Gov. Rick Scott’s administration might mark Florida’s golden age of free speech and protest, or its last hurrah anyway.
The plaza-level sign in the Capitol rotunda declaring “Florida’s Free Speech Zone” that went up during Scott’s term has been removed and Jonel Edwards Mickles has experienced the difference in atmosphere firsthand.
The Co-Executive Director of the Dream Defenders was part of a 31-day sit-in protesting the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law in 2013 at the Governor’s Office and, 10 years later, witnessed the arrest of 14 people who were asking for a meeting with Gov. Ron DeSantis in the same place. The Governor did not meet with them, as Scott did on the third day of the 2013 protest.
And the 2023 effort didn’t last much longer than half a dozen hours.
Ten years ago, the police presence in front of the group was limited to jingling keys in the middle of the night, when protesters were sleeping, Edwards Mickles said. Last May, during the final days of one of the most contentious Sessions for LGBTQ, minority and women’s issues, police were always in sight or just around the corner, with a new attitude, she said.
“The energy they had, for at least the police officers who were in the office, was very much like they wanted to make a fight.” Edwards Mickles said.
At the beginning of 2023’s legislative proceedings, Dream Defenders’ other Co-Executive Director, Nailah Summers-Police, immediately noticed a difference. She’s been coming to the Capitol for years and spent time in the Governor’s office during that 31-day sit-in.
“We’ve never seen the Capitol that empty on the first day of Session,” she said of the latest regular Session.
After talking to other nonprofit leaders, Edwards Mickles developed a theory: “I think there’s a lot more fear of the repercussions of taking action at the Capitol.”
DeSantis dismissed those protesters as “paid agitators” on Newsmax, a conservative-friendly news channel.
New rules that went into effect before the last Session prohibit demonstrators from spending the night. They also require anyone who wants space within the Capitol Complex to ask not only the Department of Management Services but also get a sponsor in the Legislature and have a purpose that aligns with the agency’s mission.
Chaz Stevens, whose 2013 “Festivus Pole” display was mentioned on Comedy Central’s Daily Show, is pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to erect another such pole now. He later found emails that showed Scott didn’t like Stevens’ take on holiday decorations, but it went up nonetheless.
The free speech activist, who erected a life-size “Fauci Claus” display in 2021, has been trying to figure out how to make a return to the rotunda, even paring down his proposed display to a blank easel. That was denied because it did not comply, though no further explanation was provided. However, He got a picture of a gas stove approved for display.
“It’s about me trying to understand what this fascist autocrat is doing to free speech in Florida,” Stevens said. “It’s his laboratory.”
Meanwhile, Dwight Bullard, a former state Representative and Senator representing the Miami area, has been ordered to stay away from the Capitol Complex for at least a year for his role in last May’s protest at the Governor’s Office.
No legislation that represents rollbacks in human rights quite like last year’s bills has yet been filed, but he’s watching.
“I have no reason to believe they’ll stop trying to undermine democracy like they’ve been doing,” Bullard said.
His case stands in point.
Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel, and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Anne Geggis, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
— Take 5 —
Special Session is coming: Florida legislators are returning to Tallahassee for a four-day Special Session that will allow them to show support for Israel while also dealing with funding issues surrounding Hurricane Idalia recovery, the voucher program that helps children with disabilities, and the My Safe Florida Home Program. The Session will run Nov. 6-9. Legislators are expected to increase funding for Jewish Day Schools as well as broaden the list of businesses that fall under the state’s sanctions against Iran. DeSantis last week called on legislators to act in the wake of the Hamas attacks on Israel.
‘Defend our farmers’: Sen. Ben Albritton was officially designated this week by Senate Republicans to take the helm of Senate President after the 2024 elections. During his remarks, Albritton talked about his faith and family, but he also stressed that agriculture will be a top-tier consideration during his two-year tenure. “I know, firsthand, what it takes to produce the food that feeds our state, our country and the world,” Albritton told Senators. “If you really stand back and think about it, the fact is, the survival of agriculture is the survival of humanity. We can’t lose sight of that.”
Air Florida: Around 500 Americans have flown back to the U.S. from Israel courtesy of charter flights paid for by the state of Florida. DeSantis declared a state of emergency last week after the Hamas attacks on Israel. Florida partnered with Project Dynamo, a nonprofit based in Florida to help organize the flights out of the country where air service has been interrupted due to the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel. The state has agreed to pay for the flights, which included one flight this past weekend that brought back 270 people.
Complicated: State economists aren’t sure they can figure out a price tag for a proposed constitutional amendment designed to protect access to abortion. Backers are trying to get the amendment on the 2024 ballot. Meanwhile, economists have until November to draw up a proposed financial impact statement for the measure. But part of the quandary for economists is that it’s unlikely that the state Supreme Court will issue a ruling on the legality of the state’s current 15-week abortion ban anytime soon. If the court were to uphold the 15-week ban before the deadline, a new 2023 law banning abortions after six weeks goes into effect 30 days later. That also will likely draw legal challenges.
From the state House to the big House: Former state Rep. Joe Harding in January will surrender to federal authorities after a judge this week sentenced the Williston Republican to four months in prison and another two years of supervised release. The sentence came nearly seven months after Harding pled guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, and lying to investigators. Prosecutors sought charges in connection with Harding seeking COVID-19 relief dollars for businesses no longer operating.
— Where there’s smoke … —
October is Fire Prevention Month, also known as Christmas to smoke alarm salespeople and 9-volt battery manufacturers.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is celebrating by encouraging Floridians to formulate a plan for fire emergencies and check their smoke detectors and deck the halls (and bedrooms) with a few more, if necessary.
“Now is the perfect time to make sure that you have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms installed in every single bedroom of your home. These alarms should also be tested at least once a month to ensure that they are adequately protecting you,” Patronis said.
He added, “It is also vital that you have an escape plan in case of a house fire. You should know at least two ways out of every room in your home. Finally, make sure that all the hallways of your home are lit with nightlights and that they are free from clutter so that everyone can make it out safely. We may have the best firefighters in the country but let’s make their jobs easier this year by preparing now to prevent fire-related tragedies.”
Fire experts agree with Patronis about monthly testing. According to the National Fire Protection Association, roughly three out of five fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or nonworking smoke alarms.
An ironic fact most fire safety pros gloss over: When stored improperly, the 9-volt batteries smoke alarms run on can generate enough heat to start a fire. Just something to think about when you swing by Home Depot for a new model.
— You go, girl —
State Extension Horse Specialist and Associate Professor for the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Florida, Dr. Saundra TenBroeck, was named the 2023 Woman of the Year in Agriculture by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson.
The award, sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in conjunction with the Florida State Fair Authority, is presented to the recipient during the Florida State Fair in Tampa.
TenBroeck graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and graduated from Texas A&M University with a master’s degree and doctoral degree in Physiology of Reproduction.
Her family started their equine venture with two brood mares and have since bred and raised 24 Quarter Horses over the last 35 years.
She serves on many committees, notably the UF Senate, American Youth Horse Council, Florida Cattlemen’s and Cattlewomen’s Associations, UF Equestrian Teams, UF Horse Judging, and 4-H Youth Regionals/Nationals.
“Dr. TenBroeck has influenced the lives of thousands of young people and adults through her work with the Florida cattle industry, FFA, 4-H, and various agricultural fairs throughout the state including the Florida State Fair,” Simpson said. “She is a true inspiration to the women in agriculture and a role model for the young people of Florida.”
Florida has been recognizing the outstanding work of women in agriculture since 1985.
— Instagram of the Week —
— The Week in Appointments —
Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit Court — DeSantis appointed Florida Department of Corrections General Counsel Lance Neff to the 2nd Circuit bench. In addition to his job at DOC, Neff is the Chief of Military Justice for the Florida Army National Guard. He previously served as Senior Assistant Attorney General for the Florida Office of the Attorney General. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University and a law degree from Florida Coastal. Read more on Florida Politics.
Duval County Court — 7th Circuit Assistant State Attorney James Nealis has been appointed to serve as a Duval County Judge. Before working as a prosecutor, Nealis was an associate at the Law Office of Harris Brown. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and his law degree from Regent Law School. Read more on Florida Politics.
Polk County Court — Polk County Sheriff’s Office Director of Legal Affairs Anne Gibson has been tapped for a judgeship on the Polk County court. Before joining PCSO, Gibson served as a Senior Assistant County Attorney for the Polk County Board of County Commissioners. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and her law degree from Stetson University. Read more on Florida Politics.
Hamilton County Development Authority Board of Supervisors — Three members of the Hamilton County Development Authority (HCDA) Board of Supervisors who temporarily lost their posts in the fallout of DeSantis’ culture war battle with Disney will soon return to their seats. The appointees: Nathaniel Combass, Megan Carter and Lowell Klepper. Read more on Florida Politics.
— ‘LG on Mission’ —
Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez held the first in a series of roundtable discussions to highlight the Governor’s “ongoing investments to support military service members and veterans.”
“I am proud to be part of an administration that prioritizes and honors military service. Over the last five years, Gov. DeSantis has allocated historic funding and enacted significant and meaningful legislation to ensure our military and veteran communities have the support they and their families deserve,” Nuñez said.
“I was honored to host today’s roundtable to hear from our active-duty military communities and our veterans regarding ongoing issues. The Governor and I will continue to find new ways to support those who have served as we look forward to the 2024 Legislative Session.”
Titled ‘LG on Mission,’ the initiative will see Nuñez travel to meet with groups of veterans across the state to discuss how the DeSantis administration can make the so-called “most military-friendly state in the nation” even friendlier for the state’s 1.5 million veterans.
The Nuñez tour is being hailed by two state officials with their ears to the ground on military issues: Florida National Guard Adjutant Gen. John Haas and Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs Executive Director James “Hammer” Hartsell.
Hartsell, a retired Marine Corps Major General, thanked the Lieutenant Governor for bringing people together and praised DeSantis for pumping cash into FDVA, which he said is “helping to create a positive future for our nation’s heroes and their families.”
Haas added, “Without a doubt, the funding we’ve received over the past five years for critical construction and maintenance, higher education for our soldiers and airmen, and recruiting incentives has been the best we’ve had in decades.”
— Pathway to Possibilities —
First Lady Casey DeSantis, with Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Taylor Hatch and New College of Florida President Richard Corcoran, recognized October as Disability Employment Awareness Month this week by highlighting new job opportunities available through Hope Florida — A Pathway to Possibilities.
The initiative, which DeSantis helped launch, began serving persons with disabilities two months ago, when DeSantis announced its expansion to ensure employment opportunities for participants.
New College of Florida provides employment opportunities to individuals with unique abilities, including libraries and food service positions. It’s the first educational institution to partner with Hope Florida. New College is also now offering scholarships for Floridians served under the initiative, including those with unique abilities.
“Hope Navigators have already begun serving more than 100 Floridians with unique abilities. Each family’s needs vary — from building paths toward economic self-sufficiency to creating deeper community connections. Ultimately, our success is helping these individuals meet their goals and God-given potential, and we are now able to offer not only employment but scholarship opportunities to Hope Florida participants,” DeSantis said.
Two scholarships will be made available to provide full tuition and room and board, provided annually to Hope Florida participants. Other support will also be made available, including book stipends.
State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. also sent a letter to all Florida colleges and universities asking them to join the effort.
“New College of Florida is proud to partner with First Lady Casey DeSantis’ Hope Florida initiative through employment and educational opportunities,” Corcoran said. “During Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are thrilled that this initiative connects us with Floridians served by Hope Florida including those with unique abilities who are looking for job opportunities and scholarship assistance.”
The announcement comes as disability awareness month is well underway, which raises awareness for those with unique abilities, including recognizing the need for employment opportunities.
“We are incredibly grateful to First Lady Casey DeSantis for her leadership and continued commitment to Floridians of all abilities and for convening today’s event to celebrate and highlight the achievements of Floridians with unique abilities,” Hatch said. “Through the launch of First Lady Casey DeSantis’ Hope Florida — A Pathway to Possibilities, individuals with unique abilities and their caregivers are now bringing their talents and passion to their local community through volunteerism and greater community involvement.”
— Jobs, jobs, jobs —
Florida’s labor force is at an all-time high, FloridaCommerce announced this week.
The state continues to outpace the nation in labor force growth, a trend that has continued for 28 months and for 30 months within private sector job growth.
Researchers at The Digital Project Manager also ranked Florida No. 1 for entrepreneurship, with more than 2.6 million business formations under the DeSantis administration.
Additionally, the labor force grew by 33,000 and private sector employment grew by 16,200 in September 2023.
The state’s labor force has either grown or held steady for 35 months, with a 3% growth rate over the past year, as of the end of September. That exceeds the national rate by a full percentage point.
“With 13,238 small businesses per 100,000 of the population, this is the most in any state. Floridians have an entrepreneurial mindset that doesn’t only benefit themselves but their communities with the jobs that they create,” The Digital Project Manager, a group of project management researchers, concluded.
“Under Gov. DeSantis’ leadership, Florida continues to hedge against national trends, with four consecutive months of growth in construction professions, investor confidence in Florida’s AAA credit rating helping to drive record business formations, and elevated workforce confidence to participate in the labor force,” Secretary of Commerce J. Alex Kelly said.
“The Governor’s foresight to invest in job seekers and job creators — through workforce education and training, infrastructure, workforce housing, and a stable market for those who invest in job creators — has created a foundation for Florida to create new and sustainable opportunities.”
Florida’s unemployment rate was at 2.8% in September, also a full percentage point lower than the national rate, and the 35th month the state’s unemployment rate has been below the nation. Florida’s private sector employment also outpaced national growth, at 2.5% compared to 2%.
In September, the professional and business services sector posted the most job growth, with 10,600 new jobs, followed by education and health services with 5,900 jobs and trade, transportation and utilities with 4,500 jobs.
— Teen driver safety —
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles recognized National Teen Driver Safety Week this week in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and public safety partners throughout the state.
Teen drivers are disproportionately more likely to be involved in accidents than adult drivers. They represent just 5% of drivers on the road yet are involved in 11% of the state’s crashes.
“It is important for teen drivers to develop driving habits that keep them, their passengers, and others on the road safe,” Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Dave Kerner said. “National Teen Driver Safety Week brings to the forefront the responsibility that comes with a license and the safe practices that should occur every time they are behind the wheel so that everyone can arrive alive.”
Nearly a quarter (23%) of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2022 were cited for speeding and/or aggressive driving behaviors such as tailgating, running a stop sight or light, unsafe or improper lane change, improper passing or failing to yield the right of way.
“National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great time for parents and caregivers to remind their young drivers of safe driving habits,” Florida Highway Patrol Col. Gary Howze said. “Help make Florida’s roadways safer by educating your children on the dangers associated with speeding, impaired driving, distracted driving, and not wearing a seat belt.”
The safety partners spent the week, which concludes Saturday, encouraging parents, family members and friends of teen drivers to communicate safe driving tips to teens, and reminding teens to be aware of any license limitations associated with their driving privilege, including driving curfews.
Those with a learner’s license must always be accompanied by a licensed driver aged 21 or older and, for the first three months after they obtained the provisional license, may only drive during daylight hours. After three months the driving curfew is 10 p.m. Those 16 years old may not drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older or if driving two or from work.
At 17, teen drivers’ curfews shift to 1 a.m., with the same exceptions in place for driving with an eligible adult or to or from work.
“Safe driving behaviors are essential for all drivers, especially younger motorists who are still gaining valuable experience behind the wheel,” Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue said. “Teenage drivers are highly influenced by those around them, whether family members or other motorists, so the example we all set on the road has lasting impacts. FDOT encourages all drivers to practice safe driving habits while avoiding distractions to ensure everyone on the road can arrive to their destination safely.”
Added Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper, President of the Florida Sheriff’s Association: “One strategic goal of the Florida Sheriffs Association is to promote programs and services focused on youth, and the Teen Driver Challenge program is one exceptional tool that saves lives here in Florida. Through the program, many sheriffs teach safe driving practices, including how to handle vehicles in emergency situations. Florida’s sheriffs fully support the efforts of National Teen Driver Safety Week being promoted by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.”
— Scam alert —
The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) is not calling customers about rebates.
The PSC put out a news release this week warning that it has been hearing complaints from utility customers who have received phone calls from people claiming to be from the PSC. The scammers are telling residential customers that they were erroneously billed commercial rates and are due a refund.
The scammers then claim the refund will be applied to their accounts but that a credit card is required.
“This is a scam and not the PSC,” the news release warns, adding that the PSC does not issue refunds; only utility companies can do that.
Moreover, the news release notes that a utility company would directly credit a customer’s account and would not need a credit card to issue a refund.
Customers affected by this scam should contact the PSC’s Consumer Assistance line at 1-800-342-3552, as well as the Attorney General’s Office and their banks or credit unions.
“Stay informed as a consumer. Know how to keep your information safe and when to spot a scam,” the release notes.
More from the PSC on how to avoid scams is available here.
— Well played —
2023 was a record-breaking year for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s competition to rid Florida’s waters of invasive lionfish.
Two-hundred-eighty-one divers removed 30,494 lionfish from Florida state waters during the four-month competition.
The 2023 Lionfish Challenge, sponsored by ZooKeeper, recognized top recreational, commercial, and military divers.
Baye Beauford was named Lionfish King, or the top winner in the recreational division (1,514 lionfish). Dale Wolber and David Connerth took second and third place in the recreational competition with 1,145 and 773 lionfish, respectively.
Jerry Butler was the first-place winner in the commercial division with 1,208 pounds of lionfish. David Garrett and Alex Fogg took second and third place with 744 and 516 pounds of lionfish, respectively.
Eric Larson, with 591 pounds of lionfish, was the winner in the military division.
Lionfish are an invasive species that have a potential negative impact on native wildlife and habitat. FWC encourages divers, anglers and commercial harvesters to remove lionfish in Florida waters to limit negative impacts to native marine life and ecosystems.
“I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to every individual who participated in the Lionfish Challenge and a special congratulatory thank you to our 2023 Lionfish King and Commercial Champion,” said FWC Chair Rodney Barreto. “Our Lionfish Challenge participants have become environmental heroes, defending our marine ecosystems against invasive lionfish and exemplifying the spirit of conservation.”
FWC Executive Director Roger Young thanked the divers for the assist: “Your efforts are making a difference in conserving our amazing marine resources.”
— More FWC celebrations —
If fishing is your thing, mark your calendars.
Nov. 11 is the annual Hall of Fame Ceremony for the FWC and Bass Pro Shops TrophyCatch. This event recognizes anglers who’ve reeled in a big bass (13 lbs.-plus) and have the documentation to prove it.
The ceremony will recognize Hall of Fame catches and will also crown the angler who submitted the heaviest approved fish of the year as the TrophyCatch Hall of Fame Champion.
TrophyCatch is a largemouth bass conservation program designed to promote responsibly catching, documenting and releasing trophy-size bass. In doing so the FWC hopes to better understand and conserve Florida’s freshwater fisheries.
This is the 11th year the program has been in place. FWC Division of Freshwater Fisheries Director Tom Graef said this year’s program was dubbed the “Season of Research” in recognition of the valuable information anglers in Florida contributed over the past decade.
Jason Dotson, section leader of FWC’s Freshwater Fisheries Research, agreed.
“Thanks to TrophyCatch and widespread angler participation, we know more about Florida bass ecology and conservation today than we did before the program began in 2012,” Dotson said. “We are better positioned now to effectively manage and improve these trophy fisheries than we have ever been before.”
The ceremony is on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops Daytona, 1880 W. Checkered Flag Blvd., Suite N-100, Daytona Beach.
“We are honored to celebrate our TrophyCatch Hall of Fame winners at the Bass Pro Shops in Daytona this season,” said KP Clements, director of TrophyCatch. “Not many anglers have even seen a bass over 13 pounds, but these notable anglers caught, documented and released these massive trophy bass. These are stories that are worth hearing in person.”
— Train ‘em up —
As the number of people with Alzheimer’s increases the need to better understand the disease increases.
To that end, Sen. Danny Burgess has filed SB 208, which would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to set up an online, continued employment training component relating to Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia.
The bill, which is supported by the Florida Alzheimer’s Association, would direct FDLE to craft the training in consultation with the Department of Elder Affairs. The final product must cover the best ways to interact and communicate with people who have Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia; alternatives to physical restraints; and identifying signs of abuse, neglect or exploitation.
The bill doesn’t specify how many continuing education credits will be earned, but it makes clear that the course can count toward the 40 hours of CE officers must earn to remain employed.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 580,000 people aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s and being cared for by 827,000 of their family members. Those caregivers have provided 1.3 billion hours of “free” care which, if not a labor of love, would be valued at about $23.4 billion.
— Keep on trucking —
The Florida Trucking Association is passionate. And it has an award to prove it.
The American Trucking Association awarded the FTA its prestigious Mike Russell Trucking Industry Image Award, which recognizes the trucking industry’s most fervent boosters.
FTA earned the nod for its Accelerate Opportunity project — a website that serves as a one-stop-shop connecting the next generation of drivers and technicians with trucking industry jobs — funded partly by a grant from FloridaCommerce.
The website includes a list of all training programs in the state, a job board, a documentary film about Florida trucking opportunities, and a digital media campaign with graphics.
“We are proud of the Accelerate Opportunity project and the impact it has had on promoting the trucking industry and keeping our roads safe,” said FTA President and CEO Alix Miller. “We are grateful to FloridaCommerce for its support and to the American Trucking Associations for recognizing our efforts.”
The Mike Russell Trucking Industry Image Award has been presented annually since 2008.
ATA assembles an impartial panel of judges who bestow the award based on creativity, frequency, reach, impact and execution. ATA said the Accelerate Opportunity project stood out for its comprehensive approach to promoting the trucking industry and its commitment to safety.
— Be aware —
Emily Adkins was just 23 years old when she passed away on Oct. 21, 2022, from a blood clot stemming from an ankle fracture.
To honor the Fernandina Beach native’s memory and to help raise awareness of the danger of blood clots, several North Florida government boards have joined with Emily’s Promise to promote a new awareness effort.
Nassau County and the Town of Hilliard signed proclamations this week to recognize October as Emily Adkins Blood Clot Awareness Month, and The Fernandina Beach City Commission is expected to adopt a similar proclamation at its Nov. 7 meeting.
“Dedicating October as Emily Adkins Blood Clot Awareness Month is one small way, we can remember the kind and selfless soul our community lost while helping others learn more about their risk factors and lifesaving preventive measures,” said Fernandina Beach Mayor Bradley Bean. “Far too many Florida families have experienced the tragic consequences of blood clots.”
According to the CDC, blood clots kill more Americans per year than car crashes, AIDS, and breast cancer combined.
Emily Adkins Blood Clot Awareness Month aims to spread the word about how blood clots can affect everyone, as well as to share and celebrate medical advancements in blood clot prevention.
“Our hope is to help more families avoid the heartache and anguish of losing a loved one because of a blood clot — and knowing what to look for can make all the difference,” added Doug Adkins, CEO of Emily’s Promise and Emily’s father.
He added, “We’re grateful that our local officials are joining us in dedicating October as Emily Adkins Blood Clot Awareness Month to honor our daughter while bringing attention to this preventable epidemic.”
Doug Adkins and his wife, former state Rep. Janet Adkins, have worked tirelessly since their daughter’s death to raise awareness of pulmonary embolisms and blood clots and secure passage of the Emily Adkins Prevention Act.
— Murder and grief —
Ruth Markel, the mother of a man slain in what authorities claim was a complex murder-for-hire, will return to Tallahassee next week to unveil a book about the tragic events and the grief that followed, all on the eve of one of the accused conspirator’s trial.
Once, Markel’s visits to Tallahassee were filled with joy, visits with her son, Dan, and grandsons, Benjamin and Lincoln. But since his murder in 2014, the visits have been for trials of two of the many people accused of conspiring to kill her son. The visits don’t even include her grandsons anymore — they moved to South Florida with their mother, Wendi, just days after their father’s murder. Now Wendi’s brother, Charlie Adelson, faces a jury trial for allegedly masterminding the hit on his brother-in-law.
Adelson’s trial begins Monday. Markel will be at the Congregation Shomrei Torah with Midtown Reader for a presentation and signing of the book documenting her experience in the wake of the murder.
The book, entitled “The Unveiling: A Mother’s Reflection on Murder, Grief, and Trial Life,” is written from the perspective of a devastated mother, an engaged citizen navigating the justice system, and a grandmother who turned to advocacy in the fight to reunite with her son’s children.
“I’m deeply grateful to Shomrei Torah and Midtown Reader for welcoming me and offering an opportunity to share my family’s story,” Markel said. “There’s so much yet ahead in the pursuit of justice for Danny and knowing how this community stands with us means the world to our family.”
Adelson’s case will likely draw press coverage. The case has already been profiled on 20/20, Inside Edition, Dateline NBC, People Magazine and the podcast Over My Dead Body.
“Dan was a prolific legal scholar and much-loved professor at Florida State, and even more importantly, he was a dear friend to so many,” said Sam Kimelman, Treasurer of Shomrei Torah and friend of the Markel family. “We’re honored to welcome Ruth to share her story and open our doors to those who would like to hear from her themselves.”
The event begins at 7 p.m. Shomrei Torah is found at 4858 Kerry Forest Parkway in Tallahassee.
“Midtown Reader is excited to co-host this event, showcasing a book that is poignant and inspiring,” said owner Sally Bradshaw. “We will provide books for sale and signing and can’t wait to hear more of Ruth’s story in person.”
— Compassionate conservative —
Former Gov. Jeb Bush made a rare return to Tallahassee this week, spending time with his one-time political ally and longtime friend former Florida State University President John Thrasher before a crowd of almost 400 people during the final day of the FSU Real Estate TRENDS conference. Thrasher was House Speaker during Bush’s first two years in office.
Bush encouraged students to take risks, citing his own decision when he was young to move to Caracas, Venezuela, when he was working for a Texas bank.
He also discussed his famous family, his time as Governor, and Finback Investment Partners, a Coral Gables-based private equity firm he helped launch in 2017.
He also stressed the need for young people to learn from their mistakes, citing his own experience losing the 1994 Governor’s race to then-incumbent Gov. Lawton Chiles.
“It was the best campaign I ever had in my life,” Bush told the crowd gathered at the Turnbull Florida State Conference Center. “I learned a lot from that loss.
“I learned that I had to share who I was before I started giving out five-point plans to cure the common cold. And I learned to tell stories. I learned humility. I learned all that when I lost, not when I won, and the only way you have success is to try a bunch of different things. Don’t have it all planned out. Don’t be timid. We need you out there quickly.”
— Get your food (and booze) on —
This year, Cleaver and Cork’s celebrity guest is such a supernova in the celebrity chef galaxy that the annual fundraiser for the Tallahassee Community College Foundation is expanding to a weeklong event.
Chef Andrew Zimmern has won Emmys and four James Beard Awards. He’s created, produced and hosted no fewer than four shows, including one on MSNBC. He’s judged food on shows that appear on Netflix and HBO Max. He also teaches fire cooking on the Outdoor Channel’s Andrew Zimmern’s Wild Game Kitchen. And he’s authored books, too!
The events, which will raise money for student scholarships, start with the Progressive Cocktail Party from 1-5 p.m. on Feb. 25. Five local restaurants will host a private party, each with a different course and wine pairing that includes their own spin on Zimmern’s recipes.
The next day, Restaurant Week, sponsored by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, starts at Poco Vino Wine Bar & Market on Monday and continues at Ology Brewing and Blue Halo on subsequent days.
Friday, the Signature Dinner, sponsored by Capital City Bank, will be at the Lifetime Sports Complex at Tallahassee Community College. Zimmern will be there, along with a four-course dinner with each course paired with selected wines from all over the world.
The festivities will culminate with a Saturday event on the intramural fields at Tallahassee Community College that involves 65 tasting tents. And Zimmern himself will kick it off with a cooking demonstration.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://cleaverandcorktcc.com/.
— Capitol Directions —
Ron DeSantis — Up arrow — He’s as pro-Israel as they come, but Biden deserves credit for standing in Israel, not just with it.
Project Dynamo — Up arrow — DeSantis Airways is finally offering international flights!
Mitt Romney — Up arrow — Has anybody researched ADRs between Orajel and Ozempic?
Casey DeSantis — Down arrow — Forget ‘Quaerite et Invenietis,’ New College’s new motto is ‘Anything Goes.’
Ron DeSantis Park — Down arrow — The Governor doesn’t need to go to Tucker Carlson’s house to kick dogs anymore.
Nikki Fried — Down arrow — Why don’t you give the Florida GOP half the money you were gonna spend on voter registration? Then, they’ll take you out back, kick you in the butt, and call it a day!
Mike Caruso, Randy Fine — Crossways arrow — Our advice for the next Caucus meeting: Bring the snacks, leave the drama.
Jason Pizzo — Up arrow — At least there’s a reason to go to the FSU-Duke game now.
Fabian Basabe — Up arrow — Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Fiona McFarland — Up arrow — The First Lady couldn’t have had a better emcee.
Trial lawyers — Up arrow — So wait, the insurance crisis isn’t their fault? Well, that’s what the Times says.
Joe Harding — Crossways arrow — ‘Don’t Say Gay for the Stay.’ Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves.
HD 60 voters — Up arrow — With Ed Montanari challenging Lindsay Cross, this could be the most interesting legislative race in 2024.
City & State Florida — Down arrow — We hear there’s a burial plot next to Sunshine State News and The Florida Current if you’re interested.
Jim Rosica — Crossways arrow — Jim, you can make this an up arrow if you come home to FP.
Californians — Crossway arrow — If you ever say Ralphs and Publix in the same sentence, we’re putting you in time-out.
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