Sunburn for 7/14 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: Today is  Bastille Day, commemorating the day in 1789 that the Parisians stormed the fortress-prison known as the Bastille, starting the French Revolution. The revolution eventually led to the reign of Napolean III, whose nephew  Prince Achille Murat moved to Florida and became mayor of Tallahassee.

Now, on to the ‘burn…

DRIVING THE NAT’L CONVO … WHITE HOUSE: 2014 DEFICIT TO DROP $100B via Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press

The government’s budget deficit will drop to $583 billion this year, the lowest level of President Barack Obama’s tenure, the White House said.

Last year’s deficit was $680 billion. The latest update from the White House budget office is $66 billion less than the administration predicted earlier this year when releasing the president’s budget.

Obama presided over trillion-dollar-plus deficits during his first term as the economy struggled to recover from a deep recession and financial crisis. Attempts to strike deals on spending cuts and revenue increases with GOP leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio have failed, though Obama was successful in muscling through a tax increase on wealthier earners in early 2013. Tight spending on annual agency budgets is also responsible for lower deficits.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects an even lower deficit of $492 billion for the budget year ending Sept. 30.

The White House has also lowered its economic growth forecast for the current year to 2.6 percent, reflecting the unexpected 2.9 percent drop in gross domestic product in the first quarter of this year when unusually severe weather dinged the economy. Its earlier prediction was for a 3.3 percent hike in GDP.

The budget office projects unemployment to drop to 6 percent by the end of the year, for an average 6.3 percent for the year. The jobless rate in June was 6.1 percent, the lowest since 2008. It also projects that the average unemployment rate for 2015 will be 5.7 percent and then stabilize at 5.4 percent in 2017, a year and a half earlier than the budget office anticipated just months ago.


Celebrations aside, LeBron James’ decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA could complicate the Republican Party’s plan to nominate its presidential contender on Lake Erie’s shores in 2016.

If James leads his team into post-season play then, the GOP could find its preferred June 28 start date for the convention impossible because of the site conflict. Convention planners typically take weeks to customize the space with lights, seats and the traditional balloon drop from the rafters — impossible tasks if the Cavaliers go into post-season play.

That leaves Republicans looking at their backup date of July 18, still earlier than parties typically nominate their presidential hopeful in recent years, but later than RNC chief Reince Priebus preferred.

Priebus insisted his party’s convention be scheduled for early summer 2016, roughly two months sooner than has become the norm. That would give the GOP’s next presidential nominee quicker access to tens of millions of dollars in general election cash.

But James’ return to the Cavaliers from the Miami Heat could complicate that timeline and perhaps Republican efforts to win the White House. Teams with James have made it to the league finals in five of the last eight seasons, and his move to Cleveland is unlikely to reverse that trend.


Candidates in Congressional District 18 are expected to appear at a forum held by the Martin County Republican Executive Committee. (7 p.m., Martin County Republican Headquarters, 1111 S.E. Federal Highway, Suite 134, Stuart. 7 p.m.

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“Let’s Get to Work,” the political committee aligned with Gov. Scott’s re-election effort received a massive cash influx from the Republican Governors Association, with a $4 million donation, according to newly filed finance reports.

Together, Scott’s campaign account and Let’s Get to Work raised nearly $4.2 million from June 28 to July 4, with the $4 million contribution on July 2.

In seven days, Scott’s campaign took in $113,960, bringing his total to about $5.6 million.

With the RGA donation, Let’s Get to Work received $4,055,800 during the period for an overall total of $32.9 million, and spent nearly $17.4 million.

At the same time, likely Democratic candidate Charlie Crist collected $947,888 for his campaign account. With his aligned “Charlie Crist for Florida,” committee adding $4.1 million, Crist has a total of $10.1 million raised through July 4.

Former state Sen. Nan Rich, another Democratic candidate for governor, reported $3,726 in contributions to her campaign account between June 28 and July 4, for a total of $402,529.


On Friday, when Miami Heat fans mourned James’ decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, someone from Scott World had a brilliant idea: Compare the basketball champion to . . . Charlie Crist, Scott’s Democratic opponent.

You read that right.

Scott’s campaign “attacked” Crist by comparing him to the wildly popular star who led the Heat to four consecutive NBA finals, including two titles.


The logic behind the Scott “attack” is rooted in Crist’s terrible 2010 decision to run for U.S. Senate and not seek a second term as governor. Scott World says Crist was trying to escape the state’s problems by going to Washington.

“What do these two guys have in common? They both ran away,” the campaign said in an email that contained a picture featuring the likenesses of Crist and James.

The Republican Party of Florida shortly thereafter Tweeted out the image with a link to an older attack ad, titled “Run Away,” that savaged Crist for the poor economy on his watch.

Judging from many responses on Twitter, Scott World looked clueless at best and pusillanimous at worst.

“Seriously . . . Making more Miami Voters not like you is not the way to go and makes my job harder in Miami-Dade. Work with me!” tweeted Stephen McDuffie, a former college Republican leader.

Daniel Ruoss, a Heat fan and chairman of the Florida Young Republicans, let loose a string of angered responses.

“Send in your applications. @FloridaGOP needs a new social media handler,” Ruoss tweeted. “The moron putting out tweets for @FloridaGOP should take a lesson from @JebBush.”

That last message linked to the former governor’s statement: “All the best to @KingJames as he heads back to Cleveland. We’ll miss you in Miami. Thanks for four awesome seasons!”

Fawning responses to Bush followed.

CRIST UNDER PRESSURE TO NAME RUNNING MATE via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

The governor’s race is barreling forward, but one key aspect of Democrat Charlie Crist’s campaign remains a mystery.

Who will be his No. 2?

If Crist wins the primary on Aug. 26 as is expected, he will have just nine days to designate a lieutenant governor as his running mate. That gives him less than two months to vet candidates and make his choice.

But Crist’s pick could make a difference in the November election, even while most Floridians will vote the top of the ticket.

The speculation has already begun.

Many observers expect Crist to choose a running mate with ties to South Florida, the most Democratic part of the state.

One potential pick: former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat.

Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, of Oakland Park, has also been the subject of speculation. But Smith said he had not spoken with the Crist campaign, and was not sure if he was being vetted.

Two names circulating in Democratic circles: Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Miami-Dade County Democratic Chairwoman Annette Taddeo-Goldstein. Both would appeal to women and help Crist win support in the Hispanic community.


While Gov. Scott and Crist are taking swipes at each other for the state of the state while the other was in office, experts said it’s unlikely Florida’s economic woes had much to do with the policies put in place by the Crist administration. The same holds true, experts said, for the state’s economic bounce-back under Scott.

And yet in an election year that likely will pit Scott against Crist, a former Republican now running for governor as a Democrat, finger-pointing abounds.

When Scott took office in January 2011, the state’s unemployment rate was 10.9 percent. That was substantially higher than the national unemployment rate, which was at 9.1 percent at the time.

Yet while the unemployment rate drastically increased in the four years Crist was in office — 3.5 percent in January 2007 to 11.1 percent in December 2010 — it already had begun its slow descent by the time Scott was sworn in.

The situation in Florida was heightened by the state’s business model, which has been heavily focused on tourism and construction since World War II. That business model can mean Florida feels the hit harder when the country goes through economic downturns, because people are postponing discretionary spending — such as a Florida vacation — when money is tight.

That was the case during the most recent recession. Tourism was down; so was new construction. That left less money in the state’s coffers, which led to cuts to programs, which receive state funding, such as education.

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When putting his public support behind All Aboard Florida, a proposed passenger rail from Orlando to Miami, Gov. Scott said the biggest benefit was that it was being done free of government subsidies.

“It’s all funding that will be provided by somebody other than the state,” Scott said in a June interview. “It’s a private company.”

The project, though, could benefit from billions in federal loans and the state already has set aside more than $220 million that will benefit the project, according to emails, text messages and internal project documents analyzed by the Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau.

In addition, All Aboard Florida could directly request an additional $44 million in state grants, company planning documents show.

The largest chunk of state money is $213 million for a “multi-modal terminal” at the Orlando International Airport. All Aboard Florida will rent space there for its Orlando station.

Beyond the money, internal project documents obtained by Scripps/Tribune now show the project will try to merge with an existing South Florida passenger rail service. In 2011, the state tried to dissolve that service’s board and hand it over to Florida East Coast Railway, which is owned by All Aboard Florida’s parent company.


Washington Post, A Florida judge just voided the state’s congressional districts. Here’s what you need to know” – … a scathing indictment of the redistricting process in that state, and by extension the similar processes that happen in most other states … as long as redistricting remains in the hands of the partisans, real reform is unlikely. MSNBC, “Florida GOP ‘made a mockery’ of redistricting process” – Florida’s reputation for ridiculous elections … the Sunshine State has never exactly been a shining example of democracy … NPR, “Florida Ruling Is A Primer On Redistricting Chicanery” – What makes Lewis’ opinion such fun reading for students of politics … how political operatives sought to leave no fingerprints of their efforts to influence the redistricting maps. Ocala Star Banner, Redistricting ruling could change Florida’s political landscape” – Most observers assume that the November elections would not be affected … but there are even lingering questions about that. Palm Beach Post, “Redistricting ruling. Uncertainty. It’s Florida.” – … since it involved Florida and elections … some level of chaos is virtually guaranteed. Sunshine State News, “ … Could Impact Corrine Brown, Dan Webster Big in 2016” – Brown and Webster are safe … Neither has drawn a major challenger (in 2014) … if the decision is upheld, both could be facing real challenges in an open presidential year.


In an effort to reduce child neglect and deaths in the state of Florida, officials at the Department of Children and Families are using a unique safety tool – Big Data.

To protect children under its watch, the DCF is turning to large amounts of data categorizing the histories of approximately 1 million children, as a way to predict the factors leading to higher risks of death or injury.

The federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities brought together a diverse group of child welfare, law enforcement, and public health and technology experts in Tampa to discuss ways to reduce the number of child fatalities caused by abuse and neglect.

North Carolina-based business analytics firm SAS Institute teamed up last year with DCF officials and consulting firm North Highland. They presented findings from a recent project in Florida that analyzed Big Data and other factors that could contribute to abuse, bodily harm or death.

The result was a five-year Child Fatality Trend Analysis for investigators to predict needs of families in crisis.

Among the findings: overall, child deaths are trending downward; children who received prior DCF services saw chances of dying reduced by 90 percent; children in abusive homes that were removed by the DCF previously were 14 times more likely to experience death of bodily injury and children also removed previously from parental drug or alcohol abuse situation had increased odds of death by a multiple of 15.


The parents of RayAnn Moseley, the Pensacola child with intractable epilepsy whose story softened the hearts of reluctant lawmakers, are fighting a new battle: getting Charlotte’s Web to Florida.

The Moseleys have formed a company to apply to be one of the five medical marijuana dispensaries under the new law that allows for the cultivation of marijuana low in THC, the chemical that provides the high, and high in CBD, the one that calms seizures. They say their motives are pure: to guarantee the strain that worked miracles in Colorado is available in Florida and to avoid the risk of having to rely on imitations.

The Moseleys are partnering with the Stanley Brothers, the family that went from obscure Colorado marijuana farmers to international miracle workers when the mother of Charlotte Figi used the extract of their plants to treat her daughter with intractable epilepsy. That partnership with the Moseleys, if successful, threatens to edge out others who also see business potential in Florida’s new cash crop.

After months of working to see the unimaginable — a bill to legalize a strain of marijuana intended to help their child — the unexpected occurred in the form of a surprise amendment to the marijuana bill. The amendment, which emerged in the final hours of the Legislative session, required that the five dispensaries licensed to grow and sell marijuana be nurseries in Florida for at least 30 years.

The intent was clear: outsiders like the Stanleys were not going to be allowed to set up shop unless they partnered with someone already here.

They created a non-profit organization modeled after the Stanleys’ non-profit Realm of Caring and, because the law does not appear to allow a non-profit to cultivate plants considered illegal under federal law, they created a for-profit limited liability corporation, at the advice of their lawyer, to operate a dispensary. They named it Ray of Hope for Florida.

Under the agreement with the Stanleys, nurseries in Florida will not be able to get the Charlotte’s Web plant unless they receive it from the Moseleys and the Stanleys, said Heather Jackson, executive director of Realm of Caring, the non-profit group that provides assistance to families through education about Charlotte’s Web.

The model works this way: The nursery licensed to work with the Stanleys cultivates, grows and develops the extract of the low-THC, high-CBD strain of cannabis the Stanleys have developed and refined over the past five years. They use profits from their dispensaries to finance the research and finance Realm of Caring. In Colorado, they charge families five cents a milligram and work closely with the advocates at the non-profit arm to determine dosage and provide assistance.


On this week’s “Florida NewsMakers” program produced by Sachs Media Group, Florida Lottery Secretary Cynthia O’Connell talks with Trimmel Gomes about how increased demand for scratch-off tickets has led to another record year in lottery sales.

For the last four years, the Florida Lottery has been breaking records, leading up to $5.36 billion in sales for the fiscal year that ended June 30. “Our draw is a great portfolio of games: 60 scratch-off games with price points of $1 to $25 that are fun and entertaining – and also offer some real time gratification. When you scratch that ticket off, you could be a winner,” O’Connell tells Gomes. Thanks to the Lottery’s blockbuster success, $1.49 billion will go the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. “We’re doing our part to keep our mission to fund education, which is why the voters said yes to a Florida Lottery over 26 years ago,” O’Connell says. She credits this year’s success to creative marketing of new games, and discusses some of the ways the Lottery maintains the integrity and fair play of its games.


Jason Welty is out as chief of staff at the Department of Juvenile Justice.

The cause? The department won’t say, but there is some speculation that Welty is no longer with DJJ because he was quoted speaking for Gov. Scott’s administration in a recent story about how to divvy up the costs of detaining young offenders.

Welty is quoted in a story by Margie Menzel as saying, “It’s going to take the Legislature to resolve whether or not the counties pay for new law violations or not. We believe they should be”

There’s nothing wrong with that quote. What got Welty into hot water was when he said, “The governor believes that they should be.”

Actually, Gov. Scott does not believe that. In an email to Menzel, Scott communications director Frank Collins stated that is not the Governor’s position.

Welty did not make it until the end of the week.

In response to my repeated inquires about the status of Welty’s employment, DJJ Interim Secretary Christina Daly emailed me late Friday confirming that Welty is no longer with DJJ.

We appreciate Jason Welty’s service to the agency,” writes Daly, “and Fred Schuknecht is now Interim Chief of Staff.”

In other words, Jason Welty is now in the Departure Lounge.

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Former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff has her work ahead of her in a rematch with Sen. Maria Sachs for Senate District 34, according to a new survey from StPetePolls.

Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, received 39 percent of likely voters, while the Democrat took nearly 51 percent. Less than 11 percent of respondents are undecided.

As of July 6, Senate District 34 — a Democratic-leaning region – has a registered voter breakdown of 40 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican and 29 percent independent. … The July 10 poll, commissioned by SaintPetersBlog, sampled 45 percent Democratic, 35 percent Republican and 20 percent independent.

THE MONEY RACE IN SD 34: During the last two weeks, Bogdanoff collected $27,925. The Fort Lauderdale Republican opened an account June 12 and now has a total of $38,675. Sachs added $6,940 during the same two-week reporting period, for an overall total of $212,335.


State Sen. David Simmons raised just about $75,000 in campaign contributions during the most recent two-week period, as he faces no-party candidate Walter Osborne in his bid for re-election in November.

The Altamonte Springs Republican collected $74,987 between June 21 and July 4, for an overall total of $289,213 for his Senate District 10 campaign. Osborne, a resident of Oviedo, reported no donations but loaned $7,608 to his campaign.

CHRIS SPROWLS NEARS $160K FOR HD 65 BID Full blog post here

Chris Sprowls continues his solid fundraising effort, adding another $3,560 between June 21 and July 4.

Sprowls’ contribution totals now stand at $159,876, with $104,590 cash on hand, for his campaign to unseat incumbent Democrat Rep. Carl “Z” Zimmermann. House District 65 covers Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and East Lake.

Zimmerman raised $4,455 in the same two-week period, spending $6,728, for a total $72,481 — less than half the amount raised by first-time Republican candidate Sprowls.

Zimmerman spent $6,728 during the reporting period, bringing total expenditures to $8,512, leaving him just over $64,000 cash on hand, less than two-thirds that of his Republican opponent.


For a moment there, it seemed that Steve Perman was going to make a serious run on closing the financial gap on Kristin Jacobs in the House District 96 Primary election.

That moment seems to have passed.

With Perman posting a lackluster report of $1,795 and Jacobs rolling with a solid $18,075, she now has a nearly $70k cash on hand lead.

Taking such a lead in a race between two well-regarded candidates (Perman is a former lawmaker and Jacobs a County Commissioner) is not terribly uncommon, but like the roadside fender-bender that it is, it does seem worth a glancing look

Perman’s campaign seems to have become a one-trick pony with the vast majority of his donations (around 75 percent) coming from his own industry group: chiropractors. Jacobs’ campaign on the other hand has not only done well among her Broward crowd, but seems to have successfully courted a wide array of Tallahassee folks.  Her donor base is not just deep, it is wide.

As most readers of this blog will attest, sometimes the Tallahassee money is right and sometimes it is wrong – but it certainly tends to flock to the perceived winner and in this case, the safe money seems to be moving to Kristin.


If you plan to run for mayor of Tampa next March, now is the time to lay the groundwork.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn is doing just that, but there are no signs anybody else is.

Tampa’s strong mayor form of government gives first-term mayors wide latitude to set the city’s agenda and reinforce their already high name recognition. Typically, they do just that.

Tampa’s last four mayors all won second terms with ease. Pam Iorio won 79 percent of the vote. Greco was unopposed. Sandra Freedman turned back a challenge from a City Council member with 71 percent of the vote. Bob Martinez was re-elected with 80 percent.

Ask around about potential challengers to Buckhorn, and one name that comes up is Stephanie Agliano, the former director of community affairs for Tampa Electric.

About a month after Buckhorn took office, Tampa’s La Gaceta weekly tabloid speculated that Agliano’s departure from her TECO job might have had something to do with her support for former County Commissioner Rose Ferlita, whom Buckhorn defeated in the mayoral runoff in 2011.

It didn’t, Agliano said. Her retirement from TECO was not politically driven, she said, and she continues to work with the utility through a consulting firm she runs. While flattered to be mentioned, she has no plans to challenge Buckhorn.

Buckhorn said he first wants to take care of the city budget, which he will submit to the City Council on July 24, but plans to launch a re-election campaign later this summer.

TWEET, TWEET: @MattGaetz: Retweet if you too want to see change on the Okaloosa County Commission!

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APPOINTEDDr. Clifford Smith and Ellen Uguccioni (reappointed) to the Florida Historical Commission.


Mayanne Downs, a shareholder at GrayRobinson’s Orlando office, has been named the ninth most powerful person in Orlando by Orlando Magazine. The list encompasses people of Orlando who make things happen and includes political leaders, university presidents, community activists, business owners, legal minds, philanthropists.

Downs,  an Orlando native,  has been part of the Central Florida business community for more than 35 years and has practiced law for over 25 years. Her practice areas include commercial litigation, appellate law and high-stakes domestic matters. She has also served as the City Attorney of Orlando since 2007, overseeing 25 lawyers and providing counsel to the mayor and city commission.


George Anderson, Chris Dudley, Jonathnan Setzer, Southern Strategy Group: CBC Holdings

Thomas Arnold, Chris Dudley, Jerry McDaniel, James McFaddin, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Council for Behavioral Healthcare

Erin Choy, Traci Small, National Strategies: Adobe

Jon Costello, Stephen Ecenia, Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: Florida Medical Growers, LLC

Fred Karlinsky, Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb: Transatlantic Reinsurance Company

Steve Schale: Florida Medical Growers, LLC

Kirby Green: Aquafiber Technologies Corporation


While primary elections may fall in August, politics is far from the minds of most. Yet the power brokers behind many summer biggies — vacation lodging, pools, lawn care, air conditioning, cruises and baseball — collectively wield a strong political influence that passes unseen but strong in the background.

First, lodging associations — those that represent hotels, motels, condo rentals, and the like — have a year-round political presence in the form of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. The FRLA keeps on its roster about 15 lobbyists including some of the most well-known and respected in the biz, like Andy PalmerJim DaughtonAimee Diaz Lyon, and Herb Sheheane.

One individual hotel stands out as employing its own battery of lobbyists: the Fontainbleau Florida Hotel, with Michael CantensMichael CorcoranJeff JohnstonAmanda StewartWilliam Rubin, and Heather Turnbull.

The Florida Swimming Pool Association, with lobbyists Julie Fess and Jennifer Cole Hatfield, represents this industry before state lawmakers. Florida is the 17th largest chemistry producing state in the nation, generating $1.1 billion in payroll and delivering wages that are an average of 17 percent higher than the average manufacturing wage in the state.

Then, there’s lawn care, where sprinklers around Florida make sweaty kids happy. The Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association is the political arm of your front yard.

Baseball also requires landscaped fields — and the Florida Astroturf Association has you covered there. In 2013, the association had Todd Josko on its legislative lobbying field.

The Cruise Lines International Association has spent more than $1.4 million so far in 2014, and has contributed greater than $72,000 to political candidates and committees — including $2,500 to Florida’s Rep. Corrine Brown.

In 2012, Florida Rep. John Mica took in $8,000 from the CLIA, the second highest amount contributed to any individual candidate by the organization; and Rep. Brown, $5,000 as well. In that year, the CLIA spent a whopping $1.5 million on lobbying, and about $152,000 in contributions.

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On Context Florida: Amidst the national obsession over LeBron James’ return to Ohio, Martin Dyckman noted something immensely more important that happened in Washington on Thursday, scarcely noticed by anyone…. The League of Women voters won their court challenge to Florida’s congressional map last week, and among those who oppose the decision is Democratic U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown, whose long, snakelike District 5 was one of the two districts specifically invalidated by Judge Lewis. Julie Delegal believes Brown should not fight the ruling. The Big Lie that Republican lawmakers perpetuated during redistricting was that the districts had to be drawn with bizarre, snaky districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act…. Rick Outzen reports on the a national day of action, where the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops joined with human rights activists and academics to call for Congress to end the stalemate on immigration reform and to develop a path to legal residency for the undocumented immigrants already here…. It is clear to Marc Yacht that most people, including educators, are throwing our children and their teachers under the school bus.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Lucy Morgan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, and Charles W. Cherry Sr., who launched one of the state’s largest media chains aimed at the black community, have been inducted into the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame.

Morgan and Cherry were inducted Thursday during a ceremony at the Florida Society of News Editors and Florida Press Association’s annual convention.

Morgan, who is retired, won her Pulitzer in 1985 with colleague Jack Reed for revealing corruption in the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, resulting in the sheriff’s resignation. In 1973, she was sentenced to eight months in jail for refusing to reveal an anonymous source. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction and her case established a limited right for journalists to protect the names of sources. She spent the last three decades of her career as the Times’ Tallahassee bureau chief.

Cherry, who died in 2004, served in the Korean War, was president of the state and Volusia County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and served on the Daytona Beach City Commission.

He began his newspaper career in 1969 when he started the Westside Wrapper in Daytona Beach. It later became the Daytona Times. In 1989, he established the Florida Courier and purchased a Daytona radio station. By 2001, his family’s media business had become Tama Broadcasting, which owned or operated 11 radio stations in three states.

THE WORLD OF FLORIDA IS NOT THIS OYSTER’S via Gary Mormino of the Tampa Bay Times

Hurtling across grove and bay, Florida’s growth machine has returned. What does Florida do? Florida grows! But pell-mell growth has inflicted a sense of loss.

Astonishingly, Apalachicola has managed to preserve its sense of place. Poverty and isolation conspired to ensure that Apalachicola’s population (2,600) is smaller today than 175 years ago.

Like the workers who still harvest oysters by tongs, Apalachicola is resilient. Against the odds, Apalachicola oysters acquired a sterling reputation, tasted and approved by millions.

Yet today the Apalachicola oyster faces its toughest opponents: politicians and judges who decide how much water should flow downriver.

The Apalachicola River has its origins in the Blue Ridge Mountains of north Georgia, where the Chattahoochee River flows into Lake Lanier, near Atlanta.

The Chattahoochee meanders southwesterly across Georgia emptying into Lake Seminole. The Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers merge to form the mighty Apalachicola flowing southward into Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

Apalachicola Bay represents one of America’s most productive ecosystems. But the oyster is in peril. The cause is deceptively simple.

Atlanta needs Lake Lanier’s water to support a burgeoning metropolis, resulting in a diminishing amount of water that wends its way to Apalachicola’s rich estuary.

The consequences spell disaster: too little fresh water and too much salt water, too many queen conchs and too few sympathetic judges.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the inimitable Mike Vasalinda.


Germany won the World Cup. Host Brazil won a world of new friends.

The now four-time world champions, the first European team to win it on South American soil, earned the honor of lifting the most recognized trophy in sports after a 1-0 victory in a final as terrific as the tournament itself.

For a 32-day showcase of football at its best, the winning goal was beautifully appropriate. Mario Goetze controlled the ball with his chest and then volleyed it into the Argentine goal, making it look simple.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, sitting in the VIP section with other notables, waved a clenched fist. Vladimir Putin later reached across to shake her hand.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.