A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 438

A.G. Gancarski

Slow start for Jacksonville opioid treatment program

The first month of “Operation Save Lives” – Jacksonville’s experimental inpatient opioid treatment program – is in the books and the results are mixed.

The program, intended to address the mounting body count from the use of fentanyl and its derivatives, sees a local emergency room used as a feeder for two inpatient treatment programs, which would (at least in theory) help some of Jacksonville’s addicts beat the habit.

In practice, the program is suitable – at least thus far – for a small fraction of the patients who present themselves to emergency rooms with overdose symptoms.

From November 18 to December 18, 24 such patients manifested and just six are “receiving or pending treatment.”

Fifteen declined treatment. Two more left against medical advice.

The program may be expanded to the Southside of Jacksonville in 2018; per the city’s opioid pilot program status report, that would be “in order to increase participation in the program.”

Overdoses, at last count, end four times as many lives as homicides in Duval County, with 2016’s count of 464 casualties more than doubling 2015’s count of 201.

Caucasians represent 86 percent of the deaths. More than half of those passing away are in their 30s and 40s.

Joe Abruzzo’s rocky divorce spills onto the Twittersphere

Brandy Abruzzo, the wife of state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, took to Twitter this week to tell her side of the story regarding divorce proceedings that have sprawled on for close to two years.

All the claims, as one might expect, were challenged by a spokesman for Abruzzo, a Boynton Beach Democrat.

But Mrs. Abruzzo, in an emotional and exclusive conversation with Florida Politics, had her say as well.

And soon enough, doubt was cast on her narrative by a source familiar with the situation.


Mrs. Abruzzo’s Twitter fusillade started the day after Christmas.

“In need of a high profile attorney that has expertise in political corruption in a divorce. Please advise,” Mrs. Abruzzo tweeted December 26.

A previous tweet was even more shocking: “In a 911 call where I was assaulted by [Rep.] Abruzzo … I have a recording of the officers saying they couldn’t arrest him and ‘it’s a sticky situation since he’s a senator’ … I called PBSO to get a copy of the CAD and it no longer existed!! Can anyone help with corruption?”

Before that, the feed offered an audio file.

“Let me just take care of you. You’ll never have to work again. And we can just work on being friends and lovers,” said a voice appearing to belong to Rep. Abruzzo, in an audio file datestamped Dec. 26 of this year (but recorded, according to one source, before that).

“I’ll do whatever I need to do when the time for me needs to be,” a voice — Mrs. Abruzzo’s — said in the call.

The account also contained a cryptic message dated Dec. 8: “They’re dropping like flies … shameful. I plan on telling my story too someday.”

The Abruzzos have been estranged for some time. But Mrs. Abruzzo is telling her story now.

Mrs. Abruzzo said that she initially started the Twitter account to show her husband’s “girlfriends, colleagues, and friends” that — despite everything — the couple was “trying to work things out.”

However, Mrs. Abruzzo — who described her husband as a “pathological liar,” who allegedly “leaves [their] baby with random sitters” on custodial weekends — clearly feels like those efforts have been exhausted.

“I’ve been asking him to give me a divorce,” Mrs. Abruzzo said, but her efforts have been frustrated — in part because of what she perceives to be delays on his end, and in part because she can’t afford an attorney and doesn’t simply want to accede to his terms.

Mrs. Abruzzo has asked for the divorce papers, she said; however, they haven’t been provided.

She also does not live on the marital property, she said.

Money has been a problem as well, Mrs. Abruzzo lamented. Postings on the internet have hampered her job search, she said, as has the reality of having two small children. Her sole source of income, at least for now, is an allowance Rep. Abruzzo gives her.

Mrs. Abruzzo also contended that “the marriage was a scam.”

“He sought me out. Got me pregnant on our honeymoon. Five weeks after the baby was born,” she said, her Alabama twang coming through, “he moved out when I was on a ‘girls’ weekend.'”

“If you’re a dedicated father and husband,” Mrs. Abruzzo added, “you don’t leave a mother and a baby after five weeks.”

Mrs. Abruzzo met her husband at a political function when she worked for Rep. Irv Slosberg. Though “not very political” by her own description, she interviewed for a job with Rep. Abruzzo.

She wasn’t hired, however.

“He ended up asking me on a date,” she said.

In a sense, that power dynamic informed the rest of the relationship, per Mrs. Abruzzo, who alleges that her husband discussed “procreating” with her for her “genetics,” and who fears not getting a fair shake in the divorce.

“He’s got cops and judges in his back pocket,” she said. “All of these people are like his best friends.”

Ultimately, she’s “tired of living his lie,” and finds it “unfair that he would seek out an innocent person to have a child with and then walk away.”

A source familiar with Rep. Abruzzo’s side of this situation paints a completely different picture.

The couple had not been trying to reconcile in some time, says that source.

There have not been multiple baby sitters, that source said, but just one sitter.

That source also disputes the narrative put forth by Mrs. Abruzzo that she can’t afford her attorney, noting that Rep. Abruzzo is obligated to pay for her attorney, and that she fired one already and chose to represent herself.

As well, doubt is cast on Mrs. Abruzzo’s claim that she doesn’t have time to get a job; the younger child is in school from approximately 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., which creates a significant window of time.

As well, Mrs. Abruzzo’s pleas of penury are disputed, as Rep. Abruzzo pays out roughly $6,000 a month between rent, automobile payments, and allowance payments — in addition to a four-figure sum she gets from a previous husband.

Suffice it to say there is some divergence between the narratives.

Rep. Abruzzo’s spokesman, Christian Ulvert, said that the lawmaker wants to resolve this matter quickly so that all parties can “move forward in 2018.”

“The Twitter posts are coming to a head because he is working hard to resolve this,” Ulvert said, calling the claims “false information.”

Regarding the above-mentioned Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office call, Ulvert said that “to our knowledge that never happened,” and that Rep. Abruzzo was the only person to make such a call from their marriage.

Divorce proceedings began almost two years ago, Ulvert said, and the two had long since separated. Both the representative and his wife have dated other people since, which he said casts doubt on Mrs. Abruzzo’s narrative about a “mistress.”

The Twitter account was created a few weeks ago, Ulvert added, to “give the false impression that they are together.”

Prison can wait, says Corrine Brown co-conspirator

Carla Wiley, the CEO of the phony charity One Door for Education that Corrine Brown used as a slush fund, asked Tuesday for a delay in her reporting to prison.

Wiley was set to report no sooner than January 8; she would like to delay that to February 8.

Wiley is both settling her own affairs, via transferring assets into her son’s name, and handling her mother’s estate, which a filing describes as a “tedious process.”

Wiley also objects to the potential prison in which she will serve her time: a “high-security, spartan facility utterly inappropriate for a first-time nonviolent offender.”

If placed in maximum security, Wiley would be subject to what the filing calls “diesel therapy” once moved to a more befitting prison.

Wiley would like to avoid the “arduous, filthy, and uncomfortable air or ground transport shackling the inmates of all custody levels with upper and lower chains for a circuitous shared ride of weeks or months before an individual’s destination is reached.”

Wiley was sentenced to 21 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $452,515 in restitution, along with a $654,000 forfeiture judgment.

Ron DeSantis calls Donald Trump Russia dossier ‘BS … fake news’

On Fox and Friends Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis again cast doubt on an oppo-dossier against President Donald Trump, calling it “BS” and  “fake news.”

DeSantis was asked to respond to a report in the Washington Times, which asserted that the FBI cannot verify the dossier’s claims.

“Think about where this dossier came from. It was not something that was generated by an intelligence agency. It was funded by the Democrats and Hillary Clinton through the Perkins Cole law firm to Fusion GPS,” DeSantis asserted.

DeSantis also blasted the dossier’s author, Christopher Steele, as lacking relevant contacts, tenuously based on his being a spy in Russia a quarter century ago.

“[He] didn’t really have any sources,” DeSantis said. “They put a lot of BS in this thing. Fake news, and then they tried to dress it up as an intelligence product.”

The illegitimacy of the product and the process, DeSantis said, raises troubling questions.

“I think it would undermine the legitimacy of the genesis of the investigation and all the way to the present … The Russia collusion was always more of a narrative than anything based on any type of factual basis. But if this was the basis to get surveillance on an American citizen, remember, if you are doing a FISA surveillance on an American citizen, it’s not just that they may have foreign contacts. You have to actually say there is a basis they committed a criminal offense.”

“If the dossier, an opposition research political hit piece, is what you’re using, it calls into question how they’ve conducted themselves in this investigation. There’s no doubt about it,” DeSantis said.

“We’ve tried to get simple answers about the genesis of the dossier, whether the government paid for the dossier … it’s always ‘no, we can’t give this to you’,” DeSantis added, expressing frustration over stonewalling of Congressional committees on this long-simmering controversy.

“Unless the answers are bad,” DeSantis said, “wouldn’t you want to answer the questions and move on?”

Many Florida politicians have attempted to yoke themselves to President Trump, either rhetorically or symbolically.

However, DeSantis stands alone in his ability to convincingly argue the pro-Trump case, and to undermine the critiques of the President’s political opponents.

Perhaps that symbiosis — in pugnacity and worldview — is why Trump endorsed DeSantis for Governor, even before the Northeast Florida Congressman declared his candidacy.

Ron DeSantis for Governor? ‘Stay tuned’, he tells Fox and Friends

Apparently, Ron DeSantis is still making way toward the Governor’s race, if a favorable interview on Fox and Friends Wednesday were any indication.

The Republican congressman was grinning from ear to ear, as the studio’s big screen showed a tweet from part-time Florida Man and full-time President Donald Trump: “Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”

The hosts invited DeSantis to “break some news,” but he declined that offer — still smiling.

“I can tell you that when that tweet went out, the amount of buzzing on my phone from calls and texts, I thought the phone was malfunctioning, or there was something going on,” said DeSantis. “When he tweets, and he has 100 million people that are seeing that, it’s a really, really big deal, and I really appreciate the kind words from the President.”

“[Trump] loves Florida, and he’s been good for Florida, and I anticipate he’ll continue to do that,” DeSantis said, adding that he’ll “come back on [the show] in the new year and break some news then.”

When one of the hosts said that by promising to break the news, it was as if DeSantis were breaking news, the still-smiling congressman urged him to use his “deductive reasoning” skills.

A DeSantis run — with Trump’s imprimatur — is a game changer for current GOP front-runner Adam Putnam.

The Agriculture Commissioner, who has run a disciplined campaign up until now, will now necessarily have to distance himself from Trump.

Also, Gov. Rick Scott — who Trump encouraged to run for the Senate — will not be able to co-brand (in any meaningful way) with the man who served in his Cabinet for seven years.

Truck routes in Jacksonville’s future, if City Council gives go ahead

Drivers of 18 wheelers coming through Jacksonville in the near future may want to be advised: if you’re starting a convoy, you may have to do it on designated routes.

That’s the gist of a new piece of legislation being considered Monday in the Transportation, Energy, and Utilities committee.

Ordinance 2017-807 would designate 52 truck routes and 10 alternate routes in Jacksonville.

Unless explicitly prohibited, all state roads would be truck routes.

Truckers would be allowed to use other routes for the express purpose of getting from one truck route to another, per the bill summary.

Scofflaws would be subject to $100 fines.

The bill accords with the 2030 comprehensive plan, which calls for truck routes; the criteria used to establish them include land use/truck trip generators; street classifications; lane widths; bridge locations; and speed limits.

The Jacksonville proposal, compared to truck routes in other cities, lacks nuance as currently constructed.

In Chicago, a proposed system of truck maps establishes three classifications for trucks: “The truck routes follow the Illinois Department of Transportation truck route designations: Class I truck routes includes interstate highways and expressways, Class II truck routes include major arterials with minimum 11 foot lanes, and Class III are State or City highways with lanes under 11 feet.”

New York City‘s system distinguishes between local trucks and thru trucks, with locals travelling within one of the city’s five boroughs.

In Menlo Park, California, truck route permits are required.

Closer to home, Sarasota is mulling changing its rules to establish designated routes; currently, the city operates under a case-by-case prohibition of trucks on certain residential streets.

Francis Rooney calls for FBI, DOJ purge

Republican Florida Congressman Francis Rooney livened up a slow news day Tuesday, with a provocative call for a purge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department on MSNBC.

Rooney, being interviewed by Hallie Jackson, explained that he “would like to see the directors of those agencies purge it,” he replied.

Rooney added that “we’ve got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here, those are the people that I want the American people to see and know the good works being done, not these people who are kind of the deep state.”

Rooney’s specific agitation was with the ongoing investigation of alleged ties between agents of Russian influence and the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

“That investigation is totally off the rails… I’m very concerned that the DOJ and the FBI, whether you want to call it ‘deep state’ or what, are kind of off the rails,” Rooney asserted, adding that the DOJ and FBI don’t “respect the Constitution.”

Central to the problem: the “‘ends before the means’ culture out of the Obama administration, out of Hillary Clinton. With her $84 million of potentially illegal campaign contributions or the Clinton Foundation/Uranium One. People need a good clean government.”

President Trump devoted some time last weekend to tweets that were critical of the FBI.

“How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation,” Trump asked on Dec. 23.

Behold, the wreckage: A look at A.G. Gancarski’s 2017 predictions

Another year is mercifully almost in the books, and with that comes another chance for this writer to offer self-recrimination for yearly predictions that looked good in January.

Prediction 1 [TRUE]: The Duval Delegation will struggle to deliver.

On this one, I have to consider what the Mayor told me was the key priorities.

One of them was money for septic tank removal.

The city and JEA have committed to a five-year, $30 million shared process of removal of old septic tanks, with the idea of getting these properties onto city water and sewage.

The city wanted $15 million from the state; however, the Duval Delegation didn’t even carry the bill — which was instead carried by Rep. Travis Cummings of Clay County.

The measure died in committee.

So on that issue, the Delegation didn’t get it done.

Prediction 2 [TRUE]: Nothing for Hart Bridge offramp removal

The big ask last year: $50 million for removal of Hart Bridge offramps, with the idea of moving traffic onto surface streets by the Sports Complex.

Another called pitch strikeout.

No one even carried the bill. Delegation members told this reporter that they hadn’t been told about the project before it was introduced at a Duval Delegation meeting.

Delegation Chair Jay Fant said in March he would have been “happy to carry the bill,” but that the mayor’s office “backed off” because the concept “needed some validation” and wasn’t just a “request and get.”

The city is now pursuing a $25 million federal infrastructure grant, and wants $12.5 million from the state to help with that.

Thus far, crickets.

But long story short, the city didn’t get what it wanted there.

Prediction 3 [FALSE]: Collective bargaining with unions won’t wrap in time for 2018 budget

We were pessimistic that collective bargaining with unions, regarding pension reform, would take longer than it did.

We were wrong.

The unions traded pay raises for current members with the end of defined benefit plans for new members, who are all now into defined contribution plans.

This saved the city money in the short term.

As CFO Mike Weinstein said, the savings add up to “$1.4B less out of the general fund over the next 15 years,” and “without that revenue” from the half-cent sales tax, the city would have “difficulty matching revenue to expenses.”

The city was able to defer what is now a $3.2 billion obligation until 2030, when the Better Jacksonville Plan half-cent sales tax will be repurposed to dealing with what is now a pension plan playing out the string.

This allowed the city to have a bigger budget than in previous years, with more money for infrastructure spending.

In any event, we botched that one.

Prediction 4 [FALSE]: Human Rights Ordinance expansion won’t go through.

After five years of trying to find a way to add LGBT people to the city’s HRO, activists got their wish on Valentine’s Day; the expanded ordinance passed by a 12-6 margin in City Council.

The expansion added sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the list of protected categories under the ordinance, which ensures that people aren’t discriminated against in the workplace, the housing market, or public accommodations (restrooms, locker rooms, and so on).

Mayor Lenny Curry returned the bill to the city council without his signature; the bill is now law.

Instrumental in the push: Jaguars owner Shad Khan,

Khan, per some sources, read an article of this writer’s that suggested that Khan lean on Council for a yes vote.

Whether that’s true or apocryphal, who knows.

But a win’s a win.

Prediction 5 [TRUE]: The murder rate won’t abate.

Sad to be right about this one, but as the T-U’s homicide tracker says, the city is at 128 murders with two weeks to go this year.

Last year saw 118 homicides.

Curry and Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams probably won’t get real electoral challenges for re-election.

If they did, however, they would be vulnerable on this issue.

Prediction 6 [TRUE]: Alvin Brown continues to resurface.

This reporter has seen more of Alvin Brown this fall than he has his own mother … which means that he probably should visit home more often.

It also means that Brown is around; a fixture at everything from meetings of Duval Democrats to Corrine Brown hearings.

Brown, who is still mulling running against Al Lawson for Congress, is out there for a reason.

Prediction 7 [FALSE]: Local Dems vie to replace Al Lawson

While Brown is mulling, no one seems to be moving.

Audrey Gibson is in Democratic caucus leadership in the Florida Senate. Tony Hill is on Lawson’s payroll.

The expectations of a battle royale between Democrats, thus far, have been dashed.

Prediction #8 [FALSE]: There will be a homeless day resource center in Downtown Jacksonville

This was a priority of activists; this was not a priority of the Lenny Curry administration.

The contention: the day center had “mixed results.”

As is the case with other social-service legislation, such as the Jacksonville Journey, the mayor’s office wanted a data-driven approach. And the data showed that a day center serves a supplementary, not a primary purpose.

Prediction #9 [FALSE]: The city will reassume control of Hemming Park.

Jacksonville has found a rapprochement with a restructured Friends of Hemming Park group, meaning that this is not under direct city control.

Prediction #10 [FALSE]: Political scofflaws will skate on charges

This is false solely because Corrine Brown did get sentenced to five years in prison. At her age, that essentially is a life sentence.

All told, batted .400, with four correct and the rest junk.

Better luck next year!

Reggie Brown to decide in ‘early January’ whether to challenge Audrey Gibson

Will he or won’t he?

That’s the question regarding termed-out Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, who is still mulling a primary challenge against state Sen. Audrey Gibson.

Florida Politics reported on this earlier this month. Brown confirmed then that he was exploring a run to a Florida Times-Union reporter, then to this outlet.

“All options are being considered,” Brown texted. “I’m reviewing the possibilities and will make a decision early January.”

Before Christmas, rumors flew that Brown was meeting with Mayor Lenny Curry to discuss resigning for a state Senate run. However, both Brown and those in Curry’s orbit said such a meeting wasn’t happening.

The fact that the rumor is there at all, however, is a strong indication that Brown is being taken seriously as potential competition.

Gibson, who is leader-designate of the Senate Democrats, is an unlikely candidate to be primaried.

November was the fourth straight month she brought in over $10,000. Gibson has raised $118,268, with $102,095.82 on hand.

Among Gibson’s donors: Dosal Tobacco Company, Florida Bankers Association PAC, Florida Home Builders, Walmart and Walgreens. These are the types of corporate donors who don’t give to all Democrats, and they are a source of funds Brown likely wouldn’t be able to access.

Brown has won elections without massive fundraising before; his 2015 re-election bid saw him win with just $42,000.

He also is visible in the local community.

Reggie Brown challenging Audrey Gibson would immediately become the most interesting primary race on the ballot in Northeast Florida.

And it just may happen.

Ron DeSantis prospective gubernatorial bid gets Donald Trump’s seal of approval

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”

A tweet from President Donald Trump may change the race for Florida Governor.

DeSantis has been exploring a run for Governor for months now. And since May 2016, when he urged party unity in the wake of Trump becoming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, he has aligned with Trump.

Most recently, DeSantis accompanied the President to a rally in Pensacola.

Reporters then said that DeSantis was poised to go “full Trump” in the Governor’s race.

DeSantis’ campaign team called the president’s tweet an endorsement.

“I’m grateful to have the President’s support and appreciate what he has done — from appointing great judges to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to signing a pro-growth tax cut — to get our country back on track,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “As an Iraq veteran, I’m especially appreciative of his efforts to support our military and our veterans.

DeSantis’ political committee has roughly $2 million on hand, well behind that of Adam Putnam, who has over $15 million.

As well, Putnam — who has run aggressively and consistently since April — has built relationships with GOP party leaders and politicians throughout the state … including in Northeast Florida, DeSantis’ geographic base.

But the President’s backing will be key in the race to come, and could prove dispositive for many voters, especially the kinds of super-voters who will decide the Republican nomination for Governor.

Just as DeSantis has done the heavy lifting on the part of the President, by pushing for the Uranium One investigation of Hillary Clinton, it now looks like 45 is returning the favor for DeSantis.

As for when DeSantis might enter the race, Brad Herold, of the Ponte Vedra Beach-based Ron DeSantis for Florida, said in an email Friday that the congressman will “make a decision when the time is right.”

Democrats are messaging.

“The president only cares about himself and it is no surprise he would support Ron DeSantis, an extreme congressman who is leading the smear campaign against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigations. Floridians want a leader who will stand up to the president — not protect him,” read a statement from the Gwen Graham camp Friday afternoon.

DeSantis’ apparent exit from Congress opens up the Congressional District 6 race, where a number of Republicans likely will make bids.

Among them: former Green Beret Mike Waltz; businessman John Ward; Operation Enduring Freedom veteran Brandon Patty.

State Rep. Fred Costello has also been discussed as a candidate.

Meanwhile, Democrat Nancy Soderberg — a former United Nations Ambassador during the Bill Clinton presidency — is running a strong campaign to face whoever the GOP nominates.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

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