Wednesday, July 31, 2019

New Trump foreign investment rules make Orlando developers scramble. (Orlando Sentinel)

New Trump foreign investment rules make Orlando developers scramble 

New Trump foreign investment rules make Orlando developers scramble
Orlando City's Exploria Stadium was built with the help of EB-5 investors (Cortesa / Cortesa)
Orlando area developers will be scrambling over the next four months to raise capital from international investors before new Trump Administration regulations for the EB-5 visa program take effect Nov. 21, according to a report in GrowthSpotter.
The new guidelines published last week nearly double the investment threshold for EB-5 projects from $1 million to $1.8 million. Projects located within qualified Targeted Employment Areas would require foreign nationals to invest $900,000, up from $500,000.

“There’s going to be a big push to get as many investors filed as possible in the next 120 days,” Orlando immigration attorney Edward Beshara told GrowthSpotter. “So the developers have to get a whole team of EB-5 professionals and lay out a plan of action.”
Beshara estimates that about 40 percent of existing or future EB-5 investors could get priced out of the system.
Park Square Enterprises is currently raising capital through EB-5 for a new Woodspring Suites hotel in Sanford. CEO Suresh Gupta said the company is only two investors shy of reaching its $3 million goal.
“I’m sure now given that there’s a new deadline, we won’t have any trouble getting the last two,” Gupta said on Monday. “This will actually help us because we’ve got the project, and it’s already started. There’s going to be a mad dash for investors to apply."
David Townsend, master developer of Ocoee’s City Centre West Orange, said he too expects an influx of new EB-5 investors looking to beat the November 21 deadline. The mixed-use project is already underway and features a hotel, luxury condominiums, retail, restaurant and office space.
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Florida Democrats' ballot signature case dismissed as moot, but without prejudice to refile it. (NSOF)

New law scuttles ballot signature fight
July 30, 2019
Jim Saunders
News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE --- Almost exactly a month after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new elections law, a federal judge has dismissed a long-running legal battle about the handling of mismatched ballot signatures.
Both sides in the case said the new law resolved disputed issues about verifying signatures on vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. That spurred Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who in November entered a preliminary injunction against the state because of concerns about the signature-verification process, to issue an order Monday dismissing the case.
Lawmakers passed a bill (SB 7066) in May that made changes in the signature-verification process, and DeSantis signed the measure June 28.
“Because the preliminary injunction originally issued by this court has now expired, and because the Florida Legislature has amended the law plaintiffs challenge, this court finds this case has been rendered moot,” Walker wrote in the two-page order Monday.
Then-U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida and national Democrats filed the lawsuit last year in anticipation of a statewide recount in Nelson’s re-election campaign against former Republican Gov. Rick Scott. The race went to a recount, with Scott ultimately winning.
In issuing the preliminary injunction in November, Walker sided with Democrats and ordered additional steps to allow voters to “cure” vote-by-mail and provisional ballots where signatures did not match signatures on file with elections officials.
“The precise issue in this case is whether Florida’s law that allows county election officials to reject vote-by-mail and provisional ballots for mismatched signatures --- with no standards, an illusory process to cure, and no process to challenge the rejection --- passes constitutional muster,” Walker wrote in the November injunction decision. “The answer is simple. It does not.”
The new law, however, establishes a uniform process for elections canvassing boards to compare signatures and extends deadlines for voters to cure ballots with signatures that don’t match those on file.
On July 2, days after DeSantis signed the measure, the Democratic plaintiffs filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying the “Legislature enacted several reforms to the signature matching process, through Florida Senate Bill 7066 … that track the specific defects that plaintiffs had identified in their claims” and that Walker had cited in granting the preliminary injunction.
Attorneys for the Democrats and the state, however, disagreed on a final legal issue in the case. Democrats asked Walker to dismiss the case “without prejudice,” a term that leaves open the possibility of subsequent legal action. The state argued Walker should issue a more-permanent dismissal “with prejudice,” arguing that such a move would “minimize the risk that this court will have to adjudicate such a claim on an emergency basis at or near the time of a future election.”
Walker agreed with the Democrats and dismissed the case without prejudice.

The Republican Exodus From Congress: Eight Republican House members have announced their retirement this year, with more predicted to follow. What’s going on? (NY Times opinion by Michelle Cottle)

The Republican Exodus From Congress

Eight Republican House members have announced their retirement this year, with more predicted to follow. What’s going on?
Ms. Cottle is a member of the editorial board.
CreditCreditIllustration by Joan Wong; Photographs by The New York Times and The Associated Press
On Wednesday afternoon, Representative Mike Conaway, Republican of Texas, announced that he would not run for re-election next year. At a news conference in Midland, Mr. Conaway expressed distress at the partisan dysfunction in Congress, nodded to the term limits that his party places on committee leadership positions and said he’d been pondering retirement for a year or so. He said he wanted to leave on his “own terms.”
After eight terms in the House, the 71-year-old Mr. Conaway is entitled to a new adventure. But as the fifth congressionalRepublican to issue a retirement announcement in the past two weeks — and the eighth this year — his decision is being received as more than a personal choice. It’s being seen as evidence that Republican lawmakers are not feeling upbeat about retaking control of the House in 2020. Some party strategists have said they expect the trend to accelerate, with another round of announcements after members return from the August recess.
While it’s too soon for House Republicans to panic, some anxiety does seem to be in order.
Besides Mr. Conaway, Utah’s Rob Bishop confirmed his retirement on Monday, and Alabama’s Martha Roby announced hers on Friday, one day after the announcement by Pete Olson of Texas, which came one day after the announcement by Paul Mitchell of Michigan. Indiana’s Susan Brooks announced her retirement in June. Georgia’s Rob Woodall did the same in February. And in January, just two weeks after being sworn in, Pennsylvania’s Tom Marino resigned. (He was replaced in a special election in May by another Republican.) 
Adding to the churn, Alabama’s Bradley Byrne and Montana’s Greg Gianforte are running for other offices, while Texas’ John Ratcliffe has been nominated as the next director of national intelligence. Wyoming’s Liz Cheney is mulling a bid to replace retiring Senator Mike Enzi. And let’s not forget Justin Amash of Michigan, who switched from Republican to Independent in disgust on July 4
By contrast, only two Democrats — New York’s José Serrano and Iowa’s Dave Loebsack — have thus far announced their retirement. (New Mexico’s Ben Ray Luján is running for Senate.)
There are as many reasons to flee Congress as there are members of Congress — more, actually. That said, lawmakers often start eyeing the exits with special longing when stuck in the minority with little hope of escape. Unlike in the Senate, where every lawmaker has some ability to influence — or at least disrupt — operations, life in the House minority tends to be a soul-crushing experience. The out-of-power party has vanishingly little opportunity to shape the agenda, or even to have a voice in the debate, leaving most members with all the influence and glamour of a grade-school hall monitor.
Add to this the strain of endlessly being asked to defend the rantings of a volatile president who prides himself on being offensive. While some Republican lawmakers seem to thrive in the role of Trump apologist, others find it “exhausting and often embarrassing,” as one confided to The Hill this week. “Serving in the Trump era has few rewards,” said the member.
In terms of electoral impact, not all retirements are created equal. Ms. Roby and Mr. Conaway hail from blood-red districts that the party is expected to hold. But Ms. Brooks’s district is more competitive, and Mr. Woodall’s and Mr. Olson’s are considered tossups.
Some of the departures are problematic for the party’s overall brand. Ms. Brooks and Ms. Roby are two of only 13 women in a Republican conference with 197 members. (Eighty-nine of the House’s 235 Democrats are women.) Ms. Brooks is in charge of recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee, with a special interest in diversification. For a party desperate to improve its image among women voters, her exit is not a promising development.
Then there’s the lemming effect. For each member who decides to pack up his toys and go home, it becomes that much more imaginable for other wavering members to follow. This risks fueling a narrative of a party in meltdown.
Not that all of the signs are bad for Republicans. Several lawmakers who lost in the midterms are running again, or at least considering it, including California’s David Valadao and Georgia’s Karen Handel. This “indicates that some former members may see 2020 as a better environment than 2018,” observed Kyle Kondik, an expert with the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Still, the 2020 fight promises to be bloody. Republican leaders may want to be extra nice to their team. Who knows how many other members might decide to leave on their own terms?


Severe rip tides south of St. Augustine killed a newlywed 22-year old first-time ocean visitor from Iowa.  From KCRG:

Iowa man drowns while on honeymoon in Florida

By  | 

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - An Iowa man on his honeymoon drowned while swimming in Florida Tuesday.
It happened in the late afternoon at a beach near St. Augustine, Florida, when authorities were called to a swimmer in distress.
When authorities got to the scene, they saw paramedics loading Dalton Cottrell, 22, into the back of a truck to be taken to an ambulance, according to a press release. 
Cottrell's wife told police she and her husband were on their honeymoon. She said it was his first time in the water. 
They were in the ocean together when current pulled them in deeper. 
"Cheyenne advised he began to struggle and she attempted to assist him but was unable to help due to him pulling her under," police said in a statement. "She advised at one point after him being under the water for approximately for a minute he came back up, and his eyes were rolled in the back of his head.
A nearby surfer told police he heard Cottrell yelling in the ocean, and grabbed his paddleboard to help. At that point, the witness got the attention of a lifeguard who performed CPR.
Cottrell, of Malcom, Iowa, was pronounced dead at Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine.


Ed Slavin comments:

Do morality and marketing principles require better education and signs on our beaches?

Can Florida do a better job of hosting tourists, including warning them of dangers of rip tides?  

Can we discuss this in current budget cycle?

Our Tourist Development Council (TDC), Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB), St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District, St. Johns County, the cities of St. Augustine Beach and St. Augustine ALL need to be involved. 

Tort law may not require warnings of rip tides.  But with millions in extra cash, our local governments can educate our visitors.  As Sandra Parks says, "A budget is a moral document."

FYI: Here's a 2001 Florida appeals court decision finding "no duty to warn":

District Court of Appeal of Florida,
Third District.

Rabbi Israel POLEYEFF, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Eugenie Poleyeff, deceased, Appellant, 


SEVILLE BEACH HOTEL CORPORATION d/b/a The Seville Hotel, Appellees.

Frederica E. Breaux, as Administratrix of the Estate of Zachary Charles Breaux, deceased, Appellant, v. Seville Beach Hotel Corporation d/b/a The Seville Hotel, Collins 33rd Street Realty Corp. d/b/a The Saxony Hotel;  CSRA, a Florida General Partnership d/b/a The Saxony Hotel and Abby Berkowitz, Hurricane Beach Rentals, Inc., Appellees.

Nos. 3D99-2137, 3D99-2212.

Decided: February 21, 2001

Before SCHWARTZ, C.J. and JORGENSON, COPE, LEVY, GERSTEN, GODERICH, GREEN, FLETCHER, SHEVIN, SORONDO and RAMIREZ, JJ. Abramowitz & Pomerantz and Howard L. Pomerantz (Sunrise);  Nancy Little Hoffmann (Pompano Beach), for appellant Frederica E. Breaux. Grossman & Roth (Boca Raton);  Podhurst, Orseck, Josefsberg, Eaton, Meadow, Olin & Perwin and Joel D. Eaton, for appellant Rabbi Israel Poleyeff. Brian S. Keif (Hollywood) and Greenberg, Traurig and Elliot H. Scherker and Paul C. Savage, for appellee Seville Beach Hotel Corporation d/b/a The Seville Hotel. Richard E. Berman and Penny J. Sposato (Fort Lauderdale), for appellees Collins 33rd Street Realty Corp. d/b/a The Saxony Hotel;  CSRA, a Florida General Partnership d/b/a The Saxony Hotel and Abby Berkowitz. Hinshaw & Culbertson and Gina E. Caruso and Ronald L. Kammer (Fort Lauderdale), for appellee Hurricane Beach Rentals, Inc.

These appeals arise from a terrible tragedy which occurred on February 20, 1997, in the Atlantic ocean off the public beach adjacent to the Seville Hotel in Miami Beach.   On that date, Ms. Eugenie Poleyeff, a New York resident who was a guest at the Saxony Hotel, went three blocks away to the beach at the Seville.   There, she rented a beach chair and umbrella from Hurricane Beach Rentals, which had permission from the Seville and a concession to do so from the City of Miami Beach.   As she was swimming at that location, she was caught in a so-called riptide or rip current of the kind which occurs periodically in the Atlantic, as in every ocean in the world.1  Zachary Breaux, a guest of the Seville, courageously attempted to rescue her but both were drowned.

 The estates of Ms. Poleyeff and Mr. Breaux brought separate wrongful death actions in the Dade County Circuit Court against several entities, including those now before us as appellees:  the Seville, the Saxony and Hurricane Beach Rentals.   As to these defendants, the plaintiffs claimed violations of alleged duties to the respective decedents to warn them about, or safeguard them from, the “unseen” dangers engendered by the currents, such as by providing lifeguards or other safety equipment at the beach.   The plaintiffs now appeal from separate final judgments dismissing their complaints with prejudice as to these three defendants for failure to state a cause of action.2  After en banc consideration, we affirm.

The basis of the ruling below was our decision in Adika v. Beekman Towers, Inc., 633 So.2d 1170 (Fla. 3d DCA 1994), review denied, 640 So.2d 1106 (Fla.1994), which squarely holds that there is no non-statutory duty imposed upon a beachside hotel to warn its guests against the dangers of a riptide in an adjacent part of the ocean.   Because the presentations in the briefs and at oral argument before a panel of this court raised real questions of whether Adika, which is entirely determinative of the result, correctly decided the significant questions involved, the court received supplemental briefs and heard oral argument en banc.   We now conclude, having considered the genuinely outstanding written and oral presentations of all sides, that Adika should be endorsed and reaffirmed.

 As in Adika, we hold that an entity which does not control the area 3 or undertake a particular responsibility to do so 4 has no common law duty 5 to warn, correct, or safeguard others from naturally occurring, even if hidden, dangers common 6 to the waters in which they are found.

There is no need to repeat the policy and practical considerations outlined in Adika and in the host of cases in Florida and elsewhere which without exception support our holding.   See Sperka v. Little Sabine Bay, Inc., 642 So.2d 654 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994)(owner of Holiday Inn adjoining beach and Gulf of Mexico owed no duty to guest to warn of hidden sandbar;  citing and following Adika );  Princess Hotels Int'l, Inc. v. Superior Court, 33 Cal.App.4th 645, 39 Cal.Rptr.2d 457 (1995)(owner of property adjacent to federally owned beach owes no duty to warn guest of ocean's dangers;  citing Adika ).   See generally Lupash v. City of Seal Beach, 75 Cal.App.4th 1428, 89 Cal.Rptr.2d 920 (1999)(city owes no duty of care to public to provide safe beaches or warn against concealed dangers caused by natural conditions of ocean), review denied, (January 13, 2000);  Swann v. Olivier, 22 Cal.App.4th 1324, 28 Cal.Rptr.2d 23 (1994)(owners of private beach where partygoer injured in surf which contained riptides, submerged rocks and hazardous drop off not responsible for injuries when they did not own or control area of ocean);  Sun v. The Governmental Authorities on Taiwan, No. C94-2769 SI, 2001 WL 114443 (N.D.Cal. Jan.24, 2001)(“California courts do not impose a duty on beach operators to warn guests of general dangers in the ocean.   See Swann v. Olivier, ․;  Princess Hotels International, Inc. v. Pearson ․;  see also Adika v. Beekman Towers, Inc., 633 So.2d 1170, 1171 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1994)(an innkeeper ‘has no duty to warn its guests of naturally occurring surf conditions off of a public beach.’)”);  Lerma v. Rockford Blacktop Constr. Co., 247 Ill.App.3d 567, 187 Ill.Dec. 323, 617 N.E.2d 531 (1993)(artificial or natural body of water not condition against which possessor of land must take precautions;  park-goers entering river for recreation expected to appreciate and avoid it), appeal denied, 153 Ill.2d 560, 191 Ill.Dec. 620, 624 N.E.2d 808 (1993);  DeWick v. Village of Penn Yan, 275 A.D.2d 1011, 713 N.Y.S.2d 592 (2000)(proprietor of private beach owes no duty to warn of presence of sandbar and its natural transitory conditions), leave to appeal denied, --- A.D.2d ----, 724 N.Y.S.2d 143 (2000).

Nor is it necessary to buy entirely into the horribles with which the appellees threaten us 7 if they should lose these appeals.   It is enough to say that drowning because of a natural characteristic of the very waters in which it occurs is simply one of the perhaps rapidly diminishing set of circumstances for which, without more, no human being or entity should be considered “to blame,” deemed “at fault” or, therefore, held civilly liable.   While the law of torts may properly serve to distribute risks among those whom society, speaking through the courts, holds responsible for a particular unwelcome event, it should not be employed to assign fault-with the result that the transfer of money is required-when none can be fairly said to exist.   In this instance, in other words, because there is no wrong, there can be no remedy.   See Penelas v. Arms Technology, Inc., 778 So.2d 1042 (Fla. 3d DCA 2001).   It has also been said that

[a] common law duty exists when a court says it does because it thinks it should.

Schuster v. Banco De Iberoamerica, S.A., 476 So.2d 253, 254, 255 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985)(majority and dissenting opinions).  Adika reflected our belief that the duties for which the plaintiffs so ably contend should not be recognized.   We still feel that way.


I am unable to join the majority's opinion.  McKinney v. Adams, 68 Fla. 208, 66 So. 988 (1914), recognizes that there is a common law duty of care to patrons of seaside bathing establishments.   Although, as recognized in Adika v. Beekman Towers, Inc., 633 So.2d 1170 (Fla. 3d DCA 1994), one count in McKinney was grounded on a long-since repealed statute, the remaining counts in the complaint were not based on statutory liability.   The Florida Supreme Court held in McKinney that all counts of the complaint stated a cause of action.   This holding implicitly recognized the existence of a common law duty to exercise care for the safety of persons invited onto a beach.  Ide v. City of St. Cloud, 150 Fla. 806, 8 So.2d 924, 925 (1942)(“It is true there was a statutory liability in the McKinney case;  nevertheless, the court recognized the common law liability.”).

I would reverse and remand for further proceedings.


1.  Rip Current-A current of water disturbed by an opposing current, especially in tidal waters, or by passage over an irregular bottom.   Also called “rip,” “rip tide,” “tide rip.”   The American Heritage Dictionary 1120 (New College ed.1979).When waves break, water is pushed up the slope of the shore.   Gravity pulls this water back toward the sea.   If it converges in a narrow, river-like current moving away from shore, it forms what is known as a rip current.Rip currents can be 50 feet to 50 yards or more wide.   They can flow to a point just past the breaking surf ․ or hundreds of yards offshore.   Some 80% of rescues by lifeguards at America's surf beaches are due to persons being caught in rip currents.Rip currents may pull continuously, but they can suddenly appear or intensify after a set of waves, or when there is a breach in an offshore sandbar․United States Lifesaving Association, Rip Currents-Rivers Through the Surf (1997), available at http://

2.  Subsequently, a co-defendant, the City of Miami Beach, was also granted summary judgment.   The plaintiffs' separate appeals from that judgment are now pending in this court.

3.  Compare Butler v. Sarasota County, 501 So.2d 579 (Fla.1986);  McKinney v. Adams, 68 Fla. 208, 66 So. 988 (1914).

4.  The particular responsibility referred to may arise in the swimming context under such special circumstances as were present in McKinney v. Adams, 68 Fla. 208, 66 So. 988 (1914), in which, as said in Adika, the defendant “operated a public bathhouse and profited from the rental of equipment expressly intended for use while swimming in the adjacent Atlantic Ocean.”   See Adika, 633 So.2d at 1171;  see also Pickett v. City of Jacksonville, 155 Fla. 439, 442, 20 So.2d 484, 486 (1945)(“The case of McKinney v. Adams ․ is cited.   An examination of the case discloses that it is bottomed largely on Chapter 6189, Acts of 1911, Laws of Florida, ․ and its application is limited to bath houses and other similar places at [s]easide [r]esorts.   The case is not [on] point and has no bearing on the facts alleged in the case at bar.”).Both cases upon which the plaintiffs heavily rely for the proposition that liability may arise from conditions beyond the defendant's own premises treat analogous relationships.   Thus, Carlisle v. Ulysses Line, Ltd., S.A., 475 So.2d 248 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985) involved the duty of a cruiseliner to warn its passengers about risks of violence they might encounter during the on-shore part of their vacation trip.  Shurben v. Dollar Rent-A-Car, 676 So.2d 467 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) concerned the similar responsibility of a rent-a-car agency to warn its customers against using the leased vehicle itself in a high crime area.  (A similar duty might arise in the present context if, for example, Hurricane Rentals rented a water craft for use in an area of the ocean in which it was aware that rip currents were present.)   These cases stand in contrast to the present one, in which the businesses of operating hotels and renting beach chairs only tangentially or collaterally relate to their customers' use of the ocean.

5.  Compare, e.g., McKinney;  Pickett;  Smith v. Jung, 241 So.2d 874 (Fla. 3d DCA 1970), cert. denied, 245 So.2d 870 (Fla.1971).

6.  Landowners may, of course, be liable for failure to correct or warn about known defects peculiar to specific areas for which they are responsible.   See Florida Dep't of Natural Resources v. Garcia, 753 So.2d 72 (Fla.2000);  Turlington v. Tampa Electric Co., 62 Fla. 398, 56 So. 696 (1911);  Landrum v. John Doe Pit Digger, 696 So.2d 926 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997);  Tarshis v. Lahaina Inv. Corp., 480 F.2d 1019 (9th Cir.1973)(hotel operator owes duty to guest to warn of dangerous condition in Pacific Ocean not known to her or obvious to ordinary intelligent person);  Jackson v. TLC Assocs., 185 Ill.2d 418, 235 Ill.Dec. 905, 706 N.E.2d 460 (1998)(duty of commercial bathing beach to adult patron for underwater hazard not an inherent characteristic of body of water).

7.  These range from the hallucinatory, including the destruction of Florida's tourist industry, to the very practical, including the requirement of making exquisitely fine distinctions between and among, for example, the relative proximity of particular defendants' businesses to the beach, the extent of the particular “warnings” required and the status and expertise of particular plaintiffs in the dangers of swimming, all of which would arise if a contrary rule were adopted.   In that regard, we note that the broadness of our holding pretermits the necessity of resolving, in this very case, such almost impossible issues as whether the Saxony's duty to its guest, Ms. Poleyeff, extended to the area adjacent to the Seville, whether that duty extended to Mr. Breaux either as a rescuer or as a generic user of the beach, whether the Seville's duty to Mr. Breaux extended to Ms. Poleyeff, whether its breach had any causative effect upon Mr. Breaux's actions in attempting to save her in light of his obvious knowledge of a danger which had already arisen, and on and on.

SCHWARTZ, Chief Judge.


Confederate statue backers win battle in Lake County. Foes dismayed by 3-2 vote. (Orlando Sentinel)

Edmund Kirby Smith, originally from St. Augustine,  left town and never came back. The Confederate Civil War General ordered that African-American prisoners of war be murdered.   his statue  has found a home in Tavares in the Lake Courthouse, by 3-2 vote.
The late KKK racist murderous Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall, would approve.

Confederate statue backers win battle in Lake County. Foes dismayed by 3-2 vote.
Stephen Hudak
JUL 30, 2019 | 8:04 PM

Confederate statue backers win battle in Lake County. Foes dismayed by 3-2 vote.

Alphonso Walker (left), an economic development consultant from Eustis, explains his view of the Edmund Kirby Smith statue to Ray Powers, a director at Lake County’s tax-supported historical museum following a 3-2 vote by Lake commissioners to approve transfer of the confederate figure to the museum. Walker had appealed to commissioners to block the museum from displaying the statue. (Hailey Gavin / Orlando Sentinel)

TAVARES — The statue of a Confederate general almost nobody else wanted has won a hard-fought home in Lake County’s tax-supported historical museum.
But the battle over the bronze likeness of Edmund Kirby Smith left wounds that won’t soon heal, especially in the county’s black communities, opponents said after Tuesday’s three-hour hearing with Lake commissioners.
Commissioners had authority as museum landlord to say no. Instead, they voted 3-2 to endorse a statement drafted by museum curator Bob Grenier, who intends to house the 7-foot-tall statue in the museum’s war gallery.
Alphonso Walker, an economic development consultant and Lake resident, told commissioners their decision would brand Lake County as a place of insensitivity, and that kind of reputation could stunt the growth the county has been enjoying.
More than three dozen county residents appealed to commissioners to block the museum in the county historic courthouse from displaying the Jim Crow-era relic once the figure is evicted from its spot in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol.
Of the 40 people who asked to speak, only four urged commissioners to allow the statue to come here.
Many said bringing the statue would be hurtful and open old wounds.
Commission Chairwoman Leslie Campione sought a definitive vote on the statue, which has sparked dissension for more than a year. The vote came in advance of an Aug. 10 civil rights march in Tavares organized to protest the statue.
Campione was joined by commissioners Josh Blake and Tim Sullivan in backing the statue’s relocation. Commissioners Wendy Breeden and Sean Parks opposed it.
Museum curator Bob Grenier, the driving force behind the plan, didn’t show up for the hearing. But Campione relayed his plans for the figure, which is leaving the prestigious hall in Washington, D.C., to make way for a marble statue of African-American educator and voting-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune.
Statue foe Mae Hazelton of Eustis also used Grenier’s words in an effort to sway a board majority.
While Campione offered an empathetic message to statue foes and argued the museum’s plan to show the statue wouldn’t glorify Smith, slavery or the lost cause of the Confederacy, Hazelton read aloud Grenier’s emails, which she said she obtained in a public-records request. The missives painted a far less conciliatory message.
“He called those in opposition unruly, nasty and vicious people,” Hazelton said. “He said though he wished the General would stay in Statuary Hall in D.C., ‘it will be replaced, so we might as well get it to the museum where we all can enjoy it...’ He said ‘I believe I’ve fought the good fight for my Confederate friends. I stayed true to your cause.”
Evelyn Turner, a black woman opposed to bringing the statue to Tavares, told commissioners the general has almost no connection to Lake County.
“Bringing the statue will do nothing but rekindle the ‘old stuff’ and you know what I mean by the ‘old stuff,'" she said.
But Blake argued it was historical and the commission shouldn’t censor the museum.
He wondered if blocking the planned relocation of the statue would lead to other censoring, citing Eustis’ annual celebration of George Washington’s birthday as a possible target.
“Is GeorgeFest a racist celebration?” Blake asked, noting that the first president owned slaves. “Is that the next step?”
One of the few in the audience to speak in favor of the statue, Herb Seegers, said Smith had qualities that led the Legislature to memorialize him a century ago.
“I don’t know the man but, to me, this does not sound like an evil devil that he has been portrayed as so far,” Seegers said.
More than a year ago, a five-member state Statue Location Selection Committee chose a bid by Grenier as the best relocation option for the century-old statue, incensing black residents and other opponents who mobilized an effort to reverse the decision.
Most were angry Grenier hadn’t sought their input before pursuing the effigy of a long-dead military leader who advised his subordinates during the Civil War to follow a policy “giving no quarter” to black Union soldiers.
[Popular on] Lake County commissioner Richard Swartz was ‘definition of integrity’ | Commentary »
His orders directed them to kill black prisoners of war rather than hold them as they did other Yankees.
Many foes said the statue is a black eye for a county with a well-known history of racial intolerance, which includes the seven-term reign of notoriously racist Sheriff Willis McCall, who died in 1994. His office was on the first floor of the county’s historic courthouse, which coincidentally is the museum’s home and soon will be the statue’s.
A fierce segregationist, McCall gained national notoriety in the Groveland Four case, shooting two of the defendants — killing one — in 1951 while transporting them from a north Florida prison to Lake County for a retrial.
Florida’s decision to take Smith out of National Statuary Hall, where each state is allowed two figures, gained momentum in 2015 after a racially motivated mass shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C., that left nine black men and women dead.
A state committee chose to replace Smith with Bethune, a daughter of slaves, from a pool of nominees that included conservationist and author Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Publix founder George Washington Jenkins and Walt Disney.
Florida’s other statue honors John Gorrie, considered the father of air conditioning and refrigeration. or 407-650-6361

Stephen Hudak often writes about bears in Central Florida and weird things in the Orlando area, including Orange County government. He likes snow and Ohio State but wound up in the Sunshine State, which has been good to him. He was a Pulitzer finalist for work on the FAMU hazing tragedy.

DeSantis to tap Florida’s first climate change czar. Her resume lacks climate credentials. (Miami Herald)

I am skeptical of Governor RONALD DION DeSANTIS's reported choice for "climate czar." Quo vobis videtor? What do y'all reckon?

Julia Nesheiwat, the Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the Department of State, is likely to be named Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer this week.
Julia Nesheiwat, the Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the Department of State, is likely to be named Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer this w

Read more here:

DeSantis to tap Florida’s first climate change czar. Her resume lacks climate credentials.
JULY 30, 2019 05:10 PM, \

Julia Nesheiwat, the Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the Department of State, is likely to be named Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer this week.
Julia Nesheiwat, the Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the Department of State, is likely to be named Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer this week.
Florida’s first chief resilience officer, the person in charge of adapting the most vulnerable state in the nation to climate change, has an impressive resume. But it’s missing one thing — any obvious experience with climate change or resilience.

The candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to name as soon as Wednesday, sources tell the Miami Herald, is Julia Nesheiwat. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nesheiwat had no comment. No formal announcement has been made.

The last four years, she’s been the deputy special envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department, where she works with hostage families, foreign governments and the multi-agency group called the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell to bring Americans back home.

Her professional background is in military and diplomacy issues, and the closest experience she has with environmental issues seems to be a stint at the Department of Energy under the Obama administration, where it appears she focused on energy security.

It’s unclear from her multiple biographies available online what experience she has with the kind of work Florida’s unique climate-change-related challenges demand. On Twitter, however, she regularly retweets stories about environmental issues and resiliency.

She graduated from Central Florida’s Stetson University, where she served in ROTC, with dual degrees in religious studies and sociology. Nesheiwat enrolled in Stetson law school after graduation, but after September 11th she was called to duty, an experience she detailed in her 2017 convocation speech at Stetson.

She served two tours — in Afghanistan and Iraq — as a U.S. Army Military Intelligence officer, where she “coordinated and managed interagency assessments on terrorist networks within the Middle East and Asia,” according to her state department bio. After that, she was on the U.S. Presidential Commission on Intelligence Capabilities Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. She led the North Korea and Iran policy steering committee from 2004 to 2005.

Then she became the chief of staff for policy and planning in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She focused on international energy security, including nuclear issues in Japan, she told CBS News at the time. According to her LinkedIn, Nesheiwat served as senior adviser on energy policy in the department of state, where she later climbed to deputy assistant secretary of state for implementation in the Bureau of Energy Resources.

In addition to her Stetson degrees, Nesheiwat has a masters in security studies from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan. She speaks fluent Arabic and Japanese.

The job posting for the state’s CRO job lists as an “essential requirement” that the candidate have a master’s degree in an Environmental Science related field, “with a minimum of 5 years working experience in the resilience and sustainability related field preferred. Bachelor’s Degree in an Environmental Science Field with 10 years of related experience will be considered in lieu of a master’s degree.”

Miami Herald Staff Writers David Smiley, Samantha J. Gross and Joey Flechas contributed to this story.

Alex Harris covers climate change for the Miami Herald, including how South Florida communities are adapting to the warming world. She attended the University of Florida.