A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 364

A.G. Gancarski

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.”

How Jacksonville beat China in the garbage can business

The real impact of Chinese imports on American factories has been discussed to death. But if you look closely, you can find a counter-narrative emerging.

One example of that was demonstrated in Northwest Jacksonville Thursday afternoon, where Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and other local dignitaries came together for the grand opening of a 121,000 square foot stainless steel Hans-Mill garbage can factory.

A vital business in an area of town that needs them; an initiative made possible by Wal-Mart, which has committed to buy $250M of American products over the next ten years.

Garbage cans from Jacksonville — and not China — will be part of that narrative. And at least 50 new jobs will be created. All of that with local incentives. And five of those jobs are to be for Northwest Jacksonville residents.

James Han, the CEO of the manufacturer Hans-Mill, said that Jacksonville was “the right location … the total package” for the manufacturing of these cans.

His company makes 750 items worldwide, and hopes to bring more production stateside, to decrease the company’s “carbon footprint” and take advantage of local sourcing.

This plays into Wal-Mart’s strategy, which prioritizes local sourcing — and has a time element, said Cindi Marsiglio, VP of U.S. Manufacturing.

“Go fast, go big,” was her summation of Wal-Mart’s rapid-fire ramp-up of domestic production.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, meanwhile, said “Jacksonville continues to roll” and “we’re going to continue to roll.”

“This today is big,” Curry said. “We’ve had a number of local expansions … companies move into Jacksonville for the first time.”

“This has been in process for a period of time. This is a big deal,” Curry said.

Despite uncertainty regarding the future of economic incentives on the state level, JAXUSA — an arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce — has brought in 2,000 jobs this year to date.

While Curry noted the importance of state dollars, he said the city is going to fight for jobs regardless.

“Clearly, they’re important. But 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.

“We can figure out how to get there,” Curry added, “often.”

Of course, it’s not just incentives that make the sale, said Tim Cost, President of the JAXUSA partnership.

Collaboration between political leaders and the “incredibly cooperative” business community help with making the sale to businesses relocating, Cost added.

Reggie Gaffney tells why he didn’t testify in the Corrine Brown trial

Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney was an eagerly-awaited prosecution witness in the trial of Corrine Brown.

Despite being on the witness list, Gaffney — a longtime friend and confidant of Brown — was not called to testify in the trial.

And FloridaPolitics.com has Gaffney’s exclusive take on why that is.

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 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 said.

Gaffney, who said that Brown and “everybody called [him] with needs” ranging from bills to kids’ clothes, 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?

If so, expect that Gaffney’s testimony — along with that of jurors who claim the trial was rigged — will fuel the fire of those who claim that the trial was rigged against Corrine Brown.

Lenny Curry shrugs off Moody’s mixed review of pension reform

On Thursday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry took reporters’ questions, and primary among them was one about Moody’s offering mixed reviews of his pension reform package.

Curry’s pension reform, covered exhaustively here, included moving new hires to defined contribution plans, imposing a sales tax extension to deal with legacy defined-benefit costs, and boosting the city’s contribution to 25 percent of payroll on these DC plans.

Moody’s had caveats.

“Jacksonville’s reliance on future revenues, rather than current contributions, to address its pension underfunding will continue to negatively impact our key credit metrics related to its pensions … because we do not consider future revenues as pension assets – while city contributions are going to be reduced … Jacksonville will also provide costly new benefits and salary increases under the plan, which it can only afford because it will defer a significant portion of its legacy pension costs to the 2030s,” reads the report.

On Thursday, Curry addressed the Moody’s report for the first time.

“It also says we got out of the pension business. This has been an almost two-year process — pension reform,” Curry said.

“It’s done now. We’ve solved the problem. There’s no new information here. We meet with the ratings agencies regularly. I’ve met with them a number of times since I’ve been in office,” Curry added.

“It was a very public campaign with taxpayers — 65 percent of them said yes. City Council ratified it numerous times. We’ve solved the problem. All the information’s been laid out for two years. And we’re trucking on,” Curry said.

Curry added that his team has a “great relationship” with the ratings agencies, which understand how the city is managing its budgets.

“It’s over. And we’ll continue to work with them on what’s best for Jacksonville, and managing our credit ratings,” Curry said.

Expect more reports from the ratings agencies in the near future, Curry said.

More downtown drinking to come to Jacksonville?

Jacksonville is flush with first-rate local breweries, and at least one world-class local distillery. And if a new bill passes the Jacksonville City Council, the local liquor scene downtown will flourish even further.

Ordinance 2017-399, filed by Council President Lori Boyer at the request of the Downtown Investment Authority, would permit distilleries and breweries throughout the entire downtown overlay zoning district.

This would cover, per the bill language, an “establishment or facility in which beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverages are produced for on-site consumption where production does not exceed 10,000 barrels (310,000 gallons) per year and off-site sales to a state licensed wholesaler do not exceed 75% of production.”

Off-site consumption would be permitted, as would restricted outside sales and service.

Those following the latest rounds of gentrification in Jacksonville likely have noticed the parallels between craft breweries and distilleries and an infusion of populations that revitalize neighborhoods.

This legislation would permit that kickstart throughout the downtown overlay area, which would play in to a larger strategy of turning the area near the stadium into an entertainment district.

 

Adam Putnam pitches ‘Florida exceptionalism’ in Jax Beach

Republican Gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam continued barnstorming the state Wednesday evening, with a stop in Jacksonville Beach.

Putnam — the first serious declared candidate on the GOP side — expected and got a warm reception from locals in Duval County, with 158 politicians and GOP insiders out in force.

The sepia-tinged speech, revolving around themes of “Florida exceptionalism” rooted in an era that is arguably either bygone or never actually happened, is more or less unchanged stop to stop. However, Putnam will need a strong showing in Northeast Florida, and with that in mind, this report focuses on that specific play.

Putnam was introduced by a political legend in these parts: former Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who vowed to “spend the next year” working for the Agriculture Commissioner.

Crenshaw, the last major candidate to run for Governor from these parts, spoke in general terms before passing the mike to Putnam … who himself spoke in general terms, about his appeal to “all of Florida … every corner of Florida.”

Putnam mixed it up, just a bit, saying Florida “needs a CEO who knows the difference between Callahan and Clewiston,” before going broad again, saying the race was “not North Florida versus South Florida … interior versus coasts.”

Rather, it’s about all of Florida — the “launch pad for the American dream,” and the “wonderment” people feel when they experience the Sunshine State for the first time. That trope was interestingly negated just minutes later, when Putnam spoke of the need to “rebuild the middle class, rebuild Main Street,” as if mere “wonderment” alone won’t get the job done.

Putnam spoke in broad terms about his philosophy of education, which includes “eliminating stupid laws and stupid rules” and not letting any “bureaucrat” stand between parents and students.

As well, the candidate took a position in favor of “hard work,” which we’ve “stigmatized … somewhere along the way.”

Putnam did namecheck, in broad terms, the importance of Mayport and JAXPORT. But those were footnotes in a road tested speech — the stump equivalent of nostalgia mayonnaise on a saltine cracker. It was filling — the crowd, including many elected politicians, liked the speech.

But in terms of nutrition, of specifics … there wasn’t a lot of there there.

The interview time, after the remarks and the handshakes wrapped, didn’t offer much more either.

We asked Putnam about his advice to Governor Rick Scott to be aggressive with the veto pen, which many took as an aggressiveness targeted toward Florida House members who voted against economic incentives.

Of members of the Duval Delegation in the House, only one voted for incentives — and he wasn’t carrying any appropriations bills.

Putnam didn’t mean it that way, he said.

“What I said was that if I was the governor, I would use the line item veto aggressively, and that would be a better approach than vetoing the entire budget, which would require the entire Legislature to come back into session,” Putnam said.

Rejecting the characterization of that advice as punitive, Putnam said he was simply advising Scott to “exercise his executive authority.”

We then asked about some potential opponents: House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis from the right, State Sen. Jack Latvala from somewhere closer to the center.

As the only person in the race, Putnam is the default front runner; however, what happens when opponents and political committees start gunning for him?

Putnam was not concerned.

“I’ve been a conservative my whole life. That’s not changing. And I’ve been an optimist my whole life. You have to be when you’re a farmer, so if they want to pack a lunch, sharpen their knives, come on, let’s go.”

When asked specifics about Northeast Florida, and what he would bring to the region, Putnam took a high-level view.

“Northeast Florida,” said Putnam, “is a critically important part of the state’s economy. And the state’s political base. Northeast Florida has a unified business community, and they send hardworking men and women to Tallahassee and Washington.”

“So whether it’s the jobs that Northeast Florida continues to attract, the importance of the port, the importance of the river, Northeast Florida is and will always be an important part of the state’s political conversation, and most importantly, the state’s economy,” Putnam added.

John Rutherford. Al Lawson diverge on Donald Trump’s woes

In the week since President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, politicians have been grappling with an investigation that routinely is being compared to Watergate.

President Trump is even seeing GOP support for him wane, with House and Senate Republicans calling for a special prosecutor.

Despite the rocky road ahead for Trump, Jacksonville Republican Rep. John Rutherford stands by the President in his decision to dump Comey and replace him with someone.

“The FBI is our premier law enforcement agency, and it is the President’s prerogative to have a director who can faithfully execute the FBI’s critical missions. It was necessary for the president to take this step, new leadership will restore confidence in the FBI and their hardworking agents who continue to investigate the possibility of Russian efforts to interfere in our elections. These are important allegations and I believe we need to gather the facts,” Rutherford said in a statement.

Rutherford’s position is diametrically opposed to that of Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat representing North Florida (including Jacksonville).

Lawson spox Mara Sloan noted that Lawson has called for a special prosecutor on both May 9 and May 16.

“Reports of President Trump sharing highly sensitive information with Russian officials is extremely concerning. This underscores the need for a Special Prosecutor to investigate this administration’s ties to Russia,” Lawson posted to Facebook on May 16.

Lawson, thus far, has not called for Impeachment — and we asked him about it on Wednesday.

Al Lawson addresses SNAP, food deserts, North Florida farm goods with U.S. Ag Secretary

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson takes pride in his place on the Agriculture Committee, and has noted in in-district town halls the importance of that placement for North Florida issues.

On Wednesday, Lawson followed up a hearing with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue with a letter denoting the concerns he’s observed in his North Florida district.

One issue of importance: SNAP benefits, which one in four of his constituents have used in the last year.

With cuts proposed by the Donald Trump White House, Lawson posed the following questions to Perdue:

“Could you describe the impact that cuts to SNAP in the Farm Bill would have on beneficiaries? Also, please elaborate on how you plan to respond to food banks such as the Second Harvest of the Big Bend and Feeding Northeast Florida, which rely on the Emergency Food Assistance Program, when they have an increased demand if SNAP benefits are cut?”

On the chopping block potentially: the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which augments the problem of food deserts.

Lawson raised concerns: “In North Florida, access to food is a real concern. Food deserts often leave vulnerable families shopping in convenience stores or resorting to fast food options. For instance, Winn Dixie is set to close stores in Jacksonville and Tallahassee, in neighborhoods that already struggle with easily accessing healthy foods.”

There apparently is “little money” for this program; Lawson wants to know how the issue of food deserts will be resolved by the Trump Administration.

Lawson also raised concerns about dumping of farm products from Mexico in the region, and wanted specifics on how peanut farmers will be protected by the Trump Administration.

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