Former Jacksonville Mayor and current 5th Congressional District Democratic hopeful Alvin Brown became the first and so far only North Florida candidate this cycle to laud the beginning of Ramadan.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Brown lauded the beginning of the month-long celebration, while decrying discrimination against American Muslims.
“At sunset, Muslims in my district and across America will begin their month long celebration of the holy month of Ramadan. The month is an auspicious time for the Muslim community, when the faithful will use the month to not only fast from dawn to dusk each day but also spend time to renew the spirit of their faith,” Brown asserted.
“Our nation is founded on the creed ‘E Pluribus Unum’ and this creed affirms that diversity is our national strength. We celebrate that diversity by recognizing religious pluralism as foundational to our national unity,” Brown added.
“At a time when the American Muslim community is facing unprecedented bigotry and discrimination, I join all Americans of goodwill and conscience to uphold the dignity of all our citizens. May this Ramadan be a source of blessings and joy to all those who choose to celebrate this month. Santhea and I wish all my American Muslim neighbors a very Blessed Ramadan,” Brown concluded.
Brown is primarying Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat, in the safely Democratic North Florida seat that sprawls west from Jacksonville through the state capital.
The race thus far is a tight one in terms of fundraising.
As of the end of March, Lawson’s campaign had just under $160,000 on hand — roughly half of the almost $320,000 raised, with very little laid out in the way of a campaign infrastructure.
Brown, who raised $167,000 in his first quarter in the race, had almost $128,000 on hand.
August primaries are close to three months away. Vote by mail ballots will go out sooner than that.
What that means is the time is now for candidates to show what their operations on the state and federal level really look like. And on the local level, where elections are still farther away, it’s infrastructure-building time.
In federal races, we have already seen pretenders separate themselves from ostensible pretenders. State qualifying is next month; some will take passes on those races, too.
Adding to the intrigue: An opening in the Duval County Tax Collector office. While not a thrilling position, it has four candidates (as of this writing) who have real political resumes. And that election, a special, is on the August/November schedule.
As the saying goes, “buy the ticket, take the ride.” Through next May, it’s all elections, all the time — that’s when Jacksonville’s municipal races finally close out.
Rutherford seeks federal penalties for targeting police
Rep. John Rutherford is a congressional co-introducer of legislation to make it an additional federal crime for criminals to attack law enforcement officers.
In addition to any sentences they may receive for the standard crimes, the fact that the crime was committed against a law enforcement officer could add 10 years, or a life sentence if the officer dies, or the perpetrator kidnapped the officer during the course of the crime.
“As a career law enforcement officer and sheriff of Jacksonville for 12 years, I know what officers go through every day when they put on their uniform, say goodbye to their families, and go out on the streets doing the important work of protecting our communities,” Rutherford stated in a news release from his office.
“With an uptick in ambush attacks on law enforcement, like we saw last month in Trenton, Florida, we must ensure that there are steep consequences for anyone who targets our law enforcement officers. The Protect and Serve Act will serve as a significant deterrent for anyone who deliberately targets officers with violence. I want to thank my friend, Congresswoman Val Demings [a co-sponsor and former police chief] for her leadership on this bill and for her support of law enforcement officers across the country.”
The committee brought in $155,000 in April, and much of that money came from other committees.
The “Free Speech PAC” and “Citizens First,” both of 5730 Corporate Way Suite 214″ in West Palm Beach ponied up $40,000 each.
“Florida Jobs Alliance” and “Conservative Choice,” each of which share an address with Sunshine State Conservatives, were in for another $25,000.
These committees all appear to be pass-through committees, with money coming from other committees, and so on.
Also of interest: The contributions, dated April 27, represent a break from previous contribution trends for the committee, which predominantly (though not exclusively) has been from corporate and industry PACs.
The committee doled out $10,050 in April, including contributions to campaigns of Sen. Kelli Stargel, Rep. Joe Gruters, and a secondary Hutson committee, “First Coast Business Foundation.”
More significant spending could be found in March for the committee, which gave $50,000 to the FRSCC, to help with fundraising efforts.
As the race for the eventual Senate leadership continues to unfold, expect more interesting committee transfers … and, if April receipts for this committee are an indication, they will at least sometimes be hard to track.
Yarborough, Byrd pad cash leads
April told a familiar story in House Districts 11 and 12, where Republican incumbents Cord Byrd andClay Yarborough expanded leads over Democratic challengers.
In HD 11, Byrd raised $3,470 in April, bringing his cash on hand to $38,500. Among his donors: the Fiorentino Group.
While less than $40,000 cash on hand doesn’t sound like much, thus far his Democratic opponent (Nathcelly Rohrbaugh) has yet to show real fundraising prowess.
Rohrbaugh raised $560 in April and has $1,010 on hand.
HD 11 is solidly Republican, with 66,830 of them compared to 30,574 Democrats as of 2016.
Though there are rumors that Byrd may face a primary challenger, thus far they have been all sizzle and no steak.
HD 12 saw a similar scenario: an entrenched incumbent continuing to plug away against a Democratic opponent in a deep-red district.
Though Yarborough brought in just $1,000 (and spent more than that on consulting), he nonetheless has over $103,000 on hand.
Yarborough, who was a two-term Jacksonville City Councilman representing a big swath of his current House district, is also one of the better grassroots candidates in the area.
Even with just $1,000 coming in, Yarborough outraised Democrat Tim Yost, who brought in only $745 off eight contributions.
Yost has nearly $4,000 cash on hand.
Polson continues to bank in HD 15
In Jacksonville’s House District 15, Democrat Tracye Polson continues to stack chips in her campaign account, with the hope of flipping the seat from red to blue.
Between her campaign account and that of her “Better Jacksonville” political committee, she raised $36,983.03 in April. The total raised is over $211,000 now, which is far and away the biggest nest egg for any Jacksonville state House candidate, Republican or Democrat.
However, given that the seat was uncontested by a Democrat in recent campaign cycles, and given that in most other local Republican-held seats Democrats are not well-funded, Polson’s campaign stands out as one with sufficient resources to make the race competitive.
“When I got into this race, we knew people wanted change, improvement over the same politicians and lobbyists who fail to provide results that improve the lives of working families in Jacksonville,” Polson said in a media release.
Democrat fundraises for Fischer challenge
House District 16, on the Southside of Jacksonville, is typically a secure Republican hold.
The district leans Republican with a 55,593 to 35,171 voter registration advantage over Democrats, according to LobbyTools.
Rep. Jason Fischer faced no Democratic opposition in 2016. And predecessor Charles McBurney had the same luck.
However, 2018 is a different matter, with Ken Organes carrying the Democratic banner.
Organes, buoyed by $7,500 of his own money, tallied $11,743 off 34 total contributions. Aside from the candidate’s stake, the vast majority of donations were $100 and below.
The former CSX employee still has a way to go to catch Fischer, who recorded no April fundraising either for his campaign account or that of his Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville political committee.
The campaign account has $82,000 on hand, and the committee has nearly $35,000.
Elsbury to replace Korman Shelton
Jacksonville’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Ali Korman Shelton, is moving on as of the end of next week.
And Monday, the office of Mayor Lenny Curry revealed the path forward for the team, with one promotion and two internal hires effective May 21.
Jordan Elsbury, a previous “30 under 30” honoree on this site, will replace Shelton going forward.
Elsbury had already been working with Korman Shelton in intergovernmental affairs. A veteran of the campaign side who moved over to policy when Curry got elected, Elsbury has been a quick study in both the politics and personalities of City Hall.
Additionally, the team will be boosted significantly with two key hires from City Council staff to serve as Council liaisons.
Leeann Krieg, the Council assistant for Greg Anderson, and Chiquita Moore, the assistant for Sam Newby, will be moving over as coequal “Council liaison” positions.
Moore and Krieg will be charged with helping to move the Mayor’s agenda through Council, a process that may get easier at the end of June when Council President Anna Brosche relinquishes the gavel to Curry ally Aaron Bowman.
Incumbent Michael Corrigan is moving on, to become CEO of Visit Jacksonville. His resignation letter suggests that he couldn’t serve his entire term before taking that position.
Providentially, a group of Republican hopefuls, including Councilman Doyle Carter, former State Rep. and City Councilman Lake Ray, and former Councilman and Property Appraiser Jim Overton (who staked his campaign with $51,000) are already filed to run on the Republican side.
One Democrat has filed, and she is a major one: former Councilor and State Rep. Mia Jones.
There will be a special election.
The first election would be on the August ballot. If no one gets a majority of votes, the general election ballot in November would be decisive.
Qualifying for this race will occur between June 18 and June 22.
White ready to replace Carter on Council
Jacksonville City Councilman Carter was already termed out in 2019 before he threw in for the soon-to-be-vacant Duval County Tax Collector position.
And Carter made it clear that he backed his old friend Randy White for the Westside seat.
Like Carter, White is a Republican. And despite the absence of any real competition for the seat, White has maintained consistent fundraising of the sort that would discourage any late-breaking challenge for the political newcomer.
White, now in his sixth month as an active candidate, brought in a relatively modest April haul: $3,700, highlighted by donations from Duval Teachers and Nassau County Fire and Rescue employee funds.
The candidate has raised $83,386 and thus far has spent just $1,402 of that sum.
Conry presses advantage over Boylan
April continued what is becoming a familiar narrative in the two-person race in Jacksonville City Council’s District 6.
Rose Conry still holds the money lead over former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan, as the two Republicans vying to succeed termed-out Matt Schellenberg.
And cash on hand sees Conry with an almost 2-1 advantage.
Conry brought in $8,050 in April, which pushed her over $77,000 raised and $70,000 on hand.
Among notable donors for the first time candidate: Michael Munz and a political committee associated with State Rep. Jason Fischer.
Worth noting: Fischer and Conry share a political consultant, Tim Baker.
Boylan lost ground during the month in the money race, bringing in $6,250, pushing him over $48,000 raised and $36,000 on hand. Not only is Boylan raising less money than Conry, but he’s also spending more of it.
Boylan is in a more precarious position than he might expect. Conry’s political operation is situated to make attacks down the stretch count. He will want to step up his fundraising, lest he becomes unable to counter them.
Soft April for Newby
Jacksonville City Councilman Sam Newby won his at-large seat on the Jacksonville City Council three years ago on a shoestring budget of just over $9,000, defeating a candidate who raised 15 times what he did in the May 2015 unitary general election.
Newby brought in just $4,600, with a $100 personal loan and $4,500 in outside contributions from five donors.
Nevertheless, those donors are noteworthy.
Among them, a “big three” of sorts: the Orange Park Kennel Club, the Jacksonville Kennel Club, and Jacksonville Greyhound Racing.
All three gambling entities gave the maximum of $1,000, as did Sleiman Holdings, which is currently in a legal imbroglio with the city of Jacksonville over busted docks and other issues at the Jacksonville Landing.
These donors suggest that if Newby needs to raise more serious money going forward, he could.
However, he didn’t in April.
Newby has one opponent currently, Democrat Chad McIntyre, who thus far has yet to report fundraising.
Another Bishop belly flop
When then-Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop finished a strong third in the 2015 mayor’s race, the Republican vowed that he would run for Mayor again, before endorsing Democrat Alvin Brown over Curry, the eventual Republican winner.
Both the early declaration of a mayoral redo and the cross-party endorsement of Brown seemed like a safe bet at the time to many.
Bishop has long since abandoned his dreams for the mayor’s office and settled into a bid for an at-large City Council seat.
But fundraising continues to elude him, as another distressing tally in April suggests.
Bishop brought in just $1,225 during the month … much less than he is spending on campaign management ($3,000), via the RLS Group.
April was the second straight month in which the belly-flopping Bishop campaign spent more on campaign management than it raised.
The leading fundraiser in the race, Republican Ron Salem, continued to bank in April. He added $4,000 to his political committee and an additional $2,850 to his campaign account.
The committee has $11,000 on hand after April receipts; Salem’s campaign account, meanwhile, is over $150,000 cash on hand.
New judges in Duval
Two unopposed judge candidates will move on to the bench in Duval, reports the Florida Times-Union.
Assistant State Attorney Collins Cooper, a former Gators kicker who has faced criticism from supervisors over his perceived incompetence, will be one of Jacksonville’s newest circuit judges … Katie Dearing, a respected business attorney and the daughter-in-law of retiring Probate Judge Peter Dearing, was also unopposed and will assume office next year.”
There is one contested election: “Former state Rep. Charles McBurney and former prosecutor Maureen Horkan will face off in an election this fall for circuit judge.”
McBurney, recall, ran afoul of Marion Hammer and the National Rifle Association when he sought a gubernatorial appointment to a judgeship in 2016.
Do they have long memories?
Jacksonville Medical Examiner exits
The “challenging” tenure of “embattled” Duval County Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, per the Florida Times-Union, is at an end.
Rao wrote Gov. Rick Scott last week signaling her intentions.
Rao’s tenure went from bad news cycle to bad news cycle, with early issues of employee turnover due to what the T-U summed up as “conflicts.”
“Rao, ironically, is retiring before she was ever reappointed to the position. She was up for reappointment in 2012, but Gov. Scott never reappointed her. Instead, he said he wanted more names to consider. Eventually, in 2014, the Medical Examiner’s Commission recommended two more candidates, but both ended up accepting other jobs. Since 2012, Rao has served as interim medical examiner.”
Behold, the highlights of a news release on the subject.
Total hotel revenue: up 12 percent year over year. Occupancy: up 3.5 percent. And average room rate is also up $5 year over year, to $96.39.
March hotel occupancy: 82.2 percent, with 462,000 rooms sold in the county, leading to $45.7 million in revenue.
Good news for policymakers counting on the bed tax. Convention traffic has been a driver, with 52 meetings through March locally. Targeted marketing and advertising, per Visit Jacksonville, have worked.
UF Health dumping outpatient dialysis
Tourism may be up … but it’s not helping the fiscal picture at Jacksonville’s UF Health.
In a letter to Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche, CEO Leon Haley notes that the hospital is negotiating to sell its outpatient dialysis service to a national, not-for-profit provider by the end of June.
The seeming deciding factor seems to be that the move is made necessary by what Haley calls “significant federal and state funding shortfalls.”
State funding, per Haley, has dropped by $31 million in the last three years. Additionally, $12.7 million in federal cuts will happen this calendar year.
Feds fund ferry
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority announced Tuesday a $3,356,900 Passenger Ferry Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration.
The money is earmarked for improvements for the ferry slips, the vessel and terminal.
JTA took over the ferry’s ownership and operations two years ago, noted its CEO.
“We have made a lot of improvements since JTA assumed ownership and operations of the ferry on March 31, 2016,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nat Ford.
“Ridership continues to grow, and improvements to the ferry’s infrastructure will continue thanks to grant awards that the JTA has received from the FTA,” Ford said. “With this recent award, the JTA will continue to strengthen the ferry’s infrastructure, and give our riders a safe and reliable service.”
In a media release, JTA thanked Florida’s Senators and Jacksonville’s two Congressmen, Rutherford and Al Lawson, for their work on behalf of the project.
Homeless rights bill filed
The Jacksonville City Council will consider in the coming weeks a “Homeless Bill of Rights,” legislation that will codify civil rights for the city’s dispossessed populations.
Ordinance 2018-308, filed by Councilwoman Katrina Brown, contends that “the basic rights all people should enjoy must be guaranteed for homeless individuals and families,” and attempts to “assure that basic human rights are not being trampled simply because someone happens to be homeless.”
The bill would guarantee the right to move freely for homeless people, as well as rights to be “protected by law enforcement,” to prayer, to voting, to quality emergency health services, to “occupy” legally parked cars, and to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy over personal property.”
Undoubtedly, at least some of the enumerated prerogatives will be major talkers in City Council committees.
A solid month of deliberation over a bill that initially intended to make all of Jacksonville’s public spaces “hit-free zones,” then was gradually watered down to just include City Hall and still make spanking permissible, ended with a 9-9 vote and the bill being killed Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, the bill was deferred, with concerns about everything from “big government” overreach and inhibiting parental discipline to effects on employees tasked with stopping people from hitting each other in offices like the tax collector and supervisor of elections shops.
On Tuesday, despite the changes, the bill couldn’t get over the hump. As has been the case for a month, Council members defended the use of spanking to discipline children during the discussion, while fretting about unintended consequences of the legislative proposal.
Councilman Garrett Dennis, the bill sponsor who has been at odds with the Mayor’s Office, hasn’t been shy about saying that his bills aren’t getting a fair hearing because of City Hall internal politics.
This was the latest example.
Oddsmakers still unconvinced about Jaguars
The NFL draft is history, the first rookie minicamp is yet to begin. The regular season is still four months away. Many of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ players, coaches and management can’t wait.
After coming within five minutes of heading to the Super Bowl and adding some core skill players, the Jags and coach Doug Marrone believe they can take the next step. Those giving odds believe their chance is average at best.
The bookies at Bovada place three AFC teams ahead of the Jaguars and one alongside when it comes to winning the conference championship. The team that kept Jacksonville out of the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots, are again favored to defend their title in the next one.
Bovada has the Patriots as 9-4 favorites to win the AFC, but the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the Jags defeated twice in Pittsburgh last year, are second at 9-2. The Houston Texans face 10-1 odds followed by Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Chargers at 11-1.
As the season progresses, Jacksonville’s odds will improve if the play of quarterback Blake Bortles resembles the Bortles displayed in the playoffs against the Steelers and Patriots.
With the draft providing Bortles with more help on offense, as well as fortifying an outstanding defensive unit, the Jags know they can now play with anyone. With the talent with the confidence and swagger — exemplified by shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey — they have a chance to prove last year was no fluke.
If betting were legal in Florida, the Jaguars might be worth risking a few bucks.
Congressional candidates finish qualifying this week, setting the stage for a 3+ month sprint to nominations.
Virtually every Congressional incumbent, save John Rutherford, will face a primary. Ted Yoho faces nominal competition for what could be his final term; Al Lawson faces more than a symbolic challenge in the form of Alvin Brown in Congressional District 5.
We are a few weeks out from qualifying for state offices, but what is clear already is that incumbency is less safe locally than it might have been in recent cycles. With redistricting imminent in the next few years, what we are seeing is the beginning of a transition period in the region.
These districts, which came into being in their current conformations in time for 2016, won’t last. And population continues to move into the area, meaning that after 2020, we may see two Jacksonville-majority districts soon enough.
For now, however, the field is set. We get to field questions, such as those about Alvin Brown being able to close the deal with Democrats locally and beyond. And questions about the Democrats opposing Rutherford in Congressional District 4 bear watching also.
Soon enough, it will be November, and the local elections in Jacksonville will come into sharper relief (maybe sooner, with Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche floating a mayoral trial balloon this week in a radio interview).
But this week and this summer, the federal scene necessarily takes center stage … with state elections co-headlining once qualifying ends next month for those offices.
Yoho, Rutherford officially in for re-election
Popular Northeast Florida Republican Congressmen Rutherford and Yoho, heavy favorites for re-election, have qualified for the 2018 ballot.
Rutherford, whose district encompasses Nassau, Duval, and northern St. Johns Counties, has $300,000 in the bank for his re-election campaign.
Jacksonville candidates Joceline Berrios and Monica DePaul, as well as Ponte Vedra businessman George Selmont, comprise the three candidates from the Democratic Party. Of the three, Selmont is the only one to report fundraising; he has $6,000 on hand.
Rutherford is guaranteed to face a familiar opponent, however; Gary Koniz, an NPA candidate who is in the habit of sending long, discursive emails to office holders and press outlets, is on the ballot.
Yoho, who represents the 3rd District that runs southwest from Orange Park through Gainesville, is likewise qualified and enjoys a fundraising cushion with $355,000 cash on hand.
That puts him ahead of primary challengers Judson Sapp ($23,915 on hand) and Chuck Callesto (no fundraising).
Brown launches campaign
Former Jacksonville MayorBrown launched his campaign for Florida’s 5th Congressional District on Saturday morning at the IBEW Hall in Jacksonville — the same place he began his first mayoral campaign eight years ago.
“They said it wouldn’t happen,” Brown said of that 2011 race. “Let’s do it again.”
The location, where the Duval Democrats hold their monthly meetings, is a metaphor for the Jacksonville vs. Tallahassee dynamic of the Democratic primary race between Brown and incumbent U.S. Rep. Lawson.
The Sheriff of St. Johns County is endorsing Michael Waltz in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
Waltz, a former Green Beret and White House staffer, is a current Fox News commentator.
“Lieutenant Colonel Michael Waltz is a great American and patriot,” said St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar. “He has given a lifetime of selfless service to our nation, state, and community. He is exactly the type of consistent conservative we need leading the fight in Congress to support President [Donald] Trump’s agenda for our community and Florida. I’m proud to endorse Michael Waltz for Congress.”
Currently, there are three candidates on the Republican side of the race to replace Rep. Ron DeSantis.
John Ward, a Ponte Vedra businessman, is the cash leader.
As of the end of March, Ward had raised $912,000 and had $709,340 on hand (with $555,000 of that from his own checkbook).
Waltz, who loaned his campaign $400,000, has $653,354 on hand of the total $706,000 in receipts.
Ward and Waltz thus far have demonstrated the most fundraising ability on the Republican side. Former state Rep. Fred Costello has $15,720 on hand.
The 6th Congressional District runs from St. Johns to Volusia counties.
Per WJCT: “Head of the U.S. Small Business Administration Linda McMahon learned how brothers David and Jeff Turbeville run their Jacksonville peanut butter company, Tuesday. It was the launch of her Southeast small business tour.”
The company processes peanuts for institutions, such as schools and prisons.
The company is in a so-called “HUBZone” on Jacksonville’s Westside, meaning that it has to employ 35 percent of its workers from its struggling neighborhood.
McMahon is touring similarly situated businesses throughout the Southeast this month.
Troutman makes NE Florida hire
Ag Commissioner hopeful Baxter Troutman named Kaley Slattery as the campaign’s new Northeast Florida Regional Director this week.
That role sees the recent University of North Florida graduate handling grassroots, fundraising, and digital operations in the region.
Slattery, a former UNF College Republicans President, is “thrilled to be joining Team Troutman.”
“The addition of Ms. Slattery is another signal to the Tallahassee political elites that Baxter Troutman is serious about this race,” said campaign manager Carlo Fassi, who himself is a UNF alum.
Political comeback for Ray
Lake Ray, a former State Representative, Jacksonville City Councilman, and Congressional candidate, launched his campaign for Duval County Tax Collector Monday.
“Jacksonville needs someone with a proven record of management, a proven record of trust and a proven record of making sure the government uses its resources correctly,” Ray said. “If entrusted with this office, I will be there to serve you the taxpayer — to make the process as painless as possible.”
Ray will face Jim Overton, who likewise is a former City Councilman, in addition to having served as property appraiser for twelve years.
Both Overton and Ray are Republicans. A Democrat could enter this race before the end.
Mayor’s office shake-up
Jacksonville’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Ali Korman Shelton, sent a letter to Mayor Lenny Curry Monday announcing her departure from city government later in May.
“After much contemplation, and despite the positive future I foresee, it is now time for someone else to serve you, your administration, and the city in this important capacity,” Shelton wrote, citing family concerns as a reason for resignation in a lettersent Monday evening.
Shelton’s letter lauds accomplishments, including a positive relationship with the Jacksonville City Council, three healthy budgets, and improving Jacksonville’s visibility publicly.
As well, Shelton handled much of the lobbying push for the pension reform referendum approved in Tallahassee in 2016 and voted up by 65 percent of Duval County residents.
David Cawton of the Jax Daily Record, who broke this story on Twitter, got a comment fromCurry, who deemed Shelton’s contributions to be “integral and substantial.”
The last departure of this magnitude was that of former Chief of Staff Kerri Stewart. It took the Curry team months to replace her, a job filled at the beginning of the year by former Curry political adviser Brian Hughes.
Curry raises $250K, as Brosche mulls challenge
Informed sources confirmed that Curry raised over $250,000 in April, his second straight strong month after a $1.5 million March.
The breakdown: $46,000 for the campaign (bringing its total raised to just over $300,000) and $206,000 for the “Jacksonville on the Rise” political committee (pushing it over $1.45 million raised or transferred from other committees).
Big donors in April include John Campion ($50,000), and Black Knight Financial Services, Fidelity Information Services, and Borland-Groover Clinic ($25,000 each).
The fundraising haul comes at a time when challengers for Curry, a first-term Republican elected in 2015, are lining up for next year’s ballot.
Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche is mulling a run for mayor, with a decision to be made this summer, after her term as Council president wraps in June.
While she is “focused” on her “responsibilities as Council president and some important initiatives launched recently,” Brosche notes that once her term ends, she will have “the opportunity to get clarity on [her] next steps.”
A Brosche/Curry matchup would bristle with drama, were it to happen.
Crooms launches mayoral bid
Curry drew his third challenger for the 2019 unitary election, with Connell Crooms filing Friday to run without party affiliation.
Crooms became known to Jacksonville residents in the wake of a protest that went awry in Hemming Park last April.
The protest became violent when Gary Snow, a noted provocateur at left-wing and Democratic events in 2016 and 2017, ran through the crowd provoking protesters.
Crooms, who is deaf (and an activist for the deaf), ended up being beaten into unconsciousness by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers at that protest as a result of Snow’s actions.
Crooms was one of five protesters arrested; the charges were dropped against Crooms in June, with community sentiment on the side of Crooms and the rest of the Jax 5 protest contingent.
$100,000 pyramid for Holland
Though $80,000 of it came via a personal loan, Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland turned heads in April with $100,000 raised.
Holland, a popular Republican in his first term on the job, faces nominal opposition … but, given the potential of more serious opposition getting into the race, he’s not taking chances.
Among the donors: some local development companies; former Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver; Preston Haskell; and the insurance agency of current City Council candidate Matt Carlucci.
Holland’s sole opponent, Democrat Kurt Kraft, is entirely self-financed and has under $700 on hand.
Unless a particular termed-out Democratic Jacksonville City Councilman gets in this race, Holland looks like a safe bet for re-election on the 2019 ballot.
Zahn talks long-term JEA plan
JEA CEO Aaron Zahn is settling into his interim (at least for now) role and to that end a round of media interviews. Wednesday saw this outlet’s turn.
Zahn has faced criticism.
Navigating a tricky political climate, a neophyte to the world of municipal utilities (he was on the board weeks before he made the CEO bid), Zahn has faced a unique pressure.
We discussed this and more with him in a sit-down interview Wednesday morning at the JEA Tower.
“It would be great ten years from now to be looking back with the wonderful team we have, with all the great employees, having added jobs, having driven economic development, and show we can run a utility while lowering rates and lowering emissions. I think that’s possible, but we’ve got to start having bold ideas,” Zahn said.
“The question I’m asking: How does JEA continue to be a trusted partner for the next five, ten, fifty years,” Zahn said.
“I would not have made the position to run for the interim office if I weren’t interested in running for the permanent office,” Zahn said, adding that his qualifications would need to match with a “scorecard” crafted by the JEA Board.
Some members have questioned the generous incentives (a $30 million capital improvement plan and a Rev Grant for 75 percent for up to 22 years capped at $56 million).
Now, Empower Jacksonville, a religious right organization founded last year in a thus-far unsuccessful challenge to Jacksonville’s LGBT protections, objects to the incentives that City Council will vote on.
The reason? Rummell‘s stated opposition to backing candidates who don’t support an assault weapon ban (an assertion belied by the facts, as Rummell backs Curry and Rep. Rutherford).
“Peter Rummell’s anti-Second Amendment rhetoric is not in line with Empower Jacksonville’s values,” said Harry Lewis, co-chair of Empower Jacksonville. “We cannot support hardworking Jacksonville citizens’ tax dollars lining Mr. Rummell’s pockets through the development of The District. We will engage our supporters to put their councilman or councilwoman on notice that a vote for The District is a vote against the Second Amendment.”
For the second straight committee cycle for the Jacksonville City Council, members mulled potential legislation to make city property a “hit-free zone.”
However, though it cleared committees two weeks ago, problems cropped up for Resolution 2018-171 which would turn all city property into “hit-free zones”: “areas in which no adult shall hit another adult, no adult shall hit a child, no child shall hit an adult, and no child shall hit another child.”
Monday saw the first of three committees — Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety — mull the bill. Once the proposal was limited to apply just to City Hall, it passed 4-3, even amid concerns about potential overreach.
Tuesday morning saw the Finance Committee, chaired by Garrett Dennis, approve the bill by a 4-3 margin.
By Tuesday afternoon, Rules had the bill. That committee offered considerable headwinds as did the previous panels, with now-typical consternation over the concept of the bill (which some said divested parents of their rights to discipline) and potential overreach.
Rules downed the bill 3-4, with chairman Doyle Carter casting the deciding vote.
The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee Tuesday approved a bill that may alleviate food desert conditions in one of the city’s most challenged areas.
2018-195 will, if passed by the full Council next week, approve encumbering $3 million from the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Trust Fund to recruit grocers or other “food options” to move into the area, which is about to see two grocery stores close.
The money will pay for a consultant, and will potentially provide up to a 25 percent grant for a vendor. As well, other incentive programs may be presented by said consultant as an alternative.
Discussion in apublic notice meeting last week balanced the goal of opening a store with the reality that the reason that the stores are closing to start with is that there wasn’t enough business to make them profitable.
Those concerns resurfaced during the discussion Tuesday, with suggestions including food trucks delivering groceries to the needy. The conversation revealed a fundamental disconnect between Councilors on the bill, with Finance Chair Garrett Dennis noting that a delivery solution may not work for many of those in the affected areas.
As a result of the discussion, the other food options were added, beyond brick and mortar groceries.
The former Baymeadows Golf Club saw its last tee shot in 2004, and since then development has dashed the Southside property.
“A $15 million project to revitalize the defunct Baymeadows Golf Club is supposed to include a hotel and a retail center, though tenants have not been named yet. The project, which will cover close to six acres, will feature a 100-room hotel and 35,000 square feet of retail space.”
Curry asserted that “this sends a message to every neighborhood, where citizens rally and work together and make it their cause, they can change things and make a difference.
“While the 62-year-old Kouvaris — the longest-tenured, on-air talent in WJXT history after news anchor Tom Wills — wanted to keep working, he couldn’t come to an acceptable resolution with the independent TV station. Kouvaris says he offered WJXT several full-time and part-time proposals at a salary reduction up to 50 percent, but the station had other options in mind, which led to the breakup,” wrote Gene Frenette Wednesday.
Kouvaris would prefer to stay in the Jacksonville market.
With the respect of all of his peers, it’s hard to imagine that won’t happen.
Delaney chats with Fiorentino before joining alliance
Last month, former Jacksonville Mayor and University of North Florida President John Delaney announced he will be joining the strategic alliance between The Fiorentino Group and Rogers Towers.
Before officially starting, Delaney sat down with Fiorentino Group founder Marty Fiorentino for a quick two-and-a-half-minute interview, which can be viewed by clicking the image below:
The alliance, formed five years ago, includes collaboration on business and government affairs issues; business counsel; higher education issues; complex environmental matters and a variety of other government affairs needs at the local, state and federal levels.
“John has been a part of some of Jacksonville’s most successful public policy initiatives,” Fiorentino said in April. “His decades of experience in local, state and federal politics and tenure as president of one of Florida’s leading educational institutions has involved him in many complex issues where his leadership has had a real and positive impact. His addition to our team will provide exceptional added-value services as we develop winning strategies for our clients to influence public policy.”
After quality draft, Jaguars rank fourth in NFL power rankings
It has been a week since the Jaguars selected University of Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan with their first pick in the NFL draft. They added LSU wide receiver D.J. Clark and Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison with their next two choices.
In addition, Jacksonville seems intent on sticking with quarterback Blake Bortles for the foreseeable future. Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee did not come until late in the draft.
This had an effect on Jacksonville’s power ranking. With a good, but not spectacular draft, the Jags dropped from third to fourth in the power rankings, according to NFL.com. The Los Angeles Rams jumped to the No. 2 position, moving ahead of Jacksonville and the New England Patriots.
“Ignore the tiny fail,” said NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison. “Faith in Blake Bortles is riding high, apparently — which is fine, provided he can progress off his performance in the playoffs (versus the Steelers and Patriots … not the Bills).
With a solid draft and an already-strong roster, the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles are at the top of the power list, followed by the Rams, Patriots, Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings. Among Jacksonville’s fellow AFC South competitors, the Houston Texans are ranked No. 12, the Tennessee Titans No. 13, and the Indianapolis Colts coming in dead last at No. 32.
Voluntary workouts will take place in May and early June, while the first mandatory minicamp is set for June 12-14.
On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson talked to Jacksonville media about his congressional campaign against former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.
Lawson and Brown both qualified this week, setting up a primary election that matches up a Tallahassee politician against a Jacksonville pol in the race for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s sprawling 5th Congressional District.
Lawson said he feels “very good” about his chances in the Jacksonville side of the district, where he got 20 percent of the vote in 2016 against then-incumbent Corrine Brown.
“I’ve been in office a year and four months, and I’ve been coming over here several times a month,” Lawson said, adding that he and Rep. John Rutherford “have been able to do quite a few things here.”
“We’ve got people thinking about Jacksonville. In Congress,” Lawson said, “they don’t refer to me as from Tallahassee. They refer to me as ‘Al Lawson from Jacksonville’.”
“I feel pretty confident,” Lawson said, “that we’re going to work hard and do well. I have the endorsement of every Democrat Congressperson in Florida except two. They said they’d wait until after qualifying [to publicize the endorsements].”
Lawson has started his campaign slowly and with a high burn rate given his campaign’s torpidity up until now.
As of the end of March, his campaign had just under $160,000 on hand — roughly half of the almost $320,000 raised, with very little laid out in the way of a campaign infrastructure.
Brown, who raised $167,000 in his first quarter in the race, had almost $128,000 on hand.
When Lawson defeated Corrine Brown, he benefited from several tail winds, such as a Jacksonville spoiler candidate, an incumbent under indictment, and on-hand cash advantage (as Corrine Brown, awaiting a fraud trial, was not able to fundraise.
We asked Lawson if he was worried about not being able to keep up with Alvin Brown in terms of money.
He was not.
“Our campaign’s already ramped up,” Lawson said. “We’re getting ready to open a campaign office here and in the western part of the district. We feel very confident that we have the money that we need. We have a very good budget.”
Lawson noted that Brown’s strong quarter might be a function of his campaign having “just come out of the blocks,” adding that “during this next quarter, we just need 50 or 60 thousand dollars.”
“We’re in good shape,” Lawson contended. “It’s a 200 mile stretch between Gadsden and Duval.”
“We’d like to see his record. I’ve got a long record in politics. He only has four years, and it looks like it was a failed administration, simply because he couldn’t get re-elected,” Lawson said of the candidate he vowed to retire once he got in the race.
Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown qualified Wednesday to run against incumbent Rep. Al Lawson in North Florida’s sprawling, east-west Congressional District 5.
Lawson, who ended Corrine Brown‘s political career in 2016, seeks to “retire” Alvin Brown, maintaining his hold over the cartographically schizoid Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee seat.
Brown announced his qualification Wednesday, via media release and aspirational quotes.
“I am proud of the strong grassroots campaign we are building, and as I speak with people across the district, I hear time and again that North Florida needs a results-oriented fighter in Congress who will work in their best interest — not protect the status quo. I couldn’t agree more, which is why I am honored to qualify for the ballot,” Brown said.
“The people of the 5th District deserve a champion who will be their voice in Washington and promote policies that can help create real economic opportunity,” Brown continued. “I am confident that, together, we can do better as we work to raise wages, foster innovation and job creation, make smart investments in education and infrastructure, expand access to quality, affordable health care, and give our servicemen and women the respect, dignity, and care they deserve while serving our country and after they return home. I pledge to always have our community’s back and fight for the issues that matter to North Florida.”
Brown launched his campaign Saturday in Jacksonville, at an event that drew about 100. His rhetoric and persona were similar to his mayoral candidate personal honed in the campaigns of 2011 and 2015.
Lawson filed to run Tuesday, and WTXL of Tallahassee was there, grabbing quotes.
“While I served in the Legislature, I served almost 20 years under Republican leadership, so it’s time that Florida come back,” said Lawson. “Florida is always viewed as a more conservative state, but I think, in light of the things that have happened, the problem that we have with guns and gun violence in the state, I think we need a Democratic perspective to change a lot of that.”
Lawson has started his campaign slowly and with a high burn rate given his campaign’s torpidity up until now.
As of the end of March, his campaign had just under $160,000 on hand — roughly half of the almost $320,000 raised, with very little laid out in the way of a campaign infrastructure.
Brown, who raised $167,000 in his first quarter in the race, had almost $128,000 on hand.
When Lawson defeated Corrine Brown, he benefited from several tail winds, such as a Jacksonville spoiler candidate, an incumbent under indictment, and on-hand cash advantage (as Brown, awaiting a fraud trial, was not able to fundraise.
It will be interesting to see how Lawson deals with an opponent who can run a functional campaign.
Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown launched his campaign for Florida’s 5th Congressional District on Saturday morning at the IBEW Hall in Jacksonville — the same place he began his first mayoral campaign eight years ago.
“They said it wouldn’t happen,” Brown said of that 2011 race. “Let’s do it again.”
The location, where the Duval Democrats hold their monthly meetings, is a metaphor for the Jacksonville vs. Tallahassee dynamic of the Democratic primary race between Brown and incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.
Brown’s preacher cadence, a hallmark of his time as Jacksonville Mayor, was on display Saturday. He treated the union hall like a church, referring to supporters as “brothers and sisters” while driving call and response tfrom the largely over-50 crowd of 100.
On the student loan “debt crisis,” on income stagnation and unemployment, homelessness and inequity in pay between genders, Brown, “deeply concerned” about inequities, said “we need to do better.”
“If you don’t want a better tomorrow, stay home,” Brown said near the close of the 14-minute stemwinder. “But if you believe God has been good to you … rise up … and say Alvin for Congress.”
With grumbles among many former supporters that they weren’t sold on Brown’s political reincarnation, we wondered where that support was — and where the support was, in terms of campaign finance, from the downtown Jacksonville power structure that abandoned him in 2015 for his Republican opponent in the mayoral race.
“This election is not about the past, but about the future,” Brown said. “When I put my message out there and communicate with the voters, and get past all the chatter, they’re going to discover that Alvin for Congress is the best person for the job.”
“I’m going to work hard in this race to reach out to everyone across this district to make sure they know who I am and why I’m running. It is proven that when you make your case directly to the people,” Brown added, “good things happen.”
We asked where local politicians were for the launch; beyond school board chair Paula Wright, elected Democrats were otherwise occupied.
“I can tell you that the most important support that we need is from the people,” Brown said, “and today’s a great day for the Fifth Congressional District. I’ve been taking my message all the way through the district.”
Brown described himself as “well-known in Washington for making things happen for Jacksonville.”
Earlier this month, Brown posted hisfirst finance report, which showed him outraising Lawson two-to-one in the first quarter. However, Lawson still held the aggregate cash on hand edge, with corporate PAC and agribusiness groups holding sway.
Brown was Jacksonville’s mayor from 2011 to 2015 beforelosing his bid for a second term in a tight race against current Republican Mayor Lenny Curry. (Curry celebrated winning by purging Brown appointees from boards and commissions. Meanwhile, for his part, Lawson says he and Curry have a “strong relationship.”)
Brown may not get help from the Jacksonville political establishment, which finds Lawson easy to work with. In that context, Brown will have to bring what one former supporter called his “bootleg preacher” stump style to the western end of the district, taking on Lawson on his home turf.
Lately, Jacksonville politics has been fractious. A debate over JEA privatization, a hot-button topic for months, saw the culmination of claims and cross-claims of lies, betrayals, subterfuge and deception before Mayor Lenny Curry pulled the plug Thursday.
As the political season approaches, locals may want to take a cue from gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, who made yet another Jacksonville stop, one where protesters showed up to spotlight his family farm underpaying laborers in 2008.
While the issue was long since resolved, in the heat of the campaign, it has become newly relevant, and chants like “Putnam don’t pay” could be heard through the glass inside the Mandarin diner during Putnam’s “Up & Adam” event.
Our Jacksonville correspondent joked with campaign staff that the candidate should engage protesters after the event.
To watch what happened next, click the image below:
For those expecting any of the protesters, who were holding signs condemning the candidate, to engage him directly on the issues, they would have left disappointed.
Putnam bantered with the lead protester, as she described working in celery fields “on the mule train.”
What followed was talk of celery grating and “firing the grove” — in an area Putnam called “the celery capital of the world” — with Putnam describing ways of said firing.
“I know about those wages,” the woman told Putnam. “You basically said you took care of that situation.”
Putnam confirmed that, adding: “Our people are the most important part of any business.”
The encounter ended with a high-five.
“That’s my girl, right there,” Putnam said, with protesters saying “have a good day” as he headed to his next stop.
Now, on to the week’s other news …
Lawson slams farm bill
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, writing in the Tallahassee Democrat, slammed the current iteration of the Farm Bill on Congress.
“The bill introduced by House Republicans proposes to cut billions of dollars from federal nutrition assistance programs, including SNAP, and take food away from millions of seniors, veterans, persons with disabilities and vulnerable communities struggling to make ends meet,” Lawson asserted.
Lawson notes that the bill would “end or cut SNAP benefits for more than 1 million low-income households, add aggressive new work requirements and throw 265,000 school children off the free lunch programs.”
The Democratic incumbent in Florida’s 5th Congressional District laments, in the editorial, the loss of the bipartisan spirit in the committee.
Meanwhile, Lawson’s campaign apparatus has been fairly dormant thus far — and he needs to get it together, as his primary opponent Alvin Brown will host a campaign kickoff Saturday morning at the IBEW hall … the meeting place of the Duval Democrats.
Johns bows out of CD 6 scrum
On Friday, St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns opted to withdraw rather than stay in the race for Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
Rep. Tracie Davis andSen. Audrey Gibson presented a $356,000 check to Edward Waters College to aid recipients of the College Promise Program. The program is a pathway for low-income, first-time college students beginning their higher education at a four-year institution.
“As an alum of Edward Waters College and State Representative for this area, I am so excited to have been part of the team with Senator Gibson to secure this funding for such a great program,” stated Davis. “College Promise is the second program in the nation providing a debt-free pathway to higher education for first-time students. This is the future of higher education and funding is critical to its success.”
This money will defray costs for 100 students to attend EWC for a year.
Renner: Beaches are still open
Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican with deep Jacksonville ties, penned an op-ed intended to quell misinformation about beaches closing to public access.
“In some cases,” Renner wrote, “private property owners who live on the beach own lots that are platted to include the ‘dry sand’ between the dunes and that high-water mark. Even though this is private property, and even though those owners are taxed on the dry sand portion of the beach, it is not uncommon that many of us use it.”
“The new law simply creates a uniform process for a county to apply to the courts to affirm areas of customary use. Without the courts involved on the front end, individual property owners could and did sue to challenge county ordinances around the state. The taxpayers were on the hook for legal fees to defend every individual case against the county and pay any damages awarded if the county got it wrong,” Renner wrote.
On Tuesday, political veteran Tommy Hazouri, currently a Jacksonville City Councilman, endorsed fellow Democrat Tracye Polson in her bid for state House.
Polson is the sole Democrat in the race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jay Fant in House District 15, a Westside Jacksonville seat.
“As a former state legislator, having represented this district for 12 years, I know this community needs and deserves a courageous and bold voice to represent our diverse needs, and that person is Dr. Tracye Polson,” Hazouri asserted.
Hazouri went on to laud Polson’s commitment to “real change in public education” and a “fresh, insightful approach that will address the true needs of our city.”
“I am extremely honored to receive the support from Council Member Tommy Hazouri, who has been a public servant to Jacksonville for decades,” Polson said. “His knowledge and experience will be a great asset to our campaign and we are excited to have his counsel and support moving forward.”
Polson, atypically for area Democrats running for Republican-held State House seats, has shown dynamic fundraising. She’s raised $174,103 between her campaign and political committee accounts, with $113,635 on hand, after clearing over $30,000 in March.
There is a competitive Republican primary, and those candidates all trail in cash on hand.
Jacksonville land use attorney Wyman Duggan has just over $95,000 cash on hand. Duggan, notably, is one of a group of lobbyists working on behalf of Nova Scotia-based Emera in hopes that local utility JEA goes on the market.
Other Republicans are farther back.
Yacht broker Mark Zeigler raised $11,795 in March, his first month of significant fundraising. First-time candidate Joseph Hogan, meanwhile, reported no fundraising.
‘New Dawn’ for JEA, says CEO
In a memo to JEA employees Monday, Interim CEO Aaron Zahn hailed “a new dawn” for the Jacksonville utility.
The point of the memo was clear. It framed Zahn, a board member for one month who leveled-up into the CEO chair, as an agent of stability for the utility, which has been rocked for months by a parlous privatization debate.
Zahn wrote that he “recognize[d] the emotional and mental toll” of the privatization debate, adding that he is “committed to learn” from the workforce, and that he intends to earn trust.
The language had a fortune cookie feel in spots: “Every day presents an opportunity to start anew. Even mistakes present an opportunity to learn and grow.”
Zahn addressed substance eventually, noting that he had asked the Mayor and City Council to move from a “discourse … of decision-making” to a “discussion” of JEA’s future, allowing the utility to develop a plan to address “opportunities and risk … in our changing market.”
Regarding Melissa Dykes, who served as interim CEO for a week before the board chose Zahn without any substantial public discussion of his merits compared to Dykes, she has “agreed to take on an expanded role … is committed to JEA and working together as partners to accomplish the vision I’ve set forth.”
Org changes are coming, Zahn says. And so is an updated strategic plan, which will make JEA “a utility for the future of Jacksonville.”
Official positions of Zahn and his chief political ally, Mayor Curry,boil down to advocating a pause of some indeterminate length in a discussion of privatization of the utility.
The memo does not address that timetable, one likely of key concern to stakeholders inside the company and city government alike.
It appears that there will be a competitive race in Jacksonville City Council District 9 next year after all.
Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, the Democratic incumbent, faces a challenge from within his own party, from Marcellus Holmes.
Holmes, who played professional football for the New England Patriots from 1997 to 2001 as both a practice and active squad member, is about to line up against a Councilman who has been a serious irritant to Curry.
When asked to assess Dennis’ performance, Holmes — reached by phone Monday afternoon — was diplomatic.
“He’s doing the best job he can,” Holmes said. “But I can give the community more of what it needs.”
Dennis, who hasn’t filed yet, insists he’s running for re-election. That was news to Holmes.
“I didn’t know he was running again,” Holmes said, saying that Dennis did a “great job his first term.”
Holmes, who currently is an at-risk case manager with first-time offenders at local nonprofit Daniel Kids, sees his experience as being key to “bringing the community together” to “meet the needs of every community” and “get every issue solved.”
There have been strong suggestions that Curry may have an interest in backing an opponent to Dennis. But, says Holmes, he hasn’t talked to the Mayor.
That said, one of Dennis’ Council colleagues — fellow Democrat Reggie Brown, who is running from his Council seat for Gibson’s spot in the Senate — did offer some advice: to go in there and be himself.
Dennis, when asked about facing an opponent for his re-election, was blunt.
“I don’t know who that is,” Dennis said. “Bring it.”
A saga that began with a 2011 business development deal for a BBQ sauce plant and saw one of the business principals elected to City Council along the way descended into drama and nonperformance.
An FBI raid and a subsequent series of legal actions and personal and corporate bankruptcy filings led to a reorg, and the city of Jacksonville poised to eventually get pennies on the dollar for the over $600,000 it fronted to the company.
Last and least: unsecured creditors, such as the city of Jacksonville, which will get back less than $60,000 of the outstanding $380,000 loan back that it ceded the company seven years ago to open an ill-fated sauce plant in economically troubled Northwest Jacksonville.
A $210,000 grant for job creation was unaddressed by the accord. Fifty-six jobs were intended to be created and sustained over five years, but no jobs fit the criteria.
Per WJCT, Duval County School Board member Scott Shine abandoned his re-election bid this year after yet another parlous board meeting.
Shine, who often had a reliable ally on the board in former member and current state Rep. Jason Fischer, has been steeped in conflict with his colleagues — most recently about the push to hire a permanent superintendent, which Shine would have preferred to defer until after this year’s elections (which would see some of his rivals termed off the board).
There are no filed candidates in the race; expect that to change.
McCague to be interim JaxPort CFO
One of Jacksonville’s most respected financial hands is moving over to JAXPORT to be CFO on an interim basis.
Beth McCague, whose most recent public role was as interim director of the formerly embattled Police and Fire Pension Fund, will serve as CFO for the less embattled JAXPORT.
She will handle the port’s capital program and other financial functions, until such time as a permanent CFO is chosen.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been bashed of late for a tendency to ticket black pedestrians who cross illegally more than scofflaws from other demographics, and the latest hits were taken this week at a gathering of faith leaders, per Action News Jax.
“In Jacksonville, African-Americans represent 29 percent of the population, but according to a joint publication by the Florida Times-Union and ProPublica, the black community has received 55 percent of the tickets in recent years. Sheriff Mike Williams has stood by his number of 45 percent, and said this year, after a focus on education rather than enforcement, it’s down to 34 percent,” AN Jax reported.
While there’s “work to do,” Williams maintained that there is not an “epidemic” of overenforcement.
Williams will waltz to re-election. He has raised over $400,000 between hard money and committee cash; his opponent, Tony Cummings, has approximately $200 on hand.
Bean, Byrd present state funding for Fernandina Beach
State Sen. Aaron Bean of Fernandina Beach and state Rep. Cord Byrd of Neptune Beach presented a $450,000 check Tuesday to Fernandina Beach Mayor Johnny Miller and the City Commission. During the 2018 Legislative Session, the two lawmakers secured state funding for crucial shoreline stabilization to the city’s waterfront marina seawall.
“The seawall of Fernandina Beach’s marina sustained extensive damage during Hurricane Irma and has resulted in severe flooding in the downtown area,” Bean said in a statement. “This state funding will help the City of Fernandina Beach replace the deteriorating marina seawall, which will ensure the preservation of our historic downtown for future generations.”
Byrd added: “The Stormwater Shoreline Stabilization project will improve the city’s marina seawall and better serve residents by protecting the historical downtown area from future flooding.”
Fernandina Beach’s Stormwater Shoreline Stabilization project seeks to reduce flooding in the city’s downtown by replacing 270 linear feet of the existing marina seawall. Once installed, the new seawall will be 4 feet taller than its predecessor to better defend downtown Fernandina Beach from storm surges and subsequent damage.
Bean, Daniels present $250K to Jax Sheriff’s Office
Sen. Bean joined state Rep.Daniels of Jacksonville to present a $250K check to Jacksonville Sheriff Williams and Dr. Charles Moreland, attending on behalf of Mayor Curry. During the 2018 Legislative Session, the two Jacksonville-area lawmakers secured state funding for a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Matching Grant.
COPS Grant funds will be used for 15 sworn officer positions to implement a three-pronged approach in policing: A Blight/Nuisance Squad, Sheriff’s Watch Apartments and the Group Violence Intervention Program. The funding allows the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to continue its goal of reducing firearm-related crime and homicides.
“The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office does an exceptional job protecting our community, and this COPS Matching Grant will allow them to keep more officers on the street to fight crime,” Bean said. “This state funding shows the Florida Legislature’s commitment to the men and women of law enforcement and to protecting every citizen in the City of Jacksonville.”
Daniels continued: “I have chaired the Public Health and Safety Committee for the City of Jacksonville and served on the Florida House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. Sponsoring the COPS Grant with Senator Bean is an honor, and I am proud to be able to present this state funding for this great cause.”
District discussion continues
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Lori Boyer has been pushing The District development in recent weeks, and another stakeholder meeting occurred Wednesday with fellow Councilman and former Council President Greg Anderson.
Anderson had questions for Boyer on the proposed development, four years in the making, with construction proposed to wrap by the end of 2022. Politically connected developers Peter RummellandMichael Munz have a deal, as of January, to buy the land for $18.6 million from the JEA Board.
While the Downtown Investment Authority backs the proposal that would remedy a long-standing dead zone, there are a number of stumbling blocks to the deal, not the least of which is City Council approval of what amounts to a public-private partnership.
A report from WJXTsuggests that may be the case, with hundreds of people at the Prime Osborn last weekend to get direction on Jacksonville’s resources.
“The purpose of this is to educate the community as a whole — it doesn’t matter where you live — about the resources that the city provides to its citizens,” said Denise Lee, Jacksonville’s director of Blight Initiatives.
“You meet people all the time and they say, ” Well, I have this problem. ” I say, “Well, we have the city Neighborhoods Department back and they would be more than happy to work with you. We’re having a neighborhood summit. Please come out,” Lee said.
The city brought back its Neighborhoods Department early in Curry’s term.
A newly installed 40-foot-tall tree will soon become the centerpiece of the Jacksonville Zoo African Forest build-out, which will connect each of the new ape exhibits.
As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the unique central tree will connect overhead trails, similar to those in the Zoo’s Land of the Tiger exhibit. The tree – the crux of the $9 million, 4-acre African Forest project – will also contain an internal spiral staircase that will “allow keepers to interact and provide enrichment for the apes in the mesh-enclosed ‘exhibit.’”
Part of the new exhibit – replacing the two-decade-old Great Apes Loop – will feature an “enrichment station” where apes interact with a high-tech touchscreen app.
The Journal also reports that by the end of January, the African Forest project is close to full funding, with $7.3 million out of its $9 million raised. Now, only $400,000 remains to reach its goal.
Save the date: Jacksonville YMCA groundbreaking ceremony
Next month, there will be a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the James Weldon Johnson Family YMCA expansion, which includes a new teen center, swimming pool and other amenities.
According to the invite, the project will provide “necessary resources and new opportunities to help transform the lives of youth and families in Northwest Jacksonville.”
Jaguars draft defensive tackle Taven Bryan from Florida
The Jacksonville Jaguars were in an unfamiliar position going into Thursday night’s NFL draft. Over the past few years, they drafted early in the first round following another losing season.
This year, the team drafted 29th (out of 32) following a turnaround 10-6 season that saw them come within five minutes of reaching the Super Bowl. Going in, they knew an instant starting running back like Leonard Fournette, whom the Jags drafted with the sixth pick last year, was not going be available at 29.
Someone like offensive lineman Cam Robinson, Jacksonville’s 2017 early second-round choice out of Alabama, would still be around. Bolstering the right side of the offensive line was still a need, while the defense is among the top units in the NFL.
They also let it be known maintaining their “smash mouth” style they developed under first-year coach Doug Marrone was in their plans.
“Who’s it going to be? Who knows? said Jaguars’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin before the draft. “But according to the work that we’ve done, we feel that we will get a good football player at that spot.”
At around 11:20 p.m. Thursday, Jaguars fans found out when they plucked 6-foot, 5-inch and 291-pound defensive tackle Taven Bryan from the Florida Gators. In the end, instead of filling some holes on offense, Jacksonville chose to make an outstanding defensive unit even better.
The Jaguars have two more days of draft work yet to do. On Friday, they have the 61st overall pick in the second round and the 93rd selection in the third round. The draft concludes Saturday with rounds 4-7.
They will have picks toward the end of the fourth round, the sixth round and two picks in the seventh round.
Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville mayor running in the Democratic Primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, may be positioning himself to do the unthinkable and capsize incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.
Brown enjoyed a two-to-one fundraising advantage during the first quarter of 2018: $167,088 to $83,866.
Lawson had $100,000 cash on hand at the end of 2017, before Brown got in the race. Now Lawson has just under $160,000 and Brown has just over $127,000.
Can Brown maintain the momentum? That remains to be seen.
Some interesting donors populated Brown’s Q1 report, though not really enough of them.
One such donor: 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, who went in for $250.
Local NAACP head IsaiahRumlin checked in at $2,000. Former CSX head Michael Ward gave $2,700, as did John Baker and JU President Tim Cost.
Brown is light on corporate PAC money, and that’s where Lawson has an edge. Walmart, Boeing, Duke Energy, Rayonier, CSX, cotton and peanut interests all contributed.
Lawson also got Republican money, again, this time from “Friends of Mike H,” the political committee of lobbyist and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
Brown officially launches his campaign next Saturday, with a late morning event at Jacksonville’s IBEW Hall — the meeting place of Duval Democrats.
Lawson, who vowed to retire Brown when the former Mayor entered the race, has got to get his campaign architecture right. While he has hired a senior consultant, the fact remains that Lawson’s campaign apparatus was essentially untested in 2016.
Recall that his victory was over Corrine Brown, who was facing indictment and eventual conviction for the “One Door for Education” scheme. Corrine Brown’s fundraising was anemic, due to not being able to campaign effectively.
Alvin Brown is facing no indictments, no legal clouds. The worst that can be said about him was he was too centrist as Jacksonville Mayor.
Al Lawson needs to show some real fundraising and real momentum, and needs to figure out outreach to Jacksonville.
His staff’s major connection to the city, the connected Jenny Busby, has moved on to Gwen Graham’s gubernatorial campaign.
Lawson has had almost two years to figure it out. Now he has four months.
Can he get it done? Or will Alvin Brown finally (recall that he ran in 1994) go to Congress?
In Jacksonville, tales of the next year of elections have just begun.
In this edition: congressional fundraising. For those needing a guide to both contenders and pretenders, a look at the money (months before voters cast ballots) will tell that tale.
Down the page, our story on City Council fundraising. Some candidates who are not faring so well saw it, as indicated by the relative paucity of glad-handing for our Jacksonville correspondent by players not really in the game.
For those who decry the “horserace coverage” of politics — is it indeed not a race? Courting the donor class, pandering to “the rubes,” emotional appeals, gaming the outcome — they are all hallmarks of a competition.
And for the title of this week’s Bold, we borrowed (stole) from Jay-Z — and not just to ensure Lenny Curry reads it.
“Can’t knock the hustle” serves as a reminder to all of those working this cycle that, even as the physical days get longer, the time to decide your fate is closer to the end than the beginning.
The anxiety of influence
“It’s good to have all these relationships in D.C., but as Senator, you have more influence.”
The above quote, by far, was the most notable offered during Gov. Rick Scott’s tightly messaged “business roundtable” in Jacksonville. It also illustrated a unique dual message; that of the outsider who can play the inside game.
Scott reprised his critique of term limits, coupled with a vision of what he would do as Senator to redress constituent concerns.
Scott vowed, for example, that he would be positioned to help get JAXPORT’s dredge federally funded.
In response to a question about waterways, Scott vowed to talk to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who (depending on who you ask) may or may not have exempted Florida from offshore drilling.
Scott also vowed to meet with heads of other federal agencies.
Scott’s tacit pitch: being able to play the inside game from day one, while still using outsider rhetoric, such as he did on taxes.
Rep. John Rutherford, the former Jacksonville Sheriff who is now representing Northeast Florida’s 4th Congressional District, cleared the $300,000 on-hand mark by the end of March.
Rutherford had not been aggressively fundraising before the just-concluded quarter. Rutherford ended 2017 with $183,748 on hand.
Among Rutherford’s more interesting supporters: Jacksonville donor Peter Rummell, who has said he would only give money to candidates who backed an assault weapons ban. Rutherford never took that position.
Corporate donors include Clear Channel, Viacom, Walmart, and Rayonier.
Rutherford faces no credible primary opponent; however, the Democratic field in the deep-red district is still shaking out, even as none of them thus far enjoy any fundraising traction.
In the Democratic primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, there appears to be a money race after all.
Per a news release from Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville Mayor enjoyed a 2:1 fundraising advantage in Q1 2018.
And that means that Brown has pulled close to incumbent Rep. Al Lawson regarding cash on hand.
For the quarter, Brown brought in $167, 088.73; Lawson $83,866.34.
By the end of 2017, before Brown entered the race, Lawson had $100,000 cash-on-hand. Now Lawson has just under $160,000; Brown has a little over $127K.
Brown is “humbled by the widespread grassroots support for our people-powered campaign, which will allow us to connect with voters across the 5th District. Floridians have proved they are ready for new leadership as Washington politicians continue to care more about self-preservation than fighting for the people back home.”
Ward, Waltz self-finance to replace DeSantis in DC
What’s clear about the race to succeed Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District: There will be a lot of money spent to get the nomination.
Ponte Vedra businessman John Ward still leads with cash-on-hand in the seat that encompasses southern St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties; however, Fox News contributor Mike Waltz is close behind.
As of the end of March, Ward had $709,340 on hand (with $555,000 of that from his own checkbook). Waltz, who loaned his own campaign $400,000, has $653,354 on hand.
On the Republican side, Ward and Waltz are demonstrating the most fundraising ability. Former state Rep. Fred Costello has $15,720 on hand. St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns has yet to report fundraising.
Two Democrats, meanwhile, also show a talent for fundraising.
Democrat Stephen Sevigny said Friday that his campaign brought in $250,000 in the first quarter. Sevigny’s total includes $50,000 in candidate loans. He finished the quarter with $227K on hand.
Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations under Bill Clinton, currently leads the primary field with $920,000 in total fundraising after reporting $375,000 raised for the quarter. With $595K on hand, she is keeping pace with the Republicans, without spending her own money on the campaign so far.
JAXBIZ picks Duggan for HD 15
On Tuesday, JAXBIZ (the political arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce) endorsed Wyman Duggan in House District 15.
“Wyman is an experienced, conservative leader who can make an immediate impact for our community in Tallahassee,” JAXBIZ Chair Dane Grey said. “Wyman understands the importance of growing jobs for hardworking families and attracting investment in our community.”
Duggan faces two Republican opponents in the primary and a lull on the fundraising front. For the second straight month in March, he raised just over $2,000; he has just over $95,000 cash on hand.
Duggan, a land-use attorney with deep connections in Jacksonville, has amassed a phalanx of endorsements since entering the race to succeed Rep. Jay Fant, and the JAXBIZ endorsement confirms his position as the choice of Jacksonville’s political and business establishment.
The bill is now ready for the full Council to vote on it next week.
The money was available, per a city representative, because of “excess debt service” funds from FY 17.
Among the projects to be funded: “Seating bowl repairs and widening of the front entrance plaza at the Arena, steel painting, lighting upgrades, bleacher repairs, upgrading of video control room equipment and concourse televisions, and turf equipment replacements at the baseball grounds, and replacing aging food service equipment, upgrading the phone system, seating bowl repairs, and building system upgrades at the stadium.”
The city has spent big money on the sports complex in recent years.
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 of a $90 million buy-in that secured a new amphitheater, a covered practice field, and club seat improvements.
Council still hashing out cannabis conundrum
Ordinance 2018-75 would revise extant code relative to medical cannabis. However, a Jacksonville City Council committee can’t figure out a way forward, with a deferral on the bill again Monday
The code was formulated in response to “Charlotte’s Web” low-THC cannabis being the single legal strain, and after an extended period of debate, processing and dispensing were allowed in commercial districts, with cultivation permitted in agricultural regions.
That debate was tortuous; so too is this one, with the second deferral of this legislation in Monday’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety Committee pushing back the bill two more weeks.
“This bill puts our code in compliance with Florida statutes,” said a representative from the Office of General Counsel. “The statute prohibits cultivation and processing facilities within 500 feet of a school” but allows a dispensary given a waiver within 500 feet.
However, given a wide range of concerns addressed this week in committee, it is clear that a public-notice meeting will be needed to refine bill language.
Curry draws challenger
Curry faces a challenge on the 2019 ballot, and it all stems from a beef over a boat show.
Former Atlantic Beach Commissioner Jimmy Hill, a Republican like Curry, took issue with a scheduling snafu over a 2017 boat show that led to him being edged out of promoting boat shows altogether, leading ultimately, he says, to Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Now Hill hopes to have the last laugh … and edge Curry out of the Mayor’s office next year.
Hill believes his group was edged out of the boat show because it used Metro Park and was “the last remaining obstacle to getting rid of Metro Park.”
“The Lenny Curry administration is wholly responsible,” Hill said, for the boat show issues.
And now the ultimate revenge: a challenge on the ballot.
Hill, who worked for Curry’s election, asserts that he “misjudged [Curry’s] character and willingness to do the right thing for people.
Moreover, the challenger says he’s not alone in his chagrin with the incumbent.
“There’s a groundswell of people disappointed in the Mayor,” Hill said. “Key players in his administration are steering him in the wrong direction.”
The first candidate to hit $250,000 raised, Matt Carlucci, is suspending fundraising for his at-large race against Don Redman.
Also starting off extremely strong: LeAnna Cumber, who has raised over $170,000 for a district race against Democrat James Jacobs, who has under $500 on hand.
Not every race is seeing robust fundraising, however; For those wanting to get money out of politics, the District 10 race offers a unique illustration. Only one of the six candidates (Kevin Monroe) has more than $1,000 on hand.
Surprising that property or union interests aren’t floating a candidate, bankrolling him and her for reliable votes on issues that may come before the council. But there’s still time.
New JEA interim CEO Aaron Zahn took over this week after a board meeting saw a vote go his way over CFO Melissa Dykes.
There are those close to the process who believe Dykes’ tenure will be short-lived in this role, with other opportunities opening for her elsewhere.
This was not a move many predicted before recent weeks and was presaged with a game of musical chairs, in which Zahn resigned his position to pursue the interim CEO position, one filled by Dykes for the prior week, after longtime JEA CEO Paul McElroy stepped down 10 days ago.
Dykes and Zahn both lobbied board members for the position. But members, appointed by Curry, voted for the Mayor’s man.
Zahn noted that he wanted a “pause” in privatization talks, though he would not say how long that pause needed to be. We got reactions to that from some leading members of the Jacksonville City Council.
Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Cord Byrd this week presented a $375,000 check to Neptune Beach’s Mayor and City Council.
The money was part of an appropriation to bolster the beachfront city’s stormwater drainage system on Florida Boulevard. The Northeast Florida Republicans helped secure the money state budget during the 2018 Legislative Session.
“Once this project is complete, Neptune Beach and the Beaches community will be better prepared for the next storm and have safer access to Florida Boulevard during emergencies,” Bean said.
Byrd added that the project “will improve the Beaches stormwater system and ensure a safe evacuation route for residents during a natural disaster.”
Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown thanked the lawmakers for pushing for the funding and said it “will go a long way toward alleviating our drainage problems in our city and, most importantly, will restore safety to our evacuation route.”
Bean presents $975K to STEM advancement
On Monday, Bean presented a $975,000 check to Kathleen Schofield, executive director of STEM2 Hub; Gary Chartrand, chair of STEM2 Hub Corporate Board and a group of aspiring Northeast Florida STEM students.
During the most recent Session, Bean worked to secure funding for STEM2 Hub’s Northeast Florida 21st Century Workforce Development project, which increases the availability of STEM-related educational programs.
STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — represent some of the fastest-growing, most in-demand career fields in today’s workforce.
“STEM education is vital to the future workforce of our state,” Bean said. “I envision a Florida where all children have the chance to learn these critical skills, so they can realize their truly unlimited potential. This funding moves us closer to fulfilling this vision and provides Northeast Florida’s students with the opportunities needed to compete and excel in the 21st Century.”
The STEM2 Hub project helps schools to continue offering 21st Century Skills Development programs to students in Northeast Florida, with a focus on robotics, coding and workforce-aligned after-school programs and high-quality math instruction. The goal of schools working with the STEM2 Hub is to increase the number of STEM-capable graduates.
“It is so important that we give all students the opportunity to grow competent in the skills of problem-solving and critical thinking,” Schofield said. “We must make students feel connected to community and business leaders, as well as to their schools, so that they see a pathway to their own success.”