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Week of April 2-April 8, 2023

Will Governor Ron DeSantis allow the city of Miami Beach to govern itself?
Week of April 2-April 8, 2023
Marjory Stoneman Douglas: The Grande Dame Of The Everglades* 


Recently I became aware of serious allegations that Substack founders court and support anti-trans writers and that Substack does not enforce its own rules about publishing inaccurate information and hate content. I have therefore decided to move to a similar platform called Ghost, which claims to do a better job about issues such as these. So, while making the change (which is taking a little longer than I hoped due to some technical issues!) I thought I’d tweak the format a little.

First, I’m updating my “rule” about length of what I’m not calling the Florida News Recap from 1000 words to 1000 to 1500 words. Meaning, I’ll try to stick to 1000 but if it hits nearly 1500 I’m not going to worry much (as I have in the past when I hit 1200 words).

Next, I’m adding a section I’m calling “Life in South Florida,” which is about the things I see that are either disappointing or exciting, but never dull. Some examples: the MAGA gatherings every Saturday in one of Miami’s most important parks, the pro African American AP course rally I attended this week, and the tasty food I get to eat.

Finally, as I’m a historian I don’t know why this wasn’t always there, I’m adding a section called “This week in Florida History” where I try to look at significant events in Florida’s history with a bent towards political and racial history. The latter may surprise you, as Florida was the site of the first known act of collective civil disobedience in the Civil Rights movement, the first statewide civil rights movement, the home of many of the leaders of the March on Washington culminating in MLK’s “I have a dream” speech, and police riots that led to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights that made the news almost weekly during the George Floyd protests.

Onto the Florida News Recap…

Florida News Recap

If you don’t live in South Florida or know the area well, when you think of Miami, you probably either think of Little Havana (where the Dominoes players end up in movies) or Miami Beach, a separate city east of Miami on its own island. This is where all of the Spring Break mayhem happens, for the most part, such as the riot in 2021 or the near riot this year after two fatal shootings led the city to impose a curfew. This is why the city is considering finding a way to permanently ban Spring Break, “Miami Beach is shutting the door on spring break, once and for all,” the New York Times reported city commissioner Alex J. Fernandez saying after voting on a series of measures to drastically curtail spring break in 2024. The Miami Herald ran an editorial by staff member Fabiola Santiago saying, “the city seems to be creating something akin to a prison.”

The merits of shutting down spring break in a popular destination aside, there is strong precedent that the city won’t have a say in the matter. As residents of Key West know, when it comes to giving local voters what they way, Governor Ron DeSantis rarely cares. As noted in the outstanding Tallahassee Takeover podcast by WLRN, an NPR affiliate, in an episode called “Key West: Small Town, Big Target,” reporters Nancy Klingener and Daniel Rivero discuss how DeSantis and Tallahassee stopped a 2020 sunscreen ban meant to protect local fauna that was dying in the clear waters and thwarted limits on the cruise ship industry, which not only brings too many people for the small town to handle but literally destroys the ecosystem below the massive ships. Not only that, as Outside Online reported in 2022, “Some big ships have been notorious for their environmental issues, from runaway emissions to “waste discharge,” a euphemism for dumping sewage, bilge water, and solid waste into the ocean. Princess Cruises, owned by the Carnival Corporation, was fined $40 million in 2017, after pleading guilty to felony charges that arose from its deliberate dumping of oil-contaminated waste into the water, then covering it up. In January of this year, the company pleaded guilty to violating its probation for the second time since 2019.”

So, will Ron DeSantis allow Miami Beach to take charge of its own island? Or, like Key West, will DeSantis intervene?

Elsewhere in South Florida, Protect Our Kids First Inc. founder Michael Dolce was arrested in West Palm Beach Florida on Saturday, according to LGBTQ Nation. According to the report: ‘It’s unclear why the FBI was monitoring Dulce and whether he had any anti-LGBTQ+ views. However, he is one of the countless cisgender men who have been arrested for child pornography while right-wingers continually accuse LGBTQ+ people, drag performers, and their allies of being “pedophiles” and “groomers.”’ Trigger warning, just the report of what he was doing when arrested is enough to make one sick.

With other groups that attack the LGBTQ+ community such as Moms for Liberty, who according to glad advocates “book bans, classroom censorship and bans on teaching about slavery, race, racism and LGBTQ people and history,” being founded in Florida in recent years, one wonders what it is about Florida, which twice voted for Barack Obama, that attracts them. The photo of Ron DeSantis with some of Moms for Liberty might reveal something.

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Moms for Liberty members with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Photo Credit Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Meanwhile, a new report shows that Florida health officials, led by the anti-vaxxer state Attorney General Jospeh Lapado. According to arstechnica

The final analysis (released by Lapado), which was widely criticized for its poor quality and dubious conclusions, was the basis for a statewide recommendation by Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo last October that young men, ages 18 to 39, should not receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. The analysis—posted on the Florida Department of Health's website with no authors listed—claimed to find "an 84% increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related death among males 18-39 years old within 28 days following mRNA vaccination."  Ladapo, who has a history of fearmongering about COVID-19 vaccines, touted the analysis, saying in a press release at the time that "these are important findings that should be communicated to Floridians.” But according to draft versions of the analysis, the state epidemiologists who worked on the report came to entirely different conclusions.

Finally, circling back to Key West, Key West resident, bookstore owner and beloved children’s book author Judy Blume tore into Ron DeSantis this week over his book bans: “Teachers are under fire, librarians are threatened,” Blume said at Variety‘s “Power of Women” luncheon on Tuesday. “They are criminalizing teachers and librarians. It’s not just that they’re threatening their jobs, they’re threatening them.”

“They could go to jail, all because they stand up for the rights of the students they teach. All because they refuse to give in to fear,” Blume continued. “I’ve known librarians who have saved lives by handing the right book to the right child at the right time. And for that one kid, finding themselves in a book can be a lifesaver.”

I know of two bookstores this woman has visited to learn about running her own store from the booksellers. Employees flocked to be in selfies with her. She is delightful. She is pissed. She gives me hope.

Life in South Florida

Each Saturday as I go to and fro I almost inevitably drive past Tropical Park on Bird Road, one of the biggest parks in Miami-Dade County on one of the most important east-west roads. Each time I see a crowd of Trump (and often DeSantis) supporters encouraging cars to honk at them and ignoring people who flip them off. This week’s crowd was a little smaller when I drove by than past weeks, but given they are here every week, I thought I’d share.

A picture containing text, tree, grass, outdoor with American flags and signs praising Trump, MAGA 2024, etc.
The photo was taken by my minor child who shall remain unnamed but was in the passenger seat.

Still, this was on the way to an event at the oldest Black-founded church in Miami-Dade County, founded a year before Miami was even chartered, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church of Coconut Grove.

The sign on the side of a church that reads, "Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church Miami-Dade County's Oldest African American Church Established 1895"
Photo Credit Philip Cardella

My 17-year-old photographer and child and I were attending a rally for the African American Advanced Placement Course and Test (AP. My child is in several AP classes and is furious that they can’t take this course. So are other youth. The event was the brainchild of a senior at a private school in Miami Dade County and featured several high school students as speakers, as well as leaders of the NAACP and two members of the Florida State House of Representatives. Our youth are alright.

A group of people in a church. Banned books about Black history are on the right. Six high schoolers (faces blurred) and two adults are to the right. The adults work for Florida International University.
A group of people in a church. Banned books about Black history are on the right. Six high schoolers (faces blurred) and two adults are to the right. The adults work for Florida International University. Photo Credit Philip Cardella

This Week in Florida History

510 years ago this week Europeans landed in Florida for the first time when Juan Ponce de León arrived. As Florida historian T. D. Allman wrote about it in the New York Times for the 500thanniversary, “he never did much of anything here except get himself killed.” Not only that, his credited “discovery” of Florida in 1510 is a bit of a misnomer at best as European maps had started including Florida as early as 1500. The linked story is great if you have access to it, if not, I’m happy to “gift” it to you.

Also, this week in history, journalist, suffragist, champion of the Everglades and overall badass, Marjory Stoneman Douglas was born in 1890 in Minneapolis, Minnesota—six years before the founding of Miami, which sits on the Everglades. Fewer than 5,000 people lived in Miami when she arrived, shortly to become one of The Miami Herald’s earliest writers (thanks in no small part to her father owning it). Unfortunately, her iconic name is forever connected with the murder of 17 people, injuring of 17 others and terrorizing students across the entire nation, at the school bearing her name, Stoneman Douglas High School, in 2018 (note the number of injured was updated after this news article published).

*Photo at top of page can be accessed here for photo credit information.