A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 419

A.G. Gancarski

Motion to delay denied: Corrine Brown sentencing is on for Nov. 16

A motion filed earlier this month by former Rep. Corrine Brown to delay her sentencing was rejected Friday, finalizing the Nov. 16 sentencing on 18 counts related to a nonperforming educational charity, One Door for Education.

Brown sought a sentence of probation, and invoked health issues as a justification for the sentencing delay.

The “defendant is still undergoing testing and evaluation by physicians at a local facility mentioned therein, for which additional suspected medical conditions have not yet been fully diagnosed. It is probable that the anticipated findings and evaluation are significant.”

Judge Timothy Corrigan rejected that argument, contending that “the Court has reviewed medical records provided by Ms. Brown under seal. Nothing in those medical records provides a reason for the Court to postpone the sentencing.”

Brown cited difficulty in compiling documentary evidence of her “history of good works.”

“Numerous documents indispensable to establishing such information were destroyed in the defendant’s home in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Although the defendant has been diligently endeavoring to recreate those documents, several third-party custodians of records are still in the process of either reconstructing or reissuing such documents.”

The Court asserted that “if Ms. Brown can demonstrate at the sentencing hearing that there is some document or information that she was unable to obtain, the Court will consider whether to allow her additional time to produce it.”

Kamala Harris comes to Jacksonville today to raise money for Bill Nelson

Sen. Bill Nelson is gearing up for a dogfight with Gov. Rick Scott at the ballot box in 2018, and in that context comes a Friday fundraiser in Jacksonville.

Nelson’s fundraiser costs $500 to attend, $1,000 to host, $2,700 to chair. And offering added incentive, Democratic donors will get a chance to meet first-term California Senator Kamala Harris.

Harris is one of many potential Democratic candidates for president in 2020 who, when polled against President Donald Trump, came out ahead.

The Nelson fundraiser will be at the home of House District 15 hopeful Tracye Polson, who is making a bid to turn Republican Rep. Jay Fant‘s district from red to blue.

Harris will be the second potential Democratic Presidential hopeful to appear at Polson’s house as a special guest for a fundraiser in recent weeks; former HUD Secretary Julian Castro came to town for a Duval Democrats’ fundraiser at the same address in October.

Al Lawson makes big push for Jacksonville flood mitigation

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson represents a big swath of North Florida from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, and in the wake of Irma, the first-term Democrat noted Jacksonville’s historic flooding.

Weeks after the waters receded, Lawson moved toward proposing action — and that action could provide relief for much of Jacksonville’s propensity toward river-related flooding, the inundation that wreaked havoc as Irma churned through and out of the area.

Lawson wrote a letter to Mick Mulvaney, chairman of the Federal Office of Management and Budget, on Monday that outlined the ask: $79 million for 11 flood and storm surge projects, funding for a US Army Corps of Engineers flood study, and $20 million more for flood resiliency efforts in Jacksonville.

The common thread in the projects: these flooding issues are influenced by the St. Johns River, making them eligible for federal funding. Though legislation has yet to be filed, groundwork is being laid.

Thursday saw Lawson take the case to the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee — describing a historic impact from Irma being driven by storm surge.

Lawson noted that water levels from the St. Johns River hit a record-high of 5.57 feet in Downtown Jacksonville, impacting some of the area’s most iconic buildings, such as the Riverfront Hyatt Regency and the low-lying Wells Fargo tower.

Both of these landmark structures suffered damage that took weeks to remediate, Lawson asserted.

The 12 projects recommended come from Duval County’s own mitigation plan.

The McCoy Creek Drainage Improvement Project, for example, would bring relief to an area that has suffered flooding since well before consolidation of the city and county in 1967. McCoy’s Creek Boulevard — a cut-through for commuters in North Riverside — would be closed. A retention pond would be created. And repetitive loss properties would be eligible for residential relocation.

Hogan’s Creek, another flood-prone tributary of the St. Johns, would see improved conveyance under the Arlington Expressway, and two Regional Stormwater Facilities.

The Moncrief Creek project would abate flooding in the Northside neighborhood, and would offer bank stabilization and a couple of regional stormwater facilities.

Drainage improvements, per the Lawson plan, would be slated for the Emerald Necklace, Dinsmore, and the “Emerald Necklace” area around Hogan’s Creek and Springfield.

Money would also be allocated for the Liberty Street bridge project, as well as replacements for 35 drawbridges on evacuation routes.

Additionally, money would be earmarked for studies of stormwater retention and Jacksonville’s hurricane risk sheltering program.

Lawson’s response to Irma has been robust, starting after the storm when he spent days in the eastern part of his district visiting local shelters, helping to acclimate constituents to the FEMA application process, and building a relationship with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

When Florida Politics talked to Lawson in mid-September, he had just left a meeting in the mayor’s office — and central to the discussion was FEMA money from Hurricane Matthew.

Lawson and Curry have built a relationship that the Mayor extolled when asked if it would be more advantageous for former Mayor Alvin Brown — a potential primary challenger to Lawson next year — was in office.

“I have a great working relationship with Al Lawson,” Curry said.

Lawson has advocated for Jacksonville interests in other ways, including a recent letter of support for Jacksonville’s longshot bid for an Amazon Headquarters.

That letter of support nettled, ironically enough, Tallahassee leaders. But Lawson told the Tallahassee Democrat that the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce — a traditional sinecure of political donors — asked him to push for Amazon to Jacksonville, and he did just that.

Stability in the federal Congressional delegation is particularly important to Mayor Curry, given frayed relations with the Duval County Legislative Delegation.

Delegation members, including state Reps. Jay Fant and Kim Daniels and state Sen. Audrey Gibson, have gone on record complaining that the city lacks follow-through on advancing big-ticket priorities, such as the city’s desire to remove the current offramps from the Hart Bridge, routing traffic on surface streets toward the stadium complex and the port.

Gibson, the odds on favorite to be the next leader of the Senate Democrats, noted that she has been frustrated in attempts to “meet with the mayor directly” regarding city priorities

“There should also be that personal conversation with the delegation. We’re making the case here,” Gibson remarked.

A measure of the difference between the city’s relationships with federal and state legislators: While even after a year of trying, the city hasn’t found a legislator to carry the water on the Hart Bridge project, Sen. Marco Rubio was very quick to offer a letter of support for the city’s pursuit of a $25 million infrastructure grant from the Department of Transportation.

In that context, Lawson advocating Jacksonville’s priorities despite being a Tallahassee guy is good politics, both for Lawson staving off a Jacksonville challenge, and for the city’s priorities going forward.

Embattled Andrew Gillum encounters skepticism at AP Day

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has struggled with media scrutiny regarding his day job, and flatlined fundraising (such as a $78,000 September) during his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor.

Per a poll Florida Politics commissioned this week, Gillum is getting drubbed in polls — 31 percent to 13 percent, with the momentum going Gwen Graham‘s way.

Gillum came into AP Day Thursday with those questions looming … and at the end of his half-hour in the spotlight, they still loom — especially after a sharp-elbowed performance from Graham, who took Republicans to task as if in general election mode, directly preceded him.

After a long autobiographical intro that seemingly would be wasted on the state’s most plugged in political reporters, Gillum — a politician since he became an adult — said he was running so “regular people” should have a chance to get into politics.

That “regular people” trope: Gillum’s justification for underperforming in fundraising, as he has a high “total number” of individual contributors.

Despite FBI investigations into Tallahassee’s City Hall, Gillum went on to itemize various local achievements as a “blueprint for the rest of the state of Florida.”

Soon enough, Gillum moved on to criticize Gov. Rick Scott for not expanding Medicaid, and for not accepting federal “stimulus” money for expanding high-speed rail.

Citing a “deficit of forward thinking” in the state, Gillum then moved on to lament narrow losses to Gov. Scott.

“The way we’re going to have to run this race,” Gillum said, is by “leading with our values.”

Gillum believes that the key to winning is a “Democratic nominee who can inspire and turn out 100,000 new voters,” offering “ideas that our state is clamoring for.”

“The normal status quo is to cover these races chasing the money race,” Gillum said, as well as regional considerations.

Gillum thinks this race transcends the normal operation of statewide politics, and that a “milquetoast” candidate can’t make the sale — and that he can make the sale everywhere.

“I trust my path to victory in this crowded field of Democrats more than anyone else running,” Gillum said. “The strategy is you’ve got to turn more of your people out.”

Reporters were skeptical, with the first questioner saying the race is all but hopeless given the FBI investigation on his City Hall.

But Gillum doesn’t expect anything “damaging,” “illegal,” or “inappropriate” to come out about him.

“If there has been wrongdoing, I’m interested in seeing that sought out and removed,” Gillum said. “I want to be the first one to see that exposed.”

Another reporter dinged Gillum for perceptions of corruption and lack of transparency regarding public records requests.

Gillum countered that, saying reporters have gotten “everything [they] asked for,” and that this “difficult moment for the citizens of Tallahassee” will be overcome.

“What I would like to see is a much more complete picture of what is happening in our city,” Gillum said.

“I’m not the subject of any investigation,” Gillum noted, in response to yet another question about federal scrutiny of Florida’s capital.

$2M ask for Jax Beach coastal hardening

Jacksonville Beach has been strafed by two hurricanes in the last 13 months — Matthew and Irma. And now state money is requested for dune restoration.

On Thursday, Republican Rep. Cord Byrd filed an appropriations request for $2 million for coastal hardening via dune restoration.

The money, if approved, would come out of the Department of Environmental Protection budget. There is no lobbyist carrying the bill.

Though member projects have largely been discouraged by Speaker Richard Corcoran, a notable exception is work related to Hurricane Irma recovery.

This $2 million would protect property along 4.1 miles of oceanfront by closing breaks in the dune line. This project raises the height of up to 49 dune walkovers and extends the length of existing stormwater outfalls 10 feet seaward of the dune line.

Currently, breaks in the dunes allow ocean flooding during nor’easters and tropical storms, per the appropriations request.

Among the expected benefits of this project: improvements in public safety, transportation, and stormwater management.

Ag Commish Adam Putnam hits stump speech notes at AP Day

Going into November, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had all the momentum he could want in his bid for the 2018 GOP nod for Governor.

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 (to say nothing of the field of under-capitalized Democrats).

Running for office since April, his campaign shook off early organizational stumbles. And when he addressed Tallahassee media at “AP Day” on Thursday morning, he did so with the momentum — and the stump speech — of a presumptive nominee.

He balanced that with the responsibilities of a Cabinet officer tasked with handling the aftermath of Hurricane Irma’s devastation to Florida’s agriculture industry.

And he took questions at the end of his prepared remarks on both.

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“I’m talking about hurricanes and wildfires and child nutrition — it’s hard to compete with sex, but I’ll do my best to keep it interesting,” Putnam quipped in his opener, referring to the previous session with Senate President Joe Negron dealing with a lot of questions about the Senate’s sexual harassment policy.

Putnam went on to discuss the hurricane, noting that Florida’s produce crop will be reduced this Holiday season, and expressing hope that federal assistance would be provided.

Another issue Florida dealt with this year: wildfires across the state, with Putnam describing the paradox of seeing charred forest land immersed by Irma’s floods, and warning that heavy rain this fall could lead to a replication of those conditions this spring.

To that end, Putnam is going to ask for a “significant number” for capital equipment for wildfire prevention, including dozers.

In better news, Putnam noted that school lunch participation has gone up during his tenure.

“These are outside the norms,” Putnam said about what people expected from a commissioner of agriculture.

However, “Florida’s most important crop is our children.”

Putnam also noted a commitment to conservation easements, with an ask for $75 million for the Rural and Family Land Program.

Overall, Putnam noted that during his tenure, Florida’s economy has turned around, with unemployment below the traditional “full employment” number of 6 percent, and the biggest complain being infrastructure not keeping up with growth.

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Eleven minutes in, Putnam dispensed with the overview of his tenure as commissioner, pivoting to stump speech oratory about Florida as a “launch pad for the American dream.”

Career and technical education, Putnam said, needs to be brought into Florida schools to that end.

Putnam then launched into a stump speech riff extolling men and women in “bucket trucks” and people removing debris “without tearing up your water line.”

“Those are all good-paying jobs,” Putnam said.

Workforce development: a key priority of Putnam’s, specifically regarding giving community colleges a bigger piece of the pie.

“We need to reverse that talent flow” out of Florida, Putnam said, and “become a magnet … diversifying our economy: manufacturing, logistics, and trades.”

The payoff could be “generational in nature,” if “generational challenges” like preparing young people to compete in the global economy are met.

“Those future nurses,” Putnam said, “are going to come from a community college … 31 maybe 32 … balancing not just one job but several jobs … and they need an education that is local and affordable.”

“By putting Florida first,” Putnam said as he has for months on the stump, “we’ll be the launch pad for the American dream.”

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The stump speech wrapped, Putnam took questions — and one of them was existential regarding his current role.

Putnam was asked about the necessity of the role of the agriculture commissioner, calling it an important role — even in light of aspersions cast by one questioner as to whether the role was necessary.

“When you look at what we’ve done in the department collectively,’ Putnam said regarding child nutrition, water policy, and conservation, there is a “strength of having an elected leader on the Cabinet who recognizes these challenges.”

Putnam added that the lack of an agriculture commissioner could potentially be fatal for the sector.

Another question had to do with campaigning — specifically, raising big money from special interests.

Advertising is “extraordinarily expensive,” Putnam said, “given the number of media markets in the state” and the multiple platforms on which one must advertise.

Putnam, as any sentient candidate would, went on to emphasize the importance of grassroots.

“But grassroots isn’t free,” Putnam added. “Running statewide in Florida has to be done on more than car washes and bake sales.”

Audrey Gibson discusses vision for Senate Dems, North Florida priorities

Next week, Florida Senate Democrats look likely to choose Jacksonville Sen. Audrey Gibson as their next caucus leader.

Given the amount of narrative in recent months about Jacksonville not having its voice in leadership, this has to be seen as a positive.

After Wednesday’s meeting of the Duval County Legislative Delegation, we asked Gibson if the pledge count looked good.

She noted that it did, and while there is the weekend and Monday to get through, in the coming days she’s going to “stay close to those who have committed to support” her, “for all of us to be a team.”

Whether Gibson wins as expected or not, she has a vision for what Senate Democrats need to do this upcoming Legislative Session.

“First and foremost, we have to come back together as a unit and wipe away the negative going forward. And we need to go and discuss what our agenda’s going to look like,” Gibson said.

“The Leader doesn’t just say to the members ‘this is what we’re going to do and everybody just comes along’,” Gibson added. “My leadership style is to engage each and every member as to what their priorities are.”

One priority “for Democrats in general,” Gibson added, is education.

“We need to revisit the funding for our community colleges that provide the workforce for us,” Gibson said.

Gibson also added that even on education issues, there is a debate within the party; some Democrats are more open to vouchers than others.

A Gibson priority: not to “ostracize members who may think a bit differently, whose districts may respond to things differently.”

Environmental issues, Gibson added, are also a priority for Senate Democrats — and everyone else.

The environment is “not a red or blue issue — it’s a Florida issue.”

While Gibson has her personal agenda items, she also recognizes the diversity among Senate Democrats both in ideology and priorities.

“Even within our caucus,” Gibson noted, “there are individuals who look at policy a little differently.”

Conversation moved to what Gibson’s ascension would mean for Northeast Florida.

“It puts us in the spotlight in a positive way. I think I always have represented my city very well,” Gibson remarked.

“I’m a big ports person, and the ports would be front and center,” Gibson said — good news indeed as JAXPORT moves through the early stages of an ambitious, locally controversial, and expensive dredging process that the city is counting on shared costs for.

For FY 18, JAXPORT has $42.1M budgeted for the dredge: $23.3M from its own finance, and $18.8M from the state.

While that’s definitely a start for the estimated $484M project, there is no guarantee of recurring funding — a concern of local policy makers.

Gibson also noted that she is pro-business.

“I also believe in a business agenda that we should look at as Democrats — we aren’t anti-business.”

Gibson noted a conversation with North Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Montford about Leadership, in which they discussed regional priorities.

“We were talking about the fact that it’s been — and he raised it — ‘South, South, South’, and there’s been no North Florida focus,” Gibson added. “North Florida is just as important as any area of the state.”

To that end, Gibson said that North Florida and Northeast Florida will be front and center in budget and policy conversations — something that hasn’t always been the case.

Of course, Wednesday’s meeting of the Duval County Legislative Delegation was notable in that, for the first year in a long time, there were no local bills — and city leadership had no representation, with most of Mayor Lenny Curry’s senior staff in Toronto for a Jax Chamber trip.

Gibson hasn’t always lined up with the Curry agenda: she took umbrage last year when she was listed on a mail piece as endorsing the city’s referendum to end defined benefit pension plans and pay for them with a tax to be imposed by the year 2030.

Gibson noted that when John Peyton was Mayor, “we would have meetings with him prior to Session starting about city priorities,” with staff around the table.

“I think those were valuable because it means that he values our participation and giving us information in a setting that is conversational,” Gibson said, thus allowing the Delegation to “divvy up” requests and figure out how they would be carried forward.

“Our city is multi-faceted,” Gibson continued, including areas of “extreme need.”

“There are big infrastructure issues we need to deal with, including drainage,” Gibson added. “We need to have those conversations.”

Gibson noted that in 2016, the city’s big ask was $50M for Hart Bridge offramp removal and redesign.

She wasn’t particularly a fan of the city’s approach to selling that project.

“They just walked in with that map, and I thought ‘what is that?’, and that is not how you relate to the Delegation that you want to carry your water at the state level,” Gibson said. “It just shouldn’t be done that way.”

(Perhaps predictably in retrospect, no one in the Delegation carried the request for $50M, leading the city to redefine the project goals in pursuit of a federal infrastructure grant).

While Gibson has met with Curry senior staffer Ali Korman Shelton before recent Legislative Sessions, she has been frustrated in attempts to “meet with the Mayor directly.”

“There should also be that personal conversation with the Delegation. We’re making the case here,” Gibson remarked.

Gibson is not the only member of the Duval Delegation to complain about the approach of the Mayor’s Office to the city’s legislative agenda; however, her statements crystallize statements made by both Republicans and Democrats on the body, and bear watching as 2018 approaches and progresses.

Mike Weinstein tapped to head Jax ‘Kids Hope’ board

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

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

“Mike is an incredible change agent respected and trusted throughout our city and state,” said Mayor Curry. “Few people have had a career as diverse as Mike’s. While his professional journey has included roles as a prosecutor, state representative and nonprofit director, his entire life has been dedicated to improving systems, operations and young lives.”

Weinstein has served in a variety of roles in Jacksonville’s city government dating back to the early 1990s and is one of the experienced hands that have made Curry’s first term proceed as smoothly as it has.

Weinstein will not be the last name tapped for this board: a seven-person board will have to be nominated.

Yet Weinstein’s inclusion in the top slot ensures that the mayor’s vision for children’s services will be implemented in the new board, the latest in a series of Curry administration reorgs.

The KHA, will replace the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, and will command a roughly $35 million budget for services for what Curry calls “at-hope kids,”  handling oversight of various programs.

Disconnect between Duval delegation, Jacksonville leadership raises questions

Jacksonville’s mayor, City Council president, and City Council vice president are part of a 141-person delegation from the city to Toronto on Wednesday.

Their absence raised questions in Jacksonville City Hall about why the Duval County legislative delegation would meet without them, and even the day before the Wednesday meeting, there apparently was encouragement from the mayor’s office to postpone the meeting.

Chairman Jay Fant — a current statewide candidate for attorney general — pushed forward, however, raising more questions for some observers about how in sync the delegation’s priorities are with the city’s.

In a sidebar interview with Florida Politics, Fant noted that he hadn’t heard of any push to change the meeting date, saying he was “notified not to be offended” by people being on the trip to Toronto and missing the meeting.

Meanwhile, on city issues, Fant observed that “the city’s going to have to lobby us individually” on its priorities.

One of those priorities has recurred year over year.

In 2016, Mayor Lenny Curry made a big ask for the delegation to bring home $50 million to tear down the current Hart Bridge offramps and reroute traffic onto Bay Street.

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.”

The mayor’s office’s two big asks are unchanged from last year: money for the Hart Bridge project, for which the city is now funding a design criteria study; and money for septic tank remediation, a project that Jacksonville sought $15 million for last year … and got none of it.

Beyond that?

“I’ve been advised that we are still in the process of determining our City of Jacksonville legislative priorities,” wrote a city spokesperson this week.

With appropriations bills having been filed for weeks, and bill slots filling up for some legislators, time is of the essence given 2018’s early Legislative Session.

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Despite the disconnect between the delegation and the local government, the meeting was conducted.

New leadership was chosen: Republican state Sen. Aaron Bean took the chair, stressing the importance of “coming together for Northeast Florida,” especially given Duval is outnumbered by other regions of the state.

Bean lauded outgoing Chairman Jay Fant for doing an “outstanding job” carrying Duval’s priorities forward.

Fant lauded the delegation for being singularly “polished and prepared” in advancing priorities.

Rep. Jason Fischer and Rep. Tracie Davis were both nominated for vice-chair.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, advocating for Davis, noted that the leadership positions should reflect “diversity” among the delegation, comprised of four Republican white men and three African-American Democratic women.

With Rep. Kim Daniels excused, Fischer carried the vote 4-2.

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Stakeholders advanced priorities.

On behalf of the Duval County School Board, Warren Jones called special attention to hurricane funding needs, exacerbated by Irma demands, coupled with delayed reimbursements from 2016’s Hurricane Matthew.

Jacksonville City Councilman Jim Love was the sole city elected official on hand, and he bemoaned the lack of local representation on the Constitutional Revision Commission.

Love also decried the possibility of appointed constitutional officers as a subversion of local control.

On behalf of UF Health, CEO Russ Armistead — who Chairman Bean works for — noted a reduction in state funding to hospitals, which led to a $21 million loss in revenue.

UF Health didn’t expect LIP funding to be decreased, but it has been.

“Miraculously, we’re staying open,” Armistead said, despite razor-thin profit margins.

Florida State College at Jacksonville wants $12 million of PECO money to renovate downtown buildings dedicated to STEM programs.

The University of North Florida likewise has needs, articulated by President John Delaney — a former Jacksonville mayor who will be leaving the university in the next year.

Delaney wants $10 million of recurring money for UNF and other regional universities; he also had PECO asks, including $4 million to renovate Lassiter Hall, built in 1994, and money for  an enclosed courtyard between two buildings on campus.

Sens. Bean and Gibson bemoaned the current funding formula as punitive toward UNF, and not accounting for the unique differences between student populations between schools — such as working students.

“Compared to peers,” Delaney said, “UNF would be among the top universities.”

Marco Rubio backs Jacksonville Hart Bridge project

Jacksonville wants to revamp the offramps to the Hart Bridge downtown, routing regular traffic onto Bay Street and freight traffic on surface streets.

October saw the City Council approve $1.5 million for a design criteria study — a prerequisite to getting a federal grant that would help the city accomplish an infrastructure process that will cost at least $50 million.

October also saw U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio craft a letter of support for the project, which would hopefully see $25 million in federal funds via the Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program.

“The city’s proposal will make needed improvement to the Hart Bridge Expressway in order to relieve congestion, improve traffic flow, and enhance access to the Talleyrand Port Authority,” Rubio wrote.

The project would allow “efficient movement of people and freight throughout the region,” catalyzing “economic and job growth,” Rubio wrote.

The project is deemed necessary by the Curry administration, which has invested in capital projects for the Sports Complex, and which anticipates a ramp-up for the Shipyards rehab project from Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

The city is pursuing a federal infrastructure grant of $25 million, with $12.5 million from the state of Florida in matching money and $12.5 million from the city.

Stakes are high: if the federal money falls through, so does the matching money from the state.

 

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