It’s Monday, June 14. Happy Flag Day. Two hundred and forty four years ago in 1777, the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia took a break from writing the Articles of Confederation and passed a resolution designating the stars and stripes as the official flag of the United States.
During the war of independence against the British, colonists hadn’t fought under a single flag as most regiments fought under their own flags. President George Washington realized the new nation needed a single banner as a symbol of freedom and to serve as both a unifying factor, and a confidence builder. So Old Glory was designated the official flag.
During these polarizing times, it’s good to remember we called ourselves the United States and gave ourselves a single flag.
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
Banning what’s not taught: Gov. Ron DeSantis got last week off to a divisive start when he addressed the State Board of Education and requested it adopt a rule that bans critical race theory and “The 1619 Project” from Florida’s curriculum.
Neither are currently part of the curriculum, so it was a preemptive strike. “The 1619 Project” is a New York Times initiative that re-centered the focus on the nation’s history on the year the first enslaved Africans arrived. Critical race theory is the scholarship around the notion that racial biases are embedded in our legal system as well as our housing, policing, medical care and other systems. It contradicts the notion that the U.S. presents every American with an equal opportunity to be prosperous and acknowledges the importance of historical context.
The governor argued that while current state law requires the teaching of slavery and civil rights, “Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools.” Previously, he said he would politicize this further, vowing “to get the Florida political apparatus involved so we can make sure there’s not a single school board member who supports critical race theory.” The board approved it unanimously.
Fundraising focus: Meanwhile, DeSantis was on the West Coast most of the week for a series of fundraisers in San Diego, Los Angeles, Irvine and Manhattan Beach, California, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada, as he prepares his 2022 reelection campaign.
‘Tsunami’ of violence: Back in Florida, mass shootings continued to rattle communities.
Timothy J. Wall opened fire in a Royal Palm Beach Publix Thursday morning killing a one-year-old boy and a grandmother before dying himself. In South Miami Dade, police detectives arrested three teens believed to be part of the gang feud that led to a mass shooting at a graduation party on Sunday in Kendall that killed a state corrections officer.
Miami-Dade County’s top police officer called the shootings a “tsunami” of violence and the county commission met in a special meeting to allocate $7.8 million to provide jobs to young offenders. It is part of a Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s “Peace and Prosperity Plan” to reduce shootings, increase surveillance, including social-media monitoring by police, and reduce shootings over the next two years.
DeSantis nods to victims: DeSantis ordered that flags remained at half-staff in honor of the five-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, and on May 30 he tweeted his condolences for the two victims and 20 injured during a mass shooting in Miami on Memorial Day weekend.
Biden commemorates deaths: By contrast, President Joe Biden issued a nine-paragraph statement commemorating the victims and their families on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. He also said he would sign a bill designating the location of the nightclub as a national memorial, “enshrining” the spot where happiness and acceptance once governed, would be “hallowed ground.”
And on Tuesday night, he surprised graduates of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland with a video address, telling the class it should celebrate “turning pain into purpose and darkness to light” after surviving the deadliest high school shooting in American history, followed by the disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic.
Crist vows gun reforms: Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist seized on the rash of violence and promised during a campaign stop in Miami Beach Friday that he would work to pass gun reforms in response to deadly shootings.
WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT
Titanic clash: The return of operations for one of South Florida’s most iconic industries has turned into a battle of the heavyweights. The clash pits DeSantis, emboldened by growing approval ratings, against the cruise industry, a powerful pillar of Florida tourism. While the governor refuses to back off his ban on cruise ships seeking vaccine passports, the industry is quietly crafting a work-around that imposes more protections on the unvaccinated, but charges them for it.
Passengers test positive: Just five days into the first cruise in the Caribbean in seven months, the value of vaccinations became evident. Two passengers aboard the Celebrity Millennium ship tested positive for COVID-19. Like almost all passengers aboard, the cabin mates were vaccinated and reportedly asymptomatic.
Judge grills CDC: Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all cruise passengers be vaccinated, it is not requiring it, DeSantis has sued the CDC suggesting their rules regulating whether cruise companies can resume travel are unfair to the industry. For three and a half hours last week, a federal judge grilled the agency about the rules and whether the CDC has the authority to require cruise companies to try to prevent the spread of disease.
Gambling push back: Miami Dade communities continue to push back against the prospect of expanded gambling in the region weeks after the governor negotiated a $500 million gaming deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. As the deal is being reviewed for approval by the federal government, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior urging it to reject what he calls a “tortured artifice,” negotiated with the corrupt intent to expand gambling in Florida — in violation of both state and federal law.
Last week, the city council of Doral, which is home to Trump’s resort, voted unanimously to ban gambling and casinos from the city unless approved by residents in a referendum.
Jones rebuked: Rebekah Jones, who managed Florida’s COVID dashboard until she was fired, had her account suspended by Twitter last week for “platform manipulation and spam.” The suspension came after Jones repeatedly shared a recent Miami Herald article about law enforcement officers raiding her home, her observations during her time at the Florida Department of Health and more.
Bitcoin COVID: Days after Miami hosted the 2021 Bitcoin Conference, several attendees reported that they tested positive for COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends people avoid large events and gatherings but the event attracted thousands, with at least 12,000 people circulating through an enclosed space, most of them maskless.
Omar feud: Three South Florida Democrats signed a statement with nine of their U.S. House colleagues criticizing recent statements by Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar that lumped together alleged human rights abuses committed by the United States and Israel with Hamas and the Taliban. U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, who are Jewish, urged Omar, who is Muslim, “to clarify her words placing the U.S. and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban.”
Stay well and we’d love to hear from you. Miami Herald Capitol Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Klas curates the Politics and Policy in the Sunshine State newsletter. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please drop me a note at [email protected]
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