A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 419

A.G. Gancarski

Nat Glover among six picks for Jax ‘Kids Hope’ board

A familiar face in Jacksonville City Hall will helm the new Kids Hope Alliance (KHA) board.

City of Jacksonville CFO Mike Weinstein was tapped to be interim executive director of the seven-person panel last week.

This week, the board is mostly rounded out with six community stakeholders — the biggest name of which is former Sheriff Nat Glover.

Other nominees to the board, all of whom will be subject to City Council approval, include the following:

Dr. Marvin Wells, the first African-American graduate of the U.F. College of Dentistry. He owns a local oral surgery practice.

Tyra Tutor, senior vice president for Corporate Development & Social Responsibility at The Adecco Group North America. Tutor serves on the Jax Chamber Board.

Iraq War Bronze Star recipient Joe Peppers, who is currently employed with Amazon, helping to launch a local fulfillment center.

Kevin Gay, founder and CEO of Operation New Hope-Ready4Work. Gay previously served on the Jacksonville Journey board.

Rebekah Davis, a registered nurse and medical director, who has worked at local hospitals. Davis has been a member of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission board of directors, and is the wife of Jax Chamber President and CEO Daniel Davis.

The seventh appointee has not been announced.

Curry pledged to be quick with appointing people to this board, as the Kids Hope Alliance is poised to replace the Jacksonville Journey and the Jacksonville Children’s Commission later this year.

KHA will have oversight over an approximately $35 million budget for youth services, including all children who qualify under 18, as well as slightly older young adults who are still in school.

Park deaths loom over Jax City Council panel

Three year old Amari Harley and 74 year old Ashley Miller Kraan had very little in common — except that they both drew their last breaths in Jacksonville parks this fall.

Harley fell down a hole above a septic tank; the rubber lid was missing.

Kraan was stabbed in broad daylight by a man with mental issues.

Park safety has become a major issue, and the Jacksonville City Council, under the Presidency of Anna Brosche, now has a special committee on parks.

Brosche couldn’t have imagined that Jacksonville’s parks would have a body count during her term.

“I️ am sure no one could have anticipated the recent tragic events in our parks,” Brosche said Tuesday evening. “My desire to focus on parks was a function of them being an underutilized asset not maintained in a manner that instills community pride.”

Cameras have been discussed for Jacksonville parks, and Brosche notes that legislation pushing those security solutions is within the committee’s purview.

Parks Committee Chair Scott Wilson noted, before the meeting on Wednesday, that maintenance and security are among the committee’s focuses.

Calling the deaths in parks “unfortunate circumstances,” Wilson noted that he was “sorry that happened,” but there are logistical issues precluding ramping up park security.

“We have over 400 parks in the city,” Wilson said, and that requires a “careful” deployment of resources.

The stabbing in Willow Branch Park — in broad daylight during a weekday — was perpetrated by someone with mental illness, Wilson noted.

“The committee is designed,” Wilson said, “to look at how to get more kids activated in the parks.”

And indeed, as the committee meeting progressed, discussion went to amenities in the parks — baseball fields and basketball courts and so on.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer noted that maintenance is an issue, “where one thing gets broken and it takes six months or a year to fix” — a comment mirroring concerns in the wake of young Amari Harley’s death last month, where there were repeated service tickets open because the septic tank hole in Arlington’s Bruce Park had a history of not having its cover.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get these things done more quickly,” Boyer said, suggesting a 7 day window between reports of problems and repair.

We spoke to Boyer about the issue of park security after the meeting — she noted that during budget discussions this summer, Sheriff Mike Williams had been “unwilling” to make commitments to station JSO officers in parks.

She suggested that park rangers, which would have arresting powers, could be an option.

“Parks need to be safe,” Boyer said, citing the “broken window theory” that squalor breeds criminality, and adding that “maintenance is more than mowing lawns.” It also includes ensuring that lids are properly secured and bolted on holes in the ground that lead to septic tanks.

However, a security guard in every park would be “overkill,” Boyer added.

Boyer also noted that the a city 2030 comp plan, drafted in 2013, mandated that parks be brought up to uniform standards by the end of 2018.

There is a long way to go and a short time to get there.

Councilman Reggie Brown, meanwhile, described himself as a “huge proponent” of cameras in parks, especially when law enforcement can’t be present.

Audrey Gibson on the path forward for Senate Dems: ‘Watch us work!”

On Monday, Audrey Gibson won a narrow 8-7 vote of Senate Democrats to become Senate Democratic Leader-Designate for the 2018-2020 legislative sessions.

Gibson will succeed current leader Oscar Braynon II when his term ends next November.

Now, the question: what will Gibson’s victory mean for the Senate, and for her home region?

Questions were raised by some observers about a “progressive vs. moderate” split in the vote results.

Gibson told us, via text Wednesday morning, that the theory was bunk.

“The descriptions of a philosophy vote split are false and secondly we are moving forward together. Watch us work!”

Gibson has also discussed wanting to bring more Democrats into the Senate, asserting that “strategies to elect more Dems to the Senate start with identified opportunities and candidate recruitment while fundraising.”

We also asked Gibson about what her victory, in conjunction with Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley becoming Appropriations Chair, means for Northeast Florida.

Will the region finally achieve appropriations parity, an issue Bradley and Gibson have each identified separately?

“Equal footing comparatively speaking is definitely a goal,” Gibson asserted, “however, in one Session it may be a bit lofty.”

Nancy Soderberg lauds Donald Trump tone change in fundraising pitch

Just hours after a wave election night that was brutal for Republicans and almost ideal for Democrats, one might have expected Amb. Nancy Soderberg to send a “rally the troops” fundraising pitch for her bid in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

However, Soderberg went in a different direction, instead giving President Donald Trump credit for a “remarkable and welcome change of tone” regarding tension with North Korea in a fundraising appeal Wednesday morning.

“After months of taunting and threats to North Korea,” Soderberg wrote, “we saw a different President Trump today in his visit to Seoul.”

“It was a remarkable and welcome change of tone. Today,” Soderberg added, “President Trump seemed more inclined to let diplomacy work, backing off on previous remarks that negotiations would be a waste of time.”

“In fact, he seemed to indicate progress and faith in diplomatic efforts, saying ‘Ultimately, it will all work out’.”

Soderberg avoids using the word “pivot” in the email, and offers caveats, including concern about Trump’s
“lack of restraint in his comments and actions in foreign policy issues, bringing us closer to nuclear war than many realize.”

However, while this is “still a very precarious situation,” Soderberg is “encouraged that sanity might be peeking through the door.”

Soderberg notes toward the close that the military option can’t be ruled out.

“All options must remain on the table. Diplomacy is not always the solution. But given the many that would die in a conflict with North Korea,” Soderberg wrote, “we owe it to them and all Americans to exhaust other options first.”

Soderberg had a strong 3Q of fundraising, with $336,000 brought in.

While Rep. Ron DeSantis is the incumbent, talk for months has been that he will run for a statewide race in 2018, making CD 6 an open seat in what could be another Democratic wave election.

Cash gap spreads in HD 12 clash

Jacksonville’s House District 12 will see a competitive election next November between incumbent Republican Clay Yarborough and Democrat Tim Yost.

Clearly not taking re-election for granted, Rep. Yarborough posted his strongest total since June: $21,750 of new October lucre.

Big Pharma was a well represented interest group; $3,500 came from drug companies, including Pfizer and Merck.

Local contributors included “Sleiman Holdings,” the company of local shopping mall developer Toney Sleiman. And “Wiles Boselli LLC,” a lobbying group run by Susie Wiles and former Jaguar legend and current Ballard Partner Tony Boselli.

As well, JAXBIZ — the political arm of the Jacksonville Chamber — donated $500. As did “Building a Better Economy,” the political committee of Chamber CEO Daniel Davis.

Yarborough has roughly $73,000 on hand.

Democrat Yost brought in $1,208 of donations from 19 contributors, including HD 15 Democratic hopeful Tracye Polson.

He finished October with roughly $2,300 on hand.

Randy White seeks Westside seat on Jax City Council

District 12 on the Jacksonville City Council is the heart of the true Westside of Jacksonville, where the accents are authentically local, the politics are right of center, and a person’s word is his bond.

Current Councilman Doyle Carter is termed out as of 2019 — but a candidate who has filed to replace him embodies much of the straightforwardness that Carter brings to the table.

Randy White — a former Jacksonville Association of Firefighters union head, and a retired deputy fire chief — has “the fire in the belly to serve,” he told Florida Politics on Tuesday.

Of course, he says he wouldn’t even be running if “my good buddy wasn’t termed out.”

White’s priorities as a candidate include public safety on the macro level, and on the district level, he wants to actualize the still largely untapped potential of the Cecil Commerce Center (formerly Cecil Field).

Carter backs him, and so do many of the city’s power brokers.

White, though a first-time candidate, is not new to politics.

“I helped Doyle the first time he ran,” White said. “I helped Daniel DavisRonnie Fussell, and Mike Hogan too.”

All of those figures: key to the Westside political scene.

White also supported Mayor Lenny Curry, and counts administration luminaries like Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and CFO Mike Weinstein as friends.

White is so far the only filed candidate in the race,

Corrine Brown alum mounts primary challenge to Al Lawson

It was only a matter of time before U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat, drew a primary challenge in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

However, that challenge isn’t coming from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, at least not yet.

Rather, the first primary opponent for Lawson is Rontel Batie, a 29 year-old former Tallahassee lobbyist and former Corrine Brown policy director who overcame a lot of childhood adversity, including but not limited to his father being killed in a drive-by shooting and serious poverty.

Batie framed that as part of his narrative, both in a campaign launch video, and a press release, in which he claimed to have “excited the millennial base in Tallahassee and Jacksonville with his campaign launch video, which now has over 7,000 views and over 300 shares on Facebook. Young people in this district are a demographic that have been in a political slumber since the election of President Barack Obama in 2012.”

Batie claims to have received 50 donations thus far for his committee, “Rontel for Florida,” but he didn’t want to say how much cash he has on hand. (To put that in perspective, Lawson had $190,126 raised (all but $51,000 of that from committees), with $97,876 cash on hand at the end of September).

Batie, who worked in D.C. for Congresswoman Brown, was surprisingly removed from the details of her high-profile court case that ended her political career and set up sentencing for next week on 18 felony counts.

“I didn’t follow the case,” Batie said, “but I never saw her do anything illegal.”

Corrine Brown, as we reported exclusively, was introducing Alvin Brown to power players in D.C., which many would interpret as a signal of support.

Batie hasn’t talked to Corrine Brown about his campaign; he is giving her “space to process” her legal issues.

Likewise, Batie had little to say about Alvin Brown.

“I don’t know much about him,” Batie said, other than “he was mayor for a brief stint.”

(Alvin Brown served a full four-year term from 2011 to 2015.)

Batie, a St. Augustine native, moved to Jacksonville a few months back; however, he said “that district is home to me in more ways than one.”

He’s a FAMU alum, for one thing. And he has spent most of his time in Jacksonville, with family in the area.

As well, he sees himself as having a unique value add, having had “very different experiences than Brown and Lawson” in terms of the adversity he has overcome.

He started working when he was 12 — his first job being cleaning the restrooms at a Greyhound station. And he sees his narrative as one that is relatable to people in the district.

(Of course, both Alvin Brown and Al Lawson have their own documented rises from childhood adversity as well).

Batie counts among his policy accomplishments the writing of the Land Grant Opportunity Act, which bolsters HBCUs.

Batie also notes that Florida is long overdue for a Millennial person of color to go to Congress.

“The last time Florida sent a person of color that was my age to Congress was 1871,” Batie related. “If you are a person of color and under 40, you have no representation in Congress.”

Will a millennial wave manifest for Batie? Time will tell.

Rob Bradley will ‘hit the ground running’ as Senate budget chief

Monday may have been one of the biggest days for Northeast Florida in Tallahassee in some time.

State Sen. Audrey Gibson won a contested election Monday evening to become the Leader Designate for Senate Democrats, replacing Jeff Clemens, who resigned after news of an affair with a lobbyist broke.

And before that, Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, took over the Senate Appropriations Chair from embattled Jack Latvala.

We caught up with Bradley Monday evening, and he addressed the regional significance of the twin triumphs on Monday.

“I’m so happy for Audrey. She’s a pragmatic leader who works well with senators from both parties. Very effective,” Bradley said.

“When you think about the fact that we have Senators Bean and Hutson from our area, both highly regarded, and Senator Gibson will be leading the Senate Democrats,” Bradley added, “I’m excited because we have a strong regional team. We all work well together.”

Bradley also discussed the move to the Appropriations Chair.

“Everyone has a different style. I’m just focused on getting the job done with as little drama as possible. There’s been enough drama in politics lately. It’s time to just roll up our sleeves and get the job done,” Bradley said, noting that he’s not new to the appropriations game.

“I’ve spent a lot of my Senate career working in the Appropriations arena,” Bradley noted, “having chaired three different budget subcommittees.”

“We will hit the ground running. President Negron and I have worked together for years and had success together, and we have a great group of budget sub chairs. The transition has already been smooth,” Bradley added.

Bradley is noted for a big-picture vision — one of the reasons he was able to push Senate Bill 10 through in the last Legislative Session — and he is very well-positioned to carry key priorities, such as his proposal to allocate $100 million for Florida Forever — a program that has been underfunded since its inception.

His comments in a Senate panel Monday bear noting, in context of deployment of those funds; at long last, Bradley is positioned to ensure that North Florida gets its share.

“The acquirer doesn’t just exist in one area of the state. The precious ecosystems don’t just exist in one area of the state. The entire state is unusual as an ecosystem,” Bradley said. “That’s why you have the Acquisition Restoration Council… and do it on a basis grounded in science. And really sometimes that ends up with money going to one area of the state or the other, but I think it’s less parochial.”

With Sens. Bradley and Gibson in key leadership roles, it’s entirely possible that the time is now for North Florida’s bipartisan, yet largely collaborative, delegation.

Audrey Gibson wins close vote to lead Senate Democrats

On Monday evening, state Sen. Audrey Gibson won a narrow 8-7 vote of Senate Democrats to become Senate Democratic Leader Designate for the 2018-2020 legislative term.

Gibson will succeed current Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II when his term ends next November.

The split was described by one observers as moderates versus progressives, a dynamic which some fear will split the caucus; our source tells us Braynon was the deciding vote.

In a “you heard it here first” moment, Florida Politics called this in the Oct. 30 edition of Sunburn.

“I look forward to working with Caucus members on their priorities and ensuring their voices are heard on legislation impacting all Floridians.  I am also excited about bringing in new Democrat Senators to the Florida Senate to create a legislative balance in the Chamber,” said Gibson Monday evening.

Gibson thought she had the votes last week, but our understanding is that there was a late challenge from Orange County Democrat Randolph Bracy.

The drama built toward the Monday night vote, yet Gibson — true to her original expectations and vote count — pulled off the win by the narrowest of margins.

The role was to go to former Sen. Jeff Clemens, who resigned in October after admitting an extramarital affair with a lobbyist.

For Northeast Florida, this is the second big piece of Senate news on Monday.

Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley took over the Appropriations Committee chair after former budget chief Jack Latvala relinquished that powerful position, as he defends himself against an onslaught of sexual harassment allegations.

Senator Gibson, chair of the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee, serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Her other committee assignments: Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development, Commerce and Tourism Committee, Judiciary Committee, Regulated Industries Committee, and Joint Legislative Auditing Committee.

Official Florida House photo

Lenny Curry, John Rutherford back Frank White for Attorney General

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and U.S. Rep. John Rutherford have officially endorsed Pensacola Rep. Frank White for Attorney General.

This endorsement happened despite a Jacksonville candidate, Rep. Jay Fant, being in the race, raising existential questions about his viability going forward.

“I’m proud to endorse Frank White as our next Attorney General. Frank is a man of character and faith who will fight for conservative values. He is a friend of law enforcement and a champion for the rule of law who is ready to lead,” Rutherford, a former three-term Jacksonville Sheriff, said in a statement.

“Frank White understands that Florida families need a fighter on their side. With Frank as Attorney General,” Curry said, “we will have someone who applies conservative principles to the work of public safety and taxpayer protection. I encourage my neighbors in Jacksonville to join me supporting Frank White to serve as Florida’s next Attorney General.”

“As a true conservative and someone who spent a career keeping our streets safe,” White said, “I welcome Congressman Rutherford’s support.”

“In Mayor Curry,” White added, “I see a Republican champion who has brought a conservative reform agenda to his city. Having both leaders on our team, working in Northeast Florida, will be an important step in our path to victory. I am honored to have them both.”

With Curry and Rutherford backing White, this leaves Fant out in the cold when it comes to the backing of most of Northeast Florida’s most powerful Republicans.

Retired Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody has been endorsed by Clay County Sheriff Daryl Daniels.

Current Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams was on a host committee for a Moody fundraiser, but has not offered a formal endorsement of any candidate.

While Fant does have some endorsements from colleagues in Tallahassee, such as Rep. Paul Renner, Rep. Jason Fischer and Sen. Aaron Bean, he will find limited traction with the Curry political machine behind him.

“This is a kill shot for Fant,” said one Republican familiar with the thinking of White’s advisers.

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