A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 438

A.G. Gancarski

American Bridge spotlighting Rick Scott’s offshore drilling flip flop

Liberal activist group American Bridge is launching a digital ad buy on Facebook and YouTube to spotlight what it describes as Gov. Rick Scott‘s inconsistent position on offshore drilling.

The buy, which will target coastal Florida communities, runs through the week.

“Rick Scott does whatever is best for his wealthy cronies and big corporations, and that’s why he’s spent his entire political career fighting to expand oil drilling off Florida’s coast. Rick Scott’s latest lie is nothing more than a shameless attempt to whitewash history to further his personal political ambition,” said American Bridge spokesperson Joshua Karp in a press release Wednesday.

As Florida Politics reported Wednesday afternoon, Scott claims to have been “clear forever” in his opposition to offshore oil drilling.

“I’ve been very clear. I’m not going to allow anything to happen along our coast to impact our environment. I’ve said that forever,” Scott said Wednesday in Jacksonville

However, American Bridge notes that Scott “absolutely opposed” an Obama-era moratorium against offshore oil exploration in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and that Scott did not present any real opposition to offshore drilling until very recently.

American Bridge offers a report detailing Scott’s evolving position; the video, meanwhile, quotes Scott saying that “offshore drilling is an option; I believe in it.”

Rick Scott brings tax cut pitch back to Jacksonville

At Tuesday’s State of the State Address, Gov. Rick Scott evangelized — as he has for the past seven years — from the hymnal of tax cuts.

“This is my last Session to cut taxes,” Scott said, adding that “unfortunately, at some point, there will be politicians sitting in this chamber who are not as fiscally responsible as we are today.”

Scott’s asks: a constitutional amendment requiring a legislative supermajority for a tax hike; $180 million in tax cuts, including 10-day cuts in back-to-school sales taxes, disaster prep tax cuts for three separate weeks, and driver’s license fees.

If this sounds familiar to Jacksonville readers, it is: he made the same pitch here in November, when rolling out a budget proposal with much more robust spending than he had in 2011, when he first floated a budget.

Scott noted that he’d cut taxes 80 times since being elected, and reaffirmed his commitment to a Constitutional amendment requiring a 2/3 majority.

“I think the Legislature should think long and hard before ever raising a tax,” Scott said Wednesday in Jacksonville, adding that taxes should be cut every year in Florida.

“We’re walking into this budget year with $3 billion of projected revenue over recurrent expenses,” Scott noted.

Rick Scott says he’s been ‘clear forever’ in opposition to offshore oil drilling

The narrative looked great for Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday.

The Donald Trump White House backed away from a proposal to permit offshore drilling off the coast of Florida, after a meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Zinke extolled the virtues of the Governor in the press release — lauding his “leadership,” calling him “straightforward.”

“I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coast is heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver. As a result of today’s discussion and Governor Scott’s leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”

Of course, questions were raised. Some Republicans had told POLITICO that the fix was in already on this. And Democrats noted that Scott backed offshore oil exploration as an “option” to becoming “energy independent” back when Barack Obama was President.

On Wednesday in Jacksonville, Scott disclaimed both the idea of a prearranged reversal from the Interior Department and dismissed allegations of a change in policy orientation on offshore drilling.

“I’ve been clear forever. I’m going to take care of this environment,” Scott said.

Scott noted that he “met and talked … multiple times” with Zinke over the last year, and “was very clear” that he didn’t want to see offshore drilling off our coast.

“When he came out with the proposal a week and a half ago,” Scott continued, “I asked to meet with him as soon as I could … we had the opportunity to meet and he took Florida off the table.”

“I’ve been very clear. I’m not going to allow anything to happen along our coast to impact our environment. I’ve said that forever,” Scott said.

“This proposal came out of the Trump administration. I opposed it. I let them know before they came out with it,” Scott reiterated.

Scott also rejected Sen. Bill Nelson‘s claim that the event was  “a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott, who has wanted to drill off Florida’s coast his entire career.”

Former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri launches run for City Council VP

A third candidate has entered the scrum for Jacksonville City Council VP: former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri.

Hazouri, a Democrat, joins two declared Republicans in the race, Councilmen Sam Newby and Danny Becton.

Newby has one pledged supporter already: a condition that happened without a pledge meeting, raising questions of a Sunshine Law violation from potential candidate Scott Wilson, a Republican who fell short of the VP spot a year ago.

In a letter to council members, Hazouri cites his “ability to listen, learn, and lead” and “the love each of us has for Jacksonville.”

“We will walk side by side, leaving no neighbor or neighborhood behind,” Hazouri wrote.

The race for VP is a free-for-all; other candidates may emerge.

The race for president: all but a done deal.

Current Council VP Aaron Bowman, who is a VP for the JAXUSA subsidiary of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, will be a slam dunk in a year when pretty much anyone on the ballot wants the Chamber’s endorsement.

Gwen Graham: ‘We are going to win this race’

FloridaPolitics.com sat down with Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham Wednesday.

Graham, the frontrunner for the nomination, exuded confidence as we talked in a Jacksonville bookstore/cafe.

“We are going to win this race,” Graham said.

Graham, despite this reporter’s best efforts, wouldn’t veer too far off message. We asked her to address the rumor that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will end up as the Lt. Gov. candidate.

“It’s too early,” Graham said of her “dear friend.”

Graham added that she is “looking for someone who can help [her] govern” in the LG slot.

We also asked Graham to address Republican candidate Ron DeSantis.

If he’s the nominee, Graham “can’t wait to debate him.”

DeSantis’ endorsement by Pres. Trump “nationalizes the race” for Governor, Graham said.

But such nationalization would have happened anyway.

“Florida’s such an important state. The Governor’s race,” Graham added, “is the most significant race in the country,” one with “national implications.”

The Governor would be in a position to veto a map that doesn’t abide by the principles of “fair redistricting,” and Graham is conscious of Florida’s “movement toward being a blue state” with an “energy and engagement” that she hasn’t seen before.

“Post-Trump,” Graham said, “people are connecting the dots” — which could be pivotal during the 2018 midterms.

Discussion covered some of the key issues facing Florida.

One such issue: medical cannabis, an issue that Andrew Gillum addressed last week when the “dangerous and deluded” Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved to rescind the Cole Memo, a guideline that protected state-level decisions on cannabis from federal prosecution.

Graham didn’t go as far as Gillum, who flat out said that the Sessions move was intended to stuff the jails.

“I line up with the people of Florida,” Graham said. “It’s a real shame that in instance after instance the voice of the people hasn’t been listened to.”

Beyond cannabis — which Graham believes could be a counter to the opioid overdose crisis filling morgues and taxing city budgets in Florida and beyond — Graham points to Florida Forever and the Florida Lottery as examples of the popular will being subverted by “20 years of one-party rule.”

Florida Forever money was “diverted to general revenue,” Graham said, and lottery money was supposed to boost the education budget, but that has declined in real dollars.

“The housing crisis … the opioid addiction crisis … so many people barely making it,” Graham said. “We must do better. We will do better.”

Graham extols the virtues of workforce training — a talking point, ironically enough, of Republican frontrunner Adam Putnam.

When informed of the thematic overlap, Graham mused: “Did he steal it from me?”

The aforementioned one-party dominance, Graham said, has also corrupted Tallahassee culture — where sex scandals of all types are dominating the headlines.

The culture has “gotten off-track [from] what elected officials are elected to do,” Graham said, which is not “party time or socializing on Adams St.”

As well, the culture needs an infusion of women, to redress an institutional “imbalance of power.”

That imbalance of power, Graham said, was a reason it took Gov. Rick Scott seven years to articulate a sexual harassment policy.

Graham looks to be well-positioned for the nomination. From there, it’s a race that she feels confident about winning.

She is quick to draw contrasts between herself and candidates in the other party.

“I’d be happy to live my life on the record,” Graham said.

Until November, she — and the other candidates — essentially will inhabit the space of the media crucible, one where everything ends up on the record sooner or later.

Wyman Duggan scores Rob Bradley backing; HD 15 money race stays tight

Republican Wyman Duggan, a Jacksonville lawyer seeking to replace departing Jay Fant in House District 15, hit six figures in fundraising last month, reporting $10,124 of new December money, which pushed him up to $103,674 raised (and over $92,000 on hand).

Duggan’s likely Democrat opponent, highly touted Tracye Polson, is still running competitively in the cash chase.

Polson closed December with $69,642 cash on hand: she has raised $89,345 in hard money and an additional $15,665 in the account of her political committee, Better Jacksonville.

If previous presidential votes are predictive, this looks to be a competitive general election. Per Daily Kos, HD 15 “was R+8.7 for president after being R+12.6 in ‘12.”

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Meanwhile, as the money race stayed competitive, Duggan had a unique value add: a key endorsement from another Clay County Republican in Tallahassee: Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley.

Bradley described Duggan as “a respected community leader who will serve with honor, integrity, and commitment to our shared conservative values.”

Duggan, meanwhile, is “honored to have the support of Sen. Bradley who has served as a conservative leader in the Florida Senate. I look forward to working with Sen. Bradley throughout my campaign and in the Florida legislature fighting for a more prosperous and brighter future for Florida.”

Duggan has scored a swath of endorsements from Republican electeds, setting up the “Your leaders trust Duggan … shouldn’t you?” mailpieces.

Jacksonville City Councilmen Danny BectonMatt SchellenbergGreg AndersonAaron BowmanScott WilsonDoyle CarterJim Love and Sam Newby are on board. So are former Councilmen Jim Overton and Kevin Hyde. And Rep. John Rutherford, State Sen. Aaron Bean, State Rep. Jason Fischer, Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, Duval Tax Collector Michael Corrigan also back Duggan.

However, Bradley is unique as a regional power broker, and his endorsement is critical.

Especially in recent months since becoming Appropriations Chair, the Fleming Island Republican has shown robust committee fundraising for his Working for Florida’s Families.

In December, Bradley’s Working for Florida’s Families brought in $173,000, pushing it to $720,000 on hand.

Among the donors: U.S. Sugar, Walmart, Florida Blue, Associated Industries of Florida.

Sunshine Law concerns creep into Jax Council VP race

The race for Jacksonville City Council Vice President is on, and even before the first noticed pledge meetings on Wednesday, one candidate already has a pledge of support.

Even as Republican Councilman Sam Newby sent in his pledge letter, word was he already had received the pledge of fellow Republican Al Ferraro.

Ferraro confirmed his support of Newby in a conversation with this outlet Tuesday evening before the Council meeting.

While there certainly is an advantage to getting pledges early in what looks to be a crowded race, pledges are supposed to be rendered in noticed meetings. The idea is to create a transparent process, one of which the public is aware.

Ethics Director Carla Miller has sent out emails asserting best practices on this matter in recent years, though there is some thought that they are toothless — non-binding guidance, nothing more.

After this article ran,

Councilman Scott Wilson — who is mulling a run for VP for the second straight year — noted the lack of transparency in a conversation with this reporter.

I guess I missed the noticed meeting,” Wilson asserted Tuesday evening. “I don’t think they understand the sunshine law. Why would you break the law and tell the media?”

Wilson’s run in 2017 was characterized by a process that seemed to happen outside of the public eye. Going into the vote, roughly half the Council was unpledged; those votes went to Wilson’s opponent, Aaron Bowman.

Bowman’s day job is at VP of JAXUSA, the business recruitment arm of the politically active Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

“If I had known how they felt,” Wilson said of the 14 who voted for Bowman in 2017, “I would have withdrawn.”

Indeed, the pledge process is intended to offer clarity. But 2017 saw issues with that questioned even contemporaneously, specifically in the race for Council President.

Some perceived irregularities: among them, a group of council members voting in a “pack,” which ultimately swung the election toward current Council President Anna Brosche; and a breakfast meeting between Brosche, two other supporters, and some others that also raised the hackles of some council members on the other side.

Then Council President Lori Boyer — the only attorney on the 19 person council — noted that the “optics” suffered from activity outside of noticed meetings.

“You’re not allowed to talk about something like ‘the race’,” Boyer asserted.

Jacksonville City Council members were briefed on the Sunshine Law; notably, via a 27-page PowerPoint from Ethics Director Miller in 2015.

The document boils down to urging Councilors to err on the side of transparency: a “reminder to be alert and to
continually be on your toes as to the Sunshine laws.”

“Beware…..You could have blind spots that will get you in trouble down the line,” the PowerPoint adds.

“How you come to a decision, the thinking process,” the PowerPoint continues, “should be done at the noticed meeting so the public can see how you got to your decision. If it is all decided somehow ahead of time, if you know how it is going to turn out…. how did that happen?”

The document contends that “city business” falls under the Sunshine Law rubric, a designation that would seem to include a Council leadership race: “Where is the real meeting? What is being shown to the public? Or is there a “subterranean meeting” going on where the real decisions are being made outside of the noticed meeting and out of public view? This is not government in the Sunshine.”

Miller attempted to hammer home the potential consequences of Sunshine Law issues in ALL CAPS: “THEN, WE SEE PRESS, LAWSUITS, POTENTIAL SUSPENSIONS OF YOUR OFFICE AND LEGAL FEES. But worse, LOSS OF TRUST OF OUR CITIZENS.”

In 2015, Council members dealt with what we called “Text-ghazi,” regarding texting with a union head to achieve a specific outcome on budget night. This led to discussion of how to best archive texts, to avoid potential issues like that in the future, and other such accountability measures.

Since then, the Sunshine Law has become less of a present concern, if Council Leadership races are any indication.

Miller’s emails note that pledges must be conferred at a notice meeting or on the day of the vote. Simply signing a pledge letter does not comply with Sunshine Law requirements.

Tameka Gaines Holly launches run in Jacksonville City Council District 8

Embattled and often controversial Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown will draw a new challenger on Wednesday: Tameka Gaines Holly.

Holly is a community activist who went to school in District 8 (Ribault), has worked and lived there all her life, and will — with the backing of community stakeholders — be able to make a credible challenge to the embattled incumbent.

But Holly doesn’t see it as a race against Brown, who has not filed yet. And, says Holly, Brown filing or not will not weigh on her decision to run.

Holly, the wife of a retired police officer, didn’t want to talk about Brown’s drama — not the botched BBQ Sauce plant, and not about Brown’s decision last year to accuse the police of racially profiling a colleague at a late night traffic stop.

“I don’t know. I don’t talk to the community about it,” Holly said. “I’m too busy working.”

In other words, those who expect a reprise of the heated campaign between Brown and Pat Lockett-Felder, who shamed Brown at a forum with a call to pay delinquent business property taxes, are boung to be disappointed.

Holly sees a Councilwoman’s role as helping people in her district know what services are available, and advocating for them.

This is her extension of work for Transforming Communities, a community development corporation that has helped 500 families through such gambits as Irma relief, rental assistance, and a Christmas giveaway.

Conversation moved to the often fractious relationships between African-American males in District 8 and law enforcement, as illustrated by the recent “Walking While Black” collaboration between the Florida Times-Union and Pro Publica.

“Communication and collaboration is key,” Holly said, advocating for “community policing” and “understanding that the safety of communities is everyone’s responsibility.”

Stops for jaywalking often are used as so-called “pretextual stops” of the stop and frisk variety; Holly said that there needs to be a “conversation,” including “hearing what JSO has to say.”

When asked about cannabis decriminalization — a policy instituted in many cash-strapped cities but never even considered in Jacksonville — Holly said that there is a “need to understand what the community feels” via a “conversation.”

“I haven’t had those conversations,” Holly said.

Holly describes herself as “ready, capable, and confident,” and she will present an interesting challenge to Brown.

Another well-known candidate — Diallo Sekou — is also in the field. If the field has three or more strong candidates, there is a good bet that the race will not be decided in the March 2019 blanket primary, and that a general election vote in May will be necessary.

Take the bodies off the floor: Morgue money clears Jacksonville City Council

Tuesday evening saw the Jacksonville City Council approve $206,000 for temporary storage and office facilities at the overburdened medical examiner’s office.

The opioid overdose crisis, coupled with population growth, has created overcrowding, compelling bodies to be laid on the floor before processing, as well as delays in processing.

The bill is intended as a stopgap. Temporary facilities, to be installed in the next 90 days, will encompass the portable refrigerating unit for 40 additional bodies, and a mobile unit will accommodate six additional staffers to handle the case load.

A new facility is slated for a future capital improvement plan, though cost and timeframe has yet to be determined.

The “programming phase” — an antecedent to moving the facility up in the capital improvement plan — would take six or seven months, which would allow the administration to mull hard costs of the facility.

A facility built in Orlando in 2009 cost $16 million — a cost that would be a sizable chunk of a given year’s capital improvement budget.

The 2017 budget — the most ambitious since the recession of 2008 tanked housing valuations — saw a capital improvement budget of $131 million.

But that budget was passed in the euphoria after pension reform halted enrollments to the city’s defined benefit plan, re-amortizing pension debt to be paid off with a future sales tax; the defined contribution plans for new hires were bargained in exchange for pay raises for city employees.

As raises kick in over a three year period, the expectation is for dwindling budget relief.

Nonetheless, the concurrent position of Council members is that the current facility has become obsolete and that a capital investment is necessary.

The question is when that investment can be made. It will, asserted a Mayor’s Office representative, be pushed up to at least the fourth year of the five-year plan.

Design and property acquisition are prerequisites to the build; the Medical Examiner seeks to build near the courthouse downtown.

The Mayor’s Office would apply a scoring matrix to this over the next few months, with recommendations to be firmed up ahead of the introduction of the budget this summer.

Jacksonville City Council seeks to put brakes on District deal

The District development on Jacksonville’s Southbank could cost taxpayers up to $26 million in infrastructure work.

The deal has taken longer to unfold than expected, and when the deal was originally approved, the expectation was that the city would spend less, that JEA would get paid back $27 million for demolition and cleanup, and the project would be done by now.

Council members — specifically, Republican Matt Schellenberg, the JEA liaison — balked, per the news side of the Florida Times-Union.

“If it was proposed and indicated that the city would have put up $26 million on infrastructure, I’m pretty sure we would have had additional bidders three and a half years ago,” Schellenberg said in December. “I don’t believe this group (Elements) had the financial wherewithal to get this done in the first place.”

“I will encourage my colleagues that this isn’t in the best interest of the shareholders of Jacksonville,” he added.

The Downtown Investment Authority is slated to vote on a term sheet for the District deal Wednesday — one step toward it becoming reality.

During the agenda meeting for the Jacksonville City Council, numerous Council members raised questions about the logistics of the deal.

Schellenberg urged a special meeting of Council regarding the District proposal.

Notable: Schellenberg and TU editorial page editor Mike Clark had a spirited debate at a Friday media panel at the River Club.

Clark backs proposal and indicated as much in a glowing editorial endorsement that said that the District developers “seek to avoid Jacksonville’s previous sins.” Schellenberg has been consistent in his skepticism, urging an open discussion of these issues, and Clark’s endorsement did not move him on Friday or this week.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri — a former Democratic Mayor of the city — was likewise less than sold, saying the T-U editorial had more details than Council has gotten.

“The paper seemed to know a lot more about it than anyone else here,” Hazouri remarked. “We need to hear firsthand  [from the developers] before it gets running faster than a speeding bullet.”

The mood of the Council seems to be toward either a workshop or a special committee, though the current special committees have not had a ton of forward momentum.

The District deal is backed by some key backers of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. But Council, which often backs his plays, wants answers and guarantees.

This threshold was much more intelligible to the T-U’s news operation than the editorial page, and the gap between editorial and reporting also bears watching throughout the development of the deal.

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