Jax – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Highlights from recent Jacksonville City Council race fundraising

With roughly a year before voters cast first ballots in the 2019 Jacksonville City Council elections, it’s a good time to take a look at fundraising in selected races through February.

With $8,400 of new money in February, Matt Carlucci, a former Council Republican running for at-large Group 4, is still the clubhouse leader with just over $221,000 raised. Carlucci’s opponent, fellow former Council member Don Redman, a Republican, has a lot of ground to make up.

Word on the street is more candidates will enter this one.

As we reported last week, Republican Ron Salem has over $150,000 on hand in at-large Group 2. This number puts him well ahead of former Councilman Bill Bishop. Bishop raised just $2,000, with just over $13,200 on hand.

Democrat Darren Mason only entered the race in March.

In District 14, Democrat Sunny Gettinger showed respectable first-month fundraising numbers in February, bringing in over $34,000. Gettinger still has a ways to go to catch Republican Randy DeFoor, who raised $4,350 in March and has nearly $90,000 on hand in hard money, and $25,000 in an affiliated political committee, “Safe and Prosperous Jacksonville.”

District 5 looks like it’s Republican LeAnna Cumber‘s race to lose. $15,950 of new February money leaves Cumber with $168,000 on hand against a Democrat who has $473 in his account.

In District 6, Republican Rose Conry continues to dominate, with $65,000 on hand compared to roughly $20,000 on hand for fellow Republican Michael Boylan. Conry had another $10,000 plus month in February, including a donation from Mayor Lenny Curry‘s political committee. Boylan brought in over $17,000, highlighted by donations from Steve Halverson and Mark Frisch.

In District 7, incumbent Democrat Reggie Gaffney is pulling away from a gaggle of underfunded competition. $8,800 of new February money pushed Gaffney over $27,000 on hand, with his closest competition (Sharise Riley) having just $6,000 on hand. John Baker and Sleiman Holdings cut checks last month for Gaffney.

In District 8, we still await incumbent Katrina Brown‘s first campaign finance report. Tameka Gaines Holly is the cash leader just now, with $5,401 of February money giving her over $13,500 on hand.

Unopposed in District 13, Republican Rory Diamond raised over $8,000 in February; he has $114,200 on hand.

District 2 Republican Councilman Al Ferraro launched his campaign for re-election last month and christened his coffers with $10,800 in new money. His most interesting donations came from the family of developer Toney Sleiman, a man at odds with the Mayor’s Office these days.

District 10, meanwhile, is a multi-Democrat field with light fundraising and no clarity in the coffers thus far.

Talleyrand Connector money illustrates Lenny Curry’s long game

Lenny Curry is fond of tweeting: “Plan all the way to the end.”

But at the end of 2016, when the Jacksonville mayor first pitched removal of the Hart Bridge offramps, some were confused as to what that plan was.

Curry brought a poster board into the Duval delegation meeting, and said he wanted $50 million to tear the offramps to the Hart down. That was the first many members of the group had heard of the concept, which was the dramatic reveal of the pre-2017 Delegation meeting.

The Hart Expressway, said Curry to media, was a “relic of the past.”

However, there was minimal movement in the 2017 Legislative Session toward altering said relic.

The city was undaunted, and moved forward, calling a different play by October of last year.

The Mayor’s Office went to the Jacksonville City Council with an ask for $1.5 million for a design criteria study. Meanwhile, FDOT had done a study of the project that revealed a benefit to the port.

By then, the ball was rolling toward an attempt to secure a federal infrastructure grant for $25 million, and the rationale had shifted, per a letter of support from Sen. Marco Rubio to the Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program.

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

Weeks after that, Curry went to D.C., where he lobbied various power players on the same project.

Curry met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, as well as Billy Kirkland and Justin Clark, who handle intergovernmental affairs for the White House, U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Sen. Marco Rubio.

The argument, by then, had shifted: economic development for Bay Street the new traffic pattern would spawn, Curry said, was “gravy” — not the primary purpose.

As the 2018 Legislative Session progressed, Curry made a little-noticed (at the time) trip to Tallahassee.

Curry met with Gov. Rick Scott; the two discussed removing regulatory hurdles for downtown development.

However, there was a secondary purpose to the trip.

From the Senate, he met with Aaron Bean, Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey GibsonTravis Hutson and Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, along with Wilton Simpson.

Curry also met with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, in addition to meeting with regional representatives Travis Cummings, Jason FischerClay Yarborough, and Tracie Davis.

Soon after that, there was movement on the Talleyrand Connector issue, with Sen. Bean getting a $1 million “placeholder” into the budget.

“It will be a conference issue — rules say it has to be in either the Senate or House budget to become a conference issue.  $1M is all I was able to muster today.  It is a start and hopefully not the final number,” Bean said on February 8.

Indeed, it’s not the final number.

That final number was the $12.5 million Curry wanted from the state all along.

While it’s conceivable, in theory, that Gov. Rick Scott could veto the money, in practice that almost certainly won’t happen.

Curry has scored legislative victories in Tallahassee before; consider the pension reform referendum, widely regarded as a “heavy lift” before it was law.

His relationships, he said last week, helped him with this latest heavy lift.

Regarding Senate budget chief Rob Bradley, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Rep. Travis Cummings, Curry said, “without their belief in what we’re doing in this city,” Curry said, such meaningful investments as the $12.5 million in state money wouldn’t be possible.

Regardless of whether or not the federal grant happens, work can begin this year, per administration spokesperson Tia Ford.

“Regarding this project, I’ve been advised that $50 million includes a combination of local, state and federal resources to create the Talleyrand Connector as outlined two years ago and as was evaluated by FDOT last year. The removal of the bridge and first phase of the associated components can be accomplished using $25 million with additional components costing another $25 million in later phases,” Ford said.

There wasn’t a lot of initial faith in (or understanding of) the concept when pitched. But now it’s happening.

As has been the case for over 2 1/2 years, it’s hard to bet against Curry.

And the Talleyrand Connector appropriation is the latest example.

Al Lawson discusses disparities in access to capital in Jacksonville

At the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Monday Morning, Rep. Al Lawson and Rep. James Comer helmed a Congressional field hearing for the Small Business Committee regarding access to capital disparities.

The disparities disproportionately impact female and minority-owned businesses, and the hearing in Jacksonville was intended to discuss potential remedies to the challenge.

“Capital is the lifeblood of any business,” Lawson said, noting that the average African-American startup is 18 percent less likely than white business owners to get help from the lending industry.

“Investors are predisposed to a preference to people who are similar to them,” Lawson added, and to that end, Monday’s hearing was intended to help women and minority-owned businesses voice their needs in the marketplace.

Jimmy Van Horn, a Lead Lender Relations Specialist for the Small Business Administration, noted that given the “insurmountable hurdle” of access to capital issues, the SBA steps in to help with loans ranging from microloans to loans up to $5 million.

Microloans, said Van Horn, are especially useful for startup businesses, especially when combined with technical advice.

Hillary Almond, President of Almond Engineering, resigned her role at JEA 14 years ago and went into business for herself.

The company was started on a wing and a prayer, and even over a decade after founding, the vast amount of grossed money goes back into the business. New hires can’t happen without necessary capital, Almond said, as she lacks the resources to float their salaries.

“Getting loans, getting capital, it’s very difficult … banks shy away,” Almond said regarding the SBA process, contravening Van Horn’s assertion.

“I go to banks, the people doing loans there don’t even want to talk about SBA. I would love to get an SBA loan; that would help me,” Almond added.

Roslyn Mixon-Phillips, Vice President of The Hester Group, described the risky loans minority-owned businesses had to undertake, given being foreclosed from traditional lending, including home mortgages, credit cards, and “lenders of last resort.”

Time impacts, as well as lack of “business acumen,” preclude often operational concerns.

“They’re often too busy performing the work of the services,” Phillips said, and lack the advantages of corporate infrastructure.

“In my more than 30 years working with small businesses,” Phillips added, “my impression is that the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

Philips urged patience and persistence with the SBA process.

“If one door closes, another door opens,” Phillips said.

Dane Grey, President of Elite Parking Services, had a different story, describing how access to private capital has facilitated his company’s expansion throughout the region.

“What we did initially was put together a business plan,” Grey said. “To create something that is different … a viable product, and a business plan with people who understood our business.”

Panelists agreed that access to microloans would help smaller businesses.

Jacksonville Civic Council forms committee to ‘assess’ possible JEA sale

Yet another group of Jacksonville community stakeholders will now weigh in on a potential sale of JEA, the city’s municipal utility.

Friday saw the Jacksonville Civic Council announce its creation of a “public finance task force,” which will have a special committee to look at a potential sale or other options for the 128-year-old utility.

The Civic Council, a bipartisan group of business executives, will “help do the important work necessary to fully understand the impact of such a sale on our city’s finances and its citizens.”

The move from the Civic Council, the executive committee of which includes some of Mayor Lenny Curry‘s most consistent financial supporters, adds yet another layer of scrutiny to a potential exploration of value.

On Thursday, a Jacksonville City Council committee kicked off to explore the merits of such a sale.

The panel, as of now, will meet weekly through the end of June.

Jacksonville ethics panel probes tightening code in light of JEA sale talks

The Jacksonville Ethics Commission legislative subcommittee continued its inquiry Friday into conflicts of interest, transparency issues, and post-employment matters.

The issue has a new urgency in light of the exploration of the sale of JEA, which could potentially offer incentives to outgoing officeholders and candidates.

The discussion included those issues (and corollaries) such as the use of aides by elected officials to handle personal business, as things that need tighter language than what the current ethics code has.

Language regarding soliciting future employment fell under scrutiny also, with a semantic discussion of what it means to “solicit,” and whether that “employment” is primary or secondary.

Likewise, the “revolving door” between the city and a private company that does business with the city, one that has in the past allowed city employees to get paid after leaving public service, was worthy of scrutiny.

“Is there a scenario where someone could leave the city, see something advantageous for them in private,” wondered panel chair Mary Bland Love. “We have young lawyers and staff moving from firm to firm all the time.”

Bans on political solicitation in government premises, asserted panel member Joseph Rogan, are not being enforced by the Supervisor of Elections. Rogan said that in light of that, it might be a good idea to strengthen ethics code language.

Likewise, said Rogan, the lack of an explicit ban on solicitations, via using the title of the office, could constitute misuse of position.

“If you want something done, you should go to a particular lobbyist,” Rogan pointed out as one potential example of abuse (purely a hypothetical), that could be remedied by stronger code language.

City employees acting (again hypothetically) as agents for outside parties dealing with the city was another area of scrutiny.

The relevant code language, committee members agreed, was “hard to read” and nebulous, and in need of an overhaul.

Likewise, consultant positions that are taken by city employees — “moonlighting” — was another area of inquiry.

Client disclosure issues, including city lobbyists working for other clients, and outside counsel (such as that used in the current lawsuit against opioid manufacturers), were spotlighted as needing another draft to tighten language.

As well, tightening of codes, including retaining records in the wake of an ethics investigation, was also a discussion point.

While the Public Records Act forbids destruction of records, the panel discussed potential gaps in its own code, including what evidence must be retained (voicemails, for example) and issues of “decorum” within city agencies.

Jacksonville Bold for 3.9.18 — Cheat sheet

Jacksonville Bold for 3.9.18 — Cheat sheet

The Legislative Session is ending; hopefully, sooner than later.

And campaign season is heating up.

New candidates in state House races … and old back stories.

And Mayor Lenny Curry  — “Our Mayor,” per the branding — is seeking four more years.

Former City Council members seek a return to the dais.

And so on.

The next 14 months are going to be wild in Duval County.

Consider Bold your cheat sheet.

Rutherford pushes school safety bill

Schools should not be gun free zones, says U.S. Rep. John Rutherford.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Rutherford said last week.

John Rutherford took to Fox News, touting his Stop School Violence Act.

Rutherford believes his Stop School Violence Act  offers security measures, including having teachers look for “warning signs” of “potential mass casualty shooters.”

Rutherford also dodged questions on divergences between him and Donald Trump that came to the fore during a televised White House meeting last week.

Additionally, he said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a “unique opportunity” to change the culture in the Department of Justice. He didn’t offer much detail on that point, however.

Lawson plans Jacksonville roundtable

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson will host a House Small Business Committee hearing Monday, March 12, at 10 a.m. at the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Al Lawson will be in Jacksonville next week.

“Disparities in Access to Capital: What the Federal Government Is Doing to Increase Support for Minority-Owned Firms,” per Lawson’s office, will “examine the unique challenges minorities and women-owned businesses face when seeking funding from the Small Business Administration, traditional banks, private investment capital and additional financing mechanisms.”

The hearing will explore ways to overcome difficulties in securing financing by minority-owned businesses.

Davis’ parents back Brown

Alvin Brown was Jacksonville mayor when Jordan Davis was gunned down in 2012 at a gas station on the Southside.

Jordan Davis’ death is still memorable in Jacksonville.

In the years since, Brown has demonstrated support and friendship to Davis’ parents, and that support was reciprocated, via an official endorsement for Congress Wednesday.

Ron Davis and Lucy McBath, offered a joint statement, one that invoked both the Parkland massacre and the National Rifle Association.

“Nearly six years ago, our 17-year-old son Jordan was gunned down at a gas station in Jacksonville for simply playing music too loudly. The recent tragedy in Parkland shows just how little progress we’ve made, and how much more we still have to do, to keep our communities and kids safe from gun violence. This issue is truly one of life or death, and the stakes are too high for more excuses from do-nothing lawmakers, with our children’s blood on their hands, who ignore what’s in their heart to focus on what’s in their pocket. They readily support ‘Stand Your Ground’ and side with the NRA. Alvin Brown is a dedicated public servant with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby, and we know he will help make our country a safer, better place. We are proud to support his campaign.”

St. Johns Sheriff backs Johns in CD 6

St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns scored a significant endorsement Wednesday, from St. Johns Sheriff David Shoar, in the crowded GOP primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

David Shoar stayed close to home with his Congressional endorsement.

Shoar cited Johns’ “track record of supporting our public safety officers. He has done so on the St. Johns County Commission and will do so in Washington.”

Shoar pivoted from that track record to asserting that Johns was “someone that understands what it takes to keep our country safe, not only at home but at our border.”

Johns said it was “always humbling when such a highly respected law enforcement officer steps up to endorse.”

Shoar “has been on the front lines and knows what it takes to keep us safe,” Johns said. “I will rely on him and the public safety communities to make sure that the laws passed in Washington protect citizens against murderous foreign gangs and solving the nation’s opioid crisis. We need to listen to those tasked with protecting us for solutions to these issues.”

The GOP field in the district, one that runs from St. Johns County south to Volusia, has some candidates already, including former Ormond Beach state Rep. Fred Costello, businessman John Ward, and former Green Beret and current Fox News commentator Michael Waltz.

One of these Republicans will emerge from the primary to face likely Democratic nominee Nancy Soderberg in the general election.

Hogan knows best?

The race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jay Fant, an Attorney General hopeful, in Jacksonville’s House District 15 got more crowded on the Republican side Wednesday.

Joseph Hogan, the son of Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, entered the GOP scrum.

Family feud, redux: will bad blood between Mike Hogan and Lenny Curry play into HD 15 scrap?

Hogan will face attorney Wyman Duggan and yacht broker Mark Zeigler in the primary.

Hogan made an audacious play during the Mayor’s race three years ago. He endorsed Democrat Alvin Brown over Republican Lenny Curry, crossing party lines despite what he called Brown’s “failed administration.”

“I didn’t make my decision lightly,” related Hogan in a series of text messages. “I plan to run for City Council one day, and I know that supporting Alvin could hurt me with the Party folk, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

“I don’t look forward to Lenny losing, but someone has to win, and I think the people of Jacksonville are better off with Mayor Alvin Brown,” Hogan added.

The seeds for that endorsement, Hogan related, were planted four years prior, in the aftermath of his father’s narrow defeat at the hands of the Brown operation, upon which Curry said that “excuses are for serial losers,” a shot across the bow of the Hogan campaign that Joe took personally.

Interestingly, Hogan filed for the race just hours after Curry filed to run again for Mayor.

Curry’s chief political strategist, Tim Baker, is running the Wyman Duggan campaign, suggesting that there may be intrigue through August in this race.

Daniels’ NPA opponent touts fundraising

State Rep. Kim Daniels, an iconoclastic Jacksonville Democrat, has the Jacksonville political establishment behind her.

Among her January donors: members of the Rummell family, the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, and local dog track interests.

Rep. Kim Daniels’ NPA opponent thinks he has a shot; time will tell.

Daniels has nearly $16,000 cash on hand; however, her NPA opponent, Darcy Richardson, believes that he can be competitive in the November election.

Richardson claims to have raised “more than $6,100 as of yesterday. Most of those contributions will appear on my initial campaign finance filing covering the 12-13 days since opening my campaign account on Feb. 16. The balance — approximately $1,400 — will be reflected in the month of March.”

“That’s more than Republican Christian Whitfield raised during the entire 2016 election cycle. I haven’t begun to do any serious fundraising yet — that’ll happen over the next couple of months. And despite the district’s unfavorable demographics, I’m confident that I’ll be able to raise enough to put up a fight against arguably one of the most reprehensible and outlandish state lawmakers in the country,” Richardson adds.

Jacksonville Democrats have discussed primarying Daniels, but any expectations of that should be tempered by the incumbent’s strong community support.

It remains to be seen if Daniels can also be capsized by an NPA candidate.

Former Duval Dem chair running for state House

Neil Henrichsen, a former chair of the Duval County Democratic Party, is running for a state House seat in Volusia County.

He will face Republican incumbent state Rep. David Santiago of Deltona.

Former Duval County Democratic Party chair Neil Henrichsen is running for a State House seat in Volusia County.

Henrichsen, 55, of Deltona, is the second Democrat in the race. But the other, Tyran Rayaad Basil, has raised little money and shows minimal campaign activity — especially given his early start in April.

“Volusia County has always been a big home … and that’s a seat that should be Democratic,” he said. “It has a handful more registered Democrats and a representative in Santiago who has not done a lot for the district or the state.”

Henrichsen said he expects Santiago to be vulnerable for one vote. Two weeks ago, with survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre looking on, Santiago voted against allowing floor debate on House Bill 219, which would prohibit the sale, transfer or possession of assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Curry files for re-election

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Except for a brief period when Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was discussed as a possible chief financial officer appointment, there has been little doubt that he would run for re-election.

The first inkling of that effort’s branding emerged Wednesday morning, via a new cover photo on his campaign Facebook page.

Lenny Curry is running for re-election. Not a surprise, but worthy of note.

The second, more definitive nugget: Curry filing for re-election Wednesday morning.

The third indication: a new political committee, Jacksonville On the Rise, which launched a six-figure TV and digital ad campaign Wednesday.

As was the case during his original campaign, the logo incorporates a bridge motif; the message is minimalistic: “Our mayor.”

For those familiar with the “One City, One Jacksonville” slogan, it’s clear that candidate Curry will run as a uniter, not a divider, in his re-election bid.

Will anyone serious jump into this race against him?

New Curry ad touts first-term accomplishments

Jacksonville on the Rise, a new local political committee designed to boost Mayor Lenny Curry‘s re-election bid, released its first ad this week: a six-figure buy.

To see the ad, click the image below:

As one would expect, the ad extols Curry’s first term accomplishments, framing them in a holistic, big picture narrative that makes the case that the mayor has kept the city safe and has instituted meaningful reforms.

The ad trumpets investments in technology, such as ShotSpotter, and Curry adding 180 positions to the Sheriff’s Office and 225 Fire and Rescue workers, a fulfillment of a campaign promise to remedy public safety staffing shortages.

Additionally, the spot mentions children’s program reforms, via the Kids Hope Alliance: “a partnership with teachers and community leaders who help our children see their dreams become reality.”

The ad also discusses “balancing the budget without raising taxes” and “increased transparency” and “accountability” to the “taxpayers.”

Toward the close, the spot describes the city’s reaction to the hurricanes that came through in back to back years.

“We came together as a city,” Curry says in the voice-over.

Re-election bids for Brown, Ferraro

Let the “four more years” chants begin for two first-term Jacksonville City Council members.

On Tuesday, Democratic Councilwoman Katrina Brown launched her bid for re-election in District 8. Days before that, Republican Al Ferraro launched his re-election bid in District 2.

Al Ferraro and Katrina Brown will run for re-election. Of the two, Ferraro has the clearer path.

Brown and Ferraro face different paths to re-election.

Brown has issues other incumbents don’t. She has run afoul of the police union and has gotten tough coverage for a failed economic development deal from her family businesses.

Because of these perceived vulnerabilities, Brown faces a bevy of challengers: Diallo SekouSeabrooks, Michael Sell, Brandon Byers, Joenetta Dixon, Tameka Gaines Holly, and Albert Wilcox are all in the race against her.

Jacksonville municipal elections involve a “first election” in March, a blanket primary that sees the top two finishers move on to the May election, assuming no one clears 50 percent + 1 in March.

Expect the District 8 race to go the distance.

In Ferraro’s race, one can expect much less drama.

Ferraro has been a steady presence for his district in Council, advocating for issues such as drainage and other infrastructure.

His district is heavily Republican, and he is so far unopposed.

Redman seeks Council return

Of all the candidates in the 2019 Jacksonville City Council races, veteran Republican politician Matt Carlucci has the most impressive fundraising: $221,150 raised, with over $208,000 on hand.

Carlucci was alone on the ballot for at-large Group 4; however, that has changed with the filing of another man looking to return to City Council: Don Redman.

Redman, a Republican who represented a Southside Jacksonville district from 2007 to 2015, has been noted for a certain brand of social conservatism.

Don Redman has a certain conservative ‘charm.’

As the Florida Times-Union reported, he was best known on Council for asking a Muslim to “pray to his God” at the podium during a Council meeting, and for asking a lesbian at a different Council meeting if she considered herself male or female.

Redman ran most recently in the Republican primary in House District 12, a seat won by Clay Yarborough.

Redman’s fundraising was lackluster; he didn’t even raise $30,000 in the 17-month duration of his campaign. He garnered under 13 percent of the vote for a seat that encompasses his old City Council district.

It remains to be seen if Redman has broad appeal in a citywide race.

Salem clears $150K raised-mark

The money chase in the Jacksonville City Council at-large group 2 race continues to go Republican Ron Salem‘s way.

Ron Salem hits a fundraising milestone.

February saw Salem clear $150,000 cash on hand between hard money and lucre in his “Moving Jacksonville Forward” political committee.

Salem brought in $6,800 in new money to his campaign account in February, despite a $1,000 refund to Gate Petroleum.

The vast majority of the new money came from the energy sector and nursing home interests.

All told, Salem has over $143,500 on hand in his campaign account and an additional $8,000 in his committee.

Salem is well ahead of his two opponents.

Former Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop has not filed February numbers yet, but had just over $13,000 at the end of January.

And Democrat Darren Mason just launched his campaign in March.

Toxic proposal

Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, plans to develop an entertainment district on a stadium parking lot may be complicated by unremediated environmental issues.

“Jaguars President Mark Lamping said in January the organization plans to turn Parking Lot J, an almost 10-acre plot west of the Daily’s Place amphitheater and a nearby retention pond, into a 250,000-square-foot entertainment district,” the Record asserts.

A planned entertainment center for Parking Lot J hits a toxic speed bump.

However, there is oil under the pavement, rendering the property usable only for industrial purposes, per the city.

Remediation would be a must. What is uncertain (at this time) is who will pay for it.

And the timetable thus far is uncertain; the Jaguars will address this matter next in April, at the annual State of the Franchise address.

Party foul

The internecine battles continue in the Republican Party of Duval County. The latest involves the county chair looking to purge the statewide chair of the Young Republicans.

County chair Karyn Morton wrote Florida Federation of Young Republicans chair Robbie Foster March 3, informing him of a motion to vote him out March 19.

A nasty note will go on Robbie Foster’s permanent record.

The cause: “highly disruptive outbursts” at the January meeting of the Duval County Republican Executive Committee. These were, per Morton, “the culmination of a pattern of disruptions over the past year … very loud outbursts and vulgar language … erratic behavior” that “frightened” REC stalwarts.

Morton offered Foster the chance to “avoid further embarrassment” by resigning before the March meeting.

Foster has no intention of resigning, he told Florida Politics Tuesday afternoon.

In fact, he sees the putsch as symbolic of rating Morton a broader issue with Morton’s leadership.

Read more here.

WJXT touts ratings win

In the world of Jacksonville television news, the February sweeps showed it was WJXT first … then everyone else.

All they do is win, win, win. No matter what.

The station cleaned up in morning news ratings, even against national competition. Evening and nighttime ratings told the same story, pointing to “THE Local Station” dominating the market.

Also worth noting: WJXT is the only one of the three local news operations with a dedicated city hall reporter, Jim Piggott.

Their operation often comes off as more old-school than the others, but at least in the Jacksonville market, that has worked up until now.

Times-Union sheds readership again

The group of those reading the Florida Times-Union in print continues to shrink, per the Jacksonville Daily Record.

Just 40,555 take the paper daily, down from over 44,000 just months ago.

Despite branding campaigns, subscription attrition continues.

Sundays also show attrition: down to 59,275 from 68.591.

Despite these drops, New Media (the parent company of GateHouse, which owns and operates the Times-Union and many other papers nationwide), sees a reason for optimism.

The belief is that the changes will start to show benefit in the next year.

Five Points: Will gentrification kill the vibe?

One recurrent storyline in Jacksonville development was revisited this week by the Florida Times-Union.

Is gentrification turning “funky” into “fancy” in Five Points?

Is the Five Points vibe dead?

Rent hikes have driven independent businesses out, with the replacements being “micro chains” with higher price points, per the article.

For those who have seen Five Points over the decades, the discussion is nothing new.

One might recall the rumors of American Apparel — back in the aughts (when that was a thing) — taking real estate in the neighborhood.

Over the years, Five Points has seen booms and busts — predicated on macroeconomic changes.

Those changes have included the rises and falls of nightclubs, coffee bars and so on.

Will gentrification hold this time?

That is the question: one that is not at all a new one.

Muckraker’s posthumous honor

Of all the journalists to work the Jacksonville market, none had a more enduring scope than recently departed Marvin Edwards.

Edwards, who died at 95 years old, wrote bristling exposes of local boondoggles almost until the end. He Was a columnist, an essayist, and a quote machine.

Longtime Jacksonville gadfly Marvin Edwards, who died at 95.

Consider these lines from a 2001 article in Florida Trend.

“This city will take a beating on the Super Bowl,” Edwards predicted. And after the national articles maligning the city’s lack of cabs and hotels and first-rate entertainment options, he was right.

“The No. 1 job of government is to serve the general public, not special interests,” Edwards said. “Jacksonville has a reputation of serving the special interests first. It’s worse now than ever.”

Spoiler alert: it never got better.

He called the donor class the “syndicate,” and it’s only for lack of gumption among his peers that phrase didn’t stick.

Edwards’ ultimate target, at least this century, was spending on the Jacksonville Jaguars; he maligned the lack of accountability of expenditures on matters ranging from bringing the team to Jacksonville to the aforementioned ill-fated Super Bowl.

“The city pledged some $3 million to the event, and ultimately spent $11 million. But despite requests from several local papers and auditors to the Jacksonville City Council for detailed financial accounting, city officials and the committee refused to provide receipts, contracts or other documentation. Although the committee was subsidized with city funds, staffed with several city employees and tasked with providing a public function on behalf of the city both the city and the committee claimed the agency’s records were not public.”

He was a gadfly. A muckraker. And the kind of journalist that doesn’t exist in this market anymore.

Now that he has passed on, it’s safe for the Jacksonville City Council to admit that he was right all along.

Read more here.


— Councilman Scott Wilson is the third person in the Jacksonville City Council VP race, joining Sam Newby and Danny Becton. Both Newby and Becton have one pledged supporter; the race is wide-open.

Rory Diamond, running to replace termed-out Bill Gulliford in Council District 13, has already banked $100,000 and has an all-star fundraiser for next week.

Rory Diamond is strong out of the gate in his bid to replace termed-out Bill Gulliford in Council District 13.

Lobbyists (Marty Fiorentino, Paul Harden, Steve Diebenow, Deno Hicks and Susie Wiles) are on board. Former Mayors (John Peyton and John Delaney) and Council Presidents-in-waiting (Aaron Bowman) are there also.

Diamond, a Tim Baker client, thus far is unopposed.

One wonders if Councilman Gulliford will endorse him … or will wait it out.

JAXPORT closer to Carnival deal

JAXPORT is eyeing its first multiyear contract with Carnival Cruise Lines.

This week, CEO Eric Green told the JAXPORT board he has been actively pursuing the agreement, and assured board members that negotiations are going well.

JAXPORT is close to inking its first multiyear deal with Carnival Cruise Lines.

As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, chief operating officer Fred Wong has been a critical part of the dialogue with Carnival. Wong worked with Carnival often as an assistant director at the Port of Miami before joining JAXPORT.

“It seemed as though we will go from a year-to-year contractual agreement to a multiyear contractual agreement,” said Green.

Carnival’s current contract expires May 1, Green said, and if the issue is not settled by then, an emergency board session could be called to provide an extension.

JAXPORT is continuing its strong first quarter, said CFO Michael Poole, with better-then-predicted vessel calls, container counts and revenue in January.

As the Port Authority looks toward the second phase of its harbor deepening project, JAXPORT is currently A rated by Moody’s and Fitch, essential in keeping interest rates low on its debt

With $193 million outstanding, JAXPORT is estimating liability to rise to $252 million by 2020 — bolstered by its share of the harbor deepening project, berth enhancements among other debts.

Despite that, Poole told board members he is confident JAXPORT can keep its A rating.

Crowley to open new Jacksonville cold-storage facility

Crowley Logistics is expanding its distribution capability in Florida with a second CrowleyFresh cold-storage facility.

The company is a division of Jacksonville-based Crowley Maritime Corp.

Crowley Logistics expands cold storage operations into Jacksonville with the opening of a second, temperature-controlled Florida warehouse.

Crowley’s second humidity and temperature-controlled facility will be located at its West 30th Street distribution center in Jacksonville. It will help boost cold-chain services between South Florida and Northeast Florida.

Crowley senior Vice President Frank Larkin said in a statement: “This second cold storage facility in Florida represents the latest in a series of service enhancements designed to increase the velocity of our customers’ supply chains, decrease total landed costs and offer seamless and reliable collaboration among the varying components of transport.”

The facility will handle perishables moving between the U.S., South America and the Caribbean and is designed for maximum food safety and avoid cross-contamination.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, CrowleyFresh is a partnership of Crowley Logistics and Miami-based Customized Brokers, which already have a facility in Miami; the new addition will expand the capability to 400,000 cubic feet of total refrigerated space and 117,000 square feet of dry storage space for non-perishables.

Customers love JAX

For the second year in a row, Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) ranked first among North American Airports for customer service.

The Airports Council International (ACI), the global airport trade association, named JAX among the leaders of the 2017 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards. JAX tied for first with Indianapolis International Airport.

ASQ is the industry’s only global benchmarking program to measure overall airport passenger satisfaction. The survey covers 34 performance indicators of the customer service experience: check-in; security; wayfinding; food/beverage and more.

Customers love JAX: The airport ranked first in the latest customer satisfaction survey.

The result is a comprehensive database of customer service experiences at each participating airport.

Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman said: “Whether an airline employee, custodial staff or a restaurant server, everyone plays an integral role ensuring a world-class airport experience. None more so than input from our travelers. Their insight lets us know when we’re doing well while also providing a roadmap for future improvements.”

ASQ is the only comprehensive program to survey passengers at the airport on their day of travel. Nearly three-quarters of the world’s top 100 busiest airports are part of the ASQ network; the program served 343 airports in 2017.

“Objective measurement and benchmarking are critical in driving performance in any business especially in such a competitive and dynamic one as an airport,” said Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World. “These winning airports have dedicated themselves to delivering a stellar customer experience.”

Jacksonville City Council panel mulls JEA sale

Jacksonville City Council members convened, via a special committee, to discuss the potential sale of JEA on Thursday.

While Mayor Lenny Curry and his political allies have been open to exploring valuation and potential privatization, Council President Anna Brosche and many of her colleagues (including the members of the committee) have been more circumspect about the prospect.

The JEA privatization issue has revealed the deepest divide between Curry’s shop and at least some of the Council over the last two and a half years, and in that context, the special committee was born.

Committee chair John Crescimbeni kicked off the meeting by discussing “mistrust” and “muddying of the waters by all recent events and news stories,” which he wanted to dispel “by putting facts out in front of everybody today.”

Crescimbeni noted that JEA kicked off 123 years ago, as a way of pushing back against exorbitant rates from a private monopoly for street lights, leading to a city power plant and infrastructure.

And now, he noted, the conversation has come full circle.

A JEA representative noted that while water sales continue to increase, power sales have flatlined despite an increased customer base, given increased electrical efficiency. Fron 2007, there has been a 10 percent decline in electric sales, with further attrition forecasted.

Councilman Danny Becton wondered if JEA was “racing toward obsolescence,” given the declining sales on the power side, lest it become “Blockbuster Video when we’re all using DVRs.”

After the meeting, Council President Brosche offered her take, saying that despite declining trends in sales, she finds it difficult to believe there is a day we will be without electricity or water.”

Discussion continued, predicated on the gap between decline in sales and the public mission of the company, before moving on to JEA contributions to city coffers.

JEA contributes $117 million via the JEA agreement, with other annual money (franchise fees and public service tax) pushing the number to $244.8 million.

The meeting left unanswered questions. And showed unresolved faultlines.

One of them: from Brosche regarding the valuation report.

But her questions (including about the “timing of CEO Paul McElroy‘s contract negotiations”) were for JEA leadership, which was not represented in the room, even as former mayoral chief of staff and current JEA executive Kerri Stewart was seen in the mayor’s office minutes before the meeting commenced.

“Everybody’s known this meeting was happening,” Brosche said.

Meanwhile, Finance Chair Garrett Dennis pitched limiting the spending power of the Curry administration, as had been done for the previous administration. He proposed emergency legislation to expedite that.

The suggestion was not rousingly received on the Council dais.

Councilman Becton urged the administration to come before the committee and declare neutrality on the concept of a sale, given the gap between certain council members saying the administration wanted a sale, and Curry and his staffers saying they were exploring the concept.


Duval House members had their reasons for opposing gun, school safety bill

Wednesday saw HB 7026 pass the Florida House by a 67-50 margin.

The $400 million gun and school safety proposal will fund demolition of a building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 14 students and three teachers were gunned down on Valentine’s Day. It also includes gun-control provisions banning the sale of bump stocks and raising the legal age to buy an assault rifle from 18 to 21.

The bill passed in spite of a lack of support from the Duval delegation; in fact, only Rep. Kim Daniels, a Democrat, voted for the measure.

Meanwhile, Democrat Tracie Davis opposed the bill, as did Republicans Cord ByrdClay YarboroughJay Fant, and Jason Fischer.

Davis opposed the bill for different reasons than the Republicans.

“Each and every day, black and brown boys and girls face the threat of gun violence whenever they leave their homes,” Davis said.

“This issue affects our communities in a way that some in this chamber will never understand,” she added, “while we are having this debate, I ask that we keep their lives in mind, their futures in mind, their dreams in mind, because too often, this Legislature has not.”

The Republican opposition to the bill was rooted in what legislators saw as abrogations of constitutional rights.

Byrd, an attorney with a deep interest in gun issues, asserted that he “could not vote for legislation that has serious constitutional infirmities infringing upon the Second, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.”

“The gun control measures in SB 7026 would not have prevented the Parkland tragedy. The desire to ‘do something’ cannot serve as the rationale to infringe upon the rights of law-abiding 18-20-year-olds,” Byrd asserted, adding that he backs the extra funding “to improve our mental health system, harden our schools and increase the presence of school resource officers.”

Yarborough “could not support it because concerns in the legislation outweigh what is good about it,” he said, though like Byrd he will be “voting in favor of our budget as it will contain funding for school security measures as well as mental health provisions that I hope will stop the next person who wants to terrorize our schools.”

Fant, running as the most Second Amendment-friendly candidate in the Attorney General race, likewise was a hard no: “We can protect our students without taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens. ‬When I’m AG, I won’t make ‘judgement calls’ on your Constitutional rights – I’ll defend and protect them in every scenario.”‬

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Renner of Palm Coast — a legislator with deep Duval ties, who lost a primary to Fant by just two votes in 2014 — went with Speaker Richard Corcoran and voted for the bill.

“This bill represents a bipartisan effort that focuses on bolstering school safety, increasing funding for mental health, and denying dangerous individuals the means to harm others. Public safety is government’s first priority. The Florida Legislature delivered on thoughtful and responsible reforms to promote public safety and ensure that the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will never happen again,” Renner asserted.

Material from Florida Politics’ James Rosica was used in this post.

Lenny Curry outlines second-term vision: Public safety, investments in all of Jacksonville feature

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been an active candidate for re-election since Wednesday; on Thursday, he discussed why he’s going for four more years.

One reason he offered: “to keep fighting for things I told people I’d fight for,” including public safety, resources for children, and a tangible commitment to all of Jacksonville.

Curry stresses that commitment to historically underserved areas, such as the Eastside and the Northwest Quadrant, has been something he has sought to remedy since his first campaign.

“A lot of broken promises” was how Curry described the approach of many of his predecessors. “Truly over the years there hasn’t been attention … equitable investments for the entire city.”

Curry has learned these lessons experientially, via getting “out of the offices and into neighborhoods,” he said, where “good people” are dealing with tough circumstances, all the while “working their asses off for their families … scraping and scrapping.”

Indeed, this battle for the forgotten neighborhoods of Jacksonville, and the men and women in them, animates Curry.

“I have met too many families that want the best for their children,” and right now, Curry says, “there’s no way. It makes me emotional, frustrated.”

“I promised action, to get things done,” he said.

And yet, there is work to do.

An ad a political committee associated with him (“Jacksonville on the Rise“) put out this week touts investments in public safety, and investments in children’s programs; however, the city is still plagued by a rising murder rate.

“I’m not satisfied,” Curry said, “but the only way you get better is to take action. We’ve added police, reformed kids’ programs, and are going to continue to take action.”

The murder rate, particularly among children, troubles Curry the most. He said that if he could accomplish any single goal, it would be that there would “not be another single child injured or killed by violence.”

There is a lot of work to do to get there, of course.

Beyond the public safety question, Curry recognizes that there are many other things left for him to do.

“Running government isn’t a glamorous business,” Curry said, “but it’s a necessary one.”

And one with many components.

Curry, throughout the interview, set himself apart from certain other elected officials who offer “grand plans” without a way to fulfill them, and just “spew talking points.”

Among his goals: to “protect taxpayer assets” and to “do for taxpayers what we set out to do.”

Sometimes, he allowed, there can be risk involved, as with the current discussion of JEA valuation.

“Anytime you take action,” Curry said, “there are people who are going to criticize.”

That’s not new to him: he saw similar dynamics in both the pension reform push (“a risk I was willing to carry”) and the children’s program reforms via the Kids Hope Alliance (“a risk that was worth it.”)

In the case of JEA, Curry believes it “would be irresponsible for elected officials not to understand the value of [that] asset,” especially given that it has “nearly doubled in value” in recent years.

“Many elected officials are afraid to have real conversations with people,” Curry said.

He’s not one of them.

“I have no desire to be a career politician,” Curry said, and that frees him up for “adult conversations” about how the city should look at both assets and liabilities.

Curry, a former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, has been able to build a bridge to Tallahassee; at this writing, it’s looking very possible that the city may get $12.5 million from the state for its Talleyrand Connector project.

Curry attributes the city’s increased ability to argue for its priorities in the state capital to relationships, including Senate budget chief Rob Bradley, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Rep. Travis Cummings.

“Without their belief in what we’re doing in this city,” Curry said, such meaningful investments wouldn’t be possible.

Curry is ramping up a re-election campaign much earlier than his immediate predecessor did, and well before real opposition emerges.

It is possible that potential opponents missed their window.

Curry, cognizant of the reality that messaging is perpetual for an office holder, is already making the affirmative case for his re-election.

Lenny Curry ad touts first-term accomplishments

Jacksonville on the Rise, a new local political committee designed to boost Mayor Lenny Curry‘s re-election bid, released its first ad this week: a six-figure buy.

As one would expect, the ad extols Curry’s first term accomplishments, framing them in a holistic, big picture narrative that makes the case that the mayor has kept the city safe and has instituted meaningful reforms.

The ad trumpets investments in technology, such as ShotSpotter as well as the addition of 180 positions to the Sheriff’s office and 225 fire and rescue workers, a fulfillment of a campaign promise to remedy public safety staffing shortages.

Additionally, the spot mentions children’s program reforms, via Kids Hope Alliance: “a partnership with teachers and community leaders who help our children see their dreams become reality.”

The ad also discusses “balancing the budget without raising taxes  … increased transparency … and accountability” to taxpayers.

Toward the close, the spot describes the city’s reaction to the hurricanes that came through in back to back years.

“We came together as a city,” Curry says in the voice-over.

With no serious opponents yet declared (one filed Democrat raised just $600), the spot is a clear message to potential opponents, establishing a narrative that could be both difficult and expensive to counter.

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