Next week, the new Jacksonville City Council year begins, and we will (likely) see two new additions.
The names of Terrance Freeman and Ju’Coby Pittman were leaked Monday to the Jacksonville Daily Record, many hours ahead of the Governor’s official announcement.
Someone, for some reason, made the decision to advance the message. Historically the Governor’s Office is pretty leakproof.
Yet it came from somewhere.
Meanwhile, another big story came this week from a different place: Foreign operators fleeced Mayor Lenny Curry’s PAC.
The Florida Times-Union wrote up the story, one that percolated for some weeks in gossip circles. And they got mileage out of it, via publisher GateHouse’s reach and retweets from many key state reporters.
While the story as written was “just the facts,” there was no reason to spice it up; the damning details alone (see below) were enough.
It’s hard, however, to see this story outside of the context of the frayed relationship between the mayor and the news side of the local paper, a war that has run hot and cold for years now.
Curry right now faces no serious competition for re-election, and he has the money to buy ads and steer the 2019 elections, including down-ballot, his way.
But second terms are always interesting in Dirty Duval. The Mayor will want to rebuild relationships with the T-U (and others in the local media, specifically television, who felt bamboozled during the JEA Sale debate).
Will he do so? Probably not. Curry and his inner circle embrace intransigence as a bargaining position, and three years in, they are dug in for trench warfare, with no diplomats in sight.
Pelosi in for Lawson
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, facing a competitive Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District against former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, is bringing in some star power in support Friday.
That player: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who despite being embattled with prospective leadership challenges from younger members of the Democratic caucus, nonetheless serves a key purpose as a powerful backer of Lawson’s re-election campaign.
Lawson and Pelosi plan a Friday evening press availability at Lawson’s campaign headquarters (1680 Dunn Avenue, Suite 38), along with a meet and greet that kicks off at 5 p.m.
Since Jacksonville Republicans such as Shad Khan have endorsed Brown, Lawson has messaged around the theme of Republicans trying to buy the seat.
With Pelosi at his side, expect Lawson to make similar claims Friday evening.
While we wait on Q2 finance data for Brown and Lawson, Q1 showed parity in cash on hand. Lawson had, at the end of March, $159,000 on hand; Brown, $127,000.
Meanwhile, Brown wants debates with Lawson in each county in the sprawling east-west district.
Godbold backs Brown
On Thursday, former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold endorsed another former Mayor Brown, for Congress.
Brown, mounting a challenge to Lawson, sees this as a key endorsement.
In a short video, Godbold said he’ll be a “big guy in Congress, and we need somebody from North Florida, somebody from Jacksonville, so we can call him and get in touch with him.”
To watch the video, click the image below:
“Alvin’s a good man,” Godbold added.
Godbold was mayor from 1979 to 1987. Brown, from 2011 to 2015.
Will this make a dent in a news cycle? With Lawson bringing Pelosi to town Friday, and with Brown not exactly publicizing the media event, it could be argued Brown did not maximize the value of this endorsement.
State Sen. Aaron Bean faces both a primary challenge and, if he wins, a general election battle in Senate District 4. However, the Fernandina Beach Republican has advantages his challengers don’t, such as key endorsements.
The latest, via the Florida Medical Association PAC, was rolled out Tuesday morning.
Per media release from the Bean Team, FMA PAC President Dr. Mike Patete asserted: “Bean has worked tirelessly for the constituents of his district on many important issues including health care. Serving on various health care committees during his time in the Senate and House, the FMA has worked closely with Senator Bean and we look forward to continuing our work to help make Florida the best state to practice medicine.”
Among Bean’s priorities: telemedicine legislation. His bill passed the Senate without a “no” vote in 2018 but died without hearing in the House.
Bean is “honored to receive the endorsement from such a premier professional organization for physician leadership, patient care and education in Florida.”
“I look forward to the opportunity to work with the FMA members and leadership, to continue to serve my community and constituents, and know together we can play a vital role in shaping effective and innovative health policy in Florida,” Bean added.
The FMA imprimatur will boost Bean, an established incumbent, against a field full of less established challengers.
Scam something that lasts
Some bad news for Curry, via the Florida Times-Union, which reported that Curry’s “Build Something That Lasts” political committee was $120,000 poorer after its treasurer, Eric Robinson wired the money to four different addresses across the country at the behest of a political consultant, Kevin Hofmann.
As it turned out, a “phone scammer duped Robinson,” who didn’t figure out the hustle until Hofmann called Robinson while Robinson was on the phone with a scammer.
Robinson, a Sarasota school board member who handles accounting for dozens of GOP candidates, apparently doesn’t have Caller ID.
Hofmann’s computer was hacked out of Nigeria and the phone hoaxer was in Luxembourg, adding to the mystery.
Robinson, the master of pass-through political committees, donated to another political committee (“Making a Better Tomorrow”), which then gave the money back to Curry’s committee, per the T-U report, making it whole.
Will donors care? Probably not. Curry brought in $244,000 in June, with four opponents raising just over $1,500 against him … combined.
Duly selected leaders
Gov. Rick Scott chose a Republican and a Democrat to replace indicted and suspended Jacksonville City Council members Katrina and Reggie Brown.
The news was first reported by the Jacksonville Daily Record,
The Republican: Terrance Freeman. He is connected, has deep Chamber ties and equally deep political ambition, reportedly replacing Reggie Brown in District 10.
One potential problem: he lived outside the district until this week, which could set the appointment up for a legal challenge. However, city officials are confident that he meets requirements.
The Democrat: Ju’Coby Pittman. Liked on both sides of the aisle, the Democrat will take over District 8.
What’s interesting: Scott’s office would not confirm the picks when we asked. Monday night saw the Governor’s office assert that they have “not made any announcements regarding these appointments.”
It is still a mystery where the story came from, if not the from the Scott administration. Also mysterious is the precise amount of collaboration between the Curry and Scott teams on the selections.
Curry told Florida Politics in June that, if needed, his team would provide “advice” on the picks. Asked weeks later, Scott said that while he didn’t talk to Curry’s team, someone in his office might have.
It’s hard to imagine picks more agreeable to the mayor’s office.
Freeman is a very careful politician, mindful of the need to preserve relationships with the donor class. Pittman, meanwhile, is not going to be inclined to rock the boat rhetorically. The periodic tempests caused by the Browns, in other words, will calm down just in time for election year.
Monumental decision, redux
In the wake of violence in Charlottesville last year, former Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche compelled the city’s parks and recreation department to “inventory” Confederate monuments and markers on city property.
The goal: “propose legislation to move Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers from public property to museums and educational institutions where they can be respectfully preserved and historically contextualized.”
That legislation never materialized in the 2017-18 Council term, and Brosche told us Monday that she wasn’t planning to file any.
However, 14 members of the Task Force on Civil Rights History Brosche convened during her presidency asserted last week in a memo that the process of discussion (one that smoldered in public comment despite a lack of legislation) should be resumed.
The Confederate monument discussion was not part of the task force charge; however, it was an issue that members such as Hope McMath, Rodney Hurst, and Richard Danforth believe merits discussion.
The memo notes that since 1898, Hemming Park has been home to a 62-foot monument to Confederate soldiers. The monument loomed over the carnage of the 1960s “Axe Handle Saturday,” where marauding whites assaulted African-American shop patrons.
“Many Jacksonville residents believe that the reason for the Confederate monument’s placement was to serve as a reminder to former slaves and descendants of their ‘place in society’,” the memo asserts.
Holland pads war chest
June extended a familiar narrative in Duval County property appraiser Jerry Holland‘s re-election bid, as the Republican incumbent again raised a five-figure sum against an undercapitalized Democratic challenger.
Holland raised $12,750 off 26 contributions, many of which are from politically connected Jacksonville residents with an interest in maintaining continuity in office.
Real estate investors and developers, including the Vestcor Company, ponied up, comprising half the contributor list. So too did Gate Petroleum, the family business of former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton.
Politicians also cut checks, including Jacksonville City Councilman-elect Randy White and state House candidate Wyman Duggan, a lobbyist by trade.
Holland has what appears to be an insurmountable cash advantage. In three months as an active candidate, he has raised over $123,000, and retains all of it on hand.
Holland’s Democratic opponent, Kurt Kraft, has yet to report June numbers. However, he finished May with under $300 on hand, with the bulk of that money self-financed.
Cameras on pause
Jacksonville’s body camera program, launched in the pilot phase, is now on pause.
The current issue: procurement.
The open question: how long the process takes.
The Florida Times-Union reported Thursday that 200 officers will get cameras in 2019.
“Once the procurement process is complete, JSO will use the awarded funds to acquire and deploy the devices in a phased approach,” JSO told the FTU.
Sheriff Mike Williams confirmed Thursday to Florida Politics that the department is “still working through” procurement, and “we believe we have” a vendor selected.
“We’re still working in the contract pieces and all that to make sure we get procurement done the right way. The city’s working the procurement side for us,” Williams said.
Williams said that these cameras could be rolled out by the fall, “earlier than anticipated because we thought we would have to wait until the 18/19 budget to start that process, but with the [Department of Justice] grant … we’ll actually be online sooner than anticipated.”
“We received the grant July 1,” Williams added, “so it’s ready to spend, so we can start the procurement process. We were having to hold off until October before that.”
Money go round
News and notes from Jacksonville City Council races, with June fundraising in.
In Jacksonville City Council District 6, Rose Conry still holds the money lead over former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan, as the two Republicans competing to succeed termed-out Matt Schellenberg.
And cash on hand sees Conry with an almost 2-1 advantage. Conry has raised $86,585 and has over $77,000 on hand. Boylan has raised $61,150 and has just over $42,000. Boylan did raise more in June than Conry, however …
In District 14, Republican Randy DeFoor remains the cash leader, Democrat Sunny Gettinger gained ground again last month, setting the stage for what will be a costly race (at least by district Council standards), which likely won’t be decided until the May general election.
Despite nearly $80,000 on hand, Gettinger will have to continue outperforming DeFoor to attain parity. Even after a month where DeFoor, a senior vice president and National Agency Counsel for Fidelity National Financial, raised just $9,800 between her campaign account and that of her political committee, the Republican still has over $142,000 on hand ….
It’s easier here.
Harassment claim in Clay schools
Folio Weekly reported this week that “Three women have alleged that Michael Kerekes, coordinator of community and strategic partnerships at the Clay County School District, has ‘intimidated … cornered … harassed’ and ‘bullied’ them, also saying they feel the sheriff’s office under former Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler has covered it up.”
The most lurid of the claims via one complainant: “She reportedly told police that Michael Kerekes confronted her late one night in 2014 when she was walking to her car after a school board meeting. She alleged Kerekes called her ‘one evil f***ing bitch’ because she was friends with Charlie Van Zant.”
Van Zant was a former candidate for superintendent.
Kerekes, who worked on the campaign of Superintendent Addison Davis, is now on leave.
JAA wins inclusion award
The Jacksonville Aviation Authority is being honored with the 2018 Inclusion Champion Award presented by Airports Council International-North America. JAA is recognized as the 2018 Medium Hub Inclusion Champion for encouraging greater working relationships with disadvantaged businesses in the community while promoting workforce diversity, outreach and advocacy.
Zoo celebrates Friday 13th with ‘zooperstition’
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating Friday the 13th with “Night at the Zoo: Zooperstition,” a family-friendly event beginning 6:30 p.m. through 10 p.m.
Animals will be on exhibit until 8:30 p.m., as part of the event.
There will be live music, animal encounters and a chance for visitors to see the “Dinosauria” exhibit after dark.
For adults, cash bars will be available with beer and wine. Several food trucks will be on hand, such as Sonny’s BBQ, Pie Daddy and Mr. Potato Spread.
“Night at the Zoo” event tickets are limited and only available online at the zoo’s website. An adult ticket for $7 for members; $5 for children.
Standard zoo admission is $14 for adults, $12 for children. Children under age two are free and do not need a ticket.
Jags open 8 preseason practices to the public
NFL training camps are about to open. Some camps open as early as next week (Cleveland), but the Jaguars all report on July 25.
Fans wishing to sit in the heat, the Jaguars are allowing fans to watch practices on 8 occasions. The first comes on the second day of camp beginning at 10:30 a.m. while the July 27 practice will also be open to fans.
The first practice in full pads comes on July 28 at 6:30 p.m. This session will be open only to Jags365 season ticket members.
“We always appreciate the incredible support of our passionate fan base,” said Jags coach Doug Marrone. “We look forward to once again hosting fans at training camp, as they consistently add energy and competitiveness to our practices. We’re excited about the hard work that lies ahead in 2018, beginning in a few weeks with training camp, and are grateful for the fans that will be with us every step of the way.”
Practices on Monday, July 30, through Thursday, Aug. 2 all begin at 10:30 a.m. and are open to the public. The final open practice will be Friday, Aug. 3 beginning at 6 p.m.
The practices take place at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex on the grounds of TIAA Bank Field. The Aug. 3 practice is Florida Blue Family Night and will take place at TIAA Bank Field.
Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis and obtained in advance. Those wishing to attend any of the open practices must register online at jaguars.com/trainingcamp.
The first preseason game is Thursday, Aug. 9 against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field.