A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 364

A.G. Gancarski

Rick Scott highlights Enterprise Florida success story in Jacksonville

Monday saw Florida Gov. Rick Scott on yet another trip to Jacksonville, where he highlighted job growth at a medical technology company.

That company — Sunoptic Technologies — has benefited from one of Scott’s key initiatives, Enterprise Florida, which in addition to offering economic incentives also provided a global stage for the mid-sized company over the years, via showcasing it and other companies globally at events like MEDICA, a German trade show for the industry.

“In early 2013, Sunoptic Technologies signed a new exclusive distributor to serve the Japanese market. We chose to participate in the Florida Pavilion at MEDICA because the exposure we will get will help us create new international clients like our Japanese distributor. Thanks to Enterprise Florida, Sunoptic Technologies can focus on our customers and products and work on expanding internationally,” said David Mutch, Director of Sunoptic Technologies, in 2013.

Mutch enthused again about EFI in 2016, as his company readied for another German junket: ““Enterprise Florida’s participation at MEDICA is a key component of our marketing plan … As a small business, it would be very difficult to participate on our own. We would never be able to present ourselves in a positive, professional way. The services provided also enable us to have a larger presence.”

Rick Scott’s strategy — jobs, jobs, jobs — sounds simple. And incentives are often poorly understood by media and politicians. But in the case of Sunoptic, an Enterprise Florida success story, Scott clearly believes the story is worth telling.

And tell it he did.

Sunoptic is a company that has seen its revenue quadruple during the Enterprise Florida era, with 75 employees and 10 percent year over year revenue growth.

Gov. Scott attributed this to a number of factors, including Enterprise Florida trade shows and an environment in Jacksonville, facilitated by the Mayor and the City Council, that just “gets things done.”

After inserting what is now a familiar riposte against “politicians in Tallahassee that turned back” Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Scott passed the mike to Mayor Lenny Curry, who had his own thoughts on the city’s wave of economic success.

Curry noted that “the recipe in Jacksonville” is “just right” for business expansion and relocation.

Council President Lori Boyer — in whose district the company operates — lauded Scott for being “singularly focused” on jobs, noting that Jacksonville’s strong economic metrics (4 percent unemployment; 3.7 percent job growth in 2016) provide evidence that the Rick Scott approach works.

“That’s a legacy,” Boyer said about the numbers.

Scott noted in his post-event comments that, despite a record of strong economic performance, the state’s economic motor is beginning to sputter.

“If your growth rate in something slowed down, that would concern you. That’s happening in our state,” Scott said.

“If you look at our overall job growth numbers,” Scott said, and compare them to a year ago, “they’re not as fast as they used to be.

The same is true for construction and hospitality.

Scott attributed that, again, to “politicians in Tallahassee turning their back on Enterprise Florida.”

Unnoticed meeting of Jax Councilors, including Presidential candidate, draws notice

On the eve of a vote for the next Jacksonville City Council President, a reliable source notes that three councilors — including one candidate for President — had breakfast together Saturday at a Metro Diner location.

Councilwoman Anna Brosche and Councilmen Matt Schellenberg and Doyle Carter (two committed Brosche backers) were among the participants in a group breakfast, and there are allegations that in addition to what was on the menu, the race for Council President may have come up.

Specifically, a source on hand says the council members “celebrated Katrina email” — a reference to Councilwoman Katrina Brown, who emailed a pledge of support for Brosche over John Crescimbeni late last week.

Councilwoman Brosche — the frontrunner in the pledge count — describes the event as a “large group breakfast.”

“I did not discuss the president’s race, or any other Council business, with either of my colleagues,” Brosche said Monday morning.

When asked about the specific charge of “celebrating” Brown’s email, Brosche noted that councilors “get invited to, and attend, many events, both formal and informal” and that she was “not privy to all the conversation given the size of the group” at this “standing breakfast.”

Schellenberg described the event as a “standing breakfast every Saturday that you are not invited to … a joyful breakfast with friends … a place where we can just have fun and enjoy each other’s company.”

Schellenberg contends the President’s race was not discussed, however, beyond answering a “purely factual question.”

“Someone might have asked if Katrina Brown pledged … someone said Katrina and Garrett Dennis pledged,” Schellenberg said, adding that it was not a “sunshine violation” to answer a “pure factual question.”

We reached out to  Carter and Crescimbeni for their takes, but have yet to hear back.

As the hours wind down before the vote (3:00 p.m. on Tuesday), indications are that “pack voting,” as described by another Brosche supporter, could prove dispositive.

Councilman Reggie Brown asserted Monday that Brosche may have 10 votes locked up … with Reggie Gaffney, Katrina Brown, Garrett Dennis, and Councilman Brown himself providing the decisive margin.

“Our plan was to run as a pack…I gave up having direct participation with this process due to its biases.  I wish both candidates well; however, our decision to vote as a pack must be adhered or the value of the pack is useless,” Brown told us Monday morning.

“The strength is in the pack. All I have is my word,” Brown added.

The bid of Brosche’s opponent, current VP John Crescimbeni, was buoyed originally by a “pack.” But as one would expect on a cliquish City Council, other packs are having their say as well.

Sometimes in the sunshine.

And sometimes in the shade.

For Councilman Bill Gulliford, a Crescimbeni supporter who had said previously he would not serve on a standing committee in a Brosche administration, the narrative of a sub rosa meeting where council business may have been discussed is disquieting.

“If that indeed is the case,” Gulliford said, “it’s a good indication of why you don’t have inexperienced people in leadership.”

As well, Gulliford said that the appearance of potential impropriety showed a lack of “good discretion” on Brosche’s part, especially in a climate where votes are swayed by mechanisms ranging from “pack voting to you name it.”

Jax Council VP race hinges on unknowns on eve of vote

Though the lion’s share of attention in Tuesday’s leadership races in the Jacksonville City Council has focused on the race for the Presidency between Anna Brosche and John Crescimbeni, the race for the Vice-Presidency is also wide-open … and poised for a Tuesday afternoon decision.

One candidate, Scott Wilson, has two pledges outside of himself: current VP John Crescimbeni and Bill Gulliford.

Wilson’s opponent, Aaron Bowman, has six committed supporters including himself: Jim LoveMatt SchellenbergDoyle CarterSam Newby, and Brosche.

With just nine people out of the 19 person body committed to one candidate or another, there are lots of variables in the mix.

One thing certain as of Monday morning: Wilson intends to stay in the contest.

As he told us outside of Jacksonville City Hall, he still could win the election.

The VP race has been overshadowed by a race for the top job that has proven to be more competitive than Crescimbeni’s early supporters, a cadre of old guard males, wanted.

Yet it is clearly in play. Wilson could win it. Bowman could win it. Or another candidate could be nominated for the role on Tuesday afternoon, potentially forcing multiple votes before a resolution.

It is theoretically possible, for example, that “pack voting” could lead to a floor nomination of a VP hopeful who might start off the discussion with four votes in his or her pocket.

Fans of esoteric infighting and personality clashes, as well as those with an interest in who actually calls the shots in Jacksonville’s City Council, will want to be on hand in Council Chambers at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

New officers take the helm July 1, 2017.

Conflict of interest clouds renaming of Corrine Brown regional transportation center

What is to be done when a city names a facility after a convicted former member of Congress? In the case of Gainesville and the Corrine Brown Regional Transit Facility, the answer — thus far — has been to do nothing.

The Associated Press reported that the Gainesville City Commission opted to defer action last week on the move.

That deferral gives the appearance of prudence and thoughtfulness, while offering an opportunity for a closer look at how the Congresswoman built relationships in Gainesville via what could be called “transactional money.”

One Gainesville City Commissioner has asserted he has no “conflict of interest” when it comes to a vote to rename the Corrine Brown Regional Transportation Center. However, there are 2,539 reasons to think otherwise.

Specifically: $2,539 spent between 2013 and 2015 by “Friends of Corrine Brown” at a clothing store owned by the wife of Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Budd. The money supposedly was spent on clothes for Florida Gators football games; however, a number of the purchase dates were outside of Gator football season.

Gainesville City Commissioner Budd signed a Personal Guarantee on the lease for the business. Budd is also the treasurer, director, and VP of the company that collected thousands of dollars from Brown’s political donors, via the pass-through of her campaign account.

Budd has asserted that he has no conflict of interest in a potential vote on the renaming of the regional transportation center, despite a demonstrated pattern of “campaign materials” and “gifts for supporters” being bought by Corrine Brown from Ilene’s for Fashion.

Among notable items sold at Ilene’s for Fashion: Gators’ gear made from Swarovski crystals (an interesting campaign material) and other designer items that would seem to be high-markup gear with little to do with GOTV efforts and the like.

As Brown’s trial in Jacksonville showed, the Congresswoman liked to spend money at high-end stores. Though Gainesville transactions did not factor into testimony, what was clear was that she spent money in Gator Country, just as she did everywhere else.

Despite conviction, uncertainty swirls around Corrine Brown’s fate

The trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown wrapped earlier this month, with Brown going down on 18 counts.

Does that mean this all is a wrap, however? No.

Much of the reporting in the last week in the Jacksonville media brought forth ephemera from the case. That ephemera, ranging from accounts from jurors to stories from a witness not called to the stand, and Brown’s own testimony, suggests the grounds for a motion for a new trial – something Brown’s attorney suggested was happening minutes after the 18 guilty verdicts.

Worth noting: Brown, at least through the appeals process, will continue to draw her Congressional Pension, as Action News Jax’s Jenna Bourne reported last week.

“Final conviction,” after appeals have been exhausted, would be the necessary prerequisite for pension forfeiture.

In other words, this is still a live case.

And making it even more live – testimony from jurors, which suggests the jury process was not on the up and up.

News4Jax has reported that two jurors were “holdouts” against convicting Brown; one of those jurors, who asserted that the “holy spirit” gave him the 411, was discharged – and the other stayed on the jury, caved in to consensus, and then had second thoughts.

“At one point, Corrine was going to walk, and at another point, she is convicted of 18 counts, and that is all because of one person’s doing,” the juror said. “No, I don’t think that’s fair.”

Brown’s lawyer wants to interview the juror before a new trial motion.

Brown, for her part, has asserted that the trial was a “witch hunt” and that she had “serious concerns” about the jury and the criminal justice system, per the Florida Times-Union.

Meanwhile, one prosecution witness who ended up not being used also expressed concerns to Florida Politics last week.

Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney’s theory: his narrative was inconsistent with the story the federal prosecutors wanted to tell … which is something they finally realized after two meetings with Gaffney, whose “Community Rehabilitation Center” and “CRC Transportation” were discussed at length during the trial.

Gaffney said his testimony was “consistent,” suggesting “that’s why they didn’t use me.”

Gaffney, whose for-profit CRC Transportation gave Brown money, described it as a “gift” to a friend — and said it was used for charitable purposes.

“I knew she was doing the right thing with my money,” Gaffney said. “I knew she was doing the right thing for the community … some of your constituents need things. I gave money as a friend.”

Gaffney didn’t think twice about giving Brown money years ago. He saw it as a way to “help the community.”

Gaffney also contended that, contrary to the assertions of those from other Jacksonville non-profits, Brown actually gave to his non-profit CRC during the period being investigated.

“Staff saw her bring stuff,” Gaffney said, and sometimes Brown would call CRC for a pick-up.

Was Gaffney scratched from the prosecution witness list because his narrative was inconsistent with the prosecution argument? Because his story would have added a wrinkle of nuance to a prosecution narrative that, by and large, went substantively unchallenged in cross-examination?

While we aren’t privy to motions to come this week or next, expect that perceived irregularities from May’s trial will drive the Corrine Brown narrative as the summer heats up.

And after Corrine Brown? The race to become the next Corrine Brown.

Word in the halls is that former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is waiting until Queen Corrine is out of the headlines before launching his Congressional bid.

Other Jacksonville Democrats — the kind who see Mayor Next Level as a 1000-watt smile and not much else — also mull their options.

The longer this goes, the more their window closes.

Marco Rubio speaks out on Russian investigation, global human rights

Sunday saw U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on both “Face the Nation” and CNN’s “State of the Union,” discussing Russian election interference and global human rights.

For those looking for evidence of how Rubio might — as he promised on the campaign trail — serve as a “check” on President Donald Trump, these interviews offer hints.


Regarding Russia, Rubio made the case that the Senate Intelligence Committee should carry the ball.

“Our job in the intelligence committee has been to look at this entire episode for the purposes of counterintelligence in particular and then arrive at the facts, put them out in a report, and move on from there,” Rubio said.

“That’s what we’re endeavoring to do in a bipartisan way and again, the best way to do that is not to litigate it in the press, but to do our work and put the report in a way that is credible so no one can deny its credibility and no one can say that we went into it already having made up our minds,” Rubio added.

As well, Rubio noted his uniquely personal “concern about Russian interference.”

“Back in October I was running for re-election and it looked like my race was going close. I may have been the only Republican in the country running for Congress who refused to discuss WikiLeaks, use it against my opponent or use it against Secretary Clinton because I said it was the work of a foreign intelligence agency. I said it then, I believe it now. I think our report will lay that out and any other facts pertinent to that,” Rubio said.


Also on Sunday, Rubio tweaked the Trump administration’s trip to and kowtowing to Saudi Arabia and other regimes with human rights issues, saying the Trump team “believe[s] that on the countries that are cooperative with us on other issues — like Saudi Arabia, like Egypt — we should privately confront them on the issues of human rights. That you’ll get a better result that way.”

“Now, I have a different take on it. I believe that human rights are important for us to speak about publicly … that these countries — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the like — are not sustainable in the long term if they continue to systemically violate the rights of their people,” Rubio added.


From sauce to loss: Jax Councilor’s parents serve up double helping of Chapter 11

In an illustration of what happens when economic incentives go wrong, the parents of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown jointly and separately filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week.

This filing by Jerome Brown and JoAnn Brown staved off a foreclosure hearing that was slated for a Jacksonville court on Monday, with BizCapital — the primary lendor and guarantor of a Small Business Loan — as the plaintiffs against the Browns and their businesses.

Back in 2011, the Browns, via “CoWealth” (one of their shell companies), got city of Jacksonville grants and loans and a Small Business Administration loan to establish a barbeque sauce plant in Northwest Jacksonville.

The money was contingent on the Browns creating at least 56 permanent jobs.

They fell just 56 jobs short of that number.

CoWealth originally borrowed $2.65 million from Biz Capital, in addition to $380,000 from the city of Jacksonville and $220,000 of grants, for the sauce plant. The city’s interest is subordinate to that of Biz Capital.

The Browns estimate that they have $500,001-$1M in assets, and $1,000,001-$10M in debts, according to the filing.

The Browns have dealt with unusual scrutiny, including an FBI raid on the warehouse in 2016.

Insulated from action by the Browns’ individual Chapter 11 filings, and Chapter 11s on their businesses: Councilwoman Brown herself, who was quietly removed from corporation paperwork as the legal maneuvering got serious months back.

Al Lawson files Entrepreneurial Education Act

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson filed his first bill Friday, and it aims to help economic conditions in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

The Entrepreneurial Education Act would authorize what is being called an “Entrepreneurial Education Initiative” through the Small Business Administration.

The initiative’s goal: to train and guide those running businesses in what Lawson’s press release calls “economically-disadvantaged communities.”

“This bill will help generate new jobs, attract investment, and provide necessary training to our emerging leaders in Florida’s fifth district and around the country so that we can grow our economy where we need it most,” said Lawson, a North Florida Democrat whose district runs east from Tallahassee toward Jacksonville.

“This program has already helped more than 4,000 small business owners in sustaining and growing their businesses and I know we can make that number even bigger by helping more people across the country,” Lawson added.

New York Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, the ranking member of the House Small Business Committee, offered a statement of support for Lawson’s bill, which will be heard in her committee.

Expansion imminent for MacQuarie Group in Jax?

Back in 2015, Jacksonville leaders welcomed the Australian MacQuarie Group to town. Now, in 2017, MacQuarie mulls expansion.

And those plans, apparently, are contingent on city incentives … which will help MacQuarie decide to bring 50 new operations jobs and $1.7M in capital investment to the River City or to a city in far-flung Northern India.

To that end, Ordinance 2017-388 was filed in the Jacksonville City Council.

As is the case with incentive deals, the city would assume 20 percent, or $50,000 of the cost, via the QTI Targeted Tax Refund Program. The state would assume $200,000 of the financial impact.

The Lenny Curry administration has had to think heavily about economic incentives in the last year especially, with Gov. Rick Scott‘s model under siege in Tallahassee.

This MacQuarie deal includes state incentives, which might not always be there. Even if they weren’t, Curry said yesterday that the city would continue to offer incentives where they made sense.

“If it doesn’t go the way we’d like it to go … Jacksonville’s not going to lay down and cry and moan. We’re going to find a way to have a competitive advantage and compete for jobs,” Curry added.

“There’s always incentives available,” Curry said about the city, if they conform with the “scorecard” model Jacksonville uses to determine ROI.

In this instance, however, a straight-forward and familiar model will be used to sweeten the pot and deepen MacQuarie‘s footprint in Jacksonville — along the lines of what was used in 2015.

At that point, Curry said what he’s been saying for two years: that incentives would be used “if they make sense for taxpayers.”

The Mayor’s Office clearly believes these do.

John Rutherford TRACER bill targets convicted terrorists

The federal prison system has 350 international terrorists incarcerated.

Almost a third of them will be released onto American streets before 2030.

Does local and state law enforcement have the right to know where they are? One Northeast Florida Republican Congressman — a former Jacksonville Sheriff — says yes.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford filed legislation designed to inform state and local police when a former terrorist is released into the community.

H.R. 2471, the “Terrorist Release Announcements to Counter Extremist Recidivism” (TRACER) Act, would mandate “that state and local law enforcement be notified when federal prisoners convicted of terrorism charges are released from prison into their communities,” reads a press release from Rutherford’s shop.

The law, said Rutherford, “will require the Department of Homeland Security to share information regarding potential terrorism risks with law enforcement at the local level,” allowing a coordinated effort “against the evils of terrorism.”

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