Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – December 5

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Sunburn – The 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 public affairs firm known for unparalleled relationships and winning strategies: Forty years ago today, a squad from Florida participated in the first – and, it turned out, last – World Bowl, the championship game of the fledgling, ultimately doomed World Football League. The Florida Blazers, who played their home games in Orlando’s Tangerine Bowl, were joined in the upstart 12-team league by the Jacksonville Sharks. On December 5, 1974, the Blazers concluded the league’s only full season by losing the title game 22-21 to the Birmingham Americans. For participating in the championship game, each Blazer received a whopping $700 – a far cry from the $15,000 paid to players on the winning Super Bowl team just 38 days later.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


President Barack Obama kicked off the holiday season in Washington on Thursday with the lighting of the national Christmas tree.

Obama joined hundreds of people for the annual event held just steps from the White House. First lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, and Mrs. Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, also attended the event on a chilly night in the nation’s capital.

Obama said the national tree is a “symbol of hope and holiday spirit.” He urged Americans to remember members of the U.S. military serving overseas, as well as their families.

“As we hold our loved ones tight, let’s remember the military families whose loved ones are far from home,” Obama said. “They are our heroes.”

This year’s ceremony marks the 92nd annual lighting of the Christmas tree near the White House. The National Park Service says the tradition was started by President Calvin Coolidge in 1923.


Social media has no doubt who the most buzzworthy potential presidential candidates are at the moment for 2016: Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz together accounted for 40 percent of the discussion on Facebook and nearly half — 47 percent — of mentions on Twitter among 10 top presidential possibilities in the past three months, according to new data provided to POLITICO by Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush’s big name didn’t spark much chatter at all. He garnered only 3 percent of the Facebook mentions and 2 percent of tweets, fewer than nine other would-be contenders.

The mentions cut both ways, including negative comments as well as positive ones. But they reflect the extent to which Clinton, a long-standing subject of debate, and Cruz, who casts himself as a conservative renegade, have dominated the conversation at a time when others are trying to gin up some grass-roots energy.

“Imperfect as it is, [Facebook] is probably the biggest trove of data of what actual human beings outside of Washington, D.C., are talking about day to day and that makes it intrinsically important, and these platforms are actually important for reaching people and motivating them,” said Teddy Goff, partner at Precision Strategies and former digital director for Obama’s reelection campaign.

“Anything that gives indication as to who’s sort of breaking through and seems to be of interest and topical among the gigantic sampling of Americans is important,” he added. “To the extent it’s correlated to who is going to have the ability to mobilize people, that’s going to have actual outcomes.”

Barack Obama proved in both his presidential campaigns that social media can be a major component of an effective grass-roots campaign. And heading into 2016, some campaign data experts believe social media will be an even more powerful tool than traditional media as a way to get a message out to millions, mobilize activists and target swing voters.

Of the 27 million Facebook posts, comments and content likes related to the potential White House candidates between Aug. 22 and Nov. 22, Clinton and Cruz each were mentioned in 20 percent of the posts, according to Facebook’s data scientists. Clinton topped Cruz though in the number of people talking about her with 2.3 million people making 5.6 million interactions, while Cruz had 1.8 million users referencing him in 5.6 million interactions.


Two top New Hampshire Republican strategists have been contacted this week by a Jeb Bush confidant to discuss their interest in leading the former Florida governor’s prospective presidential campaign there, RealClearPolitics has learned from GOP sources in the Granite State.

The new outreach from Bush’s camp was directed at a pair of experienced and well-respected New Hampshire GOP operatives, each of whom has previously helmed presidential campaigns in the state.

Both were given the proverbial instruction to “keep your powder dry,” suggesting that Bush is leaning toward entering the race early next year.

“I think the decision’s been made, personally,” said one of the strategists who was contacted by Bush’s camp and who spoke to RCP under the condition of anonymity.

Neither of the operatives has been contacted by Bush himself, but they were asked if they’d be interested in speaking with the would-be candidate.

The calls represent the typical form of indirect outreach that likely candidates extend to prospective top staffers before finalizing their decisions to make a White House run.

“I’ve definitely perceived an uptick in the perception of him doing this,” one of the consultants said of the conversation this week with the Bush confidant.

“Governor Bush has not made a decision yet on whether he will run for President,” Bush’s spokesperson, Kristy Campbell, told RCP. “He has not reached out to anyone in New Hampshire, including these anonymous, unnamed ‘operatives.'”

Recently, the former two-term governor made headlines when he said that the next Republican presidential nominee should be willing to “lose the primary to win the general.”

TWEET, TWEET: @bsfarrington: 24 minutes. That’s how long it took to overhear “Is @JebBush running” at the #SayfieSummit

HOW RED OR BLUE IS YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? FIND OUT HERE via Philip Bump of the Washington Post

We looked into the future a bit to assess the most Democratic and Republican House districts once 2015 rolls around. But what if you want to know about right here and right now? How Democratic or Republican is the exact spot where you are at this moment? Are your neighbors a bunch of hippies or tea parties?

We are here to help with this pressing and common concern. The tool below will take your current location (for which you need to give permission in your browser, usually near the top) (we don’t keep the data) (promise) and tell you the composition of your state and federal representatives. Do you live in one of the bluest or reddest places in America?

Pinellas County, for example, is listed 67 percent Republican.

If you’re a particularly partisan sort, there’s an additional advantage to this. Driving through New Jersey from Texas and want to know how well your “NOBUMMER” bumper sticker will go over? Or maybe your flight from New York to Los Angeles over Kansas had mechanical issues and you had to land in Topeka. Need to know how hard it will be to find a chai latte? Voila.

If you’re the braggy sort, notice that there’s a “tweet this” button. You should click that. The only thing more fun than staunch partisanship is making sure people know about staunch partisanship. Twitter is here to help.

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BLOG POST OF THE DAY — IS IT BECAUSE SHE’S A GIRL? via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News

What does Leslie Dougher have to do to keep her job? Somebody please tell me, I really want to know.

Apparently, after all these years, I still don’t understand how the game is played.

Why does the chair of the Republican Party of Florida, who only helped her party to one of the nation’s biggest avalanches in last month’s national GOP blizzard, have to claw her way through a brutal, insider election to stay out of the unemployment line?

Let’s think: Did she commit some crime we’re not aware of? Is she a double agent? Lazy? Was she egomaniacal, mean-spirited or deluded? Maybe she has a chemical dependency? An evil twin who pinches her key and sneaks into party headquarters, stealing secrets in the dead of night? Tell me.

You see, what I don’t understand is, Leslie Dougher not only presided over the midterms triumph, she won the confidence and endorsement of Gov. Rick Scott — a governor who overcame spectacular odds to remain leader of the Florida Republican Party.

Repeating: leader of the Florida Republican Party.

Scott wants Dougher and went out of his way to say so.

Wait a minute. That’s it! I think I’ve got it.

It’s because she’s a girl, isn’t it?


Beth Sweeny has quietly withdrawn from the race for Senate District 6. A lobbyist for the St. Johns County School District, Sweeny qualified for the race thirty minutes before the Dec. 2 deadline. At that time she cited her “deep roots in the community” and a “passion to serve.”

When asked how she would overcome the financial and name recognition advantages of two other Republican candidates, Representatives Travis Hutson and Ronald Renuart, in the January primary Sweeny said she planned “to knock on a lot of doors.”

Sweeny did not return phone calls or an email seeking a comment about her decision to drop out of the race.

Her deputy campaign treasurer declined to offer any comment about the decision.

“I just got off the phone with her and I’ll try to get her to call you,” said Drew Aldikacti Thursday morning.

Sweeny’s withdrawal leaves Renuart, Hutson and Dennis McDonald in the Jan. 27 primary. The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat David Cox in the April 7 general election to replace former Sen. John Thrasher.

Hutson and Renuart have submitted their resignation to the Florida House effective April 6.

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. One of Florida’s Top Lobbying Firms, Corcoran & Johnston has demonstrated the ability to navigate government and successfully deliver results for clients, time and again. To learn more visit***


The Florida Senate may be a conservative chamber run by wealthy, white men, but it is gradually injecting some women leaders into the second tier of its leadership ranks.

Senate President Andy Gardiner last week named Miami Sen. Anitere Flores as chairman of the newly-named Fiscal Policy Committee and appointed five other women senators as committee chairs. Today, Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano named Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring as the chamber’s deputy GOP leader for the 2014-16 legislative term.

Grimsley, a registered nurse, is a legislative veteran who has served as House Appropriations Chair and the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chair.

“As a fifth generation Floridian, a parent, and business woman, Denise knows firsthand the challenges and opportunities of citizens and business owners in our state. She is a conservative leader whose experience will serve our caucus greatly,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, said in a statement.

Grimsley represents Senate District 21, which consist of Okeechobee, and parts of Highlands, Martin, Osceola, Polk, and St. Lucie counties.

She served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2004-2012 and was elected to the Senate in 2012. Senator Grimsley is a graduate of the University of Miami, with a Masters of Business Administration. She has a daughter and two grandchildren.


For a moment there, it looked like it was time to pull the plug.

It was time to call the priest and ask him to deliver the last rites.

For a moment there, state Sen. Jack Latvala’s ambitions to be president of the Florida Senate in 2016-18 were in their death throes.

This past November, the senior state senator from Pinellas County lost a high-profile proxy battle in Senate District 34 pitting his ally, Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff, against Democratic incumbent Maria Sachs. Latvala had painted himself into a corner, framing the race almost like a loser-leaves-town fight between him and his rival for the Senate presidency, state Sen. Joe Negron. Had Bogdanoff won in SD 34, Latvala may have had an edge over Negron, but since she didn’t, he was, at best, tied with Negron in how many secret pledges he had from Senate colleagues. It’s more likely Latvala is down a pledge (or even two) to Negron.

So when Bogdanoff lost, Latvala’s hopes faded.

But just as the monitor was about to flat line, in steps Senate President Andy Gardiner, almost like one of those doctors you see on television, to resuscitate Latvala. (Picture Gardiner standing over a shirtless Latvala, holding defibrillator paddles, yelling, “Clear!”)

Latvala will chair the appropriations subcommittee dealing with transportation and education development. That’s the post both Gardiner and state Sen. Don Gaetz held before ascending to president.


Meghan Collins is the new communications director for the Florida Department of Education.

She replaces Joe Follick, who will be working with the Florida College System.

Collins most recently spearheaded communications for First Lady Ann Scott during Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign for re-election. Prior to that, she was communications director for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

“I’m really excited, and looking forward to the new challenge of a new agency,” she said Thursday.

Collins graduated from Louisiana State University. She is married to Frank Collins, a member of Gov. Scott’s inner circle who was recently named deputy chief of staff.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

OPTIMISM SHOWS UP IN FLORIDA BUSINESS POLL via Margie Manning of the Tampa Bay Business Journal

Business owners and executives in Florida are increasingly optimistic about prospects for both the state and national economy in 2015.

Forty-eight percent of the Florida businesspeople polled by BMO Harris Bank expect the state’s economy to grow next year, up 12 percent from a similar poll a year ago. More than four in 10 Florida business owners are confident their own businesses will grow next year, the poll found.

Stability — not volatility — is projected.

“Businesses have begun to adjust to the ‘new normal’ and are now setting their expectations for more slow and steady growth,” Dave Maraman, BMO Harris Bank’s Florida business banking regional president, said in a statement. “Several of our clients have had their best year since the recession. They just aren’t looking for the explosive growth they experienced in the past.”

There also is increased optimism about the U.S. economy, with 43 percent of Florida business leaders expecting growth in 2015, up 11 percent from last year’s outlook. Fewer than 20 percent expect the national economy to worsen.

“The coming year is being heralded by positive momentum in consumer spending, which is music to businesses’ ears,” Michael Gregory, head of U.S. economics for BMO Capital Markets, said in the statement.

Spending is up because of strong job growth, lower energy costs and an appreciating U.S. dollar. Businesses are expected to react to an uptick in spending by expanding production — a move likely to boost capital expenditures for buildings or equipment, and for hiring more workers.


The Florida Senate sponsor of the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 is frustrated and concerned that a January 1, 2015 deadline to implement the law will be missed. The House sponsor is also disappointed.

It’s been three weeks since an administrative law judge directed the Department of Health to rewrite regulations for a medicinal marijuana law. The only word since from DOH has been this statement.

“The Department of Health will consider all options that will most expeditiously get this product to market to help families facing serious illnesses,” said Nathan Dunn, DOH communications director.

But apparently no meetings have been held and, in a filing with Judge David Watkins, the DOH indicated it may appeal Watkins’ ruling that it had exceeded its delegated legislative authority in its proposed rule for the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014.

DOH has until Dec. 15 to decide and all the legal wrangling frustrates Sen. Rob Bradley who sponsored the measure.

“We need to get this substance into the hands of these suffering families as quickly as possible. That is why we put a January 1st deadline in law,” said Bradley. “It’s too early to tell how long this administrative and legal process is going to last but if it is not resolved by the time we get to session in March then I anticipate that we will seek a legislative fix.”

Costa Farms which successfully challenged proposed regulations for implementation of the Florida Charlotte’s Web law agreed Thursday to a DOH motion to extend the time for Watkins to rule on Costa’s request to be reimbursed for attorney fees and costs.

Watkins agreed with Costa DOH had exceeded its authority by expanding the pool of applicants and inserting a lottery in the licensing process for the five licenses available to nurseries wanting to grow marijuana and dispense a medicinal oil extracted from the plant.

Watkins issued his final order on the challenge Nov. 14 and Costa filed a motion seeking attorney fees Nov. 26.

DOH responded to that motion Wednesday by noting it has until Dec. 15 to decide whether to file a Notice of Appeal of the Final Order. An appeal would further push back the start date when Charlotte’s Web oil would be available for seizure and cancer patients.


To fill a need for trained drone operators, the FSU College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, has developed a new program for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

In spring 2015,the FSU Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program will begin offering the first course in a new program called Application of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems. “Small” refers to UAS less than 55 pounds.

The drones’ newfound academic status proves a growing market, with the potential for scientific research, policy-making, and the economy. To keep pace with the industry growth highlights the need for qualified drone operators, the goal of the EMHS program.

Between now and 2025, more than 100,000 jobs will be created in the UAS industry, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). During that time, the economic impact in Florida could reach $3.8 billion, with as many as 15,000 new drones in service by both state and local agencies.

“Discussions with state and local emergency managers show intense interest in what drones can do for the field of emergency management, particularly emergency response, recovery, and mitigation,” says EMHS program deputy director David Merrick. “These versatile systems can capture still and video imagery of disaster impacts and provide critical near real-time assessments for a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft.”

FSU’s program will be the first academic program in a major Florida public university, to prepare students for UAS use in public and private applications. Among the potential applications: monitoring wildfire lines; identifying hot spots in burning buildings; monitoring and forecasting agricultural conditions; locating people stranded in disaster situations and more.


On at least one of its seven campuses, FastTrain College “purposely hired attractive women and sometimes exotic dancers and encouraged them to dress provocatively while they recruited young men in neighborhoods to attend FastTrain,” according to an ongoing civil lawsuit. The Florida attorney general and the U.S. attorney in Miami announced Wednesday that they were joining the lawsuit against the now-defunct FastTrain and former owner Alejandro Amor, 56.

… The complaint says Miami-based FastTrain and Amor bilked the U.S. Department of Education out of millions of dollars with falsified grant applications from at least January 2009 through June 2012, when the school closed after an FBI raid.

The school is accused of falsifying high school diplomas for students who didn’t have them. Because they never graduated from high school, the lawsuit contends the students wouldn’t have qualified for student aid.

ORLANDO’S UBER NONSENSE via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel

The city of Orlando is slated to finally deal with Uber’s entry into the Orlando market.

Here are three thoughts and observations about why this whole thing is wacky.

  1. All businesses should have to play by the same rules. Regulate taxis … don’t regulate taxis … whatever. But it makes little sense to have one set of rules for one group and another for another group – whether we’re talking about rates, ADA compliance, responsibility to serve all neighborhoods or anything else. If government is going to regulate at all, it should do so uniformly.
  2. Orlando’s proposal to mandate HIGHER rates for Uber is nonsensical, You can check out the city’s proposed ordinance here– where you can see the city wants to force Uber to charge “a minimum fare of 125% of the established taxicab fare.” That’s nonsense. The best thing Uber brings to a market is competition, which leads to better service and rates. Forcing the new guy to charge more undermines that … and defies common sense.
  3. If the city wants to regulate anything with regards to fares, it should be MAXIMUM rates. Just last month, Uber made headlines for charging riders $200, $300 and even $455 for a 15-mile ride. (“Uber defends price surge that charged Durham man $455 on Halloween.”) You could make a libertarian argument for no fee regulation. But I’m not sure how you make a good argument for regulating only the minimum fares and not the maximum ones … especially when one of the original arguments for regulating rates was to prevent price-gouging in a tourism-dependent economy.


It has not even been awarded yet and already the contract to build a new operations center for the board that operates Tri-Rail is stirring a storm of controversy.

According to its meeting agenda posted online, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority on Friday will award a $40 million contract to Gulf Building to construct a center in Pompano Beach. But the board’s chair, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, has concerns the contract is not going to the right group and the deal may be scuttled before it begins.

Gulf Building bid $700,000 more than MCM, a company with more experience, to build the center and expand the Pompano Tri-Rail station at 3301 N.W. Eighth Ave.

Still, the evaluation committee chose Gulf.

In the last week, State Sen. Anitere Flores, state Reps. Jeanette Nunez, and Manny Diaz Jr. also called for the transportation authority to reconsider. Their issue: Gulf had not demonstrated the required experience.

The first group to raise concerns was, unsurprisingly, MCM, whose manager Pedro Munilla raised the possibility that “personal relationships” had influenced the decision.

Gulf’s president and CEO, John Scherer, is the son of Republican powerbroker Bill Scherer. The company’s vice president, Chip Derrer, is the son of Rick Derrer, president of James A Cummings Inc. general contractors. Cummings himself, the company’s chairman and founder, sits on the regional transportation authority’s board with Barreiro.


Brian Ballard, Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: Hernando County School Board

Shirley Goff, Florida’s Office of Early Learning

Rick Lindstrom: A.D.A. Engineering, Inc.

Chris Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: School District of Palm Beach County

Richard Watson: Florida Crane Owners Council, Inc.


As the 16-year reign of the Bowl Championship Series gives way to big-time college football’s first playoff as a way to determine a national champion, at least a couple of teams are trying to get an edge beyond the playing field. While the old system decided on college football’s national title game via a computer formula, 12 experts on Sunday will determine the four teams for the national semifinals.

No one believes these people can be bought, but some think a little old-fashioned lobbying could not hurt. Baylor has hired Kevin Sullivan, who served as communications adviser under George W. Bush, to make the Bears’ case that they should be included among the final four.

Sullivan and Baylor, however, are Johnny-come-latelies compared with Marshall and its hired guns. The firm Brener Zwikel & Associates was hired by Conference USA (Marshall’s league) and has been busy trying to shape opinion since before the College Football Playoff selection committee released its first rankings.

Sullivan — who has an extensive background in sports marketing — and the Bears came out swinging in a mass email on Monday arguing that a Baylor win over Kansas State on Saturday should leapfrog it past Texas Christian. In the latest rankings, released Tuesday night, Baylor is No. 6, while T.C.U. is No. 3.

The logic? That a win Saturday would give the Bears the Big 12 title based on the head-to-head tiebreaker — Baylor beat T.C.U. in October.

But like any good public relations email, it also sold a story in social-media-savvy language: “With #AmericasTopOffense,” it said, “the Bears Are Among Nation’s Most Entertaining Teams.”

Baylor hired Kevin Sullivan Communications last week “as additional support in telling the Bears’ story over the course of the last few weeks of the 2014 college football season,” said Nick Joos, Baylor’s assistant athletic director for external affairs.

***This year the Florida Smart Justice Alliance is hosting their 4th Annual Smart Justice Summit on January 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. Over 300 policymakers are expected including state legislators, judges, sheriffs, police chiefs, state’s attorneys, public defenders, county correctional officers, probation & parole, DCF/DJJ/DOC employees, behavioral healthcare providers, policy experts, and others on panels discussing  successful evidence-based practices in the criminal justice arena. The goal is to maintain public safety while insuring that taxpayers get the best bang for the dollar. Keynote Speaker – Bexar Co., TX Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, first female sheriff for San Antonio. To get a 10% savings on registration click here.***


On Context Florida: Florida may not be the No. 1 state when it comes to solar energy potential, but Bruce Ritchie says it is surely higher than Alaska. Public Service Commission Chairman Art Graham said during a recent meeting that his office had done some digging into the issue of Florida’s solar potential. For a moment there, Peter Schorsch said it looked like it was time to pull the plug on state Sen. Jack Latvala’s ambitions to become Senate president. Even with a new Congress and talk of major reforms in the coming year, Dennis Diaz points out administrative solutions that could fix some of the nation’s problems, especially in housing policy.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Facing Florida with Mike Vasalinda: Dominic Calabro, Bob McClure, Kevin Cate

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Jim Davis, Paula Dockery, Daniel Ruth, and Brendan McLaughlin

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Will Weatherford

Political Connections on CF 13: CFO Jeff Atwater

The Usual Suspects which airs on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon, Dara Kam, and Sean Pittman

‘FROZEN’ SHORT HEADED TO THEATERS via the Associated Press

“Frozen” favorites Anna, Elsa, and Olaf are headed back to the big screen in a new short film.

Walt Disney Animation Studios announced Wednesday it plans to show “Frozen Fever” in front of the live-action “Cinderella” that opens in theaters March 13.

The short reunites the Oscar-winning directing team from “Frozen”: Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck. It will tell the story of Elsa and Kristoff’s attempt to plan a birthday party for Anna.

“Frozen” is the fifth-highest grossing film of all time, with over $1.27 billion worldwide, and it continues to resonate with audiences.

Disney has had massive success with live-action updates of its animated classics, including 2014’s “Maleficent.” But the promise of a “Frozen” short with “Cinderella” will likely prove to be icing on their fairy tale cake.

CONGRATS to Brigita and Richard DeNapoli on the birth of Vincent Jonas DeNapoli, all 8 pounds, 7 ounces of him.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY this weekend to our great friend, Mark Ferrulo.

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.