Alvin Brown Archives - Page 7 of 42 - Florida Politics

Jacksonville Journey “2.0” to officially debut Dec. 1

Everything old is new again, the saying goes.

In North Florida, that also holds true for crime prevention initiatives.

Sources tell Florida Politics that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is set to announce new details about a revamped Jacksonville Journey initiative on Dec. 1

The program, debuted under the mayoral administration of John Peyton, began as a response to Jacksonville’s notorious on-and-off status as Florida’s murder capital. The original, and robust budget for fixing root problems contributing to violence on the streets of Jax was set at $31 million.

During Mayor Alvin Brown‘s tenure, the Journey continued to exist – but funding and emphasis on its multipronged approach to bringing down violent crime numbers was scaled back dramatically in favor of other programs.

Now (perhaps with a Republican in charge once again) the Journey is officially back in favor. Project Director Deborah Verges, who hung onto her position through the Brown years, will continue to supervise the Journey, but in a reconstituted fashion.

Or more specifically, in the setup that used to exist, sources say, with many of the original committees and stakeholders brought back to the table to look at public safety in the 904 as they first were convened in 2008. The looming question: How will a back-in-business Journey be funded?

This is a developing story to be updated as more details emerge.

Lenny Curry, Jax establishment shine in latest British business deal

A narrative circulating before Lenny Curry‘s election contended that Jacksonville wasn’t getting all it could out of the annual economic development trips to London.

Some said, perhaps for political reasons, that former mayor Alvin Brown was ill-suited to make the sale to multinational companies that otherwise might be persuaded to relocate to or launch operations in Jacksonville.

That supposition, of course, will never be definitively proved or disproved. With Thursday’s latest corporate relocation announcement, though, the Curry Administration showed its ability to align its priorities neatly with the economic development wing (read: JAX Chamber) of the local establishment. Also, Council President Greg Anderson, a banker himself, is uniquely positioned to help make the sale.

The decision of international recruitment outsourcing firm Resource Solutions to bring its North American Global Service Center to Jacksonville, will bring at least 50 jobs by July 2016 and 25 more in the next three years. The deal was sealed on the London trip, and representatives of the company and the JAX Chamber pointed to the united messaging front as a reason.

Janine Chidlow, managing director of EMEA Americas at Resource Solutions, said her company was “impressed by the proactive approach taken by the mayor and the Jax Chamber to bring new businesses to Jacksonville.”

She said Jacksonville was “shortlisted” before the economic development trip, but that the “appetite of the mayor’s office and the Chamber” was a “major swing for us.”

The company with operations in 24 countries and Global Service Centers in Hyderabad, India; Manchester, England; and Johannesburg clearly could have gone anywhere in the United States. However, Jacksonville’s effort closed the deal. Jax Chamber Chairwoman-elect Audrey Moran, a 2011 mayoral candidate who still has a cadre of devoted admirers, made it clear this initiative would not have succeeded without the economic development trips to London.

“We have to get in front of people to make a connection,” Moran said. “It’s important who we bring with us.”

In addition to Curry, Anderson, and Moran, former mayors John Delaney and John Peyton made the trip.

“Trips are about building relationships,” Moran said, calling the convergence of influence “unprecedented,” emblematic of “continuity and vision,” and spotlighting “how engaged in these conversations” Curry is.

Curry, meanwhile, whose increasingly close political relationship with Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan has not been missed by #jaxpol observers, cited the trip as an example of “leverage[ing] the Jaguars brand” and emblematic of the “clearly strong business links between London and Jacksonville.”

Curry and Moran both expect further announcements to come via the London trip’s outreach, which could disarm critics of the economic development trips.

In that context, meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how the council president position evolves in the next few years.

Next year, Council Vice President Lori Boyer will take the trip with Curry and business community representatives. She’s known as one of the smartest people in Jacksonville politics, and also will help make the sale as Anderson did last month and will on trips to come during his tenure.

The open question, though, is who will succeed her as council VP, and then as council president two years hence.

A number of names have been floated as potential VP candidates, and questions for council members to consider as they choose their next VP include the following:

  • Would that person be effective in helping the business community close deals for projects like this?
  • Would that person be inclined to upstage the mayor or contradict the messaging?
  • Can that person keep his or her mouth shut when it comes to deals that must be kept confidential?

With that in mind, expect a Chamber-friendly candidate such as Aaron Bowman or Anna Brosche to emerge in the end.

Some long-timers, including one who reportedly has nine commitments already and another whose plainspoken ways aren’t exactly going to be catnip to the global business community, might squawk. But clearly, the key to these deals is the ability to put forth a unified coherent message, reflective of an aggressive  unified vision for economic development.

Who can deliver? Who can help push the ball over the goal line?

In the end, expect the mayor’s office to lobby for the right candidate … and against the wrong one.

Ahead of HRO meeting, Lenny Curry and Jax Council attacked from right

The campaign between Alvin Brown and Lenny Curry saw the current mayor routinely slandered and libeled by people on his putative left, with labels such as “party boss” and worse thrown his way.

A little more than three months after his inauguration, Curry is feeling slings and arrows from a different direction: the right … including active members of the Republican Party, as we report just hours before the first 6 p.m. HRO Community Conversation at the Advanced Technology Center at Florida State College at Jacksonville.

Raymond Johnson, of Biblical Concept Ministries, has been among the most vocal of the speakers against expanding the Human Rights Ordinance to LGBT people. Last week, Johnson, a Confederate flag enthusiast who did campaign consultant work for Councilmen Doyle Carter and Matt Schellenberg, issued a communique calling for urgent prayer and action regarding the HRO “immediately.”

The document starts off with the predictable “Do you want men in women’s restrooms?” motif that worked to scuttle the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance referendum earlier this month.

“Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a professing Methodist Christian, has refused to take a public position against a Christian persecution law known as a ‘Human Rights Ordinance’ or ‘Anti-Discrimination Law’ also known as a ‘Bathroom Bill’,” Johnson writes, “Christian persecution” being an especially interesting phrasing given that Curry regularly meets with his pastor.

Johnson bills the “Community Conversations” as an “excuse to show community support for such laws that will hurt our families, churches and Christian businesses.”

Then, Johnson tells the faithful to “add this situation and mayor [SIC] Curry to your church prayer list.”

And then it gets good: “The end times our near [SIC], and now Jacksonville pastors and churches are literately [SIC] about to face real persecution and will lose religious freedoms. Don’t believe me. Don’t believe you need to get involved or attend and speak out at meetings? In the last year we have seen the first Christian American citizen JAILED for her Christian [SIC] convictions.”

Johnson turns his attention to “the most pro-Homosexual Council” in Jacksonville’s history, before winding up his pitch.

“Pastors, let me be blunt, You CANNOT ignore this plea, you MUST get involved NOW or you will have refused to protect your own religious freedom and willfully allowed your church to be persecuted. There’s enough votes in City Council to pass this law, and its defeat at this point will rely on a VETO from Mayor Curry.”

Will Curry succumb to this appeal? Seems doubtful.

Johnson leaves out, of course, the fact that a group he fronted for, United Christians of Florida, withheld endorsement of Curry in the mayoral race.

Curry won that one. So what does Curry need from Johnson at this point?

Curry, just the other day at the Sunshine Summit, gave a rousing speech about how “conservatives win elections.” He did so without pandering to this element in his own party.

What is clear: These three “community conversations” will be interesting. With the hard right attempting to put the mayor and City Council in check, including by casting aspersions on the administration for scheduling those meetings in “high crime” areas, the stage is set for the conservative mayor to have a moment not entirely different from William F. Buckley reading the Birchers out of the conservative movement decades ago.

Will Curry go that far? Or will he defer to the obvious ploys of his adversaries on the right?

A conversation with Johnson on Monday night revealed some of the claims familiar to those following the Houston debate, including references to the “evil agenda” of pro-equality advocates, and a seeming preoccupation with public restrooms.

One can expect a lot of the same rhetorical flourishes to surface in the community conversation on Tuesday night, the subsequent two in December, and, very likely, at City Council committees and public comment throughout the life of whatever bill is eventually introduced, whether it’s a “fully inclusive” measure or not, and whether it’s introduced by the Republican mayor or a member of City Council.

Lenny Curry, Richard Corcoran talk about cronyism, courage

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry gave a warning to Sunshine Summit attendees milling about in the hall.

“You might want to come back in,” he said. “I’m getting ready to tell you how conservatives win elections.”

The Republican Curry, former chair of the state GOP, beat incumbent Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown last year.

He castigated Brown as putting his “cronies in at the highest level of government,” and slammed the former mayor’s city spending plans as “smoke and mirrors.”

Twice mentioning the “liberal media” that stood in his way, he said he was told not to run because he was “too young, too brash, too conservative.”

“We have to stop blaming and start acting,” Curry told the crowd, before launching into a call-and-response of “Be bold or be defeated.”

Curry was followed by state Rep. Richard Corcoran, who was erroneously introduced as the “Speaker of the House of Representatives.” Corcoran isn’t slated to be lead the House until after current Speaker Steve Crisafulli completes his current term.

Corcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican, also took a shot at the “liberal media” and focused on the importance of “principles.” He was chief of staff to Marco Rubio when Rubio himself was the state House’s speaker.

The lawmaker told a story of Ronald Reagan reading press clips of his then-Secretary of Education Bill Bennett being pilloried in news stories. The president then asked why others weren’t getting the same press since Bennett was obviously “sticking to his principles.”

The presidential contest is about “finding people true to their principles,” Corcoran said, adding that he was redefining “PC” to mean not “politically correct” but “politically courageous.”

“Republicans, our future is bright … and we will win the White House,” he said. “And we’ll leave our children a legacy of truth, justice and freedom.”

Confirmed: Clay Yarborough enters HD 12 fray

The 2015 elections led to a lot of changes in Jacksonville’s city government. Alvin Brown and his appointees were, except for certain high-performers, out. Lenny Curry, and his appointees, in. Among those imports to the mayor’s suite: a number of City Council members from the previous class (Policy Director Robin Lumb; Blight Director Denise Lee; and Boards and Commissions liaison Johnny Gaffney).

Left out in the cold: former Council President Clay Yarborough. His resume’ had been received by the mayor’s office, and the hot story of the summer was one in which he passed on a job with Mike Hogan in the Supervisor of Elections office, then was told, by Susie Wiles, that he should have taken it.

Yarborough, a young man by almost any definition save that of boy bands and NFL running backs, had served eight years in Council. Was his political career, which started with him routing School Board member Cheryl Grimes in an election eight years before, in which he was outspent, over?

Not so fast.

Yarborough’s name has been linked for a few months now to the HD 12 race, in which the previous two entrants were fellow former GOP Councilmen Richard Clark and Don Redman. They represented a quarter of HD 12, roughly, each, when they were on Council.

Yarborough? The other half.

And now, can report, his papers are en route to Tallahassee, and as of Monday, he will be the third candidate in the race.

In leaving Council, and handing the seat over to Joyce Morgan, Yarborough said in an exclusive interview that he’d left a light footprint, leaving her a list of projects that he had been working on, both of capital improvements and infrastructural repair in the long-suffering Arlington neighborhood.

He had positive things to say about the first few months of Morgan’s term, including her Renew Arlington push, which he described as a “new, fresh approach” that “makes sense.”

Of course, the seat is the charismatic Morgan’s now. But Yarborough still wants to serve the community, and is willing to run against two men he’s had collegiality with to do it.

Yarborough said that “even though we served together, all of us have unique take-aways and unique experiences.”

One thing that he believes sets him apart is his ability to “work with people,” especially essential given the large body of people in the House, and the shorter time they meet.

He also accepts that there is a “learning curve,” and welcomes the opportunity to conquer it, to “represent the district and the city well.”

Of course, each of these men will be running to succeed Lake Ray, which Yarborough did eight years prior.

“Lake and I have known each other for a long time,” Yarborough said, adding that they have talked about this.

Ray, the chair of the Duval County GOP, can’t endorse in a primary (apparently, that can be controversial). However, an indication of how another member of the Ray family feels: Hampton Ray, who is serving as a Duval County co-chair for the Marco Rubio campaign, and whose name was linked to this race, won’t run because Yarborough is.

Of course, in a three-way race with smart politicians, the temptation might be there to go negative. One can imagine a world in which a rival campaign sent out a mailer pointing out Richard Clark’s potential conflicts of interest as a JTA lobbyist.

That won’t be sent out from the Yarborough campaign.

“Anyone is free to work in the occupation they choose,” Yarborough said, citing the “rewarding” nature of his work in HR, which allowed him to “shake the hands of 1200 people” over the years and say “You’re hired.”

The conversation then pivoted to the City Hall process, which he described as having “slipped a resume under the door.”

He didn’t mention a specific role he’d wanted; given his choice, he would have liked to have been liaison between the mayor’s office and City Council.

Ultimately, the mayor didn’t go in the direction of hiring Yarborough, who endorsed him only a few weeks before the election. Yarborough harbors no bitterness, saying that it’s the “mayor’s prerogative” to hire who he chooses.

The conversation then pivoted again, to the MOCA flap, in which he had objected to a photograph of a naked woman in the Museum of Contemporary Art, desiring to have its funding of $223,000 excised from the Cultural Council grant process.

In November 2014, Yarborough emailed the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Chris Hand, complaining about an item in an exhibit of Angela Strassheim’s photographs in the atrium of Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The portrait he objected to — “Janine (Eight Month Pregnant)” – depicted a nude woman, reclining on her couch in front of an open window.

Council President Yarborough’s email described a “large picture” of a “woman with bare breasts exposed and laying in a questionable position” as an “inappropriate, pornographic display”. He demanded that the Mayor pull the funding from MOCA for the current fiscal year or “explain how this will be addressed within 24 hours”.

Calling the picture “pornography,” Yarborough opined that “to promote a positive moral climate in our city and though some will defend the pornography by labeling it ‘art,’ we need boundaries in order to be healthy, especially where it concerns our children.”

Yarborough eventually met with MOCA, and they came to an amicable resolution, and kept their funding.

Yarborough’s thoughts, almost a year later?

“The biggest room in the world is room for improvement,” Yarborough said.

“When I first saw the photograph as I walked into Café NOLA, I was thinking as a parent,” and thought of the painting being inappropriate for a “public building funded with public money.”

“Could I have handled it differently? Yes,” Yarborough said.

Another high-profile moment in which Yarborough’s faith became central to the public discourse was when he, along with Don Redman, raised objections to the confirmation of Parvez Ahmed to the Human Rights Commission in 2010 on religious grounds.

Yarborough stands by his position, even half a decade later.

The confirmation of Ahmed was “on the heels of a very big investigation” into the Committee on American Islamic Relations, and the “scrutiny from the federal government” on CAIR was “foremost on [his] mind” and so he wanted “details.”

Another issue that Yarborough focused on during his Council tenure, which took him on a fruitless trip to Tallahassee on Presidents Day of this year: the police and fire pension fund.

Yarborough appealed for state redress on the issue, including help with an audit, but was rebuffed.

With the forensic audit now an agenda setter in City Hall, Yarborough quipped that “the saga continues,” before echoing contentions that Bill Gulliford makes.

“When we’d ask questions of the fund, it was like pulling teeth,” Yarborough said, adding that the fund would send “letters that would respond to everything we didn’t ask for.”

Yarborough spoke with certainty on the fund, calling it a “total undermining of the consolidated structure” and a “rogue attitude that slaps the people of Jacksonville in the face.”

He also spoke positively of the two mayors he worked with regarding the pension issue.

“[John] Peyton tried,” he said, “knowing there was a problem.”

And “Alvin Brown was committed to advancing pension reform.”

In contrast to Clark, who called into a local radio show days before the election to say that the Brown administration had scuttled the Peyton pension plan for political reasons, Yarborough made no such claims.

“It’s been a long hard row to put the plow to,” Yarborough said, regarding the pension crisis.

And for now, at least, Yarborough is plowing in a new field. But first, the seed has to be planted, and the immediate goal is to “get resources put in, make a good showing, and get the campaign launched,” and to “talk to folks, show that we’re serious.”

As it stands now, Yarborough is $50,000 behind the front-runner. But Clark’s peripatetic fundraising, coupled with a sense of disquiet about him in Tallahassee among some Republican insiders, has clearly created an opening for Yarborough to make his next move.

Yarborough will be in Tallahassee Thursday, talking to politicos and opinion leaders, and he should be expected to be an immediate threat to the other two campaigns.

The case of the 507 missing debit cards from the Alvin Brown administration

Employee recognition programs are wonderful; but so is fiscal accountability.

An email from Jacksonville Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa to Mayor Lenny Curry indicated that over 500 debit cards have gone missing, from an Alvin Brown era employee recognition program.

$27,425 of debit cards are “unaccounted” for, wrote Mousa, cards “purchased in conjunction with an employee recognition program.”

Adding to the wackiness: “some cards were reconciled with an employee name when distributed.”

Unknown: whether the unaccounted cards were distributed and not recorded, or “simply went missing.”

The city also is on the hook for almost $1,400 more in “activation fees.”

Undoubtedly, Mousa and Curry will be focused like a laser on getting to the next level and figuring out what happened to almost $30,000 in city funds.

John Delaney questions “shrill” Jax PFPF audit

The hot story in Jacksonville politics this week has been the blockbuster forensic audit of the beleaguered Police and Fire Pension Fund.

Numerous irregularities, ranging from lavish travel budgets and lack of oversight to questionable investments, were spotlighted in the audit.

However, at least one former mayor familiar with the Police and Fire Pension (indeed, the 2001 deal was established under his administration) advises taking it with a “grain of salt.”

As John Delaney told during a Friday phone interview, certain aspects of the audit’s presentation raise questions.

“It seems a bit shrill in tone,” Delaney said.

So shrill, in fact, that to Delaney, “it doesn’t sound like [the tone of] an auditor.”

Beyond that issue, Delaney concedes that there are merits to some criticisms made by Jacksonville City Council members this week.

John Crescimbeni was right,” said Delaney, when the councilman said that when the Legislature made the PFPF independent it removed the oversight component.

Regarding the investment underperformance of the fund (“poor investment decision-making [which] has resulted in at least $370 million in underperformance losses”), Delaney was not surprised, saying that the city’s pension fund always was “managed better historically” than that of the PFPF.

As well, Delaney related, there has always been something of a double standard.

“If the fund hits well, [they] ask for additional pension benefits.”

And if the fund underperforms? “They need more money.”

Delaney points out that the PFPF historically has provided an audit to the city, so there has been a measure of transparency.

And regarding the trips to conferences, Delaney described it as “crazy travel,” adding that “it’s not like they hid it.”

Meanwhile, regarding the calls for investigation by state and federal authorities, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, Delaney seemed to think it was a bit much.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

Delaney noted that the board is a “volunteer board” with one permanent employees, and that the “police and fire units were always happy” with the performance of the fund.

In recent years, Delaney has taken slings and arrows for being the architect of the 2001 deal, which he claims was mislabeled a “30-year agreement” because of clauses in the wording that were ignored since.

“There wasn’t a damned thing wrong with the deal,” Delaney said. “It was right for the times” and “fully funded when I left office.”

It was in “fine shape in 2003” when Delaney left office, until City Council, just before the Great Recession, added more benefits, ignoring the threat of a veto from Mayor John Peyton.

“He couldn’t get seven votes to sustain a veto,” Delaney said, which points to the unique political power of the public sector unions.

“The unions wanted to call it a 30-year deal,” Delaney said, “yet they ignored a [key] paragraph.”

That paragraph boiled down to the principle that benefits could be reduced in light of changed economic circumstances.

“The media has never understood the 2001 deal. It was never a 30-year deal,” he said, citing language in the accord that allowed for exemptions.

Delaney also adds that, contrary to popular belief and media assertion, it’s “not a rich plan” and “compared to other police and fire pension funds, it’s the cheapest in the state.”

The pension fund, said Delaney, was “underfunded over the last 12 years.”

“At it’s core, it needs money. It’s needed money for the last 12 years.”

Delaney also took issue with the Peyton pension deal being spiked by the Alvin Brown administration.

“I’m not faulting council for not doing the Peyton deal since Brown asked them not to,” Delaney said, “but the Brown proposal was so bad that it was opposed by the Chamber” which “shows you how bad the deal was” since that was an unprecedented action from that group.

Whether investigations happen or not, and the precise topography they take, the issue ultimately is funding, Delaney said.

The two-term mayor said, “$30 million a year does it” and that figure could be accomplished via a “modest property tax increase or a half-cent sales tax [hike.]”

That would, he added, “solve the problem overnight.”

Chris Hand addresses Jax PFPF governance reforms in light of audit

One of the major projects of the Alvin Brown administration was comprehensive pension reform, a path that took the relationship between the Jacksonville Mayor’s Office and City Council through many twists and turns.

The findings of the Police and Fire Pension Fund audit were described by Councilman Bill Gulliford as “reprehensible … with a vast and staggering sum of money … recklessly squandered, and now lost forever to this community … because of a huge unfunded, bloated, and excessively expensive pension fund that no one was properly watching.”

That said, there may be some positive momentum already built, according to former Brown Chief of Staff Chris Hand, who told Thursday that “the community is not starting from scratch in efforts to improve the PFPF situation. New governance reforms that took effect just four months ago will help to address some of the concerns about transparency and accountability at the Police and Fire Pension Fund.”

Hand went into detail.

“The continued focus on improving transparency and accountability at the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund (PFPF) recalls one hopeful development from the recent past: governance changes in the pension reform agreement that took effect in late June 2015,” Hand said.
“Though the benefit changes and funding requirements of the city of Jacksonville’s pension reform agreement with the PFPF received more public attention, the agreement also contains important governance reforms to enhance transparency and accountability at the PFPF. These reforms are in many ways the heart of the agreement, as they provide some of the long-term changes needed to help prevent Jacksonville’s recent pension history from repeating itself.”
Those changes include “shifting benefit negotiations to collective bargaining between the city and unions,” which “focuses the PFPF on its primary role in managing pension assets.”
As well, “new ethics standards and disclosure requirements now apply to the PFPF and the investment managers it hires. Consistent actuarial accounting methods will promote accuracy and predictability in plan funding. Qualified citizens will provide input on PFPF investment decisions through the new Financial and Investment Advisory Committee,” Hand said.
Hand also noted that “[p]ublic records disputes and most other everyday legal matters will now be handled by the city’s Office of General Counsel as is the case with most other independent authorities, rather than by outside counsel. The agreement specifies strict hiring criteria for future executive directors, and provides clear rules on the retirement benefits those employees will earn.”
“The credit for these governance reforms goes to the 17 members of the Jacksonville Retirement Reform Task Force  – which included current Council President Greg Anderson – and their capable advisers from the Pew Charitable Trusts and MAEVA,” Hand said.
“The task force members and advisers thoughtfully crafted most of these provisions. We made the task force’s governance recommendations a priority in our negotiations with the PFPF and reached agreement on most of them,” Hand said. “Through Councilman Bill Gulliford‘s legislation, City Council overwhelmingly adopted the governance changes as part of the overall agreement.”
“Recent events reinforce Council President Anderson’s wise appointment of Bill Scheu to the PFPF Board of Trustees. Because Mr. Scheu chaired the Retirement Reform Task Force,” Hand said, “he understands the critical importance of these governance reforms and the need to implement them fully and quickly.”
With the very real specter of investigations by the FBI, the SEC, and the Department of Justice looming over the fund, as well as internal inquiries fueled by subpoenas and the righteous wrath of City Council, and tangible pressure for intercession from Tallahassee, it will be interesting to see how these governance reforms play into the larger narrative.

Eureka Garden, the Times-Union, and the art of meta-discourse

On Thursday afternoon, a statement was released by former Jacksonville mayor Alvin Brown regarding the Eureka Garden financing issue, which, as we reported earlier this week, was ultimately controversial.

In a letter dated October 18, Tripp Gulliford, the chairman of the Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority, mailed Mayor Lenny Curry with concerns over how “bond issuers not in Jacksonville have in the past (and will continue to) issue bonds… regardless of any public purpose, absent proper monitoring, with the apparent primary objective of the financing to create fees for professionals.”

“Eureka Gardens was financed as part of such a bond issue — an issue that the JHFA opposed for exactly the reasons noted above,” Gulliford added.

In 2012, under Brown, the “bond issuer bypassed the normal approval process through the City Council and went directly to the Mayor for approval — which was given.”

In response, Brown observed that “[w]hen this agreement was created in 2012, it was privy to a formal process including a public hearing and the advice of city staff and attorneys. No objections regarding this project were ever brought to my attention. I encourage Global Ministries Foundation to finish the job it told this community it would do.”

The media got the same statement: a “for immediate release” job.

The Times-Union made a decision to handle it a bit differently than we did.

In the first version of the story, the writer said (correctly) that the statement was sent out by a “former Alvin Brown speechwriter.”

Hey, guyz! That speechwriter has a name: David Hunt.

As in the former T-U political journalist. A fact that was eschewed from either version of the story.

Hunt, along with Abel Harding, Dave Roman, and Dave DeCamp, were four T-U alums who found places in the Brown administration.

[It’s as if there is no hard and fast wall between journalism and spokesman-ism, amirite?]

The 8:00 p.m. update eschewed that formulation, instead attributing the statement to Brown himself, leaving Hunt out of it.

“Because the former mayor released the statement late in the day, representatives from the city’s office of general counsel were not available at that time to say whether or not a city attorney did as she was instructed to do and informed the mayor of concerns about the bond.”


The T-U has the right to frame the story as it sees fit, of course.

The deliberate decision to change the framing of the statement is one worthy of note, however, as the narrative clearly is pointing to suspicion toward the former mayor’s role in, as the T-U points out, having “approved $34.5 million in tax-free, low-interest loans that allowed a non-profit to buy low-income apartments.”

As well, the T-U correctly points out the downplaying of the horrific conditions those residents lived through for the majority of Brown’s term as “very disheartening.”

Alvin Brown breaks silence, addresses Jacksonville’s Eureka Garden

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown has received flak of late for his role in facilitating the finance deal behind Eureka Garden Apartments. On Thursday afternoon, Brown released a statement detailing his position, citing his commitment to disadvantaged communities, and urging Global Ministries Foundation to handle their business.

“What’s surfaced in recent weeks in the Eureka Garden community has been very disheartening, and I urge management to take whatever steps necessary to protect the safety and well-being of residents. My thoughts and prayers are with the families,” Brown said.

He continued:

During my time in office, it was a privilege to meet with residents in communities such as Eureka Garden and Washington Heights to learn more about the issues, concerns and challenges that had gone ignored for far too long. Through these discussions grew larger strategy to create lasting change, such as the Urban Parks Initiative to help keep young people off the streets and Community Empowerment Days to bring vital services directly to areas in need.

For much of my life, and especially within the past four years, I have worked tirelessly with faith-based organizations, the nonprofit community and local businesses to leverage our scarce resources to invest in low-income communities and a strong education system that will create systemic change in years to come.

When this agreement was created in 2012, it was privy to a formal process including a public hearing and the advice of city staff and attorneys. No objections regarding this project were ever brought to my attention. I encourage Global Ministries Foundation to finish the job it told this community it would do.

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