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Dr. Cuong Nguyen in his laboratory at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine.


BY SARAH CAREY/Alachua Chronicle

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Whether your ancestors were black or white makes no difference in your susceptibility to COVID-19, according to a new University of Florida study comparing two types of ancestral origins of patients from a Florida population infected with COVID-19.

However, UF researchers also found that some patients, whose genetic makeup gives them more protection against SARS-CoV-2 proteins, have a better chance of fending off infection from the virus.

The data amassed in their investigation, published in January in PLOS One, could be useful in developing customized vaccines to boost immunity among the European and African American ancestral groups studied as well as potentially other groups, said the study’s lead author, Cuong Nguyen, Ph.D., an associate professor of infectious diseases in UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine who studies how the immune system responds to autoimmune diseases in people. The college is part of UF Health, the university’s academic health center.

The researchers embarked on the study to better understand why clinical symptoms of the disease are so varied among patients, with some exhibiting severe symptoms and others showing few or no symptoms at all, Nguyen said.

“In the early part of the pandemic, we knew we had to get health care professionals back to work, but we didn’t know what the risk factors of infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to COVID-19, were,” Nguyen said. “Say you were a dentist or a nurse. What would be the risk of you becoming exposed in the healthcare environment? We wanted to look more in-depth at the immune system to see if some people were more naturally protected than others.”

Nguyen’s team studied 284 confirmed COVID-19 patients and used 95 healthy individuals as controls. They examined cases and controls from European and African American ancestry.

“We learned that there is really no difference between types in terms of whether someone is prone to be infected or not,” he said.

Each human has DNA, which contains our unique genetic code. For every characteristic that makes us different — short or tall, brown eyes or blue, curly hair or straight — we all inherit two alleles, one from each parent. Some of our alleles determine whether we have more or less protection when we make contact with the COVID-19 virus.

“If that allele is protective, you have more antigens, so you respond better to the virus,” Nguyen said. “But even if someone has the at-risk allele, we could deliberately tailor the viral proteins that would elicit a protective immune response. With results from this study, our goal is to be able to design a vaccine that the immune system recognizes as protective based on the human leukocyte antigen, or HLA, alleles.”

The ideal vaccine would be customized to genetic types and would act by essentially cutting the COVID-19 virus protein into pieces, Nguyen said.

“Once we understand someone’s genetic makeup better, we can design a more effective vaccine, especially for breakthrough COVID-19 infection,” he added.

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School Board Member Kay Abbitt explains why she wants to “put a stop to the spot rezoning”



GAINESVILLE, Fla. ‒ At the March 21, 2023 Alachua County School Board meeting, Member Kay Abbitt requested that the board “put a stop to the spot rezoning” during the Board Member Requests part of the meeting.

Abbitt said, “I want to request that we do not move forward with spot rezoning and wait and do a comprehensive rezoning next year.” Her first reason was that the vote to rezone elementary schools was for comprehensive rezoning: in fact, the motion at the Feb. 7 meeting was to ask Superintendent Shane Andrew to “immediately address rezoning at the elementary schools for the ’23-’24 school year.”

Abbitt added that spot rezoning would reduce the options for comprehensive rezoning the following year because those schools would be out of the mix; also, she thought the board should focus on bigger problems.

Andrew agreed, recommending that the board “revisit the motion… It is my recommendation, for the record, to not move forward with elementary rezoning by the start of the August 2023 school year” so families will have more than four- or five-months’ notice that they are being moved to a new school. He also said staff needs more time for community input and that Kindergarten Round-up is coming up quickly, on April 27.

Board Attorney David Delaney said it sounded like there was a request for more information, and he recommended getting that information from the superintendent, allowing the board members time to review it, and addressing the issue at a future meeting.

Member Diyonne McGraw asked whether they could take the vote tonight, but Delaney said again that it sounded like board members wanted more information and pointed out that the agenda did not include an item about rescinding the decision to do spot-rezoning. However, the Feb. 7 vote to rezone before the 2023 school year was taken during the Board Member Requests part of that meeting and was not on that agenda.

McGraw pointed out that there is a meeting scheduled for citizen input on March 23, and Chair Tina Certain said that meeting will occur as scheduled.

Member Leanetta McNealy said she understood pulling back but didn’t support it because she thought they had all been on the same page (the vote on Feb. 7 was unanimous, with Sarah Rockwell absent). McNealy said that, based on this evening’s discussion, she didn’t see why people “would take the time to show up at Terwillegar on Thursday evening if it’s pretty sure that we are not going to have the quorum of the vote to move forward… I’m really perplexed and confused… I want to be on record that I don’t agree, at this time, with one more time kicking the can down the road when you know what we need to do.”

Member Sarah Rockwell said she was disappointed because the board should have started talking about rezoning much earlier and also that no plans were presented at the March 8 workshop. She pointed out that moving students from “Old Terwillegar” to the new Terwillegar was presented as a one-year swing school, but if there is no rezoning before fall, they will be in that school for three years. Rockwell said many of the families zoned for that school cannot reach it by bus from their neighborhoods.

Abbitt said it’s “crazy” that the board and staff will have to continue to spend time on the spot re-zoning process when they have so many other things to work on: “It just doesn’t seem logical.”

McGraw said the board never received an explanation for why they were pursuing spot rezoning instead of comprehensive rezoning; that given the number of teachers leaving the district, the board should be prioritizing getting behavior and transportation under control. “I know one thing: you’re gonna lose everybody you have if you don’t get this behavior under control,” McGraw said.

Certain said staff had told her they didn’t have enough time to do comprehensive rezoning before the 2023 school year, and she shared Rockwell’s concerns about the families at Terwillegar. She said she didn’t think the board could do anything about behavior except what they had already done through budget and policies.

Certain said, “Spot rezoning at this time kind of paves the way to help those students out that are there and helps the capacity issues at some schools, it helps with the finances.” She said they would hold Thursday’s workshop and see how it “shakes out.”

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W Franklin George RichardsonMarch 23, 2023 - ALACHUA, Fla. – Franklin George Richardson, 20, was arrested yesterday and charged with accessory to murder after the fact and conspiracy to purchase a controlled substance in connection with the murder of Jaquan Robinson in Alachua on Dec. 9, 2022.

Lacorrin Raheem Calhoun, 20, was arrested on Dec. 22 and charged with shooting Robinson. Calhoun, who was shot during the incident, had called 911 and was found in a field just behind the area where the shooting took place; he was transported to the hospital and interviewed there.

Later that evening, a witness identified Richardson as the person who drove Calhoun to the shooting location. The witness reportedly said that Richardson arrived in his black Chrysler car, backed in next to the victim’s car, and got out to speak to the victim and his friend. Calhoun allegedly shot the victim just behind the victim’s car, and Richardson reportedly drove away, leaving Calhoun behind.

Alachua Police Department Detectives made contact with Richardson later that night at his residence, where they reportedly found a black Chrysler 200 with bullet holes on the driver’s side rear quarter panel. Richardson reportedly admitted that he was involved in the incident but said he had just dropped Calhoun off; he said he was unaware of Calhoun’s intentions. Detectives reportedly did not believe that he left as soon as Calhoun got out of his car because the bullet holes were consistent with the witness’s account that Richardson had backed in. Richardson then reportedly changed his story, saying he backed in but left as soon as he greeted the victim’s cousin, who was sitting in the victim’s car. Richardson reportedly said he wasn’t aware that his car had been shot.

In a second interview on a later date, Richardson reportedly said again that he didn’t know why Calhoun needed a ride; he also said he didn’t see Calhoun with a weapon and didn’t know Calhoun was going there to buy drugs.

The man who brokered the drug transaction reportedly agreed to speak to detectives, and he said he saw Franklin back in next to the victim’s car, get out of the car, and speak with the victim’s cousin. He reportedly said that the victim gave Calhoun the drugs, and Calhoun faked a CashApp transaction and put the drugs in Richardson’s lap after Richardson got back into his car. He said the victim took the drugs back from Richardson and walked back to the trunk of his own car, where Calhoun shot him multiple times, then Richardson drove away.

An informant reportedly told detectives that Calhoun told him what happened, and his story reportedly contained details that had not been made public. The informant reportedly said that Calhoun planned to rob the victim of the drugs and had already decided to shoot the victim if he resisted. The informant said that Richardson agreed to help Calhoun with the robbery and had a gun that was provided by Calhoun.

Richardson has no criminal history; Judge James Colaw set bail at $550,000 in the arrest warrant, and Judge Thomas Jaworski set bail at that same amount during Richardson’s first appearance.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

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W Jerrica Lashay Armstrong 2

By JENNIFER CABRERA/Alachua Chronicle

March 21, 2023 - ARCHER, Fla.– Jerrica LaShay Armstrong, 27, was arrested yesterday on a warrant for allegedly shooting at another woman on Saturday in Archer; an Alachua County Sheriff’s K-9 apprehended her after she was reportedly found hiding in the woods near her residence.

Alachua County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a home in Archer Saturday night, where Armstrong’s on-and-off girlfriend reportedly told them that she and Armstrong had argued about breaking up and about upcoming depositions for pending charges of aggravated child abuse against Armstrong. A pre-trial release order in the child abuse case prohibits Armstrong from being at the home she shares with the victim and from possessing firearms.

Another adult in the home told deputies that she heard the two women arguing and heard Armstrong say, “Let something happen to me on Monday, I will kill you.”

During the argument, Armstrong allegedly battered the victim and broke several items in the house, so the victim told the other adult to take the children out to her car. Armstrong followed them outside and reportedly took a backpack from her own car; the victim reportedly said Armstrong is known to keep a handgun in the backpack. The other adult also saw Armstrong pick up the backpack, and she reportedly walked toward a neighbor’s house where she knew there was a camera.

As the victim drove away, both the victim and the other adult heard a single gunshot, although neither was looking at Armstrong at the time. No bullet holes were found on the victim’s vehicle.

Armstrong was charged via sworn complaint with domestic battery, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and tampering with a witness; Judge Lorelie Brannan issued a warrant for her arrest on March 19 with a bond amount of $125,000.

When deputies arrived at the residence with a K-9 yesterday evening, they reportedly made announcements at the front door, then searched the residence and did not find Armstrong inside. A K-9 reportedly located Armstrong hiding in the woods behind the house; she was reportedly challenged at gunpoint, but she allegedly ignored the announcements and fled toward other houses. She was apprehended by a K-9. She was charged with resisting arrest without violence.

Armstrong has one felony conviction (violent) and one misdemeanor conviction (not violent), along with the pending child abuse charges. Judge Walter Green set bail at $175,000 with a condition that she be fitted with an ankle monitor upon release.

ASO has released this video about the incident.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

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ALACHUA ‒ Every year in the first week of March, The American Red Cross holds the Stick A Fork in Cancer event at restaurants across the country. The event is part of their Relay for Life movement, which is one of the largest peer-to-peer fundraising events in the world. For more than 35 years, communities have come together to raise funds for a future free from cancer through research and new treatments.

The Stick A Fork in Cancer events pair local restaurants with celebrities or city leaders doing shifts as servers in the restaurant. The Mi Apa Restaurant in Alachua has been involved with the program since 2017. All proceeds from food sales and tips are donated to the Relay For life foundation during this special lunch event featuring the guest servers. In addition, Mi Apa also donates 25 percent of all proceeds for the rest of the day.

This year, City of Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper, Vice Mayor Jennifer Blalock, Commissioners Dayna Miller and Edward Potts and City Manager Mike DaRoza volunteered and served food and drink to the packed lunch time crowd. The funds raised from this campaign will support groundbreaking cancer research, education and prevention programs, and critical services for people facing cancer.

After the event, Mi Apa's social media account offered thanks, reading “Our managers and city commissioners became servers for a good cause, serving delicious Cuban food and raising funds to support Relay for Life's efforts in fighting cancer with the Stick A Fork in Cancer event. We're proud to stand together in the fight against cancer, and we couldn't do it without our wonderful community.”

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NEWBERRY – The Newberry City Commission on March 13 approved impact fees based on a recent study of fees focused on impacts to public buildings and multi-modal transportation. The decision was based on study results of fees for new construction as well as impact fees imposed by other Florida cities and Alachua County.

The purpose of impact fees is to pay for future growth as a one-time fee collected for new construction. To offset the impact to developers who may already be in the process of developing residential or commercial properties. Newberry’s impact fees will not apply to a developer who has already had construction plans approved by the City.

The Commission unanimously approved the ordinance on first reading at 80 percent of the maximum amount listed by the impact fee study. The fees will be increased by 10 percent every year for the next two years. This item will be heard again on second reading at the March 27 City Commission meeting.

In other business, the Commission considered three properties planned as part of a future environmental park. This issue underwent extended discussion at the March 6 Planning and Zoning Board meeting. However, only one citizen expressed concern at the March 13 City Commission meeting.

The Commission approved Ordinance 2023-09, a large-scale Future Land Use Map Amendment, consisting of two parcels totaling 96 +/- acres. The amendment will be transmitted for expedited review with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Once the state returns the amendment, usually within 30 days, the City Commission will hear the item again on second reading. If approved by the Commission again, the ordinance will change the future land use classification from Agriculture to Public.

The property is intended to be used as part of a development earmarked for expansion of the municipal wastewater treatment facility, an educational wetland exhibit and retention area, a county/regional household hazardous waste disposal facility, a firefighter training facility, a potential composting site and a small-farm meat processing facility.

The site is located on the east side of County Road 336/Southwest 266th Street, between Southwest 18th Road and Southwest 30th Avenue and is addressed as 2105, 2429 and 2617 Southwest 266th Street.

The Commission also approved related Ordinance No. 2023-10, an amendment to the Future Land Use Plan Map to change the classification from Agriculture to Public, on the 2.5 +/- acres, currently used as the municipal cemetery.

The third ordinance, Ordinance 2023-11, to rezone the total 217 +/- acres from Agricultural (A) and Residential, Single-Family (RSF-2) to Public Facilities (PF) was also approved by the Commission.

The 217 acres includes the 96-acre site identified for the wastewater treatment facility expansion and future environmental park and the remaining 121 acres that are the existing municipal cemetery and existing wastewater treatment facility. Final approval of this ordinance is based on final approval of the two prior amendments.

Ordinance 2023-13 was approved on first reading and is an application by the City to amend the Official Zoning Atlas by changing the zoning designation from Residential, Single-Family (RSF-2) to Public Facilities (PF) on 4.3 +/- acres located at 120 N.W. 260th Street. This is the Public Works facility, and the change aligns the use of the property with the proper zoning classification.

The Commission unanimously approved an application by Marcus Hayes and Carlos Gonzalez of Always Bet on Yourself Franchise, LLC, agents for the Ross family, to conduct an outdoor concert and festival, the proceeds of which are to benefit the Kids in Positive Places charitable organization. The event address is 304 S.W. 174th Street and will encompass several parcels owned by the Ross family. The concert/festival will operate from 1 – 10 p.m. on Sunday, April 9.

Hayes provided a parking and traffic circulation sketch and said he will be contracting with the Alachua County Sheriff for traffic control on Newberry Road. He plans to have a dedicated staff on-site to direct parking and will hire private security.

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OCALA, Fla. - A GoFundMe account has been set up for an 8-year-old Ocala girl to purchase challenge coins to give to first responders.  According to GoFundMe Regional Spokesperson Claudia Curiel,   Aubryn has a huge appreciation for first responders and everything that they do. She's been hosting first responders at her home on Christmas Eve for the past five years. She serves them hot chocolate/coffee, treats and pastries. She plays games, colors and has made ornaments with the first responders that have shown up.

The Marion County sheriff presented her with a challenge coin thanking her for going above and beyond in thanking those who serve her community. She ended up collecting coins from each agency that stopped by. In January, she asked her parents if she could give them something to carry as a reminder that they are loved and appreciated. They had a challenge coin made for her to hand out.

She has since been invited to the Department of Corrections meeting and was honored by them for showing her appreciation. Now she's been invited to participate in a state meeting to honor elite first responders and asked to hand out her coins there. She's also been asked to present her local SRO's (School Resource Officers) with coins.

Her mother has set up a GoFundMe account to help support Aubryn's efforts.  "We would love to take part in these events but we are lacking the funds to have more coins made," said Aubryn's mother.  "We would like to have 300 additional coins made for these events and possibly more to have on hand for her annual events."  Aubryn's mother says that donations will be used to purchase more coins, and if there are any additional funds they will be used for her first responder events and will directly benefit first responders such as firefighters, police, sherriff, Department of Corrections, nurses, doctors, EMTs and veterans.

To view the GoFundMe please visit:

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 21, 2023) – Southeastern Grocers Inc. (SEG), parent company and home of Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie grocery stores, is issuing a voluntary recall for 563 Deli Breaded Fish Sandwich products sold in Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie stores. The recall is due to the presence of undeclared allergens (milk and soy) in the products.

The Deli Breaded Fish Sandwich products did not include milk and soy ingredients on the label. The products were offered for sale as a hot item at the deli hot case and/or deli hot grab-n-go display in certain Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie stores in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Louisiana with a shelf life of four (4) hours. The products were packaged in a food-safe paper bag as further depicted here:

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The product name and SLU code below is for all impacted stores:

Deli Breaded Fish Sandwich – 57052

Customers with milk or soy allergies should not consume the product and should either dispose of the product or return to any Harveys Supermarket or Winn-Dixie store for an exchange or full refund.

Customers with questions about the recalled products may contact the Southeastern Grocers Customer Call Center toll free at (844) 745-0463 Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST.

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WASHINGTON -- FEMA has provided more than $1 billion for 380,000 Florida survivors of Hurricane Ian, as part of the $5.5 billion in federal support the Biden-Harris administration has provided to help families and communities in Florida jumpstart their recovery.

The FEMA Individual Assistance funds, which go directly to applicants, are for rent, basic home repair and other disaster-related expenses. In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved $1.68 billion in low-interest disaster loans and the National Flood Insurance Program has paid $2.29 billion in claims. FEMA’s Public Assistance program has obligated $552 million to the state to reimburse debris removal and emergency response costs.

In continuing support to Floridians, FEMA is undertaking an extensive housing effort that includes funds for rent, home repairs, hotel stays, apartment leases, travel trailers and manufactured housing units.

More than 70,000 Florida households have been approved for $647 million in financial assistance for rent or basic home repairs, and more than 4,500 households have stayed in hotels temporarily under FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program. Additionally, FEMA is placing eligible applicants in 313 apartment homes, under its Direct Lease program, and is also working to lease apartments, repair them and place hurricane survivors in them under its Multi-Family Lease and Repair program.

In addition to financial assistance for housing, 366 families have moved into travel trailers, manufactured housing units and apartments in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Lee, Sarasota and Volusia counties. More temporary housing is being prepared for occupancy.

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ODESSA, Fla. – The swimming pool in the backyard of Louis Minardi's home near Tampa may be distinctive to Florida: The custom-built pool is shaped like a six-shooter revolver, in a state made famous – sometimes infamous – by guns, gun politics and gun culture.

“Neighbors that have bought houses around here have all come by,” Minardi said. “They’re all, ‘Is this guy a whack job?’”

The story behind the revolver-shaped pool goes back roughly 40 years to an idea proposed by Minardi’s high school friend, Albert Jones III of Tampa, a contractor who said he was bored building more traditionally shaped pools.

Minardi was reluctant at first, but the idea resonated with him, given his lifelong relationship with guns. Now 67, Minardi said he grew up hunting with friends and remembers receiving his first firearm, a double-barrel shotgun, when he was in middle school but already mindful of gun safety.

“I was the shortest, littlest guy growing up, and bought a damn 12-gauge,” Minardi said. 

“The times were different then,” he said. “You're 12, and your mother drops you off a box of shells and a shotgun. But they trust it. They knew we knew what we were doing.”

Minardi said he opened a gunsmithing business with his brother after attending classes in 1976.

In the 1980s, Minardi and his wife, Raye, decided they wanted a pool. They lived on a lake that contained snakes and alligators, and Raye Minardi would have to watch over their children swimming from the dock with a shotgun, she said.

The family wanted a pool at least 40 feet long to allow for laps. After Louis Minardi contacted Jones, who owned A.H. Jones Pools Inc., the idea was born for the gun pool – all 55 feet of it.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” Jones said, according to Louis Minardi. Knowing Minardi’s background as a gunsmith, Jones showed up with plans modeled after a Ruger Blackhawk, a 1950s-era, Western-style revolver characterized by its long barrel and known for its durability and accuracy.

“You swim your lap down the barrel,” Louis Minardi said Jones told him. “It gets deeper on that end. You can flip over from it, and then you can swim back.”

Jones pleaded with him to let him build the gun pool, Louis Minardi said. He said he was tired of building kidney-shaped pools, a staple of Florida’s backyards. Minardi agreed – provided he stayed within his project’s budget.

Jones, who died in 2010, color-coordinated the perimeter pool tiles to accurately reflect the revolver’s brown handle and silver body. He detailed tiles on the bottom of the pool to distinguish the gun’s individual components, like the trigger and ammunition chamber. And he installed a jacuzzi in the hammer. 

The pool has been resurfaced over the years, but the shape remains. 

Louis Minardi said the pool is popular among family and friends, who have used it to teach their children how to swim. 

Louis Minardi stopped gunsmithing in the late ‘80s, due to increasing insurance rates for gun warranties. He became more involved with the family-owned taxi service and has run that business ever since. 

Still, gun education remains important to him. He said he’s taken his children and grandchildren hunting since they were very young. He said he did not allow them to use a gun unless they were closely supervised and had proper training. 

Gun education is at the center of Louis Minardi’s views on gun regulation. He said people should be allowed to own guns and carry guns in public. Florida lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would eliminate requirements for concealed carry permits, which currently include mandatory classroom training and proof of proficiency at a gun range. He also said having a gun doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t know how to properly use it.

“If you're qualified, mentally able to have one and protect yourself, I think you ought to have one if you want one, whether you keep it at home or you carry it with you,” Louis Minardi said. “But it's like everything. It's educating. It's educating the people about the guns, how they work.”

“Nowadays, most people don’t know anything about them,” he said.

Reflecting on his pool, he wasn’t aware that people on social media had noticed the unusual shape on overhead map imagery. And he said in all his years since being a gunsmith with a revolver-shaped pool, he never considered another curious coincidence: His family lives on Gunn Highway.

“I don’t know. I never thought about Gunn Highway,“ Louis Minardi said. “It just happens to be the road we live on.”

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MILTON, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the first set of awards through the Broadband Opportunity Grant Program to expand access to broadband internet for Florida’s underserved communities. More than $144 million was awarded for 58 projects in 41 Florida counties for broadband internet expansion that will impact nearly 160,000 unserved residential, educational, business, and community locations.

“I am proud to be in Santa Rosa County to announce the first awards through Florida’s Broadband Opportunity Program,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Broadband internet access creates jobs and enhances educational opportunities for Floridians. I look forward to continued investments through this program to ensure Florida families have access to important resources no matter where they live.”

“Broadband internet service is essential for workforce development, education, and healthcare. Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida has taken monumental steps to bring reliable, high-speed internet to all Floridians,” said Department of Economic Opportunity Deputy Secretary Ben Melnick. “There is no doubt that the projects awarded today will shape the future of broadband in Florida, and we look forward to supporting the Governor’s vision for a connected economy.”

Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), the Broadband Opportunity Program funds the installation and deployment of broadband internet infrastructure in unserved Florida communities, providing valuable access to telehealth, economic, educational, and workforce development opportunities to offer a brighter future for all Floridians.
The following projects will be awarded through the Broadband Opportunity Program:

  • City of Bonifay ($4,984,073) — to provide fiber to the home (FTTH) services to 259 unserved premises in the rural area of Holmes County north of Bonifay with speeds up to 200 megabits per second (MBPS).
  • Towns of Bell, Cross City, and Horseshoe Beach ($3,506,234) — to complete the first of three phases designed to bring FTTH services to over 11,000 of its metered customers in Gilchrist and Dixie Counties at speeds up to 2 gigabits per second (GB).
  • City of Trenton ($2,666,244) — to provide FTTH services to 1,965 premises with symmetrical 1GB speeds to residents in Gilchrist County.
  • Cities of Palm Bay, West Melbourne, and Titusville; Mims and Unincorporated Brevard County ($573,788) — to provide FTTH services to 443 unserved and underserved locations within Brevard County with minimum download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • City of Bonifay ($4,998,524) — to provide FTTH services to 266 unserved premises in the rural area of Holmes County in the vicinity of Bonifay with download and upload speeds of 200 MBPS.
  • City of Keystone Heights; Clay Hill, Middleburg, McRae and Virginia Village ($1,880,000) — to provide FTTH services to 1,917 premises, 42 businesses and 8 community anchor institutions in Clay County capable of symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • Putnam County ($1,192,410) — to add 60 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 1,192 unserved locations within Putnam County with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1GB.
  • City of Archer; Town of Micanopy ($4,672,393) — to add 132 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 1,701 unserved locations within Alachua County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • City of Gainesville ($1,438,610) — to add 27 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 193 unserved locations within Alachua County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • City of Ocala ($1,423,488) — to add 53 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 1,022 unserved locations within Marion County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • Cities of Archer and Newberry ($4,822,632) — to add 78 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 795 unserved locations within Alachua County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • Town of Cross City ($5,000,000) — to deploy fiber optic cable and infrastructure to provide fiber to the home services to 1,067 unserved locations within Dixie County at minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • Town of Westville ($1,072,596) — to provide FTTH services for unserved areas within Holmes County at download and upload speeds up to 200 MBPS.
  • City of Live Oak; Towns of Mayo and Day ($5,000,000) — to add 1,016 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 25,679 unserved and underserved locations within Suwannee and Lafayette Counties with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • Cities of Live Oak and Jasper; Towns of White Spring and Jennings ($5,000,000) — to add 757 miles of fiber optic cable to their existing network to provide FTTH services to 28,493 unserved and underserved locations within Suwannee and Hamilton Counties with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 MBPS.
  • City of Bokeelia ($63,311) — to add 1.1 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 110 unserved locations within Lee County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 200 MBPS.
  • City of Moore Haven; Lakeport and Ortona ($2,935,296) — to add 160 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 4,651 unserved and underserved locations within Glades County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 GBPS.
  • Town of Cross City ($2,020,902) — to add 58.8 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 2,612 unserved and underserved locations within Dixie County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 GBPS.
  • City of Riverdale; Flagler Estates and Spuds ($1,830,000) — to add 118 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 1,603 unserved and underserved locations within St. Johns County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 GBPS.
  • City of LaBelle; Montura ($2,496,672) — to add 58.8 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 1,424 unserved and underserved locations within Hendry County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 GBPS.
  • Lehigh Acres ($3,988,532) — to add 126 miles of fiber optic cable to provide FTTH services to 1,998 underserved locations in eastern Lee County with minimum symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 GBPS.
  • Cities of Botswick and Keystone Heights; Towns of Pomona Park, Interlocken, Melrose, and Welaka; Putnam Hall, George’s Lake, and Unincorporated Crescent City ($4,496,107) — to deploy fiber optic cable service to 2,986 unserved and underserved locations within Putnam County with minimum download speeds of 50 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Lehigh Acres ($4,111,225) — to deploy fiber optic cable service to 2,640 unserved and underserved locations within Lee County with minimum download speeds of 50 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Cities of Hampton, Lawtey, and Starke ($2,160,000) — to deploy fiber optic cable service to 2,111 unserved and underserved locations in Bradford County with minimum download speeds of 50 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Columbia County ($2,646,030) — to deploy fiber optic cable service to 1,725 unserved and underserved locations in Columbia County with minimum download speeds of 50 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • City of Fort Pierce of ($1,429,400) — to deploy fiber optic cable service to 636 unserved and underserved locations in St Lucie County with minimum download speeds of 50 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Cities of Clewiston, Moore Haven, and Pioneer; Montura, Palmdale, Port LaBelle and Venus ($5,000,000) — to deploy FTTH services to more than 4,231 unserved locations in Glades, Hendry, and Highlands Counties with symmetrical download and upload speeds of between 1GB and 2GB.
  • Town of Nocatee; Unincorporated Brownsville ($1,657,558) — to provide FTTH services to 1,313 unserved and underserved residential customers in DeSoto County with 50 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload speeds.
  • Town of Ponce de Leon ($3,639,672) — to deploy FTTH services to 259 unserved homes, businesses, and farms in Holmes County with download and upload speeds up to 200 MBPS speeds.
  • Towns of Alford, Cottondale, Grand Ridge, and Greenwood; Two Egg ($2,040,743) — to provide FTTH services to 1,082 unserved and underserved residential customers and 29 businesses and anchor institutions in Jackson County with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1GB.
  • City of Homestead; Redlands and Unincorporated Florida City ($1,510,481) — to provide FTTH services to 800 unserved and underserved residential customers and 10 businesses and anchor institutions in Miami-Dade County with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1 Gbps or higher.
  • Clarksville and Unincorporated Northwest Calhoun County ($2,648,194) — to add 99.8 miles of FTTH via ethernet passive optical network to connect 716 underserved homes and businesses in Calhoun County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 Mbps upload speeds.
  • Town of Altha; Willis, Chipola, Eufala, and Unincorporated Northeast Calhoun County ($3,375,471) — to add 142.1 miles of fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) via ethernet passive optical network to connect 1,210 unserved and underserved homes and businesses in Calhoun County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload speeds.
  • City of Bunnell; Andalusia and Bimini ($527,659) — to add 20.2 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 128 unserved and underserved homes and businesses in Flagler County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload speeds.
  • Cities of Chattahoochee, Gretna, and Quincy; Town of Greensboro; Wetumpka ($1,844,095) — to add 281.7 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 3,390 unserved and underserved homes and businesses in Gadsden County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload speeds.
  • City of Pioneer; La Deca and Montura ($4,750,000) — to bring high speed internet service to eastern Hendry County through installation of fixed wireless service to 1,700 households at download speeds of 100 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • City of Punta Gorda; Port Charlotte ($2,397,636) — to provide FTTH services to 1,469 unserved or underserved residential customers and 195 businesses in Charlotte County with 1GBPS or higher symmetrical download and upload speeds.
  • North Brooksville, Spring Lake, Nobleton, South Brooksville, Hill ‘N Dale, Istachatta, North Weeki Wachee, and Unincorporated Hernando County ($4,701,477) — to add 258.5 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 2,276 underserved homes and businesses in Hernando County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload.
  • City of Graceville; Unincorporated Northeast Holmes County ($107,317) — to add 9.1 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 97 unserved or underserved homes and businesses in Holmes County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload.
  • City of Williston Town of Bronson; Morriston, Raleigh, Williston Highlands, Rosewood, and Sumner ($1,259,236) — to add 48.1 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 405 unserved or underserved homes and businesses in Levy County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload.
  • City of Bristol; Town of White Springs; Lake Mystic, Estiffanulga, and Unincorporated NE Liberty County ($836,705) — to add 47.8 miles of FTTP via ethernet passive optical network to connect 433 unserved or underserved homes and businesses in Liberty County with a standard starting speed of up to 300 MBPS download and 10 MBPS upload.
  • Deer Park and Bull Creek ($3,605,129) — to deploy 135.4 miles of new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 1,024 unserved locations within Osceola County with download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Yeehaw Junction and Kenansville ($4,067,268) — to deploy 153.5 miles of new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 791 unserved locations within Osceola County with download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Town of Jay; Fidelis, Berrydale, Cobbtown, and Unincorporated Santa Rosa County, ($2,363,937) — to deploy 103.7 miles of new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 791 unserved locations within Santa Rosa County with download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Geneva and Black Hammock ($367,000) — to deploy 51.7 miles of new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 734 unserved locations within Seminole County with download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • City of Lake Helen; DeLeon Springs, Balm, Farmton, Osteen, and Boden ($811,000) — to deploy 124.1 miles of new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 1,622 unserved locations within Volusia County with download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Cities of Fountain, Southport, and Youngstown ($866,700) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 2,500 unserved households in Bay County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Unincorporated Okeechobee County ($2,059,550) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 2,312 unserved households in Okeechobee County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Unincorporated Okeechobee County ($984,350) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 1,290 unserved households in Okeechobee County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Orangetree and Golden Gate Estates ($777,407) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 781 unserved households in Collier County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Cities of Sebring and Avon Park ($1,363,975) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to over 700 unserved households in Highlands County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Chaires ($236,300) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to over 119 unserved households in Leon County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Unincorporated Indian River County ($532,147) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 674 unserved households in the unincorporated areas in Indian River County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • City of Jasper; Town of Jennings ($2,734,261) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 2,156 unserved households in Hamilton County download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Indiantown ($56,500) — to deploy fiber optic cable internet service to 50 unserved households in Martin County with download and upload speeds of up to 1GBPS.
  • Escambia County ($802,489) — to deploy 24.8 miles on new fiber optic cable and provide FTTH services to 206 unserved locations within Escambia County with minimum download speeds of 300 MBPS and upload speeds of 10 MBPS.
  • Town of Bell ($4,956,100) — to employ fixed wireless technology to provide high speed internet service to 1,350 unserved premises in Gilchrist County.
  • Polk County ($4,734,786) — to lease 8 miles of fiber optic cable to provide fixed wireless services to 22,169 unserved and underserved locations in and around the City of Lakeland, City of Winter Haven, City of Haines City and City of Lake Wales.

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  • 25 March 2023

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – After a jury couldn't agree on the death penalty in Florida's deadliest school shooting, Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee are proposing to make it easier to send condemned convicts to death row.

The changes – which would allow a jury to recommend the death penalty even when only eight of 12 jurors agree – align with plans endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Rep. Berny Jacques, R-Clearwater, introduced a bill in the House on Tuesday that would allow death sentences in cases when only eight jurors agree. Florida law currently requires a unanimous agreement, or a judge would sentence a defendant to life in prison without parole.

Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, introduced a version of the same bill in the Senate late Monday.

Florida’s Republican governor called for the change last year, after the jury that convicted Cruz in the school shooting split 9-3 in favor of the death penalty in October. 

“If you have a death penalty at all, that is a case – where you’re massacring those students with premeditation and utter disregard for humanity – that you deserve the death penalty,” DeSantis said after the sentencing.

Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, who represents the district where Nikolas Cruz, 19, fatally shot 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Broward County in 2018 said she was withholding support for the proposed changes until she can speak with victims' families. 

Broward County is home to more registered Democratic voters in Florida than any other. It is unclear if Democrats will object to the proposed changes.

“It's much larger than just one case,” Polsky said in an interview, adding she was unhappy with last year’s verdict in the Cruz case. “I need to really take a deep dive, which I haven't done. It's just something I need to really look into, understand and speak to my constituents.”

The chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, cautioned that lawmakers were facing an “almost infinite number of topics that the state has to address every year,” adding that issues surrounding Florida’s death penalty have not been a priority until this year.

Gregory said it was important for lawmakers to reevaluate laws when the state sees challenges or changes in its system.

Jacques said in an interview he and Ingoglia worked for weeks on the legislation, and he did not coordinate with the governor. He said the governor’s public demands for a supermajority among jurors in death penalty cases was “music to our ears.”

Jacques said he preferred requiring only seven jurors to accept a death penalty recommendation. He said that was the system in place when he was a prosecutor. He said he and Ingoglia settled on a requirement for eight jurors as a compromise.

The sentence for Cruz reignited debate surrounding Florida’s capital punishment statute. Florida lawmakers meet for 60 days starting in March to consider thousands of new legislative proposals. 

Neither the House or Senate bill was designated a top priority for legislative leaders. But support from DeSantis – who wields considerable influence over the Capitol – and the overwhelming majority Republicans hold in the Legislature made the effort’s passage highly likely.

No lobbyists from any public-interest organizations immediately registered to try to influence the outcome of debate over the bills, according to lobbying records reviewed Tuesday.

Prior to 2016 in Florida, a defendant could be sentenced to death by a majority 7-5 vote. Additionally, judges, rather than the jury, could also rule that aggravating factors made a defendant eligible for the death penalty. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the state’s death penalty procedure was unconstitutional.

In response to the court’s ruling, lawmakers in 2017 adopted the unanimous sentencing law.

In a case in 2020, the Florida Supreme Court opened the door to imposing death sentences even when jurors do not agree unanimously. 

Jacques said he is confident the new procedure would hold up to legal challenges in state or federal courts. 

The bill also proposes a jury recommendation, rather than jury determination, of a death sentence. Jacques said a judge could overturn a jury's recommendation and impose his or her own sentence. 

“At the end of the day, the judge is the one who does sentencing,” he said. “This is an advisory recommendation that the jury provides.”

With his life spared, Cruz's whereabouts in Florida's prison system are unknown. The Department of Corrections has not released which prison Cruz has been sent to serve his life sentence. The state is permitted in rare cases to withhold such information when it is necessary to protect the safety of an inmate.

Family members of some victims of the school shooting have openly said they hope Cruz would be killed in prison by fellow inmates. 

Michael Schulman, whose son was a teacher who died in the school shooting, told Cruz in a courtroom in November that he hoped “that the prisoners and the inmates you associate with execute the judgment that this court can’t.”

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Today, we pause in reverence to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his unyielding courage in the face of adversity, his boundless love in the face of hate, and his servant leadership in the face of supremacy. This great American not only chartered a new course in the fight for civil rights, he also illustrated how we should boldly advocate for our causes while exhibiting grace and humility. 

 Our nation and the City of Gainesville are still grappling with many of the same issues Dr. King fought valiantly for more than 68 years ago. While we face serious matters – lack of affordable housing, poverty, racial and social inequities – I truly believe this community has the talent, heart, drive and resolve to find lasting solutions. Like Dr. King eloquently proclaimed in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964, "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits." I also believe we can pay our neighbors a living wage and provide desirable housing that is affordable for all. 
So, as we observe this holiday in honor of Dr. King, I implore you to commit with me to be stalwart in efforts to alleviate inequities in our community. Join me in protecting the unique charm of our beloved Hoggetowne, while building a city in which all its neighbors are able to thrive. Together, as One Gainesville, we can do this.
Harvey Ward
Mayor, City of Gainesville

As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Alachua County Labor Coalition typically avoids weighing in on electoral contests. And we never endorse political candidates. But a recent dark-money mailer attacking one of our dedicated activists who is running for office and two of our signature policies he worked on requires us to speak up.

Residents of Gainesville Commission District 2 recently opened their mailboxes to find a cowardly postcard attacking Commission candidate James Ingle. It was paid for by the so-called Responsible Leadership Committee, Inc.—a dark money PAC. Two of three false claims made in the mailing are that Ingle “worked to limit our private property rights” and “fought for more government control over our wages.” These are references to the Alachua County Renters’ Rights and Wage Theft ordinances, respectively.

The Renters’ Rights ordinance does not limit private property rights any more than do laws prohibiting retail shops on your neighborhood cul-de-sacs or rats in restaurants. The reality is that the ordinance offers three simple, commonsense protections for Alachua County’s tenants. First, it requires universal inspections of rental properties. This merely ensures that landlords are adhering to the rules and regulations of the building code that ALREADY EXIST. Without universal inspections, tenants are forced to choose between blowing the whistle on hazardous living conditions or risking retaliation from a minority of bad landlords. Second, it requires landlords to inform tenants of the rights they ALREADY HAVE. Why should landlords be afraid of their renters knowing the law? Third, it sets reasonable water and energy efficiency standards for rental properties. These are necessary to lower utility costs for renters, reduce greenhouse emissions that cause climate change, and protect our aquifer. Why landlords would want to deplete our aquifer, unnecessarily spew harmful emissions into the air, and subject their tenants to unaffordable utility bills is beyond our understanding. But the bottom line is this: the landlord-tenant relationship is a business relationship, not a relationship between a landholder and their serf, and it should be regulated as such.

Describing the Wage Theft ordinance as “government control over our wages” is possibly more bizarre. This ordinance merely provides an avenue for workers to ensure the contracts between them and their employers are enforced—an avenue much cheaper than seeking recourse in the courts. The ordinance does not limit how much an employer can pay their workers, which is what I presume the mailer attempts to falsely imply. What’s more, the program has been a smashing success! Since, 2014, the ordinance has allowed the Office of Equal Opportunity to win back over $100,000 of unpaid wages for 152 workers.

It should be clear by now that the folks over at the so-called Responsible Leadership Committee, Inc. are not trying to protect your freedoms. They are promoting serfdom!

Lastly, the mailer asserts that James Ingle’s leadership has “failed us.” While we cannot endorse James or any other candidate (and this letter is not an endorsement), readers should know this is as big of a lie as any other in the mailer. James Ingle has been a great leader in the Alachua County Labor Coalition, the AFL-CIO, and his own union—International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1205. In fact, the basic protections afforded to tenants in Alachua County and the over $100,000 returned to workers would not be possible without him. We thank him for his leadership on these issues. Perhaps the best description for James is, in fact, responsible leader.

Bobby Mermer, Gainesville, Florida, PhD, ACLC Coordinator


It’s high time the local business owners speak up. I am a small business owner in High Springs for seven years now, and before that, helped run the High Springs Art Coop for six years. As we all know, our area is growing at a crazy rate. People have discovered our area for the treasure it is, as we all have at one point, so we have to learn to accept change in a reasonable way. The key word is reasonable.

Landlord greed with unreasonable rents kills business, most of all small business. Even big business suffers. I remember a story before Covid of the famous Barney’s of NYC, an icon for years that closed because the owners of their building raised the rent. They were already paying a million dollars a month!

Locally, look how the lovely town of Alachua went from being a vibrant historic downtown that we in High Springs envied and now it struggles to make it. Why? I feel it is because of large land owners who own the majority of real estate. They get renters in the first year at a low rate and after a year jack up the rent. I was told by a previous store owner than they over charge for utilities, too. These small places can barely make $1,000 to $1,500 a month total and most don’t bring in a monthly salary for themselves. How are they going to pay over $2,000 a month rent? Shame on what has happened in that lovely town.

Micanopy is another depressed town because of unreasonable people and then just look at downtown Gainesville. I wonder how long all those huge apartment houses will sit empty because of the humongous rents they are charging.

We can still save High Springs. We can make it a model historic small-town success. Here we have a few local hero landowners who are logical, honest and smart business owners. They charge rents that these small businesses can sustain.

The Barber and Grady families in our town are a blessing to all who rent from them—unlike some of the newbies who have bought up some of our buildings. The newbies’ unrealistic expectations can kill small businesses, or no one will pay such high rents, so their structures remain empty.

For example, in downtown High Springs there is the corner spot where River Run Olive Oil sat. It is a prime location, and here it is another year that it sits empty. The original owners sold because they wished to retire.

Across the street from me is the largest group of modern local store spaces. There was a quilt store there for a bit, but she couldn’t sustain the high rent. The same with rentals on the other side of her, the buildings have sat empty for years now. The owner is from Miami and thinks she is going to get Miami prices. All of these are prime real estate, front and center on Main Street and empty.

The main inspiration to this letter is The Florida Springs Institute. It is our local nonprofit, which does so much good protecting and bringing awareness to our local waters. I understand they are being kicked out of their corner space by their landlord. I heard they weren’t even given the offer to stay at a higher rate. The landlord is going to put someone in there at a huge increase in rent.

Although the landlord professes to support the springs, it seems that is the bottom line is taking precedence. We will see if the “new” business can sustain the ridiculously high rent or will downtown have another empty store front?

I had to say something and bring attention to this issue, even though I don’t think there is much we can do. The town is at the mercy of landowners who decide the bottom line. We can only hope and pray that our little town of High Springs continues to grow with sweet businesses that add to our charm with newbies coming who want to add to our world.

We are not against “reasonable” change. We welcome new and younger people looking to share in our small-town dream. Younger entrepreneurs bring vitality and freshness. We are just asking new and old landlords to keep it real and not let the over inflated prices for everything else invade common sense business practices. We expect you to make “reasonable” incomes, just not overpriced ones.

The future is determined right now. We either jack up rents, run the little charming business out and we get replaced by offices, empty stores and decay, or we support the small-town flair, encouraging the entrepreneur and make a small local business possible for everyone.

Remember that a store that sits empty for years produces zero rent. The more spaces that are filled, the better it is for all businesses.

Tina Corbett

High Springs, Florida

It is a great honor to serve High Springs as your new Postmaster. In my years with the United States Postal Service, I have seen firsthand the role the Postal Service plays connecting neighbors and our community to the nation.

Our Post Offices serve as a lifeline for our small businesses to reach customers no matter where they are. Under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s leadership and Delivering For America, the Postal Service’s 10-year plan, we are maintaining universal six-day mail delivery and expanded seven-day package delivery, stabilizing our workforce, and spurring innovation to meet the needs of our modern customers.

Just as the Postal Service continues to provide a vital service for our nation, the staff of the High Springs Post Office will proudly continue that same public service in this community.

On behalf of the 650,000 women and men of the United States Postal Service, I thank you for continuing to support the Postal Service. Providing reliable mail delivery while strengthening the future of this treasured institution is our commitment to you.

Angel Cruz

Postmaster High Springs, FL 32643-9998

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As a volunteer and advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, this month I am asking everyone to join us and demand #MoreForMentalHealth.

I am doing more by calling on my legislators at the federal and state levels to support legislation that will fund the implementation of 988 and the suicide and mental health crisis system across our nation, particularly for those in underserved communities.

Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255 and de-escalates the crises of tens of thousands of callers each day. On July 16, those in distress and those that support them will be able to reach the Lifeline through a simple 3-digit number: 988.

By making the Lifeline more accessible through this shorter number, calls, texts, and chats to the Lifeline's network of crisis call centers are expected to increase. It is vital that the federal government work with states to ensure callers in distress will have: 1) someone to call, 2) someone to come help, and 3) somewhere safe to go.

We must act NOW to secure funding to equip call centers and community crisis response services throughout the country with the staff and resources to respond to everyone in crisis.

Join me this month in urging our federal and state public officials to do #MoreForMentalHealth. You can start by visiting

Together, we can help #StopSuicide.

Peggy Portwine

Alachua, Florida

“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” These words are as moving today as when first spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the passionate and influential civil rights leader who stood as a “pillar of hope and a model of grace” in his fight towards equality for all.

On January 17, we will reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, who, with his brave supporters, stood in strong opposition to racial discrimination, as well as the wrongful and unequal treatment of people who differed in national origin and religious beliefs.

The State of Florida continues to carry Dr. King’s legacy forward, committed to ending discrimination and ensuring all within our state have fair and equal access to employment and housing - because every person deserves to live the American Dream. The Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) was established in 1969 to enforce the Florida Civil Rights Act and address discrimination through education, outreach, and partnership. Annually, the FCHR recognizes and honors Floridians who advance civil rights throughout the state in the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

As we take this time to honor Dr. King, let us consider how we can improve our own communities. Everyone should have the opportunity to live the American Dream. Dr. King paved the way for our society to embrace equality, and it is our job as Americans and Floridians to ensure the civil rights of all people.

Angela Primiano, Vice-Chair

Florida Commission on Human Relations

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Gainesville, Florida – Kenya (Robinson)’s | Price I$ Right Exhibit opens with a free reception that the artist will attend from 7-9 p.m. Friday, Mar. 13, 2020, at the Santa Fe College Gallery, Building M, Room 147 on the Northwest Campus of Santa Fe College, 3000 NW 83rd Street, Gainesville. The exhibit will remain on view through Friday, Mar. 20, 2020. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free and the gallery is open to the public.

“(Robinson) has created a site specific installation that challenges the structures of power and questions the economic systems that prop them up.” explained Kyle Novak, director of the Santa Fe College Gallery.

“The Visual Arts program at Santa Fe College has a long, rich history of turning out talented young artists who go on to exhibit both locally and nationally,” said Fine Arts Department chair Alora Haynes. “We are proud of this legacy and the faculty who created it. I sincerely hope that the community will come out to see our faculty works and offer a show of support for these fine art educators.”

The Santa Fe College Gallery offers students and the Gainesville community a dynamic calendar of engaging and thought-provoking exhibitions with an emphasis on creating an innovative learning environment.  

For more information about the exhibition and the gallery, call SF Gallery Manager Kyle Novak at 352-395-5464.

For more information about Visual Arts programs at Santa Fe College, call Fine Arts Department chair Alora Haynes at 352-395-5296.

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