Jax Archives - Page 6 of 370 - Florida Politics

Garrett Dennis, Lenny Curry ‘on two different pages’ regarding afterschool funding

In a sense, Jacksonville’s City Hall these days is like an extended game of poker between Mayor Lenny Curry and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis.

We have seen a few examples of jousting between the GOP Mayor and the Democratic Councilman of late.

Dennis’ play for $200,000 of emergency money for swim lessons earlier this summer fell, in part because Dennis had no fixed plan for deployment, and in part because the Curry administration worked behind the scenes to destroy the bill. Then, Curry allocated $1.7M in the new budget for a year round program.

This week, when Curry held a presser to promote the new Kids’ Hope Alliance, a radical reorg of the current Jax Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission, fourteen Councilors showed up and vowed to co-sponsor.

Not Dennis, however; he had a meeting.

And, in response to an appropriation made this week for $1.071M additional afterschool program money from the Curry administration, Dennis approached it like a poker player, essentially saying: “I’ll see you, and I’ll raise you.”

On Monday evening in Jacksonville City Council chambers, Dennis will say that Curry’s allocation isn’t nearly enough.

“With the Mayor’s support, an additional $1.8 million has been identified to expand accessibility of afterschool services to more youth and their families,” Dennis contends in a Friday press release, adding that “there remains a need for approximately $1.7 million to fund an additional twenty (20) sites.”

Dennis told us that he and the mayor were on “two different pages” regarding this extra funding.

We reached out to Curry, and spokesperson Tia Ford offered the following response on his behalf Friday afternoon.

“The Councilman is entitled to his opinion and legislative priorities in his role as a legislator. Mayor Curry has no comment on the Councilman’s day to day business and will evaluate any legislation that passes council at that time,” Ford wrote.

The chess game starts up again Monday.

After cop points gun at preacher, calls for ‘diversity training’ in Jacksonville

The dispute, at least in theory, was over window tint.

However, what one Northeast Florida pastor experienced has brought new attention to old conflicts between Jacksonville police and African-American residents.

Rev. Darien Bolden of Fernandina Beach had stopped with his nephew on 19th Street in Jacksonville to look at investment properties. That’s when an officer expressed concerns about window tint that was too dark.

Rev. Bolden, reported the Florida Times-Union, said he had a concealed weapons permit. Inexplicably, this led to the officer pulling his own weapon and pointing it at the preacher.

Bolden wasn’t ticketed. But the confrontational encounter brought about a community response from Jacksonville’s African-American pastors and activists.

That response manifested Friday at a town hall at a church in Springfield, where representatives of various community groups congregated to address the incident in detail, and discuss its ramifications and significance against a larger tapestry of shaky relations between Jacksonville officers and African-American men.

But before that town hall began, potential policy ramifications for the JSO were in play, with Councilmembers calling for change in the department in the form of diversity training, and questions to be answered from the Sheriff regarding racial imbalances in enforcement techniques,

Before the event began, Jacksonville City Councilmen called for “diversity training” for JSO members.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney, on the Finance Committee, vowed to bring up the need for diversity training during the budget discussion this month.

“Diversity training has to happen,” Gaffney said. Councilman Sam Newby, sitting with Gaffney, agreed.

City Council Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, acutely conscious of disparities in Jacksonville, backed the play.

“I support my colleague,” Gaffney said. “He’s a man of action.”

“In the next couple of weeks,” Dennis continued, “Sheriff Williams is going to have to defend his budget. He will be on the hot seat.”

Dennis noted that Williams gets credit for the good things — and, it follows, “credit for the bad things” as well.

“He’ll have to answer questions on the public record,” Dennis noted.

Councilwoman Katrina Brown met with Sheriff Williams recently, and Williams vowed to bring evidence of current diversity training, as well as what is going to be done with the 100 new cops that are central to the budget being considered.

Brown believes that, when considering training, the JSO needs to look at “real life situations” to formulate effective training.

Ultimately, the community needs to “feel better” about law enforcement and be able to trust the Sheriff’s Office, and Brown recognizes that is still a work in progress.

Sheriff Williams told us the 100 new cops would help with community policing this week; however, Brown asserted that simply hiring more officers is “not going to make citizens feel better.”

What will work, Brown said, is “transparency.”

Brown noted that she had pushed for a citizen’s review board earlier in her term, but was thwarted, as it would lack subpoena power.

The town hall was full of fiery rhetoric, with comparisons of Jacksonville as “the next Ferguson” and fiery denunciations of the city’s budget process as it relates to padding financial reserves over infrastructure.

The Councilmembers who had committed already to civilian review boards were there listening to the ongoing harangue from pastor after pastor.

“The state of Jacksonville is not good,” said Rev. James Sampson.

After some time, Gaffney and Katrina Brown took the mike.

Gaffney noted that he and Brown had gone to a murder scene to try to investigate, and were “disrespected,” even though they identified themselves as Councilmembers.

Gaffney then suggested that change may be coming, in terms of using financial reserves for underserved communities.

“For the first time,” Gaffney said, “you’ve got four African-Americans on the Finance Committee,” who can “influence change and take some of that reserve” and use it for “real solutions.”

“When it’s time for people to show up for a meeting, we need you there,” Gaffney said.

“6 AA on City Council,” Brown said. “If we don’t receive emails and phone calls, it looks like I’m the one playing.”

“The Sheriff will be in City Council next Thursday. I urge all of you to show up and express concerns about the police department,” Brown said.

Brown vowed to continue to work on bringing resources to the community, asking for input.

“It works together when we work together,” Brown said, noting the “list of things” we’ve done to make it better.

Councilman Reggie Brown noted that, while reform is necessary, the community should police itself, citing spending money in “our neighborhoods with people who don’t look like us,” along with “awful” voting records.

“We are 30 percent of the city,” Brown said, “but we act like we’re 3 percent.”

Brown suggested a “plan,” and perhaps a boycott of one business (“the hair supply store,” he said hypothetically), to show what concentrated economic power can do.

Jacksonville Bold for 8.4.17 — Squad goals

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is all about loyalty, and much of this edition comes back to the idea of one’s squad as a result.

For example, there’s Curry’s candidate in the House District 15 race to succeed Jay Fant, who is running for Attorney General instead of pursuing re-election.

And then there’s the push to sell reform of the city’s children’s programs. He worked the Council, asking for support. Fourteen of the 19 were there at the press event. And some of those who did not attend had plausible reasons for not being there. While others’ reasons, including at least one Council leader, occasioned more scrutiny from Curry’s inner circle.

Of course, Curry isn’t the only executive concerned with his squad. Sheriff Mike Williams addressed what happens when a president of your own party jokes about police brutality while getting his own squad together from the donor class.

As ever: teamwork makes the dream work, in politics and policy both.

Al Lawson, Dems file student loan relief bill

For those dealing with student loan debt, there’s some good news: Rep. Lawson filed a bill this week that would allow refinancing at a lower rate and would eliminate the tax penalty for loan forgiveness.

Al Lawson is selling student loan relief, but will the GOP bite?

The bill has a dozen sponsors, all Democrats — a discouraging augury given that the White House has shown no leanings toward student loan forgiveness measures of any type.

“Unfortunately, the cost of college has increased significantly in the last decade, and for many Americans, this avenue to a brighter future has become unaffordable. Reducing student debt will help increase economic activity and provide our nation’s students with the relief and opportunity they deserve,” Lawson said.

The bill, if passed in its current form, would also eliminate origination fees.

New VA Clinic for Jacksonville

First Coast News reports that a House bill passed late last month includes good news for local veterans.

John Rutherford meets with Veterans at a current Jax VA clinic.

“The portion of the bill that directly impacts Jacksonville involves the potential clinic constructed at an undecided location. If the bill is signed into law, the future clinic will replace Jacksonville VA Southpoint and Jacksonville VA University,” FCN reports.

All told, those outmoded facilities encompass 50,000 square feet of space.

Good news: “if the bill is signed into law the plan for the lease includes a facility that encompasses about 164,000 square feet in the Jacksonville area with 1,150 parking spaces.”

Bad news: this could take up to five years to become a reality.

Aaron Bean is Clean

After all that, nothing.

The Florida Ethics Commission cleared Sen. Bean of long-standing allegations by a political opponent.

Aaron Bean’s accuser, Carlos Slay, pushed a story without merit.

The Florida Commission on Ethics found “no probable cause to believe that Senator Bean misused his position to secure an appropriation in the State budget for a business venture in which he was personally involved, and dismissed the allegation,” according to a Wednesday news release.

Bean had vigorously maintained his innocence, but reports out of Naples, Florida — the first tip-off that something was amiss — heated up the story … mostly because the reporter in question knew nothing about the sketchy background of the tipster.

Let’s see when the stories emerge clearing Bean’s name. We’ll wait.

Meanwhile, here’s the book on Carlos Slay.

Kim Daniels dinged for dodgy disclosures

More financial ethics issues have emerged for Rep. Daniels. And they could lead to action in the Florida House against the Jacksonville Democrat.

Issues from Rep. Kim Daniels’ time on Jacksonville City Council remain unresolved.

The Florida Ethics Commission found probable cause to believe that Daniels filed inaccurate Form 6s, representing financial disclosures for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Kim Daniels FEC investigation.

Daniels failed to list properties owned by her churches, which added up to $1,000,000 of undeclared assets. Indeed, her churches had multiple properties — “parsonages” in various cities, time shares and over a dozen cars.

Daniels, at that point, was serving her term on the Jacksonville City Council.

Daniels has faced similar scrutiny related to campaign finance before: the Florida Elections Commission found probable cause that Daniels spent campaign funds advertising one of her religious books, the Demon Dictionary, in a vanity-press publication called Shofar.

Daniels, a traveling evangelist, went through a rocky divorce earlier this decade, one which led to sensational allegations regarding her management of household and church finances.

Her 2016 financial disclosure revealed salary of roughly $200,000 from preaching and a net worth of just under $600,000.

Daniels could settle or could have an administrative hearing regarding these charges.

Daniels is not talking to Florida Politics about these matters. She interviewed with Action News Jax recently, in which she vigorously denied the findings of the state commissions.

Mia Jones backs Gillum for Governor

Tallahassee Mayor Gillum rolled out the most significant Jacksonville endorsement of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor Wednesday, in the form of former State Rep. Jones.

Andrew Gillum has made a play in Jacksonville, but Mia Jones is his only major local backer thus far.

Jones called Gillum a “tireless public servant willing to take on the tough fights … just the kind of leader Floridians need now.”

“He will rebuild our economy, so it creates better-paying jobs at every rung of the income ladder; protect and defend our access to affordable health care; fight for public school students’ education, and confront our climate change crisis,” Jones said, saying that Gillum would “fight for what we believe in.”

Gillum is “thrilled” with Jones’ endorsement, calling her a “fierce fighter for affordable health care and common-sense health care policies,” an advocate for “our most vulnerable seniors in Florida nursing homes,” and “a champion for our historically black universities and all of Florida’s higher education institutions.”

The two are excited to campaign together, both said.

Gillum and Gwen Graham are the only two candidates for the Democratic nomination making a play in Jacksonville.

Graham has endorsements from former Mayors Tommy Hazouri and Jake Godbold, along with City Councilman Garrett Dennis.

Mayor’s man to take HD 15 GOP nod?

With Rep. Fant still gunning for the Republican nod for Attorney General, questions emerged regarding his replacement … but it seems we know who that will be, with local establishment favorite Wyman Duggan poised to enter.

Wyman Duggan has the machine behind him in his bid to replace Jay Fant.

Duggan will have some road-tested names running his operation: Tim Baker as consultant, Brian Hughes on comms. Baker and Hughes — the top talent working this market — will have the resources they need for whatever campaign awaits the candidate.

Expect a top-shelf finance committee behind Duggan, especially given that Duval GOP legend John Falconetti and Jacksonville Mayor Curry have been crucial to urging Duggan to run and getting support from local stakeholders.

Curry and Rep. Jason Fischer have formally endorsed Duggan; more endorsements are coming.

Re-org for children’s programs

Announced this week: Curry will roll the JCC and the Jacksonville Journey into one new structure: the Kids’ Hope Alliance (the Jacksonville Partnership for Children, Youth and Families).

The group will have a seven-person board, comprised of mayoral appointees who must be approved by the City Council; as with Curry’s reformation of the JEA Board earlier in his term, the goal is to move the organization toward linear accountability.

Hizzonor emphatically launches children’s program reforms.

The transition period will take six months: the first three months, starting in October, will allow the Journey and the JCC to finish their business; by January, a board should be seated to carry on the KHA’s mission. If that doesn’t happen, Plan B is to run JCC and Jax Journey out of the Mayor’s Office, until the board is approved by City Council.

The strong indication is that the board will be in place by the end of the year, however.

Curry is prioritizing business-minded people with big picture visions and strong resumes for board inclusion, similar again to his reformation of the JEA Board. Board members will understand finance and organizational structure, Curry said and would understand the necessity of hiring management and staff that understands the mechanics of the services offered.

Fourteen council members have agreed to co-sponsor the measure so far.

Media questions Mayor’s ethics

Jacksonville Mayor Curry took a business development trip with Jaguars owner and mega donor Shad Khan in July, and questions, via First Coast News, are still being raised about the ethics of it all.

The end game for this trip: Shipyards development. But logistical questions have simmered.

The trip to Kansas City, Baltimore and St. Louis was framed by Curry as an endeavor to “know their ideas and their failures to move our downtown forward.”

City Ethics Director Carla Miller is reviewing the trip, though she notes that there is no law against a mayor flying on a private jet.

Miller has up to 90 days to conclude her review.

Jax Sheriff talks Donald Trump’s “paddy wagon” joke.

Jacksonville Sheriff Williams addressed President Donald Trump’s recent “joke” about police brutality this week, making it clear those comments weren’t helpful to local law enforcement.

“I try to stay away from getting involved, trying to justify anything the president says,” Williams noted.

The president’s attempts at support (or humor) can often have unintended consequences.

“Talking about Jacksonville, and what appears to be a joke about police brutality, we take that very seriously,” Williams said.

“We’ve shown in the last two years, when it comes to police brutality and misconduct, that we take it very seriously and act swiftly and appropriately. That’s the lens through which we should look at Jacksonville — how we respond to stuff,” Williams added.

“I’d encourage people to look at what we do in Jacksonville and how we respond,” Williams continued, “instead of broad-brushing us with a joke from D.C.”

Williams is looking to add 100 new officers this year, which will make the department “appropriately-sized” and facilitate the kind of community policing that he would like to see more of.

First in Bold: Williams committee posts strong June numbers

“A Safe Jacksonville,” the political committee for Sheriff Williams, reported strong fundraising in July.

A $60,000+ month has the committee with over $80,000 on hand — and, says our source, that is even with fundraising not having started seriously until July 12.

Among the bigger names of the donors: Toney Sleiman, who ponied up $5,000; Gary Chartrand, at the same level; Travis Cummings, at $5,000 via committees; Ander Crenshaw at $3,500; and John Falconetti at $2,500.

Sauce loss for Jax in worthless default judgment

Last week, the city of Jacksonville won a $222,000 default judgment against businesses belonging to the family of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown.

How does my default taste?

This judgment was the culmination of a long-standing legal action against CoWealth LLC and Basic Products LLC, two shell companies of the Brown family that — back in 2011 — accepted roughly $600,000 in loans and grants designed to kick-start a BBQ sauce plant that was intended to be a job-creating engine for Northwest Jacksonville.

Alas, the engine stalled — of the 56 jobs that were intended to be created, zero permanent jobs came to pass.

An amended motion for default was filed by the city with the Duval County Court on June 20, with the city pressing two shell companies — “CoWealth LLC” and “Basic Products LLC” — for $210,549.99 in claw-back money and another $10,585.01 for interest, calculated back to June 2016, when the city of Jacksonville began to move toward litigation.

Jax mulls suit of opioid producers

As part of its ongoing fight against opioid overdoses, the city of Jacksonville is mulling a lawsuit against Big Pharma companies, a strategy discussed Thursday afternoon by Councilman Bill Gulliford in Council Chambers.

Bill Gulliford is no stranger to moving Council in his direction.

Making a presentation at the meeting: Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, a firm which has specialized in class action consumer protection suits, including a successful action against Enron years ago for billions of dollars.

There is a precedent for such legal action being taken. Reuters reports that Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri are all suing pharmaceutical companies, on the grounds of their aggressive marketing running afoul of consumer protection laws.

Closer to home, Delray Beach is suing opioid manufacturers, claiming that their product spawned the city’s heroin epidemic, with each overdose costing the town $2,000 — a number that Gulliford said didn’t sound unreasonable, given the expenses of transport and treatment for each victim.

The law firm that presented in Jacksonville Thursday is the same one representing Delray Beach in its action.

Wally Lee, RIP

This week, Jacksonville mourned former Jax Chamber President Lee, who saw the organization through a period of local and regional growth and transition.

The Jax Daily Record notes that Lee had a blood infection after emergency surgery for a spinal cyst in late July.

Wally Lee was universally respected in Jacksonville; he will be missed.

Local notables lauded Lee’s legacy.

Jax Chamber President Daniel Davis described Lee as “passionate about growing Jacksonville and pushing our city forward.”

Former Mayor John Delaney, whose eight years in office coincided with part of Lee’s leadership of the Chamber, described the body as “particularly strong” under his presidency.

Save the date: Travis Hutson Deep-Sea Invitational

State Sen. Hutson is hosting his Third Annual Deep-Sea Fishing Invitational at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Wednesday, Aug. 23, and Thursday, Aug. 24. Wednesday highlights include a 4:45 p.m. tour of the St. Augustine Distillery and 6:30 p.m. dinner at Prohibition Kitchen. On Thursday, the day starts with 6:30 a.m. shuttle to the Marina for a 7:15 a.m. departure. The evening finishes with a 6:30 p.m. fish fry at Costa Brava Restaurant.

Casa Monica Hotel is at 95 Cordova St. in St. Augustine. A special hotel group rate is $169 per night. For more information, contact Brianna Jordan at 203-313-4695 or Brianna@frontstreetflorida.com.

John Thrasher among nominees for veterans’ hall

The News Service of Florida reports that Florida State University President Thrasher, a former state House speaker who served in the Vietnam War, is among 20 candidates for spots in the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame. The Florida Veterans Hall of Fame Council gives the maximum number of names to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet to consider for enshrinement in the hall of fame. Scott and the Cabinet — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — are expected to vote on the nominees Sept. 26.

Florida State University President John Thrasher, who served in the Vietnam War, is among 20 candidates for spots in the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.

 

The 2016 class, which featured 11 inductees, included the late Gov. Reubin Askew, the late Gov. LeRoy Collins, the late Gov. and U.S. Sen. Spessard Holland and former state Rep. William Proctor of St. Augustine.

Shuffle off to Amazon

The Florida Times-Union reports that the Jacksonville Transportation Authority is launching a shuttle Aug. 7 to the North Jacksonville Amazon facility. Timed around shift changes, the shuttle will move between JTA’s park-and-ride facility at 3191 Armsdale Road, just south of I-295, and Amazon, 12900 Pecan Park Road

A new shuttle will transport workers to and from the Amazon North Jacksonville fulfillment facility.

While the Armsdale hub offers parking spaces and bike racks but is also part of the First Coast Flyer route, which connects it to the rest of the JTA system.

The initial schedule has buses running 30 minutes before and finishing 30 minutes after each shift change and will arrive every five to seven minutes. Cost is $1.50 each way, or $3 roundtrip. A trip from another hub within the city to Armsdale adds another $1.50 each way.

UNF beer study to examine yeast strain, flavoring

The University of North Florida is investigating the yeast strain Brettanomyces, which has been a traditional flavor component for beer, but one that proves difficult in winemaking.

UNF biology professor Dr. Michael Lentz has study Brettanomyces for about five years, telling the Florida Times-Union: “We can’t taste it or smell it, but once the yeast gets ahold of it, it becomes a flavor component” that is become popular with craft beer brewers.

UNF is studying a certain strain of beer yeast that gives craft beers a distinct flavor.

Found throughout the globe, the yeast strain is common in Florida fields. Lentz is examining how the strain thrives, evolves and interacts with fermented drinks.

Happy birthday

To Jacksonville-based powerbroker Marty Fiorentino, leader of the Fiorentino Group, who celebrates today.

Happy birthday Marty Fiorentino!

Jax Zoo begins work on African Forest great apes exhibit

Work has started on the new Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens exhibit for inhabitants of the Great Apes Loop reports the Florida Times-Union. Construction, which should continue through this time next year, will ultimately feature overhead trails, more true-to-life habitat and will have a 40-foot tropical tree as a centerpiece.

No monkeying around with the new African Forest great apes exhibit at the Jax Zoo

Tony Vecchio, the zoo’s executive director, tells the T-U the $9 million project is worth the wait, for better viewing, “wellness-inspired” design and “transformative” foliage

Now one of the zoo’s oldest exhibits, the Great Apes area first premiered in 1998 and was quickly expanded.

Armada start Robert Palmer era with draw at home

The Jacksonville Armada started off the NASL Fall Season with a draw against the San Francisco Deltas. This was the team’s first game since announcing the new owner, Robert Palmer, who purchased the club earlier this month.

Kartik Krishnaiyer is reporting that Armada FC goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell began a great defensive effort with an outstanding save in the first minutes of the match. He extended his entire frame to hit the ball over the bar, stopping the promising shot from the Deltas.

Soon after, attacker Jackson of the Deltas sprinted ahead of the pack up the field and kicked the ball right into the box, but it stopped short of the goal. Delta’s Forward Tom Heinemann was in the box, and tried to tap the ball in but missed and the Armada was able to clear what could have given San Francisco an early lead.

The NASL Fall Season is in full swing and the Jacksonville Armada FC is preparing to travel to Puerto Rico this weekend! Photo: Facebook.

Derek Gebhard gave the Armada an opportunity minutes later, as he dueled with defenders and was able to get a good look at the goal. Gebhard kicked the ball just high of the goal but was tackled by Jackson, who subsequently received a yellow card.

J.C. Banks launched a shot on goal during the 32nd minute, the Armada’s first of the match. Charles Eloundou set the midfielder up for a promising kick, but the shot went just high of the goal.

With momentum on their side, Gebhard was able to break away from his defender but was fouled. He was awarded a penalty kick for Jacksonville.

Jack Blake stepped up to take the penalty kick in the 35th minute and nailed the first goal of the Robert Palmer era. The midfielder launched the ball into the right side of the net beating out San Francisco’s goalkeeper, Romuald Peiser, giving the Armada FC a 1-0 lead.

Patterson-Sewell made a clutch save in the 43rd minute as he punched the ball away from the goal. About a minute later he made another save, as he knocked another shot on goal just over the crossbar solidifying the Armada’s 1-0 lead late in the first half.

The Armada FC had two near-misses during first half stoppage time. Gebhard sprinted in front of his defender and created space just outside of the box. He kicked the ball within striking distance, but no one was there to put the ball into the net.

Minutes later Blake tried once more for a goal too and headed the ball, but it went just outside of the net.

The Armada FC went into the halftime break with a 1-0 lead over the Deltas.

Jacksonville came out of the break with the initiative looking to get the elusive second goal. Eloundou and Banks were both able to take nice shots, but Peiser blocked both efforts.

The Deltas did not give up and during the 58th minute, Danny Cruz was able to equalize the score at one.

Patterson-Sewell made another great save after an Armada FC defensive miscommunication almost resulted in a goal. The goalkeeper roared with pride after he made a spectacular and pivotal play during the 67th minute to keep the Deltas from gaining more ground.

“It was a matter of trying [and] … hoping for the best. You train for that kind of stuff when the time is right there is no time to think about it; you just have to [rely] on your training. I was fortunate to keep it out,” said Patterson-Sewell.

Gebhard displayed his speed when he sprinted up the field attempting a shot on goal, but the ball went just wide left leaving the score knotted at one.

Blake continued the Armada FC’s momentum as he took another shot on goal in the 84th minute, but Peiser saved the shot.

Heinemann put the ball into the back of the net during the 90th minute, but the goal was waved off for a foul.

The teams ended the game at 1-1, resulting in a draw.

“It’s not the worst start. We got the draw, but hopefully, we can bounce back and get the win next week,” said Jack Blake. The Armada FC will head south and travel to Puerto Rico. The match will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5.

Kim Daniels becomes first Democrat to call for Duval Schools audit

Interesting times in Duval County, where State Rep. Jason Fischer has been calling for an audit of Duval County Public Schools. And it appears there is a showdown imminent between the Duval Delegation and the Mayor’s Office on one side and the Duval County School District on the other.

In a letter sent Thursday to the Duval County School Board, Rep. Jason Fischer expresses “deep concern” about the School Board not taking “formal action” to schedule an audit to account for $21 million of what Fischer deems to be overspending in the current budget year. [Letter]

Board Chair Paula Wright, writes Fischer, asserted that there was a committee vote for an audit in July.

However, counters Fischer, there was neither a formal vote authorizing an audit, nor a noticed meeting to discuss such a proposition.

Fischer has had GOP support on this, ranging from House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Rep. Joe Gruters to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. However, until Thursday evening, he had no Democratic support.

That logjam broke, as the iconoclastic Democrat Kim Daniels crossed party lines to support Fischer’s play.

Daniels wrote Joint Legislative Auditing Committee Chair Debbie Mayfield, noting “misstatements” by Chairwoman Wright in the wake of Fischer’s call for an audit.

Wright claimed that there had been a vote to conduct a forensic audit at her recommendation, but Daniels and Fischer contend that did not occur.

Daniels is “confident” DCPS will come out of the audit well-positioned, she wrote.

____

Daniels has been positioned interestingly vis a vis House leadership.

She carried the “Religious Freedom in Public Schools” bill, a priority of more Republicans than Democrats.

Daniels also sided with House leadership on economic incentive votes in the most recent session.

Many local Democrats in the perpetually fratricidal Duval wing of the party look askance at Daniels, citing documented ethical lapses throughout her political career.

Just this week, the Florida Ethics Commission found probable cause that Daniels made material misrepresentations on financial disclosure forms from 2012 to 2014, when she was on the Jacksonville City Council.

Daniels had not listed certain properties owned by her churches.

Daniels has faced similar scrutiny related to campaign finance before: the Florida Elections Commission found probable cause that Daniels spent campaign funds advertising one of her religious books, the Demon Dictionary, in a vanity-press publication called Shofar.

Daniels, a traveling evangelist, went through a rocky divorce earlier this decade, one which led to sensational allegations regarding her management of household and church finances.

There will be some who will question her standing to call for an audit.

But for audit-minded Republicans, signs of bipartisan support are more than welcome.

 

 

 

The day the music died: Corrine Brown cancels fundraiser concert

Bad news for Jacksonville residents who had hoped to support Corrine Brown by paying as much as $100 to see gospel nostalgia act Shirley Caesar on Sunday.

The show has been cancelled. Or maybe postponed, according to Brown.

Brown had hoped/predicted she would sell out the 4,250 seat Bethel Baptist Church by Thursday; whether she did or not now is a moot point.

The show is being canceled, writes Brown, due to “inclement weather” forcing “the difficult decision to cancel the concert for the safety of the fans and artist.”

Earlier this week, Brown cut an interview on Facebook live.

“I know everybody said they’re praying for me, but I need to physically see you and touch you Sunday,” Brown said.

Caesar was name-checked with Brown saying Caesar is coming for “prayer with a purpose — to pray for me.”

Apparently, the prayers were rendered moot by a fear-inspiring weather forecast, including a whopping 40 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms.

Brown’s benefit concert was slated less than 24 hours before a hearing in her case to consider motions for acquittal and for a new trial.

It is currently unknown how much money is in the Corrine Brown Legal Defense Trust Fund. Even after two benefit events already, the website claims the account is “0% funded,” suggesting that the accounting practices that led to Brown’s conviction are still as loose as ever.

The concert, in theory, is now slated for Sun. Sept. 3.

Jacksonville mulls lawsuit against opioid producers

Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Gulliford has been instrumental in spearheading Jacksonville’s response to its opioid overdose epidemic.

He was successful in formulating a pilot program for in-patient treatment for addicts who are ready to accept help, and he is now chairman of a special Council committee on the opioid epidemic.

As is typical with Gulliford, he is seizing the opportunity to do substantial work in that capacity, as exemplified by a meeting he hosted Thursday at 1 p.m. in City Council chambers exploring a potential lawsuit against opioid producers.

Accompanied by other Council members, though none of them are in Council Leadership, Gulliford noted going in that Delray Beach is filing a similar action.

Delray Beach, in suing opioid manufacturers, claims that their product spawned the city’s heroin epidemic, with each overdose costing the city $2,000 — a number that Gulliford said didn’t sound unreasonable, given the costs of transport and treatment for each victim.

Gulliford noted the impact on the city’s first responders, and the anticipated 700 deaths from overdoses in Jacksonville this year, as something unsustainable.

“We are responding, we are treating, we are putting them out on the streets most of the time — it is a cycle,” Gulliford said.

Jacksonville does have a pilot treatment program, costing $1.4M over six months and involving in-patient treatment for overdose victims. But this will, at most, help to slow a gruesome tide.

Making a presentation at the meeting was the firm representing Delray Beach: Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, a firm which has specialized in class action consumer protection suits, including a successful action against Enron years for billions of dollars.

Mark Dearman of the firm noted that Palm Beach County is also exploring a similar action as Delray, along with “other municipalities in several states.” While these are not class action suits, Dearman contended that class action may be a result of coordination among various plaintiff jurisdictions.

Dearman made a hard-sell pitch as to the “concrete reasons” his firm is “the best for this case.”

Those reasons include “record recoveries” in class action cases, including against some of the biggest companies in the world, bringing in “tens of millions of dollars” in recovery.

The company has $20M in cash reserves and a “credit line that has never been touched,” which are resources presented as unique value adds.

The case would be predicated on claims of deceptive marketing, with a 100-page complaint detailing the allegations regarding to each company over the last couple of decades, when the marketing started of palliatives for “undertreated pain.” From there, doctors were pushed to prescribe these medicines.

The burden of private profits went to the public, with more money needed for treatment and public safety, all a result of what is being called “unjust enrichment.”

The case could be filed in state or federal court, firm representatives said, though they were cagey about discussing many specifics — including standing — in a public meeting.

General Counsel Jason Gabriel said that while a shade meeting may be difficult without a pending case, there are “measures to handle those conversations” beforehand — including Gabriel meeting with firm representatives and then briefing Council members.

Councilman John Crescimbeni urged that course of action, given the amount of uncertainties.

One positive: the contingency basis of the firm’s pitch, one of many factors Gabriel will vet before making recommendations.

With Jacksonville dealing with mounting evidence of the human toll of the opioid crisis (roughly two casualties a day, with Jacksonville having the second highest rate in Florida of addicted babies, the 24th highest rate of abuse nationally, and so on), and no end to the carnage in sight, it remains to be seen if the city will be successful in holding multinational pharmaceutical companies responsible for the havoc they’ve wrought.

Gulliford is adamant.

“Dadgummit, I think they’re responsible,” Gulliford said regarding Big Pharma and the overdose crisis, which has seen people go from legit prescriptions to “over a cliff” toward addiction to heroin and fentanyl.

Gulliford urges pushing through on the case, but there are a lot of steps before that comes to pass.

‘Staggering’ losses claimed by organizers of cancelled Jax Boat Show

The organizers of a Jacksonville Boat Show cancelled earlier this year in favor of the Welcome to Rockville concert claim “staggering” losses in a letter to Mayor Lenny Curry.

All told, the company claims over $376,000 in losses — a combination of a $209,000 loss of expected profit, and $167,000 plus in hard costs, provided via itemized list.

Organizers “Current Productions” spoke to Curry last week, and in a letter, show producer James Hill claimed the losses added up to more than he expected during the conversation.

The itemized list of losses does not include “future lost revenue or damage to our reputation in the boating community.”

The city has until Aug. 22 to respond, per the letter.

Jason Fischer has ‘deep concern’ over lack of Duval Schools audit

In a letter sent Thursday to the Duval County School Board, Rep. Jason Fischer expresses “deep concern” about the School Board not taking “formal action” to schedule an audit to account for $21 million of what Fischer deems to be overspending in the current budget year. [Letter]

Board Chair Paula Wright, writes Fischer, asserted that there was a committee vote for an audit in July.

However, counters Fischer, there was neither a formal vote authorizing an audit, nor a noticed meeting to discuss such a proposition.

The gap between Wright’s narrative and Fischer’s read of the facts, writes Fischer, amounts to “blatant misrepresentation” that is “antithetical to good government.”

Fischer and other Republicans, including Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, have posed questions about the school district’s resistance to an audit.

Last week, the Duval County School District — in the form of spokesman Mark Sherwood — said the proposed audit is unnecessary, given that the School Board has already authorized an independent third party audit.

Sherwood asserted that the $21 million in question was not deficit spending; rather, was just a dip into reserves, driven by a revenue deficit from a dip in enrollment late in the year, transportation settlements, and regulatory adjustments.

Car trouble: Repo action filed on Jax Councilwoman Katrina Brown’s Porsche

These have been tough times, financially speaking, for the business interests of the family of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown.

Last week, the city of Jacksonville won what is essentially a worthless default judgement of $222,000 against two businesses owned by the Councilwoman’s family (with the Councilwoman as title manager) related to a failed BBQ sauce plant; the Browns failed to create any of the 56 jobs required, via a 2011 economic development agreement.

The Browns’ companies scored $640,000 from the city of Jacksonville in grants and loans, in addition to an SBA loan of $2,652,600. The property and other assets being liquidated won’t match that SBA number, leaving the city in a position of being frustrated in clawback attempts no matter what, as Jacksonville holds secondary position on payout.

However, it’s not just governments that are getting stiffed by Brown; private lenders are also, including the one that holds the note on the 2006 Porsche Cayenne SUV Brown typically drives to City Hall.

That lender wants its car back, documents acquired by Florida Politics Thursday reveal.

This week, creditor Ally Financial filed a motion for relief in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Middle District of Florida against “KJB Specialties” — yet another Brown shell company that has filed for bankruptcy. [Document: Katrina Brown Vehicle Relief from Stay]

The motion contends that Ally Financial holds a “security interest” in the Porsche, that upwards of $14,000 is owed on the 2006 SUV valued at just over $12,000, and that the lender has not been paid since January.

The lender wants its money, and seeks to “accelerate the balance due,” with an eye toward repossessing and foreclosing on the vehicle.

Total defaults stand at over $3,300.

An affidavit from a bankruptcy agent for Ally states that, in addition to not being able to get paid since January, the lender also does not know if Brown has required insurance on the vehicle.

Councilwoman Brown, a member of the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee, is gearing up for a three-week deliberation of the city’s $1.27B general fund budget starting next week.

Likely, she will be in City Hall for that.

But she may need a ride to get there.

Jim Love, Jerry Holland back GOP hopeful Wyman Duggan in HD 15

Another day, another winning news cycle for the campaign of Republican Wyman Duggan in Jacksonville’s House District 15, where he looks to succeed outgoing Rep. Jay Fant.

Thursday’s first win: the announcements of two significant endorsements locally, with one of them from Councilman Jim Love, who represents much of HD 15 on the Jacksonville City Council.

Love described Duggan as a “friend and fellow veteran who will make us proud as our next state representative. I know Wyman has the character to lead and will represent all of Jacksonville well in the state house.”

For his part, Duggan said he is “proud to have [Love’s] support and his perspective in this campaign as he has represented much of this district for years and will be a valuable resource along the campaign trail and as I serve in the House.”

Duggan was also endorsed by Jerry Holland, the current Property Appraiser who previously was Supervisor of Elections and a member of the City Council.

“It’s an honor to endorse Wyman Duggan for state representative because he is a strong conservative we can trust to represent our shared values in Tallahassee,” Holland said.

“Jerry has faithfully served our community for almost two decades and has constantly earned the trust of voters. I’m proud to call him a friend and honored to have his support in my campaign,” Duggan added.

Duggan has already been endorsed by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and State Rep. Jason Fischer. Expect more endorsements to come, as a warning shot across the bow of other would-be candidates.

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