A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 324

A.G. Gancarski

ShotSpotter allocation clears first Jacksonville City Council committee

Funds for a pilot “ShotSpotter” program were approved by the Jacksonville City Council’s Neighborhoods, Community Investments, and Services committee Tuesday.

The allocation will have to be approved by two other committees, Public Health and Safety and Finance, before being considered by the full council next week.

The $435,000 allocation was part of a larger package of $1.356 million of unused capital improvement funds that will be funneled into a variety of projects.

The mayor’s chief of staff, Kerri Stewart, advised stakeholders in an internal email to expect questions in committees related to the Jacksonville Journey. This seemed to be especially salient advice, given the criticisms by NCIS committee chair Scott Wilson of the formula for Jacksonville Journey allocations.

The program, which identifies the source of gunshots, will be rolled out in a 5 square mile area in Health Zone 1, the part of the city that has the most gun violence.

No questions emerged in committee, suggesting a smooth glide path for this through the committees.

‘Judicial accountability’ bills filed in House, Senate

Sen. Audrey Gibson and Rep. Kionne McGhee, two Florida Democrats, announced Monday they filed “judicial accountability” bills in both chambers.

Each proposal calls for sentencing data to be compiled annually, according to a news release.

(The bills, filed this morning, have not appeared public database; when they do, more detail will be forthcoming.)

Once compiled, data will be “presented to trial and sentencing judges, the Legislature, Governor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and posted for the public on Florida Legislature’s research arm, the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability website,” according to a news release.

Sen. Gibson said: “Faced with the reality that even using a point-scoring system and other factors added to our criminal justice system, to get control over sentencing disparities, the components still are not working.

“It is imperative that we find a better solution to a continuing grave situation, particularly for people of color,” she added.

Rep. McGhee said the bill “seeks to analyze and address judicial patterns in sentencing.”

“Bias on the bench perpetuates inequality in the courtroom,” McGhee noted.

Updated Tuesday: McGhee’s bill is now here. Gibson’s bill is here.

Jacksonville to roll out pilot program with UF Health provider network

A bill introduced to the Jacksonville City Council last week could increase the number of city employees getting health care from UF Health.

In the bargain, it could improve the Northeast Florida safety-net hospital’s paying customer mix.

Ordinance 2017-20 would authorize the city’s employee services department to offer the option to workers and retirees to enroll in the UF Health plan starting on March 31.

The contract would be administered by a third party, “Integra Administrative Services,” via a no-bid contract.

The bill summary refers to this deal as a “network option under the City’s self-insurance plan that consists primarily of UF Health providers.”

For UF Health, a rollout of a program like this could be a game changer.

The city spends $88 million on health claims a year, with only $6 million going to UF Health.

People in both the mayor’s office and on the council have expressed a sincere desire to get more of a paying customer mix at the city’s safety net hospital.

Jacksonville, unlike other Florida cities of its size, lacks an indigent care tax; this surfeit makes UF Health funding especially vulnerable to flux in state and federal funding.

Estimates from the employee services division are that 500 to 600 of the city’s staff and retirees will choose this option, which would move them away from Florida Blue.

The plan is said to be revenue neutral for the city, yet allows a meaningful cushion for funding formulas that may be shaky from Washington or Tallahassee in the coming years.

‘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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”

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