7 min read

Week of March 12-18

Ron DeSantis is afraid of Michelle Yeoh
Week of March 12-18
Members of People Acting for Community Together, along with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, are all smiles as the Mayor agrees to combat global warming by planting more trees in the county on Monday March 13, 2023. Photo Credit Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ.

The rise of the resistance?

Ron DeSantis is afraid of Michelle Yeoh. As he should be.

When I started This Week in Florida one of the things on my mind was the toxic fire in Doral at the incinerator. Which reminds me of a story I forgot to talk about last week about Miami-Dade County’s first trash incinerator, Old Smokey, in Coconut Grove, a city on the edge of Miami proper that had a unique distinction, one neighborhood in Coconut Grove allowed Black people to live in it. Can you guess where Old Smokey was? “Residents of the neighborhood, established by Bahamian immigrants in the 1880s, have become alarmed by recent revelations that soil samples there show contamination from carcinogens like arsenic and heavy metals, including lead, cadmium and barium.” Note, that was a 2013 story in the New York Times. Despite recent independent analysis of the property that formerly housed Old Smokey showing the site remains toxic, Miami-Dade County has tried to eliminate health care for victims of the toxic site last week.

Thanks for reading This Week in Florida! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

Which brings me to the long form story in the Miami Herald Sunday about the years long battle with a real estate developer who took $500,000 down payments for people trying to buy homes in Coconut Grove in 2018, homes that he showed them were “80%” complete, and he still hasn’t delivered a finished home to them in 2023. What’s really egregious and ties this to the story of Old Smokey is that Florida laws make it easy for developers to pull stunts like this. “We’re in a pro-development city, county and state where everything is driven by developers and their money. Florida is a creation of developers,” said Andy Parrish, a longtime Miami developer who lives in Coconut Grove. “Developers control elections, elections control politicians and politicians control building and zoning. The city of Miami is one of the worst examples of how the gravy train works. It’s an absolute mess.”

This sort of corruption typifies Florida’s government. Books such as The Swamp Peddlers (University of North Carolina Press) and A World More Concrete (University of Chicago Press) are academic studies of Florida real estate practices, particularly in South Florida, while White Sands, Black Beach (University of Florida Press) and Welcome to Fairyland (University of North Carolina Press) look at laws catering to tourism at the expense of human and civil rights and simple fairness in the market, which is related to Florida’s obsession with corrupt real estate. By the way, how I choose books and links to books can be found here.

Another piece has come out on DeSantis’s military record and how adjacent he was, at the minimum, to torture. It is longer and more detailed than the Miami Herald piece I pulled from last week and it is, perhaps, more speculative at times. Still, it is well written, provocative, and authored by a writer with by-lines in major news entities. DeSantis, who has become a nearly daily mainstay on Fox News, has thoughts on the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank, specifically, he thinks “DEI” (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) caused the bank’s collapse, not exploiting a Trump era deregulation of banks that the bank’s President lobbied for (this link starts with a discussion of Trump’s legal woes, FYI) that allowed the bank to over leverage its assets on treasury bonds.

DeSantis’s blaming DEI on the bank collapse should be a laughable gaffe indicating he hasn’t a clue how banking works, however, he wasn’t actually commenting on banking. He went on Fox News, as he does almost every day, and unjustifiably vilified DEI to the viewers there—and the people they talk to. DEI may have flaws, but the growth of people thinking about it absolutely paved the way for a movie made by Asian actors to dominate the Oscars this Sunday, awarding Michelle Yeoh the first ever Oscar to an Asian woman. As happy as that win should make us all (and the win for Ke Huy Quan for Best Supporting Actor!) the fact that Michelle Yeoh doesn’t have several Oscars on her mantel already is outrageous. She is one of the best actors of her generation. Thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion has led us to a world where people who have been worthy of recognition for generations finally get what white people have enjoyed at the Academy Awards for nearly a century. As the legendary actress reminded us, this includes inclusion of women as well, “Ladies, don’t let anyone ever tell you you are past your prime.”

Michelle Yeoh holds her Oscar for Best Actress during her acceptance speech.
Michelle Yeoh accepts the best actress award for Everything Everywhere All at Once onstage during the 95th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, Calif. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Speaking of bad ass, history making women, “The nonpartisan League of Women Voters has been facing a nationwide backlash after decades of going about its business of surveying candidates, registering voters, hosting debates and lobbying for its causes with little fuss.” The outstanding news source (the one I trust most) ProPublica has a long form piece on how the campaign against the LWV has shifted to Florida.

As I pointed out last week, old school Republicans including Mike Pence and Chris Christie are concerned about DeSantis’s wavering on support for Ukraine and by implication, tolerance of Putin’s fascism. Combine this with Putin’s desire to implement extreme anti-democratic measures employed by the Soviet Union (Russia currently has more political prisoners than the Soviet Union did under Gorbachev) and American Christian White Nationalists’—DeSantis’s base—love for Putin, and you can see that these concerns may be more than political posturing.  Indeed, even longtime DeSantis supporters such as former UN Ambassador and National Security Advisor to Donald Trump, John Bolton, has expressed disappointment in DeSantis’s flip-flop on Ukraine. In 2016 DeSantis as a member of the US House of Representatives voted for a resolution that called on Obama to “provide Ukraine with lethal defensive weapon systems to enhance the ability of the people of Ukraine to defend their sovereign territory from the unprovoked and continuing aggression of the Russian Federation.”

Florida lawmakers want to ban school aged girls from talking about their periods

While DeSantis is signaling to Putin that he accepts the invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute,” lawmakers in Tallahassee continue to try to make Florida look like Russia with bills that would ban school aged girls from talking about their periods, protect Confederate monuments to the slaveholders rebellion, making it illegal to help an undocumented immigrant in any way, including giving them a ride, and ban flying the LGBT flag on state owned property while explicitly making it legal to fly the Confederate Battle Flag. In the private sector an Axios reporter based out of Tallahassee was fired for replying to DeSantis propaganda labeled as a press release as propaganda.

With mounting legal peril for Donald Trump, the current leader in GOP polls, the odds of DeSantis securing the nomination in 2024 increase daily, despite horse race polling saying DeSantis is losing a step. That said, the resistance may be mounting against DeSantis. A Politico story this week makes a compelling argument that by pandering to the far right in Florida so aggressively DeSantis may be causing the rest of America to take notice. In the legal system the Eleventh Circuit upheld a block on the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act” from being enforced at Florida universities and colleges—a preliminary injunction but an important indicator that the Court has serious concerns about the law. Florida’s aggressive signature law on voter registrations, which experts say is a voter suppression tactic,[1] was sued this week by the NAACP and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans. If Florida is where “WOKE goes to die,” according to Ron DeSantis, he’s waking a lot of people up with his actions and…apparently he is fine with having a woke healthcare system—an unsurprising turn of hypocrisy given his record.

People Acting for Community Together, an interfaith organization representing 40 churches, synagogues, mosques and schools and over 50,000 Miami Dade County residents successfully pressured the county and Miami Dade County Schools to attack global warming
Members of People Acting for Community Together, along with Deputy Director of Miami-Dade Police Department, Stephanie Daniels, smile as the Deputy Director agrees to work to expand the civil citations program and reduce arrests in the county on Monday March 13, 2023. Photo Credit: Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ.

Local to Miami but still important as the resistance to Florida authoritarianism rises, People Acting for Community Together, an interfaith organization representing 40 churches, synagogues, mosques and schools and over 50,000 Miami Dade County residents successfully pressured the county and Miami Dade County Schools to attack global warming by planting more shade trees and to reduce unnecessary arrests by expanding the county’s civil citation program. Interestingly, though the CBS Miami and the Miami Herald talked about the tree planting program, they failed to mention the political pressure event, which the group calls a Nehemiah Action, also pressured the Miami Dade Police Department—in person—to act. I know, because I was there.

Me in my dapper mask with 600 of my closest allies at the Nehemiah Action on Monday March 13, 2023. Photo credit: Philip Cardella.

[1] If you want to learn more about voter suppression in the United States, and you should, please check out Downs and University of Georgia, Voter Suppression in U.S. Elections.