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Anna Brosche talks Confederate monuments, censure for Council colleagues

Tuesday night was rough for Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche.

Her attempts to stall out a vote on Mayor Lenny Curry‘s children’s program reform, the Kids Hope Alliance, failed. And her allegations of Curry Administration attempts to keep the bill from public view, by having a Councilman introduce a substitute in committee earned a sharp rebuke from the Mayor.

Brosche didn’t address this Tuesday night. And in the end, Brosche ended up voting for the bill.

Despite what many in City Hall perceive as a political setback, Brosche is still Council President — and in that capacity, she addressed the Southside Business Man’s Club’s weekly luncheon Wednesday.

She was surprisingly upbeat after a marathon Council meeting. Brosche described it as a “long night” and a “challenging process,” but “we made it through.”

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Brosche took questions from the crowd — and the first was about Confederate memorials, along the lines of “where does monument removal stop.”

Brosche noted that she is focused on “monuments and markers on city property.”

“I appreciate the question where it ends — I know where mine ends,” Brosche said, noting that the most prominent local monument is the statue in Hemming Park.

A legal review from the city’s lawyers is being conducted, and Brosche expects a report soon.

Additionally, Brosche noted 500 emails and 93 public comments, as well as 50 letters and phone calls.

The feedback is split, Brosche said, and “the version of history I’ve received in all those communications runs the gamut.” As do suggestions — which include private purchase.

“It’s about what they mean to the entire community, not just one section of the community,” Brosche said, though she doesn’t “personally favor” a referendum.

“I’ve studied what it is we’ve taken to the voters in the past, and I personally have a hard time putting a vote to the majority, to decide [for the minority],” Brosche said, occasioning murmurs from the crowd.

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Brosche was also compelled to discuss the confrontation between Councilors Reggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown and police officers after a Council meeting last month.

Gaffney has issued the expected mea culpa statements for attempting to leverage his power as a Councilman to check the officers who pulled him over. However, Brown — who accused officers of racial profiling — has yet to apologize.

That point was not lost on the Fraternal Order of Police, which saw its national and state presidents in Jacksonville Tuesday night to condemn Councilwoman Brown’s accusations and unwillingness to walk them back.

“The ultimate repercussion is going to be leveled by their districts … if there is any,” Brosche said.

Brosche has requested “options” from the General Counsel, including what authority Council has, and expects them at the next Council meeting.

“The question is around censure — is it an option for Council,” Brosche said.

Strong September fundraising for Northeast Florida Senators

Though neither Aaron Bean nor Audrey Gibson face meaningful competition for re-election next year, the two Northeast Florida Senators are leaving nothing to chance when it comes to fundraising.

In a month where Hurricane Irma waylaid many pols’ plans, both Senators had strong months in the realm of campaign finance.

Bean, a Republican who represents Nassau County and part of Duval, brought in $33,000 in hard money — much of that off the strength of a high-profile fundraising event late last month.

Notable about Bean’s haul: all but $1,000 of it came from Florida addresses, and much of it from his Senate district.

Among this month’s Bean Team donors: current Jacksonville City Council candidate Matt Carlucci and incumbent Duval County School Board member Scott Shine.

Bean has just over $62,000 cash on hand.

Though Sen. Gibson’s September haul of $12,000 was less than Bean’s, Gibson’s efficient operation closed out September with nearly $80,000 on hand — plenty of cash for a candidate with no primary opponent and a no-hope write-in in the general election.

Democrat Gibson, who represents the parts of Duval that Bean doesn’t, raised that $12,000 from thirteen checks.

Among Gibson’s donors: four Disney affiliates, Waste Management, Verizon, Comcast, and the Alliance for Honest Government.

Police union heads refute Jacksonville council member’s accusation of racial profiling

As the midnight hour approached Tuesday in Jacksonville, its City Council heard public comment — and much of that comment centered on a Councilor.

Councilwoman Katrina Brown ran afoul of the head of the local Fraternal Order of Police, Steve Zona, after accusing officers of “racial profiling” during a stop of yet another Councilman, Reggie Gaffney.

Brown pulled up behind the traffic stop, initiated because Gaffney’s tag had been reported stolen, and offered her critique of law enforcement.

Though Gaffney rolled over two weeks ago at a Council meeting, Brown refused to apologize for what she said, and that led to police officers, including heads of national, state, and local unions, to ask Brown to walk back her comments.

Chuck Canterbury, President of the National Fraternal Order of Police, started off.

Canterbury wanted to address “the refusal of a councilperson to address what every member of the FOP knows … when we speak falsely about someone, we face consequences: we lose our jobs.”

Canterbury said “it’s never too late to do the right thing,” saying that racial profiling accusations “widen the gap” created by systemic poverty and corollaries.

Local FOP Head Steve Zona alluded to a “false narrative” here in Jacksonville, with a “false accusation of racial profiling” helping to fuel the fire.

Brown sat impassive as Zona accused Brown of “abuse of power” and “false accusations of racial profiling.”

“This member’s actions are embarrassing to the Council as a whole,” Zona said, saying she needed to “act as a leader and not an activist.”

Robert Jenkins, the state President of the FOP, said that people look to Council for perspective and respect.

“It doesn’t take much to say you’re sorry,” Jenkins said.

Other police officers, local and otherwise, active and retired, spoke along similar lines — stressing the healing powers of apology, as Brown rocked back and forth in her chair.

Her comments about “the biggest issue in Jacksonville being the prosecution of police officers” were brought up again, as were the seeming incongruities between her advocacy for body-worn cameras and the role of those cameras in Councilman Gaffney’s traffic stop last month.

“The body-worn cameras captured the entire incident,” said former local FOP head Steve Amos, “and showed no racial profiling.”

Mayor wins: After acrimony, Jacksonville City Council passes Kids Hope Alliance bill

Tuesday night saw the Jacksonville City Council pass a bill authorizing the Kids Hope Alliance, a new seven-person board that will replace the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey.

The bill passed 18-1 , after a chippy discussion that lasted almost four hours, exposing and exacerbating fissures on the Council that have moved from hallway gossip to fodder for mainstream media.

The sole no vote: Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who had his own competing legislation that now rests in the scrapheap of dead bills.

That passage ends a two-month political taffy pull that saw Mayor Lenny Curry opposite the Jacksonville City Council President and Finance Chair, with the Council President suffering a setback at the hands of her own legislative body.

In a special meeting Tuesday afternoon to discharge the bill from Finance Committee, Council President Anna Brosche made a number of charges about the way the administration handled the process, charging that the administration made a procedural move to loop the public out of bill discussion.

Curry fired back: “At no time would any one from my office or the Office of General Counsel seek to subvert the legislative process or attempt to prevent the input of the people of Jacksonville. It is both irresponsible and disgraceful for an elected official to make such a slanderous allegation. The Council President should immediately admit that the anecdote is false and should apologize to the two staff members who she attacked.”

Brosche did not apologize. The Mayor likely won’t forget that.

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During public comment before bill deliberation, Councilman Garrett Dennis repeatedly attempted to make an emotional appeal during questions to people who would be losing their jobs during the restructure. Bill sponsor Scott Wilson made his displeasure with that clear after the third round of this, calling it a “disgusting” tactic at one point.

Council VP Aaron Bowman got frustrated after the seventh round of this, saying it was a stall tactic, and Brosche had to remind him to make questions “germane” to the bill.

There were, in total, 26 public commenters — and they got plenty of time to make their points.

Amidst the speeches, some clarification: it was thought that part of the re-org, early learning specialists and the like, who are directly employed by the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, may lose their jobs.

CFO Mike Weinstein noted that everyone employed with JCC serves at the pleasure of the Mayor, adding that it’s “disgraceful”, “disheartening,” and “shameful” that people are being made to feel their “jobs are on the cutting block.”

“Nobody’s going to lose their jobs if you vote for this tonight,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein noted that an amendment offered tonight would offer “flexibility,” adding that “there’s no direction to let anyone go”, that people have “civil service protection,” and that there are other positions in city government.

The succession of public commenters continued, with Jacksonville Children’s Commission Board Chair Matt Kane having his say.

Kane, a six-year member of the board, said the JCC brought “real change to kids in the community.”

“This organization is really something wonderful,” Kane said. “We have spent time and energy making a difference … changing the way that after school works.”

After the public comment ended, the bill discussion began. And former Council Presidents offered up amendments.

An amendment from Councilwoman Lori Boyer tightened up the definition of “in-house services” in the bill, saying that KHA could provide in-house services and training, contingent on Council approval of scope and budget. This amendment would also protect the jobs people worry about.

“We’re looking for outside providers for most things,” Boyer said, but this would make it possible to go “in-house” if that option made sense.

Councilman Greg Anderson then pushed an amendment that required a 2/3 majority of Council for removal or replacement of wayward board members.

Both the Boyer and Anderson amendments were uncontroversial and passed easily.

Another amendment sought to extend the age of eligibility to people up to the age of 21 who are pursuing education, and 22 years old for special needs people. After some floor debate, that came to pass. Another amendment further expanded what one Councilor called “umbrella coverage.” Other technical amendments, nibbling around the edges of bill language, were debated with an etymological zeal as the meeting lurched toward its fifth hour.

Jax Council bucks President, moves Kids Hope Alliance to vote

On one side, there’s the Mayor.

Lenny Curry asserts that his proposed Kids Hope Alliance bill is the “real reform” Jacksonville children’s services need.

On the other side, there’s Council President Anna Brosche, who asserts the process needs to be more deliberate and transparent. And there’s also Council Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who has his own bill for children’s program reform that is actually favored by members of the city’s non-profit/provider community.

Brosche and Dennis wanted a slower process, with both bills considered side by side; 13 Council co-sponsors on Curry’s bill seemed to want something different.

That was the setup for a Tuesday meeting — a meeting catalyzed by Brosche’s decision to cancel a scheduled Monday meeting, saying that she had too many questions about the Curry bill for that one meeting to answer.

Councilman John Crescimbeni — the man Brosche beat for the presidency — called for the Tuesday meeting. And 13 Councilors backed him up.

If Curry’s bill passes — and with a supermajority co-sponsoring the measure, that seems likely — it means that the Jax Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission programs will lapse, to be supervised by a seven-person Kids Hope Alliance board.

What is clear, however; the political turbulence typical to the third year of a Mayor’s term came to a head on a bill that, outside of providers and non-profits, has been off of most media’s radars.

The meta-discourse on the bill included Dennis telling Action News Jax that Council members felt “bullied” by the Mayor.

“Now it’s political football. The budget is now being held over some of my colleagues’ heads. You know, ‘Vote for this Kids Hope Alliance or your project’s going to be taken out of the budget.’ And that’s wrong,” said Councilman Garrett Dennis.

And that was followed by a Mayoral adviser saying that Dennis would have had to have violated the Sunshine Law to get that information.

With all that prologue and drama in play, it’s easy enough to forget what this bill is: an attempt to streamline children and youth programming in the city, taking these boards out of the role of running programs in-house and having them supervise programs.

The debate long since moved beyond that. It is now a political endgame. And the latest battlefield: Tuesday afternoon in City Hall.

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Ahead of the 3:30 p.m. meeting of the full City Council, Mayor Curry, meeting with Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and former JCC Chair Howard Korman, was in a good mood, joking with this reporter.

Curry’s confidence set into mind an axiom he frequently Tweets: “Plan. Plan all the way to the end.”

Curry had applied this theory throughout his political life, from his run for Mayor to his successful shepherding of pension reform.

However, this time was different; he had the opposition of the council president and the finance chair.

And to overcome that, he has had to do an end run around Council leadership.

Curry wasn’t present in chamber; he had another meeting.

He left it to Council allies to make the sale.

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 The 3:30 meeting was delimited to the question of whether or not to take up the KHA bill, with a hard stop at 4 p.m.

Citing a “sense of urgency” from colleagues and “intense urgency” from the Mayor’s Office, Brosche noted her regret for the impact of the cancellation.

Brosche said some answers from the administration for her questions were “unsatisfactory.”

Brosche also pointed out a “dilemma” stemming from the Mayor’s perceived desire to exclude the public from the process, with an administration member saying that the sub from a Councilor was intended to hide the bill from the public.

The third issue: Brosche didn’t understand the “rush” to make this law.

Curry fired back after the meeting with a statement responding to Brosche’s claims: “At no time would any one from my office or the Office of General Counsel seek to subvert the legislative process or attempt to prevent the input of the people of Jacksonville. It is both irresponsible and disgraceful for an elected official to make such a slanderous allegation. The council president should immediately admit that the anecdote is false and should apologize to the two staff members who she attacked.”

Brosche did not address Curry’s statement, either in the opening of the Council meeting or in response to a question texted from this outlet.

Councilman Dennis and Councilman Reggie Brown had point of order questions regarding public comment and when it might occur in the process; these occasioned grousing from some members of the crowd — specifically, members who were ready to get down to business and discharge the bill.

Councilman John Crescimbeni got fiery with a few minutes left before 4 p.m., saying that he thought the stall tactics from the chair were “some sort of game” to delay the bill further.

Crescimbeni finally was able to move to discharge. The seconds came in quickly.

The bill was discharged to 3rd Reading Ordinances — an outcome that wasn’t in doubt.

An 18-1 vote. With Brosche as the 1. And the Council against the president.

And a vote on a bill that has been the subject of two months of back and forth is imminent.

Councilman Dennis called the process on this bill a “travesty,” saying that rushing forward and not hearing constituents was not in the public interest.

But in the end, the vote looks very likely to happen.

And in the process, the council president looks to have been kneecapped by the process — and a very politically-savvy Mayor.

Randy DeFoor’s September surge paces Jax Council candidate fundraising

In September, Jacksonville City Council candidate Randy DeFoor launched her 2019 campaign.

Shortly thereafter, DeFoor, a Republican running to replace termed-out Jim Love in District 14. rolled out an all-star roster for a fundraiser.

In October, we have an idea of what that fundraiser did; predictably, it brought in big money — $51,850 to be exact.

Among those who wrote checks: At-Large Councilman Greg Anderson, Duval County Tax Collector Michael CorriganKaren BowlingSusie Wiles and a panoply of local movers and shakers.

DeFoor’s political committee (“Safe and Prosperous Jacksonville”) also raked in $25,000 via the politically-connected Summit Contracting, whose Marc and Nicole Padgett are not afraid to cut a check.

DeFoor’s big haul was the highlight of Council fundraising at the time of this writing on Tuesday morning.

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Two Republican fundraising stalwarts — Ron Salem (running to replace John Crescimbeni in At-Large 2) and Matt Carlucci (running to replace Greg Anderson in At-Large 4) — had slower months than normal.

Salem brought in $2,590 — his most modest total since entering the race, and his fourth straight month under $3,500. The biggest name on his donor list: former State Attorney Angela Corey.

Salem has an opponent — former district councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Bishop. Bishop has yet to start fundraising, while Salem has $103,000 on hand.

Carlucci has no opponent yet and almost $140,000 on hand, but like Salem, his fundraising hit a relative lull in September (Carlucci is an insurance agent, and Irma drove claims locally).

Carlucci, a former head of the Florida Ethics Commission, brought in $14,425 — the weakest of his four months as an active candidate. Among the donations: $1,000 from Aaron Bean‘s “Florida Conservative Alliance” political committee.

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Other filed candidates have yet to get fundraising traction thus far, and are below $2,000 cash on hand.

Two recent entries to watch in October: the aforementioned Bill Bishop, and current District 7  Councilman Reggie Gaffney, who launched his re-election campaign late in September.

Gaffney has $1,000 banked, all of it from one check from his Council assistant.

Controversial poll highlights Jacksonville Sheriff’s Sept. cmte. spending

Budget meetings of the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee were rocked in August by a well-timed poll from the political committee of Sheriff Mike Williams.

The poll, released to make the case that Jacksonville voters backed Mayor Lenny Curry in his push for 100 new police officers, was rare, in that Council members called it out as an attempt to “target” them and sway their votes.

Williams referred to the poll as a “snapshot of the community.” Dennis posited this was focused on African-American people; Williams said it was county-wide.

“It could be seen as trying to influence this body one way or the other,” Dennis said, adding that the poll made the committee a political “target.”

Councilwoman Katrina Brown continued on this theme.

“I don’t want anyone to feel like Katrina Brown hates the police department,” said Brown, who recently accused officers of racial profiling after a Council colleague’s traffic stop. “I become the target as if I’m the person that hates police, which is not true.”

The poll helped set the stage for an authorization of 80 cops this fiscal year, with 20 more positions to be added next fiscal year. And that poll from Data Targeting came at a cost of $8,900, per the campaign finance report for Williams’ committee, “A Safe Jacksonville.”

Williams’ committee brought in $8,150 in September, with the bulk of the contributions coming from the towing industry, the bail bonds sector, and an ankle monitor company.

$750K loan brings Jay Fant close to Ashley Moody in GOP AG cash race

Jacksonville State Rep. Jay Fant looked to be facing a cash crunch in his race for the 2018 GOP attorney general nomination against former Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody.

For a third straight month, Fant’s “Pledge This Day” committee raised no funds. Fant’s committee has $54,000 on hand.

However, Fant looks poised to at least close that gap on September reports — putting $750,000 in, as we can report first, in addition to another $28,800 in donations.

The loan is the eye-popping number though.

Fant, who did not invoice longtime consultants at Front Line Strategies in September (they work together on a “project-project basis,” asserted his spokesman), will want to demonstrate seriousness to consultants. And $750,000 demonstrates considerable seriousness.

Fant said last week that he is “investing [his] own funds because Floridians deserve an alternative to the establishment candidates in the field. “

Fant adds that his team has “over a year until the election and we are just getting started. Our donor and grassroots support are strong and we are looking forward to the next 13 months on the campaign trail.”

Fant’s campaign notes this infusion brings him to $958K in total fundraising. And the loan puts him on pace with his primary opponent.

Attorney General hopeful Ashley Moody announced Monday that she has raised more than $1 million in her campaign since announcing her candidacy in June.

That total includes $850,000 into her campaign coffers and an additional $200,000 into Friends of Ashley Moody, her political action committee.

On the Democratic side, the sole filed candidate — Ryan Torrens — had just over $13,000 on hand at the end of August. Torrens has yet to file September’s report.

Poll: Jacksonville loves Shad Khan, even as Republicans cool on Jaguars

A new poll from the University of North Florida shows high approval ratings for the owner and coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

While Shad Khan and Doug Marrone sit at 65 and 58 percent approval, there nonetheless is still some grievance from Republicans toward the home team’s anthem protest in London.

Republicans are less likely to watch games on television or attend, per the survey; almost 63 percent indicated they were less likely to watch NFL games and 57 percent  said they were less likely to attend games.

Democrats are unmoved; while 14 and 11 percent respectively said they were less likely to watch or go to games, a full 18 percent of Dems are more likely to watch and attend.

The poll was conducted via live dial to 512 registered Duval County voters between Oct. 2 and Oct. 4.

The first-place Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Los Angeles Rams at home, Sunday at 1 p.m.

‘Political football’ between Jax Mayor, Council Prez over kids’ program reform bill

When it comes to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s “Kids Hope Alliance” proposal, City Council President Anna Brosche wanted to put the brakes on.

But it appears that won’t happen. And in a process that one Councilman called “political football,” Mayor Curry — or one of his key allies — is calling the plays in Council Chamber.

Meanwhile, Brosche is saying that if Curry’s bill passes without a longer period of Council and public review, it’s a “loss for open and transparent government.”

Just hours ago, it looked like Brosche had the Mayor and his children’s program reform bill on the ropes.

On Monday, mere hours before a special Committee of the Whole meeting on the bill that would reform the governing structure of Jacksonville children’s services, Brosche cancelled the meeting. She said there were a lot of unanswered questions, and that the public needed to weigh in.

Later on Monday, Councilman John Crescimbeni — who lost a deeply personal race for the Presidency to Brosche — requested a meeting on Tuesday before the regular Council meeting.

And 13 of 19 Councilors signed on, and that meeting will be happening.

And — make no mistake — that meeting is happening against the wishes of Council President Anna Brosche and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis.

On Monday, both Brosche and Dennis talked to Action News Jax about their frustrations with the process.

President Brosche said that she didn’t think the public had had enough time to review the legislation, and she thought the Mayor was rushing it.

Councilman Dennis, as has been the case, went further.

The bill, he said, is a “political football — the budget’s now being held over some of my colleagues’ heads.”

“We have an obligation as the legislative body to be a check to the executive branch. What you see is a potential rubber stamp — and it’s wrong,” Dennis said about the process.

Dennis said that some Councilors felt “bullied” by the Mayor, leading one of Curry’s strategists to wonder on Twitter whether or not Dennis violated the Sunshine Law to glean that insight.

Dennis’ Sunshine compliance notwithstanding, Crescimbeni scored a political victory in this case, aligning Council behind the Mayor — and away from, on this issue, their elected President.

The KHA would phase out the Jax Journey and the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, folding them under a new seven-person board.

The timing of this meeting struck Dennis as apt: the city’s budget needs to be signed Tuesday by 5 p.m. And KHA is a missing piece of a larger puzzle, per an administration spokesperson.

“There are a number of budget uncertainties unrelated to KHA legislation. Some Council members have made statements that would have financial impacts on future budgets,” asserted Marsha Oliver Monday afternoon.

“For example,” Oliver asserted, “it has been proposed to find a dedicated funding source including creating a special taxing district. Also, support for excess pension payments has been presented and agreed to in publicly noticed meetings. It is fiscally responsible for the mayor to consider these impacts prior to signing the budget.  As always, the mayor respects the work of individual council members and looks forward to working with them.”

The question going into Tuesday: does Brosche have a counter for what some are saying was a coup on Crescimbeni’s part?

We asked Brosche if she felt Council overruled her by siding with Crescimbeni and the Mayor, and she took the high road.

“For me, this has always been about the children and how the City of Jacksonville wraps itself around our children is the most important investment we can make. The mayor and I share a strong commitment to serving kids,” Brosche said.

“Ultimately,” the Council President added, “the legislative process is a hallmark of local government that is open and transparent. How we proceed is a reflection of the will of the majority, which is also a foundational element of local government. I’m seeking to honor the legislative process and to proceed in an open and transparent manner. If my colleagues feel differently, they’ll express their will accordingly and I fully accept the will of the body.”

“From the beginning of my term, and reiterated at the beginning of my service as Council President, I conveyed my deep respect for the diversity of perspective and thought of my colleagues. My respect and appreciation for my colleagues is and will remain strong,” Brosche added.

We asked Brosche about the political angle, and she was straightforward.

“As someone who has a long history of serving children, my due diligence over very important and impactful legislation is entirely about the kids. I’m elected to produce legislation that’s right for Jacksonville, and I’m working to fulfill that responsibility. If KHA passes tomorrow, it’s a loss for open and transparent government.

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