Good Thursday morning. And ugh. Here we go again. Again, we’re measuring time by storm forecasts now that another hurricane might be headed Florida’s way. It might hit on Sunday. But it might not. Much can change over the next few days. Just a few years ago, we might not be on this much alert this early. But the forecasting models have improved so much that we can now watch and dread these storms for longer. Meanwhile, today, Vice President Mike Pence joins Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson in Kissimmee to talk hurricane recovery and get a look at the burgeoning Puerto Rican community, which is poised to explode in Central Florida as people flee the hurricane-devastated island.
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NATE OR NOT? — As of the 5 a.m. National Hurricane Center forecast, Tropical Depression 16 is forecast to become Tropical Storm Nate later today and, later in the week, a hurricane. Compared to yesterday’s forecast, the storm’s future track has shifted farther west and puts Florida less at risk. But if you live in Florida from the Perdido River border to Cedar Key (at risk in yesterday’s forecast but not today’s), get ready just in case. I’m glad I kept the plywood up on my windows. On my street — and streets from Key West to Naples to Jacksonville — there’s still debris from Hurricane Irma, which made landfall Sept. 10. The debris (stacked 20 feet high for 30 yards in one spot in the Lower Keys) can become a missile, might become a fire hazard and is even implicated in giving people bad allergies.
OCTOBER, A CRUEL MONTH — Hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. So not only is October well within that time frame, more October hurricanes have hit Florida since 1851 than any other state (the Palm Beach Post says that number is 36 landfalling Florida hurricanes, and the Weather Channel says it’s 32). The last October storm to hit Florida was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
GET READY — “Gov. Rick Scott to visit Pensacola on Thursday to discuss storm preparations,” by Pensacola News Journal’s Jim Little and Melissa Nelson Gabriel: Read more
IT’S GONNA BE A PARTY — “Key West’s Fantasy Fest is back despite Hurricane Irma,” by Sun Sentinel’s Johnny Diaz: Read more
— “It’s time for tourists to come back to the Keys, Florida governor says during visit,” by Keynoter’s Gwen Filosa: Read more
TROPICAL FINANCIAL DEPRESSION — “Floridians’ consumer confidence shaken by hurricanes,” by the Tampa Bay Times: “Consumer confidence among Floridians dropped in September as unease over short-term economic conditions rose sharply, according to the University of Florida’s monthly consumer sentiment index. The index dropped six-tenths of a point in September to 95.5 from a revised figure of 96.1 in August. Of the five components that make up the index, three decreased and two increased. Expectations of personal finances a year from now showed the biggest drop this month, down 4.4 points from 104.8 to 100.4. Similarly, there was a drop in expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year, falling from 95.8 to 93.2. Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years, however, rose 3.7 points from 89.6 to 93.3. Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, drew a connection to short-term damage caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.” Read more
CATEGORY 4 SNEEZES — “Feeling allergy symptoms? Blame Hurricane Irma, some doctors say,” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Justine Griffin: “As many continue to wait for cleanup crews to haul away the sopping piles of withering tree debris in front of their houses from Irma, plenty of people across Tampa Bay are sniffling and coughing more than they were before the hurricane passed, narrowly sparing the region from the worst of its wrath. ‘I’ve been telling my patients that it seems like Irma brought the allergy season on a little earlier,’ said Dr. Rachel Dawkins, a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. ‘We usually see the peak of it in the fall at the end of October and into November, when the trees start shedding their leaves. But right now we have a lot of trees on the ground, which means we have a lot of pollen on the ground, and there’s an uptick of mold from standing water.’” Read more
MORE PERIL — “Debris left behind by Hurricane Irma could make for active brush fire season, officials say,” by Naples Daily News’ Patrick Riley: Read more
MORE HELP — “FEMA sending RVs to Collier County to house those displaced by Hurricane Irma,” by Naples Daily News’ Greg Stanley: Read more
CONSULTANTS ALWAYS GET PAID — “Scott administration hiring consultant to help with delayed 2016 storm funding,” by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon: Read more.
TRICKLE BEFORE THE FLOOD — Patricia Mazzei @PatriciaMazzei: “Per @FLGovScott’s office, some 6,000 Puerto Ricans had arrived in Miami and Orlando airports and Ft. Lauderdale seaport as of Tuesday.”
ONE SHALL BE TAKEN, AND THE OTHER LEFT — “Puerto Rican cousins with Central Florida ties will take different paths after Hurricane Maria,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Bianca Padró Ocasio: Read more
HOW THEY GOT HERE — “Special Report: The bankrupt utility behind Puerto Rico’s power crisis,” by Reuters’ Nick Brown, Robin Respaut and Jessica Resnick-Ault: Read more
— “JEA sending help to rebuild Puerto Rico power grid,” by The Florida Times-Union’s Nate Monroe: Read more
… NON-STORM NEWS …
DCCC BLASTS MAST — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced it’s launching a broad media campaign early against Rep. Brian Mast for trying to scuttle Obamacare. Here’s the press release: “Immediately following the expiration of the reconciliation bill that would have allowed the repeal of the Affordable Care Act with a simple majority, Chairman Ben Ray Luján announced a national cable television blitz and 3-week radio buy targeting Representative Brian Mast to warn voters in FL-18 that their access to affordable healthcare is at risk as long as he is in Congress. Congressional Republicans’ assault on our healthcare is ongoing, and Brian Mast has already indicated that he and House Republicans will not be deterred in their effort to rip away Americans’ healthcare and increase costs this election cycle. Waiting is the largest radio ad campaign to date this cycle, and will run on WAVW, WOSN, WQOL, WFLM, and WKGR in FL-18. Never Stop is the DCCC’s first national television advertisement of the 2018 cycle, and will also run in FL-18. This is a six-figure ad campaign.”
TARGET ACQUIRED — “Post-Las Vegas Massacre, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Renew Calls for Gun Control,” by Sunshine State News’ Allison Nielson: “While Florida Republican gubernatorial candidates have remained silent on gun violence since Sunday massacre in Las Vegas, Democrats have wasted no time ramping up their renewed calls for a closer look at legislation to promote gun control across the U.S.” Read more
NOT SO FAST — The conservative publication RedState this week drew attention to an old Washington Post fact check of Sen. Marco Rubio, who said in 2015 that “None of the major shootings that have occurred in this country over the last few months or years that have outraged us, would gun laws have prevented them.” The Vegas massacre had one unique feature: the shooter’s alleged use of a bump-fire or slide-fire stock, which basically make a semi-automatic fire like a machine gun. I first wondered about the use of these devices after the Newtown slaughter in 2012. I would link to my old Miami Herald column that references it. But the Herald stupidly purges its old stories. So my Tweet from the time is here. Told ya so.
— “Pulse victim’s mom, state lawmakers urge action on assault weapons ban,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Jeff Weiner: Read more
RUBIO VS. RAPONE — Rubio wants the Army to discipline and cancel the commission of 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone, who last week posted a picture of his May 2016 West Point graduation where he showed his Che Guevara under shirt and wrote on the bottom of his cap “communism will win.” Rubio said Rapone violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Rubio: “While I strongly believe academic institutions must respect the exchange of ideas and allow students to voice their opinions, members of the military who harbor anti-American views and express their desire to harm our country and its leaders are unfit to serve and defend our nation—and certainly should not enjoy the privilege of attending or graduating from an institution such as West Point, a taxpayer-funded military academy.” Read the letter here
MAKES SENSE — “CRC: Diaz considering strengthening candidate residency provisions,” by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon: The chairman of a panel set up to consider legislative changes to the state constitution may suggest requiring political candidates live in their districts when running for office. The Florida Constitution does not require that candidates live in the districts they are running when qualifying for the race — only once they are elected. During a meeting on Wednesday of the Constitution Revision Commission’s Legislative Committee, Chairman Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami Republican who is also a state representative, asked House General Counsel Adam Tanenbaum if passing legislation or putting language in the constitution would be the best path forward for making the change. “For the changes you describe, probably the safer route is the constitution,” Tanenbaum said. Read more.
VOTING JUSTICE — “CRC’s elections panel to consider restoration of voting rights, public financing,” by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon: A panel set up to consider changes to the state constitution said Wednesday it will hold hearings to get background on the state’s public financing system and how other states handle the restoration of voting rights for certain felons. Both presentations, likely at a meeting later this month, will be for historical background on the issue, not necessarily from advocates who are pushing specific outcomes. The Constitution Revision Commission meets every 20 years to propose changes to the state’s constitution. Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Hank Coxe, a Jacksonville attorney, said there have been several proposals from the public on how to add language to the state constitution to return voting rights to non-violent felons who have completed their jail sentences. “We can anticipate this is going to be an issue that we discuss,” he said. Read more.
CHARTER POWER — “Appeals court overrules state ed board in charter dispute,” by POLITICO Florida’s Daniel Ducassi: A state appeals court on Wednesday overruled the State Board of Education and allowed for the denial of two charter school applications by a local school board. The School Board of Indian River County argued the applications for two charter schools by Somerset Academy didn’t comply with requirements of a state law that allows for the replication of high-performing charter schools. A three-judge panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal agreed. The charter school chain applied for the applications in the summer of 2015 to “replicate” high-performing South Florida charter schools it was operating. Somerset was also the charter school chain chosen to take over Jefferson County schools in the state’s first conversion to an all-charter district. Read more.
EVERYONE TO BLAME BUT HER — “Hillary Clinton, in South Florida, blames ‘perfect storm’ for Donald Trump’s win,” by Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett: “Forget the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy.’ Hillary Clinton says she was the victim in 2016 of sexism and a “perfect storm” of domestic and foreign forces that worked against her and helped elect Donald Trump president. The losing 2016 Democratic presidential nominee spoke for more than an hour to a sellout audience that paid $50 to $375 to see her in person at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as part of Clinton’s tour to promote her book What Happened.” Read more
DYSFUNCTION — “Wilson Robertson files ethics complaint over Doug Underhill’s legal defense fund,” by Pensacola News Journal’s Jim Little: “Former Escambia County Commissioner Wilson Robertson has filed a state ethics complaint against Commissioner Doug Underhill over Underhill’s plans to form a legal defense fund to cover the costs of a lawsuit filed against him by another former commissioner, Gene Valentino. Underhill announced Sept. 21 that he would form a legal defense fund to pay for his legal fees in a defamation lawsuit filed by Valentino, who Underhill defeated in the 2014 election. Robertson said he would fight ‘tooth and toenail’ to prevent Underhill from forming the fund.Robertson mailed the complaint Wednesday via certified mail, and provided a copy of the complaint to the News Journal.” Read more
SLEAZE TRAIL — “Beach politician under investigation raised $500,000. What will he do with the money?” by Miami Herald’s Joey Flechas and Nicholas Nehamas: “Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco still has more money in his campaign war chest than any other candidate for elected office on the Beach — even though he dropped his bids for mayor and re-election to the commission after becoming the target of a public corruption probe.” Read more
PUTIN’S INFLUENCE GROWS — “Trump team waiting for Russia to save Venezuela from crushing debt,” by Bradenton Herald’s Franco Ordoñez: “Trump administration insiders are seeing signs that Russia may be planning to rescue Venezuela by helping Caracas cover $3.5 billion in debt payments over the next two months. Russia is already laying the groundwork, with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro traveling to Moscow this week to meet with Vladimir Putin, whose government is taking greater control of Venezuelan oil deliveries to bypass U.S. refineries. Senior administration officials say the Kremlin is motivated to help Venezuela by its still-simmering anger about America’s response to Russian action in Ukraine. It also has a financial interest to gaining a foothold in the country with the world’s largest oil reserves. Plus, Moscow has a history of providing a boost to U.S. adversaries.” Read more
FRANKENSKEETERS — “Officials: GMO mosquitoes aren’t ‘drugs,’ need EPA oversight,” by AP: “U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials say genetically modified mosquitoes are not ‘drugs’ and should be regulated by environmental authorities. According to guidelines posted online Wednesday, federal officials have decided that mosquitoes engineered by the biotech firm Oxitec will be regulated from now on by the Environmental Protection Agency. The guidelines clarify that products intended to function as pesticides to control mosquito populations should fall under the EPA. The FDA has authority over mosquito-related products intended to prevent or treat diseases. Oxitec releases nonbiting male mosquitoes modified with synthetic DNA to produce offspring that die before maturing. The method aims to reduce mosquito populations that spread Zika and other viruses.” Read more
YET ANOTHER SHOOTING AFTERMATH — “Federal judge dismisses lawsuit filed by fired CDA dispatchers,” by the Tallahassee Democrat’s Karl Etters: “A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by three fired Consolidated Dispatch Agency call takers who claimed they were wrongfully fired after a 2014 ambush that killed a Leon County sheriff’s deputy. In a 21-page order filed Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker noted that Darryl Newman, Gwendolyn Forehand and Doyle Hester collectively did not warn first responders of the danger as they arrived at the firefight that ended in the death of Leon County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Smith on Nov. 22, 2014. Smith, 47, was shot and killed in an ambush by Curtis Wade Holley who lured first responders to a Caracus Court home, which he set ablaze. Just weeks earlier, LCSO passed information to CDA supervisors that Holley had threatened to shoot ‘any law enforcement that comes to 3722 Caracus Court.’” Read more
… ODDS, ENDS AND FLORIDA MEN …
— “‘Bias’ series earns H-T reporters top Florida Bar award,” by the Herald-Tribune Read more
— “Miami PD waits six years to suspend cop for shooting unarmed man,” by Miami New Times’ Jerry Iannelli: Read more
— “Alex Morgan apologizes for Disney World incident,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Iliana Limón Romero: Read more
— “Zika drug found to prevent infection in monkeys,” by Sun Sentinel’s Bradley J. Fikes: Read more
— “Group sex during hurricane leads to a decomposing body in the closet, police say,” by Miami Herald’s David J. Neal: Read more
— “Police: Woman put glass in restaurant meals to avoid paying,” by TC Palm’s Emily Bohatch: Read more
— “They prayed for a woman killed by gunfire. Then bullets rained and 4 more were shot,” by Miami Herald’s Elizabeth Koh and Charles Rabin: Read more
WHO AMONG US? — “Naked Gun: Police say nude, drunk Florida man fired weapons,” by AP: “Authorities say a naked drunk Florida man wanted to know if his .45-caliber gun and shotgun worked, so he fired them into the air. Neighbors heard the gunfire Tuesday and called the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Spokeswoman Becky Herrin said in a news release that arriving deputies found 66-year-old Roger Scheid inside the home. Herrin said Scheid was ‘naked and appeared to be intoxicated.’” Read more
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