Alvin Brown – Page 6 – Florida Politics

Subpoenas with a side of sauce: The 10 biggest #JaxPol stories of 2016

Subpoenas with a side of sauce.

That’s one way to sum up the year.

In Jacksonville politics, 2016 started with subpoenas being delivered to Rep. Corrine Brown and her clique at a barbecue place on the Northside.

And it ended with a raid on Councilwoman Katrina Brown’s familial barbecue sauce plant on the Westside.

Katrina Brown’s family, which was granted/loaned over $600K by the city for job creation that never fully happened despite having years to do it, poured real money since that money came through into the campaign apparatuses of the councilwoman herself, along with Corrine Brown and former Mayor Alvin Brown.

As well, shortly after Katrina Brown got the Corrine Brown “Quick Pick,” she gave $500 to Corrine Brown’s former right-hand woman, Von Alexander, for what was called “marketing.”

That, my friends, is what we call a narrative arc. And a story that will have legs in 2017.

Beyond these issues, a heck of a lot happened in #jaxpol in 2016.

Political dynasties: toppled.

Conventional wisdom: shattered.

We are limiting ourselves to looking at the ten biggest stories of 2016 in Jacksonville politics.

In a year as driven by a change dynamic as any since the Consolidation era, this was an easy write.

The biggest difficulty?

Limiting the article to just ten stories.

***

The # 1 story of the year: the passage of the pension reform referendum Aug. 30.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry spent the better part of a year manufacturing consensus for the once unlikely seeming proposal of getting the Better Jacksonville Plan tax extended, and using the revenue secured to stabilize the pension debt.

Curry brought together a coalition that the city hasn’t seen since consolidation, with unions and union bosses; African-American pastors and community leaders; and other unlikely supporters, including every Democrat on the city council, lining up behind the mayor.

The manufacturing of consent went deeper than just influencers:
Also in play was a deep-dive data operation, with specific appeals made to medium-propensity voters, to female homeowners between the ages of 35 and 46, and to other blocs of voters, where support could be firmed up and maximized.

“Campaigns are tough,” Curry said at the victory party at the Hyatt on Aug. 30. “You’ve got to execute and win.”

Execute and win he did.

Curry leveraged support in the Senate and the House from regional power brokers, Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings, driving to and from Tallahassee with everyone from Marty Fiorentino to Randy Wyse, the head of the local fire union to guide and prod the bill through committees in each house, then through a floor vote.

Any resistance that might have manifested was quelled, as Curry had entire days of meetings with everyone in a position to kill the bill in committee.

It was a tour de force political performance; one planned out well before the session.

And while there is a long way to go to secure the future revenue from the current ½ cent sales surtax — a tortuous road through collective bargaining — Curry did the impossible: provided actuarial certainty that Jacksonville had a way to pay down its massive unfunded pension liability.

Story of the year? Absolutely.

But it had competition.

***

# 2: Angela Corey goes down.

While some other Northeast Florida titans drew their last political breath in 2016, the State Attorney from the 4th Circuit is arguably the most significant locally.

Legislators go to Tallahassee and Washington and generally toe the party line. They aren’t going to be outliers on the big issues of the day.

Corey? Very much an outlier.

It was a climate where the Koch Brothers are attempting to push criminal justice reform from the right, and various groups on the left and libertarian sides pushing for similar ends.

Corey’s “lock ‘em up” approach was as much of a throwback as acid-washed jeans, Milli Vanilli cassette singles, and asbestos insulation.

Corey? She stood athwart that trend, seeking more death penalty convictions than almost any district or state attorney in the country, and earning sobriquets like “the cruelest prosecutor in America.”

It all seemed to be going pretty well. Corey stacked regional and state endorsements like Scrooge McDuck stacking greenbacks. Her first declared opponent in the primary, Wes White, attempted to run an insurgent campaign with little money and institutional backing.

White got some traction, as the negation of the case for Corey, but it looked until June like Corey would get her third term.

Then, a funny thing happened.

Melissa Nelson got in the race, getting real money behind her, and the best political machine in the state — Tim Baker and Brian Hughes — doing what so many people wanted to do.

Getting paid to end Angela Corey’s political career (though one suspects that Baker and Hughes might have been willing to take that task on for free).

By July, Corey was cratering in the polls. By August, the scenarios in which Corey — the epitome of a disqualified candidate — would find even a dead cat bounce were winnowed down to nothing.

By September, she was a lame duck.

Melissa Nelson takes office in January, armed with a community and institutional support, a great team (Dave Chapman, handling comms next year, had been probably the best reporter on the Jacksonville city politics beat this century), and a commitment to reform.

Nelson will spend a big part of her first term cleaning up Corey-era messes.

There will be stumbles.

But Melissa Nelson, unlike Corey, is willing to have a dialogue with the media and the community. And she is looking for applications of justice that actually heal rather than divide communities.

As hinted above, Corey’s political obituary wasn’t the only one written this year. In fact, the third-biggest story in Jacksonville this year was a variation on that theme.

***

#3: Corrine Brown goes down, and Jacksonville loses a congressional seat.

When federal agents served subpoenas up to Rep. Brown and political operatives at the Bono’s on Norwood Avenue, it was the beginning of the end for the congresswoman.

Though she ran a modified version of a re-election campaign for her seat in Congressional District 5, Brown was wounded.

She couldn’t raise real money. She was distracted by the legal fight. And when asked during and after her sole televised debate about the incompatibility of a 23-count federal indictment and a campaign for re-election against a Democrat as connected as Al Lawson, Brown said that the charges against her were as absurd as accusations of pedophilia against news media members.

“The Fifth Amendment says that the prosecutors have to prove their case. Now, what if I said, as we standing up here talking, that you were a pedophile? You would think there would be something wrong with me. So, you would put together a team of lawyers and you would go to court, and duke it out in court. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Just because someone accuses you, doesn’t mean that they have the facts. The federal government under these, have a slush fund, and they can do and they can bring charges,” Brown said in August.

She’s not saying that now. Or much of anything. The waiting game of 2017 now involves seeing when and if her inner circle (including/especially Ronnie Simmons, her co-defendant and almost-erstwhile chief of staff) turns against her in the One Door for Education trial.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville is in deep doo-doo regarding its representation, as Al Lawson hasn’t demonstrated a real understanding of local issues compared to those out west.

Jacksonville may produce a real challenge to Lawson in the 2018 primary, but the first two years of the Trump era are going to be challenging for Jacksonville. At a time when the White House is looking to fund ambitious infrastructure projects via expanding the monetary supply, a reliable Jacksonville veteran of the United States Congress will be replaced by a neophyte.

Meanwhile, we hear that the initial staffing process for Lawson is chaotic, with scheduling problems for mid and lower level staff interviews, and a distinct Tallahassee bent to those hired by his office.

***

# 4: Ander Crenshaw out, John Rutherford in.

“I won’t miss the circus, but I will miss the clowns.”

Those words from Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who represented Jacksonville in D.C. for eight terms, say it all.

Crenshaw was ready to step down. And former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, on the political sidelines since he was termed out in 2015, was happy enough to step up.

Crenshaw was the type of Republican prominent around Jacksonville in a bygone and better time; cut from the John Thrasher/Mike Hightower cloth, Crenshaw was the kind of conservative who didn’t fit the polemical Tea Party mold.

Because of that declining level of affinity with the grassroots, Crenshaw faced a primary challenge in 2014 from Ryman Shoaf — and it was a closer race than many expected.

Crenshaw’s decision not to run for re-election set up a lively primary campaign, with Rutherford forced to fend off State Rep. Lake Ray and the biggest spender in the race, Hans Tanzler III.

Rutherford, evidently, will attempt to maintain as much continuity as possible. Jackie Smith, a Crenshaw holdover, will run the district office.

That realization of the importance of continuity by their replacements is a major difference — in terms of impact — to the departures of Corrine Brown and Ander Crenshaw.

Of course, there’s more to Jacksonville politics than arrivals and departures. Some issues persist no matter who the incumbent is.

***

#5: The ongoing battles of collective bargaining

When “County Referendum 1” passed Aug. 30, allowing the extension of the one-half cent local sales tax to be devoted to the unfunded liability conditional on closing one of the city’s pension plans to new hires, it represented the fulfillment of one quest and the necessary beginning of another.

Mayor Curry counted fire union head Randy Wyse and police union leader Steve Zona as allies in the run-up to the referendum. However, that was destined to be a short-term accord.

As the days got shorter in 2016, it became apparent that the city and its unions — especially its public-sector unions — were far apart.

The union heads will tell you: getting competent new hires to come in and stick around with a promise of little more than the same 401(k) an office jockey gets is not a sustainable strategy for workforce development and retention.

Cops in their 20s may not see that the future involves them being battered and broken down from the job. But add a wife and 2.5 kids to the equation, and then the future moves from an abstraction to reality.

Thus, the unions want the Florida Retirement System for new hires.

The current sheriff, Mike Williams, is caught between labor and management, and his comments to us a few weeks back reflect that.

While Williams wants a “competitive pay and benefit package,” he contends the “vehicle” doesn’t matter — a position that is news to the union.

Former Sheriff John Rutherford, advocating pensions for officers while in office, has yet to see a defined contribution plan accounting for the real downside risk of a career as an officer.

Expectations are that general employees will be the easier sell on DC plans for new hires. But with six bargaining units to deal with, consensus won’t be quick — and probably won’t be in time for the budget deliberations of June and July.

Amazingly (or not), another pension story makes the top ten.

****

#6: Drama continues between city and Police and Fire Pension Fund

The PFPF continues to serve as a piñata for local politicians; 2016 was no exception.

Things were relatively quiet between city hall and the pension fund in the first quarter, until the city and the fund squabbled over the controversial “senior staff voluntary retirement fund” that served to benefit former executive director John Keane and a few others.

Just as May brought in the summer heat, Jacksonville’s general counsel issued a ruling that — contrary to the PFPF position — the fund was subordinate to the city, and the general counsel was, in fact, the prevailing legal authority.

The PFPF attempted to appeal to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. But it didn’t do any good.

From there, the PFPF cropped up again — a $44 million accounting true-up, for which the fund claimed to have a waiver from the state, allowed Curry to win a November news cycle by excoriating the fund for its sloppy financial practices.

Curry’s ire was undercut in December, however.

The city’s CFO and the executive director of the PFPF appeared together at a Dec. 7 meeting of the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee.

They said the documents regarding the waiver leaked to the media before they had a chance to figure out a collaborative strategy to address it.

They also suggested that the extra $44 million or so of yearly costs — could be phased in over a few years, or even wiped out after collective bargaining with the public safety units wraps.

Whenever that is.

The CFO, Mike Weinstein, also undercut the mayor’s position by saying the $44 million was a “hiccup” compared to the larger unfunded liability.

A goal for the city of Jacksonville: to not have next year’s “stories of the year” piece marred by yet another chapter in the saga between the city and the PFPF.

There’s still a lot of work to do to get there.

***

#7: Municipal bond ratings improve.

In the “if it bleeds, it leads” world of television news, the esoterica of bond ratings doesn’t exactly drive the Nielsen #s.

But in the world of municipal government and finance, bond ratings determine the ability to borrow money, and the favorability of the repayment terms.

With that in mind, a big success of 2016 was rooted in Dec. 2015, when Mayor Curry and an entourage of senior city staffers flew to New York for that year’s annual meeting with the rating agencies.

Successes outnumbered failures.

JEA came out of the event with its first ever AAA rating. Standard & Poor’s Rating Services upgraded the rating on the City of Jacksonville’s sales tax revenue bonds to an “A+” from an “A” the previous year. Other rating upgrades followed.

By October, with the referendum out of the way, Curry’s office was able to trumpet the improved perception of its financial management.

Examples thereof: documentation of Better Jacksonville Plan sales tax revenue upgrades in February to A+ from S&P and Fitch, with a A1 from Moody’s in that category; a March upgrade to AA in excise tax revenue from Moody’s; a July Fitch AA long-term credit rating and an AA issuer credit rating predicated on expectations the city will “continue to demonstrate a prudent level of fiscal management” and “continue to moderate the impact of its pension liability on the annual budget;” similar upgrades in the special revenue rating in August; and an upgraded commercial paper rating in September.

Curry ran as a CEO type with an accounting background, and though his team deserves a lot of the credit regarding the nuts and bolts actions, Curry brought it together.

That wasn’t the only major story of 2016 involving JEA, however.

***

# 8: “JEA Agreement

“It’s important to put this in context,” Curry said in March when signing off on the deal.

When Curry came into office, there was a “narrative” that there “didn’t look like a way forward” for the mayor’s office, the Council, and JEA on an agreement.

Curry pushed Alvin Brown’s appointees out, for the most part, and put in his people, creating a “strong board.”

And that strong board was a mechanism to get an agreement between the city and its utility through 2021.

To recap: the JEA Agreement applies between the city and the utility through 2021, with the current JEA contribution set at about $114.2 million, with minimum annual increases of 1 percent. It also allocates $30 million of total funding, split evenly, from JEA and the city for five years for water and sewer projects. And two million dollars a year in water quality trading credits, which will go to stormwater needs.

The stormwater projects are already under way, and they will help to close a long-standing infrastructure gap between pre-Consolidation communities and the rest of the city.

Curry’s comfort level with JEA is such that even when the CEO was out of town during Hurricane Matthew, the mayor did not take the opportunity that some on the city council did to question his priorities and job performance.

Speaking of Hurricane Matthew, that was a pretty big deal also.

***

# 9: Hurricane Matthew

There was a reasonable chance in October that, if the storm had moved 40 miles west when trucking up the Florida coast, Jacksonville would have been devastated.

In fact, the city did pretty well, considering.

While St. Augustine got hit with higher winds and more devastating flooding, which the city is still recovering from, Jacksonville dodged the catastrophic hit that was feared as the storm approached.

To be clear: there were tens of millions of dollars of damage.

Debris removal from rights of way and parks cost a couple of million dollars.

Streets, drainage, and parks likewise required a real financial commitment.

The road to Huguenot Park still needs repair.

And over half the city lost power, with, in some cases, restoration taking up to a week.

But Mayor Curry, the sheriff’s office, and mayors of the beach communities coordinated evacuations for zones where half the city’s population lives (as well as the entirety of the county east of the Intracoastal), and despite the property damage and inconvenience, Jacksonville got through the storm.

***

#10: Duval GOP dysfunction

While there are probably stories offering more civic import, worth watching is the continuing decline of the Republican Party of Duval County.

This tale of infighting goes back well before 2016 began, of course. But 2016 had enough drama to make up for it.

The year started with Lake Ray as party chair. That lasted until May, when Cindy Graves took control.

All seemed to be going well enough. From the outside at least.

Karyn Morton, who backed Graves at least by the time votes were counted, said in a news release: “Cindy is the leader our party needs right now.”

Note the temporal phrasing.

The election came and went, and despite Trump getting elected, there was still some trouble brewing.

Just like Andrew Ridgely and George Michael in Wham!, the Morton/Graves alliance would turn a different corner soon enough.

By summer, Morton was grousing as Graves spoke at GOP events, saying that “the leader our party needs right now” doesn’t know when to shut up. [Paraphrased, obviously]

Summer turned to fall, leaves turned on and fell off the trees, and quiet dissidence turned into open rebellion.

December was Graves’ undoing.

Morton ran against Graves, and her speech brought the quiet frustrations to light, as it was peppered with descriptions of mistakes from past leadership.

Some of the old guard wasn’t allowed to vote, including Rep. John Rutherford and Mike Hightower.

Meanwhile, some new Republican Executive Committee members were allowed to vote. And they made the difference.

A veteran of party politics says Morton and the other party officials constitutes the “worst leadership since 1980,” predicting “Audrey Gibson will have a field day” as local Democratic chair, as Republicans “decentralize” in the short term … an important factor to look for as the 2018 races ramp up.

Will Morton be able to appease the donor class? That question remains to be answered.

***

And that was the year that was.

Will 2017 have as much barbecue-related drama as 2016?

Probably not.

But it will have drama, personality clashes and, if we’re lucky, some things on the policy front as well.

Reading the tea leaves of the Lenny Curry-Alvin Brown meeting

Friday saw an official meeting between Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and former Mayor Alvin Brown.

And with that meeting, a message to #jaxpol: the bitterness of the 2015 election was finally consigned to memory.

The picture above: worth a thousand words. Acrimony expunged, replaced by bonhomie.

The campaign for Jacksonville mayor was the most expensive local campaign in history. And that money was spent, especially on the GOP side, with a specific intent.

That purpose: to undermine what was perceived to be soft support for Alvin Brown, via a “death by 1,000 cuts” approach that saw Brown and his team on the defensive in every news cycle.

Whether Brown was missing the budget vote in city council for a Bill Cosby fundraiser, or his campaign was touting a convicted murderer as a “job creator and business leader,” Brown was on the defensive as a candidate from the fall of 2014 straight through to the 2015 election.

And when he did get it going in earnest early in 2015, there were glitches.

Brown wasn’t prepared to take fire, day after day, from Curry and Bill Bishop before the March election.

Bishop lacked real money to run the campaign, yet his rapport with local print media gave him earned media, in which he made the case that Alvin Brown didn’t merit four more years. And even when Bishop endorsed Brown after the race became a two-man battle, the endorsement and subsequent campaigning with Brown didn’t undo the damage done before the March “First Election” vote.

Curry, meanwhile, had all the money he could need, along with a political team that simply did not lose news cycles.

However, 2015’s epilogue has already been written. The meeting between Curry and Brown represents a prologue, for 2017 and beyond.

Notable: Brown reached out to Curry to schedule the meeting.

There are a number of plausible interpretations for the timing.

One such interpretation: Brown wanted to give Curry time to settle into office.

With Curry’s first term a third of the way over, he definitely should be settled in at this point.

Another such interpretation: with Brown not ending up in a Hillary Clinton administration, as was expected until the votes were counted Election Night, the former mayor had to commit to a back up plan.

And that back up plan: becoming a part of the Jacksonville scene again, and the brotherhood of former mayors.

From there, if history is a guide, options abound.

Consider the last one-term mayor in Jacksonville: Brown’s fellow Democrat, Tommy Hazouri.

Hazouri, like Brown, had a term with some tangible accomplishments.

However, Hazouri also had some issues.

The book on Hazouri was that his administration had the city’s books in “financial disarray.” That his team had issues with messaging through the media.

Those issues parallel those of Alvin Brown.

Curry was able to message during his campaign on getting the books in order, just as Ed Austin had against Tommy Hazouri. And there were times in Brown’s tenure where the message the administration wanted to get out through the press didn’t quite get out.

And all of that is the past now.

When Brown set up a meeting with Lenny Curry, it represented a radical shift from his absence from the public eye since June 2015.

Brown, even as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, mostly avoided the Jacksonville market in the fall.

Brown was deployed on mayoral bus tours through places like Ohio, and other parts of Florida, as if a conscious decision was made not to parlay on his name value locally.

Brown did attend a November rally in Northeast Florida, where President Obama spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

However, Brown didn’t speak at the event. And there was some speculation as to whether or not Brown even stayed for the entirety of the Obama speech.

Alvin Brown’s path to D.C., as a Clinton appointee, is being foreclosed even as this is typed, as Donald Trump‘s electoral votes are counted.

However, Brown’s future itself is not foreclosed.

As a mayor who lost a very close election 17 months ago, Brown may not have present-tense political capital, but it is very easy to imagine how a reinvented Alvin Brown could become a factor locally in 2017.

Congressman-elect Al Lawson won’t be in Tallahassee forever. And it is entirely possible that Lawson could face a Jacksonville challenge in 2018.

Could that be Alvin Brown?

Back in our “five people to watch in 2016” piece, we tabbed Brown as someone to watch relative to the CD 5 seat.

We haven’t written the 2017 version of the list yet.

Odds are very good that Alvin Brown will be on it again, however.

Even if Brown chooses not to run for Congress, there is plenty to keep him busy locally.

An at large city council seat will be open in 2019, and Brown theoretically could run against Bill Bishop, who has already committed to run in the race to replace John Crescimbeni, the current occupant.

If that were to happen, it would be interesting to see how Curry and his political machine might react, as there was no love lost between the two Republicans when Bishop endorsed Brown.

And other openings could manifest in Jacksonville as well.

In other words, Alvin Brown will have a second act in the limelight.

The only question now is which stage he will pick.

Alvin Brown, Lenny Curry meet, putting election behind them

For the first time since the acrimonious election of 2015, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and his predecessor, Alvin Brown, met in the mayor’s suite.

Curry and Brown, in a brief appearance in the lobby of the mayor’s office, smiled for the camera, with Curry saying they were “just catching up.”

Curry’s spokeswoman, Marsha Oliver, noted that “Mr. Brown requested the meeting, and the mayor was happy to [meet]. Former Mayor Brown was visiting with folks and meeting with new staff.”

Chief of Staff Kerri Stewart noted that Brown was interested in posing for the ceremonial painting that all former mayors get; currently, a photograph of Brown hangs in the mayor’s suite, in lieu of the picture.

Stewart noted that Brown “wanted to give the new mayor breathing room” before meeting Curry in the mayor’s suite.

The former mayor and the current one interacted Thursday at a groundbreaking event at Jacksonville University, from where Brown was an alumnus.

“All of the former mayors have good experience to draw from,” Stewart said, though there are no definite plans for Brown to collaborate with the Curry Administration on anything yet.

We are in the mayor’s office and will update this piece if Brown or Curry wish to offer further comment.

What is clear, though: the acrimony of the campaign is a memory, as Brown’s booming laugh was audible in the lobby of the mayor’s office, coming from behind the walls of the inner sanctum.

John Rutherford, a former Jacksonville sheriff, discusses police pensions

The crossroads for pension plans for new hires in Jacksonville is here, and is casting a shadow over virtually every aspect of the city’s future.

The latest bond rating trip for the city, for example, saw the pension issue – and whether or not Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will succeed in getting at least one union’s new hires to accede to a 401K plan – casting a shadow over the proceedings.

The municipal debate over pension plans has elicited the interest of free-market groups such as Americans for Prosperity and, ineluctably, the national and state Fraternal Order of Police.

On other issues, Curry has called for a “Jacksonville solution.”

On the matter of pension reform, outside stakeholders may not be at the bargaining table as the city attempts to close the old plans that incurred $2.8 billion in debt to unlock future sales tax revenue, but they do have their talking points.

Caught in the middle of the maelstrom between city negotiators and police officers: the elected sheriff.

One man who knows what that’s like better than most in Duval County: Rep. John Rutherford, who was sheriff for three terms before term limits kicked in.

On Wednesday, Rutherford spoke to the issue, offering more extended comments than his successor, Mike Williams, delivered on this subject earlier in the week.

“I think a pension is absolutely necessary,” Rutherford told FloridaPolitics.com, noting that a defined contribution plan is a pension.

Albeit one that may not consider the full risk an officer assumes.

“I supported for years a defined benefit [plan], because if I have two officers who are facing a man with a gun – one has 20 years, one has two years – the guy with two years under a 401K is putting a lot more at risk than the guy who has twenty years,” the congressman-elect asserted.

“If you can come up with a defined contribution plan,” Rutherford added, “that levels that playing field, that might be okay. But you have to guarantee that, if an officer dies [during] his first year in office, his family’s going to be taken care of.”

“I hear people say ‘well, look, people die in all kinds of different disciplines, different jobs.’ The difference is my guy’s putting his life on the line. He knows what he’s going into,” Rutherford continued.

“An accident is one thing. Putting your life on the line because somebody’s in there shooting at you and you’re trying to save someone’s life, that’s a completely different situation,” Rutherford added.

“As long as you can make that defined contribution significant enough that it takes care of their family, then that might be doable, but I’d have to see it.”

Rutherford stresses that a defined contribution plan is a pension, which is not a universal view.

Despite that qualifier, many of Rutherford’s words are closer to the position of the police union than they are to the current sheriff.

During the collective bargaining session between the Fraternal Order of Police and the city before Thanksgiving, the union made many of these points.

While officers bear the non-negotiable burden of physical risk, a 401K plan floats with the market. And for officers who are younger and drawing more dangerous details, the 401K doesn’t come with a downside guarantee.

However, Rutherford isn’t completely sold on the Florida Retirement System option for new hires, which is a position held by all the public safety bargaining units.

“FRS is not bad. But let me say this – this is my concern about FRS and defined contribution. What I liked about our defined benefit plan is that it anchored officers in Duval County,” Rutherford contended.

“You look at South Florida. You see these guys moving all over, going from one agency to another. They come in at different ranks, and go away.”

“In Jacksonville,” Rutherford continued, “when I saw a recruit at the academy, I expected him to be here 25 years later. A defined benefit plan will do that for you. It will keep that stability in your agency.”

“Defined contribution has that as a possibility, but it’s much more portable. Because he can take that 401k with him. And FRS is the same way. They can take that with them.”

“So,” Rutherford added, “there’s a lot to be considered when you start talking about defined contribution versus defined benefit.”

****

Rutherford, of course, found himself in the position of having to advocate for the stability of the sheriff’s office during much of his time in leadership.

The economic downturn of 2007 and the crash of 2008 caused millage revenues in Jacksonville to nosedive, and the recovery in revenue has been slow.

In 2009, Rutherford faced proposed cuts from Mayor John Peyton, with the general fund contribution being $76 million.

The sheriff told the Florida Times-Union that a big part of the issue was a trough in millage revenue, and that another part of the issue was that the city took breaks from paying its part of the obligation during economic booms.

When confronted with a proposal to raise the retirement age, Rutherford was blunt.

“Crime is a young man’s game. Running the street is a young man’s game,” he said. “And I’m not sure there’s a savings there. If you leave at 25 years, you leave with more pension than you had at 20.”

In 2013, Rutherford and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office faced a potential $29.2 million cut in the JSO operating budget.

Rutherford advocated a tax increase, refusing to make the cuts Mayor Alvin Brown pushed for.

By 2015, Rutherford’s patience with the tax-averse Brown – and the impacts that tax aversion had on public safety – was exhausted.

The sheriff was, if not a surrogate for Lenny Curry, a definite asset when it came down to messaging.

And his message was that Brown couldn’t be trusted when it came to securing resources for public safety.

“Crime has gone up since 2011,” he said, asserting that violent crime especially has gone up increasingly as the Brown administration has progressed, with an 11.6% increase in 2014 being the direct “result of cuts to this office.”

Brown’s team touted nominal budget increases. Rutherford countered that “ninety-five percent of the budget increase was related to the unfunded liability.”

Soon thereafter, Rutherford was co-branded with Lenny Curry in a television spot.

“Lenny Curry understands that the Mayor’s first priority must be to reduce crime and ensure public safety,” the Sheriff said, adding that “for a safer city and a better Jacksonville, I support Lenny Curry to be our next Mayor.”

Curry won, of course, and so did Mike Williams – Rutherford’s preferred candidate.

While Curry has come through on long-delayed force enhancements and technological adds, and while Williams (much like Rutherford was during the Peyton era) is on the sidelines of the pension debate, history tells us that a sheriff walks a fine line between labor and management.

When asked about the union position on Monday — that if benefits fall behind the rest of the departments in the state, then retention and recruitment will suffer — Williams had this to say.

“I will say this: that’s my concern really,” Williams said, before ameliorating that concern with his characteristic optimism.

“As long as it’s a competitive pay and benefit package, I’m not sure the vehicle matters. But again, I’m going to leave the negotiations up to them. and I’m confident they’ll come up with something that will work,” Williams said.

History tells us that a recurrent motif in the Jacksonville model involves tough negotiations between labor and management … a consequence of when a low-tax regulatory model collides with the realities of a big city union.

And on Wednesday, Rutherford spoke to that history, clearly pointing out that a non-negotiable value in the transaction is the risk assumed by an officer.

A challenge for Curry’s team: to find a way to meaningfully address that idea within a defined contribution model.

Former TRUE commissioner blasts Jacksonville for post-hurricane cleanup

In Jacksonville, the TRUE Commission (Taxation, Revenue, and Utilization of Expenditures) advises the city on fiscal policy.

A recent email to city leadership shows that, while you can take a commissioner off of the TRUE Commission, that doesn’t necessarily divest that person of vigilance.

Patti Anania, a former TRUE Commission member and wife of a defeated city council candidate from 2015, expressed displeasure with dilatory post-storm cleanup in the hardscrabble Arlington neighborhood.

“The City of Jacksonville has really let down its residents since Hurricane Matthew.  It was bad enough that some residents and businesses have had to wait six weeks to have small piles of debris picked up. But, when an entire street’s regular household garbage gets missed and the residents do their due diligence by calling 630-CITY and also put in care tickets online the next day and for every day afterwards,” Anania writes.

“We then are told on Friday 11/18 that ‘they have until next Tuesday to pick it up’ is unacceptable. Tuesday is our regular scheduled pickup day. This is outrageous, for what we pay in contract fees to the solid waste companies this type of service should never happen.”

Anania then asserted that in her neighborhood, “very little bulk items (couches, furniture and other normal items) be removed. This contributes to the blight here in Arlington.”

Anania urges review of relevant contracts related to solid waste collection, while noting — as residents of Arlington do — the neighborhood is mired in a seemingly perpetual cycle of decline.

“The residents of Arlington were told almost two years ago, Feb. 11, 2015, by former Mayor Brown and JU’s President Tim Cost that the Renew Arlington Initiative was going to bring Arlington back to life. Arlington is worse now than it was then,” Anania observes, “with anchor restaurants and businesses such as Neros, Outback at Regency, Sears, Belk, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Walgreens all closing their doors.”

Matt Carlucci ‘seriously considering’ another run for Jacksonville City Council

Jacksonville’s Carlucci family is inextricably linked with Jacksonville history.

Joe Carlucci was a councilman from the days of consolidation.

Matt Carlucci carried on the family’s tradition of public service, serving three terms on the council, including a stint as president.

Now Carlucci is the chairman of the Florida Commission on Ethics. Yet his time there is nearing an end. And he’s considering a logical next move: a run for council in 2019, to replace the termed-out At Large Councilman Greg Anderson.

“I’m feeling my way through,” Carlucci said, “but that’s what I’m hoping for.”

Carlucci, a Republican, has been getting “lots of encouragement” from Republicans and Democrats alike; should he run, he will have a couple of strong GOP consultants: Bruce Barcelo and Tom Nolan.

“If I pull the trigger … and it looks like I will,” Barcelo and Nolan will run the campaign, he said.

Carlucci also can count on key support from outside Duval County, such as from former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, who vowed to be Carlucci’s “first contributor.”

Carlucci describes himself as partisan on the national level, but less so in the local realm.

Illustrating that independent streak, Carlucci notably supported Democrats Alvin Brown and Ken Jefferson for mayor and sheriff in 2015, bets that didn’t pay off.

That said, Carlucci has very complimentary things to say about the “strong leadership” of Mayor Lenny Curry now, calling the mayor “very bold, very decisive.”

“History will treat Alvin well,” Carlucci said. “He brought a lot of excitement.”

However, said Carlucci, “Lenny’s got the trains running on time.”

A council run would present one irony for Carlucci.

In 2003, he ran for mayor unsuccessfully.

When asked his reason for running for the city’s top job, Carlucci quipped to the Jax Daily Record“I just couldn’t take another four years of council meetings.”

Reminded of this quote, Carlucci quipped that in the last dozen years, he’s “mustered up the endurance to get through the council meetings again.”

Carlucci, if he runs and wins, would offer institutional knowledge of the sort that veterans like Tommy Hazouri and John Crescimbeni bring to the chamber.

Lenny Curry talks Election 2016 at Jacksonville Marco Rubio HQ

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been an enthusiastic supporter and friend of Sen. Marco Rubio, dating back to a time before Rubio was in the U.S. Senate.

Evidence of that political symbiosis abounds in more recent memory.

Rubio was a prominent backer of Curry’s mayoral bid, coming into town for a rally the day before the May 2015 election that swept Curry into office over Alvin Brown, the Democratic incumbent considered unassailable by media types.

Curry backed Rubio in the Florida presidential primary, undaunted by polls headed up to the March vote that showed Trump poised to take Duval County and the rest of the state.

Beyond politics, the two have functioned well in the policy realm, with Curry and Rubio working together to offer long-delayed, meaningful redress for the residents of some of Jacksonville’s most neglected HUD properties.

During that brief period after Rubio left the presidential race, there was some question as to whether he would run for re-election after all.

Curry was one of those who publicly urged Rubio to reconsider his decision to leave the Senate, saying, “we need Marco Rubio for the skills he brings to the table.”

Rubio, of course, ran, dispatching Carlos Beruff in the primary before a more competitive general election battle against Patrick Murphy.

On Monday morning, Curry was showing support for Rubio again, thanking volunteers at a Southside Jacksonville HQ.

Rubio, Curry said, “reached out last week” to ask Curry to help “get the message out” and “get people to turn out.”

“A whole lot of us pushed him to run again,” Curry added.

“This is an important election,” Curry said, from “the top of the ticket on down,” especially the U.S. Senate.

There, Curry said, Rubio’s “strong voice” and willingness to engage on “tough issues” stand out.

Among the topics that came up with media: early voting.

“Early voting is becoming the new normal,” Curry said.

Regarding the gap of over 4,000 votes between Democrats and Republicans in Duval County, Curry emphasized the importance of “ground game” to close that gap for the GOP side.

There are a variety of opinions as to how Duval’s vote distribution ultimately will shake out.

Duval County typically goes red on Election Day.

But this is an atypical year, with changes in voting patterns and a realignment of the GOP along Trumpian lines providing meaningful wildcards that preclude precise forecasting of how the election will go, in Duval and everywhere else.

African-American mayors bring a message to St. Pete and Tampa: Vote for Hillary

As the election enters the homestretch, a group of African-American mayors and former mayors from across the U.S. have jumped on the bus for Hillary Clinton — literally.

They’re taking a bus around Florida on the “Souls to Polls Train” to take a message to the African-American and Latin communities in particular — elect Hillary.

“Her message is the message of hope,” Philip Levine, mayor of Miami Beach, said Friday.

If elected, the mayors said, Clinton will help hopes come true with promises of jobs, an increased minimum wage, free college tuition for those whose parents can’t afford it, investment in neglected communities, money for infrastructure improvements, $25 billion for entrepreneurship and small business, and an emphasis on early childhood education.

“She’s laid out a clear vision” where education is concerned, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown said. “She’s the most qualified, but we have to get out and vote.”

The group stopped in Tampa Friday morning before coming to St. Petersburg where they toured the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American Museum before visiting individual areas along the historic 22nd Street South corridor. They planned to finish their St. Petersburg visit with a meal at Chief’s Creole Café.

Along the way, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia said, they’d deliver the message and urge people to get out and vote for Clinton.

“She’s ready to serve,” Nutter said. “She’s ready on Day 1. … People have to come out and vote.”

The election is Nov. 8. Early voting begins Monday.

Buddy Dyer, Phillip Levine, Bob Buckhorn, others on Mayors for Hillary bus tour

What a party bus this will be. A Democratic Party bus, filled with mayors from Florida including Orlando’s Buddy Dyer, Miami Beach’s Phillip Levine, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn, and St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman, has begun a cross-state tour to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

Hillary for America announced Thursday that those four and 19 other mayors and former mayors — some from out-of-state cities like Detroit, Philadelphia and Dallas — are participating in the tour with at least four stops to promote Clinton’s economic plan and urge people to vote early.

The activity actually began Wednesday night with a kick-off debate watch party in Miami, and will roll Friday to Orlando and Gainesville, and Saturday to Tallahassee, with other stops yet to be scheduled or announced.

In addition to Levine — widely discussed as a 2018 gubernatorial candidate — Dyer, Buckhorn and Kriseman, the Florida mayors include Wayne Messam of Miramar, Oliver Gilbert of Miami Gardens, Lauren Poe of Gainesville; Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee, Thomas Masters of Riviera Beach, and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

From out of state, Florida will meet William Bell of Birmingham, Alabama, Jacqueline Goodall of Forest Heights, Maryland, Sly James of Kansas City, Lovely Warren of Rochester New York, Malcolm Clark of Mt. Vernon, New York, Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, Bill Bell of Durham, North Carolina, and former mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, Mike Coleman of Columbus, Ohio, Wellington Webb of Denver, Dennis Archer of Detroit, and Ron Kirk of Dallas.

Lenny Curry defends missing debit card investigation

A fun #jaxpol mystery of 2015 — accounting for $27,000 worth of missing employee incentive debit cards from the Alvin Brown administration — petered out this month.

“City debit cards reported missing were in a safe all along,” reported the Jax Daily Record.

In November 2015, Curry directed the inspector general to look into the debit card issue and to connect with the state attorney as appropriate.

However, in October of this year (justice moves slowly), the OIG determined that $3,100 in cards, which were in a safe the whole time, were all that were at issue, and the larger number was reported erroneously.

In an email to senior staff, Curry defended his vigilance on the debit card issue.

Curry says the story “gets one part right and that is that the Brown administration did not properly account for these cards, the attached story and other stories do not represent material facts.”

From there, Curry offered a recap.

Curry noted that once his team learned an “employee debit card program existed,” an “inventory of the cards” was requested.

That inventory was conducted by two senior staffers.

From there, a treasury employee found an envelope in a safe with $27,000 in “unaccounted for/missing debit cards.”

Curry noted that, after requesting an investigation by the inspector general, it took “six MONTHS from the date we asked for the investigation to when the IG secured and examined the contents of the safe. Due to lack of controls by the previous administration, any number of unknown people had access to that safe.

“We would not have asked the IG to engage if we believed those cards were in that safe. The safe should have been secured and audited at the time the investigation was announced,” Curry noted.

“No one can conclude those cards were in that safe based on the facts. We did the right thing by asking for an IG investigation to find the cards,” Curry concluded.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons