Alvin Brown – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Lenny Curry laments ‘senseless violence’ on Jacksonville streets

Mayors come and go, but the bloodtide on Jacksonville streets continues.

This weekend, yet another child was caught in the line of fire.

Seven-year-old Tashawn Gallon was gunned down in Durkeeville Sunday night. Per the Florida Times-Union, he died hours after being shot in a drive-by.

“Last night a 7 yr. old was killed in a drive-by shooting in our city. We must come together as a community and stop this senseless violence to give our kids a sense of hope and peace,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted Monday.

Durkeeville, a rough neighborhood for decades now, is on the periphery of downtown Jacksonville.

“This happened less than 2 miles from City Hall, Within 2 miles of our government and churches and schools and FSCJ and firehouses and sheriff substations, all institutions designed to help keep a community safe and allow kids the security to grow and learn how to make choices and follow dreams,” Curry continued.

“In the shadow of all that opportunity and assistance, a 7 yr. old had life stolen by someone so hopeless and directionless that they didn’t hesitate to recklessly turn our streets into a war zone. We have to break through to these young people. We have to find a way to make them recognize there is so much more for them than they can imagine if they choose to believe in hope and peace.”

Small children being shot: a running theme in Jacksonville homicides, and something that Curry has all too routinely had to address during his two and a half years in office.

After a November 2016 shooting of an infant, Curry addressed the problem with similar urgency.

“When you have a child shot and killed,” Curry said, that “wakes the community up.”

“When this happened,” Curry continued, “there were other shootings happening in the city … and the night before, and the night before that.”

2016 also saw the shooting of toddler Aiden McClendon, which Curry described as the toughest thing he ever had to deal with as mayor.

Jacksonville saw 142 murders in 2017. That was one murder short of the record set in 2008.

Curry ran for office on a platform that included stopping the violent crime in Jacksonville streets.

In 2015, Curry’s campaign rhetoric was fiery.

He claimed that since Brown’s election, “murder and crime” have spiked, and we’re now “even seeing kids dying on the street.” Brown’s “inability to manage a budget” led to “fewer cops [and a] spike in crime and the murder rate.”

Brown, said Curry, “demonstrated that he was not serious about [reducing] crime over the last four years.”

By the end of that campaign, Brown was talking tough, saying in a May news conference to gangbangers that “we are not going to tolerate it anymore. You do the crime, you are going to pay the time.”

He had also requested help from the Justice Department.

Curry prioritized restoring the “Jacksonville Journey” as a candidate. Since he has been in office, the mayor reorganized youth programs under the aegis of the Kids Hope Alliance.

What’s clear, however, is that campaign rhetoric and policy follow-through haven’t caused the murder rate to abate.

Alvin Brown links Al Lawson to Donald Trump in Tallahassee ad buy

What’s clear: former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown has a strategy to win the Democratic primary against Rep. Al Lawson in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Brown is running a TV ad in Tallahassee, Lawson’s home base, proclaiming Lawson to be President Donald Trump‘s “favorite Democrat.” [SEE THE AD HERE]

The ad juxtaposes Trump approving of Lawson applauding him during the State of the Union address with Trump’s comments that there were “very fine people on both sides” during the violence in Charlottesville over Confederate monuments, incidents that saw peaceful protesters besieged by white supremacists, with one casualty.

“From his defense of racist neo-Nazis after the tragedy in Charlottesville, to his slash and burn agenda that cuts infrastructure, Medicare and education to give more tax cuts to the top one percent, Donald Trump has shown time and again where his loyalties lie. The people of the 5th District deserve a leader who will condemn and stand up to Donald Trump’s vicious attacks on our community — not applaud him and his hate-fueled rhetoric,” Brown said Friday.

Lawson’s ability to defend the seat is increasingly questioned by Jacksonville Democrats, given a combination of lackluster fundraising and endorsements that have gone Brown’s way.

Clearly, a Tallahassee ad buy is meant to suppress Lawson’s share of the vote in the district’s western flank.

There will be a digital ad buy for the spot also, Brown’s first in this campaign.

Worth noting: underfunded Corrine Brown was not able to run TV against Lawson, who had one ad in the Jacksonville market when Lawson won the Democratic primary race in 2016.

In a three-way race, Lawson garnered just 47 percent of the vote, beating an already-indicted Brown by fewer than 10 points.

Jacksonville Sports and Entertainment head Dave Herrell resigns

A shakeup in the office of Mayor Lenny Curry ends a particularly eventful week in Jacksonville politics.

Sports and Entertainment head Dave Herrell resigned, capping an almost four-year run after being appointed in 2014 by former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. The role, per Brown, was “a key position to build Jacksonville’s momentum as a premier destination for major sports and entertainment events.”

“It’s a sweet job for Herrell, who will earn $155,000,” observed the Tenneseean newspaper when Herrell was hired

Herrell was responsible in a previous role for elevating the status of the Fiesta Bowl; however, the TaxSlayer Bowl was not particularly elevated in his term.

Budget hearings between Herrell’s department and the Mayor’s senior staff, at times, were contentious, with Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and others questioning the necessity for the department as it was constituted.

Herrell’s Resignation Letter indicates that, while the resignation is effective April 10, the actual departure date was February 9.

Herrell will use his leave time to “pursue professional opportunities.”

Meanwhile, there is a vacancy to fill in Curry’s senior team, as Chief of Staff Brian Hughes continues to settle into the role.

Marsha Oliver, spokeswoman for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, confirmed Friday that Herrell resigned, but gave no indication as to why beyond providing the letter.

Developing story, expect updates.

Jacksonville Bold for 2.16.18 — Power play

Before we get to federal and state news, let’s take a look at local drama.

In what has been the roughest week for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, his administration pushed forth to a skeptical City Council and the querulous crowd a controversial report Wednesday urging the sale of the local public utility.

The valuation study was released in draft form last week, suggesting that this is the best time ever for Jacksonville to unload all (or part) of its public utility.

It was a tough week for Lenny Curry.

JEA CEO Alan Howard requested a City Council meeting. He was rebuffed by Council President Anna Brosche, who nonetheless had to preside over the meeting anyway when Curry called a conclave.

Gone are the halcyon days of Friday pep rallies with Curry and Brosche cheerleading the Jaguars in Council Chambers, lost in a phalanx of claims, counterclaims and character assassinations. In Wednesday’s meeting, the mayor called the Council president a liar when she said Curry wanted an authorization to explore a JEA sale, followed by Brosche’s assistant saying Curry’s chief of staff “accosted” her, creating a hostile work environment.

The sale, per a General Counsel memo, would require a two-thirds City Council vote. That would be a proverbial heavy lift, given that going into Wednesday, most Council members who had an opinion were skeptical. Some wanted a referendum (not permissible, per the memo).

Others thought a sale is bad business.

And for many skeptics, it wasn’t lost on them that Curry patron Tom Petway, a board appointee who replaced one of Alvin Brown‘s picks soon after Curry took office, was the primary pusher of the sale option last year.

Many of the mayor’s haters have wondered when he would be seen as overplaying his hand. Some will say that happened, finally, this week.

Duval on Senate floor during immigration debate

Sen. Bill Nelson spotlighted a Jacksonville example during the Senate immigration debate this week.

Bill Nelson spotlighted a Duval DREAMer on the Senate floor this week.

Nelson, a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, illustrated the need for protections via the story of Elisha Dawkins.

Dawkins thought he was born in America. He was wrong. He was locked up for falsifying passport information. Could have been deported. But Nelson stepped in.

“I found out about him because I read a news clip that he was in jail. Here was a fella, grew up in America, only knowing that he was American because he was brought to America from the Bahamas at age six months. He served two tours in Iraq. He came back and joined the Navy Reserves. He had a top-secret clearance. His reserve duty was in Guantánamo with that top-secret clearance. And then because of an application for a passport, he was suddenly swept up and put in jail,” Nelson asserted.

“Now, fortunately, we found out about it, started raising a stink about it. It was brought to the attention in one of the court hearings by a federal judge, and the federal judge said to the assistant U.S. attorney, ‘What in the world are you doing putting a fellow like this in jail?’ And, of course, after that tongue lashing from a federal judge, we got involved with Elisha,” Nelson added.

“I’m happy to report to you that Elisha is today a U.S. citizen. Elisha is a productive member of the Jacksonville community,” Nelson added. “And he is educated, and he is contributing to his community.”

Rutherford not down with Brown

Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford obviously won’t vote in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District between Rep. Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Brown.

However, in comments made Monday morning, Rutherford made it clear that he would prefer Lawson keeping his seat to Brown, with whom Rutherford worked for four years in Jacksonville, capsizing the Democrat from Tallahassee.

Not all Alvin Brown/John Rutherford meetings had clerics around, but this one did.

“We had some real disagreements on what was best for this community,” Rutherford said in Jacksonville about Brown. “I believe he hurt law enforcement and public safety in Jacksonville.”

For years, Rutherford and Brown sparred over budget issues with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, which Rutherford ran from 2003 to 2015.

“I can tell you I’ve worked with Al Lawson in Congress already. He’s a gentleman, he’s bipartisan, and I really like working with Al,” Rutherford said. “He and I have really hit it off big, I think. He’s very supportive of our veterans. We have a great working relationship.”

The congressman added that Lawson is more than just a “Tallahassee guy,” saying that Lawson “talks about Jacksonville all the time and what’s going on here and the needs of Northeast Florida.”

Trumpeting Trump

Rep. Rutherford is pretty much yoked to President Donald Trump at this point, and that affinity applies to tax reform and the continuing resolution passed this month.

John Rutherford traveled to Jacksonville with VP Mike Pence to sell the failed ‘Obamacare’ repeal last year.

That held true during a press gaggle Monday in Jacksonville, in which Rutherford defended the continuing resolution to keep the government open, the tax reform bill that critics argue will disproportionately benefit corporations over the middle class, and suggested entitlement cuts down the road to offset a legislative commitment to increased deficit spending.

Asking Rutherford about these issues, reporters note that these measures look likely to pass debt onto future generations.

Rutherford asserted that CBO assumptions of 1.9 percent gross domestic product growth over the next 10 years are probably low.

“They’re anticipating as high as four, four and a half,” he said. “Each point above 1.9 percent is $274 billion a year. If we’re just one point above, in three years we fill the trillion-dollar hole created by the tax cut.”

Regarding the CR, Rutherford asserted that “if your house is being eaten up by termites and it’s on fire, which are you going to address first? Some things are more exigent than others.”

Savings will come, he said, when entitlements are cut.

“Where it’s going to come from,” said Rutherford, “is when we get to the entitlements side of the budget, that’s where the bulk of the revenue is at; that’s where we’re going to have to cut and find ways to make that happen.”

Read more here.

DeSantis needs money

Rep. DeSantis would be seen by some as more of a Northeast Florida candidate if his clear interest weren’t D.C. intrigue rather than Florida issues.

Ron DeSantis trails Adam Putnam 5:1 in the money race between the two GOP candidates for Governor.

One wonders if he might have stronger fundraising were he not doing most of his campaign from the Fox News studios.

Per the Palm Beach Post, DeSantis is still way behind Adam Putnam in the money race for governor, with “less new money in January than the Agriculture Commissioner.

“DeSantis’ campaign advertised a gaudy $3.3 million January haul — but more than $2.4 million of that figure was raised last year by a pro-DeSantis PAC and transferred to a new PAC in January,” the Post observes.

“DeSantis, who announced his candidacy on Jan. 5, raised $894,020 in new contributions in January. That includes $131,019 collected by his main campaign committee and $763,001 raised by a new PAC called Friends of Ron DeSantis. The Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC also received more than $2.4 million from the Fund For Florida’s Future, a PAC formed by DeSantis supporters last year that raised more than $2.6 million through the end of December. The Fund For Florida’s Future nearly zeroed out its account last month, giving $2 million to the new DeSantis PAC on Jan. 18 and another $447,394 on Jan. 31.”

The real story: a five to one ($16.8 million versus $3.3 million) advantage for Putnam.

Moody shreds Fant

Rep. Jay Fant took yet another shot at Attorney General opponent Ashley Moody this week, calling via letter for a “Second Amendment” debate with the “liberal” retired judge, and questioning Moody’s commitment to Stand Your Ground.

Jay Fant gave up a safe House seat for the AG race. Might he regret that soon?

Moody then fired back, making it clear she thought Fant was a mountebank with no business in the AG race.

“Your letter demonstrates why you are not qualified to be Attorney General,” Moody wrote Tuesday. “You do not understand ‘Stand Your Ground’ as it existed then or now, criminal law, or how to try a case. This is not surprising since you have never actually tried a case, prosecuted anyone, nor really practiced law.”

Moody also brushed aside Fant’s challenge to a “Second Amendment debate” on March 1 in Tallahassee.

“I look forward to debating you, Frank White and Ross Spano, in the future and discussing how I will tackle the difficult challenges facing Florida, including the Second Amendment. But, until then, I plan on continuing to travel Florida meeting voters, hearing their stories, and discussing why I should be Florida’s next Attorney General,” Moody responded.

Too much moola for Shands?

POLITICO Florida waded into regional politics with a whistleblower type story asserting that UF Health was getting too much money in the Senate budget.

POLITICO took a swipe at Northeast Florida hospital funding this week.

“Consider Shands Jacksonville Hospital and one of its employees, state Sen. Aaron Bean. He voted to approve a proposed Senate budget that disproportionately benefits the hospital from a pool of hundreds of millions of dollars the Legislature must divide among the state’s many public and private hospitals. Bean works at Shands as a ‘relationship development officer.’ Basically, he gets paid to bring in money,” the POLITICO dispatch observed.

“The Senate appropriation gave Shands Jacksonville a special funding boost of about $12 million. State Senate Budget Chief Rob Bradley — who happens to Bean’s brother-in-law — said he was unaware of the extra money and is calling it a mistake. But Bean won’t say whether he knew about the special money when he voted for it,” the article continues.

UF Health, of course, is arguably the most cash-strapped safety net hospital in the state. The extra $12 million would have made a real difference. Luckily, though, watchdog journalism will ensure another year of belt-tightening for the institution.

HD 15 still House race to watch

The race to replace Rep. Fant in House District 15 continues to be close in terms of cash on hand.

Tracye Polson issued a news release Monday detailing her resources.

Trayce Polson is putting her money where her mouth is, but can she win?

“We will report today another $27,746 in January for my campaign. This is all in my campaign account and includes a $25,000 loan from me personally. This puts my combined total raised to $135,347 with over $91,000 COH,” Polson said.

The $25,000 loan dwarfs the $2,746 of hard money Polson raised in January off 46 contributions (many of which were as small as $1), bringing her to $55,000 loaned to her campaign. Polson also brought in $2,600 to her political committee, Better Jacksonville, but $2,500 was from her campaign treasurer.

Polson’s $91,000 on hand keeps her close to Republican lawyer Wyman Duggan, whose long-rumored primary challenge has yet to manifest.

$5,350 of new money in January brought Duggan over $109,000 raised, with approximately $95,000 of that cash on hand.

Other races for the State House on the 2018 ballot have no drama in the cash dash.

Water issues ahead, Graham says

Former U.S. Senator and Florida Gov. Bob Graham addressed a packed room in Jacksonville at the North Florida Land Trust’s annual meeting.

Graham, the keynote speaker at the event, discussed water issues and tenets of effective lobbying.

Water, Graham said, would be a “continuing challenge” for Florida, due to anticipated population growth and development.

Currently, Graham said, one in 5 acres in Florida is developed.

By 2070, the number will be up to 35 percent.

Former Gov. Bob Graham warns of future water issues.

That development and population growth, said Graham, will tax the St. Johns River, springs and other tributaries. Impacts will be felt statewide, including the Apalachicola River and the Everglades.

“The state needs to step its game up,” Graham said, and “think 20 to 30 years ahead.”

However, that’s not exactly happening — and Graham dedicated a portion of his remarks to the importance of advocacy.

Graham noted that Florida chiropractors were the most effective at lobbying their issues during his heyday.

They built a personal connection, with chiropractors connecting with legislators in their districts. Typically, they’d call quarterly and would talk about sports and other ephemera when the Legislature was not approaching Session.

Then, just ahead of Session, it would be business.

The personal relationship was important to that approach, and effective.

Campaign finance disparities in Duval races

Local Jacksonville candidates continue fundraising for the 2019 elections, and a leitmotif is the relative non-competitiveness of cash dashes thus far.

The carnage starts in the race for Sheriff, where new entry Tony Cummings sputtered in his first campaign finance report, bringing in an anemic $525.

Tony Cummings started really slow in Sheriff’s race fundraising. Not a good sign.

That’s a car payment, but not nearly enough to credibly message against incumbent Sheriff Mike Williams.

Williams has, between committee cash and hard lucre, roughly $338,000 on hand at the end of January.

This was after a quiet month of fundraising for him and Mayor Lenny Curry both.

There are several similarly lopsided races for Jacksonville City Council as well.

Read about them here.

Bowman for president

Jacksonville City Council Vice President Aaron Bowman made it official Monday, launching his run for the Council presidency.

Tradition holds that the Vice President moves to the presidency, barring some unusual development, such as what happened in 2017 when Brosche defeated John Crescimbeni for the top job.

Meet El Presidente: No one will challenge Aaron Bowman for the top job.

The Brosche presidency has been a fractious one, with competing narratives between her and fellow Republican Curry on a variety of issues, including pension reform, children’s program reforms, and exploring the prospect of selling local utility JEA.

If there is a subtext to the letter Bowman, a former commander of NAS Mayport, sent Council members declaring his candidacy, it would be a return to civility and order. This will be especially timely given that his year as President will be an election year for the majority of Council.

While it’s conceivable that someone could launch a run for President against Bowman, it’s a fool’s errand.

The race for Council Vice President is in flux, with a number of candidates who have yet to garner significant commitments of support. But the race for the top job is all but decided with this declaration of candidacy.

Civil rights history task force

This week, Jacksonville City Council President Brosche rolled out a proposal for a task force on civil rights history.

This will be a 25-person task force, chaired by School Board member Warren Jones and Ju’Coby Pittman.

A lunch counter sit-in set the stage for 1960s brutal Axe Handle Saturday in downtown Jacksonville.

Board members include, but are not limited to, Chris Hand, Hope McMath, Tony Allegretti, Marcus Pollard, Ennis Davis, Isaiah Rumlin, Alton Yates and Darnell Smith.

The task force proposal is a reaction to Jacksonville and Florida not being on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. The trail covers 14 states and 100 historic landmarks.

The task force will complete the work by June 30.

Council members in attendance at a public notice meeting Monday included Sam Newby, Reggie Brown, Garrett Dennis, Katrina Brown and Reggie Gaffney.

There was approval for the concept, and potential developments, including a museum proposal by Councilman Brown, and a discussion of potential landmarks that could be included on the trail.

Council members discussed potentially getting money for the museum concept from Tallahassee and Washington, as potential matches for city money.

With education, no more #MeToo

With an increasing number of sexual harassment accusations against entertainment, community and elected leaders, Jacksonville’s Ed Burr is calling for better education and tools for our children to ensure safety for both themselves and others.

In an op-ed for USA TODAY, the entrepreneur and mega-developer described how he watched each development in the #MeToo movement with a “mixture of awe and disheartenment. The bravery of the survivors is inspiring, but in the face of so much evil we can feel powerless.”

With education, Ed Burr says #MeToo can be no more.

Burr calls for a focus on education, giving power to children to prevent abuse from happening in the first place.

“Educators, you have a powerful platform of influence. Schools serve as the single best place to implement prevention programs,” he writes. “Parents can help by supporting schools’ decisions to teach these programs and by fostering a dialogue at home. And lawmakers can make a difference by requiring all schools to provide abuse prevention education — and by holding them accountable to do so.”

Cecil Spaceport to launch first commercial space vehicle this year

After last week’s Space-X launch, Cecil Airport — the joint civil-military facility located in Jacksonville — announced preparation for its first commercial space launch, expected to happen before the end of the year.

Currently, there are 12 commercial spaceports in the United States. Cecil Spaceport will be one of six that can accommodate horizontal launches. Jets equipped with small rockets would fly all over the ocean to be launched.

An aerial view of Naval Air Station Cecil Field, set to become a horizontal launch spaceport.

“It’s incredible, it just makes myself very proud of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and the Jacksonville community,” Cecil Spaceport director Todd Lindner told News 4 Jax.

Construction on a new hangar begins this month, designed for space operators, assembly and storage of vehicles.

“A new space operation mission control center which will be part of a new air traffic control tower that is going into construction probably later this year,” Lindner added.

Tarps come off

Bully for the Jacksonville Jaguars — the Florida Times-Union reports that the tarps are finally coming off the nosebleed seats, a measure of demand for a revived product.

Jalen Ramsey is one of many players who made Jacksonville love its Jaguars again.

Seems like only months ago that local right-wingers were fulminating about kneeling for the anthem.

What a difference a playoff run makes.

Regarding the anti-kneeling brigade, file away the spectacle from last year the next time you consider the next great social conservative fulmination.

Why John Rutherford prefers Al Lawson to Alvin Brown

Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford obviously won’t vote in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District between Rep. Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

However, in comments made Monday morning, Rutherford made it clear that he would prefer Lawson retaining his seat to Brown, with whom Rutherford worked for four years in Jacksonville, capsizing the Democrat from Tallahassee.

“We had some real disagreements on what was best for this community,” Rutherford said in Jacksonville about Brown. “I believe he hurt law enforcement and public safety in Jacksonville.”

For years, Rutherford and Brown sparred over budget issues with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, which Rutherford ran from 2003 to 2015.

“I can tell you I’ve worked with Al Lawson in Congress already. He’s a gentleman, he’s bipartisan, and I really like working with Al,” Rutherford said. “He and I have really hit it off big, I think. He’s very supportive of our veterans. We have a great working relationship.”

The congressman added that Lawson is more than just a “Tallahassee guy,” saying that Lawson “talks about Jacksonville all the time and what’s going on here and the needs of Northeast Florida.”

“He’s very bipartisan. I don’t see him as a Tallahassee homer,” Rutherford added. “We are stronger together than we are apart, I believe.”

Jacksonville Bold for 2.9.18 — Drive, or be driven

In 2015, A.G. Gancarski coined a phrase: “Drive the narrative, or it drives you.”

It came as a response to Alvin Brown’s failure to message efficiently in his mayoral election loss to current Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

This axiom applies to politics up and down the ballot, from city council races to the presidency. Someone must set the parameters of the story — if it isn’t one candidate, it’ll be another.

We will see that in 2018.

Brown, hamstrung by sloppy re-election messaging, is taking it to Al Lawson in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

In neighboring CD 6, Republican operatives Brian Swensen and Tim Baker are going nuclear against each other’s respective candidates (Swensen works for John Ward; Baker for Mike Waltz).

And we will see more of it.

Who will win the election?

The person who best tells a story, time after time.

As 2018 progresses, pay attention to the narrative arc.

Rutherford, DeSantis prop up Nunez memo

Rep. John Rutherford, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, defended the “Nunez memo in the context of what we already know” this week on Fox News Channel.

Facetime for Rep. John Rutherford on friendly Fox News.

“The bias that was in those text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Paige,” Rutherford said, was “what has brought the integrity of the FBI and DOJ into question” regarding inconsistencies in 2016 election investigations.

Not only bias but “impropriety,” said Rutherford, must be “ripped out by the roots.”

Rutherford, of course, is not the only Northeast Florida Republican to preach to the choir on FNC.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, starting when the memo was released Friday of last week, made similar contentions, noting that evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump and Russians has yet to be presented.

DeSantis wants Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to come in front of the Congress and justify extending the surveillance. Conservatives, including Ann Coulter, have called for Rosenstein’s dismissal.

Lawson, Rutherford push for TRICARE clarity

As legacy costs and deficits pile up, even previously untouchable entitlements like the TRICARE insurance program for military veterans and dependents are feeling the squeeze.

First Coast News reports that Jacksonville’s two congressmen, Republican Rutherford and Democrat Lawson, are seeking answers regarding autism treatment copays.

TRICARE and tribulations: Congressmen are frustrated with care, customer service issues.

Lawson wrote Humana, the insurance company, and the Defense Department demanding answers, per FCN.

Lawson said, “I am aware of poor customer service and am deeply concerned about the level of care TRICARE patients … I am also aware of providers claims of having health care costs owed by Humana because of lack of payment. This is simply unacceptable.”

“People’s premium rates are going up; we expect to hear something from them soon. The sooner, the better,” Lawson said. “We were really caught off guard that they are having these problems, the corporate people are not responding, and we want to make sure they do.”

In its response, TRICARE defended its practices, saying “Humana Military has gone above and beyond the contract requirements to pay Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for autism care providers before the 30-day contractual requirement has lapsed because we understand that many of these behavioral health providers are small businesses.”

Plan B for Lawson?

Lawson started his re-election bid slowly. He has about $100,000 on hand and no campaign apparatus to speak of, while Brown has been able to attack Lawson on optical issues like applauding President Trump at the State of the Union.

Trouble ahead for Al Lawson? Speculation emerges that he is worried about losing to Alvin Brown.

There is some thought that Lawson isn’t completely confident in his ability to beat Brown, and those feelings weren’t buried when Lawson weighed in on local Tallahassee politics, saying that Sen. Bill Montford should not run for Mayor.

“I know he needs to make a decision, and other people are leaning on him to bring stability to City Hall, but he has two years left and a lot of us hope he will finish the term,” said Lawson. “Bill carries a lot of clout in the Senate. Among Democrats and Republicans. There’s no question about it.”

If Lawson loses to Brown and Montford finishes his term, it’s very easy to imagine Lawson returning to the state Senate.

Lawson, should he lose, will have done so because Alvin Brown was able to drive the Duval base. When Lawson beat Corrine Brown in 2016, he won the western part of the district with massive numbers.

Trump lauds Lawson

In the words of someone somewhere, “Please clap.”

The Tampa Bay Times flagged Trump lauding Lawson for applauding him during the State of the Union.

Expect the Al Lawson/Donald Trump connection to be a leitmotif in CD 5 campaign materials.

“Who was that guy? He was a nice guy. I think he was a reverend. And he was clapping,” Trump said in Cincinnati. “And I wouldn’t say it was exactly a rousing — but he was putting his hands together. And I want to find out who he is. I’m going to send him a letter of thank you. And he was probably severely reprimanded.”

It’s doubtful whether a “letter of thank you” from Trump would help Lawson in a primary against former Mayor Brown, who is happy to pillory the incumbent as a DINO.

“It is deeply troubling that Al Lawson claps for the Trump agenda in Washington as people back home struggle to make ends meet. While the black jobless rate is at its lowest levels following President Obama’s years of hard work, there remains more to be done,” the former Jacksonville Mayor said.

Duval vs. Y’all

In yet another plot point in the Congressional District 5 race, Jacksonville Democrats backed Brown for Congress this week.

Duval County Democratic Party chair Lisa King led the wave.

Lisa King was removed from the Jacksonville Planning Commission for backing Alvin Brown for Mayor against Lenny Curry, per sources familiar.

Other endorsers rolled out in Wednesday’s media release include former Jacksonville Human Rights Commission Chair Mario Decunto, Duval County Black Caucus Chair Hazel Gillis, and former Northeast Florida United Way CEO Connie Hodges.

Brown is taking advantage of an as yet un-launched re-election campaign by Lawson to score some news cycle wins.

Last week, he rolled out the endorsement of former Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emanuel Cleaver.

When CD 6 Republican candidate Ward backed Democrat Brown

The hits keep on coming in the brass-knuckled GOP primary race in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

The latest salvo came Monday when Florida Politics obtained records of candidate Ward giving to a Democratic candidate in the 2015 Jacksonville mayor’s race.

Democratic dalliance: Trump Republican John Ward gave money to Alvin Brown’s re-election bid.

Ward, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach, was one of several Jacksonville Republican donors to Brown, the now-former mayor primarying Lawson from the left in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Ward gave $250 in May 2014, days before Curry jumped into the mayoral race. However, most observers knew Curry was eyeballing a run as far back as 2013.

Notable: Ward’s campaign is being run by Brian Swensen, who was campaign manager for Curry in that race for Jacksonville Mayor.

Ward has attacked Waltz, his GOP primary opponent, for cutting an ad in opposition to Trump in 2016 during the fractious Republican primaries.

Another Curry strategist is running waltz’s campaign: Tim Baker.

Baker believes the donation raises questions.

“Why was it important that Ward from Massachusetts support a liberal mayor of Jacksonville,” Baker wondered.

Baker deemed Ward a “dishonest politician who will say or do anything to win an election, even hypocritically attack a decorated veteran.”

What is clear: Curry’s consultants from 2015 are running hard-charging campaigns against each other in this 2018 race, in which both Baker and Swensen have reasons for wanting to score a victory against each other.

New roadway for Cecil Commerce Center

This week, Gov. Rick Scott came to Jacksonville and — as is always the case when he visits Northeast Florida — Duval got its money’s worth.

Jacksonville got its cut from the fund, which has $50 million left to dole out.

Specifically, $6,000,000 of it: for the construction of a new 1.5-mile access roadway to the city-owned Cecil Commerce Center Mega Site to provide access for the manufacturing industry.

The money comes via the state’s $85 million “job growth” fund.

The fund, a compromise solution to Enterprise Florida’s previous practice of directing money to businesses (many were companies that had donated to Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” political committee), includes money for public infrastructure and workforce grants.

Scott also sought to ensure legislators pass another $85 million for the fund in the current Legislative Session.

While in Jacksonville, the Governor also messaged on the importance of VISIT FLORIDA, which the Senate wants to cut down to a $50 million budget (half of what the Governor wants).

Not every Jacksonville legislator was thrilled with the job growth fund spending. Sen. Audrey Gibson questioned the fund’s existence on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Motto matters to Daniels, as bill heads to House floor

HB 839, which seeks to mandate school districts display Florida’s motto “In God We Trust,” cleared its final House committee Wednesday.

The bill requires display in all “school buildings” in a given district, including school district structures.

House members are not agnostic about the motto.

The House Education committee cleared the bill with just one no vote Wednesday, with Republicans and Democrats alike generally agreeing with Kim Daniels, the Jacksonville Democratic co-sponsor of the proposal, that the motto should be displayed.

Daniels’ Republican colleagues from Jacksonville, Jason Fischer and Fant, were among supporters.

Committee chair Mike Bileca lauded Daniels for having the “courage to take this issue on,” setting up an impassioned close from the first-term Jacksonville Democrat.

“This is not Communist China,” Daniels correctly noted. “This is America … on a bad day, the greatest country in the world. The disrespect against flag and country makes me sick.”

Daniels noted that the motto is a “symbol that represents something that we need to get back to,” and the bill comes from the “spiritual, not natural realm.”

The Senate version of the bill has yet to be put on a committee agenda.

Fant blasts Moody at AG debate

The strategy in the race for Attorney General on the Republican side is pretty clear at this point.

Rep. Fant and state House colleague Frank White will team up against Ashley Moody, the runaway choice of Florida Sheriffs and the best actual fundraiser in the race, to malign her as insufficiently conservative.

Jay Fant and Ashley Moody: opposite sides of the table, and the political spectrum?

We saw evidence of this Saturday at the Federalist Society Attorney General debate.

Moody and Fant went after each other hard Saturday over third-party ads charging her as “liberal,” exchanging charges during an Attorney General’s forum held during the Federalist Society Conference at Walt Disney World Saturday.

“This is what we do in the big leagues,” Fant said.

Florida Politics had reported earlier that White appeared to be behind the independent political committee attacks; at one point, Fant denied being behind the mailers that Moody cited.

Fant, who had challenged her conservative and Republican credentials before, replied to her question by calling her a “newcomer to partisan politics,” and lecturing her that, “the issues matter, and just because the issues make you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean you’re being attacked.

“I might also add I’m not the only campaign that has discussed this contrast. There is more to this. So, if you’re going to support a Bill McBride over Jeb Bush, we’re going to talk about it. If you’re going to have a history of suing Donald Trump, we’re going to talk about it. If you have alliances with liberals in the bar, we’re going to have to talk about it.”

Pill bill moves through House, Senate

WJCT reports on a bill by Rep. Clay Yarborough that is currently working its way through committees in the House and the Senate.

The measure would allow donating unused medicine to low-income people in need.

Second life for unused pills, if a Clay Yarborough bill passes.

“If you had a patient who was in a nursing home or a hospital, or something like that, and they had a lot of medication prescribed to them but then they passed away and the medication had not been opened or compromised in any way or expired, then those drugs could be donated,” Yarborough asserted.

“It’s just a way to help the citizens of our state and consumers in our state that would be in need and save money and use these drugs that [are] perfectly fine and there’s nothing wrong with them,” Yarborough said.

Jacksonville City Council consternation over JEA sale potential

Watching Jacksonville Mayor Curry roll over the City Council is like watching a season full of homecoming games.

However, a public notice meeting this week showed a lot of skepticism from the legislators, about the potential sale of JEA.

The utility, which has been pilloried for service issues, saw a VP grilled Monday on why serious moves toward underground power lines weren’t made in older neighborhoods.

And Tuesday, Councilors balked about the proposed sale of the utility.

Some, including Councilman Garrett Dennis, believe the sale is all but a done deal.

Notable about this meeting: Dennis, an irritant to the Mayor’s Office, had many Council members on his side in opposition to the Mayor’s Office.

Garrett Dennis takes questions from Jacksonville media, with A.G. Gancarski standing behind him.

Councilman John Crescimbeni and Council President Anna Brosche, recent rivals, wondered why the Office of General Counsel was slow in responding to inquiries.

Dennis’ Northwest Jacksonville colleagues backed his play.

Katrina Brown wants “town halls” in her district to discuss the issue.

Reggie Brown wants to make sure infrastructure, such as $3 billion in sewer projects, are addressed in the sale.

Reggie Gaffney asserted that “JEA has a plan,” and wondered when Council would be made aware.

“We’re all kind of blindsided by this,” Dennis said, vowing to ensure that the Council does “whatever is best for the shareholders … the 850,000 people who own JEA.”

For Dennis, who took on the other Democrats from Northwest Jacksonville last week, this has been a strong galvanization of support after what many activists saw as a betrayal.

Supplementary reading: Folio Weekly wonders: The sale, what the mayor knew and when he knew it?

Jacksonville Councilman takes part in anti-fracking rally

From the “blink and you missed it” files, Jacksonville City Councilman Jim Love was one of a few participants in an anti-fracking rally last weekend.

Via First Coast News, Love and the St. Johns Riverkeeper came out against fracking.

Deepwater Horizon fears on the horizon for Jacksonville Councilman Jim Love.

”We saw what Deepwater Horizon did for the Gulf Coast. We don’t need that on any part of our coast. It’s obvious we don’t need this to happen in Florida,” Love said.

“Florida is not the right place to do this sort of this. It will threaten our drinking water, it will threaten our springs and rivers and we need to stand up to ban this practice in our state,” St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said.

The Florida Legislature is mulling fracking ban bills this session.

After delays, St. Johns River dredging begins

After a Port Canaveral project delayed availability of the dredging vessel, deepening has now begun on a three-mile stretch of the St. Johns River.

“We are very pleased to initiate construction on this nationally significant project,” said Col. Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville district commander. “The Jacksonville Harbor deepening project ensures our nation’s infrastructure stays strong, which in turn boosts the United States economy, bolsters global competitiveness, creates jobs and reduces risk.”

After delays, JAXPORT dredging begins.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, issues with a tugboat resulted in the Dutra Group missing its initial Dec. 15 start date, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ mandatory start date of Jan. 31. Dutra, a California-based dredging and marine construction company, could face financial penalties if it does not finish the project by July 31, 2019.

Dutra Group is now working on the first phase of the $22.8 million project, known as Contract A, which will deepen the St. Johns to 47 feet. About 3 million cubic yards will be removed from the first 3 miles of the channel, sent to the designated disposal site 6 miles southeast of the entrance channel jetties, the Journal reports. Work will continue 24 hours a day, seven days a week, an Army Corps representative said.

JAXPORT on upswing for Q1

Strong gains marked JAXPORT’s first quarter of the fiscal year, CFO Michael Poole said this week in a board meeting.

The port authority saw increases across the board – 14 percent more vessel calls, 16 percent more tons of cargo and 16 percent more revenue compared to the same period last year, reports the Jacksonville Business Journal. JAXPORT also handled 27 percent more containers, moving 2.7 million tons in total for $16.7 million in revenue.

Among one downside for the quarter, Poole noted. Maintenance dredging is over budget by more than $1 million, or 153 percent. Hurricane Irma forced the port authority to dredge nearly 40,000 cubic yards more than anticipated. Nevertheless, Poole is confident JAXPORT will find enough savings to offset, rather than having to ask for more funding.

JAXPORT is having a strong first quarter of its fiscal year.

Once the dredging project is complete – deepening the St. Johns River to 47 feet – the port authority will experience faster growth, said Roy Schleicher, JAXPORT chief commercial officer. The dredging project, which began this week, is scheduled to be completed in 2019. Currently, the Port of Jacksonville can handle vessels that hold 10,000 containers, but, once deepened, it can accommodate 14,000-container vessels.

“When the 14,000s start coming in when the dredging is done, our container numbers are going to go through the roof,” Schleicher told the board. “We’re really excited … All new opportunities.”

Downtown Jax eyes driverless shuttles

Traffic in downtown Jacksonville could soon include autonomous vehicles.

Driverless shuttles could be cruising Bay Street in the near future, a project that CBS 47 reports will use new technology to help recruit companies downtown.

Action News Jax’s John Bachman recently visited Las Vegas to speak with Nat Ford, CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, about the pilot program in that city and how it can apply to Jacksonville.

Driverless shuttles, like this one in Las Vegas, could be on Jacksonville streets soon.

Las Vegas currently offers a driverless shuttle on a half-mile loop that includes parts of the old Las Vegas strip. The shuttle tops out at 12 miles an hour but is capable of doing 30 miles an hour.

Ford said Jacksonville could see a driverless shuttle program within the next five years. Over the next two to three years, Ford expects to convert the current Skyway platforms for shuttles – with the federal government interested in supporting driverless technology.

Driverless shuttles in Las Vegas currently cost around $250,000 each, compared to a JTA bus, which runs about $650,000 apiece.

Jacksonville Beach Pier to reopen soon

Storm-ravaged Jacksonville Beach Pier is close to a partial reopening, a year and a half after damage from Hurricane Matthew closed the iconic landmark.

Half of the pier is scheduled to open in April, according to First Coast News.

Storm-damaged Jacksonville Beach Pier to partially reopen in April.

As of this week, crews working on the pier finished re-paneling and railing half of the original length of the pier. The back half is not yet structurally stable to begin work, one of the workers told reporters.

Portions of the new railings will be recessed, allowing people in wheelchairs to fish from the pier.

The City of Jacksonville budgeted $1.3 million to replace the deck and guardrail in the pier’s front part. As for the back portion, no timeline is available yet.


NPR host Al Letson blasts Congressional candidate Alvin Brown

The news never slows down in the Democratic primary battle in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Just one day after former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown touted a swath of Jacksonville endorsements that included that of Lisa King, the chair of the Duval County Democrats, an NPR host from Jacksonville pilloried former Mayor Brown.

“For example: let’s say you are the first black mayor of a large southern city… all these hopes and dreams are pinned to you,” NPR host Al Letson Tweeted, “but you won’t stand for anything cause rich republicans put you in power… (American politics makes for strange bedfellows). All those hopes and dreams just flap in the wind.”

Brown’s ascension to the mayor’s office was fueled by traditionally Republican donors pivoting to him instead of the hard right Mike Hogan in 2011; once in office, Brown struck a deliberately non-partisan posture until the waning days of his re-election bid.

Letson then pointed out the attrition in African-American vote in 2015, along with Brown’s own demeanor, as a way of telling Brown that perhaps he shouldn’t run for Congress.

“You get voted out cause you didn’t do anything, you didn’t talk to your base, took for granted that blk ppl will carry you. And generally acted like the city owed you something. Maybe instead of standing up later for hirer office you should sit down,” Letson asserted.

“There is enough inertia in DC without you joining the party. if you show up to events for a photo op, but don’t roll up your sleeves when it’s time to put in work… maybe you should sit down,” Letson added.

Letson then finished off with a shot across the bow of Brown’s current messaging as a moderate Democrat, castigating the former mayor for his fecklessness on an LGBT rights ordinance that some say Brown squashed with behind the scenes influence.

“If you don’t have the stones to stand for basic human rights in city politics… I mean dude, BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS, like, employers can’t fire someone because they are gay… I mean that’s basic. If you [can’t] stand for it on a local level… Don’t stand for a national seat,” Letson asserted.

LGBT rights were codified in city ordinance soon after Brown left office.

Letson’s blast of Brown is the clearest crystallization yet of resistance to the former mayor’s political rebirth by progressives who remember those four years locally.

Brown, when running for re-election in 2015, was ambivalent about his Democratic Party connections.

The apogee of that ambivalence was when, after a debate with current Mayor Lenny Curry, Brown professed to be unaware of what Curry was talking about when he said that Brown was a 2012 delegate for President Barack Obama.

Brown was left without allies on the right and the left in the end. Hopes of bringing in former President Obama or First Lady Michelle Obama were dashed, and Gov. Rick Scott endorsed his friend Lenny Curry, neatly kneecapping years of co-branding between Mayor Brown and the Governor.

Brown’s reinvention comes at a time when he is running against a candidate, Al Lawson, who became nationally prominent in the last week for being the only Congressional Black Caucus member to applaud President Donald Trump during the State of the Union address.

Requests for comment from the Brown campaign were not immediately returned.

Congressional candidate Rontel Batie: ‘This race is far from over’

Rontel Batie is not the incumbent in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District; that’s Al Lawson.

Nor is he the former mayor of the biggest city in the district: that’s Alvin Brown.

Nonetheless, Batie (who carried a meager $4,314 cash on hand out of 2017, compared to Lawson’s $100,531), asserts that “this race is far from over.”

In an email late Wednesday, Batie served up zingers about Lawson and Brown both.

“Al Lawson broke with the CBC and was seen cheering on President Trump during his State of the Union address. This was done in spite of Trump’s yearlong assault on black men who’ve used their platforms to protest injustice, like Jay-Z, Lavar Ball and NFL players who kneel during the anthem,” Batie wrote.

“Also, Alvin Brown, Jacksonville’s former Mayor who lost his reelection after being singled out for being one of the only Democrats in the country to refuse to support President Obama in 2012, (among many other political missteps), has entered the race,” Batie added.

Both of these assertions are questionable: Lawson tepidly applauded Trump saying that black unemployment was down, and Brown was an Obama re-election delegate.

Batie also served up two new endorsements.

Luis Zaldivar, the President of Northeast Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus, asserted that Batie “embodies the values that will move Duval County forward.”

Former Lake City Commissioner Glenel Bowden called Batie “the only progressive candidate in the race.”

Batie isn’t going away, and this occasions parallels to the 2016 race, where underfunded L.J. Holloway sheared votes from Lawson and Corrine Brown.

Lawson won the three way primary with just over 47 percent of the vote, with Brown coming in with 38 percent. Holloway, who had little fundraising momentum and few meaningful endorsements, was able to undercut Corrine Brown on the eastern side of the district.

Could history repeat in the 2018 primary?

Batie is in the race through August, and it’s entirely possible that Lawson could again win the nomination with less than 50 percent of the vote, via a spoiler candidate who doesn’t do enough to win, but who does enough to ensure the Jacksonville candidate can’t.

Duval Democratic Party chair endorses Alvin Brown for Congress

Duval County Democratic Party chair Lisa King leads a wave of Jacksonville endorsements for Alvin Brown for Congress.

The endorsement of King, appointed to Jacksonville’s Planning Commission during former Mayor Brown’s tenure, and other prominent local Democrats signals that Brown’s implicit desire to make the Democratic primary race with Al Lawson in Florida’s 5th Congressional District a matter of “Duval Vs. All Y’all” (to borrow a phrase from current Mayor Lenny Curry).

“This election is too important to sit on the sidelines, and I am thrilled to endorse Alvin Brown for Congress. His exemplary record of fighting for higher wages, a stronger education system for our kids, and more job opportunities for our servicemen and women proves what kind of representative he will be for the 5th District. As a military mom, I know that Alvin Brown will bring the voice and energy we need to address the serious issues facing Florida and our country,” King asserted.

Other endorsers rolled out in Wednesday’s wave include former Jacksonville Human Rights Commission Chair Mario Decunto, Duval County Black Caucus Chair Hazel Gillis, and former Northeast Florida United Way CEO Connie Hodges.

“As we begin our people empowerment campaign, I am honored to receive support from local leaders who have dedicated their lives to giving a voice to the voiceless. We have a long fight ahead of us when it comes to improving the quality of life for all Floridians, and in Congress, I will be on the frontlines as we take on that fight to improve the quality of life for all in the 5th Congressional District,” Brown asserted.

Brown is taking advantage of an as yet unlaunched re-election campaign by Lawson to score some news cycle wins.

He rolled out the endorsement of former Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emanuel Cleaver last week, and he also has messaged heavily on the incongruity of Lawson applauding President Donald Trump during the State of the Union.

Al Lawson applauds Donald Trump, gets hammered by Alvin Brown

A tough Democratic primary awaits Rep. Al Lawson in Florida’s 5th Congressional District against former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

And the conservative Daily Caller website may have made it tougher Wednesday, by serving up a post lauding Lawson for applauding President Donald Trump during Tuesday evening’s State of the Union. (The SEO title, meanwhile, was the misleading “CBC Member Applauds Black Unemployment”).

The article, entitled “Only one member of the Congressional Black Caucus applauded low black unemployment,” noted that Lawson “was seen clapping for Trump’s comments about the success of the economy, specifically African-American unemployment, as cameras immediately turned to the group during his speech. Other members of the CBC refused to stand or applaud his comments on the low unemployment claims for African-Americans since he has taken office.”

As Trump said “African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded,” cameras panned the crowd, focusing on CBC members.

Lawson was alone applauding, though he did not give a standing ovation as Republicans did.

Lawson has asserted that he is in sync with his CBC colleagues; however, a point of evidence to the contrary emerged on Wednesday when former CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver endorsed Alvin Brown.

Brown fired back with a response to the Daily Caller article Wednesday.

“It is deeply troubling that Al Lawson claps for the Trump agenda in Washington as people back home struggle to make ends meet. While the black jobless rate is at its lowest levels following President Obama’s years of hard work, there remains more to be done,” the former Jacksonville Mayor said.

“Black unemployment remains nearly twice as high as the white jobless rate, as does the black poverty rate, and unlike Rep. Lawson who apparently is content with this alternate reality, I am committed to fighting for economic security and opportunity for all in our community in Congress,” Brown continued.

Lawson prides himself on his willingness to work across the aisle; it remains to be seen if that is a priority of primary voters in 2018.

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