Those who work at Jacksonville City Hall have received a political education of late, demonstrated by a recent City Council bill on funding after-school programs.
With apologies to Ric Flair, but his famous catchphrase “now we go to school” applies here … and not just because this bill was education-related.
Finance Chair Garrett Dennis wanted to tap into general fund reserves for one-time money to fund after-school program expansion — a position at odds with that of Mayor Lenny Curry, on yet another issue.
In a statement, Curry said that would not be “prudent” and would send the wrong message to ratings agencies, and if the bill passed with that condition, “the mayor would evaluate it when it lands on his desk.”
Instead, here’s what happened. The Finance Chair’s amendments got turfed, with the old guard of the Council — Bill Gulliford, John Crescimbeni and others — again controlling the discourse at the expense of Dennis and Council President Anna Brosche.
As with previous conflicts between Dennis and Curry (see: swimming lessons money), the battle took a familiar track. Dennis got out in front of consensus on an issue, and Team Curry picked off potential supporters in quiet conversations after that.
With budget discussions beginning this week in Dennis’ committee, we are reminded of another famous Flair phrase.
“To be the man,” the Nature Boy often said when defending his world title, “you’ve got to beat the man.”
Does Dennis have the juice? We’ll watch that this month, along with all kinds of other excitement in state and federal politics, some of which you will see below.
John Rutherford heads to Israel
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford has settled in quickly to his role in Congress and this recess week found the Jacksonville Republican burnishing his foreign policy chops with a trip to the Middle East.
Per a news release from Rutherford’s office, the congressman left for Israel Monday “as part of a delegation of Members of Congress to meet with various leaders in the region including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas.”
The delegation discussed “US relations in the region including economic, military and security cooperation.”
Rutherford met “with Nafatali Bennet, the Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs, IDF Soldiers, as well as Israeli military leaders, professors and business leaders. The group will also tour Israeli military bases, as well as visit historic and holy sites.”
Guilt is a ‘myth,’ says Corrine Brown lawyer
Rep. Brown was in court this week fighting guilty convictions on 18 counts, contending that she should a] get a new trial and/or b] be acquitted.
The arguments had been rehearsed in the written motions and during the trial, as the prosecution noted.
“The defense is not saying anything different today than it did [during] the proceedings,” one of the prosecutors asserted, hammering in on repeated instances of “fraudulent omissions” regarding pitches to donors, statements on tax returns, and so on — with Brown’s word being the only evidence to the contrary.
Evidentiary points, such as Brown holding blank checks from One Door, loomed large as evidence of Brown’s involvement.
“She had hijacked the charity, had her chief of staff take control of the finances, and was bleeding it dry,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Coolican said.
Rev. Jesse Jackson was there in support — yet another nostalgia act on this never-ending road show that is the end of Corrine Brown’s political career.
Quiet July for Paul Renner committees
July was the first month of fundraising for future Florida House Speaker Renner‘s political committees since he won the honor in late June.
Some observers may have anticipated an avalanche of activity, but in reality, the committees had modest contributions and spends.
“Florida Foundation for Liberty,” Renner’s primary committee, brought in just $25,500 in July (spending $20,383 of that), pushing the committee just over $240,000 on hand.
Donations came in from political committees, including the Realtors, Surgi-PAC, and the Florida Credit Union’s political action committee.
The biggest donation: $10,000 from MHK of Volusia County.
Of the over $20,000 spent, $4,000 went to Ballard Consulting, $2,685 went to Renner’s campaign account for reimbursements, $10,000 went to another Renner committee, “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.”
Meanwhile, there were just two external donations, and both were in the Jacksonville metro area.
The committee gave $1,000 to Clay Yarborough‘s campaign, and $2,500 to “A Safe Jacksonville,” the political committee of Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.
The aforementioned “Conservatives for Principled Leadership,” meanwhile, has just under $18,000 on hand after a $12,500 July.
Beyond the $10,000 from Renner’s other committee, the other $2,500 came from the “Florida Prosperity Fund” committee.
Yarborough continues strong fundraising
Rep. Yarborough, the Jacksonville Republican representing State House District 12, hauled in $7,500 in July fundraising.
Among the bigger names from the nine donors: Foley and Lardner and Florida Foundation for Liberty (the committee of future House Speaker Renner).
Yarborough has raised nearly $49,000 this cycle, and has just under $41,000 of that on hand, as he prepares for a general election challenge in the deep red district.
Yarborough is slated to face a general election opponent: Tim Yost, a local college instructor running as a Democrat.
Yost filed for this race in the middle of July and has raised $2,215, largely from small-dollar donors, with a few bearing the surname of Yost.
Bobby Payne draws competition in HD 19
GOP state Rep. Payne, whose district encompasses parts of Union, Clay, Bradford and Putnam counties, has drawn both primary and general election opposition in recent days.
Green Cove Springs Republican Boyce Royal filed July 31 to run against Payne in the GOP primary.
Royal is a real estate agent by trade.
The winner of that primary will go on to face a Libertarian, Ryan Russell Ramsey, in the general election.
Payne, a Palatka native, has just under $23,000 on hand after a $6,500 July comprised of donations from Jacksonville’s power elite — Peter Rummell, the Fiorentino Group, Jacksonville Kennel Club and so on.
Expect that war chest to grow.
Despite being a rookie legislator, Payne will be a tough out; he has a strong working relationship with Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings of the Clay Delegation, and with Gov. Rick Scott.
In the contested GOP primary in 2016, Payne won his native Putnam with 55 percent of the vote, but he held his own — and then some — elsewhere. He got 47 percent of the vote in Union, 31 percent in Clay, and 35 percent in Bradford.
Curry fundraising machine churns on
Jacksonville Mayor Curry hasn’t officially launched his re-election campaign, but the donor class is all in.
Already this month, Curry raised over $100K at an event at the JAX Chamber.
Chamber CEO Daniel Davis tweeted out an understatement: “looks like JAX Chamber wants to see Lenny Curry re-elected.”
Curry’s committee continues the momentum one would expect from a popular incumbent.
July saw Curry’s committee raise $52.5K, and disperse $19,647 — including $5,000 to “Seamless Florida,” the committee of St. Petersburg Republican mayoral candidate Rick Baker.
The big donor: Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who ponied up $25K.
There was no invoicing of the trip that Curry took on Khan’s private jet for an economic development trip last week to Baltimore, St. Louis, and Kansas City.
That trip explored, among other concepts, development ideas for future development of the area around Jacksonville’s football stadium and other athletic facilities.
Happy Consolidation anniversary
Jacksonville’s Consolidation (as in the city and the county became one) is 50 years old. And this week, the Florida Times-Union took a walk down memory lane, via an interesting piece from Matt Soergel that dug into the archives and looked at the debate at the time.
The Jacksonville Journal, which used to be the afternoon paper in Jacksonville, noted that “the people [won]” with “Floridians now know[ing] that the sleeping giant who sat at one of the most enviable spots in the state now means to shake off the slumber of years.”
Did that happen?
Depends on who you ask.
As we saw in July in Jacksonville’s City Council, a resolution in favor of a celebration of Consolidation didn’t muster unanimous support.
A movement for full Council sponsorship of the resolution was spiked by Councilman Reggie Brown, who spoke at length about infrastructural failings and broken promises.
Brown noted that JEA, for example, isn’t committed to sewer and water expansion in his district.
“Until we have a plan to say that if you live inside the Beltway, we will focus on installing sewer and water, there is no celebration,” Brown said.
Likewise, Councilwoman Katrina Brown would not sign on, citing “the same issues,” even as she lauded the Council and JEA for committing $30M over five years for septic tank phase out.
Consolidation conundrum, part 2
More discussion of the future of Consolidation occurred Tuesday in Jacksonville City Council offices.
There is plenty to do, of course.
One ongoing initiative: a task force to deal with public health issues.
Employee health: another matter to be addressed. Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa suggested Mayor Curry may want to deal with that task force.
And changes in health care could be contemplated.
“The county hospital model is becoming a thing of the past in most cities,” Councilwoman Lori Boyer remarked.
The expansion of CPACs — Citizen Planning Advisory Committees — also was up for discussion.
“When we consolidated, we became a big bureaucratic entity,” Boyer said, with CPACs serving an important role to bring localism to the larger government.
And bringing the discussion back full circle, a discussion of allocating a fixed amount of the capital improvement program budget to the promises made before Consolidation happened.
“Part of the argument for Consolidation,” Boyer said, was standardizing city services.
“Much of [the work] hasn’t been done.”
JAXPORT dredge frustrates City Council
While JAXPORT and the state and federal governments are full steam ahead regarding dredging the St. Johns River to 47 feet, City Councilors wonder how much the city will be soaked for, per the Florida Times-Union.
“They’ve orchestrated it in a way that we’re not engaged until some point in the future,” Councilman Bill Gulliford said. “We don’t know what the actual number will be.”
“At this point, I’m probably in the category of one confused council member,” Councilman John Crescimbeni said. “My comfort level is not great, and it’s a very complicated issue because of all the different numbers and figures that are being bandied about by a variety of sources. I think I need to hire my own forensic accountant to try to reconcile everything down to two files — fact and fiction.”
“I am disappointed that they have chosen to phase this process in such a way that they’re not coming to the city for any approval prior to starting the project,” Councilwoman Boyer said. “That’s clearly the frustrating part.”
While some are on board, the reality is JAXPORT has more selling to do — and probably in noticed meetings.
Jax LGBT advocates laud HRO protections
With uncertainty now the watchword regarding federal protections for LGBT people, Jacksonville advocates are happy that the local Human Rights Ordinance protects them locally, reports the Florida Times-Union.
Jimmy Midyette, legislative director of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, described what the bill actually means in the new context.
“We had to make the point again and again and again that we’re not covered [and] we’re not doing a ‘feel-good’ bill to make people think we’re doing something,” Midyette said. “I think it just shows with so much uncertainty on the national level it’s more important than ever to have these local protections in place.”
Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel notes that no matter what happens on the federal level, the local protections are still actionable.
Since the HRO expansion became law in February, no claims have been filed that the law was broken.
St. Johns Republican Chair takes on transgender high schooler
Just across the county line from Jacksonville, the argument for HRO protections was made by a local GOP member going in on a transgender high-school student.
Action News Jax reports that “Drew Adams, 16, is suing the school district to use the boy’s restroom. The Republican Party recently sent a letter to neighbors, saying it disagrees with the lawsuit, and so does a school board member.”
GOP Chairman Bill Korach said the “girl” is “confused,” saying that the student “ought to use the girl’s restroom” and “ought to get counseling.”
Adams has sued the school district, charging discrimination and petitioning to use the boys’ restroom.
Web.com coy on buyout rumors
If you’re looking for details on the future of Web.com, you might think CEO David Brown would give a hot quote. But you’d be mistaken.
The Jax Daily Record quoted his word salad from a quarterly call with investors, in which Brown was asked to address the rumor directly.
“Happy to comment on it and that comment is we don’t comment on market rumors about this type of topic,” he said.
“I think it’s worth noting that we’ve always been open to whatever would build long-term shareholder value, whatever maximizes our shareholders’ interests and we’ve said numerous times and continue to say that we talk to lots of people from strategic to financial players in the market. There are many reasons to talk to them,” Brown added.
As with another local business, CSX, lots of tea leaves are being read right now regarding the future.
Times-Union sells out
Morris Communications sold the Florida Times-Union to yet another big media company, Gatehouse, this week.
Morris billed the sale as “a strategic restructuring to focus its business on lifestyle publications, property development and new business.”
For T-U staffers, this ends a conflicted relationship with the parent company, which compelled the local paper to endorse President Donald Trump last year, and which also had introduced a more corporate feel in recent months, including electronic time card punches for reporters.
It’s going to get more corporate going forward. As the T-U reports, Gatehouse owns “more than 130 daily newspapers and more than 500 non-daily publications across the United States.”
T-U reporters who want to talk about this are welcome to get a beer sometime with our Jacksonville correspondent. He’s happy to listen.
JAXBIZ endorses Atlantic Beach incumbents
BeachesBIZ, a JAXBIZ subcommittee, is supporting incumbents in the races for Mayor of Atlantic Beach and Atlantic Beach City Commission.
The status quo will continue, with Mitch Reeves as the Mayoral pick, and Jimmy Hill and Mitch Harding getting commission nods.
“All of these candidates have proven their commitment to Atlantic Beach, focusing on a thriving local economy while continuing to improve the unmatched quality of life at the beach,” JAXBIZ Chair Denise Wallace said.
Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) launches a first-of-its-kind digital Manufacturers Marketplace at 3 p.m. EST at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, 111 Busch Drive in Jacksonville. A reception will follow the announcement.
The Manufacturers Marketplace is a web-based, searchable buyer/seller network featuring listings of hundreds of thousands of manufacturers in the United States, including Puerto Rico. Created in partnership with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and other leading state manufacturing associations, the Manufacturers Marketplace is designed to bolster manufacturers in the United States by helping them find, get found and advance their businesses. Register at AIF.com/marketplace.
Pay to play
College football for students at Keiser University? While that may sound counterintuitive, it is happening, reports the Florida Times-Union.
How to field a team with students from campuses across the state? Here’s what the new coach had to say.
“There’s just a lot going on. We’ve got to fill a roster, we’ve got to recruit the state, fill a coaching staff … have daily conversations about facilities, where we’re going to play and where we’re going to put these kids.”
On a positive note, the new athletic director expects robust road support. The students are already commuters.
“We have the advantage in that we have faculty and students [from other campuses around the state] that can come to games while we’re on the road,” the AD said.
PLAYERS back to March
The PLAYERS Championship may be moving back to its more traditional March place on the calendar, after years of taking place in May, the T-U reports.
“The Associated Press reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources, that the PGA will be played at the Bethpage State Park Black Course on Long Island in New York in May of 2019, clearing the way for The Players to move back to the March date it held from 1977 to 2006,” per the T-U.
“The Players, contested at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, will be held in May one more year under the expected schedule changes. The Tour has held a tournament on the First Coast since 1965, but was in March until Phil Mickelson won the 2007 Players in May,” the T-U adds.
Armada struggle in Puerto Rico
The Jacksonville Armada FC traveled to the Caribbean to take on Puerto Rico FC this past Saturday night for the first road trip of the Fall Season and the first trip under the new ownership of Robert Palm.
Puerto Rico claimed a 1-0 victory after what could only be described as a difficult 90 minutes for Jacksonville.
The Armada have been slumping of late, so Head Coach Mark Lowry boasted some changes in his starting lineup to show that eagerness. New forwards Brian Shriver and Tony Taylor received their first starts with the team, as well as defender Peabo Doue. Shriver and Taylor are both newcomers with Florida pedigree. Shriver is from Clearwater and previously played for Miami FC, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies. He led the NASL in playoff goals while playing for Fort Lauderdale in 2011. Taylor played for Jacksonville University and Lynch’s FC in 2009 an amateur Jacksonville club. He signed for Fort Lauderdale the next year and spent several years on loan in Europe before returning to North America to play in MLS.
The changes didn’t make much of a difference early as Puerto Rico was able to create opportunities and recorded 10 first half shots.
Jacksonville answered Puerto Rico’s offensive effort with a tough and resourceful defense, however. Mechack Jérôme cleared four chances, with Caleb Patterson-Sewell staying firm in front of the goal.
Puerto Rico’s effort was rewarded late in the first half. In the 43rd minute, Conor Doyle received a cross from Giuseppe Gentile to put the ball past Patterson-Sewell, and Puerto Rico took the 1-0 lead.
Jacksonville returned in the second half showing some initiative, but Puerto Rico continued to fire shots toward Patterson-Sewell.
Second half substitutions by the Armada FC brought some intensity to the side on the hot and humid Puerto Rico pitch.
Charles Eloundou was subbed in the 61st minute to give the Armada FC much-needed speed. He used it to motor up and around Puerto Rico’s defense and created a great chance in the 75th minute. He took a shot from a distance after receiving the ball from Zach Steinberger but Puerto Rico’s goalkeeper, Trevor Spangenberg, launched upward to knock it up and over the net. Doue received his second yellow card in the 85th minute and was ejected from the match. Although now only having 10 men, the Armada FC kept consistent defense to keep Puerto Rico from tallying another goal.
Jérôme attempted some late-match heroics with his effort just two minutes after Doue left the field. He launched a free kick straight toward the net, 550but it bounced off the crossbar and goal post to keep Puerto Rico in the lead.
Jacksonville could not find the net before the final whistle, so Puerto Rico took all three points at home. This marks the first loss of the Fall Season for the Armada FC and extends the Armada’s current winless streak to five.