Jax Archives - Florida Politics

Conflict of interest clouds renaming of Corrine Brown regional transportation center

What is to be done when a city names a facility after a convicted former member of Congress? In the case of Gainesville and the Corrine Brown Regional Transit Facility, the answer — thus far — has been to do nothing.

The Associated Press reported that the Gainesville City Commission opted to defer action last week on the move.

That deferral gives the appearance of prudence and thoughtfulness, while offering an opportunity for a closer look at how the Congresswoman built relationships in Gainesville via what could be called “transactional money.”

One Gainesville City Commissioner has asserted he has no “conflict of interest” when it comes to a vote to rename the Corrine Brown Regional Transportation Center. However, there are 2,539 reasons to think otherwise.

Specifically: $2,539 spent between 2013 and 2015 by “Friends of Corrine Brown” at a clothing store owned by the wife of Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Budd. The money supposedly was spent on clothes for Florida Gators football games; however, a number of the purchase dates were outside of Gator football season.

Gainesville City Commissioner Budd signed a Personal Guarantee on the lease for the business. Budd is also the treasurer, director, and VP of the company that collected thousands of dollars from Brown’s political donors, via the pass-through of her campaign account.

Budd has asserted that he has no conflict of interest in a potential vote on the renaming of the regional transportation center, despite a demonstrated pattern of “campaign materials” and “gifts for supporters” being bought by Corrine Brown from Ilene’s for Fashion.

Among notable items sold at Ilene’s for Fashion: Gators’ gear made from Swarovski crystals (an interesting campaign material) and other designer items that would seem to be high-markup gear with little to do with GOTV efforts and the like.

As Brown’s trial in Jacksonville showed, the Congresswoman liked to spend money at high-end stores. Though Gainesville transactions did not factor into testimony, what was clear was that she spent money in Gator Country, just as she did everywhere else.

Despite conviction, uncertainty swirls around Corrine Brown’s fate

The trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown wrapped earlier this month, with Brown going down on 18 counts.

Does that mean this all is a wrap, however? No.

Much of the reporting in the last week in the Jacksonville media brought forth ephemera from the case. That ephemera, ranging from accounts from jurors to stories from a witness not called to the stand, and Brown’s own testimony, suggests the grounds for a motion for a new trial – something Brown’s attorney suggested was happening minutes after the 18 guilty verdicts.

Worth noting: Brown, at least through the appeals process, will continue to draw her Congressional Pension, as Action News Jax’s Jenna Bourne reported last week.

“Final conviction,” after appeals have been exhausted, would be the necessary prerequisite for pension forfeiture.

In other words, this is still a live case.

And making it even more live – testimony from jurors, which suggests the jury process was not on the up and up.

News4Jax has reported that two jurors were “holdouts” against convicting Brown; one of those jurors, who asserted that the “holy spirit” gave him the 411, was discharged – and the other stayed on the jury, caved in to consensus, and then had second thoughts.

“At one point, Corrine was going to walk, and at another point, she is convicted of 18 counts, and that is all because of one person’s doing,” the juror said. “No, I don’t think that’s fair.”

Brown’s lawyer wants to interview the juror before a new trial motion.

Brown, for her part, has asserted that the trial was a “witch hunt” and that she had “serious concerns” about the jury and the criminal justice system, per the Florida Times-Union.

Meanwhile, one prosecution witness who ended up not being used also expressed concerns to Florida Politics last week.

Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney’s theory: his narrative was inconsistent with the story the federal prosecutors wanted to tell … which is something they finally realized after two meetings with Gaffney, whose “Community Rehabilitation Center” and “CRC Transportation” were discussed at length during the trial.

Gaffney said his testimony was “consistent,” suggesting “that’s why they didn’t use me.”

Gaffney, whose for-profit CRC Transportation gave Brown money, described it as a “gift” to a friend — and said it was used for charitable purposes.

“I knew she was doing the right thing with my money,” Gaffney said. “I knew she was doing the right thing for the community … some of your constituents need things. I gave money as a friend.”

Gaffney didn’t think twice about giving Brown money years ago. He saw it as a way to “help the community.”

Gaffney also contended that, contrary to the assertions of those from other Jacksonville non-profits, Brown actually gave to his non-profit CRC during the period being investigated.

“Staff saw her bring stuff,” Gaffney said, and sometimes Brown would call CRC for a pick-up.

Was Gaffney scratched from the prosecution witness list because his narrative was inconsistent with the prosecution argument? Because his story would have added a wrinkle of nuance to a prosecution narrative that, by and large, went substantively unchallenged in cross-examination?

While we aren’t privy to motions to come this week or next, expect that perceived irregularities from May’s trial will drive the Corrine Brown narrative as the summer heats up.

And after Corrine Brown? The race to become the next Corrine Brown.

Word in the halls is that former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is waiting until Queen Corrine is out of the headlines before launching his Congressional bid.

Other Jacksonville Democrats — the kind who see Mayor Next Level as a 1000-watt smile and not much else — also mull their options.

The longer this goes, the more their window closes.

Will ‘pack’ voting swing Jax Council President’s race for Anna Brosche?

With Jacksonville City Council members preparing to vote Tuesday on who their next President is, the vote is too close to call on Monday morning.

Currently, Finance Committee Chair Anna Brosche leads current VP John Crescimbeni 8-7 in the pledge count. Four councilors, meanwhile, remain officially undecided.

Those councilors: Republican Council President Lori Boyer and her GOP colleague Danny Becton. And two of Crescimbeni’s fellow Democrats: Reggie Gaffney and Reggie Brown.

Of course, party labels mean little in this contest, with Democrats and Republicans alike jumping ship.

Two Democrats — Katrina Brown and Garrett Dennis — on Friday joined Republicans Matt SchellenbergDoyle CarterSam NewbyAl FerraroAaron Bowman and the candidate herself on the Brosche bandwagon.  Crescimbeni has fellow Dems Joyce Morgan and Tommy Hazouri, and four Republicans (Bill GullifordGreg AndersonJim LoveScott Wilson) backing his play.

As it stands on Monday morning, we have an 8-7 lead for Brosche, requiring Crescimbeni to get three of the four holdouts on his side between now and the Tuesday afternoon vote.

Meanwhile, there is a strong indication — via Councilman Reggie Brown — that Brosche may have 10 votes locked up … with Reggie Gaffney, Katrina Brown, Garrett Dennis, and Councilman Brown himself providing the decisive margin.

“Our plan was to run as a pack…I gave up having direct participation with this process due to its biases.  I wish both candidates well; however, our decision to vote as a pack must be adhered or the value of the pack is useless,” Brown told us Monday morning.

Thus, if pack voting holds, Brosche has her ten votes locked up.

If and only if pack voting does not hold, then there is still a narrow path for Crescimbeni to get from seven to ten.

Here’s how it would play out.

When Becton backed Crescimbeni last year for VP, the two discussed Becton moving to the Finance Committee in a Crescimbeni presidency. That would seem to be an offer Brosche would have to find a way to top to get Becton’s support.

Gaffney has been an enigma through this process, deciding last year to support Crescimbeni as the vote progressed.

And Boyer? She theoretically could support her VP over her Finance Chair. She works well with both of them though, and has not tipped her hand.

We likely are looking at a 10-9 vote. And though it looks like Brosche will dash Crescimbeni’s dream of the presidency, until the votes are cast this process is open.

_____

The process, of course, was never intended to be this open. Not this year.

A group of council members — Gulliford, Crescimbeni, Greg AndersonJim Love, and Tommy Hazouri — signed on very quickly, giving Crescimbeni a 6 to 1 advantage over Brosche in the early going … a remarkable number, given that all but Hazouri are second-term Republican males crossing party lines to go against their GOP comrade-in-arms.

Gulliford noted that Crescimbeni needed to get the other four necessary pledges very quickly, given Brosche’s entry into the race.

Gulliford, who believes that “tradition” dictates the VP move up to the top job barring extraordinary circumstances, noted that he’d be “hard-pressed to serve in any standing committee in [the Brosche] administration.”

“The administration doesn’t play in our sandbox. Outside entities don’t play in our sandbox,” Gulliford rhetorically chided.

____

The ultimate question that outside observers will have: why couldn’t Crescimbeni close the deal with Dems?

Some Democrats note that Crescimbeni doesn’t go out of his way to make personal connections with them and that Crescimbeni hasn’t been out front on Democratic Party issues — including but not limited to withholding meaningful support from Alvin Brown in the 2015 Mayoral race.

“He never even looks me in the eye in the hall,” was what one disgruntled Dem told us.

Brosche, often dismissed by media as too quiet and reserved (a sharp contrast to Crescimbeni), has found a way to chip at Crescimbeni’s seeming firewall of tradition and party loyalty, and perhaps scuttle the Council lifer’s last shot at the Council Presidency before he’s termed out in 2019.

___

Then again, perhaps not.

As we saw in the 2016 race for vice president, it looked to be Doyle Carter’s to lose, until Reggie Gaffney shocked the room and broke his pledge to Carter to vote for Crescimbeni.

Worth noting, though:

Brosche’s Twitter feed in recent weeks has read as a prolonged subtweet of her opponent.

On Friday, Brosche tweeted a quote: “Being with someone, prepared to be nowhere else, takes courage.”

On May 12, another quote: “You won’t have commitment from a team without committed leadership. If you want commitment be committed.”

On May 10, a RT of a mayoral staffer: “Power doesn’t need propping up.”

That last quote has an especial symbolism, in light of how the binary race between Crescimbeni and Brosche kicked off months back … almost as if Crescimbeni’s supporters were trying to throw some elbows and clear the field.

CHECK BACK FOR UPDATES.

From sauce to loss: Jax Councilor’s parents serve up double helping of Chapter 11

In an illustration of what happens when economic incentives go wrong, the parents of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown jointly and separately filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week.

This filing by Jerome Brown and JoAnn Brown staved off a foreclosure hearing that was slated for a Jacksonville court on Monday, with BizCapital — the primary lendor and guarantor of a Small Business Loan — as the plaintiffs against the Browns and their businesses.

Back in 2011, the Browns, via “CoWealth” (one of their shell companies), got city of Jacksonville grants and loans and a Small Business Administration loan to establish a barbeque sauce plant in Northwest Jacksonville.

The money was contingent on the Browns creating at least 56 permanent jobs.

They fell just 56 jobs short of that number.

CoWealth originally borrowed $2.65 million from Biz Capital, in addition to $380,000 from the city of Jacksonville and $220,000 of grants, for the sauce plant. The city’s interest is subordinate to that of Biz Capital.

The Browns estimate that they have $500,001-$1M in assets, and $1,000,001-$10M in debts, according to the filing.

The Browns have dealt with unusual scrutiny, including an FBI raid on the warehouse in 2016.

Insulated from action by the Browns’ individual Chapter 11 filings, and Chapter 11s on their businesses: Councilwoman Brown herself, who was quietly removed from corporation paperwork as the legal maneuvering got serious months back.

Al Lawson files Entrepreneurial Education Act

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson filed his first bill Friday, and it aims to help economic conditions in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

The Entrepreneurial Education Act would authorize what is being called an “Entrepreneurial Education Initiative” through the Small Business Administration.

The initiative’s goal: to train and guide those running businesses in what Lawson’s press release calls “economically-disadvantaged communities.”

“This bill will help generate new jobs, attract investment, and provide necessary training to our emerging leaders in Florida’s fifth district and around the country so that we can grow our economy where we need it most,” said Lawson, a North Florida Democrat whose district runs east from Tallahassee toward Jacksonville.

“This program has already helped more than 4,000 small business owners in sustaining and growing their businesses and I know we can make that number even bigger by helping more people across the country,” Lawson added.

New York Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, the ranking member of the House Small Business Committee, offered a statement of support for Lawson’s bill, which will be heard in her committee.

Ron DeSantis condemns Turkish violence in D.C., Turkish president

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis Friday condemned the security forces of Turkish President Recep Erdogan for attacking protesters in Washington D.C. and also condemned Erdogan.

DeSantis, of Ponte Vedre Beach, chairs the House Subcommittee on National Security. His First Coast district includes Volusia County.

In a news release issued Friday morning, DeSantis did not address how he feels about President Donald Trump inviting Erdogan to the White house earlier this week, but he expressed nothing but contempt for the Turkish leader.

DeSantis also expressed outrage over the attacks that happened outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on Tuesday, documented in videos. He said Erdogan must be held accountable.

He called Erdogan’s security detail “a goon squad.”

The New York Times is reporting today that new videos show that Erdogan was in a car. An aide spoke to someone in the car, then spoke to another aide, who went off to the group of Turkish security forces. The Turkish security forces then charged the protesters, attacking them. Nine protesters were injured requiring hospital treatment.

“It’s bad enough Turkish President Recep Erdogan refuses to recognize freedom of speech and religion at home and has suppressed political opposition to his rule. It’s worse that he stands at the nexus of support for nefarious jihadist groups,” DeSantis stated in the release.

“That his security detail has now engaged in such behavior on our own soil against American protesters is unconscionable. The Erdogan government must be held to account immediately and apologize for their anti-democratic violence,” DeSantis continued.

“The men responsible for this brutality should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. At the very least, this goon squad should be declared persona non grata and removed from the country forever. Nobody is immune to violations of the laws of our land when it involves mass violence against our people,” he added.

“Mr. Erdogan must be reminded that he cannot stomp on the rights of the citizens of the United States. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, not an Islamist tyranny.”

Expansion imminent for MacQuarie Group in Jax?

Back in 2015, Jacksonville leaders welcomed the Australian MacQuarie Group to town. Now, in 2017, MacQuarie mulls expansion.

And those plans, apparently, are contingent on city incentives … which will help MacQuarie decide to bring 50 new operations jobs and $1.7M in capital investment to the River City or to a city in far-flung Northern India.

To that end, Ordinance 2017-388 was filed in the Jacksonville City Council.

As is the case with incentive deals, the city would assume 20 percent, or $50,000 of the cost, via the QTI Targeted Tax Refund Program. The state would assume $200,000 of the financial impact.

The Lenny Curry administration has had to think heavily about economic incentives in the last year especially, with Gov. Rick Scott‘s model under siege in Tallahassee.

This MacQuarie deal includes state incentives, which might not always be there. Even if they weren’t, Curry said yesterday that the city would continue to offer incentives where they made sense.

“If it doesn’t go the way we’d like it to go … Jacksonville’s not going to lay down and cry and moan. We’re going to find a way to have a competitive advantage and compete for jobs,” Curry added.

“There’s always incentives available,” Curry said about the city, if they conform with the “scorecard” model Jacksonville uses to determine ROI.

In this instance, however, a straight-forward and familiar model will be used to sweeten the pot and deepen MacQuarie‘s footprint in Jacksonville — along the lines of what was used in 2015.

At that point, Curry said what he’s been saying for two years: that incentives would be used “if they make sense for taxpayers.”

The Mayor’s Office clearly believes these do.

Jacksonville Bold — 5.19.17 — It was a very good year?

The ongoing Corrine Brown drama pushed our legislative roundup back a week — but given the drama that ensued this week regarding what the Duval Delegation accomplished, that’s just as well.

Boils down to this: the legislators think they brought home the bacon, and some in City Hall believe that they brought home crumbs.

As you will see below, the drama came to a head Tuesday, when a Jacksonville City Councilman published a letter in the Times-Union dripping with delegation disses … just before doing an event with Gov. Rick Scott with delegation members who contend otherwise … and told us their thoughts on the councilman’s comments.

We have that in here, and more, along with deep-dive interviews with most delegation members and a few other notable stories …

NE FL Delegation finds money for local asks

The indispensable Tia Mitchell went through Northeast Florida Legislative Session asks in the Florida Times-Union and found some success — especially given that most delegation members were new to Tallahassee and The Process.

Of 37 projects with asks of over $1M, locals got some money for 22 of them.

“In my mind, we are just getting started based on the leadership and potential of our delegation,” said Rep. Travis Cummings, a Clay County legislator who carried one Jacksonville bill successfully in 2016 (the state legislation allowing for a pension reform referendum), and got spiked this session on a $15M request for state money for Jacksonville septic tank removal.

Travis Cummings carried a request for septic tank remediation money, but no dice for Duval this session.

There is room for pessimism, even in Mitchell’s breakdown: many of the requests may have gotten some money … but not everything they wanted.

St. Johns River State College Palatka campus renovations, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Payne, got just $4M of a $16.1M ask.

And the North Florida School of Special Education expansion project, sponsored by Cummings, got just a quarter of a $2M ask.

Still … it’s a start.

Matt Schellenberg says Duval Delegation brought home ‘crumbs’

Jacksonville City Councilman Schellenberg went on the record to grouse about the Duval Delegation — a favorite off-record game among some in Jacksonville’s City Hall.

Smart move? The jury is out. Schellenberg — the city’s representative to the Florida League of Cities and Florida Association of Counties — got pilloried by two State Senators (Audrey Gibson and Aaron Bean) that he lobbied in Tallahassee.

Matt Schellenberg said publicly what many say in private, and took his lumps this week.

Mayor Lenny Curry also rejected the premise that the delegation isn’t getting the job done.

And Rep. Jason Fischer — who Schellenberg called out in an interview for leaving the School Board early in 2016 to jump to the state House — likewise pushed back.

Schellenberg wouldn’t rule out a 2018 primary challenge to Fischer when we talked to him, setting the stage for a rare contested primary in NE Florida.

However, Fischer would be the one with every advantage: the mayor’s backing; the mayor’s political team; and money coming in from political committees hither and yon.

With many measures making it to the final budget, the Governor’s veto pen serves as their primary impediment.

Bean pointed to “little bills” with big impact and a “huge pass rate … underneath the radar screen,” such as a push for the shared use of school playgrounds, the ‘keys to independence’ bill helping foster kids drive, the ‘disaster prep tax holiday,’ and others.

A big bill with impact, meanwhile: SB 476, a bill Sen. Bean filed at the request of Gov. Scott, which amends and expands existing statute regarding terrorism.

The bill creates a more expansive definition of “terrorism” and “terrorist activities” in the wake of the Pulse massacre in June.

Additionally, the measure explicitly prohibits “using, attempting to use or conspiring to use” training from a “designated foreign terrorist organization.”

Session ‘best ever,’ enthuses Aaron Bean

Bean noted that this was, perhaps, the “best ever … one of the most successful” sessions of the 13 he’s been involved.

Aaron Bean was ebullient about the Legislative Session.

Bean pointed to local approps wins, including money for ShotSpotter and the state match on the COPS Grant from the feds, which will allow Jacksonville to hire more police officers.

“We had one of the best sessions in history,” Bean said.

Among Bean’s accomplishments: Neptune Beach can look forward to $400,000 for stormwater culvert improvements on Florida Boulevard: Bean and Rep. Cord Byrd (who seems to be moving into the House Leadership discussion, based on scuttlebutt) put in the work there.

Rob Bradley and ‘political capital’

For Sen. Bradley, the 2017 session was a big one. The budget includes $13.3M for the St. Johns River and the Keystone Lakes — an issue we spotlighted earlier in the Session.

$5M of that is recurring, ensuring that the project to replenish the lakes may happen at long last.

“People have been talking about restoring the Keystone lakes for as long as I can remember, but nothing ever happened. We finally have a plan and the financing to implement it,” Bradley asserted.

For the Keystone Lakes, help is on the way … thanks to Rob Bradley.

Bradley carried one of the most important and controversial bills of the session: SB 10, which allowed for the building of reservoirs to shore up Lake Okeechobee. That, of course, was a priority of Senate President Joe Negron.

“It was a year for bold action in the environmental policy arena. The president and I worked together. I managed his audacious Everglades bill, and he supported our audacious plan to fix the Keystone lakes. There’s a reason why both of those projects had never been done: they are expensive and require a ton of political capital. This year, the stars aligned and both happened,” Bradley added.

Clay Yarborough talks rookie year

Yarborough, a former Jacksonville City Council President, appraised the Legislative Session as a win for Jacksonville.

“Glad we could get some things for Jacksonville,” Yarborough said.

Indeed, Yarborough himself brought home the bacon, with two priority projects: $1.1M from the State Transportation Trust Fund is provided for the installation of pedestrian signals, refuge islands, sidewalks and street lighting and $1.231M for Crosswalk Countdown Traffic Signal Heads Installation.

Clay Yarborough brought home money that could save lives.

We asked Yarborough — one of the most concise quotes in local politics — for what he saw as his biggest accomplishment and the biggest surprise of the session.

“Biggest accomplishment: Working with Sen. Travis Hutson to tighten the law on sexual predators (HB 327/SB 336). Biggest surprise: How fast things can move at the end of the session.”

Tracie Davis talks Dozier apology, relationship building

Rep. Davis was the least likely member of the Northeast Florida Delegation to be in Tallahassee. That said, despite Davis’ unlikely arrival in the House, she was characteristically reflective as to the value of the experience that almost didn’t happen.

Davis described her first Legislative Session as being “significant and exciting to be honest … specifically being a freshman in the minority party.”

The bill with the most emotional resonance for Davis “the FL House apology (HR 1335) to the men that suffered at Dozier and Okeechobee reform schools,” which “will always reign supreme for” Davis.

The Dozier School ruined many lives … and ended too many others.

“So honored and grateful to have played a leading role with Sen. [Darryl] Rouson and Speaker [Richard] Corcoran then to have all of my colleagues unanimously support and participate with the apology that day was emotional and phenomenal,” Davis asserted.

Davis, despite being a Democrat in a GOP town, feels she has room to maneuver — and collegiality creates that room.

“I felt that building relationships with my colleagues across the aisle was going to be key for any success. The surprise for me was that those relationships happened easily … The relationship building helped me develop friendships, share perspectives, and get bills moving the House (which is not an easy task).”

Jason Fischer extols ‘balanced budget’

When asked to evaluate the Session, Fischer — who has been talked about as a potential Speaker down the road — had a more holistic read than some.

“We gave our citizens much-deserved property tax relief and a balanced budget,” Fischer told FloridaPolitics.com. “Families work hard for their money; Government should take less and do more!”

Fischer has some specific appropriations accomplishments: $350,000 for the LaSalle Pump Station project.

Jason Fischer is rumored by some to be on a path toward House leadership.

And $250,000 for a driverless shuttle program that will go to Baptist Health.

The money will go for a local deployment of the Olli minibus, a Local Motors vehicle made in part with 3D printing and powered by IBM Watson technology.

Fischer extolled the Duval Delegation, saying the group “worked together really well,” was “very cohesive,” and focused on “doing what’s best for Jacksonville.

Perhaps his biggest accomplishment this session: the passage of a “civil remedies for terrorism” bill.

Ron DeSantis for Governor?

One of the stories worth watching this year: will DeSantis run for Florida Governor?

Conversations DeSantis is having about the race are the kind of stakeholder talks one would expect in the pre-candidacy phase — “open” conversations with local, state and national figures.

Ron DeSantis is getting happy feet to leave the House again, claim those in the know.

Those conversations reveal a “real hesitation about Adam Putnam,” we are told.

DeSantis has a lot of positives: fundraising prowess; a place in the Fox News Channel guest rotation; youth and eloquence.

Despite representing an area to the south of Jacksonville, his roots are deep locally: wife Casey DeSantis has been on-air talent on local television in this market for years now.

Northeast Florida has wanted a House Speaker for a while. But — ironically enough — the Governor’s Office is probably more within reach … should DeSantis decide to run, a campaign that would launch late in the summer.

Adam Putnam brings roadshow to Jax Beach

We were the only outlet in the room when Putnam made his play for Jax Beach voters.

Results were mixed.

Putnam served up the material that had been heard statewide, a pitch of Florida exceptionalism and requisite haranguing of “bureaucrats.”

Ander Crenshaw and Atlantic Beach Mayor Mitch Reeves watch their candidate, Adam Putnam.

But when it came to specifics of local interest, Putnam didn’t offer much, opting instead for shopworn hokum.

He mentioned JAXPORT, Mayport and “the river.” Great.

But for those who might want an actual Northeast Florida candidate, it’s unclear if Putnam delivered — or can deliver — enough to stop some donor class dithering.

On the road, Florida gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam and his son, Hughes, stopped at Dreamette in Jacksonville for shakes and freezes.

Moody’s dings Jax pension reform

Jacksonville got its pension reform package through, yet bond rating agency Moody’s asserts that it’s not all peaches and crème.

The write-up boils down to six words: “buy now, pay later, assume risks.”

Buy now, pay later.

The biggest poison-pen moment: “Jacksonville’s reliance on future revenues, rather than current contributions, to address its pension underfunding will continue to negatively impact our key credit metrics related to its pensions … because we do not consider future revenues as pension assets — while city contributions are going to be reduced.”

Policy makers considered these risks, as the discussion got less heady and more sober as the final vote approached. The defined contribution reforms and the one-half cent sales tax are correctly seen as “tools in the toolbox.” Not panaceas.

Still, it’s reasonable to conclude Jacksonville may already be at its ceiling regarding bond ratings, if Moody’s report is any indication.

Dick Kravitz talks SOE gig

Former Jacksonville City Councilman and State Legislator Kravitz may have gotten spiked in his run last year for State House. However, Kravitz is still on the public payroll, as the Jax Daily Record reports, working for the Duval County Supervisor of Elections under old friend Mike Hogan.

Part of his role: helping with lobbying efforts in Tallahassee.

Dick Kravitz ran for State House as an SOE employee in 2016. Conflict of interest? Or just how the game is played?

“There are some people in the Senate that I served in the House with for eight years. It’s about personal relations, so it’s easy to get appointments, and there’s a lot of trust among us,” Kravitz said. “I tried to add to what the paid lobbyists were doing and help out a little to promote some of the bills.”

With session wrapped, Kravitz is helping run student elections at local schools. No word on whether or not he is debriefing them on the dark arts of robocalls and shadowy consultants.

AppointedDavid “Hunt” Hawkins and Thomas “Mac” McGehee to the Florida State College at Jacksonville District board of trustees.

Questions arise over health of CSX CEO Hunter Harrison

Ahead of next month’s CSX shareholder vote on his compensation, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the 72-year-old Harrison often works from home and occasionally uses oxygen because of an undisclosed health issue

Harrison told reporters that doctors cleared him to work, and he believes he can lead the turnaround he began in March at CSX.

“I’m having a ball, and I’m running on so much adrenaline that no one can stop me,” Harrison told the WSJ. “Don’t judge me by my medical record, judge me by my performance.”

CSX Executive Vice President Frank Lonegro said Harrison remains fully engaged. Lonegro spoke at a Bank of America Merril Lynch conference, and he said using oxygen hasn’t slowed Harrison.

“I’ve gotten a dose of leadership from him while he had supplemental oxygen. I’ve had a dose of leadership from him when he hasn’t had supplemental oxygen and they were equally as blunt and equally as effective,” Lonegro said. “So, no question about who’s in charge and no question about how engaged he is.”

CSX shareholders will vote early next month on whether the Jacksonville-based railroad should pay the $84 million in compensation Harrison forfeited when he left Canadian Pacific railroad earlier than planned. Harrison has said he will resign if the compensation isn’t approved.

Jacksonville Zoo Endangered Species Day

Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is celebrating the 12th annual Endangered Species Day, free with Zoo admission, including school groups. Events include extra keeper chats with special collector cards. Collect all 10!

Keeper chat times:

— Penguin Feeding/Chat — 11 a.m. & 3 p.m. at the Penguin exhibit in Play Park (African Penguin card).

— Gorilla Chat — 12 p.m. & 3:30 p.m. at the gorilla exhibit in the Great Apes loop (Gorilla card).

— Manatee Chat — 10 a.m. & 12 p.m. at the Manatee Critical Care Center in Wild Florida (Vaquita card).

— Whooping Crane Feeding/Chat — 11 a.m. & 2 p.m. at the Whooping Crane exhibit in Wild Florida (Whooping Crane card).

— Wild Florida Chat — Times TBD at the Wild Florida Pavilion in Wild Florida (Western Pond Turtle, Sea Turtle cards).

— African Plains — 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Africa Boardwalk near Main Camp Train Station (Black Rhino and Cheetah cards).

— Elephant Chat — 12:30 p.m. at Elephant Plaza on the African Boardwalk (Asian Elephant card).

— Stingray Chat — Times TBD at Stingray Bay (Sharks card).

Armada lose to Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-0 in St. Petersburg

The Tampa Bay Rowdies cruised into the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 3-0 win over the Jacksonville Armada U23s at Al Lang Stadium Tuesday night.

The Open Cup is a knockout tournament featuring teams from all levels of the American soccer system, including qualifying amateur clubs.

Kyle Porter, Alex Morrell and Martin Paterson scored the goals for Tampa Bay as the Rowdies moved on in the competition.

“I thought it was a really, really professional performance by the team,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “We went out and got the job done, which was to win the game and get into the next round. … The game is done and dusted, and we have games coming up in the league, so we’ll shift our focus to that now.”

Playing an opponent from the fourth-tier NPSL, the Rowdies didn’t have to wait long to claim a lead.

With the ball at his feet on the right sideline, Porter spotted Jacksonville goalkeeper Juan Fajardo off his line and took an audacious shot that Fajardo got a touch to, but couldn’t keep from going over the line for a 1-0 Rowdies lead in just the third minute.

Up a goal, the Rowdies dominated the remainder of the first half but didn’t double their lead until the 43rd minute when Morrell stole the ball off an Armada U23 defender and raced toward goal before beating Fajardo from a sharp angle for a 2-0 lead.

“Luckily, the guy had a bad pass, and I picked it off,” Morrell said. “I made the most out of it and scored on my old keeper from college. That was nice.”

Paterson finished the scoring in the 68th minute, tapping in a low cross from Darwin Jones for his second goal of the season in all competitions.

The result was never really in doubt, particularly after Jacksonville was reduced to 10 men in the 62nd minute when Dener Dos Santos was shown a red card. The Rowdies took six shots on target and didn’t allow one from Jacksonville.

It was Tampa Bay’s seventh clean sheet in 10 matches in all competitions.

Jacksonville University Golf earns 1st NCAA Championship berth thru playoff

Before this season, Jacksonville had never qualified for the NCAA Championship in men’s golf. That changed this week as the Dolphins defeated Northwestern in a playoff to grab the fifth and final NCAA Championship berth out of the NCAA Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Regional.

Golfweek reports that after Jacksonville and Northwestern had finished at 19 over, the Dolphins, which carded the final round of the day (1-over 289), and Wildcats each shot two over using a play-five-count-four format on the par-4 18th hole.

The teams then moved on to the par-4 10th hole. Jacksonville’s first three players combined to go one over while Northwestern’s two players in the first group went one over. In the second group, Jacksonville’s two players shot even par and Northwestern, which had a player hit a drive out of bounds, conceded defeat.

Jacksonville began the day in seventh place and didn’t get off to a fast start on the back nine. However, the Dolphins’ four counting players combined to shoot two under on the front nine. Raul Pereda birdied Nos. 4-7 as part of a 1-over 73. Davis Wicks’ closing 71 led the team.

 

How Jacksonville beat China in the garbage can business

The real impact of Chinese imports on American factories has been discussed to death. But if you look closely, you can find a counter-narrative emerging.

One example of that was demonstrated in Northwest Jacksonville Thursday afternoon, where Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and other local dignitaries came together for the grand opening of a 121,000 square foot stainless steel Hans-Mill garbage can factory.

A vital business in an area of town that needs them; an initiative made possible by Wal-Mart, which has committed to buy $250M of American products over the next ten years.

Garbage cans from Jacksonville — and not China — will be part of that narrative. And at least 50 new jobs will be created. All of that with local incentives. And five of those jobs are to be for Northwest Jacksonville residents.

James Han, the CEO of the manufacturer Hans-Mill, said that Jacksonville was “the right location … the total package” for the manufacturing of these cans.

His company makes 750 items worldwide, and hopes to bring more production stateside, to decrease the company’s “carbon footprint” and take advantage of local sourcing.

This plays into Wal-Mart’s strategy, which prioritizes local sourcing — and has a time element, said Cindi Marsiglio, VP of U.S. Manufacturing.

“Go fast, go big,” was her summation of Wal-Mart’s rapid-fire ramp-up of domestic production.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, meanwhile, said “Jacksonville continues to roll” and “we’re going to continue to roll.”

“This today is big,” Curry said. “We’ve had a number of local expansions … companies move into Jacksonville for the first time.”

“This has been in process for a period of time. This is a big deal,” Curry said.

Despite uncertainty regarding the future of economic incentives on the state level, JAXUSA — an arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce — has brought in 2,000 jobs this year to date.

While Curry noted the importance of state dollars, he said the city is going to fight for jobs regardless.

“Clearly, they’re important. But if it doesn’t go the way we’d like it to go … Jacksonville’s not going to lay down and cry and moan. We’re going to find a way to have a competitive advantage and compete for jobs,” Curry added.

“There’s always incentives available,” Curry said about the city, if they conform with the “scorecard” model Jacksonville uses to determine ROI.

“We can figure out how to get there,” Curry added, “often.”

Of course, it’s not just incentives that make the sale, said Tim Cost, President of the JAXUSA partnership.

Collaboration between political leaders and the “incredibly cooperative” business community help with making the sale to businesses relocating, Cost added.

Reggie Gaffney tells why he didn’t testify in the Corrine Brown trial

Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney was an eagerly-awaited prosecution witness in the trial of Corrine Brown.

Despite being on the witness list, Gaffney — a longtime friend and confidant of Brown — was not called to testify in the trial.

And FloridaPolitics.com has Gaffney’s exclusive take on why that is.

Gaffney’s theory: his narrative was inconsistent with the story the federal prosecutors wanted to tell … which is something they finally realized after two meetings with Gaffney, whose “Community Rehabilitation Center” and “CRC Transportation” were discussed at length during the trial.

Gaffney said his testimony was “consistent,” suggesting “that’s why they didn’t use me.”

Gaffney, whose CRC Transportation gave Brown money, described it as a “gift” to a friend — and said it was used for charitable purposes.

“I knew she was doing the right thing with my money,” Gaffney said. “I knew she was doing the right thing for the community … some of your constituents need things.”

“I gave money as a friend,” Gaffney said.

Gaffney, who said that Brown and “everybody called [him] with needs” ranging from bills to kids’ clothes, didn’t think twice about giving Brown money years ago.

He saw it as a way to “help the community.”

Gaffney also contended that, contrary to the assertions of those from other Jacksonville non-profits, Brown actually gave to his non-profit CRC during the period being investigated.

“Staff saw her bring stuff,” Gaffney said, and sometimes Brown would call CRC for a pick-up.

Was Gaffney scratched from the prosecution witness list because his narrative was inconsistent with the prosecution argument?

If so, expect that Gaffney’s testimony — along with that of jurors who claim the trial was rigged — will fuel the fire of those who claim that the trial was rigged against Corrine Brown.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons