Alvin Brown Archives - Page 5 of 52 - Florida Politics

Alvin Brown, Al Lawson exchange jabs in CD 5 primary clash

Many political watchers note that Congressman Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, both running in the Blue Dog-heavy 5th Congressional District, have more similarities than differences.

Perhaps with that in mind, the campaigns both went on offense Tuesday.

Lawson trumpeted an endorsement in Brown’s hometown, via the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, which joined the local Fraternal Order of Police in backing the Tallahassee incumbent.

JAFF head Randy Wyse drove the dagger into the back of the former mayor: “We are confident that Lawson will do right by our city.”

Brown got a counter, via the Tallahassee Democrat, in which he claimed Lawson missed a lot of votes: 8.6 percent, roughly three times as many as the average House member.

Lawson offered a counter to Brown, who he has characterized as a “failed mayor … looking for his next job” on numerous occasions.

“I got rated as one of the top 13 freshmen in Washington. I’ve passed four pieces of legislation that sent millions of dollars to Jacksonville for dredging and for a bus system in Tallahassee,” said Lawson, adding that Rep. Corrine Brown (currently locked up until the early 2020s for a scheme to defraud) “was there for 24 years and didn’t get anything passed.”

Whether Alvin Brown defends the record of Corrine Brown, who sources say was squiring Alvin Brown around D.C. before her incarceration, remains to be seen.

Lawson, meanwhile, went on offense in a fundraising email against “Absent Alvin.”

“What Alvin Brown fails to understand is that the votes I missed happened while I was working to help families recover from Hurricane Irma, helping displaced persons find shelter and securing $85 million in Disaster Relief SNAP benefits to feed more than 300,000 people immediately after the storm,” Lawson said.

“While Alvin Brown was sitting on the sideline, I was doing the real work and showing up for the people of Florida’s 5th Congressional District,” Lawson added.

“ABSENT ALVIN wouldn’t even lift a sandbag for the people and community he previously represented, but wants to attack my 30-year record of serving the people of Florida and coming through when they needed assistance most,” Lawson continued.

“For six months, my opponent has actually talked more about my record, Donald Trump and the NRA; yet he WON’T mention his own record and failed administration as mayor of Jacksonville,” Lawson declared.

That record included, per Lawson, shunning President Barack Obama when he came to Jacksonville (an issue that cropped up during the Jacksonville mayor’s race, and still rankles African-American Democrats who saw Brown, the city’s first black mayor, as analogous to Obama).

Lawson denied Brown’s charges that he was a pro-NRA, pro-Trump Democrat, before showing that he’s been getting some help in the oppo game.

“As mayor, ABSENT ALVIN could barely produce receipts for taxpayer-funded trips to Brazil and the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame — while the city of Jacksonville was struggling with crime.”

Then, the kicker: “When Alvin Brown “shares his vision for Florida’s 5th Congressional District,” make sure you ask ABSENT ALVIN about his $34.5 million backdoor bond scheme with the previous owners of Eureka Gardens, or his record level spending for a private security detail while he was mayor. Also, ask ABSENT ALVIN why he disappeared on Jacksonville and is now running back to Republican donors for support.”

Those Republican donors include the likes of Shad Khan and charter school magnate Gary Chartrand, names more associated with GOP than Democratic support.

It’s getting real in CD 5. Lawson, an unflappable debater, didn’t need oppo against Corrine Brown.

Against Alvin Brown, he has oppo — and is rolling it out.

Brown is appearing Wednesday morning at a “meet and greet” at Biscotti’s, an Avondale landmark just outside of CD 5.

Florida Politics has yet to confirm whether we will be allowed to attend, but we hope to show up and get the former mayor’s thoughts on the ugly turn this campaign has taken.

East versus West dynamic still evident in Alvin Brown, Al Lawson race

The Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, a scrum between the Tallahassee incumbent Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, looks to be a test of whether Duval Democrats can take back the district against Lawson, a genial career politician with friends on both sides of the aisle.

The battle has been one of dueling press releases on issues ranging from gun control to Lawson’s willingness to work with President Donald Trump, but with roughly two months before the primary, ground game is becoming a factor.

To that end, both Brown and Lawson are in the process of getting their campaign headquarters up and running. And predictably, those efforts are concentrated initially in each candidate’s geographic base.

Mayor Brown will be in attendance Thursday evening at his campaign headquarters (900-15 Dunn Avenue) for an event intended to engage campaign volunteers. That kicks off at 6 p.m.

While grassroots support is key, so too is the support of the Jacksonville money class. Though it has been slow in coming, Brown (as first reported by Florida Times-Union journalist Nate Monroe) is slated to have Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan host a fundraiser next week.

Khan, who supported Brown’s re-election campaign heavily, has not made a habit of supporting electoral challengers in local races. His preference has been to support incumbents with whom he can partner, so the decision to go against a sitting incumbent (one well-regarded by many in Jacksonville’s political class) is worth noting.

In addition to Khan, the host committee via the invite obtained by Florida Politics features dozens of Duval’s heavy hitters.

From Jacksonville University President Tim Cost and Gary Chartrand to trial lawyers Eddie and Chuck Farah to traditional Republican money men like John Baker and John Rood, what’s clear is that some of the power elite is backing their local candidate, even if Republican office holders like Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff John Rutherford seem to lean Lawson’s way.

Lawson is making moves of his own, opening a campaign headquarters in Tallahassee Saturday. That event is at 225 East Jennings Street from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Lawson this week also pocketed a key endorsement from the western side of the 11-county district, via Gadsden County Sheriff Morris A. Young.

“Congressman Lawson has been dedicated to North Florida for a number of years,” Young said. “I have watched him grow as a state representative, state senator and, now, congressman. I am proud to know him. He is doing a great job in Washington.”

Ultimately, Brown will have to convince people west of Jacksonville that Lawson should be replaced. He will need endorsements and infrastructure west of I-295 to counteract the incumbent, who has gotten one key Jacksonville endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police.

Brown didn’t even make a play for that endorsement.

Watchers await new fundraising numbers for Brown and Lawson. As of the end of March, Lawson led in cash on hand, $159,710 to $127,764.


AFL-CIO ‘playing politics’ with Alvin Brown endorsement, claims Al Lawson camp

In an unprecedented move, the Florida AFL-CIO waded into the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, endorsing challenger Alvin Brown over incumbent Rep. Al Lawson.

Per an official statement, the endorsement came down to Brown’s record.

“Our members and their families in Jacksonville saw Mayor Brown’s commitment to the fundamental economic issues we care about,” said Mike Williams, President of the Florida AFL-CIO.

“Union members in Tallahassee have been inspired by his record in Jacksonville, and his dedication to working families is now well known across our movement in Florida. We are proud to give him our endorsement for Congress, and we look forward to working hard to send him to represent us in Washington,” Williams said.

Lawson’s campaign manager Phillip Singleton had a different take.

Namely, the union was “playing politics” with its endorsement.

“We find it very interesting that there has never been a situation where unions have endorsed a candidate over a sitting Democratic member of Congress. However, for over a month Congressman Lawson knew that the leadership in AFL-CIO was playing politics with this endorsement because of a vote in the Florida Legislature over a decade ago,” Singleton said.

“Now AFL-CIO has set a precedent where they endorsed a person with a track record of firing union workers, trying to balance budget deficits with union member pensions, and no true record of supporting union positions,” Singleton added.

Brown offered a statement of his own.

“Working families are the backbone of our economy, and I am honored to have the support of the AFL-CIO in this race. In Congress, I will always put workers, students and families first, and promote policies that help us build a fair economy that works for all — not just those at the top,” Brown said.

The endorsement theater in this primary has been particularly pitched. Recently, Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Lawson over the city’s former mayor.

Alvin Brown’s Pride Month statement recalls his mayoral inaction on LGBT issues

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, primarying incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, issued a lengthy statement Friday in support of Pride Month.

“During LGBTQ Pride Month, Americans recognize and reaffirm the right of all people to life, liberty and the freedom to pursue happiness. It was during this month in 1969 that LGBTQ Americans stood against brutality and violence outside the Stonewall Inn. Today, we continue the fight to ensure that all Americans are treated equally under the law and have access to the same opportunities and resources,” Brown, a mayor of Jacksonville from 2011 to 2015, asserted.

Brown continued: “I firmly believe no one should face discrimination, bullying or violence because of who they are or who they love. In Congress, I will fight for policies that ensure equal treatment that’s inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, including in established policies like the Fair Housing and Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”

For Jacksonville Democrats with memories that go back a few years, Brown’s words may seem like policy evolution.

They may recall that in 2012, the Jacksonville City Council had a vote on a then-controversial measure: expanding the city’s Human Rights Ordinance to include protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations to the LGBT community.

Brown, a Democrat, would have seemed uniquely positioned to ensure the measure passed. However, as locals recall, the measure failed 9-10, with Democrat Johnny Gaffney initially saying he was confused during the vote, before eventually saying (in 2015, while endorsing Brown’s opponent) that he was leaned on to vote no.

“There was pressure to not vote for it,” Gaffney said,

“Whether you’re for it or not for it, be transparent,” Gaffney said. “Was the administration transparent?”

Another Council Democrat at the time, Denise Lee, said rumors were that Brown pushed Gaffney not to vote for it, that rumors were that “Gaffney was pressured to change his mind,” and that rumors said that he would veto it if it passed (an echo of persistent rumors since 2012).

Some, noting that Gaffney and Lee now work for the Mayor who defeated Brown, will take these assertions with a grain of salt.

However, what is clear is that Brown, who had most of three years to negotiate a workable bill, failed to … even as he told one local reporter that HRO may be a “second-term issue” during the re-election campaign.

Brown’s re-election bid came after three years of being the most nonpartisan Democratic mayor possible.

He rarely missed a photo op with Gov. Rick Scott, but was somehow absent during a 2012 President Barack Obama rally in Jacksonville. And, as a result of his Clintonian triangulation, Brown left himself open to being outflanked on the left by a Republican candidate, Councilman Bill Bishop, who rhetorically committed to HRO passage.

Brown, in his debates throughout the mayor’s race, was reticent to recommend a change to a law that had been a hot topic for his entire mayoralty. And his unwillingness to take a position left him open to attacks from Republican Lenny Curry.

“I’m not convinced that we need to change the law,” Curry said, adding during one debate that Brown was “punting on the issue,” and demonstrating “zero accountability.”

Ultimately, Brown lost the election, despite the best efforts of the Florida Democratic Party to pull him through.

And a big part of the reason he lost was, in an effort to pander to the religious right, Brown neglected protections of LGBT rights.

As the Human Rights Campaign reported, Jacksonville performed anemically during the Brown era on its 100-point municipal scorecard.

The city scored a meager 23 in 2015, and 20 points in 2014. By 2017, the city was up to 67 out of 100 — an irony, given the mayor during that numerical gain won despite not supporting an expansion of the HRO.

Some may wonder why Alvin Brown’s desire to fight for “policies that ensure equal treatment that’s inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity” didn’t surface when he was Mayor, and indeed took three years after his election loss to emerge.

We reached out to Brown’s campaign Friday afternoon, but they did not respond to inquiries.

Jacksonville Bold for 6.8.18 — Tribal warfare

Two of our top stories this week deal with primary battles for Congressional seats.

They are interesting for what is said — and what is not.

Mike Waltz is pushing fellow Republican John Ward to withdraw from the race in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Waltz, like many across the political spectrum, believe that Ward saying that recent Puerto Rican arrivals shouldn’t vote in Florida was disqualifying rhetoric.

The Ward gaffe, ironically, comes after months of his maintaining that he is the Trumpiest candidate in the race.

While the sense of that gaffe was pretty Trump-like, at the moment, he’s seriously wounded.

In the Democratic race in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, moderate Democrat Alvin Brown is looking to topple fellow moderate Al Lawson.

Brown and Lawson have both cut centrist paths through Democratic politics, laden with bipartisan rhetoric. Naturally, they both have gone negative throughout the campaign.

The latest was last weekend. Lawson retweeted President Donald Trump. Quickly, the tweets were deleted. Lawson charged that Brown’s team hacked his Twitter.

Alvin Brown’s team, meanwhile, put out a fundraising email, “Lawson Retweets Trump.”

Would there be major policy differences between Ward and Waltz, or Brown and Lawson?

Probably not.

But you wouldn’t know it from the pyrotechnics of the primary fight.

Waltz urges Ward to drop CD 6 run

Candidates in Florida’s 6th Congressional District are beginning to reach a consensus: Ward needs to get out of the race.

Ward has been under fire for weeks for comments made at a forum in April.

John Ward is facing fire from the left and the right over comments many consider racist.

His take was that displaced Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be voting in Florida, and one by one, candidates have been issuing statements rebuking Ward’s take

Waltz, one of three Republicans running to replace Ron DeSantis in the St. Johns/Flagler/Volusia district, was the latest to call for Ward’s withdrawal Monday.

“As a Green Beret Commander who served multiple combat tours overseas, it’s outrageous to me that politician John Ward would say certain American citizens shouldn’t be able to vote in our country,” Waltz said.

“In combat, no matter where we came from, we all served under the same flag and fought to ensure we all had the same rights. For John Ward to suggest otherwise makes him unfit to serve,” Waltz added.

“There is no place for politician John Ward in this or any campaign and that’s why I’m calling on him to withdraw his candidacy immediately. I urge fellow Republicans to join the chorus of conservative leaders in Florida to demand the same,” Waltz added.

Democrats Nancy Soderberg and John Upchurch have already called for Ward to withdraw. Republican Fred Costello and Democrat Stephen Sevigny likewise have condemned the comments.

Hackers in CD 5?

Saturday afternoon saw a couple of atypical retweets from the personal account of Rep. Lawson.

The RT action went to President Donald Trump, in what was either a remarkable crossing of party lines in a contested primary — or perhaps a compromised account.

After deleting the tweets, Lawson asserted the “campaign accounts” were “breached” and “hacked,” an example of “dirty politics at best.”

Lawson’s team is looking for the hackers, we are told.

Lawson’s opponent, former Jacksonville Mayor Brown, wasn’t buying the hack claims: “Years ago, Al Lawson hacked into right-wing, extreme Republican policies — that’s why he’s been supported by the NRA, applauds Trump’s agenda and drains billions of dollars from our public schools. Try as he might, he can’t fall back on sad excuses after years of selling out Democratic values.”

The tweets were not in keeping with Lawson’s public positions, even as he has indicated willingness to work with the president.

The first RT saw Lawson’s account support Trump’s allegations of Democratic corruption, cooperation with Russia and bashing of the “fake news media.”

The second RT saw Lawson’s account support Trump’s imposition of tariffs against traditional U.S. allies in Mexico, Canada and the EU, a tweet that condemned “stupid trade.”

Each of these were at odds with Democratic orthodoxy.

Brown, running against incumbent Lawson in North Florida’s sprawling, east-west Congressional District 5. has already messaged on a perceived Lawson affinity for Trump,

Monster May for Hutson

Travis Hutson‘s campaign is heating up, posting monster May fundraising numbers in his Senate District 7 re-election bid.

All smiles: Travis Hutson is going to be a player in 2018 elections statewide with this haul.

The Palm Coast Republican brought in $332,000 last month for his two committees: Sunshine State Conservatives hauled in $85,000, and First Coast Business Foundation took in the balance.

The FCBF money is of special interest, as it offers evidence of regional consolidation behind Hutson, who is pursuing the Senate presidency in 2022.

The May fundraising reception for his First Coast Business Foundation saw Mayor Lenny Curry as the special guest at an event heavy on names of prominent politicos, donors and lobbyists.

Event chairs included Marty Fiorentino, former congressional candidate Hans Tanzler (endorsed by Hutson in 2016), JEA Board member Husein Cumber, Jaguars’ lobbyist and all-around problem solver Paul Harden, and bestbet’s Jamie Shelton.

Among the standout names on the host committee: charter school impresario Gary Chartrand and the Jax Chamber mainstay Daniel Davis.

A similar group of players came together May 2017 for a fundraiser in support of future House Speaker Paul Renner, whose political committee had a $261,000 month because of it.

Hutson had hoped to raise $500,000 this cycle to help other Senate Republicans; nearing that goal, he wants to raise $200,000 more, and to that end has a golf event booked this month, and a fishing event in July.

Money where the Mouse is for Bradley

Republican state Sen. Rob Bradley is doing his part to stem the impending “blue wave” in Florida politics, via a fundraiser on the open waters.

Specifically, a July 20-23 Disney Cruise, booked in May via the Fleming Island Republican’s Working for Florida Families political committee.

Those dates indicate the cruise will be aboard the Disney Dream, christened by Jennifer Hudson in 2011. The itinerary shows the vessel plans to anchor in Nassau on the second day of the journey, followed by a stop at Disney’s private island Castaway Cay on Day Three.

The second night of the three-night fundraiser will give attendees the opportunity to “party like a pirate” — not the scary kind, of course.

Party like a pirate, helping Rob Bradley’s re-election campaign, that is.

Per Disney’s description, the celebration of all things swashbuckler encourages guests to dress up like a buccaneer and “eat like a scalawag” — options include “Jolly Rogers Barbecue Rib Salad” and “Pirates Gold-en Pot Stickers” — before hitting the deck with their mateys for a Pirates of the Caribbean-themed party and fireworks show.

The booking, including event venue, lodging, food and beverage, came in at $65,260.

The Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman told us Thursday that the expenditure covered “costs associated with an upcoming fundraiser” for the committee, with “all proceeds [going] toward 2018 Senate races.”

This will be a group sail, not a charter, Bradley added.

There is a recent precedent for a Disney cruise fundraiser.

Per the Miami Herald, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli organized a similar event in 2013. The buy-in then was a $50,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida.

Disney and subsidiaries have donated over $45,000 to Bradley’s committee since its inception, illustrating a shared political vision.

Contributions to Bradley’s committee swelled after he was named the Senate budget chair in November. Working for Florida’s Families pulled in back-to-back-to-back six-figure hauls heading into the 2018 Legislative Session, and since Bradley’s District 5 seat isn’t up this cycle, much of that cash is indeed likely to go toward boosting the re-election campaigns of his fellow Republican Senators.

Indicted Senate candidate raises zilch in May

Suspended Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, currently facing 32 federal counts in a scheme to defraud with another suspended Council colleague, is still an active primary opponent in Senate District 6 for Minority Leader-designate Audrey Gibson.

Reggie Brown leaves federal court in Jacksonville with lawyer ahead of him.

Brown told media he was not suspending his campaign at his indictment a week ago, and proof of that active candidacy could be found in his May campaign finance filing: the fourth straight month in which Brown reported no fundraising.

Given that he faces, if all maximum penalties prevail, 601 years and an $8.275 million fine, perhaps explaining the reluctance.

At the end of April, which was her most recent filing, Gibson had nearly $132,000 cash on hand.

“I have not made any comments about the opponent in the race and I have none today. I continue to do my legislative duties, work to get more Senate Dems elected as Leader-designate, and focus on my re-election campaign,” Gibson said last week after the indictment dropped.

The winner of the primary campaign will face nominal November opposition from a write-in candidate.

Baker challenges Bean

Sen. Aaron Bean will face a general election challenge in Senate District 4, a Duval/Nassau district leaning heavily Republican.

The Bean Team faces a third-party challenge this year.

Monday saw Joanna Liberty Tavares file for the seat as a Libertarian.

Tavares, per SunBiz, is an officer for Sweet Freedom LLC,

The business address, at River City Marketplace, corresponds with Smallcakes Cupcakery, a well-regarded pastry shop that has 4 stars on Yelp.

Between his campaign account and his political committee, Bean had nearly $200,000 cash on hand at the end of April and will certainly be well-positioned to fundraise further (if needed), given the incumbent’s allies in the region.

Tavares joins a number of Libertarian candidates running in the region, including state House candidates Ken Willey and Ryan Ramsey. They are running in House Districts 18 and 19 respectively.

A second opponent also filed this week to face Bean — Democrat Billie Bussard.

Renner launches re-elect

Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner is kicking off his bid for a second term in House District 24 with a hometown fundraiser later this month.

Paul Renner (Image via Flagler Live)

The campaign launch event will be held at the Palm Coast Arts Foundation, 1500 Central Ave., from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. June 21. The reception will likely double as a celebration for qualifying for the ballot — Renner hit his required signature total for HD 24 a couple of weeks ago.

The first-term Republican, slated to take over as House Speaker following the 2022 elections, faces Democrat Adam Morley in the fall. Morley has is also set to qualify for the ballot by petition, though Renner likely isn’t quaking in his boots. HD 24 is a Republican stronghold, and Renner’s campaign and committee accounts are stocked with cash.

To that end, the kickoff event suggests a light $25 contribution to his campaign account to make the guest list. Those willing to part with that sum can send in an RSVP via

Save the dateGibson backs Polson in HD 15

Sen. Audrey Gibson, leader-designate for Senate Democrats, endorsed fellow Jacksonville Democrat Tracye Polson in House District 15 Tuesday.

Audrey Gibson
Audrey Gibson had two choices: Endorse Trayce Polson or nobody at all. 

Polson, the sole Democrat in the race, will face one of three Republicans in the general election in November.

Via media release from Polson, both her and Gibson offered quotes of mutual approval.

“Tracye has the experience and expertise to represent Jacksonville as State Representative for District 15. She is versed in issues concerning veterans and their families, removing barriers to the successful education of our children, and quality mental and physical health of communities,” stated Sen. Gibson. “Her business acumen is a big added plus to the multiple qualities she would bring to the Legislature, and she certainly has my support.”

“Senator Gibson was very influential in my decision to run for this seat. Her expertise and knowledge of Jacksonville issues and politics have been extremely helpful in guiding my campaign thus far. I am so proud to have earned her endorsement and look forward to working with Senator Gibson in Tallahassee,” Polson asserted.

Polson’s campaign has been atypically strong for that of a Democrat running for a Republican House seat. She hopes to succeed Rep. Jay Fant.

No 4th Circuit appointment

The Jacksonville Daily Record reports a setback for Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott sought to appoint a replacement for retiring Judge Robert Foster, but 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge Charles Dodson halted that process, and ordered the reinstatement of Jacksonville lawyer David Trotti to the ballot.

Retiring Judge Robert Foster. (Image via Herald-Tribune/ Dan Wagner)

The public, Dodson ruled, has a “constitutional right” to pick Foster’s successor.

City website helps Holland builds cash lead over Kraft

Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland turned heads in April with $100,000 raised. In May, he added another $10,550 to the mix.

He has over $110,000 on hand and has yet to spend money.

Former elections supervisor Jerry Holland broke a cardinal rule of incumbency.

Holland, a popular Republican in his first term on the job, faces nominal opposition: Democrat Kurt Kraft, who is largely self-financed and has just over $260 on hand.

To counter Holland, who has been winning Jacksonville elections for decades, Kraft spent over $1,900 in May, with the bulk of that spend being on signage.

Holland likely won’t have to spend that kind of money.

Read more here.

Post-indictment path clear for Council?

On Thursday, Jacksonville City Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown were indicted on a 38-count conspiracy to defraud, after both allegedly misused city and federal funds intended for economic incentive purposes.

Who’s smiling now?

Friday saw Gov. Rick Scott suspend the two less than a year before elections, leaving the Jacksonville City Council to scramble in terms of figuring out how the constituents of the two Northwest Jacksonville Democrats would continue to have representation.

Monday morning saw the Council President-designate, an at-large Councilman, and the current Finance Chair outline the path forward.

President-designate Aaron Bowman is “hopeful we’ll have two replacements by the middle of July,” which is when Council gets back from its summer break.

Bowman will “lean on past presidents of the council” to help get those gubernatorial appointees up to speed.

“It’s easy for someone to step in and understand what’s important for their district, but understanding how the process works is a different story,” Bowman added.

“This is the governor’s decision,” Bowman said. “He’s had to do this before and he’s very confident in [the way he does it].” (Curry had a similar take).

Bowman expects the appointee to be a Democrat, but notes the appointee can move to that area if appointed.

Sam Newby, meanwhile, said he and current President Anna Brosche (two at-large members) would help with constituent issues during the suspension and before replacements were appointed.

The first wave of names, meanwhile, was reported by WJXT this week. Among the hopefuls: filed candidates Tameka Gaines Holly in District 8 and Celestine Mills in District 10.

District development ready for full Council vote

A second and final Jacksonville City Council committee approved Tuesday an ambitious plan to develop 30 acres that formerly housed JEA’s Southside Generating Station.

This approval tees the bill up for Tuesday’s agenda of the full council.

Artist’s rendering of The District.

The District (2018-313) could transform the Southbank with its radical redevelopment of 30 acres at the former Southside Generating Station property next to the Duval County School Board building.

“The District will encompass approximately 200,000 square feet of retail space, 200,000 square feet of office space, 1,170 apartments/condominiums, and a 150-200 key hotel,” per a dedicated website to the project.

Politically connected developers Peter Rummell and Michael Munz have a deal via their Elements Development to buy the land for $18.6 million from the JEA Board. That deal closes July 18.

Among the incentives for developers: a $30 million capital improvement plan and a Rev Grant (75 percent for up to 22 years capped at $56 million).

The Rev Grant extends to 2040 when the Southbank CRA sunsets.

The total post-construction-assessed value is expected to be just shy of $216 million.

Strong metrics in Jax debt affordability study

It’s rare that a Debt Affordability Study qualifies as a good-news story, but in the case of Jacksonville, most metrics are bullish.

Debt service costs and debt per capita are below targets, while reserve funds are trending toward their targets.

Mike Weinstein and Sam Mousa go through a Jacksonville departmental budget.

“Through recent strong financial management, as recognized by the ratings agencies, a strong economy, low-interest rates, and a consistent trend in reducing our debt outstanding, these metrics have continued to improve,” the report from the city’s CFO, Mike Weinstein, asserts.

And they have needed to. As the report says a bit later on: “Jacksonville has a higher than average debt burden and a slightly below average level of reserves. As will be seen later on in this study, the City has been improving in both areas over the last five years. Continuing the trend of paying down debt and increasing reserves will be viewed favorably by the ratings agencies.”

Since Fiscal Year 2013 (during Mayor Brown’s administration, when the city dealt with the hardest hits of the recession), the city has paid off $354 million in outstanding debt and has kept debt service at a consistent level. Though that debt service, a function of non-negotiable fixed costs, is described within the report as “tight,” with payments being 11 percent of each of the last two budgets, expectations are that it will become less of an impact as city revenues grow in the coming years.

“Jacksonville continues to enjoy strong budgetary flexibility to meet any future fiscal challenge,” the report maintains. “Jacksonville’s modest tax rates and average tax burden form the foundation for the City’s financial flexibility while maintaining its desired service levels. This revenue capacity and flexibility underpin the market’s positive view of the City’s debt.”

Budget strong, investments weak

Through the first six months of FY 17-18, the Jacksonville city budget is in good shape, showing a positive variance, per a recent report from the Jacksonville City Council auditor.

Hurricane Irma projection estimates the financial impact will be approximately $83.1 million.

“The City is projected to experience an overall favorable budget variance of approximately $9.3 million within the General Fund/General Services District (GF/GSD). Revenues are projected to be $0.4 million more than budgeted and expenditures are projected to be $8.9 million less than budgeted,” reads the Jacksonville City Council auditor’s report.

Those savings realized in the current budget may have real-world application, as the city is still waiting on payback from the federal government for hurricane-related costs.

Regarding Matthew, 2016’s tropical nuisance, “The latest Hurricane Matthew projection estimates the financial impact will be approximately $47.0 million. As of May 8, 2018, the City incurred expenditures of $28.8 million related to Hurricane Matthew.”

With the Feds poised to pay back 87.5 percent of that $47 million, an extra $7 million slid into a contingency account this budget year should make up for that.

Irma in 2017 was another matter.

“The latest Hurricane Irma projection estimates the financial impact will be approximately $83.1 million. This could result in an estimated $10.4 million negative impact to the GF/GSD in the future. As of May 8, 2018, the City incurred expenditures of $54.2 million related to Hurricane Irma.”

Expect a contingency for Irma in the next budget. One wonders if the city will start planning for these storms as potential yearly impacts.

Speaking of impactful storms, city investments are starting to hit a lull.

“The Operating Portfolio experienced a net of fees return of negative 0.30% for the quarter ending March 31, 2018, which outperformed the Blended Benchmark by 27 bps. Performance of the portfolio over the last year was a positive 1.25 percent, after fee deductions. During the past three and five years, the portfolio has earned an average annual return of 1.15 percent and 1.31 percent, respectively.”

Expect anemic performance to continue: “Achieving positive returns in equity and fixed income markets has become increasingly challenging due to elevated price levels and stubbornly tight spreads.”

Homeless rights bill on pause

On Monday, the Jacksonville City Council’s Neighborhoods, Community Development, Public Health, and Safety committee deferred the “Homeless Bill of Rights,” legislation that could codify civil rights for the city’s dispossessed populations.

Many of the bill’s new rights — but not all — are already in the code. (Image via WJCT)

Ordinance 2018-308, filed by currently-suspended Councilwoman Katrina Brown, contends that “the basic rights all people should enjoy must be guaranteed for homeless individuals and families,” and attempts to “assure that basic human rights are not being trampled simply because someone happens to be homeless.”

The bill would guarantee the right to move freely for homeless people, as well as rights to be “protected by law enforcement,” to prayer, to voting, to quality emergency health services, to “occupy” legally parked cars, and to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy over personal property,” at homeless camps and the like.

The right to live in one’s car and the protection of personal property, said a city lawyer, are currently the ones not protected by the municipal code.

Those proved to be the sticking points.

Councilman John Crescimbeni noted with concern that the bill could be used to justify homeless camps in public parks.

Council President-designate Aaron Bowman likewise questioned the efficacy of the legislation.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has pushed for this legislation, and Councilwoman Brown’s bill aligns with the goals of that organization.

Becton, Hazouri launch re-election bids

Two first-term councilors, Danny Becton and Tommy Hazouri, want four more years.

Becton, who represents the Baymeadows area and points south, faced no competition in 2015.

Danny Becton is ready for another term.

The filing comes just weeks after Becton lost a close race for Council VP-designate to Scott Wilson, a loss that saw familiar divides on the Council surface yet again, with most of those who voted the year before for President Brosche falling in behind Becton.

Hazouri, a political veteran who has been everything from Mayor to State Rep and School Board member, filed for re-election Friday.

Hazouri, who scored more votes than any other citywide candidate in his decisive May 2015 victory over Republican Geoff Youngblood, is running unopposed for the office.

If re-elected, downtown development and citywide infrastructure will be priorities, as will river activation and library funding.

Hazouri’s primary legislative achievement was one of his campaign promises last cycle: a vow to expand the Human Rights Ordinance to protect LGBT people in Jacksonville from employment, housing and public accommodations discrimination.

Neither has ballot opposition yet.

Anheuser-Busch employees spend World Environment Day cleaning up St. Johns River

Employees at America’s best-known purveyor of cold ones braved the heat Saturday to participate in a St. Johns River cleanup event.

The Jax branch of Anheuser-Busch’s canning operation, Metal Container Corporation, and its wholesale partner, North Florida Sales, were joined in their efforts by employees of other major First Coast businesses in honor of World Environment Day, the lesser-known cousin of Earth Day that’s been celebrated every June 5 since 1974.

Jacksonville Anheuser-Busch employees on World Environment Day.

“We were proud to celebrate World Environment Day over the weekend by taking part in the cleanup of the St. Johns River alongside our local wholesaler partner, North Florida Sales, as well as our colleagues from MCC and Nutri-Turf,” said Craig Tomeo, general manager of Anheuser-Busch’s Jax brewery.

“This month, Anheuser-Busch breweries across the United States have organized and participated in over 20 watershed cleanups, in partnership with the River Network and Living Lands & Waters; and, we’re pleased to do our part and give back to our local Jacksonville community by helping to preserve the beautiful St. Johns River.”

For the beverage behemoth, helping keep the waters clean isn’t just good PR, it’s good business — water is the most integral ingredient in a good brew.

Jaguars’ stadium: What’s in a name?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That can be said of the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In what has become a ritual with community-owned sports stadiums, the names often change due to changes with corporations holding naming rights. In the case of the Jags, they will be playing at TIAA Bank Field in 2018, while EverBank Field becomes part of the team’s history.

A rose by any name …

The change comes as a result of TIAA Bank buying out EverBank in 2016 which also included the stadium’s naming rights. EverBank has held the naming rights for the past 8 seasons.

“Our bank’s relationship with the Jaguars — on and off the field — goes back to 2010, and we’re very proud to continue this great partnership for years to come at TIAA Bank Field,” said Blake Wilson, president and chief executive officer of EverBank,” in April.

Jacksonville Municipal Stadium originally opened in 1995 on the grounds of the old Gator Bowl. In 1997, it became Alltel Stadium after the communications giant purchased naming rights.

Alltel Stadium hosted Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005 when the New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles. A total of four playoff games have been played in Jacksonville, including January’s 10-3 win over Buffalo.

Some in the Jaguars’ fan base was underwhelmed, but realize changes come. Others do not, with a few die-hards still calling it the Gator Bowl nearly a quarter of a century later.

With season ticket sales up for 2018, TIAA Field will be likely be rocking as the Jaguars look to take the next step and qualify for their first Super Bowl.

Jacksonville Bold for 6.1.18 — Signs and symbols

The literary field of semiotics, as articulated by French theorist Ferdinand de Saussure, boils down to a relationship between signs and their intended meaning.

The ultimate meaning of those signs is not fixed; rather, it moves with cultural interpretation.

As we find ourselves now less than three months before primary elections for the 2018 ballot, we will be inundated with signs — the symbolism of politicians either as square-jawed unstinting incumbents fighting the people’s battles, or hard-charging challengers devoted to storming the palace gates, animated by some quasi-populist crusade.

The local landscape in 2018 has its own wrinkles. A former Jacksonville mayor running to take Corrine Brown’s seat back in Congress, part of a group of Democratic primaries on the August ballot. A compelling GOP primary race to succeed Jay Fant in the State House (even as Democrat Tracye Polson presents a challenge in the general).

And so on.

What ultimately engages the mainstream media? Hard to say. The mechanics of politics doesn’t lead local TV, and the Times-Union is moving increasingly toward long-form investigations, as opposed to quick-hit coverage.

An ever-changing media landscape — and what it may (or may not) prioritize — dictates a certain randomness to which narratives will or won’t prevail.

In that context, an old lesson applies: Win every news cycle. Define the contest before it defines you.

Nelson spotlights Vilano renourishment

Sen. Bill Nelson visited Vilano Beach this week, spotlighting coastline restoration efforts as storm season begins.

Bill Nelson visits Vilano Beach to highlight beach nourishment efforts.

Per WJXT: “With the St. Johns County Coastal Storm Risk Management Project finally on the path to being approved, Nelson met Tuesday with Col. Jason Kirk, with Corps, and county leaders to talk about the project, and what’s being done to restore the county’s beaches.”

“The entire east coast of Florida, after we had Hurricane Matthew two years ago, it chewed up the beach like you can’t believe,” Nelson said.

“The property values are going to come back,” Nelson said. “You ask the question, ‘What you can do if you’re a homeowner?’ If you’ve got a dune, keep vegetation on that dune because the sand dunes are Mother Nature’s way of protecting the upland land.”

“The goal is to finish all this out about another mile south and then north of the St. Augustine Inlet,” Nelson said. “Vilano Beach, get that 3½ miles complete, and then they will be in pretty good shape here in St. Johns County.”

Jax Councilmembers hit with federal fraud indictment

Jacksonville hasn’t dealt with a politician’s fraud trial in roughly a year. Perhaps the city was overdue.

61-page indictment dropped in federal court Thursday for Jacksonville City Council members, Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown.

Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown. (Image via News4Jax)

Their first appearance was Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Alleged: a conspiracy to defraud, spread out over 38 counts.

In 2013 and 2014, Katrina Brown opened two companies — A-Plus Training and Consultants and RB Packaging — listing Reggie Brown as the principal.

According to the indictment, the companies were used solely as instruments of fraud, as attempts to siphon government money intended for economic development plans regarding a BBQ Sauce Plant that never appeared seriously meant to come to fruition.

Reggie Brown opened up bank accounts for the companies at a BBVA Compass location soon after forming the entities.

Before this, Reggie Brown — who was serving on the Council at that point — voted yes for what would be a fateful decision in 2011: to appropriate $640,000 for KJB Specialties, a Katrina Brown company, to create 56 jobs at a BBQ sauce plant in Northwest Jacksonville.

Those jobs, as reported previously, were never created — and both the federal government (on the hook for a $2.6 million SBA loan) and locals are still searching for their money back.

By the time Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown went into business together, the barbecue sauce plan was failing. And soon enough, per the indictment, malfeasance began.

Around the end of 2013, A-Plus Training was, the indictment says, used to funnel $12,500 in SBA loan funds, setting up a pattern. In 2014, $251,919 of those funds processed, with Basic Products and Katrina Brown getting over $166,000 of them, and Reggie Brown getting the remainder, prosecutors allege.

[Katrina Brown was elected to Council in 2015; Reggie Brown elected in 2010. However, some of this money went to Katrina Brown’s political activities, including a $3,500 loan from her campaign, and donations for former Mayor Alvin Brown and the Duval Democratic Party.]

The conspiracy boils down to Katrina and Reggie Brown secreting SBA money, with both Councilors engaging in fraud.

Cops snub Brown, back Lawson

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson’s re-election campaign rolled out local police union support in his primary challenge from Brown, a former Jacksonville mayor.

Al Lawson: Cops’ choice for Congress.

For Brown, this must feel like déjà vu.

Brown didn’t secure the FOP endorsement in 2011; that went to Mike Hogan.

In 2015, the FOP backed Lenny Curry over Brown: “In addition to demonstrating leadership and vision for restoring Jacksonville’s greatness, he has committed to fully support law enforcement and community leaders in their effort to eliminate crime by ensuring they have access to every resource necessary to fight crime … We are confident that the election of Mr. Curry will be Jacksonville’s best chance to help our members keep our citizens safe and move our city in a positive direction.”

While it came out sometime later that Curry had given the union assurances that he would protect defined benefit pensions, a factor not mentioned in the endorsement, the FOP nod conferred momentum upon the Republican’s challenge of the incumbent mayor.

Meanwhile, the state FOP endorsed Lawson in his race against former Rep. Corrine Brown in 2016, and there clearly was no reason for the union to deviate from established protocol this time.

Brown to get raise if elected to Congress

At last count, a member of Congress makes $174,000 per annum.

Former Mayor Brown, a current candidate for the primary nomination in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, would stand to receive a serious pay raise in 2019 if he wins the nomination and is elected, per his financial disclosure form.

Alvin Brown has made less than $10,000 this year, per his disclosure form. (Image via Facebook)

Brown has made minimal income in 2018, and 2017 also was a lean year.

In 2018, Brown brought in less than $400 in interest income, and $8,250 in consulting fees ($750 from the Westside Church of God in Christ, $7,500 from Gray Global Advisors).

2017, a pre-candidacy year for Brown, was financially healthier, with more honorarium and consulting cash.

Gray paid him $45,000; additionally, $13,000 in honorariums were paid out (Merck, Sharp and Dohme Credit Union was in for $10,000; Alliance of NC Black Elected Officials for $1,500 and Shiloh Baptist Church for another $1,500).

Incumbent Lawson has not filed a 2018 disclosure; however, 2016 paperwork showed Lawson, a busy lobbyist, raked in over $200,000 in 2015 and roughly $75,000 through the first part of 2016. He also had rental properties and a mortgage that was near being paid off at the filing of his previous disclosure.

A recurrent Lawson talking point has been that Brown “failed as mayor and a lot of people in Duval are saying he’s just looking for a job” by running for Congress.

Brown’s financial disclosure does not show truly steady work since he left office nearly three years ago, suggesting that Lawson’s verbal jab may have some truth to it.

Lawson works Jax Dems at town hall

U.S. Rep. Lawson was in Jacksonville Tuesday for a town hall, as he looks to repel a challenge in the Democratic primary from another moderate who hasn’t been afraid to blur party lines in former Mayor Brown.

The question for Lawson this campaign: Can he parlay incumbency and a primary opponent who has myriad flaws into consolidating support on the eastern side of the district?

The answer is, as yet, unanswered.

Al Lawson is still consolidating Jacksonville support ahead of his first re-election bid.

Lawson spoke a lot about bipartisanship, noting that after Hurricane Irma, he worked to “convince” House Speaker Paul Ryan of the need for FEMA reimbursements, while working well with Rep. John Rutherford and Mayor Curry.

Lawson noted that on hurricane relief and efforts to fix problematic Eureka Gardens, working across the aisle is key.

Unlike any other politician in this market today, Lawson expressed interest in crossing party lines repeatedly during the event.

Lawson was asked about a claim from regarding his voting with President Donald Trump more often than some might like: “If it’s good legislation, doesn’t make a difference if it comes from Trump or anybody. If it benefits this area, I support it.”

“The man is the president of the United States,” Lawson added, noting that he finds it perplexing when people castigate him for not voting with the Congressional Black Caucus on every roll call vote.

“Nobody in the Black Caucus voted for me. That’s why I don’t understand when people say [I] don’t vote with the Black Caucus,” Lawson said, noting that he votes for what his district wants.

In an activist year, as a candidate from the other side of the district, it’s interesting to hear Lawson pitching collaboration and cooperation.

Jax elite fall in behind Waltz for Congress

Rutherford and Curry were “honorary hosts” for a fundraiser for Florida’s 6th Congressional District Republican Mike Waltz Wednesday.

If Mike Waltz is elected to Congress, CD 6 will continue to have representation on Fox News.

The fundraiser, held at the home of JEA Board member Husein Cumber and City Council hopeful LeAnna Cumber, featured a number of interesting names on the host committee.

Among the luminaries: Jeb Bush, Jr; former Duval GOP Chair John Falconetti; power broker Michael Munz; and Total Military Management’s Kent Stermon.

Waltz is one of three Republicans vying to replace DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, a south-of-Jacksonville sinecure hugging the Atlantic coast in St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties.

The GOP race in CD-6, where candidates vie to replace outgoing Rep. DeSantis, has been an interesting one, with Waltz and John Ward both raising serious money for what will be an expensive primary straddling three media markets (Jacksonville, Daytona and Orlando).

Despite his ability to bring in money, Ward had a catastrophic news cycle last week, with comments he made at an April forum saying that Puerto Ricans shouldn’t vote in Florida drawing scrutiny and condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Gibson pushes back against rumors of divided Dem caucus

Florida Politics caught up with Jacksonville’s Audrey Gibson, as the incoming Senate Democratic Leader negotiates a restive caucus and a primary challenge from City Councilman Reggie Brown.

Audrey Gibson messaging about “Rick’s recession” before Memorial Day.

Thus far, 2018 has been interesting in ways that could not have been forecast less than a year ago, before Gibson replaced scandal-plagued Jeff Clemens.

As we reported last week, Democratic campaign consultants and other insiders see the creation of two recently formed political committees and associated fundraising as an indirect challenge to the Gibson’s leadership.

But she was quick to tamp down any rumors of discord that could challenge her leadership.

“I’ve called every single member of the caucus,” Gibson said. “Before the article came out, I had a couple of calls from some lobbyists who said ‘Hey, what’s going on?’”

hat was the first she had heard of it. Soon after, she made calls to her Democratic colleagues.

“After the article came out, just to, first of all, say ‘remember, our goal is to win in November.’ Because my understanding was some of it was about who the next leader would be.”

Gibson has a message to colleagues: “Let’s get the job done in November. And, everyone get to know each other.”

“The response I got, was ‘we’re all heading in the same direction. We just thought we’d form these entities to try to bring in more money.’”

Gibson told them it would be “good if we could do that in a coordinated way.”

“I hear what you all are saying,” she recounted, “but in public, it looks divisive. Make sure we rein in that because we’re all heading in the same direction.”

She continues to work on behalf of the caucus.

“It’s not a reflection of me not working, me not bringing the caucus together,” she said. “Ever since I was elected, I’ve done meetings and get acquainted stuff and balloons and all those types of things to bring people together.”

Gibson wants security at HUD complexes

Per WJCT, Sen. Gibson sent a letter to Congressman Lawson and Sen. Nelson asking the two to “sponsor legislation mandating HUD negotiate in housing contracts that affordable housing complexes located in high-crime areas provide security or that the policy be created as a rule within the agency.”

Audrey Gibson turned her attention to HUD properties this week.

Gibson, speaking at Eureka Gardens apartment complex, had some criticism for the new ownership making promises it couldn’t deliver on the facility rehab.

“I understand there’s anxiousness to do it all at one time and they should never have promised the residents that it would happen that way, but I think there should be some system of determining which apartments are in, if you will, priority disrepair and then make sure they’re communicating with all the other residents in the community,” she said.

Curry critics critique courthouse jazz fest stage

Jacksonville held another well-attended iteration of its yearly jazz festival over Memorial Day weekend, but critiques of a scheduling decision came from several local politicians.

City decision makers did not use the Jacksonville Landing as a location for a festival stage, in a move not altogether surprising given the continued legal back and forth between the city and Landing tenant Toney Sleiman.

Pols kvetched as crowds flooded the courthouse lawn.

Sleiman, a prominent political donor, set up an oppositional relationship with the Curry administration even before Curry was elected (by appearing in an ad for Curry’s 2015 opponent, then-incumbent Brown, concomitant with a Brown/Sleiman proposal to spend nearly $12 million on a teardown and rebuild plan for the declining Landing).

Since Curry’s election, the administration and Sleiman have not been able to agree on terms, and the city currently is moving to take possession of the waterfront mall from Sleiman, with each side claiming breach of contractual obligations.

While the back and forth continues in legal channels, politicians opposed to Lenny Curry used the move of a performance stage from the Landing to the “iconic” backdrop of the Duval County Courthouse as a launchpad pad for more holistic critiques.

Read more here.

Gaffney, peacemaker?

Per WJXT: Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney seeks to broker a peace between Curry and Jacksonville Landing tenant Sleiman.

Peace in our time? Reggie Gaffney thinks he can get it done.

“I am going to make one last attempt to try to bring them both together, see if I (can) get both of them in the same room,” Gaffney told News4Jax. “We can iron out whatever problems they may be having so we can move the Landing forward because nobody wins right now.”

There’s one consideration worth mentioning: Sleiman is bankrolling Gaffney’s re-election bid.

The Curry administration and Gaffney have a solid relationship. But is Gaffney really the person to broker a peace here?

KEYS 2 Drive rolled out

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and State Attorney Melissa Nelson Wednesday rolled out the ‘KEYS 2 Drive’ (Knowledge Empowers Your Success) diversion program.

Mike Williams, Melissa Nelson has struck a conservative reformer path. (Image via

The program will help those facing primary charges of driving without valid driver’s licenses, or suspended or revoked licenses, to get them reinstated.

Of the 12,000 people faced with that fate last year, estimates are that half of that number — at least — could have been helped by this program.

For Nelson, a proponent of “smart justice,” this program is a potential reprieve for many from “the cycle of license suspension … ballooning of fines and fees” and a “costly and complicated” process of license restoration.

Eligible offenses include misdemeanor driving while license is suspended or revoked, expired or otherwise invalid, or driving outside of classification.

Sex offenders are ineligible for the program, as are non-Florida residents and those with licenses suspended in major criminal traffic offenses.

JEA privatization bills pulled

Jacksonville City Councilmen Jim Love and Matt Schellenberg, both second-term Republicans, had expressed different visions for the future of Jacksonville’s public utility.

Schellenberg’s 2018-242 would encourage the Mayor and the JEA Board to explore a review of a potential sale; Love’s 2018-248 would represent Council opposition to a sale.

Both bills will not see the Council floor, after a Wednesday meeting in which both agreed to pull their bills.

Though Curry has clarified some confusion in his position, saying that he wouldn’t push legislation at this point in favor of a sale, the question is not considered closed by close observers of and participants in the City Hall scrum, despite a recent Moody’s FAQ on the under-construction Plant Vogtle asserting that “the potential to privatize was recently studied by the Mayor and City Council and rejected.”

Love and Schellenberg congregated Wednesday with a group of Councilors, including President Anna Brosche, former President Greg Anderson, Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, and Councilman Gaffney to solve the problem of legislation currently without a purpose.

Love noted the landscape has changed “radically” in relation to JEA, given a special committee and the lack of mayoral initiative on a privatization plan, as well as no board decision in favor of reviewing the option further.

Mind games continue between Curry, Dennis

Though the Jacksonville City Council is on its “fifth week,” a sanctioned break from committee meetings, the intrigue continues in the St. James Building.

On Tuesday, Curry met with a candidate for the legislative body: Marcellus Holmes.

Marcellus Holmes may be Garrett Dennis’ competition next year.

Holmes, a former professional football player, didn’t hone into specific policy proposals when we interviewed him in April.

If elected, he will be “bringing the community together” to “meet the needs of every community” and “get every issue solved.”

Lack of specifics notwithstanding, Holmes scored a Tuesday meeting with Curry.

On Wednesday, Florida Politics caught up with Dennis, who was amused by the meeting.

Dennis has been meeting with potential 2019 candidates for Mayor; he would not specify whether those candidates were in the current field, which includes Republican Jimmy Hill, Democrat Doreszell Cohen and NPA hopeful Connell Crooms.

Dennis, as of this writing, has not filed for re-election.

Discussion has lingered for months about the vehicle Curry’s political machine could use to exact revenge on Dennis, who has stood athwart many of the administration’s initiatives.

Perhaps the meeting is an augury of meaningful support to come.

Clay opioid raid yields no opioids

Per The Appeal: “Sheriff Darryl Daniels of Clay County … is positioning himself as a social media celebrity in the ongoing war on opioids. In January, Daniels’s office filmed the aftermath of a SWAT raid that he and masked officers carried out on a so-called narcotics house on a tree-lined suburban street in Orange Park … The video documenting the raid — in what the sheriff dubbed ‘Operation: You Were Warned’ — went viral, garnering 30,000 shares and 3.4 million views on Facebook.”

Could a Clay County drug bust have been little more than theater?

Sounds good! But …

“Despite the sheriff’s announcement, the ‘raid’ resulted in only five adult arrests and one juvenile arrest, according to Elaine Brown, a lead records specialist at the sheriff’s office. According to police records reviewed by The Appeal, the drug seizures from this ‘narcotics house’ were fairly small scale and did not include opioids. In an email to The Appeal, Sgt. Keith Smith, an office spokesman, clarified that during the raid, narcotics deputies found what they believed to be 1.2 grams of heroin and fentanyl after an initial field test, but subsequent tests revealed the seizure was not a controlled substance.”

The Clay Sheriff’s Office did find weed though.

Read more here.

Solar boom for JEA

Finally, some utility news that doesn’t read like a rejected plot of “House of Cards.”

(Photo via Florida Times-Union)

The Florida Times-Union reports that JEA “plans to team up with a private company for construction of five solar farms through 2020 that will collectively produce as much electricity as a small natural gas plant, turning JEA from a below-average utility in terms of solar power to a utility that is well above average for Florida, according to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.”

“Smaller utilities like Beaches Energy, which is owned by Jacksonville Beach and also serves Neptune Beach and Ponte Vedra, likewise are getting into the game. This month, Beaches Energy joined forces with 11 other municipal utilities to announce plans for 900,000 solar panels at three solar farms in Orange and Osceola counties. They would produce 223 megawatts by 2020,” adds the T-U report.

YMCA breaks ground on Jacksonville expansion

Northwest Jacksonville’s James Weldon Johnson YMCA has broken ground on a new expansion, reports WJCT. Among the renovations include an updated wellness facility, a new swimming pool, and doubling the teen program capacity with a new teen center.

Now serving around 30 to 40 teens daily, the completed center will increase that number to 100.

Rendering of a new common area for the James Weldon Johnson YMCA expansion, which program this week.

First Coast YMCA Social Responsibility VP and Johnson YMCA Executive Director Irvin Cohen tells WJCT: “We really, in this community, didn’t have a place where young people who were not athletically inclined could go. You either went to after-school programs after the school — which were primarily sports-related — [or] until nothing.”

Nearly all the $3.5 million for the project’s construction costs were through private donations. About 10 percent came from state funding; Cohen said it will cover programming costs.

“We all know in communities like this the consequences of idle hands can be deadly to say the very least,” Cohen added.

Local tie to NHL title hunt

Jacksonville is not known as Hockey Town, but the chair of a local company is just a few wins away from an NHL title via his ownership of a franchise.

Bill Foley, chairman of Fidelity National Financial, owns the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

Bill Foley, the owner of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, has a Jacksonville connection. (Photo via Jacksonville Daily Record)

The Jacksonville Daily Record profiled him this week.

Foley expected a playoff team in three years, a title team in six — not a title run in the first season, he said.

Foley, 73 now, is dialing back his Duval business ties.

“He remains chairman of Fidelity’s board and is executive chairman of Black Knight Inc., the Jacksonville-based mortgage technology company spun off from Fidelity. But he said he will likely give up the executive chairman role at Black Knight, which carries more responsibility than chairman of the board of directors,” the Record reports.

Jacksonville Zoo extends popular dinosaur exhibit

“Dinosauria,” the popular dinosaur exhibit at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, will extend through Sept. 22. Beginning March 2, the program was originally slated to end July 2.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, Imagine Exhibitions provided the dinosaurs, the first time that the company created a zoo installation. Previously, they were supplied by Billings Productions.

“The dinosaurs were just going into storage until their next exhibit,” zoo director Tony Vecchio told the Journal. “So, I asked if they could stay here. We’ve never had dinosaurs in the summer, and if we paid full price for them it wouldn’t be viable, but the fact they were just going into storage, the company was happy to do it at a discount.”

The popular “Dinosauria” at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, will extend through Sept. 22.

Initially, the exhibit was expected to help boost attendance during the zoo’s slow months – July and August – as a relatively inexpensive program. The 21 life-size animatronic dinosaurs in “Dinosauria,” Vecchio said, are larger and electrically powered, with smoother hydraulic motions than previous versions.

After its success, zoo officials decided to extend the project. The exhibit will now run through September and costs an additional $4 for the public and $3 for Zoo members.

Also returning is another popular program, called “92 at the Zoo,” offering half-price admission on select days when weather forecast but the temperature above 92 degrees.

Critics aside, coach likes where Bortles is headed

Despite a huge season that had the Jaguars only 5 minutes away from the Super Bowl, there are still those that want to complain. The biggest target of those complaints usually shows up on the back of quarterback Blake Bortles.

Blake Bortles has his coaches’ backing.

He certainly had his difficulties but improved overall from last season. During the playoff games against Pittsburgh and New England, he bordered on spectacular.

That only quieted some of the critics, but the fifth-year veteran from Central Florida is earning the praise of someone important. His offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, believes “the sky’s the limit” when describing the offensive production capabilities of his signal caller.

“The one thing that was consistent throughout the whole [2017 season] was Blake, and Blake getting better and better,” Hackett said Tuesday after offseason OTA (Organized Team Activities) Practice No. 4. “If he keeps progressing on that upward hill, good things are going to happen.”

Jacksonville is favored to win their second straight AFC South title for good reason. No one in the AFC gave up fewer points than the Jaguars and this year’s draft only made the defensive unit even stronger.

If Bortles and his supporting cast on offense can produce points like they did at the end of last season, there is every reason to believe they can take the next step. Hackett is seeing a quarterback that is beginning to understand how to be successful.

“I want Blake to play football,” Hackett said. “There have been so many times he’s gone out there and he hasn’t been able to just go out there and play, and really think about beating a defense. As the [2017] season went on, I think that’s where he went.”

Jacksonville police union backs Al Lawson, snubs Alvin Brown again

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson‘s re-election campaign rolled out an endorsement Wednesday from the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police.

The local is backing Lawson, a first-term Democrat from Tallahassee, in his primary challenge from Alvin Brown, a former Jacksonville Mayor.

Brown didn’t even sit for an interview with the union — and given Lawson’s history of support for and from law enforcement (his first FOP endorsement was in 1982), an interview may not have mattered.

FOP head Steve Zona offered a ringing testimonial for Lawson, noting that “public safety in Jacksonville is your turf.”

Lawson, meanwhile, told the officers on hand that “you don’t have to worry about where I stand. I stand with you.

Brown is now 0-for-3 in FOP endorsement battles. He didn’t secure the FOP endorsement in 2011; that went to Mike Hogan.

In 2015, the FOP backed Lenny Curry over Brown.

Meanwhile, the state FOP endorsed Lawson in his race against former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown in 2016; this time out, there clearly was no reason for the union to deviate from established protocol.

In Jacksonville, Al Lawson tries to score wins on Alvin Brown’s turf

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson was in Jacksonville Tuesday for a town hall, as he looks to repel a challenge in the Democratic primary from another moderate who hasn’t been afraid to blur party lines in former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

The question this campaign for Lawson: can he parlay incumbency and a primary opponent who has myriad flaws into consolidating support on the eastern side of the district?

The answer is as yet unanswered.

Lawson’s town hall came after a roundtable with veterans earlier on Tuesday, and ahead of an endorsement event with the local Fraternal Order of Police Wednesday.

For those expecting talking points to rally the base, they were not to be found. Instead, what Lawson offered was a robust defense of bipartisan cooperation.

The event kicked off with over 100 people in the crowd. And they heard Lawson lament a reality of the current system of government.

“By the time you get there, you’ve got to start raising money for the next election,” Lawson said he was told.

“One of the problems with Congress is … in order to serve on committees, you’ve got to raise a lot of money,” Lawson said, noting that he was told he had to raise “two or three hundred thousand dollars to be on the Appropriations Committee.”

Lawson’s unprompted meditation on fundraising was interesting, as the incumbent is starting his re-election campaign slowly and with a high burn rate.

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.

Beyond the fundraising issue, Lawson addressed some hot-button issues in response to questions from WJXT’s Kent Justice, a local television moderator who asked Lawson scripted questions in lieu of questions from the crowd.

On guns, Lawson noted that he’d gotten an “NRA rating of zero for the last thirty years,” though Vote Smart suggests that there were years when Lawson was above that threshold.

Lawson spoke a lot about bipartisanship, noting that after Hurricane Irma, he worked to “convince” House Speaker Paul Ryan of the need for FEMA reimbursements, while working well with Rep. John Rutherford and Mayor Lenny Curry.

Lawson noted that on hurricane relief and efforts to fix problematic Eureka Gardens, working across the aisle is key.

Unlike any other politician in this market today, Lawson expressed interest in crossing party lines repeatedly during the event.

Lawson was asked about a claim from regarding his voting with President Donald Trump more often than some might like: “If it’s good legislation, doesn’t make a difference if it comes from Trump or anybody. If it benefits this area, I support it.”

“The man is the president of the United States,” Lawson added, noting that he finds it perplexing when people castigate him for not voting with the Congressional Black Caucus on every roll call vote.

“Nobody in the Black Caucus voted for me. That’s why I don’t understand when people say [I] don’t vote with the Black Caucus,” Lawson said, noting that he votes for what his district wants.

The question of Lawson clapping for the President at the last State of the Union came up also.

“There were other African-Americans there who did clap, but the camera focused on me,” Lawson said, noting that “some people take a spin, opponents and stuff, say ‘he is the President’s new best friend.”

“I’m the friend of the people who are going to help my constituents,” Lawson said, to scattered applause. “You don’t have to like the President, but if the President is doing something for the people you serve, you embrace him.”

In an activist year, as a candidate from the other side of the district, it’s interesting to hear Lawson pitching collaboration and cooperation. 

There is an endgame for the region, in theory; Lawson said he wanted to build a VA hospital in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville politicians were nowhere to be found at this event. Democratic activists, whatever their issues with former Mayor Brown, have largely fallen in line behind the previous standard bearer of the Duval Democrats.

Despite these issues, Lawson has expressed confidence that he can play well in Duval.

He got 20 percent of the vote in 2016’s Democratic primary against Corrine Brown, outpacing a third place spoiler candidate in that election.

And his mastery of the emotional appeal helped, in anecdotes ranging from post-Irma flood victims.

Ultimately, however, the Brown/Lawson race comes down to two regional Democrats fighting for control of a geographically distended district without appreciable common ground.

Ironically, given that she faced bigger issues than re-election in the end, it was Corrine Brown who made the failed argument that the redrawn Congressional District 5 wasn’t valid because it didn’t aggregate “communities of interest.”

The Alvin Brown/Lawson race, with its geographic divide still looming as the key narrative point, underscores the reality that Corrine Brown’s words (part of her “everything and the kitchen sink” legal defense) have yet to be convincingly refuted.

If Alvin Brown goes to Congress, he will get a pay raise

At last count, a member of the United States Congress makes $174,000 per annum.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, a current candidate for the primary nomination in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, would stand to receive a serious pay raise in 2019 if he wins the nomination and is elected, per his financial disclosure form.

Brown has made minimal income in 2018, and 2017 also was a lean year.

2018 saw Brown bringing in less than $400 in interest income, and $8,250 in consulting fees ($750 from the Westside Church of God in Christ, $7,500 from Gray Global Advisors).

2017, a pre-candidacy year for Brown, was financially healthier, with more honorarium and consulting cash.

Gray paid him $45,000; additionally, $13,000 in honorariums were paid out (Merck, Sharp, and Dohme Credit Union was in for $10,000; Alliance of NC Black Elected Officials for $1,500, and Shiloh Baptist Church for another $1,500).

Incumbent Al Lawson has not filed a 2018 disclosure; however, 2016 paperwork showed Lawson, a busy lobbyist, raked in over $200,000 in 2015 and roughly $75,000 through the first part of 2016. He also had rental properties, and a mortgage that was near being paid off at the filing of his previous disclosure.

A recurrent Lawson talking point has been that Brown “failed as mayor and a lot of people in Duval are saying he’s just looking for a job” by running for Congress.

Brown’s financial disclosure does not show truly steady work since he left office nearly three years ago, suggesting that Lawson’s verbal jab may have some truth to it.

Despite the wealth disparity between the challenger and the incumbent, Brown was, at last report, competitive with Lawson in the campaign money chase.

Brown, through one quarter of fundraising, established functional parity with Lawson concerning cash on hand, with $127,000 at the end of the quarter compared to $159,000 for Lawson.

Jacksonville Bold for 5.25.18 — Game theory

We’ve reached the point in the primary cycle where, by now, campaign groundwork and infrastructure should be well underway.

Bold is offering evidence of that proposition.

Smart candidates are bringing out the big endorsements, and less seasoned candidates making career-killing gaffes.

The operatives are talking. If our Jacksonville correspondent isn’t typing, odds are good he is fielding a call from one or another.

Sometimes, what they say may even be true.

For those who have been reading Florida Politics in the Jacksonville market since 2014, what’s clear is that we much of the work — explaining why someone is winning (or losing).

Moments have predictive value. Trends emerge from specific phenomena. And the savvy players, whether donors, consultants, pols or endorsers are making rational transactional decisions.

Some like to sentimentalize politics. But they are soon disappointed when it is revealed (yet again) that the business is a discipline — and well-organized people, and operations, tend to do the best business.

Scott trumpets yet another record low crime rate

Tuesday morning, Gov. Rick Scott was in Jacksonville with what his office called a “major announcement” on “Florida’s safe communities” and the 2017 FDLE Crime Report.

Rick Scott, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, Mayor Lenny Curry talk crime-fighting.

Crime rates have decreased during the Scott era (from a 40 year low to a 46 year low and now, a 47 year low), and his trumpeting of the statistical decreases have become a yearly tradition, which allows the outgoing Governor and current Senate candidate to spotlight budget allocations for public safety measures.

“This year, our budget invested more than $5.2 billion in public safety, a more than $300 million increase over last year,” Scott said. “This investment includes $22.8 million to pay increases for state sworn law enforcement officers, which includes the 5 percent raise I signed last year.”

Scott also trumpeted a 10 percent raise for juvenile probation officers and increased funding for prevention programs for at-risk youth.

“As our economy continues to grow,” Scott said, “we continue to invest more money in law enforcement. These investments are clearly working. Crime in our state is at a 47-year low.”

“The crime rate dropped by 6 percent in 2017, including a reduction in violent crime of 3 percent,” Scott said.

Scott spotlighted several officers who died since mid-April, including Officer Lance Whitaker of Jacksonville, asking for a moment of silence in commemoration.

Scott was accompanied by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams, who spotlighted local efforts, including hiring more police officers and a 36 percent decrease in nonfatal shootings in Q1 2018.

Graham returns to Jacksonville

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham found herself on familiar turf Monday evening, addressing the monthly meeting of the Duval Democratic Party.

Gwen Graham works the crowd in Jacksonville Monday.

In Jacksonville, Graham — once seen as a prohibitive front-runner for the nomination — made at least one “comeback kid” posture, noting that in her 2014 race for Congress, some political reporters bet against her and others said she couldn’t win.

Graham also noted her commitment to progressive ideals in the remarks, including education, public option for health care, and gun control measures, before saying that “these things don’t matter if you can’t win.”

Graham espoused a commitment to the “67 county strategy,” a phrase also used by opponent Philip Levine. While a candidate has to do well in South Florida and the I-4 Corridor, “elections are won or lost north of Orlando.”

And Graham insisted that went beyond just Jacksonville, noting that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “did well in Duval but got beaten badly west of here,” by way of making the case that the key is to “not get beaten so badly in places where Democrats have lost in the past.”

“Look at the data, and you will see: the reality is you have to do well everywhere,” Graham added. “You can’t write off any part of the state and think there’s a path to victory.”

Curry backs Waltz in CD 6

A major regional endorsement from Mayor Curry went to Mike Waltz Monday in the three-way GOP primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

The machine comes through again. [Photo: Jax Daily Record]

Curry and Waltz share some of the same political advisers; judging from the quotes of mutual admiration, there is ideological affinity as well.

“Michael Waltz is a leader and a warrior with a servant’s heart,” Curry said.

“From the battlefield to the halls of power, Mike has already demonstrated a deep reverence for the Constitution and a willingness to fight for the conservative values we share. Washington needs people who instead of saying what they want to do will simply get things done. Florida needs more conservative voices in Congress, and that’s why I am proud to endorse and support Michael Waltz for Congress,” Curry asserted.

“Mayor Lenny Curry is a true leader, visionary and champion for real conservative reform,” said Michael Waltz. “He has worked tirelessly to enact a positive conservative agenda with real results for the people of Northeast Florida. I am humbled by Mayor Curry’s support and look forward to working together in the months ahead.”

The GOP race in CD-6, where candidates vie to replace outgoing Rep. Ron DeSantis, has been an interesting one, with Waltz and John Ward both raising serious money for what will be an expensive primary straddling three media markets (Jacksonville, Daytona and Orlando).

Ward: Puerto Ricans shouldn’t vote here

John Ward, a Republican running to succeed DeSantis in CD 6, looks to have made the biggest gaffe of his political career recently.

John Ward’s comments drew fire from inside and outside his party.

According to Fox News, Ward asserted that displaced Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be allowed to vote in Florida.

“I don’t think they should be allowed to register to vote,” Ward said, given that “the Democrat Party is really hoping that they can change the voting registers in a lot of counties and districts, and I don’t think they should be allowed to do that,” Ward said at an April forum.

Instead, Ward added that Puerto Ricans “belong” in Puerto Rico.

Per the Orlando Sentinel, likely Democratic nominee Nancy Soderberg blasted the comments:

“Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States, plain and simple, and every bit as American as John Ward,” Soderberg said in a statement. “Every American citizen, regardless of where they come from, deserve a vote.”

DeSantis — who took issue with Ward filing for the seat before he was officially running for Governor — blasted his would-be replacement via POLITICO, saying the comments were “beyond the pale.”

Gibson investigates ‘problem spa’

Per Action News Jax, Sen. Audrey Gibson investigated a “problem spa” on Jacksonville’s Southside late last week.

When she walked up to the building, Gibson’s reaction: “Who the hell would want to come here for a massage? It’s seedy!”

Audrey Gibson and reporter Tenikka Hughes (above) investigated a seedy spa late last week.

Gibson and reporter Tenikka Hughes had an interesting dialogue with spa staff, which we include below.

Gibson: “Do you know there’s been illegal activity at this place? Did you know about that?”

Worker: “I don’t know.”

Hughes: “You see, it says sweet, young Asian girls. None of these girls work here?”

Worker: “No, no, no.”

Hughes: “Did you know it was being advertised like this?”

Worker: “I don’t know. That’s the first time I saw.”

Gibson: “Can we come in and see your massage rooms?”

Worker: “No.”

Doubts of Gibson permeate Senate Dem caucus

Two new political committees speak to doubts about the way forward for Senate Democrats, for which Sen. Gibson is Leader-Designate.

Audrey Gibson. (Image via Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

This is the “latest, most indelible sign of a growing rift within the caucus and yet the divide may be improving the minority party’s chances of retaking the chamber.”

“In late April, Friends of Kevin Rader PC was established by David Ramba, a prominent Tallahassee lobbyist who administers dozens of political committees on behalf of a broad range of political clients. Also recently formed was Future Democratic Majority PC and, in addition to Rader, involves Sens. Randolph BracyLauren Book from Plantation, Linda Stewart from Orlando, Bobby Powell from West Palm Beach, and Darryl Rouson from St. Petersburg.”

Per one consultant: “It’s about a crisis of confidence in Audrey (Gibson) and a fear of what the caucus might become if Gary Farmer is eventually given the reins.”

Gibson faces a primary challenge from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown. What’s clear, however, is that the issues around the state are at least worthy of monitoring for the incumbent.

Expect big money for Hutson committee

Sen. Travis Hutson was this week supported at a fundraising reception for his First Coast Business Foundation, and Curry was the special guest at an event heavy on names of prominent politicos, donors and lobbyists.

Travis Hutson is consolidating regional support, which will allow him to reach out statewide.

Event chairs included Marty Fiorentino, former Congressional candidate Hans Tanzler (endorsed by Hutson in 2016), JEA Board member Husein Cumber, Jaguars’ lobbyist and all-around problem solver Paul Harden, and bestbet’s Jamie Shelton.

Among the standout names on the host committee: charter school impresario Gary Chartrand and the Jax Chamber mainstay Daniel Davis.

A similar group of players came together last year for a fundraiser in support of future House Speaker Paul Renner, whose political committee had a $261,000 month because of it.

Hutson is pursuing the Senate presidency in 2022, and fundraisers like this for his political committees will fuel the work to secure support for his bid.

In April, his Sunshine State Conservatives political committee got a boost reflective of similar support from different players.

The committee brought in $155,000 in April, with much of that money coming from other committees.

Firefighters back Polson in HD 15

Democrat Tracye Polson is still waiting to find out which of three Republicans will emerge from the August primary to face her in the House District 15 race.

Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters head Randy Wyse addresses a crowd downtown.

But she doesn’t have to wait any longer for the endorsement of one of Jacksonville’s most influential public-sector unions.

The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters gave its imprimatur to Polson, meaning that no matter what happens in the GOP battle, she can count on union backing.

“I am humbled to have earned the support of the men and women of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. This endorsement is particularly meaningful to me. As a licensed mental health professional, I’ve spent many years treating victims of trauma and I know the critical impact first responders have when they arrive on the scene of fire and medical emergencies. District 15 continues to battle the opioid epidemic, having two ZIP codes with the highest rate of overdoses in the city,” said Polson.

“Furthermore, because of the stressors first responders are exposed to every day, they have increased rates of PTSD and suicide. And this impacts their loved ones and our entire community, too. I will be a staunch advocate for them and their families,” Polson added.

The local Fraternal Order of Police had previously endorsed Polson, giving her a public safety sweep.

Bowman, Wilson take Jacksonville City Council helm

The top job starting July 1 in the Jacksonville City Council will go to current Vice President Aaron Bowman, elected President-Designate Tuesday.

Aaron Bowman and Scott Wilson will lead the Council starting July 1.

There was little surprise: Weeks prior, Bowman had 13 of the 19 councilors pledging support.

Bowman, a VP for the Jacksonville Chamber‘s business recruitment wing JAXUSA Partnership, will represent a break from the chaotic, parlous dynamic between current President Anna Lopez Brosche and Mayor Curry.

Republican Scott Wilson took the VP spot — notable because he entered Tuesday with no pledges and overcame intense lobbying from the head of the Republican Party of Duval County for his opponent, Danny Becton.

BBQ botch

Earlier this month, the city filed suit against Councilwoman Katrina Brown, a first-term Democratic member of the Council’s Finance Committee, for breach of guaranty, relative to a defaulted loan of $380,000 to the Browns’ family business, CoWealth LLC. [COJ v Katrina Brown]

Questions remain about Katrina Brown’s political future after a city lawsuit was filed against her.

CoWealth defaulted on the loan after Jan. 1, 2017, per the filing, which noted that the city is owed over $346,000 in principal, in addition to interest, late charges and so forth.

The city has retained Burr and Forman LLP to represent its interests.

To recap, the city fronted CoWealth $380,000 of loans from the city of Jacksonville and $220,000 of grants in 2011 to build a BBQ sauce plant in Northwest Jacksonville. The grant money was conditional on the company creating 56 permanent jobs, but none were created.

The city won a default judgment against the businesses, but that was effectively worthless. Brown’s parents, including her mother who ran the businesses, filed for bankruptcy months ago.

This news is ill-timed for Councilwoman Brown, who has drawn no fewer than seven challengers for her District 8 seat.

Brown will stay on the Council, she said Tuesday, and will continue her run for re-election.

Another one bites the dust

Jacksonville’s latest Inspector General, James Hoffman, took all of six sentences in a terse resignation letter late Friday to end his twelve-month tenure.

James Hoffman. (Image via Jacksonville Daily Record)

Hoffman is the second permanent inspector general to leave the role in recent years, and the second one to last a year or less.

“I would like to thank you for the trust placed in me to lead the Office of Inspector General. The last 12 months have been personally and professionally rewarding. I have enjoyed learning and working in the consolidated government. I have been inspired by the professionals within the Office working tirelessly every day to make our government more effective and efficient. However, for personal and professional reasons, I resign as the Inspector General for the City of Jacksonville,” Hoffman wrote.

The resignation will be effective June 8.

Back in 2016, Thomas Cline left the position, after less than a year. Steve Rohan, a former city lawyer, also served on an interim basis in between the two permanent hires.

It took the Inspector General Selection and Retention Committee roughly that long to secure Hoffman as a permanent replacement.

Jacksonville City Council members, including the president of the body and the body’s chief advocate for an IG position, didn’t see the departure coming.

Land Trust honored for fort preservation

The North Florida Land Trust was recognized recently with the 2018 Florida Preservation Organizational Achievement award for the work they did to acquire and preserve the 1898 Spanish-American War Fort.

The property had been purchased at a tax deed sale, and the buyer had considered demolition. However, a combination of $162,500 in city funds, a $100,000 donation from the Delores Barr Weaver fund, and other support combined to meet the $400,000 purchase price.

NFLT brings home the hardware.

Per a media release: “NFLT was chosen for the Florida Trust’s Preservation Award in the organizational achievement category for the capital campaign they led to preserve the 1898 Spanish-American War Fort. NFLT partnered with the National Park Service in 2015 to serve as the acquisition and fundraising partner to save the fort. They negotiated with the landowner who had acquired the property at a tax deed sale and had planned to destroy the fort to build a house. The staff then set out on a yearlong capital campaign to raise the money needed to purchase the property and save the fort.”

“This is an example of what a community can achieve when we work together to save an important part of our state’s history,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “When we took this on in 2015, it was the largest capital campaign our organization had ever undertaken in its 16-year history. Our then small staff of six worked very hard to achieve our goal to save the fort. With help from the City of Jacksonville, the Delores Barr Weaver Fund and many in the community who contributed to the campaign, we were able to raise the money needed to purchase this property and save a piece of Jacksonville history.”

The National Park Service will be the ultimate custodians of the fort.

Tim Nolan takes helm of TOTE

Per media release: Tim Nolan has been named the next President and CEO of TOTE Inc., the parent company to TOTE Maritime and TOTE Services.

Tim Nolan, current President of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, will take over July 16.

“I am honored and excited to step into this new leadership role with TOTE,” commented Nolan. “The TOTE team is an exemplary group of people and I am confident that together we will make this a successful transition. I look forward to working closely with customers, vendors and key stakeholders as well as all of the TOTE companies.”

TOTE’s corporate headquarters is moving to Jacksonville, where both TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and TOTE Services are currently based.

Nolan will key in on selecting his replacement in his previous role: the next president for TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico.

Art attack

WJCT reports that Jacksonville’s decision to sell “Iva,” a painting by Joan Mitchell that had not been displayed in a decade, will mean big profits for city coffers.

“Leaders in the arts community now have $2.8 million in their pockets, thanks to the auction seller’s fees being waived by Christie’s grant of a 104 percent return.”

“Iva” by Joan Mitchell.

The money will be split 50/50 by the city and its Museum of Contemporary Art.

The city’s share will go toward its Arts in Public Places program, which has $700,000 in unmet maintenance needs.

Black Creek land deals cut

The state has acquired the land needed for a project to pump water out of Black Creek and into aquifers at Keystone Heights, reports the Florida Times-Union.

The Black Creek project is expected to replenish area lakes, such as in Keystone Heights.

“The project calls for using Black Creek — which floods frequently — as an alternative water supply to meet the region’s future water needs by helping replenish the Floridan aquifer, the state’s main water source. It is the first attempt in Northeast Florida to use water from a creek or river to recharge the aquifer.”

There are critics, including HD 19 Democratic candidate Paul Still.

Still got in the race against incumbent Bobby Payne in part because of the “Black Creek boondoggle,” and he still is unmollified.

“It should be clear that the wetlands associated with Black Creek at Penney Farms require frequent high creek levels to keep them functioning and that withdrawing water at the proposed rate for the Black Creek Project would harm those wetlands,” said Still.

Chambers wins eco dev award

Via a news release from the Jax Chamber: “Cathy Chambers, JAXUSA Partnership senior vice president of strategy and business development, was honored with the prestigious Eunice Sullivan Economic Development Professional of the Year Award at the 2018 Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC) Annual Conference on Tuesday.”

“The FEDC recognized Chambers as a leader of business development success and advocacy for the profession, the region and women in the field,” the release continues. “During her tenure at JAXUSA Partnership, Chambers spearheaded efforts to attract more than 10,000 jobs and capital investment to the Northeast Florida region, including significant projects such as Deutsche Bank, Macquarie, Citibank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch,, PNC Mortgage and EverBank, among others.”

“Cathy is a highly respected voice for economic development in the Northeast Florida region and the state,” said Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership and 1997 recipient of the Eunice Sullivan Award. “Many business decision-makers and site consultants have recounted that they are drawn to the region because of Cathy’s professionalism, credibility and knowledge. She consistently impresses our clients resulting in their investment in the region which is good, not only for them but also for our community.”

Jags’ Ramsey makes plans for fatherhood; trolls Bills’ QB

With Father’s Day just three weeks away, Jaguars’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey is looking forward to his first. He is already making plans for the future when it comes to the young Ramsey.

Whether he becomes the father of a boy or girl, he would like for the child to follow in the footsteps of his or her parents. He sees a potential track star in the 2030s.

Jalen Ramsey looks forward to Father’s Day.

Both Ramsey and his girlfriend both ran track in high school back in Tennessee. The former FSU All-American was also a track star in Tallahassee.

“Hopefully he or she will be a little track star,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ramsey is getting ready for training camp by doing something else he does well. One of the league’s best shutdown corners is also one of the league’s most prolific agitators.

The target this time was Buffalo Bills’ rookie quarterback Josh Allen. When the Bills spoke of the impending first pass of Allen’s career during a rookie workout, Ramsey retweeted “that’s a pick waiting to happen.”

Ramsey later deleted the post, but Allen was asked about it later.

Allen said Ramsey’s barb did not bother him at all. “That’s one of the best corners in the league,” he said.

One of the best talkers, too.

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