A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 389

A.G. Gancarski

Aaron Bean backs Wyman Duggan in HD 15

Another day, another key endorsement for Wyman Duggan in the race in Jacksonville’s state House District 15 — Thursday’s is courtesy of state Sen. Aaron Bean.

Bean joins U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, state Rep. Jason Fischer, and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in backing Duggan, who very quickly is coalescing the entire establishment behind him.

“Wyman Duggan is a committed conservative who will fight for our shared conservative values in Tallahassee. I’m proud to endorse his campaign for state representative and look forward to serving with him,” Bean stated.

Duggan is “honored by Sen. Bean’s support. He has been a strong advocate for Jacksonville and a champion of conservative values.”

Duggan has no opponent in the race to succeed Rep. Jay Fant as of yet.

Jacksonville Council Finance Chair: ‘I didn’t plan on being opposition to the Mayor’

Beginning Thursday, the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee will review Mayor Lenny Curry‘s proposed budget.

Discussions last week showed an independent streak among the committee’s members, chaired by Curry’s leading City Hall antagonist of the moment, Garrett Dennis.

FP talked to Dennis Wednesday evening, after he gave a well-received speech to the Jacksonville Young Democrats

Though Dennis’ rhetoric is in campaign mode, he assures us that his next campaign is simply a run for re-election — not a bid for the Mayor’s Office, as some supporters have urged.

Dennis also addressed recent news cycles, including discussions of swimming lesson funding and after-school funding, that have seen him at odds with the Mayor.

“I didn’t plan on being opposition to the Mayor. I want to win. I want the city to win. I’m not anti-Curry. He’s a good guy,” Dennis said.

A good guy, but one with whom Dennis has policy differences.

One such difference dominated Jacksonville news cycles this week: Dennis’ latest push for more after-school program money.

Just a week after Dennis’ floor amendments were defeated on a bill allocating $1 million more for after-school programs, including an amendment that would have pushed the total spend to $3 million, with money coming from the city’s reserve accounts, Dennis tried again with an emergency appropriation for more money for these programs.

Dennis’ proposal is ambitious: it would extend offerings for 1,280 kids in 12 of 14 Council districts. Yet the source of financing nettles the Mayor’s Office; the bill seeks to move $1,92M from Council’s contingency account for pension liability to fund these programs.

Dennis defends the ask, noting that the fund is already being drawn upon for $1.1M SAFER Grant matching funds, that the fund still has a $2.3M balance, and that if unspent, the money would be swept into the general fund at the end of the fiscal year.

“If there is a hill I will die on,” Dennis said, “I will die on this hill fighting for these kids.”

Dennis also discussed Curry’s proposal to hire 100 new police officers, which was held in abeyance by the committee last week. 

“I’m confused on the math,” Dennis said, noting that only 80 of the officers are funded in the budget, and that 70 more are expected to retire next fiscal year.

JSO can only train 80 per year, Dennis said, and he’s unconvinced of the JSO plan to train 170 new officers.

“The math isn’t adding up,” Dennis said, noting the new hires will be younger and cheaper than the retirees.

“I don’t want to give more than JSO has the capacity to perform,” Dennis said, wanting a “realistic number” of trainable hires, rather than excess capacity.

Answers to these questions may not be provided until the “wrap up” meeting of the committee, which could be as late on the calendar as Aug. 26.

In the context of a rift between its chair and the Mayor, the committee resumes deliberations Thursday.

Thursday sees the Tax Collector and Supervisor of Elections kick proceedings off; Dennis was a former employee of the SOE, so he should have interesting insight.

The State Attorney and Public Defender also speak — and given their reform paths, coupled with a Finance Committee controlled by African-American Democrats who are getting intense community pressure on reforms to criminal justice, those could be potentially news-making hearings.

The big time commitment: three hours on Parks and Recreation, a hearing that may involve questions for Director Daryl Joseph on the potential removal of Confederate monuments — a priority of Council President Anna Brosche.

Garrett Dennis pushes for more Jax after-school money; Lenny Curry questions funding mechanism

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, just a week after his floor amendments to add more after-school funding to a bill from Mayor Lenny Curry failed, has filed standalone legislation to the same effect.

Dennis, via Ordinance 2017-605, seeks to move $1,92M from Council’s contingency account for pension liability to fund these programs.

The new money would serve 1,280 kids in 12 of 14 Council districts.

“This is an effort that aligns with achieving One City, One Jacksonville. Therefore, decisions have to be made to ensure that services are being equally available in every district. Our children deserve the opportunity for increased academic performance, improved leadership skills, and a safe, structured environment for youth engagement. As a united community, we must do what’s right for our children,” Dennis wrote.

Last week, Dennis proposed two floor amendments that would have boosted the Mayor’s proposed $1.071M allocation.

The first changed the total allocation amount to $1.408M, with all the money coming from reallocated funds from inside the Jacksonville Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission. 880 children would be added to the after-school programs with that new money.

The second floor amendment was even more ambitious, allocating $2.947M for 1,860 kids, with more money coming from unspent Jacksonville Journey funds, and $832,852 from the city’s general fund balance.

Curry spokeswoman Marsha Oliver offered a statement that questioned the funding mechanism: “funds in the ‘unused pension contingency account'(UAAL) have been previously earmarked and obligated for the one-time three percent payment to employees. These funds were earmarked during pension reform hearings and earmarked, once again, in the third quarter summary.”

“These knee-jerk reactions of appropriating funding on an emergency basis need to stop,” Oliver added.

Despite serious qualms about the funding mechanism, Oliver notes that Curry, “with his continued commitment to youth safety and enrichment offerings, has been meeting with Council members and is scheduled to meet with the Boys & Girls Club [one organization that didn’t get all the funding it wanted] to identify a solution that is fiscally responsible and properly vetted in the budget process.” –

 

 

Backed by poll, Jacksonville Councilmembers push two-term limit

A controversial bill to allow a referendum to change Jacksonville’s long-standing two-term limit for many elected officials is slated to return to the Council floor Tuesday evening.

Ahead of that, U.S. Term Limits, along with Jacksonville City Councilmen John CrescimbeniGreg Anderson, and Tommy Hazouri, convened to sound the alarm against relaxing term limits and present a Rasmussen/Pulse Research poll that showed that people still favor term limits — contrary to what some on Council have suggested.

400 people polled via phone from Aug. 9 – 11 resoundingly opposed term limit tweaks, wanting to keep the limit for elected officials at two terms consecutive.

72 percent opposed the proposed change of terms from two to three consecutive; 71 percent believe that changes would benefit Council members, not the public; 52 percent were less likely to support a Council member that voted to rescind current term limits.

That last fact jibes with history: In 1991, six of ten incumbents who opposed term limits lost their re-election bids.

The Council members on hand — political veterans all — spoke to this reality, accepting awards for supporting term limits.

The poll numbers, said the U.S. Term Limits representative, were consistent with findings across the state and the country.

He also noted the similarity between these results and the 1991 referendum to impose term limits, supported by 82 percent of people.

The group will work on educating people if a referendum comes to pass.

Across the board, the contention is that people don’t feel connected to their elected officials writ large.

 

 

 

John Rutherford endorses HD 15 Republican Wyman Duggan

The Jacksonville establishment continues to coalesce behind Wyman Duggan as he seeks the GOP nomination in Florida House District 15.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford endorsed Duggan in his bid to replace Rep. Jay Fant, who is running for Attorney General.

“Wyman Duggan is a conservative who will serve our community well in Tallahassee. I trust that Wyman will prioritize Public Safety and stand up for our shared conservative values as our next state representative in district 15. I’m proud to endorse his campaign,” Rutherford said.

“It’s an honor to have Congressman Rutherford’s support in this campaign. He has long been a champion for our community and for public safety. In Congress he has been a true conservative leader by voting to repeal Obamacare and standing up for our military and veterans,” Duggan added.

Rutherford joins Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and State Rep. Jason Fischer in backing Duggan.

Corrine Brown denied request for new trial & acquittal, will be sentenced in November

On Wednesday, motions filed by former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown for a new trial and acquittal were denied, setting the stage for a November sentencing.

Brown’s motion for a new trial was predicated on a claim that a discharged juror was incorrectly removed.

Judge Timothy Corrigan rejected that premise: “Corrine Brown is entitled to a fair trial with an impartial jury that reaches a verdict in accordance with the law. That is what she received.”

“Dismissing a deliberating juror is not done cavalierly. Quite the opposite. I dismissed Juror No. 13 only after finding beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no substantial possibility he could base his decision on the Court’s instructions and the evidence adduced at trial,” Corrigan wrote in a 27 page response that focused much energy on explaining that dismissal of the juror was not “done cavalierly” and accorded with case law.

“I determined beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no substantial possibility that he could base his decision on the sufficiency of the evidence and the Court’s instructions,” Corrigan added.

Regarding the acquittal motion, Corrigan said that “Suffice it to say there was more than sufficient evidence to justify the jury’s verdict on each count of conviction.”

Brown’s contention was that she was careless with her finances, leaving herself open for exploitation by her former co-defendant and chief of staff.

Corrigan noted in his 8-page response that ” bank records, tax returns, and other documents related to Brown’s
finances, as well as testimony from Brown’s accountant, members of her staff, and persons associated with various non-profit organizations Brown claimed to have supported with charitable donations, all of which went toward proving the fraudulent conduct charged in the indictment.”

Moreover, Brown’s assertion that she was not part of a conspiracy to defraud fell as flat in the motion as it did in court, with bank records and testimony from co-conspirators and the Feds delineating her involvement at the center of the conspiracy.

Sentencing awaits Brown and her former co-conspirator, Ronnie Simmons.

Simmons will be sentenced Nov. 15, after pleading guilty to two counts; Brown, a day later on Nov. 16.

Diversity presents recurring challenge for Jacksonville boards, commissions

The slogan d’jour: One City, One Jacksonville. But the city’s boards and commissions are largely white and male. And it will take time and work to change that imbalance.

Of 332 people currently serving, 65 percent are male — a number not substantially different between City Council appointees (64 percent male) and appointees from other parties, such as the Mayor (66 percent).

70 percent of all appointees: Caucasian. The percentage of Council appointees is even higher: 80 percent, per the most recent Boards and Commissions diversity report.

This ratio holds true, more or less, no matter who is in office.

And some would contend that needs to change.

On Wednesday morning, Council President Anna Brosche convened a public notice meeting “to increase awareness of opportunities to serve in hopes of broadening the pool of candidates that apply.”

Members of boards and commissions attended, along with former Council President Lori Boyer, and representatives from the Mayor’s Office.

Brosche’s goal with the meeting: to broaden the exposure of openings and make the “pool of applicants for consideration larger than one.”

Boards and commissions have codified requirements, including residency and experience requirements, which can make filling these positions even more challenging.

Councilwoman Boyer noted some techniques she used to get recommendations, including reaching out to industry groups.

Feedback was sparse, and recommendations lacked diversity components as well as elemental competence in many cases, Boyer said.

“It’s both subject-matter expertise trade organizations that need to engage, and groups in the community [including] people of various ethnic backgrounds and trying to get women involved,” Boyer said.

Boyer noted the difficulty of filling certain diversity components required her to “cold-call them,” which she described as a “ridiculous” amount of time.

“A challenge is how to reach the right group,” Boyer said, especially relative to specialist positions like architects and arborists.

“When you get so constrained, it’s like you have to have a purple person living in these four blocks, it’s hard to find them,” Boyer said.

One meeting attendee noted that she promoted a board opening on her Facebook page to women, and they were surprised that such things were open to the public.

“There’s just a barrier to access,” she said.

There are dozens of open positions on boards and commissions, with elapsed terms presenting even more.

_______

Brosche’s position on boards and commissions is an augury of some strong moves toward social justice from Brosche and from council leadership.

Monday saw Brosche take control of the news cycle when she declared that Jacksonville needs to find an endgame for its increasingly divisive Confederate monuments.

Brosche intends to “propose legislation to move Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers from public property to museums and educational institutions where they can be respectfully preserved and historically contextualized.”

In the wake of that proposal, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reports “chatter” from white-pride/domestic terrorist types, and there is nothing approaching consensus in City Hall regarding the monument movement.

More broadly, the Jacksonville City Council likewise is prioritizing diversity in this month’s budget hearings, with departmental hiring practices being asked about by Finance Committee members.

 

 

 

 

 

Lenny Curry urges Duval Schools to retain Interim Supe through academic year

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry had a symbiotic relationship with former Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, including advocating for Vitti’s job security at one point when Vitti was under fire.

Vitti has moved on to Detroit. And now Curry is building relationships anew, as exemplified Wednesday morning when the Mayor met with current Interim Superintendent Pat Willis and School Board Chair Paula Wright.

Curry waded into Duval Schools’ politics earlier this summer, “concurring” with House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Rep. Jason Fischer that a state audit to account for $20M of spending over budget this fiscal year was necessary.

Though the state audit isn’t happening at this point, Curry invested political capital in calling for it.

We reached out to the Mayor’s Office Wednesday morning for a statement on the meeting, and Curry asserted that it went well.

Among other takeaways: Curry wants Superintendent Willis to stay in place throughout the year.

“I met today with the board chair and superintendent for Duval County Public Schools. We had a great discussion,” Curry related.

“As mayor and father to three Duval County students, I believe it’s important for me to understand their plans and priorities for improving the academic achievement levels of our city’s youth.  I expressed my optimism for the new year and encouraged the board to maintain the Interim superintendent throughout the school year to minimize distractions and disruptions to teaching and learning in schools.”

Curry’s statement jibes with feelings in the School Board building, where there is no rush to replace Willis.

JTA autonomous vehicle test track headed to Jax Sports Complex

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s autonomous vehicle program is progressing apace, and the next step: a test track.

Emails between city officials reveal that track may be in one of the highest-visibility areas in the city.

A Friday email from Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa laid it out.

Mousa wrote that “the JTA has approached the City about utilizing a section of asphalt pavement (driveway) in the Sports Complex as a test track for their autonomous vehicle program. The driveway is located south of and adjacent to Lot K, and controlled for the City by SMG. The City, SMG and the JTA have met and based on the attached memo, all seem to be in concurrence with this driveway use, pending further plan development, coordination, etc.”

Suggesting there may need to be a memorandum of understanding between the parties, Mousa noted that the “test program will require placement of some limited infrastructure on or along the pavement area and the removal of the elements upon completion of testing, etc. Other matters such as liability, indemnifications, etc., come to mind.”

While “potential other areas for vehicle testing” were floated for consideration, Mousa shot those down.

“The only area I am interested in allowing for testing is the subject driveway mentioned above,” Mousa wrote.

JTA has faced pressure to modernize the aged Skyway system, and after consideration of other options, the move is toward autonomous vehicles.

Rick Scott brings tax initiative roadshow to Jacksonville

Another day, another port of call — or two — for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

In Jacksonville Tuesday, Scott reprised a call he made in Orlando Monday: to put a constitutional amendment on next year’s ballot that would require any tax or fee hikes to be approved by a supermajority of the Florida Legislature.

While it’s still being worked out whether that would be a 2/3 or 3/4 supermajority, the proposal aligns with Scott’s previous tough talk on taxes, and jibes with the present and near-future political ambitions of local, regional, and state pols, many of whom were on hand to support him.

Among the luminaries: House Speaker Richard Corcoran; Mayor Lenny Curry; state Sen. Travis Hutson; and state Rep. Clay Yarborough.

Scott framed the proposal as a legacy-protecting measure, intended to “make sure all the things we’ve done in the last eight years” would be “difficult to change” by “politicians of the future … raising taxes.”

The measure could be made into a referendum via the Constitutional Revision Commission or the Florida Legislature, Scott said.

Corcoran, noting that Florida is the #1 state for “fiscal health” according to a recent survey, noted likewise that this move would “protect” that legacy, offering “great protection for taxpayers.”

Corcoran introduced Jacksonville’s mayor, crediting the “greatest mayor in America” with pension reform. Then Curry likewise endorsed the proposal, saying it was “consistent with the Rick Scott I know.”

If approved, Curry said the referendum would “ensure the power of the state cannot just impose taxes at will.”

Hutson added that this “should be a bipartisan issue,” as tax increases hurt the lower and middle classes the most.

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