School shootings: 16 ideas to spur action beyond outrage
Feb 17, 2018 | 9:06 PM
Thousands of people hugged each other and cried as they remembered the 17 victims of the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
After the horrific tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 16 of 100 of Central Florida's most influential people address solutions to gun violence. Read their thoughts on the other big stories of the week, and see what they think will make headlines next week.
WILL LEGISLATURE DO ANYTHING AFTER PARKLAND? Looking ahead: The Legislature returns to Tallahassee on Tuesday for Day 43 of the 60-day session, and the Parkland shooting will be at the top of minds. What will lawmakers do? For the first time, in the wake of a shooting, it would appear there is some momentum to address access to guns, particularly by those who have mental illness. To be clear, this isn't as easy as some on the left make it. The core principle of most Republicans, myself included, is personal freedom. We bristle at the thought of taking any right away. Yet despite our belief in personal freedoms, these mass shootings continue. So while the victims and families will be on all our minds, I also pray our Legislature and Congress can find solutions to these difficult issues.
IN THRALL TO THE NRA. Last week: Looking for someone to blame for the Parkland school shooting? The 19-year-old shooter is culpable, but troubled and angry people will always exist. Mass shootings have become epidemic; a recurring nightmare that's unique to our gun-obsessed nation. The Parkland shooter used an AR-15, designed to fire rapidly and kill indiscriminately, and similar to the firearm used at Pulse. Eight in ten Americans support a ban on these kinds of assault weapons. But our elected officials, in thrall to the powerful National Rifle Association, refuse to pass reasonable gun-control legislation. And yet we keep electing them.
NO CHEAP SEATS. Looking ahead: Elton John brings his "Farewell Yellow Brick Road" show to Orlando in November. Want to go see the 70-year-old legend on his final tour? Nosebleed seats start at $150 on Ticketmaster. Lower bowl tickets are $600 and up. Floor seats currently cap at $7,800 for the front row. These are resale tickets marketed by scalping agents who use bots to make mass purchases. Attempts to thwart them have been mostly futile. Devoted and younger fans feel abused. Others point out that this is simple supply-demand economics. Either way, it's a striking metaphor for our current culture of vast income inequality.
DITCH FACEBOOK. DEBATE FACE TO FACE. Last week: School shootings. Gun violence. Mental health. It's time to take this debate off FaceBook and make it face-to-face. Time to stop tweeting and start talking. I don't see our politicians having substantive discussions about these issues, but we can. So, let's get off the editorial pages and into a room where we can look each other in the eye, understand why each of us feels the way we do and find common ground and then a solution, a solution that achieves what we all want – a state where active shooter drills are no longer part of the elementary school curriculum.
ENRICHING GUN MANUFACTURERS. Last week: Another week, another school massacre. When are we going to stop murdering our children just to allow the bullies at the NRA to enrich the gun manufacturers? This is insanity. The only reason for semi-automatic weapons is to kill people. Anyone who owns one has blood on your hands.
HYBRID WARFARE. Looking ahead: As part of the hybrid warfare of the 21st century, the malevolent regimes have successfully influenced our election results and in an odd twist have fomented enough hate within our country that we Americans are killing each other with semi-automatic weapons at an alarming rate. They don't need to attack us; we have the Second Amendment.
THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. Last week: A true hunter will tell you that AR-15s are not for hunting. They were banned for civilian use by federal law from 1994 until 2004. Author Richard Edward Connell Jr. is remembered for his short story "The Most Dangerous Game” about a sinister big game hunter who hunts men on his private jungle island. We relived that story, and terror from an AR-15, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Jeremy Levitt, distinguished professor of international law, Florida A&M University College of Law
WHO IS THE REAL KILLER? Last week: As we struggle to understand the circumstances that led to mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, investigators, pundits and experts will try to parse out every detail. Democrats will scream for gun control, and Republicans will respond with deafening silence. Apathetic politicians and partisanship will ensure inaction. More troubling, Americans have become desensitized to such shootings and mass murder. At least 17 people will never breathe, laugh or love again. Some believe that killing one person is tantamount to killing all mankind. Perhaps, but isn't societal apathy in America the real killer?
TIGHTER HUGS AFTER PARKLAND. Last week: My 8-year-old daughter has begged me to chaperone on one of her field trips for years. Something always comes up in my hectic schedule, so my wife usually goes with her. Last week, I signed up to go with her to Epcot, and it is one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. After the shootings at my brother-in-law’s alma mater Wednesday, I hug my daughter a little tighter as my heart breaks for the parents of the children who did not come home that night. Our inaction on gun control is an atrocity.
ENFORCE THE DEATH PENALTY. Last week: The thoughts and prayers of everyone are with the students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Florida has seen more than its share of such tragedies; the shooting echoes the senseless massacre at the Pulse nightclub. Such horrific crimes underscore the need for our state to retain and vigorously enforce the death penalty. So-called "progressive" state attorneys like Aramis Ayala who categorically refuse to consider the possibility of imposing the death penalty, and left-wing judges who invent new procedural barriers to hinder its implementation, deny families of victims killed in these tragedies the full extent of justice they desperately deserve.
KEEP STUDENTS AT HOME. Last week: The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is the 18th public school shooting in the first 45 days of 2018. Our hearts are broken for the 17 people who died and the 14 injured. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Nicolas Cruz, 19, a former student, is charged with using an AR-15 assault rifle. These types of weapons do not belong in civilians' hands. All public schools should close and parents should keep their children home till our Legislature currently in session passes a ban on assault weapons — HB 219 and SB 196.
PAY UP TO MAKE SCHOOLS SAFE. Last week: A way to honor the faculty who gave their lives to save students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High is to give other Florida teachers, coaches and principals the resources they have been asking for to combat violence in schools. The woefully inadequate Safe Schools funding has been stuck around $64 million — less than 2002 funding. Gov. Rick Scott submitted a budget that includes a $10 million increase to protect our more than 300,000 Florida students. The Florida Senate recommends more — a $13 million hike. The state House must follow. Vote yes to invest in more training, better technology, bullying-prevention programs, cyber monitoring and brave officers to help make schools safer.
STOP THE BLEED. Looking ahead: Among the responses to the Parkland tragedy will be – should be – a wave of safety training among institutions, churches and businesses. Among the programs: STOP THE BLEED, free training created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Many hospital systems are leading the way. Orlando Health Level One Trauma Team and Orange County Government jointly support workshops in Metro Orlando. Health First Holmes Regional in Melbourne, Lakeland Regional and so on. March registration is under way. I'm signing up. FEMA says the classes "train bystanders in life-saving techniques.". As we have witnessed, bystanders become life lines.
Joanie Schirm, GEC founding president; World Cup Orlando 1994 Committee chairman
AUSTRALIA SHOWS HOW TO DO IT.Last week: How Australia deals with guns should be the focus of reasoned public discussion and action to strengthen tighter laws in response to the USA being the most dangerous country inflicted by its own guns. Terrorism fear pales to this epidemic. After a 1996 massacre killing 35 people, Australia's federal government worked with states to ban semiautomatic rifles and pump action shotguns. They began a uniform registry and bought back banned guns from people who'd purchased them before owning them became illegal. There have been no mass murders since the clampdown and they pay for mental health services.
AFRAID OF DEATH AT SCHOOL. Last week: Our resolve as a nation has been stress tested to the limits lately. As we watched the tragedy unfold at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where multiple students and teachers lost their lives, we were reminded of life's frailties. But seeing children have their lives taken away in such a callous and dispassionate manner is heart wrenching and disparaging. It's been said before, but we have to do more to protect our children because our kids deserve to be care and worry-free, not fearful and scared of losing their lives at school.
ECONOMY GROWS STRONGER. Looking ahead: Did you know that Orlando is tops in job growth for the third year in a row? That's big news, and we should be celebrated. Orlando created more than 46,000 jobs in 2017 and is ranked as the fastest growing large metropolitan area in the country. Our economy is still driven by the hospitality and leisure industry, but we're diversifying. Industries growing the fastest in our metro area include construction, financial services, and manufacturing. I'll talk more about some of these numbers when I present the State of Orange County Real Estate later this year, but I'm particularly excited that our economy continues to get stronger.
WHERE'S THE NEXT TRAGEDY, SEN. MARCO RUBIO?Last week: The gunman in Fort Lauderdale was 19. Exhibited aggressive behavior. Was obsessed with guns. We will mourn, but not do anything to correct the repeated scenario that has become so common. We will cry out, begging and pleading for our elected public officials to do something. But most of those words will be silently voiced via Facebook where our words are profiled to only the people who agree with us. The opposite side will not hear and therefore cannot listen. Senator Rubio said June 12, 2016 was "Orlando's turn." Oh, all-knowing Senator, where is the next one?
A QUESTION WE WANT TO AVOID. Last week: Words fail. They fail to describe indescribable sorrow. They fail to capture the level of our incredulity. They fail to depict the passion of our frustration. When you live in Orlando, "carnage" is a word you actually grasp, and here we are in its presence again. We must ask the question we so deeply want to avoid, one which has nothing to do with the shooter. It has to do with us: What does repeated carnage say about the culture that creates the environment for it? What does the larger story of repeated carnage say about our values, namely our value for power above life?
THE ROAD THAT LEADS TO HOMELESSNESS. Looking ahead: Once again, the Florida House swept $182 million out of a fund designated for Affordable Housing, but thankfully the funds remain in tact in the Senate plan. Which version passes will be critical in determining whether we will make progress in housing our vulnerable citizens or whether we will simply fall father behind on a road that leads to homelessness.
Carol Wick, equity partner and principal, Convergent Nonprofit Solutions
DATA AND FACTS. Last week: Another school shooting. Another mass murder. History of domestic violence confirmed. Nothing here is different. We've had more mass shootings than days in the year. But I've noticed a shift in social media and reporting. Data. Instead of just outrage, people are posting the facts and the hard data that support their cries for reform. We must address access to weapons by those who have histories of violence. This is not a partisan issue. It's a real life-and death-crisis in our country, and we have the data to prove it.
MEET STORMY DANIELS. Last week: If you have way too much time on your hands, I guess you could head to Tampa this weekend and meet Stormy Daniels. Porn actress Daniels, who was paid $130,000 by the personal attorney of President Donald Trump, will appear at Tampa strip club Thee Dollhouse on Friday and Saturday. The club is gearing up for a big weekend after her manager said the actress is now free to talk about an alleged affair with the president a decade ago.
SCOTT PLAKON UNDERMINES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTION. Last week: One Florida lawmaker put funding for human-trafficking and domestic violence cases at risk. During the last session of the Legislature, Rep. Scott Plakon led the effort to remove over $1.3 million out of the local state attorney's budget. The money deleted was earmarked to prosecute those who engage in human trafficking and domestic violence. Plakon's budget cuts were misplaced in that he really is hurting the most vulnerable in our community. Orlando ranks third in the nation per capita for the number of calls to the National Human Trafficking hotline. Plakon should take the lead and put the money back in the budget. Victims and survivors are depending on it.
PAYDAY LOANS. Last week: After the Sentinel won a Pulitzer Prize 18 years ago for editorials about the abuses of the payday-loan industry, Senate leadership asked me to find a solution. Six months later, the Legislature passed unanimously the most consumer-friendly payday loan law in the nation, limiting loan sizes, interest rates and fees. It provided for consumer counseling, a state database on transactions and eliminated rollover loans. The law ended the spiraling interest-rate nightmare. Now the industry wants major changes. Why? The industry is so profitable that it gives millions of dollars to high-paid lobbyists and political parties. For the sake of our citizens, this must be stopped.
OAK RIDGE HIGH SCHOOL PRIDE. Looking ahead: As Orlando's Oak Ridge High School approaches its 50th anniversary, it has much to be proud of in terms of its commitment to academics, diversity and sports. Oak Ridge is currently ranked highly in both boys' basketball and soccer. What you may not know is the school's commitment to leadership and entrepreneurship. Oak Ridge has partnered with Junior Achievement of Central Florida to establish the JA Academy for Leadership & Entrepreneurship. The JA Academy was created as a Magnet School to help students to make the connection between education and the free enterprise system. Academy students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and be well rounded students who are prepared to reach beyond the classroom. Oak Ridge High School should be proud of their academic achievements as well as its sports teams.
John L. Evans Jr., consulting unit chief for a global investment firm; former congressional staffer
MADDENING LIBERAL BIAS. Last week: Mark Solheim, Editor of Kiplinger's, said it. True healing and reconciliation can start. The senior editor for a major financial publication confessed, "As Washington DC journalists, many on our staff are probably more liberal leaning than conservative." I had to read the sentence three times. Rubbed my eyes, and read it again. This comment is helpful, truly helpful in starting to restore sensible discussion about optimal public policy so every American can have the right to rise. What has made us Essentialists – forget the word conservative, that's Archie Bunker- go justifiably berserk is the heretofore unwillingness of liberals to concede the bias in the major news outlets. It's maddening. Mark Solheim's reckoning could help with a desperately needed refurbishment of genuine problem solving political discourse. The truth sets us free!
'USEFUL IDIOTS' IN THE AMERICAN PRESS? Last week: Many Central Floridians tuned into the Winter Olympics, held in South Korea, only to find some members of the media fawning over the sister of the most oppressive dictator on the planet, Kim Jong Un. The people of North Korea live in slavery and darkness and the "useful idiots" in the American press have been duped by her so-called "charm offensive." As David French of National Review pointed out, we've reached a point "where American partisans will applaud when foreign leaders oppose or (allegedly) humiliate their domestic political opponents." Moral clarity is lacking. We must be better than this.
REFORMING CRIMINAL JUSTICE. Looking ahead: A bright light focuses on bipartisan efforts toward criminal-justice reform in Florida, led by Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican, and Darryl Rouson, a Democrat. Senate Bill 694 would give judges more discretion in mandatory minimum sentencing for drug violations when there is no violence or evidence of trafficking. Senate Bill 1206 would utilize electronic monitoring with work-release programs for eligible offenders. House Bill 713 would change the property threshold for grand theft. All these will help keep kids out of the system for making simple mistakes, take the burden off taxpayers to incarcerate them, and focus more on rehabilitation, improving public safety.
Jeff Hayward, president and CEO, Heart of Florida United Way
WHERE WILL WORKERS LIVE? Last week: The Florida House of Representatives voted to sweep $182 million from the Housing Trust Fund. Have these representatives not heard about the affordable housing shortage? More jobs are moving to our state, but where do House members expect these new employees to live? Amazon's recent search for another headquarters taught us this … employers are looking for attributes like ease of transportation, quality of life and affordable housing for their employees. If housing is unaffordable, people will not take a job here. If people do not take a job here, employers will move the jobs to places where it is more affordable. When will the Florida House learn?
Phil Hissom, founder/director of the Polis Institute, an Orlando-based think tank focused on revitalizing neighborhoods
WOULD YOU BE A DESIRABLE RENTER? Last week: Orlando has a critical shortage of affordable housing. Some estimates suggest that we only have one unit for every 20 that we need. Worsening matters, applications for developments coming online include highly restrictive criteria to automatically eliminate those with even minor criminal issues and credit missteps when a closer look would reveal desirable applicants. This approach makes it easier on the landlord to process high volumes of applications and safeguards against lawsuits but flies in the face of the true intent of fair housing policy, which is to make sure everyone has a genuine opportunity for housing.
ANOTHER RAID ON HOUSING FUNDS. Last week: gain? Are you kidding me? With our crisis of homelessness, especially in Central Florida, being increased to catastrophe level in the near future with our fellow citizen Puerto Rico evacuees trying to find more permanent lodging, we now are witnessing every day the growing scarcity of affordable housing. What is the reaction of the politicians in Tallahassee? They plan on raiding again the Sadowski Fund, those monies supposedly set aside for affordable housing. Unbelievable. With an increasingly healthy economy, and increasing revenues coming into the state, our Legislature still can't give the poor the help designated for them?
BRAVO FOR FISHER HOUSE DONORS. Looking ahead: What is good and noble and true? Opening Orlando's Fisher House in Lake Nona for veterans' families while their loved ones get treatment: It's good because it was financed by a non-profit, built from charity funds dedicated to honoring veterans. It's noble because "greater love hath no one, that they lay down their life for their friends." And that's exactly what every veteran has done for us. It is true, as Lou Holtz said, "...no way in the world we could ever repay the veterans and their families for the sacrifices they've made." Bravo for Fisher House donors giving back!
WHAT IS THE SADOWSKI ACT? Last week: The William E. Sadowski Act was enacted in 1992 to create a dedicated source of revenue for housing from a portion of documentary stamp taxes on the transfer of real estate. Beginning in 2003, the Legislature began simply taking money out of the trust fund and using it to shore up the budget. This raid has been carried out every year since, and this year it is proposed to take $182 million. This goes on even though Florida suffers from an extreme shortage of affordable housing, which is a main impediment to eradicating homelessness. This practice must stop or at least be capped or restricted to how often it can be enacted by the Legislature. There is still hope that the Florida Senate will not agree with the House proposal
IT'S BROKE. HELP TO FIX IT. Last week: I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but our approach to housing is broken. We need local governments to think creatively about allowing a mix of smaller, less expensive housing — like tiny homes or backyard dwelling units. We need developers willing to find a way to build these homes for people who make less than $35,000 a year. We need state legislators to use the Sadowski Fund to do what it was established to do — fund the building of more affordable housing. We will never be a prosperous region if we don't address our ever-expanding housing crisis.
CHANGING LEADERSHIP. Looking ahead: The searches are narrowing and timelines are set for the selection of two of our most revered and respected regional leaders: Seminole State College President Ann McGee and UCF President John Hitt. Seminole State has narrowed its search to 13 candidates and UCF could select its next president as early as March 9. While I know each of these two stellar leaders and champions of our region are not going far, I'm now finally admitting to myself the inevitability of the changing of leaders that is imminent. Choose wisely, Selection Committees. You have big shoes to fill.
David Leavitt, former Seminole County Libertarian Party chairman, CEO of Refresh Computers, and civic activist
LONGWOOD MUDSLINGING. Last week: One of the losers in a recent Longwood city commission race was incumbent Mark Weller. Throughout the campaign there was a lot of mud-slinging coming from supporters on both sides. However, nothing compares to the tactic recently used by Weller to sling mud toward Mayor Paris last week on social media. Weller took a photo of Paris's home and yard, added a cartoon yard sign reading "Welcome to Longwood – Home of Mayor Paris" and posted it on Facebook. The yard was not in the best of shape but isn't this a bit creepy and unnecessary? I think so.
UNIVERSITY AGAINST UNIVERSITY. Last week: The system that Florida pits universities against each other in order to win a slice of the annual fiscal pie is a flawed, unfair, and illogical. Tallahassee Democrat Rep. Ramon Alexander argued that it is unfair to compare a small liberal arts university to a large research university. Instead, the system should base awards on university improvements, such as increased rates of graduation, retention, and job placement. In performance reviews, we are compared to our past performance and how much we've improved over time. Logically, it makes sense to use the same system for higher education funding.
NO TRUST IN TSA. Looking ahead: Orlando International Airport may be hiring a private company to replace the TSA. Although some argue that this change is not necessary because the TSA provides sound security and passengers are satisfied. However, there is little evidence to suggest that the TSA has improved security at MCO. In fact, TSA sometimes breaks its rules and allows passengers to go through security as pre-check when they do not have pre-check status. The TSA "earned" these high satisfaction scores by compromising the system it is supposed to uphold. It is time for a change.
HOMELESS WITHOUT HOTELS. Last week: FEMA-sponsored hotel vouchers expired for many Puerto Rican families living here due to Hurricane Maria. The program's deadline is March 20, but that doesn't address the immediate needs of the many families throughout our state who did not get extensions. Designed as temporary relief, time is running out; finding permanent housing, sustainable employment, and achieving financial independence are long-term goals that need a better solution. Hopefully the issues between the Puerto Rican and Federal governments can be resolved -- meanwhile children and families are caught in the middle, with no place to stay.
DO YOU HAVE MONDAY OFF FOR PRESIDENTS DAY? Looking ahead: Presidents Day reminds me of my dad. His birthday falls near the holiday this year — he would be 100 — and he always enjoyed sharing his birthday with the country's elite. Presidents Day usually just sort of flies under the radar for most (except for the mattress sellers) Although it's a federal holiday, not all companies take the day off. Created to celebrate the birthday of our nation's first president (Washington was born 2-22), it has since expanded to include Lincoln (born 2-12) and all other presidents. And there's one more reason to celebrate: It's the last holiday before Memorial Day unofficially kicks off summer.
WINTER PARK ARTS. Last week: Winter Park Weekend of the Arts took place all weekend long (and continues through Monday). It's collective efforts like these that continue to make Central Florida a truly creative community. The Menello Museum opened their doors to the public for free all weekend, and other galleries like Crealdé, Cornell, Polasek and Alfond Inn hosted special events. The Bach Festival Society produced three music events over the weekend. And Mead Gardens hosted special events on Saturday. With dozens of things to do, it was yet another example of the thriving arts community we have right here at home.
'THIS WEEK IN ART.' Looking ahead: Have you seen the "This Week In Art" segments springing up across social media? In an attempt to help Central Floridians live more creative lives, and to help build audiences for arts organizations, the Creative City Project is producing 90-second weekly segments. Each Monday, we highlight just a few of the amazing offerings in our area. Orlando is a growing creative city, and we hope to help build that momentum by providing tools and resources for residents that make it easier for them to engage in arts encounters. Find us on social media and experience something new.
THE CITY SHORT-TERM RENTABLE. Last week: And just like that, we are now the City Short-term Rentable. City Council passed an amendment to the something something code that oversees what you can and can't do with Amanda's empty room now that she's moved away with her awful fiance -- "A crafting room!" says Brenda. There are some rules still, because government, that limit the rentals (like you have to be there on-site and not in Thailand for a lip-filler) but otherwise it's game on. Now cue the discussion about limited affordable housing options and next-door complainers watching your guests through their shuttered blinds.
WHAT'S FOR BREAKFAST AT YOUR CO-WORKING SPACE? Looking ahead: Big-time co-working spaces are opening in downtown Orlando, and our homegrown options better step it up. Bungalower Media has been hopping through co-working spaces since we first stepped delicately forth into the world. I used to work at the first co-working space in Orlando, Urban ReThink. Our local spaces, like Canvs and Credo Conduit, are operating in the same sort of start-up aesthetic they've had since they opened, but just up the street on the 10th floor of the Lincoln Plaza is a national brand promising real desks, with real doors, and fresh breakfast every morning. Short of the city and UCF continuing to hand out free money every year, what are their strategies to stay open and competitive?
TRAIL OF TEARS IN PUERTO RICO. Looking ahead: About 79 evacuee families from Hurricane María living in FEMA-sponsored hotels may get the boot as a temporary housing program runs its course. Others have a until March 20. Puerto Rico's governor asked FEMA in late January for long-term housing aid for evacuees, contradicting statements he made in Kissimmee that he'd already requested the help. It is a never-ending trail of tears inflicted by an island government that cannot get its story straight and a federal government that doesn't get that Puerto Ricans have lost their two biggest assets — their homes and cars — making them substantially poorer than they once were.
Beverly Paulk, founding member, Central Florida Foundation and The Orlando Philharmonic
MAKING RACE IRRELEVANT. Last week: Lyman Brodie, UCF associate dean, talks about local integration's early years. Wise public school educators promoted programs that helped students from segregated schools see each other as people, such as musicians and athletes. Opportunities to exchange people's stories continue to move us forward. We specifically now need many more school mentors and a substantial expansion of affordable housing, according to Barbara Jenkins, Orange County Schools Superintendent. Racial inclusion is the important goal, beyond only racial equality. Consider how we view the Olympics. We see talented athletes with speed, strength or other skills, with race being irrelevant.
MANIFEST DESTINY. Last week: Newspaper editor John O'Sullivan and annexation proponent Jane Cazneau understood the moral imperative behind America's expansionism in 1845 when they coined the term "Manifest Destiny," but they were focused westward on nation building, not on human potential. Today's concept of Manifest Destiny is upward: We know about Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX — and countless others — but now we learn that the White House is prepared to privatize the International Space Station by 2024. If the message is not already clear, recognize that Brevard County could well be ground zero for the next century of American Exceptionalism.
SPRING TRAINING. Looking ahead: Spring Training has started. Pitchers and catchers reported last week and full teams report this week. Not only does the start of Spring Training hearken the beginning of spring, but it has a huge benefit to Florida with an estimated economic impact in excess of $750 million. Although Central Florida has lost teams in recent years to new facilities, we still have the Braves at Disney and the Tigers in Lakeland. There is no better way to enjoy the Florida sunshine than a beautiful afternoon watching a Spring Training game with a hotdog and a beverage.
MEMPHIS SANITATION WORKERS' STRIKE. Last week: Various groups in Central Florida gathered Monday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Memphis sanitation workers' strike. At his death, MLK was in Memphis supporting the strike. Many issues King addressed still require our attention. Too many workers lack a living wage, rely on public programs to meet basic needs, and are without union protection, which would give them the power they need to claim fair wages and working conditions when negotiating with powerful corporations. It is time to right these wrongs. To hoard blessings diminishes us all. To share blessings enlarges our lives, our community and the world.
Ed Schons, president, Florida High Tech Corridor Council
LOCKHEED MARTIN MAKES MUSIC. Last week: When a community stalwart like Lockheed Martin breaks ground on a $50 million, quarter-of-a-million-square-foot research and development facility, you have to be encouraged about our region's economy. The company turned the shovel on land at its Central Florida flagship Missiles and Fire Control site in southwest Orlando, saying it will open in 2019 and create up to 500 new jobs for the defense industry giant. That should be music to our ears.
Daryl Tol, president/CEO , Florida Hospital & Central Florida Region, Adventist Health System
A HOME AWAY FROM HOME. Last week: Central Florida has gained an important asset to benefit veterans with the opening of Fisher House near the Orlando VA Medical Center in Lake Nona. Fisher House will provide a free home away from home for the families of thousands of vets while their loved ones are being treated at the VA. Central Florida has a strong veteran presence, and it's important that we ensure that our veterans get the care they need not just during their military careers, but throughout their lives. Thank you to the nonprofit Fisher House Foundation for bringing this home-away-from-home to Orlando.
FISHER HOUSE FOR VETS' FAMILIES. Looking ahead: Central Florida has gained an important asset to benefit veterans with the opening of Fisher House near the Orlando VA Medical Center in Lake Nona. Fisher House will provide a free home away from home for the families of thousands of vets while their loved ones are being treated at the VA. Central Florida has a strong veteran presence, and it's important that we ensure that our veterans get the care they need not just during their military careers, but throughout their lives. Thank you to the nonprofit Fisher House Foundation for bringing this home-away-from-home to Orlando.