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1 big thing: Ybor could adopt Orlando's nightlife model

People clean up after a fatal shooting Oct. 29 in the Ybor City neighborhood. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Last month's fatal shooting in Ybor City has prompted officials to explore ways they can safeguard residents without hurting the bottom line of local businesses.

Why it matters: People who call Ybor City home, who have walked the crooked, brick-paved streets and worked to make the historic district a better and safer place, now face tough questions about what comes next.

What's happening: Tampa's City Council met last week to discuss a proposed curfew in the historic district. But after facing staunch opposition from residents and business owners, it appears to be off the table for now.

  • Tampa Police chief Lee Bercaw, meanwhile, touted Orlando's approach to nightlife as "very promising" during a presentation to the council.

Zoom in: Orlando enacted a variety of changes to its downtown nightlife recently, the Orlando Sentinel reported, partly in response to a July 2022 shooting that wounded seven people.

  • The city adopted a six-month moratorium on new nightclubs in March. It's since been extended.
  • Orlando revised its code to distinguish among bars, nightclubs, and restaurants; the move allowed officials to tailor regulations for each category.
  • Bars and nightclubs are now required to obtain a permit to serve liquor after midnight. Those with a capacity over 125 must hire off-duty police officers. Some businesses also have to wand patrons with metal detectors.

Orlando Police chief Eric Smith told Spectrum News 13 that violent crime in the city's downtown declined 10% from last year, while shootings are down 30%.

  • "We've seen a big change where we were having shootings pretty much weekly downtown," he said in August, crediting the policy changes and other initiatives for the improvement. "Now we're not having that, so downtown is substantially safer."

Yes, but: Orlando late-night business operators bristled at the cost of the added security requirements.

  • "It's such a huge burden, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year," Orlando Hospitality Alliance vice president Monica McCown told Spectrum.

What they're saying: Lyndsay Boggess, a University of South Florida criminology professor, tells Axios, "Reactive policies such as these tend to be short term in nature, whereas efforts to reduce the number of guns on the street may be more effective long term."

  • "Local businesses may oppose such restrictions, but it comes down to a question of tradeoff," Jacinta Gau, a University of Central Florida criminal justice professor, tells Axios. "Profits would suffer if downtown areas gain a reputation as being unsafe, so it might be worth the initial monetary loss in order to sustain a customer base."

What's next: Bercaw did not identify specific Orlando policies under consideration. He said reviewing the city's approach to violence in its downtown is the "first step," according to Creative Loafing.

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Stay booked and busy

📅Upcoming events around the city.

The Franchise Expo at the Tampa Bay Convention Center on Saturday:

Take the first step to your success, find the business that is right for you at the National Franchise Show. This expo allows you to have face-to-face discussions with the franchisors you're interested in, free access to info-rich seminars and more.

Hosting an event? Email [email protected].

2. 📚 Floridians flub the ACT

Data: ACT; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: ACT; Chart: Axios Visuals

Florida had some of the worst ACT scores in the nation this year.

The big picture: Nationally, the class of 2023 had the worst ACT performance in more than three decades, according to newly released data from the nonprofit that administers the college admissions test, Axios' April Rubin reports.

Why it matters: The scores are the latest indication of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on education, with academic performance and test scores declining at all levels. The 2023 cohort was in its first year of high school when the pandemic began.

Zoom in: Florida's average composite ACT score, an average of the scores for the English, math, reading and science sections, was 18.9 out of 36, a big drop from 19.6 in 2014.

  • Last year's average was 19.

Driving the news: More than four in 10 seniors don't meet any of the ACT's college readiness benchmarks, the testing organization said. These are the minimum scores for predicted success in college courses.

  • Average scores have been declining for six consecutive years, ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in a statement.

Go deeper

3. The Pulp: Squeezing the day's headlines

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

🏛️ The Florida House passed a bill that would expand restrictions on state investments in businesses linked to Iran. Final passage by the Senate could come as soon as today.

🦅 Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed Gov. Ron DeSantis' campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. It's a big win for DeSantis, who is trailing former President Trump. (Axios)

🚆 Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and other elected officials toured three Brightline stations this week. It's unclear when the high-speed passenger train will come to Tampa. (WFLA)

⚾️ A Valrico seventh grader won a national championship title representing the Tampa Bay Rays last week in the MLB's 27th Annual Pitch Hit & Run event. (Bay News 9)

4. 🏡 Florida's retirement appeal slips

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Florida is no longer the best place to retire, according to a new national ranking.

What's happening: U.S. News & World Report named Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the No. 1 place to retire for 2024.

The big picture: Pennsylvania dominated the ranking, landing seven spots in the top 10.

Zoom in: Just three Florida cities — Daytona Beach, Tampa and Sarasota — cracked the top 20, compared to eight last year.

  • Daytona Beach was the only Florida city to hang on to a top-10 spot.
  • Lakeland also made an appearance at No. 22.

What they're saying: Expensive housing and the increase of extreme weather risks make Florida less appealing for retirees, U.S. News & World Report finance expert Beverly Harzog tells Axios' Briana Crane.

Yes, but: More people, including seniors, are moving to Florida and Tampa Bay.

The intrigue: Despite growing affordability concerns among seniors, New York City rose eight spots to No. 6 on this year's list.

  • Access to quality health care and overall desirability make it a top pick for deep-pocketed seniors, Harzog says.

The other side: California continues to be one of the least desirable places to retire, mostly due to housing affordability.

The bottom line: Retirees want affordable housing, quality health care and tax-friendly policies for seniors.

🎧 Selene is listening to JVN on Keke Palmer's podcast.

🦸 Yacob is re-watching "Invincible."

🧠 Kathryn is taking a mental health day.

Today's newsletter was edited by Jeff Weiner and copy edited by Carolyn DiPaolo.