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#minorsextrafficking | Takeaways from Tallahassee — Book closing means business


Get registered!

It’s Primary season in Florida, and that means it’s time to register to vote or update your party affiliation.

Monday marks book closing, the 29-day deadline to register in advance of an election. In this case, the upcoming vote is Florida’s Primary Election on Aug. 23, a day when races from Governor to City Commissioner will be on the ballot.

“I encourage all Floridians who are eligible to register to vote at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov,” Secretary of State Cord Byrd said in a statement. “Additionally, all registered Florida voters should check their voter registration status and ensure they are registered and that their information and signature are both up to date.”

Cord Byrd is leaving a reminder for eligible Florida voters.

Because it’s a Primary Election, races with no Primary contest won’t be on the ballot. And because Florida is a closed Primary state, only members of the party can vote in a party’s Primary. But that isn’t a reason not to register.

If all candidates in a race belong to the same party, all voters can weigh in on that race, regardless of party affiliation. Plus, nonpartisan races such as judicial, school board, special district and other local offices, as well as referendum questions, will be open to all registered voters.

Elections officials aren’t the only ones blasting reminders to eligible voters.

“The upcoming Aug. 23 Primary is a critical opportunity for Florida voters from all backgrounds, ZIP codes and income levels to have a say in the future of our local communities, state and country,” said Amy Keith, program director for Common Cause Florida. “Please double check your voter registration, and make sure those you care about are registered to vote. Our democracy needs all of us participating in this election, so that our government truly will be of, by, and for the people.”

For the first time in state history, Republicans overtook Democrats in overall voter registrations late last year, which GOP officials — both statewide and nationally — hailed as a milestone achievement. Since then, Republicans have only grown their advantage.

Florida has 14.3 million active registered voters as of the end of last month, down a few thousand compared to 2021. The Florida Democratic Party singlehandedly accounted for the shrinkage. The Republican Party of Florida, minor parties and the pool of unaffiliated voters all grew in the last six months.

At the end of last year, Republicans and Democrats were roughly tied with around 5.1 million active registered voters, with Republicans leading with a slight advantage. Since then, the number of GOP voters has grown to 5.2 million while the number of Democratic voters fell below 5 million.

The party balance isn’t significant for the Primary, but it potentially illustrates the momentum in Florida with the Midterms less than four months away.

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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, Renzo Downey, Aimee Sachs, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first …

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried spar in debate — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried exchanged barbs in a pre-recorded gubernatorial debate Thursday in their one chance to weigh-in for Florida’s Democratic electorate. Florida’s 15-week abortion ban loomed over the debate. “When women die here in the state of Florida, that is on you, and you will have to live with that every single day,” Fried said, linking the fragility of the state right to abortion to judges appointed by Crist. Crist later pledged that he would endorse Fried if she won the Democratic Primary. Fried did not have an immediate opportunity to respond to Crist’s pledge but did not circle back to make the same pledge, an omission Crist’s camp later latched on to. Post-debate, Fried also retweeted comments accusing Crist of sexism and racism in his debate remarks.

Court won’t fast track abortion case — A Florida appeals court, in a split 2-1 split decision, is rejecting attempts to block the state’s new ban on abortions after 15 weeks and also refusing to speed the case up to the state Supreme court. The Thursday night decision by the First District Court of Appeal means it could be weeks, if not months, before the legal battle over whether the new law violates Florida’s Constitution is finally resolved, meaning it may not be decided before this year’s elections.

Forward Florida funds Andrew Gillum defenseGillum faces criminal charges alleging he siphoned money from a political committee to his pocketbook. But now that same committee appears to be funding his defense in court. Forward Florida in its June financial reports lists a $414,181 payment to Markus/Moss Criminal Trial and Appellate Lawyers. The timing of the payment coincides with the day Miami lawyers David Markus and Todd Yoder notified federal courts they would represent Gillum in the fraud case against Gillum. Financing a criminal defense seems to reach outside the normal scope of campaign spending.

Ratings agency to downgrade 17 Florida insurers — Demotech is set to downgrade 17 Florida property insurers, a move that could deliver another blow to an already fragile market. It also spurred a swift response from Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and the Office of Insurance Regulation, which blasted the decisions. Patronis called Demotech a “rogue ratings agency” that is playing “havoc with the financial lives of millions of Floridians,” in a letter to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac leaders. Demotech is the only agency that rates domestic Florida insurers, so Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which require mortgages to have minimum property insurance coverage, would not back up those mortgages.

Ethics panel rejects Jack Latvala settlement — Three alleged ethics violations committed by former Sen. Latvala will head to an administrative law judge after the Commission on Ethics rejected a settlement between the Clearwater Republican and the panel’s advocate. The panel found probable cause exists to uphold the allegations. Latvala testified in person, saying it was the first chance he’s had to refute the allegations that he groped and made sexually insensitive comments to a Senate staffer and engaged in a consensual affair with a lobbyist. In the settlement, he admitted “poor judgment” but insisted he never traded his actions as a lawmaker for any sexual favors. “If you’re going to start making that the basis for complaints — having sex with lobbyists — you’re going to be a very busy Commission,” Latvala said.

Keep on Trucking

Manatee Technical College received a $430,000 grant that allows it to offer a Diesel Systems Technology course aimed at growing the workforce for in-demand occupations in the transportation, distribution, and logistics industries.

The money comes from the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) which administers what is known as the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, an economic development program designed to promote public infrastructure and workforce training across the state. Proposals are reviewed by DEO and Enterprise Florida (EFI) and are chosen by the Governor.

DEO and EFI are currently accepting proposals until all funding has been awarded. More information is available online.

Ron DeSantis and Dane Eagle are out touring the Job Growth Grant Fund. Image via Facebook Live.

“Advancing Florida’s workforce continues to be a top priority for my administration and this program will further expand opportunities for Floridians to gain skills as diesel technicians — one of the state’s most in demand industries,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “Congratulations to Manatee Technical College and the students who will be able to use this program to enter high-paying careers.”

DEO Secretary Dane Eagle said the grant underscores the Governor’s “promise to invest in the lives of Floridians and our workforce.”

“We will continue to use every available resource to help meet the evolving needs of the region and offer new career opportunities for Florida communities,” Eagle said.

Henry Mack, Senior Chancellor at the Florida Department of Education, said the money will be an opportunity for students to earn technical skills that enable them to earn salaries that rival what college graduates earn.

“The idea that every student needs a university degree to be successful is mistaken,” Mack said. “This is an exciting step for the region in promoting the value of a career and technical education.”

Food fight

Fried wants to know what the DeSantis administration is doing to address what she called a “troubling trend of actions and inactions” in the state’s supplemental nutrition programs.

Of concern to Fried specifically is the administration’s response to a July 14 letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Nutrition Service advising that the state could lose administrative funds because Florida’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Employment and Training Program (SNAP E&T) does not comply with federal regulations.

Nikki Fried says around $1 billion is available. Image via Scott Powers.

‘While your administration continues to ignore the unaffordability crisis plaguing our state, Floridians are having a harder and harder time making ends meet and keeping food on their tables, making the efficient administration of critical nutrition assistance programs even more important.” Fried wrote in a letter to DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris. “DCF must show greater urgency and attention to its administration of those federal nutrition programs under its authority, with positive steps towards that end.”

Citing a FY 2021 state plan, Fried alleges in her letter that noncompliance puts 240,000 Floridians who rely on the benefit at risk.

“It is unclear to me why your administration would risk such critical funding for a program that helps Florida’s most vulnerable residents, especially when given ample time and federal technical assistance to address the cited deficiencies,” Fried wrote, noting that her department, which has a Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness, could assist the administration with efforts to come into compliance.

Fried, a Democrat running for Governor, said the DeSantis administration has had a troubling history when it comes to the supplemental food programs. She said that DCF last summer was initially unwilling to apply for $820 million in available 2021 Summer Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer funds from the federal government until she made it an issue. Eventually the state obtained more than $1 billion

And now, Fried said, Florida has not applied for Summer Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer funds.

Fentanyl a WMD?

Following overdose incidents in two Florida counties, Attorney General Ashley Moody has asked President Joe Biden to classify illicit fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.

“In the nearly two years that your administration has been in office you have done little to abate this American tragedy. Indeed, many of your policies have exacerbated the death toll, needlessly wasting America’s youth,” Moody wrote in a July18 letter to Biden.

Ashley Moody is raising the alarm after incidents in North and Central Florida.

Moody’s letter comes on the heels of two mass overdose incidents in two Florida counties this month.

Police in Tampa responded to a convenience store where seven individuals were found unresponsive after consuming drugs laced with fentanyl and a veterinary tranquilizer. They were all hospitalized.

And at least 19 people overdosed on fentanyl in Gadsden County over the Fourth of July weekend.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 75,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose during the 12-month period ending in April 2021, primarily from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

Fentanyl is the No. 1 killer of adults aged 18 to 45. It is estimated that at least a third of illicitly manufactured pills are contaminated with fentanyl, and users often have no idea that they are ingesting the substance.

Meanwhile, Moody released the Fast Facts on Fentanyl Toolkit. Aimed at parents, the toolkit highlights how drug dealers utilize social media to sell illegal drugs and warns that those substances may contain deadly amounts of synthetic opioids. The toolkit is also available in Spanish.

Back to school

Parents will have two weeks to take advantage of this year’s back-to-school sales tax holiday and Patronis is encouraging Floridians to take advantage ahead of the 2022-23 academic year.

The exemption — which covers supplies like pencils and paper, clothing, backpacks and computers — begins Monday and continues through Aug. 7.

Jimmy Patronis says now is the time to buy that new backpack.

“I encourage Florida families to take full advantage of the back-to-school sales tax holiday to stock up on new school clothes and supplies,” Patronis said in a statement.

“Getting ready for the school year can be an expensive time for Floridians, especially with inflation at record highs, and this tax break will help families keep a little extra money in their pockets and ensure their children have all the supplies they need to succeed this school year. Make sure to take advantage of this back-to-school savings while you can!”

During the sales tax holiday, qualifying items will be tax-free, including certain school supplies selling for $50 or less per item; clothing selling for $100 or less per item; and the first $1,500 of the sales price of personal computers and certain computer-related accessories purchased for noncommercial home or personal use.

A more detailed list of tax-exempt items is available through the Department of Revenue.

Additionally, Monday is the beginning of a one-year sales tax exemption on baby and toddler clothes, shoes, and children’s diapers.

Instagram of the Week

The Week in Appointments

Statewide Council on Human Trafficking — DeSantis reappointed Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez and Jeanette Rubio to the Council. Before Nuñez was elected Lt. Governor in 2018, she served eight years in the state House and was named Speaker Pro Tempore from 2016 to 2018. As Lt. Governor, she oversees the state Department of Health and Florida Cybersecurity Advisory Council and chairs Space Florida. She was Initially appointed to the Council in 2014 and is its longest-serving member. Rubio, the wife of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, is the president of JDR Consulting. She has served on the board of directors for the Agape Network and has partnered with community organizations to help victims of human trafficking. She has also worked in support of Kristi’s House, a child advocacy center dedicated to the eradication of child abuse and child sex trafficking.

Florida Defense Support Task Force — DeSantis appointed Gregory Billman and Steven “Reeves” Valentine to the Task Force. Billman, of Key West, is the owner and CEO of GTOPS Inc. He is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, having served as the 45th Space Wing Vice Commander. Billman earned his bachelor’s degree in operations management from Arizona State University, his master’s in aviation safety from Central Missouri State University, his master’s in airpower arts and science from the U.S. Air Force’s School of Advanced Airpower Studies, and was a defense fellow in public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Valentine, of Winter Park, is the Vice President of Enterprise Sustainment Solutions at Lockheed Martin. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army and was recognized by the Orlando Business Journal as a Veteran of Influence in 2021. Valentine is a member of Enterprise Florida’s Executive Committee. He earned his bachelor’s degree in general management from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and his MBA from Northwestern University.

Board of Pilot Commissioners — The Governor made six appointments to the Commission on Friday. Robert Benson is a CPA and a retired Partner with Crow Horwath. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Pace University. Sheldon Bernau is a CPA and works as the Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager at Synovus Trust Company. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting from Pensacola Christian College and his master’s degree in accountancy from the University of West Florida. Bruce Cumings is a harbor pilot with Port Everglades Pilots Association. He is a retired veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserve and received numerous accolades, including the Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals. He earned his bachelor’s degree in nautical science from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and his master’s degree in international relations from Salve Regina University. Thomas “Jason” Hodge is a sales and marketing manager with SSA Atlantic. He was previously a Senior Port Operations Manager for A.P. Moller Maersk and an Operations Manager for Hamburg Süd, Inc. Hodge is a member of the Propeller Club of Jacksonville. Brian Seuter is a harbor pilot with Checkmate of Amelia. He is a veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserve and holds a U.S. Coast Guard Unlimited Masters License. Seuter earned his bachelor’s degree in marine transportation from Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Michael Jaccoma is a harbor pilot for Biscayne Bay Pilots. He currently serves as Vice Chairman on the Board of Pilot Commissioners and is a U.S. Coast Guard Licensed Unlimited Master with a First-Class Pilot Endorsement for the Port of Miami. He earned his bachelor’s degree in nautical science from Maine Maritime Academy.

Lee County Board of County Commissioners — DeSantis has appointed Michael Greenwell to the Commission. An Alva resident, Greenwell is the owner of 31 Produce and the Treasurer of Big League Builders. He is the former President and the current Vice President of the community board in North Olga. Greenwell is also a former professional baseball player who played for the Boston Red Sox.

Taylor County Schools Superintendent — The Governor has named Alicia Beshears as Taylor County’s Superintendent of Schools. A resident of Perry, Beshears was previously the Grants Coordinator for the Taylor County School Board. She is a former English and reading instructor, as well as a former Assistant Principal of both Taylor Middle School and Taylor High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and her master’s degree in leadership and policy studies from Florida State University.

Judicial Nominating Commissions — DeSantis appointed 50 Commissioners to various JNCs. The Governor reappointed two to the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. He appointed four to various District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission and made 45 appointments and reappointments to various Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commissions.

Care for schools

School law enforcement completed a round of professional development and training as part of the Florida Association of School Resource Officers’ (FASRO) annual conference.

The conference, which ended Friday in Orlando, prioritizes school safety and risk assessment, much like the state has done since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. Education Commissioner Manny Díaz delivered the conference’s opening remarks.

Safety comes first for Manny Díaz. Image via Colin Hackley.

“My number one priority is the health, safety and well-being of Florida’s students, teachers and school staff,” Díaz said. “While there are so many important components of education that we often focus on — quality instruction, assessments, curricula — none of that matters if students don’t make it home at the end of the day. Thanks to recent initiatives by Governor DeSantis, Florida is laser-focused on school safety and will continue to do everything possible to keep our kids and educators safe in the classroom.”

The conference addressed new changes in the world of school safety. It covered new requirements (HB 1421) that 80% of personnel in each school district have received youth mental health awareness and assistance training. It also reaffirmed their commitment to on-site law enforcement, new features for school security risk assessment and best practices for family reunification.

“Through the work of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission and recent legislation signed into law, Florida is leading the way in school safety,” said State Board of Education Member Ryan Petty. “There’s been a culture change from the ground up, and I am proud of the preparation and dedication of our law enforcement officers, school safety officers, and guardians. Despite the many improvements in school safety, we can never rest. We will explore every opportunity to better secure our schools and ensure students receive needed services to prevent violence.”

We’re gonna need a sober boat

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers made 93 boating under the influence arrests over the Fourth of July weekend.

Known as “Operation Dry Water“ the FWC officers partnered with other law enforcement agencies to crack down on impaired boaters on the holiday weekend, which is one of the busiest boating holidays of the year.

This is what a sober boater looks like. Image via AP.

“Many tragic incidents were likely avoided on the water during the July Fourth holiday weekend due to the hard work of FWC and partner agency officers removing impaired boaters from behind the wheel,” said Col. Roger Young, Director of FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement.

“Impaired and intoxicated boating is dangerous and deadly for both operators and passengers. We have a zero-tolerance policy for boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs and if you are found to be operating impaired, you will be arrested.”

Operation Dry Water is a national awareness and enforcement campaign focused on reducing the number of alcohol- and drug-related incidents and fatalities on the water, which are highest in July.

For more information about boating safety, visit MyFWC.com/boating.

Staying woke

With the Primary Election one month away, Sen. Bobby Powell and prominent Florida Democrats are holding a “Stay Woke” panel discussion today to encourage citizens to go out and vote.

“Too many of our citizens buy into the notion that a single vote doesn’t matter,” Powell said. “It’s a defeatist attitude the Governor relies on to steamroll through bad policies that target our history, our civil rights, and even our hard-fought right to cast that ballot. We’re calling on Floridians to take back that power, to ‘stay woke,’ and to stand up for their freedoms as Americans.”

Bobby Powell and Democrats are trying to get out the vote this cycle. Image via Colin Hackley.

Just days after their contentious debate, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Fried and U.S. Rep Charlie Crist are expected to participate alongside U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and state Rep. Jervonte Edmonds, among others.

It’s been less than a year since Cherfilus-McCormick won a special election to represent Florida’s 20th Congressional District after the death of U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings in April 2021. Similarly, Edmonds is still serving in his first few months since he was sworn in to replace former state Rep. Omari Hardy.

The event, which starts at 10 a.m., will be held at Manifest Church in West Palm Beach.

Great cause

Sen. Ileana Garcia gave a $2 million ceremonial check to the Firefighter Cancer Initiative (FCI) at the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

FCI aims to understand and address why firefighters have a higher risk of developing and dying of cancer than the populations they serve. The National Cancer Institute-designated program supports translational research, wide-scale education and prevention initiatives, and collaboration with firefighters to develop and implement practices that can reduce noxious exposures associated with disease risk.

About 8,000 firefighters from across the state participate in FCI projects. Twenty-two projects are actively underway and nine are complete.

Ileana Garcia presented $5 million in checks this week. Image via Colin Hackley.

Dr. C. Ola Landgren, leader of the Experimental Therapeutics Program & Myeloma Service at the University of Miami, is working with the FCI. Landgren worked with first responders in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attack.

The $2 million is matched by federal grants and foundation grants.

“Our firefighters are on the frontline for the benefit of our safety and well-being. We have an obligation to find out why they are at a higher risk of carcinogen exposure in order to make certain they receive the best possible care and access to the latest medical treatments,” Garcia said.

And Garcia made it double this week, presenting a $3 million check for the Underline in Miami. The project will redesign 120 acres of Miami-Dade County property into a 10-mile linear park and urban trail connecting the Metrorail guideway from Miami River to Dadeland South. The goal is to decongest traffic by boosting mass transit ridership, safety, connectivity and mobility.

The park will include spaces for residents and visitors to enjoy outdoor activities and events. Playgrounds, soccer fields, basketball and volleyball courts, and exercise equipment will be featured as well.

Moreover, there will be a dog park and even a butterfly garden.

“This is an initiative that I have greatly enjoyed fighting for because it’s innovative, tackles a real challenge in our community and has a direct impact on the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of families,” Garcia said.

The project will be built in three phases with completion expected in 2025. The state funds will be used for water fountains, signage, bicycle stations, Wi-Fi and on-site furniture such as benches and tables.

Good job

Rep. Linda Chaney this week presented the Parc Center for Disabilities with a ceremonial $1.5 million check to help fund renovations at the building housing its workforce development programs.

Chaney’s office said it is the largest appropriation the lawmaker has been able to secure since she was first elected to the Legislature.

“I will continue to advocate for Parc Center for Disabilities and am happy to know this large sum of money is going towards such a truly wonderful cause,” Chaney said in a prepared release.

A big budget is helping freshmen like Linda Chaney get early wins. Image via Florida House.

“We are grateful to the state of Florida for seeing this important need,” said Michelle Detweiler, president and CEO of Parc Center for Disabilities.

Brian Rothey, Assistant Vice President of Parc’s Adult Community Programs also thanked Chaney for her support and continued advocacy for a group of people that he said is often invisible to lawmakers.

“The number of individuals and families that these funds will impact is tremendous,” he said. “

The Parc Center for Disabilities in Pinellas County provides 250 to 400 participants with job training and community employment opportunities in an integrated setting that replicates a real-world working environment. The state money will be used to pay for a necessary renovation to the outdated facility, which was built in 1970.

Ron’s rents

Floridians are at the breaking point when it comes to rising rent prices, say some Florida Democrats.

Progressive lawmakers such as Reps. Angie Nixon, Anna V. Eskamani and Travaris McCurdy are blaming rising rates on DeSantis.

To lend a hand to local families in her Jacksonville district, Nixon secured emergency housing funding for dozens of families facing eviction. That assistance comes in the form of $500 stipends for rental deposit assistance, which allows tenants time to find a new home before they’re evicted.

Angie Nixon is trying to buy time for evicted tenants. Image via A.G. Gancarski.

“I’m happy I was able to get these families the help they need but sadly, all over the state of Florida, folks are at the breaking point, losing their homes with few alternatives,” Nixon said in a statement. “Meanwhile, Governor DeSantis does not care and is too busy campaigning for President across the country.”

Last year, ahead of the 2022 Session, Democrats asked DeSantis to declare a housing state of emergency. Since then, rent has skyrocketed for some tenants by as much as 40%.

“With federally funded rental assistance programs no longer accepting new applications, now is more important than ever for our Governor to heed our concerns, and act,” said Eskamani, who hails from Orlando.

McCurdy said Democrats have called for measures such as rent relief and returning affordable housing spending to the levels before sweeping began more than a decade ago.

“The Florida Legislature has failed the hard-working people of this state by passing government overreach laws to control who we love, what we read, how we vote, and what women can do with their own bodies,” McCurdy said. “If Governor DeSantis and his accomplices spent half as much time working on the fact that Floridians can’t afford Florida, we’d all be in a much better place right now.”

Grad done good

Former Florida Deputy Health Secretary and Florida A&M graduate Shamarial Roberson is delivering the keynote address at her alma mater’s summer graduation ceremony on July 29.

A nationally recognized expert in health equity and public health administration, Roberson serves as the president of Health and Human Services at Indelible Business Solutions, one of the nation’s fastest-growing management consulting firms. In her role, Roberson works to address the social determinants of health and advance health equity by bridging the gap between government agencies and communities, especially for vulnerable populations.

Before joining Indelible, the Greenville native was in the No. 2 role at the Florida Department of Health. She spent more than 450 days at Florida’s Emergency Operations Center, driving a portion of the pandemic response and guiding the management of more than $2 billion in pandemic response funding that the Department received.

Shamarial Roberson is finding success in the private sector. Image via WUSF.

“Dr. Shamarial Roberson showed exceptional public health leadership during the pandemic. As deputy health secretary, Dr. Roberson was instrumental in the establishment of FAMU’s community-based COVID-19 testing site originally located at Bragg Memorial Stadium in April 2020 and our vaccination site in February 2021. With more than 650,000 tests and 26,000 vaccines administered on this campus to date, clearly these initiatives have made significant contributions to the health and well-being of our local community and the broader region,” FAMU President Larry Robinson, said in a news release. “We look forward to hearing her words of inspiration for our summer 2022 graduates.”

During the early days of the pandemic Roberson facilitated collaborations with organizations serving populations at the greatest risk for disproportionate outcomes, and strategically leveraged partnerships with minority-serving community- and faith-based organizations to ensure these populations received accurate information and needed resources, including face masks, COVID-19 tests, and vaccines, in a timely fashion.

While she was thrust into the national spotlight during the pandemic, she spent 10 years at the Florida Department of Health. During that time, she spearheaded efforts to increase state funding to advance health equity. She also was charged with overseeing the implementation of more than $6 billion in federal grants.

She serves on a variety of boards and councils including the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Social Determinants of Health Committee, the editorial board for the Centers for Disease Control Preventing Chronic Diseases Journal, and locally to Big Bend Cares and the Big Bend Homeless Coalition.

She recently established the DSR Public Health Foundation, a nonprofit that strives to provide evidence-based strategies to meet the needs of communities and improve public health outcomes through innovative approaches.

Nole Nation

A Florida State University senior is one of 10 scholars in the country who has been recognized by the Washington-based Faith and Politics Institute.

Rawan Abhari of West Palm Beach was named a John Lewis Scholar. Last year two FSU students were named to the program’s inaugural class.

“I believe we all have something to contribute in the pursuit of a pluralistic and equitable society,” said Abhari, who majors in Middle Eastern studies. “This is a mandate I’ve had and earning this means that I am engaging in that work.”

Rawan Abhari is the third Seminole to be named a John Lewis Scholar. Image via FSU.

The institute was created by the John Robert Lewis Scholars & Fellows Program in honor of the late Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis.

Abhari will receive a $2,000 scholarship and will go to Washington D.C. and Selma, Ala., where Lewis famously walked with other civil rights leaders in a march to Montgomery, Ala.

Abhari said Lewis’ practice of nonviolence in the pursuit of racial justice has had an impact on her — but she wants people to know nonviolence doesn’t mean being passive.

“It actually means taking a stand on behalf of all causes for humanity,” she said. “It means moving to a city, seeing what the city council is doing and what the school board is up to and who are the stakeholders. It’s putting a foot down in every community you are part of in order to create a ‘beloved community’ that Martin Luther King spoke of.”

Gov’t Mule, gov’t city

Capital City Amphitheater added another buckin’ set of concerts this fall.

Gov’t Mule with Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs will play a concert in Cascades Park Saturday, Oct. 8, followed by Trombone Shorty with Big Freedia on Thursday, Oct. 13. Tickets are already live for the pair of concerts.

Capital City Amphitheater, operated by Leon County, is an outdoor venue that forms the centerpiece of Cascades Park in downtown Tallahassee. Visit Tallahassee puts on shows, concerts and events at the venue.

Another act set to play at Capital City Amphitheater is Earth, Wind & Fire on — you guessed it — Sept. 21.

Gov’t Mule is ready to jam the night away. Image via Instagram.

Gov’t Mule, led by Grammy Award-winning vocalist, songwriter, guitar legend and producer Warren Haynes, is a Southern rock jam band that spun out of the Allman Brothers Band in the ‘90s. The band’s organic, daring music and improvisational virtuosity led them to be recognized as one of the most timeless, revered and active bands in the world whose spot amongst rock titans remains unshakable.

Native Floridian and former lead guitarist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mike Campbell, will open for Gov’t Mule with his own band. They are known for their rock and roll influenced by the vintage sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s with a touch of the blues.

Born Troy Andrews, Trombone Shorty is a native of New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood and got his start earlier than most, performing at Jazz Fest with Bo Diddley at age 4 and leading his own brass band at age 6. A New Orleans musical icon, Shorty and his bandmates crash through funk, soul and psychedelic rock with transcendent performances.

Joining Trombone Shorty will be New Orleans-based hip-hop artist and worldwide ambassador of bounce music, Big Freedia.

Doors open at 6 p.m. for both shows. Prices start at $30, and tickets are available at CapitalCityAmphitheater.com.

Capitol Directions

Florida — Crossways — Two-thousand-two-three economy’s over, oops, out of time. So, tonight Florida’s gonna party like it’s 1999.

Florida GOP — Down arrow — Calling it the “Sunshine” Summit is ironic, considering their press policy.

Florida Dems gala — Down arrow — If you put a dollar sign in front of the number of COVID-19 cases it caused, FDP would post its best finance report in a long time.

Nikki Fried — Down arrow — We’re glad to see the ad team behind that Dove ad finally got a second chance.

Ashley Moody’s office — Down arrow — The AG won’t get her abortion ban victory before Election Day because 1DCA. … Is there a better way to say ‘split the baby’?

Markus Moss — $$$ — They’re making Morgan & Morgan money repping Andrew Gillum … literally.

Georgia — Crossways arrow — A good friend will come and bail you out, but a best friend will be sitting next to you saying, “Dang, isn’t disenfranchising minorities fun!”

Jeff Brandes — Up arrow — If Nostradamus understood the insurance industry and his predictions were right on the money, he’d be a Senator from St. Pete.

Rick Roth — Up arrow — Palm Beach County Code Enforcement is probably going to regret outsourcing their complaint line to Roth’s office.

Foster parents — Up arrow — Cash that check and enjoy the back-to-school tax holiday.

Arnie Bellini — Up arrow — This tech-industry TIETAN putting his green behind keeping Florida green. We give him two paws up.

Alieda Maron — Down arrow — There’s looking a gift horse in the mouth, then there’s putting on brass knuckles and punching them in the teeth.

Dan Newman — Down arrow — Hopefully, he got more than 30 pieces of silver.

Adam Anderson — Up arrow — Representing Pinellas runs in the family. There’s a chance being House Speaker does, too.

Private school — Up arrow — Remember those “missing” students? We found ’em!

Vets as teachers — Crossways arrow — We’ll give it a shot, but if Tom Berenger shows up at a high school, we’re pulling the plug.

Toluse Olorunnipa — Up arrow — The former Miami Herald scribe is taking over as WH bureau chief for The Washington Post. We knew you when.

Kleman Plaza — Up arrow — 101 was OK and all, but JoEllen’s is going to have fried deviled eggs.


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