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Census Politics, Restaurant Hiring, Joan Didion’s Miami

MIA restaurants.jpeg
The Miami Herald
Alonso Escalante, 33, a waiter at Ghee Indian Kitchen, takes down an order from guests visiting the restaurant in Dadeland.

Florida gains an Electoral College vote and a congressional seat following the latest Census count. Plus, restaurants are struggling to hire staff. And Joan Didion's Miami — from a former Miami Herald reporter that toured her around the city.

On this Wednesday, April 28, episode of Sundial,

Census Politics

Florida is already one of the most important swing states in the country — with the latest Census figures making the Sunshine State even more powerful politically.

“It takes the majority of 535 to get elected to the presidency through the Electoral College. This puts us well over one-tenth of the way to being president. Florida has 30 Electoral College votes, one up from 29 [Electoral College votes] prior to this new census data,” said Susan MacManus.

She’s a Political Science Professor Emeritus at the University of South Florida.

Florida now has 21.5 million residents, up 14% from a decade ago. The population growth means we’ll also have a new Congressional representative. This could be a win for Republicans, given their control of the state Legislature they’ll be charged with redistricting during next year’s session.

“It's going to be a very, very contentious process. Even though Republicans are the majority of both chambers, you'll have a lot of input. From people in the community, different interest groups. Everyone will be weighing in on how the district should look,” said MacManus.

04-28-2021 SUNDIAL SEG A Census Results.mp3

Restaurant Hiring

Restaurants and bars across South Florida have seen a surge of business in recent months as restriction-weary tourists and vaccinated residents make their way out again. But handling the increased business has been a challenge for many operations, struggling to hire experienced servers and bartenders.

“Restaurants in Florida are almost busier than they can handle,” said Carlos Frias, the MIami Herald’s food editor and James Beard Award winner. “Florida had this distinction, that indoor dining has remained open for far longer than anywhere in the country. It’s been a magnet for tourists and locals.”

Ioannis Sotiropoulos is the owner of SP Hospitality Group. The group owns Copper 29 Bar, Calle 23, and Crema Gourmet Espresso Bar all located in Coral Gables. Sotiropoulus says the hiring pool has been slim to choose from.

“It’s a very tough challenge finding good people that want to work, especially as we continue to open new locations. Especially trying to find people in the kitchen, line cooks, chefs, sous chefs and baristas in the cafe. I believe the stimulus check and government money is part of the problem,” said Sotiropoulus.

Frias pushed back against the idea that workers weren’t coming back due to unemployment benefits or stimulus checks, pointing to a number of restaurants that were able to hire based on paying higher wages. He said All Day Cafe in downtown Miami for instance, has been paying well above $20 an hour in order to keep waiters and baristas on staff.

“The idea of a tipped worker is coming under new scrutiny. To pay workers under $3 an hour and expect the customer to come up with the rest is being challenged. This is a come-to-Jesus moment for the restaurant industry,” said Frias on Sundial.

04-28-2021 SUNDIAL SEG B Restaurant Workers.mp3

Joan Didion’s Miami

In the 1980s, Madeleine Blais was a reporter for the Miami Herald, tasked with touring an intrepid author and reporter around the city by the name of Joan Didion.

Blais is now a Professor Emeritus of journalism at UMass Amherst and a visiting professor at Goucher College.

“I took her to all the obvious places. We went to Versailles, but also I wanted her to see Coconut Grove. I wanted to see Miami Beach, wanted to see Liberty City. So we drove around many of those places together. I told her what I knew about Miami... I just tried to give her a sense of the mood of the place as much as anything at that time,” said Blais.

Miami by Joan Didion is this month’s Sundial Book Club selection. You can go to Facebook and search Sundial Book Club to join. If you’d like to check out our panel discussion last week on the novel, you can click here.

04-28-2021 SUNDIAL SEG C Didion-Miami.mp3

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.
Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.