A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 407

A.G. Gancarski

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Poll: Crime preoccupies Jacksonville voters for third straight year

A new poll from the University of North Florida says that crime is the number one policy preoccupation for Duval County’s registered voters.

And despite concerted investments in public safety in the city’s last three budgets, crime concerns more voters than in previous polls — and that is especially true for females surveyed.

Crime was the number one issue concerning 40 percent of voters — up from 38 percent in 2016, and 33 percent in 2015. And the crime issue is a central preoccupation of 50 percent of female Duval voters surveyed, as compared to 27 percent of males.

For black and white voters both, crime is the runaway choice for top concern. However, when it comes to Hispanic voters, crime is the primary concern for just 13 percent of those surveyed, running behind transportation, improving Downtown, and improving education.

2015 saw a Mayoral campaign predicated on public safety themes, with Mayor Alvin Brown being pilloried for force reductions in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office by his then-opponent, Lenny Curry, and a key surrogate — former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford.

That tack worked on the campaign trail: Curry is in the Mayor’s Office, Rutherford is now in Congress, and Alvin Brown is, two and a half years after that election, planning his next move.

Since taking office, Curry has pushed through three budgets that have added 260 police positions, with another 80 community service officers.

Despite those force additions, reduction of the homicide rate has proved elusive. Per the Florida Times-UnionJacksonville already has 101 homicides this year — with almost three months left.

Jacksonville had 120 homicides in 2016, and 114 in 2015 — and absent a sudden abatement in the trend, Jacksonville will see more murders year over year yet again.

In late September, Jacksonville’s Mayor, Sheriff, and the area’s State Attorney converged at City Hall to discuss the public safety focus of Jacksonville’s now-current budget.

This was Curry’s third straight budget to pass without a no vote, and includes 100 new police officers, which — when combined with 80 new officers and 80 new community service officers in Curry’s first two budgets — rectifies what Curry called “dangerously low levels” of police on the street when he and Williams were elected.

“People want this city safe,” Curry asserted, “and they want the right investment made in law enforcement.”

While the personal favorability numbers of both Mayor Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams suggest that both men are insulated from any serious 2019 challenge at this point, it will be worth watching next year’s UNF poll results to see if concern over crime begins to abate — thus indicating that concern about crime is starting to fade in favor of confidence in the city’s strategy to abate it.

512 registered Duval voters were polled by live dial between Oct. 2 and 4,

Marco Rubio presses Senate panel on nursing home oversight

In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday cited the case of the now-infamous Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills to urge an investigation of nursing home regulation oversight.

During Hurricane Irma, the facility lost power — setting into motion a chain of events that led to seemingly avoidable casualties, when the nursing home operators failed to evacuate patients to a nearby hospital.

In the weeks since the storm, 14 patients have died, and many of those deaths can be attributed to the power loss in Irma.

“In the wake of Hurricane Irma, 14 residents of a single nursing facility in Hollywood, Florida, passed away. While this terrible tragedy is currently under investigation, it has been widely reported that these individuals were left in sweltering conditions after the nursing facility’s air conditioning system lost power,” Rubio wrote Chairman Orrin Hatch and Ranking Democrat Ron Wyden.

“This has shocked the state of Florida,” Rubio added, “and rightfully raised questions about the oversight of nursing homes, particularly the enforcement of existing emergency preparedness requirements.”

Rubio went on to note issues in previous inspections by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Among them: a medication error rate of 26 percent in Feb. 2016, which far exceeds the federal government’s dictum that error rates should be no more than 5 percent.

As well, beyond medication mishaps, the nursing home was found in 2014 as “not providing enough water to all patients in order to maintain proper hydration and health, contravening federal requirements,” wrote Rubio.

Rubio notes that “federal regulations mandate that facilities’ emergency preparedness procedures address subsistence needs for residents, including alternate sources of energy to maintain temperatures and protect residents’ health and safety.”

“Unfortunately,” Rubio adds, “despite this requirement and the facilities’ close proximity to an operational hospital, residents were found to have temperatures exceeding 109 degrees, far above the level that puts seniors at risk for heat stroke.”

Rubio seeks an investigation of the Hollywood Hills facility, as well as others in Florida and Puerto Rico, “to prevent similar tragedies in the future.”

As well, Rubio wants the committee to “consider examining other ways in which Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries were impacted by these storms and how better planning and coordination between the federal, state, and local government could mitigate harm caused by hurricanes.”

Poll gives Duval’s political leaders high job approval numbers

Jacksonville’s City Hall has been a cauldron of discontent in recent months; as recently as Tuesday, the Mayor and the City Council President were trading barbs about a priority piece of legislation the Council President opposed.

Despite the fissure between the city’s chief executive and lead legislator, city leaders are polling pretty well, per University of North Florida pollster Michael Binder.

“All of Duval’s political leaders have extremely high job approval numbers,” said Binder. “Contrast this level of satisfaction with what’s happening in Washington right now, and downtown looks like a political paradise.”

Whether Downtown Jacksonville is anyone’s idea of paradise is a matter of interpretation; however, even by the favorable light of UNF polling, it seems that Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams, State Attorney Melissa Nelson, and Public Defender Charles Cofer will sail to re-election.

Curry’s numbers, per the poll, are particularly sky-high.

Of the 512 registered Duval voters polled by live dial between Oct. 2 and 4, Curry has 69 percent approval against 13 percent disapproval.

For Democrats who may be looking to run against the Republican Mayor once dissed as a “party boss,” consider this: even among registered Democrats, Curry has a 57 percent approval rating.

Curry does well with all ethnic demographics: 74 percent approval with white voters, 59 percent with African-American voters, and 64 percent with Hispanics.

Sheriff Williams is likewise strongly positioned ahead of his inevitable 2019 run for re-election. The first-term Republican Sheriff has 67 percent approval — and 60 percent approval among Democrats.

Williams also has broad appeal in all ethnic groups; his worst performance in the survey is 54 percent with African-American voters.

Neither Williams nor Curry have filed for re-election, but they both have active political committees (“A Safe Jacksonville” and “Build Something that Lasts” respectively).

Though State Attorney Nelson and Public Defender Cofer don’t face voters until 2020, the two first-term Republicans’ numbers might prove encouraging.

Nelson has a 55 percent approval rating, and 13 percent disapproval; Cofer has a 36 percent approval rating, and 14 percent disapproval.

Moving beyond the executive level, the UNF survey also bodes well for the Jacksonville City Council, yet somewhat less well for the Council Presidency of Brosche.

The Council enjoys 50 percent approval against 26 percent disapproval, per the poll.

Brosche, a first-term at-large Republican Councilwoman, has 29 percent approval and 20 percent disapproval. Her main publicity since assuming the gavel in July: a controversial proposal to remove Confederate monuments from city-owned property.

Brosche, interestingly, is underwater with members of her own party, with 20 percent approval among Republicans, against 24 percent disapproval.

Duval voters want to keep Confederate statues, per poll

As Jacksonville City Council President Anna Borsch considers potentially moving Confederate monuments, a new poll from the University of North Florida suggests little enthusiasm among Duval residents for relocating the relics.

Removal is underwater: 38 percent of registered voters want them gone, while 53 percent of registered voters want the monuments to remain.

Brosche, a Republican running for re-election in 2019, would likely face pushback from GOP voters; 83 percent oppose removal.

Of Democrats, meanwhile, 56 percent want the statues gone.

The racial split on statues is likewise stark: 68 percent of white voters want the statues to stay where they are, while 62 percent of black voters want the statues moved.

The poll was conducted via live dial to 512 registered Duval County voters between Oct. 2 and Oct. 4.

Duval County has a number of monuments on city property.

The inventory provided by the Parks Department revealed three monuments, put in place between 1898 and 1926; and eight historic markers.

The monuments include the Confederate Monument in Hemming Park, the ‘Monument to the Women of the Southland’ in Confederate Park in Springfield, and a Confederate Memorial Services grandstand at the Old City Cemetery.

The historical markers are on the Northbank Riverwalk, Walter Jones Park in Mandarin, the Old City Cemetery, the Prime Osborn Convention Center, Lenox Ave. near Cedar Creek (memorializing a “skirmish”), Confederate Park, and Camp Milton Historic Preserve.

Brosche characterizes public sentiment on these monuments as fairly evenly split, and she addressed the state of the statues at a Wednesday luncheon.

Notably: she is cool on a referendum on removal.

“It’s about what they mean to the entire community, not just one section of the community,” Brosche said Wednesday, adding that she doesn’t “personally favor” a referendum.

“I’ve studied what it is we’ve taken to the voters in the past, and I personally have a hard time putting a vote to the majority, to decide [for the minority],” Brosche said, occasioning murmurs from the crowd.

Anna Brosche talks Confederate monuments, censure for Council colleagues

Tuesday night was rough for Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche.

Her attempts to stall out a vote on Mayor Lenny Curry‘s children’s program reform, the Kids Hope Alliance, failed. And her allegations of Curry Administration attempts to keep the bill from public view, by having a Councilman introduce a substitute in committee earned a sharp rebuke from the Mayor.

Brosche didn’t address this Tuesday night. And in the end, Brosche ended up voting for the bill.

Despite what many in City Hall perceive as a political setback, Brosche is still Council President — and in that capacity, she addressed the Southside Business Man’s Club’s weekly luncheon Wednesday.

She was surprisingly upbeat after a marathon Council meeting. Brosche described it as a “long night” and a “challenging process,” but “we made it through.”

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Brosche took questions from the crowd — and the first was about Confederate memorials, along the lines of “where does monument removal stop.”

Brosche noted that she is focused on “monuments and markers on city property.”

“I appreciate the question where it ends — I know where mine ends,” Brosche said, noting that the most prominent local monument is the statue in Hemming Park.

A legal review from the city’s lawyers is being conducted, and Brosche expects a report soon.

Additionally, Brosche noted 500 emails and 93 public comments, as well as 50 letters and phone calls.

The feedback is split, Brosche said, and “the version of history I’ve received in all those communications runs the gamut.” As do suggestions — which include private purchase.

“It’s about what they mean to the entire community, not just one section of the community,” Brosche said, though she doesn’t “personally favor” a referendum.

“I’ve studied what it is we’ve taken to the voters in the past, and I personally have a hard time putting a vote to the majority, to decide [for the minority],” Brosche said, occasioning murmurs from the crowd.

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Brosche was also compelled to discuss the confrontation between Councilors Reggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown and police officers after a Council meeting last month.

Gaffney has issued the expected mea culpa statements for attempting to leverage his power as a Councilman to check the officers who pulled him over. However, Brown — who accused officers of racial profiling — has yet to apologize.

That point was not lost on the Fraternal Order of Police, which saw its national and state presidents in Jacksonville Tuesday night to condemn Councilwoman Brown’s accusations and unwillingness to walk them back.

“The ultimate repercussion is going to be leveled by their districts … if there is any,” Brosche said.

Brosche has requested “options” from the General Counsel, including what authority Council has, and expects them at the next Council meeting.

“The question is around censure — is it an option for Council,” Brosche said.

Sentencing bill a ‘win-win’, says Rob Bradley

Florida’s prison industry has endured scrutiny in recent years, and a new bill from Sen. Rob Bradley may offer some relief for the sector.

SB 484 would authorize a court to sentence prisoners to county jail for up to 24 months, if said county has a DOC contract.

The bill would also require prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Those prisoners will have sentences that don’t run longer than 24 months, and most felony convictions are exempt from this proposal.

On Wednesday morning, Bradley told Florida Politics that this is not a new idea.

“This is an idea that I’ve discussed with Senate and House colleagues for a couple of years now,” Bradley asserted.

“We’ve come close to including language in budget conforming bills in the past but we haven’t been able to cross the finish line,” Bradley added, saying that he’s “starting the conversation early this year.”

Part of the problem is that the state has more prisoners than its facilities can handle, Bradley said.

“Right now,” Bradley said, “the state incarcerates 100,000 inmates. After dealing with this issue for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that our infrastructure and personnel is simply not equipped to handle that number. We need to reduce the state population. This is a strategy to accomplish this goal.”

The bill, Bradley added, will benefit “certain local jails with excess capacity. The bill will help relieve budget pressures for those jurisdictions.”

Strong September fundraising for Northeast Florida Senators

Though neither Aaron Bean nor Audrey Gibson face meaningful competition for re-election next year, the two Northeast Florida Senators are leaving nothing to chance when it comes to fundraising.

In a month where Hurricane Irma waylaid many pols’ plans, both Senators had strong months in the realm of campaign finance.

Bean, a Republican who represents Nassau County and part of Duval, brought in $33,000 in hard money — much of that off the strength of a high-profile fundraising event late last month.

Notable about Bean’s haul: all but $1,000 of it came from Florida addresses, and much of it from his Senate district.

Among this month’s Bean Team donors: current Jacksonville City Council candidate Matt Carlucci and incumbent Duval County School Board member Scott Shine.

Bean has just over $62,000 cash on hand.

Though Sen. Gibson’s September haul of $12,000 was less than Bean’s, Gibson’s efficient operation closed out September with nearly $80,000 on hand — plenty of cash for a candidate with no primary opponent and a no-hope write-in in the general election.

Democrat Gibson, who represents the parts of Duval that Bean doesn’t, raised that $12,000 from thirteen checks.

Among Gibson’s donors: four Disney affiliates, Waste Management, Verizon, Comcast, and the Alliance for Honest Government.

Police union heads refute Jacksonville council member’s accusation of racial profiling

As the midnight hour approached Tuesday in Jacksonville, its City Council heard public comment — and much of that comment centered on a Councilor.

Councilwoman Katrina Brown ran afoul of the head of the local Fraternal Order of Police, Steve Zona, after accusing officers of “racial profiling” during a stop of yet another Councilman, Reggie Gaffney.

Brown pulled up behind the traffic stop, initiated because Gaffney’s tag had been reported stolen, and offered her critique of law enforcement.

Though Gaffney rolled over two weeks ago at a Council meeting, Brown refused to apologize for what she said, and that led to police officers, including heads of national, state, and local unions, to ask Brown to walk back her comments.

Chuck Canterbury, President of the National Fraternal Order of Police, started off.

Canterbury wanted to address “the refusal of a councilperson to address what every member of the FOP knows … when we speak falsely about someone, we face consequences: we lose our jobs.”

Canterbury said “it’s never too late to do the right thing,” saying that racial profiling accusations “widen the gap” created by systemic poverty and corollaries.

Local FOP Head Steve Zona alluded to a “false narrative” here in Jacksonville, with a “false accusation of racial profiling” helping to fuel the fire.

Brown sat impassive as Zona accused Brown of “abuse of power” and “false accusations of racial profiling.”

“This member’s actions are embarrassing to the Council as a whole,” Zona said, saying she needed to “act as a leader and not an activist.”

Robert Jenkins, the state President of the FOP, said that people look to Council for perspective and respect.

“It doesn’t take much to say you’re sorry,” Jenkins said.

Other police officers, local and otherwise, active and retired, spoke along similar lines — stressing the healing powers of apology, as Brown rocked back and forth in her chair.

Her comments about “the biggest issue in Jacksonville being the prosecution of police officers” were brought up again, as were the seeming incongruities between her advocacy for body-worn cameras and the role of those cameras in Councilman Gaffney’s traffic stop last month.

“The body-worn cameras captured the entire incident,” said former local FOP head Steve Amos, “and showed no racial profiling.”

Mayor wins: After acrimony, Jacksonville City Council passes Kids Hope Alliance bill

Tuesday night saw the Jacksonville City Council pass a bill authorizing the Kids Hope Alliance, a new seven-person board that will replace the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey.

The bill passed 18-1 , after a chippy discussion that lasted almost four hours, exposing and exacerbating fissures on the Council that have moved from hallway gossip to fodder for mainstream media.

The sole no vote: Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who had his own competing legislation that now rests in the scrapheap of dead bills.

That passage ends a two-month political taffy pull that saw Mayor Lenny Curry opposite the Jacksonville City Council President and Finance Chair, with the Council President suffering a setback at the hands of her own legislative body.

In a special meeting Tuesday afternoon to discharge the bill from Finance Committee, Council President Anna Brosche made a number of charges about the way the administration handled the process, charging that the administration made a procedural move to loop the public out of bill discussion.

Curry fired back: “At no time would any one from my office or the Office of General Counsel seek to subvert the legislative process or attempt to prevent the input of the people of Jacksonville. It is both irresponsible and disgraceful for an elected official to make such a slanderous allegation. The Council President should immediately admit that the anecdote is false and should apologize to the two staff members who she attacked.”

Brosche did not apologize. The Mayor likely won’t forget that.

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During public comment before bill deliberation, Councilman Garrett Dennis repeatedly attempted to make an emotional appeal during questions to people who would be losing their jobs during the restructure. Bill sponsor Scott Wilson made his displeasure with that clear after the third round of this, calling it a “disgusting” tactic at one point.

Council VP Aaron Bowman got frustrated after the seventh round of this, saying it was a stall tactic, and Brosche had to remind him to make questions “germane” to the bill.

There were, in total, 26 public commenters — and they got plenty of time to make their points.

Amidst the speeches, some clarification: it was thought that part of the re-org, early learning specialists and the like, who are directly employed by the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, may lose their jobs.

CFO Mike Weinstein noted that everyone employed with JCC serves at the pleasure of the Mayor, adding that it’s “disgraceful”, “disheartening,” and “shameful” that people are being made to feel their “jobs are on the cutting block.”

“Nobody’s going to lose their jobs if you vote for this tonight,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein noted that an amendment offered tonight would offer “flexibility,” adding that “there’s no direction to let anyone go”, that people have “civil service protection,” and that there are other positions in city government.

The succession of public commenters continued, with Jacksonville Children’s Commission Board Chair Matt Kane having his say.

Kane, a six-year member of the board, said the JCC brought “real change to kids in the community.”

“This organization is really something wonderful,” Kane said. “We have spent time and energy making a difference … changing the way that after school works.”

After the public comment ended, the bill discussion began. And former Council Presidents offered up amendments.

An amendment from Councilwoman Lori Boyer tightened up the definition of “in-house services” in the bill, saying that KHA could provide in-house services and training, contingent on Council approval of scope and budget. This amendment would also protect the jobs people worry about.

“We’re looking for outside providers for most things,” Boyer said, but this would make it possible to go “in-house” if that option made sense.

Councilman Greg Anderson then pushed an amendment that required a 2/3 majority of Council for removal or replacement of wayward board members.

Both the Boyer and Anderson amendments were uncontroversial and passed easily.

Another amendment sought to extend the age of eligibility to people up to the age of 21 who are pursuing education, and 22 years old for special needs people. After some floor debate, that came to pass. Another amendment further expanded what one Councilor called “umbrella coverage.” Other technical amendments, nibbling around the edges of bill language, were debated with an etymological zeal as the meeting lurched toward its fifth hour.

Jax Council bucks President, moves Kids Hope Alliance to vote

On one side, there’s the Mayor.

Lenny Curry asserts that his proposed Kids Hope Alliance bill is the “real reform” Jacksonville children’s services need.

On the other side, there’s Council President Anna Brosche, who asserts the process needs to be more deliberate and transparent. And there’s also Council Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who has his own bill for children’s program reform that is actually favored by members of the city’s non-profit/provider community.

Brosche and Dennis wanted a slower process, with both bills considered side by side; 13 Council co-sponsors on Curry’s bill seemed to want something different.

That was the setup for a Tuesday meeting — a meeting catalyzed by Brosche’s decision to cancel a scheduled Monday meeting, saying that she had too many questions about the Curry bill for that one meeting to answer.

Councilman John Crescimbeni — the man Brosche beat for the presidency — called for the Tuesday meeting. And 13 Councilors backed him up.

If Curry’s bill passes — and with a supermajority co-sponsoring the measure, that seems likely — it means that the Jax Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission programs will lapse, to be supervised by a seven-person Kids Hope Alliance board.

What is clear, however; the political turbulence typical to the third year of a Mayor’s term came to a head on a bill that, outside of providers and non-profits, has been off of most media’s radars.

The meta-discourse on the bill included Dennis telling Action News Jax that Council members felt “bullied” by the Mayor.

“Now it’s political football. The budget is now being held over some of my colleagues’ heads. You know, ‘Vote for this Kids Hope Alliance or your project’s going to be taken out of the budget.’ And that’s wrong,” said Councilman Garrett Dennis.

And that was followed by a Mayoral adviser saying that Dennis would have had to have violated the Sunshine Law to get that information.

With all that prologue and drama in play, it’s easy enough to forget what this bill is: an attempt to streamline children and youth programming in the city, taking these boards out of the role of running programs in-house and having them supervise programs.

The debate long since moved beyond that. It is now a political endgame. And the latest battlefield: Tuesday afternoon in City Hall.

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Ahead of the 3:30 p.m. meeting of the full City Council, Mayor Curry, meeting with Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and former JCC Chair Howard Korman, was in a good mood, joking with this reporter.

Curry’s confidence set into mind an axiom he frequently Tweets: “Plan. Plan all the way to the end.”

Curry had applied this theory throughout his political life, from his run for Mayor to his successful shepherding of pension reform.

However, this time was different; he had the opposition of the council president and the finance chair.

And to overcome that, he has had to do an end run around Council leadership.

Curry wasn’t present in chamber; he had another meeting.

He left it to Council allies to make the sale.

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 The 3:30 meeting was delimited to the question of whether or not to take up the KHA bill, with a hard stop at 4 p.m.

Citing a “sense of urgency” from colleagues and “intense urgency” from the Mayor’s Office, Brosche noted her regret for the impact of the cancellation.

Brosche said some answers from the administration for her questions were “unsatisfactory.”

Brosche also pointed out a “dilemma” stemming from the Mayor’s perceived desire to exclude the public from the process, with an administration member saying that the sub from a Councilor was intended to hide the bill from the public.

The third issue: Brosche didn’t understand the “rush” to make this law.

Curry fired back after the meeting with a statement responding to Brosche’s claims: “At no time would any one from my office or the Office of General Counsel seek to subvert the legislative process or attempt to prevent the input of the people of Jacksonville. It is both irresponsible and disgraceful for an elected official to make such a slanderous allegation. The council president should immediately admit that the anecdote is false and should apologize to the two staff members who she attacked.”

Brosche did not address Curry’s statement, either in the opening of the Council meeting or in response to a question texted from this outlet.

Councilman Dennis and Councilman Reggie Brown had point of order questions regarding public comment and when it might occur in the process; these occasioned grousing from some members of the crowd — specifically, members who were ready to get down to business and discharge the bill.

Councilman John Crescimbeni got fiery with a few minutes left before 4 p.m., saying that he thought the stall tactics from the chair were “some sort of game” to delay the bill further.

Crescimbeni finally was able to move to discharge. The seconds came in quickly.

The bill was discharged to 3rd Reading Ordinances — an outcome that wasn’t in doubt.

An 18-1 vote. With Brosche as the 1. And the Council against the president.

And a vote on a bill that has been the subject of two months of back and forth is imminent.

Councilman Dennis called the process on this bill a “travesty,” saying that rushing forward and not hearing constituents was not in the public interest.

But in the end, the vote looks very likely to happen.

And in the process, the council president looks to have been kneecapped by the process — and a very politically-savvy Mayor.

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