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Key West Mayoral Race, Miami-Dade School Board Election, Kamala Harris’ Caribbean Connection, Funerals During a Pandemic

Funeral Home COVID 08-13-20
Leslie Ovalle
Evans St. Fort, owner of St. Fort's Funeral Home and Cremation in North Miami Beach, says his business has seen a 30% increase since the start of the pandemic.

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston faces two challengers in the August primaries. Plus, there are 17 candidates running for seats on the Miami-Dade School Board. Kamala Harris becomes the first Carribean-American from a major party to become a vice presidential pick, and a look at funeral homes during COVID-19.

On this Thursday, August 13, episode of Sundial:

Key West Mayoral Race

The early voting period for Florida’s August primary ends this Sunday and election day is less than a week away.

There are local, state and federal elections on the ballot across South Florida, including in Key West, where three candidates are vying to become the mayor. Teri Johnston is the incumbent Democrat. Mark Rossi is a local bar owner and Rick Haskins is a real estate broker. The challengers are running on platforms of nostalgia.

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“I think it’s that kind of nostalgia that a lot of politicians play into,” said WLRN’s Florida Keys Reporter Nancy Klingener. “People always kind of want to idealize the past and think there was this time when everybody was happy and got along and all that stuff, but that’s not really been my reading of Key West history, either recent or even further in the past.”

We spoke with Klingener about the upcoming election, the candidates’ backgrounds, and the hotly debated issue of cruises in the Keys.

Miami-Dade School Board Election

The Miami-Dade County Public School Board is one of the largest school districts in the country with a multi-billion dollar budget. In the upcoming primaries, four seats on the board will be contested.

“I don’t think this is a change we’ll see immediately this year, but there are a lot of board members that have been there forever, since 1998, 1996, and they’re older in age as well. So we could see a shift [as younger members take over seats],” said Miami Herald education reporter Colleen Wright.

We spoke with Wright about the role of the school board, the four contested seats, and what to expect from the seventeen candidates running for office.

Kamala Harris’ Caribbean Roots

On Tuesday, Former Vice President Joe Biden announced his running mate to be California Senator Kamala Harris.

As the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, Senator Harris is the first Black woman, Asian-American, and Caribbean-American on a presidential ballot for a major party in the United States. Harris has also been outspoken about immigration, criminal justice reform and climate change — all issues impacting South Floridians.

“I think [this choice] is really huge because, for two and a half centuries, this country has largely taken a very scornful, very condescending view and treatment of Latin America and the Caribbean,” said WLRN’s Americas Editor Tim Padgett. “And I think her presence on the stage of a major presidential party ticket, could perhaps begin to change the way Americans view and treat that region right next door to us.”

We spoke with Padgett about how Senator Harris’ Caribbean roots have influenced her policies and political views.

Funerals During a Pandemic

Florida has recorded more than 8,900 deaths since the pandemic began, with nearly a quarter of them in Miami-Dade County. Thousands of families have had to decide how to safely pay respects to those who have passed.

Evans St. Fort started his funeral home 17 years ago when he was only 25 years old. He's been involved in all parts of the business, from preparing the bodies for services, to coordinating with families, to restoring parts of the building.
Leslie Ovalle
Evans St. Fort started his funeral home 17 years ago when he was only 25 years old. He's been involved in all parts of the business, from preparing the bodies for services, to coordinating with families, to restoring parts of the building.

Evans St. Fort, the owner of St. Fort’s Funeral Home and Cremation in North Miami Beach, is having these conversations with families on a daily basis. Over the past 17 years, St. Fort has coordinated thousands of services and worked hands-on with preparing bodies for services. But the coronavirus pandemic has entirely upended his business.

“Because of the minimum of people that are attending, the majority of our clients still want to see our services, so live streaming has become huge. ” said St. Fort. “It’s interesting because if there was any industry that was behind the eight ball when with technology, it was definitely the funeral industry.”

We spoke with St. Fort about starting the funeral home when he was only 25 years old and how dealing with death has changed for him during the coronavirus pandemic.

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