A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics

A.G. Gancarski

‘Not a candidate’: Rick Scott coy on Louisiana fundraising question

Gov. Rick Scott made a trip this week to Louisiana, where business development meetings populated his official schedule.

However, the most prominent Democrat in the Pelican State — Gov. John Bel Edwards — thought that there was more to the trip than just pitching Florida relocation to local companies.

“Gov. Scott should call this what it is – a fundraising stop on his yet-to-be announced U.S. Senate campaign. Louisianans would appreciate the honesty and hope that he’ll take his political contributions and leave,” Edwards offered Tuesday.

Louisiana’s Advocate newspaper tried and failed to get Scott to discuss what most believe is a protracted pre-candidacy.

Friday in Ponte Vedra, we covered some of the same territory. Specifically, we wanted to know if Scott had fundraised while in Louisiana on an official jobs “mission.”

Scott spent much of the answer covering familiar ground, talking about job creation (“the four years before I got elected, the state lost 832,000 jobs”).

“My trip to New Orleans was to try to get more companies there. As you know, I have not made a decision as to whether I’m going to run for the Senate or not. I’m not a candidate. I’ve said all along I’ve got to focus on my job as Governor.”

“A lot of politicians are thinking about their next job,” Scott added. “I’m right in the middle of my Legislative Session, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The question remained: was there fundraising or not? We restated it.

“I’m not a candidate,” Scott said.

We reminded Scott of Let’s Get to Work, his political committee, which has robustly fundraised over the years ($57 million since inception). And asked if there may have been Louisiana fundraising for that.

“I’m not a candidate,” Scott repeated. “We weren’t — I didn’t — A.G., I’m not a candidate.”

Rick Scott: Offshore drilling still ‘off the table’

Gov. Rick Scott scored a political victory earlier this year, when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told him Florida would not be subject to offshore oil drilling.

Scott asserted that he’d been “clear forever” in his opposition — a point disputed by Democrats, who have painted him as an “election-year environmentalist” who has flip-flopped on the drilling question.

Friday saw fireworks in a U.S. Congressional committeeWalter Cruickshank, acting director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said Florida is still in play despite Zinke’s assurances.

Zinke’s statement, said Cruickshank, is not a “formal action.”

Florida is still part of the bureau’s analysis, Cruickshank asserted.

Democrats were quick to pounce on this, of course. Meanwhile, Scott — in a gaggle Friday afternoon — told reporters that he wasn’t worried about the gap between Zinke’s assurance and Cruickshank’s testimony.

“Secretary Zinke is a man of his word. He’s a Navy Seal. He promised me that Florida would be off the table, and I believe Florida is off the table,” Scott said.

“Secretary Zinke has made a commitment,” Scott added, “and he’ll live up to his commitments.”

Scott added that he continued to be opposed to members of the Trump administration proposing relaxing restrictions imposed after the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The Governor then attempted to change the subject to the impending shutdown of the federal government (a remarkable feat, given one-party control in Washington).

“…[H]ere is what I find fascinating today – a lot of people want to talk about politics, what they ought to be doing is they ought to be making sure we keep government going. This shouldn’t be a day of politics, this should be a day we keep our government going … we should be happy with what Secretary Zinke did, we should be happy with the fact the he committed to take Florida off the table and this shouldn’t be about politics.”

Incentives for Amazon? Richard Corcoran, Rick Scott see it differently

Gov. Rick Scott was in Ponte Vedra Friday as the PGA Tour unveiled plans for a new global headquarters — and 300 jobs to go with that build out.

Yet one of the topics we broached with the Governor in the gaggle had to do with a potentially bigger future job announcement … if Amazon locates its second global headquarters in Miami.

Miami is the sole Florida city being considered still. Jacksonville, Tampa, and Orlando were eliminated.

And many areas are offering deluxe incentives for Amazon — a potentially transformative corporate partner for even the biggest cities in the world. It’s been a top priority for Enterprise Florida, a board that accords with Gov. Scott’s vision.

While specifics of those incentives are not public, it was clear from Scott’s remarks Friday that his position hasn’t changed; incentives are part of the tool kit.

Scott called it “exciting” that Amazon was considering Miami, saying there are “lots of reasons why they should do that.”

“Taxes are low in this state, we have less regulation, a great workforce. U.S. News and World Report says our higher education system is the best higher education system in the country,” Scott said.

But the Governor realizes that’s not the whole story. Incentives, which will be offered elsewhere, are part of the sales pitch.

“The way I always look at any incentives we give, we’ve got to get a good return for taxpayers. That’s what I’ve done at the state. I’m going to continue to talk to companies around the world to try to get them to come here,” Scott said.

Scott’s position diverges from that of Speaker Corcoran, who said that companies pass on Florida for reasons that go beyond incentives.

“Here’s what we ought to do as a state. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face,” Corcoran told News Service of Florida. “There are five things that site selectors look at. The most important being having a great educational system.”

“If you have low crime, low taxes, low regulation, a good infrastructure and you have, more than anything, a great educational system, we will not have a single problem luring all the businesses and all the people in this country here,” Corcotan added.

With multiple cities offering upwards of a billion dollars in tax breaks, it’s at least debatable that low crime and low regulations will counteract material incentives.

Yet that seems to be a debate Corcoran and Scott will have as each prepares to leave their current offices.

Unemployment number ticks up from historic low

The big takeaway from December’s Florida jobs report: the unemployment rate has ticked up, albeit from a historic low.

The December number: 3.7 percent, up from 3.6 percent the month before.

Despite this slight raise in the official unemployment rate, Gov. Rick Scott‘s narrative of being the jobs governor remains as intact as it was.

In December, 30,000 jobs were created. This capped off a year when 205,000 jobs were created, and 1.497 million were created in the last seven years.

“Florida had a great year of job creation in 2017 and we will fight each day to make sure our state remains the best place for new opportunities in 2018, and for years to come,” Scott asserted.

Labor force participation, per the Department of Economic Opportunity, is at 57.1 percent — which trails the overall American figure of 62.7 percent.

A thousand fewer people have jobs compared to November, with 25,000 new people in what is called the “civilian non-institutional population.”

Metro areas are booming, with Orlando, Miami, and Tampa leading the state in job creation.

Earlier this month, Scott addressed the jobs situation in a Jacksonville gaggle.

“We’re going to continue to work both in our large counties and our rural counties to get more jobs,” Scott said.

“What you see in our state is the labor force is growing at multiples of what the rest of the country is. The job market is growing at multiples of what the rest of the country is. People are coming to Florida. Numbers came out last week — over 340,000 people have moved to the state since last June. We’ve had a significant number of people move here from Puerto Rico and they’re getting jobs,” Scott said.

Rick Scott joins PGA to announce new global home

The PGA footprint in St. Johns County has sprawled over the decades, now encompassing 17 buildings.

That will change soon.

Gov. Rick Scott joined PGA Tour officials to announce that the  187,000 sq. foot “new global home” of the PGA Tour will be in northeastern St. Johns.

It is expected to be built by 2020 — a state of the art space with open office plans, natural lighting, and all of the other earmarks of the 21st century workspace.

300 new jobs will be created, adding to the 800 now, via this public private partnership.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said that the collaboration between governments and the PGA Tour was “second to none,” as he credited a phalanx of politicians and entities — everyone from Sen. Travis Hutson and the St. Johns County Commission to Gov. Scott, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, and Enterprise Florida.

The plan started to come together 15 years ago, Monahan said.

 “We are excited for the opportunity to continue to grow here in St. John’s County and believe the PGA TOUR’s new home will become a sense of pride for the entire area and state of Florida while allowing us to become more efficient in the way we communicate, collaborate and operate as an organization,” Monahan added.

“Although we have a growing international presence with offices and tournaments around the world,” Monahan asserted, “the PGA TOUR and our employees are very proud to be locally based and active members of the First Coast and Ponte Vedra Beach community.”

Scott, calling Florida the “golfing capital of the world,” cited tax and regulation cuts as reasons PGA opted to consolidate operations in SJC.

In a statement, Enterprise Florida CEO Peter Antonacci asserted that the “board is enthusiastic about the PGA TOUR expanding their global headquarters in Ponte Vedra,” calling the facility build a “win for Northeast Florida families.”

Rick Scott to roll out December jobs numbers with PGA in Ponte Vedra

Expect good news from December jobs numbers.

Gov. Rick Scott is making the announcement in the Jacksonville media market on Friday — by far the friendliest major metro press corps he deals with.

Scott will be in Ponte Vedra at the PGA Clubhouse; the PGA will have a job announcement of its own.

The Governor has been messaging on jobs this week. He made a trip to New Orleans for corporate recruitment, a voyage derided by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards as a campaign stunt.

November numbers saw Gov. Scott messaging on record low unemployment and 14,000 new jobs created.

“Over the past seven years, we have turned around Florida’s economy which has allowed us to make record investments in education, transportation and environmental protection. I look forward to kicking off 2018 by working to continue cutting taxes, supporting job creation and education opportunities, and doing all we can to help secure Florida’s future for every family. Florida is a national leader in job creation and the rest of the nation should follow our lead,” Scott added.

While job creation has tended to be an urban phenomenon, Scott stands by his record.

“It’s been exciting what’s happened these last seven years. We’ve added 1.5 million jobs. Our unemployment’s gone from 10 percent down to 3.6 percent. Every county in the state has seen a drop in their unemployment rate,” Scott said in January.

“We’re going to continue to work both in our large counties and our rural counties to get more jobs,” Scott said in January.

“What you see in our state is the labor force is growing at multiples of what the rest of the country is. The job market is growing at multiples of what the rest of the country is. People are coming to Florida. Numbers came out last week — over 340,000 people have moved to the state since last June. We’ve had a significant number of people move here from Puerto Rico and they’re getting jobs,” Scott said.

Kim Daniels seeks dismissal of ethics complaint

Rep. Kim Daniels is seeking to have a Florida Ethics Commission complaint against her dismissed Friday morning. Her rationale? It was filed too close to the 2015 election.

Daniels, who was unsuccessfully running for re-election to the Jacksonville City Council, had a complaint regarding her financial disclosure forms filed just four days before that vote.

State law says that the complaint can’t be filed within 30 days before the election, and Daniels contends the complaint should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

The original issue was alleged omitted disclosures on 2012-2014 financial disclosure forms, including mortgages for properties that belonged to her church.

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 multiple cities, timeshares, and over a dozen cars.

Ironically, one of the properties owned by one of her churches — a parsonage in Davie, owned formerly by “Spoken Word Ministries” — was sold in a foreclosure auction Thursday.

The price: $640,000, to a third party bidder.

The sale had been forestalled for months, most recently because of Hurricane Irma … a storm that the evangelist/legislator said “prophets” saw coming.

No word on whether prophets will issue an opinion on the Ethics Commission reconsidering her case.

Florida Times-Union cuts newsroom staff, blames plunge in print revenue

It’s yet another sad day for Jacksonville journalism: the Florida Times-Union is laying off newsroom staff, as new owner GateHouse continues restructuring.

Florida Politics reported about these layoffs prior to the paper confirming they were happening.

Official sources won’t confirm the names involved, FP is hearing the layoffs include: Reporters Roger Bull, Drew Dixon, Terry Dickson, and Tiffanie Reynolds, photographers Bob Mack and Dede Smith, graphic artist Steve Nelson, editor Carole Fader, and office manager Brenda Compton.

The impact of these losses — again, unconfirmed as of yet by official sources — will be staggering to the print product.

Fader was an editor. Smith was head of photography. Nelson was the sole graphics person. Bull and Dixon handled business coverage for the paper. Reynolds handled the Shorelines column, offering coverage for the Jacksonville Beaches. Dickson was the paper’s primary conduit to Southeast Georgia.

The paper, says one informed source, is down to just two photographers now – a stunning staff shortfall for a major metro paper with regional presence.

The newsroom cuts are part of a larger package of two dozen cuts from the GateHouse property, representing 10 percent of its workforce.

Official rhetoric was optimistic.

“We remain committed to providing our readers with the very best local coverage,” said T-U President Mark Nussbaum.

He expressed the hope that “this re-set will put us on a long-term path to financial success,” though it’s uncertain how axing tenured staff accomplishes that goal.

However, for the Florida Times-Union, these losses are more proof that new ownership is cutting costs in every way possible.

The paper is in the process of outsourcing printing operations; by the middle of next month, fifty Jacksonville employees will have been let go from production. Expect this to impact print subscribers, especially those who want the previous evening’s news in their morning paper.

This follows on moves in late 2016 by previous ownership, Morris Communications, which rolled out a “centralized news design” operation in Augusta. Copy editing and page designing moved out of state.

Expect graphics likewise to be moved elsewhere: perhaps to GateHouse’s design hub in Texas.

The paper has lost its cornerstone columnist, Ron Littlepage, to retirement.

And the paper will no longer have a dedicated Tallahassee reporter; GateHouse seeks a statewide political scribe. Despite Session being well underway, the position is still posted.

The paper’s building is being sold by previous owners Morris; the plan is to move newsroom operations downtown in 2018.

With each passing month, they seem to require less space. And rumors that the paper may not be a daily forever persist.

The hope among insiders is that the paper is able to withstand these staff cuts and continue doing the work it has won awards for in recent years, with continued deep dives into issues ranging from the justice system locally to city politics.

Time will ultimately tell if this round of cuts was a “rightsizing” that served as a course correction, or the first of more newsroom jobs lost, never to be replaced.

Jacksonville is not alone in corporate layoffs today; GateHouse is also letting staffers go in Topeka.

No special election for Jack Latvala seat, declares governor

There will not be special elections to replace two Florida lawmakers, Gov. Rick Scott said in a press gaggle Thursday.

Scott said that “we have listened to the Supervisors of Elections” and “we’re going to follow their lead.”

The two legislators: Villages Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, an HD 33 Republican who passed away in December; and Clearwater Republican Sen.  Jack Latvala, who resigned his SD 16 seat amidst the scrutiny of multiple accusations of serial sexual harassment.

Neither forsaken special election will affect solid Republican majorities in either chamber.

Cost was a determinant, at least in the recommendations of elections supervisors in Pinellas and Pasco: Per the Tampa Bay Times, that could have cost upwards of a million dollars.

“I really feel that this is a common-sense decision,” Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark told TBT. “The information that we’ve provided makes a clear picture.”

In the case of the Hahnfeldt vacancy, the local SOE expected a special election when the representative passed on.

But that won’t come to pass either.

In both cases, the elections would have come after the 2018 Legislative Session and the winners would have had to immediately turn around and run for re-election in the fall.

The reprieve from back-to-back elections was appreciated by former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, the leading candidate in the SD 16 race.

“I think it was the right call. I’m not a big fan of doing two elections for the same job in one year,” he said. “That doesn’t allow you to spend time working for your constituents, and you’re spending about $1 million of other people’s money. It doesn’t affect my campaign. I would have been ready if there was a special election, or on Nov. 9.”

In addition to the Hahnfeldt and Latvala vacancies, four other seats in the House and Senate are empty: HD 39, HD 72, HD 114 and SD 31.

Only HD 72 will hold a special election before the end of the 2018 Legislative Session, which runs through early March.

Hopefuls vie for Jacksonville City Council Veep slot

The Jacksonville City Council Presidency is set for the 2018-19 year that starts July 1: current VP Aaron Bowman, an executive at the local Chamber of Commerce, is a slam dunk.

Re-election campaigns are just around the corner — and no one is going against the Chamber.

More flux exists in the race for Vice President for the 19-member Council, however.

Three declared candidates — Republicans Sam Newby and Danny Becton, along with Democrat Tommy Hazouri — are in the race and soliciting pledges. Newby actually scored one early, in fellow first-term Republican Al Ferraro.

Two other candidates — Republican Scott Wilson and Democrat Garrett Dennis — are exploring a run.

It takes ten votes to win, which looks difficult given the topography of the race.

Stakes are high.

Typically but not always, the VP moves on to the Presidency; however, 2017’s race was an exception, with Anna Brosche winning the Presidency against then-current VP John Crescimbeni.

Pledges are a precursor to a formal vote in the Spring.

Thursday sees a slate of meetings between candidates and pledges. Expect updates through the final meeting on Thursday afternoon … which by no means is the final meeting in the process.

Not even close.

____

No sale at 9: The 9 a.m. meeting saw Wilson and Newby meeting — with Newby attempting to solicit Wilson’s pledge.

Worth noting: Wilson had wondered if Newby and his instant pledge, Al Ferraro, understood the Sunshine Law, as the pledge happened outside of noticed meetings.

I guess I missed the noticed meeting,” Wilson asserted last week. “I don’t think they understand the sunshine law. Why would you break the law and tell the media?”

That didn’t come up in the meeting … though before the meeting in a conversation with this reporter, Newby vociferously objected to the idea that anything had been done that was wrong, given that the written pledge had been filed and that pledges aren’t even worth the paper they’re written on — a real truth given how many people have flipped pledges over the years.

Newby outlined his leadership credentials to Wilson, including being two time chair of the Republican Executive Committee and Chairman of the National Association of Black Republicans.

Eventually, Wilson spoke up. He noted that these leadership races “seem to start earlier every year,” and indicated his own interest in the VP role.

The two discussed priorities, with Wilson noting the importance of ensuring that city resources, such as children’s programs via the Kids Hope Alliance and senior services, are brought to his Southside Jacksonville district — one that has pockets of poverty and violence comparable to other areas in the city that have received a greater focus.

The meeting, collegial as it was, did more to establish the early contours of the leadership race than it did to resolve which of these two men would move on to the VP slot.

Wilson wasn’t done with meetings with VP candidates/competition for Thursday; a 10:30 conclave with Hazouri was up next.

____

Hazouri makes his pitches: Councilman Hazouri was the next to pitch someone who could be potential competition.

“It’s an honor to run, but it’s an honor to talk to someone potentially running as well,” Hazouri said.

Hazouri cited his “institutional knowledge,” pitching Wilson on the concept of “some districts getting left behind.”

“I feel like my time is now,” Hazouri said, pitching the idea of “continuity” moving the Council forward — especially as the next VP will be the favorite for the Presidency during the first year of Council members next term.

“I still really have an interest in leadership myself,” Wilson contended, reiterating the needs of his district, which include dilapidated infrastructure and outmoded commercial zoning that causes pockets of the neighborhood to cascade toward disrepair and decrepitude.

“If we were able to invest some dollars in that corridor … the gateway to the Beaches,” Wilson said, the spend would pay off.

“Hopefully,” Hazouri said, “if you don’t bite the bullet and run, you can support me.”

Wilson, if anything, sounded more like a candidate as he met with the (potential) competition.

Hazouri had another pitch at 11:00 — former Council President Greg Anderson and former VP John Crescimbeni were in the house.

Both men will be entering their last year on the Council this summer. And Hazouri and Anderson were early supporters of Crescimbeni’s bid for the presidency in 2017.

Hazouri repeated his pitch about the commonalities driving Council, bemoaning the lack of a “natural process” in the race that saw Anna Brosche defeat Crescimbeni for the top job, one that he believes impeded Council from reaching its full potential in recent months.

“I want to see continuity moving forward,” Hazouri said, especially on the “major issues you can’t leave behind.”

Anderson discussed how, when President, he had Council VP Lori Boyer integrated into pre-agenda meetings.

“It’s important that the VP be able to take over the meeting,” Anderson said.

Crescimbeni chimed in, saying that the “workings of Council members … the process of doing business … has experienced hiccups from time to time.”

“We’ve seen a hiccup this year,” Crescimbeni said, relative to the current Brosche presidency.

Hazouri was not immune to critiquing Brosche either, saying that she’d given “no help” to current VP Bowman.

The Council members also discussed the perils of having information in the newspaper — such as the recent Florida Times-Union editorial endorsement of the District — before they have been briefed.

The colloquy was robust. But no sale. Anderson said it was still early. And Crescimbeni, noting that people hadn’t met with him when he was running, said something similar.

 

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