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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 9.15.17

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

The research and messaging wizards at Sachs Media Group’s Breakthrough Research division have come up a with fascinating instant snapshot of what Floridians have been thinking before and after Hurricane Irma ravaged our state. They conducted a survey of 450 Florida voters – at least, those who had enough power and/or internet access to take a survey by email – on Thursday, and the results suggests our friends and neighbors felt adequately prepared and are content with their choices, whether they opted to evacuate or stay in place.

Most of us, it seems, felt reasonably ready as Irma approached. When asked how well prepared they felt heading into the storm’s arrival, 38% said they felt “very well” prepared, which another 56% said they were somewhat or fairly well prepared. Only 6% said they weren’t well prepared, even though it looked like Irma was going to be a monster the likes of which Florida had never seen.

Even though they felt ready, many Floridians agree they faced challenges finding essential supplies. More than half (53%) said they had trouble finding gasoline, while 46% had difficulty stocking up on water and 31% had difficulties securing batteries. Despite countless pictures of empty retail store shelves, more than 1 in 4 people said they didn’t have any trouble finding a list of essential emergency supplies that also included plywood, generators, and canned food.

Finally, the Sachs Media team asked how happy individuals were with their choice to evacuate or stay put. The large majority – 65% – were happy with their choice to stay home, while only 5% regretted that decision. At the same time, 26% were satisfied with their decision to evacuate, and only 4% regretted their decision to leave.

The Breakthrough Research survey had an estimated margin of error of 4.6%.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

These are tweets from just the last 24 hours. They show how, while Irma has long since left the state, her impact continues to be felt. It’s a long road ahead.

— @RealDonaldTrump: Just left Florida for D.C. The people and spirit in THAT GREAT STATE is unbelievable. Damage horrific but will be better than ever!

— @Fox13News: A 7-year-old passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning after a generator was operating inside a home:

— @RLeblancTimes: One man survived, one man did not. Tarpon Springs captain returns after fateful encounter with Irma

— @Fla_Pol: Ft. Lauderdale assisted living facility without power evacuated

— @markriv: About 30 ppl being evacuated from Good Hope of Pinellas. Haven’t had air since the storm

— @Fineout: .@adamputnam warns mosquitoes could become a public health issue in a few days due to ongoing power outage

— @GrayRohrer: Less than half of Orlando-area gas stations operating 3 days after Irma

— @LaurenceReisman: Power out downtown @MainstreetVB @COVBUtilities reports issues along SR 60 from Old Dixie to 43rd Avenue

— @RichardNStark: National Guard distributing water and food in Century Village today. Job almost done

— @AGloriois: From Collier County EOC: Conserve water. No unnecessary flushing, laundry, showering. The county’s wastewater system is overwhelmed.

— @DeniseGrimsley: Highlands County residents facing ‘desperate situation’ after Irma

— @BrettMurphy: Most victims I’ve met are cut off — no electricity, cell reception or gas. The few who know to register don’t have the means.

— @NHC_Atlantic: NHC is monitoring 2 systems with a medium chance of tropical cyclone formation during the next 5 days

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— TIMING —

Donald Trump in Naples: ‘Don’t forget a sandwich’” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – After speaking to a homeowner in Naples, Trump and his entourage walked to a staging area filled with food and water for the community and recovery workers. A huge flagpole with a big American flag flew overhead and the crowd cheered as POTUS said hello and pumped his fist. “There’s Melania, she’s gorgeous!” said a woman. Trump then moved to the refreshment tables. He picked up a banana and asked if anyone wanted one. Melania moved to Trump’s left and Pence to his left. Gov. Scott, Sen. Rubio and Energy Secretary Rick Perry also took places at the table. Trump stood behind a silver tin of hoagies, cut in half and wrapped in cellophane. Melania was near bottled water and Pence near the bananas. Trump paused to try to put on thin white plastic gloves but struggled. His hands were apparently too, uh, large. “They’re too small,” Trump said.

Trump pushes Rick Scott to run for Senate during Irma recovery visit” via Nolan D. McCaskill of POLITICO –  “I have to say that your governor — where is our governor here? Rick Scott,” Trump said, pausing for applause for the Republican governor. “The job he’s done is incredible, and I guess I’ve been very lucky because, you know, you have a great governor in Texas; you have a great governor in Florida. The job that Rick has done is being talked about all over.” Trump offered more praise of Scott, who he has continued to nudge to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018, taking advantage of Thursday’s backdrop of a recovering city. “I just, again, I have to say that what do I know? But I hope this man right here, Rick Scott, runs for the Senate,” Trump said.

— THE DAMAGE —

Autopsy: 7-year-old dies from carbon monoxide intoxication” via FOX News 13 – … after a generator was operating inside a home in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office says. An autopsy concluded the cause of death, and has ruled it accidental. Sheriff Grady Judd says it’s the first Irma-related death to be investigated by his agency. The girl’s mother called 911 just before noon Wednesday. Shashunda Wilson, 41, told dispatchers she felt dizzy when she woke up this morning. Her daughter, Terryn had slept in bed with her and appeared to have died in her sleep. Polk County Fire Rescue arrived to the home first, where they found Shashunda sitting outside. They took her to Lakeland Regional Medical Center. PCSO said she told the first responders the generator was running in the living room, while she and Terryn were asleep in the bedroom with the door closed. She had apparently run an extension cord from the generator to her bedroom to power a fan blowing fresh air from the window inside. In spite of her bedroom door being shut, PCSO says high levels of carbon monoxide were found throughout the home.

Scott surveys damage in Keys as death toll rises” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – The governor surveyed the damage for the first time on foot, flying into Marathon via helicopter and then stopping at hard-hit Big Pine and Cudjoe Keys before departing from Key West. None of the dead have been found by search-and-rescue teams, which have been going door-to-door. Monroe County authorities say six deaths have been caused by natural causes and two others directly by the Category 4 storm. Another 40 have been injured, 30 of them in Key West. Keys officials told the governor the biggest needs are help in getting food, fuel and communications. In Marathon, Scott dropped in at the Monroe County Emergency Operations Center, where Manager Marty Senterfitt warned him that the county will likely need the federal disaster declaration extended once it expires in 30 days. “Let me please emphasize the incredible job you and the president have done,” Senterfitt said. “I feel almost embarrassed to be asking for more.”

Gov. Scott joined Florida National Guard members, FWC officers, and Florida Highway Patrol officers to tour impacts of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys.

“Scott remains unsure about climate change after Hurricane Irma” via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO Florida – “Clearly our environment changes all the time, and whether that’s cycles we’re going through or whether that’s man-made, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which one it is,” Scott said after twice touring the storm-ravaged Florida Keys this week. “But I can tell you this: We ought to go solve problems. I know we have beach renourishment issues. I know we have flood-mitigation issues.” In not taking a position on climate change, Scott’s views and responses to questions about climate change have remained markedly steady for years. The only major difference, for instance, between his comments Wednesday evening to reporters and his statements before his 2014 re-election is that he no longer says, “I’m not a scientist.” Before that, in his first election in 2010, Scott clearly denied the idea of anthropogenic global warming. “I’ve not been convinced that there’s any man-made climate change,” Scott said then. “Nothing’s convinced me that there is.”

Relief slow to come to Collier displaced who need it most” via the Naples Daily News – (I)n two of Collier County’s most damaged areas — Immokalee and Everglades City — officials acknowledged that long-term help might be hard to come by. Hurricane victims, often without power or access to the internet, must register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to receive temporary and long-term housing after natural disasters. FEMA officials urge all victims to try to register in their system so they can receive help. Undocumented immigrants in Immokalee, where almost half of the population lives below the poverty line, lost their homes to Irma’s 140 mph winds. If they don’t live with a family member with a Social Security number, they won’t get permanent housing help, FEMA said Thursday. In Everglades City, whole communities of low-income fisherman who received hurricane relief after the last major storm still don’t have flood insurance. Those might not qualify for long-term housing assistance either. But they will qualify for emergency aid.

Assignment editors – Staff for Sen. Rubio will host a comprehensive recovery assistance center in Immokalee to help residents affected by hurricane Irma sign up for assistance from FEMA. Hours are 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. EDT at RCMA, 123 N 4th Street in Immokalee.

After Irma, a grim sense of déjà vu in St. Augustine” via Jess Bidgood of The New York Times – Residents are reckoning with a stunning turn in its more recent history. Last October, Hurricane Matthew poured historic flooding into St. Augustine, inundating downtown, where Spanish colonial-style buildings and Gilded-age spires gleam over the bay, and leaving residents ripping out walls and replacing sodden furniture. Now, the city is cleaning up after Hurricane Irma, which whipped trees out of the ground and poured more water into homes and businesses that were just getting back to normal after Matthew. St. Augustine is no stranger to sunny-day flooding, but the back-to-back hits from Matthew and Irma were the first major hurricanes to descend here since Dora in the 1960s, and they have left residents soaked, frustrated and, in some cases, worried about the future. “It is the oldest continuously occupied city in America. It is how we started,” Mayor Nancy Shaver said. But, she said, “I’ve never had people ask me the questions they’re asking me now: Is this the new normal? What are we going to do with the city?”

Irma-related damage claims continue to trickle in to Citizens Insurance” via Florida Politics – Citizens Property Insurance Corp. had fielded 15,900 Irma-related storm damage claims at last count — a fraction of the more than 100,000 claims the company expects in the weeks ahead. The tally was good as of 9 a.m. Thursday, company spokesman Michael Peltier said. Peltier said managers expect claims to arrive in earnest as soon as policyholders who fled Irma can return home to survey any damage.

“Sewage spills add to misery” via John Flesher of the Associated Press – Local governments have submitted well over 100 “notices of pollution” to the state Department of Environmental Protection since Hurricane Irma struck, some involving multiple spills and releases of millions of gallons of wastewater in various stages of treatment. Officials in many cities were still scrambling Thursday to determine how much sewage had escaped, while the state warned people to steer clear of standing water. “Floodwaters may contain not only bacteria from sanitary sewer overflows but other potential contaminants from agricultural or industrial waste,” environmental protection department spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said.

— THE TRAGEDY —

Police recount how Hollywood nursing home tragedy unfolded after Irma” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – The first signs of trouble at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills first came to light at 3 a.m. Wednesday when fire rescue crews responded to a call to transport an elderly patient in cardiac arrest to the hospital. An hour later, rescuers returned for another resident with breathing difficulties. Then, before a third call for help, a fire department lieutenant contacted another top fire official and the Florida Department of Children and Families, which investigates suspected abuse at nursing homes. Hollywood police would later describe what they discovered: “Additional Fire Rescue crews were dispatched and began going through the facility. Memorial clinical staff also responded to the facility. A total of three patients were found deceased on the second floor of the facility and several other patients in varying degrees of medical distress were transported. Additional rescue units were called in and the complete evacuation of the facility was ordered.” Hollywood police said they counted eight dead, ranging in age from 71 to 99, and began a criminal investigation to learn what had transpired in the days before and after Hurricane Irma to lead to such a grim tragedy.

“Seniors group calls on feds to investigate nursing home deaths” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The group that calls itself the conservative alternative to AARP is calling on the federal government to investigate the deaths of eight South Florida nursing home residents who died after Hurricane Irma knocked out their power. Dan Weber, founder and CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens, sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long: “We strongly urge that an official federal inquiry be launched to investigate why senior citizens are dying and at risk in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma,” Weber wrote. “We urge FEMA to assist in state’s investigations in every way possible.” 

— “How a bill requiring Florida nursing homes to have backup AC died” via Carol Marbin Miller and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Veteran Affairs offers beds to nursing home residents in need after Irma” via David Neal of the Miami Herald – U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs David Shulkin announced that the agency will open available beds to non-veteran nursing home residents affected by Hurricane Irma. “We will continue to look for ways to relieve the hardship this powerful storm has caused,” Shulkin said. “Much of the heavy-lifting to recover from the hurricane is still to come and our leaders and staff are determined to find as many ways as we can for VA to help in the response.”

Nursing home to fight state ban on new admissions following 8 deaths” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Coral Gables attorney Gary Matzner, who is representing the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, told POLITICO on Thursday night that he will challenge the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration’s emergency moratorium on new nursing home admissions. Late Thursday, Gov. Scott’s office said it was also terminating the facility from the Medicaid program. … Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills officials told POLITICO that it repeatedly contacted state and local officials to tell them the nursing home generator was damaged. It was fixed, they said, on Wednesday after the facility’s residents were evacuated. … According to a timeline put together by the nursing home, Larkin Community Behavioral Health CEO Natasha Anderson made four phone calls to both local and state emergency operations centers officials to discuss the conditions and to learn when power could be restored to the facility.

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— LIGHTS OUT —

The latest numbers – State officials and utilities reported Thursday afternoon that 2.31 million homes and businesses are still without power. The total number of people who remain without electricity at those homes and business is larger. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, roughly 65 percent of all homes and businesses in the state were in the dark. That has dropped to 22 percent.

Trees down. Wires dangling. Power’s out. Linemen to the rescue.” via Lane DeGregory of the Tampa Bay Times – When people in the modest neighborhood behind Spectrum Field emerged after Hurricane Irma, they saw the splintered tree, the broken poles and dangling lines — and resigned themselves to being in the dark. The scene spiraled across Florida, the reality of being cut off from the grid: sweating through breakfast, beef jerky for dinner, blackout by 8 p.m. After two days, everything in the freezer melts. And the flashlight batteries run out. Monday, as soon as the storm had passed, Duke Energy crews checked the damage and grounded downed lines, tying on orange flags to show which ones were secure. The company has 1.8 million customers in 35 Florida counties. Two-thirds of them — 1.2 million — had lost power. It is the most ever. Workers had to replace 3,000 poles, 1,100 transformers and string 950 miles of wire. Tuesday, irate customers bombarded the call center. Angry tweets flooded the company account. People stormed the corporate offices, complaining — while 10,000 contractors from across Florida and a dozen other states rolled in to help. Wednesday, residents behind Spectrum Field woke to the sweet sound of chain saws. Tree-trimmers, hired by Duke Energy, started slicing the downed cedar at dawn. By 9 a.m., a brigade of bucket trucks rumbled down Sharkey Road.

Dozens of nursing homes continue to lack power” via the News Service of Florida –  … as the state grappled with the deaths of eight residents of a Broward County facility that did not have air conditioning. The Florida Health Care Association … said it was informed that 64 of the state’s 683 nursing homes did not have full power services restored as of Thursday morning. Also, information released by the state said 44 nursing homes were evacuated or closed. Authorities are investigating the deaths early Wednesday of eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which said it lost a transformer that powered its air conditioning system.

Even the dead have to wait for power as funeral homes struggle without the basics” via Alex Harris and Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald – When Irma tore through South Florida this weekend, he knew he could count on the industrial size behemoth to power the downtown office of his funeral home, including its refrigeration service and crematoriums. It worked better than the $800 of dry ice he used after Andrew left his business, the oldest family-owned funeral home in Miami, without power for days. On Wednesday, power was restored at all three Van Orsdel Funeral Homes locations — “praise the Lord” — and Van Orsdel was busy cleaning up smashed trees. But that’s not the case for dozens of funeral homes across the county, or many of the cemeteries. Calls to many local funeral homes went to voicemail, answering services or just rang endlessly as the area deals with widespread power outages. Families postponed funerals and left their recently deceased loved ones in hospitals while they wait for life post-hurricane to return to normal.

— THE RESPONSE —

Assignment editors – Gov. Scott and several state agency heads will meet with local officials in the Florida Keys to discuss recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma. 10:30 a.m. Key West City Hall.; 2:00 p.m. Monroe County Emergency Management, 490 E 63rd Street Ocean #150, Marathon.

Assignment editors – Ag. Commissioner Adam Putnam will visit the Monroe County Emergency Operations Center tomorrow to meet with officials involved in the emergency response efforts in Monroe County.  11:45 a.m.

Airbnb expands cowers all for hosts to house evacuees, relief workers” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Airbnb also is seeking new hosts in Central Florida, South Florida, North Florida, Gainesville and Tampa Bay for Florida, and in Puerto Rico, to help evacuees and relief workers in the Caribbean. The company is encouraging its hosts – individual homeowners who list their vacant rooms or properties for nightly rentals through Airbnb – to join its disaster response program. Under that both the hosts and Airbnb waive their fees to make rooms available for refugees and relief workers. The company activated the program last week, but initially only targeted hosts in the Florida Panhandle. Kelli Bentz, Airbnb global director for disaster relief, said infrastructure problems – mainly power, internet service and phone service – are hampering efforts to reach hosts and encourage them to participate, but as services are restored this week they expect that to change and the numbers of participating host homes to go up significantly.

Why weren’t charter schools used as shelters during Hurricane Irma?” via Jeffery Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – Only a handful of charter schools opened their doors for the storm. There was one in Polk County, and another in Marion. Meanwhile, some charters that were less impacted by the water and wind began reopening Thursday, such as Classical Preparatory in Pasco County. Many of our readers took note. And they weren’t too happy about it. Alan Pentarin posted on the Gradebook Facebook page: “Challenge to the reporters tied to this site. The traditional schools built to a higher standard served as places of shelter and security. What do the STATE LEADERS (legislators-governor not DOE talking heads) have to show how charter schools served the public better during the hurricane. How can they justify the diversion of capital outlay funds to maintain/pay for buildings that did not serve the public. Remember those rules that the charters get to ignore are creates by those sane legislators.” Bottom line, state law does not require charters to meet traditional school construction guidelines for hurricane protections.

“‘We’re in here for the long haul:’ National Guard sets up Irma command in Keys” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Under a reddish half-moon, 12 Army National Guard trucks rode across the Florida Keys. The night hides the worst of the destruction. They’ve come from all over the state, these busloads of soldiers, to bring food and water to the hardy — and perhaps foolhardy — few who stayed on the Keys while Irma unleashed her fury. And, most importantly they’ve brought themselves — strapping men ready to keep the peace, for as long as it takes. Up to 30 days, their initial orders said. The Keys need them. The Florida Guard has moved into Irma’s disaster zone, where functioning power outlets are rare, communications spotty and flushing toilets nonexistent. A Miami Herald reporter embedded with a convoy, which left Broward County Tuesday night and arrived in the Middle Keys Wednesday morning, to witness the massive logistical operation to slowly make the islands habitable again. “Man,” one soldier said when the sun rose over Marathon. “It looks like a bomb went off here.”

“Federal funding OK’d for road repairs” via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott announced Wednesday that the Federal Highway Administration approved a $25 million Emergency Relief Quick Release Grant to support response and recovery efforts for Florida’s roadways and transportation system. This federal funding will be used to conduct emergency repairs on roads, embankments, bridges or other infrastructure and help restore traffic on major roadways to ensure Florida residents and visitors can travel safely, according to a press release. “I want to thank President Trump, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and the entire Administration for their commitment to helping Floridians impacted by Irma,” Scott said in a statement.

U.S. Attorney in Tampa: ‘Zero tolerance’ for disaster fraud” via Margie Manning of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – More than 400 complaints about fraud related to Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey already have been filed with federal agencies, as a concerted effort gets underway to stem rip-offs in the wake of the storms. “Our district is going to take a zero tolerance attitude with respect to these types of crimes,” said Stephen Muldrow, acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida … “The fraudsters aren’t waiting. They need to know we’re coming for them,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson of the Middle District of Louisiana. Amundson also serves as the acting executive director of the National Center for Disaster Fraud, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice and various law enforcement and regulatory agencies. The federal attorneys on the call promised aggressive prosecution.

Key West’s famous bars are closed. One opened so Conchs could phone home” via George Richards of the Miami Herald – The Green Parrot opened its doors this week. They aren’t slinging drinks, don’t have any live music — but they are drawing quite the crowd. The Parrot, you see, has a working telephone. Right now, that’s almost as good as a cold beer in post-Irma Key West … there are only a handful of working phones on the island which is basically cut off from the mainland although sea and air deliveries are being made. How is their phone working? According to the story, the bar’s mechanic rigged up an old handset to the live connection at a closed restaurant next door. “He pirated the thing. He did it for the people,” a local named Rick said.

— THE PATH FORWARD —

Hurricane no boon to state budget” via the News Service of Florida – A long-range financial report, which will be reviewed by the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, shows lawmakers working with only a projected $52 million surplus as they craft the 2018-19 budget early next year. It’s a fiscal pittance in an overall $82 billion budget. And that surplus may shrink, if not disappear, given the state’s financial history following major hurricanes. “Contrary to the oft-repeated myth that government makes money during hurricanes, state government typically has expenditures greater than the incremental increase in the revenue estimate and becomes a net loser when all expenditures are taken into account,” said the new report, known as the Long-Range Financial Outlook. The annual report, developed by the House, Senate and the Legislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research, noted an extensive fiscal review was conducted after the state was struck by a record eight hurricanes in 2004 and 2005. “The bottom line for both years was clearly negative,” the report said. “This means that the state had to spend more than the generated revenues.”

“Courts approved to extend deadlines after Irma” via the News Service of Florida – Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga is giving courts in Hurricane Irma-inundated areas permission to extend filing deadlines. Labarga has the authority to extend deadlines whenever an emergency “hinders public access to the state courts system,” Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters said in a news release Thursday. The chief justice authorized extensions in Martin, Indian River, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties and could issue more as requests from chief judges continue to be processed, according to the release. The orders extend deadlines for filing court documents to the close of business on the day a local court fully reopens, “giving everyone an extra full day to meet their deadlines,” the release said. People who have encountered “a special hardship” because of Irma can also ask local courts to make additional accommodations. Many courts were closed earlier this week, while others — including those in Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Glades, Hernando, Hendry, Lafayette, Lake, Lee, Levy, Marion, Miami-Dade, Nassau, Putnam and Sumter — remain shuttered through Friday, according to the Florida Supreme Court website. Courts in Hardee, Highlands and Monroe counties are closed indefinitely.

Disney agrees to pay wages from hurricane closure” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – … just minutes before a union rally started under the entrance sign that says, “Where Dreams Come True.” More than 100 union cast members chanted “Yes, we can” and “We win when we fight,” after the announcement was made. “Ten minutes ago, a rep at Disney called union leaders and said they decided to pay all cast members for lost shifts,” said Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here Local 362. “It clearly shows Disney and the unions can work together to resolve their issues.” Clinton added that he hoped the resolution was a sign that the Services Trade Council will be able to negotiate higher wages for cast members. The council includes six unions that represent 38,000 Disney employees. Leslie Rodriguez was relieved to hear the news. A tree fell during the hurricane and crushed her car. She also lost $150 in groceries when the power went out. “Now I can buy food, pay for an Uber to work and repair my car,” said Rodriguez, a housekeeper at the Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.

How will Florida restaurants regroup after Irma’s devastation?” via Emma Balter, Julie Harans and Lexi Williams of Wine Spectator – From the Caribbean to Charleston, South Carolina, Irma has left a trail of debris and broken dreams. Almost 4.4 million Florida homes and businesses remained without power Tuesday night, according to state officials, and about 110,000 people remain in shelters. Florida Power and Light said most customers on the east coast of the state would see their power restored by Sunday night, while those on the west coast might have to wait weeks. At least 63 people have died, including 20 in Florida … For the restaurants, these days have been about making sure staff members are safe, assessing damage and helping feed the community. In the Caribbean, many of the restaurants depend on tourists, who may not return for some time. Florida is home to 39,000 restaurants that employ more than 1 million people and generate nearly $42 billion in annual sales, according to the National Restaurant Association. From small cafes in Little Havana to legendary steak houses in Tampa, they’re all focused on getting back on their feet.

Irma’s winds blew thousands of baby squirrels from trees, now these Tampa Bay groups are trying to save them” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times – Now multiple rescue groups across the bay area have split the burden and are caring for more than 300 infant squirrels that would have died otherwise. Squirrels so little they barely have fur and can’t eat solid food. Three of them huddled together could easily fit in the palm of your hand. In Palm Habor, the Suncoast Animal League is caring for more than 70 baby squirrels and they just keep coming. Rick Chaboudy and his crew were accepting the little animals even when his facility had no power. That posed a problem: Baby squirrels need to be kept warm, and many of the ones coming through their doors were soaked with rain and shivering. Usually Chaboudy and his team rely on heating pads to mimic a mother’s warmth. The day after Irma, they put towels outside on top of a truck’s hood to heat them under the sun.

With Irma gone, most South Florida casinos are ready to roll” via David Raterman of SouthFlorida.com – Mardi Gras Casino might have suffered the most. Marketing director Ashley Foster wrote in a text message, “The casino suffered major damage and is closed indefinitely.” She gave no further details, except to say the property’s email and phone systems are down. Calder Casino fared a little better. “Calder Casino remains temporarily closed as the city of Miami Gardens and our surrounding communities continue to work to clear the roads and repair traffic signals,” director of marketing Matt Harper says. “Thankfully, no team members were injured during the storm, and Calder sustained no major structural damage.” Sandra Rodriguez is spokeswoman for both the Casino at Dania Beach and Magic City Casino. According to her: “We were fortunate that we experienced only intermittent power losses and landscaping damage at both facilities.” They’re operating regular hours with no activities being affected, she says. A shoutout goes to Magic City Casino, Gulfstream Park and Isle Casino for providing parking lots as staging areas for FPL’s emergency crews. Seminole Casino Coconut Creek’s garage served as a shelter for first responders’ vehicles, and other local casinos have pitched in during this tough recovery.

Jerry Demings, perhaps you should reschedule that fundraiser” via Florida Politics – Orange County Sheriff Demings is the early frontrunner to replace Teresa Jacobs. But by not canceling a fundraiser at the Grand Hotel on Universal Boulevard in Orlando currently scheduled for Sept. 14 — three days after Irma hit — represents a genuine misstep. The event is coming at a time when — as @GrayRohrer tweets — “Less than half of Orlando-area gas stations operating 3 days after Irma.” Few people want to waste precious, limited gas to attend, just to risk getting stranded on the way home. When Orange is named one of 37 Florida counties approved for Federal Emergency Management Agency and other disaster aid, there is a time to put politics aside and focus on the task at hand — rescues and repairing the reported $66 million in damage across the county Demings wants to represent … fundraising at a time when the community and state are devastated is a mistake. Demings should take a raincheck on this one.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Alan Grayson taking on Donald Trump” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The former Democratic, hard-boiled congressman from Orlando, who continues to keep a campaign warm for a possible return-to-Congress effort, has started a leadership political action committee called Lock Him Up Now  to pursue and keep track of evidence of alleged crimes and misdemeanors of the 45th president of the United States, and to raise money for an anti-Trump effort. With a webpage subtitle of “The Resistance, Help End the Trump Presidency,” the organization’s goal is to compile and even create legal cases for impeachment or forced resignation. “Our side needs somebody concentrating on what it will actually take to get rid of him,” Grayson said. “I think he’s already crossed the [impeachment] threshold.” Yet he also was one of the more successful whistle-blower lawyers in the country. Grayson said he intends to use that experience and know-how to try to draw out any potential whistle-blowers on Trump, and get them to provide information, leaked or otherwise, that could be compiled into cases. His organization’s website is set up partly for that.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler delays decision on running for Attorney General or county commission” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel– He was adamant that he hasn’t made a decision. “There is nothing to disclose. There is nothing to share. I am literally finishing up my job as mayor,” Seiler said. “I don’t think you can serve two masters. And I am trying to figure out what I may do next, but I am not going to forgo any of my current duties and responsibilities in order to chase that.” Seiler said putting the brakes on planning for his political future was the right move for him. “I’ve been much more relaxed,” he said. “I just realized that me trying to worry about my next position was only going to take away from me performing my current position. And I decided I was not going to play that game.” Florida Democrats strategize for 2018 in a world dominated by Trump … The delay could affect decision-making by other candidates. Some may be frozen, not wanting to enter a race that could end up in a primary against Seiler. Others could be emboldened by the void to move in.

“Rick Scott: SD 40 election will be held as planned” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday rejected a request from Florida Democratic Party chair Stephen Bittel, asking the governor to postpone the Sept. 26 special election for Senate District 40. Bittel wrote to Scott on Wednesday, noting Hurricane Irma’s devastation of South Florida … “I urge you to delay the SD 40 Sept. 26 special general election, for a period of two weeks, until Oct. 11, when our community has had the necessary time to heal,” Bittel said. But Scott’s spokesman said the governor would not change the date … Miami-Dade “Supervisor of Elections Christina White has requested to move forward with this election, and we will accept her guidance,” Deputy Communications Director McKinley Lewis said in an email.

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Associate producer Duhane Lindo interviews Sarasota Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie on how Sarasota copes after Hurricane Irma.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include Republican political consultant/columnist Chris Ingram; independent journalist Brendan McLaughlin; Democrat Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida and independent journalist Mike Deeson.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: The topic Hurricane Irma with scheduled guests include state Rep. Mike La Rosa; state Sen. Kelli Stargel; Larry Olness, Sr. VP of Strategic Enterprises; State Rep. Neil Combee and state Sen. Darryl Rouson.

State Rep. Mike LaRosa talks Hurricane Irma and its Florida impact on Spectrum’s “In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Hurricane Irma – a discussion about the response to and recovery from the effects of the hurricane with U.S. Rep. Darren Soto.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore will speak to Dr. Ed Moore.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: U.S. Rep. Al Lawson; Allen Ginder, on Gov. Scott’s Technology Advisory Board to discuss tech support to help storm victims; Kevin Doyle of the Consumer Energy Alliance Florida and Christian Smith of the Red Cross. (Tentative special guests: JEA CEO Paul McElroy; and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.)

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC) In Miami-Dade: Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will have an extensive roundtable on post-Hurricane Irma issues, as South Florida struggles to return to some normalcy. Also, a live debate between Annette Taddeo and Jose Felix Diaz ahead of the Florida Senate District 40 election.

— MOVEMENTS —

Fines pile up for failing to file disclosure forms” via the News Service of Florida –  Hurricane Irma won’t stop penalties for state Rep. Kamia Brown and nearly 380 other elected officials, board members and government employees in Florida who failed to submit annual financial-disclosure forms on time. Fines continued to accrue at $25 a day – totaling $325 as of Thursday – for state or local government officials who missed an initial July 3 deadline and failed to submit the records during an amnesty period that ended Sept. 2. The fines are capped at $1,000, and people who filed late can contest the penalties. Overall, 379 people missed the deadline, from Florida State Fair Authority Board member Jeff Clyne to Chris Griffin, the former student representative on the University of South Florida board of trustees. As of Thursday morning, 42 of the late filers had submitted their paperwork, including William “Buck” Burney, appointed by Gov. Scott to the Clay County Commission last year.

Happy birthday to Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida, Chris Hudson of Americans for Prosperity – Florida, Scott Kosanovich, and Chris Wilkerson. Celebrating this weekend is Ryan Houck, Paul Seago of No Casinos, Jeff Schweers, and Mary Beth Tyson.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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