2020 U.S. Census, and Tomkow opted to run in District 51.
“Ken Welch endorses Michele Rayner in HD 62 run” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The St. Petersburg Mayor is endorsing Rayner for re-election in the state House. The pair broke barriers in their respective elections. Welch became St. Petersburg’s first Black Mayor after a victorious campaign in 2021, and Rayner is the first openly gay Black woman elected to the Legislature. “Rep. Michele Rayner has been a champion for the people of Pinellas County since well before she was elected to serve in the Florida House, and I’m proud to endorse her in her re-election campaign,” Welch said.
HD 65 candidate Jake Hoffman releases first campaign video — Republican Hoffman released “Jake for State House,” his first campaign video in the race for House District 65. The ad spoofs the well-known “Jack for State Farm” TV commercial. In it, he aims at Big Tech and states that he supports un-banning Trump’s social media accounts. Rogan O’Handley, better known in some circles by his social media handle “DC_Draino,” guest stars in the spot. Jake ends with the campaign slogan, “Jake for a better state.” The video has garnered more than 1 million views, according to the campaign.
“Teacher Derek Reich challenges Fiona McFarland in HD 73” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — After the House pushed a budget plan this year that would have punished Sarasota County Schools with $12 million in budget cuts, part of a $200 million slam on districts that had enforced mask mandates for any portion of the school year, Reich said he had to act. His state Representative, Sarasota Republican Rep. McFarland, voted up on the House’s budget proposal, though the punitive cuts to the school district did not pass in the Senate. Reich, a Democrat, plans to rhetorically bludgeon McFarland on that vote this fall. He noted Sen. Joe Gruters, Chair of the Republican Party of Florida, was among those Senators who put a stop to punishing Sarasota County schools in the education budget.
“Candidate for state rep touts salary donations — but doesn’t mention his salary was $1” via Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — A recent campaign mailer for Florida House candidate Jordan Leonard proclaims that, over more than a decade as a Bay Harbor Islands Town Council member, he “always donated his salary to charity.” But the mailer leaves out a key detail: The salary was one dollar per year. Elected officials in the small town near Miami Beach have received one-dollar salaries since the town’s inception in 1947. They traditionally donate it to charities of their choice. Leonard, running in the August Democratic primary for HD 106, told the Miami Herald he didn’t write the mailer and said it “could have been phrased better to reflect that I served over a dozen years at no cost to taxpayers.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“With aid stalled, the White House says it has to shift funds from testing to buy more vaccines and treatments.” via Noah Weiland of The New York Times — Roughly $10 billion from Department of Health and Human Services funds will be rerouted, around half to purchase vaccines for Americans ahead of a possible fall or winter wave of virus cases, when an updated shot may be needed, according to one White House official. The other half will go primarily to buy 10 million courses of Paxlovid, the antiviral treatment made by Pfizer that has been shown to substantially reduce the severity of COVID-19 in high-risk people, the official said. Around $300 million will be for monoclonal antibody treatments. A White House official added that the total amount needed for a new vaccination campaign later this year is still unknown because contract negotiations are ongoing.
“Audio shows Donald Trump-endorsed Arizona Senate candidate questioned whether Jan. 6 attack was set up by FBI” via Alex Rogers and Manu Raju of CNN — Blake Masters, the Republican Senate candidate from Arizona, met with conservative activists at a Phoenix IHOP this spring and was asked whether he would support investigating U.S. intelligence operations to uncover the federal government’s “nefarious activities.” Masters replied, “Absolutely,” and then floated the conspiracy theory that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol actually may have been a false-flag operation set up by the FBI, according to a recording of the March 30 meeting. “Don’t we suspect that like one-third of the people outside of the Capitol complex on Jan. 6 were actual FBI agents hanging out,” Masters asked at the GrassRoots Tea Party Activists of Arizona event. “What did people know and when did they know it? We got to get to the bottom of this.”
— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —
“Attorneys in $1B Surfside settlement vowed to work at a discount. Will they get $100M?” via Jay Weaver and Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — In a packed courtroom last summer, as rescue teams were still digging up human remains after the collapse of a Surfside condo tower, a Miami-Dade judge declared the tragedy was “not going to be treated as business as usual” and gave an ultimatum to a throng of seasoned lawyers representing the grieving families. Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman laid down his demands for the attorneys, who might typically collect a third of the damages as a fee in such a massive catastrophic case: He would cover their expenses, but they must agree to work for free at their own risk with “absolutely no assurance of payment whatsoever and no legal right to payment.”
“Mayor is under fire for how he treats others. He says he’s fixing a town that was a mess.” via Lisa Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Mayor once accused of mistreating some of the town’s workers is saying conditions instead have improved since he took office three years ago. Pembroke Park Mayor Geoffrey Jacobs has been publicly clashing with the town’s top staff, which has led to requests for resignations, calls for sanctions and accusations of sexism. But in the end, Jacobs said he’s the one working to put the town back together. “This was a s——-, absolute s——-, three years ago when I got here,” he said at a recent public meeting.
“‘Fix our own problems’: Critics of Boynton Beach police say they don’t want PBSO in city” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — For months, scores of Black residents in Boynton Beach have publicly denounced the city police department for actions that resulted in the deadly crash of a 13-year-old dirt bike rider on Dec. 26. Stanley Davis III’s death, they’ve repeatedly said at City Commission meetings, is the latest instance in a long-standing pattern of city police officers targeting people in District 2, which includes Boynton’s historic Black neighborhoods. Many have demanded a revamping of police tactics, personnel and leadership. But one change most of those critics are adamantly opposing is a merger with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
“Royal Palm Beach’s longtime Village Manager earns 5% raise, praise from Village Council” via Valentina Palm of the Palm Beach Post — The Royal Palm Beach Village Council gave a five-star review to Village Manager Ray Liggins at his annual performance review and with it, a more than $10,000 raise. The five Council members unanimously voted to boost Liggins’ annual base salary of $213,931 with a merit pay of 5%, or roughly $10,696. “We are very fortunate to have him. We have a well-run city,” said Council member Jeff Hmara at its May 19 meeting. “It’s a 24-hour job, and it’s performed like a 24-hour job.” Liggins has been Village Manager since 2010, overseeing daily operations in the Village, which employs about 150 and is home to about 40,000. He began working for the Village in 2001.
“There’s a new, more contagious omicron strain, and it’s in Miami-Dade” via Devoun Cetoute and Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — On Tuesday, Premier Medical Laboratory Services says it has identified the first three cases of the BA.4 strain in Miami-Dade. Additionally, another omicron subvariant, BA.5, has been rapidly growing in the Southeast. Experts say these variants have a higher chance of evading vaccines and booster shots. BA.4 and BA.5 are classified as “variants of concern” by the World Health Organization, meaning they show evidence of higher transmission rates and increased hospitalizations or deaths. Premier Medical says BA.4 and BA.5 may cause increased COVID-19 cases in the United States and Florida. In the past seven days, Florida has added 10,081 new COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths per day, according to Miami Herald calculations of data published by the CDC.
“$1 million for a school leader? Here are top salaries at South Florida private schools” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — Ransom Everglades’ head of school suddenly stepped down after nearly a decade at the helm of the elite Coconut Grove school, leaving behind a salary of $493,453 and additional compensation of $82,036, the Herald reported Saturday. With that news, we wondered how much top administrators at South Florida’s pricey private schools make. Our list below includes the salaries and additional compensation of the heads of school and other top administrators of some of the most popular private schools in Miami-Dade and Broward, as well as key financial indicators of each school. The Herald compiled the data by reviewing the most recent publicly available tax forms for the schools, known as IRS Form 990, for 2019.
“Fort Lauderdale agrees to pay Elon Musk team $375,000 to do recon on beach tunnel plan” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The town with killer gridlock is one step closer to making a deal with The Boring Company to take traffic underground. On Tuesday night, Fort Lauderdale Commissioners said yes to kicking in $375,000 for a feasibility study that will help Musk’s team of experts answer three key questions: Can South Florida’s terrain safely accommodate a pair of 2.7-mile tunnels? What is the best route for the so-called Las Olas Loop to take passengers in Teslas from downtown to the beach and back? And how much will it cost? The plan, which might cost as much as $100 million or more, has been vilified by critics as ill-advised and far-fetched.
“What’s washing up on Keys beaches? Feds kept busy with hauls of cocaine and marijuana” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — It’s become an all-too-familiar sight in the Florida Keys: packages of drugs washing up along the coastline. But this time, federal agents were sent out six times over two days to check out reports of narcotics coming to shore, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. The total haul added up to 29 pounds of marijuana and 1.3 pounds of cocaine — numbers that aren’t going to impress the locals when it comes to the floating wayward stashes. But the feds were kept busy as calls came in. “Good Samaritans found the drugs and notified authorities,” said Walter N. Slosar, the chief patrol agent of the Border Patrol’s Miami sector headquarters, in a tweet on Tuesday.
— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —
“‘Hamilton’ tickets in Orlando: On-sale date announced” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts has announced that tickets for the Broadway blockbuster will go on sale Thursday July 14. The downtown Orlando arts center also announced that tickets for “Six,” one of the current hottest shows on Broadway, will go on sale Tuesday, Aug. 2. Season-ticket holders will automatically have tickets for “Six” and “Hamilton.” But for those who aren’t season subscribers, the only way to see those two shows is by buying tickets on the above dates. Brace yourself. The last time tickets went on sale for “Hamilton” in 2018, the demand was so high the arts center’s ticketing system crashed, and the company’s CEO issued an apology after would-be buyers were left empty-handed.
“Orlando Pride quiet about inquiry into coaches, choose to focus on field” via Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando Pride interim head coach Seb Hines refused to comment on an ongoing investigation into head coach Amanda Cromwell and first assistant coach Sam Greene, instead choosing to focus on Sunday’s road game against the Chicago Red Stars. Cromwell and Greene were placed on temporary administrative leave by the team Monday, pending an ongoing investigation by the National Women’s Soccer League and the NWSL Players Association Joint Investigative Team. The Pride didn’t release any more details on the matter and Hines wouldn’t get into specifics, only offering that he found out about the move Tuesday. The move comes less than a year after turmoil in the NWSL over concerns about the league’s approach to player safety and anti-harassment.
“Fire at Clearwater retirement community damages apartments, displaces dozens” via Mary Claire Molloy of the Tampa Bay Times — A fire broke out at the Regency Oaks retirement community Tuesday, damaging at least 40 apartments and sending displaced residents to hotels, authorities said. Clearwater Fire Rescue received a call at about 8:40 p.m. for a fire in the North Independent Living Building on the campus at 2751 Regency Oaks Blvd., said Division Chief John Klinefelter. Crews helped at least two dozen residents evacuate the building. At least 40 apartments were damaged by smoke and water, Regency Oaks executive director Brant Spence said in a statement. No injuries were reported. The affected residents were moved to two nearby hotels. The cause of the fire was still under investigation Wednesday.
“Dunedin credit union first in Florida to launch crypto services app” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — Dunedin’s Achieva Credit Union on Tuesday launched a new app offering cryptocurrency services, including the ability to buy and sell Bitcoin, making it the first credit union in Florida to do so. Achieva partnered with Bitcoin trading company NYDIG, specializing in working with banks, credit unions, and other traditional financial institutions. The company last year completed a $1 billion fundraising round, bringing its valuation to $7 billion. While Achieva members could previously make Bitcoin trades on third-party apps, integrating the process into the credit union’s own app will give members easier access, Achieva’s chief digital and infrastructure officer Tracy Ingram said. Over the past year, Achieva saw members trading $2.6 million in cryptocurrency through third-party apps, according to Ingram.
“Eastern Florida State College to open two new technology centers over the next two years” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — Eastern Florida State College has secured $21 million in funding for technology centers at its Melbourne and Titusville campuses. Most of the money will go toward a $19.7 million Center for Innovative Technology Education on the Melbourne campus, while $1.2 million will fund an Aerospace Center of Excellence on the Titusville campus. “This is a significant step forward for our students and community that will provide excellent careers and spur local economic growth,” EFSC President Jim Richey said. The state budget signed by DeSantis on June 2 funded both projects. NASA and more than 50 companies, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Blue Origin, Northrup Grumman, and OneWeb Satellites, wrote letters of support to the Legislature for the project.
“Disney gets fine in laundry accident” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Disney was fined $12,431 after an employee broke both arms on a conveyor belt at a Disney laundry facility last year, records show. On Oct. 27, an employee was working alongside co-workers to unjam and realign the belt of a conveyance system after laundry bundles jammed it up, according to the report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employees used their hands to get the belt running again when the accident happened. One worker climbed on top of a tool cabinet to move the belt since the rollers stood more than 7 feet tall. But the belt started moving again. The worker started screaming; his “arms were pulled between the tension roller and the belt all the way up to his elbows.”
— MORE LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Former Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputy sentenced to 15 years in prison on 100 child pornography charges” via Tomas Rodriguez of the Naples Daily News — A former Collier County sheriff’s deputy has been sentenced to 15 years in prison on child pornography charges. Judge Ramiro Manalich sentenced Rashaad Smith, 43, on Tuesday. In June 2020, Smith was charged with 100 counts of possession of child pornography. He was arrested at his home on June 13, 2020. Because he was a deputy, his photo was not released to the public. Employment records show Smith worked at the Sheriff’s Office for more than 15 years, more recently becoming an internal affairs investigator. Smith was a police officer at the Naples Police Department for more than two years early in his career and had volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —
“Jacksonville has a Russian sister city. Ukraine President says it’s time to sever ties.” via Mark Woods of The Florida Times-Union — When Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a video address to a group of American mayors gathered in Nevada last Friday, he mentioned our city by name. Zelensky’s message included a pointed plea to five U.S. cities maintaining “sister city” relationships with Russian cities: Chicago, Portland, San Diego, San Jose and Jacksonville. To those cities, Zelensky bluntly said: Sever those ties. “Don’t make any excuses; don’t maintain relationships with Russia,” he said. “And please don’t let those who became murderers call your cities their sister cities.”
“Early departure will cost Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams his state pension” via Anne Schindler of First Coast News — Pay and pension have been a key question since Jacksonville Sheriff Williams announced he was stepping down after violating the city charter. City General Counsel Jason Teal has already determined Williams earned his $180,000-plus annual salary because he served as “the de facto sheriff.” But Teal’s opinion doesn’t cover his state pension. First Coast News has confirmed that the Florida Retirement System requires a minimum of eight years of employment to receive a pension. When Williams leaves the office Friday, he will be just under seven. But Williams has options, including getting another job covered by FRS. That could be anything from teaching law enforcement classes at a state school to becoming sheriff of Nassau County.
“Celebrate while Confederate monuments stand? Group plans Jacksonville protest same day as bicentennial” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — As Jacksonville’s 200th birthday celebration continues Saturday with a downtown street festival, the city’s often strained race relations will be on display as well. A community group will stage a protest at City Hall the same day to focus public attention on Confederate monuments that haven’t been removed and what members and other organizations view as insufficient racial representation in the Jacksonville Historical Society’s bicentennial planning. “There is a lot of history they do not want to make public,” Wells Todd, representative for Take ‘Em Down Jax, said. Among the groups not included in 200th-birthday planning were two prominent civil rights groups — the Jacksonville chapter of the NAACP and the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, according to their leaders.
“‘Reeks of cronyism’: Backlash begins after Mayor’s Chief of Staff hired as department director” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter called into question the hiring of the Mayor’s former Chief of Staff into a plum city position, saying “it reeks of cronyism.” Thomas Whitley started this week as the director of the Office of Strategic Innovation, which oversees the city’s state and federal lobbying efforts, develops and implements the city’s strategic plan and works on agenda processes and policy development. City Manager Reese Goad stood by the hire, calling him “by far the best candidate” for the job. “To hire someone who has no formal experience, no formal training, no formal qualifications except as four years as an aide to the mayor is frankly extraordinary,” Porter said.
“3 Crestview cops indicted for manslaughter in stun gun death. NAACP, Wilks family are ‘pleased’” via Tom McLaughlin of Northwest Florida Daily News — Crestview Police Officers Brandon Hardaway, William Johns and Evan Reynolds have been indicted on manslaughter charges for their involvement in the Oct. 14, 2021, death of Calvin Wilks, who died after being shot with stun guns several times. A grand jury met Monday in Okaloosa County and examined the circumstances surrounding the death, which occurred during an encounter with Crestview police. “We are pleased the critical first step in holding these officers accountable has been accomplished,” said Lewis Jennings, the president of the Okaloosa Branch of the NAACP. “We remain hopeful justice will be served.”
— TOP OPINION —
“America’s violent heart” via David French of The Dispatch — There’s something that’s been nagging at me for some time — and not just when we talk about guns. It’s the constant comparison of the United States to Europe. Or even to the other nations of what’s sometimes called the “core Anglosphere,” Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
I can see the reason for the comparison. We’re as rich as Europe and the other Anglosphere nations. The initial wave of American settlement and immigration came largely from Europe. We were once British. But as my friend and colleague Jonah Goldberg points out, the term “American exceptionalism” properly understood shouldn’t necessarily mean, “America is exceptionally great” (though there are many great things about America) but rather quite simply, America is exceptional. It’s different. It’s hard to find a comparable culture. And this difference emerged early.
And if profound differences existed 20 years before the Declaration of Independence, they have only deepened and magnified since. America’s population is far, far more diverse than it was even in its distinct colonial period, and there are many ways in which Europe is a poor comparison to the American experience. In fact, there are ways in which America is far more Latin American than European.
— OPINIONS —
“Ignore the GOP spin. The nation still hasn’t reckoned with Jan. 6.” via The Washington Post editorial board — What Americans should be asking now is how to strengthen democracy against future subversion, which Congress still has not done a year and a half since a dangerous mob stormed the nation’s seat of government. The committee’s members are divided on what reforms to recommend; measures that would make U.S. democracy more orderly and less prone to subversion, from extensive new voting rights laws to bans on partisan gerrymandering, would be plausible responses. At a minimum, the Electoral College should be less prone to partisan abuse. It should be explicitly illegal for the Vice President to discard electoral votes at will. It should be harder for members of Congress to object to and toss out presidential electors. New protections for election workers are needed, as are guardrails preventing Governors and local lawmakers from ignoring the results of the popular votes in their states.
“How much damage have Marjorie Taylor Greene and the ‘bullies’ done to the GOP?” via Thomas Edsall for The New York Times — The participation of members of the MAGA caucus in events linked to White supremacists have increased the vulnerability of the Republican Party to charges of racism, alienating moderate suburban voters. Two scholars who have been highly critical of developments in the Republican Party, Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, co-authors of the book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism,” were both far more critical of the MAGA caucus: “The MAGA Caucus is anti-democratic, authoritarian, and completely divorced from reality and truth. We worry about the future of American democracy because the entire Republican Party has gone AWOL. The crazy extremists have taken over one of our two major parties.”
“Rays made the right call on controversial LGBTQ uniform logos” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — When is advocacy not really advocacy? When someone is forced to support a cause they would otherwise not support. With that in mind, the Tampa Bay Rays made the right call in allowing players to decide for themselves whether to display LGBTQ+ logos and colors on their uniforms for recent Pride Night celebrations. The Rays have a long history of backing LGBTQ+ efforts. This was the first year the Pride Night celebrations included uniform changes. Most of the players appeared to participate, but at least five did not. The team would have preferred full participation from the Rays players, as would have this editorial board. But the organization was smart to allow individuals to make their own decisions.
— ALOE —
“Universal Orlando bringing back ‘Halloween’ series for Halloween Horror Nights” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — Universal has announced the return of Michael Myers to Halloween Horror Nights, with a haunted house inspired by the classic movie “Halloween.” John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher film, first featured as a haunted house at the theme park in 2014, returns with a maze “where guests come face-to-face with the merciless Michael Myers.” Universal Orlando’s popular separate-ticket event begins Sept. 2, taking advantage of the many iconic horror franchises to which the company has the rights. “Halloween,” one of the most popular horror films of all time, has a new franchise trilogy that concludes with Universal’s release of “Halloween Ends” on Oct. 14. Another haunted house called “Universal Monsters: Legends Collide” was previously announced.
“Pinellas chef says movie crews saved his business” via Josh Rojas of Bay News 9 — Chef Mike Martorelli said production companies filming movies in Pinellas County saved him from going out of business by hiring him as their exclusive caterer. “They saved my business,” said Martorelli, 49. “I’m so grateful for that. I really am.” Martorelli said he poured his life savings into a restaurant called Slamwich, which he opened last October, in the kitchen of a Largo bar that he leased. The chef said the business grew every month, but it wasn’t enough to keep the restaurant open. “I made a decision to close, unfortunately,” he said. “Hardest decision ever.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to journalist Karl Etters and Mr. Tallahassee, Jay Revell.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.