A.G. Gancarski – Page 5 – Florida Politics

A.G. Gancarski

Lake Ray takes fundraising lead in Duval Co. Tax Collector race

As the special election for Duval County Tax Collector looms, four filed candidates are looking to advance to the August primary. In that race, Republican Lake Ray has the most money as of the end of May.

Ray, largely (though by no means exclusively) self-financed, is the sole candidate to clear the $100,000 barrier, with $111,310 raised and on hand.

The former state Representative’s $61,000 May ($20,000 of it his own money) included contributions from W.W. Gay and the Jacksonville Kennel Club.

Ray’s first month of fundraising was May. All told, he floated $70,000 to his campaign; in contrast to his 2016 run for Congress, he doesn’t look likely to be outspent.

Second place in fundraising: former property appraiser and Jacksonville City Councilman Jim Overton. His $23,370 May put him over $73,000 raised ($51,000 of it self-financed) and included donations from the Peytons’ Gate Petroleum and Thomas Petway.

Coming in third, Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter, who softened the blow of falling behind in fundraising with endorsements from Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and Council colleagues Aaron Bowman and Scott Wilson, poised to be president and vice-president of the legislative body.

Carter, in his first month of fundraising, hauled in $32,675, via donations from Sleiman Holdings, Matt Carlucci, and Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell.

Behind the three Republicans, Democrat Mia Jones.

Jones, a former City Councilwoman and state Representative, raised $2,750 in her first month in the race.

The top two candidates, regardless of party, on the August ballot move on to November’s vote.

Over Council President’s objection, Jacksonville’s District development moves forward with $82M in city incentives

On Tuesday, the full Jacksonville City Council approved an ambitious plan, one laden with incentives, put forth by two local power brokers, Peter Rummell and Michael Munz, who are seeking to develop a fallow Southbank property.

And that’s fine with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who told media Tuesday the Council should pass the bill authorizing city incentives for the project.

That wasn’t fine, however, with his primary political nemesis: Council President Anna Brosche.

The bill had been workshopped for months, from the time the JEA board approved the land deal to a series of public notice meetings helmed by District Councilwoman Lori Boyer.

However, the Council President was not mollified, and pushed the matter to a spirited discussion ahead of a 9 to 5 vote in favor of the project.

Brosche had a major qualm: the lack of information on financial projections.

“I understand the city’s need to partner on economic development projects,” Brosche said, but a lack of financial projection information was a dealbreaker.

“How do we know the developer isn’t taking the city’s investment and making serious profit,” Brosche asked, wondering about the sharing of profits, or potential clawbacks.

“Transparency is what taxpayers expect,” Brosche said. “Without this information, I will not be able to support this project tonight.”

Brosche, soon enough, took some heat … both from allies and nemeses.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney backed the project in terms of downtown development, followed by Downtown Investment Authority CEO Aundra Wallace defending the mechanics of the deal “that puts all the risk on the private side and protects the public side, only investing in the public space and infrastructure.”

Councilman Bill Gulliford, no fan of Brosche’s, asked Wallace friendly questions, deriding the idea that “the developer could make some obscene profit” as they are “taking substantial risk.”

“I’m going to support the project,” Gulliford said.

Councilman Al Ferraro, meanwhile, backed Brosche.

“I’m hearing the President ask questions about a guarantee for investment, and I’m not hearing any answers,” Ferraro said, lamenting the possibility of “putting the taxpayers at risk.”

Wallace, a patient man by trade, explained to him that “public funds go into the public infrastructure and public space.”

It was up to Council President Aaron Bowman.

“This city has been dead for years … we need some cranes downtown,” Bowman said, lauding the proposed marina, shopping center, and public space as transformative.

“I hope the debate is over. Let’s vote yes and move forward,” Bowman said.

And indeed, the debate wrapped.

Opposed to the bill: Brosche, Dennis, Ferraro, Matt Schellenberg and Doyle Carter.

____

The District (2018-313) could, in theory, transform the Southbank with its radical redevelopment of 30 acres at the former Southside Generating Station property next to the Duval County School Board building, with an $82 million city investment between Rev Grants and city infrastructure investments.

Once this project gets going, it is expected to bring a new economic engine to an area with potential, per specs.

“The District will encompass approximately 200,000 square feet of retail space, 200,000 square feet of office space, 1,170 apartments/condominiums, and a 150-200 key hotel,” per a dedicated website to the project.

Politically connected developers Rummell and Munz have a deal via their Elements Development to buy the land for $18.6 million from the JEA Board. That deal closes July 18.

Among the incentives for developers: a $30 million capital improvement plan and a Rev Grant (75 percent for up to 22 years capped at $56 million).

The Rev Grant extends to 2040 when the Southbank CRA sunsets.

The total post-construction-assessed value is expected to be just shy of $216 million and is expected to generate $2.4 million in ad valorem taxes per year.

Capital improvements would include $25 million of infrastructure work, including three riverfront parks and a marshfront park on the south of the property ($4.469 million total, and these parks would be city lands).

Additionally, 20 percent of the work would be done by Jacksonville’s Small and Emerging Businesses.

The bill did not pass either committee of reference last week unanimously.

DIA Chair Wallace sparred with Councilman Matt Schellenberg about the interest rates the city was charging DIA to borrow the money (a condition negotiated between DIA and the Mayor’s Office), with a clearly fed-up Wallace noting that since DIA is a city authority, any rate hike would be imposed onto the city by itself.

Other project costs would include $6.361 million for a riverfront bulkhead, a $3.488 million Riverwalk extension, $1.597 million for a boardwalk, $1.035 for an overland trail. As well, a $1.025 million extension of Prudential Drive, $405,600 for Broadcast Place, and $1,158 million for Riverside Drive is in the mix.

The yet-to-be-created community development district will be responsible for creating 100 metered spaces for the public for Riverwalk and public park access.

____

Committee meetings last week had their intrigue, including Brosche peppering bill advocates with questions, presaging Tuesday’s drama.

Brosche had questions about the Southbank Community Redevelopment Area “footprint” from a public notice meeting with bill sponsor Lori Boyer last week, and wondered if the CRA still had conditions that permitted its continued existence, given the revenue in the area and a lack of blight.

Boyer noted that one function of a CRA could be to boost property value to fuel tax increment districts, and that she has resisted requests to extend the CRA.

“You may hear about that next term, and someone else may want to go there,” Boyer said.

But with “large parcels” available for development, there is still room to fulfill the CRA’s purpose, and that could happen in the next few years, she said.

Brosche also had questions for DIA head Aundra Wallace; the DIA Board approved this bill ahead of the City Council consideration.

Wallace and Brosche sparred on the question of whether the project’s financing and “commercial viability” should factor into whether Council should approve the deal.

“The proof is going to be the following. The CDD gets created and gets the bonds issued,” Wallace said.

“We’re protected … fundamentally sound in terms of protecting the taxpayer,” Wallace added.

Jacksonville City Council won’t tell JEA who its next CEO should be

The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday backed a committee vote and stopped a resolution drafted last week that would expressly discourage interim JEA CEO Aaron Zahn from applying for the permanent position.

The vote was 4-10 against the resolution, with sponsor Garrett Dennis, Council President Anna Brosche, and Councilmembers Joyce Morgan and Reggie Gaffney the sole no votes.

The bill went down 1-6  last week in a vote of the Rules Committee, a harbinger of this predictable fate.

But the show went on.

On Tuesday, Dennis contrasted Zahn with the “excellence” personified by COO Melissa Dykes, by way of selling his bill.

Councilman Al Ferraro said “everybody should have the right to run,” offering opposition to Dennis’ position.

Both men were rehearsing positions expressed in committee.

Zahn expressed interest in the permanent JEA CEO role in a previous interview with Florida Politics.

At Tuesday’s committee meeting, Council President Anna Brosche, a Republican, wondered if JEA had acted “independently” when the board set up the joint meeting Feb. 14 between the City Council and the JEA Board, a meeting in which Brosche has charged the Mayor’s Office with attempting to push through an emergency bill exploring a sale of the utility.

Brosche vowed to ask that question again next Tuesday at the full Council meeting.

That question wasn’t asked in floor debate, however.

Jacksonville Chamber political committee endorses Lenny Curry for re-election

JAXBIZ, the political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber, issued an unsurprising (but meaningful) endorsement Tuesday for Mayor Lenny Curry‘s re-election.

The group was a major donor to Curry in May, and there has been scant daylight between Curry and the business group since his 2015 campaign (when they endorsed the then-candidate a month before the first election).

Three-and-a-half years later, Curry is taking no chances. The incumbent has raised $2 million since launching his re-election, a ubiquitous presence with television ads — even as no legitimate competition has yet to file to run against him (as City Council President Anna Brosche, a Republican like Curry, mulls a bid for Mayor).

And signaled by the early endorsement: the Chamber isn’t looking to take any chances either. With a functional symbiosis between Curry and the business group, one that will extend to close cooperation over the next year between the Mayor and Council President-designate Aaron Bowman, a VP for the Chamber business recruitment wing JAXUSA, the group made it clear Tuesday that they will staunchly rebuff any challenge to Curry.

When announcing the endorsement, applause filled the room.

Curry quipped that the reaction was “a little different than it was three years ago,” before describing part of the 2015 campaign when he was looking for “endorsements that mattered.”

“This is one that I wanted,” Curry reminisced, before messaging on the successes that will provide the narrative ballast for his re-election messaging, such as pension reform, hiring 180 new police officers, job creation, and downtown development projects ranging from the Laura Street Trio to the amphitheater by the stadium.

And more successes are to come, Curry said, spotlighting cooperation with Bowman  as augery of a “year good for Jacksonville.”

One prominent political opponent of Curry’s discounts the importance of the endorsement, framing it as a distraction from his failure as mayor.

“Listen, the guy filed for reelection over a year out from the election, a clear sign he’s running scared. TV commercials running a year before the election and commanding endorsements against a field of unfunded opponents will not mask how Lenny has failed as Mayor,” said Finance Chair Garrett Dennis Tuesday.

“Under Lenny, crime in the city is at an all-time high, he botched the sale of JEA, he’s picking fights and bullying everyone in town, and he is at the center of cronyism benefiting a chosen few. It’s no wonder his poll numbers are falling fast. I’m predicting that he will be a one-term Mayor: One City. One Jacksonville. One Term,” Dennis added.

Curry and Jax Chamber CEO Daniel Davis rejected such contentions in a post-endorsement gaggle.

Davis cited “great momentum” in the city of Jacksonville and the need for “four more years of that.”

“It’s very clear we’ve got a great working relationship with the mayor,” Davis emphasized. “Today we’re talking about momentum in Jacksonville, what the mayor is doing to push that momentum, we’re excited to be part of that.”

Curry likewise dismissed Dennis’ contentions, noting that “anybody who’s watched me for three years or known me the decade before that knows that’s just how I’m built. There’s a lot of work to be done. I take nothing for granted.”

“The record is clear and I just want to make sure the people of Jacksonville know that I’ve delivered on everything I said I’d deliver, but I’m not resting on that,” Curry said.

“The best is yet to come,” Curry emphasized.

Heading into thick of campaign season, Jason Fischer raises big money in May

Rep. Jason Fischer, a first-term Republican from Southside Jacksonville’s House District 16, had his best fundraising month of 2018 in July, as a general election challenge looms.

Fischer brought in $26,000 to his Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville political committee (bringing it to $60,000 cash on hand). And he added $11,500 to his campaign account (bringing it over $88,000 on hand).

Among committee donors: Summit Construction, Florida Blue, and JAX BIZ (the political action committee of the Chamber of Commerce).

Among campaign account donors: Disney and various subsidiaries; Comcast and NBC Universal; Nocatee Development Company; and “Building a Better Economy,” the Jax Chamber’s political action committee.

Fischer’s Democratic opponent, Ken Organes, brought in $8.228 in May, his second month in the race. Organes’ haul was from small donors, and included $3,000 of the candidate’s own money.

Organes has just over $16,000 on hand.

Jacksonville City Council works to move on from suspended, indicted members

On June 1, Gov. Rick Scott suspended two Democratic Jacksonville City Council members who face 38 federal counts in a scheme to defraud local and federal taxpayers.

While Scott has not yet picked replacements for the currently suspended Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, the Councilors have live bills that currently lack a primary sponsor.

Katrina Brown sponsored a number of ambitious bills, including a measure making the budget committee a committee of the whole, as well as a measure promoting a “bill of rights” for the homeless.

And Reggie Brown likewise had legislation, including an appropriation to extend city sewer and water to eight houses in his district.

Council committees grappled with bills from both legislators last week but were unable to move forward on the measures given the absence of the bills’ primary advocates, and a general lack of clarity as to legislative intent.

With that in mind, Council President Anna Brosche convened with Councilmen Garrett Dennis, Reggie Gaffney and Sam Newby to try to hammer out a solution so that the bills, as one said, would not “fall by the wayside.”

Among the moves: Garrett Dennis agreed to sponsor 2018-76, a bill that would compel JEA to fulfill promises to extend water and sewer to pre-consolidation areas of Jacksonville.

But Dennis and Gaffney, both on Finance, balked at sponsoring the aforementioned bill that would put everyone on Council on the budget committee.

Dennis agreed to sponsor the “homeless bill of rights” legislation (2018-308), but wanted to impose “a number of changes” on the legislation, deferred in committee.

A number of other bills are up at Council on Tuesday night, and those bills won’t have to be sponsored by anyone through the committee process.

Beyond the bill discussion, future projects desired by the indicted Councilors were discussed, with Councilman Gaffney spotlighting a discussion of an amphitheater at the Legends Center.

Gaffney didn’t want the projects to be forgotten.

Council members were desirous of discussing goals with the suspended legislators, but worried about potential Sunshine violations.

Given that the Council members were not thrown off Council, their reinstatement could, theoretically, make the communication a violation of the Sunshine Law.

Council President Brosche noted the impracticability of a noticed meeting with the two; a city lawyer vowed to look into whether that would legally be possible, before saying that it would be better to talk to the indictees’ assistants — as long as the assistants don’t act as a liaison between non-suspended and suspended members.

After Council members hashed out the allocation of bills, community activists spoke during an abbreviated public comment period, lamenting a lack of representation given the suspensions.

“Me stepping in to help handle things in District 10 is a very temporary situation,” Brosche said to one of many impassioned speakers.

Even as Council works to hash out these bills, Gov. Scott mulls a long list of potential temporary replacements for the suspended duo.

The list as of the end of last weekJoseph WillisDarrin Williams, Terrance BrisbaneBrenda Priestly JacksonJu’coby PittmanTameka HollyCelestine Mills, Terry Fields, Angela NixonChristopher PendletonJean TranquilleRandolph HallCharles Barr, James GreinerKeshan Chambliss, Rahman JohnsonClarence JamesDwight BrisbaneNiki BrunsonRalph ChaversCornelius CoxTheresa GrahamKing HolzendorfKevin Monroe, Latangie WilliamsChandra Griffin, Charles Barr, Ralph Chavers and Pat Lockett-Felder.

New additions: former District 8 candidate James Breaker, former at-large candidate Mincy Pollock, along with political neophytes Leslie HarrisJames GreinerBarney Spann, and Nancy Walker.

Many of the candidates who filed last week, like Breaker and Pollock, have run for office before.

Priestly-Jackson was a former School Board chair. Pittman: a former 2015 Council candidate for an at-large seat. Holly: a current candidate in District 8. Mills: a past and present candidate in District 10.

Fields was a former state Representative and a 2015 City Council candidate. Nixon: a well-known political operative for Democratic candidates. Johnson: a former Soil and Water board member.

Brisbane: an operative/consultant. Brunson and Graham: former candidates for Council. Monroe: current candidate for Council in District 10.

Lockett-Felder, like Breaker, lost to Katrina Brown in District 8’s 2015 race.

John Rutherford, Marco Rubio spotlight federal money for JAXPORT dredge

Jacksonville policymakers don’t have to worry, at least for another year, where money for the JAXPORT dredge is coming from.

Rep. John Rutherford on Monday announced $32.389 million in federal funding via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This is the second straight year of federal money, and an uptick from the $17.5 million that JAXPORT received for the project last year.

“Continued federal investment into the expansion at JAXPORT is a huge win for our region,” said Rutherford.

“As a strategically important asset to our national security,” Rutherford added, “JAXPORT has proven to be a reliable and prosperous port of entry for commerce and trade on the Eastern Seaboard. This important deep dredge project will enhance the economic growth and international competitiveness of JAXPORT, and this increased investment marks a significant step toward furthering JAXPORT’s substantial contributions to Northeast Florida and to our nation.”

The project, at last estimate, is expected to cost $484 million; this money will fund a deepening of the channel to 47 feet for 11 miles total.

Sen. Marco Rubio spotlighted the money amidst a host of other allocations from the federal government, including $556,250 for Miami Harbor improvements, $82 million for the Herbert Hoover Dyke, $28.375 million for the Brevard County shore protection project, and $26.9 million for the South Florida ecosystem restoration.

Tight money race in HD 15 between Tracye Polson, Wyman Duggan

The race to succeed Rep. Jay Fant in Jacksonville’s House District 15 showed tightening in May between Democrat Tracye Polson and Republican Wyman Duggan.

In terms of cash on hand, both Polson (the sole Democrat running) and Duggan (the best funded of three Republicans) came out of May well positioned, with both able to boast over $110,000 cash on hand.

In May, Polson brought in $32,882 in hard money ($25,000 a personal loan), giving her just over $105,000 in her campaign account.

Among the local donors: the local police and fire unions and Audrey Moran, a former candidate for Jacksonville Mayor.

The biggest name donor, meanwhile, was from Tallahassee: Gwen Graham, who donated $500.

Polson’s “Better Jacksonville” political committee, meanwhile, spent a big part of its nestegg in May, giving $30,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. Despite this spend, the committee still has over $13,000 on hand.

Close behind, as mentioned: Duggan, a lawyer and lobbyist with a phalanx of endorsements from Jacksonville Republican incumbents.

Duggan exited May with $111,388 on hand, after raising $13,610 in May — his strongest month since October 2017.

Lobbyists, such as Infinity Global Solutions and Fiorentino Group member Joe Mobley, ponied up. So did big name donors, such as Ed Burr.

Perhaps the most interesting donations were from utilities: Tampa’s TECO and its parent company, Emera, donated to Duggan (Worth noting: Duggan and Fiorentino Group represent Emera/TECO in potential future dealings with the city of Jacksonville, a relationship notable in context of recent discussions of potentially privatizing Jacksonville’s municipal utility).

Also showing strong May numbers, though well behind the two frontrunners in aggregate: Ortega yacht broker Mark Zeigler, whose $15,501 in May was his best month since filing, and pushed him over $32,000 cash on hand.

Yet to file as of Monday afternoon: Joseph Hogan, who had $3,000 on hand as of the end of April.

Ron Salem maintains money edge in Jacksonville City Council bid

May offered more of the same in the Jacksonville City Council at-large race to succeed termed-out Democrat John Crescimbeni.

Namely, Republican Ron Salem continued his monetary domination of the field, which includes 2015 Republican mayoral hopeful Bill Bishop and Duval Democratic party official Darren Mason.

Salem brought in $4,650 in May from nine donations, pushing him up over $156,000 cash on hand.

Salem’s fundraising has been workmanlike in 2018, with his last month over $10,000 coming at the end of last year. However, Bishop and Mason have thus far proven unable to exploit Salem slowing down.

Bishop, who three years ago vowed that he’d run for Mayor again, had another torpid month: $1,000 raised, via one check from his architectural firm. He has nearly $11,500 on hand.

Mason, a former aide to Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, sputtered again in May, with $75.38 off of four donations, giving him under $400 on hand after three reporting periods.

The first election in this district is March 2019. Assuming no one gets over 50 percent, the top two finishers move on to a May runoff.

‘Florida Strong’: Rick Scott scores endorsements from 55 sheriffs

The vast majority of Florida’s law enforcement leaders fell in behind Gov. Rick Scott‘s Senate bid, in an unsurprising phalanx of endorsements Monday that coincided with Scott rolling out his Florida Strong Coalition.

Per the media release from Scott’s campaign: “Sheriffs in attendance recognized Governor Scott’s leadership during times of crisis, his commitment to maintaining open communication with law enforcement leaders, and his work championing investments and legislation that have supported public safety by providing law enforcement organizations with the resources they need.”

“Throughout my time as governor, I have been honored to partner with Florida’s law enforcement leaders to champion important public safety investments and legislation to keep our families, visitors and communities safe,” Scott said.

Scott lauded the close cooperation between state and county law enforcement, pivoting in his media release quote to a criticism of federal efforts.

“Unfortunately,” Scott said, “we have not seen the same public safety leadership we have here in Florida at the federal level. We have seen the FBI fail time and time again to take action when they were warned about impending tragedy in Florida, with no accountability or transparency for the families whose lives were forever changed. It’s infuriating that the FBI has ignored our calls for answers, and that politicians in Congress have not done more to demand responsibility. Florida families deserve more.”

The Florida Democratic Party, in a statement, attributed the endorsements to “personal favors Rick Scott called in from Sheriffs.”

The following 55 Florida sheriffs have endorsed Scott’s Senate campaign:

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell

Baker County Sheriff Scotty Rhoden

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford

Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey

Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell, Jr.

Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast

Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels

Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk

Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter

Desoto County Sheriff James Potter

Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly

Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith

Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz

Glades County Sheriff David Hardin

Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison

Hamilton County Sheriff Harrell Reid

Hardee County Sheriff Arnold Lanier

Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden

Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis

Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister

Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar

Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts

Jefferson County Sheriff Mac McNeil

Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott

Levy County Bobby McCallum

Liberty County Sheriff Eddie Joe White

Madison County Sheriff Ben Stewart

Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay

Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper

Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley

Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd

Putnam County Sheriff Gator Deloach, III

Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight

Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma

St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar

Sumter County Sheriff Bill Farmer

Suwannee County Sheriff Sam St. John

Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett

Union County Sheriff Brad Whitehead

Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood

Wakulla County Sheriff Jared Miller

Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson

Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews

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