The ongoing Corrine Brown drama pushed our legislative roundup back a week — but given the drama that ensued this week regarding what the Duval Delegation accomplished, that’s just as well.
Boils down to this: the legislators think they brought home the bacon, and some in City Hall believe that they brought home crumbs.
As you will see below, the drama came to a head Tuesday, when a Jacksonville City Councilman published a letter in the Times-Union dripping with delegation disses … just before doing an event with Gov. Rick Scott with delegation members who contend otherwise … and told us their thoughts on the councilman’s comments.
We have that in here, and more, along with deep-dive interviews with most delegation members and a few other notable stories …
NE FL Delegation finds money for local asks
The indispensable Tia Mitchell went through Northeast Florida Legislative Session asks in the Florida Times-Union and found some success — especially given that most delegation members were new to Tallahassee and The Process.
Of 37 projects with asks of over $1M, locals got some money for 22 of them.
“In my mind, we are just getting started based on the leadership and potential of our delegation,” said Rep. Travis Cummings, a Clay County legislator who carried one Jacksonville bill successfully in 2016 (the state legislation allowing for a pension reform referendum), and got spiked this session on a $15M request for state money for Jacksonville septic tank removal.
There is room for pessimism, even in Mitchell’s breakdown: many of the requests may have gotten some money … but not everything they wanted.
St. Johns River State College Palatka campus renovations, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Payne, got just $4M of a $16.1M ask.
And the North Florida School of Special Education expansion project, sponsored by Cummings, got just a quarter of a $2M ask.
Still … it’s a start.
Matt Schellenberg says Duval Delegation brought home ‘crumbs’
Jacksonville City Councilman Schellenberg went on the record to grouse about the Duval Delegation — a favorite off-record game among some in Jacksonville’s City Hall.
Smart move? The jury is out. Schellenberg — the city’s representative to the Florida League of Cities and Florida Association of Counties — got pilloried by two State Senators (Audrey Gibson and Aaron Bean) that he lobbied in Tallahassee.
Mayor Lenny Curry also rejected the premise that the delegation isn’t getting the job done.
And Rep. Jason Fischer — who Schellenberg called out in an interview for leaving the School Board early in 2016 to jump to the state House — likewise pushed back.
Schellenberg wouldn’t rule out a 2018 primary challenge to Fischer when we talked to him, setting the stage for a rare contested primary in NE Florida.
However, Fischer would be the one with every advantage: the mayor’s backing; the mayor’s political team; and money coming in from political committees hither and yon.
With many measures making it to the final budget, the Governor’s veto pen serves as their primary impediment.
Bean pointed to “little bills” with big impact and a “huge pass rate … underneath the radar screen,” such as a push for the shared use of school playgrounds, the ‘keys to independence’ bill helping foster kids drive, the ‘disaster prep tax holiday,’ and others.
A big bill with impact, meanwhile: SB 476, a bill Sen. Bean filed at the request of Gov. Scott, which amends and expands existing statute regarding terrorism.
The bill creates a more expansive definition of “terrorism” and “terrorist activities” in the wake of the Pulse massacre in June.
Additionally, the measure explicitly prohibits “using, attempting to use or conspiring to use” training from a “designated foreign terrorist organization.”
Session ‘best ever,’ enthuses Aaron Bean
Bean noted that this was, perhaps, the “best ever … one of the most successful” sessions of the 13 he’s been involved.
Bean pointed to local approps wins, including money for ShotSpotter and the state match on the COPS Grant from the feds, which will allow Jacksonville to hire more police officers.
“We had one of the best sessions in history,” Bean said.
Among Bean’s accomplishments: Neptune Beach can look forward to $400,000 for stormwater culvert improvements on Florida Boulevard: Bean and Rep. Cord Byrd (who seems to be moving into the House Leadership discussion, based on scuttlebutt) put in the work there.
Rob Bradley and ‘political capital’
For Sen. Bradley, the 2017 session was a big one. The budget includes $13.3M for the St. Johns River and the Keystone Lakes — an issue we spotlighted earlier in the Session.
$5M of that is recurring, ensuring that the project to replenish the lakes may happen at long last.
“People have been talking about restoring the Keystone lakes for as long as I can remember, but nothing ever happened. We finally have a plan and the financing to implement it,” Bradley asserted.
Bradley carried one of the most important and controversial bills of the session: SB 10, which allowed for the building of reservoirs to shore up Lake Okeechobee. That, of course, was a priority of Senate President Joe Negron.
“It was a year for bold action in the environmental policy arena. The president and I worked together. I managed his audacious Everglades bill, and he supported our audacious plan to fix the Keystone lakes. There’s a reason why both of those projects had never been done: they are expensive and require a ton of political capital. This year, the stars aligned and both happened,” Bradley added.
Clay Yarborough talks rookie year
Yarborough, a former Jacksonville City Council President, appraised the Legislative Session as a win for Jacksonville.
“Glad we could get some things for Jacksonville,” Yarborough said.
Indeed, Yarborough himself brought home the bacon, with two priority projects: $1.1M from the State Transportation Trust Fund is provided for the installation of pedestrian signals, refuge islands, sidewalks and street lighting and $1.231M for Crosswalk Countdown Traffic Signal Heads Installation.
We asked Yarborough — one of the most concise quotes in local politics — for what he saw as his biggest accomplishment and the biggest surprise of the session.
“Biggest accomplishment: Working with Sen. Travis Hutson to tighten the law on sexual predators (HB 327/SB 336). Biggest surprise: How fast things can move at the end of the session.”
Tracie Davis talks Dozier apology, relationship building
Rep. Davis was the least likely member of the Northeast Florida Delegation to be in Tallahassee. That said, despite Davis’ unlikely arrival in the House, she was characteristically reflective as to the value of the experience that almost didn’t happen.
Davis described her first Legislative Session as being “significant and exciting to be honest … specifically being a freshman in the minority party.”
The bill with the most emotional resonance for Davis “the FL House apology (HR 1335) to the men that suffered at Dozier and Okeechobee reform schools,” which “will always reign supreme for” Davis.
“So honored and grateful to have played a leading role with Sen. [Darryl] Rouson and Speaker [Richard] Corcoran then to have all of my colleagues unanimously support and participate with the apology that day was emotional and phenomenal,” Davis asserted.
Davis, despite being a Democrat in a GOP town, feels she has room to maneuver — and collegiality creates that room.
“I felt that building relationships with my colleagues across the aisle was going to be key for any success. The surprise for me was that those relationships happened easily … The relationship building helped me develop friendships, share perspectives, and get bills moving the House (which is not an easy task).”
Jason Fischer extols ‘balanced budget’
When asked to evaluate the Session, Fischer — who has been talked about as a potential Speaker down the road — had a more holistic read than some.
“We gave our citizens much-deserved property tax relief and a balanced budget,” Fischer told FloridaPolitics.com. “Families work hard for their money; Government should take less and do more!”
Fischer has some specific appropriations accomplishments: $350,000 for the LaSalle Pump Station project.
And $250,000 for a driverless shuttle program that will go to Baptist Health.
The money will go for a local deployment of the Olli minibus, a Local Motors vehicle made in part with 3D printing and powered by IBM Watson technology.
Fischer extolled the Duval Delegation, saying the group “worked together really well,” was “very cohesive,” and focused on “doing what’s best for Jacksonville.
Perhaps his biggest accomplishment this session: the passage of a “civil remedies for terrorism” bill.
Ron DeSantis for Governor?
One of the stories worth watching this year: will DeSantis run for Florida Governor?
Conversations DeSantis is having about the race are the kind of stakeholder talks one would expect in the pre-candidacy phase — “open” conversations with local, state and national figures.
Those conversations reveal a “real hesitation about Adam Putnam,” we are told.
DeSantis has a lot of positives: fundraising prowess; a place in the Fox News Channel guest rotation; youth and eloquence.
Despite representing an area to the south of Jacksonville, his roots are deep locally: wife Casey DeSantis has been on-air talent on local television in this market for years now.
Northeast Florida has wanted a House Speaker for a while. But — ironically enough — the Governor’s Office is probably more within reach … should DeSantis decide to run, a campaign that would launch late in the summer.
Adam Putnam brings roadshow to Jax Beach
We were the only outlet in the room when Putnam made his play for Jax Beach voters.
Results were mixed.
Putnam served up the material that had been heard statewide, a pitch of Florida exceptionalism and requisite haranguing of “bureaucrats.”
But when it came to specifics of local interest, Putnam didn’t offer much, opting instead for shopworn hokum.
He mentioned JAXPORT, Mayport and “the river.” Great.
But for those who might want an actual Northeast Florida candidate, it’s unclear if Putnam delivered — or can deliver — enough to stop some donor class dithering.
Moody’s dings Jax pension reform
Jacksonville got its pension reform package through, yet bond rating agency Moody’s asserts that it’s not all peaches and crème.
The write-up boils down to six words: “buy now, pay later, assume risks.”
The biggest poison-pen moment: “Jacksonville’s reliance on future revenues, rather than current contributions, to address its pension underfunding will continue to negatively impact our key credit metrics related to its pensions … because we do not consider future revenues as pension assets — while city contributions are going to be reduced.”
Policy makers considered these risks, as the discussion got less heady and more sober as the final vote approached. The defined contribution reforms and the one-half cent sales tax are correctly seen as “tools in the toolbox.” Not panaceas.
Still, it’s reasonable to conclude Jacksonville may already be at its ceiling regarding bond ratings, if Moody’s report is any indication.
Dick Kravitz talks SOE gig
Former Jacksonville City Councilman and State Legislator Kravitz may have gotten spiked in his run last year for State House. However, Kravitz is still on the public payroll, as the Jax Daily Record reports, working for the Duval County Supervisor of Elections under old friend Mike Hogan.
Part of his role: helping with lobbying efforts in Tallahassee.
“There are some people in the Senate that I served in the House with for eight years. It’s about personal relations, so it’s easy to get appointments, and there’s a lot of trust among us,” Kravitz said. “I tried to add to what the paid lobbyists were doing and help out a little to promote some of the bills.”
With session wrapped, Kravitz is helping run student elections at local schools. No word on whether or not he is debriefing them on the dark arts of robocalls and shadowy consultants.
Appointed — David “Hunt” Hawkins and Thomas “Mac” McGehee to the Florida State College at Jacksonville District board of trustees.
Questions arise over health of CSX CEO Hunter Harrison
Ahead of next month’s CSX shareholder vote on his compensation, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the 72-year-old Harrison often works from home and occasionally uses oxygen because of an undisclosed health issue
Harrison told reporters that doctors cleared him to work, and he believes he can lead the turnaround he began in March at CSX.
“I’m having a ball, and I’m running on so much adrenaline that no one can stop me,” Harrison told the WSJ. “Don’t judge me by my medical record, judge me by my performance.”
CSX Executive Vice President Frank Lonegro said Harrison remains fully engaged. Lonegro spoke at a Bank of America Merril Lynch conference, and he said using oxygen hasn’t slowed Harrison.
“I’ve gotten a dose of leadership from him while he had supplemental oxygen. I’ve had a dose of leadership from him when he hasn’t had supplemental oxygen and they were equally as blunt and equally as effective,” Lonegro said. “So, no question about who’s in charge and no question about how engaged he is.”
CSX shareholders will vote early next month on whether the Jacksonville-based railroad should pay the $84 million in compensation Harrison forfeited when he left Canadian Pacific railroad earlier than planned. Harrison has said he will resign if the compensation isn’t approved.
Jacksonville Zoo Endangered Species Day
Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is celebrating the 12th annual Endangered Species Day, free with Zoo admission, including school groups. Events include extra keeper chats with special collector cards. Collect all 10!
Keeper chat times:
— Penguin Feeding/Chat — 11 a.m. & 3 p.m. at the Penguin exhibit in Play Park (African Penguin card).
— Gorilla Chat — 12 p.m. & 3:30 p.m. at the gorilla exhibit in the Great Apes loop (Gorilla card).
— Manatee Chat — 10 a.m. & 12 p.m. at the Manatee Critical Care Center in Wild Florida (Vaquita card).
— Whooping Crane Feeding/Chat — 11 a.m. & 2 p.m. at the Whooping Crane exhibit in Wild Florida (Whooping Crane card).
— Wild Florida Chat — Times TBD at the Wild Florida Pavilion in Wild Florida (Western Pond Turtle, Sea Turtle cards).
— African Plains — 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Africa Boardwalk near Main Camp Train Station (Black Rhino and Cheetah cards).
— Elephant Chat — 12:30 p.m. at Elephant Plaza on the African Boardwalk (Asian Elephant card).
— Stingray Chat — Times TBD at Stingray Bay (Sharks card).
Armada lose to Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-0 in St. Petersburg
The Tampa Bay Rowdies cruised into the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 3-0 win over the Jacksonville Armada U23s at Al Lang Stadium Tuesday night.
The Open Cup is a knockout tournament featuring teams from all levels of the American soccer system, including qualifying amateur clubs.
Kyle Porter, Alex Morrell and Martin Paterson scored the goals for Tampa Bay as the Rowdies moved on in the competition.
“I thought it was a really, really professional performance by the team,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “We went out and got the job done, which was to win the game and get into the next round. … The game is done and dusted, and we have games coming up in the league, so we’ll shift our focus to that now.”
Playing an opponent from the fourth-tier NPSL, the Rowdies didn’t have to wait long to claim a lead.
With the ball at his feet on the right sideline, Porter spotted Jacksonville goalkeeper Juan Fajardo off his line and took an audacious shot that Fajardo got a touch to, but couldn’t keep from going over the line for a 1-0 Rowdies lead in just the third minute.
Up a goal, the Rowdies dominated the remainder of the first half but didn’t double their lead until the 43rd minute when Morrell stole the ball off an Armada U23 defender and raced toward goal before beating Fajardo from a sharp angle for a 2-0 lead.
“Luckily, the guy had a bad pass, and I picked it off,” Morrell said. “I made the most out of it and scored on my old keeper from college. That was nice.”
Paterson finished the scoring in the 68th minute, tapping in a low cross from Darwin Jones for his second goal of the season in all competitions.
The result was never really in doubt, particularly after Jacksonville was reduced to 10 men in the 62nd minute when Dener Dos Santos was shown a red card. The Rowdies took six shots on target and didn’t allow one from Jacksonville.
It was Tampa Bay’s seventh clean sheet in 10 matches in all competitions.
Jacksonville University Golf earns 1st NCAA Championship berth thru playoff
Before this season, Jacksonville had never qualified for the NCAA Championship in men’s golf. That changed this week as the Dolphins defeated Northwestern in a playoff to grab the fifth and final NCAA Championship berth out of the NCAA Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Regional.
Golfweek reports that after Jacksonville and Northwestern had finished at 19 over, the Dolphins, which carded the final round of the day (1-over 289), and Wildcats each shot two over using a play-five-count-four format on the par-4 18th hole.
The teams then moved on to the par-4 10th hole. Jacksonville’s first three players combined to go one over while Northwestern’s two players in the first group went one over. In the second group, Jacksonville’s two players shot even par and Northwestern, which had a player hit a drive out of bounds, conceded defeat.
Jacksonville began the day in seventh place and didn’t get off to a fast start on the back nine. However, the Dolphins’ four counting players combined to shoot two under on the front nine. Raul Pereda birdied Nos. 4-7 as part of a 1-over 73. Davis Wicks’ closing 71 led the team.