After a brief sabbatical, Bold is back.
The campaign season — local state House and Senate races and special elections, and statewide battles — is in full swing.
Competitive races abound up and down the ballot, along with more than a few cakewalks.
Since we took our break, we’ve also seen a new Jacksonville City Council president.
Aaron Bowman, an ally of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, is expected to presage an era of good feeling.
Will this happen? The mayor’s office hopes so.
With Jacksonville’s municipal elections running through May of next year, the local political season is a different matter than just the August/November cycle we see in state and federal races.
Ahead of us: close to a year of campaign finance watching, ad analysis, guessing and second-guessing, tips that do (and sometimes don’t) pan out.
People often say that FloridaPolitics.com covers the miscellany of the political scene, which otherwise would be ignored.
And for those of you who miss the content during the week, we try to bring together the best of the best (even in a slow week such as this) to you in Jacksonville Bold.
Great to be back!
LGBT group backs Lawson over Brown
Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown faced questions about his commitment to LGBT rights during his four-year term, and those questions have continued to dog him as he mounts a primary challenge to Congressman Al Lawson.
The latest example: the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus choosing to endorse Florida’s 5th Congressional District incumbent, a first-term legislator from Tallahassee.
“Congressman Lawson has always been on the right side of the issues for the LGBT community,” said Terry Fleming, president of the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.
“We are proud he’s our representative in Washington who will stand up for equal rights for all, and that’s why the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus is pleased to endorse Congressman Al Lawson for re-election,” Fleming added.
Lawson was “humbled by this endorsement from the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.”
“Throughout my career,” Lawson added, “I have believed in true equality for all and fought to ensure no person is ever discriminated against due to his or her age, race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. We have made great strides in our nation, but there is still so much more we can do. I will continue to work to drive that path forward.”
Bean in cash cakewalk thus far
In Northeast Florida’s Senate District 4, incumbent Sen. Aaron Bean continued to hold a commanding lead over three opponents as of June 22, the most recent reportage date for state candidates.
The first three weeks of June, however, saw slow fundraising for Bean, who raised nothing for his political committee (Florida Conservative Alliance) and $4,500 in hard money, including maximum $1,000 contributions from Friends of Dana Young and GrayRobinson.
Between the two accounts, Bean has roughly $160,000 on hand.
Bean will face a primary challenge, via Carlos Slay, a candidate widely seen as being backed by Bean’s political rival, former Rep. Janet Adkins.
Slay has not raised any money, and paid his filing fee via a personal loan.
The winner of the Bean/Slay clash will face two general election opponents, Democrat Billie Bussard and Libertarian Joanna Tavares.
Bussard has $4,500 on hand, having raised money between June 5 and June 22.
Tavares has less than $40 on hand after paying her filing fee.
What Bean is up to
The Fernandina Beach Republican will speak to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Jacksonville and will provide a postmortem of the 2018 Legislative Session Thursday, July 12, 9:30 a.m., Maggiano’s, 10367 Midtown Pkwy., Jacksonville.
Later that day, Bean will be honored with an award from the First Coast Apartment Association in appreciation for being a friend to their industry, 7:00 p.m., Sheraton Jacksonville Hotel, 10605 Deerwood Park Blvd, Jacksonville.
Yarborough dominates in HD 12 cash dash
State Rep. Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican in his first term, maintained his money lead over Democratic challenger Tim Yost through the first three weeks in June.
Neither candidate has a primary challenge in House District 12, a Southside Jacksonville district that encompasses the Arlington area, which means this is a race to November.
Yarborough brought in $6,700 off ten contributions in the period, with Waste Management and the Southeast Florida Chamber of Commerce pacing the political veteran’s haul.
The Republican spent nearly as much as he took in during the reporting period, with $5,755 heading out the door, mostly to consultants and for a qualifying fee.
Yost had his best reporting period of fundraising since filing last summer, bringing in $2,521 ($1,781 of it from the candidate himself, to cover his filing fee).
Yost has almost $4,300 on hand, but Yarborough holds serve, with just under $107,000 in cash available.
Duggan closes in on Polson in HD 15 money battle
Democrat Tracye Polson will carry the party’s flag against one of three Republicans in a November race for exiting state Rep. Jay Fant‘s Westside Jacksonville seat.
The bookkeeping through the first three weeks of June reveals a tightening financial picture between Polson, a well-funded first-time candidate, and Wyman Duggan, a Jacksonville lobbyist.
Polson still leads the money race, but on the strength of his best reporting period since October 2017, Duggan is closing in.
Duggan brought in $13,800 to his campaign account in June (pushing the total near $121,000 on hand), driven by establishment support from J.B. Coxwell, W.W. Gay, and CSX Transportation.
Running behind Duggan and Polson: the two other Republicans in the race.
Yacht broker Mark Zeigler brought in $5,325, pushing the first-time candidate over $33,000 on hand.
And Joseph Hogan, whose $1,500 in the first three weeks of June pushed his total over $8,000, may be trailing in fundraising. Nonetheless, he had the biggest name contributor of the four HD 15 hopefuls this cycle: former House Speaker Allan Bense.
Fischer stays strong against Dem challenge
Neither candidate faces a primary opponent, making the race in 16 a sprint toward November.
School choice money, via Step Up for Students founder John Kirtley, comprised $10,000 of the committee’s haul; Florida Power and Light, a company with lobbyists in Jacksonville’s City Hall during the lapsed debate over potential privatization of the city’s utility, ponied up $5,000.
The $8,500 of new money in Fischer’s campaign account came from 10 contributors, including long-term care apothecary Senior Care Pharmacy, the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, and the Southeast Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Fischer’s committee had at the time of filing $80,000 on hand; his campaign account had another $93,000.
Organes, meanwhile, raised $6,484, pushing his campaign account over $20,000 on hand.
Among Organes’ backers: former CSX CEO Michael Ward, notable as Organes retired from the Jacksonville railroad, former State Attorney candidate Jay Plotkin, and the local Sheet Metal Workers.
What Nelson is reading
Melissa Nelson, the State Attorney for the 4th Circuit Court, couldn’t have commissioned a stronger endorsement of her job performance thus far than this paean to “smart justice” in the Florida Times-Union.
“Among the brightest spots in Nelson’s vision is expanding diversion and civil citation programs, which seek to steer individuals away out of the criminal justice system. Diversion programs use alternatives to the usual criminal court system to process certain low-level, nonviolent offenders. Rather than rely on criminal sanctions that often do little more than force offenders to languish in a jail cell, diversion programs require these individuals to undergo substance abuse, mental health or other treatment,” the editorial from the right-leaning R Street Institute reads.
“By embracing “smart on crime” justice, Northeast Florida finds itself in good company. Conservative-led jurisdictions across the country are beginning to experiment with new ideas and reap prodigious returns on the back of evidence-based reforms,” the piece continues.
Ray retains tax collector cash lead
As of June 22, former State Rep. Lake Ray leads his three opponents in fundraising for the Duval County Tax Collector election to be held this August.
The election, which will see the top two candidates move to the November ballot if no one gets a majority of votes, was necessitated by former tax collector Michael Corrigan moving on to a role with Visit Jacksonville.
Ray, a Republican, has raised $128,660, with $17,350 hauled in between June 1 and June 20. He has over $119,000 on hand.
Ray’s closest competitor is also a Republican, former property appraiser, and city councilman Jim Overton, who has raised $90,000 total, with almost $79,000 on hand.
During the most recent three-week reporting period, Overton brought in $15,650.
Running third in the money race: current Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter.
Carter, also a Republican, had the best three-week period of all the candidates. His $22,050 haul included a noteworthy donation, via the “Jacksonville Conservative Action Fund” committee, seeded solely by the Republican Party of Florida.
Carter has over $53,000 on hand.
Running in fourth place: the sole Democrat in the race, former State Rep. Mia Jones.
Jones raised $9,740 in the three-week reporting period and has just over $12,000 total.
Task force hits Jacksonville government for transparency failings
In its final report, the Jacksonville City Council Task Force on Open Government offered an indictment of Curry’s administration and the Jacksonville City Council on transparency issues.
The panel, co-chaired by trial lawyer Hank Coxe and former Jessie Ball DuPont Center head Sherry Magill, says city government makes it “difficult for the public to understand governmental processes and decisions.”
Mayoral staff review of public records requests and disallowing journalists to interview department heads: two of the black marks identified.
The City Council also gets dinged for not posting text messages and emails to a public portal. Indeed, the only Council communications available without a public record request are emails to the whole Council. And text messages, for anyone in city government, are not made available without said PRR.
Critics of the city website say it’s hard to navigate, and lacking attention to SEO or navigation; the city budget for being hard to understand; public notice processes are “archaic.”
Whether legislation will emerge from this or not is a different matter.
The task force was a priority of former Council President Brosche, and it is by no means certain that her Council colleagues share her interest in increasing transparency in the ways the task force recommends.
Jacksonville leads in emerging economic centers
Some good news for once, and kudos to the Jax Daily Record for providing it.
Per a recent study from the Urban Land Institute, Jacksonville is among a leader in “emerging economic centers.”
Jacksonville, with 11.9 percent of urban residents living in emerging economic centers, is seeing “new urban cores” emerge.
The study spotlighted Riverside and the Town Center.
What is missing: “mixed-use districts,” with high-density housing and upscale retail.
Perhaps the District will solve that problem once it is built on the Southbank.
Suspended Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown, at this point, is better known for her legal woes than anything she’s done legislatively.
A 38-count federal indictment, spotlighting a scheme to defraud with another suspended councilman (Reggie Brown), is the reason.
However, the feds aren’t the only ones suing Katrina Brown. Also coming after her as of this week: Wells Fargo, which loaned her money using a 2000 Ford Explorer as collateral, is now suing her for a nonperforming loan.
This is Katrina Brown’s second lawsuit regarding lapsed car payments since she has been on Council: the first one involved a 2006 Porsche Cayenne SUV.
In this case, Wells Fargo subsidiary OneMain loaned Councilwoman Brown $8,300 at 25 percent interest using a 16-year-old truck as collateral on Nov. 2016, just weeks before the FBI, the IRS, HUD, the Small Business Administration and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office raided her family’s BBQ sauce plant.
Councilwoman Brown stopped making payments on the loan last summer, per the lawsuit.
This loan’s timing tracks with two of the counts against Katrina Brown in the federal indictment, which asserts that she was trying to secure a loan for $60,000 for “working capital” for her KJB Specialties from a company called LendCore through Nov. 2016, and $50-$55,000 from Credibly and Webbank in the same time frame. Part of the scheme to defraud, per the indictment, included materially altering bank statements.
Katrina and Reggie Brown, at this writing, are expected to see their federal trials begin Sep. 4.
While Scott has not yet picked replacements for Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, former Council President Anna Brosche solved the issue for their constituents weeks ago.
That solution: Councilman Sam Newby and Brosche will fill in for the suspended duo until replacements are appointed.
“Me stepping in to help handle things in District 10 is a very temporary situation,” Brosche said to one of many impassioned speakers at a June public notice meeting.
And indeed, it was temporary, as now current Council President Aaron Bowman exercised his authority and relieved the two at-large Republicans of those duties this week.
“That was not a legal assignment,” Bowman said. “They have five at-large representatives to represent them.”
Brosche appointed herself and Newby to the roles, she said Tuesday, because she believed the need for a point person to address concerns specific to those districts.
The move “wasn’t about legal authority,” she added; rather, it was about ensuring the constituents had representation.
Brosche also noted that, in her understanding, similar moves in the past filled in the gap for suspended councilors.
School super speaks out
WJCT interviewed Dr. Diana Greene, the new superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, this week.
She’s not quite sure what needs changing first.
“I don’t think what I know right now is enough information to make that determination. What are the areas that need the most improvement? But there are general areas it would matter what district I’m in. Academics is always going to be something that we can always improve. Ensuring safety and security of our students, making sure that our employees are safe in their locations at work,” Greene said. “Those are things that are happening not only in Duval but across the country, and we want to continue to focus on those same issues so that our students, when they come to school, they know that they’re in a safe environment, when our teachers come to work, they’re in a safe environment and that the No. 1 priority is doing what’s best for students to ensure their success.”
Greene also seemed open to a millage hike via referendum:
“I think any passing of a referendum requires a coalition of involved and engaged citizens in the process and stepping in July 2, being my first official day, I need to again get to know people, introduce myself to the community … It does take time. It takes time to understand what are the issues? And 1) will a referendum help solve those issues? My first role is to No. 1 get to know everyone, but No. 2, identify what are our issues?”
The board appointed Greene, who started this week.
Save the date
St. Johns Chamber of Commerce is holding a Candidate Meet-and-Greet, Monday, July 16, at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, 1050 A1A North. The nonpartisan event – from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. – will feature a straw poll conducted by the St. Johns Supervisor of Elections. It’s free and open to the public.
JTA bond rating stays strong
Bond rating agency S&P is upholding the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) ‘AA’ rating, giving stability for the regional transit agency’s local option gas tax (LOGT) revenue bonds, series 2015.
Series 2015 bonds represent JTA’s first direct debt issuance; money helps fund roadway and mobility improvements. This rating reflects an assessment of the prospects of LOGT revenues relative to the required JTA debt service payments, along with future capital needs.
“This bond rating assessment strengthens the financial position of the Authority,” said JTA Board Chair Isaiah Rumlin. “The rating allows the Authority to continue to improve safety, reduce congestion on major roadways, provide mobility options and enhance the quality of life for the community.”
JTA works with the City of Jacksonville to identify specific roadway, transit and mobility projects. Construction is underway for roadway development as well as enhancements for bicycle, pedestrian, transit and ADA accessibility. Since its inception in 2015, the program is installed 7.5 miles of sidewalk.
“The 2015 bond issuance has enabled the JTA to aggressively implement the JTAMobilityWorks initiative,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel Ford. “I want to thank our board of directors for their governance and commitment to effective financial management.”
JAA head to retire
Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) Chief Executive Officer Steve Grossman is retiring at the end of 2018. Named CEO in September 2009, Grossman oversees the operation, maintenance, development and marketing of authority assets such as Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Cecil Airport/Spaceport, Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport (JAXEX) and Herlong Recreational Airport. He also serves as the primary JAA representative to the community.
Under Grossman’s leadership, JAA achieved annual operating profit margins of at least 30 percent.
JAA Chair Giselle Carson said in a statement: “Under Steve’s leadership, JAX saw a recovery in passenger traffic after the Great Recession, celebrated its 50th anniversary, launched our Aviation Hall of Fame, developed Cecil Airport bringing over a thousand new jobs to the area and watched Cecil Spaceport bring in new technology that will take us into the future.”
Grossman has been a member of the Airports Council International World Governing Board and is a past chair of Airports Council International-North America. He currently serves on the City of Jacksonville Tourist Development Council, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce board of trustees, and the University of North Florida Transportation and Logistics Advisory Council.
Flagler Hospital breaks ground on Murabella Health Village
Nearly 100 people attended the groundbreaking of the Flagler Health Village at Murabella.
When completed by the summer of 2019, the new facility will include 20,000 square feet dedicated to urgent care, advanced imaging, laboratory services, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, primary care and specialty care. Additionally, plans for the site include a 25,000 square foot healthy lifestyle center with fitness, prevention and education program offerings for all ages.
“As we broaden our reach into new markets, we do so with great enthusiasm. It is important for us to heal people when they are sick and also to support a healthier, more vibrant community,” Flagler Hospital President and CEO Jason Barret said in a news release.
Special guests at the event included Kalilah Jamall, staff assistant in the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who brought along special message from Nelson; State Sen.Travis Hutson; Jackie Smith, aide to Congressman John Rutherford; City of St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver; City of St. Augustine Vice Mayor Todd Neville and St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Operations, Greg Voss.
Jax neurosurgeons bring lifesaving work to Philippines
In June, Jacksonville pediatric neurosurgeon Philipp Aldana joined other health care professionals on a volunteer educational medical mission to his native Philippines. They make the 9,000 trip every two years to teach new neurosurgical techniques to Filipino doctors and consult on neurological cases.
As the Florida Times-Union reports, the trip is a reminder of the vast difference between health care services available in the Philippines and the United States.
Aldana, who is based at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and UF Health Jacksonville, along with his wife, Carmina Montesa Aldana, founded the Jacksonville-based Neurosurgery Outreach Foundation to help close that health care gap.
This trip, the Aldana’s were joined by a group of volunteers that included Ricardo Hanel, an endovascular neurosurgeon with Baptist Health and Lyerly Neurosurgery; H. Gordon Deen Jr., a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic; and Karen Lidsky, another pediatric critical care physician with UF Health Jacksonville and Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
During their trip, the gave lectures to 50 Filipino health care providers, including 20 neurosurgeons, as well as $100,000 worth of donated surgical clips to treat aneurysms, a treatment unfamiliar in the Philippines. Also, more supplies and $15,000 for an indigent patient fund.
Working with Filipino colleagues, the group provided free surgical care to four children and four adults who had brain and spinal cord tumors, brain aneurysms, neck instability and hydrocephalus.
“It’s always something new,” Aldana told the Times-Union. “We never really know what cases we’ll encounter until a week or two before. … There is no shortage of cases.”
First Coast YMCA becomes Florida’s first Armed Services affiliate
The First Coast YMCA, partnering with the Armed Services YMCA, became the first affiliate in Florida – and one of 20 in the nation – in its mission to support service members and families in the Jacksonville military community.
According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, First Coast YMCA has 12 branch locations across the five-county region, giving it a “unique position to serve as a central support system for Jacksonville’s military community.”
As an affiliate, First Coast YMCA can now provide armed service members and their families affordable access to wellness solutions, special rates for membership and summer camps for all military ranks, as well as free programs in Healthy Living Centers. Special rates are also available for all Honorably Discharged Service Veterans.
Cecil Spaceport tests prototype
Per the Jacksonville Business Journal: Atlanta-based Generation Orbit Launch Services Inc. tested a prototype liquid rocket engine at Cecil Spaceport.
By late 2019, the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight test booster is expected to launch satellites from horizontal aircraft.
One of a half-dozen such facilities in the U.S., Cecil Spaceport is the only spaceport approved for horizontal launches on the East Coast.
The GO1 is “an affordable and flexible hypersonic testbed” for technology experiments in conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8, according to a news release.
According to the Journal, GO1’s combustion engine, powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, performed as expected during tests, the first of their kind to be conducted at Cecil. The engine test demonstrated a capability of cruising at Mach 6 at heights between 80,000 and 90,000 feet, a crucial point for hypersonic flight testing.
Jaguars fans will see more teal in 2018
If Jaguars fans like seeing their team sporting a different look from time to time, they will have the opportunity this year. The NFL has reportedly told all 32 teams they may wear alternate or throwback uniforms three times in 2018 as opposed to two last year.
Jacksonville changed their alternate uniform during the offseason, responding to those fans who have expressed their satisfaction with the teal look. Team management is equally pleased.
“True to our current identity and what we want to represent for years to come, our new uniforms are no-nonsense, all business and unmistakably Jaguars,” said owner Shad Khan. “Tradition has returned to Jacksonville.”
At least one publication agrees with the fans. The Jaguars teal is ranked 11th best among those polled in a national ranking and easily the best among AFC South teams (Tennessee is next best at 21).
The question arises as to which games the Jags should wear the new look. A look back to 2017 shows they brought out the best in the Jaguars and worst in their opponents.
On November 5, they hounded the Cincinnati Bengals 23-7, with Jalen Ramsey nagging Bengals’ Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green into an ejection. On December 10, Seattle Seahawks’ defensive end Quinton Jefferson was ejected, then tried to go into the stands after a fan after Jacksonville’s 30-24 victory.
This publication suggests the best choices would be the home opener on September 16 vs. the Patriots, the October 28 game in London against Super Bowl champion Philadelphia, and the November 18 Sunday night home game against the Steelers. The pro football world will be focusing on all three games.
The best case against the home opener is a desire to wear white in the September late afternoon heat and force the Patriots to wear dark blue. In that case, the October 14 road game at Dallas or the December 16 home finale with Washington could be worthy substitutes.