Jacksonville Bold is intended to appeal to a discerning audience, particularly to those who see politics for what it truly is — a confluence of money, power and timing.
We see evidence of that in every Bold — and this week is no different, as Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s Kids Hope Alliance reform bill advanced through the City Council by an 18-1 vote.
Its success comes as no small feat, given Council President Anna Brosche attempted to forestall both discussion of the bill and the vote itself, even going so far as to accuse an administration member and a city lawyer of working to keep the bill from the public.
And Brosche was the sole vote against discharging the bill to the Council floor — a nearly unheard of repudiation of a legislative body’s presiding officer.
In the end, though, Brosche overcame those qualms and voted for the bill — but not before Curry issued a statement condemning her accusations. Of course, there have been schisms between Council presidents and mayors in the past; but this one is different.
That’s because politics in this region are different.
Stakes are higher. Money is bigger. Operatives work 27/6. Nowadays, the way to win a political argument is not through churches and town halls. It’s all targeting and microtargeting, persuasion of the “velvet glove, iron fist” variety, and an understanding that when a bluff is called, most people will cave.
As we move toward the 2018 election cycle — and the 2019 local derby — file those insights; they may end up being predictive.
September was not a record-breaking month for campaign finance reports in Northeast Florida. Blame Hurricane Irma.
State Senate incumbents, however, did well in amassing money for re-election bids — Aaron Bean brought in $33K, and Audrey Gibson brought in $12K.
There was, however, marginally more exciting committee action: Palm Coast Speaker-of-the-future Paul Renner saw his committee give $20K to Speaker-of-the-present Richard Corcoran — who just may be running for Governor as soon as next year’s Legislative Session ends.
Lenny Curry’s political committee cleared $38K in September — and $25K of that came from Shad Khan. And Sheriff Mike Williams finally paid for a controversial August poll through his committee; price tag was almost $9,000 … more than he brought in.
The big play of the month came from Attorney General candidate Jay Fant, who loaned his campaign $750,000 — just the kind of thing a candidate that’s not part of the “establishment” does because all the cool kids have three-quarters of a million bucks sitting around. Fant had faced questions about his fundraising, but with one stroke of the pen, he established resource parity with Ashley Moody.
Will that bring Downtown Jacksonville around?
One candidate who won’t be loaning herself $750,000 — Jacksonville City Council hopeful Randy DeFoor. DeFoor, in his first month in the District 14 race, brought in $51,000 — more money, by far, than every other active local 2019 candidate combined brought in during September.
Her political committee brought in an extra $25,000.
Rob Bradley: Senate sentencing bill a ‘win-win’
Florida’s prison industry has endured scrutiny in recent years, and a new bill from Sen. Bradley may offer some relief for the sector.
SB 484 will authorize a court to sentence prisoners to county jail for up to 24 months if that county has a DOC contract.
The bill would also require prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Those prisoners will have sentences that don’t run longer than 24 months, and most felony convictions are exempt from this proposal.
On Wednesday, Bradley told Florida Politics that this is not a new idea.
“This is an idea that I’ve discussed with Senate and House colleagues for a couple of years now,” Bradley asserted.
Part of the problem is that the state has more prisoners than its facilities can handle, Bradley said.
“Right now,” Bradley said, “the state incarcerates 100,000 inmates. After dealing with this issue for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that our infrastructure and personnel is simply not equipped to handle that number. We need to reduce the state population. This is a strategy to accomplish this goal.”
Good news/bad news as Bradley bill clears committee
WGCU reports a good news/bad news scenario for a Bradley bill to put more money into the St. Johns River and North Florida springs.
Latvala chairs the Appropriations Committee.
“At some point in time — probably [on] the Appropriations Committee — we’ll have to put all those bills that we have this year, and the bills that we’ve passed over the last couple cycles on one sheet and figure out how we divide it up,” Latvala said.
With budget pressures mounting for Florida on several fronts, Bradley’s attempt to bring more Amendment 1 money to North Florida will be worth watching. It might be a heavier lift than locals hope.
Aaron Bean backs Jay Fant
One favorable augury for Fant: An endorsement this week from Republican state Sen. Bean.
“Senator Bean has been a longtime voice for conservative politics in Northeast Florida,” Fant said. “His endorsement is one to be very proud of. We look forward to working with Senator Bean on our conservative platform for years to come.”
Fant still has his last year to serve in the Florida House; since he is not running for re-election, candidates have filed already on the Democratic and Republican lines both in his House District 15.
Fant has gotten roughly a dozen House colleagues to endorse him; his strategy seems to be as the regional candidate who can roll up his sleeves and talk to the grassroots.
Rory Diamond launches Jax Council run
It was no surprise that Neptune Beach City Councilor Rory Diamond started a campaign to succeed Bill Gulliford on the Jacksonville City Council.
What will be a surprise: If anyone can mount a serious challenge to the Republican alum of the George W. Bush White House and Arnold Schwarzenegger Governor’s Mansion.
A broad cross-section of the city’s power elite supports Diamond and is very comfortable with policy discussions — including those affecting the broader expanse of Duval County, as well as the more granular issues relative to Jacksonville Beach.
Expect him to message heavily on public safety — and, bearing the gravitas of a former federal prosecutor — meaningfully. One of his recurrent theorems: that a lot of the Beaches’ crime problem is coming over from the other side of the ditch.
Censure for Councilors?
Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche raised the possibility of censure for two legislators who supported her run for the Council presidency.
The subject: A confrontation between Councilors Reggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown and police officers after a Council meeting last month.
Gaffney has issued the expected mea culpa statements for attempting to leverage his power as a Councilman to check the officers who pulled him over. However, Brown — who accused officers of racial profiling — has yet to apologize.
That point was not lost on the Fraternal Order of Police, which saw its national and state presidents in Jacksonville Tuesday night to condemn Councilwoman Brown’s accusations and unwillingness to walk them back.
“The ultimate repercussion is going to be leveled by their districts … if there is any,” Brosche said.
Brosche has requested “options” from the General Counsel, including what authority Council has, and expects them at the next Council meeting.
“The question is around censure — is it an option for Council,” Brosche said.
Did Irma kill crops?
It’s a race against time for Northeast Florida farmers, per the Florida Times-Union. Hurricane Irma devastated crops last month, and yields — and farms themselves — hang in the balance.
Per a Florida Farm Bureau representative: “Many of the losses will be calculated in coming weeks. It’s very difficult for folks to make a total estimate if they’re still struggling to get to their fields, their pastures, round up animals, to repair buildings.”
Among the potential culinary casualties: Christmas coleslaw from St. Johns County.
Clay County, hit hard by Irma, may have suffered more grievously had it not been for delayed planting … as heavy rains had already pushed back planting schedules.
Turn around, don’t drown
The Tampa Bay Times published a long-form, damning article laying out Jacksonville’s vulnerability to flooding during a hurricane.
“The city is dangerously flood-prone,” the TBT attested, as Irma was merely a tropical storm by the time it affected Jacksonville … and the storm could have been worse.
Of course, some caveats led to the epic flooding: a full moon drove the storm surge, the rain was another factor. But where the TBT article makes its point is a twofold contention.
— Jacksonville has not put money into drainage in older neighborhoods, especially those close to the water.
— Jacksonville officials have no real plan to deal with the matter.
The city’s finances are stretched: millage rates are low, there is no political appetite to raise them. Pension reform offered some fiscal relief, but the recurrent investment of that aid is in human resources — public-sector unions, legacy costs.
John Thrasher enters Confederate monument debate
Florida State University President Thrasher set up a 15-person committee to review Confederate markers and monuments, reports the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I expect them to be deliberate, to be thoughtful and to seek input from the entire Florida State community as they do their work,” Thrasher said about the new President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions.
The Democrat reports that “the campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society has sought the removal of the statue of Francis Eppes near the Westcott Building. Eppes, the grandson of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, is a former Tallahassee mayor who helped found West Florida Seminary, the forerunner of today’s FSU.”
JTA CEO elected chair of national org
JTA CEO Nat Ford this weekend was elected as Chair of the American Public Transportation Association and calls the election “one of the greatest honors” he’s received in his career.
Ford expects his chairmanship to bring “national attention” to Jacksonville, a city that is currently involved in attempts to modernize its approach to mass transit through various infrastructural investments — including a regional transportation center under construction.
Among his focuses in the APTA chair: “leveraging big data,” “enterprise risk management,” and the “new mobility paradigm” — which, we hear, will also double as the name for Ford’s indie rock group.
Jax loves Shad; Republicans cool to Jags
A University of North Florida polls shows high approval ratings for both the owner and coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While Shad Khan and Doug Marrone sit at 65 and 58 percent approval, there nonetheless is still some grievance from Republicans toward the home team’s anthem protest in London.
Republicans are less likely to watch games on television or attend, per the survey; almost 63 percent indicated they were less likely to watch NFL games and 57 percent said they were less likely to attend games.
Democrats are unmoved; while 14 and 11 percent respectively said they were less likely to watch or go to games, a full 18 percent of Dems are more likely to watch and attend.
Pollsters conducted the live-dial survey with 512 registered Duval County voters between Oct. 2 and Oct. 4.
The first-place Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Los Angeles Rams at home, Sunday at 1 p.m.
Bean calls for elected Secretary of State
This week, the Fernandina Beach Republican filed a proposal to ask Florida voters to make the secretary of state an elected Cabinet position, removing the governor’s power to appoint Florida’s highest elections official. The News Service of Florida reports that SJR 506 seeks to undo a change approved by voters in 1998 that reduced the size of the Cabinet to three members.
Under that ballot measure, the positions of secretary of state and education commissioner became appointed in 2002 and dropped the Cabinet posts of comptroller and treasurer. It also created a new Cabinet position, chief financial officer, while keeping the attorney general and agriculture commissioner.
For inclusion on the 2018 ballot, Bean’s proposal must be approved by three-fifths of both legislative chambers and would ultimately need approval from 60 percent of voters. Bean sponsored similar legislation in the 2017 session, with the Senate approving it in a 33-2 vote, but failed to advance in the House.
Able Trust lauds Bean
“Senator of the Year” — that’s the designation the Able Trust put on Sen. Bean Monday.
“I look forward to continuing to work with The Able Trust to ensure that Floridians with disabilities are never left behind and are given the opportunities they so rightly deserve,” Bean added.
This has been Bean’s third award from the Able Trust. He has historically fought to ensure the nonprofit received funding that was on the chopping block.
Meredith Charbula to Duval County Court
Eric Roberson’s vacancy, left when the former Duval judge moved to the 4th Circuit Court, has now been filled.
Meredith Charbula, 59, of Jacksonville, will leave her role as Director of the Legal Division for the Office of the State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit to fill the slot.
Charbula, an alumna of FSU’s law school, was recommended four times by commissions … and passed over four times in the past, reported the Florida Times-Union.
“Some people call me stubborn. I call it tenacious,” she said when asked why she kept trying.
Leadership moves for KIPP Jacksonville
After more than eight years with KIPP Jacksonville Public Charter Schools, Executive Director Tom Majdanics has passed the leadership torch to Dr. Jennifer Brown, who will move from her role as Chief Academic Officer.
Zach Rossley, formerly Chief Operating Officer, will now serve as president and COO, taking on new and added responsibilities.
Brown joined the KIPP Jacksonville team in 2015, with more than 15 years of experience as an educator and leader in large urban, rural, and nonprofit settings. She earned both a B.A. and M.A. in English from Winthrop University and an Ed.D. in Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University.
Brown is also a proud U.S. Army Veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
KIPP Jacksonville Schools are part of the KIPP non-profit network of college-preparatory, public charter schools.