Our panel of 100 influential leaders discusses the most important issues affecting you.
Martha Are, CEO, Central Florida Commission on Homelessness
Last week: VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: It would be nearly impossible to miss the tragic recent headlines of women who have been killed, with suspicion falling on men in their lives. Unfortunately, violence against women is something we encounter far too often in our work; nationally one in four women experience severe violence by an intimate partner and partner violence is a major contributor to homelessness for women. California Policy Lab research shows that 80% of unsheltered women reported abuse and/or trauma as the cause of their homelessness. If you are concerned for your safety or that of someone you love and need resources, please call 1-800-500-1119.
John L. Evans Jr., Organizational behavior scholar; DeSantis appointee
Last week: UNBRIDLED INFLATION: Inflation is like the shark. You don’t want zero of them in the sea, but you certainly don’t need too many of them swimming about. Said differently, there’s a healthy amount of inflation, at around 2 percent, that society needs, for growth. After all, we want our children and grandchildren to have better economic opportunities than we. But now, we are in unsafe waters. The governor is spot-on, warning of the perils of the phenomenon uncaged. Did you notice your grocery bill recently? Something has taken a big bite of your purchasing power.
Ben Friedman, attorney and community advocate
Last week: CITY COUNCIL VOTE: The Sentinel released its endorsements for Orlando City Council, and I’m glad to see the paper got it right, particularly with the endorsement of Nicolette Springer’s campaign for District 3 Commissioner. If elected, Springer would be the only commissioner who is a working mom, an experience crucial for a representative body. She would also be the youngest member on the council, but I won’t say her age in a newspaper, because that’s a no-no. Election Day is Nov. 2, and early voting starts Oct. 25. Your voice matters, so make your plan to vote as soon as possible.
Chris King, CEO of Elevation Financial; 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor
Last week: JUSTICE FOR ALL: On Oct. 11, former Gov.Charlie Crist announced his “Justice for All” plan with a stop in Orlando for a roundtable on criminal-justice reform. I was glad to join the conversation, along with State Attorney Monique Worrell, city commissioners and thought leaders. We have much to celebrate, like the return of Desmond Meade’s civil rights, but also much left to do for those still mistreated by a legal system that devalues Black and brown lives. Charlie Crist’s plan is a great foundation for the reforms our state so badly needs. Justice delayed is justice denied, so let’s make this a priority today.
Ken LaRoe, Founder, Climate First Bank
Looking ahead: CLIMATE CONNECTS: In 1971, exactly 50 years ago, far-seeing eco-conscious writers were making the connection between human activities and the looming climate emergency. This growing body of environmental writing galvanized generations of activists, and yet, in the decades since there’s been little widespread change when compared to other movements of the era. When faced with other crises, environmental concerns fall by the wayside when they shouldn’t. As Wendell Berry wrote, environmentalism is “not a digression from the civil rights and peace movements, but the logical culmination of those movements. They have the same cause, and that is the mentality of greed and exploitation.” Climate crisis and social issues are closely interconnected and exacerbated by one another – they cannot be dealt with separately.
Ricky Ly, engineer, food writer
Last week: ASIAN HISTORY CLASSES: State Sen. Linda Stewart and State Rep. Anna Eskamani filed legislation to make Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) history part of the K-12 curriculum, helping to stop Asian hate. Orange County has the second-highest Asian population in Florida behind Broward County. If this legislation passes, the history of Asians in America would be taught in social studies class with other history lessons, like the Holocaust and slavery. Through weaving the stories of Asians as part of the fabric of American history, hopefully this will help combat future violence and hatred and foster compassion and cross-cultural understanding.
Alex Martins, chair, UCF Board of Trustees; CEO, Orlando Magic
Looking ahead: FIGHTING CANCER: Cancer is a daunting enemy -- for patients, loved ones, physicians and scientists -- and this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, UCF researchers are helping us get closer to a cure. Faculty and students in the College of Medicine’s Cancer Research Division are working to understand what makes cells turn cancerous, multiply and spread. Those discoveries can lead to new therapies beyond radiation and chemotherapy, which have debilitating side effects. Through research, a new hospital and a new cancer center open in Lake Nona, UCF is committed to doing everything in our power to give patients hope and eradicate cancer.
Eddy Moratin, president, Lift Orlando
Last week: PROSPERITY ACROSS NEIGHBORHOODS: A city is only as strong as the strength of its neighborhoods. In 2018, the Orlando Economic Partnership set forth a shared regional agenda to advance broad-based prosperity for every citizen. Now, the OEP has reorganized in order to double down on this mission to strengthen our city and advocate for the success of every neighborhood, regardless of ZIP code. In order for justice and opportunity to reach across different places in our city, we must recognize that the most effective way to unleash prosperity in our lowest-income neighborhoods is by leveling the playing field of opportunities available to all.
Muhammad Musri, president, Islamic Society of Central Florida
Last week: POOR HEALTH DEPARTMENT: The Florida health department has levied a $3.5 million fine against Leon County for requiring its 714 employees to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. Gov. DeSantis insisted that the state health department would continue to enforce the ban on mask mandates or proof of vaccination requirements by counties, schools or companies. Normally, the job of any health department in any jurisdiction is to protect the health of its people and levy fines on violators who expose the public to dangerous infectious diseases. But, after the death of over 57,000 Floridians to COVID-19, the health department is doing exactly the opposite.
Pamela Nabors, president/CEO, CareerSource Central Florida
Last week: HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH: Hispanic Heritage Month is winding down, but Central Florida still has reason to continue celebrating the contributions and culture of Hispanic Americans. The newest data for our region shows that the Hispanic population has grown almost 23% since 2015 and is estimated to grow another 18% by 2024. But beyond the data and the numbers, this change in our demographics creates the potential for greater representation by Hispanics in leadership roles, both corporate and civic, that can influence decisions that directly impact Hispanics. Felicidades!
Looking ahead: HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT: One of my favorite events of the year is the annual Junior Achievement Mid-Florida Business Hall of Fame. On Nov. 4 at Full Sail University, Junior Achievement of Central Florida (JACF) will also celebrate its 60th anniversary! For 60 years JACF has helped more than 2.2 million Central Florida students experience business education and learn about careers in Orlando. Dick Batchelor is being honored this year as a Laureate for his unwavering commitment to strengthen and grow Orlando nonprofit organizations. The highlight of the event is watching students of all ages co-host and present the awards. Register at centralflorida.JA.org
Cole NeSmith, executive director, Creative City Project
Last week: IMMERSE RETURNS: IMMERSE returns to downtown Orlando through Sunday, Oct. 17. The annual performing and interactive arts festival brings 10 city blocks to life with hundreds of performances and interactive art installations. Professional arts organizations like Orlando Ballet, Orlando Philharmonic and Opera Orlando perform amongst the high-rises of the city. While emerging artists and collectives present unique interactive art in alleyways and along the roadways. This year, IMMERSE will feature “Dare to Dream,” a 40-foot scaffolding tower with high-energy trampoline artists, aerialists and live music. Make sure to be part of this celebration of Orlando’s creative spirit.
Brendan O'Connor, editor in chief, Bungalower.com
Last week: MORE A LA CART? The owners of A La Cart are trying to open a second location of their popular craft beer bar/food truck park, with their eyes set on a parcel on East Michigan Street just across the street from the Juvenile Justice Center and just east of Johnny’s Fillin’ Station. The Williamses have been working with the county to host a series of community meetings with residents and business owners to gather some public feedback, because, spoiler alert, the county isn't all that progressive when it comes to zoning policies and food trucks. Time will tell if they lean into the project or send it packing.
Looking ahead: TALK OF THE TOWN: On Wednesday, Rollins College’s radio station, WPRK 91.5 FM, will be launching a new radio show and podcast called “Talk of the Town,” in partnership with the City of Winter Park and the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. The show, hosted by Sam Stark, the vice president of communications and external relations at Rollins College, will air at 9 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month, and highlight all of the happenings in the area and “great citizens doing amazing things to make our city better.”
Gloria Pickar, president emerita, League of Women Voters of Orange County
Last week: FLYING CARS FOR ORLANDO: Orlando could be the home of the first U.S. vertiport for flying cars with passengers in Lake Nona by 2024-2025. Several of these Jetsons-style landing ports are planned throughout the city as the technology becomes mainstream and costs decline. The city signed a 10-year deal with Lillium to build its vertiport and entered a partnership with NASA to develop strategies to accommodate electric oversized drones. The project is part of Mayor Buddy Dyer’s “Future-Ready City” initiative. While Central Florida still struggles with ground-based transportation, the future is now for preparing for the next mode of travel that will improve local transit.
Looking ahead: MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS: Local elections are the most consequential for our quality of life, impacting important issues like police budgets, zoning and local infrastructure. On Nov. 2, registered voters in Orlando, Oviedo, Lake Mary and several cities in Lake County will vote on mayors, city council members and city amendments. Vote-by-mail ballot applications are still good through the 2022 general election and have already been mailed out. New applications can be submitted until Oct. 23. Mail your ballot by Oct. 26 to be sure it is received on time. Early voting is specifically offered only at select Supervisor of Elections offices. Check their websites for dates and times — and vote!
Larry Pino, attorney and entrepreneur
Looking ahead: AUTOMATION: The most recent labor statistics indicate that 4.3 million people left their jobs in the month of August. It reminded me of the 1993 film “Jurassic Park,” in which Jeff Goldblum’s character, horrified that dinosaurs were created through genetic engineering, warns: “Nature will always find a way!” America’s work force believes it has the upper hand in today’s economy. However, automation is beginning to replace truck drivers; robotics has already replaced manufacturing workers; and even McDonald’s intends to reduce its per-store workforce to one person by the end of the decade. Nature will always find a way; but so will business. A word to America’s workers: watch out what you wish for.
Joanie Schirm, GEC founding president; World Cup Orlando 1994 Committee chairman
Last week: HAIL PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS: Anyone who tries to maneuver through the health-care system knows it’s complicated and frustrating to get immediate care. In recognition of Physician Assistant Week, Melissa Rodriguez, herself a PA, wrote in the Sentinel about a bright spot within today’s health-care system. The emergence of professional medical assistants who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, and prescribe medications are making a difference, especially due to Florida’s physician shortage. We all need a “health-care quarterback.” My recent experience has been very positive when dealing with a PA, who can significantly assist due to their high level of education and training.
Looking ahead: LESSONS FROM GRUDEN: Watching the messy reveal of Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s view of the world was agonizing. Not just for his bigoted language, but for the reminder that this kind of thinking lives big in our society. It seemed America was slowly making progress to celebrate our differences and remove hatred. Apparently, the rock that covered the truth was not doing its job to snuff out this kind of thinking. It’s clear that rethinking how we raise and educate better human beings needs action. The Golden Rule touches all religions and those who hold no beliefs. Let’s repeat it daily. We are one humankind.
Michael Slaymaker, professional fundraising executive
Last week: ARTS LEADER LOST: Orlando has lost an arts leader. Dan Jones was in charge of the costume department at UCF. He could sew with the best of them. Another one of Dan’s passions was singing. He had a smooth baritone voice and could excellently perform any Broadway ballad. He sang for nearly two decades with the Orlando Gay Chorus. He was the director of the small ensemble called Spectrum and added his vocal talents to every cabaret event. Dan also excelled in leadership with the chorus serving in numerous roles and even serving as President of the Board of Directors. RIP Dan.
Michael Zais, political blogger for thedrunkenrepublican.com
Last week: FAUCI FLIP-FLOPS: Dr. Anthony Fauci commented recently about packed college football stadiums in Florida and elsewhere, and the spread of COVID-19. “I don’t think it’s smart,” he said, expressing serious concern about lack of social distancing and mask-wearing even though the games are outside. But statistics gathered have shown no link between these crowds and the spread of COVID-19. I’ve lost count of this so-called “expert’s” flip-flopping and failed prognostications. Add to it his seemingly politically driven obfuscation of the lab leak theory, and newly released documents contradicting his claims that the NIH didn’t fund gain-of-function research in Wuhan. He has to go.
Looking ahead: SCHOOL BOARD PUSHBACK: Kudos to the Florida School Boards Association pushing back against its national counterpart and their call for the federal government to step in to address any perceived threats to local school officials. The national organization is requesting that federal agencies invoke measures under the Patriot Act to potentially prosecute parents protesting mask mandates and critical race theory as acts of “domestic terrorism” and “hate crimes.” Biden’s DOJ is unsurprisingly on board with this ridiculousness. So, upset parents raising their voice at a school board meeting are domestic terrorists, but violent left-wing groups burning cities and assaulting citizens are “peaceful protesters.” Got it.