Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 8.29.17 – Florida hearts Texas; Nelson, Scott tied in new poll; Nocco, Book team up for CRC idea; Poynter’s new prez; Happy b’day Nancy Watkins

in Peter by

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica. Joe Henderson has today’s topper.

Like all of you, I have been mesmerized watching reports about the catastrophe in Texas from Hurricane Harvey. Just couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and couldn’t help thinking what it would be like if a storm like Harvey washed ashore from the mouth of Tampa Bay.

A man, standing in the doorway of his flooded Houston home, responds to an evacuation offer today. Photo credit: AP/ Charlie Riedel.

Florida got a taste of it last year when Hurricane Matthew snaked up the east coast, leaving an estimated 1 million people without power and causing $1.5 billion in damage. And that wasn’t a direct hit.

One of the news reports over the weekend focused on the urban sprawl in Houston and said that helped create this the carnage we’re seeing now.

Miles and miles of land that provided natural drainage has been paved over to create instant communities like Katy, just to the west of Houston. Now, the water has nowhere to go but inside thousands of living rooms.

I drove through Katy a few months ago as part of a Texas trip and couldn’t believe what I saw. They should call that place Concrete Katy, because if there was an open spot of land it looks like developers couldn’t wait to pave it over.

Its population is now estimated at 309,000 – more than the city of Pittsburgh. For perspective: the Katy area had about 140,000 in the year 2000. Annual population growth has been between 4 and 6 percent.

Hurricane Harvey floods a subdivision in Katy, a suburb west of downtown Houston. Photo via Houston Chronicle.

It reminded me a lot of the Brandon area, east of Tampa. People here claim that if Greater Brandon was incorporated into a single entity, it would be the fifth-largest city in Florida.

When I moved there in 1988 though, it was much different. It wasn’t unusual to see lots of green space and even grazing cattle. Much of that space is gone now, sold to make way for planned housing developments and big box stores.

That is setting us up for a nightmare.

Coastal areas in the Tampa Bay area, already saturated with development, would be devastated by a storm like Harvey. Tampa’s landmark Bayshore Boulevard would be gone, along with much of the city’s prized south side.

Stronger statewide building codes put in place after Hurricane Andrew might help more structures stay upright, but the flooding would be epic. The water just wouldn’t have anywhere to go, kind of like we’re seeing now in Houston.

The Washington Post recently sounded the alarm about what it says is the inevitable mass destruction that awaits the Tampa Bay area from a major hurricane.

As much as I hope state and local governments see this as a warning to ratchet up drainage projects and other things that could mitigate the damage, I don’t how much good it would really do. There has been too much unchecked and unplanned development,

I was thinking all that over the weekend – fearing for my in-laws in Houston, and wondering if, or when, it will be our turn to be in the eye of a storm like Harvey. Every day we get a little bit closer.

Don’t call them ‘grouper troopers’: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers, some in boats like these, are heading to Texas to help out in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane Harvey raises gas prices across Florida” via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News – AAA released a report showing gas prices rose six cents over the past week with an average of $2.31 per gallon Sunday. The national average stood at $2.36 per gallon Sunday, up from $2.34 per gallon the week before. With overnight trading showing gas rising an additional 7 percent, Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club Group, said Monday that prices are expected to go higher and he pointed to the hurricane as the chief culprit as 20 percent of domestic production could be impacted. “Hurricane Harvey hit a major supply line for gasoline in Florida and along the Eastern Seaboard,” Jenkins said. “Multiple refineries and drilling rigs had to be evacuated ahead of the storm, and the Houston Ship Channel was closed.”

Central Florida emergency crews en route to Houston to help Harvey flood victims” via David Harris and Michael Williams of the Orlando Sentinel – More than 20 members of the Central Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force team were set to arrive Monday night, said Orlando Fire Department Lt. Craig Hulette. “Everybody on our team trains very hard day in and day out to prepare for a disaster like this,” he said. The team is made up of members from Orlando and Orange and Seminole county fire rescues. It has responded to disasters such as hurricanes Ivan in 2004 in Florida’s Panhandle and Katrina in 2005 in New Orleans, Hulette said.

– “920th Rescue Wing deploys for Texas” via Florida Trend

– “Former St. Petersburg chef feeds thousand affected by Hurricane Harvey in Victoria, Texas” via Laura Reiley of the St. Petersburg Times

– “Three cruise ships are still stranded after Harvey. One is headed to Miami” via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald

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– “Tropicana Field new temporary home for Houston Astros” via The Associated Press

Twitter enables ‘helpless’ Tampa couple to send rescuers to Harvey flood victims” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times – As Hurricane Harvey pounded Texas, Kim McIntosh picked up her cellphone in Tampa Sunday morning and shot a text to her mother. The previous night, when McIntosh had called to check on her mom, Trudy Lampson reported that La Vita Bella, an assisted living center she owns in Dickinson, Texas, still had power and everything was fine. McIntosh, who lives in South Tampa, figured the power had probably gone out overnight but that not much else had changed. Instead, Lampson replied with a photo that would quickly go viral and has since come to represent the devastating flooding suffered by people in the Houston area. In the photo, at least seven older residents, some of them in wheelchairs and wearing nightgowns, are submerged to their waists in murky, greyish-brown water. One woman is hunched over so far her face hovers inches from the surface. Just beyond her is a black and white cat sat perched on the back of a chair. “Total disaster,” Lampson said in a text to her daughter. “Water’s rising.” Lampson didn’t respond. A National Guard crew arrived in a high-water vehicle about 1 p.m. The water didn’t rise higher than the level in the photo, but by then, the residents had been sitting in it for nine hours. “RESCUED!!” Tim McIntosh tweeted later, thanking the Guard and Galveston officials.

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Corcoran says he won’t announce whether he’ll run for governor until seven months from now, after the 2018 Legislative Session. But the Pasco County Republican is laying the groundwork for a candidacy in a field where Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a big head start and where Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala has joined the fray, reports Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times. Corcoran’s preparations include:

  • Meeting governors. Two weeks ago, Corcoran attended a Republican Governors Association meeting in Nashville where prospective 2018 candidates rubbed elbows with GOP governors and deep-pocket donors from around the country. Putnam also was there.
  • Focus groups. Corcoran clearly wants to know a lot more of what likely Republican primary voters want in their next governor, and he has held private focus group meetings in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa.
  • Fundraising. Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC raised $3 million in two-and-a-half months.
  • Grassroots events. Corcoran travels regularly and far from his Pasco district to boost his visibility and build a base.


Confederate statues must go, Florida Dems for governor say at forum club lunch” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach PostAndrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King steered clear of major policy conflicts but highlighted biographical differences that each said would make him or her the most electable candidate in a state where Democrats haven’t won a governor’s race since 1994. “It’s time and it’s right to take down our Confederate monuments across the state of Florida. All of them,” said King. “I’m totally interested in the retaining of history because it’s important that we not repeat it. But can we put these monuments in places where you can actually put them in context and not in celebrated, exalted parts of our society?” Gillum said. Graham agreed that “we need to move the Confederate monuments to places that reflect history or in our textbooks.”

Chris King answers a question to a guest as Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, left, and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, center, look on.

“Candidate presence ‘making history’ in Glenwood community” via Zach McDonald of the Panama City News-Herald – During a “Meet the Candidates Fish Fry” at the Glenwood Community Center, constituents in the primarily black ward met face to face with Democratic candidates running for the offices of governor and U.S. representative. Leon Belton, organizer of the event and president of the Bay County Democratic Black Caucus, said the event was the first he could recall in his lifetime when the black community of Bay County had the attention of so many candidates. “We are making history today,” he said. “Never have we had candidates of this magnitude in Bay County’s black community. … We are tired of just being part of the party without consideration — tired of being on the outside looking in.” Andrew Gillum and U.S. representative candidates Bob Rackleff and Phil Ehr attended. Ehr is challenging District 1′s Matt Gaetz, while Rackleff seeks District 2 Rep. Neal Dunn’s seat. Several other members of the Florida Democratic Party and Florida Democratic Black Caucus also attended the fish fry with the hope that the black community will see their vote as more than an exercise in futility and show up at the polls.

Andrew Gillum speaks with Panama City area residents during the Bay County Democratic Black Caucus candidates forum. Photo credit: Joshua Boucher.

Ron DeSantis floats measure to kill Robert Mueller probe after six months” via Austin Wright of POLITICODeSantis is pushing an amendment to severely curtail special counsel Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. DeSantis has put forward a provision that would halt funding for Mueller’s probe six months after the amendment’s passage. It also would prohibit Mueller from investigating matters that occurred before June 2015, when Trump launched his presidential campaign. The amendment is one of hundreds filed to a government spending package the House is expected to consider when it returns next week from the August recess. The provision is not guaranteed a vote on the House floor; the House Rules Committee has wide leeway to discard amendments it considers out of order.

“More firefighters endorse Jack Latvala for governor” via Florida Politics – Adding to endorsements from firefighters in Miami and Orlando, Latvala picked up more support from first responders in West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton, the campaign said in a press release. “I am humbled and honored to receive the support of the men and women of International Association of Fire Fighter’s Local 727, Local 1210 and Local 1891,” Latvala said in a statement. “During my time in the state legislature, I have worked tirelessly to make sure the selfless work our brave first responders do is properly recognized and that they’re equipped with the tools and protections they need to best serve all Floridians.”

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott tied in 2018 Senate race, new poll shows” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – A Florida Atlantic University poll shows Nelson is the choice of 42 percent of the registered voters. Scott is the pick of 40 percent. Statistically that’s a tie, and provides more evidence that the Florida contest – one that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate – will be hard fought and expensive. Nelson is seeking a fourth term. Scott, who can’t run again for governor because of term limits, hasn’t officially announced his intentions. The survey, conducted Friday through Saturday by FAU’s Business and Economics Polling Initiative, found … Overwhelming shares of both parties’ voters — 47 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans — haven’t settled on candidates they hope their parties nominate.

Absentee ballots for HD 44 special election include Paul Chandler” via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsChandler told Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles that he’s is not resigning from the ticket … Chandler has been battling with Democratic Party leaders to stay in the race as the party’s nominee against Republican nominee Bobby Olszewski, while party leaders have been trying to get him to drop out so they could replace him another candidate. The issue is Chandler’s qualification to run in this election is being challenged in a lawsuit. Party officials are worried he is going to be disqualified, while Chandler has been insisting he can win the lawsuit and the election. Chandler initially said Aug. 22 he would withdraw, then changed his mind, saying he was weighing his options, largely in protest, he said, over how the party had treated him. Since then, Democratic Party leaders and Cowles have been waiting to see if he would drop before the absentee ballots go into the mail.

“Jose Vazquez Figueroa says he’s dropping out of HD 62 race” via Florida Politics – The perennial Democratic candidate told Florida Politics he’s still ‘in it to win it’ for the special election to fill Hillsborough County’s House District 58 seat, recently vacated by Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson. But he had also filed—just in case—to run in 2018 for House District 62, now held by term-limited House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz. Not anymore: “I need to be focused on winning this district (58) and keeping this district blue in 2018,” he said in a text message on Monday morning. Gov. Scott has signed an executive order setting Oct. 10 for the primary and Dec. 19 for the general election for HD 58. Raulerson resigned Aug. 15, citing ongoing health problems.

Libertarian Alison Foxall announces HD 72 bid” via Florida Politics – which opened up after freshman Rep. Alex Miller unexpectedly resigned last week … Foxall is an alumna of the International Academy of Design and Technology in Tampa, where she earned a degree in Mass Communications. She is also a graduate of Booker High School in Sarasota. Gov. Scott has not set a special election for HD 72 yet, and Foxall follows Republican James Buchanan, son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, in announcing her candidacy.


Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will announce new jobs at Belcan Corporation at a 3 p.m. news conference at 2410 Metrocentre Blvd. in West Palm Beach.

Chris Nocco, Lauren Book backing amendment for crime victims’ rights” via Florida Politics – Pasco County Sheriff Nocco and state Sen. Book are joining a national victims’ rights group to ask Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission for an amendment to give equal rights for crime victims. While most states give crime victims constitutional-level protections, Florida remains one of 15 that does not. Marsy’s Law for Florida, the organization working to amend the Florida constitution, is offering language to the CRC to place on the 2018 ballot. Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, the accused murderer confronted Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, at a grocery store. The family was not informed the accused was released on bail. If approved by 60 percent of voters, the Florida amendment will guarantee victims of crime and their families certain protections, like those offered to the accused and convicted. Victims and their families would be informed of their rights and services available, and would be notified of major developments in a criminal case and of changes to an offender’s custodial status, such as being released on bail. It would allow victims and their families the right to be present — and heard — at court proceedings, providing feedback to the prosecutor before finalizing a plea agreement and establishing a right to restitution from the convicted.

Latvala urges Rick Scott to fill mental health, drug abuse funding gap” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily NewsLatvala proposed that Scott extend Florida’s state of emergency as a result of the opioid crisis to use state reserve funds for the $20 million gap. Scott extended the state of emergency by an additional 60 days. Without his action, it would have expired Tuesday … the Legislature let a $20.4 million federal grant that went to basic mental health and substance abuse services quietly expire last session, which Latvala referred to in his letter to Scott. “Recently, the media reported that Florida exhausted its accumulation of $20 million of federal funds. The Legislature allocated these accumulated funds to providers across the state to increase the capacity of our mental health and substance abuse system. Now that these accumulated funds have been exhausted, the continued sustainability of these capacity-building efforts is now in grave jeopardy,” wrote Latvala.

Elections commission seeks $17,000 from Reggie Fullwood” via the News Service of Florida – The Florida Elections Commission has gone to court to try to collect $17,000 in fines from former Rep. Fullwood, a Jacksonville Democrat who left the state House last year after pleading guilty to federal wire-fraud and tax charges. The commission filed a petition in Leon County circuit court, seeking to enforce a commission order approved Feb. 28. That order said Fullwood had committed 17 violations of elections laws, including failing to report campaign contributions and falsely reporting information. It imposed a $1,000 fine for each violation, but the petition filed said Fullwood had not paid the money.

Duval School Board mulls lawsuit against state over ‘schools of hope’” via Denise Smith Amos of the Florida Times-Union – Duval’s school board held a special meeting to discuss whether to sue the state, join 10 other districts suing the state, or wait for changes to the latest major education law … House Bill 7069 has several measures school district lawyers around the state have said are unconstitutional and will hurt school districts while financially benefiting charter schools. At least 10 districts so far have agreed to challenge the constitutionality of the law in a joint lawsuit, including Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Broward counties. So far, the districts have each contributed $10,000 to $30,000 to the effort, depending on enrollment size, but the preliminary budget is expected to total $400,000.

“Governor: Flags at half-staff for Greg Evers” via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott has ordered flags at half-staff to commemorate the passing of the former state senator. Evers, 62, a strawberry farmer and Republican who represented Senate District 2 from 2010-16, died last week in a one-car accident near his home in unincorporated Baker, Okaloosa County. He previously served in the House 2000-10. “As a symbol of respect” for Evers, Scott on Monday ordered the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Santa Rosa County Courthouse in Milton, Milton City Hall, and at the Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Tuesday. Evers was born in Milton in 1955. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lori, and their entire family during this terribly difficult time,” Scott said in a statement.


“Court holds back on ruling in Pam Bondi charities case” via Florida Politics – A Tallahassee judge heard argument Monday but didn’t immediately rule on Attorney General Bondi’s motion to toss out a lawsuit against her. She’s been accused of improperly forcing businesses to donate millions of dollars to unregistered charities. Those donations are part of settlements in consumer protection cases her office pursues. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson asked both sides to file proposed orders for summary judgment in the case, due by Friday, Sept. 8. Russell Kent, Bondi’s Special Counsel for Litigation, told Dodson the attorney general has “broad discretion” under Florida law to direct contributions in settlements. But Scott Siverson, lawyer for plaintiff John D. Smith, countered that the AG’s office can’t have “unfettered discretion,” saying “the Legislature could never have possibly intended such a result.” Depending on which way the judge rules, “either we crank up discovery or we don’t,” Dodson said.

More than 1,200 doctors now signed up for medical marijuana program” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, formerly called the Office of Compassionate Use, has been authorizing an average of more than 20 doctors a week this year to assist patients seeking to use marijuana products. That total has more than quadrupled since Florida votes approved Amendment 2. In the state’s first two years of the program, through the date of that election, just 290 doctors had taken the eight-hour state class and become authorized to approve patients for the program. Under Amendment 2, the Department of Health is working out regulations for patients to be able to use marijuana products for a wide range of debilitating conditions, as defined by the doctors. Before Amendment 2, qualifying conditions were limited to epilepsy and a handful of other neurological conditions, plus cancer. Meanwhile, the products already are widely for sale.

High-profile DUI case spurs battle over blood tests” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida – Attorneys for a Palm Beach County millionaire convicted of DUI manslaughter will go before the Florida Supreme Court to challenge state rules for testing blood-alcohol levels in drunken-driving cases. The hearing is part of years of legal wrangling in the high-profile case of John Goodman, who was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison in the 2010 traffic death of Scott Patrick Wilson. Justices will hear arguments about whether the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has adequate rules to ensure that blood-alcohol tests conducted in DUI cases provide accurate results. The arguments will focus, at least in part, on allegations that the state doesn’t have adequate safeguards to prevent drawn blood from clotting – potentially resulting in artificially high measurements of blood-alcohol levels – and doesn’t require proper screening of samples … Blood-alcohol tests in suspected DUI cases are rooted in what is known as a state “implied consent” law. Under that law, people effectively agree to be subject to blood- or breath-alcohol tests when they receive driver’s licenses.

“State files illegal card game complaints in Pensacola, Sarasota” via Florida Politics – State gambling regulators have filed administrative complaints against two racetracks in recent weeks, alleging that they’ve been offering illegal card games. One complaint was lodged Aug. 17 against Pensacola Greyhound Track & Poker Room, and another was filed last Thursday against the Sarasota Kennel Club, both of which offer varieties of poker. The complaints, however, filed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, say the facilities this month have been offering “a banking game or a game not specifically authorized” under state gambling law. Banking or banked card games, such as blackjack, are only allowed to be offered by the Seminole Tribe of Florida at its casinos around the state, including Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The Pensacola track and card room is managed and operated by Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which also runs a gambling facility in Gretna.

Workers’ comp rates could decrease in 2018” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida – … after a tumultuous period that included a double-digit rate hike late last year and a lobbying battle about whether to revamp workers’ compensation laws. The National Council on Compensation Insurance, which proposes rates for workers’ compensation insurers, was recommending an average premium decrease of 9.6 percent effective Jan. 1. The proposal will be reviewed by the state Office of Insurance Regulation, which can approve the decrease or direct changes. While the proposal would trim costs for businesses in 2018, it would come after a 14.5 rate increase that began to take effect in December 2016. That rate hike was fueled primarily by two Florida Supreme Court rulings in 2016 that struck down portions of workers’ compensation laws, including a law that strictly limited fees paid to injured workers’ attorneys.


Strong on gun rights, Donald Trump weakens gun sales in Florida, state figure show” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times – Since January, two key indicators of firearms ownership in Florida have declined compared to the same seven-month period in 2016, when they reached record highs. Through July, people filed about 559,000 requests for concealed weapons permits, down about 4 percent from the same period a year ago. Also during that period, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement ran about 139,000 background checks at the request of licensed gun dealers, down about 10 percent from 2016. Two local gun dealers and a manufacturer confirm the trend. No one worries about Trump taking away their guns, according to these men, as they did with former President Barack Obama.

Study: Proposal to replace Obamacare particularly bad For Florida” via Julio Ochoa of Health News Florida – The Cassidy-Graham plan, named after Republican Senators Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, and Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina, would do away with tax subsidies that help people pay for insurance premiums. Instead, states would get one lump sum from the federal government that would shrink over time. That block grant would go away completely by 2026 … The Cassidy-Graham plan would also make drastic changes to Medicaid. Medicaid expansion would go away and the federal government would redistribute the expansion funds to all states. The funding model for Medicaid would also change. Instead of open-ended funding based on need, funding for states would be capped and based on population. Altogether, Florida stands to lose $9.66 billion in federal funding by 2026, according to the study. The bill would have a more significant impact in Florida and other states that lead the nation in Affordable Care Act enrollment, the study says.

Assignment editors – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visits Tallahassee to tour two local schools. DeVos’ first stop at Holy Comforter, a private school serving grades Pre-K-8 is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., the stop at Florida State University School, the lab school associated with FSU is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.


Keep Confederate statues standing” via Mike Hill for the Sunshine State News – A petition drive has started to remove the Confederate Memorial in Pensacola’s Lee Square. I will not take the time to detail the history of the memorial which was erected in 1891 with private dollars … I am an American who happens to be black. I am not an African-American. This is my country. The terms African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American and other such phrases were largely unheard of before the late 1980s. As a nation, we must get away from this relatively recent agenda of dividing our country into different ethnic camps. We are one nation under God. The insidiousness of these dual distinctions gives the impression to too many people that the United States is not really their nation and that their real deep-seated allegiance actually belongs elsewhere. This leads to too many people acting like they have no ownership in this great nation. It’s similar to how renters act compared to how owners behave. By using these terms, the pride of ownership is not there when it comes to the thinking about the United States, its history and its heritage. This makes it easier to disrespect our culture, our flag and our history. It also makes it easier to accept dependence from the state. We need to reject such nonsense. We need to be proud to be Americans. This is a nation upon which God has abundantly shed His grace.


“The Buzz blog gets a new look” via Tampa Bay Times – The Buzz on Florida Politics, the Times’ political blog, is getting a re-design, deputy managing editor for politics and business Amy Hollyfield posted Monday. “We’re giving the Buzz a new look to capitalize on (our) first-rate reporting and help you feel even more like the insider you are,” she wrote. “You’ll get quicker posts. More photos. An updated dashboard of the very latest political stories. And be able to follow your favorite writers like (Times political editor) Adam C. Smith and Alex Leary,” the Times’ Washington correspondent. The new blog launches Tuesday morning at

“Neil Brown will be Poynter’s next president” via – The Poynter Institute announced Monday that its new president will be Brown, the editor and vice president of The Tampa Bay Times. “I am honored to join Poynter, where imagination and integrity have been hallmarks in helping journalists get better at what they do and stay relevant in how they do it,” Brown said. Brown, 59, started at The Tampa Bay Times — then St. Petersburg Times — as world editor in 1993. He was promoted to a series of leadership roles, including managing editor and executive editor. He became the paper’s editor in 2010 … Brown arrives at the end of a three-month search for Poynter’s next president, which began after Brown’s predecessor, Tim Franklin, was hired to be senior associate dean at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

“Surterra hires new president for Florida” via Florida Politics – The medical marijuana concern named Wesley Reynolds as president of Tampa-based Surterra Florida. Reynolds “is a seasoned executive who will oversee all aspects of operations across the Sunshine State, leading cultivation, manufacturing, Wellness Centers and delivery of Surterra’s cannabis products,” the company said in a Monday press release. “Wesley will also lead all work with regulators, legislators and other affiliated organizations throughout Florida.” For the last 18 years, he has held positions of increasing responsibility with Coca-Cola around the world. He and his family once relocated to Istanbul, “where he built sales and commercial capabilities across 90 countries in Eastern Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East, Africa, and India.” Reynolds and his family will relocate from Atlanta to Tampa.

Appointed Danny Alvarez, Vincent Cassidy and Shaun Oxtal to the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority; Keith Ward, Bruce Butler, Tom Morris and Amy Pope Wells to the Clay County Development Authority.

— ALOE —

Florida State’s defense poised to outshine offense” via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press – Florida State has largely been known for its offense during Jimbo Fisher‘s eight seasons as head coach. This could be the season where that could change. FSU has a defense with enough talent to outshine the Seminoles’ offense. The third-ranked Seminoles return nine starters on defense, including two that were named to The Associated Press preseason All-America Team. With plenty of depth on the line and in the secondary, defensive coordinator Charles Kelly has not quieted expectations going into the Sept. 2 opener against No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta. “This is probably the best unit since I’ve been here,” said Kelly, who is in his fifth season at the school and fourth as coordinator. “We certainly have more experienced guys. Any time you are returning a lot of people who have played in plenty of situations it helps you.”

Hollywood confronts the Donald trump era” via Jake Coyle of The Associated Press – Movies take years to make, but many of this fall’s films may feel almost preternaturally programmed for the President Trump era. Some have been in development for more than a decade, others have been fast-tracked since the election. But moviegoers will soon have no shortage of films offering timely reflections on America and the policies of its president …  one of the fall’s most captivating dramas might be between Hollywood and the White House. Writer-director Peter Landesman (“Concussion”) found himself making a film about the FBI battling White House interference while a curiously similar conflict played out between Trump, James Comey and the FBI. His movie, “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” tells the story of Felt (played by Liam Neeson), the legendary Watergate source known as Deep Throat, who was the No. 2 official at the FBI during the scandal. It’s been in the works since 2005. “This movie could have been made 10 years ago or five years ago. The fact that it’s coming out this year has a supernatural relevance,” said Landesman. Similar parallels may also follow Steven Spielberg’s keenly awaited “The Post,” (Dec. 22). Spielberg’s drama is about The Washington Post’s 1971 publishing of the classified Pentagon Papers, which revealed many of the government’s lies about the Vietnam War. The film, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, is like an all-star team assembled as Hollywood’s response to Trump.

Happy birthday to one of the absolute best people we know, the inimitable Nancy Watkins. Also celebrating today are Florida Power and Light’s John Holley and Travis Pillow.

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.

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