100 of Central Florida's most influential people weigh in on current events. Read their thoughts on the biggest stories of the week and see what they think will make headlines next week.
WAR OVER ‘SPRAWL’S DELIGHT.' Looking ahead: The fight over the future of the eastern area of Seminole and Orange counties has already spread from county-commission chambers to the courts to the Legislature, and back again. Even the governor and Cabinet have entered the fray. Now, another megaproject in Seminole County’s rural boundary has reared its ugly head. Whatever fancy name the project is called, it’s “Sprawl’s Delight.” In 2004, Seminole County residents voted to preserve this land as rural homesteads. Any further intrusion without a joint planning agreement between Seminole and Orange would begin a domino effect that would be disastrous for the region. Strap it on, folks. The war is just beginning.
Jane Healy, former editorial page editor and managing editor, Orlando Sentinel
DALLARI, CONSTANTINE SHOW SPINE. Looking ahead: Good for Seminole County Commissioners Bob Dallari and Lee Constantine in making their support for Seminole’s rural area so public and so unequivocal. They realize there were good reasons when voters in 2004 said they wanted to keep the area rural. The area borders the treasured Econlockhatchee River and is filled with imperiled species. But that doesn’t register with former legislator Chris Dorworth, who sees only dollar signs. He wants to plop a megadevelopment there. Dallari and Constantine need a third vote to kill this intrusion. Now it’s time for the other three commissioners to speak boldly too, because Dorworth will try to swing as much political clout as he can.
Carlos Carbonell, Latino, LGBT and tech community leader
ORLANDO UNITED ASSISTANCE CENTER. Last week: Lori Harris, senior adviser to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, met with U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and helped leverage federal funds to make our local dollars go far for the Orlando United Assistance Center, which helped those impacted by the Pulse tragedy, including first responders. As a result, the OUAC will be open throughout 2020. The recent verdict in the Noor Salaman trial triggered strong reactions for many. Anyone still experiencing hardships should contact the OUAC at 407-500-HOPE or go to orlandounitedassistancecenter.org.
WE'RE OFF TO NEW ORLEANS. Looking ahead: The Orlando Economic Partnership (regional public/private partnership entrusted with stimulating business growth in the region), along with several Central Florida area tech and digital companies, including Echo Interaction Group, Prismatic, Luminar and FattMerchant, will be representing the region as exhibitors, attendees and presenters in New Orleans at Collision Conference, lauded as the next SXSW. Our region continues to make a big splash in the national stage not only as a relevant innovation hub but as one of the best destinations for tech companies and tech workers to relocate to.
Chris Carmody, shareholder, GrayRobinson
PEACE IN KOREA? Last week: Over 65 years ago, my grandfather was one of thousands of Americans who fought in the Korean War. Whenever we discussed geopolitical issues (he was great to call when writing a paper, having also fought in WWII), he lamented that peace seemed unlikely in Korea. But here we are. North and South Korea announced a peace accord that would officially end the war started in 1950. Further, the accord seeks to denuclearize the region. Maybe it was the Olympics. Maybe it was President Trump’s unapologetic tweets. The truth is likely many overtures that took place that we will never know about. The point is that the area of the world that most kept America up at night has now put to bed its conflict. Perhaps our best days are still ahead.
CONGRESSIONAL QUALIFYING. Looking ahead: Starting Monday and ending at noon on Friday, candidates for U.S. Congress and Senate, as well as the candidates for the court system, must qualify to be on the 2018 ballot. In an expected “blue wave” year, all eyes will be on those congressional seats. For the price of $10,000+ or about 5,000 petition signatures, candidates can put their name on the ballot. Here in Central Florida, we have what is shaping up to be a hotly contested Republican primary to take on District 7 incumbent Stephanie Murphy. Will there be a surprise? Just two years ago, Congresswoman Murphy was that surprise to then-Congressman John Mica. She filed on Thursday of the 2016 qualifying week and signed her qualifying oath on Friday. A few months later, she was elected to Congress. So, be sure to take notice of who files and qualifies. They may be representing you come January.
Rudolph C. Cleare, executive vice president, The `Negro Spiritual’ Scholarship Foundation
KALEY SQUARE PARK SPRUCED UP. Last week: Stopping at the intersection of Kaley Street and Westmoreland Drive in Orlando the other day, I noticed that every square inch of Kaley Square Park has been refurbished and freshly painted. Intrigued, I left my car and took an impromptu walking tour of the park and surrounding streets. I was greeted by signs that this older West Orlando neighborhood is springing to life again in vibrant ways: community gardens, neat yards, new coats of paint, open smiles and friendly waves. I am determined to find out who or what is bringing about the renewal, especially if this is a true harbinger of much greater good to come.
WHY IS I-4 BEING MADE OVER? Looking ahead: Like Alice in Wonderland, I grow “curiouser and curiouser” about the massive repurposing of Interstate 4 and its many arteries. Surely smoother routes, faster arrivals and new commerce will come to pass as promised. Yet I wonder if our lives will change in any fundamental ways: Will we more readily cross traditional lines of social cultural and geographic division as a result? Will new asphalt alone help to heal the sense of alienation felt by locals whose lives and livelihoods were disrupted or displaced when that road became our urban spine in 1959? It remains to be seen, I suppose.
Earl Crittenden Jr., president of Crittenden Fruit Co. Inc. and chair of onePULSE Foundation
MORTGAGE DENIALS. Last week: Even under the best circumstances, applying for a mortgage makes a root canal seem appealing. On the heels of stories about Orlando careening toward an affordable-housing shortage, a national study found 8 percent of mortgage applicants are denied each year. Orlando, Miami and Tampa are in the top-10 cities where mortgage denials are highest in the U.S. (Orlando and Miami primarily because of insufficient income to afford the mortgage, and Tampa because of credit history). It’s now therefore crucial for would-be homeowners to lower debt-to-income ratios and diligently clean up credit scores well before applying for a home loan.
Earnest DeLoach, lawyer, DeLoach Law LLC
THREATS BEYOND THE BARREL OF A GUN. Last week: At a high school in Riverview, an attack took place. Thankfully, it did not involve a gun or bullets. This time it was the oldest, sharpest instrument that inflicted harm. The tongue. In an attempt to be "funny," a student compared his pick for prom to picking cotton — a harsh, demeaning act of labor to which black slaves and sharecroppers (like my grandfather) were condemned to perform for little or no pay, and often at the threat of a whip. Ironically, the incident came the week after two black men were arrested for sitting in a Starbucks and a black woman was arrested for asking for a manager at a Waffle House. In each incident, the message was clear — the threat to black acceptance isn't just at the end of a barrel. Equality is being killed by words and indifference.
MUSEUM DEDICATED TO HORROR OF LYNCHINGS. Looking ahead: A new museum opened in Montgomery, Ala., providing a somber but necessary reminder of the lynching of more than 4,400 people — including women and children — hanged in injustice in this country from 1877 to 1950. Florida is a part of this ignominious display. While Florida ranks third in the number of these acts of terror (337), Florida lynched more persons per capita than any other state. Of the 25 counties across the South with the most lynchings, Florida has six: Orange (34), Marion (30), Alachua (19), Polk (19), Columbia (17) and Taylor (17). Though a visceral recollection of the lawlessness and fear to which Florida blacks have been subjected, we must endure the truth if there can ever be reconciliation.
John L. Evans Jr., consulting unit chief for a global investment firm, former congressional staffer
RUSSIAN GIMMICKS. Looking ahead:Thirty-five years ago, Soviet leader Yuri Andropov wrote a letter to a fifth-grader from Maine, inviting her to come for a visit to Russia. He reminded her of his country’s commitment to peace and no nuclear arms. What a gimmick. Pure theater and geopolitical gamesmanship. Have things changed at all in the last several decades between the countries?
Rogue Gallart, president, Central Florida Disability Chamber
BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE RESCUED. Last week: While driving on Osceola Parkway, I noticed a small bird on the road that seemed to be just lying there. It appeared that her legs may have been broken. I took the bird (a boat-tailed Grackle) to the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge education center, which is dedicated to the 4 R’s: rescue, raise, rehabilitate and release of injured and orphaned native wildlife. The hope is that it’s just a broken leg and not a spinal injury. I’m crossing my fingers.
Flora Maria Garcia, CEO, United Arts of Central Florida
‘CONTEMPORARY WONDERS.’ Looking ahead: On May 4 and 5 Orlando Ballet will pack a triple punch with “Contemporary Wonders” featuring two world premieres and showcasing the amazing local powerhouse vocalist, Sisaundra Lewis, who created a show stopping performance on NBC’s “The Voice!” Following the success of “Beauty and the Beast,” local prodigy Arcadian Broad will once again compose and choreograph a hypnotic telling of the Alice in Wonderland story, as seen through the eyes of the Mad Hatter. The evening will conclude with an Orlando Ballet premiere of New York-based choreographer Jessica Lang’s “From Foreign Lands and People.” Try it; you’ll like it!
Francisco Gonzalez, philanthropy director, National Review Institute
'CONSERVATIVES COME IN ALL COLORS.' Last week: Kanye West made “news” when he voiced support for President Trump. Chance the Rapper added: “Black people don’t have to be Democrats.” Twitter exploded. But that same day, I was at an event in College Park for Mikaela Nix, who is a young black female attorney, and a mother. She is running for the Republican nomination for State House District 47, which includes the areas in and around downtown Orlando and Winter Park. She said: “Conservatives come in all colors.” This generation of young black men and women is charting a path of independent thinking.
NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER. Looking ahead: Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. While prayer is something we should do daily, this Thursday is a great opportunity for people of all faiths to come together and thank God for our blessings, heal our wounds, and help us find unity. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered foremost for being a great civil-rights leader, but his sermons were incredible and should remind us all that he was first a Christian. Without his faith, there would be no MLK Jr., the civil-rights leader. Let’s look to his example as we come together to pray.
CHEF'S GALA. Last week: Gov. Rick Scott recently announced that 60.7 million tourists visited Florida in the first half of 2017 — a 4 percent increase compared to the same time period in the previous year. Central Florida in particular has shown growth due in part to new attractions at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. But the Orlando area is no longer just the “world capital of theme parks.” Its culinary scene is getting international attention, recognized by renowned publications as a top destination, with acclaimed chefs and exciting restaurants. Heart of Florida United Way brought together 23 of the region’s top chefs to give back to the community during the 26th Chef’s Gala. Because of the generosity of these restaurants who donated all the food and the skilled volunteerism of their chefs, we were able to raise a record breaking $300,000 to assist thousands of people who are struggling in Central Florida.
J. Matthew Knight, M.D., board member, Tiger Bay Club
PUNISHED FOR PANCAKES. Last week: Earlier in the month, a teacher at a Pennsylvania middle school was suspended without pay for making breakfast for his students taking a state assessment test. After cooking each of his pupils a whole-grain pancake because “they worked their butts off,” he was hauled into his principal’s office and told he would be fired for ineffectively proctoring a standardized exam. I get it: Testing is tied to funding, even for 13-year-olds. This teacher knew better. But how things have changed. I wonder how many enthusiastic, big-hearted young educators end up stifled and discouraged by our nation’s test-happy educational bureaucracy?
TRAGEDY IN TORONTO. Looking ahead: A Toronto man murdered 10 and injured 15 by renting a van and running down pedestrians. It was the worst mass killing in Canada in 30 years. The attacker’s classmates remembered him as antisocial. One wondered if he had “a psychological or social disorder.” Another detailed odd behavior, including “walking the halls with his head down making meowing noises.” Was there a missed opportunity to prevent tragedy in Toronto? Too often, unmonitored or undertreated psychiatric disease forms the root cause of mass murders in North America, regardless if the weapon used is a gun or a truck.
Ken LaRoe, founder and CEO of First GREEN Bancorp
PANDERING, AN IMPORTANT DISTINCTION. Last week: I stand corrected. At our family weekly Sunday night dinner, my aunt, who is a retired professor, took umbrage to my comments that being socially liberal and fiscally conservative were mutually exclusive. She rightfully pointed out that she was both and articulated the many ways in which both attributes can be balanced. I guess what I should have articulated was that many extremely right-wing people profess to be both when in fact they are just pandering.
TOO GOOD TO FAIL. Looking ahead: Too good to fail should become the tagline for values-based financial institutions or businesses in general. It is very unlikely that a bank that is a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values will ever fail because of the corporate governance rigor that is necessary to even become a member. Maybe Wells Fargo should use its latest billion-dollar fine as a teaching moment and truly integrate values into that company.
T.J. Legacy-Cole, political organizer/community activist
CITIZENS’ POLICE REVIEW BOARD. Looking ahead: There is no police accountability unless Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the City Council can answer questions how citizen-filed complaints against law enforcement are handled. It was revealed during April’s Citizens’ Police Review Board meeting that not all citizen-filed complaints to Internal Affairs regarding police misconduct go before the review board, designed to hold law enforcement accountable. Instead, Internal Affairs elects to present certain cases before the board, and others are handled internally. We can no longer allow the police to police themselves and deceive the review board along with the constituents of Orlando. How long has this system of injustice been put in place? How does Internal Affairs determine which complaints are worthy of the review board’s attention? How many victims’ voices of police misconduct have gone unheard?
Ricky Ly, entrepreneur/TastyChomps blog
I THINK THAT I SHALL NEVER SEE A POTEM AS LOVELY AS A TREE. Last week: We celebrated Arbor Day. We all know that trees help protect soil erosion, provide lovely shade for us from the hot Florida sun, and clean the atmosphere by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Most don't realize, though, that the leftover carbon is used up by trees in their roots, branches, leaves and stored underground in the soil. This helps reduce our carbon footprint and protects the environment from increases in harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The City of Orlando has a program where they are giving residents one free tree by signing up online. By increasing the tree canopy for the City of Orlando from 25 percent to 40 oercent, the impact to the environment would be the equivalent of taking 40,000 cars off the road.
NET NEUTRALITY. Looking ahead: Small Business Week will celebrate local small businesses around America and here in our local Central Florida community. Recently the FCC voted to eliminate its net neutrality protections and allow internet service providers (ISPs) to slow down, block and reprioritize internet traffic depending on the highest bidders, leaving small businesses and new firms behind. A free and open internet encourages a free and open market by giving small businesses and startups the opportunity to compete with big-box stores, chains and internet-only businesses. Polling shows more than 8-in-10 voters oppose the FCC’s repeal, and thousands of small businesses have asked keep net neutrality. Urge your Senators and Representatives today to support a Congressional Review Act to override the FCC's vote and restore strong net neutrality protections.
A.J. Marsden, assistant professor, Beacon College
LEESBURG SPIFFS UP. Last week: Downtown Leesburg is about to see more changes thanks to Sarasota investor, Tom Frost. He purchased almost three blocks of downtown that he slowly is developing. He has also invested in, developed, and re-opened Evolve Yoga and Fitness and the Renew Day Spa, and plans to open several bars, restaurants, and a general store with healthy foods. It is refreshing to see so many changes being made in Leesburg that will benefit its younger residents.
Anna McPherson, president, Junior League of Greater Orlando
MONARCH INITIATIVE. Looking ahead: Butterflies are fluttering all over the community! With multiple monarch murals festooning walls in downtown Orlando and beyond, banners advertising the initiative up and down Winter Park and school science lessons full of fun facts about pollinators, the Monarch Initiative is in full swing. So what does this really mean? It’s making sure we’re all aware of the amazing work our butterflies and bees do to provide pollination for our crops and our food chain. Pollinators are crucial for crop yields. Over the last two decades, monarch numbers have dropped by more than 85 percent. Bees have faced similar issues with colony collapse disorder. Making sure a welcoming environment for all these pollinators exists helps preserve our agricultural heritage, enhances the natural beauty of our environment and brings to the forefront the many amazing and positive attributes of beneficial insects.
Muhammad Musri, president, Islamic Society of Central Florida
HOLD DRUG COMPANIES RESPONSIBLE. Last week: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016. Osceola County recently passed an ordinance stating the opioid crisis a public nuisance, and filed a lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies for the distribution of opioids. The suit alleges opioids are costing the county increased jail costs, policing costs, and buying Narcan. Companies like Purdue Pharma knew years ago that opioids are very addictive but didn’t disclose it, instead they continued to push doctors to prescribe them. With more than 115 Americans dying daily from opioids, pharmaceutical companies should be held accountable.
AN END TO RED-LIGHT CAMERAS. Looking ahead: On my way to work, I witnessed a car accident at an intersection where a car was rear-ended when it slowed down because of red-light cameras. It turns out that this is happening more frequently, according to several studies. Eighty-two Florida cities and counties had red-light cameras in 2014; this year the number dropped to 53. New Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson is calling a council vote to turn the cameras off. It is now clear that cameras are contributing to more car accidents. It’s time for other counties and cities to evaluate the benefits and harms of the cameras.
Pamela Nabors, president/CEO, CareerSource Central Florida
CHECK OUT WHAT VALENCIA'S DOING. Last week: Valencia College broke ground on two facilities that will change the way we build our regional talent pipeline. The Center for Accelerated Training and Careers will be built in Osceola County, and offer short-term training programs and language skills instruction to quickly move students from classroom to career. Industries ranging from construction to health care and manufacturing need highly skilled workers – NOW – and this program will deliver. Perhaps this model of education, community and work-force partners working together to assess a work-force/business need … and quickly and decisively creating a solution … can be duplicated with other opportunities, like education, homelessness, etc.
IN-CAR DELIVERY FROM AMAZON, YES! Looking ahead: Amazon reportedly wants to deliver packages directly to newer vehicles (select models from 2015 forward with the help of OnStar and Volvo On Call). Artificial intelligence and automation have been steadily (and rapidly) changing our lives for decades, with mixed results. Recent news topics include driverless vehicles, unmanned delivery drones and facial recognition. If this is what’s next, I say, “Bring it on!” — as long as it means I can go shopping in one store while deliveries are made to the parking lot from another. Oh, the possibilities! Could sale-hunting terminators be far behind?
Cole NeSmith, executive director, Creative City Project
CULTURAL LANDSCAPE BLOSSOMS. Last week: Last weekend, 20-year-old visual artist Halsi hosted an event called “Secret Garden.” It was a visual art and music festival at the Henao Contemporary Art Center on Edgewater Drive north of Lee Road. The event drew more than 450 attendees, most of them young and from diverse cultures. Work by artists and event promoters like Halsi are important in the ongoing development of Orlando’s cultural landscape. In other parts of the city, other underground events were happening — Body//Talk at The Geek Easy and Femme-Hop at Blackstar in Downtown.
IMPORTANT CONVERSATION ABOUT THE ARTS. Looking ahead: This Wednesday, the arts and culture community hosts the three candidates for Orange County mayor for a conversation on “The Future of Arts and Culture in Orange County.” The event will be held at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and is open to the public with a reservation. Elevating the stature of arts in the electoral and governing process is important as they are significant drivers of economic development and quality of life. The forum will play a significant part of the mayoral race as more than 200 arts and community leaders will be in attendance.
Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder, FundEducationNow.org
BIGOTRY PUNISHED. Last week: Noah Crowley, a Sarasota high school student posted a racist “promposal” that quickly went viral on social media. It read: “If I was black I’d be picking cotton, but I’m white so I’m picking U 4 Prom?” Instead of getting defensive or passing his words off as a “joke,” Crowley’s parents worked with his school to deliver consequences to their son. As a result, Noah will not attend prom or participate in any senior activities, including graduation. Too harsh? No. Kudos to these parents and the school for collaborating to teach this thoughtless young man that bigotry is unacceptable. Best graduation gift ever.
María T. Padilla, Orlando Latino blog
WEIRD POLITICS. Last week: It’s weird how Gov. Rick Scott made a fifth trip to Puerto Rico although people there cannot vote for him and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló launched a Florida voter drive although people here cannot vote for him. All in the same week. What gives? The Puerto Rican voter is in the eye of the 2018 political storm, as soon they may be Florida’s largest Hispanic group. In a tight-election purple state like Florida, Scott and Rosselló chase the boricua vote for their own purposes: to become the next U.S. senator or to strengthen Puerto Rico’s hand post Hurricane María. Voters beware.
Matthew Peddie, host, WMFE's “Intersection”
FELON’S RIGHTS. Last week: Gov. Rick Scott called an emergency meeting of the clemency board Wednesday night after a federal judge ruled Florida’s system of restoring voting rights to ex-felons unconstitutional and ordered the state to put a new system in place. But an appeals court judge granted a stay, so the meeting was cancelled. Voting-rights advocates who sued the state had celebrated the original ruling from U.S. District Judge Mark Walker. Now they’ll have to wait until summer for the appeals court to hear oral arguments in the case.
DON'T EXPECT TEACHERS TO STRIKE IN FLORIDA. Looking ahead: Teachers in a handful of states from West Virginia to Arizona have walked off the job this year, calling for more funding for education. The walkouts echo the action taken by Florida teachers half a century ago, says Jody Noll, who’s researching the 1968 walkout for a doctoral thesis. Noll tells 90.7 that teachers back then did get more funding for education, but some weren’t hired back after the walkout ended. Could Florida teachers strike today? The Florida Education Association advises them not to, warning of the harsh penalties they could face.
Larry Pino, attorney and entrepreneur
JOB TRAINING WORKS. Last week: Valencia College’s Center for Accelerated Training and Careers, scheduled to open in January 2019, is just what the professor ordered for the Central Florida economy. The center is one of a series of initiatives advanced by Valencia to focus on intensive, specialized short-term training on jobs-related skills preparing our Central Florida work force for national employers thirsting for regions with hungry and trained employees ready to be put to work. Bachelor’s degrees are the backbone of liberal arts education, but skills-based job training also deserves a place at the table. Keep it up, Valencia: The Central Florida economy applauds you.
Rob Rosen, partner, Burr & Forman
LINES CROSSED IN GREEK SYSTEM. Last week: I am dismayed by recent issues involving the Greek system at UCF and other universities across the country. With the caveat that I was in a fraternity during college, it seems as though the fraternities and sororities of which many of our children are members represent a microcosm of issues in our country. They offer a place of belonging, solace and friendship in students' hectic, frenetic and pressure-filled world. However, they cannot and must not be places where intolerance, bigotry, bullying or racism are tolerated. College students, our children, are likely going to drink and do inappropriate things, but there are lines that must not be crossed, just like in society as a whole.
Joanie Schirm, GEC founding president; World Cup Orlando 1994 Committee chairman
SUPERSLOW SUPERFUND CLEANUPS. Last week: Contaminated sites on the EPA Superfund’s National Priorities List create a long waiting game. A delayed “all’s clear” celebration staged by the EPA for the Sanford Gasification Plant Site came after 20 years of inactivity and finally, a cleanup. The nearly 10 acres in the historically black area of Sanford has long caused anxiety about health issues. With EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt embroiled in controversy, the EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment doesn’t receive much good news. Future good news: Orlando Gasification Plant’s six parcels located on West Robinson Street is kicking off remedial-action cleanup and will slowly wind its path to redevelopment.
THE FUTURE RETURNS TO BREVARD. Looking ahead: I grew up in Brevard County near the economic booms and busts of the Space Age. With news of an emerging manufacturing hub for satellites and rockets near KSC, the area’s financial future appears to look bright and stable. Investments from people like Bill Gates speak highly of a future that will provide opportunities for new companies like EarthNow to create high-tech applications that can identify illegal fishing in action, detect forest fires the moment they start, track large whales as they migrate and data about crop health. We’ll be able to watch war zones worldwide, and if lucky, get smart enough to stop war and create peace.
Ed Schons, president, Florida High Tech Corridor Council
MORE HONORS FOR JOHN HITT. Looking ahead: Recognition of John Hitt is intensifying as his retirement nears. Next week will be no exception, when leaders gather on Monday to celebrate the naming of the UCF Department of Defense modeling and simulation cooperative effort located in the Central Florida Research Park as the “John C. Hitt Partnership Complex.” Made possible by Hitt’s vision and commitment to partnership with our armed services, this large complex of five buildings houses thousands of military and civilian personnel whose work to provide our warfighters with the latest technologies has made Orlando the nation’s epicenter of modeling and simulation.
Michael Slaymaker, professional fundraising executive
DISNEY GRANTS. Last week: Walt Disney World announced the winners for the five $100,000 grants. Disney restructured its granting process to encourage nonprofits to collaborate with other nonprofits and do something big. Congratulations to the winners! All five winners were children-focused: Second Harvest Food Bank will create a teen nutrition program; Orange County Library a summer reading program; Urban Think and UCF CREATE a literacy program; Boys & Girls Clubs’ program to promote good character and citizenship and Heart of Florida United Way, Central Florida Commission on Homelessness and Zebra Coalition a project to create a digital system of care for homeless teens.
AND ANOTHER BITES THE DUST. Looking ahead: More retailers close their doors. Merchants big and small are declaring bankruptcy or closing stores at an alarming rate. Local stores that I miss are Sears, Macy’s, Dillards, Toys R Us, Payless Shoes, HH Gregg, Sports Authority, and Crate & Barrel. I guess that is business or a sign of the times. Hopefully all of our neighbors who lost their jobs can get hired at Amazon’s new warehouse south of Orlando International Airport when it opens later in 2018.
Kannan Srinivasan, president, Asian American Chamber of Commerce
GO UCF. Last week: The UCF Programming Team was first in North America, 10th Worldwide. UCF defeated teams from Harvard, MIT and Stanford, among others, to finish first in the U.S. and Canada. During the competition, teams tackle eight or more complex, real-world problems, working under an intense five-hour deadline in what is known as the “Battle of the Brains.” Teammates collaborate around a single computer in a battle of logic, strategy and endurance that requires precision, problem-solving and an understanding of advanced algorithms. Incorrect solutions are assessed a time penalty. To win, a team must solve the most problems in the fewest attempts in the least cumulative time.
HERITAGE MONTH. Looking ahead: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month takes place in May. It celebrates the culture, traditions and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. One fifth of the population of Orange County is Asian American. Orange County is celebrating on May 8 at the Orange County Government’s Administration Center. The event is organized by employees and community partners.
David D. Swanson, senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Orlando
FRATERNITY CONCERNS. Last week: Like Scott Maxwell, my fraternity experience was an enormously positive part of my college experience, and I am deeply troubled by the repeated gross misconduct occurring among some fraternities at UCF. However, I will defend the Greek System on campuses across America as one that is overwhelmingly positive, shaping the lives of many young men in ways that prepare them for life in the real world. While stronger oversight is needed, it would be tragic to lose a system that provides formative leadership lessons few other campus groups can offer, not to mention the bonds of friendship that last a lifetime.
REMEMBERING HENRI LANDWIRTH. Last week: He’s not a household name like Walt Disney, but Henri Landwirth has a similar legacy of bringing joy to children. He spent his teen years as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps. He became a successful Central Florida hotelier, and in time founded Give Kids the World, a Kissimmee-based, nonprofit resort village that offers free vacations to critically ill children and their families. He did it because he wanted children to have a bit of happiness in their childhoods that he never did. Mr. Landwirth died April 16 at the age of 91. We are grateful for his example and contributions to making Central Florida – and the world -- a better place.
GIFTING YOUR GREATEST TREASURE. Looking ahead: There never seems to be enough hours in a day, and luckily, Central Florida is home to very special people who not only find a way to juggle their daily responsibilities, but also to dedicate time to others. This week, I visited with 400 inspirational, selfless people who have found a way to do precisely that. In a hospital, having support — even from a stranger — is priceless. And that’s why our volunteers are such an important part of our organization. I encourage others to volunteer their greatest treasure — their time — and be a part of something bigger by touching other people’s lives.