A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 419

A.G. Gancarski

Packed D.C. schedule on Tuesday for Lenny Curry

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is in Washington D.C. today making the push for a federal infrastructure grant, and a packed itinerary awaits him.

The $25 million grant from the Department of Transportation would allow the city to reconfigure off ramps from the Hart Bridge onto surface streets.

The push is supported by Sen. Marco Rubio, who is just one of the Beltway power players Curry will meet with.

Curry will meet with Billy Kirkland and Justin Clark, who handle intergovernmental affairs for the White House.

As well, the Mayor has meetings slated with U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart.

Diaz-Balart, a senior member of the House Committee on Appropriations, is chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. He also serves on the House Committee on the Budget.

Curry follows up the Diaz-Balart meeting with meetings with senior staff from the U.S. D.O.T., and then a meeting with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Worth noting: Marty Fiorentino of the Fiorentino Group helped Chao, an old friend and colleague, as she settled into her latest Cabinet position.

Curry, a Trump supporter even through Presidential statements that he describes as occasionally “inartful,” has focused on collaborating with the administration.

“I’ve already got messages in to the Trump Administration. I’d like the federal government to be able to help us in some form in Jacksonville. I don’t know what that looks like yet. But we’re going to leverage every relationship we have to get help here with issues we’re facing,” Curry said in February.

Jacksonville is uniquely positioned in terms of the Trump administration beyond the Fiorentino connection. Ballard Partners employs Susie Wiles, a city hall veteran and a close ally and friend of Curry.

Ultimately, though, the sale is Curry’s to make. And by the end of this day, the Mayor should have some idea as to whether he made it or not.

Rick Scott calls Texas slaughter ‘evil,’ calls for ‘more prayer’

Florida Gov. Rick Scott floundered for answers Monday when asked about a Tweet Sunday offering prayers for those who were killed in a Texas church.

Many of Scott’s Twitter followers posited that “prayers” aren’t enough to stop such things from happening. When asked for concrete policy solutions beyond prayers, Scott — a Governor entering his eighth year in office — had no solutions.

He did, however, use the word evil nine times in roughly two minutes.

“The most important thing we have to do,” Scott said, “is we need more prayer rather than less.”

“Last week, we had a terrorist attack in New York City. We need to pray for when these things happen. It’s horrible when these things happen,” Scott said.

“It’s evil when these things happen,” Scott continued. “Whether it’s a terrorist attack with a truck, somebody doing what they did in a church in the San Antonio area, I’m going to pray for them. We know it’s evil.”

“I believe in the Second Amendment. I just wish there was no evil in the world,” Scott added.

We asked Scott, given his use of the word terrorist, whether the Second Amendment was really the best framework for yet another mass shooting in an American church.

His answer won’t satisfy gun control advocates.

“It’s evil — whatever you want to call it. It’s evil. It’s evil what happened — the terrorism in New York, it was a terrorist inspired by ISIS in the Pulse attack. These things are evil,” Scott said.

“Evil is evil,” Scott added.

He dealt with a second gaggle question driving toward specific policy answers in much the same way.

“The first thing we have to do is take care of all the families,” Scott said. “After the Pulse attack, I spent quite a bit of time there, talking with the families and mourning with them. I’m sure the Governor of Texas will be doing the same thing in Texas.”

Investments in law enforcement, including hiring more counter-terrorism experts and sharing information across law enforcement platforms, were cited during the gaggle.

But such answers won’t satisfy those who equate mass shootings with the easy access to firearms, especially given the Texas shooting over the weekend, and the Las Vegas massacre last month.

Gov. Scott’s office reached out Monday evening with a brief statement clarifying his position regarding this specific case, seemingly saying that domestic violence convictions preclude gun ownership.

“Governor Scott believes that no man who spends a year in jail for abusing his wife and child should be able to purchase or own a gun. The Governor strongly supports the Second Amendment but this is not acceptable.”

However, groups on the left side of the spectrum — such as American Bridge — are calling Scott’s handling of the gun question “abysmal” and decrying his statement as “pablum.”

American Bridge Spokesman Joshua Karp said the Governor had “no answer to Floridians who are crying out for solutions to the gun violence that is ravaging our communities.”

“From Pulse in Orlando to the First Baptist Church in Sutherland, the problem of mass gun violence demands specific solutions, not pablum. Politicians like Rick Scott who fail to put the lives of Floridians — and all Americans — ahead of partisan politics will be rejected by the voters,” Karp added.




Adam Putnam headed to Lake City Tuesday

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam plans a swing into the heart of North Florida Tuesday, including a “family-style dinner” in Lake City.

Putnam will be joining “grassroots supporters,” per the campaign, “for a family-style dinner and evening” at Florida Gateway College’s Howard Conference Center.

The event starts at 5:30, with the program starting at 6 p.m..

Putnam is riding high in all polls against potential primary rivals, and — with over $19 million banked as September ended — he had more resources than the rest of the presumptive GOP field combined.

Attendees can expect an increasingly road-tested message, as Putnam has demonstrated in just the last week, speaking at stops as diverse as a grassroots supporters’ “Up and Adam Breakfast” in Orange Park and AP Day in Tallahassee.

Putnam has focused on technical education — an appropriate topic given his venue in Lake City — and attendees Tuesday night can almost certainly expect a riff along these lines.

Workforce development has been a key talking point of Putnam’s, who believes community colleges have a unique role in reversing the “talent flow” out of Florida  and “becoming a magnet … diversifying our economy: manufacturing, logistics, and trades.”

The payoff could be “generational in nature,” Putnam has been saying.

“Those future nurses,” Putnam said, “are going to come from a community college … and they need an education that is local and affordable.”

Jax Sheriff Mike Williams’ reelection campaign is imminent

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams addressed a Jacksonville City Council committee Monday — but the big news is that he is just weeks away from launching his re-election campaign.

“We’ll announce that here in the next couple of weeks,” Williams told Florida Politics. “I think we have a lot of work to do and I’m excited.”

Williams’ political committee, “A Safe Jacksonville,” had $105,000 on hand at the end of September, and raised roughly $30,000 more in October.

Williams took questions from the Jacksonville City Council Neighborhoods Committee, and those councilors’ queries and his answers spoke to the scope of that work that is to be done.

Williams was asked to address the recent homicide rate, in light of high-profile reportage on killings in Jacksonville streets.

“As of Friday, we were even year to date in homicide,” Williams noted, describing “ebbs and flows” month over month in the homicide rates.

So much of the killing, Williams said, is fueled by “gangs, guns and drugs” — and the money trafficking in contraband offers.

“Less than 1 percent of the population is driving close to 40 percent of violence,”  Williams said, describing a population “victimizing each other over and over.”

“We’re doing a lot of work … to diffuse those things” so they don’t “explode,” Williams added, noting that “respect issues” (such as altercations in nightclubs) fuel subsequent shootings.

Williams also addressed the city’s ShotSpotter program, saying that it has been successful within its first 90 days of deployment in a small, but violence-plagued, area of the city.

“It definitely has been effective for 90 days,” Williams said, noting that eight arrests have come out of 39 incidents caught by the program.

The precision of ShotSpotter allows JSO to find shell casings used in shootings, which the city can cross-reference via the NIBIN database.

Technology, Williams told the committee, can be a force multiplier — as seen in Lower Manhattan, where these systems are used in accordance with cameras.

“Camera systems is a topic we need to talk more about … in public places,” Williams said. “We actually in NY saw two drive-bys that had happened in a previous week … actually captured the entire event … from multiple angles.”

We asked Williams about civil liberties concerns from camera deployment, and he said that “entertainment districts” were more likely places to put the cameras than neighborhoods.

“I see that concern and I understand that … I would be a proponent of cameras in a public venue — an entertainment district or something like that,” Williams said.

“It’s a little more challenging to sell a fixed-post camera in a neighborhood,” Williams added.

Jax Council panel defers bill changing sexual predator distance requirements

Jacksonville City Council bill that would lower distance requirements between the residences of sexual predators and day care centers/schools was deferred Monday in its first committee.

Current ordinance mandates a 2,500 feet distance; the bill would lower the distance to 1,500 feet, which is still higher than the state requirement of 1,000 feet.

Councilman Bill Gulliford, the sponsor of the legislation, said in September that this legislation was driven by two women in Mayport who want to open a day care center. But since it is 2,380 feet from the residence of a sexual predator “as the crow flies,” they aren’t permitted to.

“Kneejerk” legislation currently in place, though well-intended, has the “unintended consequence” of “accommodating sexual predators,” Gulliford said.

“If you took the over 300 sexual predators in Jacksonville, drew a radius line 2500 feet from their homes,” Gulliford said, “you would blanket the whole dadgum city.”

“When you draw a diameter around a sexual predator,” Gulliford added Monday, “it’s almost a mile.”

There are 345 sexual predators, and 1,850 sexual offenders, in Duval County.

The bill — with its pyrotechnic subject matter — was always destined to be a heavy lift, and committee discussion reflected that.

Councilman Aaron Bowman said “this is an interesting bill, and when I first read it, there was no way I’d put my name on it.”

Councilman Garrett Dennis, who is not a political ally of Gulliford’s, withheld support.

“What we’re seeing over and over again in the news with the Harvey Weinstein and so forth,” Dennis said, “I cannot and will not support relaxing rules.”

A member of the sexual offender registry spoke in favor of this legislation, saying that “these policies are often counterproductive and make our city less safe,” saying that sexual offender recidivism rates are low, at 3.5 percent, and that the current “unconstitutional” ordinance makes finding a place to live “virtually impossible.”

More Jacksonville Democrats endorse Gwen Graham for Governor

Two elected Jacksonville Democrats — state Rep. Tracie Davis and School Board member Warren Jones — endorsed Gwen Graham for Governor Monday.

Graham had already been endorsed by former Jacksonville Mayors Jake Godbold and City Councilmen Tommy Hazouri and Garrett Dennis, and thus far is the only candidate for Governor on the Democratic side to score meaningful Jacksonville endorsements.

“I’m proud to have Representative Tracie Davis and School Board Member Warren Jones by my side fighting to restore public education in Florida,” Graham said. “With their help, we are making outreach in Jacksonville and Duval County a top priority in my campaign.”

“My life full of experiences and time working in our public schools influences me every day as a legislator and elected official. It helps me represent the people of Jacksonville. And it is those same type of real-world life experiences and her record of working in public schools that have led me to endorse Gwen Graham for governor,”  Davis said.

“I have seen firsthand how Republicans have handed our children’s future over to an education industry that cares more about making money than raising Florida’s next generation. Gwen Graham has made restoring public schools the top priority of her campaign, and I’m proud to support her in that fight,” Davis added.

“Year after year, Rick Scott and Republicans in the legislature pass new laws to strip control of our schools away from communities and put the power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats in Tallahassee,” Duval School Board Member and former Jacksonville City Council President Warren Jones said.

“I’m proud to support Gwen Graham for governor. Gwen is a mother, former PTA president and public school official, who understands the challenges parents, teachers and students face. When it comes to the issue of education, she is the best candidate for governor,” Jones added.

Graham is right now a strong frontrunner for the nomination, and these endorsements continue her momentum.

Lenny Curry’s political committee backs Frank White for Attorney General

October was the second straight quiet month — by its standards — for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s political committee, “Build Something That Lasts”

The committee brought in $35,000, its second straight month below $40,000.

All told, the committee has raised $1.436 million — and has spent $1.05 million — since coming into existence.

Comfortably over $430,000 on hand, the committee has resources for whatever it desires — locally and otherwise.

One expenditure that jumped out: $3,000 to the Attorney General campaign of Frank White, a state Rep. running for the office against a Jacksonville Republican that once was politically allied with Curry — Rep. Jay Fant.

Curry took umbrage, per reliable sources, to comments Fant made at a meeting of local Republicans, in which he said that Curry should have done more to stop Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance expansion — which protected rights for local LGBT citizens.

White’s campaign is being handled by Curry’s political advisors, Tim Baker and Brian Hughes.

Fant, the previous chair of the Duval County state delegation, was slated last Session to carry a bill that would have brought $50 million to Jacksonville to help with costs related to removing current Hart Bridge offramps and routing traffic onto surface streets.

Fant noted that he was going to carry the bill last year based on the public safety argument the mayor’s office advanced at the time.

This year, Fant says the bill would be the prototypical “heavy lift,” saying it was “up to the city to make its case,” and that case “needs to be really good.”

Fant, who was at odds with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, doesn’t appear likely to carry Curry’s priority bill this time out.

Bill Nelson: ‘Rick Scott is raising unlimited corporate money’

The hottest U.S. Senate race in the country will be in the Sunshine State over the next twelve months, pitting two politicians who don’t lose against each other.

One will go to Washington for the next six years. The other, very likely, will have lost his last campaign.

The two combatants: Sen. Bill Nelson in his toughest electoral battle yet, posed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson is fundraising in North Florida today — a midday stopover in Jacksonville found him at a local state House candidate’s home, followed by an afternoon jaunt to Tallahassee.

The campaign has definitely begun: Scott’s political committee put $2 million into ads, and Nelson — when asked Friday before that Jacksonville fundraiser — was candid about the challenges ahead.

“He is now raising unlimited corporate money,” Nelson said. “The minute he becomes a candidate, he cannot.”

“Right now, it’s two different systems that are operating,” Nelson added, noting that hard money contributions are limited by federal law, whereas Scott is piling up corporate donations.

Also discussed: an October University of North Florida poll that made the shock assertion that 49 percent of likely voters in 2018 didn’t know what they thought about the three-term Senator.

Nelson asserted that poll was an “outlier.”

“UNF poll is an outlier. Generally,” Nelson said, “what you will find is that I am not known by about 20 percent in the state of Florida.”

That, Nelson added, is “not unusual” in light of people coming into Florida, “at a rate of a thousand a day,” which means that it “takes them a while to know who their Senator is.”

Nelson also said that the more relevant metric is the spread between his favorable and unfavorable numbers, which he asserts show a “huge surge of favorable over unfavorable … that means that people seem to be think I’m doing a pretty good job.”

The UNF poll had Nelson at 35 percent approval and 15 percent disapproval, which puts him at + 20.

Meanwhile, Scott sat at 59 percent approval and 28 percent disapproval — + 31, with just 11 percent not knowing their position on the incumbent Governor.

Bill Nelson seeks to modernize 911 systems

This week, Sen. Bill Nelson filed legislation that would modernize and upgrade the nation’s aging 911 systems, which technology and operability have left behind.

Hurricane Irma illustrated the system’s flaws in Florida. A press release from Nelson’s office noted that 29 of Florida’s emergency 911 call centers had “impaired service” after the storm, with 14 offline altogether.

Nelson’s bill seeks to expand an extant federal grant to help with local 911 system development, including technological upgrades — such as the ability to text or send media files during an emergency.

The current analog technology is a relic of a past decade.

“Upgrading the nation’s 911 system is literally a life and death matter that must become more of a national priority,” Nelson said in a press release Thursday. “In this digital world, Americans must have more than one way to access the 911 assistance they need and expect when emergencies occur.”

In Jacksonville Friday for a press avail, Florida Politics asked Nelson to expand on his comments.

“911 is still operated under analog when we’re in a digital age,” the senator said.

“What we want is 911 modernized,” Nelson said, noting that with a modernized system, a caller could “send a text or send a video, or a picture using up-to-date technology.”

“Today,” Nelson said, “they can’t. They can just make a call.”

The funding piece is still being worked out, but Nelson said that if local governments are compelled to upgrade, there has to be “some financial assistance” from the Feds.

Bill Nelson wants ‘tremendous revisions’ of GOP tax reform bill

On Friday in Jacksonville, Sen. Bill Nelson distilled his case against the latest Republican tax bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)

While “it’s a start,” Nelson doesn’t see it as a finished product, and promises to file amendments in the Senate Finance Committee.

“It’s way out of kilter right now. It’s too much increase in the national debt and too many cuts to corporations and few cuts to hardworking families,” Nelson said.

“It’s a start, but it’s only a start,” Nelson said. “What it does is it triples the amount of cuts going to corporations [over] individuals.

“I don’t like that. I want to see balance … most of the tax cuts going to middle income folks,” Nelson said. “There’s going to have to be some tremendous revisions.”

The bill “gives over a trillion dollars of cuts to corporations,” Nelson said, and “increases the national debt by trillions of dollars.”

Per the analysis of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the bill would increase the federal deficit by almost $1.5 trillion over the next decade.

“We should be making it revenue-neutral,” Nelson said, “so that the tax cuts are offset by eliminating the tax loopholes so it doesn’t increase the national debt.”

“This thing’s got a long way to go,” Nelson added, “but this is the start. The question is how do you get it back to balance.”

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