Jax – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Jacksonville youth summer jobs program to emphasize ‘career pathways’

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry kicked off his administration’s summer jobs program Monday, rebranded as the “Mayor’s Youth at Work Partnership.”

Now in its 12th year, the program will serve 350 youth aged 16-21 between June 18 and July 27. They will have job opportunities; 20 hour-a-week gigs with both the city and the private sector.

The goal this season: to put those in the program on “career pathways.”

The summer program includes an intro to the world of employment, with LinkedIn profiles at the front end and letters of recommendation from employers at the end. This initiative will be integrated into the Kids Hope Alliance’s nascent Career Pathway Academy in the fall.

The goal, Curry said, is to ensure that despite disparities in backgrounds and neighborhoods, “everyone has a chance.”

Curry, the son of a television repairman who bootstrapped his way into his current role, told the students on hand that “what you get out of this is what you put in.”

Kids Hope Alliance CEO Joe Peppers told the students they were a “critical component to the future of Jacksonville.

“Everything you learn and do this summer could change the future of the city,” Peppers said.

In a media availability restricted to the specifics of the program, Curry thanked media for covering the event.

“Everybody’s asking what are we doing for young people amid the chaos you see; this is where the real work happens,” Curry said.

The Mayor noted that “getting as many kids involved as we can” was key to the program, and a key to his larger reorganization of children’s services.

“The status quo wasn’t working,” Curry related. “We’d been doing the same thing for decades. It’s time for change and that’s what all this represents.”

“Jobs are the most powerful thing. The free market, the ability to be creative and chase your dreams: it’s done more for humanity than any government program,” Curry said. “If we can teach young people now, the hope is there in the future.”

Curry noted that over the last year, he had recruited private companies to participate in the initiative, as part of its expansion and revamp.

Aaron Bean addresses primary, general election challenges

For state Sen. Aaron Bean, the electoral landscape has become much more interesting in his Senate District 4 of late.

The Fernandina Beach Republican faces both a primary challenge and (should he prevail) two emerging general election opponents.

In the GOP primary, Bean takes on a familiar rival: Carlos Slay, a former Nassau County tax collector candidate who some believe is running at the behest of Bean’s old Nassau nemesis, Janet Adkins.

Adkins lost a school superintendent race in 2016 to a Bean-backed candidate.

The winner between Bean and Slay will then face two general election opponents: Democrat Billie Bussard and Libertarian Joanna Liberty Tavares.

Between Bean’s campaign account and political committee, he has thus far over $160,000 on hand, and the fundraising prowess to raise more.

Still, the reality is the road to November has a few more complications than just a few weeks ago.

Florida Politics caught up with Bean at an Adam Putnam event Saturday, and he discussed the way forward.

“There are multiple candidates in this race,” Bean observed, “so we are running. We’re knocking on doors. We’re going to be raising money. We’re going to get our message out about what we’ve accomplished the last six years. And what we can do the next four years.”

We asked specifically about Slay’s willingness to go on a personal attack, and the challenge that presents.

“Our campaign’s going to focus on accomplishments and looking forward,” Bean said. “I think that’s what the voters want.”

“People that I talk to, they want to hear ‘what have you done for us, what are you going to do,'” Bean said.

If Bean is successful against Slay, the general election awaits.

“We’ve got to continue to work hard,” Bean notes. “I’ve been out there hustling and reaching out to voters long before any of these candidates even announced.”

Bean makes a habit of visiting Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, as well as other groups, and has done so since Session ended in March.

Bean’s political committee, prior to the entry of these opponents, gave $50,000 to Travis Hutson‘s Sunshine State Conservatives committee.

We asked the Senator if there are any concerns about resources.

“We’re working to really help Florida continue to go in the right direction, a very positive direction,” Bean said. “It doesn’t just stem from Aaron Bean, it stems from keeping the majority in the Senate and the Governor’s Office.”

Bean is not the only Jacksonville-area Senator to face a challenge.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, the Democratic Leader-Designate, faces opposition (at least at this writing) from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.

Despite his suspension from Council after an indictment, and receiving a court appointed attorney for his federal trial (after pleading indigency), Brown is still an active candidate at this writing.

Will real competition emerge to stop Lenny Curry’s re-election?

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been in re-election mode for a few months, and after a year of political turbulence in City Hall, a smoother flight looks likely for the first-term Republican incumbent’s fourth year in office.

For one thing, ally Aaron Bowman, who shares Curry’s aggressive vision for downtown development, will be Council President.

Bowman took a leadership role on Council from the time he was elected, and seems intent to act as a partner with Curry, not as a constant check and balance.

For City Hall watchers, that will be a marked change from the last year, when Council President Anna Brosche (a Republican) and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis (a Democrat) questioned Curry’s approach on everything from the children’s program revamp of the “Kids Hope Alliance” to the recent push to commit $82 million in city incentives ($56 million in millage abatement and another $26 million in public infrastructure) to the District development.

Curry entered June having raised $2 million between his campaign account and that of his political committee, Jacksonville on the Rise. The town’s biggest movers and shakers, ranging from Peter Rummell to Tom Petway to Shad Khan, are behind him. As is the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

Despite all this establishment energy behind Curry, not everyone is sold that he’s going to win.

A smattering of underfunded hopefuls are currently on the ballot. But the greatest hopes for the anti-Curry set rest, ultimately, with Dennis or Brosche taking the plunge.

Of the two, Dennis sounds most like a candidate.

“Under Lenny, crime in the city is at an all time high, he botched the sale of JEA, he’s picking fights and bullying everyone in town, and he is at the center of cronyism benefitting a chosen few. It’s no wonder his poll numbers are falling fast. I’m predicting that he will be a one-term Mayor: One City. One Jacksonville. One Term,” Dennis said in response to the Chamber endorsement.

Dennis, endorsed by the Chamber in his 2015 Council race, likely won’t get their nod again for any office.

But he’s undaunted.

Friday, he reiterated his claim Curry will be a one-term mayor. Dennis believes that there is an “anti-Curry machine” that won’t be placated, likening the momentum to that which made Tommy Hazouri a one-term mayor.

While Dennis sounds like a candidate, conversely, Anna Brosche does not, saying that she has yet to make a decision either way.

What is certain: These two won’t run against each other.

Neither Dennis nor Brosche have filed for re-election. Brosche recently closed her political committee, called “Prosperity for All.” Of the $1,520 it raised since 2015, $1,000 of that came from Curry’s committee.

Dennis, meanwhile, just opened a committee. “Together We Stand” has yet to raise money.

Advocates for Curry’s re-election point out reasons why Dennis and Brosche are not viable. Included: a lack of name identification, a lack of a financial base, and a lack of a political operation.

They point out that both councilors had easy paths in 2015, and have not been tested by a serious opponent.

There’s no rush, necessarily, for a credible opponent to emerge. However, the Curry machine is in overdrive, and all expectations are that the 2018-19 budget will be generous in terms of capital improvements.

An election year budget, for an election year.

Adam Putnam opens Jacksonville HQ with big-time local support

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam continued his Northeast Florida swing this weekend, opening a Jacksonville campaign headquarters Saturday with loads of prominent Republicans in attendance.

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford and state Sen. Aaron Bean, two of the most prominent Republican elected officials in Northeast Florida, were there in support.

Likewise in the house: Jacksonville City Council President-designate Aaron Bowman, Council colleague Doyle Carter, and a host of other candidates and local officials.

Putnam, who held a BBQ in St. Augustine Thursday that drew hundreds, made a Jacksonville stop before heading to Clay County for a Flag Day dinner.

Introducing Putnam, Rutherford (a former Jacksonville sheriff who stressed to reporters that he was on hand to “support his good friend,” not to endorse Putnam over House colleague Rep. Ron DeSantis), extolled the commissioner for having the kind of knowledge and experience that only an executive position gives.

“The guy knows how to run stuff,” Rutherford said, “not just talk about running stuff.”

And though critics are panning Putnam for missteps in his department ranging from incomplete concealed weapons permit background checks to a botched roller coaster inspection that left nine injured in Daytona just this week, the “experience matters” trope was central to Rutherford’s remarks.

In a speech that ran close to 20 minutes, Putnam was ebullient, noting “we ran the table” with endorsements from groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police in Orlando earlier Saturday.

“They’ve seen my work the last eight years,” Putnam said, before drawing contrasts between him and DeSantis.

In spotlighting 3.8 percent unemployment, Putnam said that even though he’s “just a Gator, not an Ivy Leaguer,” those numbers translate to “full employment.”

(Labor force participation rates, somewhat lagging below that metric, went unmentioned.)

“If you want to lead our state, be in our state,” Putnam asserted. “You have to be present to be a strong servant leader.”

In what could appear as a slam on the nationwide network of financiers for DeSantis, Putnam threw out a zinger: “Don’t let billionaires from out of state influence this election.”

Perhaps to sidestep going too inside-baseball, Putnam qualified his remark with the names of familiar liberal villains Tom Steyer and George Soros.

Qualifiers notwithstanding, the message was clear: There was a difference between Florida-grown Adam Putnam and DeSantis, someone much more likely found with Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham than on the campaign trail.

Putnam expanded his point.

“What I know is I’m in every corner of the state. I know Florida best,” he said. “I’ve put in my time. I’ve listened to Floridians and their issues and their challenges, and we have put out specific plans on how to put Florida first and build on the success of Gov. [Rick] Scott.,”

Putnam contrasted his path to that of DeSantis, who pursued “three different offices in three years, that’s a lot.”

He also cited momentum and grassroots volunteers throughout the state.

“The fact that Northeast Florida is turning out for me is a really good sign, given my position on the I-4 Corridor,” Putnam asserted.

“The grassroots momentum is rallying behind a Florida first message that is going to prevail,” he added.

The friendliest poll of late (via the Florida Chamber), shows Putnam up 32 to 15.

When asked if his internal polling jibed with those numbers: “I’m very pleased with how the campaign is going.”

Jacksonville Landing park: The first big idea of Lenny Curry’s second term?

On Thursday, the Jacksonville Daily Record broke news about a City Hall conceptual drawing of the space where the Jacksonville Landing is now.

Gone: the 30-year-old riverfront mall, which has been a source of civic contention for well over a decade.

In its stead: a riverfront park.

Legal action continues between the city and Jacksonville Landing Investments, with the city wanting to take control of the land.

And Friday, at a campaign event in Jacksonville for Gov. Rick Scott‘s U.S. Senate campaign, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry described the drawing as an “aspirational concept … an idea of what our front door, the front door to the centrality of our downtown could look like and could be.”

What was clear in the discussion: Curry sees this concept as a big deal.

We noted that one issue in current Jacksonville passive parks: congregations of the homeless and the dispossessed, and wondered if such could be the case at the Landing park.

“(T)here’s always going to be critics that are going to find reasons not to do something and make progress and move forward,” Curry said.

“In fact,” Curry added, “every big challenge that I’ve taken on since I’ve been in office for almost three years, there’s been chirping and criticism, but that’s not a reason not to try to make things happen.”

“There’s no question that the Landing is shameful, the condition that it’s in. It’s not a good use of taxpayers’ money; that’s their land. So this is the beginning of a conversation,” Curry said, about what is — for now — “only a concept.”

We asked also about how a Landing Ppark, however conceptual it is, would be run.

In Hemming Park, the city works with an extragovernmental group, which runs the park, enlists private security, and sets rules of conduct in a way that can’t be done in most city-owned parks.

The Friends of Hemming Park has run the park as a nonprofit; we wondered if something similar would be done for this park, should it come to pass.

Curry dodged that question, reminding this reporter that this idea is still “conceptual,” a way to use a “gem of green space.”

As well, there are economic development opportunities in the concept, Curry said, with “two symmetrical buildings to the north, near the streets, that have opportunities for economic development.”

“Whatever the market drives there,” Curry said, “residential, retail, or commercial, that would remain to be seen.”

Jacksonville City Councilman Jim Love, likewise on hand for the Scott event, noted that the Landing is “getting to be an eyesore,” and extolled the potential advantages of redevelopment as “getting more people downtown.”

Some will frame this debate as an ongoing beef between Curry and Landing developer Toney Sleiman. However, those with long historical memories note that the same contretemps occurred two mayors ago, between Sleiman and John Peyton.

Those who have wondered what Curry’s second term vision looks like may have found it, in a sketch of green space, conceptually reclaimed from a Reagan-era shopping mall slow-walking toward blight.

Rick Scott not ready to commit to Jacksonville City Council picks

Suspended Jacksonville City Councilors Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown are going to have their legal fates decided this summer in a federal court relative to an alleged scheme to defraud.

Meanwhile, the fate of their Council seats will be determined by Gov. Rick Scott.

Since the two are not resigning, both Democrats are leaving it to a Republican to pick their (at least temporary) replacements.

Scott, in Jacksonville to highlight endorsements from sheriffs from Northeast Florida, addressed the issue with local press Friday.

“We started the process. Our expectation is that everybody who’s elected or appointed does their job. We shouldn’t have issues like this, but we do,” Scott said, in response to a question from First Coast News reporter Janny Rodriguez.

“If anybody is interested, they should call my office. We’re going to try to get the appointment done as quickly as we can.”

Worth noting: Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman wants the pick made by the end of the month so appointees can get acclimated.

When asked by this reporter if he wanted Democrats or Republicans in the spots, Scott said he wanted “the best person.”

“We’ve got to get people who represent those communities. That’s the most important thing to me,” Scott said.

On June 1, Scott suspended the two and is now mulling a long list of potential temporary replacements for the duo.

The list (as it stands) includes: Joseph WillisDarrin WilliamsDwight BrisbaneTerrance BrisbaneBrenda Priestly JacksonJu’coby PittmanTameka HollyCelestine Mills, Terry Fields, Angela NixonChristopher PendletonJean TranquilleRandolph HallCharles Barr, James GreinerKeshan Chambliss, Rahman JohnsonClarence JamesDwight BrisbaneNiki BrunsonRalph ChaversCornelius CoxTheresa GrahamKing HolzendorfKevin Monroe, Latangie WilliamsChandra Griffin, Charles Barr, Ralph Chavers, Pat Lockett-FelderJames BreakerMincy PollockLeslie HarrisJames GreinerBarney Spann, and Nancy Walker.

Both suspended Browns maintain their innocence.

Jacksonville’s city elections are in 2019, with a “first election” in March and a general election in May.

Reggie Brown, a Florida Senate candidate, is slated to be termed-out next year. Katrina Brown, a first-termer, is an active candidate for Jacksonville City Council at this writing.

Ron DeSantis, Adam Putnam campaigning in Northeast Florida this weekend

For undecided Republican voters in Northeast Florida, this weekend will be a good time to get some grip and grin time with some of the gubernatorial candidates.

Friday evening sees Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam with dueling events.

DeSantis will do a “Grand Ole Flag Day Meet and Greet” at 5:30 p.m., at Orange Park’s Club Continental.

Putnam will host a “Grassroots BBQ” at St. Augustine’s “Rod and Gun Club.”

In Duval? Don’t worry. You’ll have an opportunity for the Adam Putnam experience Saturday afternoon, when the candidate opens up his Victory Headquarters in a strip mall on Jacksonville’s Southside.

Putnam won’t linger in Dirty Duval for long on Saturday. He is slated to speak Saturday night in Green Cove Springs at the Clay County Flag Day Dinner.

Both candidates are attempting to shore up a key region for Republicans this weekend, though it’s clear that Putnam will have more time on the ground.

In terms of metrics, Putnam still holds serve over DeSantis statewide.

According to the most recent poll of the race, conducted by the Putnam-friendly Florida Chamber, Putnam is ahead 32 percent to 15 percent.

Putnam also has a nearly 3-1 advantage in fundraising, having raised $30 million plus compared to DeSantis’ relatively modest $10.8 million receipts.

Local endorsements, by and large, are still up for grabs in this one.

Will this weekend change that?

Mike Waltz ad spotlights ‘conservative values’

Republican Mike Waltz, embroiled in a competitive primary to succeed Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, dropped a biographical ad Thursday spotlighting his “conservative values.”

“Growing up in Florida and serving 20 years as an Army Green Beret,” Waltz asserted, “I learned respect for our conservative values and fought to uphold the Constitution.”

In the 30-second spot, Waltz vows to “work with President Trump to combat illegal immigration, strengthen our military, and create jobs.”

The closing salvo: an affirmation that “courage and integrity matter, and we need those values in Washington.”

Waltz is battling Ponte Vedra’s John Ward and former state Rep. Fred Costello of Ormond Beach in the August primary.

Ward and Waltz thus far have demonstrated the most fundraising ability of the Republican side. As of the end of March, Ward had $709,340 on hand (with $555,000 of that from his own checkbook). Waltz, who loaned his own campaign $400,000, has $653,354 on hand.

Costello, with $15,000, lags behind.

Q2 fundraising will be worth watching. Waltz enjoys momentum, including strong Jacksonville support.

Ward, meanwhile, scored a round of unwanted earned media after stating at a forum that displaced Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be allowed to vote in Florida, comments drawing scrutiny and condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike.

CD 6, which runs from southern St. Johns through Volusia counties along the Atlantic coastline, is still a “likely Republican” district according to University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato’s “Crystal Ball.

However, the race has drawn a trio of Democratic hopefuls including two — Daytona Beach physician Steven Sevigny and former Ambassador to the United Nations Nancy Soderberg — who’ve raised well into the six figures.

In fraud case, Katrina Brown representation up in air, Reggie Brown gets court appointed lawyer

Two Jacksonville City Council members, Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, are dealing with dozens of federal fraud charges.

61-page indictment dropped in federal court late last month details 38 counts in a scheme to defraud.

Federal prosecutors allege the Browns, who are not related, collaborated in a scheme that used shell companies as ways to extract, via transfers and fraudulent invoicing, hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Small Business Administration brokered loan intended to fund Katrina Brown’s family’s barbecue sauce plant.

The Browns have a status hearing in Jacksonville’s federal courthouse Thursday morning, and a central question remained unanswered: Who would represent them in legal proceedings?

M. Alan Ceballos, who represented Reggie Brown two weeks ago in court, told Florida Politics Wednesday that was a complicated matter and will be addressed by both him and Katrina Brown’s lawyer, Curtis Fallgatter, in court Thursday.

Katrina Brown was up first, and in her case, a delay in determining her lawyer was requested and received.

Fallgatter cited “delays in the discussion,” but “there is a valid financial plan in place to retain the firm.”

He asked for two more weeks from Judge James Klindt.

Klindt raised concerns via the “speedy trial clock.”

For the federal government, A. Tysen Duva raised concerns that “in two weeks, we’ll be in the same situation.”

“I know this is important to Miss Brown … my concern is in two weeks nothing will happen … the representation issue has to be settled,” Duva said, to get the case onto the August trial calendar.

Klindt split the difference and set a status hearing for a week out in Katrina Brown’s case.

Regarding Reggie Brown, Ceballos noted the councilman wanted court-appointed counsel, citing “indigency.”

Councilman Brown, who has spent more than $3,000 out of pocket on his state Senate campaign while retiring past due property taxes, may not have seemed like a plausible candidate for indigency.

But with his Council salary cut off, all he had coming in was his pay as a member of the Army Reserve, with $2,000 in bank accounts, and two late-model cars.

In terms of obligations, Brown has child support payments to two twin sons.

“Knowing what I know about fees in this type of case,” Klindt said, “I find it highly improbable that a lending institution would lend you money.”

Brown will have to deposit $1,000 to defray billing in this case, with potentially more financial obligations if he were to get a job.

____

Jacksonville is no stranger to fraud trials for its politicians, and part of those narratives has involved shifting legal representation.

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, currently serving five years in federal prison after being convicted of 18 counts in her own scheme to defraud, had multiple changes in legal representation during her pre-conviction phase.

With each change of lawyer, questions mounted regarding Corrine Brown’s defense, including whether she could afford her lawyers or disagreements on trial strategy.

Undoubtedly, those paying close attention to the trials of Reggie Brown and Katrina Brown will speculate along similar lines, should there be similar vagaries in representation.

Even as the legal drama continues in federal court, the decision on who will fill the indicted Democrats’ places on Council remains, with no timetable for resolution.

____

On June 1, Gov. Rick Scott suspended the two and is now mulling a long list of potential temporary replacements for the duo.

The list (as it stands) includes: Joseph WillisDarrin Williams, Dwight BrisbaneTerrance BrisbaneBrenda Priestly JacksonJu’coby PittmanTameka HollyCelestine Mills, Terry Fields, Angela NixonChristopher PendletonJean TranquilleRandolph HallCharles Barr, James GreinerKeshan Chambliss, Rahman JohnsonClarence JamesDwight BrisbaneNiki BrunsonRalph ChaversCornelius CoxTheresa GrahamKing HolzendorfKevin Monroe, Latangie WilliamsChandra Griffin, Charles Barr, Ralph Chavers, Pat Lockett-FelderJames BreakerMincy PollockLeslie HarrisJames GreinerBarney Spann, and Nancy Walker.

If the Council members resigned, there would be a special election. However, the choice made by the Democrats was to stay in office and let Gov. Scott work out the details of succession.

When a reporter asked Councilwoman Brown if she was going to resign she was mum.

We then asked what happened to the money.

Her attorney (at least for now) said that was a “disrespectful question” from a “biased reporter.”

Florida Politics will be back next week with more from the court action.

Jacksonville City Council candidate Randy DeFoor outlines vision, reason for running

The race to succeed termed-out Republican Jim Love in Jacksonville City Council District 14 is well underway, with three campaigns looking competitive nine months out from the first vote.

Democrats Sunny Gettinger and Jimmy Peluso are running strong campaigns early, but there are only two tickets out of the March “First Election” and into the May “General Election,” and currently leading in fundraising is Republican Randy Shoemaker DeFoor.

DeFoor, who by trade is a Senior Vice President, National Agency Counsel at Fidelity National Financial in Jacksonville, is Jacksonville born and bred.

An alumna of Episcopal High School, her family has been in Jacksonville for generations. But her motivation for running, she said in an interview at Riverside’s Bold Bean Coffee Wednesday, was driven by a potential breach of that legacy.

When one of her children graduated from the University of Virginia, she noted to herself that the “children she worked so hard to raise and educate would be for other cities’ benefits.”

This nettled DeFoor.

While participating in Leadership Florida, she went to the other major cities in the state, and came away convinced of Jacksonville’s superiority, in terms of everything from medical facilities and physical plan to the people.

The candidate believes, by and large, that Jacksonville is on the right track.

She thinks Mayor Lenny Curry, a fellow Republican who is just exiting his third year in office, has “done a very good job.”

Among Curry’s accomplishments are pension reform, and the fact that “downtown’s up and running,” with development ranging from the Barnett Trio to local colleges planning operations downtown.

Curry has messaged heavily on public safety, and has hired 180 more police officers. DeFoor thinks that still more officers are needed, given Jacksonville’s sprawling land size and the realities of law enforcement being spread thin because resources are concentrated in crime hot spots.

“Zone 4, which includes District 14, has the highest call rate in the city,” DeFoor said.

In addition to public safety, DeFoor believes that infrastructure issues are of paramount importance.

“Avondale, Riverside, and Ortega were all underwater during Irma,” the candidate said.

As well, “smart” growth is key as Jacksonville expands, she said.

When asked about leaders of the past she found inspirational, she mentioned two former City Council Presidents from the district: Michael Corrigan, now of Visit Jacksonville; and former Rep. Tillie Fowler.

“My district has had an unusually high number of strong, effective council members,” DeFoor said.

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