Takeaways from Tallahassee — Midtown’s still popping

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Book report

Despite reports that Amazon, Costco, and big book retail chains have destroyed the independent bookstore, many are doing just fine, thankyouverymuch. And none quite so well as Midtown Reader, Tallahassee’s own indie bookstore owned by former politico/chicken farmer Sally Bradshaw.

The shop is planning a day full of activities to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day and highlight all the things that make shopping at a local bookstore better than a box on the front porch.

Sally Bradshaw credits much of Midtown Readers’ success to booklovers in the community.

For starters, booksellers at the shop read and promote local Tallahassee and Florida-based authors and books. With a five-year history of knowing what locals like to read, the shop has curated a collection of 12,000 books and oodles of greeting cards (many on the sassy side) and giftables.

Midtown Reader also hosts popular book signings. Never Trumper Rick Wilson and Craig Pittman, an environmental writer and expert on “Florida Man,” filled the house when they appeared. But some are so big they have to be held off-site. Canadian crime writer Louise Penny attracted 800 fans, while 300 showed up to meet the prolific producer of thrillers, James Patterson.

“If it is a New York Times bestselling author who is widely known, we can pack them in,” Bradshaw said.

Midtown Reader kicks off its celebrations with an early bird “Bookstagrammer Breakfast,” with free coffee and eats for social media mavens who have Instagram and TikTok accounts dedicated to their love of books. Everyone is invited to share the book-fandom by snapping a pic at the selfie station.

The first 100 customers through Midtown Reader’s doors will get a cookie from Tasty Pastry Bakery, another locally owned icon that has been in business for nearly 60 years. At 11 a.m., the Kidtown Story Hour will feature a reading of the Florida Book Award-winning “Isabel and Her Colores Go to School.” Written in English and Spanish, it will be read in both languages.

Make a purchase and you get a discount card at the in-store Argonaut Coffee shop or the just-around-the-corner brunch/lunch restaurant Jeri’s Midtown Café. Take advantage of the 35% off sidewalk sale or bring a book and take one too from the bookstore’s new Little Free Library.

There are three other indie bookstores in the capital city (My Favorite Books, Fat Cat Books and Cosmic Cat Comics) and all are invited to participate in Saturday’s Tallahassee Bookstore Crawl. Grab a passport at the first one you visit and get a stamp from all four stores to be eligible for raffle prizes.

Bradshaw gives much credit to the book lovers in the local community.

“It’s such a joy for us to share our love of reading with Tallahassee,” she said. “Reading, thinking and sharing have always been valued by Tallahassee readers, and our community’s deep appreciation for the power of stories means we are here to stay!”

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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, Jason Delgado, Christine Jordan Sexton, Tristan Wood and the staff of Florida Politics.

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

Take 5

Gov. DeSantis signs bill for election police — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed SB 524, which contains numerous changes to state election laws, including setting up a police force dedicated to voter fraud and increasing the penalty for ballot harvesting to a third-degree felony. The new law sets up the Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State to investigate reports of election irregularities. Assuming DeSantis OKs an accompanying budget line item, the office will get 15 positions and $1.1 million this fiscal year. During Session, Democrats argued the bill was meant to suppress their voters, particularly African American voters.

DeSantis shuts the lights on FPL — DeSantis killed a bill Wednesday that would’ve ended net metering in Florida. The Republican Governor cited inflation as he issued his second veto of 2022. “Given that the United States is experiencing its worst inflation in 40 years and that consumers have seen steep increases in the price of gas and groceries, as well as escalating bills, the state of Florida should not contribute to the financial crunch that our citizens are experiencing,” DeSantis wrote. The veto is a loss for Florida Power & Light, which reportedly penned the legislation.

DeSantis calls for property insurance Special Session — DeSantis officially called the Legislature back for a Special Session to stabilize Florida’s rickety property insurance market. Between May 23 and May 27, lawmakers will discuss property insurance, reinsurance, changes to the Florida building code, the Office of Insurance Regulation, civil remedies and appropriations. DeSantis’ proclamation notes the industry has experienced two straight years of at least $1 billion in underwriting losses, and several companies have gone bankrupt or refused to renew hundreds of thousands of policies. That has led to massive increases in rates, which have hit homeowners at the same time as rampant inflation in pinching pocketbooks.

Manny Díaz named Education Commissioner — Sen. Díaz is now Florida’s Education “Commissioner-come-June-1,” inheriting changes to testing, a teacher shortage and the national spotlight. The State Board of Education voted unanimously to appoint the Hialeah Republican to lead the Department of Education a month after current Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran steps down Sunday, with Public Schools Chancellor Jacob Oliva leading in the interim. Díaz said his top two priorities will be adopting progress monitoring and addressing the teacher shortage, but he will also take over the battles over critical race theory, textbooks and parental rights in education. Despite the cultural flashpoint, Board Chair Tom Grady said the Board received no complaints about Díaz.

DeSantis promises Constitutional Carry measure — DeSantis vowed Friday to eventually sign Constitutional Carry legislation, which would remove the need for Floridian to acquire concealed weapons permits. The Gunshine State would join a growing list of roughly two dozen other states, including Texas and Alabama, if he makes good on the promise. DeSantis’ remarks on the issue rank among his strongest endorsements yet after months of teasers, including a video snippet on the issue. “I can tell you that before I am done as Governor, we will have a signature on that bill,” DeSantis said Friday.

Above and beyond

Attorney General Ashley Moody honored victim advocates and law enforcement officers during the 2021 Distinguished Victim Services Awards ceremony this week.

The annual event recognizes those who go above and beyond to assist crime victims. It coincides with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which was established in 1981 as a way to help citizens and advocates reflect on commitments to serving victims of all crime.

Ashley Moody has been an advocate for crime victims. Image via Colin Hackley.

“Victim advocates and law enforcement officers provide life-changing support and services to those in need. They help victims through their darkest hours and sacrifice so much time and energy to help people heal and recover. I am honored to present a few of these great public servants with our Distinguished Victim Services Award for their outstanding work over the past year,” Moody said.

Victim advocates selected for the Attorney General’s Distinguished Victim Services Award included Belinda Darcy of the Clearwater Police Department, Debbie Geller of the Plantation Police Department and Hilda Sagastume of the Coral Springs Police Department.

Law enforcement officers receiving awards included Detective Christopher Bulman of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Detective Brittany Tatum of the West Palm Beach Police Department, Lt. Thomas Tompkins of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Agent Justin Wood of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Division of Victim Services and Criminal Justice Programs serves as an advocate for crime victims. Information on crime victim services offered by the Attorney General’s Office is available online.

One pill can kill

Moody took action this week against eight synthetic opioids, warning the drugs are lethal in even small doses.

“One pill can kill,” Moody warned.

The drugs, known as nitazenes, serve no medical purpose and are emerging throughout Florida. An emergency order — filed Tuesday by Moody — makes the possession, sale and manufacture of such drugs a felony.

Not just anyone is invited to join Ashley Moody’s opioid lawsuit.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, the slew of recently banned drugs are linked to at least 15 deaths in Florida since 2020.

“I am taking immediate action to outlaw these eight deadly synthetic opioids in Florida, to prevent future deaths. Not only are we seeing an increase in the number of nitazene cases identified in Florida, but we also suspect these substances are being mixed with more common street drugs and sold to unsuspecting users,” Moody said in a release.

Moody further vowed to permanently outlaw the opioids. She will work with lawmakers in the 2023 Legislative Session to categorize the drugs as a Schedule 1 substance.

“Some nitazenes are many times more lethal than fentanyl and we must make sure they do not become more prevalent in our state, or I am afraid we will see overdose deaths skyrocket,” Moody said.

A list of other Schedule 1 substances is available online.

Save the date

Noting that a disproportionate number of Black, Brown and low-income individuals remain in jail for cannabis offenses, are targeted by discriminatory enforcement practices, and face barriers to participation in legal markets, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced her department is hosting a Cannabis Equity Summit on June 17 in Broward County.

With over 700,000 medical marijuana patients in the state, thousands of sustainable industrial uses for hemp, and adult-use on the horizon, the cannabis industry is creating exciting new economic opportunities,” Fried said in a prepared statement. “As this growing industry continues to develop, it’s crucial that everyone is able to participate in this emerging market.”

Nikki Fried is calling for cannabis equity. Image via Colin Hackley.

Fried has made medical marijuana one of her priority issues since taking office in 2018. Fried, who is running for Governor, called out the administration of Gov Ron DeSantis in November 2021 for issuing a rule that doubled medical marijuana license fees for certain Black farmers. Fried called for an investigation and said the rule should be scrapped. The rule applied to Black farmers who were part of the Pigford v. Glickman class action lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture.

Settled in 1999, the class action lawsuit alleged the government discriminated against Black farmers in its allocation of loans and assistance for 15 years between 1981 and 1996. The Florida Department of Health rule more than doubled the licensure costs for those Black farmers increasing costs from around $60,000 to $146,000.

Instagram of the Week

The Week in Appointments

Monroe County Board of County Commissioners — The Governor appointed James Scholl. Scholl is the former City Manager for Key West and was previously Senior Government Director of the Naval Air Station Key West Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System range office. The Navy veteran received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from Miami University (Ohio) and his master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from Navy War College.

Broward County School Board — DeSantis on Friday appointed Daniel Foganholi to the School Board. Foganholi, of Coral Springs, is currently a Design Consultant for Arhaus. He currently works with the American Brazilian Coalition, is an active member of his church, Habitat for Humanity, and Feeding America. He earned certificates in marketing and business management from Florida Atlantic University.

Board of Podiatric Medicine — DeSantis appointed Dr. Marc Klein to the board. Klein, of Boca Raton, is a practicing podiatrist at Florida Foot Specialists. He has been practicing podiatric medicine since 1981. Klein earned his bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College and his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine from Illinois College.

Florida Building Code Administrators and Inspectors — DeSantis appointed six people to the board. Charles Howe, of Gainesville, is the Plans Examiner for the City of Gainesville and holds a law enforcement certificate from Santa Fe College Police Academy. Jane Decker, of Miami, is currently the Building Director for the City of Doral and earned her bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Miami, her master’s degree in real estate development from Nova Southeastern University, and a graduate certificate in public administration from the University of Central Florida. Mark Grenier, of Deland, is the Building Official for the City of Clermont. He received his degree from Columbia Southern University. Alexander Hernandez, of Coral Springs, is the Chief Building Official for the City of Coral Springs. He earned a certificate from Sheridan Vocational Technical College. Peter Ringle, of Lake Worth, is the Building Official for the City of Lake Worth. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Christendom College. Steven Schoeff, of Keystone Heights, is currently the Building Official for Clay County Board of Commissioners.

Eradicating trafficking

Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez hosted a roundtable discussion this week about human trafficking and the steps being taken in Polk County to abate the problem.

The roundtable featured Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris; One More Child President and CEO Dr. Jerry Haag; Heartland for Children CEO Teri Saunders; Central Florida Behavioral Health Network President; and CEO Linda McKinnon and Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz.

Jeanette Nuñez is stepping up for survivors of human trafficking.

“We must all take an active role to support survivors, hold these criminal traffickers accountable, and work in partnership to eradicate this heinous crime from our communities,” Nuñez said at the Polk County event. “Together, we will continue to build upon every opportunity to prevent human trafficking and provide hope for all impacted.”

In fiscal year 2020-21, DCF reported receiving 2,289 allegations of human trafficking throughout the state of Florida, with nearly a quarter of the calls coming from Central Florida alone. Nearly 93% of the state’s allegations were related to commercial sexual exploitation of children while the remainder were allegations about labor trafficking.

“I am proud to call Lakeland a Human Trafficking-Free Zone,” Mutz said. “It takes an entire community working in partnership to defeat human trafficking, and Lakeland has united to ensure these criminals know that it will not be tolerated here, and help is available for our survivors.”

If you believe you are a victim of Human Trafficking or suspect an adult is a victim of human trafficking, please visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline or call them at 1-888-373-7888. If you suspect a child is a victim, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.

Preserving cemeteries

May marks the start of National Historic Preservation Month and this year’s theme is “Caring for Historic Cemeteries.” To that end, Secretary of State Laurel Lee announced that the Division of Historical Resources is partnering with the Florida Public Archaeology Network and encouraging Floridians to help locate and document historic cemeteries across the state.

Floridians can visit FPAN.us/hci to access the online form and submit cemetery locations.

Jacksonville’s lost African American cemeteries offer a teachable moment.

According to the news release, between 5,000 and 7,000 historic — meaning more than 50 years old — cemeteries are estimated to exist in the state. Of the 237,000 cultural and historical sites listed in the Florida Master file only about 1,700 are cemeteries.

That means that upward of 75% of the state’s historic cemeteries have not been recorded. The Florida Legislature this year killed the “Abandoned and Historic Cemeteries” bills sponsored by Tampa Democrats Sen. Janet Cruz and Rep. Fentrice Driskell.

The bills would have established an Office of Historic Cemeteries within the Department of State that would have focused on the restoration and research efforts for all abandoned cemeteries. While the bills failed, the Legislature did include $750,000 in the 2022-23 budget for an African American Cemetery Education program in Tampa Bay.

‘Culture of abuse’

The Department of Law Enforcement announced this week that it had arrested four correctional officers in connection to the murder of an inmate at Dade Correctional Institution earlier this year.

FDLE said that on Feb. 14, an inmate who was scheduled to be transferred to another institution was beaten by officers, possibly in retaliation for the inmate throwing urine at an officer earlier in the day. The inmate was found dead when his transport stopped midway to his new institution. Authorities say his death was caused by a punctured lung suffered during the beating.

Ricky Dixon called the murder of an inmate at Dade Correctional Institution unacceptable. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

On Thursday, FDLE announced the arrest of officers Christopher Rolon, Kirk Walton and Ronald Connor on charges of murder. On Friday, Correctional Officer Sgt. Jeremy Godbolt was arrested and also charged with murder.

“What happened in this case is completely unacceptable and is not a representation of our system, or of Dade Correctional Institution as a whole. The staff involved in this case failed, and as an agency we will not stand for this. FDC is committed to providing a safe and professional environment for inmates and offenders. All inmates, regardless of their crimes, have a right to serve their time free from victimization and abuse,” Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon said in a news release.

Following the arrests, Tampa Democratic Rep. Dianne Hart issued a statement decrying conditions in state prisons but praising the department for taking action against the officers.

“It is sad that this is the level of abuse that many who are incarcerated face on a daily basis. I applaud FDLE for their thorough investigation and for apprehending those involved. I thank Secretary Dixon for his quick response on this case and for his efforts to try and change this culture of abuse,” she said.

“We as a state must do better as it relates to our criminal justice system, this type of abuse and neglect is not to be tolerated and those who perpetuate it should be rooted out and removed. Lawmakers and the Department must work together to address these abuses once and for all.”

Show me the money

A quartet of House Democrats are holding a virtual workshop at 3 p.m. to share with people information about where they can find state resources for insurance assistance, mortgages and taxes.

“The skyrocketing cost of housing is a major crisis facing Florida families. Ever-increasing rents and a lack of affordable housing are some of the most serious issues affecting our state,” said Susan Valdés, a Democrat from Tampa. “I am proud to join my colleagues who have worked so hard on this issue to help ensure that our constituents are aware of the resources available to them as they struggle to keep up with housing costs.”

Democratic lawmakers are hosting a webinar for homeowners. Image via Adobe.

Hart, a fellow Tampa Democrat, agreed.

“There are so many people around the state who are struggling to pay their mortgage, taxes, and insurance and it is important that we as lawmakers make them aware of the resources available to them,” she said in a statement. “It is my hope that people will engage with these programs so that we can begin to address this housing crisis.”

Rep. Marie Woodson, a Democrat from Hollywood, said elected officials must take a serious look at the plight of homeowners as they struggle to make mortgage payments. There are many people struggling to make ends meet and we are doing our part to help ease that burden.”

Lauderdale Lakes Democrat Rep. Anika Omphroy meanwhile said the state needs more affordable housing options in the most densely populated areas of the state.

“This movement would accelerate Florida’s economy and provide a stable foundation for future generations of Floridians.”

People must register here for the virtual event “Show Me the Money Part 3 — Housing in Crisis.”

Veterans jobs expo

The 2022 Veterans Florida Expo will kick off in June, providing prior service-members an opportunity to meet and greet with veteran-friendly employers and more.

“Florida is open for opportunity, and this year’s Expo features our most expansive showcase of the state’s unparalleled career, entrepreneurship, and benefits resources for veterans and their families over two days,” said Veterans Florida Executive Director Joe Marino.

Joe Marino and Veterans Florida are hosting this year’s expo to connect military families to jobs and professional assistance.

The event will take place June 17 and 18 at the Hilton in Orlando. Attendees are slated for a slew of events including expert-led panel discussions and a career fair. Active-duty service-members, reservists and veterans are encouraged to attend.

“Whether you’re transitioning from active duty, searching for a rewarding career, or planning to launch or grow your business, discover the endless possibilities and experience the best of what makes Florida the nation’s most veteran-friendly state,” Marino added.

The Hilton Honors Military Program is offering select veterans a free stay at the hotel. Registration is now open online. Organizations interested in becoming an exhibitor or sponsor can also find more information online.

A non-profit, Veterans Florida helps military families transition into civilian life. Their efforts are a part of DeSantis’ mission to enshrine Florida as the “most military friendly state” in the nation.

Reptiles rule

Reptile keepers from across the state are expected to descend on Gainesville May 3 and 4 to oppose a proposed new rule that increases their costs and, reptile keepers allege, will drive them out of business.

But that’s not all they are doing.

The United States Association of Reptile Keepers Florida is asking DeSantis to require members of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to alter proposed new rules and moreover to “suspend harsh mandates” that went into effect last year that made “economic refugees” of some business owners who the group claims were forced to leave the state in the aftermath.

USARK says, join the reptile nation. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

In an April 19 letter to DeSantis, United States Association of Reptile Keepers Florida President Elizabeth Wisneski said the industry contributes $225 million annually to the state’s economy but that recently enacted rules and proposed new rules threaten their future viability. In regard to the new proposed rules Wisneski said her association presented the FWC with ten alternatives or edits. The FWC rejected all of them.

“We have reached a desperate situation with FWC leadership. Our industry in Florida is over 100 years old. And for 30 years we worked with FWC staff that created reasonable regulations that protected Florida while allowing our businesses to continue to exist. Unfortunately that is no longer the case,” she wrote. “Please direct the FWC to suspend its harsh mandates that threaten our livelihoods and consider our input in the process of creating new regulations.”

In the running

Tallahassee Community College has been named one of 25 semifinalists for the 2023 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

TCC was selected because of its focus and commitment to improving student success, making college accessible for all students, and preparing students for the workforce or to transfer and graduate from a university.

TCC was recently an Aspen Prize finalist. The school has a chance to repeat, or perform even better.

It isn’t the first time TCC has been recognized by the prestigious Aspen Institute. The school was named a Top 10 finalist for the 2021 Aspen Prize.

“We are thrilled to have made it to this next milestone for the 2023 Aspen Prize,” TCC President Jim Murdaugh said. “TCC is one of the best community colleges in the nation. There’s so much good work happening here, and we are proud of all our successes on behalf of our students. This recognition will help us share our story.”

The Aspen Institute invited 150 colleges to apply for the 2023 award. The next steps in the process will include an additional selection of committee members to review data and narratives from the 25 semifinalists. Ten finalist schools will receive site tours before the ultimate jury selection and announcement next spring.

The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices and leadership that significantly improves student learning, completion, and employment after college, especially for the growing population of students of color and low-income students on U.S. campuses.

Hail to the chiefs

Say hello to 10 new graduates of the New Police Chiefs Seminar.

The Florida Police Chiefs Association put the 10 chiefs through its 2022 iteration of the seminar, held at the association’s headquarters in Tallahassee. The FPCA considers it a keystone step in its professional development program.

Florida’s new chiefs are the future of law enforcement. Image via the Florida Police Chiefs Association.

This year’s graduates are Ocala Police Chief Michael Balken, Bunnell Police Chief David Brannon, Volusia County Beach Safety Chief Andrew Ethridge, Lawtey Police Chief Jerry Feltner, Marco Island Police Chief Tracy Frazzano, Green Cove Springs Police Chief Elvis “John” Guzman, Department Port Orange Police Chief Manuel Marino, Port Richey Police Chief Cyrus Robinson, Panama City Police Chief Mark Smith and Winter Springs Police Chief Matt Tracht.

“One of the FPCA’s most important roles is to help prepare individuals for a chief executive position in law enforcement. On behalf of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, we congratulate each of the chiefs who completed the FPCA’s New Police Chiefs Seminar,” said FPCA President and Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety Department Director Stephan Dembinsky. “These individuals are the future of law enforcement leadership in Florida.”

Because of the scope of their new job, new chiefs often find themselves confronting issues with which they have had little or no experience during their professional career, according to FPCA. The seminar provides them with an understanding of the critical issues, such as organizational culture and management, crisis management, dynamic change leadership, and the Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission disciplinary process.

“From our Communication, Organization, Roles/Responsibilities and Expectations (CORE) training, to our seminars for new and future chiefs, the Florida Police Chiefs Association is committed to providing quality professional development for Florida’s law enforcement executives,” said Coconut Creek Police Department Chief Butch Arenal, chairman of the FPCA’s Professional Standards Committee.

Accessible pier

After nearly 15 years in the works, the first phase of Oscar Scherer State Park’s accessible fishing pier and boardwalk is complete.

The park, located in Sarasota County, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last weekend to open the pier. More than $300,000 was raised to complete phase one of the project.

The much awaited pier is a third of the way there. Image via the Florida State Parks Foundation.

In the first phase, the park erected the central platform and one leg of the fishing pier into the three-acre freshwater Lake Osprey. In phase two comes the roof over the central platform, and phase three will include the construction of the pier’s second leg.

“This fishing pier is the result of hard work and a commitment to creating an accessible, educational and recreational spot over beautiful Lake Osprey,” said Florida State Parks Foundation President Tammy Gustafson. “Congratulations to the partners for this valuable addition to Oscar Scherer State Park, and for accomplishing the first stage of this long-awaited project.”

The park will host school visits for children to learn how to fish and to help them learn about the natural environment in a hands-on experience. The pier is ADA-compliant with areas of lowered rails so seated visitors have unobstructed views and can cast fishing lines.

“This is a momentous day,” said David Pierce, President of Friends of Oscar Scherer Park. “We have been fundraising for nearly 15 years to provide an accessible fishing pier and boardwalk where all visitors can enjoy Lake Osprey’s vista and access its fishing opportunities. It is a place to stroll, relax, enjoy a picnic, meet with friends, look out for wildlife or just watch the sun rising or setting over tranquil Lake Osprey.”

TPD drug takeback

The Tallahassee Police Department is hosting a drug take back event in honor of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at TPD Headquarters, located at 234 East Seventh Ave.

The event will allow those who have accumulated unwanted, unused or expired prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications to safely dispose of them. TPD is partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to make the event possible in Tallahassee.

Chief Lawrence Revell’s department hopes to keep medication out of the hands of children and drug abusers.

In a statement to Florida Politics, TPD said that proper disposal of those potentially dangerous items is important.

“By bringing them to TPD, you can help keep them out of the hands of children and individuals who abuse prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications,” the statement read.

The event is open to anyone who is looking to dispose of such drugs and medications. TPD officers will be on site to assist participants with the drug take back event.

Honorary Rattlers

Florida A&M University granted honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees to retired educator Otis A. Mason and entrepreneur and philanthropist William F. Pickard during the school’s Spring Commencement Ceremony Friday night.

Mason, a 1950 FAMU graduate and FAMU Hall of Famer for baseball, was the first African American elected school superintendent in Florida. After his career as a teacher, a principal and an instructional supervisor, he was elected St. Johns County School Superintendent, serving eight years before retiring in 1992.

Otis Mason is already a FAMU Hall of Famer, but the honorary degrees will make William Pickard a Rattler, too. Image via FAMU.

Pickard has a 50-year entrepreneurial career, beginning when he became a McDonald’s franchisee in Detroit. He is also the executive chairman and founder of GAA Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management, GAA News Ventures, co-managing partner of MGM Grand Detroit Casino and co-owner of five newspapers.

Though not a Rattler, Pickard has been a supporter of the school as a speaker for the School of Business and Industry and as a donor to scholarship funds, including $250,000 to support students from Detroit and the Bahamas.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, a FAMU alumnus, will give the Friday night Commencement speech. FAMU alumna and Disneyland Resort executive Sybil Crum will address graduates during the Saturday morning Commencement Ceremony, held at 9 a.m.

Capitol Directions

Ron DeSantis — Up arrow — The net metering bill was solid, but trashing it will buy him a couple of points in the polls.

Wilton Simpson — Up arrow — Chuck who?

Chris Sprowls — Up arrow — He’s the best thing to happen to childhood literacy since LeVar Burton signed off.

Memorial Day Weekend — Up arrow — The property insurance crisis is serious, but not ruin-your-weekend-with-a-Special-Session serious.

Manny Diaz — Up arrow — Charter a course for Tallahassee.

Randy Fine — Double down arrow — He passed the exit for cartoon villain and kept driving.

Chris Latvala — Crossways arrow — Maybe he had nothing to do with the elections bill, but it’s certainly helping him out.

Danny Perez — Up arrow — He carried the elections bill, and he delivered.

FP&L — Down arrow — There’s always next year.

NRA — Up arrow — It’s all gunshine and roses.

The Keys — Up arrow — Wait, the Legislature passes non-punitive Keys bills?

State budget — Down arrow — The Gaming Compact chips are in escrow … double or nothing next quarter?

Female aides and lobbyists — Up arrow — Don’t know the destination, but Jason Fischer (R-Creepy) is leaving Tallahassee.

Twitter — Down arrow — Wonderful, Q-ord Byrd is back on the platform.

Brad Herold — Down arrow — You think Chuck Nadd gave him a hand-written note?

Eric Eikenberg — Down arrow — He backed Nadd behind the scenes. And his Foundation is a mess.

Carol Marbin Miller, Daniel Chang and Emily Michot — Up arrow — They’re not an opening act, they’re Headliners.

James Call — Down arrow — Just thinking back to before Session, when he argued that Disney World’s huge role in Florida’s economy gave it almost unchallengeable political influence.

La Fiesta — Up arrow — Que descanse en paz.

Lindy’s Chicken — Up arrow — Pave two-piece and fries, put up a parking lot.

Total Wine — Up arrow — Who wants Stein Mart when you can have Steinbach?

Lori Weems — Halo – Rest in peace.


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