Is there a politician in Florida right now on more of a hot streak than Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry?
This issue of Bold tells the tale.
Curry’s pension reform appears to be on a glide path toward ratification — a major accomplishment.
His moves toward downtown revitalization have a major shot in the arm, with Shad Khan getting the green light to go forward with Shipyards redevelopment.
And he is still in the CFO discussion — bigly.
It is a political season where everyone in Tallahassee looks a bit more diminished with each passing news cycle.
Yet, Curry — vilified as a “party boss” during the campaign two years ago — is looking like the embodiment of leadership.
At 70 percent in an internal poll (and above 60 percent of Democrats), the question has to be raised: Is Jacksonville enough for Curry, or is it time for him to make a play for something statewide?
Pension reform a done deal … almost
It appears that the long and winding path toward comprehensive pension reform in Jacksonville has all but completed after the Jacksonville City Council “committee of the whole” voted to recommend 14 pension reform bills to the full Council Monday.
What this means: all that’s left for the body to do is vote once more for the bills they approved in committee.
Of the bills, 11 ratify collective bargaining agreements. One authorizes the ½ penny sales tax extension, which provides actuarial certainty that there will be money to pay down and eventually pay off the city’s $2.8B unfunded pension liability. And two more bills reconfigure the city’s retirement plans.
Existing defined benefit pension plans will close to new entrants. Hires after Oct. 1 will enter defined contribution plans.
Done deal — and maybe the biggest accomplishment of Curry’s political career.
Thus far …
Curry visits Tallahassee, not lobbying for CFO
Curry made his way to Tallahassee this week … but not to buck for the CFO slot.
Curry, who is at 70 percent in a recent internal poll conducted by his political committee, was there advocating for a friend and CEO of a Jacksonville company, reports Tia Mitchell.
“Curry introduced APR Energy Chair and Chief Executive John Campion to Scott and explained the company’s issues, which have tied up $44 million and could cost even more. He asked Scott to reach out to President Donald Trump in hopes of that the president can help bring the yearslong case to resolution,” Mitchell writes.
Turbines owned by APR were rented by an Australian company that went bankrupt, frustrating attempts to retrieve the equipment.
Curry, meanwhile, is willing to have a “conversation” about the CFO position, he told Mitchell.
Does Jacksonville need block grants?
Does the city of Jacksonville need Community Development Block Grants? As an urban city with all kinds of legacy problems, one would think the federal money would come in handy.
But getting Curry to take a position on CDBGs has been a slog.
The city kicked off the beginning of a week of events designed to call attention to the utility of CDBGs with a mayoral proclamation — but with no one authorized to deliver it.
TV was there — no worries, they didn’t notice. But there is a school of thought that Curry’s reticence is related to the desire of President Trump to zero out these grants — weekend travel to one’s private clubs isn’t cheap.
Curry’s spokesperson, Marsha Oliver, projected agnosticism on the issue on behalf of her boss.
“As long as the program exists and funds are available, we will utilize them,” Oliver said.
Oliver stressed that the mayor was not taking a position on whether the program should or shouldn’t be in existence; however, as budget discussions loom, Curry’s financial team likely will have to factor in the current uncertainty from the White House.
Aaron Bean is lobbying for CFO
Sen Bean — already filed for re-election to the Senate — is in the mix for the CFO opening that will be created soon.
“My name is in the hat for CFO,” Bean said. He has met with Gov. Rick Scott, who said he would announce the process for selection “after Session ends.”
Bean is part of a crowded field of candidates, which includes Curry and Pat Neal, who has been touted by statewide political media as a strong candidate for the caretaker role.
Trouble for Paul Renner?
Rep. Renner has made no secret of his desire to be House Speaker in 2022 — and that may be a dealbreaker.
A week after POLITICO Florida reported Renner discussed his speaker’s bid with House Republicans — violating prohibitions against campaigning for the slot — new draft rules may knock him out of the running.
Peter Schorsch lays it out.
“According to the latest version of the rules, a caucus member would be ineligible to be nominated if the House Speaker declares the member in violation of House Republican Conference Rules,” Schorsch writes.
Adopted last year, those rules state a “candidate for the office of Republican Leader-designate may not have directly or indirectly solicited or accepted a formal or informal pledge of support before June 30 of the year following the general election which the final members of their legislative class were elected.”
Conference rules go on to say a violation would render that candidate “ineligible to stand for election before the House Republican Conference as either the Republican Leader-designate or the Republican Leader.”
Corrine Brown trial boasts witness star power
Federal court awaits Brown next week, and political watchers will appreciate the star power brought forth to testify on the questionable charity graced by Brown’s name.
Among the defense witnesses: Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Bennie Thompson.
Jacksonville luminaries will also testify, including former Mayor John Delaney.
Testifying for the prosecution: Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel, former Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover, current Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, Jacksonville super-donors John Baker and Ed Burr, Jacksonville lawyer, and one-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Steve Pajcic, and former chair of the Donald Trump campaign in Florida, Susie Wiles.
Testifying for the state: the congresswoman’s daughter, Shantrel Brown and her two alleged co-conspirators: Carla Wiley and former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons. Simmons also is on deck for the defense.
Both Wiley and Simmons have pleaded out, and their sentences are contingent on cooperation with the feds.
Brown faces 22 federal counts, with a possible 357 years in prison and $4.8 million fine if all charges are found valid.
Nikolai Vitti, Motown-bound
The Detroit Free Press reported this week that Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is moving on to the Motor City, wrapping up a tenure that saw Vitti with more buy-in from community “stakeholders” than rank and file.
Going forward, It looks to be a wild ride for Vitti.
The Free Press reported “jeers” from some audience members, with the objection being that Vitti is not African-American.
And there is a lawsuit challenging the openness of the search process also.
And the teacher’s union wants the interim superintendent kept on as an assistant superintendent.
Vitti’s tagline during this process has been a claim that he has Detroit in his DNA.
There’s still time to order a kit from 23AndMe, doctor.
Meanwhile, the Duval County School Board meets Friday to discuss next steps.
Shad Khan gets greenlit for Shipyards development
The “future of the Shipyards” is in the hands of Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan.
No, it’s not kismet. Rather, it’s the result of Khan’s Iguana Investments emerging as the best of three competitive bids for redevelopment of the Shipyards and Metropolitan Park. Indeed, Iguana’s score of 85.5 was well ahead of the other two hopefuls.
Action News Jax reports that “Khan’s vision for Downtown stays true to his prior ‘Live. Work. Stay. Play’ pitch. His aim is to create an atmosphere around the stadium where the City and Jaguars both benefit. In addition to residential and park space, the plan calls for a luxury hotel that connects to the stadium through a pedestrian tunnel and a pedestrian and bicycle bridge park, similar to the High Line in New York.”
City Council will approve this deal later this spring.
Jax Chamber pushes Players economic impact
The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce ascribes $151M of economic impact from May’s PLAYERS Championship for Northeast Florida.
The Chamber hosted a news conference this week that involved representatives from the PLAYERS and US Assure, and as has been the case previously, all parties discussed the unique economic synergy created by the event.
“The tournament has hosting opportunities for businesses of all sizes and the PLAYERS Club is an excellent way to showcase our community, the tournament, and your company. If you have not already, I would highly suggest reaching out to staff of THE PLAYERS to figure out how they can help your company host clients at this amazing event,” US Assure chief operating officer Ryan Schwartz asserted.
“During May 9-14, Northeast Florida is on an international stage thanks to THE PLAYERS Championship,” Jax Chamber Chair Darnell Smith said. “As a community, we must continue to take advantage of this spectacular tournament and venue to showcase how wonderful this city is and to help grow business here in Northeast Florida.”
Ed Burr, double booked
When it comes to the JEA Board, almost-Chair Burr has left the building, reports the Florida Times-Union.
“Mayor Lenny Curry appointed Burr, along with other business leaders, to the board in 2015 following a shake-up of the board in the wake of controversy over governance at JEA. Curry reappointed Burr for another term this year, but Burr asked for his name to be withdrawn from reappointment because of continued ambiguity in state law about whether he is a dual officeholder,” Sebastian Kitchen writes.
Burr, chairman of the Jacksonville Civic Council and a Lenny Curry ally, also serves on the FSU Board.
Tom Petway will serve as interim chair until a new chair is formally selected.
March Madness comes to Jacksonville in 2019
The NCAA awarded Jacksonville a Division I Men’s Basketball Regional for 2019. The Florida Times-Union reports it is the fourth time since 2006 that the city has been a part of March Madness.
Jacksonville is the Florida site chosen for an NCAA regional for the next two years. Tampa received a regional for 2020.
“We have worked on this for the past year, and I think our track record from hosting in 2006, 2010 and 2015 spoke for itself,” said Alan Verlander, chief operating officer and executive director of the Jacksonville Sports Council. “We’re very excited to welcome March Madness back to Jacksonville.”
University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium will host the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Outdoor Championships in May 2019 and May 2021.
“We are thrilled to welcome NCAA Championship events back to Jacksonville,” said Curry. “Our community continues to demonstrate that we are a premiere destination for many of the biggest and brightest sporting events. This is another great opportunity to support and celebrate student-athletes who are competing at the highest level.”
Motivational Speaker Doug Dvorak to give Flagler College commencement
Approximately 358 Flagler University students will get a motivational speech from Doug Dvorak when they receive their diplomas at a commencement ceremony next weekend.
Dvorak, an alum who graduated from Flager with a bachelor’s in business administration in 1984, is the CEO of DMG International, an organization that assists clients with sales, productivity and motivational workshops. His background in sales, leadership and management has allowed him to become one of the world’s most sought-after consultants, lecturers and teachers, and in 2014 he was inducted into the Motivational Speakers Hall of Fame.
JAXPORT now offers expanded service to Asia through Hamburg Süd’s new Asia- North America East Coast rotation. JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal serves as the last port of call for the new service offered through the 2M Alliance. Ships in the rotation offer direct service from Jacksonville to Busan in South Korea as well as Qingdao, Xingang, Shanghai and Ningbo in China. SSA Marine furnishes stevedoring services at Blount Island.
UF Health Jacksonville neurology patients needing medical imaging are getting scans much quicker after an in-house, multiple-department efforts have reduced turnaround times. The change brings more efficiency, increased throughput, and improved patient satisfaction. Overall, there was a 52 percent decrease in the number of scans that took more than a day to complete. Data for the study were collected through early 2016.
Jacksonville-based Community Hospice of Northeast Florida has a new name — Community Hospice & Palliative Care. The Florida Times-Union reports the change reflects Community Hospice’s growing line of services and programs. Since 1979, Community Hospice has served the end-of-life needs of patients and families in Northeast Florida. In February it received a certificate of need start offering hospice services to an 11-county region of north and north-central Florida.
Armada FC appoints Marshall Happer as chief operating officer
Coming off a 0-0 draw this week with San Francisco that kept the Armada unbeaten, Kartik Krishnaiyer reports the club has promoted Happer to chief operating officer. Happer was appointed by the North American Soccer League (NASL), which took over ownership of Armada FC in early 2017.
A former NFL executive, Happer helped launch Armada FC, previously serving as the club’s senior vice president of club and team operations. He has been with Jacksonville since it kicked off NASL play in front of a crowd of 16,164 at EverBank Field on April 4, 2015, against FC Edmonton. The Armada beat Edmonton twice to start the 2017 campaign and now picked up a draw against San Francisco.
Happer will lead the club’s day-to-day business efforts and manage its front office staff. Under the current ownership landscape, all Armada FC assets have been transferred to the NASL. The Jacksonville Armada FC Youth Academy will continue to operate as a separate nonprofit organization.
“It’s an honor to lead this club and continue to bring high-level soccer and quality entertainment to our loyal fans here in Jacksonville,” Happer said. “The team is off to an undefeated start on the field, the front office is eager to connect with the community in new and exciting ways, and the move to Hodges Stadium — a new facility for us — has been extremely well-received by the Armada FC faithful.”
The Armada’s quick start has raised eyebrows throughout the NASL. The club sits in first place with seven points through three games and has yet to concede a goal. Jacksonville travels to New York to face the defending champion Cosmos on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game can be seen live on beIN SPORTS USA nationally.