At the end of every week, we praise a political playmaker, “swipe left” on the week’s biggest political loser, and explain what it all means for Florida’s political arena.
CHAMP: FRLA President/CEO Carol Dover
Without question, the coronavirus pandemic has destroyed lives and livelihoods across the state. And while some businesses are beginning to rebound, one sector continues to face an uphill battle: Florida’s hospitality industry.
The lifeblood and economic engine of the state, hospitality and tourism is a $112 billion industry that continues to rebound from the fallout of the virus. Several hotels and restaurants have closed as a result of the statewide lockdown, while those that have survived are faced with a long road to recovery.
To get an idea of the effects the disease had on Florida’s largest industry, from March 1 and mid-April, 41 percent of restaurant operators closed their restaurants and 87 percent of those operators were forced to lay off or furlough employees. Over the same period, Florida restaurants lost $3.5 billion in sales due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Hotels didn’t fair much better – more than 7 of 10 hotel rooms went empty, hotels were operating at single-digit occupancy rates if they stayed open.
With the hospitality industry facing the Sisyphean task of rebuilding, many in the field are counting on one woman to utilize her 25-years of experience as head of the FRLA to weather the storm and get the beloved industry back on its feet.
Serving as the President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Dover continues to safely navigate one of the state’s most vital industries through the coronavirus squall.
On Wednesday, she was handpicked to participate in a roundtable discussion alongside Vice President Mike Pence and Governor Ron DeSantis to discuss the economic impact the virus has had on the industry. During the conversation, Dover continued to go to bat for the Sunshine State’s largest industry, advocating for additional relief in Phase 4 of federal funding.
Honored to welcome @VP Pence to Orlando today to talk about the recovery of the hospitality industry. Thank you for your leadership and support! @WeRRestaurants #FRLAWelcomeBack pic.twitter.com/nPIgmb9Pf5
— FL Restaurant & Lodging Association (@FRLAnews) May 21, 2020
Dover also addressed the need to grant liability protection to businesses and called on leaders to fight back against Amendment 2 this November that will raise the minimum wage to $15 — something that will be detrimental to all businesses.
“There will be nothing more catastrophic to an industry that has already been hit as hard as we’ve been hit to have to be faced with an increase in the minimum wage,” Dover told Pence, asking for any additional assistance.
Dover’s expertise and steadfast commitment to those rebounding from the virus are enough to crown her victor of the week. Mix in with her high-profile meeting with top brass, though, and she’s without a doubt the undisputed champion.
Given her prominent role, wealth of experience, and healthy dialogue with Pence, we’re certain that she’s the right person to guide the ailing industry through the dark tunnel and into the light.
CHUMP: “Data Scientist” Rebekah Jones
Taking a page out of “How to Be a Martyr” by Jussie Smollett, Jones received her 15 minutes of fame this week after she was relieved from her post at the Department of Health for performance-related issues.
What should’ve been your typical termination in the world of politics turned into a media frenzy that saw various news outlets across the state attempt to twist Jones’ insubordination into a shadowy scheme ripped straight from Games of Thrones.
Following her firing, Jones claimed that her ousting was the result of her refusing to manipulate data regarding COVID-19 cases. This allegation prompted several media outlets — like the Tampa Bay Times — to negligently publish stories suggesting that Jones’ dismal was part of an elaborate “coronavirus conspiracy” orchestrated by DeSantis to support a plan to “prematurely” open up Florida.
But to the surprise of no one, the governor is not a Lannister and the Times is about as credible as Brian Williams‘ Iraq War story.
The unsubstantiated claims made by these outlets were laughable at best, with many pointing to a single column of data that became temporarily unavailable for a day and a half as “proof” that Jones was asked to delete data on the dashboard. Websites — like Florida Today — also falsely labeled Jones as the “chief architect” of the web portal, even though she obtained her doctorate in geography.
The media’s defense of Jones was just the latest attempt to discredit DeSantis’ leadership during the contagion and smear blood on the hands of one of the most competent governors in the U.S.
Thankfully, the media’s portrayal of Jones’ sacking was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Following our article that debunked the fake news story promulgated by outlets everywhere, DeSantis fought back against an ongoing narrative that seeks to lambast his every move.
“She’s not a data scientist. She’s somebody that’s got a degree in journalism, communication & geography. She is not involved in collating any data; she does not have the expertise to do that,” DeSantis told reporters. “She is not an epidemiologist; she is not the chief architect of our web portal; that is another false statement, and what she was doing was she was putting data on the portal which the scientists didn’t believe was valid data. So she didn’t listen to the people who were her superiors; she had many people above her in the chain of command, and so then she was dismissed because of that and because of a bunch of different reasons about how she did.”
‘She’s not a data scientist. She’s somebody that’s got a degree in journalism, communication & geography.’
— WFLA NEWS (@WFLA) May 20, 2020
And yet, this didn’t stop the Times from doubling down on their false narrative, publishing a defensive, nitpicky story in which they ignore the obvious – that Rebekah Jones is lying.
Hopefully, when all this is over, we can lineup the DeSantis detractors so they can issue a formal apology.