Alvin Brown Archives - Page 5 of 42 - Florida Politics

Jacksonville drops out of “100 Resilient Cities” initiative

The city of Jacksonville is no longer taking part in the Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities” Initiative. The program awards cities around the world $1 million grants to address issues such as sea level rise and extreme weather.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown applied for the grant and received it, but under the Lenny Curry administration, it looks like Jax is no longer quite so resilient.

City spokeswoman Tia Ford told WJCT Wednesday the city is no longer participating in the program. Charles Moreland, the mayor’s director of Community Affairs, was named Jacksonville’s Chief Resiliency Officer under the initiative. It is unclear whether that will remain his portfolio, since part of the $1 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation went to the creation of that position.

It is also unclear as to whether the city of Jacksonville is returning any or all of the money.

As of Wednesday morning, all mention of Jacksonville’s participation in 100 Resilient Cities was  scrubbed from the Rockefeller Foundation’s website.

Jacksonville’s response to the concern presented by sea level rise contrasts with that of other coastal Florida cities. For example, as this website has already reported, in Miami, Mayor Carlos Gimenez and county commissioners recently approved a $6.8 million budget that includes a $75,000 line item to hire a new “resiliency officer” with an additional $300,000 budget to tackle the effects of sea level rise.

Climate scientists with NASA, NOAA and Climate Central, among others, have all cited Florida as the state most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

Bill Bishop mulling return to Jax City Council

Former Jacksonville City Councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Bishop is considering a return to Jacksonville’s City Council in 2019, he told Florida Politics Monday.

Bishop, who served two terms, is thinking over a run to fill what would be the open At Large seat of John Crescimbeni (assuming that Council’s proposal to extend its consecutive terms served from 2 to 3 passes referendum and applies to current Council members in its final iteration.)

Bishop, who ran a strong third in the March mayoral First Election, crossed party lines and endorsed Alvin Brown toward the end of the runoff, campaigning with Brown in high-visibility visits to the Riverside area, where Bishop won some precincts.

This happened after Bishop reportedly told Curry that Brown’s re-election would lead to a “lost decade” in Jacksonville. And after Bishop supporters jumped the gun by announcing that they backed Alvin Brown, in an email that seemed designed to convey Bishop’s endorsement to Brown that they had to clarify soon after sending.

The ill will between the Bishop and Curry camps continued through the election, with Bishop (who had previously done a press conference saying that he was running for mayor in 2019), taking fire from the GOP establishment throughout the election.

Since Curry’s election, Bishop has had business in front of City Council, and the dynamic has been friendly with his former colleagues, suggesting that regarding the campaign, there may be momentum in City Hall to let bygones be bygones.

However, that momentum may not extend to the GOP establishment. Local Party Treasurer Lindsey Brock, a member of the Jax Chamber Public Policy Board, is already looking at the race, insiders say. Bishop would, therefore, meet resistance from the Republican Executive Committee, with which he already has a fractious relationship.

Worth watching: Bishop’s thoughts on Lenny Curry’s move on the expansion of the HRO. Curry, who said further legislation would not be prudent, extended all-inclusive employment non-discrimination provisions to employees of the city and employees of vendors doing business with the city, which would include local powerhouse companies like J.B. Coxwell and W.W. Gay.

Bill Bishop may not be the only Bishop on the ballot in 2019. Democrat operatives are bracing for a potential challenge to Joyce Morgan in Arlington from Melody Bishop, Bill’s wife. Word on the street is that GOP money would back Mrs. Bishop. We have reached out to Melody Bishop for comment on this narrative.

How Shad Khan is moving Jacksonville forward in spite of itself

The most interesting part of the State of the Franchise event for the Jacksonville Jaguars, for this writer, came at the end.

In a press gaggle, where the same sports reporters went through the same tired questions about London and relocation, this reporter was finally able to push forward and get a question in.

There have been moshpits with more clearance.

The big question I had for Shad Khan: How did he work the switch between supporting Alvin Brown for reelection and Lenny Curry for Mayor?

And where did he stand on expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance to LGBT people.

His answer was straightforward.

“I’ve got an investment here,” Khan said, adding that while he supported Brown in the mayoral race, he has to “respect” the will of the people.

“Lenny’s a great guy,” Khan said, and “he represents the city well.”

Fielding a question on the HRO, which would be a foregone conclusion in London, or any of the other places Khan does business, Khan cut through the handwringing and the blather as a man with a few billion dollars in the bank will do.

“It’s like civil rights,” Khan said. “It’s so late that it’s not even worth talking about.”

Khan said he’d talked to Brown about it. Presumably, given the political symbiosis between Khan’s organization and the Curry administration, similar conversations have been had … if not from Khan, then at least from his lieutenants.

The politicians were all smiles on Friday. Lenny Curry posed for another fist bump picture with Khan, which looked more organic than the one on the London trip. Khan said that “we plan to be in Jacksonville” and “we want to flourish,” with “certainty and stability” the goal.

But the business of The State of the Franchise was, of course, business.

According to Jaguars President Mark Lamping, business is picking up.

Despite being a small market, local revenue is “going in the right direction” though there is a “long way to go.”

Local revenue is “critical,” Lamping said, offering financial “flexibility” that helps with contract options.

Downtown development, Lamping added, is a “major part of the strategy,” a revenue stream along with the proposed entertainment district and the stadium revamps that were, as you would expect, presented to look genuinely transformative and state of the art.

Local revenue was up 8 percent year over year, down from 24 percent the previous period; however, with local revenue now 26th in the league, “we’ve turned the corner.” This is helped with fan-base penetration that is 11th in the league.

Renovations will help with that revenue stream; Lamping said that in cities where renovations happen, the average ticket price goes up 50 percent.

The reduction in club seats was addressed.

“The thing that made Jacksonville an NFL city was the sale of club seats,” Lamping said. The “demand the first five years was a little bit artificial.”

To that end, club seats renovations, with more space to walk around and open space in the club section, is both “necessary” and the “best plan.” Customized colored lighting for things like the Georgia/Florida game is a unique value add also, and the team will chip in half the money on the removal and adding of temporary seating for that.

The “amphitheater,” Lamping said, is a “misnomer,” as it’s an “open-air covered theater” with seating capabilities akin to Radio City Music Hall.

London is also part of that plan: The revenue potential per game is 180 percent of that of a Jaguars game.

The Jags intend to “protect their position” for “franchise stability.”

City Council bet $45 million of the city’s money on the Jaguars. The mayor’s office pushed hard.

But clearly, part of the deal for Shad Khan is to make Jacksonville a truly global city.

Politicians running for reelection would be wise to double back on his comments on the HRO.

The state of the Jacksonville Jaguars … a year ago

A bit less than a year ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars held 2015’s State of the Franchise; what a difference a year makes between then and the edition Friday morning at 11.

“The State of the Franchise address is invariably a political affair,” I wrote last February, “and this year was no exception. A clue to the hierarchy could be gleaned from the VIP seating. In the first row, Mayor Brown and Jags Coach Gus Bradley sat next to each other, joking like old friends before the event. The second row had members of the Petway family — strong Lenny Curry supporters who were instrumental in both the genesis of the franchise two decades ago and in a sponsorship deal announced today. And the third row had Mayoral candidate Bill Bishop and some other City Councilmen.”

Spoiler alert: Alvin and Gus will not resume their chit chat. Expect Mayor Curry to be in the catbird seat. And Council President Greg Anderson.

In 2015, Shad Khan acknowledged the Mayor and City Council President Clay Yarborough — perhaps a strategic move with the last one, as Khan is going to need Council support sooner than later during this process. “It felt good watching the video and [Jaguars] football again,” Khan said.

“I want to make it clear that it’s my responsibility … to deliver better results on game day,” Khan said in 2015, adding a refrain familiar to long-suffering Jags fans and Jacksonville residents alike: “we’re on the verge of turning the corner.”

Well, the names will change in 2016. But bet on this: you’ll hear that theme recur.

The big sell: the Shipyards proposal. $17.5 million of Capital Improvement Funds were budgeted to environmental remediation to that end in August.

And then there was the Mutual Admiration Society between the mayor and the Jags owner:

After the event, Mayor Brown and Khan spoke to assembled media. Brown described the plan as having “great vision”, one that makes “Downtown a top priority”; a “visionary, iconic plan”.

“Shad’s always been interested in the Shipyards,” the Mayor continued, describing Khan as a “visionary leader that understands business.” As for the plan? The Mayor is “committed 1000 percent”, and “we’ll do our part to make sure the site is ready.”

Khan, for his part, believes “we’ve got to get moving forward” on the project. When asked why the proposal was omnibus rather than piecemeal, he was characteristically blunt. “A piece at a time doesn’t work — we’ve got to have a big vision”, and described the project as a “franchise stabilizer”.

Khan removed all doubt about his support for Mayor Brown also — there had been rumors floating around, since Khan’s appearance at a GOP fundraiser last year where he was introduced by Lenny Curry, that the Jaguars owner may lend support to the challenger.

“I support Alvin Brown, and I’m going to be supporting Alvin Brown. He does a great job for our city,” Khan stated.

Things are different now. The global economy is weird: oil is as close to free, in terms of real dollars, as ever, and the Bank of Japan set negative interest rates around the same time last night that Ben Carson was serving up his foreign policy word salad.

The Shipyards have taken a back burner to the $90 million in borrowed money (1/2 from the city) for Jaguars stadium complex development.

Meanwhile, the legacy of 2015’s speech: Shad Khan saying that he would take an active role in local politics.

He lost nothing by backing Alvin Brown for Mayor, and the 19-0 vote on the amphitheater deal says that much.

But since he decided to take an active role in Jacksonville politics, one might wonder what his positions are on issues besides public dollars for “franchise stability” might be.

Where is Khan on the murder wave? Does he back the Jax Journey programs?

Where is Khan on the Human Rights Ordinance? He does business in London and Illinois… would the First Baptist Church approach, the Ken Adkins and Raymond Johnson approach, fly there?

Will media ask him these questions?

We already know the Jaguars’ on-field performance is a “work in progress.”

The more compelling work in progress, though, is the evolving identity of Shad Khan as a political actor.

Todd Wilcox cultivates serious Jacksonville ties

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis represents Ponte Vedra in Congress, and his wife Casey is a television chat show host.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera has a campaign manager, Brian Swensen, who fulfilled a similar task for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

Yet it’s Todd Wilcox, the seeming dark horse of the Florida GOP U.S. Senate derby, who is best positioned (perhaps) to make a play for the deep pockets and conservative voters of Northeast Florida.

His campaign manager, announced Tuesday, is Brian Hughes, who was not the campaign manager for Lenny Curry but who was operationally responsible, day in and day out, for ensuring that Curry’s message got through to the Jacksonville media.

In 2016, we can “assume” that Curry was “inevitable.”

However, those of us who lived and breathed Curry’s rise from irrelevance in the polls to the fourth floor of City Hall know the role of Hughes.

Nate Monroe of the Times-Union once put it something like this: The Curry team never let a news cycle go uncontested.

I can tell you from personal experience that is true.

Even before the Alvin Brown side put out press releases or advance notices to media, Hughes would have his counter-messaging quote ready, a function of deep and effective opposition research, coupled with a pugnacious candidate who campaigned like his life depended on winning that race.

Hughes ensured that Curry wasn’t defined by the Jacksonville media, one which effectively handed Brown the keys to City Hall, as his Republican opponent, Mike Hogan, pandered to the social conservatives and scared the moderate Republicans off into the unknown.

The Jacksonville media kept pointing to University of North Florida polls, sometimes even when they were close to a year old, as “proof” that Brown couldn’t lose.

Hughes helped to counter that narrative of inevitable reelection, focusing like a laser on every misstep the Brown administration made and blowing them up into murals depicting rank and epic incompetence.

Meanwhile, the campaign side: Hughes ran one campaign manager, Fabien Levy, out of town and into a role as “independent communications adviser.”

Levy’s replacement, Yianni Varonis, knew it was lost when his feet hit the ground in Jacksonville, and toward the end of the campaign said as much in various ways.

Varonis doesn’t even list the Brown stint on his LinkedIn page.

Can Hughes work the same magic for Todd Wilcox? Certainly, there will be that friendly rivalry with Swensen, and it will be interesting to watch how Team Wilcox goes on the offense, against CLC, DeSantis, and David Jolly.

And as he did in the mayoral race, he will have access to the considerable resources of Michael Munz and Peter Rummell on the financial side.

Those two men were the driving force behind the Curry money machine, one which ran certain Republicans out of the race before it started, leaving Bill Bishop as the only Curry opponent on the right.

Bishop, recall, lost the Duval Republican Executive Committee endorsement in January 2015 in a game of political hardball. His campaign worked miracles with just over $100,000 raised.

But Munz and Rummell, and their friends, gave until it hurt … especially to the Curry PAC, which spared no expense in sending bruising mailers out to boost Brown and Bishop’s negatives.

Notable: at Dalton Agency, Munz’s ad agency across Hemming Park from City Hall, there is office space for Data Targeting … where mastermind opposition researcher Tim Baker plies his trade.

The polls may have Wilcox at fourth. But watch that space. His Jacksonville connections may have the GOP Senate candidate positioned better very soon.

Elton Rivas on leaving One Spark: “A leader serves as a privilege, not as a divine right”

In Jacksonville, Peter Rummell giveth, and Peter Rummell taketh away.

That was a lesson very publicly learned by former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Now, ousted One Spark founder Elton Rivas is the latest to get his walking papers after the powerful money man behind the popular (but financially struggling) crowdfunding festival decided the spark was no longer there between himself and the 35-year-old wunderkind.

It was Rivas, of course, who along with a couple of partners, first dreamed up the idea of connecting creators with venture capital during a hip downtown festival event.

One Spark mushroomed into a wildly successful party attracting hundreds of thousands to Jacksonville’s urban core, but never turned a profit. There were also issues with Jaguars owner Shad Khan‘s investment in a related incubator, KYN.

Plus, Rummell had been making it plain for some time he wouldn’t keep paying the hefty tab indefinitely.

Rivas is taking the high road as he steps down (along with two other staffers and a board member).

“It was mutual with the new direction of the company,” he told WJCT.

“It was a good time for me to transition out and take some time before diving into whatever the next venture may be.”

There is now uncertainty as to whether the planned April festival will even take place downtown. What is known is that One Spark Ventures, a new “social purpose corporation,” has been launched as a way of rebooting the brand with Rummell as chairman and Chris Carter as president. Carter has held executive positions of Fortune 500 corporations in the areas of strategic business and corporate development, financial management as well as operations and administration.

“I don’t think there was a huge difference in vision. The core of what One Spark is still the same — connecting great ideas with capital. I’m absolutely grateful and thankful for everything we’ve been able to build over the years, and all the talented people in our community, and especially the amazing employees who helped bring this idea to life,” Rivas said.

The new corporation retains the intellectual property rights to the brand, something Rivas says does not trouble him even though he created One Spark.

“It’s important to remember that a leader in any capacity serves as a privilege and not as a divine right. In God’s irony, I was allowed to serve as a leader, and I’m deeply grateful for that experience and especially for the community’s support.”

John Delaney on Jax pension sales tax: “I support it 100%”

For those who might wonder whether former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney supports the Lenny Curry administration bid to devote the half-cent sales tax to defray the unfunded pension liability, wonder no more.

“I support it 100 percent,” Delaney told FloridaPolitics.com on Wednesday evening.

Delaney has talked with members of the Duval Legislative Delegation, and will do whatever Curry wants to help it along.

This “replacement tax,” Delaney said, “solves a lot of problems.”

While Delaney said it’s an extension of the current Better Jacksonville Plan “infrastructure tax,” “in the sense that there’s no increased tax burden” it is nonetheless a “completely new tax.”

“No later than 2030,” Delaney said, “the Better Jacksonville Plan tax will be dead as a door nail.”

The sales tax is essential, “paying for accumulated debt,” and is one of two viable options … the other being property tax.

Although City Council can push that up to 20 mills, that would be a funding source subject to the year to year whims of Council.

In other words, not a dedicated source.

“Right now, there’s no ability to pass a sales tax for pension,” said Delaney.

The bills being introduced in Tallahassee by Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings would obviously change that.

The choice the Curry administration has made to pass this via a supermajority (13 of 19 Council votes) is one that Delaney supports also.

The former mayor sees it as a benefit of “good communications and lobbying with Council,” which is the “opposite of what they experienced with the Alvin Brown administration … getting consensus very quickly.”

Hamilton Campaigns merges with EMC Research

David Beattie, known in Northeast Florida for his work as a senior adviser for the campaigns of former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, said Monday his Hamilton Campaigns firm will merge with EMC Research.

“Both firms have a history of conducting quality opinion research and providing a level of service to clients that is truly an added value,” said Beattie, president of Hamilton Campaigns since 2000 and now a senior principal at EMC Research. “Our firm now has diverse national experience combined with local knowledge in some of the largest states in the country which is a benefit to all our clients.”

Hamilton Campaigns, founded in 1964 in Orlando, has concentrated on political and corporate research in Florida, with a panoply of clients ranging from Reubin Askew to the Orlando Magic.

Beattie told the Tampa Bay Times that the merger allows him “to focus more on Florida, since there is already so much going on in other states.”

In addition to electoral polling, EMC delves into “game theory” and “casino and game-show analysis,” the latter of which undoubtedly has some application to the GOP presidential sweepstakes.

A.G. Gancarski’s Top 10 stories of 2015 in Jacksonville politics

In Jacksonville politics in 2015, the game changed … perhaps for good.

Big money went into campaigns: over $10 million, including soft money, in the mayoral race. Close to $2 million in the sheriff’s race. And even some City Council candidates who raised close to a quarter of a million dollars did so in vain.

The consultants had to get sharper, as did the microtargeting used by them.

And unlike in 2011, when the general complaint during the General Election was that coverage was desultory, especially in terms of the mayoral race, every news cycle had its own narrative arc for months before the final elections in May.

It would be easy to come up with a Top 25 stories in Jacksonville’s political scene for 2015. But mercifully for most readers, we’re leaving it at 10.

No. 1: Lenny Curry defeats Alvin Brown

It’s the top story of the year, in a year full of compelling stories.

When Curry launched his campaign in spring 2014, the smart set told him that he couldn’t win. He lacked the gravitas of Property Appraiser Jim Overton. The knowledge and procedural deftness of Councilman Bill Gulliford. The retail politics skills of Mike Hogan. Not to mention that Mayor Brown’s poll numbers were, according to the University of North Florida polling, near 60 percent (but falling from 70 percent) as late as spring 2014.

However, a number of factors converged to take Curry from a footnote to the fourth floor of City Hall. The first-rate work of Tim Baker, Brian Hughes, and Brian Swensen, combining a use of data unprecedented in this market with the willingness to do what it took to win any given news cycle, helped Curry erode the advantage enjoyed by the Brown campaign.

Curry was not a natural campaigner. He developed his voice and his style as his operatives undermined the ultimately soft support enjoyed by the incumbent. And once Bill Bishop was out of the race after the March 1 election, Curry was able to bring a lot of moderate Republicans back into the fold. Those Republicans had supported Brown, in reaction to a general feeling that Hogan was too far right on social issues, but Brown couldn’t hold them.

That, in spite of holding the moderate Republicans clearly being part of the nonpartisan mayor’s strategy. Brown wouldn’t appear with Barack Obama when the president came to town, but found time for a Leadership Luncheon with local Tea Party founder Billie Tucker. Brown played to the center up until a few weeks before the election, when issues like a state-mandated minimum wage and Medicaid expansion became concerns of his.

All the while, Brown couldn’t move left on one issue: expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance. Though LGBT activists ended up endorsing Brown anyway, as the mayor staked his re-election efforts on stacking votes in the low-turnout Riverside neighborhood, the mayor’s leftward pivot did more for the Curry camp’s messaging than it did for Brown’s.

No. 2: Corrine delivers?

At this writing, the big question in Northeast Florida politics involves Corrine Brown and her next move.

There is still a theoretical chance that her legal challenge to the new map is successful, but the more interesting scenario revolves around the question of what happens if it isn’t.

Does Brown move on to run in Congressional District 10, down Orlando way? Or does she stay in North Florida and run against former State Sen. Al Lawson of Tallahassee, to represent a district after she said that “Jacksonville, Florida, has nothing in common with North Florida.”

Local Republicans are split on this one. The mouth-breathing rank and file would like to get rid of her; however, those more attuned with Brown’s effectiveness in lobbying for local causes know that Congresswoman Brown brings a unique value add.

Thus, even if Brown loses her lawsuit early next year, she may get pressure and tangible support from local GOP heavyweights to stay in North Florida. Will it be enough? Former Duval GOP Chairman Tom Slade said, many years ago, that Brown was a “good fit for her district.” Will local Republicans seek to ensure that even as that district map changed radically, Brown still fits into what could be called the Northeast Florida Way?

If not, worthy candidates, such as Audrey Gibson, Mia Jones, and Tony Hill wait in the wings. However, none of them have Brown’s national network of support. The concern among the local political class is that redistricting could leave Jacksonville a big loser, with just one congressman (Ander Crenshaw) with ties to the area.

With strong indications that she’s all but filed to run again in District 5 (even with the lawsuit challenging the new map), Brown should make Jacksonville locals happy.

No. 3: Sam Mousa is back!

Unless you see Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa in action, you might not have a sense of what he has brought to the table for Lenny Curry since days after Curry’s election. From the transition period in June to this writing, Mousa has taken close looks at every aspect of the city’s operation, keeping the kind of hours that most journalists (and most in City Hall) would recoil at.

Mousa’s credibility and ability to broker win/win compromises between the administration, City Council, and community stakeholders has quieted down restive Council members, some of whom took advantage of the perceived weakness of Mayor Brown’s position to exert quasi-executive prerogatives.

The real greatness of Mousa is appreciated in the smaller meetings. From public notice meetings where the public apparently didn’t get the notice to agenda meetings before a committee deliberates a major bill, Mousa is able to explain the administration’s position in an avuncular way, removing even token resistance from most of the eager-to-please rookies on the legislative side.

Curry’s hires, with one notable exception, have been smooth as fresh silk. Mousa is the capstone of that recruitment effort, and the only comment overheard from some is that Mousa’s power came at the expense of Chief of Staff Kerri Stewart, whose presence isn’t quite as pronounced as that of her predecessor, Chris Hand.

 No. 4: Jacksonville the new Detroit?

One of the running themes of Lenny Curry’s public statements: If Jacksonville doesn’t get the public pension crisis under control, the Bold New City of the South will be transformed into Where Default Begins.

The question of who messed up the public pension system depends on who you ask. The police and firefighter unions claim that the city misappropriated funds earmarked for the pension. Politicians, meanwhile, claim that the Police and Fire Pension Fund was mismanaged by former executive director John Keane, and that interpretation is buttressed by a “forensic investigation” authorized by City Council earlier this year.

A pension agreement was reached in the spring, as Alvin Brown was headed out of office, yet the Unfunded Liability issues, both in the Police and Fire and the General Employees pension funds, are of great concern to Curry, who says that without a way to turn around the cash flow, Jacksonville will  be the next Detroit, and ambitious plans for public safety and infrastructural renewal will be consumed by legacy costs.

No. 5: HRO expansion

Which way will Lenny Curry go? His odyssey, in terms of evolution on the Human Rights Ordinance expansion to the LGBT community, mirrors that of his generation, which has become increasingly understanding that, as with heterosexuals, those who operate under different paradigms of gender construction or expression and sexual identity deserve to have their rights protected.

However, in a city like Jacksonville, there are myriad concerns to address. Ministers, both black and white, worry about the effect HRO expansion will have on religious freedoms and potential impacts, both costs and legal, to public accommodations. Advocates have worked to craft a bill that mitigates the concerns of opponents.

However, opponents would prefer the referendum measure introduced by Councilman Bill Gulliford, as expectations are that a referendum full of low to no information voters would swing, as it did in Houston, against the bill.

Tommy Hazouri introduced a traditional piece of legislation, and Gulliford, the Finance Committee chairman, has already said he wants the bill considered in Finance because of its financial implications.

Meanwhile, strong expectations are that there could be a third HRO expansion bill, one that leaves the protections for transgender people to be negotiated at a later date.

Curry is taking his time to figure out the next move. Meanwhile, both the right and the left wings of council are threatening to fly without him, which is the first challenge to the primacy of the executive branch since July.

 No. 6: 11 New council members

The big story coming out of the 2015 election: 11 of the 19 councilmembers would be new to the body.

Has there been real change? So far, the jury is out, and probably will be for some time. However, if you listen closely, you can hear grousing among City Hall veterans about subjects ranging from the ethical gray area of taking perks from the Jacksonville Jaguars to a fundamental lack of preparation to be active councilmembers in some cases.

Currently, Council is a two-tiered enterprise, with a few Council members demonstrating the stamina and acuity to drive the process, and more than a few who simply follow the leader. The new class, in that context: a work in progress.

No. 7: New sheriff in town

After a bruising campaign full of more oppo dumps than any other campaign locally this year, Mike Williams overcame Ken Jefferson in the May election. Williams was identified very closely with Sheriff John Rutherford, which was arguably a hindrance in the seven-candidate First Election in March. Leading up to the May election, he seemed to signal a perestroika in the office; more transparency.

Thus far, his reforms have been quiet ones. Williams has been strong at community outreach, even as his administration has weathered the occasional bit of bad press, such as The Florida Times-Union reporting on the sheriff’s office only keeping emails for 90 days after receipt, which the paper correctly said could hinder active investigations.

Williams, as was the case with Rutherford, likely will be in office for as long as he wants to be. He benefits from a strong working relationship with Lenny Curry, one that presents meaningful contrast to the clashes between Alvin Brown and Williams’ predecessor. The questions going forward: Will Williams stake out a reform path while he’s in office? And how will his office deal with the ongoing larger debate about police and fire pensions?

No. 8: Shad Khan

In 2015 Khan played an increasingly meaningful role in Jacksonville’s political life. He went six figures deep in backing Alvin Brown for mayor, in addition to contributing to PACs that sent mailers for candidates such as Kim Daniels. Then, after Brown’s defeat, the big question was one of when and how (never whether) Khan would pivot to supporting Curry.

The bromance started slowly, with Curry and Khan appearing together at an Enterprise Florida Board Meeting in Ponte Vedra late in the summer. From there, the London trip for the Jaguars, in which Curry tweeted out a picture of him fist-bumping the billionaire Jags owner after the team beat the Buffalo Bills.

The real moment for celebration, however, was the $90 million EverBank Field improvement package, one that was walked through council by Sam Mousa and senior leadership of the Jaguars, the latter of which seemed like honorary members of the executive branch for a couple of weeks.

With Khan giving money to Build Something That Lasts, and placing an executive on the JEA Board, what is clear is that no matter who the mayor is, Jacksonville is Shad’s town, and we’re just living in it.

No. 9: No budget fuss

Whether the criticisms were entirely fair or not, the budget process of former Mayor Alvin Brown became a political piñata in recent years. Councilmembers griped about inconsistent budget practices, and having to do triage to fix the budget.

The Curry team had no such issues. The money they found in various subfunds helped facilitate capital improvements and a budget process that proved to be as clean as could be hoped for.

Though a necessary caveat that the next few budget processes might be more interesting should be issued, Team Curry scored a big, legitimizing political win in its first budget.

No. 10: Jax Journey 2.0: Let’s ride

One of the interesting threads of the Lenny Curry campaign, and the early part of his administration: a commitment to revitalize the Jacksonville Journey.

With $5 million in the current budget for that end, there are moves to do just that, and Curry’s commitment to this underscores many of his other initiatives, including his administration’s focus on the issues at Eureka Garden (even as those at Cleveland Arms and other similar complexes are not as yet on the radar).

Curry, very aware of the political power of African-American pastors, worked with Bishop John Guns on the branding of this process, to the point of using Guns’ catchphrase. An interesting theme to watch for 2016 and beyond: Will the ministers fall in behind Curry throughout his term, as they seem to have thus far?

A.G. Gancarski’s 5 people to watch in Jacksonville politics in 2016

The theory of recurrence is something not unique to Jacksonville politics. In this list of five people who likely will be in the headlines, there are some familiar names.

Alvin Brown: The one-term Jacksonville mayor took some time off after his narrow defeat in the May election. He surfaced on very rare occasions, through media statements. Slowly but surely, though, Brown is emerging from his period of incubation.

This spring finds the former mayor with a Teaching Fellowship at Georgetown University’s school of Politics and Public Policy. Currently, say those close to him, he is hard at work putting a syllabus together and preparing for a role at one of America’s top schools.

However, there is a school of thought that says Brown may be willing to run in Congressional District 5 as the Jacksonville candidate against Al Lawson. That, though, is if the opportunity arises and Corrine Brown moves downstate to continue her political career, still an open question even with the federal lawsuit reopened on Tuesday. Alvin Brown, with tenures in the Bush 43 and Clinton administrations, has what it takes to get support, both among rank-and-file Democrats who still haven’t fully recovered from the mayoral race and from Jacksonville’s money contingent, who see Brown as the surest path for local retention of the seat.

Lots would have to happen to get to that point, but we’re told Brown expects to come back to Jacksonville frequently while stationed in Georgetown. In that capacity, he will be able to test the waters, and if Corrine Brown is out, Alvin Brown is more of a sure thing than other names that have been floated (Tony HillMia Jones, and Audrey Gibson).

And, if as is currently expected, Corrine Brown stands her ground and runs in CD 5? Alvin Brown won’t be going away. Expect him to be a presence during the General Election for Hillary Clinton. Brown, a political survivor, will have a second act.

Kim Daniels: A print ad she ran before the March First Election read, “I’m not missing: here I am!” Though Daniels lost her At Large City Council seat in May, she hasn’t disappeared from the scene completely. Some claim she’s looking at the state House District 14 race to succeed Mia Jones, in which she would would run against Leslie Jean-Bart and Terry Fields.

Daniels, whom no one would mistake for a titan of the legislative process during her four years on City Council, and who was pilloried for her opposition to Human Rights Ordinance expansion (a “bad bill” supported by “some of the meanest people I have ever met,” she said in the spring), may be uniquely positioned in a three-way primary to draw on support from the evangelical community. Many of them are opposed to HRO expansion and will see her stance not as a negative but a positive.

Sam Mousa: No, he’s not running for anything. But the work Mousa has put into running the offense for Mayor Lenny Curry has made Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer one of the most compelling people to cover in City Hall. From an ambitious capital improvement program to attempting to streamline processes in the mayor’s suite, while cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship with the power players on Council, Mousa has been the MVP of 2015 locally.

Corrine Brown: Will she stay? Will she go? To Orlando or not? Corrine Brown has stuck doggedly to her contentions that her redrawn district is not winnable, though all indications now are that she’s going to fight for it anyway, Al Lawson notwithstanding. Locals, including Republicans, want her to stick around. Even though the media reduces her to a caricature, covering her with a viciousness most politicians in this corner of the world will never encounter, Brown is still the most valuable Washington legislator for Northeast Florida.

John Crescimbeni: While there are other names being floated for the next City Council vice presidency, Crescimbeni’s is the most interesting. Some say he already has nine committed supporters; all he’ll need is 10. A Crescimbeni vice presidency would put him in line to be council president in 2017, right around the time one might expect council pushback against the Curry administration (if, indeed, that ever manifests). The conservative Democrat would make for the most interesting foil to Curry, and would (especially as president) be in a position to create policy and stylistic contrasts with the mayor. Crescimbeni is media savvy, and he certainly understands The Process as well as anyone this side of Bill Gulliford.

Crescimbeni, as council president, likely wouldn’t be in the Greg Anderson “above the fray” mold. For those tasked with covering politics in Jacksonville, that would be the most interesting scenario.

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