Alvin Brown Archives - Page 5 of 43 - Florida Politics

Bill Clinton, Alvin Brown serve up comfort food in Jacksonville

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and former President Bill Clinton have an intertwined political history.

Brown had worked in the Clinton administration, and then when Brown was running for re-election, Clinton came to town to work a fundraiser/supporter event before Brown’s narrow loss.

The two men were together again Monday, at a church in Northwest Jacksonville. Clinton, stumping for Hillary; Brown, introducing the 42nd President, and re-introducing himself to a Democratic base who misses him exponentially more with each passing news cycle of the Lenny Curry administration.

Brown, who has been absent from public life in Jacksonville since July, chose an interesting time to make his return.

Corrine Brown is, perhaps, in serious legal trouble that might preclude her running in 2016. And Alvin Brown is the biggest name of the four Jacksonville candidates (others being Audrey Gibson, Mia Jones, and Tony Hill) who could run in her stead to ensure the newly drawn CD 5 remains a Jacksonville seat.

Alvin Brown, when introduced, let out a Hello Jacksonville … and got a whoop of acknowledgement, before thanking the volunteers.

Brown said Clinton “has spent her whole life breaking down barriers,” ensuring that “if you work hard and play by the rules, you can reach your God given potential.”

As well, Brown said Clinton was “the most qualified candidate in the race,” who could “close the education gap” and provide “equal pay for equal work because America needs a pay raise.”

Brown, “truly humbled to be here today,” introduced Bill Clinton as a “true friend for Jacksonville” who “made the tough decisions as President.”

Alvin Brown spoke of the Bill Clinton economic record, of “really putting America back to work,” before introducing a distinctly rapsy-voiced former President Clinton.

And so started the main event.

Clinton acknowledged members of the crowd, including Tony Hill, before going into a bit about how “this is a different type of election” with “stuff you’ve never seen, especially from the other guys,” before pivoting to a reference to the optimism in the Obama SOTU with regards to job creation and strong economic numbers.

“Yet we’ve got all this stuff going on … all this finger-pointing,” Clinton said.

“The picture the president painted is accurate, but most people don’t see themselves in it.”

A lack of pay raises. Children at risk of losing their lives to violence and other problems. “We have to face all that,” Clinton said, before mentioning the death of Aiden McClendon in a drive-by.

“This would have been his second birthday,” Clinton said, sounding like Lenny Curry.

“We don’t have an economy yet that works for everybody, and even if we did, there are so many barriers.”

Clinton said his wife was trying to change all of that.

Then Clinton went in to an anecdote, where his wife said “you know, I’m not a natural politician like President Obama or my husband … but I do like doing the job.”

Clinton then recounted his story of proposing to his wife three times. Eventually, she said yes, and came to Arkansas.

Clinton said of his wife that “she’s always focused on what she can do to make things better.”

“What I think we need is a change maker,” Clinton said. “She has walked the walk for a very long time.”

Much of what Clinton said about his wife was a recounting of her record as a change maker, spanning the period from her work in the Children’s Defense Fund and from the first lady position in Arkansas, as a fighter against the kind of institutionalized injustices that were common in the South back then and today, in different ways.

“There are thousands and thousands of Americans under the age of 40 who have had better lives because of her because she always makes something good happen,” Clinton said.

One of those good things was upgrading education standards in Arkansas.

Then came Washington, a “different world,” where the Clintons fought for health care reform.

“We tried, we failed, we didn’t have 60 votes,” yet they were able to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program by “sticking it in the balanced budget bill so the Republicans would vote for it.”

As a result, 8 million kids have health insurance who wouldn’t otherwise.

Clinton extolled his wife’s work in the Senate, including bills passed to benefit veterans with bipartisan support.

“‘We think your wife cares about our issues … more than anyone in either party,'” Clinton said a veteran told him.

Former President Clinton, playing to the crowd sometime later, noted that Jacksonville needs an infrastructure program. His implication was President Hillary Clinton would help with that.

“Think how many jobs would be created if we took up every rusty pipe in America,” Clinton said, referencing Flint.

Clinton addressed phenomena like gun violence at Sandy Hook (“this is crazy”) and the Supreme Court vacancy (“sometimes you’ve got to find common ground, and sometimes you’ve got to stand your ground”), in light of the battle over the Court, the future of which seemingly will be decided by the next nominee.

“There’s no question that over a 40-year period she’s the best change maker,” Clinton said.

“Tear the barriers down. Tear them all down.”

The former President’s speech felt like a trip down memory lane for some on hand, but for others, especially the politicos on hand whose rise to prominence happened in the context of the quarter-century-long Clinton era, it was welcome comfort food.

“We need a world-class change-maker,” 42 said, “and she is the best I’ve ever known.”

Bill Clinton to union workers: “America needs a raise”

In a very intimate setting, former President Bill Clinton stumped for his wife Hillary Clinton by rallying dozens of local union members gathered at the Ironworkers Local 597 Hall on Jacksonville’s Northside. It was one of two Jacksonville stops for the HRC campaign’s most high-profile surrogate.

And the message was straight-up economic populism.

“Even though the economy is improving, that’s not the life experience of most Americans,” said the 42nd president. “We know it takes, at least, ten years for incomes to recover after the economy rebounds. That explains a lot of the disorientation, anger and frustration people feel.”

His spouse’s solution? “She thinks the biggest problem we have is that America needs a raise,” Clinton said. “And to do it we’ve got to massively invest in infrastructure, in building roads and bridges. That way we all grow together.”

In a short speech that touched on everything from Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, to a public employee union ruling from a divided Supreme Court, Clinton also managed to work in a Sunshine State reference.

“Florida is the canary in the coal mine of America’s future,” he said, exhorting the crowd to remind their membership to vote.

With a tightly scripted event, there was no opportunity to question “42” about controversies that have impacted Hillary Clinton’s campaign (and there was no mention of her opponents either).

Spotted among the invitation-only crowd, JFRD union president Randy Wyse, and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (slated to introduce Clinton later in the day).

Could Person A’s fall mean the return of Alvin Brown?

Corrine Brown looks to be in deep trouble. Or at least “Person A” is.

The Florida Times-Union has been leading on the story of Person A’s latest imbroglio … which could be a career killer.

“Person A,” a public official all but identified as Brown, used her “official position” to “solicit contributions” to the until-very-recently obscure One Door For Education, whose president pleaded guilty and apparently exposed the whole operation.

I took in $800,000 over the years. A lot of that money from Jacksonville power brokers, who like how Corrine delivers more than the rank-and-file Republicans.

“Person B,” an employee of Brown (and those who have paid attention to her local operation can guess that one), is also named in the Times-Union article.

The Feds don’t play. The sharks are circling around Person A.

That would leave her a choice: step down, retire after this term, or push through and fight what appears to be a preponderance of evidence and a confession by her co-conspirator.

She needs to make her move soon.

Of late, we haven’t talked much about the matter of “which district she’ll run in.”

It’s been assumed that she would run in CD 5, if she were to run.

But what if she can’t go forth?

The field, as it stands, is awful for Jacksonville. Lashonda Holloway has no history in elected office, and wouldn’t stand a chance against Al Lawson.

There is a bench in Duval County, of course: Mia Jones, Audrey Gibson, Tony Hill, and Alvin Brown are all plausible names.

Of that four, the last name might make the most sense.

Despite Brown getting the badmouth from the Jacksonville media on a variety of issues since he left City Hall, he still has cachet with Jacksonville Democrats, and still has access to a lot of deep-pocketed donors … including many of the GOP pragmatists who will be sad to see Person A go.

Alvin Brown ran against Corrine Brown in 1994. The 22 years since would make him a better congressman.

Four years of City Hall experience would position him uniquely to advocate for Jacksonville on the Federal level, especially considering his work in D.C. in the 1990s during the Clinton/Gore administration.

Brown, up in Georgetown teaching for the semester, is likely watching this with interest.

And so are Jacksonville watchers.

There would be a delicious irony in the Lenny Curry administration having to use Mayor Brown as their point man on D.C. projects, especially given the pitched rhetoric of the campaign and the early months of the administration.

It’s not as if they’d get a better deal or a fairer hearing from a political lifer from across the state.

Alvin Brown for Congress sounds unlikely? Maybe. But no one was expecting Person A to go through the wrong door for education either.

Matt Schellenberg talks Uber, John Keane, “Teflon John” Delaney, and Katrina Brown

In a wide-ranging interview Thursday morning, Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Schellenberg talked about Uber and the taxis, the John Keane deal and John Delaney’s role in it, and Katrina Brown.

Schellenberg, the chair of the Vehicles for Hire committee, was lambasted by a cab company executive for pushing back the next committee meeting date until March 22, with the executive calling for Schellenberg’s removal from the board.

Schellenberg told Florida Politics that next week was a no go for the next meeting; his daughter is on Spring Break, and they have a trip planned. And he has no plans to capitulate to the cab company exec’s demands, especially given that the state legislature is still in session and trying to reach an accord on transportation network companies.

Schellenberg asserts that Uber and Lyft are “embracing the free market,” though he understands the position of the taxi companies also.

That said, the issue is that the “dynamics of that industry are changing so fast,” a flux that Schellenberg asserts will have ramifications in the sphere of public transportation also, where “things will be changing so dramatically” regarding more on-demand solutions for people needing transportation.

Schellenberg has never used Uber, but he has talked to a lot of people who have, including in committees, and “almost 100 percent of their experience is positive.”

Regarding the background checks the taxi cab companies pillory the TNCs for not having at a sufficient level, there is a larger issue at play, Schellenberg contends: the insufficiency of the background checks themselves.

Even with an annual background check, something could happen “the next day,” which could reveal a risk factor.

“Things could happen in any industry … Uber, Lyft, teachers … the medical field,” regarding background checks not being current enough to encompass new infractions.

With “hundreds of thousands” of drivers, many of whom aren’t “perfect human beings,” Schellenberg contends that some inevitably will have issues. And if there are enough of them, making the “black mark wide enough,” the free market will take hold, and people would stop using the service.

The cab companies, Schellenberg added, are protecting their own business model, which involves companies leasing cars to drivers for $1,500 per unit … which obviously is much more than even leasing a sedan would be to drive for a TNC.

Regarding the email Schellenberg sent out with what his critic called an “Uber promotional video,” Schellenberg noted that committee members get many emails from the taxi industry about how bad the TNCs are, and that his email was intended as a counterweight.

Schellenberg presumes that “one of the committee people sent it on,” creating the controversy we reported on Wednesday.

Taxis, Schellenberg added, could create their own apps similar to those used by TNCs, which would allow for direct competition in the digital, smartphone space.

The conversation then moved to John Keane and the Police and Fire Pension Fund. In a weekly column, this writer pilloried Schellenberg for “demagoguing” the issue … a claim the Councilman took issue over.

The real question, Schellenberg said, is that the “deal was illegal” and the proposed 2 percent concession is “just embarrassing.”

Even the proposed 10 percent reduction in Keane’s benefits “wouldn’t have made much difference” to Keane’s quality of life, and if that concession were made, Schellenberg would have “walked away” with that settlement.

Schellenberg then laid blame on John Delaney, the former Jacksonville Mayor from 1995 to 2003, for having “caused the problem.”

“John Delaney is the Teflon John. His administration caused this problem, [because it] didn’t negotiate for Jacksonville,” Schellenberg said.

“We never negotiated hard,” Schellenberg said, a problem unremedied by successors until the current mayor.

John Peyton “didn’t take care” of the issue, Schellenberg said, and Alvin Brown “avoided” it.

The case for pursuing legal remedy from Keane and the Police and Fire Pension Fund, to Schellenberg, is clear: even a $2 million charge is nominal compared to the recent hit in portfolio value during the last twelve months for the PFPF. And it sends a message.

“Don’t mess with the city anymore.”

The “go along to get along” approach is “not acceptable,” Schellenberg added, and that hard line approach would “filter through vendors.

“Sometimes you have to stand up and say enough is enough,” Schellenberg added.

John Keane isn’t the only person that Schellenberg believes merits further scrutiny. Schellenberg’s colleague Katrina Brown, whose family’s barbecue sauce company, KJB Specialties, got city and federal money for plant expansion, is being sued for defaulting on a $50,000 loan from a private bank.

Schellenberg intends to “ask the Council Auditor to look into” the situation regarding KJB Specialties, which got city money via the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund.

A recurrent issue in the almost five years since the Councilwoman’s company got $640,000 in city money has been the glacial ramp up of production.

One of the conditions of the funding: providing 56 jobs by the end of April. That seems to be behind target; the Florida Times-Union reporter who made multiple trips to the location saw an empty parking lot during normal business hours on three straight days this week.

Hung jury in Zakee Furqan voter fraud case requires March retrial

Jacksonville’s Zakee Furqan achieved prominence during the 2015 Jacksonville mayoral campaign when he was part of a group of “business leaders” endorsing Alvin Brown.

That endorsement became a liability when news of his felony rap sheet, including a murder conviction, was reported.

The Brown campaign quickly repudiated that endorsement, and donated Furqan’s campaign contribution to charity, yet the Furqan affair became symbolic of the chaotic nature of that re-election campaign.

Furqan now has renewed his battle with the judicial system, fighting three counts of voter fraud charges for voting in three elections, one in 2014 and two in 2015, without his voting rights restored.

However, so far the most recent battle is a stalemate. A hung jury was declared during Wednesday’s proceedings, and the state is moving toward a retrial of Furqan on voting fraud charges March 28, according to a letter from Clerk of Court Ronnie Fussell to Furqan’s bondsman, Big Nate Bail Bond.

Katrina Brown: “HRO was not my campaign”

Of late, Jacksonville media has been trying to reconcile what seemed to be a pro-HRO expansion position during the 2015 campaign with more muted support by candidates this time around.

Councilwoman Katrina Brown was one candidate identified as pro-HRO expansion, according to comments she made to The Florida Times-Union last year, that were given a new life this week by columnist Ron Littlepage.

“Yes. I believe no person or group should be excluded or discriminated, and all citizens shall be protected class,” Councilwoman Brown said in response to the HRO question posed to all candidates by the Times-Union.

Brown, on Facebook Thursday morning, seemed to put distance between herself and what was interpreted as an endorsement of a fully inclusive HRO.

“I stated I didn’t believe in discrimination against anyone.. I also stated that I would wait until I got elected to see what the bill stated before I voted. I wanted to hear from the community … HRO was not my campaign,” Brown said.

She then reminded people on the Facebook thread that two weeks prior, she “voted to continue the conversation.”

“If the bill sponsor decide to pull the bill,” Brown added, “that has nothing to do with me.”

Then, in case anyone missed her point: “Stop blaming other council people because the bill sponsor decide to withdrawn the bill.. I didn’t sponsor the bill. I voted the last council meeting to continue conversation.”

Brown, along with Councilmembers Reggie BrownAnna Brosche, and Garrett Dennis, were taken to task this week in Folio Weekly for being influenced “possibly” through a mayoral “proxy” to “agree to vote to withdraw” the bill, in exchange for capital commitments to projects in their districts.

Folio Weekly reported that “Katrina Brown further said via email that she hadn’t taken a position supporting HRO; when FWM asked in a follow-up if the T-U incorrectly quoted her as saying ‘yes’ when asked whether she supported HRO expansion in its Meet the Candidates feature last year, she gave the sort of sputtering, non-answer typical of politicians.”

Those with long memories will recall that in 2012, a narrative festered regarding District 7 Councilman Johnny Gaffney voting against HRO expansion, saying that he got “confused,” which certainly can happen when choosing between a red button and a green button.

Gaffney was the deciding vote; rumors swirled that he flipped because of pressure from the Alvin Brown administration

Gaffney, in endorsing Lenny Curry for Mayor in May, addressed the HRO question.

“There was pressure to not vote for it,” Gaffney said, echoing allegations made by Denise Lee to this reporter that rumors were that Mayor Alvin Brown pushed Gaffney not to vote for it, that rumors were that “Johnny 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).

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

What is clear on the HRO issue: Many politicians seem more malleable than outside observers expect. And the reasons for such malleability often take years to come out.

Of note: Johnny Gaffney and Denise Lee now work in the mayor’s office.

Jax Journey 2.0 to look at jobs for at-risk kids: “our teenagers haven’t had enough focus”

She was appointed in the fall of 2008 to lead former Mayor John Peyton‘s ambitious attempt to dethrone Jacksonville as Florida’s murder capital.

She left the job during the tenure of former Mayor Alvin Brown, when the Jacksonville Journey changed focus, and lost funding (the recession also played a role in that, it’s been pointed out.)

But under new Mayor Lenny Curry, Journey Project Director Debbie Verges is back in her old post, as the reinvigorated initiative looks at the best way to apportion public funds around what’s known as the “PIE” of crime reduction (prevention, intervention, and enforcement).

“It’s really exciting to be back. The mayor believes that the way we solve Jacksonville’s problems is through our children. And the way we do that is we reach them early, and make sure they stay on the right track,” Verges told WJCT.  

Curry has allocated about $3 million dollars in the current city budget to bolster Journey programs, while also adding money to pay for 40 additional police officers.

“We’ll have $1.7 million for new initiatives. It’s never enough, but given the economic climate, that’s new dollars. Most agencies are not seeing any increases. So we’re fortunate we’ll at least have that amount of money to try to make a difference.”

The Journey’s initial focus in 2008 looked at early intervention and after-school programs for kids. Verges says this time around, teenagers will get more attention. And the approach taken in the last decade may be tweaked for 2016.

“This time we want to look at what’s different? Jacksonville is different than it was in 2008. We really want to hear from the providers. How would they address reaching out to teenagers in their neighborhoods? It won’t be quite as prescribed. We want to hear from the community.”

One point of feedback that’s already registered loud and clear, says Verges, is jobs. Or rather, the lack of them, particularly for young people in the city’s disadvantaged North and Northwest quadrants.

“Teenagers and young adults aged 18-24 need jobs. So we’ll probably see more in that area of economic development.”

The Journey Oversight Committee meets Thursday. Once it issues its recommendations, they’ll be forwarded to the City Council so that funds can be brought out of reserves and implemented, says Verges.



Sam Mousa drops another amusing Alvin Brown administration anecdote

In an email, Jacksonville’s CAOSam Mousa, told one of those A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Next Level stories about the Alvin Brown administration.

This one affects the Bob Hayes Track Meet.

“It came to our attention via the Council Auditor this week that the Brown administration did not have a contract executed before the funds for the 2015 Bob Hayes track meet were distributed.  The Brown administration simply issued a check request attached to the appropriating ordinance and paid the money, notwithstanding the ordinance stating a contract was required to be executed (the contract was attached to the ordinance),” Mousa wrote.

The funds, apparently, were “not spent in accordance with the budget which was presented to the City.  The expenses did not over-run the total amount provided by the City, but the funds were not spent per the approved categorical elements as presented in the budget. Accordingly, the Auditor is now holding up the city contribution for the 2016 event until the prior expenditure of funds is ratified by the City Council. This will require a ratification ordinance approved by City Council.”

To borrow a phrase from Britney Spears: Oops, they did it again. Between this and the fun story about Ronnie Belton‘s pension benefits, it’s been an interesting weekend of tidbits and trivia.

Happily for Bob Hayes fans, “Staff is working feverishly to help have an ordinance drafted and ratified thru City Council on an emergency basis…. this is a very important event and we will do what we need thru appropriate actions to help get the 2016 event funds released as soon as possible.”

Never a dull moment!

Audrey Moran on Lenny Curry: “I made it clear to him I was disappointed” on HRO

JAX Chamber Chairwoman Audrey Moran has made it clear she’s comfortable with diverging from City Hall on the issue of the the city’s human rights ordinance.

Moran, herself a former mayoral candidate, says “she really doesn’t understand the motives” behind recent moves to table two competing pieces of legislation looking at covering Jacksonville’s LGBT residents from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public accommodations.

The Chamber’s full-bore endorsement of the HRO is at odds with Mayor Lenny Curry‘s stance. Curry has said he doesn’t think it prudent to expand protections.

In early 2015, Curry won the Chamber’s endorsement in his bid to unseat former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. Then in August at a private meeting of local business and civic leaders that included Moran, it was agreed that Curry should be given “breathing room” on the HRO.

What does Moran think about that now?

“At that time, the mayor had indicated he wanted to lead, he wanted to have town hall meetings, as he promised during his campaign and we needed to give him an opportunity to do that. He did follow through on his commitment on the town hall meetings – a painful process is how I would describe that. And he has made a decision that handling city employees via policy is the route he wants to go right now. That’s his decision. The Chamber disagrees. We feel an ordinance is very, very important. But that’s certainly his right,” she told WJCT.

“He was kind enough to call me with that decision. And I was clear to him as Chamber chair that I was disappointed. And I also told the mayor that the Chamber would continue to advocate all across our community, and especially with the City Council for a comprehensive ordinance, and he said he understood that completely.”

“I’m sorry we’re on different paths on the human rights ordinance, but I believe the mayor understands why the business community feels so strongly about it.”

Moran, a senior vice president at Baptist Health, went on to cite the JAX Chamber’s long history of pushing for social justice in North Florida, noting that in the late 1970s the Chamber led the effort to integrate the River Club. In the 1980s, the Chamber pushed to start the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, a continuing tradition.

In 1992, when then-Chief Judge John Santora came under fire for making racist comments, Moran noted that the the JAX Chamber issued a declaration of community values stating that “prejudice has no place in our community.” (Although, as The New York Times and others pointed out at the time, the Chamber’s bold stance may have been prompted at least in part by pressure from activists about the city’s efforts to lure an NFL franchise to town.)

“At that point in time we weren’t talking about sexual orientation, but those words are as true today as they were 24 years ago. We have to be about equality for everyone. This is about human beings. We have to have protection from discrimination. We need to be able to say that if you come to Jacksonville, your rights are protected, and that we have an inclusive community.”

The Chamber’s ultimate argument is the business case for the HRO. So far, it’s not one that seems to be resonating with the mayor’s office, but Moran and her membership will keep making it.

“I’m concerned that the city will lose business if the ordinance is not passed, because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage.”

Debit-gate revisited: WJXT hits Alvin Brown over inventory control

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is gone from City Hall, but not forgotten, if WJXT’s latest slab of anti-Brown red meat is worth noting.

The issue this time: inventory control. $4.3 million of city property was lost from 2010 to July 1, 2015. And a big part of the reason? A lack of a meaningful inventory control system, the type you might see at any normal business.

“Each city department is required to do one inventory once a year. The city property officers are responsible for overseeing this process, as well as filing police reports. Any item valued over $1,000 is supposed to be physically tagged with a sticker and assigned an index code,” the report says.

Easy peasy, except when protocol is not followed.

Each city department is required to do one inventory once a year. The city property officers are responsible for overseeing this process, as well as filing police reports. Any item valued over $1,000 is supposed to be physically tagged with a sticker and assigned an index code

”There should be a sticker on there, and there’s not, I don’t see one,” said Crescimbeni, while searching for a city sticker on his own computer

Crescimbeni said tickets that help to keep track of city property are not being used or sometimes they rub off the equipment and aren’t replaced.

Crescimbeni historically has not been a fan of the Brown administration, but he doesn’t levy the specific charges in this piece.

Instead, that role is left to Lenny Curry spox Marsha Oliver.

“Based upon our review, it’s apparent that the previous administration did not at all, conduct any of the inventory management practices. They did not follow municipal code 122, when you look at it, you have missing assets that show up in an annual report,” spokeswoman Marsha Oliver said to WJXT.

That code requires yearly inventory checks, and such checks if a departmental head moves on.

David Hunt, who has the unenviable role of handling such questions from the media, pushed back.

“Mayor Brown left office more than eight months ago,” Hunt wrote, “and it’s disappointing that anyone would continue to cast blame on him for ongoing city issues when the truth is the Brown administration worked hard to enhance accountability throughout city government. It should also be noted that a great number of items listed relate to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office, Jacksonville Public Library and courts, independent branches of government which a mayor does not oversee.”

This is not the first inventory issue related to the Brown administration. Recall the case of the missing prepaid debit cards from an employee incentive program, the loss of which was registered last year.

The Inspector General is still on that case. Looks like he has another one in what appears to be a series of them.

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