A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 374

A.G. Gancarski

$11M in HUD money for Jacksonville for FY 2017

Jacksonville is in line to receive just over $11M in money from Housing and Urban Development for FY 2017, per a letter from HUD dated Jun. 15.

Over half of that sum — $5.661M — will come in through Community Development Block Grants, a category that the Donald Trump Administration has questioned.

This is down significantly from the $17M figure stated by a city employee at a press event promoting CDBGs.

All told, the city has secured almost $400M in CDBGs since 1975.

HOME Investment Partnerships offer another $2.258M.

HOPWA — Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS — deliver another $2.644M.

And Emergency Solutions Grant money comes out to $506,000.

For locals who made a call for CDBGs, such as Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, this award letter means that — at least for another year — federal money will boost Jacksonville’s budget to deal with populations that need the help.

Given President Trump’s position on these grants, the Curry Administration was agnostic on the future of these programs when asked earlier this year.

“As long as the program exists and funds are available, we will utilize them,” spokeswoman Marsha Oliver said.

Oliver stressed that the mayor was not taking a position on whether the program should or shouldn’t be in existence; however, as budget discussions loom, Curry’s financial team likely will have to factor in the current uncertainty from the White House.

Lenny Curry out of U.S. Conference of Mayors

The United States Conference of Mayors has set itself up as a counterweight to President Donald Trump on issues ranging from Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Accord to military spending.

Last weekend’s resolutions against military spending were especially interesting, with the Conference issuing resolutions “calling for hearings on real city budgets needed and the taxes our cities send to the federal military budget” and “opposition to military spending.”

We asked Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry for his thoughts on the matter, and the response proved to be more illuminating than the resolutions.

“Mayor Curry is not a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He maintains his support of the President’s commitment to keeping America safe,”said Marsha Oliver, Director of Public Affairs for the Mayor’s Office.

For those watching closely, this is a stunning development, with Curry being the most prominent big-city mayor to exempt himself from the mayoral group.

Apparently, that exemption had happened some months back, though information was not disseminated about it, despite questions about differences between Curry’s positions and the conference.

On Monday afternoon, Curry explained the reasons for leaving the group, which happened in late 2016 or early 2017, he said.

Curry wanted to know if the Mayor’s Office had paid the invoice, and it had not — so given the Conference’s political positions and lack of value add for his office, he didn’t think that membership was a “good use of taxpayer dollars.”

 

 

Health Department concerned about infant mortality in Jacksonville

Jacksonville, like all major Florida cities, faces health challenges. And the Health Department budget, via City Hall, is a great starting point to seeing priorities.

One such priority has to do with Jacksonville’s youngest residents: the aftermath of a lapsed co-location with Agape Health Services, which has now secured other space on the Westside. They previously had shared a building on Wesconnett.

The department of health wants to expand its services in that location to make up for the move, including immunization, pregnancy services, and STD testing and care; cost: $150,000.

“We’ve got to fill the void that they left,” said Health Director Kelli Wells. “We anticipate there to be a gap … because it was by virtue of our MOU with them that we were certain they weren’t turning these clients away.”

“Specifically, walk-in immunizations … there are some barriers that are created,” Wells added.

Wells is especially concerned about STD testing and treatment for those between the ages of 15 to 24. Without promotion of these services, the “capture rate” of those who are positive for these diseases could decline.

Also a worry: infant health, in that pivotal first year.

“We could see an uptick in infant mortality in that area,” Wells said, noting that infant mortality jumped five years ago during a rollback in services that required these “at-risk” populations to travel across town to 6th Street.

“If you’re talking about a pregnant mom, what that translates to is no pre-natal care,” Wells said, and “significant risk for infant morbidity.”

Wells sees that $150,000 as start-up costs, with the practice building up toward financial self-sufficiency. That ask is on the fabled “short list’ of potential enhancements after Monday’s budget review.

Another interesting takeaway: the Department of Environmental Protection ceded the city $549,000 for septic tank removal studies and analysis; Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa notes that the money would be better used for removal, as the city has done the study already.

Lori Boyer to address Southside Business Men’s Club Wednesday

Jacksonville City Council President Lori Boyer will gavel out her last meeting Tuesday evening; on Wednesday, she will speak to constituents.

The scene: a lunchtime meeting at the Southside Business Men’s Club, held at the San Jose Country Club.

For Boyer, this year as City Council President has been one full of accomplishments that will be remembered after she is termed out of office in 2019.

The long and winding road of getting pension reform through the voters via referendum, then through the unions in collective bargaining, then through the City Council to ratify the deals — that was completed under Boyer’s watch.

That closed the extant defined benefit pension plans to new hires, creating a new defined contribution plan for them, a mechanism which  — when combined with a future revenue source via a sales tax extension that kicks in by 2030 — offers some budget relief that will go to infrastructure and new hires for long-suffering city departments.

Another hot-button issue resolved on Boyer’s watch: securing LBGT rights, via an expanded Human Rights Ordinance.

That issue had plagued city government for most of the decade, with failed expansion attempts in 2012 and 2016. Boyer was able to ensure the integrity of the process, handling the heated discussions from proponents and opponents in a way that codified protections for LGBT people that didn’t impact religious institutions — a key worry of the religious right.

Expect that Boyer will address these issues Wednesday, along with a key initiative of hers during her term: waterway activation, part of Jacksonville’s long-standing yet eternally thwarted desire to make usage of waterways in the way other cities do.

In addition to talking about the past and present, Boyer may be asked to address the future — such as a City Council under the control of President-Designate Anna Brosche, who dispatched the chosen candidate of Boyer and the Mayor’s Office in a contentious election for Council President.

Jax Mayor’s Office plows through Finance & Administration budget

The office of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry continued its budget review Monday, with a romp through the Finance and Administration budget.

The department is more fully-staffed than it was two years ago, when it was “decimated,” per Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, yet points for discussion abounded.

As is often the case with these hearings, the news bubbles up via anecdotal tidbits.

Mousa noted that there was slight under-performance in payouts for contracts for Jacksonville Small and Emerging Businesses; awards, it was revealed, were on track.

As well, the Jacksonville Beach pier is under contract for review and repair after Hurricane Matthew damage. There may be revenues coming in next year, if a contractor reveals that some of the structure is safe enough for businesses to return.

A discussion followed of converting older files from microfiche to electronic format; no reliable estimate could be provided of that cost, which remains theoretical.

Motor Vehicle Inspection fees are adversely affected by a downtick in Vehicles for Hire revenue (suspending taxi cab medallion inspection fees, as a result of inconclusive rule making relative to Uber/Lyft in Council), which means money to prop that subfund up is coming from the General Fund.

“We really need to make a decision,” CFO Mike Weinstein said.

Money manager fees are up in pension funds; treasurer Joey Greive deemed that to be a “good problem to have,” as pension funds perform well of late.

There are apparently six years of records related to grants, dating back to the Peyton administration, that need to be scanned in. The company contracted to do such went bankrupt; there isn’t the manpower to do such in-house. Mousa urges outsourcing the work, as it would be cheaper than hiring a new employee with benefits and the like.

The department has been doing a lot of additional work, including “cleanup,” in capital projects; the desire is to have an extra FTE to oversee the end of capital projects and ensure that funds are swept and so on for clearer accounting.

 

 

 

Jake Godbold, Lenny Curry, and the ‘strong mayor’ model

Last Thursday night, a former Jacksonville mayor gave his blessing to a power move from the current mayor.

Jake Godbold’s remarks, delivered to the Jacksonville Historical Society, validated current Mayor Lenny Curry in ways that need to be fully appreciated before they hit the memory hole.

Curry told the Florida Times-Union editorial board that he was “prepared to take the Landing… I’m prepared for the city to have it and to begin in a very public way determining what its best and highest use is … We’ve got a plan internally to put the screws and keep pushing this.”

Curry has an ally: former Mayor Jake Godbold, who noted Thursday night that “we built the Landing” and he doesn’t “like it to think it was sold to some guy who built strip malls.”

“Take it back,” Godbold said. “Let’s do something about it.”

While that was the big news item to come out of the Godbold remarks, his historical perspective is worth noting also, as Godbold — whose personal history is intertwined with the development of Jacksonville into a modern city itself — discussed the “strong mayor” model, upon which Jacksonville is predicated.

When Godbold took over from Hans Tanzler, he quickly reacted to a lack of public works action during the Tanzler era. Road projects, for example, were almost non-existent.

Godbold and his initiatives — the Riverwalk and the Landing among them — were controversial in their time. Yet, for Jacksonville to grow into the city it is today, Godbold had to be what he called a “powerful mayor.”

When Godbold came in, the plainspoken Northsider was not Chamber enough for some. By the end, though, everyone kissed his ring.

Not bad for someone who didn’t want to be Mayor.

As opposed to Godbold, who first assumed the Mayor’s Office after Tanzler resigned to run for Governor, Curry definitely wanted to be Mayor — and spent years planning the run before jumping in to his first campaign.

Curry was helped, of course, by the donor class — and especially by Peter Rummell, who told the Florida Times-Union that Alvin Brown had “wimped out,” ahead of Curry entering the race.

Curry was elected, and quickly made some changes — among them, reconfiguring city boards and commissions with people who reflected his philosophy. And infrastructure projects, ranging from septic tank removal to stadium improvements, that would actually put the city on the move. And, of course, pension reform — closing the defined benefit plans to new hires, securing money for paydown down the road, and stopping the bleeding before an FY 18 hit that would have been cataclysmic.

There are many differences between Godbold and Curry. But a major similarity: an understanding of the Mayor’s Office as one that puts the city on the move. And that is, ultimately, the “strong mayor” model.

Ashley Moody adds a political committee to her Attorney General bid arsenal

Former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, who filed in the Republican Primary for Attorney General this month, also launched a political committee this month.

The name: “Friends of Ashley Moody.

Moody has certain tailwinds behind her, including backing by current Attorney General Pam Bondi, who basically endorsed Moody even before she entered the race.

Moody has one opponent on the GOP side thus far: Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant.

Fant has $79,575 in his campaign account; of that sum, $8,000 came from Fant, and $3,000 came from his political committee, “Pledge This Day,” which raised $9,000 in May.

Contributions mostly came from Northeast Florida. However, a very important northeast Florida Republican won’t do anything to help him: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

We asked an advisor to Curry if the mayor was going to overlook criticisms Fant made of him at a local Republican Party meeting and help Fant out. The answer was short and brutal.

“Not a chance.”

Without Curry’s blessing, it’s going to be difficult for Fant to compete with the resources that will be at Moody’s disposal.

 

Failed challenge mounted to Audrey Gibson as Duval Dems’ chair

Audrey Gibson holds two posts — State Senator and Duval Democratic Party Chair. And the man she defeated for Chair, James Deininger, says that violates party bylaws.

“I officially challenged the December results of the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee (DCDEC) Chair election to the Florida Democratic Party,” Deininger told FloridaPolitics.com.

Ultimately, that challenge came to nothing. As Duval Dems’ Communications Vice-Chair James Poindexter asserts: “There is now an official ruling from Rhett Bullard, Chair of the FDP Rules Committee: ‘Audrey Gibson is the duly elected Chair of the Duval Democratic Party’.”

Deininger’s beef boiled down to this: “Gibson is ineligible to hold a county party position due to her status as an elected Democratic in Duval according to a FDP bylaw which I was made aware of at the FDP Leadership Blue Gala event in Hollywood Florida this past weekend. In my opinion, the FDP bylaws clearly convey that elected members in a county ‘…shall not serve as officers of the county Democratic Executive Committee’.”

“The only person that garnered votes in the election that was eligible to hold DCDEC office was myself and it seems that the previous DCDEC administration blatantly allowed Sen. Gibson to run as chair even though her ability to serve as Chair is a direct violation of the FDP bylaws,” Deininger wrote to the FDP.

Deininger then went even farther, saying the situation was possibly tantamount to election fraud.

“In my view, at the very worse this is election fraud and at the very least incompetency. This situation must be immediately resolved by the FDP leadership or the FDP Central Committee as it is my belief that I am the duly elected Chair of the DCDEC.”

The man who preceded Gibson as party chair, Neil Henrichsen, sent Deininger a lacerating email in reply.

Shot: “This cannot be for real. Did a Republican operative hack an email account?”

Chaser: “A white guy who complained about alleged racism in the party now wants to over throw an election that took place in accordance with the rules-check with the nominating committee or the chair’s August 2016 precinct committee election- be declared the winner with less than 30 percent of the vote!”

Poindexter had more to say, also.

“Any suggestion that Audrey Gibson is not the duly elected Chair of the Duval County Democratic Executive committee is categorically false. Our organization has many levels of membership, preserving the right to run for leadership positions to duly elected precinct committee persons. Contrary to Mr. Deininger’s spurious accusations, Sen. Gibson properly filed her paperwork, qualified for the ballot, and was duly elected as a precinct committee woman in August 2016. As an elected precinct committee woman, Sen. Gibson has the very same membership privileges Mr. Deininger, including the right to run for and serve as Chair.”

Stricter security at Jax City Hall

Attention working reporters and others with laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices in Jacksonville City Hall: expect stricter security.

We were informed today during our morning City Hall walkthrough that these devices would be checked out going forward during entrance security.

What this means, practically: have your laptops and phones powered up and in standby mode, just as one would at the airport.

This also likely will mean that smart reporters and others concerned about time management will want to arrive earlier for events, especially events that may draw a crowd, such as the Human Rights Ordinance discussion earlier this year.

Matt Carlucci files to run in 2019 for Jacksonville City Council

Months back, we broke the story that Matt Carlucci was “seriously considering” a run for Jacksonville City Council.

On Thursday, the former Jacksonville City Council President and chairman of the Florida Commission on Ethics filed to do just that.

He will run to replace termed-out Greg Anderson in At Large Seat 4.

His focuses: public safety and downtown development.

“This campaign is about city first, being family focused, and keeping an eye on the long game,” Carlucci said.

Carlucci also can count on key support from outside Duval County, such as from former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, who vowed to be Carlucci’s “first contributor.”

Carlucci describes himself as partisan on the national level, but less so in the local realm.

Illustrating that independent streak, Carlucci notably supported Democrats Alvin Brown and Ken Jefferson for mayor and sheriff in 2015, bets that didn’t pay off.

That said, Carlucci has very complimentary things to say about the “strong leadership” of Mayor Lenny Curry now, calling the mayor “very bold, very decisive.”

“Lenny’s got the trains running on time,” Carlucci said.

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