2020 is finally over. Here are 10 Orlando moments to remember from the year that wasn’t

About that eternal lockdown: The principle of “Hanlon’s Razor” holds that we shouldn’t credit malice for actions that can be explained by stupidity, but in Florida, in 2020, sometimes it was tough to tell the difference. As other countries and even states worked together to flatten their disease curve and return to something approaching normality, those of us in Orlando who scrupulously observed COVID protocols watched helplessly as those who refused to danced, drank and wedding-partied Florida into a viral cesspit. Malice, stupidity, or a little bit of both? We’ll never know, but in the meantime, our three months of quarantine is stretching out into 13 with no assured end in sight.

But even though it felt like living the movie Groundhog Day, things happened that deserve notice, both commendable and regrettable.

Rep. Val Demings is a manager of the Trump impeachment:

We kicked off 2020 with the hometown-pride-inducing sight of U.S. Rep. Val Demings serving as one of seven managers to physically “transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.” As an impeachment manager, Demings walked to the Senate chamber to hand over the printed articles and after reading the charges aloud, returned to the House to give a verbal report. “I’ve enforced the laws and now I write the laws,” Demings, who was once Orlando Police Chief, said during the debate before the House impeachment vote. “But the laws mean nothing if the accused can destroy evidence, stop witnesses from testifying and blatantly refuse to cooperate.”

COVID craters the local tourism industry:

Before 2020, conventional wisdom was that, no matter what, theme parks don’t close; 9/11 only interrupted Disney operations for less than a full day, for god’s sake. But the coronavirus pandemic put paid to that notion, shutting down the tourist industry that Orlando’s economy hinges on in March. Theme parks and attractions closed and furloughed scores of workers. Then hotels, restaurants, bars, the convention center, even the airport all followed suit to varying degrees. The ripple effects were heartbreaking, like watching a car wreck in slow motion. In June, Universal and SeaWorld reopened, followed by Disney World in July. But with limited capacity and large events like Halloween Horror Nights off the table, profits nose-dived enough to cause thousands more layoffs. It will be a long road back to where we were at the start of 2020, and things will get worse with Disney and Universal, yes, set to lay off still more employees by the time you read this issue.

Continue reading “2020 is finally over. Here are 10 Orlando moments to remember from the year that wasn’t”

Florida unemployment rate holds steady, as Orlando tops metro areas for joblessness

Florida’s unemployment rate was unchanged from October at 6.4%, but Orlando recorded the highest number of any metropolitan area in the state at 7.7%.

A report released Friday by the Department of Economic Opportunity shows the continuing powerful effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the state and particularly Central Florida’s tourism-dependent economy.

In all, about 651,000 Floridians were jobless in November, the report says.

In Central Florida, Orange County came in at 8.1% for November, Osceola at 9.7%, Lake at 6.5% and Seminole at 5.7%. Osceola and Orange had the first- and second-highest county rates in the state.

Metro Orlando’s rate topped that of Miami’s, which in previous months had posted the highest percentage of joblessness.

Adrienne Johnston, DEO’s chief of the Bureau of Labor Market Statistics, said seasonal retail hiring was slow this year.

“I think we’re seeing where people are shopping online a little bit more of the season. Businesses did not add as many employees to their payrolls,” Johnson said in a conference call.

The overall U.S. unemployment rate for November was 6.7%.

Continue reading “Florida unemployment rate holds steady, as Orlando tops metro areas for joblessness”

Creepiest places in Florida guaranteed to haunt your dreams

1.) Castillo de San Marcos (St. Augustine)

Built in the 17th century, the Castillo de San Marcos covers over 20 sprawling acres of land and is filled with a rich 450 year history that has withstood the test of time. 

If we’re talking haunted or creepy destinations in Florida, of course, St. Augustine is going to top most lists. Let’s talk about Castillo de San Marcos, a former military fortress that’s infamous for some of its battles. 

Some say the spirits of Spanish soldiers still defend the 17th century fort. Others say a light shines from a fixture in one of the watchtowers that has no electricity running to it. The spooky accounts also include one Spanish soldier in particular who stands at the edge of the fort, looking out to sea just when the sun is about to rise or set. And then there’s the dungeon — where many people have reported the feeling of cold hands touching them. Others say they just felt cold in general while walking through, according to a website called  ghostsandgraves.com. Visitors to the fort say they’ve shot videos and photos of glowing orbs, misty shapes and even some shapes resembling bodies. Enthusiasts of the paranormal and supernatural definitely flock to Castillo de San Marcos for a number of reasons — all of which will make your skin crawl.

Continue reading “Creepiest places in Florida guaranteed to haunt your dreams”

Puerto Rican population in metro Orlando dips back to pre-Hurricane Maria levels

The Puerto Rican population in Central Florida returned to pre-Hurricane Maria levels, according to the latest American Community Survey, conducted yearly by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The newest estimate of Puerto Ricans is roughly 385,000 in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties, which is similar to before the Category 5 storm ravaged the island in mid-September 2017, driving many Puerto Ricans to Central Florida.

UCF sociologist Fernando I. Rivera, founder of the Puerto Rico Research Hub, explained that Puerto Rico’s migration “is circular.”

“Basically, the economic conditions are what really determine the population movement,” he said. “If you are going to suffer economically here, you would prefer to go back to Puerto Rico and at least be with family.”

The decline is an unusual twist for one of the U.S. mainland’s largest concentration of Puerto Ricans — only second to the New York metro area. In the city of Kissimmee, where Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made a campaign stop last week to announce an economic recovery plan for the island, 1 in every 2.5 residents is of Puerto Rican origin. They represent a large block of voters to be wooed in Florida, with Central Florida positioned as the highly-sought swing region in a state viewed as one of the most coveted prizes in the upcoming presidential election.

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Central Florida dominates state jobless rate ranks

Central Florida, a tourism-dependent region walloped by the coronavirus pandemic, hold four of the top seven highest unemployment rates for July, according to state figures.
Osceola and Orange rank first and second, while Polk is fourth and Lake is seventh. Statewide, 11.3% of workers were unemployed. Here’s a look at county-bycounty jobless numbers for the month.

Osceola County: 20.2 percent
Orange County: 16.1percent
■ Miami-Dade County: 14.2 percent
Polk County: 13.2 percent
Broward County:13.1percent
■ Hendry County:13 percent
Lake County: 12.4 percent
■ Palm Beach County: 11.6 percent
■ Citrus County:11.2 percent
■ St. Lucie County:11percent
■ Hernando County:10.9 percent
■ Putnam County:10.9 percent
■ Hamilton County:10.7 percent
■ Lee County:10.7 percent
Seminole County: 10.5 percent
Volusia County: 10.5 percent


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Dandelion Cafe closes for good

Dandelion Cafe closes for good – Orlando Sentinel 8_24_2020

Orlando’s Dandelion Community Cafe has permanently closed amid the coronavirus pandemic and after employees there said they were organizing to address issues with the restaurant.

The vegetarian cafe at 618 N.Thornton Ave. posted on its website that it had closed because of a “variety of factors outside of our control” including the impact of coronavirus.

Opened in 2006,the eatery had hosted art shows and live music and offered a menu of organic options. It was named the best vegetarian restaurantin Florida by Mental Floss in 2017.

“It is with a heavy heart, but clear mind,that I make the decision to per manently close our special place,” a post signed by founder Chris Blanc on the website said. “It has proven extremely difficult to operate a business in this current environment.The last few months have required an almost complete change to our
business in the way we serve our community, at great financial cost.”

The cafe’s voicemail, which was unable to accept messages Tuesday morning, said
it was closed until further notice. Most ofthe cafe’s staff had recently
signed a letter presented to management announcing they were forming a union,
according to Kyle Kern, secretary-treasurer of the Central Florida Industrial Workers
of the World labor union. The group, dubbed “The Seeds,” did not intend to move toward contract negotiations or a National Labor Relations Board election, but wanted to address grievances with the cafe directly as a group, citing issues such as low pay compared with rising rent costs, Kern said.

In an Aug. 11 Facebook post,the group said the cafe had “locked out” its staff for
organizing. Pickets were held outside the restaurant. “The owners of Dandelion have decided they will destroy their entire business to avoid sitting down with their employees to discuss serious problems with their workplace,” Kern said in an emailed statement Monday night. “This is the lowest of the low.”

Kern said about 15 hourly employees would be losing their jobs because of the
move.

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