14-year-old Ocala girl missing, endangered after leaving home

Alicia Johnson, 14, was last seen leaving her home located in the 11200 block of NW 12th Lane in Ocala (Courtesy photo via MCSO)

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is asking for help from the public to locate a missing and endangered 14-year-old girl who was last seen in Ocala.

According to MCSO, Alicia Johnson was last seen at her residence located in the 11200 block of NW 12th Lane in Ocala. She left her home on foot and is believed to be wearing a long-sleeve black shirt and blue jeans.

Alicia is 5’1” tall, she weighs approximately 100 pounds, and she has brown eyes and brown hair.

Due to the circumstances in which Alicia left, along with several concerning statements made to a friend via text messages, law enforcement and family members are concerned for her safety.

If you have any information about Alicia’s whereabouts, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office asks that you call 911.

FWC continues to monitor avian influenza across Florida

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) continues to monitor bird mortalities suspected to be attributed to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza throughout Florida.

This strain has been documented in the United States since 2021 and was detected for the first time in Florida in January 2022.

The FWC has documented the virus in 37 counties and a variety of bird species. The most common species affected in Florida include black vultures, lesser scaup and Muscovy ducks.

Owls, bald eagles and other raptors, along with aquatic birds and waterfowl, have also been affected.

There is a low risk of HPAI transmission to humans, which can be minimized by following basic safety protocols. To prevent the spread of HPAI, the public should avoid handling sick or dead wildlife, prevent contact of domestic birds with wild birds and report wild bird mortalities to the FWC. Domestic poultry mortality should be reported to the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Additionally, precautions for hunters, the general public and wildlife rehabbers can be found at MyFWC.com/AvianInfluenza.

Please be advised that because HPAI is not treatable and is easily transmitted in wild birds, some wildlife rehabbers may not accept these animals. Information regarding carcass disposal is available through the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.

The FWC is working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the University of Florida, the National Wildlife Health Center, the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, the Florida Department of Health and wildlife rehabilitators to study mortality events involving wild birds.

Additional Resources:

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office seeks elderly man in Homosassa

Wayne Brown, reported missing in Homosassa on Tuesday, Feb. 28, to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (Feb. 28, 2023)
Wayne Brown, reported missing in Homosassa to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (Photo: Citrus County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 28, 2023)

Please be on the look out for missing elderly male Wayne Brown.

He was last seen at 10 a.m. on Monday in the area of South Suncoast Boulevard and West Green Acres street in Homosassa.

His vehicle was located in the area of Hog Pond Trails in Homosassa.

He is a 74-year-old white male who his 5-feet-11 inches tall, weighs 185 pounds and has salt-and-pepper hair.

If located or if you have any information on his whereabouts please contact the citrus county sheriff’s office at 3 5 2- 2 4 9- 2 7 9 0.

DeSantis signs bill to strip Disney of self-governance privileges

The Center Square — The Walt Disney Company has officially lost its cozy relationship with Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Monday in Lake Buena Vista to sign House Bill 9B that will put an end to many of Disney’s governance privileges with the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Critics charge that Disney will retain much of its tax privileges and that DeSantis has appointed political contributors to the new board.

“The corporate kingdom finally comes to an end, there’s a new sheriff in town and accountability will be the order of the day.” DeSantis said.

“Since the 1960’s they’ve [Disney] enjoyed privileges unlike any other company or individual in the state of Florida.” DeSantis said, adding that Disney essentially had its own government, including exemptions from laws.

DeSantis noted that Disney had also been given huge benefits, had not paid their fair share of taxes and had amassed a municipal debt of over $700 million.

One DeSantis critic in the Legislature says that a better idea than stripping Disney of its privileges with Reedy Creek was to close corporate tax loopholes that she says the company exploits.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said in a statement that Disney retains the same tax breaks as before and that the new board would be filled with DeSantis-appointed “hostile conservative cronies.”

“It’s absolutely wild to see a self-proclaimed capitalist like DeSantis celebrate the government takeover of a private board which is exactly what the governor just did today,” Eskamani said. “Disney still maintains the same tax breaks — but their First Amendment rights have been suppressed, and it sends a message to any private individual or company that if you don’t purport to what the governor wants, then you’ll be punished.”

DeSantis mentioned the objection Disney had in 2022 to the Parental Choice in Education Act, which banned educators from teaching children about gender identity and other issues from kindergarten through third grade.

“Disney came out against something that was really just about protecting young kids, and making sure that students are able to go to school learning to read, write, add and subtract and not having a teacher tell them they can change their gender.” DeSantis said.

DeSantis noted that the protest from Disney about the legislation was only a “mild annoyance” but added that Disney’s actions had shown that there was a movement within the corporation itself to inject sexualized material into children’s programming.

“We want our kids to be kids, we want them to enjoy entertainment, school, without having an agenda imposed upon them.” DeSantis said, adding, “If you’re going that way as a corporation, those are not values we want to promote in the State of Florida.”

DeSantis pointed out that the situation with Disney was indefensible from a policy perspective, noting that it is not fair one theme park gets preferential treatment over another.

“We believe that was not good policy, we believe, being joined at the hip with this one California-based company was not something that was justifiable or sustainable,” DeSantis said, adding, “So, we said we were gonna do something about it.”

Disney will be treated like any other theme park in Florida, according to DeSantis, and that includes Florida laws that the area has been exempt from up until this point.

The $700 million municipal debt incurred during the corporation’s period of self governance will be paid by Disney and not by the taxpayers who live in Orange and Osceola counties.

Disney will also be responsible for paying its share for infrastructure, something that DeSantis said they weren’t paying for years.

“I’m glad that we could stand up against some of the madness,” DeSantis said, adding that he was also happy that the Legislature is working on more permanent protections for every Floridian.

Governor appoints 3 to water management board

Governor Ron DeSantis appointed James Holton, Dustin Rowland and Robert Stern to the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board.

Holton, of St. Petersburg, is the president and owner of JWH Properties, Inc., MHH Enterprises, Inc. and James W. Holton, P.A. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and his master’s degree and juris doctor from Boston University. Holton represents Pinellas County.

Rowland, of Dade City, is the president and owner of Rowland Truck Lines. He graduated from Zephyrhills High School in 1994. Rowland represents Pasco County.

Stern, of Tampa, is a partner and attorney for Trenam Law. Stern earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and his juris doctor from the University of Florida. Stern represents Hillsborough County.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Governing Board members are unpaid, citizen volunteers who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate. The Governing Board sets policy for the District, whose mission is to manage the water and related resources of west central Florida to meet the needs of current and future water users while protecting the environment.

Last call for Florida Fish Art Contest entries

The deadline is fast approaching for this year’s Art of Conservation Florida Fish Art Contest, hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). This contest is open to youths in grades kindergarten through 12th grade from across the state. The deadline to enter is Feb. 28 – start your entry today!

Students from Florida can win top honors, international recognition and prizes while learning about fish, fishing and aquatic conservation. The Art of Conservation inspires young people to get involved in the great outdoors and ignites a passion to become lifelong activists for the natural world.

Two first-place winners will be selected for each grade bracket (kindergarten through third grade, fourth through sixth grade, seventh through ninth grade, and 10th through 12th grade), one for illustrating the best freshwater fish species and one for the best saltwater fish species. All first-place winners will advance to the national competition to be judged for top prizes, including Best of Show. The deadline to enter is Feb. 28, so start designing today!

To enter, students from Florida should submit their entry at Wildlife Forever – Florida Art, consisting of the following:

  • An original piece of artwork featuring any fish including one or more of the following Florida native species from the same category:
  • Category 1 – Freshwater: largemouth bass, striped bass, black crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, spotted sunfish, channel catfish, Forida gar, chain pickerel, bowfin
  • Category 2 – Saltwater: snook, redfish, spotted seatrout, flounder, tarpon, mahi-mahi, Spanish mackerel, hogfish, queen snapper, black grouper
  • A piece of creative writing, no longer than one page, about the chosen species (required for grades 4-12).
  • A Florida State-Fish Art Contest entry form.

( Contest ends Feb. 28, 2023 )