Jax – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry quietly launches re-election campaign

Except for a brief period of time 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.

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

The third indication: a new political committee, Jacksonville On the Rise, that will launch a six-figure tv and digital ad campaign today.

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 Curry will run as a uniter, not a divider, in his re-election bid.

In stark contrast to Curry’s predecessor, Alvin Brown, Curry will not allow other candidates to get traction before launching his re-election campaign.

As this writer described in a Folio Weekly column last week, there have been whispers that Curry may be vulnerable as a candidate.

However, Curry will marshal massive resources, support from throughout the community, and a record of meaningful reforms into his re-election bid.

Additionally, he can count on the unstinting support of the Florida Times-Union editorial page … which wasn’t necessarily the case until the very end of 2015 bid.

Who will dare challenge him?

That is the question that thus far has no answer.

City Council President Anna Brosche was dismissive: “This is the most non-news news I can think of: someone going through the normal process of running for re-election. Mayor Curry is doing what he intended to do. Not sure what there is to comment on.”

Finance Chair Garrett Dennis is “glad that Mayor Curry is thinking and considering his next four years. It is no surprise that he is keeping all options about his future on the table.”

Lisa King, chair of the Duval Democratic Party, noted that “as Mayor Curry sets his eyes towards re-election, the citizens of Jacksonville are still waiting for him to come clean on the JEA sale.”

“Time will tell whether we’ll get the open government we were promised. Until then, the Curry machine will continue what it knows best, deflection and distraction. We hope the Mayor will remember that sunshine is the best disinfectant in government,” King added.

Florida Politics is reaching out to other council members for comment, and attempting to secure an interview with Curry today.

Jacksonville City Council to honor muckraker Marvin Edwards

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

Edwards, who passed away at 96 years old and wrote bristling exposes of municipal boondoggles almost until the end, was a columnist, an essayist, and a quote machine.

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 in spending 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 a 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.

Resolution 2018-138 will commemorate Edwards’ life and accomplishments.

Among them: his work for the Office of Strategic Services; coverage of the Dachau Concentration Camp trial; exposure of funding discrepancies in Duval County Schools that ultimately led to the district losing accreditation, followed by city/county consolidation.

“Marvin Edwards spent decades as a self-appointed watchdog and citizen activist holding local government accountable for its stewardship of the best interests of the taxpayers, meticulously researching and doggedly critiquing major public projects and expenditures such as the Dames Point Bridge and the Automated Skyway Express in newspaper articles, letters to the editor, and television interviews …

“Mr. Edwards exemplified involved, informed citizen activism, and his research and writing over many decades contributed greatly to government accountability in Jacksonville.”

Duval GOP to vote to expel statewide Young Republican chair from its executive committee

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.

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 embarassment” by resigning before the March meeting.

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

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

“With ever increasing news stories about how much the GOP has an uphill battle in front of us with the 2018 elections, it’s unbelievable that this is the nonsense that Chair Karyn Morton chooses to spend the Duval GOP’s time and efforts on,” Foster asserted.

“Not on defeating Bill Nelson. Not on electing a Republican Governor. Not on defending three open cabinet seats. No. Karyn is dedicating her efforts to expel someone who first joined in the REC in 2008. Someone who has been volunteering for the rec for a decade. Someone who also happens to be the Chairman of the Florida Young Republicans.”

“Way to court the youth vote, Karyn,” Foster quipped.

Foster went on to say Morton was “running the party into the ground.”

“Being REC chair of such a large and strategically important city such as Jacksonville is an awesome responsibility. I’ve seen some amazing people lead the party successfully. Since Karyn became chair she has demonstrated she is not up to the task. She has driven the party into the ground. Driven away donors so necessary to our grassroots efforts and driven away so many volunteers necessary to execute those grassroots efforts,” Foster said.

“And now she’s trying to expel someone who hasn’t left. Who has stayed because I hate to see an organization I’ve dedicated a decade of my life to fall apart and go from powerhouse to irrelevant at best and a joke at worst,” Foster added.

We await comment from the Duval GOP.

Jacksonville City Councilors Katrina Brown, Al Ferraro launch re-election bids

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.

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 SekouSeabrooksMichael Sell, Brandon ByersJoenetta DixonTameka Gaines Holly, and Albert Wilcox are all in the race against her.

There had been some doubt as to whether Brown would run again or not, at least according to various opponents and consultants.

Brown didn’t address the issue last time we asked her about it in mid-January. Though in the form of a candidate looking for another term, she has consistently trumpeted her achievements on social media.

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.

Kim Daniels’ NPA challenger touts fundraising in House race

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

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

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 February 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 Democratic activists 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 be capsized by an NPA candidate also.

Don Redman launches Jacksonville City Council run against Matt Carlucci

Of all 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 changed with the filing of another person 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 particular brand of social conservatism.

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 asking a lesbian at a different Council meeting if she considered herself male or female.

Most recently, Redman ran 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.

Jacksonville Bold for 3.2.18 — March Madness

With competitive Democratic primaries, the tail end of the Legislative Session, and local City Hall intrigue, there is a lot to unpack.

However, we have not arrived at the point in the narrative with a great deal of resolution.

At least not yet.

In a literary sense, this is known as foreshadowing.

Money has not been raised or even reported. Endorsements have not been rolled out.

It is sort of like Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Power lines fill with feathered animals … a classic trope to build tension for actions ahead.

Tension mounts.

And what is to come could make some political careers … and break others.

Brown fundraises off Martin

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, a Democratic primary candidate in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, used the anniversary of Trayvon Martin‘s murder six years ago as part of a fundraising pitch Thursday.

Alvin Brown mentioned Trayvon Martin in a fundraising pitch, notable because of his silence six years prior.

In public remarks as Jacksonville Mayor, Brown did not mention Martin, who was gunned down in 2012 by George Zimmerman in Central Florida.

However, Brown’s fundraising in 2018 is a different matter.

“It is hard to believe, six years ago this week Trayvon was fatally shot for what can only be described as ‘looking suspicious.’ We must always take a moment to reflect and remember the loss of lives like Trayvon,” Brown asserted.

“As we have conversations and push for gun reform, it is important to remember the Trayvons. His death and all those highlighted in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and those before them must serve a reminder that reform is needed. No one should be killed or discriminated against because of the color of their skin,” Brown added.

Brown’s mentioning of #BlackLivesMatter was also interesting, given that in two years in which his tenure as Mayor overlapped with the movement, he didn’t mention it explicitly either.

Read more here.

Money changes everything

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford thinks that stopping school shootings is “about how much we want to pay,” he told WJXT late last month.

The former Jacksonville Sheriff thinks more money should be spent to prevent the next Parkland.

Rutherford said:

“I think more is going to take place at the state level. And I also think you’re going to see some change at the national level. But … You know, security for schools is really a district driven issue.

“You know, we had discussed last week about dropping (filing) the bill ‘Stop Violence in Schools Act of 2018,’ which focuses on hardening the target of the schools.

“Teaching individuals what are the warning signs to look for in these individuals would later become mass killers. And then also setting up an anonymous tip line for folks to be able to call in … and to report those signs that they see.

“So the question becomes: How many, how much do you want to spend to make sure that this does not happen again?

“And then you hear people say, ‘Well, let’s not do police. Let’s do school resource officers who actually work for the school board.

“They may not be as well trained as the police … but they carry guns, and they’re qualified and all that.’

“And then they say, ‘That’s too expensive. So, let’s, you know, if we just put guns in the hands of a few teachers that could be trained, you know, let’s do that. That’s not as expensive.’

“So that’s why I say: How much do you want to pay for what kind of security?”

Rutherford draws Democratic challenger

Ges Selmont, a lawyer making his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, rolled out his campaign for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 4th Congressional District last weekend via news release.

Remarkably, there are no pictures of Ges Selmont on the internet.

Selmont will be the second Democrat vying for the nomination in a district that elected Rutherford in 2016 by over 40 points; author Monica DePaul is already in the race, though evidence of a formal campaign structure or fundraising is elusive thus far for her, and her most high-profile interview (a half-hour on WJCT) saw her struggle with even friendly questions.

“People from New York, Boston, Connecticut, and LA have expressed support. This race will be on the national radar,” Selmont said. “We will have to run a new, fresh, energetic and innovative campaign.”

Time will tell if that will unseat the former Jacksonville Sheriff.

Soderberg snags EMILY’s List endorsement

In another sign that Ambassador Nancy Soderberg has all but locked the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, EMILY’s List endorsed her Wednesday.

Nancy Soderberg continues to pile up endorsements from left-leaning groups and unions.

Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, released the following statement:

“A former deputy national security adviser to President [Bill] Clinton and ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg knows what it means to take on tough jobs. She has used her positions to advocate change, move our country forward, and defend the rights of our citizens.”

“In her current role as a professor at the University of North Florida and a small-business owner, she is deeply invested in her community and will do what it takes to ensure that the working families of the 6th District have a voice in Washington.”

“Nancy will fight for access to quality health care, affordable higher education, and common-sense policies that will protect our environment,” Schriock asserted.

“It’s time for a representative who will actually fight for working families, which is why EMILY’s List is strongly supporting Nancy Soderberg for Congress,” Schriock added.

Fant blasts Broward Sheriff for Parkland stand down

Rep. Jay Fant, a Republican candidate for State Attorney, renewed his calls for Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to step down in the wake of reportage that deputies stood down, as did the school resource officer, in a mass shooting that killed 17 in Parkland earlier this month.

Jay Fant has zero tolerance for the Parkland stand down.

Fant, a signatory to a letter from House Speaker Richard Corcoran on this matter, made his case on CNN Monday morning.

“We’ve seen enough from Sheriff Israel,” Fant said, noting that Israel said he demonstrated “amazing leadership” but has not demonstrated accountability in the wake of the stand down of one to four officers.

Gov. Rick Scott has avoided calls to remove Israel, instead tasking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

Fant did not pan this move.

“The governor is keenly sensitive to what is happening in Broward, that’s why he launched the FDLE investigation, but it’s not going to get better for Sheriff Israel, it’s going to get worse,” Fant said, referring to expected damning findings from the Coral Springs Police Department’s investigation of the incident.

Fant wants an independent prosecutor to look into what happened, he said.

In the wake of the Parkland homicides, Fant has been on national television with some frequency. He had a segment on “Meet the Press Daily” on MSNBC last week.

Former Daniels aide to primary Davis

The intrigue continues in Jacksonville area Democratic primaries, with yet another incumbent facing a primary challenge on the 2018 ballot.

The latest competitive race is in House District 13, where incumbent Rep. Tracie Davis will face a challenge from Rep. Kim Daniels‘ former district secretary, Roshanda Jackson.

Tracie Davis, a former deputy Duval County Supervisor of Elections, is a first-term State Rep.

Jackson said that she is not “running against” Davis, whom she doesn’t know. And she says that “no elected official has encouraged [her] to run.” And she takes pains to note that she doesn’t want her bid for office to be conflated with that of Rep. Daniels.

“I hope the race is peaceful,” Jackson said.

Davis, when asked about the primary challenge, noted that she is focused on the Legislative Session, with gun safety and school hardening bills among her priorities, and will turn her election to the campaign after Session.

This filing comes just weeks after Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown launched his primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson.

A persistent narrative has surfaced that Brown was put up to running by Mayor Lenny Curry, which both Brown and Curry deny.

Democratic Party insiders don’t discount that narrative, but also note that another source of these primary challenges may be the post-Corrine Brown struggle for primacy in the Jacksonville Democratic machine.

‘Coward’ attacks female Fischer aide

One legislative staffer, Sadie Haire, district aide for Jacksonville Republican Jason Fischer, a supporter of the Second Amendment, got more than words from a gun control proponent.

Sadie Haire had a scare in Jason Fischer’s district office last week.

“On Wednesday, a man — a coward really — forced himself into my district office in Jacksonville demanding that the Legislature ban ‘assault weapons’ and other firearms,” Fischer asserted on Facebook. “He then attacked my district aide and said he was trying to prove a point about ‘gun control.’”

Fischer related that the man came in upset about the failed attempt to get a ban on assault weapons considered in the House. He said the man demonstrated his outrage by “slamming [Haire] into the door violently.”

“This coward was inspired to violence by the political stunt that one of my colleagues pulled on Tuesday,” Fischer said. “There is no justification, political or otherwise, for violently attacking an innocent person.”

Fischer’s office did not have the best security. There was no camera system so that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office could be given a picture, Fischer said.

Fischer added he is closing the office while figuring out what can be done.

Meet El Presidente

Jacksonville City Councilman Aaron Bowman has the ten pledges needed to secure the Council presidency starting in July.

In addition to himself, the former Mayport base commander has Scott Wilson, Sam Newby, and Reggie Gaffney committed last week. Jim Love committed Tuesday.

Aaron Bowman aligns with Lenny Curry more closely than does the current Council President.

Before that, Bowman secured the commitments of former Council Presidents Lori Boyer and Greg Anderson, along with Doyle Carter, Matt Schellenberg, and former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri.

The coalition of support Bowman has amassed is worth noting, specifically regarding the two most recent past presidents.

Boyer and Anderson worked well with Curry during their presidencies; conversely, the Anna Brosche presidency has been a divisive one, with competing narratives between her and fellow Republican Curry on a variety of issues, including pension reform, children’s program reforms and exploring the prospect of selling local utility JEA.

By late last week, Brosche was among a cadre of Council members roiled by recent revelations that Curry’s team had been exploring valuations on privatizing assets, including but not limited to JEA.

Bowman, who plays a prominent role in recruiting businesses to come to Jacksonville via the JAXUSA arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, takes a different view of the administration’s moves.

He backs exploration of the value of assets.

Read more here.

Privatization push not new

Though many seem to think the concept of asset privatization is something Curry just discovered, in reality, it is something that was in the works for a while longer.

Lenny Curry’s team is a united front on all issues — including exploring asset privatization.

Since Curry’s election, to be exact, when the mayor-elect’s transition committees explored the concept.

Once in office, Curry’s team began to work with former NYC deputy Mayor Steve Goldsmith, a privatization guru.

By December 2015, Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa met with members of Jacksonville’s City Council, and privatization was discussed, via “scrutinizing” department budgets, looking at what services are required, and a comparison to the private sector providing some services.

Now, in 2018, privatization is earnestly discussed — of JEA.

Read here why this might be a boon for Jacksonville’s bottom line.

The fix is in

Per the Florida Times-Union, JEA is about to commit capital to some fixes for problems exposed in back-to-back hurricane years.

The big spends: $45 million for 251,000 “smart meters” that will allow outages to be pinpointed house by house, potentially removing the dubious outage reporting that vexed customers during Irma.

Millions of dollars are proposed for meters to fix service issues that surfaced in tropical storms.

The money is there, but it will take time to go house to house and install these meters. How much time is as yet unknown.

And $100 million over five years for water-sewer system hardening, which will include more backup power generators to lower the risk of sewage spills at lift stations during power outages.

The upshot: “JEA expects to have backup power at 47 percent of stations this year, and it will be at 71 percent by 2022.”

Is slow septic phaseout killing NW Jax biz dev?

Budget hearings in August saw multiple members, including Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, lament the slow pace of septic phaseout. $6 million a year is being allocated, split between JEA and the city, for a project that could cost anywhere from $300 million to $1 billion.

Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown seek to speed up septic phaseout.

With JEA privatization or sale now a hot topic, Council members Brown and Brown, along with Sam Newby, Garrett Dennis and Gaffney, want to codify commitment to the project, via a bill (2018-76) that would obligate JEA to run sewer and water lines throughout the city.

That bill, which would secure in principle a long-awaited retrofitting of these areas, is due to be heard in committees next week.

Reggie Brown noted that businesses are avoiding the Northwest Quadrant in part because of the incomplete septic phaseout, and businesses that are in the area are getting letters from the State Attorney threatening them with shutdown if issues aren’t rectified.

He noted the paradox: the Health Department and State Attorney enforcing standards that wouldn’t be an issue if the city had fulfilled its infrastructural obligations.

Read more here.

Mason jumps into Council race

Darren Mason, a former assistant to Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, is the first Democrat to jump into the 2019 at-large Group 2 race for City Council.

Florida Politics interviewed him in advance, he said he would file March 1.

Darren Mason, a former assistant to Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, is the first Democrat to jump into the 2019 At-Large Group 2 race for City Council.

Unlike what is the case with some fields in Council races, Mason comes into a race facing serious competition.

Thus far, the race has been between two Republicans, and at least in terms of money, Bill Bishop continues to flail against Ron Salem.

Bishop has under $13,000 on hand; Salem has over $136,000 on hand.

Bishop is just three years removed from a spirited campaign for Mayor; Salem’s campaign is being run by Curry’s political guru, Tim Baker of Data Targeting.

Despite this competition, Mason feels confident in his way forward.

Read more here.

Word is bond

Some good news for Jacksonville came Monday via another bond upgrade.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services announced an uptick in the special revenue bond rating to ‘AA’ from ‘AA-.’

Another credit market win for the Lenny Curry administration.

“This latest upgrade further demonstrates our continued and strong focus on fiscal responsibility is making a difference for our citizens,” Curry said. “We continue to work hard to enhance the City’s standing with investors by doing all we can to ensure the City’s financial stability for years to come. Improved credit ratings can save our city millions of dollars on future debt issues by lowering borrowing costs, which is good for taxpayers.”

Per the media release: “Citing a change to their ratings methodology, S&P said they now consider both non-ad valorem and general fund pledges as equal since both are dependent on the successful operation of the City. The City of Jacksonville’s special revenue pledge is a non-ad valorem pledge, and backs $1.027 billion of the City’s debt outstanding as of Sept. 30, 2017.”

Jacksonville, 1941

Legendary local essayist Marvin Edwards died last month, after an epic career that included everything from WW2 spy work to more contemporaneous exposes of Jacksonville City Hall shenanigans.

The Jacksonville Daily Record ran a piece of Edwards’ from 1941, in which he took a look at a “boomtown” that exists still, but not in the same way.

Jacksonville’s thriving downtown was noteworthy … 77 years ago.

“Saturday nights, the downtown area reminds one very much of Times Square. All the theaters are jammed, and it’s almost impossible to find a place to park.”

Edwards was taking a hard look at what happened to Jacksonville: the military-industrial complex.

From shipbuilding downtown to Camp Blanding to the south, the city and surrounding areas were growing because of that buildup.

Banking was big, as well.

The build-out, of course, has been suburban and exurban in recent years. But for those who live in the city’s urban core, hope remains that downtown, somehow, can regain its bygone luster.

Szymanski ‘thrilled’ to become UNF president

In an interview with the University of Florida’s Colin McCann, newly named University President David Szymanski talks about his plans, goals and his “strongest assets” – creating personal relationships and teamwork.

“He mentioned his experience playing basketball,” McCann writes, “saying, ‘One of the things that basketball does for you is thinking of that notion of team. It’s everybody together, and it’s people helping each other out and working collaboratively.’”

David Szymanski is ‘thrilled’ to be selected as UNF president.

Szymanski believes his biggest challenge will be overcoming the time constraints while bringing together people from all parts of the campus and the UNF community. “He wants to look into additional learning opportunities for students, like applied research and internships, building on top of opportunities that are already in place at UNF.”

“My job is to do things well and create opportunities for other people,” Szymanski said. “And I think it’s an exciting time to be a student and an exciting time to be at UNF … I’m just thrilled and honored and humbled to be the next president of the University of North Florida.”

Teen employees get ‘hands-on experience’ at Jacksonville Zoo

Fourteen local teens serve as employees of the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, part of a city-sponsored Wildlife Immersion and Leadership Development (WILD) program. Since 2016, the teen employment program has incorporated leadership development, public-speaking instruction and lessons in zoology and horticulture.

While animal-related interests are not required, some of the youths in the program see working with animals as a long-term career path.

Jacksonville Zoo’s WILD program offers a diverse group of teens firsthand experience with animals, leadership, and community.

According to the Florida Times-Union, WILD is for culturally-diverse teens aged 14 to 18 who live or attend school or church in 10 Jacksonville ZIP codes targeted by the Jacksonville Journey anti-crime initiative, primarily from the Northside and Northwest areas of the city. Applicants go through a rigorous application process and work Saturdays during the school year, and full time in the summer months.

First-year students in the program are called stewards. In the second year, they graduate to become ambassadors and take more leadership responsibility. In the final year of the program, they help develop educational outreach programs in their communities, including bringing small animals on tour. The zoo outreaches are free and go to the organization or facility that has shown an influence in the teens’ lives.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Marquese Fluellen, 18, who is in his second year of the program and attends Wolfson High School. “I always wanted a career in animal handling but didn’t know where to start.”

Darren Mason launches Jacksonville City Council run

Darren Mason, a former assistant to Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, is the first Democrat to jump into the 2019 At Large Group 2 race for City Council.

He said he would file on March 1; we interviewed him ahead of time.

Unlike what is the case with some fields in Council races, Mason comes into a race facing serious competition.

Thus far, the race has been between two Republicans, and at least in terms of money, Bill Bishop continues to flail against Ron Salem.

Bishop has under $13,000 on hand; Salem has over $136,000 on hand.

Bishop is just three years removed from a spirited campaign for Mayor; Salem’s campaign is being run by Mayor Lenny Curry’s political guru, Tim Baker of Data Targeting.

Despite this competition, Mason feels confident in his way forward.

“Every candidate gives me the opportunity to develop strategy and showcase my skills to win,” Mason said.

“I respect the experience each candidate will bring to this election,” Mason added. “I look forward to demonstrating my skill set over the course of this campaign to enhance the voice of the City Council for a sustainable Jacksonville.”

“Because elections are about hearing the needs of the community and developing a plan to execute it,” Mason added, “my focus will be to address the issues of Jacksonville citizens.”

Mason said those citizens have inspired his candidacy.

“The residents of Duval County have absolutely inspired me to run, however it’s also more of what has encouraged me. As a native of Jacksonville, I grew up always wondering how can I help serve my community. After Councilwoman Morgan gave me the opportunity to serve as her Executive Council Assistant, I knew I found my path of service,” Mason said.

“Everyday I heard the needs of our community, their concerns became my concerns, and working together to meet their needs has encouraged me to take my public service to the next level.  I want to go from being a helping hand to being that voice for the community,” Mason added.

If the race stays a three-way contest, Mason, as the only Democrat, will be well-positioned to make the runoff.

He says that Democratic players will help him fundraise.

Time will tell if he can get close to Salem territory on the money side.

And to Bishop territory regarding Name Identification.

Fireworks between John Rutherford, Donald Trump in gun control discussion

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford has been a devoted surrogate for President Donald Trump on virtually every issue of note since the two men came into office last year.

But during a Florida-heavy roundtable discussion on gun law reform at the White House Wednesday, Rutherford and Trump had a number of sharp exchanges that were at odds with the attempt at consensus building.

Former Jacksonville Sheriff Rutherford dominated the microphone, with his interactions with Trump taking up seven minutes of the hour discussion.

The first discussion point had to do with “gun free zones,” which Rutherford — a concealed weapon permit holder and enthusiast who backs CWP reciprocity legislation — described as a place where people can “kill at will.”

“The reason I carry a concealed firearm everywhere I go,” Rutherford continued, “is because I don’t know where the gun free zones are. I may be walking through it at the mall, or at the donut shop, or wherever I might be. So that’s why I carry concealed.”

The President pushed back.

“You’re not allowed concealed in a gun free zone,” Trump said, adding that, regarding reciprocity, “you’re not going to get concealed carry approved” as Democrats will oppose it.

Trump did agree that he wanted to get rid of gun free zones, at least on military bases, but Rutherford wasn’t finished.

“Everytime I walk into someplace carrying concealed, I end a gun free zone,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford went on to describe a flaw with the Baker Act: having to give the previously committed person a gun back at the end of his commitment.

“I tried not to do that one time,” Rutherford said. “We lost the case. I had to give the guy his gun back and we got fined.”

From there, Rutherford described the dangers posed by stolen guns, which he said could be curbed with point of sale background checks.

“Here’s what you do. You require a purchaser’s permit at the point of sale of every gun in this country,” Rutherford said.

“I think the NRA would love that,” Trump muttered sarcastically.

“If I don’t have my permit, it’s against the law for him to sell it to me, and against the law for me to buy it,” Rutherford said, noting that unpermitted sales would lead to the possibility of law enforcement going undercover and busting the unpermitted sales.

“You’d have a real black market,” Trump said, “they sell the gun and the buyer doesn’t care and the seller doesn’t. You have that problem with drugs … you’d have the same problem with guns, a black market where people don’t even think of registering.”

Congressional candidate Mike Waltz rolls out Jacksonville, Daytona Beach lawman endorsements

Mike Waltz, one of a group of Republicans vying to replace outgoing Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, rolled out two endorsements from law enforcement veterans Wednesday.

“As a fellow veteran, I know Michael Waltz shares my commitment to conservative values and will do what it takes to keep us safe,” said Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.

“Michael served our country with honor as a decorated combat veteran and as an advisor to President Bush on matters of national security. Michael Waltz is prepared to serve on day one and I’m proud to endorse him for Congress,” Williams added.

“Lt. Col. (res) Michael Waltz is the proven conservative voice we need in Congress,” said Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri.

“Michael has served his country with courage and valor on the front lines of the battlefield and knows what it takes to keep us safe. As a National Guardsman, Michael served at the intersection between local and federal agencies – from natural disasters to support to law enforcement. As a native Floridian, he will be a powerful advocate for district six. I’m proud to endorse Michael Waltz to be our next Congressman.”

Waltz said he was “deeply honored and humbled to have received the endorsements of both Sheriff Williams and Chief Capri. They embody a spirit of service, honor, and integrity that is required in a true public servant. They know the sacrifice and commitment it requires to keep our families safe. I look forward to working with them in service to our community.”

Waltz faces two Republicans, Ponte Vedra businessman John Ward and political veteran Fred Costello, in the primary.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons