What a month for Jacksonville.
We survived it all.
We survived Hurricane Irma and its floods that turned downtown to a lake and brought the river into some of the finest homes in Avondale and San Marco.
Then, we survived the politicians’ photo ops.
We saw the Jaguars court opprobrium when some knelt for the national anthem, even as they got off to a 2-1 start — first place in the division, for now.
Just weeks back, it felt like recovery was a lifetime away.
Debris is clearing from roads. Power and the cable have long since returned.
There is an upshot, in a sense. We all now know a lot more about the power grid, as well as former esoterica like the politics of FEMA reimbursement.
Adversity has many consequences, with negative ones amply documented.
But if there is one positive out of all this, it’s this: we — as a whole — are more engaged, more politically-aware, and more charitable than we might have been at the end of August.
May we stay that way.
John Rutherford, Al Lawson get grant for eco-friendly buses
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) granted $1M last week to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority for low-emission buses.
Buses, per Sunshine State News, will run from the Armsdale park and ride to the new Amazon distribution center.
Rep. Rutherford worked with Rep. Lawson to make the case.
Rutherford said the federal funds for “battery electric buses … will not only strengthen our world-class transit system but also improve air quality and lower fuel costs.”
“In the long run, this will help to increase fuel standards for the city and improve the air quality for our city’s residents. I am proud to have supported this funding and look forward to working with JTA on ways to further expand Jacksonville’s clean energy initiative,” Lawson added.
Rutherford: ‘Great victory’ on snapper fishing reopen
Area anglers will be seeing red in local waters — and, unlike in previous years, they will be able to reel it in, in the form of red snappers … which can now be fished again.
Rep. Rutherford framed this Wednesday as a “great victory” for local anglers.
“In June,” Rutherford asserted, “I wrote a letter to the South Atlantic Fishery Council requesting to open the red snapper fishery in the South Atlantic. There were over one hundred Congressional signatories to that letter.”
“Yesterday,” Rutherford added, “the South Atlantic Council announced they passed a provision to reopen the fishery for short seasons in 2017 and 2018. This is a great victory for fishing in our state … a tremendous step toward growing our First Coast fishing economy, but I will keep fighting in Washington for our South Atlantic anglers until we have a long-term solution to properly managing all of our fishery stocks.”
Melissa Nelson: Same as Angela Corey?
The Florida Star, a Jacksonville paper tailored toward the African-American community, said that State Attorney Melissa Nelson was “the same” as predecessor Angela Corey when it came down to a high-profile murder case.
“State Attorney Melissa Nelson is turning out to be no different from former State Attorney Angela Corey when it comes to prosecuting Officers that kill black citizens. This week, her office determined that the killing of unarmed black man Vernell Bing by officer Tyler Landreville was justified,” the Star wrote.
The Star added that “Tennessee v. Garner” invalidated the action, as it prohibits deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect. Of course, the officer contends the suspect had been endangering lives by driving pell-mell down urban streets at 70+ miles per hour, and that when he shot Bing, Bing was reaching into his waistband.
“This is one case that will haunt Nelson due to the attention that it has received from local activists,” the paper adds, wondering “where are our black local and state legislators on these issues?”
The Clay, St. Johns and Duval Legislative Delegations have meetings slated for October.
Clay’s delegation convenes Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Location: the Clay County Administration Building, 477 Houston Street, Green Cove Springs.
Sen. Rob Bradley works seamlessly with Rep. Bobby Payne and Travis Cummings, allowing Clay to continually punch above its weight. This year will be especially pivotal given post-Irma needs for the growing county.
St. Johns and Duval, meanwhile, both meet that Friday.
The St. Johns County Legislative Delegation Meeting will kick off at 9 a.m. at the St. Johns County Auditorium (500 San Sebastian View, St. Augustine).
Duval’s delegation, chaired by Rep. Jay Fant, meets Friday, Oct. 20, at 1 p.m. in Jacksonville City Council chambers.
The major topic: a local bill that would require Sheriff’s Office crossing guards at certain schools.
As is always the case with delegation meetings, stakeholders and local eccentrics will show up to make their cases for priority projects; they will be allowed to speak as time permits.
Lenny Curry: ‘Stupid’ not to stand for anthem
Jacksonville Mayor Curry got national exposure via The Associated Press for his statement on the national anthem Monday, as this New York Post article shows.
“I stand and cover my heart for the pledge and the anthem. I think it’s stupid to do otherwise,” Curry said. “The U.S. Constitution protects the right for a lot of people to do a lot of stupid things. I am a constitutional conservative, so I respect the wisdom of our Founders.”
The AP dispatch cut out the portion of the quote that had to do with storm recovery.
For Curry, not rebuking President Donald Trump on statements that play better with the GOP base than with the diverse body politic of Jacksonville has become a game of political Frogger.
By saying the protests were “stupid,” Curry nodded to the right. But he left no doubt that they were Constitutionally protected.
By Tuesday, Curry was done talking about the anthem and protests. When asked for details as to what the flight back with the team was like, he would only say it was a “nice flight.”
SPOTTED on the Oct. 2 cover of Sports Illustrated: Shad Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, related to a story on the NFL’s ‘take a knee for the anthem’ controversy this past weekend. From the story: “The protests of today are not about the anthem or the flag or the troops, or even about Donald Trump. The protesters are high-profile African-American athletes raising awareness of how lower-profile African-Americans are often mistreated by police officers.”
Shad Khan ‘appalled’ by Donald Trump
Meanwhile, one of Curry’s biggest political supporters — Shad Khan — stood beside his players during a moment of protest Sunday … with Curry in the stadium.
No regrets from Khan, who told a Jaguar that he would remember this for the rest of his life.
Khan, who dropped $1 million on Trump‘s inauguration, has clearly become more comfortable with the concept of buyer’s remorse of late.
“I supported him in the campaign because I loved his economic policies and I thought, you know, politicians do a lot of stuff to get elected,” Khan said.
Khan — like many reporters — expected a pivot “to the middle.” No dice.
“But I was appalled, right after his inauguration, how things started out,” Khan said, “being more divisive and really being more polarizing on religion and immigration.”
For more on Khan, check out this strong Washington Post piece that aggregates the legacy of a wholly unique figure not just in NFL history, but American history.
“We all need to send a thank you card to President Trump,” he added. “He’s united us all in a very powerful way.”
In recent years, Jacksonville taxpayers have authorized $88 million of city-funded capital improvements to the Jaguars’ stadium: $43 million for the world’s biggest scoreboard, and half a $90 million buy-in that secured a new amphitheater, a covered practice field, and club seat improvements.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
Local television viewers spent Friday evening watching WJXT’s footage of Jacksonville City Councilmembers Reggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown accusing local cops of racial profiling.
Gaffney had been pulled over for driving on a license plate he reported stolen in early 2016. Brown pulled up behind him to accuse the officers of racially profiling Gaffney.
From there, things got no better. The head of the local Fraternal Order of Police urged the Councilors to apologize to the police they had maligned, or resign.
That head of the FOP, Steve Zona, wondered what the Mayor thought of this. Well, here’s the answer.
“I trust that the Sheriff and people over at JSO will do the right thing,” Curry said Tuesday on Jacksonville’s Northside, “and the process will work.”
For those looking for pyrotechnics, they weren’t to be found.
Gaffney apologized profusely at Council, while Councilwoman Brown was adamant that she did nothing wrong by asking the questions her constituents wanted to be asked.
Zona noted the apology was “heartfelt” and that “we all make mistakes.”
However, the Sheriff’s Office will still wonder about Gaffney’s lapsed memory when it came to walking into a police substation and reporting a tag stolen, then driving on the same tag. And to that end, an Integrity Unit investigation continues.
Post-Irma pollution in NW Jax
First Coast News reports on concerning flooding at a Superfund site in Northwest Jacksonville at Fairfax St. Wood Chippers.
A polluted site that has been on media and government radar for years now, the location flooded during Irma.
The Environmental Protection Agency notes: “Due to heavy rain, some runoff concerns were identified at an on-site retention point and a washout underneath some site fencing. Samples were collected from the pond to determine whether contamination issues are present …”
A happy ending (sort of): Environmental Protection Agency samples “did not indicate any significant issues at the site from Hurricane Irma.”
The statement continues: “A surface water sample collected after the hurricane showed concentrations lower than or similar to the surface water concentrations for multiple metals measured during the Remedial Investigation.”
The site has been dormant since 2010, and the Environmental Protection Agency will clean it up eventually, FCN reports.
Irma worst ever event for Jax businesses?
The Florida Times-Union is reporting that Hurricane Irma may have been the worst ever event for Jacksonville businesses.
“A member of the board of directors for JAX Chamber said Irma is likely the biggest, single negative event to impact Jacksonville business,” the T-U notes.
“I have been in Jacksonville for over 25 years working and I do not remember anything having an impact on business operations like this,” Chamber Board member Roy Driver said. “There was just nothing open.
“For 24-plus hours on what would otherwise be a normal workday — for just about the entire business community, with it being a Monday — everything was essentially shut down,” he said.
Duval wasn’t alone in Irma impacts; Clay County may have suffered the greatest natural disaster in its history during Irma, the Florida Times-Union reports.
“This was a catastrophic event for Clay County. The most significant impact that Clay County has ever felt …” said the county’s emergency director this week.
“This is going to be a long-term recovery, both the rebuild of infrastructure, the rebuild of residences and the recovery process is going to take time,” he added.
The impacts: over 12 hours of tropical storm force winds, epic creek flooding and 858 houses damaged.
“County infrastructure took a hit. There’s at least $600,000 in damage to county paved roads, about $200,000 to its dirt roads. Damage to county marinas, parks and recreational facilities is about $226,000,” the T-U report adds.
This puts hard numbers to the destruction Orange Park Republican Sen. Rob Bradley described to us in the immediate wake of the storm.
Clay County joins ‘Schools of Hope’ suit
By a 3-2 vote, the Clay County School Board voted this week to approve a lawsuit against the state of Florida — committing $25,000 to an effort joined weeks back by Duval County.
Per the Florida Times-Union: “The lawsuit is expected to question the constitutionality of the massive education bill, in part because it deals with about 70 subjects while the state constitution requires bills to deal with one topic. There are also questions about measures in the bill which are designed to steer millions of dollars from districts to charter schools and will limit school board’s oversight role with charter schools, which are independent public schools.”
Ted Cruz, SJC bound
Some high-powered national talent is headed to St. Johns County in October; U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz will join local Rep. Ron DeSantis for a county GOP fundraiser.
The event: Oct. 6 at Sawgrass Country Club. The two will discuss tax reform.
VIP Meet and Greet tickets are $250; for the conservative on a budget, general admission tickets are just $100.
Expect Texas-style BBQ, a cash bar to wash it down, and a silent auction.
More money, years for FSU President John Thrasher
FSU President John Thrasher will be at FSU through 2020, and will have more money for his trouble.
“FSU trustees voted Friday to boost Thrasher’s annual salary by 7 percent to $555,560. Trustees also agreed to give him a $200,000 bonus for his performance. Last year, Thrasher was given a $100,000 bonus. Thrasher later this year will also get a 1.45 percent raise being given to all FSU employees,” reported The Associated Press.
Thrasher will also get a $400,000 bonus should he stay at FSU through 2020.
Seafood Nutrition Healthy Heart Summit
October is National Seafood Month, and the Seafood Nutrition Partnership will host its inaugural Healthy Heart Summit to promote the benefits of eating heart healthy.
On Friday, Sept. 29, the half-day program will bring leaders from business, health care, and community together to discuss the importance of a heart-healthy diet for the local community, provide easy to use resources to encourage healthy dietary habits, and identify action items to support the heart health goals of the community. University of North Florida professor Judy Rodriguez will reveal results from the school’s Seafood Consumption in Northeast Florida study. It will also feature a special cooking demonstration by chef Johnny Carino.
Also to appear: Jerome Maples (Sen. Audrey Gibson’s office), Dr. Kelli Wells (Department of Health Duval County), Dr. Pamela Rama (Baptist Health), Mike Tigani (King & Prince Seafood) and Seafood Nutrition Partnership representatives.
The event is from 8 a.m. — 1 p.m. (registration and media check-in begins at 7:30 a.m.) at the Jacksonville Main Public Library, 303 N. Laura St.
JAXPORT names new CEO
Jacksonville Port Authority board members unanimously chose Eric Green as chief executive officer, reports the Florida Times-Union.
Green led the JAXPORT effort in its $484 million dredging project while expanding the port’s cargo lines. It is the third time JAXPORT promoted a person without prior CEO experience.
Board member Joe York told the T-U that Green’s six months as interim CEO amounted to a successful tryout. Green, who worked at JaxPort since 2005, didn’t play it safe as interim leaders are prone to do, Green added.
Crowley Maritime sends Maria aid to Puerto Rico
Crowley Maritime Corporation is sending 3,000 loads of food, supplies and other cargo to San Juan to help with recovery from Hurricane Irma, reports Kent Justice of News 4 Jax.
Mark Miller, Crowley Maritime vice president of communications, said the company has 300 employees in Puerto Rico. All are known to be safe, he added.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking. It really is. Good friends down there. It’s really difficult to see. I can only imagine what they’re going through right now. It’s just really difficult,” Miller told WJCT. “We play a vital role in the supply chain for Puerto Rico. So we’re stepping up to work with these agencies to get the cargo where it needs to go [and] when it needs to get there. Our employees are stepping up, too. Our employees are putting together all kinds of packages that are going to go out on a vessel this weekend.”
The company is getting aid to St. Croix and St. Thomas; the U.S. Virgin Islands were also hard-hit by hurricanes this season.
Frontier Airlines adds flights to Denver, Cincinnati from Jacksonville
Low-cost airline Frontier Airlines is adding nonstop flights from Jacksonville to Denver and Cincinnati starting this spring, the airline announced this week.
“We are proud to announce the nationwide expansion of our unique brand of Low Fares Done Right which will empower millions more people to afford to fly,” Barry Biffle, president and CEO of Frontier Airlines, said in a statement.
As reported by WTLV, the service will start sometime in spring 2018, according to a Jacksonville International Airport spokesperson. The Denver-based air carrier has not confirmed either start dates or frequency.
Flights will be on an Airbus A320 aircraft, Frontier spokesman Jim Faulkner told First Coast News.
UberEATS hits Jacksonville; benefits Irma recovery
On Thursday midnight, Uber introduced the popular UberEATS on-demand food delivery service to Jacksonville. Initial coverage areas include downtown, San Marco, Arlington, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach.
UberEATS gives Jacksonville users access to menus of more than 100 restaurants: Dick’s Wings, Empire City Gastropub, European Street Café, Good Dough Doughnuts, Jersey Mike’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Shack Maui, Tijuana Flats, The Southern Grill, Whit’s Frozen Custard and Zaxby’s.
A full list of participating restaurants is on the UberEATS app in Jacksonville.
To celebrate the launch, Uber is donating $25,000 to the “First Coast Relief Fund” to help residents and businesses affected by Hurricane Irma.
“The restaurant scene in Jacksonville has grown over the years, and we’re excited to work with our restaurant partners to expand their reach at the tap of a button,” said Juan Pablo Restrepo, general manager of UberEATS Florida. “When Uber launched in Florida, Jacksonville was the first city for the company to call home. Hurricane Irma’s impact has reverberated throughout this community and we are committed to helping those affected.”
For a limited time, app users can enter an “EATSJAX” promotional code to receive $5 off two UberEATS orders. Delivery is available from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week, with a $4.99 delivery fee. If the restaurant is shown as open and serving on the UberEATS app during that time, customers can place an order. Restaurants interested in joining UberEats can visit www.uber.com/restaurants to learn how to join.