Jax Archives - Page 7 of 331 - Florida Politics

A.G. Gancarski to talk ‘fake news’ at Flagler College Tuesday

FloridaPolitics.com writer A.G. Gancarski will participate in a panel at Flagler College’s Ringhaven Student Center Tuesday afternoon at 2:30.

The panel, which is part of the college’s “communications week,” will cover “fake news, alternative facts, and the pursuit of the truth.”

Moderated by Flagler College communications professor Tracey Eaton, the panel will include other journalists from throughout Northeast Florida.

Among them is one of Jacksonville’s best-sourced television reporters: Paige Kelton, the Emmy-award winning host of Action News Sunday on the local Fox and CBS affiliates.

Also on the panel: two traditional print reporters.

Frank Fernandez, a reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal, who has won an award for his recent investigative project on police shootings, “Shots Fired.”

Jared Keever, a reporter with the St Augustine Record, who has covered a range of subjects in his career.

Jacksonville councilor’s family business hit with another tax lien

KJB Specialties, a business owned by the family of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown, was slapped with a $3,130 sales and use tax lien last Friday.

The Browns’ various shell companies are deeply in hock to public and private creditors, related to a barbeque sauce plant expansion that failed to create jobs (or, apparently, fiscal sustainability).

Below, a brief recap of some of the issues headed into the latest lien.

In February, KJB hired a bankruptcy lawyer, in response to a foreclosure action on the Browns’ flagship restaurant, Jerome Brown BBQ.

The Browns owe roughly $100,000 on that note.

The Brown family businesses have had a rough decade, with CoWealth LLC, another in their group of nebulously named companies, being sued by the city of Jacksonville for failing to create jobs in a 2011 economic development agreement intended to help the Browns take their BBQ sauce business to the next level.

As is the case with KJB, CoWealth is subject to its own foreclosure action.

The latest property being foreclosed upon, according to the Lis Pendens notice, is bordered by Ellis, Broadway, and Commonwealth Avenue on the Westside.

This property corresponds with the Browns’ barbeque sauce plant (5638 Commonwealth Ave.), which is currently listed at $1.3 million — down from $1.5 million months ago, indicating a motivated seller. That asking price is less than half of Biz Capital’s claim: $2.772M is what they claim is owed.

CoWealth originally borrowed $2.65 million from Biz Capital, in addition to $380,000 from the city. The city’s interest is subordinate to that of Biz Capital.

The Browns, via shell companies, received in 2011 an economic incentive package of $640,000 in loans and grants from the city of Jacksonville to create 56 jobs in the plant.

No jobs were created, however, and Jacksonville filed suit in February against CoWealth for $210,000, as a clawback for failed job creation.

Councilwoman Brown is a registered managing member of CoWealth, though that can change at any time, if the recent history of the Browns’ businesses means anything.

Gubernatorial candidate’s brother owes Jacksonville $500 for illegal carwash

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum launched his campaign on Saturday, and almost immediately was beset upon by issues with the rollout.

Even as Gillum looks to wriggle free from those issues, which include but aren’t limited to using Tallahassee general fund dollars to buy campaign software, an issue related to an unsatisfied debt his brother has with another Florida city has emerged.

Florida Politics has learned that Charles Gillum, doing business as “C&L Detailing and Landscaping,” owes the city $500 for not having paid a citation.

Gillum operated a manual car wash at 531 W. Union Street, a location where zoning didn’t permit the operation.

Gillum was cited in Oct. 2015. Final judgment was rendered in Mar. 2016.

Meanwhile, the city of Jacksonville still hasn’t seen its money.

So-called “bucket and hose” car washes are the bane of the existence of Jacksonville policy makers, who see linkages between these businesses and other extralegal activities.

Jacksonville citizens have their say on police body cameras Tuesday

Last Tuesday night, the Jacksonville City Council approved $2.7 million toward the sheriff’s office upgrading its server to accommodate body camera file footage.

This Tuesday night, community stakeholders will hear from the people in a Jacksonville neighborhood where the nexus of violent crime and police involvement is particularly prominent.

From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will have a “town hall” on police body cameras at Edward Waters College’s Milne Auditorium.

The event includes a brief informational presentation by Director of Police Services Tony Davis followed by a public comment session.

This will be the first of six such town halls.

The second one will be held a week later, in the Capper Auditorium at the North Campus of Florida State College – Jacksonville.

The sheriff’s office is preparing to launch a pilot program, though it is uncertain as of yet whether or not body cameras will be subject to collective bargaining.

The local police union filed a complaint with the Public Employees Relations Commission, as it is the union position that such should be a subject of collective bargaining, but that complaint is still unresolved.

Anna Brosche makes up ground in Jacksonville Council President race

Perhaps the race for the Jacksonville City Council presidency isn’t a done deal just yet.

Perhaps “tradition” won’t tell the tale after all.

On Monday, Jacksonville City Councilwoman Anna Brosche met with fellow first-term Republicans Al Ferraro and  Sam Newby to solicit his support for her bid for the council presidency.

Brosche started the day with a 6 to 1 deficit in the pledge count, well behind her opponent, John Crescimbeni.

Crescimbeni was endorsed by a group of five men last week, with one of them talking about how “tradition” dictated that the sitting VP move up to the presidency.

However, Ferraro and Newby diverge from that read.

Ferraro spoke at length about what Brosche brings to the table that her opponent doesn’t.

“You listen,” Ferraro said, adding that “sometimes a heavy hand isn’t what we need” in leadership.

Crescimbeni, of course, is known for grilling people from the council dais, a tendency that is entertaining for media and casual onlookers, but is harrowing for the subjects of his inquiries.

“You and I don’t agree on everything,” Ferraro said, “but I do respect the hard work you’ve put in here.”

Ferraro and Brosche most notably parted ways on the expansion of the city’s Human Rights Ordinance earlier this year. However, that’s a done deal now.

Brosche, who essentially was delivered a brushback pitch by endorsers of Crescimbeni last week, was unflappable when asked on Monday about her path to victory.

“Councilman Ferraro put it well,” Brosche said. “I’ll continue to do what I’ve done, and be who I am.”

Brosche also was unmoved by Councilman Bill Gulliford saying that he wouldn’t serve on a standing committee in her administration.


Currently, Brosche trails Crescimbeni 6 to 3 in the pledge count. Crescimbeni meets with Councilwoman Joyce Morgan on Tuesday, and Morgan — a fellow Democrat from Arlington — is all but certain to sign on with Crescimbeni.

In the VP race, Aaron Bowman, trailing Scott Wilson 3-1, will attempt to close the gap, via a meeting with Brosche.

Some have speculated than Brosche and Bowman are a de facto ticket; however, the council members deny that assertion.

Jacksonville City Council President withdraws Hemming Park landmark bill

The major bill discussed in the Jacksonville City Council’s Neighborhoods, Community Investments, & Services Committee Monday ended up being withdrawn.

2016-559 sought a historic designation of the Coquina Road and Confederate monument structures in Hemming Park as “landmarks”.

Council President Lori Boyer described the bill as a “can of worms,” likening council confusion on it to where the body was on Human Rights Ordinance expansion last year.

The bill lacks an advocate on the council or in the administration: indeed, it came out of the Jacksonville Historical Preservation Commission, Boyer said.

Capital transformation of the park, Boyer said, was the province of the mayor and the council.

“We want to maintain a plaza/park in that location … it has always been our town square,” Boyer said.

The problem: the administration does not want to go through the commission to make changes, which would have been the case under the original conception of the bill.

“There are issues to be resolved on this,” Boyer said, “and it is not ready for our action.”

“I would hate to see you vote it down,” Boyer said, given the historical importance of the park.

“History often requires an explanation … a story of how things changed. We need to figure out how to incorporate [the narrative],” Boyer said, urging withdrawal until a “thoughtful conversation” happened.

Boyer believes the “story of our history … our progress” should be told in Hemming Park, the city’s “town square,” but the current bill is not the way to do it.

“I am confident that the administration will not tear down the entire park,” Boyer said, or interfere with what makes the city historic.

Councilman Bill Gulliford noted that the ultimate definition of the park in the future is itself in flux, urging withdrawal, albeit with a caveat.

In addition to the pulling of the Hemming Park bill, a measure regarding the city’s settlement with Ability Housing over a Springfield housing development the city spiked in 2014, and another bill regarding turning Nocatee into a “golf cart community” were deferred.

Report: Ron DeSantis tours Jerusalem embassy sites

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis was far away from his Northeast Florida district this weekend; the Jerusalem Post reports that the Republican Congressman was in town, confidently scouting potential sites for a United States embassy.

DeSantis, chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, told Israeli media that he wanted to “come out and get some knowledge about where this thing will actually be.”

DeSantis also predicted that President Donald Trump “will announce that the embassy will be moving,” a move he said would project strength, and one that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu backed, even as King Abdullah II of Jordan and a Fatah leader predicted negative consequences.

The congressman scouted four sites, and the Post asserts that one site, which currently houses the American Citizens Service Union, would be the most ideal of the options.

Hemming landmarks, Ability Housing highlight Jax Council committee calendar

The Jacksonville City Council launches into committees this Monday. A number of bills merit tracking, including measures related to historic Hemming Park and the Ability Housing settlement.

Hemming Happening: Neighborhoods, Community Investments, and Services kicks off Monday morning with a consideration of a historic designation of the Coquina Road and Confederate monument structures in Hemming Park as “landmarks” (2016-559). Land Use and Zoning also mulls the bill, ahead of potential full council consideration next week.

Golf carts in Nocatee: NCIS also considers a measure (2017-66) to make Nocatee a “golf cart community.” Drivers would have to be 16 and older. They could drive golf carts in the public right of way during daylight hours, provided the carts are equipped with lights, turn signals, and other accoutrements that make them street legal.

Ability Housing settlement: The city considers two bills (2017-68 and 2017-69) that may close the book on an issue that first emerged during the Alvin Brown administration.

In 2014, Ability Housing set out to renovate an apartment building in Springfield to create 12 units of housing for the chronically homeless and disabled.

The planning director balked, likening the proposed use to that of an assisted living facility. Soon thereafter, the Department of Justice, Disability Florida, and Ability Housing sued.

The proposed settlement ensures that the city not discriminate via zoning against those with disabilities, including via so-called zoning “overlays” such as Springfield and other neighborhoods have, and allows Ability Housing to become eligible for Jacksonville Journey funding again.

Ability Housing and Disability Rights Florida will receive $400,000 and $25,000 respectively per the settlement. Jacksonville also is required to grant $1.5 million for the development of permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities, after a competitive grant process including Ability Housing.

Finance and Land Use and Zoning will both have to approve these settlement bills before they are ready for the full council.

New housing for 200 Riverside: City incentives look poised to bring new mixed-use development to 200 Riverside Ave., via 2017-101.

In 2014, a $7 million REV grant, payable over 20 years, was approved for development. In 2017, the number is $9 million – but more units (295, up for 229) and more retail space will be included.

As well, the private investment now is $50 million – up from $32 million in the original conception.

Here’s to your health: Ordinance 2017-20 would authorize the city’s employee services department to offer the option to workers and retirees to enroll in the UF Health plan starting on March 31.

The contract would be administered by a third party, “Integra Administrative Services,” via a no-bid contract.

The bill summary refers to this deal as a “network option under the City’s self-insurance plan that consists primarily of UF Health providers.”

For UF Health, a rollout of a program like this could be a game changer.

The city spends $88 million on health claims a year, with only $6 million going to UF Health.

People in both the mayor’s office and on the council have expressed a sincere desire to get more of a paying customer mix at the city’s safety net hospital.

Jacksonville, unlike other Florida cities of its size, lacks an indigent care tax; this surfeit makes UF Health funding especially vulnerable to flux in state and federal funding.

Estimates from the employee services division are that 500 to 600 of the city’s staff and retirees will choose this option, which would move them away from Florida Blue.

The plan is said to be revenue neutral for the city, yet allows a meaningful cushion for funding formulas that may be shaky from Washington or Tallahassee in the coming years.

This bill will be considered Tuesday by Public Health & Safety and Rules, then Wednesday by Finance.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – Council members delegated to attend Florida League of Cities and Florida Association of Counties meetings may have a budget allocation soon, via 2017-97.

The bill would authorize $16,000 for such travel during the current budget year, with a $20,000 cap going forward.

Currently, council member travel allowances are capped at $3,000 per member, regardless of being a member of such delegations.

Matt Schellenberg, delegated for this travel to both FLC and FAC, contends that Jacksonville doesn’t take advantage of the opportunities these organizations present. A limited travel budget, coupled with not sending as many people as other cities, puts the city at a competitive disadvantage.

Kim Daniels compels fasting in support of religious expression in schools

A priority for Jacksonville Rep. Kim Daniels this term: a bill she’s sponsoring in the Florida House to protect “religious expression in public schools.”

Her House Bill 303, a measure intended to give religious and secular expression equal weight in public schools, has a Senate companion being carried by Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley.

Senate Bill 436 — the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act” — would ban school districts “from discriminating against students, parents, & school personnel on basis of religious viewpoints or expression.”

The bill would also allow for “religious expressions,” such as prayer, at school-sponsored events as part of a “limited public forum.”

The bill would allow religious clothing and jewelry. It would also allow “religious expression” in coursework, and also allow for prayer groups and “religious gatherings” that could be organized at any time a commensurate (and undefined) secular activity is permitted, including during the school day.

Daniels tells us that constituents of hers wanted such a bill, and unlike any other bill she’s carrying this session, she has worked to sell this one.

Last month, Daniels held a rally in Tallahassee in support of the measure.

And this weekend, she’s leading a fast in support.

“Senate Bill 436 – filed by Senator Baxley as the Companion Bill to HB 303 will be heard on Monday in Tallahassee. We are fasting Sunday from 8 am through Tuesday @ 6pm (The 1st day of Session)…let the Lord lead you on the kind of fast if you desire to participate. Our fast is liquid only,” Daniels posted to Facebook Friday.

Baxley’s bill will be heard by the Education Committee.

Thus far, Daniels’ bill is not on any committee agenda yet, though it has been referred to

Cord Byrd, Cyndi Stevenson report February fundraising

February fundraising reports are starting to trickle in already from Northeast Florida Republicans.

The two earliest filers: HD 11 Rep. Cord Byrd, who represents eastern Duval and Nassau counties, and HD 17 Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, of St. Johns County.

Neither looks likely to face a remotely serious challenge in 2018, yet even safe incumbents can, do, and must fundraise.

Byrd raised $5,500 of new money in February, giving him $10,100 on hand – not bad for someone who won in November with 98 percent of the vote.

Gunster, The Fiorentino Group, Southern Gardens Citrus, and Pinch-a-Penny were among the donors.

Stevenson, who was re-elected without the formality of a primary or general election challenge last year, had even a better February, with $8,150 of new money.

Among her contributors: the AIF PAC, Florida Blue, the Florida Chamber, Ronald Book, Bitner and Associates, and Southern Gardens Citrus.

Stevenson had just over $20,000 on hand.

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