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Orange County Commissioners Approve Sales Tax Referendum on November Ballot

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Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings (center) and Orange County Commissioners Mayra Uribe (left) and Maribel Gomez Cordero in a board meeting January 26, 2021. Photo: Orange County Government (via Twitter).

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – By a vote of four to three, Orange County approved the inclusion of the Transportation Sales Tax referendum on the ballot for the general election on November 8th.

The measure would ask Orange County voters to approve a one-cent sales tax increase that would be used to improve transportation in the county.

Commissioners Christine Moore, Mayra Uribe and Maribel Gomez Cordero joined Mayor Jerry Demings on the vote. Mayor Demings had been pushing to include the tax since 2019.

“I’m happy that our Board, at least the majority, saw fit to give the power to the people and let residents decide whether to tax themselves in this manner,” Mayor Demings said after the vote.

If voters approve, the sales tax in the county would be increased to 7.5 percent.

According to the presentation before the vote, the improvement in transportation–which would include a commuter train–would create over 5,000 new jobs, $4 billion in economic output, a $910 million increase in personal income, and $2.4 billion in gross domestic product (GDP).

Demings’ team estimates that $21 billion are needed to improve the current transportation system in Orange County. With the sales tax $600 million annually could be raised to cover that, according to the team’s calculations.

Commissioners Emily Bonilla, Nicole Wilson and Victoria Siplin opposed the measure. Wilson in particular said that there was a lack of transparency in the plan.

As a compromise, the commissioners agreed to create a citizens oversight board to evaluate the city’s transportation plans.

Demings assured both the opposing commissioners and voters that he would work to ensure that everything is indeed transparent.

A 2022 Orange County survey indicated that a majority of residents desire a better transportation system and are concerned with growing traffic. The full results of the survey can be seen here.

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Juan Carlo Rodriguez is a politics and entertainment reporter for Florida National News, and Assistant Editor for FNN News en Español. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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Florida

Tom Keen Picks Up Key Endorsement in Race for Florida House District 35

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Tom Keen, candidate for Florida House District 35. Photo: Tom Keen campaign.

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Democrat Tom Keen announced he has received the endorsement of State Senator Victor Torres in his race for the Florida House in District 35. His district will overlap with Senator Torres in Osceola County.

Both Senator Torres and Tom Keen are military veterans. Keen served as a Naval Flight Officer for twenty-one years on active duty. Senator Torres is a former Marine and retired Law Enforcement Officer.

“Tom is the best qualified person to represent voters in District 35,” stated Torres. “His military experience and continued service to the City of Orlando on the Citizen’s Police Review Board demonstrate his commitment, knowledge, and passion to represent our community. He is my choice for District 35.”

Keen stated “I’m running to fund our public schools, protect our environment, and help Florida make brighter choices for our future,” Keen says in his message. He highlighted his commitment to meeting the State’s most urgent needs, like providing immediate tax relief to help with the high cost of gas.

“Floridians are struggling with high cost of fuel today, but Fred Hawkins and Republicans in the Florida House voted to delay the Gas Tax Holiday until right before the November election – we need relief now – not a bribe in October.” said Keen. “May and November are the two months with the fewest tourists – if Republicans were serious about tax relief instead of bribing voters, they would have provided critical tax relief this month.”

Keen collected enough verified signatures to qualify by petition for the 2022 election cycle, a grassroots volunteer effort that lets him connect with voters individually. He has also recently been endorsed by VoteVets and Ironworkers Local 808.

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Education

Orange County Government, Rollins College Announce 3-Year, $4M Partnership to Provide Nonprofit Training Support

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Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings (right) and Rollins College's Crummer Graduate School of Business partnered to announce the launch of the school's nonprofit assistance program. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Orange County Government and the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College today announced a three-year, $4 million partnership to provide nonprofit training support through Crummer’s Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership, the region’s premier source for nonprofit education and management assistance.

Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News

Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News

Funded by the American Rescue Plan Act in Orange County, the program will equip local nonprofits with the tools necessary to succeed in the post-pandemic environment. Specifically targeting small, and diverse Orange County-based nonprofits, Empowering Good: A Nonprofit Capacity Building Project is designed to offer training in five key areas: impact measurement, innovation, financial management, fundraising, and risk management.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings speaks during the press conference announcing Crummer's new program launch. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings speaks during the press conference announcing Crummer’s new program launch. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

“Nonprofits play a central role in the wellbeing of our community here in Orange County. Despite increased demand for their services during the Covid-19 pandemic, many of our community’s nonprofit organizations were being adversely affected by the pandemic in potentially devastating ways, directly impacting essential services in Orange County,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings. “Deploying American Rescue Plan funds in partnership with Crummer’s Edyth Bush Institute will help us provide the resources necessary to ensure the long-term success of our nonprofit community.”

The cohort-style program administered by the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership, will support up to 36 Central Florida nonprofit organizations every six months over the next three years as well as offer organizational assessments and coaching for up to another 15 organizations for a total of 261 nonprofits, starting in September 2022. Training provided by the Edyth Bush Institute throughout each year-long program will include workshops, assessments, coaching/consulting services, and custom programming to address organization-specific challenges.

In assessing how to deploy its American Rescue Plan funding, Orange County Government sought to address needs in six key areas, with one of those areas being small business assistance. Alignment with the Crummer School’s mission to produce global, innovative, and responsible leaders who impact their organizations and communities, as well as the Edyth Bush Institute’s wide-reaching nonprofit network, provided an ideal partnership that would enable the County to bolster small businesses within the regional nonprofit community.

Crummer Graduate School of Business Dean Dr. Deborah Crown speaks during the press conference. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Crummer Graduate School of Business Dean Dr. Deborah Crown speaks during the press conference. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

“This exciting partnership with the Orange County Government will reach beyond nonprofits to the many organizations and individuals who benefit from their programs and services,” said Dr. Deborah Crown, dean of the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College. “Our incredible staff at the Edyth Bush Institute embrace this opportunity to further guide our local nonprofit leaders to continue to spark innovation and create jobs for our economy.”

Demand for goods and services from nonprofit organizations soared during the pandemic. In April 2020, the Edyth Bush Institute conducted a survey to assess the state of the nonprofit community. The survey found 93.73% of the 287 participating nonprofits reported moderate to significant impact on programs, services or general operations. In addition, 194 nonprofit organizations reported an anticipated revenue decrease of $48 million to $54 million between February 2020 and June 2020.

Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News

Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News

“Nonprofits play a vital role in directly improving the lives of individuals. Their contributions to this community and our economy cannot be overlooked. Yet, the struggles with increasing demand for services and maintaining a robust workforce were real,” said Min Sun Kim, executive director of Crummer’s Edyth Bush Institute of Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership. “This program will allow us to address pandemic and post-pandemic challenges as well as to help leaders position their organizations for long-term success.”

For more information and to access the program application, visit empowering-good.org

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Black Lives

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to Appoint Eric Smith as New Police Chief

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Deputy Chief Eric Smith. Photo: Orlando Police Department.

ORLANDO, FL (FNN) – Today, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announced the appointment of Eric Smith, a 27-year Orlando Police Department veteran, as the next Police Chief of the City of Orlando. Smith will serve as the city’s 40th Police Chief.

Last week, Police Chief Orlando Rolón announced his upcoming retirement after more than 29 years of service to the citizens of Orlando.

“Over the past three years, under the leadership of Chief Rolón, OPD has continued to aggressively fight crime, innovate with new technology and further increase transparency with our community,” said Mayor Dyer. “It’s been an honor to work together with Chief Rolón to protect and serve our citizens throughout his tenure with the Orlando Police Department.”

“I am confident that under Chief Smith’s dedicated leadership, the Orlando Police Department will continue to work diligently in protecting our community against crime, while ensuring that every resident is equally protected and respected,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “Chief Smith is well respected by officers and community members and is the right person to lead the department forward.”

A 33-year resident of Orlando, Smith will oversee the day-to-day operations of the department and serve as chief counsel to the Mayor in matters of public safety. During his tenure with the Orlando Police Department, Smith has worked in or supervised three of the four Department Bureaus and 10 of the Department’s 11 Divisions and has been a Deputy Chief for eight years.

Most recently he has served as the Bureau Commander for the Patrol Services Bureau, the largest section of OPD that is comprised of more than 500 sworn officers. He also serves as OPD’s High-Risk Incident Commander where he leads the SWAT Team, Crisis Negotiations Team, Emergency Response Team, Emergency Services Team, and the Crisis Intervention Team. In addition to his regular job assignments, Smith also served more than 19 years as member of the SWAT Team, including the position of Team Commander.

Smith is a graduate of the 269th Session of the FBI National Academy and has also completed the FBI Florida Executive Development Program. In addition to his role with OPD, Smith is actively involved in the community, including service on numerous boards, including YMCA of Central Florida, Valencia College Student Affairs, After-School All-Stars, United Against Poverty, Camaraderie Foundation and the Central Florida Boy Scouts of America.

Rolón’s last day in the office will be August 19, 2022, and his retirement is effective on November 1, 2022. After Rolón’s last day in the office, Smith will serve as Acting Chief and assume the position of Chief of Police on November 2, 2022.

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