Alvin Brown – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Al Lawson confident in campaign against ‘failed’ Alvin Brown

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson talked to Jacksonville media about his congressional campaign against former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Lawson and Brown both qualified this week, setting up a primary election that matches up a Tallahassee politician against a Jacksonville pol in the race for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s sprawling 5th Congressional District.

Lawson said he feels “very good” about his chances in the Jacksonville side of the district, where he got 20 percent of the vote in 2016 against then-incumbent Corrine Brown.

“I’ve been in office a year and four months, and I’ve been coming over here several times a month,” Lawson said, adding that he and Rep. John Rutherford “have been able to do quite a few things here.”

“We’ve got people thinking about Jacksonville. In Congress,” Lawson said, “they don’t refer to me as from Tallahassee. They refer to me as ‘Al Lawson from Jacksonville’.”

“I feel pretty confident,” Lawson said, “that we’re going to work hard and do well. I have the endorsement of every Democrat Congressperson in Florida except two. They said they’d wait until after qualifying [to publicize the endorsements].”

Lawson has started his campaign slowly and with a high burn rate given his campaign’s torpidity up until now.

As of the end of March, his campaign had just under $160,000 on hand — roughly half of the almost $320,000 raised, with very little laid out in the way of a campaign infrastructure.

Brown, who raised $167,000 in his first quarter in the race, had almost $128,000 on hand.

When Lawson defeated Corrine Brown, he benefited from several tail winds, such as a Jacksonville spoiler candidate, an incumbent under indictment, and on-hand cash advantage (as Corrine Brown, awaiting a fraud trial, was not able to fundraise.

We asked Lawson if he was worried about not being able to keep up with Alvin Brown in terms of money.

He was not.

“Our campaign’s already ramped up,” Lawson said. “We’re getting ready to open a campaign office here and in the western part of the district. We feel very confident that we have the money that we need. We have a very good budget.”

Lawson noted that Brown’s strong quarter might be a function of his campaign having “just come out of the blocks,” adding that “during this next quarter, we just need 50 or 60 thousand dollars.”

“We’re in good shape,” Lawson contended. “It’s a 200 mile stretch between Gadsden and Duval.”

“We’d like to see his record. I’ve got a long record in politics. He only has four years, and it looks like it was a failed administration, simply because he couldn’t get re-elected,” Lawson said of the candidate he vowed to retire once he got in the race.

Alvin Brown, Al Lawson qualify for primary, setting up Jacksonville/Tallahassee clash

The battle of the Als is now confirmed.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown qualified Wednesday to run against incumbent Rep. Al Lawson in North Florida’s sprawling, east-west Congressional District 5.

Lawson, who ended Corrine Brown‘s political career in 2016, seeks to “retire” Alvin Brown, maintaining his hold over the cartographically schizoid Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee seat.

Brown announced his qualification Wednesday, via media release and aspirational quotes.

“I am proud of the strong grassroots campaign we are building, and as I speak with people across the district, I hear time and again that North Florida needs a results-oriented fighter in Congress who will work in their best interest — not protect the status quo. I couldn’t agree more, which is why I am honored to qualify for the ballot,” Brown said.

“The people of the 5th District deserve a champion who will be their voice in Washington and promote policies that can help create real economic opportunity,” Brown continued. “I am confident that, together, we can do better as we work to raise wages, foster innovation and job creation, make smart investments in education and infrastructure, expand access to quality, affordable health care, and give our servicemen and women the respect, dignity, and care they deserve while serving our country and after they return home. I pledge to always have our community’s back and fight for the issues that matter to North Florida.”

Brown launched his campaign Saturday in Jacksonville, at an event that drew about 100. His rhetoric and persona were similar to his mayoral candidate personal honed in the campaigns of 2011 and 2015.

Lawson filed to run Tuesday, and WTXL of Tallahassee was there, grabbing quotes.

“While I served in the Legislature, I served almost 20 years under Republican leadership, so it’s time that Florida come back,” said Lawson. “Florida is always viewed as a more conservative state, but I think, in light of the things that have happened, the problem that we have with guns and gun violence in the state, I think we need a Democratic perspective to change a lot of that.”

Lawson has started his campaign slowly and with a high burn rate given his campaign’s torpidity up until now.

As of the end of March, his campaign had just under $160,000 on hand — roughly half of the almost $320,000 raised, with very little laid out in the way of a campaign infrastructure.

Brown, who raised $167,000 in his first quarter in the race, had almost $128,000 on hand.

When Lawson defeated Corrine Brown, he benefited from several tail winds, such as a Jacksonville spoiler candidate, an incumbent under indictment, and on-hand cash advantage (as Brown, awaiting a fraud trial, was not able to fundraise.

It will be interesting to see how Lawson deals with an opponent who can run a functional campaign.

Alvin Brown’s congressional campaign kick-off has familiar cadence, leaves unanswered questions

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown launched his campaign for Florida’s 5th Congressional District on Saturday morning at the IBEW Hall in Jacksonville — the same place he began his first mayoral campaign eight years ago.

“They said it wouldn’t happen,” Brown said of that 2011 race. “Let’s do it again.”

The location, where the Duval Democrats hold their monthly meetings, is a metaphor for the Jacksonville vs. Tallahassee dynamic of the Democratic primary race between Brown and incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.

Brown’s preacher cadence, a hallmark of his time as Jacksonville Mayor, was on display Saturday. He treated the union hall like a church, referring to supporters as “brothers and sisters” while driving call and response tfrom the largely over-50 crowd of 100.

On the student loan “debt crisis,” on income stagnation and unemployment, homelessness and inequity in pay between genders, Brown, “deeply concerned” about inequities, said “we need to do better.”

“If you don’t want a better tomorrow, stay home,” Brown said near the close of the 14-minute stemwinder. “But if you believe God has been good to you … rise up … and say Alvin for Congress.”

With grumbles among many former supporters that they weren’t sold on Brown’s political reincarnation, we wondered where that support was — and where the support was, in terms of campaign finance, from the downtown Jacksonville power structure that abandoned him in 2015 for his Republican opponent in the mayoral race.

“This election is not about the past, but about the future,” Brown said. “When I put my message out there and communicate with the voters, and get past all the chatter, they’re going to discover that Alvin for Congress is the best person for the job.”

“I’m going to work hard in this race to reach out to everyone across this district to make sure they know who I am and why I’m running. It is proven that when you make your case directly to the people,” Brown added, “good things happen.”

We asked where local politicians were for the launch; beyond school board chair Paula Wright, elected Democrats were otherwise occupied.

“I can tell you that the most important support that we need is from the people,” Brown said, “and today’s a great day for the Fifth Congressional District. I’ve been taking my message all the way through the district.”

Brown described himself as “well-known in Washington for making things happen for Jacksonville.”

Earlier this month, Brown posted his first finance report, which showed him outraising Lawson two-to-one in the first quarter. However, Lawson still held the aggregate cash on hand edge, with corporate PAC and agribusiness groups holding sway.

Brown was Jacksonville’s mayor from 2011 to 2015 before losing his bid for a second term in a tight race against current Republican Mayor Lenny Curry. (Curry celebrated winning by purging Brown appointees from boards and commissions. Meanwhile, for his part, Lawson says he and Curry have a “strong relationship.”)

Brown may not get help from the Jacksonville political establishment, which finds Lawson easy to work with. In that context, Brown will have to bring what one former supporter called his “bootleg preacher” stump style to the western end of the district, taking on Lawson on his home turf.

Drew Wilson contributed to this post.

Jacksonville Bold for 4.27.18 — Lessons learned

Lately, Jacksonville politics has been fractious. A debate over JEA privatization, a hot-button topic for months, saw the culmination of claims and cross-claims of lies, betrayals, subterfuge and deception before Mayor Lenny Curry pulled the plug Thursday.

As the political season approaches, locals may want to take a cue from gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, who made yet another Jacksonville stop, one where protesters showed up to spotlight his family farm underpaying laborers in 2008.

While the issue was long since resolved, in the heat of the campaign, it has become newly relevant, and chants like “Putnam don’t pay” could be heard through the glass inside the Mandarin diner during Putnam’s “Up & Adam” event.

Our Jacksonville correspondent joked with campaign staff that the candidate should engage protesters after the event.

And Putnam did just that.

To watch what happened next, click the image below:

For those expecting any of the protesters, who were holding signs condemning the candidate, to engage him directly on the issues, they would have left disappointed.

Putnam bantered with the lead protester, as she described working in celery fields “on the mule train.”

What followed was talk of celery grating and “firing the grove” — in an area Putnam called “the celery capital of the world” — with Putnam describing ways of said firing.

“I know about those wages,” the woman told Putnam. “You basically said you took care of that situation.”

Putnam confirmed that, adding: “Our people are the most important part of any business.”

The encounter ended with a high-five.

“That’s my girl, right there,” Putnam said, with protesters saying “have a good day” as he headed to his next stop.

Now, on to the week’s other news …

Lawson slams farm bill

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, writing in the Tallahassee Democrat, slammed the current iteration of the Farm Bill on Congress.

“The bill introduced by House Republicans proposes to cut billions of dollars from federal nutrition assistance programs, including SNAP, and take food away from millions of seniors, veterans, persons with disabilities and vulnerable communities struggling to make ends meet,” Lawson asserted.

Al Lawson has been concerned about ‘food deserts’ in his district; this bill won’t help.

Lawson notes that the bill would “end or cut SNAP benefits for more than 1 million low-income households, add aggressive new work requirements and throw 265,000 school children off the free lunch programs.”

The Democratic incumbent in Florida’s 5th Congressional District laments, in the editorial, the loss of the bipartisan spirit in the committee.

Meanwhile, Lawson’s campaign apparatus has been fairly dormant thus far — and he needs to get it together, as his primary opponent Alvin Brown will host a campaign kickoff Saturday morning at the IBEW hall … the meeting place of the Duval Democrats.

Johns bows out of CD 6 scrum

On Friday, St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns opted to withdraw rather than stay in the race for Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

The “resign to run” law compelled the choice. And faced with two self-financing Republican opponents in Michael Waltz and John Ward, Johns stood down.

Jimmy Johns’ withdrawal narrows the race for what will be an expensive nomination.

As of the end of March, Ward had $709,340 on hand, with $555,000 of that from his own checkbook. Waltz, who loaned his campaign $400,000, had $653,354 on hand.

Ward and Waltz thus far have demonstrated the most fundraising ability on the Republican side. Former state Rep. Fred Costello has $15,720 on hand.

Read more here.

Gibson, Davis deliver check to Edward Waters

Rep. Tracie Davis and Sen. Audrey Gibson presented a $356,000 check to Edward Waters College to aid recipients of the College Promise Program. The program is a pathway for low-income, first-time college students beginning their higher education at a four-year institution.

Audrey Gibson and Tracie Davis delivered for EWC.

“As an alum of Edward Waters College and State Representative for this area, I am so excited to have been part of the team with Senator Gibson to secure this funding for such a great program,” stated Davis. “College Promise is the second program in the nation providing a debt-free pathway to higher education for first-time students. This is the future of higher education and funding is critical to its success.”

This money will defray costs for 100 students to attend EWC for a year.

Renner: Beaches are still open

Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican with deep Jacksonville ties, penned an op-ed intended to quell misinformation about beaches closing to public access.

Beaches are open, says Rep. Paul Renner. (Photo: Florida Times-Union)

“In some cases,” Renner wrote, “private property owners who live on the beach own lots that are platted to include the ‘dry sand’ between the dunes and that high-water mark. Even though this is private property, and even though those owners are taxed on the dry sand portion of the beach, it is not uncommon that many of us use it.”

“The new law simply creates a uniform process for a county to apply to the courts to affirm areas of customary use. Without the courts involved on the front end, individual property owners could and did sue to challenge county ordinances around the state. The taxpayers were on the hook for legal fees to defend every individual case against the county and pay any damages awarded if the county got it wrong,” Renner wrote.

Read more here.

Polson gets Hazouri endorsement in HD 15

On Tuesday, political veteran Tommy Hazouri, currently a Jacksonville City Councilman, endorsed fellow Democrat Tracye Polson in her bid for state House.

Polson is the sole Democrat in the race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jay Fant in House District 15, a Westside Jacksonville seat.

Can Trayce Polson flip HD 15?

“As a former state legislator, having represented this district for 12 years, I know this community needs and deserves a courageous and bold voice to represent our diverse needs, and that person is Dr. Tracye Polson,” Hazouri asserted.

Hazouri went on to laud Polson’s commitment to “real change in public education” and a “fresh, insightful approach that will address the true needs of our city.”

“I am extremely honored to receive the support from Council Member Tommy Hazouri, who has been a public servant to Jacksonville for decades,” Polson said. “His knowledge and experience will be a great asset to our campaign and we are excited to have his counsel and support moving forward.”

Polson, atypically for area Democrats running for Republican-held State House seats, has shown dynamic fundraising. She’s raised $174,103 between her campaign and political committee accounts, with $113,635 on hand, after clearing over $30,000 in March.

There is a competitive Republican primary, and those candidates all trail in cash on hand.

Jacksonville land use attorney Wyman Duggan has just over $95,000 cash on hand. Duggan, notably, is one of a group of lobbyists working on behalf of Nova Scotia-based Emera in hopes that local utility JEA goes on the market.

Other Republicans are farther back.

Yacht broker Mark Zeigler raised $11,795 in March, his first month of significant fundraising. First-time candidate Joseph Hogan, meanwhile, reported no fundraising.

‘New Dawn’ for JEA, says CEO

In a memo to JEA employees Monday, Interim CEO Aaron Zahn hailed “a new dawn” for the Jacksonville utility.

Aaron Zahn vows that he will build trust with his new workforce. (Image: Action News Jax)

The point of the memo was clear. It framed Zahn, a board member for one month who leveled-up into the CEO chair, as an agent of stability for the utility, which has been rocked for months by a parlous privatization debate.

Zahn wrote that he “recognize[d] the emotional and mental toll” of the privatization debate, adding that he is “committed to learn” from the workforce, and that he intends to earn trust.

The language had a fortune cookie feel in spots: “Every day presents an opportunity to start anew. Even mistakes present an opportunity to learn and grow.”

Zahn addressed substance eventually, noting that he had asked the Mayor and City Council to move from a “discourse … of decision-making” to a “discussion” of JEA’s future, allowing the utility to develop a plan to address “opportunities and risk … in our changing market.”

Regarding Melissa Dykes, who served as interim CEO for a week before the board chose Zahn without any substantial public discussion of his merits compared to Dykes, she has “agreed to take on an expanded role … is committed to JEA and working together as partners to accomplish the vision I’ve set forth.”

Org changes are coming, Zahn says. And so is an updated strategic plan, which will make JEA “a utility for the future of Jacksonville.”

Official positions of Zahn and his chief political ally, Mayor Curry, boil down to advocating a pause of some indeterminate length in a discussion of privatization of the utility.

The memo does not address that timetable, one likely of key concern to stakeholders inside the company and city government alike.

Jacksonville’s Mayor pulled the plug on privatization Thursday though, ending the discussion for the foreseeable future.

Dennis menaced by ballot challenge

It appears that there will be a competitive race in Jacksonville City Council District 9 next year after all.

Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, the Democratic incumbent, faces a challenge from within his own party, from Marcellus Holmes.

Marcellus Holmes tells us he is in the race regardless of Garrett Dennis running again or not.

Holmes, who played professional football for the New England Patriots from 1997 to 2001 as both a practice and active squad member, is about to line up against a Councilman who has been a serious irritant to Curry.

When asked to assess Dennis’ performance, Holmes — reached by phone Monday afternoon — was diplomatic.

“He’s doing the best job he can,” Holmes said. “But I can give the community more of what it needs.”

Dennis, who hasn’t filed yet, insists he’s running for re-election. That was news to Holmes.

“I didn’t know he was running again,” Holmes said, saying that Dennis did a “great job his first term.”

Holmes, who currently is an at-risk case manager with first-time offenders at local nonprofit Daniel Kids, sees his experience as being key to “bringing the community together” to “meet the needs of every community” and “get every issue solved.”

There have been strong suggestions that Curry may have an interest in backing an opponent to Dennis. But, says Holmes, he hasn’t talked to the Mayor.

That said, one of Dennis’ Council colleagues — fellow Democrat Reggie Brown, who is running from his Council seat for Gibson’s spot in the Senate — did offer some advice: to go in there and be himself.

Dennis, when asked about facing an opponent for his re-election, was blunt.

“I don’t know who that is,” Dennis said. “Bring it.”

Supplementary Reading: Dennis irked by unfair concert ticket distro from Mayor’s office.

Sauce loss

A saga that began with a 2011 business development deal for a BBQ sauce plant and saw one of the business principals elected to City Council along the way descended into drama and nonperformance.

The city of Jacksonville was left hanging compared to secured creditors in the BBQ backwash.

An FBI raid and a subsequent series of legal actions and personal and corporate bankruptcy filings led to a reorg, and the city of Jacksonville poised to eventually get pennies on the dollar for the over $600,000 it fronted to the company.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jerry Funk issued a final decree Tuesday morning in the bankruptcy case of K.J.B. Specialties (Jerome Brown Barbecue and Wings), with a repayment plan for all creditors.

Last and least: unsecured creditors, such as the city of Jacksonville, which will get back less than $60,000 of the outstanding $380,000 loan back that it ceded the company seven years ago to open an ill-fated sauce plant in economically troubled Northwest Jacksonville.

A $210,000 grant for job creation was unaddressed by the accord. Fifty-six jobs were intended to be created and sustained over five years, but no jobs fit the criteria.

Read more here.

Shine down

Per WJCT, Duval County School Board member Scott Shine abandoned his re-election bid this year after yet another parlous board meeting.

Scott Shine out. (Photo: Florida Times-Union)

Shine, who often had a reliable ally on the board in former member and current state Rep. Jason Fischer, has been steeped in conflict with his colleagues — most recently about the push to hire a permanent superintendent, which Shine would have preferred to defer until after this year’s elections (which would see some of his rivals termed off the board).

There are no filed candidates in the race; expect that to change.

McCague to be interim JaxPort CFO

One of Jacksonville’s most respected financial hands is moving over to JAXPORT to be CFO on an interim basis.

Beth McCague, shown here with Bill Scheu, is no stranger to interim gigs.

Beth McCague, whose most recent public role was as interim director of the formerly embattled Police and Fire Pension Fund, will serve as CFO for the less embattled JAXPORT.

Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, McCague was already advising CEO Eric Green.

She will handle the port’s capital program and other financial functions, until such time as a permanent CFO is chosen.

Walk talk

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been bashed of late for a tendency to ticket black pedestrians who cross illegally more than scofflaws from other demographics, and the latest hits were taken this week at a gathering of faith leaders, per Action News Jax.

Sheriff Mike Williams faces no serious electoral threat next year.

“In Jacksonville, African-Americans represent 29 percent of the population, but according to a joint publication by the Florida Times-Union and ProPublica, the black community has received 55 percent of the tickets in recent years. Sheriff Mike Williams has stood by his number of 45 percent, and said this year, after a focus on education rather than enforcement, it’s down to 34 percent,” AN Jax reported.

While there’s “work to do,” Williams maintained that there is not an “epidemic” of overenforcement.

Williams will waltz to re-election. He has raised over $400,000 between hard money and committee cash; his opponent, Tony Cummings, has approximately $200 on hand.

Bean, Byrd present state funding for Fernandina Beach

State Sen. Aaron Bean of Fernandina Beach and state Rep. Cord Byrd of Neptune Beach presented a $450,000 check Tuesday to Fernandina Beach Mayor Johnny Miller and the City Commission. During the 2018 Legislative Session, the two lawmakers secured state funding for crucial shoreline stabilization to the city’s waterfront marina seawall.

Aaron Bean and Cord Byrd present Fernandina Beach officials a $450K check for shoreline stabilization.

“The seawall of Fernandina Beach’s marina sustained extensive damage during Hurricane Irma and has resulted in severe flooding in the downtown area,” Bean said in a statement. “This state funding will help the City of Fernandina Beach replace the deteriorating marina seawall, which will ensure the preservation of our historic downtown for future generations.”

Byrd added: “The Stormwater Shoreline Stabilization project will improve the city’s marina seawall and better serve residents by protecting the historical downtown area from future flooding.”

Fernandina Beach’s Stormwater Shoreline Stabilization project seeks to reduce flooding in the city’s downtown by replacing 270 linear feet of the existing marina seawall. Once installed, the new seawall will be 4 feet taller than its predecessor to better defend downtown Fernandina Beach from storm surges and subsequent damage.

Bean, Daniels present $250K to Jax Sheriff’s Office

Sen. Bean joined state Rep. Daniels of Jacksonville to present a $250K check to Jacksonville Sheriff Williams and Dr. Charles Moreland, attending on behalf of Mayor Curry. During the 2018 Legislative Session, the two Jacksonville-area lawmakers secured state funding for a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Matching Grant.

Aaron Bean and Kimberly Daniels award $250K to officials from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the City of Jacksonville for an innovative policing program.

COPS Grant funds will be used for 15 sworn officer positions to implement a three-pronged approach in policing: A Blight/Nuisance Squad, Sheriff’s Watch Apartments and the Group Violence Intervention Program. The funding allows the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to continue its goal of reducing firearm-related crime and homicides.

“The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office does an exceptional job protecting our community, and this COPS Matching Grant will allow them to keep more officers on the street to fight crime,” Bean said. “This state funding shows the Florida Legislature’s commitment to the men and women of law enforcement and to protecting every citizen in the City of Jacksonville.”

Daniels continued: “I have chaired the Public Health and Safety Committee for the City of Jacksonville and served on the Florida House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. Sponsoring the COPS Grant with Senator Bean is an honor, and I am proud to be able to present this state funding for this great cause.”

District discussion continues

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Lori Boyer has been pushing The District development in recent weeks, and another stakeholder meeting occurred Wednesday with fellow Councilman and former Council President Greg Anderson.

The District is a high-risk, high-reward proposal to solve a long-standing development gap.

Anderson had questions for Boyer on the proposed development, four years in the making, with construction proposed to wrap by the end of 2022. Politically connected developers Peter Rummell and Michael Munz have a deal, as of January, to buy the land for $18.6 million from the JEA Board.

While the Downtown Investment Authority backs the proposal that would remedy a long-standing dead zone, there are a number of stumbling blocks to the deal, not the least of which is City Council approval of what amounts to a public-private partnership.

Read more here.

Neighborhood summit draws a crowd

Could Jacksonville’s neighborhood summits become a yearly tradition?

A report from WJXT suggests that may be the case, with hundreds of people at the Prime Osborn last weekend to get direction on Jacksonville’s resources.

The photo (via WJXT) offers a small sample of the action at Prime Osborn.

“The purpose of this is to educate the community as a whole — it doesn’t matter where you live — about the resources that the city provides to its citizens,” said Denise Lee, Jacksonville’s director of Blight Initiatives.

“You meet people all the time and they say, ” Well, I have this problem. ” I say, “Well, we have the city Neighborhoods Department back and they would be more than happy to work with you. We’re having a neighborhood summit. Please come out,” Lee said.

The city brought back its Neighborhoods Department early in Curry’s term.

Jacksonville Zoo ‘African Forest’ expansion continues

A newly installed 40-foot-tall tree will soon become the centerpiece of the Jacksonville Zoo African Forest build-out, which will connect each of the new ape exhibits.

As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the unique central tree will connect overhead trails, similar to those in the Zoo’s Land of the Tiger exhibit. The tree – the crux of the $9 million, 4-acre African Forest project – will also contain an internal spiral staircase that will “allow keepers to interact and provide enrichment for the apes in the mesh-enclosed ‘exhibit.’”

Jacksonville Zoo African Forest exhibit renderings.

Part of the new exhibit – replacing the two-decade-old Great Apes Loop – will feature an “enrichment station” where apes interact with a high-tech touchscreen app.

The Journal also reports that by the end of January, the African Forest project is close to full funding, with $7.3 million out of its $9 million raised. Now, only $400,000 remains to reach its goal.

Save the date: Jacksonville YMCA groundbreaking ceremony

Next month, there will be a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the James Weldon Johnson Family YMCA expansion, which includes a new teen center, swimming pool and other amenities.

Jacksonville YMCA groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for May 14.

Groundbreaking begins 10 a.m. Monday, May 14, at the Johnson Family YMCA, 5700 Cleveland Road RSVP by Friday, May 11, at events@fcymca.org.

According to the invite, the project will provide “necessary resources and new opportunities to help transform the lives of youth and families in Northwest Jacksonville.”

Jaguars draft defensive tackle Taven Bryan from Florida

The Jacksonville Jaguars were in an unfamiliar position going into Thursday night’s NFL draft. Over the past few years, they drafted early in the first round following another losing season.

This year, the team drafted 29th (out of 32) following a turnaround 10-6 season that saw them come within five minutes of reaching the Super Bowl. Going in, they knew an instant starting running back like Leonard Fournette, whom the Jags drafted with the sixth pick last year, was not going be available at 29.

Newly drafted Jaguar Taven Bryan.

Someone like offensive lineman Cam Robinson, Jacksonville’s 2017 early second-round choice out of Alabama, would still be around. Bolstering the right side of the offensive line was still a need, while the defense is among the top units in the NFL.

They also let it be known maintaining their “smash mouth” style they developed under first-year coach Doug Marrone was in their plans.

“Who’s it going to be? Who knows? said Jaguars’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin before the draft. “But according to the work that we’ve done, we feel that we will get a good football player at that spot.”

At around 11:20 p.m. Thursday, Jaguars fans found out when they plucked 6-foot, 5-inch and 291-pound defensive tackle Taven Bryan from the Florida Gators. In the end, instead of filling some holes on offense, Jacksonville chose to make an outstanding defensive unit even better.

The Jaguars have two more days of draft work yet to do. On Friday, they have the 61st overall pick in the second round and the 93rd selection in the third round. The draft concludes Saturday with rounds 4-7.

They will have picks toward the end of the fourth round, the sixth round and two picks in the seventh round.

Is Al Lawson in trouble? Re-election to Congress may be in doubt

Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville mayor running in the Democratic Primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, may be positioning himself to do the unthinkable and capsize incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.

Brown enjoyed a two-to-one fundraising advantage during the first quarter of 2018: $167,088 to $83,866.

Lawson had $100,000 cash on hand at the end of 2017, before Brown got in the race. Now Lawson has just under $160,000 and Brown has just over $127,000.

Can Brown maintain the momentum? That remains to be seen.

Some interesting donors populated Brown’s Q1 report, though not really enough of them.

One such donor: 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, who went in for $250.

Local NAACP head Isaiah Rumlin checked in at $2,000. Former CSX head Michael Ward gave $2,700, as did John Baker and JU President Tim Cost.

Brown is light on corporate PAC money, and that’s where Lawson has an edge. Walmart, Boeing, Duke Energy, Rayonier, CSX, cotton and peanut interests all contributed.

Lawson also got Republican money, again, this time from “Friends of Mike H,” the political committee of lobbyist and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Brown officially launches his campaign next Saturday, with a late morning event at Jacksonville’s IBEW Hall — the meeting place of Duval Democrats.

Lawson, who vowed to retire Brown when the former Mayor entered the race, has got to get his campaign architecture right. While he has hired a senior consultant, the fact remains that Lawson’s campaign apparatus was essentially untested in 2016.

Recall that his victory was over Corrine Brown, who was facing indictment and eventual conviction for the “One Door for Education” scheme. Corrine Brown’s fundraising was anemic, due to not being able to campaign effectively.

Alvin Brown is facing no indictments, no legal clouds. The worst that can be said about him was he was too centrist as Jacksonville Mayor.

Al Lawson needs to show some real fundraising and real momentum, and needs to figure out outreach to Jacksonville.

His staff’s major connection to the city, the connected Jenny Busby, has moved on to Gwen Graham’s gubernatorial campaign.

Lawson has had almost two years to figure it out. Now he has four months.

Can he get it done? Or will Alvin Brown finally (recall that he ran in 1994) go to Congress?

Jacksonville Bold for 4.20.18 — Can’t knock the hustle

In Jacksonville, tales of the next year of elections have just begun.

In this edition: congressional fundraising. For those needing a guide to both contenders and pretenders, a look at the money (months before voters cast ballots) will tell that tale.

Down the page, our story on City Council fundraising. Some candidates who are not faring so well saw it, as indicated by the relative paucity of glad-handing for our Jacksonville correspondent by players not really in the game.

For those who decry the “horserace coverage” of politics — is it indeed not a race? Courting the donor class, pandering to “the rubes,” emotional appeals, gaming the outcome — they are all hallmarks of a competition.

And for the title of this week’s Bold, we borrowed (stole) from Jay-Z — and not just to ensure Lenny Curry reads it.

“Can’t knock the hustle” serves as a reminder to all of those working this cycle that, even as the physical days get longer, the time to decide your fate is closer to the end than the beginning.

The anxiety of influence

“It’s good to have all these relationships in D.C., but as Senator, you have more influence.”

The above quote, by far, was the most notable offered during Gov. Rick Scott’s tightly messaged “business roundtable” in Jacksonville. It also illustrated a unique dual message; that of the outsider who can play the inside game.

Rick Scott’s ‘influence’ line was the most interesting of the 45-minute event.

Scott reprised his critique of term limits, coupled with a vision of what he would do as Senator to redress constituent concerns.

Scott vowed, for example, that he would be positioned to help get JAXPORT’s dredge federally funded.

In response to a question about waterways, Scott vowed to talk to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who (depending on who you ask) may or may not have exempted Florida from offshore drilling.

Scott also vowed to meet with heads of other federal agencies.

Scott’s tacit pitch: being able to play the inside game from day one, while still using outsider rhetoric, such as he did on taxes.

Read more here.

$300K for the Sheriff

Rep. John Rutherford, the former Jacksonville Sheriff who is now representing Northeast Florida’s 4th Congressional District, cleared the $300,000 on-hand mark by the end of March.

John Rutherford has the only money tree in CD 4.

Rutherford had not been aggressively fundraising before the just-concluded quarter. Rutherford ended 2017 with $183,748 on hand.

Among Rutherford’s more interesting supporters: Jacksonville donor Peter Rummell, who has said he would only give money to candidates who backed an assault weapons ban. Rutherford never took that position.

Corporate donors include Clear Channel, Viacom, Walmart, and Rayonier.

Rutherford faces no credible primary opponent; however, the Democratic field in the deep-red district is still shaking out, even as none of them thus far enjoy any fundraising traction.

Read all about Monday’s Democratic candidate forum here.

Brown closes cash gap

In the Democratic primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, there appears to be a money race after all.

Per a news release from Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville Mayor enjoyed a 2:1 fundraising advantage in Q1 2018.

Can Alvin Brown eclipse Al Lawson? Money (so far) says yes.

And that means that Brown has pulled close to incumbent Rep. Al Lawson regarding cash on hand.

For the quarter, Brown brought in $167, 088.73; Lawson $83,866.34.

By the end of 2017, before Brown entered the race, Lawson had $100,000 cash-on-hand. Now Lawson has just under $160,000; Brown has a little over $127K.

Brown is “humbled by the widespread grassroots support for our people-powered campaign, which will allow us to connect with voters across the 5th District. Floridians have proved they are ready for new leadership as Washington politicians continue to care more about self-preservation than fighting for the people back home.”

Ward, Waltz self-finance to replace DeSantis in DC

What’s clear about the race to succeed Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District: There will be a lot of money spent to get the nomination.

Ponte Vedra businessman John Ward still leads with cash-on-hand in the seat that encompasses southern St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties; however, Fox News contributor Mike Waltz is close behind.

Mike Waltz is very much in the game in CD 6. (Image: Facebook)

As of the end of March, Ward had $709,340 on hand (with $555,000 of that from his own checkbook). Waltz, who loaned his own campaign $400,000, has $653,354 on hand.

On the Republican side, Ward and Waltz are demonstrating the most fundraising ability. Former state Rep. Fred Costello has $15,720 on hand. St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns has yet to report fundraising.

Two Democrats, meanwhile, also show a talent for fundraising.

Democrat Stephen Sevigny said Friday that his campaign brought in $250,000 in the first quarter. Sevigny’s total includes $50,000 in candidate loans. He finished the quarter with $227K on hand.

Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations under Bill Clinton, currently leads the primary field with $920,000 in total fundraising after reporting $375,000 raised for the quarter. With $595K on hand, she is keeping pace with the Republicans, without spending her own money on the campaign so far.

JAXBIZ picks Duggan for HD 15

On Tuesday, JAXBIZ (the political arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce) endorsed Wyman Duggan in House District 15.

JAXBIZ endorsed Wyman Duggan at a pivotal time, with challenges emerging and money drying up.

“Wyman is an experienced, conservative leader who can make an immediate impact for our community in Tallahassee,” JAXBIZ Chair Dane Grey said. “Wyman understands the importance of growing jobs for hardworking families and attracting investment in our community.”

Duggan faces two Republican opponents in the primary and a lull on the fundraising front. For the second straight month in March, he raised just over $2,000; he has just over $95,000 cash on hand.

Duggan, a land-use attorney with deep connections in Jacksonville, has amassed a phalanx of endorsements since entering the race to succeed Rep. Jay Fant, and the JAXBIZ endorsement confirms his position as the choice of Jacksonville’s political and business establishment.

Sports complex improvements coming

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee approved moving $1.945 million from the Sports Complex Capital Maintenance Fund to fund improvements at the Sports Complex.

Improvements are coming to the Sports Complex soon. (Image: Getty)

The bill is now ready for the full Council to vote on it next week.

The money was available, per a city representative, because of “excess debt service” funds from FY 17.

Among the projects to be funded: “Seating bowl repairs and widening of the front entrance plaza at the Arena, steel painting, lighting upgrades, bleacher repairs, upgrading of video control room equipment and concourse televisions, and turf equipment replacements at the baseball grounds, and replacing aging food service equipment, upgrading the phone system, seating bowl repairs, and building system upgrades at the stadium.”

The city has spent big money on the sports complex in recent years.

In recent years, Jacksonville taxpayers have authorized $88 million of city-funded capital improvements to the Jaguars’ stadium: $43 million for the world’s biggest scoreboard, and half of a $90 million buy-in that secured a new amphitheater, a covered practice field, and club seat improvements.

Council still hashing out cannabis conundrum

Ordinance 2018-75 would revise extant code relative to medical cannabis. However, a Jacksonville City Council committee can’t figure out a way forward, with a deferral on the bill again Monday

The code was formulated in response to “Charlotte’s Web” low-THC cannabis being the single legal strain, and after an extended period of debate, processing and dispensing were allowed in commercial districts, with cultivation permitted in agricultural regions.

Council’s mellow harshed again over controversial language in cannabis bill.

That debate was tortuous; so too is this one, with the second deferral of this legislation in Monday’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety Committee pushing back the bill two more weeks.

“This bill puts our code in compliance with Florida statutes,” said a representative from the Office of General Counsel. “The statute prohibits cultivation and processing facilities within 500 feet of a school” but allows a dispensary given a waiver within 500 feet.

However, given a wide range of concerns addressed this week in committee, it is clear that a public-notice meeting will be needed to refine bill language.

Curry draws challenger

Curry faces a challenge on the 2019 ballot, and it all stems from a beef over a boat show.

Former Atlantic Beach Commissioner Jimmy Hill, a Republican like Curry, took issue with a scheduling snafu over a 2017 boat show that led to him being edged out of promoting boat shows altogether, leading ultimately, he says, to Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Can Jimmy Hill be king? Or will Lenny Curry retain the crown?

Now Hill hopes to have the last laugh … and edge Curry out of the Mayor’s office next year.

Hill believes his group was edged out of the boat show because it used Metro Park and was “the last remaining obstacle to getting rid of Metro Park.”

“The Lenny Curry administration is wholly responsible,” Hill said, for the boat show issues.

And now the ultimate revenge: a challenge on the ballot.

Hill, who worked for Curry’s election, asserts that he “misjudged [Curry’s] character and willingness to do the right thing for people.

Moreover, the challenger says he’s not alone in his chagrin with the incumbent.

“There’s a groundswell of people disappointed in the Mayor,” Hill said. “Key players in his administration are steering him in the wrong direction.”

Read more here.

City Council fundraising update

Some noteworthy news and notes from March fundraising reports for Jacksonville City Council candidates.

The first candidate to hit $250,000 raised, Matt Carlucci, is suspending fundraising for his at-large race against Don Redman.

Leanna Cumber, pictured, looks to replace the likely-irreplaceable Lori Boyer on Council.

Also starting off extremely strong: LeAnna Cumber, who has raised over $170,000 for a district race against Democrat James Jacobs, who has under $500 on hand.

Not every race is seeing robust fundraising, however; For those wanting to get money out of politics, the District 10 race offers a unique illustration. Only one of the six candidates (Kevin Monroe) has more than $1,000 on hand.

Surprising that property or union interests aren’t floating a candidate, bankrolling him and her for reliable votes on issues that may come before the council. But there’s still time.

Read about all the races here.

New JEA CEO wants privatization ‘pause’

New JEA interim CEO Aaron Zahn took over this week after a board meeting saw a vote go his way over CFO Melissa Dykes.

How long does a ‘pause in discussion’ last? (Image: Action News Jax)

There are those close to the process who believe Dykes’ tenure will be short-lived in this role, with other opportunities opening for her elsewhere.

This was not a move many predicted before recent weeks and was presaged with a game of musical chairs, in which Zahn resigned his position to pursue the interim CEO position, one filled by Dykes for the prior week, after longtime JEA CEO Paul McElroy stepped down 10 days ago.

Dykes and Zahn both lobbied board members for the position. But members, appointed by Curry, voted for the Mayor’s man.

Zahn noted that he wanted a “pause” in privatization talks, though he would not say how long that pause needed to be. We got reactions to that from some leading members of the Jacksonville City Council.

Supplementary reading: New bill would give JEA Board control to City Council.

Neptune Beach gets $375K for storm upgrades

Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Cord Byrd this week presented a $375,000 check to Neptune Beach’s Mayor and City Council.

The money was part of an appropriation to bolster the beachfront city’s stormwater drainage system on Florida Boulevard. The Northeast Florida Republicans helped secure the money state budget during the 2018 Legislative Session.

Aaron Bean and Cord Byrd present a $375K check to the City of Neptune Beach.

“Once this project is complete, Neptune Beach and the Beaches community will be better prepared for the next storm and have safer access to Florida Boulevard during emergencies,” Bean said.

Byrd added that the project “will improve the Beaches stormwater system and ensure a safe evacuation route for residents during a natural disaster.”

Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown thanked the lawmakers for pushing for the funding and said it “will go a long way toward alleviating our drainage problems in our city and, most importantly, will restore safety to our evacuation route.”

Bean presents $975K to STEM advancement

On Monday, Bean presented a $975,000 check to Kathleen Schofield, executive director of STEM2 Hub; Gary Chartrand, chair of STEM2 Hub Corporate Board and a group of aspiring Northeast Florida STEM students.

During the most recent Session, Bean worked to secure funding for STEM2 Hub’s Northeast Florida 21st Century Workforce Development project, which increases the availability of STEM-related educational programs.

Aaron Bean presents $975K in state funding to the Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub.

STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — represent some of the fastest-growing, most in-demand career fields in today’s workforce.

“STEM education is vital to the future workforce of our state,” Bean said. “I envision a Florida where all children have the chance to learn these critical skills, so they can realize their truly unlimited potential. This funding moves us closer to fulfilling this vision and provides Northeast Florida’s students with the opportunities needed to compete and excel in the 21st Century.”

The STEM2 Hub project helps schools to continue offering 21st Century Skills Development programs to students in Northeast Florida, with a focus on robotics, coding and workforce-aligned after-school programs and high-quality math instruction. The goal of schools working with the STEM2 Hub is to increase the number of STEM-capable graduates.

“It is so important that we give all students the opportunity to grow competent in the skills of problem-solving and critical thinking,” Schofield said. “We must make students feel connected to community and business leaders, as well as to their schools, so that they see a pathway to their own success.”

More information about the STEM2 Hub is at stem2hub.org.

​More money: ​Alvin Brown closes​ fundraising ​gap with Al Lawson

It appears there is a money race in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

According to a press release from Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville mayor enjoyed a two-to-one fundraising advantage during the first quarter of 2018.

And that means that Brown has pulled close to incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson in terms of cash on hand.

For the quarter, Brown brought in $167, 088, while Lawson hauled in$83,866.

Lawson had $100,000 cash on hand at the end of 2017, before Brown got in the race. Now Lawson has just under $160,000 and Brown has just over $127,000.

Brown is “humbled by the widespread grassroots support for our people-powered campaign, which will allow us to connect with voters across the 5th District. Floridians have proven they are ready for new leadership as Washington politicians continue to care more about self-preservation than fighting for the people back home.”

Expect updates as reports surface on the Federal Elections Commission website Monday, with details as to donors for each candidate.

Jacksonville Bold for 4.13.18 — Infrastructure week

In campaigns, there is always a watershed moment when all the gauzy, aspirational rhetoric fades — like so many temporary tattoos — replaced by the hard realities of campaign finance and infrastructure.

For races on the 2018 ballot, we are there — even if some candidates haven’t figured it out.

If one is looking to win a primary in August, as many Democrats have to do this year locally, one might think that the campaign would be in high gear. The money would be in place. The team would be working.

We see that with some candidates (for example, who is working harder this cycle than Tracye Polson in her state House race?). With others, we don’t (consider Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, who hasn’t done anything in his challenge to Sen. Audrey Gibson but buy campaign T-shirts).

The most prominent campaign event this week was the Governor’s rally Wednesday. Lots of incumbents and prospective candidates on hand; some should have taken notes.

In some quarters, People malign Rick Scott as a checkbook candidate. But he assembles the best team, has resources to message, and understands the discipline needed for such message.

He’s been working the same speech around the state, but he keeps refining it, getting more comfortable with the material. And, despite mourning a trusted aide, he has learned to reflect the affinity of the crowd. His smiles seem natural now.

And Bill Nelson is in for a fight.

As any incumbent can tell you: build the infrastructure before you need it. Because you will need it sooner than you think.

Scott Senate rollout

Gov. Scott rolled out his Senate campaign in the Jacksonville market Wednesday, with a stop at Ring Power on the Southside.

Rick Scott is already refining a credible stump speech, running with enthusiasm.

Scott’s political committee has sent out prepared remarks for each local event that have been the same as those sent out for the launch in Orlando Monday.

However, at least in Jacksonville, he deviated from the remarks, adding new details about retiring $9 billion in state debt during his tenure — a tacit allusion to the Congressional Budget Office predictions of increasing deficits over the next decade, subtly noting that Florida is not on that fiscal path under his watch.

Throughout his 10-minute speech, the Governor was upbeat, in “happy warrior” mode.

The local Democratic Party had called for protests; however, if there were protesters, they were not noticed by this reporter or other media on hand.

Scott drew a crowd of roughly 300, including numerous members of the Duval County Legislative Delegation and the Jacksonville City Council, as well as people who hope to serve in Tallahassee or City Hall.

In contrast to other events on tour, the Governor took questions. Included were answers about an elections complaint against the New Republican PAC and on Syria policy.

Soderberg rakes in more campaign donations

Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations during the Bill Clinton presidency, posted another impressive quarter of fundraising in her bid to succeed Republican Ron DeSantis in Congress.

Nancy Soderberg is running to win Ron DeSantis’ current seat.

Per a media release: Soderberg raised $375,000 in the first quarter of 2018. Soderberg raised $920,000 during her bid for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

The media release does not give an indication of what’s been spent this quarter; however, by the end of 2017, Soderberg raised $544,636, with $376,000 on hand.

This puts her ahead of other Democrats in the race. Stephen Sevigny has nearly $227,000 on hand; John Upchurch, just over $123,000.

Republicans running for the seat have yet to file fundraising reports or issue media releases.

The cash on hand leader as of the end of 2017 was Republican John Ward, a businessman living in Ponte Vedra, somewhat to the north of the district that runs from southern St. Johns to Volusia counties.

Ward, who loaned his campaign $500,000, had $644,000 on hand.

Brown, Lawson make moves in congressional primary clash

The Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, a cartographical anomaly that sprawls from downtown Jacksonville west to Tallahassee, saw some moves this week by both incumbent Al Lawson and challenger Alvin Brown.

Alvin Brown again reaches out to the right wing … odd strategy in Dem primary

Lawson’s campaign showed its first signs of engagement, with the hire of self-styled “hip-hop lobbyistPhillip Singleton as the campaign’s “senior adviser,” handling fundraising and outreach.

Singleton’s comments in the media release seem to suggest that Lawson’s efforts thus far in the campaign have been lacking.

“I am ready to hit-the-ground-running and re-energize our donor and voter base,” said Singleton.

Alvin Brown also is making moves, though it is difficult to tell if his latest will help in a Democratic primary.

Brown dined with right-wing talk radio host Ed Dean this week, a curious move … even with Dean hosting a straw poll this weekend on the Southside.

Dean’s listeners tend to be Tea Party/Trump Republicans, few of whom will vote in the Democratic primary in CD 5.

Brown, of course, is no stranger to outreach to the right wing — a triangulation strategy he used when running for Jacksonville Mayor.

In an ordinary Democratic primary, it would be easy to imagine a digital ad proclaiming Brown to be a tool of the right.

However, those with memories going back two years will recall Trump’s Florida co-chair Susie Wiles helping to pitch Lawson to Jacksonville media as he ran against Corrine Brown.

Gibson slams Scott, lauds ‘moderate’ Nelson

Senate Minority Leader-Designate Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, excoriated Scott upon his U.S. Senate campaign launch Monday.

Will voters agree with Sen. Audrey Gibson that Bill Nelson is a better deal maker than Rick Scott?

“Rick Scott cannot erase seven years of leaving behind my constituents and others throughout this state and now try to take his same show to Washington. His jobs incentive programs have not provided real jobs to the average Floridian because he counts failed potential job creation as a Florida job,” Gibson said.

Scott’s relationship with President Donald Trump, Gibson asserted, is something voters should “definitely” consider, given Trump’s lack of “decorum” and “predictability.”

Besides, Gibson joked, Trump may not be President for very much longer.

As well, Gibson doubted Scott’s ability to be a “consensus builder,” which “moderate” Nelson has been for years.

“He may not necessarily characterize himself that way,” Gibson said of Nelson as a moderate, but lauded his ability to “build a bridge” and bring “balance to his position as a Senator.”

Additionally, Scott is as much a “career politician” as Nelson, Gibson said, given that he’s running for one office from another.

Could Dem take Fant House seat?

The race to replace Rep. Jay Fant in Jacksonville’s House District 15 continues, and March showed evidence of more traction from Democrat Polson.

For one thing, she’s up nine points in a poll her campaign commissioned — a major shock when one considers that for years no Democrat even bothered to run in the traditional GOP sinecure.

Blue wave in Jay Fant’s old seat? Time will tell, but the Trayce Polson campaign keeps raising money.

Polson, the sole Democrat running to replace the Attorney General hopeful, reports a combined March fundraising total of $30,821.00. She’s raised $174,103 between her campaign and political committee accounts, with $113,635 on hand.

“We have been knocking on doors since Veterans Day and one thing is very clear,” said Polson. “Voters are looking for a new leader to send to Tallahassee.”

To win that race in November, Polson will have to beat a Republican; currently, three are vying for the nomination.

In HD 15, Jacksonville land use attorney Wyman Duggan now faces two Republican opponents in the primary and trouble on the fundraising front. For the second straight month, he raised just over $2,000; he has just over $95,000 cash on hand.

Duggan leads Republicans Mark Zeigler and Joseph Hogan in fundraising.

Other races were less interesting, but you can read more about them here.

Brosche goes in on Curry

More harsh words between Jacksonville’s City Council President and Mayor.

Lenny Curry went on TV and put Anna Brosche on blast. Brosche responded in kind.

More drama on the fourth floor of City Hall this week. Like every week these days.

“As for his messaging against me, I am, quite frankly, surprised to be an object of his constant attention, one requiring a messaging campaign. While he is focused on the dynamic of our unhealthy relationship, I am going to continue my efforts to serve the people of Jacksonville, and keep asking questions to make sure everything adds up for the people,” Brosche added.

Of course, the central battleground for this conflict, at this point, is the special committee to explore the potential sale of Jacksonville’s utility, JEA.

After two consecutive Thursdays in which he took tough questions from that committee, JEA CEO Paul McElroy decided his time was up and stepped down from the highest paying public position in the city.

For Brosche, this decision adds to the current “uncertainty” surrounding the utility.

“Uncertainty has been a frequent term used in the process of evaluating a potential sale of JEA; Paul’s departure brings no exception,” she added.

Read More Here.

Speaking of JEA … a new ad

“Tell Lenny JEA is not for sale”: the latest digital ad from Florida Committee for Infrastructure Investment.

The spot, which will have a $5000+ ad buy, will appear starting Monday on digital channels and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, per the news release.

Can unions keep up with Lenny Curry in the ad game?

The spot weaves together a narrative from local media accounts, charging Curry with taking actions to move forward with a sale of Jacksonville’s public utility despite a declared agnosticism to the topic beyond a “mature conversation” about the value of the “asset.”

“Everyone connected with the sale is also closely connected to the mayor,” asserts the copy. “According to a city auditor, Curry’s administration has been working behind your back preparing for a sale.”

A local union head expressed the rationale for the spot.

“While Lenny Curry continues to say that he is not a proponent of selling JEA, his actions are not matching his words. Our ad simply connects the dots based on evidence provided by local media. We do hope that the Mayor will listen to the will of the people and stop this push to sell JEA,” asserts D. Jason Baber, vice president of the Professional Employees Association.

“While we understand it takes a vote of council to actually sell JEA, we are asking that the Mayor as the leader of this city publicly end what we believe he started. We are asking that he publicly come out and say he is against the sale of JEA,” Baber adds. “If he is unwilling to do this, we know he and any candidate he supports wishes to sell JEA against the will of the people.”

Local unions released a statement opposing the exploration of a sale of the utility last week; this week, they continue pushing the narrative.

It remains to be seen if this will ultimately affect Curry’s re-election bid, however. The Mayor faces no credible opposition and raised $1.5 million in campaign funds in March, his first month as a filed candidate.

Sheriff raises $400K for re-election

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams is back to fundraising in earnest for his re-election bid, and both committee and hard money coffers are healthy after a strong March.

Tom Petway is one of Sheriff Mike Williams’ big donors.

Williams brought in $27,500 off 43 contributions to his campaign account, his most active month since launching last year.

He has raised $179,450 and has over $175,000 on hand.

His political committee, A Safe Jacksonville, brought in $38,000 in March. The committee has $232,000 on hand.

All donations to the committee came either from the family of Tom Petway, the former JEA Board member who kicked off the latest debate regarding privatizing the utility, or the Sorensen family of Firehouse Subs fame.

Williams’ opponent, Democrat Tony Cummings, raised no money for the second straight month, and has just over $200 banked.

District double-think?

Some interesting quotes in the Florida Times-Union regarding The District project.

Politicians will fall in line behind this development. What choice do they have?

The Peter Rummell development on Jacksonville Southside could result in $56 million of tax breaks, and $25 million of city infrastructure investment.

Yet some raise questions about the concept, currently being pushed hard by Councilwoman Lori Boyer.

Matt Schellenberg, who has said the project should have been put out for rebid years ago after the first of many stalls, questioned the wisdom of the investment.

“I would say if the city has that much money floating around, there are other areas in Jacksonville for that money,” the Mandarin Republican says.

This project would not be constructed for a few years, which leads to another question … one of timing, posed by Councilman Bill Gulliford.

“I don’t know that I would want to invest my money in it because we’re looking at a cyclical economy that’s at the top of the cycle right now.”

Indeed, what will things look like in three years?

Regardless, the City Council will make the call. To the surprise of no one, the Downtown Investment Authority approved the deal this week.

Delaney joins Rogers Towers/Fiorentino Group initiative

The next move for former Jacksonville Mayor and University of North Florida President John Delaney was revealed Wednesday via media release. He will work as part of a strategic alliance between Rogers Towers and the Fiorentino Group.

John Delaney’s next move is into the influence sphere.

The alliance, formed five years ago, includes collaboration on business and government affairs issues; business counsel; higher education issues; complex environmental matters and a variety of other government affairs needs at the local, state and federal levels.

Delaney is singularly positioned to help in these matters.

“John’s professional career has been one of the ‘most unique’ and diverse of almost anyone I know, and he brings to our clients’ needs a special perspective that will be of great value as they deal with legal issues as well as the ever-changing landscape of both the political world and government affairs arena,” said Fred Franklin, Rogers Towers managing director.

“John has been a part of some of Jacksonville’s most successful public policy initiatives,” said Marty Fiorentino, president of The Fiorentino Group. “His decades of experience in local, state and federal politics and tenure as president of one of Florida’s leading educational institutions has involved him in many complex issues where his leadership has had a real and positive impact. His addition to our team will provide exceptional added-value services as we develop winning strategies for our clients to influence public policy.”

“As I made my decision to retire from UNF, I looked for a new chapter to open in my career that offered me the chance to bring together the skills and experiences I have harnessed since starting out as a young lawyer working for former Mayor Ed Austin, when he served our community as State Attorney,” said Delaney.

“Having known Marty and Fred both personally and professionally over the years, I was aware of the great work their firms were doing. We collectively started a conversation that led to this decision. I look forward to working with the two of them and their teams to represent clients in a variety of areas both here in Northeast Florida and around the state and nation,” Delaney added.

Overton makes a political comeback

Jacksonville political veteran Jim Overton became the first of what could be many candidates for Duval County Tax Collector.

Overton, who filed this week, is no stranger to Duval County voters.

A familiar face seeks a new office.

With Tillie Fowler‘s blessing, he ran to serve her unexpired term on City Council in 1992, serving two full terms after that. Overton subsequently served three terms as Duval County Property Appraiser.

Overton tells us that current tax collector Michael Corrigan, who is under consideration to be CEO of Visit Jacksonville, encouraged him to run.

Corrigan and Overton are friends outside of the political sphere, and Overton believes that Corrigan has done a “good job” in the role, and, if elected, he will keep the office on an “even keel” for the next couple of years.

Overton notes that the tax collector’s office is a “bigger shop” than the property appraisers, but otherwise believes it’s an “easy fit.”

Overton already knows many staff members in the office he seeks, and some encouraged him to run.

Overton’s entry in the race will likely force certain termed-out members of the Jacksonville City Council who have been eyeballing a run at the office to make moves or cut bait.

Council candidate Carlucci clears $250K raised

Jacksonville political veteran Matt Carlucci, a Republican running for City Council in at-large Group 4, became the first candidate this cycle to clear $250,000 raised.

And, audaciously, he is taking a break from fundraising … having hit his campaign budget.

Matt Carlucci (center) continues to bank campaign funds.

Carlucci, who seeks to return to Jacksonville’s legislative body, drew from a diverse group of contributors again in March, as he brought in over $29,000.

Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, former City Council President Kevin Hyde, and former Council colleague Dick Kravitz, gave to Carlucci, as did Democrats, such as School Board member Warren Jones and City Council candidate Sunny Gettinger.

Corporate interests, such as the Haskell Company and J.B. Coxwell Contracting, likewise featured on the contribution list.

The $29,150 raised by Carlucci is his most significant single month haul since July 2017, and comes after another former councilman, Don Redman, became the second candidate in the race.

Boylan makes up ground in Council race

Two Republicans — former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan and Chamber candidate Rose Conry — are squaring off to replace termed-out Matt Schellenberg in Jacksonville City Council District 6.

Conry, while still the front-runner regarding money both raised and on-hand, lost some ground to Boylan in March.

WJCT Board of Trustees Chair Sandra Cook and WJCT President and CEO Michael Boylan.

Boylan raised $11,400, in his second straight month over five figures in fundraising. As evidence of a genuinely divided donor class in this race, such Jacksonville heavyweights as former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton’s Gate Petroleum, Preston Haskell and Jaguars/FPL lobbyist Paul Harden all ponied up for Boylan.

Conry’s operation is being run by Curry’s political adviser, Tim Baker; however, her $2,275 haul was the weakest of her six months as an active candidate. Among the donors to Conry in March: Bold City Strategic Partners and John Baker.

Despite the reversal in fortunes in March, Conry still holds leads in total money raised ($69,635 to $41,875) and cash on hand (approximately $63,400 to roughly $31,400).

Diamond banks $8K more

For those who might want to challenge Republican Rory Diamond as he runs to succeed termed-out Bill Gulliford on the Jacksonville City Council, it’s getting late.

Rory Diamond keeps banking campaign money. Will anyone challenge him?

Diamond, whose campaign is being handled by Curry’s political adviser Tim Baker, banked another respectable month of fundraising in March, raising $8,350. He now has raised $119,000, with over $113,000 on hand.

Among the names on Diamond’s latest report: Jacksonville investor Ashton Hudson, and University of North Florida Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Chris Warren.

Diamond has already outraised Gulliford in each of his runs. Gulliford, unopposed in his 2015 re-election bid, raised $95,000.

In 2011, when Gulliford initially won the office, he raised just over $47,000 (though he defeated Danny Becton, who raised $115,000).

JEA straw vote on November ballot

Two bills of note passed by the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday evening.

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Straw ballot for JEA sale: 2018-141 will prime a straw ballot referendum for November to test the voters’ mood on a JEA sale.

The measure, sponsored by Garrett Dennis and John Crescimbeni (two skeptics of the need to sell), would, in theory, serve as a corrective to an impending sales pitch to sell from many directions.

Garrett Dennis and John Crescimbeni combined to push through the JEA sale straw ballot vote.

Crescimbeni noted in committee that the straw ballot is nonbinding and merely gives direction on whether to “participate in that process … weigh in and tell us they’re interested, or they’re not interested.”

A rumor the bill would be pulled from Consent ultimately proved unfounded.

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Board reform: 2018-165, also sponsored by Dennis, will bar an active member of a board from applying for a paid position with the organization controlled by the board.

This bill was drafted after Joe Peppers, a member of the Kids Hope Alliance board who has since stepped down, made a successful play for that organization’s CEO position.

Dennis, one of the council’s most strident opponents of the reforms that brought KHA into being as a replacement for the Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, saw Peppers as unqualified to be CEO and as someone who is parlaying relationships with the board and Curry’s team into a high-paying job.

Dennis said the bill would foster “transparency and fairness.”

Leading pot lawyers expand to Jacksonville

Bold City has a new pot law firm, which will practice out of the Riverside shopping center.

Denver-based Vicente Sederberg LLC, described as “one of the nation’s leading marijuana law firms,” is opening a Jacksonville office — serving the largest city in Florida’s burgeoning medical marijuana markets.

Vicente Sederberg partner Bryan Vicente and Jacksonville office head Sally Kent Peebles.

The extension of Vicente Sederberg — which claims to have “guided” one of the state’s five original medical marijuana licensees — is the latest development in the growing legal community for the marijuana industry.

Sally Kent Peebles will head the Jacksonville office, according to a news release.

Several lawsuits are expected after Tallahassee Judge Karen Gievers ruled that Tampa strip club entrepreneur Joe Redner can grow his own pot to treat his lung cancer.

The firm is also sponsoring the “National Cannabis Industry Association’s Quarterly Cannabis Caucus” in Tampa next week, as well as taking part in North East Florida NORML’s 420 on the Beach event in Jacksonville Beach set for (you guessed it) April 20.

T-U praises Ford’s ‘dynamic change’ at JTA

Nat Ford recently celebrated five years as CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.

“These have been the most enjoyable five years of my career,” Ford told the Florida Times-Union.

The Florida Times-Union lavishes praise on Nathaniel Ford Sr., CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA). Photo: James Crichlow/Jacksonville Business Journal.

“And they have been five of the best years in JTA’s history, too,” the editorial board praises in a new op-ed. “In short, JTA has become a more modern, more responsive and more relevant transit system.”

Since taking over JTA, Ford:

— Completely overhauled JTA’s antiquated route system, increasing the on-time rate for buses to 80 percent.

— Launched the first two lines of the premium First Coast Flyer traveling into the Northside and Southside with fewer stops; a third Flyer to the Beaches will start later this year.

— “Skillfully united the community’s stakeholders” to support revamping the Skyway, transforming the old automated aerial structure into a roadway with a ramp system that can accommodate driverless vehicles.

— Installed a test track to test driverless vehicles.

— Broke ground on the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center in the LaVilla neighborhood.

— Spearheaded JTA takeover of the St. Johns Ferry, with substantial infrastructure improvements. “The ferry’s ridership numbers are now booming, and it has shed its reputation for being woefully underutilized.”

“We’ve built up a reputation that has transcended Jacksonville,” Ford told the Editorial Board. “At the state and federal level, there is a lot of confidence in our agency.”

Greyhound ready for big move

Jacksonville’s Greyhound Intercity Bus Terminal is ready to make the big move from its longtime home at 10 N. Pearl St. to a new location about seven blocks west near the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s new hub will connect national, regional and city bus service, as well as the Skyway and nearby Interstate 95.

As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Greyhound terminal at 1111 W. Forsyth St. is the first phase of a $57.3 million JTA Regional Transportation Center project, funded by a combination of federal, state and local money.

To see video of the new facility, click on the image below:

Andy Rodgers, JTA project administrator, told the Business Journal the 9,660-square-foot facility was both on budget and schedule after about a year of construction.

The same food vendors as the current Greyhound station will operate the restaurant area.

JTA owns the building, and Rogers said it will lease it to Greyhound Lines Inc., which will move in April 17. The facility also will handle Megabus and RedCoach bus services.

UNF executes lease in historic downtown Jacksonville building

The University of North Florida is leasing the fourth and fifth floors in the historic Barnett National Bank Building in Downtown Jacksonville

The Coggin College of Business satellite campus will occupy about 16,000 square feet.

The UNF Coggin College of Business satellite campus will occupy about 16,000 square feet in the historic Barnett National Bank Building in Downtown Jacksonville.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Barnett Building is under restoration as the first phase of a $100 million “adaptive reuse program” through a partnership of SouthEast Development Group LLC and The Molasky Group of Companies.

Rehabilitation will include a complete historic preservation of the building as well as the Laura Street Trio, a structured parking facility on the adjacent city lot at 28 W. Forsyth St.

Classrooms and faculty support facilities can accommodate as many as 200 students and a new Entrepreneurial Center to develop and support new businesses. UNF interns will earn credits through the center, working with entrepreneurs in a business incubator program.

“Most cities that have thriving entrepreneurship ecosystems usually have a university involved as part of that,” Mark Dawkins, dean of the UNF Coggin College of Business, told the Business Journal.

The UNF Coggin College of Business has four departments offering eight majors: accounting, economics, finance, financial planning, international business, management, marketing, and transportation and logistics.

“UNF wants the center to benefit not only students but the Jacksonville community as a whole,” Dawkins added.

Al Lawson hires ‘hip-hop lobbyist’, Alvin Brown plays to right-wing radio

The Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, a cartographical anomaly that sprawls from downtown Jacksonville west to Tallahassee, saw some moves this week by both incumbent Al Lawson and challenger Alvin Brown.

Lawson’s campaign showed its first signs of engagement, with the hire of self-styled “hip-hop lobbyist” Phillip Singleton as the campaign’s “senior advisor,” handling fundraising and outreach.

Singleton’s comments in the media release seem to suggest that Lawson’s efforts thus far in the campaign have been lacking.

“I am ready to hit-the-ground running and re-energize our donor and voter base,” said Singleton. “Congressman Lawson has the credentials and insight needed to put politics aside and bring the necessary resources back to Florida’s 5th Congressional District.”

Questions raised: was the donor and voter base somehow divested of energy? And how does one “put politics aside” in a Democratic primary.

Alvin Brown also is making moves, though it is difficult to tell if his latest will help in a Democratic primary.

Per Karen Bowling, Brown lunched with right-wing talk radio host Ed Dean this week, a curious move.

Most interesting lunch today with Ed Dean, host of the Ed Dean show, Florida’s #1 radio show, broadcast daily from 6 to 9 on AM 600 and FM 101.1 and Alvin Brown, who recently announced that he is running for Congress in the 5th Congressional District!”

Bowling is the former chief executive officer of Solantic Urgent Care, a company she cofounded with Gov. Rick Scott in 2001. After Solantic’s sale in 2011, Bowling joined the senior staff of Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Dean’s listeners tend to be Tea Party/Trump Republicans, few of whom will vote in the Democratic primary in CD 5.

Brown, of course, is no stranger to outreach to the right wing — a triangulation strategy he used when running for Jacksonville Mayor.

In 2011, Brown won the Mayor’s Office with the help of GOP money and crossover votes.

In 2015, Brown attended a luncheon hosted by Billie Tucker, an activist known for Tea Party work and organizing the first Donald Trump rally in Jacksonville later that year.

In an ordinary Democratic primary, it would be easy to imagine a digital ad proclaiming Brown to be a tool of the right.

However, those with memories going back two years will recall Trump’s Florida co-chair Susie Wiles helping to pitch Lawson to Jacksonville media as he ran against Corrine Brown.

Chicken beef spawns assault and battery charges for Congressman’s son: Report

Squawking about chicken this week led to a parking lot showdown, then lockdown, for a Congressman’s son.

The Tallahassee Democrat reports that Alfred Lawson III, the son of Rep. Al Lawson, “is facing battery and aggravated assault charges after investigators say he tried to run over a gas station clerk on Tuesday.”

As of Thursday evening, Lawson was still in jail.

Per the Democrat, Lawson and another man entered the store, wondering where the proprietors “bought their chicken.”

Chaos ensued: Lawson punched a clerk, who then chased him outside with a baseball bat, leading to Lawson eventually leaving the premises and coming back in an Acura.

Lawson, per the report, accelerated toward the victim, but eventually fled on foot.

Lawson’s father, a Democrat, represents the Fifth Congressional District in Congress.

He faces a primary challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

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