A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 322

A.G. Gancarski

‘First Coast inaugural celebration ball’ set for Friday in Jacksonville

Jacksonville Republicans are preparing to celebrate the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump this Friday evening.

The Republican Party of Duval County plans an event at the Adam Herbert Center at the University of North Florida, scheduled from 7 p.m. to Midnight.

Among the attractions: dinner and dancing with the Chris Thomas Band; a Presidential champagne toast; and an “inaugural-themed silent auction.”

Formal or semi-formal dress is recommended.

Tickets run $65 per single, $125 per couple.

The Facebook page for the event shows 13 people as attending so far, including State Rep. Cord Byrd, a Jacksonville Beach Republican.

More tax troubles for Jacksonville council woman’s family businesses

Yet another business associated with the family of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown has run afoul of the tax collector.

A warrant for collection of delinquent sales and use taxes was issued on January 9 to “Basic Products, LLC.”

The total hit this time: $4,889.

According to SunBiz, Councilwoman Brown and her mother are the registered titleholders of this business, located on Commonwealth Avenue, which was supposed to become a BBQ sauce plant and a hub of neighborhood job creation.

It is the second such Brown related business to draw a delinquent tax warrant already in 2017.

KJB Specialties” received an order for $5,219 of delinquent sales taxes earlier this month.

Brown’s businesses have been under scrutiny, with the city of Jacksonville sending a Certified Letter from OED to CoWealth, LLC, noting that the city received the “required annual surveys” for 2012 to 2015, in which the company was supposed to create jobs at the Northwest Jacksonville barbecue sauce plant location on Commonwealth Avenue.

However, said the city, they created no jobs.

“Therefore,” said the city, “the full balance of the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund grant, $210,549.99, must be repaid.”

OED wants payment in full within 60 days of the letter.

The alternative: setting up a payment schedule within 30 days.

Attempts to reach the councilwoman were unsuccessful Monday, given that it’s a city holiday.

Also, the cellphone number she gave FloridaPolitics.com was no longer in service.

ShotSpotter gets its shot in Jacksonville council panels

For the second straight cycle, the Jacksonville City Council is running its committees on a Tuesday — Thursday cycle — a consequence of Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The council mulls a series of bills ahead of next week’s meeting, starting bright and early Tuesday morning in the Neighborhoods, Community Investments, and Services Committee.

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ShotSpotter gets its shot: Ordinance 2016-795 will, among other things, “appropriate $435,001 already allocated in a ShotSpotter reserve account to an equipment purchase account for installation of the test site … acoustic gunshot detection and surveillance technology in a 5 square mile area of Health Zone 1.”

Why is this significant? Because that 5 square mile area of the area is the one most ravaged by gun violence and the associated social maladies that accompany it.

Mayor Lenny Curry‘s chief of staff, Kerri Stewart, emailed stakeholders with her expectations as to how the bill might proceed through its three committees of reference: the Neighborhoods, Community Investments, and Services Committee on Tues. Jan. 17; the Public Health and Safety Committee on the 18th; and Finance on the 19th.

Stewart’s advice: expect questions about the Jacksonville Journey anti-crime initiative, rebooted by Mayor Curry early in his term.

“We are not anticipating any/many specific questions related to ShotSpotter; but the committees are chaired by CM Scott Wilson (NCIS), CM Sam Newby (PHS), and CW Anna Brosche (Finance).  All three council members/chairs have specific interest in the Jacksonville Journey and so some questions may inevitably come up,” Stewart noted.

Wilson, the chair of NCIS, has raised questions about the Jacksonville Journey allocations, noting that the breakdown of funds by ZIP code obscures pockets of real need for the program in his Southside Jacksonville district.

ShotSpotter allocations will be the highlight of a light agenda in NCIS.

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Affordable housing parcels: Jacksonville, like many cities, faces a two-pronged problem: a surplus of vacant or abandoned homes, and a shortage of affordable housing.

A bill considered Tuesday in NCIS and Thursday in Finance seeks to resolve that — to a point — as 101 parcels of surplus property in Council Districts 7 — 10 and 14 are to be made available to developers for the purpose of producing affordable housing.

The total value of these properties: just over $783,000, ranging from a vacant lot valued at $140 (a great gift idea) to a single family home valued at just under $60,000.

Community housing development organizations get the first crack at these properties as long as the CHDOs don’t have liens; CHDOs are allowed to handle five at a time.

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Resolution to honor Richard Danford: The Rules Committee on Wednesday afternoon will consider a resolution to honor Danford, the head of the Jacksonville Urban League.

The timing is interesting; Danford, when speaking at Friday’s MLK Breakfast, did what some speakers wouldn’t due and addressed policy outcomes rather than the importance of volunteering.

Danford urged the city to focus on remedying disparities, via taking a hard look at disparity studies, and the “allocation and distribution of city funds,” including contracts and employment for minorities.

These efforts, said Danford, would “reduce poverty and crime in this community … stir business development and create more jobs in communities of color.”

Danford also alluded to Rules Chairman Garrett Dennis‘ “equal opportunity” bill, saying that the city’s independent authorities, such as JEA and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, “should reflect the diversity in the community.”

Dennis’ bill — which he stresses is not a “quota” or “affirmative action” proposal — requires the city to actually fund a position that has gone unfunded for several years now.

That position would offer oversight for city agencies to ensure that certain ethnic groups — a category which varies not just from agency to agency, but department to department — are represented in department demographics.

Dennis’ bill requires annual reporting to the Mayor and City Council on the progress and state of the Equal Opportunity/Equal Access Program; budgetary line-item for the position of Equal Opportunity/Equal Access Assistant Director; and an “annual review” of “adherence and commitment” to the ordinance.

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Foreign Direct Investment strategy discussed: On Thursday, the Finance Committee considers a memorandum of understanding between the city and JAXUSA (a partnership of the local Chamber of Commerce) to devise a foreign direct investment strategy and to manage an “export enhancement plan initiative.”

The export plan is part of a process that began in 2013, when Jacksonville was one of just eight cities in the Brookings Institution’s global cities initiative, and comes after years of study.

“The MOU calls for JAXUSA to establish a “one-stop shop” to provide interested businesses with information, research and assistance in developing export activities; to create a Global Cities Advocacy Team to lead the implementation effort; to conduct outreach activities to at least 25 potential export businesses,” reads the bill summary.

It is a $60,000 deal for one year, with provisions for renewal.

John Rutherford recovering ‘very well’ from allergy to antibiotic

Congressman John Rutherford, the first-term Jacksonville Republican who had a medical emergency in Washington Wednesday, is “on his way to a full and swift recovery,” his chief of staff said.

Expectations are that Rutherford will be out of the hospital next week.

Kelly Simpson, Congressman Rutherford’s Chief of Staff, said, “Congressman Rutherford’s recovery continues to go very well.  He remains at a local hospital for rest, treatment, and observation.

“Doctors treating Mr. Rutherford believe that the acute digestive flare up that generated the discomfort he experienced was caused by a serious allergic reaction to an antibiotic that he was taking for a cold,” Simpson added, noting this is not a long-term health concern for the congressman.

“The doctors continue to treat his inflammation and expect him to be released early next week as the inflammation continues to subside,” Simpson added.

These reports are a vast improvement from the real health scare just days before.

The 64-year-old, elected in November, had collapsed in the House of Representatives, according to reports.

The former Jacksonville sheriff was then “wheeled out of the House chamber on a stretcher to a nearby elevator and taken to the hospital. He appeared to be receiving oxygen through a mask,” The Hill reported.

House bill would mandate career development for police, fire departments

A bill filed Friday in the Florida House would mandate police, correctional, and fire departments to have career development paths for employees.

House Bill 247, filed by first-term Palatka Republican Bobby Payne, would require that agencies offer these career development plans, but would also have those plans be “voluntary” for public safety employees.

The bill would also mandate pay raises for employees who hit achievement goals, though those goals are the choice of local agencies via a collectively bargained process.

Postsecondary education, advanced training, and other professional development tasks would be examples of those achievement goals.

THC DUI blood test bill filed in Florida House

A bill filed Thursday in the Florida House proposes to impose DUI penalties for drivers or boaters with a certain amount of THC in their blood samples.

The timing of the measure from West Palm Beach Democrat David Silvers is interesting, coming as the state expands its medical marijuana program.

House Bill 237 — the “Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Act” — proposes a threshold of 5 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood to constitute DUI.

There has been scientific pushback against such blood testing for THC, a fat-soluble compound that is absorbed differently than alcohol, being a reliable measure of impairment.

The law, if passed, would go into effect in October.

It is the second interesting piece of drug-related legislation from a South Florida Democrat this session, following up on Rep. Kristin Jacobs‘ proposed kratom ban.

Marco Rubio backs James Mattis for Defense Secretary

While Sen. Marco Rubio has been a tough sell for some of Donald Trump‘s Cabinet nominees, he’s all-in behind James Mattis as Defense Secretary.

A Friday statement from Rubio’s office made a strong case for Mattis at the Pentagon, saying he would serve “honorably and effectively as our next secretary of defense” and “will bring an unparalleled level of real-world experience, a pragmatic and clear-eyed view of the world and America’s unique role in it, and a principled commitment to America’s values.”

Rubio, noting that we live in a “dangerous world,” sees Mattis as the right man to confront global geopolitical challenges.

“As General Mattis clearly and unequivocally articulated in his confirmation hearing this week, the United States is ‘under the biggest attack since World War II,’ and ‘that’s from Russia, from terrorist groups and with what China is doing in the South China Sea.'” Rubio said. “He understands these prime threats, and the many others he will encounter as defense secretary, including the need to rebuild our nation’s military after years of devastating defense cuts.”

Rick Scott: Barack Obama ‘turned his back’ on Cuba

The ongoing war of words between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and President Barack Obama is continuing until Obama’s last day.

Friday’s installment: a gubernatorial excoriation of Obama’s overtures to the Communist island nation, including this week’s cessation of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy.

Scott, predictably, sees this as yet another example of Obama’s failings.

“President Obama’s Cuba policy can be summed up this way: he has legitimized and coddled a bloodthirsty dictator and in the process, he has turned his back on those who have fought so hard for a free Cuba,” Scott said in a statement.

The governor notes that “people in Cuba are being persecuted and killed for their faith, for supporting democracy, for expressing their political views, and for simply desiring freedom.”

“With the President’s latest move,” Scott added, “it appears that he has consulted and negotiated with a foreign tyrant while completely ignoring the United States Congress. We have a number of great members of Congress in our Florida delegation of Cuban descent, but of course, the President did not involve them in his decision-making.”

Scott went on to say that Obama’s reforms came at the expense of human rights.

“Obama’s policies have not improved human rights in Cuba. In fact, things may be getting worse. We believe that the murderous regime made about 10,000 political arrests last year. Just this week, pro-democracy leader Dr. Oscar Biscet was arrested. Obama has betrayed America’s long-standing commitment to human rights and freedom in Cuba. We need a Cuba policy that respects the fundamental desire of the Cuban people to be free.”

Scott’s excoriation of the Obama era Cuba policy is well-timed, as the governor is rumored to be mulling a Senate run next year.

More details emerge on Jacksonville ‘central receiving center’ proposal for mental health

As we reported last week, the city of Jacksonville is working toward creating a “central receiving facility” for mental health issues.

The good news: the city has secured a $15 million grant from the state of Florida.

The bad news: the $7.5 million needed, as a local match has been slow in coming.

All told, the Mental Health Resource Center needs to find $2.385 million of local funding. Much of that will have to originate from the private sector; the city currently receives $810,000 from the city for outpatient services, so if the city were to provide the extra $2.385 million, that would result in a 300 percent increase in the MHRC budget year over year.

While that’s doable given the city’s strong budget year in 2016 — one which saw $11 million added to the city’s emergency reserve — stakeholders are proceeding as if private funds are the mechanism necessary to make this plan a reality.

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FloridaPolitics.com reviewed a copy of January’s “executive summary” of the grant request from the city’s Mental Health Resource Center, and it painted a picture of dire need mixed with tremendous opportunity — if the city can get it together to match the funds.

Jacksonville’s problems are almost uniquely severe.

Florida is 49th in the nation in per capita mental health funding. And Northeast Florida is bringing up the rear, again, in a woefully underfunded state.

The results: delays in treatment, especially for underserved populations, that can be perilous.

Waiting a few weeks when dealing with acute mental issues, for example, can make them worse.

Those released or diverted from the jail, likewise, can often go without treatment — leading to repeat offenses.

To remedy these issues, a central receiving center is necessary, the MHRC asserts.

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The funding would actually be used to create two centers: one at the MHRC North facility on W. 20th Street, and one at the South facility on Beach Blvd.

Services would include mental health and substance abuse screening and help, as well as assistance applying for government benefits, psychiatric evaluations, and medication management.

Staff would reach out to the mentally ill, including recently discharged inmates, to ensure they are getting the help they need.

The hope: that extra effort will prevent a need for psychiatric hospitalization, for those prone to episodic relapses.

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The proposal outlines a phased-in schedule of services, beginning in March at the North location during business hours, then expanding hours and locations as local match funding materializes.

The locational choice is a pragmatic one: all of the current city funding, and all but $700,000 of the state funding, is allocated toward the North location.

Thus, the North location only needs $116,000 to ramp up, while the one on the Southside needs $2.27 million.

The need for two locations is dictated by the sprawling nature of the consolidated city itself.

The “long game” of the civil rights struggle looms over Jacksonville MLK breakfast

Friday saw Jacksonville’s stakeholders convene at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday breakfast.

The second of these breakfasts for Mayor Lenny Curry, his prepared remarks were focused on service.

However, the city is working through a number of active civil rights issues.

Among them: expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance to include LGBT people, and a bill moving through the city council related to funding a position to ensure equal opportunity in city employment.

Thus, a tension existed — as it so often does in Jacksonville — between abstract ideals and historical hagiography, and the realities of life in a diverse city with competing interests and narratives.

That tension was reflected in the program, which attempted to stay deliberately big picture and free of contemporary politics.

While the mayor and some speakers kept remarks anodyne and positive, invoking Dr. King in a totemic, symbolic way, other speakers honed in on more specific, hot-button concerns that were reminiscent of the specific calls for social justice he made before his assassination in 1968

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The early parts of the program avoided, as is often the case, a direct address of current civil rights issues, staying on a service theme established by Curry’s letter in the program, quoting King saying “life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?”

The introduction from a local newscaster lauded Curry for bringing the “accountability that Jacksonville deserves” to the office, which was a curious syntactic choice from an anchorman.

Curry then took the mike.

“I’m so proud of my city this morning,” Curry said, of the “diverse” group of people assembled to honor a man who “did the right thing.”

Among other topics, the mayor discussed the city’s commitment to volunteerism, and pulling together, with a specific section about the recovery effort from Hurricane Matthew, “with hugs and love.”

“We are a resilient people, and we are a resilient city,” Curry said, before encouraging volunteerism with a “heart full of grace, and a soul generated by love.”

Curry then reprised a call from his inauguration: for the crowd to hold hands, chanting “One City, One Jacksonville.”

Curry then introduced Darnell Smith of the Jax Chamber.

Media wondered: would Smith discuss an issue he’s pushing right now, that being HRO expansion?

That wasn’t the case.

Smith, like Curry, said the event was “all about service. About loving one another, and giving our fellow brothers and sisters hope.”

Smith discussed King’s “many sacrifices,” reprising the mayor’s quote of King regarding “what are you doing for others.”

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Though the early part of the program didn’t touch on current issues, keynote speaker Bertice Berry did allude to the linkage between the civil rights struggle for African-Americans and for LGBT people.

Berry noted that she had talked to a gay man, who had told her he had supported civil rights for African-Americans, in the hope they would support rights for him.

Berry called that the “long game.”

The “long game” of civil rights was revisited by a couple of subsequent speakers.

Jacksonville Urban League President Richard Danford urged the city to focus on remedying disparities, via taking a hard look at disparity studies, and the “allocation and distribution of city funds,” including contracts and employment for minorities.

These efforts, said Danford, would “reduce poverty and crime in this community … stir business development and create more jobs in communities of color.”

Danford also alluded to Councilman Garrett Dennis‘ “equal opportunity” bill, saying that the city’s independent authorities, such as JEA and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, “should reflect the diversity in the community.

The benediction was also rooted in contemporary issues in the city, with Rabbi Richard Shapiro calling for the government to “uphold laws against discrimination,” including for “transgender Americans.”

“The civil rights struggle did not end in the sixties. When minority groups voice discontent,” Shapiro said, “they’re not demanding special treatment.”

Media expected to be able to ask Mayor Curry questions about some of the more progressive statements from the mike; however, we were told that time didn’t permit such an inquiry.

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