A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 438

A.G. Gancarski

Rick Scott remains coy about 2018 U.S. Senate, governor races

New Year’s Eve found Gov. Rick Scott lunching with President Donald Trump.

Trump has all but anointed Scott to be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate this year, and Republicans have obliged that path by clearing the field for the Governor.

In Jacksonville Tuesday, Scott faced now-familiar questions on this race … as well as his feelings about the Governor’s race, which sees Trump backing U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis to replace Scott as Governor.

Scott faced the questions, yet he didn’t come close to answering them.

Scott noted that in terms of the Governor’s race, he hasn’t endorsed yet — and gave no indications of preference.

Regarding a potential run for Senate. Scott noted that he has “390 days” in office, again punting on that question, even as reporters asked him straight up if he was running for Senate.

Most informed speculation has been that Scott won’t make his plans known either way regarding the Senate race until the end of the Legislative Session in March.

Clearly, he’s in no rush to make pronouncements on the GOP nominee to succeed him either.

Emily Slosberg leaves board of Florida Young Democrats

Emily Slosberg, a Democratic state Representative from Boca Raton, announced this past weekend she is stepping down from the board of the Florida Young Democrats.

“It has been an honor serving on the board of Fl Young Dems! I already miss it! I will always be a FYD at heart,” Slosberg posted on Facebook Sunday.

Slosberg underscored said honor in an email to other Florida Young Democrats, ruling out reasons why she — a legacy politician — might want to leave the group.

“My leaving the board has nothing to do with the FYDs being instrumental in running Senator Clemons [SIC] campaign against my father or FYD trying to get my father out of the Senate 31 race,” Slosberg added.

Slosberg, an attorney from West Palm Beach, is the daughter of former Rep. Irv Slosberg.

“I have no hard feelings about any of that,” the lawmaker concluded.

As Democrats gear up for a wave election, they are facing organizational and fundraising challenges throughout the state.

As this Florida Politics’ Ana Ceballos reported this morning, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo last week asked county-level Democratic leaders for donations; six of 67 local parties have come through.

The party’s account used to fund federal campaigns is also in the red.

 

Jacksonville Council panel rejects change to sexual predator distance requirements

2018 began for the Jacksonville City Council with some holdover business from 2017: a proposed lessening of residency distance requirements for sexual predators.

The bill has been around since September, and is headed toward the graveyard of dead bills. Councilors spiked it by a 2-5 margin Tuesday in the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee.

Councilman Bill Gulliford, the sponsor of the legislation, said in September that it 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 can’t. Current ordinance sets a 2,500 foot predator buffer.

Gulliford’s bill would set the limit to 1,500 feet. But this bill doesn’t appear to be headed anywhere.

Councilman John Crescimbeni cautioned that “whittling this down” would create a potential slippery slope of future exemptions.

Gulliford reiterated his September arguments, noting that in Mayport, there are schools and one park closer to the sexual predator than the proposed day care center.

As was the case in 2017, Gulliford encountered resistance on Tuesday before the no vote.

Gulliford and Councilman Greg Anderson exchanged crosstalk about the appropriate “best practices” in distancing, before Anderson said he couldn’t support it, as he needs more information.

The bill will move to Rules and then Land Use and Zoning, but there is no reason to think it will do any better there.

Northeast Florida lawmakers preview 2018 Legislative Session

In 2016, Cord Byrd, Clay Yarborough and Jason Fischer overcame competitive GOP primaries to win nominations — despite powerful interests and strong candidates going against each of them in the process.

The general elections, in each of their districts, lacked drama: all three beat write-in candidates, garnering over 90 percent of the vote.

We asked the three Republicans to evaluate the working relationship of the Duval Delegation headed into the 2018 Legislative Session, their own personal priorities for the 60 days, as well as getting their thoughts on working with City Hall throughout the process this year.

All three of them believe that the delegation is in sync.

Byrd — a Republican whose district includes the Jacksonville beaches along with Nassau County — asserted that “the delegation works very well together and I consider us all friends. I cannot think of an issue where our priorities for improving the quality of life for our constituents do not align.”

Yarborough, whose Southside Jacksonville district encompasses the areas he represented on the City Council, asserted that “we saw some good work the past year.”

Ali Korman Shelton with the Mayor’s Office approached us with a couple ideas that I know we worked on,” Yarborough said, noting his own work on getting pedestrian safety measures into the budget.

A bill to get new crosswalk countdown heads that Yarborough carried was vetoed last year; however, he intends to carry that again.

“We’ve had a lot of issues with pedestrians getting hit where local and state roads come together,” Yarborough said. “The state has some skin in the game there and it needs to put some money in place to help with that.”

“It’s been a good working relationship and collaboration among the freshmen,” Yarborough noted about the Duval Delegation being “on the same page with priorities.”

“I think that will continue,” Yarborough said.

Fischer, who represents Southside Jacksonville from San Marco south to Mandarin, likewise was optimistic.

“I think everyone is focused on and committed to helping Jacksonville and the Northeast Florida region. There are differences of opinion at times,” Fischer said, “but when it comes to big picture stuff, I think we put aside our differences and focus on helping people.”

The legislators also discussed, at some length, their priorities for 2018.

“One of my legislative priorities is hurricane relief and preparedness. Two hurricanes in two years impacted many families throughout the district,” Byrd said, “and not just along the coast.  Many people are still waiting for relief. Cutting through the red tape to provide relief more quickly now and in the future is a priority. Coastal hardening to protect our natural resources is also a component of this effort.”

Among the bills Byrd is carrying this Session: an ask for $2 million for coastal hardening in Jacksonville Beach.

“Working with the veterans in our community is also a priority. There is a lot of work that needs to be done for them and I know that the Mayor and Governor share my concerns that we can do more to ensure that Florida is the most veteran friendly state in the nation,” Byrd added.

“I am also really excited about the economic growth and opportunity that North Florida is experiencing.  Keeping taxes and regulation to a minimum will help this effort,” Byrd continued.

Fischer also spoke to the importance of “tax relief” for “citizens and businesses.”

“If we can cut taxes again this year, we can keep our economy growing,” Fischer noted.

“After we secure a tax cut, my next priority is to shift money from some areas I think are wasteful spending and push it into roads, bridges, and other vital infrastructure.”

Yarborough noted a couple of priority bills he’s carrying.

“One is a bipartisan effort that I’m doing with Rep. Nick Duran,” Yarborough noted, a revamp of the cancer drug donation program to the prescription drug donation program.

“It allows drugs to be reused if they haven’t been opened … or compromised,” Yarborough said. “The current state law says we can do that with cancer drugs,” but the revamp would allow for a “wider range” of people to be helped.

Yarborough is also carrying a bill that would allow law enforcement to use drones to investigate crime scenes after crimes have occurred, for evidence collection after an accident scene.

The three legislators also evaluated their working relationships with the office of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry — which made a high-profile add at chief of staff in Brian Hughes.

Fischer — who employed Hughes as a political consultant during his 2016 campaign — was excited by the hire, and by his continuing relationship with the Curry administration.

“I have a great relationship with Mayor Curry and I think he is doing a phenomenal job. He’s not just a constituent, he’s a personal friend,” Fischer said.

“The addition of Brian Hughes is a force multiplier for the city. If you want to build something that lasts,” Fischer said, “hire Brian Hughes.”

Yarborough likewise is optimistic, not anticipating any change in the ability to get local priorities through. He noted that Ali Korman Shelton — the city’s intergovernmental affairs liaison — has been his point of contact, and he anticipates no change there.

Byrd likewise sees the status quo being maintained.

“I do not anticipate any changes in working with the Mayor’s office. The City has always been responsive to my requests and ensuring that the Duval portion of District 11 is in the City’s plan for growth and prosperity.  The budget this year was already going to be tough and was only made more challenging by Hurricane Irma. Everyone should be prepared for tough budget negotiations regardless of any changes in the Mayor’s office.  In my conversations with fellow members of the delegation I know we are ready for the budget battle,” Byrd said.

Fred Costello launching congressional campaign

State Rep. Fred Costello is joining what appears to be an increasingly crowded field in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Costello finished a distant second to incumbent Ron DeSantis in the 2016 primary, with 24 percent of the vote; however, with DeSantis essentially running for Governor at this point, Costello will join a field that includes businessman John Ward.

Other candidates – including former Green Beret Michael Waltz, St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns, and Brandon Patty – are taking hard looks at the race; if that field shakes out with six candidates, a hard 24 percent could be competitive.

Costello plans to roll out his campaign on Saturday, January 6, at Rockefeller Park at the Casements in Ormond Beach. Rallies follow throughout the day at Heroes Memorial Park in Palm Coast (Flagler County), Faver-Dykes State Park (St. Johns County), Deltona Veterans Memorial Park (Volusia County), and the Historic Railroad Museum in Mt. Dora (Lake County).

Costello was a former Ormond Beach Mayor before moving on to the State Legislature. He intends to brand his campaign along the lines of fealty to President Donald Trump, an adherence to what he calls “Judeo-Christian values,” and localism.

“I have lived, raised my family, worked, played and prayed in Congressional District 6 for 40 years. As a USAF veteran and business owner who has served you as a dentist, Ormond Beach Mayor & State Representative, I am well prepared to Stand for US!”

Costello’s campaign will roll out prominent backers speaking at the events: among them, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, Deltona Mayor John Masiarczyk, State Rep. David Santiago and State Sen. Dennis Baxley will be among the elected officials on hand for regional launches.

A.G. Gancarski’s 10 predictions for Jacksonville politics in 2018

For the third straight year, Florida Politics is attempting to predict how politics in the 904 will go.

And hopefully the predictions will go better than they did the previous two years.

2016’s predictions were as reliable as a coin flip: Six right, six wrong.

2017 saw six wrong… and four right.

Batting .400 is fine for a baseball player; however, it indicates room for improvement in terms of political prognostication.

Without further adieu, let’s see if the third time is the charm.

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1. Al Lawson will win Democratic primary in CD 5

In 2016, Al Lawson took advantage of Corrine Brown having legal problems and a concomitant inability to fundraise, and won a primary election in a re-configured Congressional District 5.

In 2018, Lawson looks poised to defend his crown — with a Jacksonville challenger, at this writing, being slow to materialize.

While former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown has teased a candidacy, Lawson has a number of factors in his favor.

Incumbency, and the fundraising networks that allows, works in Lawson’s favor. As does playing ball with the Jacksonville business community. And working well with his Jacksonville House colleague, Republican John Rutherford.

Lawson had a slow third quarter, but carried $97,000 cash on hand into the final three months of the year; it’s not as if he’s been dynamic in fundraising up until now. But Lawson has the western part of the district on lock. Brown’s challenge: to engage the donor class, and to convince skeptical Jacksonville Democrats that he’s for real.

Because make no mistake — Brown would have to sweep Jacksonville Democrats, and drive high turnout.

Brown, however, may have another option.

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2. Democratic challenger will emerge for Lenny Curry

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is polling well, at least according to a University of North Florida survey in the fall.

Sixty-nine percent approval citywide, 57 percent approval with Democrats and 59 percent with African-Americans.

So it’s all clear for his re-election bid, right?

Not exactly.

Democrats hold a registration advantage. And there is a lot of time between now and March 2019.

One worry — which may surprise some — is that Alvin Brown makes another bid for City Hall.

The case: Brown was above 50 percent favorables even when he lost the election, a loss that had much less to do with Brown than it did with the shambolic, disengaged campaign on his behalf.

Brown’s messaging was a mess, with the mayor accepting cataclysmic help from the Florida Democratic Party, and taking positions that were out of their playbook — and out of step with the Jacksonville electorate — such as a push for an increased minimum wage.

Brown was ill-prepared to deal with realities as a result of not being true to his messaging, such as a shot up school bus on the evening of a debate.

All that said, he lost by fewer than three points.

While those close to Brown tell us that he’s looking at Congress rather than City Hall, there are those in Curry’s orbit who don’t want a rematch.

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3. FEMA $ delay will lead to hard budget choices

As hard as it is to believe, the Donald Trump administration may not have it all together when it comes to FEMA.

Per the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville is waiting on $85 million from FEMA for Hurricane Irma. That’s added to an additional $27 million the city is waiting on from Hurricane Matthew.

Is the city sitting pretty? Depends on how you look at it.

While the city has roughly $200 million in fund balance, per the Times-Union, the reality is that even before Irma, senior staffers from Lenny Curry’s office were talking of the need to boost the emergency reserve — as the city’s bond rating was capped below AAA by low reserve levels.

Of course, that’s not the whole story.

Part of the issue: high fixed costsdespite pension reform.

Another part of the issue: a surfeit of tangible steps to deal with climate change, particularly salient after a year when epic flooding hit Jacksonville after Irma — weeks after Harvey doused Houston with a year’s worth of rainfall.

Another budget without real attention to storm budgeting — and infrastructure — will lead to consequences down the road.

The feds aren’t going to help.

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4. John Rutherford waltzes to re-election

The Duval Democrats are making some interesting moves, but one of them doesn’t seem to be fielding a viable candidate against John Rutherford for re-election.

Rutherford is a nice guy and an enthusiastic advocate for the Trump agenda — which, at least conceivably, could make him worth targeting.

However, Duval Dems don’t seem interested in fielding a candidate — like Nancy Soderberg in Congressional District 6 — who can challenge him.

Maybe it’s not a winnable seat. But a serious candidate should emerge. But hasn’t yet.

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5. JEA privatization push gets ugly

The cleanest distillation of the Lenny Curry administration’s case for JEA privatization was made in Sunshine State News weeks back, by South Florida journalist Allison Nielsen.

The city could get a lump sum of money by selling the utility to outside investors. But there would be consequences, including the loss of the near $115 million JEA contribution, and property tax revenues. Not to mention how accountable an outside operator would be to Jacksonville politicians.

JEA also carries debt, and has been dinged by Moody’s for an unwise investment in nuclear power, per the Florida Times-Union.

In short, there are a lot of caveats.

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6. Serious challenges for City Council incumbents

Three to watch: Anna Brosche, Katrina Brown and Garrett Dennis.

All three were elected in 2015; all three will face serious re-election challenges, essentially because they pissed someone off.

Brosche has sparred with Mayor Curry on a number of issues, including but not limited to pension reform and the Kids’ Hope Alliance.

Brosche also upset police union head Steve Zona in commenting on disproportionate stops of African-American jaywalkers; Zona, on Twitter, advised Brosche to clean up the City Council.

By that he means Councilwoman Katrina Brown.

Brown accused Jacksonville police of racially profiling a Council colleague during a traffic stop. She would not walk it back, despite national Fraternal Order of Police leadership showing at Council to force her hand.

Expect FOP candidates to come after both women’s Council seats. A retired cop, perhaps, for each.

Councilman Dennis, meanwhile, has been (along with the aforementioned Brosche) the sole source of antagonism for the Mayor’s office.

He clowned Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa during budget hearings, and fought Mayor Curry on issue after issue over the summer.

He will be a target of the Mayor’s political operation.

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7. Another hurricane impacts NE FL

As the Governor likes to say, I’m not a scientist, but with water temperatures warming up farther and farther north every year, odds look good for a third storm year in a row. If you are investing in generators, beat the rush.

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8. Lenny Curry distances self from Donald Trump as scandal builds

Mayor Curry spent a lot of 2016 and 2017 answering for Trumpiness. The best — or worst, depending on how you feel — example was when questions came in at a presser about the Paris Accord.

Curry has yet to actually have to say President Donald Trump is wrong about something. But conditions are changing.

Robert Mueller is for real. And so are conditions that are conducive to a wave election. And the utter frustration with having one’s own agenda hijacked by some idiotic tweet or soundbite from the White House.

Trump has, by and large, been a bust for Jacksonville. See the above section on FEMA money. Even when a Republican mayor walks the line, Jacksonville is still shorted.

In 2018, Curry will have occasion to put distance between himself and the president. On some issue, somewhere.

The base might not like it, but it will happen. Trump is only becoming more erratic, in terms of messaging, as he sits on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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9. Murders continue spike, but no challenge to Mike Williams

Murders are up for the third straight year — at this writing, the final number isn’t in, but it is at least 131.

Last year saw 118 homicides.

This, despite additions of ShotSpotter and NIBIN — a national database that takes fingerprints of bullets to find killers. And additions of new police officers and equipment in the last three city budgets.

Ambitious politicians would make a real run at Williams. However, there don’t seem to be many of them.

Williams has consolidated support in the JSO, and has a $300,000+ campaign nest egg.

Thus, even if murders go up again in 2018 — a safe bet, given that there is no real change in conditions or legislation that drive them — Williams is on the glide path to re-election.

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10. Jaguars win the Super Bowl

In this year of inverted reality, the Jacksonville Jaguars are as good as any team in the league. Even with wide receivers plucked from obscurity. 

The playoffs — Buffalo at home, then Pittsburgh on the road — shape up well for them.

And the Patriots are beatable. So too are the Vikings — or any NFC team.

Now, the question: do they remake this classic?

 

 

 

A.G. Gancarski’s 10 people to watch in Northeast Florida politics: 2018 edition

Politics in Northeast Florida is about to heat up, with state races in 2018 and Jacksonville municipal elections in 2019. Here are ten names worth watching.

Alvin Brown: Is he running for the U.S. House against Al Lawson? Mayor against incumbent Lenny Curry?

He will have to decide, one way or another, this year.

We’ve gone into the challenges Brown would face against Lawson: among them, primarying an incumbent; not being known west of Duval County; a lack of buy-in among Jacksonville Democrats (who think he disappeared after losing the Mayor’s race in 2015, only returning ahead of running for whatever this year or next); and a lack of buy-in among the donor class.

The Peter Rummell-types have moved on, some to Lawson. And the trial lawyers probably aren’t that hyped up on taking Alvin to the next level.

That said, there almost has to be a Jacksonville candidate — and Alvin Brown looks like the best bet. Still.

Those familiar with Brown’s thinking say it’s Congress or bust. Time will tell.

Lisa King: The new chair of the Duval Democratic party is fired up and ready to go when it comes to the 2018 cycle.

Expect King, an establishment Democrat from the Hillary Clinton wing of the party, to manufacture media coverage every time there is an opportunity.

Unifying the party and building donor confidence will be key this year, as King tries to turn Duval into “Bluval.”

Carlo Fassi: One of the sharpest political minds in Northeast Florida that most people outside of downtown haven’t heard of.

Fassi is running Baxter Troutman’s campaign for Agriculture Commissioner — sort of the Royal Rumble battle royal of GOP primary races.

Before turning his attention to statewide work, Fassi worked for State Attorney Melissa Nelson, first as her campaign manager, then handling public affairs in her office.

Fassi is not a self-promoter by trade — and that may seem anomalous to fans of the political consultant game.

But expect this: no matter how Troutman fares this year, Fassi will be increasingly sought after for Republican candidates down the road.  

Reggie Brown: Is he running against Audrey Gibson for the state Senate?

To us, that sounds like a suicide mission. And we’re skeptical it’s going to happen.

Brown, a Jacksonville City Councilman, would run into some of the same issues Alvin Brown would run into versus Lawson. How does he credibly challenge a Senator who is poised to lead the caucus after the November election? Specifically, one who has institutional buy-in with corporate and institutional donors.

Rory Diamond: Diamond, an alumnus of the George W. Bush White House, the California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger administration, and head of the charitable non-profit “K9s for Warriors,” is highly regarded among local Republicans.

He’s a current Neptune Beach City Councilman, and he’s making a run for Jacksonville City Council in 2019.

He also has roughly $100,000 banked.

Yet he will face a competitive race.

There are those who contend that Diamond isn’t enough of a social conservative to replace termed-out Bill Gulliford on the City Council.

There will be a candidate that attacks Diamond on those grounds.

Garrett Dennis: With Brian Hughes moving into the office of Mayor Lenny Curry as chief of staff, there are strong expectations that the political and the policy sphere will essentially become one.

With that in mind, it’s worth watching the only Democrat on Council who has acted like a Democrat: Garrett Dennis.

Alone among Council Democrats, of whom at least a few have functioned like adjuncts of the Mayor’s office, Dennis has embodied an actual attempt to put checks and balances on the Curry agenda.

He’s taken risks. Taken slings and arrows for his trouble. But on a City Council that has not offered much resistance to any of the reforms in the last thirty months, Dennis is the sole reminder that there are two political parties in this town, each with their own agendas.

Empower Jacksonville: There’s not a breakout star of this group — a Christian conservative Liberty Counsel front that would like to see, ultimately, a City Council referendum to overturn the LGBT protections in the Human Rights Ordinance expansion of 2017.

But the group is very much worth watching. It seeks to have two ballot items next August. The first: a referendum to change the city’s charter to allow citizens to challenge any law via referendum.

The second measure: a straw ballot on whether or not the HRO should be subject to a citizen referendum. The specific area of contention: the additions to the law this February, not the previously extant law.

Those additions: protections of LGBT people in the areas of housing discrimination, workplace protections, and public accommodations.

This underscores a larger rift in the Republican Party between religious conservatives and more pragmatic conservatives; naturally, the latter category is called RINOs by those in the religious camp.

Aaron Bowman: A VP for business recruitment for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Bowman also is City Council VP.

And he will walk into the presidency next year.

Bowman has been an interesting case. A dyed-in-the-wool Republican, the former Mayport base commander nonetheless is the kind of Republican who embodies the “kinder, gentler America” former President George H.W. Bush talked about.

He ran for office against a Christian conservative, vowing to push for the aforementioned Human Rights Ordinance expansion. And that went through this February.

The book on Bowman among some on Council was that he thought he should have been in leadership from the start. That didn’t sit well with some Council veterans.

He’s there now, of course, and the way he won the Council VP election in 2017 was notable. Pledges materialized seemingly from thin air, with Bowman becoming the runaway choice.

Meanwhile, during the presidency of Anna Brosche, Bowman avoided making waves on hot-button issues like Confederate monuments. He clearly is amassing political capital. Will he use it during his presidency? Or does he have more ambitious plans down the road?

Earl Testy: Why Testy?

Despite having just $13 cash-on-hand, the self-styled “radical Republican” has already become the most quotable Jacksonville candidate since Rep. Kim Daniels.

Testy is known for mansplaining about how sexual harassment was a function of the female libido.

“They have themselves and their libidos to blame for much of their own abuse by men,” Testy posted to Facebook.

And if that isn’t enough, he also advocates the “conversion of Negro Democrats to the Republican Party.”

“I devote a portion of the time remaining in my life to facilitating the conversion of millions of Negro Democrats back home to the Republican Party,” Testy remarked.

Testy is running against an establishment Republican — Randy DeFoor — who will have all the endorsements and money she needs.

There likely will be a Democrat in this race — and other candidates — before all is said and done.

So why are we watching him? The reality is that he will get a sizable chunk of the vote… in the most liberal district in the city. Which says quite a bit about where Duval County really is.

Tracye Polson: Can Polson, a clinical social worker by trade, do the seemingly impossible and turn Rep. Jay Fant’s red district blue?

The Democratic candidate for House District 15 is about to find out.

Polson is keeping pace with the Republican in the race — Jacksonville lawyer Wyman Duggan — in terms of fundraising.

She also is aggressively canvassing the Westside Jacksonville district, an approach that she and her volunteers hope overcome the tendency of some voters in the district to just vote for the Republican.

Polson does have a primary opponent, but he is essentially unknown to local Democrats. Polson, by contrast, is a known quantity.

Rick Scott: Juvenile crime is down, pay correctional workers more

Gov. Rick Scott trumpeted a 42-year low in juvenile arrests Thursday in an attempt to secure a double-digit pay hike for youth correctional workers.

Governor Scott said, “Our state has made significant strides in reforming our juvenile justice system and I am proud to announce today that juvenile arrests have dropped to a historic 42-year low. Today’s announcement would not be possible without Florida’s juvenile detention and probation officers, who work each day to redirect our youth to a successful path. I will be working with the legislature during the upcoming session to pass a 10 percent pay raise for juvenile detention and juvenile probation officers so we can reward them for their critical work.”

Orange and Hillsborough Counties paced the field, with 15 percent and 14 percent dips in youth arrests year over year.

But some categories — felony drug arrests, weapon/firearm intake, fraud/forgery/counterfeiting, felony vandalism, stolen property, escape intake, obstruction of justice, and “other” felonies — saw statewide year over year increases.

Despite those categorical complications of narrative, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina Daly offered a buoyant note.

“More than six years ago, DJJ committed to improve Florida’s juvenile justice system through innovative and aggressive reforms. The continued decline in juvenile arrests year after year demonstrates our reform efforts are working,” Daly said.

“We will continue to work with law enforcement and our community partners to keep even more kids out of the juvenile justice system, provide the very best services for those that do come into our system, and work hard to help steer every youth down the right path,” Daly added.

Other states, ranging from Alabama to California, have seen decreases in youth crime in recent years — which raises questions as to whether “innovative and aggressive reforms” are actually responsible for the statistical decrease.

Amanda Slama, deputy communications director for the DJJ, said that Florida is benefiting from increased use of civil citations and other diversion tactics, which “keep kids out of the system.”

Regarding areas with increase statewide, such as those enumerated above, they signify that there still is “work to do,” per Slama.

That said, even as state legislators grumble over Scott’s big-spending budget, it will be hard for any of them to make the case that youth correctional workers don’t deserve raises.

Jacksonville seeks $10M from feds for beach renourishment

Two consecutive years have seen hurricanes strafe Duval County shorelines. And Jacksonville leadership wants $10 million in federal help.

Last week, Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa emailed Susie Wiles, a City Hall veteran and Ballard Partners lobbyist who ran the stretch run of President Donald Trump‘s Florida campaign.

The subject: getting federal movement on beach renourishment funds.

“The City of Jacksonville needs the USACE to fully fund the Project Information Report (PIR) that is currently in their DC office,” Mousa wrote.

“The PIR includes the Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (FCCE) component to bring the beaches back to the Design Template (100% Federal) and to then increase the amount of material to reach the normal ‘Beach Renourishment’ plan (this would have the normal local partnership contribution). The Dunes Restoration is not a part of the PIR…it would be accomplished as a piggyback onto the USACE effort but completely funded by COJ,” Mousa added.

“We believe St. Johns County & Nassau County PIR has already been approved/funded. We cannot seem to get ours moving,” Mousa continued.

Florida Politics reached out to Mayor Lenny Curry‘s administration for more context on this email.

The city seeks “approximately $10 million to restore the beach to its normal renourishment template.”

Though Mousa bemoaned getting the PIR moving, the city does “not consider the matter stalled, but rather the request proceeding through normal channels. We have no information on neighboring county efforts.”

And regardless of what happens, the city asserts that “Duval County will do whatever is needed to protect our shoreline.”

The city, of course, has put major money into beach restoration: $7.5 million of a $22 million price tag, for a project completed in June.

And these issues run concomitant with other storm-created needs, adding up to an $85 million hit from Irma, after a $45 million hit from Matthew (from which the city is still waiting on the vast majority of anticipated federal reimbursements in the $26 million range).

Florida Times-Union editorial board all-in for ‘entertainment zone’

At the end of November, Florida Times-Union reporter Nate Monroe wrote one of those articles so pointed that television reporters, in a crash course on political committee finance, were asking follow-ups during gaggles.

Entitled “Political committee spending keeps many details of Mayor [Lenny] Curry’s trips in dark,” the piece examined some off-schedule trips the mayor took with Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan — dual-purpose excursions devoted to rainmaking for Curry’s political committee and exploring entertainment districts around sports stadiums in various cities.

Those cities included Baltimore, where the football team’s owner has bemoaned attendance troughs this season, and St. Louis, which lost its NFL franchise to Los Angeles (but still markets its baseball team).

The piece contained a graphic (“Anatomy of a political perk“) exploring Khan’s $200,000 spending into Curry’s political committee.

A sharp piece – one that could win awards the next time hardware is given out – despite the fact that the paper’s editorial board doesn’t seem to have read it.

On Thursday, the editorial board proved that money spent on political travel indeed was money well-spent, going all-in behind the concept in “Stadium area needs an entertainment zone.”

“Mayor Lenny Curry is right to push for a major entertainment district in the stadium area,” the editorialists write. “It’s an idea that is working well in peer cities like St. Louis and Kansas City.”

From there, the editorial offered a revisionist history version of the 2005 Super Bowl celebration.

National sportswriters bemoaned a surfeit of amenities, ranging from hotel rooms to taxicabs. There’s a reason that Jacksonville hasn’t been in the Super Bowl mix in the decade-plus since — one that Shad Khan spoke to in an article from January of this year.

Khan said: “Here in Jacksonville? Absolutely not. What it takes to get a Super Bowl, I think, is setting Jacksonville up for failure. I think, with time and money, energy is much better served on something else. For example, what they’re going through in Miami. A big renovation with the Dolphins would be a great venue for a Super Bowl. I’d love to see Florida get Super Bowls, but I think Tampa and Miami are much better suited for that. The requirements now for hotel rooms and some of the other infrastructure amenities — we don’t have here, so let’s not kid ourselves.”

But what does Shad Khan know?

Check out the T-U narrative.

“Jacksonville had an exciting entertainment district for the 2005 Super Bowl. Bay Street was packed with revelers. The Main Street Bridge was turned over to pedestrians and fireworks shows. We brought in cruise ships for extra hotel rooms. Tents were raised for entertainment. Old warehouses were turned into bars. Jacksonville rocked. We know how to put on a party!”

The Khan narrative is rooted in the business case: we don’t have the infrastructure.

The Times-Union narrative is rooted in a history that leaves out some of the ridiculous locations for Super Bowl parties, including (but not limited to) the former “Edge” nightclub in Arlington’s blight district, and Five Points’ creatively-named “Club 5.”

Both spots were, once upon a time, two of the grimiest clubs in the city, where electronic dance music offered a syncopated soundtrack for low-grade vice and second-rate subversion. These were not suitable spots for Super Bowl parties.

Yet, as Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “you don’t go to war with the army you want. You go to war with the army you have.”

The purple prose continues: “Like an urban Cinderella story, once midnight struck after the Super Bowl weekend, the area returned to its previous dismal state. It’s time to turn that memorable, once-in-a-lifetime Super Bowl event into a regular reality.”

The editorial notes that Khan’s Iguana Investments holds development rights to the Shipyards — savvy readers will note that Khan, just a few paragraphs above, eviscerated the concept of Jacksonville hosting another Super Bowl.

And, further down, it also noted Curry declined an interview request for this article — probably for the best, given that the T-U editorialists went farther in selling the concept than he would.

Leaving aside the issues mentioned above with Jacksonville hosting another Super Bowl, there are existential pressures to come for Jacksonville budgets.

One of those problems: pay raises for city employees.

Police and fire are slated for 20 percent hikes over the next few years, with other city employees trailing behind. These raises were the price paid for getting unions to move future employees to defined contribution plans rather than defined benefit pensions.

The city, committing to pension reform, made what Moody’s called a “buy now, pay later” bet.

Jacksonville would have faced draconian cuts in the current budget had pension reform not passed; as it was, the city saved — regarding FY 17 money — $142 million by restructuring what is now a $3.2 billion hit for the unfunded liability from defined benefit pension plans.

Meanwhile, there are capital needs for that temporary budget relief created by deferring a big chunk of payments until 2031 on the defined benefit plan; among them, the laundry list of broken promises to the Eastside and Northwest Jacksonville, a septic tank phaseout program, beach restoration and other repair needs from the last two hurricanes, and so on.

If the T-U is going to address those, it will be in a different editorial. This one ends with more of a “choo-choo” motif.

“So though we don’t know many details, it’s important for city leaders to get on board with the train of progress. It’s on the tracks, and the mayor is the conductor.”

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