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Duval County School Board mulls post-Nikolai Vitti era

Before Wednesday’s meeting of the Duval County School Board, Chair Paula Wright cautioned that “no news” would come out of the conclave.

However, with the real possibility that Superintendent Nikolai Vitti may leave Jacksonville for Detroit, a city “in his DNA,” the board needed to have a sunshine discussion to discuss next steps.

Notable: Vitti was absent, “on leave” as Wright said.

Wright said that the meeting was called to discuss changes “if needed,” because “the power is in us” to make changes.

“We have to make sure we don’t get sidetracked by things that are written,” Wright said. “We’re going to move forward if needed.”

Wright noted that Detroit decides on Vitti by April 5.

Wright then turned her attention to a Florida Times-Union article that outlined the purpose of the meeting.

“This is not what Paula Wright said … I have said ‘if needed’ … everything is contingent upon if Dr. Vitti [moves on to] Detroit,” Wright said.

“If needed” became a call and response theme in Wright’s opening remarks.

“There’s no hidden agenda,” Wright said, noting the meeting is to discuss a schedule if Vitti actually moves on.

“It could get a little hectic if Dr. Vitti’s leaving … it’s about a process that we must endure  … our strength is going to be in our unity as one,” Wright said.

Scott Shine, a Vitti ally, said that there is a “strong leadership team” in place that can handle things in the interim.

Shine also suggested that Vitti is the strongest of the three Detroit candidates.

“I don’t think it’s surprising that he’ll get an offer,” Shine speculated.

Cheryl Grimes, another Vitti ally, was “bothered by the fact Vitti wasn’t invited to this meeting.”

Wright, who set up the invite, said that she thought he would be interviewing in Detroit this week.

“He is on leave and he’s trying to achieve … possibly a different opportunity,” Wright said.

Becki Couch said that Vitti was “with his family,” perhaps on “vacation.”

Board members expressed excitement for Vitti, who if he departed, would close a chapter in which he was embraced by the local business community and power structure throughout his tenure — even at times when the board wavered in support.

Ashley Smith-Juarez, the chair when Vitti’s job security was in question last year, phoned in to echo the board consensus of mandatory unity.

“We’ll continue to focus on student achievement,” Smith-Juarez noted.

“We don’t need to get ahead of ourselves,” Shine said. “We need to be patient and analytical.”

Grimes wanted to offer “accolades” for Vitti, if he departed; Wright said that she wasn’t sure by what Grimes meant by that.

The next board meeting on this subject will be predicated on Detroit’s decision.

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After the meeting, Chairwoman Wright was asked about Vitti’s future if Detroit passes on him.

“We haven’t even thought about anything like that,” Wright said, noting that the focus of the board is on student achievement.

“We’re just going to take one step at a time,” Wright added. “Up until this, there was no reason to think of having another superintendent.”

When asked if the board was happy with Vitti’s performance, Wright said she wouldn’t “get into performance information because in June we’re to give our formal evaluation and that’s the time to talk about that.

Vitti’s Motown motions, Wright said, would not factor into that evaluation, as his looking for another job is not part of the “metrics.”

When asked about Vitti’s contract, which runs until 2019, Wright said there’s “no need” to get into contracts right now.

Board member Shine added that “there’s not a lot of urgency right now” regarding a post-Vitti plan.

“We’ve talked a good bit about this decision, the superintendent and I,” Shine continued, “and he’s not going to make a rash decision.”

“The last time the school district looked for a superintendent,” Shine added, “it was a nine to 12 month process. We’re fortunate to have a solid leadership team in place that can continue to run the district in the direction we’ve been going.”

“I’m confident that even if we need a year,” Shine said, “we have the time to do that.”

Jacksonville housing discrimination settlement legislation stalls in council

Thus far, there’s been slow progress on Jacksonville City Council bills (2017-68 and 2017-69) that may close the book on an issue that first emerged during the Alvin Brown administration.

To recap: in 2014, Ability Housing set out to renovate an apartment building in Springfield to create 12 units of housing for the chronically homeless and disabled.

The planning director balked, likening the proposed use to that of an assisted living facility. Soon thereafter, the Department of Justice, Disability Florida, and Ability Housing sued.

The proposed settlement ensures that the city not discriminate via zoning against those with disabilities, including via so-called zoning “overlays” such as Springfield and other neighborhoods have, and allows Ability Housing to become eligible for Jacksonville Journey funding again.

Ability Housing and Disability Rights Florida would receive $400,000 and $25,000 respectively per the settlement. Jacksonville also would be required to grant $1.5 million for the development of permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities, after a competitive grant process including Ability Housing.

While the bills cleared one committee, Neighborhoods, Community Investments, and Services, Land Use and Zoning and Finance subsequently deferred.

Further discussion of the settlement and the Springfield Overlay, the original justification for denying permission to Ability Housing in the first place, will happen in future committee meetings.

Finance and Land Use and Zoning will both have to approve these settlement bills before they are ready for the full council.

John Rutherford Homeland Security spending reform bill clears House 408-0

In the end, everybody in the U.S. House of Representatives agreed that Rep. John Rutherford‘s first bill needed to become law.

As the 408-0 vote in the House Tuesday reflected.

H.R. 1294, the Reducing Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acquisition Cost Growth Act, seeks to stop wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars by agencies like the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

On Tuesday, Rutherford’s first bill took a major step toward becoming law.

Congressman Rutherford said the bill’s passage is “great news for preventing wasteful spending at the Department of Homeland Security. Department of Homeland Security’s acquisition programs represent hundreds of billions of dollars in spending, but they repeatedly face cost overruns and schedule delays.”

The bill, said Rutherford, will help “provide necessary tools for FEMA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Customs and Border Protection to do their jobs – keeping Americans safe. It will also ensure Congress can provide greater oversight of major acquisition programs and can implement solutions to quickly address any setbacks.”

According to the Governmental Accounting Office, DHS has been on a “high-risk” list since 2005, because waste and mismanagement are recurrent plagues for its $7 billion portfolio of programs.

 

Failed Eureka Garden HUD inspection: whose fault is it?

The Eureka Garden complex has been a focus of politicians in the last couple of years, with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Sen. Marco Rubio, Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, and Rep. Al Lawson all demanding rehab of the facility and reform of the HUD process.

A new management group, which is looking to buy the property, promised changes. That group promised to bring capital to the complex pending transfer of title.

But delivery has proven more elusive, with politicians frustrated and hamstrung by the glacial pace of ownership transfer.

As Lynnsey Gardner of News4Jax was first to report Wednesday, Eureka Garden failed its most recent HUD inspection — with a score of 59.

Politicians describe the conditions with the strongest possible language.

And the current ownership, Global Ministries Foundation, asserts that the issue is the fault of “decades of neglect.”

Who is right?

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Rep. Al Lawson offered the strongest statement of the four pols who commented, decrying “atrocities” at the complex.

“Failing inspection is completely unacceptable. Like most Americans, the residents of Eureka Gardens want a clean, affordable, and safe place to raise their families and to call home. It is my firm belief that people who pay rent, regardless of their income, neighborhood, or whether they live in privately owned or public housing, have the right to expect and get routine maintenance. No one should be forced to live under conditions that threaten their health or safety,” Lawson asserted.

“I am renewing my call on federal officials at HUD to launch an investigation into how Global Ministries Foundation was not held accountable sooner for units falling into disrepair and how we plan to work together to do everything in our power to prevent these kind of atrocities in the future. The residents of Eureka Gardens deserve better,” Lawson continued.

Sen. Marco Rubio, so pivotal in starting the reform discussion on the Senate floor, brought a depth of perspective to the ongoing issues at the Jacksonville complex.

“This is more evidence of why I remain deeply concerned about the health and safety of the people living at Eureka Gardens,” Rubio asserted.

“On the one hand, it’s important that the HUD inspections process is no longer handing out passing grades to apartment facilities that clearly don’t deserve them. However, it’s been 18 months since the terrible conditions at Eureka Gardens first came to light, and we’re still not seeing the kind of progress we need to see to ensure all residents are living in a safe environment,” Rubio added, vowing to move forward on reform.

Councilman Garrett Dennis pinned the blame for the current conditions on the still-current owners.

“I’ve consistently said, even though there is an active sales contract with Millenia Corporation, Global Ministries Foundation is still the owner and the responsible party for the living conditions for the residents at Eureka Gardens,” Dennis told News4Jax.

On behalf of Mayor Curry, spokesperson Marsha Oliver had the following to say: “We are aware of the inspection results and maintain our commitment to working with HUD officials on a resolution that addresses the needs of residents.”

“Mayor Curry has been an advocate for improvements to this property,” Oliver added, “leading to a change in management.”

Meanwhile, Audrey Young, speaking on behalf of the current ownership of Global Ministries Foundation, issued the following statement that suggested a better score may be rendered yet.

“We are working closely with HUD on an appeal and fully trust that HUD will make warranted adjustments based on our appeal,” Young asserted.

Young also blamed Eureka Garden’s evolution into a “problem property” and a “burden” to the city on “decades of neglect by previous owners.”

GMF has put in $3 million since acquiring the properties in 2012, in an effort to remedy “decades of neglect and decay under previous owners.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio summed up in 2016 the profit that GMF ownership made from their 40 property portfolio.

“Where does all the money go? What are they doing with all this money that they make?”

“Well, you can look at their 990 tax forms, which are available for all 501(c)(3) organizations. Let me tell you about the 2014 tax year, which is the most recent one that’s available. In the year 2014, the Reverend Richard Hamlet paid himself $495,000 plus $40,000 in non-taxable benefits,” Rubio said

“Also in 2014, the Reverend Hamlet’s family members were paid an additional $218,000. By the way, he had previously failed to disclose his family members’ compensation on tax forms, which is in violation of IRS rules that require CEO’s to disclose the compensation of all family members who work for an organization,” Rubio added.

“The IRS reports also show that between 2011 and 2013, Global Ministries Foundation, the landlord that owns all of these units in all of these buildings that your taxpayer money is paying for, they shifted $9 million away from the low-income housing not profit to its religious affiliate,” Rubio continued.

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A reality underneath the anticipated sale to Millennia Housing Management: HUD properties are big business.

The subsidies are generous and guaranteed, but the flip side is that capital needs for the buildings recur.

Older apartment complexes have issues — and Eureka Garden has them especially.

From mold issues and poor ventilation to appliances old enough to have midlife crises, some of the units look closer to the Third World than the First.

The city would like to accelerate the transfer of title. Congressional leadership feels the same way. And yet, the process is dragged out.

The payments come through from the Feds. Even as the tenants — the expected beneficiaries — suffer.

Jacksonville City Council mulls cutting speaker time limits

Three minutes might not seem like a long time, but during Jacksonville City Council public comment, the seconds feel like hours.

Conspiracy theorists, neighborhood activists, extremists, malcontents — all are drawn like moths to the flame, lured to a live mike by the chance to have their concerns heard by policy makers.

Recent hot-button issues, such as the Human Rights Ordinance expansion, drew more speakers than could be accommodated within even a seven-hour council meeting.

While three minutes is a reasonable interval during a normal council or committee meeting, those segments add up when compounded over the course of hours of rambling grievance.

In that context comes 2017-160, which would allow a presiding officer to truncate speaker time if needed to fit into a meeting.

The bill also would allow a new Public Participation rule to comply with Section 286.0114, Florida Statutes, allowing comment prior to any council action that does not have a public hearing requirement. And it codifies a requirement for speakers to give their names and addresses before speaking.

After robust discussion, the bill was deferred.

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In the Rules Committee Tuesday, councilors were ready to discuss the bill’s finer points.

Councilman Danny Becton wondered if there was a definition in code of the word “address.” It turns out there is not one, but council members like to know where people are from so they can react intelligently to their local concerns.

Becton wondered if people actually give their correct addresses, saying that people can be discouraged by “having to announce it to the world.”

“I would like for this committee to consider defining ‘address’,” Becton said, to provide clarity.

Councilman John Crescimbeni,, who co-sponsored a bill requiring name and address identification last year, noted that some councils don’t allow public comment at all.

“I would like to know where the person lives … particularly when it relates to zoning …. I also have issues with people from outside the county coming to the podium and talking about this or that,” Crescimbeni said.

Ethics chair Carla Miller discussed a potential “chilling effect” for those having to give their addresses, suggesting that may preclude people from speaking, and could raise fears of identity theft or “retribution on controversial issues,” especially for women and children.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri, suggesting that “transparency works both ways,” and that transparency extends to “knowing where these people who are coming” to speak live.

“We’re ahead of most people by a mile,” Hazouri said.

Councilman Scott Wilson was less enthusiastic about the bill, citing concerns he’d heard, and saying a street name without a numerical address might be sufficient.

Then, Becton floated a compromise: deferring the bill, to allow a “definition of address” to be added, perhaps incorporating technology in such a way as to not force people to say their addresses aloud to a potentially adverse crowd.

Land Use and Zoning may be an exception to that, Becton said.

With no consensus achievable, the bill was deferred.

Block party moratorium to be voted on by full Jacksonville City Council

A bill to impose a 90 day moratorium on block parties in Jacksonville (and not the rest of Duval County) cleared its two city council committees Tuesday.

The legislation (2017-196) posits “a legitimate public purpose in imposing a temporary moratorium on permitting recreational street closings … ‘block parties’ within the City, to allow the City time to create appropriate local regulations and standards.”

Bill sponsor Reggie Brown, in addressing the Public Health and Safety committee, described that legitimate public purpose as a matter of life and death.

“There was an incident that took place [last weekend] at 45th and Avenue B, and my understanding was a 13 year old was shot … right in the same area as a block party … that did not get permitted,” Brown told the panel, adding that “something needs to be done because of safety issues and the impact on neighbors and JSO.”

Brown reprised complaints against the current set up, which makes it much easier for people to have block parties in the street than to gather in one of Jacksonville’s many public parks.

People can have these events from “8 a.m. to 11 p.m.,” Brown said, contingent on a threshold of “60 percent of signatures … you can be part of the 60 percent, but can you imagine loud noise” for that long, Brown added.

“And we don’t even have a way to verify those signatures,” Brown added.

Brown also noted “concerns” about “clean-up issues, mobile restrooms or lack thereof.”

“This moratorium. Do we need it? Absolutely. We’re going to have to do something … we need to do something in a hurry. I want to send a strong message: we’re determined to have safe streets,” Brown said.

“Do I want to move on the moratorium? Absolutely. But we need to do something quicker than 90 days.”

The goal: “fast tracking an ordinance that works for everybody,” Brown said, as “we have no structure in our streets.”

“We’ve created a system that puts folks in jeopardy right now,” Brown added.

All committee members voted for the bill. A couple of comments were interesting.

Chairman Sam Newby noted that his “daughter who doesn’t get politically involved came to me and expressed her opinion about the block party bill. It was really interesting.

Councilman Bill Gulliford was more cautious, meanwhile.

“I think what this moratorium will do is eliminate the permits but not the parties,” Gulliford said.

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In Rules, the second committee to vote the bill through, Brown said that he hoped the bill wouldn’t be needed — ideally, ordinance code would be tweaked to allow parties to move to parks.

Brown noted that it’s “extremely inappropriate” to have “loud music playing in a residential area after 9:00 at night.”

Rules was a bit more skeptical than Public Health and Safety.

“You mentioned that there were a lot of good block parties. Why a moratorium? Why hurt those who are doing it right,” Danny Becton asked.

“When you start looking at the crime in our community … inappropriate behaviors,” Brown said, there’s a “liability issue.”

“Government, unless pushed, don’t work fast. The moratorium has woke up the city. Everybody’s looking for something to happen,” Brown said, noting that “everybody’s not happy” with the proposal.

“JSO don’t know who’s been permitted to have a block party,” Brown said, but they have to be there anyway.

Becton was unmollified, raising the prospect of “honorable block parties” being harmed by “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

Greg Anderson noted that parties already scheduled and permitted shouldn’t be “penalized,” leading Brown to float the idea of a moratorium for “neighborhoods doing it the right way.”

Co-sponsor John Crescimbeni threw water on the fire, calling the bill a “timeout” that shouldn’t affect planned parties.

Crunchtime for John Crescimbeni in Jax Council President race

February ended with Jacksonville City Council VP John Crescimbeni storming out of the gate in the race for the council presidency.

A group of councilmen — Gulliford, Crescimbeni, Greg AndersonJim Love, and Tommy Hazouri — signed on very quickly, giving Crescimbeni a real leg up.

Rhetoric was pitched in the councilmen’s conclave: lots of talk about “council tradition” dictating that, barring some unforgivable transgression against moral or municipal code, the VP move up to the top slot.

In that meeting, Republican Bill Gulliford — the most outspoken of the men in the meeting — urged Crescimbeni, the most veteran of the seven Democrats on the council, to close the deal quickly on his opponent, Finance Chair Anna Brosche.

However, the deal hasn’t been closed. Not by a long shot.

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Crescimbeni got one pledge since, from Democrat Joyce Morgan, bringing him to seven. Meanwhile, Brosche, who started like the allegorical tortoise, well behind Crescimbeni’s jackrabbit start, is making up ground — big league.

Brosche came into Tuesday with five pledges (Matt SchellenbergSam NewbyAl FerraroAaron Bowman and the candidate herself). And even before the morning rush hour traffic abated downtown, she scored a sixth pledge: Doyle Carter.

Those with memories longer than the most recent news cycle will remember the surprisingly pitched race between Carter, a Westside Republican, and Crescimbeni.

Going into the vote, it appeared that Carter had the edge in pledges … before Reggie Gaffney reneged on his pledge to support Carter.

We asked Carter if the schmozz that was the 2016 vote factored into his decision to support Brosche. That wasn’t the case, he said.

The race is 7-6 now, and the momentum seems to be going the way of Brosche, a candidate preferred by the Chamber and other local stakeholders.

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We understand that Mayor Lenny Curry‘s office is taking an agnostic position on the race, and can figure out a way to work with whoever wins.

The relationship between Crescimbeni and Curry has improved, though there are caveats that may affect the mayor’s office should Crescimbeni win, which would not be the case if Brosche prevails.

For starters, there was tension between Crescimbeni and former Mayor Alvin Brown, with Crescimbeni backing out of an agreement to endorse, one trumpeted by the Brown campaign in Spring 2015.

Meanwhile, for a good illustration of what can go wrong when the council president and the mayor aren’t walking in lockstep, consider the example of Clay Yarborough and Alvin Brown — a fractious dynamic that hurt the mayor in getting his 2015 pension deal through while it still could have helped Brown get re-elected.

Curry has had two council presidents, Greg Anderson and Lori Boyer, who sang from the same page in the hymnal.

Arguably, he needs the next council president to be on that page also.

His pension reform package has yet to be ratified by the council, and aspersions cast by a council president could hurt the effort.

As well, the third year for a Jacksonville mayor often is when the bloom falls off the rose.

Brown’s popularity began to dip midway through his term, and while his approval ratings never went below the high-50s, support was soft enough to make him vulnerable to Curry’s challenge.

Of course, it’s unlikely that any Democratic operatives know how to play the game the way Tim Baker and Brian Hughes do. That said, it’s imperative for whoever emerges in this race to understand council’s role, driving policy in accordance with a mayor’s office that remains on a reform path.

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Meanwhile, it’s still slow going in the race for VP.

Aaron Bowman leads Scott Wilson 6-3.

Wilson met with Tommy Hazouri on Monday, but couldn’t close the deal.

As of Tuesday morning, no meetings were set up for the rest of the week by any leadership candidates, as many people are taking a “wait and see” attitude

A look at Aaron Bean’s accuser, Carlos Slay

The Naples Daily News isn’t a usual go-to source on northeast Florida politics, but it dropped a blockbuster story about Sen. Aaron Bean on Monday.

The claim: “Bean helped secure a $1 million special appropriation in this year’s budget for an early mental health screening program run by Catherine Drew, the wife of Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew. Bean and John Drew have been friends for more than a decade and have supported each other politically.”

But equally blockbuster is the source of the story.

The crux of this complaint comes from Carlos Slay, a self-styled “public advocate” who lost a contentious race to Drew last year.

And as you will see further below, a man with serious anger management issues.

Last year, Slay shopped around stories about Drew and Bean.

He summarized a batch of emails he sent this outlet in October. All grammar and construction is as originally sent. And the narrative matches the conspiracy theory in the NDN piece.

“Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew and State Senator Aaron Bean are childhood friends. The e-mail obtained through a records request show that John Drew and State Senator Aaron Bean were working on creating a business opportunity that would allow each of them to make money,” Slay wrote.

“In the e-mails John Drew describes Senator Bean as the ‘salesman’ and John Drew as the ‘finance guy’ and John Daigle as the ‘creative guy’ and his wife Dr Catherine Drew as the ‘doctor’. They originally sought $600,000 in a special line item appropriation that would allocated to Florida Psychological and Health Care Associates which John Drew is described as President of the Board and is the business agent,” Slay added.

“According to the e-mails Senator Bean was suppose to use the presentation created by John Daigle to sell the www.celphie.org to the Florida Legislature and other states. It now appears that the website has been removed or taken down.  The details surrounding this was reported to the FBI for follow up,” Slay writes.

The FBI, one presumes, isn’t in any hurry to “follow up.”

“In the e-mails John Drew says he is glad FINALLy they will all make money together with this partnership.  It is clear that Senator Aaron Bean and his friend John Drew conspired to use state taxpayer dollars to fund a start up enterprise that would create a special gain for Senator Aaron Bean,” Slay contends.

“I have filed a compliant with the Florida Ethics Commision they have not yet ruled on whether the complaint has met legal sufficiency to warrant a full probable cause investigation into whether Senator Aaron Bean misused his office to create a special gain or benefit for his friend John Drew or himself,” Slay continued.

Slay shopped this narrative to the media after being rebuffed by at least one state attorney.

In June, the office of Angela Corey deemed Slay’s narrative “inaccurate, generally without merit, or otherwise made with reckless disregard for the truth … a circuitous impermissible stacking of inferences and innuendo.”

Slay has some credibility issues, and some with anger management as well, as multiple injunctions for protection against domestic violence suggest.

Mr. Slay, the respondent, had been married to Hope Slay for six years in 2004 when things took a turn toward reportable incident.

The respondent “called from cell phone threatening to kill me — told me to be gone from the house before he got back or he’d kill me,” Hope Slay asserted.

“The next day – he harassed me at work, again threatening to kill me, make me lose my job, and attempted to wipe all my money out of my bank account,” Hope Slay continued.

“He has pulled a gun on me several times — continually threatens me and my children — has attempted to harm the children as well,” Hope Slay added.

“I fear for my life and he has a violent temper. I’m afraid he will snap and kill me,” Hope Slay continued.

That wasn’t Slay’s only domestic violence complaint. In 2007, Bambi Hubbard had her own need to file for protection.

On Oct. 26, Hubbard accused Slay of “threats on my home and threats on my life … threats that he will see me in prison no matter what it takes or [costs] him.”

Carlos Slay got thumped in his race for Tax Collector. But at least in terms of an ephemeral March 2017 news cycle, he scored a pyrrhic victory.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the charges being levied against Bean: consider the original source.

For his part, Slay offered a “media statement” Tuesday.

It did not address the domestic violence injunctions.

Below, the unexpurgated statement, as written, which includes — among other things — a request for the current state attorney to “open an inquiry” into the matter, and a request for the Speaker of the House to investigate Bean.

“The controversial appropriation of $1 million for a mental health screening project that was aimed at validating a software application raises serious questions about State Senator aaron Bean’s judgement.  I would call upon Senate President Joe Negron to immediately remove Senator Bean from any committee or position where he is able to influence appropriations until this scandal can be investigated and resolved.  I believe that Senator Bean should step down from his position as Chairman of the Crimminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and focus on coming forward with the truth about how $1 million was misappropriated and funds were redirected through Florida State University.  I am calling upon Speaker Richard Corcoran to refer this whole matter to his Public Integrity and Ethics Committee to invgestigate and determine whether Senator Bean committed any misdeameanors that would rise to the thrashold of impeachment.  I am calling upon State Attorney Melissa Nelson to open an inquiry into the $1 million in state funds and whether deception and fraud played a role in how these funds were directed to Senator Bean’s friend Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew.  Finally I am calling upon Gov Rick Scott to order an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the alleged destruction of public records, the possible use of deception to misappropriate state funds and to determine whether there was any official misconduct that violated Florida Laws.  Restoring public trust and integrity must begin with hold all public officials accountable.  Either this conduct is acceptable and will serve as an example for others to follow or it fails to meet Florida expectations for its public officials and should be addressed.  Each is responsible for their actions, as citizens we can only ask that our public officials lead  by example.”

American Action Network radio spots target GOP resistance to AHCA

The American Action Network kicked off Tuesday with pro-AHCA radio spots in 28 Congressional districts nationwide, and three of them are in Florida.

Those three: CD-3, the home of Rep. Ted Yoho; CD-6, the home of Rep. Ron DeSantis; and CD-8, the home of Rep. Bill Posey.

All three have expressed concerns about the American Health Care Act. Posey and DeSantis are members of the House Freedom Caucus, which has been a hard sell on the bill.

The ads point out issues with the Affordable Care Act, closing with emphatic words from President Donald Trump.

“I want everyone to know that I’m 100 percent behind this. This is going to be great for people,” Trump said after a meeting with House conservatives.

As well, these spots drop just three days after VP Mike Pence and Gov. Rick Scott held a pro-AHCA event in Jacksonville, one well-attended by politicians in the Jacksonville media market.

Yoho and DeSantis’ districts overlap with that media market.

AAN spokeswoman Courtney Alexander described the AHCA as “a conservative plan to repeal and replace Obamacare and give Americans access to quality, affordable health care.”

“Lawmakers will soon face two options, either support patient-centered, affordable health care or keep the Obamacare status quo that has hurt millions of Americans. The latter is unacceptable and unsustainable, that’s why we are urging constituents to contact their member of Congress one last time to ensure they’re on the side of more choices, better coverage and lower costs,” Alexander said.

The House is expected to vote on the bill this week.

Florida Delegation to Sec Def: Bring nuclear carrier to Mayport

The Florida Delegation to Washington may not agree on all things. But in a Monday letter signed by all members, they urged Defense Secretary James Mattis to homeport a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, or CVN, at Mayport.

The case the delegation made was for “spreading out” America’s Naval assets.

“As you continue your work on the fiscal year 2018 budget request for the Department of Defense (DoD), we urge you to include the funding necessary to complete the U.S. Navy’s stated requirements for strategic dispersal of capital ships by making Naval Station Mayport capable of homeporting a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier,” the delegation wrote.

Currently, assets are too concentrated elsewhere, the delegation contends.

“Our Navy overleverages risk to our carrier fleet by having only one CVN homeport on the Eastern seaboard. Not only are our operational CVN in jeopardy, but our future capital ships under construction are practically co-located, risking tens of billions of dollars of assets as well as our ability to project power abroad now and in the future.”

Given recent reports of Russian ships prowling just off American shores, this argument has real salience.

Arguments for Mayport are not new, the delegation reminds Mattis: “Originally endorsed in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, each subsequent Navy Secretary and Chief of Naval Operations has repeatedly validated this decision.”

The Navy had signaled an intention to bring CVN to Mayport as early as 2019, the congressman note. But so far, nothing.

“Strategic dispersal of our capital ships is a long held Navy requirement. The risks to our current and future carrier fleet far exceed the one-time costs of making Mayport CVN capable,” the delegation adds.

Rep. John Rutherford noted, via statement, that “making Mayport capable of homeporting nuclear aircraft carriers is exactly the type of strategic action needed to enhance our sailors’ capabilities. Mayport is a critical part of the Navy’s mission and future, and I am grateful that our state delegation is fully committed to Mayport’s critical role in our national security.”

Local expectations have been dashed since 2010 on this front, with the Obama era not being one of military expansionism.

Despite encouraging signs in the Quadrennial Defense Review, by 2013 the Jacksonville Daily Record reported a reliable source saying that such a move wouldn’t happen this decade.

However, this is a new era, one with a president committed to expanding and modernizing the fleet.

President Donald Trump referenced Mayport in a speech before the November election, saying it would be an important part of his 350-ship Navy.

But he made no specific commitments to whether Mayport would see more littoral ships or the kind of vessels for which the delegation clamors.

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