Alvin Brown – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Jacksonville Bold for 4.6.18 — Shiv season

In this week’s Bold, a recurring motif … pitched political speech.

From a senator saying the president could kick off the next Great Depression, to a gubernatorial campaign telling an opponent is DOA, the knives were out.

Shivs went toward Jacksonville’s mayor for exploring the value of JEA. And toward a chair of a local party … for her committeeman husband using a phrase at a party dinner that many on hand saw as objectionable.

Don’t worry, there were shivs for him as well.

Almost five months before primaries, and nearly a year before the first city elections, Northeast Florida politics are like a Ginsu ad.

The knives are out. And Jacksonville Bold is the whetstone.

Nelson: Metal tariffs = Smoot-Hawley Act

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson met with Anheuser-Busch executives in Jacksonville Monday to address business concerns about the Trump administration’s plan for tariffs on foreign products.

Meanwhile, Spuds MacKenzie remains silent on the issue of tariffs.

Beer execs were concerned that an imposed 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum would cost them millions of dollars and slow down investment in growing their business.

For Nelson, the tariffs signal a more significant issue.

“What it portends,” said Nelson, “is the starting of a trade war.”

“We get into a trade war, and the prices of a lot of consumer goods we buy from overseas are going to rocket up,” Nelson said. “A trade war ultimately runs into a recession, which was part of the reason for going into the Depression back in the 1930s.”

Nelson noted the Smoot-Hawley Act, which raised 900 import duties all at once, ultimately was what “plunged us into a Depression.”

“This could be the beginning,” Nelson said, saying 9 million people have jobs that will be affected by this imposition of aluminum and steel tariffs.

WaPo wallops Wiles

The Washington Post delivered a hit on inexperienced political appointees in the Donald Trump White House. Caroline Wiles got fragged.

Brutal hit on Caroline Wiles from The Washington Post.

The Post reminded readers that Wiles “was one of six White House staffers dismissed for failing FBI background checks” then was “made a special assistant to the president, a post that typically pays $115,000.”

Susie Wiles, the mother of Caroline, ran Trump’s Florida campaign as it got momentum. That, asserts the Post, is why she was hired.

“The younger Wiles has an unusual background for a senior White House official. On a résumé she submitted to the state of Florida, she said she had completed coursework at Flagler College … On her LinkedIn page, she simply lists Flagler under education. A Flagler spokesman said she never finished her degree,” the report says.

Another shot of nepotism followed: “Wiles has had a string of political jobs, including work at her mother’s lobbying firm and as a campaign aide for candidates her mother advised, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott  and Trump.”

And then, the rap sheet: “Over the years, she has had multiple encounters with police. In 2005, she had her driver’s license suspended for driving while intoxicated … In 2007, she was arrested for driving while intoxicated and arrested for passing a ‘worthless check.’ She was found guilty of a misdemeanor for driving under the influence. The charge related to the bad check was dropped in a plea agreement.”

Go figure; she didn’t sit for an interview for this piece.

Defense lawyers: Brown jobbed out of fair trial

Per First Coast News“The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is asking for a new trial for Corrine Brown after she was convicted on multiple counts of fraud and corruption and sentenced to five years in federal prison.”

Corrine Brown’s latest appeal enjoyed a tail-wind this week via an amicus brief.

At issue: the dismissal of a juror who claimed to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Brown and her defense have consistently contended that juror was dismissed in error and this group agrees, saying that “seeking guidance from God does not amount to jury misconduct and is not a basis to remove a juror who is otherwise qualified to serve.”

Brown’s attorney filed a 64-page brief last week in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing the Jacksonville Democrat’s conviction should be tossed out because the juror was improperly dismissed from the case due to his religious statements.

“The record in this case supports only one conclusion: that this juror was basing his verdict on his view of the sufficiency of the evidence, after prayerful consideration and as he saw it, in his mind, guidance from the Holy Spirit,” Brown’s attorney, William Mallory Kent, wrote in the brief.

Big Mo for DeSantis

An internal memo from the Ron DeSantis campaign for governor made the rounds this week. And he may be winning the nomination.

The memo notes that DeSantis is winning with little effort against an “establishment candidate … who has spent more than $6 million … and has been running quietly for eight years.”

Ron DeSantis’ campaign says it is ‘winning’ the race with Adam Putnam.

DeSantis has the best name ID, per internal polling, along with strong favorables and the lead in a two-way race against Adam Putnam and a three-way race with a “potential third challenger.”

Also, Trump Twitter came up bigly: “The president’s job approval is strong, and so is his endorsement.”

DeSantis also has good oppo against Putnam’s pre-Tea Party voting record in Congress, and wins the “blind bio” test, per his polling, 55 to 29 percent.

Payne draws challenger in HD 19

A Starke Democrat entered the race for North Central Florida’s House District 19, where they will take on incumbent Republican Bobby Payne, as well as Libertarian Ryan Ramsey.

(Paul) Still waters run deep, but the Dem says Black Creek project is a boondoggle.

Paul Still, an elected Supervisor for the Bradford County Soil and Water Conservation Board, was motivated to run by a water issue Payne supported that he sees as a “boondoggle.”

The issue at hand is the $42 million Black Creek Water Resource Development Project.

While Still won’t face primary opposition, the struggle is real in deep red HD 19 for the former chair of the Bradford County Democrats, as the party is not well-organized throughout much of the district.

Duval DEC committeeman out over ‘colored people’ comment

Lisa King‘s tenure chairing the Democratic Party of Duval County has been marred by the aftermath of her husband, state committeeman John Parker, committing the gaffe of using the term “colored people” during a dinner in January.

John Parker resigns, but will Lisa King hold on to the Dems’ gavel?

In the last week, Parker and King have dealt with some adverse press, related to an ongoing outcry both within and outside the party about her husband, with the offensive comments framed as a cause for both Parker and King to step down.

In a statement Monday, King said she had advised Parker to resign, but he told Florida Politics he “absolutely would not” last week. (King got backup Tuesday from party secretary Daniel Henry).

King notes that she has “told John from the beginning that the most appropriate course of action for him was to resign. Although we disagree on this action, our members are committed to respecting the process to resolve this issue.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the Duval GOP finally, a week after this controversy blew up, issued a call for King and Parker to resign.

On Wednesday, Parker acquiesced, resigning both leadership positions.

“Today, I accepted the resignation of John Parker as state committeeman and DNC member,” King said in a statement. “I do this with the certainty that it is the right thing for our party. Although he has dedicated over 35 years of service, his statements and actions necessitated his departure.”

Newby, Holland want four more years

Monday saw two incumbent Jacksonville politicians file for re-election.

Sam Newby won a close race in 2015 on a shoestring budget. Expect him to have more help this time.

At-large Group 5 Republican Sam Newby filed for re-election, as did Republican Property Appraiser Jerry Holland.

Newby, who won a narrow race against Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman in 2015, thus far faces no ballot opposition.

Holland, who was a popular Supervisor of Elections for two terms, faced no ballot opposition in 2015 but will face a Democrat next March.

Kurt Kraft has just over $600 on hand. To put that number in context, Holland raised over $154,000 in his unopposed run in 2015.

Committee slams Curry on radio

A political committee (Florida Committee for Infrastructure Investment) designed to stop the exploration of selling Jacksonville’s utility in its tracks rolled out its first radio ad in a mass email to media.

The 30-second spot, which employs a child’s voice, includes a plaintive, heart-tugging script.

To hear the video, click the image below:

“Mommy and daddy, they’re saying that Lenny Curry is trying to sell JEA,” says the youth in the spot, a child who is remarkably hip to the mechanics of municipal utilities for his age.

“Don’t let him sell JEA,” the youngster continues. “Don’t let him sell our future.”

The call to action: to call 630-CITY and tell Curry not to sell JEA.

This particular political committee has ties to one of Curry’s chief political rivals. Its registered agent and treasurer, Heather Pullen, has connections to Lisa King, the chair of the Duval Democrats.

“Baseless attacks and lies from a political committee affiliated with and supportive of Democrat Lisa King are not how we will protect the value of taxpayer assets at JEA. The mayor remains committed to ensuring that facts inform all future plans for our utility, and that those plans respect taxpayers and the promises made to JEA employees,” said Brian Hughes, Curry’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile, Council President Anna Brosche wants more disclosure from the city finance department on JEA. CFO Mike Weinstein stonewalled the Jacksonville City Council requests for financial information, saying in an email last week: “They’re on their own.”

There is, however, one positive JEA augury for the Mayor’s Office. Curry met with linemen Tuesday; per WJXT, it went well.

Hughes noted that the mayor’s “meeting with JEA lineman this morning was part of his continued commitment to having conversations about the future of JEA with all stakeholders. The meeting went well offering him the opportunity to hear feedback and information from the people who put their lives on the line, not only in emergencies, but every day to provide service to the citizens of Jacksonville.”

Council bills teed up

Straw ballot for JEA sale: This bill had some controversy before unanimous passage in Finance Tuesday morning.

The vote would be in November.

2018-141 would set a straw ballot referendum on the November ballot to test the voters’ mood on a JEA sale.

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

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

The bill cleared Rules without a single no vote.

____

Board reform2018-65, also sponsored by Dennis, would bar a member of a board from applying for a paid position with the organization said board controls while serving on that board.

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

Dennis, one of Council’s most strident opponents of the reforms that brought KHA into being as a replacement for the Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, sees Peppers as a) unqualified to be CEO and b) parlaying relationships with the board and Mayor Lenny Curry‘s team into a high-paying job.

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

Gaffney lawsuit rolls on

A whistleblower action involving Community Rehabilitation Center, the nonprofit of Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, continues to be hashed out in the 4th Judicial Circuit Court; it is now a discrimination suit.

Reggie Gaffney gaffe: Where are the documents, plaintiff lawyer wonders.

Former CRC employee Darlene Peoples contended in a late-May whistleblower lawsuit in Florida’s 4th Circuit that she was “unlawfully terminated” by the nonprofit … after she was allegedly exposed to risk from HIV-positive clients without proper training and licensure. [Complaint against CRC]

Peoples worked for CRC from 2013 to Sept. 2016. In June 2016, Peoples was reassigned to be a “mental health counselor” from her previous position, “substance abuse counselor,” in a move her original filing describes as “ill-advised.” She claimed training deficiencies were rampant in her preparation to deal with HIV positive clients, and when she attempted to get redress (including from CEO Gaffney), she was fired.

The latest motion from Peoples, a “motion to compel,” came Mar. 22. At issue: an alleged inability to comply promptly with plaintiff requests for discovery regarding interrogatories and documents (emails).

Read more here.

Mallot out

From the JAX Chamber: “Jerry Mallot announced today that he will retire from his roles as President of JAXUSA Partnership and Executive Vice President of JAX Chamber. Mallot’s retirement is effective Sept. 1.”

“This is truly the best city and region in the country to live and to do business — and that certainly helps when you’re bringing top companies to the region,” Mallot, who has been with the Chamber since 1994, said.

Jerry Mallot retiring from JAX Chamber Sept. 1.

Mallot helped to broker deals with Fidelity, Deutsche Bank and Amazon, per the Chamber. Those were three big gets.

“The investment he’s helped attract to our city is remarkable,” said JAX Chamber Chair John Peyton, who served as Jacksonville’s mayor from 2003-11 and worked with Mallot on several high-profile projects. “Jerry is so incredibly skilled at finding ways to get a deal done; it’s been a privilege to work with him over the years.”

“It’s amazing to look around at different projects and see how far we’ve come,” Mallot said. “We have so much momentum here, and I look forward to seeing it continue.”

Nassau’s Lincoln Day dinner sells out

Nassau County Republican Executive Committee (REC) announced its 2018 Lincoln Day Dinner has reached capacity with 116 tickets distributed, a first for the annual event.

The 2018 Lincoln Day Dinner is among the various Republican fundraising events to honor Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth U.S. president and first from the Republican Party. The Nassau County event was held Thursday at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island beginning with a cocktail hour and silent auction.

Keynoting the Lincoln Day dinner was Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis; featured guests includedCongressman John Rutherford, state Sens. Aaron Bean and Denise Grimsley, state Reps. Cord Byrd and Matt Caldwell, as well as various local leaders and candidates.

“Although we are still days away from hosting the event, the revenue and enthusiasm for this banquet have exceeded all expectations,” Nassau REC Chair Justin Taylor said. “In fact, we had to add seats to accommodate demand. We are seeing about a 50 percent participation increase from last year’s Lincoln Day, and I think that is a direct reflection of our party’s enthusiasm leading into this year’s election cycle.”

Jacksonville Bold for 3.30.18 — And the campaigns begin

Flowers are blooming. The chill of March fades into April and May heat. And just like the cycle of nature, the cycle of campaigns is kicking off anew.

In Congressional races, we are starting to see real action. Political action committees are kicking up, and so is the end of quarter fundraising.

What this means: all the paper tiger campaigns will be tested by the heat of the process, an unforgiving sunlight illumination that offers no quarter.

Who are the contenders? Who are the pretenders?

Soon we shall know the difference.

PAC targets Waltz in CD 6

Fox News viewers in Florida’s 6th Congressional District starting Monday saw the first of many ads in the Republican primary.

The very first ad in the district that includes Volusia, Flagler and southern St. Johns counties, however, was from a political action committee targeting candidate Mike Waltz.

Mike Waltz takes incoming early from well-funded John Ward PAC.

The committee seems to support opponent John Ward.

Via Advertising Analytics: “American Jobs and Growth PAC” bought $19,000 in ad time on Fox News Channel. Spots will run from Monday to Friday.

The PAC is opposed to Waltz, per the Federal Elections Commission webpage for the committee.

The 15-second ad features a Waltz voice-over from the 2016 campaign, saying “look at Donald Trump‘s real record and stop him now,” with graphics proclaiming Trump’s “real record” as being the tax cut package, and appointing Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

The committee has only begun to spend money, per its list of contributions.

John Foley, a business associate of Ward, leads all donors with $100,000 contributed in what thus far is a ~$140,000 nest egg.

DeSantis denies Cambridge Analytica ties

Moving from the CD 6 race to the incumbent in CD 6 … Florida Democrats questioned, per the Daytona Beach News-Journal, whether or not Rep. Ron DeSantis may have used controversial data-mining op Cambridge Analytica for his campaign.

Oppo suggests the Dems take Ron DeSantis seriously.

The connection: the PAC of new National Security Adviser John Bolton, which donated to DeSantis, also paid Cambridge.

No dice, says the DeSantis campaign.

“No, we didn’t,” wrote spokesman Brad Herold to the Daytona paper. “And tell the FDP, if they spent more time trying to figure out why their message hasn’t resonated with Florida voters in over two decades and less time playing Inspector Clouseau with finance reports, they’d win more elections.”

Zing.

Peanut, tomato dumping drives Lawson to back NAFTA revamp

Florida’s 5th Congressional District is far-flung, as Al Lawson’s town hall last weekend shows.

In Tallahassee, it focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the Jacksonville end of the district: peanut and tomato dumping.

Nearly 100 North Florida and South Georgia farmers gave Al Lawson their ideas on what should be included in a federal farm bill.

“While Central and South Florida are major hubs of citrus and sugar production, North Florida and South Georgia produce peanuts and tomatoes. And those two crops, in addition to dairy, are being squeezed by overproduction from Canada and Mexico, say local farmers. For that reason, Congressman Lawson says he’s in support of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement,” reports WFSU.

“Most farmers here, if you talk to the people who are tomato farmers they’ll tell you they have a big problem. So I think something is going to happen in that regard,” Lawson told the Tallahassee outlet.

Trump wants NAFTA renegotiated, but the movement has been slow.

Peanut interests support Lawson strongly as a candidate.

Brown fundraises

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, a candidate for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, had what he called a “big fundraiser” Wednesday evening.

Alvin Brown is finally fundraising. Did he wait too long to start?

Accompanying Brown was Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Congressional Black Caucus member who endorsed him over incumbent Democratic Rep. Lawson.

At the end of the last quarter, before Brown declared as a candidate, Lawson had lackluster fundraising.

Lawson, the incumbent in Florida’s CD 5, closed 2017 with $100,531 on hand, off $235,281 raised.

Duval legislators extol Legislative Session … for the most part

With the Legislative Session in the rearview mirror, Northeast Florida legislators are looking back at the 60 days with a sense of accomplishment, tempered in some cases with a sense that there are more battles to fight and win.

While the $12.5 million of state money for the Talleyrand Connector was the most significant win, every legislator Florida Politics talked to mentioned other wins as well.

Audrey Gibson was characteristically blunt on the 2018 Session.

The most candid comments were from Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson, who was very out front about difficulties of the process: “Go figure, it’s life in an unbalanced Legislature which I am on a mission to change!  I am so honored to serve and am on the battlefield in and out of Session because Session is not the only measure of success.”

Gibson, of course, will face a primary challenge from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.

Read the whole recap here.

Gains in rough year, say St. Johns legislators

The St. Augustine Record was on hand for St. Johns County legislators talking about gains in a rough year.

John Rutherford says his introduction to Congress was ‘informative.’

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford said his introduction to Congress was “quite informative.”

Sen. Travis Hutson discussed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

“Two words: We delivered,” said Rep. Paul Renner about the budget.

Rep. Cyndi Stevenson said it was a bit of a “rough” year, but not one without “a strong footing to go forward on.”

Full write-up here.

Patronis in Jax to highlight expansion of PTSD benefits

This week, CFO Jimmy Patronis joined Mayor Lenny Curry, state Sen. Gibson, Reps. Cord Byrd, Tracie Davis and Jason Fischer, as well as Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Kurt Wilson and members of the fire service and law enforcement communities to highlight the signing of Senate Bill 376, expanding mental health benefits for first responders.

Stress’ relief: CFO Jimmy Patronis was joined by lawmakers, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Kurt Wilson and fire service and law enforcement members to mark the signing of a bill expanding mental health benefits for first responders.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill this week in Tampa surrounded by hundreds of first responders from across the state. Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Matt Willhite sponsored SB 376.

Zeigler running against unfair taxation in HD 15

Yacht broker Mark Zeigler entered the GOP primary in House District 15 last month.

Incumbent Jay Fant is currently running for Attorney General. Zeigler will face Joseph Hogan and Wyman Duggan.

Zeigler, alone among the field, is known for his tenure as a drummer in Pretty Boy Freud, the legends of Jacksonville’s club scene decades ago. As a drummer and an entrepreneur, his motivations for running are pretty straightforward and are rooted in unfair taxation.

The drumbeat of business taxes drives Mark Zeigler. Is that the rhythm of HD 15?

One of the issues facing businesses like his, Zeigler says, is the estimated tax from the Department of Revenue.

“If you collect $200,000 in sales taxes [in a given year], in January you get a love letter,” Zeigler said.

That epistle contains an estimated tax, an added burden for businesses just as they try to navigate the January doldrums. And that tax affects investment in the business, including but not limited to new hiring and new equipment.

The National Federation of Independent Business is “looking hard at this issue,” Zeigler said. “I think I’m the messenger who can carry it.”

Read more here.

Pill suit moving forward

The Jacksonville Daily Record notes that the city of Jacksonville has retained lawyers with a track record for its lawsuit against Big Pharma.

Purdue brought OxyContin to market and is one of many parties named in the suit.

Since 2007, Scott and Scott have brought in more than $1.2 billion in these cases, per the “144-page complaint for damages and injunctive relief filed in the 4th Judicial Circuit by the city against Perdue Pharma LLP and 24 other defendants.”

“The complaint alleges that the defendants engaged in a systematic plan to deceive doctors and patients about the products’ efficacy in the management of chronic pain and the addictive nature of their products,” the Daily Record asserts.

Read more here.

‘Open government’ task force

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche wanted a task force to look at transparency in local government.

She got it.

Anna Brosche’s year atop Council has been full of conflict with Team Curry.

The bill (2018-133) cleared Tuesday’s Council agenda after having passed the Rules Committee unanimously last week.

“The Task Force on Open Government” will “undertake an in-depth review of Jacksonville’s legislative process and the methods by which the public accesses government” and “make recommendations for how the City of Jacksonville can be more open and accessible to the public.”

Brosche originally wanted one-cycle approval of the concept so the task force would have more time to operate, but relented after Mayor Curry‘s office raised concerns that emergency legislation contravened the goal of “open and accessible government.”

The panel wraps by the end of June. As does the Brosche presidency.

JEA special committee not so special anymore

Big news from Jacksonville City Council amounted to a setback for Council President Brosche when her 19 colleagues decided to subvert her five-person “special committee” on the JEA sale by including all 19 members on the panel.

Committee chairman John Crescimbeni will deal with significant changes going forward.

The debate was bruising, elliptical and lasted for hours; all kicked off by a floor motion from Councilman Matt Schellenberg to kill the committee. That didn’t fly. Neither did a move by Councilwoman Lori Boyer to keep the committee at five but kill its subpoena power.

Essentially, this will derail the committee from deep dives into relationships between JEA execs and the Mayor’s Office, moving the discussion to the pros and cons of a sale from “what did _______ know and when did he know it?” style questions.

After the discussion had wrapped, one prominent lobbyist was heard to remark that some of those who fought hardest against changing the committee were guaranteed political opponents in next year’s elections.

The principal opponent of kneecapping the committee structure, Councilman Garrett Dennis, on a Wednesday radio hit described a City Hall that pivots on intimidation tactics, and a Mayor’s Office that will get its way by any means necessary.

Ray Charles can see who’s behind selling JEA,” Dennis quipped near the program’s end, after describing a “climate” where Curry’s team rules by fear, with “the stick and the stick.”

“If you don’t do this, we’ll do this”: Dennis’ summation of the strategy.

Dennis reiterated claims of “threats” levied on him “in offices,” “comments from the Mayor” in which Curry purportedly said that he would “make sure the money spigot is turned off in [Dennis’] district.”

“Now you see the full staff at Council meetings,” Dennis said, with “all the [Mayor’s] top lieutenants on the first and second row” with an “intimidating” look and “subliminal tactics.”

Kids Hope CEO hopeful feels hopeless, withdraws from search

The Florida Times-Union reports that the field of Kids Hope Alliance CEO hopefuls is a bit narrower after one candidate said the process was unfair and withdrew.

Afira DeVries, who leads the United Way of Roanoke Valley in Virginia, withdrew via email.

Afira DeVries says goodbye to KHA search, citing unfairness in process.

“After carefully reviewing the qualifications for the position in contrast to the current scoring and ranking outcomes, it seems that inherent relational advantages enjoyed by other candidates impair my chances of being awarded the position,” DeVries wrote. “Although I remain confident that my talents, skills and experience align perfectly to this exciting role, continuing at this point appears to be more of an exercise than a progressive action toward a viable opportunity.”

Among those candidates: former board member Joe Peppers, who launched his run while still on the board.

Councilman Garrett Dennis, a frequent antagonist of the Curry administration, says there is a “cloud” over that candidacy and that Peppers should withdraw his bid.

District pushback dominates ‘lunch and learn’

Jacksonville’s former Southside Generating Station was the subject of a City Council “lunch and learn” Monday.

Specifically, the proposed District redevelopment, which was described as a “labor of love” by the head of the Downtown Investment Authority, but which was not regarded quite so uncritically by Jacksonville City Council members.

City Council members remain skeptical about the District proposal.

Politically connected developers Peter Rummell and Michael Munz have a deal, as of January, to buy the land for $18.6 million from the JEA Board. The city proposes also putting $26 million into infrastructure, though that’s still to be determined.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer, liaison to the Downtown Investment Authority, noted there were “questions and concerns” about the process in January, and that the meeting Monday was to “share where we are, get input, answer questions.”

While some questions were answered, others remain to be addressed.

Read more here.

Jax opportunity zones have urban core flavor

Jacksonville advanced some proposed “opportunity zones,” and many of them will be in the Urban Core.

The City of Jacksonville last week advanced suggestions to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for Opportunity Zones, each with an urban core focus.

Per Neighborhoods Director Stephanie Burch, five census tracts have been chosen in the downtown area, under the aegis of the Downtown Investment Authority.

San Marco’s Southbank is on the list of ‘opportunity zones.’

The areas chosen have the existing infrastructure, can absorb private capital, and have community redevelopment agencies, Burch wrote in a letter to DEO Director of Strategic Development Michael DiNapoli.

San Marco’s Southbank likewise is on the list, even as metrics show a real upswing, with an unemployment rate of just 2 percent (down from 32 percent in 2000). Curiously, the opportunity zone there overlaps with the District development, which could see $26 million in infrastructure spending and an additional $56 million in REV grants from the city, benefiting political power broker Peter Rummell‘s long-delayed development.

Gov. Scott will nominate these areas by April 20; ultimately, it will be the federal Department of Treasury‘s decision. Areas chosen will be eligible for tax breaks that expect to spur private investment and economic growth.

This week in appointments

Florida State College at Jacksonville District Board of Trustees

Laura DiBella, 39, of Fernandina Beach, is the port director of the Fernandina Ocean Highway and Port Authority and the executive director of the Nassau County Economic Development Board. DiBella succeeds Jimmie Mayo for a term ending May 31, 2019.

The Fiorentino Group looks back on Session

Jacksonville-based The Fiorentino Group takes a comprehensive look back on the 2018 Legislative Session, “one of the most unusual in recent memory.” Session began with calls for the Senate to address sexual harassment claims, and finishing with the Parkland tragedy, which brought “thousands of students and citizens to Tallahassee to push for gun safety regulations.”

Marty Fiorentino of The Fiorentino Group.

Early funding priorities for both Gov. Scott and legislative leaders took a back seat to the aftermath of the February 14 mass shooting At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 students and adults dead and shifted the focus of lawmakers to passing “comprehensive legislation relating to school safety, the purchase of firearms in Florida, and mental health services.”

But, in the eyes of The Fiorentino Group, Session was mostly successful for leaders, particularly in a “major election year” where politics played a role for Gov. Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

The firm’s website offers a detailed breakdown of all the critical issues addressed in 2018, including the budget, public safety and firearms, transportation, environment, gaming, education, health care, hurricane response and preparedness, and economic development, taxes and incentives.

Alvin Brown: JEA a ‘tremendous asset … should remain with the people’

Jacksonville’s City Hall has been roiled for weeks with claims and counterclaims about whether or not Mayor Lenny Curry wants to sell the local utility, JEA.

Tuesday evening saw a floor motion to successfully kneecap a five-person special committee that was evaluating whether or not JEA should be sold; the committee now includes everyone on the City Council, and has been divested of subpoena power.

Curry’s predecessor, Alvin Brown, was in Jacksonville for other events Wednesday; however, when Florida Politics caught up with Brown.

He was willing to discuss JEA — as a public asset that should not be for sale.

“I can honestly say that JEA is an asset — a tremendous asset for the city. It gives over $100 million a year to the general fund,” Brown said.

“Making sure that a utility that is owned by a people remains with the people,” said Brown, was reflected in his board appointments (most of which were removed from the board by Mayor Curry months after his election, moves which got intense media coverage at the time).

“At the end of the day, you have members of the City Council and the board and JEA officials and members of the community who are starting to have that conversation, and that’s their focus,” Brown said. “They have a process. I don’t know about the process. It’s their process.”

Alvin Brown talks health care, congressional campaign

On Wednesday, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown picked his home turf for his first official campaign stop in his congressional campaign.

Brown, running against Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson in the August primary in the east/west North Florida district, picked AGAPE Health to message on health care. The location was not incidental: AGAPE CEO, former state Rep. Mia Jones, was Brown’s former “health commissioner” in City Hall.

Brown was accompanied by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Congressman and former Congressional Black Caucus chair who endorsed him against Lawson, a first-term incumbent, as he discussed exclusively with this outlet the federal role in health care.

“I think the Affordable Care Act is very important for our country and clearly for Florida,” Brown said. “Particularly Jacksonville. I had the opportunity to work with the [Barack] Obama administration on the Affordable Care Act. I think it’s needed.”

“Health care is a human right,” Brown continued. “And I think everyone should have access to decent, affordable health care.”

Of course, Brown’s tenure as Mayor (2011-2015) overlapped with Gov. Rick Scott not expanding Medicaid.

“What we did was we literally focused on enrolling people into the Affordable Care Act,” Brown said. “We hosted Secretary Kathleen Sebelius here and brought all the stakeholders together and made it happen.”

“We opened up our community centers, worked with all the health care providers and non-profits to market it, to educate the community,” Brown said. “We were number one — I think number one in the country for the city, and we led in a lot of areas.”

“The partnership worked,” Brown said. “We had a good team of people … in spite of the state not receiving that funding, we were very pro-active.”

The conversation pivoted to the campaign, including whether Brown would have the resources to compete with Lawson.

“I think we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we have the resources to compete and win,” Brown said. “We’re reaching out to everyone who believes in the vision … we’ll have a lot of support.”

We asked Brown about Lawson’s Republican support in 2016, including from donor Peter Rummell (a Brown supporter in 2011 who supported Brown’s 2015 opponent, Lenny Curry, for Mayor) and from Susie Wiles, who helped Lawson make inroads to Jacksonville while she worked on the Donald Trump campaign.

Could Brown shear off some of that support that proved helpful two years prior?

“I can’t speak for the incumbent, but I can say what we’re doing, we’re reaching out to everybody, and I’m very thankful for the people who will support my candidacy and we’re just going to work hard and make it happen.”

Congressional hopeful Alvin Brown promotes ‘big fundraiser’ in Jacksonville Wednesday

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, a candidate for Congress in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, is promoting what he calls on Twitter a “big fundraiser” Wednesday evening.

He will be accompanied by Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Congressional Black Caucus member who endorsed Brown over incumbent Democratic Rep. Al Lawson.

Lawson, a Democrat from Tallahassee, is seen by many Jacksonville Democrats as representing the western side of the sprawling district better than the east; that said, Jacksonville Republicans find Lawson easy to work with.

The Brown fundraiser will be at the home of organizational meetings of the Duval Democrats: the IBEW Hall. Start time is 5 p.m., and the event runs until 7 p.m.

Cleaver and Brown also plan a campaign appearance earlier in the afternoon, and we will be on hand to cover that.

Brown has been messaging heavily on the issue of gun violence since the Feb. 14 massacre in Parkland; expect his campaign themes to diversify now that he is on the trail and the fundraising circuit.

At the end of the last quarter, before Brown declared as a candidate, Lawson had lackluster fundraising.

Lawson, the incumbent in Florida’s CD 5, closed 2017 with $100,531 on hand, off $235,281 raised.

Perhaps worryingly, Lawson brought in just over $44,000 ($36,500 from PACs) with $41,000 of expenditures in Q4. The bulk of the spend was on fundraising consulting and campaign management, raising questions of ROI.

Jacksonville Bold for 3.23.18 — Five months to go

Readers may note a focus on campaigns in Jacksonville Bold this week.

With the Legislative Session over, we are now heading into campaign season.

While Gov. Rick Scott seeks the right time to launch his bid for the U.S. Senate against Bill Nelson, facing no primary competition if he does so, pretty much everyone else is looking to move to the next level.

DeSantis condo conundrum

POLITICO reported recently on a Jacksonville connection to a condo Rep. Ron DeSantis rented in the redrawn Florida’s 6th Congressional District after 2016’s redistricting moved boundaries south.

Condo conundrum for candidate Ron DeSantis: he said the rent was fair.

“As a result, DeSantis — now running for governor — decided to move into a Flagler County condo whose owners include Kent Stermon and Matt Connell, both executives at Total Military Management. That Jacksonville-based company serves as a third-party relocation service for U.S. military personnel,” the POLITICO piece contends.

“Ron DeSantis temporarily moved into the condo of a friend while he looked to buy a home in Flagler County,” DeSantis spox Brad Herold told POLITICO. “He paid upfront and above market value.”

Stermon and Connell have donated $60,000 to DeSantis’ political operations since 2012.

Supplementary reading —As prosecutor, did Ron DeSantis go easy in child porn cases?“ [Spoiler alert: No.]

Gun issues continue playing in CD 5

POLITICO picked up the baton of previous reporting Florida Politics and other outlets did on the gun positions of incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson and challenger Alvin Brown in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Will the gun issue topple Al Lawson in Washington? Alvin Brown hopes so.

The donation from the National Rifle Association that Lawson had previously reported was an error from staff, which got the code wrong, per POLITICO (this is a story the Lawson campaign has been pushing for some weeks now).

“Lawson’s record on guns and Brown’s onslaught against him in Florida’s 5th Congressional District underscores just how toxic guns are as a political issue in Democratic politics, where guns weren’t viewed as such a net negative before the Feb. 14 high school shooting. For instance, in 2005, every Democrat in the Florida Senate — including Lawson — voted for Stand Your Ground, which passed the chamber unanimously,” POLITICO notes.

Brown’s team believes that guns will be a defining issue in this primary, and will continue to work it. This week, they trumpeted an endorsement from “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.”

One wonders if the discussion in this campaign will ever move beyond guns.

Rutherford backs $1 a day wages for detainees

One dollar a day for people working in private prisons? Per the Laredo Morning Times, Florida’s 4th Congressional District Republican John Rutherford is one of 18 congressional defenders of the wage that was originally set in 1978.

$1 a day is A-OK for GEO Group inmates … and John Rutherford concurs.

“Alien detainees should not be able to use immigration detention as a means of obtaining stable employment that will encourage them to pursue frivolous claims to remain in the country and in detention for as long as possible,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, and acting ICE director Thomas Homan.

Washington state is suing GEO Group for the wages, which violate minimum wage in the state; additionally, inmates in Colorado and California are suing GEO separately.

The Congressmen assert that higher wages would “provide an unnecessary windfall to the detainees and drain the federal government of limited taxpayer resources.”

GEO Group has contributed to Rutherford’s political efforts since 2016.

Third Democrat files in CD 4

Though Rutherford won the race in Florida’s 4th Congressional District with 70 percent of the vote and already has $183,000 cash on hand, Democrats are nonetheless lining up to run against him.

A third Democrat in the CD 4 race, Joceline Berrios, filed to run this month.

Joceline Berrios is the latest Democrat to enter the race.

Berrios wants stricter gun laws, Medicare for All, and the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Berrios will have a competitive primary.

Ges Selmont, a lawyer making his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, rolled out his campaign for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 4th Congressional District in recent weeks also.

The third candidate in the race, author Monica DePaul, has been running for several months.

All three campaigns lack a real structure currently, and have yet to report fundraising; with this in mind, the quarterly reports due next month bear watching.

Bax defends MMJ rule-making

Amendment 2 was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters in 2016, yet nearly two years later, the Office of Medical Marijuana Use is still workshopping rules. The road show came to Jacksonville Tuesday afternoon.

Beleaguered Christian Bax believes the MMJ rule-making process is moving apace. Many doubt that.

Christian Bax, the director of the program, noted that the rule-making process would go through the spring and summer. He said that he didn’t think that the department needed further guidance from the Legislature.

The department continues to issue notices and workshop rules at an acceptable pace, with 13 rules noticed last month, he said. That said, he understands why the Legislature would withhold pay for senior staff in DOH next fiscal year. Bax says the “department shares frustration with the timeline.”

Putnam talks opioids in Jacksonville

In a campaign capacity in Jacksonville Wednesday afternoon, Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Adam Putnam hosted an opioid roundtable.

Adam Putnam is talking opioids throughout the state; Jacksonville was Wednesday’s stop.

Putnam heard about Jacksonville’s own efforts on this front, as the city deals with an overdose crisis that has led to action on the local level.

Fentanyl — and diluted acetyl fentanyl — is the primary local issue, with the diluted analog potentially lowering the user’s tolerance and possibly creating another overdose death crisis down the road.

Another complicating factor that could rear its head in the coming months: the current use of fentanyl to cut cocaine.

Read more here.

Gillum talks black women’s vote

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic primary candidate for Governor, spoke in St. Augustine Saturday about the importance of the black female vote.

Andrew Gillum on the campaign trail in St. Augustine.

Engaged turnout among black women was a contributing factor to the Democrats taking a Senate seat in Alabama last year; to that end, Gillum and other Democrats believe that the model can be replicated even in a campaign not involving Roy Moore as the GOP standard-bearer.

Gillum, who just landed after a red-eye from California, noted that while black women are the pillar of the black community, they “can’t save this republic alone.”

To that end, the full power of the Democratic Party must back them, Gillum said.

Gillum extolled education as a way out of “intergenerational poverty,” describing how even guidance counselors and lunchroom ladies “stood in the gap on behalf of many of us,” helping to “build strong communities.”

Gillum noted that his mother was “doing things to ensure we got by,” a reality that sometimes-precluded thinking about big picture political concepts.

The lines elicited applause.

Gillum’s remarks kicking off a panel moderated by Congressional District 5 Democratic candidate Rontel Batie and House District 13 Democratic hopeful Roshanda Jackson were brief, but crowd-pleasing.

On Monday, Gillum talked to Duval Democrats, hitting many of the same themes and lines.

Cummings/Willey redux

Travis Cummings, the Republican incumbent in HD 18, this month drew a familiar Libertarian challenger, Ken Willey, in his re-election bid.

The odds are with Cummings, who drew over 81 percent of the vote when the two faced off in the general election in 2016.

 

Travis Cummings (left), talking with future Speaker Rep. Jose Oliva.

Cummings has just under $85,000 cash on hand, and will again face no opposition on the primary ballot.

To put that number in perspective, Willey raised just over $2,000 during his 2016 campaign.

The major population center in HD 18, a district by and large in Northern Clay County, is Orange Park, a Jacksonville-area bedroom community.

Cummings was once mayor of Orange Park.

Locals bemoan arts budget cuts

Though there were only $64 million in budget vetoes in Gov. Scott’s final budget, Jacksonville area arts advocates felt the ax, per WJCT.

The cruelest cuts may be in arts funding.

“So while nearly 500 organizations are splitting $2.6 million, the legislature approved more than $4 million in arts and culture projects for just nine organizations. But Scott vetoed six of them Friday, including the largest arts and culture award: $1.6 million toward expanding and renovating the military museum at Camp Blanding.”

“For smaller organizations, it’ll mean less access to their programs, and it will mean fewer programs,” said one arts advocate.

“Compared to this session’s $2.6 million for arts grants, last year the legislature approved nearly $25 million for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The year before it was $32 million.

Brosche seeks cooperation with Curry

Can Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche and Mayor Lenny Curry get along?

Skeptics say no; per WJCT, however, Brosche says yes.

“We’re both very passionate about the city of Jacksonville and our responsibilities — what we believe is best for Jacksonville. At the end of the day, there’s no reason why we can’t work together. We’ve had meetings,” she said. “We’ve met since the forced meeting on Feb. 14, and we may see things differently.”

Can’t we all just get along?

Brosche also discussed the controversial decision to require oaths at JEA special committee meetings.

“I think we were aware of our options going forward and I do have a hard time connecting with people being afraid to tell the truth. That’s what we were after,” she said. “We were after consistently administering the oath to everyone that came forward, so no one was singled out.”

JEA CEO Paul McElroy will be subpoenaed March 29 after having refused to take the oath. Meanwhile, Curry’s chief administrative officer, Sam Mousa, offered emailed responses to the committee’s questions.

Marijuana changes deferred

Ordinance 2018-75 would revise extant code relative to medical cannabis. However, it has been delayed for two weeks.

Cannabis conundrum will wait two weeks for resolution.

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

The ordinance would change things, allowing dispensaries anywhere in the city, including within 500 feet of a school. The previous zoning categories would be revoked.

The bill was in the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety committee Monday, and there were questions galore.

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

Counties do have the right to ban dispensaries entirely if they have no ordinances on the books. But because there was an existing ordinance, bill sponsor Matt Schellenberg said the county could not ban dispensaries, even as individual cities have done this.

This bill, which only applies to the city of Jacksonville, will be deferred, with multiple Council members having questions about how to bring the local ordinance in line with state law.

JEA Straw Ballot bill pushed back

Ordinance 2018-141 would set a public straw vote referendum on the November 2018 ballot regarding selling more than 10 percent of JEA. The bill is sponsored by two council Democrats who have issues with the process so far on the grounds of transparency and other woes: John Crescimbeni and Garrett Dennis.

No shenanigans, or else, says John Crescimbeni.

Transportation, Energy and Utilities chair Al Ferraro moved to defer one cycle so it can sync up with 2018-142, another referendum bill that would require the approval of a sale of 10 percent or more of JEA.

A bill sponsor was skeptical of Ferraro’s motives.

“If I detect any shenanigans on delaying 141, we’ll have to do it the hard way and get petitions,” vowed Crescimbeni. “I’ll give it another couple of cycles, but we’re on the clock.”

A citizen’s initiative, asserted Crescimbeni, would have a time-prohibitive impact.

This bill comes back, presumably, in two weeks.

Meanwhile, Councilmen Matt Schellenberg and Bill Gulliford met to discuss the pros and cons of a JEA sale Wednesday.

The JEA Board also intends to set up its own select committee to explore what a sale means.

Fentanyl-laced cocaine latest OD trend

A representative of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department noted in a Monday meeting of a City Council panel that ‘fentanyl-laced cocaine’ is a rising overdose trend.

Fentanyl has a new vessel, warns Bill Gulliford and the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue.

Jacksonville currently has a pilot program treating overdose victims, offering them treatment after the case of overdoses.

The program tests for 17 different adulterants, spanning a wide pharmacological range.

Previous concerns have been fentanyl-based heroin, suggesting that street dealers are finding new markets.

Councilman Bill Gulliford, who pushed for this program, notes that the program seems to be working.

However, the new lacing presents a new worry.

“Cocaine laced with fentanyl is prevalent now. In recent toxicology reports, every sample of cocaine had fentanyl in it,” Gulliford said. “The scary part of this is it’s becoming more widespread. There are incidents of this used in counterfeit Xanax.”

Gulliford noted that young people often combine Xanax and alcohol, and urged that parents warn kids about the potentiality of a new, dangerous alteration being marketed to them.

Peppers leaves KHA board, isn’t salty

Joseph Peppers‘ bid for the CEO slot in Jacksonville’s Kids Hope Alliance has been controversial, given he was on the new board.

A resignation tendered Sunday evening should remove some of that controversy.

“After careful prayer and consideration,” Peppers wrote, “I have decided to submit my resignation from the Kids Hope Alliance Board. I am making this decision to ensure the Kids Hope Alliance gets off to a great start and that its integrity and reputation remain completely without blemish.”

Joe Peppers steps back from the Jacksonville’s Kids Hope Alliance.

“I am honored to remain a candidate for the CEO position. If the board and the mayor believe that I am the best person for the job, I will do my best to represent the organization, the board, and the city of Jacksonville in the very best light which it so deserves,” Peppers added.

Peppers’ appointment process to the board was also notable.

Councilman Garrett Dennis had a sharp exchange with a member of Curry’s staff during Dennis’ interview of Peppers.

Dennis thought it was irregular that the Mayor’s Office was “babysitting nominees,” and Dennis and Curry had words after the interview, per Dennis.

The Kids Hope Alliance interviewed candidates Friday for the ongoing search for a permanent CEO and Peppers was among them.

Appointed 

Gov. Scott announced the appointment of J. Palmer Clarkson to the Jacksonville Port Authority.

Clarkson, 61, of Jacksonville, is the president and chief executive officer of Bridgestone HosePower. He succeeds Joseph York for a term through September 30, 2021.

The appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

Fiorentino Group moves to Southbank

Government relations firm The Fiorentino Group will be staying in downtown Jacksonville but will soon be operating from the 13th floor of Riverplace Tower, on the Southbank of the St. Johns River.

For more than a decade, the Fiorentino Group has leased space on the Northbank, in The Carling building at 31 W. Adams St.

The Fiorentino Group is pulling the trigger on a move to Southbank.

President Marty Fiorentino told the Jacksonville Daily Record that recent growth requires more space for the firm. Moving close to the Rogers Towers law firm, which runs out of Riverplace Tower, made sense, he said.

“We have a strategic alliance with the Rogers Towers law firm,” Fiorentino said. “We think that will be great synergy.”

The nine-person Fiorentino team will add another person in the next few months, as well as two more staff members in its Tallahassee office.

“We just came off a great legislative session,” Fiorentino said.

Since the Carling lease expired, he expects the move to happen sometime in May.

NE Florida circuit judge fights removal

A Northeast Florida circuit judge accused of inappropriate conduct during a 2016 election campaign and on the bench should not be removed, his attorney argued This week to the state Supreme Court.

As reported by the News Service of Florida, Judge Scott DuPont, who sits on the 7th Judicial Circuit bench, faces removal after a recommendation of a hearing panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. The 7th Judicial Circuit includes Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties.

Circuit Judge Scott DuPont.

DuPont is accused of publishing false allegations online about his 2016 election challenger, Malcolm Anthony, as well as Anthony’s family members. Among the other questionable actions include DuPont changing the times of first-appearance hearings in criminal cases during Memorial Day weekend in 2016 to accommodate his campaign schedule.

In a 40-page document filed with the court, DuPont’s attorney, Rutledge Liles, pointed to character witnesses and other judges supporting DuPont.

Liles recognized DuPont will be “subject to sanctions” but wrote that he should not be removed from the bench. “Judge DuPont has admitted and apologized for the mistakes he made,” Liles wrote. “Given the undisputed fact that the only testimony regarding his present fitness to remain in office has been uniformly and overwhelmingly positive, we request that this Court allow him to continue to serve the 7th Judicial Circuit.”

Dinosaur beef

Per the Jacksonville Business Journal, it’s curtains for “dinosaur” Southeastern Grocers, as marketplace competitors have models that can’t be matched.

Competitors like Trader Joe’s make multiple times the money that Winn Dixie does per square foot, an analyst said.

Winn Dixie: A shopping dinosaur?

Augmenting the problem: the stores are actually too big for single tenants to take over, and often too close to Publix and the like.

Winn Dixie will close more Jacksonville stores in the coming weeks.

WJCT noted that execs for the parent company, Southeastern Grocers, will actually have a harder time finding new gigs than those on the retail side.

Gondola over the river?

According to the Jacksonville Daily Record, an ambitious development proposal may lead to a gondola over the St. Johns River.

“The Jag-Wire could move several thousand people per hour between the station on the Southbank, a proposed station on East Bay Street at the old Duval County Courthouse and City Hall Annex property and a third station near EverBank Field, which will become TIAA Bank Field.”

Developer Mike Balanky is proposing a gondola system in downtown Jacksonville.

Alas, there is a catch: per potential developer Michael Balanky, it would need to be a public-private partnership.

As well, for the numbers to work, a new convention center would need to go up.

Time will tell.

First phase of regional transportation center to open soon

The Jacksonville Intercity Bus Terminal, the first phase of the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center, is about to open on 1111 W. Forsyth St. in the LaVilla community.

The first occupant of the new $58-million, 9,100-square-foot project is Greyhound, moving from its longstanding location at 10 N. Pearl St. Eventually, the facility will hold other providers, like low-fare intercity bus service Megabus, which had been using the Skyway stop across West Bay Street from the Prime Osborn Convention Center, the location of the new JTA regional center.

The first phase of the Jacksonville Intercity Bus Terminal is set to open soon (photo via Florida Times-Union).

In April, USGBC Northeast Florida and AIA Jacksonville will host VIP and media tours of the first phase. The intercity bus terminal will improve Greyhound’s access to highways and other transportation systems with additional passenger services, amenities that include food service.

Officials tell the Florida Times-Union that the West Forsyth Street site will be energy efficient and is expected to receive LEED Silver designation. Among the plans for Phase II will be a pedestrian bridge connecting the bus terminal to a proposed JTA bus transfer station and administration building.

Jacksonville Bold for 3.16.18 — Bottom line

The 2018 Legislative Session finally wrapped. Now, in front of us, the madcap dash to the 2018 primaries in August is about to hit full stride.

For Jacksonville area voters, especially Democrats, these are exciting times. From competitive races for Congress to state Senate and state House, there are choices on the ballot. And narratives.

The hanky drops; now the post-mortem begins. Photo credit: Hali Tauxe of the Tallahassee Democrat.

We will have them all for you in the coming months.

Speaking of that Legislative Session, Jacksonville did relatively well — $12.5 million, to be precise, for the Talleyrand Connector.

And we even have good news on other topics … including the right to yell DUUUUUUU-VALL … which (apparently) was in doubt.

Northeast Florida among Session’s big winners

Nobody expected a tragedy like Parkland to suck all the oxygen out of the Legislature’s Regular Session. Lobbyists were left scrambling to save their clients’ priorities as lawmakers hustled to rejigger the budget to accommodate hundreds of millions of dollars for school safety and mental health initiatives.

Some survived, many did not; although that’s no different from any other 60-day tumble in the Capitol.

That said, the past year has been an eventful one for Northeast Florida: Rob Bradley became Appropriations Chairman and performed like a seasoned professional. Future House Speaker Paul Renner capably handled his chamber’s tax package. Sen. Travis Hutson took some major steps toward becoming a future presiding officer.

Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley (shown here with Denise Grimsley) is one of the reasons Northeast Florida is in the win column.

And don’t forget Sen. Audrey Gibson, who ascended to the role of Leader-designate of the Senate Democrats.

If only there were a Jacksonville-based lobbying firm that works with them all … oh wait, there is — The Fiorentino Group, as well as Southern Strategy Group’s Matt Brockelman and Deno Hicks.

Lawson talks access to capital in Jacksonville

At the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Monday Morning, Rep. Al Lawson and Rep. James Comer helmed a Congressional field hearing for the Small Business Committee regarding access to capital disparities.

Access to capital disparities disproportionately impact female and minority-owned businesses, and the hearing in Jacksonville was intended to discuss potential remedies to the challenge.

Al Lawson noted these conversations are happening throughout the country.

“Capital is the lifeblood of any business,” Lawson said, noting that the average African-American startup is 18 percent less likely than white business owners to get help from the lending industry.

“Investors are predisposed to a preference to people who are similar to them,” Lawson added, and to that end, Monday’s hearing was intended to help women and minority-owned businesses voice their needs in the marketplace.

Brown appeals conviction

For great moments in ironic ledes, check out this chestnut from Roll Call:

The similarities between former House members and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers are few. But disgraced former Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida and Jon Bon Jovi are both livin’ on a prayer.

Gotta hold on to what we’ve got …

Last week, Brown’s attorney filed a 76-page appeal to her conviction on fraud and tax evasion charges, saying the judge in the case wrongfully removed a juror who claimed a “higher power” told him Brown was not guilty,

“The district court reversibly erred when it questioned a juror who had voted to acquit Congresswoman Brown,” the appeal states, “and then dismissed the juror over [a] defense objection based on nothing more than the juror having prayed for guidance and [believing] that he received guidance from the Holy Spirit that Congresswoman Brown was not guilty.”

Appeals on these grounds so far have flopped, and this one likely will also. Notable: prosecutors objected to the motion, saying it went over word count.

Fundraisers for Levine, Gillum

Two major Democratic candidates for Governor plan Jacksonville-area stops this week, as fundraising efforts continue for the August primary.

Philip Levine plans a “cocktail party” event Thursday evening, with a nascent host committee including Mark Frisch, Matt Kane and Ted Stein, among others.

The event honoring the Miami Beach Mayor will be at the Beaches Museum in Jacksonville Beach and will kick off at 6 p.m.

Philip Levine and Andrew Gillum will each be passing the hat in Jacksonville.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will have his own Jacksonville area event as well, from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, at the home of Erica and Colin Connor in Ponte Vedra Beach.

A minimum $50 buy-in is requested to attend the Gillum affair.

Levine and Gillum have had different approaches to campaign finance in this campaign.

Levine has spent over $4.6 million of personal funds on his campaign.

Gillum, without recourse to that kind of personal wealth, has had slower fundraising than other significant candidates and had just under $800,000 cash on hand.

Talleyrand Connector cash leads budget haul

Unless Gov. Rick Scott casts a surprising veto, it looks as if Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will get state money for the “Talleyrand Connector,” which tears down the current Hart Bridge offramps that would activate Bay Street and help traffic flow to the port.

The Talleyrand Connector: Jacksonville’s big budget win in 2018.

As the Florida Times-Union reported, $12.5 million of state money made it into the budget. Curry had personally lobbied regional and state power brokers and the capital moved from a $1 million placeholder to the full appropriation sought.

Jacksonville still seeks other money — specifically, $25 million from the Feds for an infrastructure grant — but city officials tell us that they could begin the project with the state money regardless.

By far, the Talleyrand money was the most prominent get from the state in this year’s budget.

For a deep dive into how Jacksonville got that money, read more here.

So handy

The Tampa Bay Times took a look at a last-minute move from Sen. Bradley that benefited a client of lobbyist Brian Ballard.

Handy workers: independent contractors after all.

“The amendment created a new chapter of the Florida statutes for online handyman services like Handy. The new statutes make clear that the handymen used by Handy are independent contractors, not employees.”

“Senators approved it after barely 10 minutes of discussion. Immediately after, Sen. Dennis Baxley … walked across the Senate floor to shake Bradley’s hand,” the Times article asserted.

“I don’t think anybody’s rights or responsibilities changed with what we did,” Bradley said. “What we did is ensure that there will not be litigation on these questions.”

Record dings Hutson for last-minute ‘stealth annexation’ try

Sen. Hutson ran afoul of the St. Augustine Record this week for attempting to move some St. Johns County land that is part of the Nocatee land tract to Duval County.

The Record wondered why Travis Hutson was trying to pad Duval tax rolls.

The reason: The owners of the land (the Davises of Winn-Dixie fame) want the property in Duval.

The charge: “Nocatee has been given a pass by County Commissioners over the years to gut the affordable and workforce housing components and to renege on all its plans to put commercial property within the development. Perhaps more correctly, Nocatee is locating nearly all its commercial component into the sliver of land that juts into Duval County. Apparently, Duval might be considerably more zoning and impact fee-affable than we are.”

The plan failed this session … however, the Record vows vigilance.

“Much more likely is they saw that the window for approval was closing too quickly — and word got out. Better to quietly yank if from the bill and find another way to skin that cat next session. We bet they’ll be trying. You can bet we’ll be watching.”

Slow February in legislative fundraising

February offered a unique opportunity for people running against incumbents, who can’t fundraise during the Legislative Session, to make up ground in fundraising.

But — at least in competitive Northeast Florida races — they didn’t take up the gauntlet.

Some examples:

SD 6: Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown raised no money in February, his first month challenging Sen. Audrey Gibson for the Democratic Party nomination. Gibson, who couldn’t raise money, has $121,410 on hand.

Reggie Brown has some ground to make up in SD 6.

HD 12: Republican Clay Yarborough has over $122,000 on hand, despite not being able to fundraise in February. Democrat Tim Yost, who did fundraise in February, brought in $1,429 and had $3,300 cash on hand.

HD 13: Incumbent Democrat Tracie Davis has $35,715 on hand; her intraparty challenger, Roshanda Jackson, was in the race for five days in February and spent not one of them fundraising.

Read more here.

Council fundraising continues

With roughly a year before first elections in 2019 Jacksonville City Council races, now’s a good time to take a look at fundraising in selected races through February.

With $8,400 of new money in February, Matt Carlucci, a former Council Republican running for at-large Group 4, is still the clubhouse leader with just over $221,000 raised. Carlucci’s opponent, fellow former Council Republican Don Redman, has a lot of ground to make up. Word on the street is there will be more candidates in this one.

Can Don Redman make up the cash gap with Matt Carlucci? Doubtful.

As we reported last week, Republican Ron Salem has over $150,000 on hand in at-large Group 2. This number puts him well ahead of former Jacksonville Councilman Bill Bishop. Bishop raised just $2,000 and has just over $13,200 on hand. Democrat Darren Mason only entered the race in March.

In Jacksonville City Council District 14, Democrat Sunny Gettinger showed respectable first-month fundraising numbers in February, bringing in over $34,000. Gettinger still has a way to go to catch Republican Randy DeFoor, who raised $4,350 in March, and has nearly $90,000 on hand.

Read more here.

National attention for New Hope

The Florida Times-Union spotlights one of Jacksonville’s best-known nonprofits, Operation New Hope.

The Donald Trump administration has taken notice. Weeks after CEO Kevin Gay met with Jared Kushner to talk prison re-entry, the Springfield group hosted HUD Secretary Ben Carson doing a roundtable with former inmates who reformed their lives and got jobs with JAXPORT.

Ben Carson was in Jacksonville, all because of prison reform.

“It is the most bipartisan issue that our country has now,” Gay said. “Our country just needs something that we can all come around on. I don’t care where you are on the spectrum. Who can argue with improving public safety?”

As Florida Politics reported last week, Carson’s comments were a breath of fresh air from a Republican administration that postures as a law and order shop. Carson spoke at length about the penal system’s effects on young black men.

“Purely looking at the cost of someone who is incarcerated versus someone who is trying to bolster the economy,” Carson noted, “the difference is night and day. When we start to think about it that way, what it costs to train somebody, what it costs for someone to go to college, it costs more to keep somebody incarcerated.”

“It’s also costing us their own positive contributions and one of the things we need to realize about our young people is that we have so many in our penal system, particularly young black males, is that for every one we can keep from going down that path of self-destruction, it’s one less person we need to be afraid of or protect our family from,” Carson added.

Pinto named ’40 under 40′

This week, the Jacksonville Business Journal named Mark Pinto of the Fiorentino Group among 40 of Northeast Florida’s brightest, most promising professionals under the age of 40.

Congrats to Mark Pinto, one of Jacksonville’s ’40 under 40.’

In 2012, Pinto served as the Special Assistant to then-Republican Party of Florida Chair Curry, where he worked with House and Senate Leadership, members of the Florida Cabinet, and the Governor’s Office.

Pinto began his political career with Florida Senate President-designate Bill Galvano of Bradenton during his tenure as Rules Chair of the Florida House. He worked on Galvano’s first political campaign and served as his aide in the House.

Prior to his service in the House, Pinto worked for former Congressman Dan Miller, also from Bradenton, and has been active in local, state, and national politics, and has volunteered and raised funds for numerous political campaigns. He also recently served on the St. Johns County Chamber Economic Development Council.

Fanatics owner mulls NFL team purchase

Jacksonville’s Fanatics had all but cornered the market on licensed sports apparel. And soon, its owner may be moving from clothing to owning a franchise.

Per the Florida Times-Union: Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin is seriously interested in making a run at owning the Carolina Panthers.

The Carolina Panthers are up for sale, and the new owner may have a local connection.

“Rubin would be entering a somewhat crowded field of bidders for the Panthers, who were put up for sale by owner Jerry Richardson late last year following allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct. According to ESPN, other bidders include a hedge fund billionaire and the founder and CEO of a debt collection firm.”

“Rubin, 45, is worth an estimated $3 billion by Forbes and would be a familiar name to the league’s other owners. Last May, the NFL invested $95 million for a 3 percent stake in Fanatics. That deal boosted Fanatics’ value to more than $3.17 billion at the time.”

DUUUUUVALLL for Y’all

Another piece of football news. In March, no less.

First Coast News reports that “The Jaguars, who caught flak from local groups after trademarking the phrase, “Duuuval,” have seemingly dropped the trademark tag from their social media after receiving criticism for the move.”

It belongs to the world now.

From the Jags: “It’s important to note that the Jaguars have not submitted an application to register the wordmark ‘DUUUVAL.’ The only actions taken to date were intended to protect our ability to continue to use this specific wordmark to promote our fan base and our team in the future, given that it became associated with our fans and the team on a national level this past season. In addition, even if we were to seek trademark registration, it would not prohibit any fan from continuing to say or use the word Duval in general.”

Long story short, keep yelling it from the mountaintop.

Jacksonville Bold for 3.9.18 — Cheat sheet

Jacksonville Bold for 3.9.18 — Cheat sheet

The Legislative Session is ending; hopefully, sooner than later.

And campaign season is heating up.

New candidates in state House races … and old back stories.

And Mayor Lenny Curry  — “Our Mayor,” per the branding — is seeking four more years.

Former City Council members seek a return to the dais.

And so on.

The next 14 months are going to be wild in Duval County.

Consider Bold your cheat sheet.

Rutherford pushes school safety bill

Schools should not be gun free zones, says U.S. Rep. John Rutherford.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Rutherford said last week.

John Rutherford took to Fox News, touting his Stop School Violence Act.

Rutherford believes his Stop School Violence Act  offers security measures, including having teachers look for “warning signs” of “potential mass casualty shooters.”

Rutherford also dodged questions on divergences between him and Donald Trump that came to the fore during a televised White House meeting last week.

Additionally, he said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a “unique opportunity” to change the culture in the Department of Justice. He didn’t offer much detail on that point, however.

Lawson plans Jacksonville roundtable

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson will host a House Small Business Committee hearing Monday, March 12, at 10 a.m. at the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Al Lawson will be in Jacksonville next week.

“Disparities in Access to Capital: What the Federal Government Is Doing to Increase Support for Minority-Owned Firms,” per Lawson’s office, will “examine the unique challenges minorities and women-owned businesses face when seeking funding from the Small Business Administration, traditional banks, private investment capital and additional financing mechanisms.”

The hearing will explore ways to overcome difficulties in securing financing by minority-owned businesses.

Davis’ parents back Brown

Alvin Brown was Jacksonville mayor when Jordan Davis was gunned down in 2012 at a gas station on the Southside.

Jordan Davis’ death is still memorable in Jacksonville.

In the years since, Brown has demonstrated support and friendship to Davis’ parents, and that support was reciprocated, via an official endorsement for Congress Wednesday.

Ron Davis and Lucy McBath, offered a joint statement, one that invoked both the Parkland massacre and the National Rifle Association.

“Nearly six years ago, our 17-year-old son Jordan was gunned down at a gas station in Jacksonville for simply playing music too loudly. The recent tragedy in Parkland shows just how little progress we’ve made, and how much more we still have to do, to keep our communities and kids safe from gun violence. This issue is truly one of life or death, and the stakes are too high for more excuses from do-nothing lawmakers, with our children’s blood on their hands, who ignore what’s in their heart to focus on what’s in their pocket. They readily support ‘Stand Your Ground’ and side with the NRA. Alvin Brown is a dedicated public servant with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby, and we know he will help make our country a safer, better place. We are proud to support his campaign.”

St. Johns Sheriff backs Johns in CD 6

St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns scored a significant endorsement Wednesday, from St. Johns Sheriff David Shoar, in the crowded GOP primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

David Shoar stayed close to home with his Congressional endorsement.

Shoar cited Johns’ “track record of supporting our public safety officers. He has done so on the St. Johns County Commission and will do so in Washington.”

Shoar pivoted from that track record to asserting that Johns was “someone that understands what it takes to keep our country safe, not only at home but at our border.”

Johns said it was “always humbling when such a highly respected law enforcement officer steps up to endorse.”

Shoar “has been on the front lines and knows what it takes to keep us safe,” Johns said. “I will rely on him and the public safety communities to make sure that the laws passed in Washington protect citizens against murderous foreign gangs and solving the nation’s opioid crisis. We need to listen to those tasked with protecting us for solutions to these issues.”

The GOP field in the district, one that runs from St. Johns County south to Volusia, has some candidates already, including former Ormond Beach state Rep. Fred Costello, businessman John Ward, and former Green Beret and current Fox News commentator Michael Waltz.

One of these Republicans will emerge from the primary to face likely Democratic nominee Nancy Soderberg in the general election.

Hogan knows best?

The race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jay Fant, an Attorney General hopeful, in Jacksonville’s House District 15 got more crowded on the Republican side Wednesday.

Joseph Hogan, the son of Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, entered the GOP scrum.

Family feud, redux: will bad blood between Mike Hogan and Lenny Curry play into HD 15 scrap?

Hogan will face attorney Wyman Duggan and yacht broker Mark Zeigler in the primary.

Hogan made an audacious play during the Mayor’s race three years ago. He endorsed Democrat Alvin Brown over Republican Lenny Curry, crossing party lines despite what he called Brown’s “failed administration.”

“I didn’t make my decision lightly,” related Hogan in a series of text messages. “I plan to run for City Council one day, and I know that supporting Alvin could hurt me with the Party folk, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

“I don’t look forward to Lenny losing, but someone has to win, and I think the people of Jacksonville are better off with Mayor Alvin Brown,” Hogan added.

The seeds for that endorsement, Hogan related, were planted four years prior, in the aftermath of his father’s narrow defeat at the hands of the Brown operation, upon which Curry said that “excuses are for serial losers,” a shot across the bow of the Hogan campaign that Joe took personally.

Interestingly, Hogan filed for the race just hours after Curry filed to run again for Mayor.

Curry’s chief political strategist, Tim Baker, is running the Wyman Duggan campaign, suggesting that there may be intrigue through August in this race.

Daniels’ NPA opponent touts fundraising

State Rep. Kim Daniels, an iconoclastic Jacksonville Democrat, has the Jacksonville political establishment behind her.

Among her January donors: members of the Rummell family, the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, and local dog track interests.

Rep. Kim Daniels’ NPA opponent thinks he has a shot; time will tell.

Daniels has nearly $16,000 cash on hand; however, her NPA opponent, Darcy Richardson, believes that he can be competitive in the November election.

Richardson claims to have raised “more than $6,100 as of yesterday. Most of those contributions will appear on my initial campaign finance filing covering the 12-13 days since opening my campaign account on Feb. 16. The balance — approximately $1,400 — will be reflected in the month of March.”

“That’s more than Republican Christian Whitfield raised during the entire 2016 election cycle. I haven’t begun to do any serious fundraising yet — that’ll happen over the next couple of months. And despite the district’s unfavorable demographics, I’m confident that I’ll be able to raise enough to put up a fight against arguably one of the most reprehensible and outlandish state lawmakers in the country,” Richardson adds.

Jacksonville Democrats have discussed primarying Daniels, but any expectations of that should be tempered by the incumbent’s strong community support.

It remains to be seen if Daniels can also be capsized by an NPA candidate.

Former Duval Dem chair running for state House

Neil Henrichsen, a former chair of the Duval County Democratic Party, is running for a state House seat in Volusia County.

He will face Republican incumbent state Rep. David Santiago of Deltona.

Former Duval County Democratic Party chair Neil Henrichsen is running for a State House seat in Volusia County.

Henrichsen, 55, of Deltona, is the second Democrat in the race. But the other, Tyran Rayaad Basil, has raised little money and shows minimal campaign activity — especially given his early start in April.

“Volusia County has always been a big home … and that’s a seat that should be Democratic,” he said. “It has a handful more registered Democrats and a representative in Santiago who has not done a lot for the district or the state.”

Henrichsen said he expects Santiago to be vulnerable for one vote. Two weeks ago, with survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre looking on, Santiago voted against allowing floor debate on House Bill 219, which would prohibit the sale, transfer or possession of assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Curry files for re-election

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Except for a brief period when Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was discussed as a possible chief financial officer appointment, there has been little doubt that he would run for re-election.

The first inkling of that effort’s branding emerged Wednesday morning, via a new cover photo on his campaign Facebook page.

Lenny Curry is running for re-election. Not a surprise, but worthy of note.

The second, more definitive nugget: Curry filing for re-election Wednesday morning.

The third indication: a new political committee, Jacksonville On the Rise, which launched a six-figure TV and digital ad campaign Wednesday.

As was the case during his original campaign, the logo incorporates a bridge motif; the message is minimalistic: “Our mayor.”

For those familiar with the “One City, One Jacksonville” slogan, it’s clear that candidate Curry will run as a uniter, not a divider, in his re-election bid.

Will anyone serious jump into this race against him?

New Curry ad touts first-term accomplishments

Jacksonville on the Rise, a new local political committee designed to boost Mayor Lenny Curry‘s re-election bid, released its first ad this week: a six-figure buy.

To see the ad, click the image below:

As one would expect, the ad extols Curry’s first term accomplishments, framing them in a holistic, big picture narrative that makes the case that the mayor has kept the city safe and has instituted meaningful reforms.

The ad trumpets investments in technology, such as ShotSpotter, and Curry adding 180 positions to the Sheriff’s Office and 225 Fire and Rescue workers, a fulfillment of a campaign promise to remedy public safety staffing shortages.

Additionally, the spot mentions children’s program reforms, via the Kids Hope Alliance: “a partnership with teachers and community leaders who help our children see their dreams become reality.”

The ad also discusses “balancing the budget without raising taxes” and “increased transparency” and “accountability” to the “taxpayers.”

Toward the close, the spot describes the city’s reaction to the hurricanes that came through in back to back years.

“We came together as a city,” Curry says in the voice-over.

Re-election bids for Brown, Ferraro

Let the “four more years” chants begin for two first-term Jacksonville City Council members.

On Tuesday, Democratic Councilwoman Katrina Brown launched her bid for re-election in District 8. Days before that, Republican Al Ferraro launched his re-election bid in District 2.

Al Ferraro and Katrina Brown will run for re-election. Of the two, Ferraro has the clearer path.

Brown and Ferraro face different paths to re-election.

Brown has issues other incumbents don’t. She has run afoul of the police union and has gotten tough coverage for a failed economic development deal from her family businesses.

Because of these perceived vulnerabilities, Brown faces a bevy of challengers: Diallo SekouSeabrooks, Michael Sell, Brandon Byers, Joenetta Dixon, Tameka Gaines Holly, and Albert Wilcox are all in the race against her.

Jacksonville municipal elections involve a “first election” in March, a blanket primary that sees the top two finishers move on to the May election, assuming no one clears 50 percent + 1 in March.

Expect the District 8 race to go the distance.

In Ferraro’s race, one can expect much less drama.

Ferraro has been a steady presence for his district in Council, advocating for issues such as drainage and other infrastructure.

His district is heavily Republican, and he is so far unopposed.

Redman seeks Council return

Of all the candidates in the 2019 Jacksonville City Council races, veteran Republican politician Matt Carlucci has the most impressive fundraising: $221,150 raised, with over $208,000 on hand.

Carlucci was alone on the ballot for at-large Group 4; however, that has changed with the filing of another man looking to return to City Council: Don Redman.

Redman, a Republican who represented a Southside Jacksonville district from 2007 to 2015, has been noted for a certain brand of social conservatism.

Don Redman has a certain conservative ‘charm.’

As the Florida Times-Union reported, he was best known on Council for asking a Muslim to “pray to his God” at the podium during a Council meeting, and for asking a lesbian at a different Council meeting if she considered herself male or female.

Redman ran most recently in the Republican primary in House District 12, a seat won by Clay Yarborough.

Redman’s fundraising was lackluster; he didn’t even raise $30,000 in the 17-month duration of his campaign. He garnered under 13 percent of the vote for a seat that encompasses his old City Council district.

It remains to be seen if Redman has broad appeal in a citywide race.

Salem clears $150K raised-mark

The money chase in the Jacksonville City Council at-large group 2 race continues to go Republican Ron Salem‘s way.

Ron Salem hits a fundraising milestone.

February saw Salem clear $150,000 cash on hand between hard money and lucre in his “Moving Jacksonville Forward” political committee.

Salem brought in $6,800 in new money to his campaign account in February, despite a $1,000 refund to Gate Petroleum.

The vast majority of the new money came from the energy sector and nursing home interests.

All told, Salem has over $143,500 on hand in his campaign account and an additional $8,000 in his committee.

Salem is well ahead of his two opponents.

Former Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop has not filed February numbers yet, but had just over $13,000 at the end of January.

And Democrat Darren Mason just launched his campaign in March.

Toxic proposal

Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, plans to develop an entertainment district on a stadium parking lot may be complicated by unremediated environmental issues.

“Jaguars President Mark Lamping said in January the organization plans to turn Parking Lot J, an almost 10-acre plot west of the Daily’s Place amphitheater and a nearby retention pond, into a 250,000-square-foot entertainment district,” the Record asserts.

A planned entertainment center for Parking Lot J hits a toxic speed bump.

However, there is oil under the pavement, rendering the property usable only for industrial purposes, per the city.

Remediation would be a must. What is uncertain (at this time) is who will pay for it.

And the timetable thus far is uncertain; the Jaguars will address this matter next in April, at the annual State of the Franchise address.

Party foul

The internecine battles continue in the Republican Party of Duval County. The latest involves the county chair looking to purge the statewide chair of the Young Republicans.

County chair Karyn Morton wrote Florida Federation of Young Republicans chair Robbie Foster March 3, informing him of a motion to vote him out March 19.

A nasty note will go on Robbie Foster’s permanent record.

The cause: “highly disruptive outbursts” at the January meeting of the Duval County Republican Executive Committee. These were, per Morton, “the culmination of a pattern of disruptions over the past year … very loud outbursts and vulgar language … erratic behavior” that “frightened” REC stalwarts.

Morton offered Foster the chance to “avoid further embarrassment” by resigning before the March meeting.

Foster has no intention of resigning, he told Florida Politics Tuesday afternoon.

In fact, he sees the putsch as symbolic of rating Morton a broader issue with Morton’s leadership.

Read more here.

WJXT touts ratings win

In the world of Jacksonville television news, the February sweeps showed it was WJXT first … then everyone else.

All they do is win, win, win. No matter what.

The station cleaned up in morning news ratings, even against national competition. Evening and nighttime ratings told the same story, pointing to “THE Local Station” dominating the market.

Also worth noting: WJXT is the only one of the three local news operations with a dedicated city hall reporter, Jim Piggott.

Their operation often comes off as more old-school than the others, but at least in the Jacksonville market, that has worked up until now.

Times-Union sheds readership again

The group of those reading the Florida Times-Union in print continues to shrink, per the Jacksonville Daily Record.

Just 40,555 take the paper daily, down from over 44,000 just months ago.

Despite branding campaigns, subscription attrition continues.

Sundays also show attrition: down to 59,275 from 68.591.

Despite these drops, New Media (the parent company of GateHouse, which owns and operates the Times-Union and many other papers nationwide), sees a reason for optimism.

The belief is that the changes will start to show benefit in the next year.

Five Points: Will gentrification kill the vibe?

One recurrent storyline in Jacksonville development was revisited this week by the Florida Times-Union.

Is gentrification turning “funky” into “fancy” in Five Points?

Is the Five Points vibe dead?

Rent hikes have driven independent businesses out, with the replacements being “micro chains” with higher price points, per the article.

For those who have seen Five Points over the decades, the discussion is nothing new.

One might recall the rumors of American Apparel — back in the aughts (when that was a thing) — taking real estate in the neighborhood.

Over the years, Five Points has seen booms and busts — predicated on macroeconomic changes.

Those changes have included the rises and falls of nightclubs, coffee bars and so on.

Will gentrification hold this time?

That is the question: one that is not at all a new one.

Muckraker’s posthumous honor

Of all the journalists to work the Jacksonville market, none had a more enduring scope than recently departed Marvin Edwards.

Edwards, who died at 95 years old, wrote bristling exposes of local boondoggles almost until the end. He Was a columnist, an essayist, and a quote machine.

Longtime Jacksonville gadfly Marvin Edwards, who died at 95.

Consider these lines from a 2001 article in Florida Trend.

“This city will take a beating on the Super Bowl,” Edwards predicted. And after the national articles maligning the city’s lack of cabs and hotels and first-rate entertainment options, he was right.

“The No. 1 job of government is to serve the general public, not special interests,” Edwards said. “Jacksonville has a reputation of serving the special interests first. It’s worse now than ever.”

Spoiler alert: it never got better.

He called the donor class the “syndicate,” and it’s only for lack of gumption among his peers that phrase didn’t stick.

Edwards’ ultimate target, at least this century, was spending on the Jacksonville Jaguars; he maligned the lack of accountability of expenditures on matters ranging from bringing the team to Jacksonville to the aforementioned ill-fated Super Bowl.

“The city pledged some $3 million to the event, and ultimately spent $11 million. But despite requests from several local papers and auditors to the Jacksonville City Council for detailed financial accounting, city officials and the committee refused to provide receipts, contracts or other documentation. Although the committee was subsidized with city funds, staffed with several city employees and tasked with providing a public function on behalf of the city both the city and the committee claimed the agency’s records were not public.”

He was a gadfly. A muckraker. And the kind of journalist that doesn’t exist in this market anymore.

Now that he has passed on, it’s safe for the Jacksonville City Council to admit that he was right all along.

Read more here.

Postscripts

— Councilman Scott Wilson is the third person in the Jacksonville City Council VP race, joining Sam Newby and Danny Becton. Both Newby and Becton have one pledged supporter; the race is wide-open.

Rory Diamond, running to replace termed-out Bill Gulliford in Council District 13, has already banked $100,000 and has an all-star fundraiser for next week.

Rory Diamond is strong out of the gate in his bid to replace termed-out Bill Gulliford in Council District 13.

Lobbyists (Marty Fiorentino, Paul Harden, Steve Diebenow, Deno Hicks and Susie Wiles) are on board. Former Mayors (John Peyton and John Delaney) and Council Presidents-in-waiting (Aaron Bowman) are there also.

Diamond, a Tim Baker client, thus far is unopposed.

One wonders if Councilman Gulliford will endorse him … or will wait it out.

JAXPORT closer to Carnival deal

JAXPORT is eyeing its first multiyear contract with Carnival Cruise Lines.

This week, CEO Eric Green told the JAXPORT board he has been actively pursuing the agreement, and assured board members that negotiations are going well.

JAXPORT is close to inking its first multiyear deal with Carnival Cruise Lines.

As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, chief operating officer Fred Wong has been a critical part of the dialogue with Carnival. Wong worked with Carnival often as an assistant director at the Port of Miami before joining JAXPORT.

“It seemed as though we will go from a year-to-year contractual agreement to a multiyear contractual agreement,” said Green.

Carnival’s current contract expires May 1, Green said, and if the issue is not settled by then, an emergency board session could be called to provide an extension.

JAXPORT is continuing its strong first quarter, said CFO Michael Poole, with better-then-predicted vessel calls, container counts and revenue in January.

As the Port Authority looks toward the second phase of its harbor deepening project, JAXPORT is currently A rated by Moody’s and Fitch, essential in keeping interest rates low on its debt

With $193 million outstanding, JAXPORT is estimating liability to rise to $252 million by 2020 — bolstered by its share of the harbor deepening project, berth enhancements among other debts.

Despite that, Poole told board members he is confident JAXPORT can keep its A rating.

Crowley to open new Jacksonville cold-storage facility

Crowley Logistics is expanding its distribution capability in Florida with a second CrowleyFresh cold-storage facility.

The company is a division of Jacksonville-based Crowley Maritime Corp.

Crowley Logistics expands cold storage operations into Jacksonville with the opening of a second, temperature-controlled Florida warehouse.

Crowley’s second humidity and temperature-controlled facility will be located at its West 30th Street distribution center in Jacksonville. It will help boost cold-chain services between South Florida and Northeast Florida.

Crowley senior Vice President Frank Larkin said in a statement: “This second cold storage facility in Florida represents the latest in a series of service enhancements designed to increase the velocity of our customers’ supply chains, decrease total landed costs and offer seamless and reliable collaboration among the varying components of transport.”

The facility will handle perishables moving between the U.S., South America and the Caribbean and is designed for maximum food safety and avoid cross-contamination.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, CrowleyFresh is a partnership of Crowley Logistics and Miami-based Customized Brokers, which already have a facility in Miami; the new addition will expand the capability to 400,000 cubic feet of total refrigerated space and 117,000 square feet of dry storage space for non-perishables.

Customers love JAX

For the second year in a row, Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) ranked first among North American Airports for customer service.

The Airports Council International (ACI), the global airport trade association, named JAX among the leaders of the 2017 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards. JAX tied for first with Indianapolis International Airport.

ASQ is the industry’s only global benchmarking program to measure overall airport passenger satisfaction. The survey covers 34 performance indicators of the customer service experience: check-in; security; wayfinding; food/beverage and more.

Customers love JAX: The airport ranked first in the latest customer satisfaction survey.

The result is a comprehensive database of customer service experiences at each participating airport.

Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman said: “Whether an airline employee, custodial staff or a restaurant server, everyone plays an integral role ensuring a world-class airport experience. None more so than input from our travelers. Their insight lets us know when we’re doing well while also providing a roadmap for future improvements.”

ASQ is the only comprehensive program to survey passengers at the airport on their day of travel. Nearly three-quarters of the world’s top 100 busiest airports are part of the ASQ network; the program served 343 airports in 2017.

“Objective measurement and benchmarking are critical in driving performance in any business especially in such a competitive and dynamic one as an airport,” said Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World. “These winning airports have dedicated themselves to delivering a stellar customer experience.”

Jordan Davis’ parents back Alvin Brown for Congress

Alvin Brown was Jacksonville Mayor in 2012, when Jordan Davis was gunned down at a gas station on the Southside.

In the years since, Brown has demonstrated support and friendship to Davis’ parents, and that support was reciprocated, via an official endorsement for Congress Wednesday.

Ron Davis and Lucy McBath, offered a joint statement, one that invoked both the Parkland massacre and the National Rifle Association.

“Nearly six years ago, our 17-year-old son Jordan was gunned down at a gas station in Jacksonville for simply playing music too loudly. The recent tragedy in Parkland shows just how little progress we’ve made, and how much more we still have to do, to keep our communities and kids safe from gun violence. This issue is truly one of life or death, and the stakes are too high for more excuses from do-nothing lawmakers, with our children’s blood on their hands, who ignore what’s in their heart to focus on what’s in their pocket. They readily support ‘Stand Your Ground’ and side with the NRA. Alvin Brown is a dedicated public servant with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby, and we know he will help make our country a safer, better place. We are proud to support his campaign.”

Worth noting: Brown’s opponent in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, Al Lawson,  previously reported having taken NRA money last year. However, a staffer from his office asserted that was a clerical error.

“No parent should ever have to bury a child,” Brown asserted, “and it’s shameful that ‘leaders’ in Tallahassee and Washington refuse to protect their own constituents from gun violence. I am honored to receive Ron and Lucy’s support and fight alongside them for commonsense gun policies to ensure senseless deaths like Jordan’s never happen again. The preventable school shootings and continued violence on our streets must end before more of our children are killed going to school, getting gas or walking home. Enough is enough.”  

With Lawson poised to swing through Jacksonville for a couple of media events next week, and with the debate regarding school safety and gun control still going on in the House, it’s clear that with this endorsement and its framing, timing is everything.

Jacksonville Bold for 3.2.18 — March Madness

With competitive Democratic primaries, the tail end of the Legislative Session, and local City Hall intrigue, there is a lot to unpack.

However, we have not arrived at the point in the narrative with a great deal of resolution.

At least not yet.

In a literary sense, this is known as foreshadowing.

Money has not been raised or even reported. Endorsements have not been rolled out.

It is sort of like Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Power lines fill with feathered animals … a classic trope to build tension for actions ahead.

Tension mounts.

And what is to come could make some political careers … and break others.

Brown fundraises off Martin

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, a Democratic primary candidate in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, used the anniversary of Trayvon Martin‘s murder six years ago as part of a fundraising pitch Thursday.

Alvin Brown mentioned Trayvon Martin in a fundraising pitch, notable because of his silence six years prior.

In public remarks as Jacksonville Mayor, Brown did not mention Martin, who was gunned down in 2012 by George Zimmerman in Central Florida.

However, Brown’s fundraising in 2018 is a different matter.

“It is hard to believe, six years ago this week Trayvon was fatally shot for what can only be described as ‘looking suspicious.’ We must always take a moment to reflect and remember the loss of lives like Trayvon,” Brown asserted.

“As we have conversations and push for gun reform, it is important to remember the Trayvons. His death and all those highlighted in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and those before them must serve a reminder that reform is needed. No one should be killed or discriminated against because of the color of their skin,” Brown added.

Brown’s mentioning of #BlackLivesMatter was also interesting, given that in two years in which his tenure as Mayor overlapped with the movement, he didn’t mention it explicitly either.

Read more here.

Money changes everything

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford thinks that stopping school shootings is “about how much we want to pay,” he told WJXT late last month.

The former Jacksonville Sheriff thinks more money should be spent to prevent the next Parkland.

Rutherford said:

“I think more is going to take place at the state level. And I also think you’re going to see some change at the national level. But … You know, security for schools is really a district driven issue.

“You know, we had discussed last week about dropping (filing) the bill ‘Stop Violence in Schools Act of 2018,’ which focuses on hardening the target of the schools.

“Teaching individuals what are the warning signs to look for in these individuals would later become mass killers. And then also setting up an anonymous tip line for folks to be able to call in … and to report those signs that they see.

“So the question becomes: How many, how much do you want to spend to make sure that this does not happen again?

“And then you hear people say, ‘Well, let’s not do police. Let’s do school resource officers who actually work for the school board.

“They may not be as well trained as the police … but they carry guns, and they’re qualified and all that.’

“And then they say, ‘That’s too expensive. So, let’s, you know, if we just put guns in the hands of a few teachers that could be trained, you know, let’s do that. That’s not as expensive.’

“So that’s why I say: How much do you want to pay for what kind of security?”

Rutherford draws Democratic challenger

Ges Selmont, a lawyer making his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, rolled out his campaign for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 4th Congressional District last weekend via news release.

Remarkably, there are no pictures of Ges Selmont on the internet.

Selmont will be the second Democrat vying for the nomination in a district that elected Rutherford in 2016 by over 40 points; author Monica DePaul is already in the race, though evidence of a formal campaign structure or fundraising is elusive thus far for her, and her most high-profile interview (a half-hour on WJCT) saw her struggle with even friendly questions.

“People from New York, Boston, Connecticut, and LA have expressed support. This race will be on the national radar,” Selmont said. “We will have to run a new, fresh, energetic and innovative campaign.”

Time will tell if that will unseat the former Jacksonville Sheriff.

Soderberg snags EMILY’s List endorsement

In another sign that Ambassador Nancy Soderberg has all but locked the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, EMILY’s List endorsed her Wednesday.

Nancy Soderberg continues to pile up endorsements from left-leaning groups and unions.

Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, released the following statement:

“A former deputy national security adviser to President [Bill] Clinton and ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg knows what it means to take on tough jobs. She has used her positions to advocate change, move our country forward, and defend the rights of our citizens.”

“In her current role as a professor at the University of North Florida and a small-business owner, she is deeply invested in her community and will do what it takes to ensure that the working families of the 6th District have a voice in Washington.”

“Nancy will fight for access to quality health care, affordable higher education, and common-sense policies that will protect our environment,” Schriock asserted.

“It’s time for a representative who will actually fight for working families, which is why EMILY’s List is strongly supporting Nancy Soderberg for Congress,” Schriock added.

Fant blasts Broward Sheriff for Parkland stand down

Rep. Jay Fant, a Republican candidate for State Attorney, renewed his calls for Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to step down in the wake of reportage that deputies stood down, as did the school resource officer, in a mass shooting that killed 17 in Parkland earlier this month.

Jay Fant has zero tolerance for the Parkland stand down.

Fant, a signatory to a letter from House Speaker Richard Corcoran on this matter, made his case on CNN Monday morning.

“We’ve seen enough from Sheriff Israel,” Fant said, noting that Israel said he demonstrated “amazing leadership” but has not demonstrated accountability in the wake of the stand down of one to four officers.

Gov. Rick Scott has avoided calls to remove Israel, instead tasking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

Fant did not pan this move.

“The governor is keenly sensitive to what is happening in Broward, that’s why he launched the FDLE investigation, but it’s not going to get better for Sheriff Israel, it’s going to get worse,” Fant said, referring to expected damning findings from the Coral Springs Police Department’s investigation of the incident.

Fant wants an independent prosecutor to look into what happened, he said.

In the wake of the Parkland homicides, Fant has been on national television with some frequency. He had a segment on “Meet the Press Daily” on MSNBC last week.

Former Daniels aide to primary Davis

The intrigue continues in Jacksonville area Democratic primaries, with yet another incumbent facing a primary challenge on the 2018 ballot.

The latest competitive race is in House District 13, where incumbent Rep. Tracie Davis will face a challenge from Rep. Kim Daniels‘ former district secretary, Roshanda Jackson.

Tracie Davis, a former deputy Duval County Supervisor of Elections, is a first-term State Rep.

Jackson said that she is not “running against” Davis, whom she doesn’t know. And she says that “no elected official has encouraged [her] to run.” And she takes pains to note that she doesn’t want her bid for office to be conflated with that of Rep. Daniels.

“I hope the race is peaceful,” Jackson said.

Davis, when asked about the primary challenge, noted that she is focused on the Legislative Session, with gun safety and school hardening bills among her priorities, and will turn her election to the campaign after Session.

This filing comes just weeks after Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown launched his primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson.

A persistent narrative has surfaced that Brown was put up to running by Mayor Lenny Curry, which both Brown and Curry deny.

Democratic Party insiders don’t discount that narrative, but also note that another source of these primary challenges may be the post-Corrine Brown struggle for primacy in the Jacksonville Democratic machine.

‘Coward’ attacks female Fischer aide

One legislative staffer, Sadie Haire, district aide for Jacksonville Republican Jason Fischer, a supporter of the Second Amendment, got more than words from a gun control proponent.

Sadie Haire had a scare in Jason Fischer’s district office last week.

“On Wednesday, a man — a coward really — forced himself into my district office in Jacksonville demanding that the Legislature ban ‘assault weapons’ and other firearms,” Fischer asserted on Facebook. “He then attacked my district aide and said he was trying to prove a point about ‘gun control.’”

Fischer related that the man came in upset about the failed attempt to get a ban on assault weapons considered in the House. He said the man demonstrated his outrage by “slamming [Haire] into the door violently.”

“This coward was inspired to violence by the political stunt that one of my colleagues pulled on Tuesday,” Fischer said. “There is no justification, political or otherwise, for violently attacking an innocent person.”

Fischer’s office did not have the best security. There was no camera system so that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office could be given a picture, Fischer said.

Fischer added he is closing the office while figuring out what can be done.

Meet El Presidente

Jacksonville City Councilman Aaron Bowman has the ten pledges needed to secure the Council presidency starting in July.

In addition to himself, the former Mayport base commander has Scott Wilson, Sam Newby, and Reggie Gaffney committed last week. Jim Love committed Tuesday.

Aaron Bowman aligns with Lenny Curry more closely than does the current Council President.

Before that, Bowman secured the commitments of former Council Presidents Lori Boyer and Greg Anderson, along with Doyle Carter, Matt Schellenberg, and former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri.

The coalition of support Bowman has amassed is worth noting, specifically regarding the two most recent past presidents.

Boyer and Anderson worked well with Curry during their presidencies; conversely, the Anna Brosche presidency has been a divisive one, with competing narratives between her and fellow Republican Curry on a variety of issues, including pension reform, children’s program reforms and exploring the prospect of selling local utility JEA.

By late last week, Brosche was among a cadre of Council members roiled by recent revelations that Curry’s team had been exploring valuations on privatizing assets, including but not limited to JEA.

Bowman, who plays a prominent role in recruiting businesses to come to Jacksonville via the JAXUSA arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, takes a different view of the administration’s moves.

He backs exploration of the value of assets.

Read more here.

Privatization push not new

Though many seem to think the concept of asset privatization is something Curry just discovered, in reality, it is something that was in the works for a while longer.

Lenny Curry’s team is a united front on all issues — including exploring asset privatization.

Since Curry’s election, to be exact, when the mayor-elect’s transition committees explored the concept.

Once in office, Curry’s team began to work with former NYC deputy Mayor Steve Goldsmith, a privatization guru.

By December 2015, Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa met with members of Jacksonville’s City Council, and privatization was discussed, via “scrutinizing” department budgets, looking at what services are required, and a comparison to the private sector providing some services.

Now, in 2018, privatization is earnestly discussed — of JEA.

Read here why this might be a boon for Jacksonville’s bottom line.

The fix is in

Per the Florida Times-Union, JEA is about to commit capital to some fixes for problems exposed in back-to-back hurricane years.

The big spends: $45 million for 251,000 “smart meters” that will allow outages to be pinpointed house by house, potentially removing the dubious outage reporting that vexed customers during Irma.

Millions of dollars are proposed for meters to fix service issues that surfaced in tropical storms.

The money is there, but it will take time to go house to house and install these meters. How much time is as yet unknown.

And $100 million over five years for water-sewer system hardening, which will include more backup power generators to lower the risk of sewage spills at lift stations during power outages.

The upshot: “JEA expects to have backup power at 47 percent of stations this year, and it will be at 71 percent by 2022.”

Is slow septic phaseout killing NW Jax biz dev?

Budget hearings in August saw multiple members, including Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, lament the slow pace of septic phaseout. $6 million a year is being allocated, split between JEA and the city, for a project that could cost anywhere from $300 million to $1 billion.

Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown seek to speed up septic phaseout.

With JEA privatization or sale now a hot topic, Council members Brown and Brown, along with Sam Newby, Garrett Dennis and Gaffney, want to codify commitment to the project, via a bill (2018-76) that would obligate JEA to run sewer and water lines throughout the city.

That bill, which would secure in principle a long-awaited retrofitting of these areas, is due to be heard in committees next week.

Reggie Brown noted that businesses are avoiding the Northwest Quadrant in part because of the incomplete septic phaseout, and businesses that are in the area are getting letters from the State Attorney threatening them with shutdown if issues aren’t rectified.

He noted the paradox: the Health Department and State Attorney enforcing standards that wouldn’t be an issue if the city had fulfilled its infrastructural obligations.

Read more here.

Mason jumps into Council race

Darren Mason, a former assistant to Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, is the first Democrat to jump into the 2019 at-large Group 2 race for City Council.

Florida Politics interviewed him in advance, he said he would file March 1.

Darren Mason, a former assistant to Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, is the first Democrat to jump into the 2019 At-Large Group 2 race for City Council.

Unlike what is the case with some fields in Council races, Mason comes into a race facing serious competition.

Thus far, the race has been between two Republicans, and at least in terms of money, Bill Bishop continues to flail against Ron Salem.

Bishop has under $13,000 on hand; Salem has over $136,000 on hand.

Bishop is just three years removed from a spirited campaign for Mayor; Salem’s campaign is being run by Curry’s political guru, Tim Baker of Data Targeting.

Despite this competition, Mason feels confident in his way forward.

Read more here.

Word is bond

Some good news for Jacksonville came Monday via another bond upgrade.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services announced an uptick in the special revenue bond rating to ‘AA’ from ‘AA-.’

Another credit market win for the Lenny Curry administration.

“This latest upgrade further demonstrates our continued and strong focus on fiscal responsibility is making a difference for our citizens,” Curry said. “We continue to work hard to enhance the City’s standing with investors by doing all we can to ensure the City’s financial stability for years to come. Improved credit ratings can save our city millions of dollars on future debt issues by lowering borrowing costs, which is good for taxpayers.”

Per the media release: “Citing a change to their ratings methodology, S&P said they now consider both non-ad valorem and general fund pledges as equal since both are dependent on the successful operation of the City. The City of Jacksonville’s special revenue pledge is a non-ad valorem pledge, and backs $1.027 billion of the City’s debt outstanding as of Sept. 30, 2017.”

Jacksonville, 1941

Legendary local essayist Marvin Edwards died last month, after an epic career that included everything from WW2 spy work to more contemporaneous exposes of Jacksonville City Hall shenanigans.

The Jacksonville Daily Record ran a piece of Edwards’ from 1941, in which he took a look at a “boomtown” that exists still, but not in the same way.

Jacksonville’s thriving downtown was noteworthy … 77 years ago.

“Saturday nights, the downtown area reminds one very much of Times Square. All the theaters are jammed, and it’s almost impossible to find a place to park.”

Edwards was taking a hard look at what happened to Jacksonville: the military-industrial complex.

From shipbuilding downtown to Camp Blanding to the south, the city and surrounding areas were growing because of that buildup.

Banking was big, as well.

The build-out, of course, has been suburban and exurban in recent years. But for those who live in the city’s urban core, hope remains that downtown, somehow, can regain its bygone luster.

Szymanski ‘thrilled’ to become UNF president

In an interview with the University of Florida’s Colin McCann, newly named University President David Szymanski talks about his plans, goals and his “strongest assets” – creating personal relationships and teamwork.

“He mentioned his experience playing basketball,” McCann writes, “saying, ‘One of the things that basketball does for you is thinking of that notion of team. It’s everybody together, and it’s people helping each other out and working collaboratively.’”

David Szymanski is ‘thrilled’ to be selected as UNF president.

Szymanski believes his biggest challenge will be overcoming the time constraints while bringing together people from all parts of the campus and the UNF community. “He wants to look into additional learning opportunities for students, like applied research and internships, building on top of opportunities that are already in place at UNF.”

“My job is to do things well and create opportunities for other people,” Szymanski said. “And I think it’s an exciting time to be a student and an exciting time to be at UNF … I’m just thrilled and honored and humbled to be the next president of the University of North Florida.”

Teen employees get ‘hands-on experience’ at Jacksonville Zoo

Fourteen local teens serve as employees of the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, part of a city-sponsored Wildlife Immersion and Leadership Development (WILD) program. Since 2016, the teen employment program has incorporated leadership development, public-speaking instruction and lessons in zoology and horticulture.

While animal-related interests are not required, some of the youths in the program see working with animals as a long-term career path.

Jacksonville Zoo’s WILD program offers a diverse group of teens firsthand experience with animals, leadership, and community.

According to the Florida Times-Union, WILD is for culturally-diverse teens aged 14 to 18 who live or attend school or church in 10 Jacksonville ZIP codes targeted by the Jacksonville Journey anti-crime initiative, primarily from the Northside and Northwest areas of the city. Applicants go through a rigorous application process and work Saturdays during the school year, and full time in the summer months.

First-year students in the program are called stewards. In the second year, they graduate to become ambassadors and take more leadership responsibility. In the final year of the program, they help develop educational outreach programs in their communities, including bringing small animals on tour. The zoo outreaches are free and go to the organization or facility that has shown an influence in the teens’ lives.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Marquese Fluellen, 18, who is in his second year of the program and attends Wolfson High School. “I always wanted a career in animal handling but didn’t know where to start.”

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