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City Council Extends COVID-19 Safety Precautions, Brings Civility Resolution

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A resident receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo courtesy of WKMG 6.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – The City Of Orlando Council began its second meeting of 2021 agreeing to extend the length of the safety programs installed in March of 2020 to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, as the vaccination program continues throughout central Florida.

“I don’t think any of us thought back in March extending COVID relief programs for our businesses into the summertime of this year, but we are,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said in his opening remarks.

“COVID continues to impact our community even as we see the distribution of vaccines, so you need to continue to practice your pandemic precautions, (like) wearing a mask, social distancing,” he added. “But don’t focus on what you can’t do; I think we ought to be focusing on what we can do safely, and there are lots of great things. You can meet friends and families at a distance, in your driveway, in your front yard, one of our city parks, there’s a lot of outdoor dining opportunities, you can go for walks, bike rides, visit our city parks. And that’s good not only for your physical health but for your mental health, as well.

“You can come to City Council meetings, that’s always good for your mental health… sometimes”, the mayor commented. “But getting outside reduces the risk of spreading the virus, so we want to continue protecting our family and friends and everybody here in Central Florida.”

The resolutions also include allowing for more outdoor dining, helping downtown food trucks operate through the Downtown area, and suspending the need to get any permits or pay any fees relating to that activity.

On that note, Commissioner Bakari Burns informed that, on January 15th, he participated in delivering gave out over 2,000 masks, hand sanitizers, and COVID-19 posters to businesses on International Drive.

Commissioners Anthony Ortiz and Robert Stuart of Districts 2 and 3, respectively, brought forward a Civility Resolution to set an example of behavior to both federal, state, and city governments across the country.

“If you go on YouTube and see other meetings going on, it’s not so stressful here. I appreciate the congeniality and the civil discourse that we enjoy here at this council,” Mayor Dyer said. “By adopting this resolution we can set an example to other communities and allow Commissioner Ortiz, as president of the Florida League of Cities this year, to pursue one of his goals.”

“The best way to make yourself look good is to work hard and to not use the media to make someone else look bad,” Commissioner Patty Sheehan of District 4 commented about the resolution.

“This council puts people over politics,” added Commissioner Regina Hill of District 5.

Commissioner Hill also took the time to congratulate the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President of the United States, respectively, especially Vice President Harris as the first female vice president in history, in honor of “equity and equality for all women in the nation.”

In preparation for Black History Month, to be celebrated throughout February, the City proclaimed that the theme for 2021 would be to celebrate “the diversity of African American families as a core part of American society.” In light of the pandemic, most Black History Month events will be held virtually and encouraged to visit the BHM Committee’s website for more information and registration.

The Council also announced a series of outdoor activities for residents and visitors, like the new Deezerland park on I-Drive, which features a collection of vehicles used in movies like Back To The Future and the Batman series; the Farmer’s Market at Barker Park on Saturdays; and the new Dinosaur exhibit at the Harry P. Leu Gardens and the “American Artists in the Southwest and American Paintings and Drawings from the Melanson Holt Collection” in the Mennello Museum of American Art.

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Juan Carlo Rodriguez is a politics and entertainment writer for Florida National News. | info@floridanationalnews.com

NBA

Magic Beat Raptors for Second Win in a Row

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ORLANDO, Fla. (Florida National News) – The Orlando Magic (7-20) continued their winning ways against the Toronto Raptors (13-13), defeating them 113-109 , just two days after a come-from-behind overtime victory against the Los Angeles Clippers. This two game winning streak puts an end to the Magic’s previous nine game losing streak.

The Magic started strong, taking a 37-25 lead into the second quarter, led by 10 first quarter points from Franz Wagner. But the Raptors caught up to the Magic midway through the second quarter led by Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. But at halftime, the Magic held a slight lead, 67-63.

The Magic extended their lead to 94-87 with remarkably impressive scoring from Franz Wagner who added 14 points in the third quarter alone. In the fourth quarter, the Raptors tied it up 108-108 with about two minutes remaining after two free throws by OG Anunoby. Paolo Banchero made one of two subsequent free throws, and Moe Wagner drew the charge from Gary Trent Jr. to negate his two point basket. Fred Van Vleet later added a free throw to tie the game at 109-109. A Franz Wagner tip layup put the Magic up 111-109. A missed shot by Fred Van Vleet sealed the Raptors loss. Banchero’s two free throws put the Magic ahead 113-109 at the end of the game.

Franz Wagner led the scoring for the Magic with 34 points, while Paolo Banchero scored 23. Mo Bamba finished with 13 rebounds. Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz ended with 5 assists.

Several Magic players remain injured and were unable to play, including Wendell Carter Jr. (plantar fascia strain), Gary Harris (strained right hamstring), Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness), Jalen Suggs (right ankle soreness) and Jonathan Isaac (left knee recovery). Isaac has started his rehab program, playing in full contact 5 on 5 practice games with the Lakeland G League affiliate, and hopes to return to the court soon for Orlando.

The Magic face the Raptors at Amway once again on Sunday, 12/11 at 6:00 p.m. Be sure to follow www.FloridaSportsChannel.com and www.FloridaNationalNews.com for more.

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Orlando

Gaetz friend gets 11 years for sex crime, other counts

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida tax collector whose arrest led to a federal probe into U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor and other crimes.

Joel Greenberg, former tax collector for Seminole County, had pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, also including identity theft, stalking, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official. Prosecutors said he paid at least one girl to have sex with him and other men.

“Nothing justifies my actions. My conduct is so shameful. I feel remorse for what I’ve done,” Greenberg said in court Thursday.

Greenberg’s attorney had asked U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell for leniency, saying that his client had assisted in investigations of 24 people, including eight for sex crimes. Defense attorney Fritz Scheller said that Greenberg’s cooperation has led to four federal indictments, and that he believed additional ones were expected in the coming month.

Greenberg’s cooperation could play a role in an investigation into his friend Gaetz over whether he paid a 17-year-old girl for sex. Gaetz has denied the allegations and previously said they were part of an extortion plot. No charges have been brought against the Republican congressman, who represents a large part of the Florida Panhandle.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a significant reduction in Greenberg’s prison sentence, agreeing during a court hearing on Wednesday to a reduced range of nine years and three months to 11 years. Presnell ended up imposing the upper limit of that range.

The minor in the sex crimes case was almost an adult and had advertised as being over age 18 in her escort profile on the website “Seeking Arrangements,” which facilitates “sugar daddy” relationships, Scheller wrote in court papers.

The defense attorney also said that Greenberg “has provided significant substantial assistance to the government in the areas of public corruption, election fraud, wire fraud, and sex trafficking.”

Scheller also had asked the judge to take into consideration Greenberg’s struggles with mental illness, starting with an attention deficit disorder diagnosis at age 7 and panic attacks, depressive and anxiety disorders as an adult. At the time he committed the crimes, he had bipolar disorder with symptoms of mania, which affected his judgment and impulse control, Scheller said.

Greenberg has been linked to other Florida politicians and their associates. So far, none has been implicated in the sex trafficking investigation.

Some documents related to Greenberg’s cooperation were filed under seal and out of the public eye, with prosecutors and the defense attorney saying they were part of ongoing investigations being conducted by federal authorities in Florida and Washington, as well as state investigators.

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Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness Coming March 2023

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WINTER PARK, Fla. (Florida National News) – Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness, inspired by the children’s TV host and icon, comes to Orlando in March 2023. This week-long series of events was announced today at the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation in Winter Park.

“Fred McFeely Rogers devoted his entire life to reminding us of some of the most important ideas of what it means to be human among humans: love, respect and kindness,” explained Buena Vista Events & Management President & CEO Rich Bradley. “Many of us find that nearly 20 years after Fred’s passing, it is important to focus on his teachings once again, perhaps now more than ever. This is a week to re-engage with his massive body of work with some folks, and to introduce his teachings to others.”

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness begins March 20, 2023, the date which would have been Fred’s 95th birthday, and concludes on Saturday, March 26 with the Red Sweater Soiree, a community dinner to recognize ten ordinary members of the community who inspire and exemplify the affinity that Fred Rogers had for showing kindness to our “Neighbors”.

Mister Rogers Week of Kindness coming March 20-26, 2023. Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Activities planned for the week will include early childhood education activities and faculty training, as well as events open to the public.

“The events will be offered free or at low cost,” continued Bradley. “This week-long celebration is not a series of fundraisers, but rather about once again remembering and sharing some of the great work that Fred Rogers created, not only in early childhood education, but in reminding us that we are all part of one big ‘neighborhood’. Fred taught us the importance of accepting our Neighbors just the way they are and engaging in kindness with our interactions. I can’t think of another period in my lifetime where we needed to reflect on those messages again more than today.”

“There are three ways to ultimate success,” Fred Rogers was once quoted as saying. “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

Many of the activities of Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness will be attended by members of the cast and crew of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 – 1975, and again from 1979 – 2001. David Newell, known as “Mr. McFeely,” the “Speedy Delivery” man, appeared at today’s media conference via video, and looks forward to visiting Central Florida next March.

David Newell, “Mr. McFeely.” Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness is supported by the McFeely-Rogers Foundation, the Fred Rogers Institute, and Fred Rogers Productions. Details regarding the specific activities and venues will be released over the next few weeks.

For more information on the events, visit https://www.BuenaVistaEvents.com or https://www.MisterRogersWeekofKindness.com.

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