A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 349

A.G. Gancarski

Ahead of ratifying pension reform, Jacksonville City Council looks backward

A Monday “lunch and learn” of the Jacksonville City Council involved members getting educated on the finer points of collective bargaining.

Not a moment too soon for that, as the council will have to vote later this spring on whether or not to ratify the latest pension reform package from the mayor’s office via 11 different ordinances: five on the city side, five from JEA side, and one from police and fire.

Introduction of legislation is imminent, with a slew of collective bargaining agreements being advanced to the council this week — potentially as soon as Tuesday.

The best deals are for police and fire, of course.

The deal offers long-delayed raises to current public safety  employees (a 3 percent lump sum payout immediately, and a 20 percent raise for police and fire over three years) and gives all classes of current employees the same benefits.

As well, all police and fire officers will have DROP eligibility with an 8.4 percent annual rate of return and a 3 percent COLA.

The deal, if approved without modification, will bring labor peace through 2027 — though it can be renegotiated by the city or the unions at 3, 6, 9, and 10 years marks in the agreement.

For new employees, however, the plan is historic — a defined contribution plan that vests three years after the new employee for police and fire is hired.

The public sector unions have agreed to this, but the council’s approval is necessary — and not to be taken for granted.

“As of Friday, all the bargaining units have ratified” the deals, General Counsel Jason Gabriel said, including the general employees — an important part of the puzzle, as all plans have to be closed before the funds are available, either to access or to provide certainty to actuaries that the money will be there.


In March 2015, for example, the council deadlocked 9-9 on a reform vote. Though objections were magically mooted weeks after Alvin Brown lost his re-election, the fact remains that council needs to understand the process.

To that end, General Counsel Jason Gabriel — an integral part of the negotiating process — explained recent history on concepts to council, which saw 11 new members since the last pension reform package was approved.

Gabriel referenced the “unorthodox” way the city had of negotiating these terms in the past, but those days are long gone now.

“There’s been a conflation of roles … when it’s come to collective bargaining in general,” Gabriel said.

The council, said Gabriel, will have its “management hats” on when deciding to approve or deny the deal.

Gabriel described the 2015 “settlement agreement” as putting the “final kibosh” on negotiating with the Police and Fire Pension Fund, paving the way for the various pension reform deals negotiated since August 2016 with the unions.

The city has three funds: the general employees fund, the correctional officers fund, and the police and fire pension fund.

These funds were established in 1937; pending ratification of pension reform by the council, they will be closed to new members.


Gabriel went back into history: starting a granular analysis in the early 1990s, after some changes in the 1980s led to a city charter amendment that made the police and fire pension fund an independent agency of the city.

The Ed Austin administration imposed an amendment allowing the local PFPF to negotiate pension benefits, and amendments over the years and across administrations changed and elongated the deal, leading to the 2001 “30-year agreement.”

Gabriel reviewed lawsuits related to that agreement, including actions related to violation of agreement terms, Sunshine Law violations, and so on.

Gabriel discussed pension reform deals worked out by the John Peyton administration in 2011, but not approved, as the Alvin Brown administration withdrew the bill related to the police and fire pension fund.

“The Peyton plan kind of comes off the table, and we start fresh with the Brown administration,” Gabriel summarized.

The Brown administration attempted legislation related to a mediated settlement of a sunshine law suit in 2013, a 2014 retirement reform agreement, and a counter-proposal from the PFPF in 2015, but finding common ground between the council, the mayor’s office, and the pension fund proved challenging.

Also attempted: making JEA a funding source. That didn’t float either.

The 2015 agreement that was ratified, said Gabriel, had “two huge provisions.”

One: “that collective bargaining is a constitutional right of the unions and management … and those rights are not waivable.”

“Everything we’re doing today fits into the terms of the 2015 agreement,” Gabriel said, referring to the pension reform package put forth by the Curry administration, one that sees dedicated funding coming from the extension of a current sales surtax.

“None of this is easy,” Gabriel said, referring to the stipulations of the plan, which include closing underfunded plans to new employees, agreeing to a 10 percent minimum employees contribution, an extant surtax with a date certain for termination, and keeping the trustees out of the bargaining.

“It’s almost like a sleeper provision in there,” Gabriel chortled about the latter. “It’s crystal-clear … we have to follow the dictates of the statute, and one of them is that the board of trustees has no role in pension benefits.”


If legislation is completed and ready to be filed, the bills will be added to the addendum council agenda meeting Tuesday, setting up a more robust schedule of meetings.

“It’s all a moving target,” Council President Lori Boyer said, with the hope for a marathon meeting about the “financial side” between representatives of the mayor’s office and city council on Apr. 6.

“I’ll hand out a whole schedule tomorrow of potential dates,” Boyer said, floating the possibility of taking up these issues in a separate meeting dedicated to the purpose of pension reform, pending the distribution of actuarial studies.

“This meeting is about us receiving the information … we don’t even have it yet,” Boyer said.

Report: Jacksonville ‘jilts’ intelligent street lights

For those wondering what happened to the “intelligent” street lighting pilot project Jacksonville launched a couple of years back, wonder no longer.

Trade publication LEDs Magazine reports that Jacksonville “jilted” the pilot project from GE.

In April 2015, then-Mayor Alvin Brown, in campaign mode, exulted over the project which was supposed to put Jacksonville “at the forefront of innovation nationally.”

“Jacksonville is excited to be on the front lines with this pilot project, using new technology to increase efficiency and drive innovation, at no cost to taxpayers …. This technology has the potential to transform how our city solves problems by allowing us to use the power of data to drive outcomes that give us flexibility, efficiency and new, creative actions to enhance life in our city,” Brown said.

Brown lost his re-election a month later, and the project was passed on to the Lenny Curry administration, where the excitement apparently ebbed.

“Upon the pilot’s conclusion, the city did not move forward with the program,” a City of Jacksonville spokesperson told LEDs Magazine.

The city had “other priorities that took precedence,” the magazine continued.

(Note: For those who don’t speak Mayor’s Office, “other priorities” is one of those phrases like “the mayor has a schedule conflict” that semantically is intended to close inquiry. However, given the timing of the administration’s decision early last year, it likely was tied with the all-consuming push to get its pension reform scheme through Tallahassee.)

Ironically, the other location where the pilot launched — San Diego — has a mayor who is Republican, like Curry, but San Diego is pushing forward.

“The San Diego smart lighting trial ended in August, and last month Current announced that San Diego was now investing $30 million to deploy 3200 of GE’s CityIQ sensor nodes on street-light poles starting in July, with the possibility of another 3000 nodes later this year. San Diego is also upgrading 14,000 light fixtures — about a quarter of the city’s street lights — to Current’s Evolve LED luminaires,” LEDs reports.

In an interesting twist, San Diego’s system includes ShotSpotter technology.

The Curry administration started looking into ShotSpotter, a technology which allows aural identification of where gunshots come from, last year.

This year, the administration shepherded legislation through the city council to ensure local allocation for it, while having Duval County Legislative Delegation member Rep. Kim Daniels carry an ask for $325,000 of state funds.

Between that and the city’s participation in the NIBIN program (a federal clearinghouse for shell casings to identify firearms used in violent crime), it’s clear that Jacksonville is implementing technological solutions to the crime issue — at least two of which could be called “intelligent design.”

However, the GE project clearly wasn’t the way forward … for reasons the administration didn’t want to discuss with a national outlet.

Comeback kid? Corrine Brown begins defense in explosive TV interview

Former Rep. Corrine Brown has the best sense of theater of any politician in Northeast Florida. And she gave a Jacksonville TV station a one-woman show.

Brown, facing an April 5 status conference and an April trial for almost two dozen counts in federal court, stands alone now.

Her co-defendant and chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, pleaded out already.

However, Brown continues to maintain her innocence, telling WJXT‘s Lynnsey Gardner that she feels like she can beat the rap.

And that’s not just with one juror — Brown believes she can sway all of them.

In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Gardner, Brown spills on subjects that have been points of speculation for months in some cases, longer in others.

Among them: Her defense strategy: the conspiracy, Carla Wiley and Ronnie Simmons; the golf tournament, Monica Isom, etc. What she knew about the financial transactions. What made her cry. Her message to the jury. Her message to lead federal prosecutor A. Tyson Duva and why she thinks he’s singled her out.

Brown disclaims responsibility: “I mean it was just like any charity I’m involved with. I’m not on their corporation papers, I’m not on their board, I’m not going to any meetings. How you going to charge ME? “

Brown discusses latter-day betrayals.

When Gardner mentions that some people see her as crooked, Brown says that “during time periods like this you find out who is on your side. You find out who your friends are.”

Brown also says that people ask her about her political comeback, should she beat the rap.

“Well, we will have to discuss that with my constituents,” Brown says. “I really don’t think the lord is through with me yet.”

Brown also solicits financial assistance from supporters!

“No amount is too small,” Brown — a defendant in a case about a fraudulent charity — said.

Expect this blockbuster interview on WJXT newscasts Monday evening beginning at 5:00.

Why Jacksonville may not get its homeless day resource center after all

On Monday night, Jacksonville’s ICARE group has its yearly Nehemiah Assembly, at which local faith leaders will call for the reopening of a downtown homeless day resource center closed a couple of years back.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has received pressure to come through with money for this purpose, and as of last week, attending the Monday ICARE event isn’t on his agenda, after a fractious February meeting with the group.

Also very possibly absent from Curry’s agenda: bringing back the day resource center.

We talked to Dawn Gilman of Jacksonville’s Changing Homelessness group about the day resource center last week.

Gilman, whose group secured two years of federal funding for the center and who is consulting with the mayor’s office on next steps, threw up a number of caution flags during our conversation.

One major caution flag: the money came from Community Development Block Grants.

CDBGs are phased out of the first Donald Trump budget.

Another major caution flag: mixed results.

While people who used the center liked it, there was a paradoxical correlation between likelihood of misdemeanor arrests and having been a consumed of the center’s services.

The day center, said Gilman, “didn’t have good outcomes in connecting people with housing,” though it did connect people with services.

“The best possible outcome is for a person who is homeless to be connected with housing, and the day resource center didn’t do that,” Gilman added.

Especially in light of limited city resources, “tough decisions” have to be made.

“Is it the best use of resources? No,” Gilman said. “For every $8,000 spent, we could rehouse [someone].” And “permanent supportive housing” for someone could be secured for $12,000 a year.

As is the case with other social-service legislation, such as the Jacksonville Journey, the mayor’s office wants a data-driven approach. And the data shows that a day center serves a supplementary, not a primary purpose, Gilman contends.

It is “unlikely that a day resource center” would top the list of Curry administration solutions to the problem.

A day center, says Gilman, offers a “visible front door” but “no connected exit” from homelessness.

Gilman advocates shifting resources to “crisis response” — emergency services.

Further inquiry, via an outside group commissioned by Changing Homelessness, is underway; the “deep dive” might be completed by this summer, which could complicate recommendations becoming part of the next budget.

Gilman notes a point of success: homelessness is down 30 percent in the last five years.

In that case, the solution is federal: funding from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs has led to a “stunning decrease” in veterans who are homeless.

How Mike Pence wasted Jacksonville’s time

As VP Mike Pence prepared to come to Jacksonville last Saturday to sell the American Health Care Act to Florida, some of the best members of the media dreaded it.

A TV person’s reaction: “Oh, God, I hope I don’t get called in.”

A print guy’s take: “I hate watching these politician events.”

In the end, neither of them were there. Nor were any of the real agenda setters in the local press. The local press turnout was sparse. The national correspondents were no-names. It turned out, a week later, all that was a bad sign.

Also a bad sign: the facility where the event was held — an envelope manufacturing plant — had the virtues and drawbacks of a secure warehouse setting.

The principle virtue: fencing and police at the perimeter of the building and blocks away controlling ingress and egress managed to keep the protesters away — a determined band of Democratic/Progressive activists kept, for the most part, out of the media’s line of sight.

The drawbacks were myriad.

One such drawback: no restrooms for the public. While there were portalets, there was no hand washing station. Politicians and the kind of party volunteers who made the apparently contested invite list love to shake hands. With those grins and grips on Saturday, they shared more than bonhomie.

Another such drawback: security’s key interest was in keeping the media in the pen.

Yes, yes, I know. It’s 2017 and the media are the most dishonest people in the world, except for Infowars and Russia Today and Fox and Friends, of course. But the people tasked with publicizing the event spent the whole time being watched.

We were forbidden to leave the pen after about 12:30. For me, a local guy who knew half the room, that precluded me from the kind of conversations I would have had with certain people in any other milieu.

However, the audience could come in the pen. This led to people approaching more than one female TV reporter and striking up conversations that weren’t of mutual interest.

So, beyond not getting the publicity the VP would have wanted, and beyond the ham-handed logistics of the event, what else went wrong?

The waste of political capital of local and state pols who made the trek.

“President Trump supports the bill 100 percent, and we all do,” Pence said. “A new era for federal/state Medicaid partnership has begun.”


Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry got a warm reception from the same folks who sent him hate mail over not vetoing the HRO, but his words now look pretty hollow given the inaction of the House, which couldn’t get repeal and replace done when given a free kick on goal during what passes for the president’s “honeymoon period.”

Rep. John Rutherford may have enjoyed watching March Madness with the VP on the plane to Jacksonville, but he ended up at the periphery of the debate otherwise.

And Florida Gov. Rick Scott didn’t help himself much either.

How much time did Scott spend conferring with the Trump administration on health care in recent months? How does this Trumpian botch affect his Senate run next year?

Scott, the most prominent Obamacare critic of any state governor, spent his entire administration rejecting the Affordable Care Act.

Pence rewarded the governor’s messaging the day before in a press release and letter to HHS Secretary Tom Price. The VP vowed  to allow “states like Florida” the ability to have a block grant to administer their plans, and a “work requirement” for coverage.

“State solutions,” Pence said, are the best way forward for Florida.

“President Trump supports the bill 100 percent, and we all do,” Pence said. “A new era for federal/state Medicaid partnership has begun.”

So, here’s what happened in Jacksonville. The VP decided to make his stand here, giving Rutherford a platform because neighboring Ted Yoho and Ron DeSantis weren’t feeling this bill. The governor came in and got his moment in the spotlight. And Mayor Curry made the stop before going on Spring Break.

All of them got a news cycle.

But what happens the next time they try to sell a Trump initiative?

Will they be as useful?

After his re-election, George W. Bush said “what good is political capital if you don’t use it.”

Then he wasted it and lost it for a solid decade, until he took up portraiture.

Can Donald Trump paint? And do we have to wait until 2027 to figure it out?

Despite pushback on Lake Okeechobee plan, Rob Bradley remains confident

It’s been a rough couple of news cycles for Senate Bill 10, with a Republican U.S. Senator and the St. Johns Riverkeeper mounting opposition to the Lake Okeechobee reservoir measure.

The bill filed by Fleming Island Republican Sen. Rob Bradley would bond money backed with Amendment 1 funds to purchase land south of the lake for water storage.

The Bradley bill adds a new section to the Florida Statute: “Reservoir project in the Everglades Agricultural Area,” with the hope of creating 360,000 acre-feet of storage capacity, a goal that requires acquiring 60,000 acres of land.

$1.2 billion in bond proceeds would be used for the purchase of the land. The project is subject to congressional approval, and if that is granted as expected, the feds would offer a 50/50 match of that $1.2 billion.

The section declares an “emergency” in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, due to “harmful freshwater discharges” east and west of the lake that have created algae blooms and other issues.

However, Sen. Marco Rubio cautions against any expectation that this will get federal funding.

Rubio said “there’s no federal money” for the project, adding that if the state buys all the land “that means there’s no farming, that means these cities collapse, they basically turn into ghost towns.”

The St. Johns Riverkeeper, meanwhile, had its own take: the “legislation that would acquire land south of Lake Okeechobee for a reservoir and provide dedicated funding for the St. Johns has been dramatically amended for the worse.”

“Senator Rob Bradley and the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources have amended SB 10 to shift state funds for acquiring land for conservation toward acquiring land for water supply development. The amended bill would encourage surface and groundwater withdrawal projects and unsustainable growth. It does not encourage water conservation. This would open up the St. Johns River and other waterways to surface water withdrawals and more threats from sprawl, while providing fewer funds to acquire critical conservation lands,” read a statement from the Riverkeeper.

Despite federal and environmental wariness, Sen. Bradley told us Friday in Keystone Heights that he still feels confident that SB 10 isn’t dead in the water.

“Not at all. We’ve made progress in the last week on moving that legislation forward,” Bradley said.

“The St. Johns Riverkeeper objection is a head-scratcher, considering that included in SB 10 in its current structure is a dedicated revenue stream to the St. Johns River and the Keystone Lakes,” Bradley added.

“I challenge some of these environmental groups to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. They may not like every single part of SB 10, but if you’re an environmental group and you are against SB 10, then you need to question whether you are truly representing the interest of the environmental community,” Bradley concluded.

Rob Bradley: ‘The lakes have left us’

Lake Geneva in Keystone Heights isn’t what it used to be.

And neither is Keystone Heights.

Decades back, Lake Geneva was full — kids swam in the water that used to be underneath the raised pavilion. Out on the lake, water skiing contests and other events supported local businesses and brought tourists from miles around to this corner of Old Florida.

The tourists have no reason to come anymore. And an old, beloved Italian restaurant is now a Shell Station, as local Sen. Rob Bradley said Friday.

As a child, Bradley swam in one of those Keystone Lakes: Lake Brooklyn, where the Senator had some of his best childhood memories.

Over the years, however, the lake gets “lower and lower.”

And as Bradley noted, it has been hard to get attention to the issue.

“There aren’t as many people here as Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville. This is a place where not a lot of attention has been given,” Bradley said.

“I’m tired of it.”

“Every time I came out here, it broke my heart,” Bradley said. “The lakes have left us.”


The Senator is well-positioned to push ambitious environmental projects: this Legislative Session, the Fleming Island Republican chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources, and sits as the vice-chair on the Environmental Preservation and Conservation committee.

Bradley, who has noticed the gradual draining of the Keystone Lakes since his youth, tops his priority list this Legislative Session with Senate Bill 234, which is intended to change the appropriations formula of 2014’s Water and Land Constitutional Amendment.

The bill, currently working its way through committees in the Florida Senate (and stalled out in the Florida House, without even a committee hearing yet), has a simple objective: to ensure that the St. Johns River Water Management District gets an annual earmark of $35 million in “Amendment 1” dollars, minus money for debt service, for projects related to the St. Johns, its tributaries, and the Keystone Lake region.

In front of Lake Geneva in Keystone Heights, Bradley held a press conference Friday, flanked by Rep. Travis Cummings and Rep. Bobby Payne, the House sponsor of the legislation.


On Friday, the representatives discussed the “Black Creek Water Resource Development Plan”: a five-year, $41 million plan to capture excess water from Clay County’s flood-prone Black Creek and pipe it into the Keystone Lakes, via a discharge at Camp Blanding, where a spreader field would disperse the water to Alligator Creek.

If the project can get funding this year, design can start, and it could be complete by 2023.

SB 234, Bradley said, is intended for projects like this — to restore water to these lakes, which would have a direct impact on Keystone Heights, but which “helps all of Florida” by providing an “aquifer recharge area” for the Suwannee and St. Johns River Basin.

This position is supported by the St. Johns River Water Management District, the executive director of which used the “aquifer recharge area” phrasing in her remarks.


As a child, Bradley swam in one of those Keystone Lakes: Lake Brooklyn, where the Senator had some of his best childhood memories.

Over the years, however, the lake gets “lower and lower.”

And as Bradley noted, it has been hard to get attention to the issue.

“There aren’t as many people here as Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville. This is a place where not a lot of attention has been given,” Bradley said.

“I’m tired of it.”

“Every time I came out here, it broke my heart,” Bradley said. “The lakes have left us.”


Bradley, Cummings, and Payne function as a team: a tight-knit delegation focused on rural issues.

Cummings noted correctly that this project won’t be a “one-year issue.”

Though Keystone Heights is in Payne’s district, Cummings had to be at the event.

“What’s good for Clay County is good for me,” Cummings said.

Payne noted that a question among people in this area is “where’s the lake now? 50 feet past the dock, 75 feet past the dock?”

And the local politicians echoed these comments, describing beach bonfires where the lake used to be.


The case for the appropriation is obvious to anyone who sees these dried up lakes and remembers what once was.

But for Rep. Payne, the bill has proven to be a heavy lift.

Payne is “working” the committees, he told us. And working with his Clay colleague.

“I’ve been working with Rep. Cummings to [communicate with chairs], and we think we’ll get there,” Payne, a Putnam County Republican, said. “It’s better to go with two people than one when you’re trying to get these things done.”

Bradley echoed that confidence in the Cummings/Payne team.

“Rep. Cummings has serious stroke in the House and this is a priority for him. I’m confident in his ability, working with Rep. Payne, to help us be successful in this effort,” Bradley said.

On the Senate side, the bill is moving through committees.

Appropriations will agenda the Senate version “soon,” Bradley said, and Chairman Jack Latvala and Bradley have “talked extensively about the bill and this issue, and he has indicated support for what we’re trying to accomplish.”

While Senate and House priorities diverge, Bradley said, “each side ends up getting something that is important to them.”

“And this is something that is important to me and to the Senate, and very important to Reps. Cummings and Payne,” Bradley added.

Dredging issues remain complex in Jacksonville

A Thursday public notice meeting between Jacksonville City Council President Lori Boyer and VP John Crescimbeni attracted media attention because of the subject line: dredging.

However, the subject was not the proposed channel deepening for JAXPORT purposes, but a so-called “zoo dredge.”

The problem?

Navigation issues from the water taxi and other recreational boats at the dock by the zoo.

A dredge was considered earlier in the decade; a cost estimate from 2012 ran in the $900,000 – $1 million ballpark.

Of course, there were caveats that scotched the deal.

One major one: it would be impossible to determine how long the dredge would last for. Speculation at the time, via the engineer, was that it could last a “few years,” Crescimbeni said.

Not a good ROI for what would have been the bulk of the city’s FIND award.

Crescimbeni was pessimistic that the ROI would have substantially changed in the interim, though he was willing to discuss a “comprehensive dredging program.”

While bigger tributaries are getting attention through FIND monies, an issue is the “silting” in of the smaller ones, creating a situation that struck Boyer as analogous to that of the Keystone Lakes, which are drying up.

The city’s Chief Administrative Officer, Sam Mousa, noted that other factors can impact the efficacy of a dredge, including runoff from adjacent properties.

Crescimbeni discussed more potential issues with a dredge at the zoo dock, including the dock being so far off the channel, and the tide sweeping perpendicular to the dock.

A more quotidian solution was proposed by Boyer: extending the dock.

At the zoo, Alicamani boat ramp, and a few other locations, the city built docks only to find their usage limited by the silting issues.

The city will have to deal with these smaller channels, even as the much larger channel deepening for JAXPORT looms.

In Jacksonville this week, Gov. Rick Scott expressed commitment to the project.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that we have the state funding. I’ve already been talking to the federal government — the Trump administration about the federal funding. So as long as we have the local funding, which I think Lenny Curry is very supportive of that, I think we’re going to get a lot of good things done at JAXPORT,” Scott said.

Scott’s new budget has $176 million for ports, and — crucially — $31M for the long-delayed dredging of the river to deepen the channel for bigger PANAMAX ships.

Jimmy Orth of the St. Johns Riverkeeper group raised concerns this week about the dredging.

While the Riverkeeper has been much more skeptical about the project than local politicians, these concerns are backed up with new data, Orth said.

Dale Lewis, retired Director of Strategic Analysis for CSX, shared information with us that we believe validates our concerns that the economic projections for the dredging project have been significantly overstated,” Orth wrote.

“Competitive projects now planned across the Southeast region’s ports would generate about 3M TEUs of excess capacity, for over 10 years. This comes from a combination of the existing ports, plus a new port on the Savannah River,” Lewis asserts.

“Jaxport would be the last increment of capacity added to the existing ports,” Lewis wrote, while “Savannah and Charleston plan to build the Jasper Terminal, to protect market share beyond 2030.”

In terms of imports for Atlanta or Miami, Lewis states that Atlanta is more conveniently served by Savannah, while Miami has its own port capacity.

The Lewis analysis notes that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a less optimistic view of market share growth than JAXPORT’s own analysis.

“In asking for funding, Florida Container Ports routinely forecast 40% to 70% growth over the next five years; in reality, they deliver about one quarter of this level,” Lewis notes.

The JAXPORT dredge, should it actually manifest, would have effects on tributaries — some that can be forecast, such as increased salinity, and some that can’t.

Lenny Curry under pressure to reopen Jacksonville homeless day resource center

Update: Curry will not attend the ICARE event.

In 2015, the city of Jacksonville closed a downtown homeless day resource center opened during the Alvin Brown administration.

As 2016 began, Mayor Lenny Curry was pressed to reopen the center. And after considerable prodding from ICARE organizers, he attended the group’s spring “Nehemiah Assembly.”

The event was intended to serve as a Come to Jesus moment for Jacksonville public officials… especially Curry, who was expected to capitulate and re-fund the center.

However, the meeting turned out to be a Come to Jesus moment for those who showed up to hear the mayor. The subject? Pension reform, an effort which has been the signature push of this mayor (as was the case with every mayor since John Delaney).

Curry told the group that money was not to be available in the then-current budget cycle.

“Ladies and gentlemen – the money doesn’t exist…. Someone has to shoot straight with you, and that is what I am doing tonight,” Curry said, adding that “brighter days” would be “ahead” if his pension reform referendum passed.

“I will examine the number. I believe in the resource center,” Curry said, adding that “if the referendum passes… I will be supportive of a discussion.”

That referendum did pass, of course, allowing an extension of a current half-cent infrastructure tax all the way out to 2060 to pay for the current $2.8B unfunded pension liability — if unions agreed to close their individual plans, a statutory prerequisite to accessing the guaranteed revenue.

So are brighter days ahead, in terms of a homeless day resource center?


ICARE will renew its push on Monday at this year’s Nehemiah Assembly. Though the mayor will not be there.

The event description from the group: “ICARE will gather over 1750 people at Abyssinia Baptist Church to address community problems with our Sheriff, State Attorney, Mayor and Superintendent. This event will focus on the opening of the Homeless Day Center, increased funding for the Jacksonville Reentry Center, Civil Citations to stop youth arrests and a wealth build strategy that will open a community owned grocery store in Northwest Jacksonville.”

Of course, the Homeless Day Center will be the biggest news coming out of the event — either way.

While a key Curry supporter, Gary Chartrand, emailed the mayor to signal support ahead of a February meeting with ICARE to discuss these issues.

[A typical way of breaking news in Jacksonville: someone sends an email to the mayor or one of his chief staffers, which puts it in public view as media trolls the inboxes for tidbits].

“I support the work of the Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation, and Empowerment. I am very encouraged that you are working with them to reopen the Jacksonville Day Resource Center,” Chartrand wrote, adding that the center served 150 people a day when it was open.

“I think Jacksonville will be a stronger city,” Chartrand wrote, “when homeless citizens have one place to go to access services like showering, counseling, and job opportunities.”


Chartrand can be persuasive. But there are ways to communicate with the mayor, and there are ways that are less successful … as ICARE found out in February.

 The normally friendly Florida Times-Union offered a glimpse of the mayor’s pique after that February meeting.

“In a Feb. 6 meeting at City Hall,” claimed ICARE to the T-U, “Curry launched into a 30-minute tirade regarding who would be allowed to take part in the previously scheduled meeting.”

Described as “hostile, aggressive and adversarial,”  allegations are that Curry “threatened to withdraw his support for the homeless day resource center if ICARE went to the press.”

Of course, the press did find out. And Curry’s spokeswoman, Marsha Oliver. called the account “unequivocally false.”

Despite the fractious relationship between the mayor and ICARE, the reality is this: another summer with Hemming Park brimming with people who have nowhere else to go is bad for the city in terms of optics, and will be interpreted by many in the chattering class as an expression of bad faith … especially in light of his statements last year, which implied that the program would get serious consideration after pension reform passed.

Meanwhile, there is a school of thought in the mayor’s office that a homeless day resource center may not be the best use of scarce capital.

The question, in that context: is a relatively inefficient use of fiscal capital worth burning political capital?

The budget process will ultimately tell the tale.

Jax City Councilmembers Reggie Gaffney, Reggie Brown hosting town hall meetings Thursday

Residents of Jacksonville City Council districts 7 and 10 will have a chance Thursday evening to speak with their elected representatives.

Councilmen Reggie Brown and Reggie Gaffney, both Democrats, have dueling meetings at 6 p.m.


Gaffney will meet District 7 constituents Thursday evening at the Highlands Library on Dunn Avenue.

The topic:  Jacksonville International Airport Community Redevelopment Area (JIA/CRA) tax increment funds.

Gaffney, as reported in the Jacksonville Daily Record last year, would like to see money in the pot moved over to other potential community development in the next couple of years.

The argument has been that the JIA CRA has succeeded; Gaffney would like to expand the boundaries.

At a meeting last year, passionate commentary abounded on the future of the CRA.


Brown’s meeting is at the usual spot: the Legends Community Center at 5130 Soutel Drive.

“Departments from the City of Jacksonville and other outside independent agencies will be available to speak with the community.   The purpose of the Town Hall Meeting is to bring the City of Jacksonville to the community,” reads the notice from Brown’s office.

Brown, in his second term representing District 10, which encompasses parts of NW Jacksonville, the Northside, and the Westside., is a proponent of town hall events, scheduling them as regularly as anyone on the council.

A legislative focus of his in recent months: ensuring that councilors have money for community events.

Despite initial resistance, he was successful in ensuring that councilors have a pot of money from which they can pay for incidental event-related costs, such as stage rental and public safety employees to handle potential emergencies.

Brown has also been turning his attention to block parties, with a bill slated for the council floor next week that would impose a moratorium on the gatherings, though Brown has said his preference is to find a way to amend current code language to make it easier to move the events to public parks.

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