Did Shaquille O’Neal make a colossal mistake when he endorsed Orlando Police Chief John Mina for Orange County sheriff? Is Alan Grayson the left’s equivalent of Donald Trump? Why would Scott Plakon joke with . Carlos Guillermo Smith about Anna Eskamani? 100 of Central Florida’s most influential people weigh in on politics and current events.
T.J. Legacy-Cole, political organizer/community activist
SHAQ’S MINA MISFIRE. Last week: The “Big Aristotle” Shaquille O’Neal made a colossal mistake when he endorsed Orlando Police Chief John Mina for Orange County sheriff. He should immediately rescind his endorsement indefinitely. The most dominant force to ever step foot on the hardwood floor should have educated himself about the amount of excessive force and police misconduct cases under Mina’s leadership. prior to his short video filmed on the set of “NBA on TNT.” It’s irresponsible and tone deaf for the former Orlando Magic superstar to decree that Mina “has shown he can keep our community safe” due to his lack of police-officer accountability, which has jeopardized the public safety of residents in Orlando.
HEY, SHAQ, JOIN OUR TEAM. Looking ahead: Moving forward I’d like to extend my hand to Shaquille O’Neal to expose him to the plight of black and brown people in Central Florida. I believe he will come to realize the experience in the inner city is vastly different from the luxury of Windermere and join the fight to combat white supremacy. Often times the “black bourgeois” can lose slight of the marginalization other African- Americans face because they experience a bubble of illusionary acceptance due to their own social status. Maybe I’m an idealist who wouldn’t mind seeing O’Neal stand in the paint with activists to hold police accountable in Orange County. We need more than your endorsements of candidates, Shaq: We need your presence. Consider this my invitation to join our team.
Glenton Gilzean Jr., president/CEO, Urban League of Central Florida
THUMBS UP FOR SHAQ AND MINA. Last week: I am not surprised that Orange County resident and Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal endorsed Orlando Police Chief John Mina in the race for Orange County sheriff. In retirement, Shaq continues to be a leader through both his words and actions. He joins a long list of community leaders who are standing behind Mina in his bid for sheriff. Having worked closely with Mina throughout my time in Orlando, I could not agree more with Shaq’s confidence in him as a person and professional. While Shaq might tower over me in person, I stand shoulder to shoulder with him in our support for Mina.
María T. Padilla, Orlando Latino blog
ALAN GRAYSON: THE LEFT’S DONALD TRUMP. Last week: Alan Grayson wants his old seat in Congress back, although it’s not exactly the same seat after its lines were redrawn and it’s not exactly his. As he rightly put it, political posts belong to no one; they’re for voters to decide. Florida has too many races that are unopposed, making a mockery of our political system. So competition is good. But Grayson is the left’s version of Trump, complete with vulgarities. Expect sparks to fly. He’ll push incumbent Democrat Darren Soto further left and force him to raise and spend more primary money than he’d like. The political season has sprung.
Marci Arthur, small business owner/culinary specialist
PETER PAN IS NOT RETIRING. Looking ahead: For many high-octane professionals like me, retirement is a dirty word. I am carving out time for one or more of the three G’s — golf, gardening and grandchildren — but I am continuing to work about 50 to 60 hours a week, but at a somewhat less feverish pace than when I worked 100 hours a week. Losing the professional identity that I spent a lifetime creating is unimaginable. We’re the Peter Pan generation; I am referring to the boy in Sir James Barrie’s play who doesn’t grow older. It’s anathema to say the word “retirement” to baby boomers. And my husband, at 86, continues working full time, six days a week, as an architect.
Dick Batchelor, president, Dick Batchelor Management Group
A MOCKERY OF INFORMED DEBATE. Looking ahead: The Constitutional Revision Commission is doing a disservice to the constitution amendment procedure and insulting voters by the way it is handling the process. A CRC is appointed every 20 years to hold hearings determining what proposed constitutional amendments should be put on the ballot for a vote in the general election. While the constitutional amendment process should be a clear and include informed debate on individual amendments, the CRC is bundling a number of issues into single proposed amendments, frustrating voters participation. For example, in just one amendment, you could vote to prohibit off-shore oil drilling, raise the retirement age of Florida Supreme Court justices and restrict vaping in public places. Now how is that for an informed debate?
Chris Carmody, shareholder, GrayRobinson
ORANGE COUNTY SPORTS INCENTIVE FUNDS. Looking ahead: It has been talked about for years, and on Tuesday, the Orange County Commission will vote on two applications to the sports incentive funds. With Texas handing out major money for major sporting events, Orange County was not going to give up its sports tourism crown that easily. Under the leadership of Teresa Jacobs, the county approved an initial $5 million allocation of tourist development taxes (refreshed by $2 million annually) that can be used for the recruiting, growing, marketing and hosting of major sporting events in our community. Up on Tuesday are the 2020 Special Olympics and a future WrestleMania. Both will drive tourists and money to our region. Thanks to Jacobs for her leadership and to Central Florida Sports Commission for teeing these up.
Earl Crittenden Jr., president of Crittenden Fruit Co. Inc. and chair of onePULSE Foundation
THE ROAST IS DONE. Last week: I’m not sure comedy roasts are ever really a good idea. Slowly verbally barbequing someone in a room full of colleagues, peers — or even strangers — is probably never helpful. Case in point is the recent awkward White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, a pile-up of derision in a thin guise of humor, resulting in all the association’s charitable work around the world being profoundly upstaged. America’s political dialogue was already bitter and exhausting, as tiresome as two siblings fighting in the backseat on a road trip. Was the 15 minutes of jabbing the notoriously (and predictably) thin-skinned Trump worth further polluting and distracting the national discourse?
CHECK, PLEASE! Looking ahead: After much legal wrangling over Lake County’s posh Bella Collina real estate, it’s time for the homeowner plaintiffs to pay the bill. Except it’s not just their own legal tab, it’s also the developer-defendant’s attorneys’ fees. Ouch. A federal magistrate ruled that the homeowners’ claims, which included racketeering, were too thin on supporting facts and the case was dismissed. The dismissal triggered an entitlement to the winner, in this case, the developer, to receive payment for its legal fees (hundreds of thousands of dollars). Litigation certainly is no picnic, but writing a check to your nemesis is a painful lesson to beware of frivolous lawsuits.
Rich Crotty, former mayor, Orange County
ACCESS BREED SUCCESS IN HIGHER EDUCATION. Last week: Since I was the primary sponsor of the Florida Prepaid Tuition Program in 1987, my focus on higher education in Florida has never wavered. Back then, many of us were concerned that our best and brightest students would decide to attend college out of state. Accordingly, the legislation limited participation to in-state institutions to avoid a “brain drain” of students leaving the state (but it was repealed the year after I left the Senate). Access to public higher education remains a Florida priority, and my priority. So enough already with talk of too much growth. If access breeds success, the University of Central Florida and Valencia College have done an outstanding job in providing opportunity. Proof? More than 8,000 who earned UCF sheepskins last week.
Tom Dyer, attorney, founder of Watermark
NASHVILLE CATS. Last week: Those yearning for a local mass transit plan should look with concern at Nashville. On Tuesday, voters there overwhelmingly rejected an ambitious plan funded by a mix of increased taxes. Like Orlando, Nashville is growing rapidly and attracting urban professionals. And like Orlando, traffic is a nightmare. The Nashville plan would have launched five light-rail lines, four bus rapid-transit lines and a dozen transit centers around the city. Downtowners voted for; suburbanites against. The forced resignation of the popular mayor didn’t help. Many believe federal funding is necessary to move mass transit forward. At least Nashville has a plan to build on.
Michelle Y. Ertel, consultant and political analyst
A JOKE BETWEEN FRIENDS ABOUT ANNA ESKAMANI? Last week: While America is rehashing the tasteless, biting comments from a comedian at the National Corespondents Dinner, Central Florida had its own political tit-for-tat. At a fundraiser for Republican District 47 candidate Mikaela Nix, state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood relayed to supporters he recently joked with state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, “We’ve got to stop Anna [Eskamani, a progressive District 47 candidate] from getting in there. She’s going to be worse than you.” By worse, Plakon said he meant “more liberal.” Smth responded, “… it’s unapologetic leaders like us that make them very nervous.” Plakon said of his friend (yes, they are actually friends) Smith, “Carlos is a nice guy with some bad ideas.”
John L. Evans Jr., consulting unit chief for a global investment firm; former congressional staffer
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, A REAL HERO. Last week: Michelle Wolf attacked like a brat – humorless and pitiful, with much of what she said is not fit for repeating in this newspaper. Alas, the law of unintended consequences is bearing down. The hero of the Washington pundit award evening was the president’s communication director, a model of decency and power for women everywhere. Wolf may have just jumped the shark with independent voters. She crossed a line she won’t acknowledge, but midterm elections loom. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you go girl.
Mark Freid, Board President Holocaust Center
BUILDING A WORLD FREE OF HATE. Last week: Two weeks ago, the community wept with the loss of Holocaust survivor and revered philanthropist Henri Landwirth. And this past week, we cheered, as Orlando’s Holocaust Center, founded by another survivor, Tess Wise, shared its plans to build a stunning 40,000-square-foot building in downtown Orlando and to rename as The Holocaust Museum for Hope & Humanity. The new museum reflects the continued relevance of Wise’s original mission, and she beamed with pride as the renderings of the new building were shared publicly. The new museum will honor victims, survivors and heroes of the Holocaust and use the lessons of that tragedy to help build a world without hate
Rogue Gallart, president, Central Florida Disability Chamber
ACCESSIBLE VIDEO GAMES FROM EA. Looking ahead: Simple considerations or design decisions could make most video games accessible for anyone with a disability. Electronic Arts, the video game development studio in Maitland, is committed to make this a reality. The EA website now offers an accessibility portal to gives gamers access to news, forums and other information about EA and EA Sports games with functionality for those games. This is forward thinking at its best.
Tim Giuliani, president and CEO, Orlando Economic Partnership
UPWARD MOBILITY. Last week: “Upward mobility” was the focus of a “60 Minutes” piece last week that highlighted the University of Central Florida’s innovative work in helping first-generation and low-income students succeed. These students are usually the first in their families to go to college, and many feel like they’re already behind. UCF is among the institutions, which include Princeton, reducing barriers for lower socioeconomic students and expanding access to higher education. The results: a 30 percent increase in graduation rates. Unless we take ground-breaking approaches like this today, our region and country will fall short of fulfilling the talent demands of our economy in the future.
Francisco Gonzalez, philanthropy director, National Review Institute
RICK SCOTT’S LEADERSHIP ON D’SOUZA. Last week: Over a decade ago, I worked with Dinesh D’Souza and helped organize speaking engagements for him on college campuses. He remains one of the most impressive speakers and debaters I’ve ever heard. However, he has recently become unhinged, especially on social media. The most recent example: his poor choice of tweets in the wake of the Parkland massacre. But another poor decision was made when the Republican Party of Florida announced having D’Souza as part of its Sunshine State Summit in Orlando. Republican Gov. Rick Scott rightly denounced this decision. Good for him. That’s leadership.
Joel C. Hunter, chairman, Community Resource Network
RALLYING NONPROFITS. Looking ahead: “Rally,” a Central Florida initiative to connect business practices to charity organizations is all kinds of smart. For charities to see the work that they do as having monetary value, creating revenue streams beyond asking for donations or grants, purifies as well as sustains their mission. Nonprofits that continually tweak their mission to qualify for grants, or spend much time searching for donations, distort and distract their attention from the people they want to help. And when non-involved people pay for a charity’s “goods,” it adds to the nonprofit’s perceived value as well as their funding. Great idea!
JOB FAIR FRIDAY IN OSCEOLA. Looking ahead: Osceola County continues to assist displaced families from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and current county residents. There’ll be a job fair on Friday, May 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Event Center in Osceola Heritage Park at 1901 Chief Osceola Trail in Kissimmee. More than 60 companies and organizations participate, with some hiring onsite. In addition, there will be two resume and job-interview workshops at 8:30 a.m. and noon. More than 1,200 people attended the county’s last job fair, with 120 hired the same day.
Ric Keller, lawyer, former member of Congress
IMPEACHMENT FOLLY. Last week: Tom Steyer, the Democrat megadonor, brought his “Need to Impeach” tour to Orlando. Steyer is proof that being a billionaire doesn’t necessarily make you smart. For example, there is zero chance of getting 67 votes in the Senate to remove President Trump, and yet Steyer has already wasted $20 million on billboard ads promoting impeachment. Even David Axelrod called it a “vanity project.” Steyer doesn’t have a law degree, but he “confidently” said that Trump violated the “emoluments clause.” Why? Foreign dignitaries stay at nice hotels, and staying at a Trump hotel (as opposed to the Ritz) might be an “illegal” gift. Really, dude?
J. Matthew Knight, M.D., board member, Tiger Bay Club
SPACE WARRIORS. Last week: President Trump keeps hinting at the creation of a futuristic sixth military branch. He called outer space a “war-fighting domain” and remarked, “we are getting very big in space, and we are seriously thinking of [creating a] Space Force.” While I value the role Florida would likely play in Trump’s ambitions, there’s something called the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 standing in his way. Also, there’s our nation’s overwhelming $21 trillion debt; military spending already accounts for more than half of our federal discretionary budget. Space Force may sound cool, but it’s a bad idea.
Ken LaRoe, founder and CEO of First GREEN Bancorp
IN CAHOOTS. Last week: Say you are a malevolent, dictatorial regime with unfathomed wealth as a result of your country’s natural resources and you have a terrible human rights reputation and you are concerned about your image, what would you do? Well, you could stop the infractions or you could hire a really, really good PR agency. This is exactly what Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmon is doing in Saudi Arabia. With the breaking news that the publisher of the consummate fake news, The National Enquirer, is in cahoots with the Trump regime and has published a special magazine touting the Crown Prince’s fake ambitious reforms you have to sit back and wonder just what is next
Shelley W. Lauten, CEO, Central Florida Commission on Homelessness
CLOSING THE GAP. Last week: Did you know the Orlando area has the regrettable distinction of having the lowest median individual wage of the top 100 metropolitan areas in the U.S.? That the average two-bedroom apartment costs $1,284 a month and infant child care also averages $1,200 monthly? Do the math. The gap between prosperity and poverty is growing and the Florida Chamber Foundation is leading conversations across the state about ways to shrink that gap. Get engaged. Ask your politicians what they are doing to close the gap. What are we doing, together, to ensure that Central Florida is a place of opportunity?
ALIGNING WITH A PARTY, RELUCTANTLY. Looking ahead: Did you know there are more people in Orange County registered as “No Party Affiliation” than there are registered Republicans? For the last 15 years, as our political parties have gotten more and more polarized, I wore the NPA label proudly — that it somehow allowed me to make a statement of my independence. Unfortunately, all it’s done is minimize the impact of my vote. I want open primaries, but I also want to win the lottery. The likelihood of either of those happening are not in my favor. And this year is too important. This year, I’ll bite the bullet and align with a party so that my voice can be heard in the primaries. I don’t like it, but I’ll do it.
BRONZE KINGDOM AT FASHION SQUARE. Looking ahead: African art, anyone? While the Orlando Fashion Square Mall has had four owners since 2004, I believe the future of the mall is promising. The old Sears store is being replaced with Orchard Supply Hardware and Floor & Décor. One of the most dynamic new stores “in” the mall is the Bronze Kingdom, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of rare premium bronze sculptures from West and Central Africa. This brilliant and jaw-dropping 4,000-piece royal collection is a must-see for cultural enthusiasts and sophisticates. It is open to the general public for sales, tours and cultural programs. See you there.
Ted Maines, owner/president,Ted Maines Interiors
A WELCOME WAGON FOR SPACE ALIENS? Looking ahead: I was one of the thousands of people who gathered in New Mexico last summer to mark the 70th anniversary of the Roswell Incident for a weekend of scientific lectures, tales of alien abductions by “experiencers,” capped off with a festive parade. The list of billionaires competing with NASA to make contact with extraterrestrial life includes Russia’s Yuri Milner, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Paul Allen, Jeff Bezos and Robert Bigelow. Recent technology advancements, not limited to deep space telescopes, are such that many feel contact is just a few years away despite the dire warnings of Steven Hawking that alien contact may not be in our best interest. Is your Welcome Wagon ready?
A.J. Marsden, assistant professor, Beacon College
ENCOURAGE KIDS TO GET FIT THIS SUMMER. Looking ahead: Summer is fast approaching. Before you know it, school will be closed and the kids will need a way to expend all that energy. Summer programs in Central Florida offer excellent opportunities to engage your children and improve their physical health. For example, AMF Leesburg Lanes offers a summer bowling series, and Central Florida Dreamplex offers a basketball clinic for children with special needs. With almost 40 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds in Florida considered overweight or obese, it is imperative that they get some type of exercise this summer — and not spend it hypnotized by a screen.
Anna McPherson, president, Junior League of Greater Orlando
DID YOU MISS TAR WARS DAY? Last week: On May 4, diehard fans celebrated Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth” be with you — a riff on the Jedi saying.) Next year, fans may be celebrating in the Millennium Falcon or a Star Destroyer as Disney continues its 14-acre build out of Galaxy’s Edge set to open in 2019. “Solo, A Star Wars Story,” releases May 25, telling the backstory to Harrison Ford’s infamous Hans Solo. All in all this May is shaping up to be a great month for Jedi and Storm Troopers around the world and in galaxies far, far away.
Jeffrey Miller, shareholder, SiefertMiller LLC
MUSEUM FOR HOPE AND HUMANITY. Last week: Plans were unveiled for a new Holocaust Museum for Hope and Humanity to be located downtown in the iconic former Chamber of Commerce Building. At a symbolic entryway to Orlando, it’s design will impact all who see it and will be a significant addition our architectural landscape. Inside, visitors the world over will learn our city is not just about attractions, but a place that teaches tolerance, acceptance, diversity and that the strength of hope will always overpower the horrors of atrocities; a meaningful message our local and tourist communities can take back to their homes and families.
Muhammad Musri, president, Islamic Society of Central Florida
FLORIDA-PUERTO RICAN POLITICS. Looking ahead: Florida Gov. Rick Scott is running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. During a campaign stop in Central Florida on Tuesday, Scott said that Congress should “respect the will of the people of Puerto Rico,” and make it the 51st state. The U.S. Congress has to approve any changes to Puerto Rico’s political status from a U.S. territory to a state. Gov. Scott made his comments because tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans came to Florida following Hurricane Maria and could play a pivotal role in the upcoming elections.
Pamela Nabors, president/CEO, CareerSource Central Florida
‘GOOD MORNING, PAM.’ Last week: Coming soon to airports everywhere: facial recognition boarding passes. Except it’s already here at OIA. You know where else it is? My new laptop. It’s, well, friendlier? I open it up, and it scans my face and says, “Good Morning, Pam!” Very efficient, unless I look off to the side, or my husband tries to use it. Then he needs my secret PIN code. It could be scary if I have a bad-hair day. What’s next? Tracking me at my favorite theme parks – “Alert – guest has ridden Test Track three times in the last two hours!” It gives me pause.
KINGS AND QUEENS OF MUSIC. Looking ahead: Thursday and Friday evening, Central Florida Community Arts presents “Icons: A Salute to the Kings and Queens of Music” at Northland, A Church Distributed. As a lover of music, and since it’s non-auditioned, I was accepted into the choir, which means yours truly is one of 300 community members singing and swaying to 40 years of hits by pop music icons. From Motown to Adele, there is something for all musical tastes. CFCA is also in the middle of a scholarship campaign to send hundreds of Central Florida kids to arts camp this summer. Join the celebration.
Mark E. NeJame, founder, senior partner, NeJame Law
HOW IS A SEVERED HEAD REATTACHED? Last week: It’s rather remarkable that mainstream media have been blasted by the White House for “fake news” when among the occupant’s biggest media supporters is The National Enquirer, whose CEO is a close President Trump friend, insider and protector. Its headlines include UFO abductions, Hillary Clinton adopting an alien baby, surgeons reattaching a severed head, or Oprah’s test-tube baby. Enquiring minds want to know: How did these even happen?
Cole NeSmith, executive director, Creative City Project
DANCE. DANCE. DANCE. Last week: It was a weekend of dance in Orlando. The Orlando Ballet brought “Contemporary Wonders” to the Dr. Phillips Center. The three-part event featured works by New York choreographer, Jessica Lang, Artist in Residence, Arcadian Broad, and a collaboration between singer, Sisaundra Lewis and the ballet’s Artistic Director, Robert Hill. Meanwhile, improvisational dance company Coby Project hosted a live show at The Orange Studio in the Mills/50 District. “Unspecified” had several movements, including a section where audience members experienced performances while listening to their own selection of music in headphones.
WHAT WILL THEY DO ABOUT IT? Last week: The arts and culture community hosted the three candidates for Orange County mayor for a conversation around “The Future of Arts and Culture in Orange County.” (The archived broadcast is still available on the Creative City Project Facebook page.) It was a night to hear from each candidate about their priorities as well as their positions on issues relevant to arts and culture. While the night was fruitful, the big question moving forward is, “What will they do about it?” Arts and culture are key drivers of economic development and quality of life. And they serve a central role in recruiting companies to set up shop in Central Florida.
Beverly Paulk, founding member, Central Florida Foundation and The Orlando Philharmonic
TO BETTER UNDERSTAND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Looking ahead: UCF is first in the nation to establish several research clusters on very complicated real-life issues with realistic time horizons and solid funding. Of special interest is the interdisciplinary research cluster on violence against women to help us better understand the issue and prevent it. Jana Jasinski, Pegasus professor of sociology and associate dean of the college of sciences, and Catherine Kaukinen, professor and chair of criminal justice, are the enthusiastic and talented leaders carefully building their team. They also are collaborating with community partners such as Harbor House for the eventual answers we all need.
Larry Pino, attorney and entrepreneur
NAVY BAND. Last week: During an unfortunate week that brought billionaire Tom Steyer’s anti-trump “Need to Impeach” tour to Orlando and the misguided selection of political commentator Dinesh D’Souza to speak at the Republican Party’s Sunshine Summit next month, it’s time to hit the pause button with a special call-out to musicians from the Navy Band as they performed for patients at the Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. Established in 1995, the mission of the Navy Band to extend the skills of highly-trained musicians in the military to promote pride and patriotism through volunteer outreach programs in the community gives us all cause to celebrate their efforts with a smile and gratitude.
HIGH-WAGE, HIGH-GROWTH TECH. Looking ahead: The good news behind Orlando Economic Partnership CEO Tim Giuliani’s comments in the Wall Street Journal that the Amazon experience cemented the realization that “we needed a richer, existing talent pool of tech talent” is that Central Florida’s infrastructure to produce that talent is vast and deep. Current efforts on the part of UCF, Valencia State and Seminole State educating over 100,000 students a year need only be augmented by greater levels of highly concentrated accelerated six-month certification programs focused on specific tech skills preparing graduates for jobs boasting starting salaries of $65,000 to $75,000 in high-wage, high-growth tech industries. Produce those skills and the jobs will follow.
Joanie Schirm, GEC founding president; World Cup Orlando 1994 Committee chairman
HONORING PATTY SHEEHAN. Last week: Community colleges change lives while building a foundation for proud and thriving communities. Seminole State College alumna and Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan is a shining example, honored with a 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Association of Community Colleges, the voice of the nation’s community colleges. Working full-time and paying her way through school like so many others in Central Florida, Sheehan’s recent role working as an advocate and supporter of diversity and public service gained attention from local national and international press in the weeks and months following the tragic Pulse nightclub event. Her compassionate leadership comforted victims’ families, survivors and our community at large.
HONORING MARY ANNE HODEL. Looking ahead: In our modern communications world, libraries must work harder to continue the purpose and meaning that have made them integral to healthy communities. The Orange County Library System, led by Director and CEO Mary Anne Hodel puts her customers first. Thus, they are receiving the 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service for exceptional accomplishments in the community. Work with STEM education for kids who live in underserved communities, ESOL classes, and providing access to educational tools to students in Orange County Public Schools will be recognized as Hodel will accept the award along with OCPS at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C.
Ed Schons, president, Florida High Tech Corridor Council
SPACE TOURISM HEADQUARTERS. Looking ahead: Growing up, I never expected I’d see a headline like the business page story that stated, “With space tourism closer, fight for contracts hotter.” But in the scheme of things, it is a big story for Central Florida because, believe it or not, we are one day going to be the global headquarters for space tourism, just as our natural and commercial attractions have made us the leading destination for family travel. Just think of a future where families come to visit our theme parks before blasting into space.
Michael Slaymaker, professional fundraising executive
408-EAST COLONIAL SNAGLES. Last week: The Florida Department of Transportation is holding public meetings about the long-overdue solutions for backed-up traffic on East Colonial Drive. The purposed extension of State Road 408 from Woodbury Road to State Road 520 in Orange County will alleviate some of the congestion. Local development projects in the area are being met with pushback, but the ink on this toll-road deal has already dried.
HONORING JEFFREY MILLER AND TED MAINES. Looking ahead: Jeffrey Miller and Ted Maines will be honored at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida’s Dinner of Tribute on Thursday. My husband and I chose to sponsor the event because Jeffrey and Ted have done amazing work in our community, most notably with the Upstanders anti-bullying program at the Holocaust Center. This notable “gay power couple” is extremely deserving of this honor.
NATIONAL PUBLIC GARDENS DAY. Last week: On Friday we celebrate National Public Gardens Day, and this is a great opportunity for us to get out of the office or house and get more in touch with nature. Have you thought about taking your next conference call in a park? How about scheduling a walking meeting? Or simply stepping outside to watch the sunset? Outlook is one of the things in life we have control over, so let’s try to gift ourselves a colorful one by connecting with nature to nurture our soul and recharge our spirit.
PRESERVING MONARCH HABITAT. Looking ahead: There aren’t many hands-on things we can do to help wildlife such as panthers or manatees, but it’s easy to join the new effort to help the monarch butterfly, which plays a key role in our ecosystem. Central Florida governments, schools and businesses are joining together to restore monarch habitat simply by planting milkweed, a common native flower, in pots or gardens throughout the area. I’m glad to see our community rally to preserve the nature that makes Central Florida’s cities lush, and teach our children the importance of protecting God’s creatures.
Craig Ustler, owner/president, Ustler Development Inc.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Looking ahead: It’s encouraging that affordable housing gets attention and media coverage as a regional priority. As we grapple with this issue, the reality of our population growth provides important context. Last year, the population of the Orlando area increased by approximately 56,000. This is one of the top growth figures in the country and represents an increase of 1,077 people per week, 154 per day and six per hour. These numbers put tremendous pressure on the existing housing inventory, and suggest that supply cannot keep up with demand. We need to confront the reality of these figures as we formulate large-scale strategies to provide more affordable housing.
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