Alvin Brown Archives - Page 3 of 43 - Florida Politics

Lenny Curry talks Election 2016 at Jacksonville Marco Rubio HQ

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been an enthusiastic supporter and friend of Sen. Marco Rubio, dating back to a time before Rubio was in the U.S. Senate.

Evidence of that political symbiosis abounds in more recent memory.

Rubio was a prominent backer of Curry’s mayoral bid, coming into town for a rally the day before the May 2015 election that swept Curry into office over Alvin Brown, the Democratic incumbent considered unassailable by media types.

Curry backed Rubio in the Florida presidential primary, undaunted by polls headed up to the March vote that showed Trump poised to take Duval County and the rest of the state.

Beyond politics, the two have functioned well in the policy realm, with Curry and Rubio working together to offer long-delayed, meaningful redress for the residents of some of Jacksonville’s most neglected HUD properties.

During that brief period after Rubio left the presidential race, there was some question as to whether he would run for re-election after all.

Curry was one of those who publicly urged Rubio to reconsider his decision to leave the Senate, saying, “we need Marco Rubio for the skills he brings to the table.”

Rubio, of course, ran, dispatching Carlos Beruff in the primary before a more competitive general election battle against Patrick Murphy.

On Monday morning, Curry was showing support for Rubio again, thanking volunteers at a Southside Jacksonville HQ.

Rubio, Curry said, “reached out last week” to ask Curry to help “get the message out” and “get people to turn out.”

“A whole lot of us pushed him to run again,” Curry added.

“This is an important election,” Curry said, from “the top of the ticket on down,” especially the U.S. Senate.

There, Curry said, Rubio’s “strong voice” and willingness to engage on “tough issues” stand out.

Among the topics that came up with media: early voting.

“Early voting is becoming the new normal,” Curry said.

Regarding the gap of over 4,000 votes between Democrats and Republicans in Duval County, Curry emphasized the importance of “ground game” to close that gap for the GOP side.

There are a variety of opinions as to how Duval’s vote distribution ultimately will shake out.

Duval County typically goes red on Election Day.

But this is an atypical year, with changes in voting patterns and a realignment of the GOP along Trumpian lines providing meaningful wildcards that preclude precise forecasting of how the election will go, in Duval and everywhere else.

African-American mayors bring a message to St. Pete and Tampa: Vote for Hillary

As the election enters the homestretch, a group of African-American mayors and former mayors from across the U.S. have jumped on the bus for Hillary Clinton — literally.

They’re taking a bus around Florida on the “Souls to Polls Train” to take a message to the African-American and Latin communities in particular — elect Hillary.

“Her message is the message of hope,” Philip Levine, mayor of Miami Beach, said Friday.

If elected, the mayors said, Clinton will help hopes come true with promises of jobs, an increased minimum wage, free college tuition for those whose parents can’t afford it, investment in neglected communities, money for infrastructure improvements, $25 billion for entrepreneurship and small business, and an emphasis on early childhood education.

“She’s laid out a clear vision” where education is concerned, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown said. “She’s the most qualified, but we have to get out and vote.”

The group stopped in Tampa Friday morning before coming to St. Petersburg where they toured the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American Museum before visiting individual areas along the historic 22nd Street South corridor. They planned to finish their St. Petersburg visit with a meal at Chief’s Creole Café.

Along the way, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia said, they’d deliver the message and urge people to get out and vote for Clinton.

“She’s ready to serve,” Nutter said. “She’s ready on Day 1. … People have to come out and vote.”

The election is Nov. 8. Early voting begins Monday.

Buddy Dyer, Phillip Levine, Bob Buckhorn, others on Mayors for Hillary bus tour

What a party bus this will be. A Democratic Party bus, filled with mayors from Florida including Orlando’s Buddy Dyer, Miami Beach’s Phillip Levine, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn, and St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman, has begun a cross-state tour to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

Hillary for America announced Thursday that those four and 19 other mayors and former mayors — some from out-of-state cities like Detroit, Philadelphia and Dallas — are participating in the tour with at least four stops to promote Clinton’s economic plan and urge people to vote early.

The activity actually began Wednesday night with a kick-off debate watch party in Miami, and will roll Friday to Orlando and Gainesville, and Saturday to Tallahassee, with other stops yet to be scheduled or announced.

In addition to Levine — widely discussed as a 2018 gubernatorial candidate — Dyer, Buckhorn and Kriseman, the Florida mayors include Wayne Messam of Miramar, Oliver Gilbert of Miami Gardens, Lauren Poe of Gainesville; Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee, Thomas Masters of Riviera Beach, and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

From out of state, Florida will meet William Bell of Birmingham, Alabama, Jacqueline Goodall of Forest Heights, Maryland, Sly James of Kansas City, Lovely Warren of Rochester New York, Malcolm Clark of Mt. Vernon, New York, Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, Bill Bell of Durham, North Carolina, and former mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, Mike Coleman of Columbus, Ohio, Wellington Webb of Denver, Dennis Archer of Detroit, and Ron Kirk of Dallas.

Lenny Curry defends missing debit card investigation

A fun #jaxpol mystery of 2015 — accounting for $27,000 worth of missing employee incentive debit cards from the Alvin Brown administration — petered out this month.

“City debit cards reported missing were in a safe all along,” reported the Jax Daily Record.

In November 2015, Curry directed the inspector general to look into the debit card issue and to connect with the state attorney as appropriate.

However, in October of this year (justice moves slowly), the OIG determined that $3,100 in cards, which were in a safe the whole time, were all that were at issue, and the larger number was reported erroneously.

In an email to senior staff, Curry defended his vigilance on the debit card issue.

Curry says the story “gets one part right and that is that the Brown administration did not properly account for these cards, the attached story and other stories do not represent material facts.”

From there, Curry offered a recap.

Curry noted that once his team learned an “employee debit card program existed,” an “inventory of the cards” was requested.

That inventory was conducted by two senior staffers.

From there, a treasury employee found an envelope in a safe with $27,000 in “unaccounted for/missing debit cards.”

Curry noted that, after requesting an investigation by the inspector general, it took “six MONTHS from the date we asked for the investigation to when the IG secured and examined the contents of the safe. Due to lack of controls by the previous administration, any number of unknown people had access to that safe.

“We would not have asked the IG to engage if we believed those cards were in that safe. The safe should have been secured and audited at the time the investigation was announced,” Curry noted.

“No one can conclude those cards were in that safe based on the facts. We did the right thing by asking for an IG investigation to find the cards,” Curry concluded.

Jacksonville City Council members consider struggling commercial corridors

On Thursday, Jacksonville City Council members Scott Wilson, John Crescimbeni, and Greg Anderson convened to discuss an issue of interest to Wilson: commercial corridors in need of re-development.

Wilson, elected in 2015, has contended Jacksonville’s economic incentives policy doesn’t accommodate his district on Jacksonville’s Southside, where many neighborhoods have economic issues, but don’t qualify for incentives in the city’s recently formulated policy.

While the idea is to encourage retail development, the short answer is there are no easy answers to problems of disuse and misuse that built over decades.

One option could be Residential Recapture Enhanced Value Grants, or REV Grants, which could defray the cost of some improvements over time, such as facade improvements and landscaping.

An open question is whether that grant would “move the needle” to drive incentive.

For businesses like used car lots and mechanics, these modest grants wouldn’t really drive the kind of commercial redevelopment needed.

Paul Crawford, a representative from the mayor’s office’s economic development department, suggested  a way forward would be to change the use, into a “productive retail space.”

Many properties weren’t designed for their current uses, Crawford said.

Councilman Crescimbeni noted previous zoning decisions “opened the door” for a preponderance of used car lots and the like in Arlington, suggesting that changing the zoning categories may be the move.

“Down zoning” properties would have a gradual effect, with current tenants grandfathered in, Crescimbeni said.

Amortization was also discussed, creating a hard deadline for compliance with zoning criteria, which could change the topography of these “blightscapes” over time.

Another issue with the zoning in some parts of the Southside and Arlington: the fact that commercial zoning can go back a couple of properties into neighborhoods.

A potential solution: a zoning overlay to create larger, albeit gradual, zoning changes.

With overlays in Jacksonville, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, though the zoning issues in once-thriving areas seem to come down to used car dealerships and other businesses not conducive to residential prosperity.

Anderson discussed areas on the Westside, such as Blanding and San Juan, that have become hotbeds of more sordid businesses in recent years.

Hardscaping was discussed as one potential solution. Also discussed were community development block grant dollars, which may be difficult in these areas given that they aren’t quite economically distressed enough.

Crescimbeni laid out a problem: “planning commissioners aren’t accountable to anybody … and right now, we have a planning commission that never met an exception it didn’t like.”

Of course, the planning commission went through some big changes about a year ago, when Alvin Brown appointees were scuttled in favor of Lenny Curry adherents.

Alvin Brown, active surrogate for Hillary Clinton

In the mayor’s office in Jacksonville’s city hall, there was a new addition this week: a portrait of former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown to hang next to the pictures of previous mayors.

Brown, informed sources tell us, was not cooperative with the process: a rite of passage for former Jacksonville mayors, generally involving a painting paid for with private funds.

Brown’s photograph has been blown up and framed on the fourth floor of the St. James Building; however, even if Brown were a regular fixture at Jacksonville’s city hall, he wouldn’t see it between now and the election.

Brown is serving as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail.

This is no surprise, of course. The Democrat did some important work in the first Clinton administration, and has served as an opening speaker for Bill Clinton during the former president’s own visits to Jacksonville.

However, Brown’s current role involves helping to make the sale for the Hillary Clinton ticket in a number of far-flung areas.

In doing so, Brown is doing some of the work in the trenches, with forays into small towns outside of the media glare.


On Sept. 20 and 21, for example, Brown was part of the “Stronger Together” bus tour through Ohio. Part of Brown’s role: the “thank the volunteers” deal, as Brown and other mayors did in Dayton and other Buckeye State burgs.

Brown also serves up talking points that shore up the center-left and theoretically appeal to independent voters.

“She knows the cities are a place of innovation, creativity, the economic engine of our community all across the country,” Brown said of Clinton to the Springfield News. “She wants to put America back to work and that starts by working with everyone.”

Brown also broke ranks with his former political friend, Rick Scott, and cast aspersions toward the GOP presidential candidate to the Sandusky Register““There really isn’t another option. The other candidate has offended every constituent and group in this country. She has a proven track record; she’s qualified; and she has a plan.”

Brown also extolled Clinton’s five-year plan, saying Clinton had a “vision for America … [with] focus on small businesses and entrepreneurs. She knows cities. Her five-year plan, which she will pass in her first 100 days, will focus on rebuilding streets, highways, crumbling schools, and jobs.”

“No matter what zip code you live in, she’s going to be the president for every city in America,” Brown said.


Last Friday, Brown was in Oklahoma City meeting with former colleagues at the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

On Saturday, Brown issued what were called “strong remarks” at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s Spratt Issues Conference.

The SCDP’s social media person called Brown a “senior adviser” for Hillary Clinton.


Brown’s role with the Clinton campaign has been below the radar, but has been ongoing for months.

Al Sharpton referred to Brown as a “senior adviser” in a July Tweet, regarding Brown’s speech at a meeting of the National Action Network.

When contacted regarding Brown’s role at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Clinton campaign offered no comment.

However, if Hillary Clinton wins, a reasonable expectation is that Brown will secure an administration job of some type.

Ironically, that would tie in with rhetoric put forth from the Lenny Curry campaign last year: that Brown was “dreaming of his next D.C. job.”


A job in Washington would be ideal in some ways for Brown, who (as opposed to most former mayors) has been absent from the public square since his election loss in May 2015.

However, to achieve that goal, he has a job beforehand.

That job: to travel where he’s needed, and to help Hillary Clinton make the sale to groups still unconvinced.

James Clyburn sees enthusiasm and generational gaps plaguing Hillary Clinton campaign

On Monday, South Carolina’s Rep. James Clyburn hosted a “call to action” conversation in Jacksonville with supporters of Hillary Clinton.

Clyburn was last in Jacksonville in 2015, campaigning for a protege — former Mayor Alvin Brown — in a campaign that saw the mayor’s re-election thwarted by an enthusiasm gap in the base.

Clyburn is conscious of similar gaps for Clinton, which he attributes to a bruising primary and to a heavily motivated Donald Trump base.

The South Carolina congressman noted positive auguries for Clinton, such as USA Today’s editorial making the case against Trump, and Republican newspapers endorsing Clinton.

Another positive sign: Trump’s tax issues, which Clyburn likened to Watergate in terms of the magnitude of the scandal.

However, despite the case against Trump being made, the “campaign is too close” because the campaign has “not done a good enough job telling people why they should vote for Hillary Clinton.”

Clyburn compared Clinton to 1988 nominee Michael Dukakis. He, too, came out of the Democratic convention with a two-digit lead but ended up “defined by the Willie Horton ad,” which “came out of the Democratic primary,” where Al Gore used it.

Republican operative Lee Atwater refined and rebooted it, said Clyburn, and “that spelled doom for Dukakis.”

Clyburn noted the generation gap in the Democratic primary, insisting the Clinton campaign “cannot allow this campaign of Hillary Clinton to be defined by the primary.”

“The millennials are crying out for guidance from us,” Clyburn said to a largely over-50 crowd in Jacksonville comprised of elected leaders and party activists.

Clyburn believes that on issues such as criminal justice reform and infrastructure renewal, Clinton’s platform is stronger than Trump’s.

However, engaging the millennials for Clinton is far from a done deal, and is necessary, given that Trump’s support is strong and in hard-to-gauge areas.

Clyburn spoke of driving up U.S. Highway 52 in South Carolina, “seeing Trump signs everywhere … every now and then Confederate flags.”

Trump’s GOTV campaign is, said Clyburn, “on the back roads” in South Carolina and other battleground states, with “field officers” poised to turn the vote out.

Clyburn noted on occasion that Clinton could do a better job choosing her words, including her reference to half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”

“She should have said a lot of deplorables,” Clyburn said, referencing David Duke and “white nationalists” as filling the bill.

Clyburn noted that when Trump says he’s a “law-and-order guy,” that’s a “code word for deplorables.”

A year into the reboot, the honeymoon is over for Jax Journey

When running for office in 2015, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry vowed to bring back the Jacksonville Journey.

Under previous mayor Alvin Brown, many Journey programs had been moved to the purview of other organizations, such as the Jacksonville Children’s Commission. Funding levels for the Journey were cut.

Curry’s vows to reinstate the Journey coincided, especially during the later stretches of the campaign, with visits to places like Grand Park — areas that time and infrastructural renewal forgot.

Once elected, Mayor Curry stuck to his word.

His transition committees, in June 2015, looked at ways to revive Journey initiatives.

At that point, former Jacksonville City Councilman Johnny Gaffney gave an interesting quote to WJCT: “[The community] wants to make sure that these dollars are going to what’s going to help their causes or help the community. So we have to get their buy-in or they [will] be pretty frustrated with their council people and call in. The city council person has to advocate for their constituents.”

Curry’s first budget saw an uptick in Journey funding. When introducing it to Council in July, with a more than 100 percent budget increase, the mayor said “all lives matter” and “these are Jacksonville’s children.”

Beyond the budgetary commitment, Curry spent time in 2015 seeing which Journey programs worked and which ones were less successful.

A “Day of Journey” in 2015 saw the mayor visiting various places that received Journey funding, such as an Alternatives to Out of School Suspension center on Jacksonville’s Southside and a day care facility in Arlington.

“It’s one thing to look at programs on a spreadsheet,” Curry said, “another to go out and see what they’re doing.”

Even during that Day of Journey, there were suggestions there may be limitations on how much these programs — funded with around $5 million a year to help kids in 10 of the most troubled zip codes — can do.

The woman running the day care facility in Arlington shined a spotlight on the profound disadvantages that infants and toddlers faced, saying “some of the kids in the neighborhood aren’t up to par” when it comes to being able to achieve learning outcomes. For example, some of the VPK students are “behind in speech,” a function of inadequate socialization … the kind of thing that, if left unchecked, leads to greater issues as these youngsters mature.

After his “Day of Journey,” Curry rebranded the Jacksonville Journey as the “Jax Journey” in December, framing the reboot in aspirational language.

“Arguably, this is the most important thing we’ll be doing in the years ahead,” Curry said.

The Journey, Curry emphasized, is “about making sure that young people know that we love them, we care for them, and they know we’re going to invest in them.”

Curry mentioned the $5 million budget for the Journey as “just a start,” as he expects to ramp up this program in the years ahead.

However, as is often the case, expectations and reality can diverge. And one unanticipated pressure point, in terms of at least one member of the council on budget night, turned out to be the usage of data itself and the program’s ultimate efficacy in the targeted zip codes.


The fissure started months back, with Councilman Scott Wilson questioning the city’s use of data for economic incentives, which are tailored toward census tracts, not blocks.

There were other issues with the data used: the city limited the data used for incentive calculations to high unemployment and low income, deciding not to factor in other calculations like high school graduation rates and median housing prices.

But even then, Wilson’s assistant mentioned her boss felt the more hardscrabble areas of his district were shorted on Journey funds.

Though that seemingly ephemeral subcommittee meeting came and went, the fissure it spawned in the reflexively pro-Journey consensus grew into a full-scale crack on budget night last Tuesday, when the normally reserved Wilson called for a floor amendment: to remove half of the Journey’s funding, in order to get a more precise data regarding the Journey’s impact on crime rates.

Wilson noted there were areas in zip codes in his inner Southside district that had issues just as glaring as those found in some Journey zip codes.

Wilson’s motion failed. But it did not go unnoticed among those responsible for oversight of the Journey.


Ahead of Thursday’s joint meeting of the Jacksonville Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission, Journey oversight board chair W.C. Gentry expressed his “disappointment” with Councilman Wilson for his attempted floor amendment to take half the funds from the Journey’s FY 16/17 budget.

Wilson’s sticking point was a lack of granular enough crime data for the Journey, which addresses issues in what Gentry calls “the worst-of-the-worst” zip codes.

Wilson contends there are high-crime areas in his district; Gentry told that while pockets in Wilson’s Southside district have issues, the Journey formula is limited by budget constraints.

Essentially, if the Journey had more money, it could do more than just the 10 zip codes in North and West Jacksonville.

Gentry noted crime data is processed by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and aggregated by a third-party vendor, NLP Logic.

When NLP Logic signed on earlier in the Curry administration, the plan was for a more “data driven” approach.

Gentry also added that, contrary to the assertions of some on the council who seemed to believe Journey initiatives were open to anyone in a zip code, there was a priority on youth who demonstrated poverty and disadvantage.

In other words, kids living in million-dollar homes on the river were not benefiting from the programs designed to uplift people in Section 8 housing.

Clearly, though, the Journey is still a work in progress … and that reality was underscored by the quarterly meeting of the Jax Journey Oversight Committee and the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, which offered an overview of a summer camp program that didn’t go as well as it could have.

At a previous Journey meeting, there were concerns the summer camp program wasn’t meeting literacy goals, in part because needed books were not provided.

Minutes from the July meeting of the Journey revealed “a critical component of this program has not been followed because this vendor did not purchase the read-aloud books, and we are in week five of the program. There cannot be a reading program without books to read, and these children need to have their own books in order to improve their fluency.

“Additional $25 per week per child was paid to a service that has not been provided, and there has been no monitoring or visits by the Children’s Commission; what we have is a program that have children who at this time cannot read and will not receive the benefits of what we were expecting, and we do not get the benefit of the dollars spent for the program,” the minutes continued.

“If we’re going to engage into these programs … we need to build into this program teachers,” said Gentry, who said it was a learning experience.

“We also need to have a clear understanding of our respective goals in these programs,” Gentry added.

“We’re focused on a program … how we best work together,” Gentry continued.

From the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, Jon Heymann addressed ways to work together in order to meet common goals.

Gentry contended “at a macro level, it may make sense,” but there may be divergence elsewhere.

“We need to get out of the box. Stop treating every program the same. Stop letting the vendors do whatever the hell they want to do within certain parameters,” Gentry said, urging “thinking out of the box” and “getting real specific about certain populations of children.”

Gentry and Heyman discussed literacy enrichment, including summer school and after school programs.

Other challenges include funding.

“We are working on faith that the mayor will continue to support this as well as the city council,” Heymann said.

Part of the problem with long-term planning: the budget year begins Oct. 1, well after the school year, which requires assurances that can’t necessarily be provided when the budget is passed in Jacksonville in late-September.

Discussed: a survey conducted after the summer camps.

As the summer went on, the attendance dropped off, suggesting an “engagement problem.”

The focus was to recruit from Section 8 housing, and there seemed to be an advantage in terms of attendance when the locations were close to the housing.

Of the 495 participants, 46 attended every day, while 78 attended less than half of the possible days.

Gentry suggested “more money” from the city council. Heymann noted six of the seven camp sites had no experience running academically oriented camps.

Journey Project Director Debbie Verges suggested tying payment to vendors with measurable, data-driven achievement.

The cost impact of the literacy component: $100 per week per student, versus $75 a week without literacy.

The conversation turned then to the larger mission of each group.

“Some of our city council doesn’t understand what we’re doing … we’re focused on areas with the highest crime and highest poverty,” Gentry said.

Heymann noted the complaining councilman’s district receives over $1.2 million from the Children’s Commission.

Unlike the Journey, the Children’s Commission addresses the entire city, not just high-crime areas.

Conversation also included a memorandum of understanding between the groups, with discussion including avoiding overlap.

Heymann asserted the memorandum should address “what needs oversight by whom.”

Gentry noted that understanding of the Journey programs has become more holistic over time, with a move from dealing with middle school kids’ behavioral problems, to improving literacy among elementary school students so they don’t become the behavioral problems of the future.

There are a number of students, Gentry said, who can’t read at all by the third grade.

“We need an absolute commitment from DCPS,” Gentry said, to put strong “literacy” teachers in high-risk schools, and make those teachers available after school.

“It’s a challenge,” Gentry said, given the school district’s “retention problems.”

In two or three years, Gentry said, there could be a tremendous impact.

But that impact would require a real resource commitment. And collaboration across platforms.

Another issue, identified by Gentry: not every school principal shares the commitment to these programs.

And these programs take time — perhaps three years — to show results.

“It won’t happen the first year,” Gentry said, but by year three “the number of proficient readers could triple.”

“We’re going to have to bring in the very best people in children’s programs,” Gentry said, “to engage the kids” and to “trick them into reading.”

As well, Gentry added, there are discrete missions for the Journey and the Children’s Commission: the Journey’s mandate is to reduce crime, while the Children’s Commission is to help kids more broadly.

“Everyone wants services. Everyone has crime. Everyone has poverty,” Gentry said. “We’re trying to focus on the worst areas.

“People are going to want it all over the community, but it can’t be all over the community without money,” Gentry added.

Also discussed: the two-generation approach used in Jacksonville, which helps parents improve their skills through the Library Expanded Access Program.

Heymann said there is a “huge need” in this area, as there are parents who don’t read proficiently enough to model reading at home.

The takeaway from the meeting: there will be an Memorandum of Understanding between the two groups, and they will develop a meaningful framework so they can work together.

“We need as the Journey to do a better job laying out the scope of the work,” Gentry said, refining “deliverables” and making the RFP better for future literacy programs, and everything else.

The Journey rose a decade ago under John Peyton, fell under Alvin Brown, and is now ascendant again. However, what is clear is that the honeymoon period’s aspirational rhetoric has now faded into the grey slog of operational reality.

The Journey Oversight Committee meets at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Will Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy debate in Jacksonville?

The Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute, in conjunction with WJXT-TV, has hosted a number of meaningful debates in the last couple of years.

Candidates for mayor and sheriff have debated at the private university, as have candidates for state attorney and the United States Congress.

Now, the non-partisan Public Policy Institute wants the two major party candidates for the United States Senate to debate.

So far, one of them (Marco Rubio) has confirmed a willingness to debate. And the Public Policy Institute has indicated a willingness to set a date that works for both campaigns.

PPI director Rick Mullaney extended an invitation to Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy to a televised debate before the election.

Mullaney, a veteran of politics himself, understands the nature of political scheduling, and he’s said that the broadcast partners would be “flexible” on the date.

Murphy, thus far, has not responded to the invitation, but Mullaney is “hopeful” that response will come and will be affirmative.

We have reached out to the Murphy campaign for status on this also.


It is worth noting that, at least in terms of local and regional races, debates held at Jacksonville University have shifted electoral narratives.

The pivotal third debate between Lenny Curry and Alvin Brown certainly contributed to a changing of the guard in Jacksonville’s City Hall.

And the sole televised debate between Corrine Brown and Al Lawson saw the incumbent congresswoman become unhinged, comparing the federal charges against her to unfounded claims of sexual deviance among the media.

Rubio and Murphy, both careful and polished public speakers, undoubtedly would avoid such pyrotechnics.


That being said, a debate between these candidates would certainly help to educate Northeast Florida voters on these two candidates.

Rubio, who had strong support among Jacksonville’s establishment during his campaign for United States President, is a known quantity regionally.

Murphy has had, thus far, less exposure in Northeast Florida.

This debate could change that.

If it happens.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Donna Deegan is ready to talk politics. And Jacksonville will listen.

Donna Deegan is very much a Jacksonville institution, legendary for her work in a number of different forums.

Deegan, a Jacksonville native and an alumna of Bishop Kenny High School, anchored for First Coast News from 1992 to 2016, showing in that role a penchant for hard news and a willingness to dive into challenging stories.

While anchoring for First Coast News, Deegan faced challenges of her own: specifically, three bouts of breast cancer. Indomitably, she overcame all three occurrences, documenting her journey in two memoirs and, in 2008, beginning “26.2 with Donna: the National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.”

Deegan long ago transcended her former role as newscaster. Now, she’s entering a different space — the world of the podcast, which will begin on Oct. 6 at the new downtown Jacksonville hotspot: Intuition Ale Works.

The Political Happy Hour (also branded as #JaxPol: the Live Edition) will be a collaboration with Abel Harding, a veteran of the Alvin Brown administration, and the Florida Times-Union.

Harding and Deegan clearly wanted to get back in the game, and the podcast is a way to do it. spoke with Deegan about her reasons for jumping in to a new show at the peak of the election season.

Deegan said Harding suggested it via email; he missed talking about politics, and so did she, noting that “the only thing [she misses] about broadcast journalism” is the ability to do deep dives into political issues.

For Deegan — a cousin of the ever-loquacious Councilman Tommy Hazouri — politics is “bloodsport” in her family.

One can expect that, for both Harding and Deegan, the ability to go in depth and no-holds-barred on political topics will be welcome; though both have copious experiences on the news end, the nature of a podcast allows — even demands — more editorial license.

As does the nature of recording a podcast during Happy Hour at a raucous brew house.

For Deegan, this comes at the right time. She’s noticed that, over the years locally, “political discourse has gotten less civil” and “more inflammatory and ridiculous” with party identification becoming “more entrenched.”

She attributes a certain amount of that to the 24/7 news cycle, and the way social media magnifies the pyrotechnics.

“I have been very critical,” Deegan said, of “how news media has responded” to that.

“There’s room for intelligent discussion,” Deegan adds, “room for a little more depth.”

Part of the problem reporters have — both on the local beat and nationally — is the assembly line nature of media production.

“Back in the day,” Deegan said, “reporters didn’t have to do five stories a day.”

And they had more help doing it, as opposed to the skeleton crews currently in operation on some stories.

Because of the nature of the rapid-fire production model, Deegan believes an unavoidable superficiality has crept into the product.

“Give this side 20 seconds, that side 20 seconds … OK, I’m covered,” is how Deegan aptly characterized that.

Deegan believes there’s room for something better, for “going in and finding truth.”

And if “that means one side ends up looking good, and the other side ends up looking bad,” if that’s the truth, so be it.

Deegan, a veteran of over three decades of broadcast journalism in total, doesn’t blame the people in the field.

“Day-to-day reporters just don’t have the bandwidth to do what needs to be done,” Deegan said, and — perhaps inexorably — they get “played by politicians.”

Ultimately, the reductive nature of the product serves the democratic process poorly.

And the Political Happy Hour should be seen as a corrective to that.

The format likely will be three segments, lasting 20 to 25 minutes each, and two are already planned: a segment on the impending re-introduction of a bill to expand Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance, and a segment on the presidential election.

Despite that national topic on Oct. 6, Deegan said this is “largely a local political show,” and Harding and she are “definitely talking HRO.”

Deegan, with a note of frustration in her voice, noted the prevailing political narrative ahead of the pension-tax referendum Aug. 30 was that “there’s absolutely no room to get anything else done” until the referendum vote passed.

The HRO, Deegan added, “needs to be kept on the front burner.”

Beyond the hot-button HRO, Deegan also expects the format to include deep dives into “district-by-district” material.

“The idea really is to get people more connected to their political environment. People will care more if they understand more,” Deegan said.

And — make no mistake — this project is about synthesizing knowledgeable presentation, via guests who can speak to issues, with audience engagement.

Deegan notes that they will be “sitting very close to the audience,” with the idea of promoting engagement among those on hand.

“Anybody can sit and talk to elected officials,” Deegan notes, but interacting with the audience is key.

Speaking of elected officials, Deegan resoundingly laughed when asked if she planned to run for office.

There is a sad irony to that.

Writing as someone who covers a city council where at least one committee chair routinely has to have bills explained to him, it would be wonderful if engaged, thoughtful, passionate community activists were jumping into the political scrum … instead of, say, people who show up a half hour late for meetings.

However, the ballot’s loss is the political podcast world’s gain. And starting Oct. 6, there will be an instant frontrunner for best podcast in this neck of the woods, when Deegan and Harding kick off the Political Happy Hour at Intuition Ale Works.

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