In this issue of Bold, there’s not a lot of unwelcome news.
— Travis Hutson potentially ascending to Senate leadership.
— The local paper’s editorial board finally noticed Hutson’s Senate colleague, Rob Bradley.
— A popular local politician — Sheriff Mike Williams — is (finally) officially running for re-election.
— If you read far enough, you’ll find the latest “big idea” in Jacksonville politics — a potential privatization of the local utility.
— And two new Sumatran tiger cubs — a “critically endangered” species — were born at the Jacksonville Zoo.
Some issues of Bold — and undoubtedly many future ones — will be packed with scandal and drama.
This one, luckily for the local political class, is not.
6th Congressional District race has Duval flavor
Though Duval County is now comfortably north of Congressional District 6, it’s worth watching as — at least by proxy — it could be argued to be a Jacksonville seat.
Incumbent Ron DeSantis has not decided whether to run for re-election or run statewide, yet wife Casey Black DeSantis is and presumably will continue to be a fixture on Jacksonville television.
The likely Democratic nominee — Ambassador Nancy Soderberg — has been a longtime professor at the University of North Florida.
And a potential GOP candidate — former Green Beret Mike Waltz — was an alumnus of Stanton High School (Go Blue Devils!)
At a time when Congressional District 5 (a seat currently held by Tallahassee’s Al Lawson) may or may not be in play for a Jacksonville politician such as former Mayor Alvin Brown, it’s worth watching to see if CD 6 will end up as a Jacksonville seat by proxy.
Travis Hutson on leadership track?
St. Johns County Sen. Hutson may be on the Senate Leadership track.
But it’s going to take some time to find out, as Florida Politics reported this week.
The two front-runners to be potential Senate Majority Leader in 2022 are Hutson and Tampa’s Dana Young, according to more than a dozen sources, including several members. Beyond Hutson and Young, sources say Dennis Baxley and Greg Steube should be seen as dark horses.
And we typically get these things right. Florida Politics was first to report about the conclusion of the race between current Senate President Joe Negron and one-time rival Jack Latvala, as well as the eventual outcome of the recently concluded contest for House Speaker beginning in 2022.
There’s a lot of time between now and the 2020 vote. However, Hutson atop the Senate and Renner atop the House would make for a unique and welcome convergence for Northeast Florida.
Paul Renner previews Legislative Session, talks harassment
Palm Coast Rep. Renner — a Jacksonville lawyer who chairs Ways and Means and is on track to be Speaker in 2022 — spoke to a crowd on the Southside Wednesday.
While Florida has “the right policies,” is headed in “the right direction” and has a “bright future,” the state nonetheless faces challenges.
Among those challenges: population growth, including a near-term influx from storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and long-term expectations that Florida could add 6 to 8 million people in the coming years. And roads and other infrastructural issues.
Renner also discussed the pervasive issue of sexual harassment in Tallahassee.
“Two points: one is that human beings being are who they are, in any organization you’re going to have five to 10 percent who can’t help themselves in their personal conduct. We need to identify that and ask them to return home because they’ve lost the trust of the people who elected them,” Renner said.
Renner’s second point: term limits.
“You see some of these problems. You look at John Conyers in Congress: he’s 88 years old and has had some serious allegations against him,” Renner added. “Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, there’s a period of time after which people become co-opted, happier to be there than to do what the people sent them there to do.
“They’d rather spend time drinking scotch at the club or doing things that they don’t have any business doing than to do the people’s business,” Renner added. “Do I think that’s widespread among elected members? I do not. But it is an issue, it is a problem, and it’s something we have to take seriously. And as these things arise, it’s something we have to address.”
Staff boosts for Jay Fant AG campaign
When it comes to the GOP race for Attorney General, Fant is in it to win it.
Fant faces former circuit court judge Ashley Moody and fellow Republican Reps. Frank White and Ross Spano in the GOP primary for AG, and has seen his campaign lag in recent months as his rivals, particularly Moody and White, have picked up steam.
The Jacksonville Republican’s revamp effort includes bringing in Randy Enwright and Jim Rimes of Enwright Consulting Group to lead his political team and turning to The Tarrance Group for polling. Former Rick Scott communications chief Melissa Stone is also coming on board via Cavalry Strategies.
Fant is also going all in on advertising with the Strategy Group, which helped President Donald Trump last election cycle and have worked on 11 other Attorney General campaigns nationwide.
Josh Cooper’s Strategic Information Consultants will be handling opposition research, while Strategic Digital Services, founded by Matthew Farrar and Joe Clements, will handle the digital media operations.
Fant has messaged to the right of the field, but has seen his credibility hamstrung by a shoestring operation. Now that problem has been solved.
Fant wants Franken gone
Rep. Fant — as is often the case — is holding forth on issues beyond the state Legislature in which he serves, and the Attorney General’s office in which he would like to serve.
Fant’s latest rhetorical broadside: a full-throttle smackdown on Sen. Franken, accused of letting his hands wander during photo ops.
Fant wants Franken gone.
“Senator Marco Rubio said yesterday that Senator Al Franken should resign, and I fully agree with him on this. Senator Franken has already admitted to mistreating women in a way that would be offensive to come from any person, but is completely out-of-bounds for an elected official representing our public trust. He must go,” Fant said.
“As the father of two daughters, I am sickened by public officials misusing the power of their office for harassment. Sexual harassment is wrong in any workplace,” Fant added, “but is especially disgusting when it involves someone who represents the public trust.”
Fant is embroiled in a crowded four-way race for the GOP nomination for Attorney General. Two of his opponents — White and Spano — are House colleagues. A third competitor, Moody, is a retired Hillsborough County judge.
Times-Union gives props to Bradley
Sen. Bradley was lauded by the Florida Times-Union editorial board last month, and — as it ran during the Thanksgiving holiday — some of our readers may have missed it.
Bradley, the current Senate Appropriations Chair, was celebrated for sponsoring a bill that would earmark $100 million for the state’s “Florida Forever” conservation program.
If this sounds like déjà vu, it’s probably because Florida Politics wrote about the bill two months ago.
“This ought to be easy. Florida voters approved that funding by a whopping 75 percent vote three years ago. But the Legislature has a maddening habit of ignoring the will of the voters,” the T-U ed board remarked.
With the Times-Union yet to announce a replacement for the respected Tia Mitchell, it will be interesting to see how the Jacksonville paper covers Bradley — and the Florida Legislature — in 2018.
Kim Daniels settles disputed election spending
Rep. Daniels cut a deal this week with the Florida Elections Commission. She will spend $1,500 to settle claims that she paid campaign money from her 2015 Jacksonville City Council re-election bid on promoting her book, “The Demon Dictionary.”
Daniels also offered editorials in the magazine, and no disclaimers marking the communiqué as campaign communications were included.
A local activist/journalist, David Vandygriff of JaxGay.com, filed an FEC complaint, and in March 2016, staff recommended to the commission that there was probable cause to believe that an election code violation might have occurred.
Daniels faces no opposition thus far in her 2018 bid for re-election.
Second Democrat jumps into HD 15 fight
Many connected Jacksonville Democrats are solidly behind Tracye Polson in her bid to replace Fant in House District 15.
But to get to the general election against a Republican (Wyman Duggan is the only one to have filed yet), Polson must fend off a primary challenge.
Jacksonville Democrat Matt McAllister filed last month for the seat.
Mike Williams files for re-election
Jacksonville Sheriff Williams filed for re-election Tuesday, opening a campaign account and launching an operation well ahead of the 2019 vote.
Despite the formal filing for re-election, it’s clear that Williams has been working in that direction for months.
Williams’ political committee, “A Safe Jacksonville,” has raised $154,000, and has $131,000 on hand.
The committee’s spending in September and October reflected a nascent re-election campaign, with a $10,000 October spend with Jacksonville consultant Bruce Barcelo on constituent polling, after a September spend of $8,900 with Data Targeting Research for the same.
While we don’t have access to the internal polls, the most recent public poll shows that Sheriff Williams is popular, with 67 percent approval countywide … including 60 percent of Democrats.
Bad trip? Or hit piece?
The Florida Times-Union offered a long-form look at the political symbiosis between Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.
The subtext may be more interesting than the text.
Historically, there has been a pattern when the T-U would go in on Curry’s administration on one issue or another; a Cold War of some length, followed by rapprochement.
“Curry’s current travel practices have blown up the old system,” writes the T-U’s Nate Monroe, who adds that “Curry considers himself a reform mayor who championed hard-won changes to the old ways of doing business, often touting his interest in increased transparency and accountability for the massive consolidated government he oversees. But Curry might be sidestepping that goal when it comes to his own office.”
In a media market like this, with a few dedicated City Hall reporters between print and television, the relationship between Curry and the local paper is worth watching. While the T-U editorial board is pretty much on lock, the news side is more skeptical — as Monroe’s article suggests.
Curry faces no imminent challenges to re-election, and — as compared to Alvin Brown, who attempted to stay above politics — is exceedingly well prepared for a re-election campaign.
But the path forward can get more treacherous if articles like this one occlude the larger narrative.
Tree canopy tango
The state bill, filed by Republican Greg Steube in the Senate and Democrat Katie Edwards in the House, would prohibit cities such as Jacksonville from stopping landowners from removing trees located on their own private property.
Crescimbeni’s Jacksonville City Council bill (2017-822) contends that the legislation is “harmful to the environment and contrary to the overwhelming wishes of Jacksonville citizens,” and that the state legislation is an “assault on home rule.”
The Crescimbeni bill, if it moves through committee, will be voted up or down by the full Council in 2018.
Price of sex discrimination to be paid by Jax taxpayers
WJXT reported on the city of Jacksonville getting ready to dole out almost half a million dollars to settle two sex discrimination cases.
“The city tried unsuccessfully to get both lawsuits dismissed, and in each case, the city’s general counsel said the agreed upon settlement would be far less than what the city might have to pay after a jury trial and lengthy court battle,” reports WJXT’s Jim Piggott.
For a taste of what these women had to endure, consider the example of 65-year-old Deborah Jones, a jail employee.
Jones claimed her boss called her an “old, demented, worthless whore” and who “didn’t need to worry about inmates hanging around a dark parking lot because ‘they don’t rape old, ugly women.’”
Reggie Gaffney raises $10K in re-election bid
It appears that, despite issues during his first two years in office, that Jacksonville City Councilman Gaffney will have the resources he needs to best lightly-funded opponents.
October revealed fundraising that, while slow compared to many other candidates in the city, dwarfs opponents in Council District 7, which includes Downtown, Springfield and points north.
Gaffney brought in $9,100 in October, pushing him to $10,100 raised — with all but $228 of that cash on hand.
Gaffney’s money came in chunks: $2,500 in three checks from local dog track interests; $2,000 from three property management entities housed at the same address (437 E Monroe St. Ste 100); and $2,000 more from two property management companies with the same post office box in Yulee.
One opponent has $1,800 banked; the other has $0 in reserve.
Privatize JEA? Tom Petway says yes.
The big news out of Tuesday’s meeting of Jacksonville’s JEA Board wasn’t on the agenda.
Board member Petway — one of the earliest supporters of the candidacy of Jacksonville Mayor Curry — announced his intention to leave the board Dec. 31. And he revived a major conceptual proposal on his way out.
Petway suggested that perhaps the time has come for the municipal utility to move into a “private sector marketplace” model.
“The majority of people in Florida are served by a private-sector marketplace,” Petway said, asking the board to consider where JEA “fits” in that emergent paradigm.
At a press availability Wednesday, Curry further discussed the audacious proposal by one of his staunchest political supporters.
“[Petway and] I’ve had abstract conversations about challenging the utility to think big,” Curry said. “Numerous times.”
“I’ve been about reform, challenge, changing the status quo,” Curry added. “And he certainly challenged the organization to think big yesterday.”
This concept has been floated twice in the last decade, and couldn’t get traction.
However, some City Councilors — notably, Council liaison to JEA Matt Schellenberg and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis — are receptive, even as Council President Anna Brosche wants to know more.
This will be a 2018 story to watch.
Duval Dems Chair race to wrap Monday
Two candidates have emerged in the hopes of replacing Gibson.
“Democrats can win elections in Jacksonville. To do so,” King said, “we must be brave, build trust and be ready to work.”
Gillis, in an email announcing her bid, noted that she will “work diligently to unify our party and work for inclusion.”
The party will choose Monday evening.
Scott reappoints two to Jacksonville Aviation Authority
Gov. Rick Scott announced the reappointment of Patrick Kilbane and Giselle Carson to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.
Kilbane, 38, of Jacksonville, is a financial adviser with Ullmann Brown Wealth Advisors. He received his law degree from the University of Notre Dame. Kilbane is reappointed for a term beginning ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Carson, 49, of Jacksonville, is an attorney and shareholder with Marks Gray PA. Carson received her bachelor’s degree from McGill University and her law degree from the Florida Coastal School of Law. Carson is reappointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Wildlight UF Health facility plans filed
Wildlight LLC has filed plans with the St. Johns River Water Management District this week for a proposed University of Florida health and fitness complex at Wildlight, the master-planned community in Nassau County.
Karen Mathis of the Jacksonville Daily Record reports that Wildlight developer Raydient Places + Properties and UF is seeking to construct two medical office buildings, with parking facilities, on 6.38 acres in Yulee at Florida A1A and William Burgess Boulevard.
In August, Raydient — Rayonier Inc.’s real estate subsidiary — and UF announced groundbreaking would begin in 2018.
Plans include a 23,331-square-foot medical office building and a 5,888-square-foot building. GAI Consultants of Jacksonville is serving as the project agent.
Wildlight is a 2,900-acre development with 7 million square feet of office, commercial, medical, industrial and residential space. The project will include 3,200 residential units.
Originally in downtown Jacksonville, Rayonier moved its headquarters to Wildlight, a new town that it refers to as “Florida Lowcountry.”
In all, Wildlight will offer homes, townhomes and rental apartments along with shops, restaurants, parks, gardens, playgrounds, a new elementary school that opened and a trail and pathway system to connect it.
JTA holiday bus offers free rides, candy canes, music
Weekdays through December 22, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) is offering a special holiday bus, located on any one of its routes during the holiday season.
Now through December 22, ride for Free on our 2017 Holiday Bus. In addition to the complimentary ride, customers can also enjoy holiday music, candy canes and decorations. Find the bus and ride for free. #TryJTAhttps://t.co/V5qrmz7v71 pic.twitter.com/viQBICTFJQ
— JTAFLA (@JTAFLA) November 28, 2017
If you find the holiday bus, you can ride for free.
JTA says riders on this holiday bus will also get holiday music, candy canes, and decorations.
For more information on the holiday bus, contact JTA customer service at (904) 630-3100.
Jacksonville Zoo celebrates birth of endangered Sumatran tiger cubs
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating the healthy birth of two critically endangered Sumatran tiger cubs. The cubs’ mother, 6-year-old Dorcas, gave birth at 11:40 a.m. November 20. The tigers’ keepers were able to keep an eye on the process using a closed-circuit camera system.
Both cubs are male; they are the second litter for Dorcas and father, Berani. The Zoo’s first Sumatran tiger birth in its 102-year history is big sister Kinleigh Rose, born on November 19, 2015 — two years and a day before the arrival of her little brothers.
“One of the biggest pleasures as the Zoo’s tiger-management program evolves, is watching the effect that it has on the wellness of our animals,” said Dan Dembiec, Supervisor of Mammals. “Dorcas started out as a skittish and shy tigress, but she is now a confident and skilled mother. She is a natural at providing her cubs with the necessary care to help them develop, and this is reflective of the care that she has received from the staff at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.”
The cubs received their first medical exam on November 28. Zoo Animal Health staff were able to quickly and efficiently examine the cubs because of the exceptional bonding and training the keeper staff has conducted with the mother. Dorcas was willing and trusting to be separated from the cubs at the request of the keepers.