Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is all about loyalty, and much of this edition comes back to the idea of one’s squad as a result.
For example, there’s Curry’s candidate in the House District 15 race to succeed Jay Fant, who is running for Attorney General instead of pursuing re-election.
And then there’s the push to sell reform of the city’s children’s programs. He worked the Council, asking for support. Fourteen of the 19 were there at the press event. And some of those who did not attend had plausible reasons for not being there. While others’ reasons, including at least one Council leader, occasioned more scrutiny from Curry’s inner circle.
Of course, Curry isn’t the only executive concerned with his squad. Sheriff Mike Williams addressed what happens when a president of your own party jokes about police brutality while getting his own squad together from the donor class.
As ever: teamwork makes the dream work, in politics and policy both.
Al Lawson, Dems file student loan relief bill
For those dealing with student loan debt, there’s some good news: Rep. Lawson filed a bill this week that would allow refinancing at a lower rate and would eliminate the tax penalty for loan forgiveness.
The bill has a dozen sponsors, all Democrats — a discouraging augury given that the White House has shown no leanings toward student loan forgiveness measures of any type.
“Unfortunately, the cost of college has increased significantly in the last decade, and for many Americans, this avenue to a brighter future has become unaffordable. Reducing student debt will help increase economic activity and provide our nation’s students with the relief and opportunity they deserve,” Lawson said.
The bill, if passed in its current form, would also eliminate origination fees.
New VA Clinic for Jacksonville
First Coast News reports that a House bill passed late last month includes good news for local veterans.
“The portion of the bill that directly impacts Jacksonville involves the potential clinic constructed at an undecided location. If the bill is signed into law, the future clinic will replace Jacksonville VA Southpoint and Jacksonville VA University,” FCN reports.
All told, those outmoded facilities encompass 50,000 square feet of space.
Good news: “if the bill is signed into law the plan for the lease includes a facility that encompasses about 164,000 square feet in the Jacksonville area with 1,150 parking spaces.”
Bad news: this could take up to five years to become a reality.
Aaron Bean is Clean
After all that, nothing.
The Florida Ethics Commission cleared Sen. Bean of long-standing allegations by a political opponent.
The Florida Commission on Ethics found “no probable cause to believe that Senator Bean misused his position to secure an appropriation in the State budget for a business venture in which he was personally involved, and dismissed the allegation,” according to a Wednesday news release.
Bean had vigorously maintained his innocence, but reports out of Naples, Florida — the first tip-off that something was amiss — heated up the story … mostly because the reporter in question knew nothing about the sketchy background of the tipster.
Let’s see when the stories emerge clearing Bean’s name. We’ll wait.
Meanwhile, here’s the book on Carlos Slay.
Kim Daniels dinged for dodgy disclosures
More financial ethics issues have emerged for Rep. Daniels. And they could lead to action in the Florida House against the Jacksonville Democrat.
The Florida Ethics Commission found probable cause to believe that Daniels filed inaccurate Form 6s, representing financial disclosures for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Kim Daniels FEC investigation.
Daniels failed to list properties owned by her churches, which added up to $1,000,000 of undeclared assets. Indeed, her churches had multiple properties — “parsonages” in various cities, time shares and over a dozen cars.
Daniels, at that point, was serving her term on the Jacksonville City Council.
Daniels has faced similar scrutiny related to campaign finance before: the Florida Elections Commission found probable cause that Daniels spent campaign funds advertising one of her religious books, the Demon Dictionary, in a vanity-press publication called Shofar.
Her 2016 financial disclosure revealed salary of roughly $200,000 from preaching and a net worth of just under $600,000.
Daniels could settle or could have an administrative hearing regarding these charges.
Daniels is not talking to Florida Politics about these matters. She interviewed with Action News Jax recently, in which she vigorously denied the findings of the state commissions.
Mia Jones backs Gillum for Governor
Tallahassee Mayor Gillum rolled out the most significant Jacksonville endorsement of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor Wednesday, in the form of former State Rep. Jones.
Jones called Gillum a “tireless public servant willing to take on the tough fights … just the kind of leader Floridians need now.”
“He will rebuild our economy, so it creates better-paying jobs at every rung of the income ladder; protect and defend our access to affordable health care; fight for public school students’ education, and confront our climate change crisis,” Jones said, saying that Gillum would “fight for what we believe in.”
Gillum is “thrilled” with Jones’ endorsement, calling her a “fierce fighter for affordable health care and common-sense health care policies,” an advocate for “our most vulnerable seniors in Florida nursing homes,” and “a champion for our historically black universities and all of Florida’s higher education institutions.”
The two are excited to campaign together, both said.
Gillum and Gwen Graham are the only two candidates for the Democratic nomination making a play in Jacksonville.
Graham has endorsements from former Mayors Tommy Hazouri and Jake Godbold, along with City Councilman Garrett Dennis.
Mayor’s man to take HD 15 GOP nod?
With Rep. Fant still gunning for the Republican nod for Attorney General, questions emerged regarding his replacement … but it seems we know who that will be, with local establishment favorite Wyman Duggan poised to enter.
Duggan will have some road-tested names running his operation: Tim Baker as consultant, Brian Hughes on comms. Baker and Hughes — the top talent working this market — will have the resources they need for whatever campaign awaits the candidate.
Expect a top-shelf finance committee behind Duggan, especially given that Duval GOP legend John Falconetti and Jacksonville Mayor Curry have been crucial to urging Duggan to run and getting support from local stakeholders.
Curry and Rep. Jason Fischer have formally endorsed Duggan; more endorsements are coming.
Re-org for children’s programs
Announced this week: Curry will roll the JCC and the Jacksonville Journey into one new structure: the Kids’ Hope Alliance (the Jacksonville Partnership for Children, Youth and Families).
The group will have a seven-person board, comprised of mayoral appointees who must be approved by the City Council; as with Curry’s reformation of the JEA Board earlier in his term, the goal is to move the organization toward linear accountability.
The transition period will take six months: the first three months, starting in October, will allow the Journey and the JCC to finish their business; by January, a board should be seated to carry on the KHA’s mission. If that doesn’t happen, Plan B is to run JCC and Jax Journey out of the Mayor’s Office, until the board is approved by City Council.
The strong indication is that the board will be in place by the end of the year, however.
Curry is prioritizing business-minded people with big picture visions and strong resumes for board inclusion, similar again to his reformation of the JEA Board. Board members will understand finance and organizational structure, Curry said and would understand the necessity of hiring management and staff that understands the mechanics of the services offered.
Fourteen council members have agreed to co-sponsor the measure so far.
Media questions Mayor’s ethics
Jacksonville Mayor Curry took a business development trip with Jaguars owner and mega donor Shad Khan in July, and questions, via First Coast News, are still being raised about the ethics of it all.
The trip to Kansas City, Baltimore and St. Louis was framed by Curry as an endeavor to “know their ideas and their failures to move our downtown forward.”
City Ethics Director Carla Miller is reviewing the trip, though she notes that there is no law against a mayor flying on a private jet.
Miller has up to 90 days to conclude her review.
Jax Sheriff talks Donald Trump’s “paddy wagon” joke.
Jacksonville Sheriff Williams addressed President Donald Trump’s recent “joke” about police brutality this week, making it clear those comments weren’t helpful to local law enforcement.
“I try to stay away from getting involved, trying to justify anything the president says,” Williams noted.
“Talking about Jacksonville, and what appears to be a joke about police brutality, we take that very seriously,” Williams said.
“We’ve shown in the last two years, when it comes to police brutality and misconduct, that we take it very seriously and act swiftly and appropriately. That’s the lens through which we should look at Jacksonville — how we respond to stuff,” Williams added.
“I’d encourage people to look at what we do in Jacksonville and how we respond,” Williams continued, “instead of broad-brushing us with a joke from D.C.”
Williams is looking to add 100 new officers this year, which will make the department “appropriately-sized” and facilitate the kind of community policing that he would like to see more of.
First in Bold: Williams committee posts strong June numbers
“A Safe Jacksonville,” the political committee for Sheriff Williams, reported strong fundraising in July.
A $60,000+ month has the committee with over $80,000 on hand — and, says our source, that is even with fundraising not having started seriously until July 12.
Among the bigger names of the donors: Toney Sleiman, who ponied up $5,000; Gary Chartrand, at the same level; Travis Cummings, at $5,000 via committees; Ander Crenshaw at $3,500; and John Falconetti at $2,500.
Sauce loss for Jax in worthless default judgment
Last week, the city of Jacksonville won a $222,000 default judgment against businesses belonging to the family of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown.
This judgment was the culmination of a long-standing legal action against CoWealth LLC and Basic Products LLC, two shell companies of the Brown family that — back in 2011 — accepted roughly $600,000 in loans and grants designed to kick-start a BBQ sauce plant that was intended to be a job-creating engine for Northwest Jacksonville.
Alas, the engine stalled — of the 56 jobs that were intended to be created, zero permanent jobs came to pass.
An amended motion for default was filed by the city with the Duval County Court on June 20, with the city pressing two shell companies — “CoWealth LLC” and “Basic Products LLC” — for $210,549.99 in claw-back money and another $10,585.01 for interest, calculated back to June 2016, when the city of Jacksonville began to move toward litigation.
Jax mulls suit of opioid producers
As part of its ongoing fight against opioid overdoses, the city of Jacksonville is mulling a lawsuit against Big Pharma companies, a strategy discussed Thursday afternoon by Councilman Bill Gulliford in Council Chambers.
Making a presentation at the meeting: Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, a firm which has specialized in class action consumer protection suits, including a successful action against Enron years ago for billions of dollars.
There is a precedent for such legal action being taken. Reuters reports that Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri are all suing pharmaceutical companies, on the grounds of their aggressive marketing running afoul of consumer protection laws.
Closer to home, Delray Beach is suing opioid manufacturers, claiming that their product spawned the city’s heroin epidemic, with each overdose costing the town $2,000 — a number that Gulliford said didn’t sound unreasonable, given the expenses of transport and treatment for each victim.
The law firm that presented in Jacksonville Thursday is the same one representing Delray Beach in its action.
Wally Lee, RIP
This week, Jacksonville mourned former Jax Chamber President Lee, who saw the organization through a period of local and regional growth and transition.
The Jax Daily Record notes that Lee had a blood infection after emergency surgery for a spinal cyst in late July.
Local notables lauded Lee’s legacy.
Jax Chamber President Daniel Davis described Lee as “passionate about growing Jacksonville and pushing our city forward.”
Former Mayor John Delaney, whose eight years in office coincided with part of Lee’s leadership of the Chamber, described the body as “particularly strong” under his presidency.
Save the date: Travis Hutson Deep-Sea Invitational
State Sen. Hutson is hosting his Third Annual Deep-Sea Fishing Invitational at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Wednesday, Aug. 23, and Thursday, Aug. 24. Wednesday highlights include a 4:45 p.m. tour of the St. Augustine Distillery and 6:30 p.m. dinner at Prohibition Kitchen. On Thursday, the day starts with 6:30 a.m. shuttle to the Marina for a 7:15 a.m. departure. The evening finishes with a 6:30 p.m. fish fry at Costa Brava Restaurant.
Casa Monica Hotel is at 95 Cordova St. in St. Augustine. A special hotel group rate is $169 per night. For more information, contact Brianna Jordan at 203-313-4695 or Brianna@frontstreetflorida.com.
John Thrasher among nominees for veterans’ hall
The News Service of Florida reports that Florida State University President Thrasher, a former state House speaker who served in the Vietnam War, is among 20 candidates for spots in the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame. The Florida Veterans Hall of Fame Council gives the maximum number of names to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet to consider for enshrinement in the hall of fame. Scott and the Cabinet — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — are expected to vote on the nominees Sept. 26.
The 2016 class, which featured 11 inductees, included the late Gov. Reubin Askew, the late Gov. LeRoy Collins, the late Gov. and U.S. Sen. Spessard Holland and former state Rep. William Proctor of St. Augustine.
Shuffle off to Amazon
The Florida Times-Union reports that the Jacksonville Transportation Authority is launching a shuttle Aug. 7 to the North Jacksonville Amazon facility. Timed around shift changes, the shuttle will move between JTA’s park-and-ride facility at 3191 Armsdale Road, just south of I-295, and Amazon, 12900 Pecan Park Road
While the Armsdale hub offers parking spaces and bike racks but is also part of the First Coast Flyer route, which connects it to the rest of the JTA system.
The initial schedule has buses running 30 minutes before and finishing 30 minutes after each shift change and will arrive every five to seven minutes. Cost is $1.50 each way, or $3 roundtrip. A trip from another hub within the city to Armsdale adds another $1.50 each way.
UNF beer study to examine yeast strain, flavoring
The University of North Florida is investigating the yeast strain Brettanomyces, which has been a traditional flavor component for beer, but one that proves difficult in winemaking.
UNF biology professor Dr. Michael Lentz has study Brettanomyces for about five years, telling the Florida Times-Union: “We can’t taste it or smell it, but once the yeast gets ahold of it, it becomes a flavor component” that is become popular with craft beer brewers.
Found throughout the globe, the yeast strain is common in Florida fields. Lentz is examining how the strain thrives, evolves and interacts with fermented drinks.
To Jacksonville-based powerbroker Marty Fiorentino, leader of the Fiorentino Group, who celebrates today.
Jax Zoo begins work on African Forest great apes exhibit
Work has started on the new Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens exhibit for inhabitants of the Great Apes Loop reports the Florida Times-Union. Construction, which should continue through this time next year, will ultimately feature overhead trails, more true-to-life habitat and will have a 40-foot tropical tree as a centerpiece.
Tony Vecchio, the zoo’s executive director, tells the T-U the $9 million project is worth the wait, for better viewing, “wellness-inspired” design and “transformative” foliage
Now one of the zoo’s oldest exhibits, the Great Apes area first premiered in 1998 and was quickly expanded.
Armada start Robert Palmer era with draw at home
The Jacksonville Armada started off the NASL Fall Season with a draw against the San Francisco Deltas. This was the team’s first game since announcing the new owner, Robert Palmer, who purchased the club earlier this month.
Kartik Krishnaiyer is reporting that Armada FC goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell began a great defensive effort with an outstanding save in the first minutes of the match. He extended his entire frame to hit the ball over the bar, stopping the promising shot from the Deltas.
Soon after, attacker Jackson of the Deltas sprinted ahead of the pack up the field and kicked the ball right into the box, but it stopped short of the goal. Delta’s Forward Tom Heinemann was in the box, and tried to tap the ball in but missed and the Armada was able to clear what could have given San Francisco an early lead.
Derek Gebhard gave the Armada an opportunity minutes later, as he dueled with defenders and was able to get a good look at the goal. Gebhard kicked the ball just high of the goal but was tackled by Jackson, who subsequently received a yellow card.
J.C. Banks launched a shot on goal during the 32nd minute, the Armada’s first of the match. Charles Eloundou set the midfielder up for a promising kick, but the shot went just high of the goal.
With momentum on their side, Gebhard was able to break away from his defender but was fouled. He was awarded a penalty kick for Jacksonville.
Jack Blake stepped up to take the penalty kick in the 35th minute and nailed the first goal of the Robert Palmer era. The midfielder launched the ball into the right side of the net beating out San Francisco’s goalkeeper, Romuald Peiser, giving the Armada FC a 1-0 lead.
Patterson-Sewell made a clutch save in the 43rd minute as he punched the ball away from the goal. About a minute later he made another save, as he knocked another shot on goal just over the crossbar solidifying the Armada’s 1-0 lead late in the first half.
The Armada FC had two near-misses during first half stoppage time. Gebhard sprinted in front of his defender and created space just outside of the box. He kicked the ball within striking distance, but no one was there to put the ball into the net.
Minutes later Blake tried once more for a goal too and headed the ball, but it went just outside of the net.
The Armada FC went into the halftime break with a 1-0 lead over the Deltas.
Jacksonville came out of the break with the initiative looking to get the elusive second goal. Eloundou and Banks were both able to take nice shots, but Peiser blocked both efforts.
The Deltas did not give up and during the 58th minute, Danny Cruz was able to equalize the score at one.
Patterson-Sewell made another great save after an Armada FC defensive miscommunication almost resulted in a goal. The goalkeeper roared with pride after he made a spectacular and pivotal play during the 67th minute to keep the Deltas from gaining more ground.
“It was a matter of trying [and] … hoping for the best. You train for that kind of stuff when the time is right there is no time to think about it; you just have to [rely] on your training. I was fortunate to keep it out,” said Patterson-Sewell.
Gebhard displayed his speed when he sprinted up the field attempting a shot on goal, but the ball went just wide left leaving the score knotted at one.
Blake continued the Armada FC’s momentum as he took another shot on goal in the 84th minute, but Peiser saved the shot.
Heinemann put the ball into the back of the net during the 90th minute, but the goal was waved off for a foul.
The teams ended the game at 1-1, resulting in a draw.
“It’s not the worst start. We got the draw, but hopefully, we can bounce back and get the win next week,” said Jack Blake. The Armada FC will head south and travel to Puerto Rico. The match will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5.