Wednesday sees Carla Wiley and Ronnie Simmons in Jacksonville’s federal courthouse for sentencing hearings in the One Door for Education case.
Wiley, the former CEO of the sham charity, and Simmons, Wiley’s former boyfriend who was also Corrine Brown‘s chief of staff, will not be sentenced Wednesday.
Rather, the sentence will be rendered Dec. 4.
Both Wiley and Simmons pleaded out and cooperated in the case against Brown, and prosecutors have factored that in to sentencing recommendations. The feds are willing to give Wiley as few as 21 months, and Simmons as few as 33 months.
Simmons pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, as well as theft of government funds — for congressional staff pay for a relative who didn’t actually do work.
Wiley, meanwhile, provided the shell of a sleepy charity, one that became a money machine for the One Door 3.
Wiley, in her testimony during Brown’s trial, outlined something key to the prosecution case: a narrative that Brown had a key role in orchestrating the scheme, even though emails and surveillance video show that Simmons did most of the withdrawals from One Door and transfers to Brown’s accounts, along with cash withdrawals.
Wiley’s charity and consulting business served as a pass-through for One Door donations, which went to lavish travel for herself and Simmons.
When asked if she engaged in “fraud” for One Door, Wiley said yes – and that Brown and Simmons did also.
Brown and Simmons were the rainmakers, raising all but “two or three thousand dollars” of the $800,000 brought in, she said.
And, through all that time, she knew of one scholarship for One Door.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars came in, said Wiley, who owned up to wire fraud and profiting off of the charity.
The charity had closed its original bank account, with some thought of finding a different way of helping children, before on-again/off-again boyfriend Simmons convinced Wiley to let her non-profit host a reception for Brown in Sept. 2012.
Wiley offered the charity for that use.
Wiley stopped soliciting donations herself; the machine was run by Simmons within months after the arrangement was struck, even though donations would sometimes be FedEx’d to the office of Wiley’s former employer.
Money for car payments and other expenses, for Wiley and her family, coursed from the One Door account also, the witness said.
Meanwhile, even with Wiley’s mother’s name on the charity and Wiley as the president, the charity was essentially Simmons’ machine to run and deploy, including sending out fundraising pitch letters to money marks, with forged signatures a specialty of his.
Cooperation in Brown’s trial and the plea deal obscures the actual offenses committed by Simmons and Wiley, and should result in light sentences next month.
Since both have rolled on Brown, it’s tough to imagine what else there is to say Wednesday, especially given the prosecution is not insisting on long prison stretches for the erstwhile co-conspirators.
When it comes to proper sentencing for 18 felony counts related to wire and mail fraud, tax evasion, and fallacious financial disclosures, the feds may want prison, but Corrine Brown wants “restorative justice.”
A 19-page sentencing memorandum, one which may have benefited from a robust round of copy editing, contends that Brown’s good works should exonerate her — and that any rhetorical excesses that Brown may have made were the fault of a racist criminal justice system and media.
“Corrine Brown respectfully requests that this Court show mercy and compassion and impose a term or probation [SIC]. Brown’s over forty years of dedicated public service, her age, her health, and a comparison of other public integrity cases with her case justify a sentence of probation. The interests of justice would not be served by imposing a sentence of imprisonment,” the memo asserts.
The feds want prison for at least seven years, but Brown’s attorney says that would be “warehousing” Brown, stopping her from doing “what she does best” — “helping people.”
Cynics may scoff at that given that Brown was convicted of benefiting over the course of four calendar years from collecting donations for a charity to help poor children but traveling and shopping off the money.
“Restorative justice,” writes Brown’s attorney, would allow the city to make use of Brown’s “talents.”
The memo justifies Brown’s attacks on the FBI for investigating her instead of stopping the PULSE killings against the backdrop of “smear campaigns” against Martin Luther King and Malcolm X “and every other leader of the civil rights movement,”
“This reflexive fear of the FBI is like muscle memory,” Brown’s attorney asserts.
As well, “racism” has imposed its own sentence on Brown via media coverage and comment threads.
“Coverage of Corrine Brown in the local news has been particularly harsh, with many news outlets reverting to racially charged headlines and reporting,” the memo asserts. “Just a cursory look at the public comments sections on news websites reveals just how many racists still take every opportunity to insult her and other prominent African American politicians.”
Note to Corrine Brown: NEVER read the comments.
Strong family ties and a lack of ability to hold public office again are also cited as deterrents.
Corrine Brown and her co-conspirators, Ronnie Simmons and Carla Wiley, may want to avoid prison time for their One Door for Education hustle.
But federal prosecutors don’t appear to be moved, per a 50 page sentencing memorandum dropped on Thursday.
The feds contend that in the history of “public corruption” cases involving former Reps. Richard Jefferson, Chaka Fattah, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Rick Renzi, that “no court sentenced any of these defendants to a probationary sentence.”
The government also has tabulated the cost of restitution, offering a “conservative estimate” of $452,515.87, itemized per donor.
The stentorian 50-page memo is blunt from the outset: “Society expects courts to punish convicted and corrupt politicians. If the legal system does not do so, our system of justice loses credibility, and the public is left with the impression that there are some citizens who are truly above the law. This cannot be the case.”
Central to the government’s case for an actual sentence here: the fraud was ongoing.
“The tax fraud scheme spanned three election cycles. Brown’s fraud, scheme to make false statements, and tax
fraud convictions illustrate that her entitlement disposition transitioned into criminal conduct that persisted for years. Brown’s culture of fraud became more brazen over time and culminated in the One Door For Education fraud, which was the primary focus of the government’s prosecution,” the sentencing memo asserts.
Prosecutors lambaste Brown for her rhetorical rodomontade, singling out a statement made in which she “ridiculed the American system of justice and rule of law” by conflating her investigation with the feds’ failure to stop Omar Matteen from the Pulse massacre.
“I represent Orlando. These are the same agents that was not able to do a thorough investigation of [Omar Mateen] and we ended up with fifty dead people, and over forty-eight people injured. Same Justice Department. Same
agents. And with that, I will see you in court,” Brown told media last July.
“Brown stooped so low as to state that if the Jacksonville FBI had not spent resources investigating her fraudulent conduct, then the Pulse nightclub tragedy in Orlando on June 12, 2016 would not have occurred,” prosecutors assert.
The memo also charges Brown with fraudulent charges of racism, saying they were “a complete fabrication meant to distract the public – and no doubt potential jurors – from the very serious allegations against her.”
Key to the hardline position: lost opportunities.
“The real travesty of this case is what One Door could have been. Corrine Brown had the power, willing donation base, and clear opportunity to transform One Door into a life changing charity,” the Feds assert. “Brown, Simmons, and Wiley not only squandered this opportunity, they abused it for their own benefit. The victims in this case are the students who received nothing.”
The feds also note Brown’s flippancy on the stand, including when she was asked about money transfers.
“I had birthdays. I had Christmas. You know, and sometimes I had boyfriends. So I mean, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Brown quipped about money received one January.
“None of this money could be attributable to her birthday (which is in November) or Christmas, and it is highly unlikely that this money entirely consists of annual exclusion gifts or cash gifts from boyfriends,” the Feds remark.
Deceit is a leit motif in the memo, with the feds coming back over and over again to brazen fabrications from Brown: “Corrine Brown’s trial testimony was replete with material falsehoods. After taking an oath to tell the truth, Brown treated the witness stand in this Courthouse as a kind of political pulpit to say anything – no matter the degree of falsity.”
Brown’s attempts to pin the blame on Simmons, her former chief of staff, are described as one manifestation of a “common defense strategy to discredit a testifying co-defendant.”
The memo’s descriptions of serial perjury, coupled with the defense’s inability to score a single win in this case, suggest that sentencing for Brown next week will be brutal.
That’s the strategy in a sentencing memorandum from Carla Wiley, one of the co-conspirators with Corrine Brown in the One Door for Education case.
Wiley, along with her former boyfriend Ronnie Simmons (Brown’s erstwhile chief of staff), is to be sentenced along with Simmons next Wednesday — a day before the sentencing of Brown herself.
Wiley testified for the prosecution in the Brown trial, outlining how a doomed love and circumstance led to fraud on a felony scale.
She outlined something key to the prosecution case: a narrative that Brown had a key role in orchestrating the scheme.
Wiley’s charity and consulting business served as a pass-through for One Door donations, which went to lavish travel for herself and Simmons.
When asked if she engaged in “fraud” for One Door, Wiley said yes – and that Brown and Simmons did also.
Brown and Simmons were the rainmakers, raising all but “two or three thousand dollars” of the $800,000 brought in, she said. Wiley got her cut though: spending $140,000.
“Immediately after being confronted by investigating agents, Ms. Wiley obtained counsel and quickly began providing truthful cooperation in the Government’s investigation,” the memo asserts, describing her cooperation as “early and significant, leading to the indictment of a then-sitting member of Congress and her chief of staff, and ultimately to the plea and cooperation of Mr. Simmons, her testimony and his testimony at trial and the conviction of Corrine Brown.”
The memo asserts that Wiley’s “significant role” in the scheme that went on for three years is outweighed by her cooperation. Also asserted: that Wiley has “no significant risk of recidivism.”
Notable: one of Wiley’s attorneys, Justin Fairfax, will be the next Lt. Gov. of Virginia, elected in the Old Dominion’s anti-Trump wave Tuesday.
It was only a matter of time before U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat, drew a primary challenge in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.
However, that challenge isn’t coming from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, at least not yet.
Rather, the first primary opponent for Lawson is Rontel Batie, a 29 year-old former Tallahassee lobbyist and former Corrine Brown policy director who overcame a lot of childhood adversity, including but not limited to his father being killed in a drive-by shooting and serious poverty.
Batie framed that as part of his narrative, both in a campaign launch video, and a press release, in which he claimed to have “excited the millennial base in Tallahassee and Jacksonville with his campaign launch video, which now has over 7,000 views and over 300 shares on Facebook. Young people in this district are a demographic that have been in a political slumber since the election of President Barack Obama in 2012.”
Batie claims to have received 50 donations thus far for his committee, “Rontel for Florida,” but he didn’t want to say how much cash he has on hand. (To put that in perspective, Lawson had $190,126 raised (all but $51,000 of that from committees), with $97,876 cash on hand at the end of September).
Batie, who worked in D.C. for Congresswoman Brown, was surprisingly removed from the details of her high-profile court case that ended her political career and set up sentencing for next week on 18 felony counts.
“I didn’t follow the case,” Batie said, “but I never saw her do anything illegal.”
Corrine Brown, as we reported exclusively, was introducing Alvin Brown to power players in D.C., which many would interpret as a signal of support.
Batie hasn’t talked to Corrine Brown about his campaign; he is giving her “space to process” her legal issues.
Likewise, Batie had little to say about Alvin Brown.
“I don’t know much about him,” Batie said, other than “he was mayor for a brief stint.”
(Alvin Brown served a full four-year term from 2011 to 2015.)
Batie, a St. Augustine native, moved to Jacksonville a few months back; however, he said “that district is home to me in more ways than one.”
He’s a FAMU alum, for one thing. And he has spent most of his time in Jacksonville, with family in the area.
As well, he sees himself as having a unique value add, having had “very different experiences than Brown and Lawson” in terms of the adversity he has overcome.
He started working when he was 12 — his first job being cleaning the restrooms at a Greyhound station. And he sees his narrative as one that is relatable to people in the district.
(Of course, both Alvin Brown and Al Lawson have their own documented rises from childhood adversity as well).
A motion filed earlier this month by former Rep. Corrine Brown to delay her sentencing was rejected Friday, finalizing the Nov. 16 sentencing on 18 counts related to a nonperforming educational charity, One Door for Education.
Brown sought a sentence of probation, and invoked health issues as a justification for the sentencing delay.
The “defendant is still undergoing testing and evaluation by physicians at a local facility mentioned therein, for which additional suspected medical conditions have not yet been fully diagnosed. It is probable that the anticipated findings and evaluation are significant.”
Judge Timothy Corrigan rejected that argument, contending that “the Court has reviewed medical records provided by Ms. Brown under seal. Nothing in those medical records provides a reason for the Court to postpone the sentencing.”
Brown cited difficulty in compiling documentary evidence of her “history of good works.”
“Numerous documents indispensable to establishing such information were destroyed in the defendant’s home in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Although the defendant has been diligently endeavoring to recreate those documents, several third-party custodians of records are still in the process of either reconstructing or reissuing such documents.”
The Court asserted that “if Ms. Brown can demonstrate at the sentencing hearing that there is some document or information that she was unable to obtain, the Court will consider whether to allow her additional time to produce it.”
“The best is yet to come for Duval — you will see my name on the ballot.”
Multiple sources have confirmed that former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown told a crowd of Democrats Wednesday evening that he has at least one more campaign in him.
And one source confirms the quote above from the meeting of the Duval Democrats — an audacious statement, and a long-awaited political rebirth after a tough loss two years ago, one that most Democrats didn’t see coming.
Brown’s comments were described as a “big announcement soon,” and Dems were told they should expect to see his name on a ballot soon.
But for what? That’s the question.
Brown has been most persistently linked with a run against Rep. Al Lawson, the Tallahassee Democrat who upended Corrine Brown in the 2016 primary.
Brown has told at least one leading Jacksonville Democrat that his plan was to launch a campaign after Corrine Brown is out of the news, which could happen as soon as her November sentencing date. The former Jacksonville Mayor has been talking to consultants as well.
Lawson would present some challenges for Alvin Brown, whose name identification fades west of the Duval County line. In his primary election against Corrine Brown in 2016, Corrine Brown won just two counties of the 11 in the sprawling east-west North Florida district.
However, there is opportunity for a Jacksonville challenger against Lawson — especially a challenger with a proven donor track record.
Lawson’s fundraising thus far is credible — $190,126 raised (all but $51,000 of that from committees), with $97,876 cash on hand. However, he only raised roughly $32,000 in Q3 — a potentially worrying sign.
Meanwhile, Alvin Brown — though he lost to Republican Mayor Lenny Curry in 2015 — didn’t do so for lack of resources.
His political committee brought in $2.85 million, reported the Florida Times-Union, along with $750,369 in hard money, and $1.37 million from in-kind contributions.
Lawson has attempted to build Duval bona fides, but as an older politician much more yoked to Tallahassee than to Duval, there clearly is opportunity for Brown.
That opportunity is burnished, we hear, by Corrine Brown showing Alvin Brown around D.C. in recent weeks. Brown, we hear, is excited to get back up there — a place he worked during the Clinton Administration.
Brown has deep connections with Congressional Black Caucus members as well, which could help his primary insurgency.
Though Corrine Brown wants to bring the seat back to Duval, Jacksonville’s leading politician is much more agnostic.
However, when asked about the unique utility of having Alvin Brown — a former mayor, one who knows City Hall’s needs — in Congress, Mayor Curry seemed nonplussed.
“I have a great working relationship with the delegation in and around Duval County, including Al Lawson. I’m not going to get into encouraging folks to challenge incumbents or not challenge incumbents. They’re going to have to make those decisions. But I have a great working relationship with Al Lawson,” Curry said.
Curry would not assess in any meaningful way any unique value add Brown would bring to Congress for Jacksonville.
Brown could be hurt most if other candidates, such as State Sen. Audrey Gibson, get into the scrum — splitting the Jacksonville vote.
Gibson has yet to reply to a message from Wednesday evening seeking comment.
Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown filed a motion on Tuesday to delay her sentencing past mid-November, citing impacts from Hurricane Irma.
Federal prosecutors didn’t take long to file a response in opposition, saying Brown’s “bare bones” motion is “without merit and should be denied.”
And on Thursday, the court sided with the prosecution.
“Defendant has not articulated why a continuance of “at least four months” is justified. While the Court is sympathetic to Ms. Brown’s circumstances following the hurricane, it is in the interest of justice for the sentencing to go forward as scheduled. If defendant can demonstrate at the sentencing hearing that there is some document or information that she was unable to obtain, the Court will consider at that time whether to allow her additional time to produce it,” Judge Timothy Corrigan asserted.
Brown, a Congresswoman representing Jacksonville and other areas mapped into the district from 1993 to 2016, was convicted of 18 counts in a federal fraud trial regarding “One Door for Education,” a sham educational charity Brown and her cohorts raised money for and extracted money from between 2012 and 2015.
Brown’s fate will be known Nov. 16. That is one day after sentencing for One Door co-conspirators Ronnie Simmons and Carla Wiley.
Judge Corrigan, as has been the case throughout the trial, sympathized with Brown, but essentially sided with the prosecution logic.
“Brown’s bare bones motion—filed two days before she is required to submit objections to the initial Pre-Sentence Report (PSR)— cites her loss of “personal papers and effects” during Hurricane Irma as a basis to justify a four-month continuance without any explanation as to how such loss renders her incapable of preparing for her sentencing on November 16,” the prosecution noted Wednesday, adding that no other criminal case with sentencing scheduled nine weeks after the storm has been delayed four months.
Monday saw post-conviction motion hearings for acquittal and for a new trial in the matter of Corrine Brown, the former Congresswoman who was found guilty on 18 counts in a fraud trial earlier this year.
Rulings have yet to be rendered on either motion, yet the hearings were lively.
Brown’s attorney, Orlando barrister James Smith, asserted Monday that Brown’s guilt was a “myth.”
And one of Brown’s allies and friends — State Sen. Audrey Gibson — backed that up, telling us exclusively on Friday that she believed that Brown was innocent of the 18 counts.
Gibson’s emphatic statement: “CB says she is innocent and that is that!”
We asked Gibson why it was so difficult to prove that innocence, suggesting that an outmatched lawyer or systemic bias against the Congresswoman may be factors.
“You will have to ask the jury,” the Senator said.
We also asked Gibson for her take on the viability of the motions still under consideration by Judge Timothy Corrigan.
“That will be determined by the judge,” the Senator said.
Gibson has been unwavering in her support for Corrine Brown, even if she hasn’t been able to be in the courtroom.
Committees and the Legislative Session, Gibson asserted, made it “less realistic” to be “‘visible’ in a courtroom at multiple hearings.”
“Offering support and uplifting is not about photo ops and neither is real work in the community!”
Those who work at Jacksonville City Hall have received a political education of late, demonstrated by a recent City Council bill on funding after-school programs.
With apologies to Ric Flair, but his famous catchphrase “now we go to school” applies here … and not just because this bill was education-related.
Finance Chair Garrett Dennis wanted to tap into general fund reserves for one-time money to fund after-school program expansion — a position at odds with that of Mayor Lenny Curry, on yet another issue.
In a statement, Curry said that would not be “prudent” and would send the wrong message to ratings agencies, and if the bill passed with that condition, “the mayor would evaluate it when it lands on his desk.”
Instead, here’s what happened. The Finance Chair’s amendments got turfed, with the old guard of the Council — Bill Gulliford, John Crescimbeni and others — again controlling the discourse at the expense of Dennis and Council President Anna Brosche.
As with previous conflicts between Dennis and Curry (see: swimming lessons money), the battle took a familiar track. Dennis got out in front of consensus on an issue, and Team Curry picked off potential supporters in quiet conversations after that.
With budget discussions beginning this week in Dennis’ committee, we are reminded of another famous Flair phrase.
“To be the man,” the Nature Boy often said when defending his world title, “you’ve got to beat the man.”
Does Dennis have the juice? We’ll watch that this month, along with all kinds of other excitement in state and federal politics, some of which you will see below.
John Rutherford heads to Israel
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford has settled in quickly to his role in Congress and this recess week found the Jacksonville Republican burnishing his foreign policy chops with a trip to the Middle East.
Per a news release from Rutherford’s office, the congressman left for Israel Monday “as part of a delegation of Members of Congress to meet with various leaders in the region including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas.”
The delegation discussed “US relations in the region including economic, military and security cooperation.”
Rutherford met “with Nafatali Bennet, the Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs, IDF Soldiers, as well as Israeli military leaders, professors and business leaders. The group will also tour Israeli military bases, as well as visit historic and holy sites.”
Guilt is a ‘myth,’ says Corrine Brown lawyer
Rep. Brown was in court this week fighting guilty convictions on 18 counts, contending that she should a] get a new trial and/or b] be acquitted.
The arguments had been rehearsed in the written motions and during the trial, as the prosecution noted.
“The defense is not saying anything different today than it did [during] the proceedings,” one of the prosecutors asserted, hammering in on repeated instances of “fraudulent omissions” regarding pitches to donors, statements on tax returns, and so on — with Brown’s word being the only evidence to the contrary.
Evidentiary points, such as Brown holding blank checks from One Door, loomed large as evidence of Brown’s involvement.
“She had hijacked the charity, had her chief of staff take control of the finances, and was bleeding it dry,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Coolican said.
Rev. Jesse Jackson was there in support — yet another nostalgia act on this never-ending road show that is the end of Corrine Brown’s political career.
Quiet July for Paul Renner committees
July was the first month of fundraising for future Florida House Speaker Renner‘s political committees since he won the honor in late June.
Some observers may have anticipated an avalanche of activity, but in reality, the committees had modest contributions and spends.
“Florida Foundation for Liberty,” Renner’s primary committee, brought in just $25,500 in July (spending $20,383 of that), pushing the committee just over $240,000 on hand.
Donations came in from political committees, including the Realtors, Surgi-PAC, and the Florida Credit Union’s political action committee.
The biggest donation: $10,000 from MHK of Volusia County.
Of the over $20,000 spent, $4,000 went to Ballard Consulting, $2,685 went to Renner’s campaign account for reimbursements, $10,000 went to another Renner committee, “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.”
Meanwhile, there were just two external donations, and both were in the Jacksonville metro area.
The committee gave $1,000 to Clay Yarborough‘s campaign, and $2,500 to “A Safe Jacksonville,” the political committee of Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.
The aforementioned “Conservatives for Principled Leadership,” meanwhile, has just under $18,000 on hand after a $12,500 July.
Beyond the $10,000 from Renner’s other committee, the other $2,500 came from the “Florida Prosperity Fund” committee.
Yarboroughcontinues strong fundraising
Rep.Yarborough, the Jacksonville Republican representing State House District 12, hauled in $7,500 in July fundraising.
Among the bigger names from the nine donors: Foley and Lardner and Florida Foundation for Liberty (the committee of future House Speaker Renner).
Yarborough has raised nearly $49,000 this cycle, and has just under $41,000 of that on hand, as he prepares for a general election challenge in the deep red district.
Yarborough is slated to face a general election opponent: Tim Yost, a local college instructor running as a Democrat.
Yost filed for this race in the middle of July and has raised $2,215, largely from small-dollar donors, with a few bearing the surname of Yost.
Bobby Payne draws competition in HD 19
GOP state Rep. Payne, whose district encompasses parts of Union, Clay, Bradford and Putnam counties, has drawn both primary and general election opposition in recent days.
Green Cove Springs Republican Boyce Royal filed July 31 to run against Payne in the GOP primary.
Royal is a real estate agent by trade.
The winner of that primary will go on to face a Libertarian, Ryan Russell Ramsey, in the general election.
Payne, a Palatka native, has just under $23,000 on hand after a $6,500 July comprised of donations from Jacksonville’s power elite — Peter Rummell, the Fiorentino Group, Jacksonville Kennel Club and so on.
Expect that war chest to grow.
Despite being a rookie legislator, Payne will be a tough out; he has a strong working relationship with Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings of the Clay Delegation, and with Gov. Rick Scott.
In the contested GOP primary in 2016, Payne won his native Putnam with 55 percent of the vote, but he held his own — and then some — elsewhere. He got 47 percent of the vote in Union, 31 percent in Clay, and 35 percent in Bradford.
Curry fundraising machine churns on
Jacksonville Mayor Curry hasn’t officially launched his re-election campaign, but the donor class is all in.
Already this month, Curry raised over $100K at an event at the JAX Chamber.
Chamber CEO Daniel Davis tweeted out an understatement: “looks like JAX Chamber wants to see Lenny Curry re-elected.”
Curry’s committee continues the momentum one would expect from a popular incumbent.
July saw Curry’s committee raise $52.5K, and disperse $19,647 — including $5,000 to “Seamless Florida,” the committee of St. Petersburg Republican mayoral candidate Rick Baker.
The big donor: Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who ponied up $25K.
There was no invoicing of the trip that Curry took on Khan’s private jet for an economic development trip last week to Baltimore, St. Louis, and Kansas City.
That trip explored, among other concepts, development ideas for future development of the area around Jacksonville’s football stadium and other athletic facilities.
Happy Consolidation anniversary
Jacksonville’s Consolidation (as in the city and the county became one) is 50 years old. And this week, the Florida Times-Union took a walk down memory lane, via an interesting piece from Matt Soergel that dug into the archives and looked at the debate at the time.
The Jacksonville Journal, which used to be the afternoon paper in Jacksonville, noted that “the people [won]” with “Floridians now know[ing] that the sleeping giant who sat at one of the most enviable spots in the state now means to shake off the slumber of years.”
Did that happen?
Depends on who you ask.
As we saw in July in Jacksonville’s City Council, a resolution in favor of a celebration of Consolidation didn’t muster unanimous support.
A movement for full Council sponsorship of the resolution was spiked by Councilman Reggie Brown, who spoke at length about infrastructural failings and broken promises.
Brown noted that JEA, for example, isn’t committed to sewer and water expansion in his district.
“Until we have a plan to say that if you live inside the Beltway, we will focus on installing sewer and water, there is no celebration,” Brown said.
Likewise, Councilwoman Katrina Brown would not sign on, citing “the same issues,” even as she lauded the Council and JEA for committing $30M over five years for septic tank phase out.
One ongoing initiative: a task force to deal with public health issues.
Employee health: another matter to be addressed. Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa suggested Mayor Curry may want to deal with that task force.
And changes in health care could be contemplated.
“The county hospital model is becoming a thing of the past in most cities,” Councilwoman Lori Boyer remarked.
The expansion of CPACs — Citizen Planning Advisory Committees — also was up for discussion.
“When we consolidated, we became a big bureaucratic entity,” Boyer said, with CPACs serving an important role to bring localism to the larger government.
And bringing the discussion back full circle, a discussion of allocating a fixed amount of the capital improvement program budget to the promises made before Consolidation happened.
“Part of the argument for Consolidation,” Boyer said, was standardizing city services.
“Much of [the work] hasn’t been done.”
JAXPORT dredge frustrates City Council
While JAXPORT and the state and federal governments are full steam ahead regarding dredging the St. Johns River to 47 feet, City Councilors wonder how much the city will be soaked for, per the Florida Times-Union.
“They’ve orchestrated it in a way that we’re not engaged until some point in the future,” Councilman Bill Gulliford said. “We don’t know what the actual number will be.”
“At this point, I’m probably in the category of one confused council member,” Councilman John Crescimbeni said. “My comfort level is not great, and it’s a very complicated issue because of all the different numbers and figures that are being bandied about by a variety of sources. I think I need to hire my own forensic accountant to try to reconcile everything down to two files — fact and fiction.”
“I am disappointed that they have chosen to phase this process in such a way that they’re not coming to the city for any approval prior to starting the project,” Councilwoman Boyer said. “That’s clearly the frustrating part.”
While some are on board, the reality is JAXPORT has more selling to do — and probably in noticed meetings.
Jax LGBT advocates laud HRO protections
With uncertainty now the watchword regarding federal protections for LGBT people, Jacksonville advocates are happy that the local Human Rights Ordinance protects them locally, reports the Florida Times-Union.
Jimmy Midyette, legislative director of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, described what the bill actually means in the new context.
“We had to make the point again and again and again that we’re not covered [and] we’re not doing a ‘feel-good’ bill to make people think we’re doing something,” Midyette said. “I think it just shows with so much uncertainty on the national level it’s more important than ever to have these local protections in place.”
Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel notes that no matter what happens on the federal level, the local protections are still actionable.
Since the HRO expansion became law in February, no claims have been filed that the law was broken.
St. Johns Republican Chair takes on transgender high schooler
Just across the county line from Jacksonville, the argument for HRO protections was made by a local GOP member going in on a transgender high-school student.
GOP Chairman Bill Korach said the “girl” is “confused,” saying that the student “ought to use the girl’s restroom” and “ought to get counseling.”
Adams has sued the school district, charging discrimination and petitioning to use the boys’ restroom.
Web.com coy on buyout rumors
If you’re looking for details on the future of Web.com, you might think CEO David Brown would give a hot quote. But you’d be mistaken.
The Jax Daily Record quoted his word salad from a quarterly call with investors, in which Brown was asked to address the rumor directly.
“Happy to comment on it and that comment is we don’t comment on market rumors about this type of topic,” he said.
“I think it’s worth noting that we’ve always been open to whatever would build long-term shareholder value, whatever maximizes our shareholders’ interests and we’ve said numerous times and continue to say that we talk to lots of people from strategic to financial players in the market. There are many reasons to talk to them,” Brown added.
As with another local business, CSX, lots of tea leaves are being read right now regarding the future.
Times-Union sells out
Morris Communications sold the Florida Times-Union to yet another big media company, Gatehouse, this week.
Morris billed the sale as “a strategic restructuring to focus its business on lifestyle publications, property development and new business.”
For T-U staffers, this ends a conflicted relationship with the parent company, which compelled the local paper to endorse President Donald Trump last year, and which also had introduced a more corporate feel in recent months, including electronic time card punches for reporters.
It’s going to get more corporate going forward. As the T-U reports, Gatehouse owns “more than 130 daily newspapers and more than 500 non-daily publications across the United States.”
T-U reporters who want to talk about this are welcome to get a beer sometime with our Jacksonville correspondent. He’s happy to listen.
JAXBIZ endorses Atlantic Beach incumbents
BeachesBIZ, a JAXBIZ subcommittee, is supporting incumbents in the races for Mayor of Atlantic Beach and Atlantic Beach City Commission.
The status quo will continue, with Mitch Reeves as the Mayoral pick, and Jimmy Hill and Mitch Harding getting commission nods.
“All of these candidates have proven their commitment to Atlantic Beach, focusing on a thriving local economy while continuing to improve the unmatched quality of life at the beach,” JAXBIZ Chair Denise Wallace said.
Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) launches a first-of-its-kind digital Manufacturers Marketplace at 3 p.m. EST at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, 111 Busch Drive in Jacksonville. A reception will follow the announcement.
The Manufacturers Marketplace is a web-based, searchable buyer/seller network featuring listings of hundreds of thousands of manufacturers in the United States, including Puerto Rico. Created in partnership with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and other leading state manufacturing associations, the Manufacturers Marketplace is designed to bolster manufacturers in the United States by helping them find, get found and advance their businesses. Register at AIF.com/marketplace.
Pay to play
College football for students at Keiser University? While that may sound counterintuitive, it is happening, reports the Florida Times-Union.
How to field a team with students from campuses across the state? Here’s what the new coach had to say.
“There’s just a lot going on. We’ve got to fill a roster, we’ve got to recruit the state, fill a coaching staff … have daily conversations about facilities, where we’re going to play and where we’re going to put these kids.”
On a positive note, the new athletic director expects robust road support. The students are already commuters.
“We have the advantage in that we have faculty and students [from other campuses around the state] that can come to games while we’re on the road,” the AD said.
PLAYERS back to March
The PLAYERS Championship may be moving back to its more traditional March place on the calendar, after years of taking place in May, the T-U reports.
“The Associated Press reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources, that the PGA will be played at the Bethpage State Park Black Course on Long Island in New York in May of 2019, clearing the way for The Players to move back to the March date it held from 1977 to 2006,” per the T-U.
“The Players, contested at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, will be held in May one more year under the expected schedule changes. The Tour has held a tournament on the First Coast since 1965, but was in March until Phil Mickelson won the 2007 Players in May,” the T-U adds.
Armada struggle in Puerto Rico
The Jacksonville Armada FC traveled to the Caribbean to take on Puerto Rico FC this past Saturday night for the first road trip of the Fall Season and the first trip under the new ownership of Robert Palm.
Puerto Rico claimed a 1-0 victory after what could only be described as a difficult 90 minutes for Jacksonville.
The Armada have been slumping of late, so Head Coach Mark Lowry boasted some changes in his starting lineup to show that eagerness. New forwards Brian Shriver and Tony Taylor received their first starts with the team, as well as defender Peabo Doue. Shriver and Taylor are both newcomers with Florida pedigree. Shriver is from Clearwater and previously played for Miami FC, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies. He led the NASL in playoff goals while playing for Fort Lauderdale in 2011. Taylor played for Jacksonville University and Lynch’s FC in 2009 an amateur Jacksonville club. He signed for Fort Lauderdale the next year and spent several years on loan in Europe before returning to North America to play in MLS.
The changes didn’t make much of a difference early as Puerto Rico was able to create opportunities and recorded 10 first half shots.
Jacksonville answered Puerto Rico’s offensive effort with a tough and resourceful defense, however. Mechack Jérôme cleared four chances, with Caleb Patterson-Sewell staying firm in front of the goal.
Puerto Rico’s effort was rewarded late in the first half. In the 43rd minute, Conor Doyle received a cross from Giuseppe Gentile to put the ball past Patterson-Sewell, and Puerto Rico took the 1-0 lead.
Jacksonville returned in the second half showing some initiative, but Puerto Rico continued to fire shots toward Patterson-Sewell.
Second half substitutions by the Armada FC brought some intensity to the side on the hot and humid Puerto Rico pitch.
Charles Eloundou was subbed in the 61st minute to give the Armada FC much-needed speed. He used it to motor up and around Puerto Rico’s defense and created a great chance in the 75th minute. He took a shot from a distance after receiving the ball from Zach Steinberger but Puerto Rico’s goalkeeper, Trevor Spangenberg, launched upward to knock it up and over the net. Doue received his second yellow card in the 85th minute and was ejected from the match. Although now only having 10 men, the Armada FC kept consistent defense to keep Puerto Rico from tallying another goal.
Jérôme attempted some late-match heroics with his effort just two minutes after Doue left the field. He launched a free kick straight toward the net, 550but it bounced off the crossbar and goal post to keep Puerto Rico in the lead.
Jacksonville could not find the net before the final whistle, so Puerto Rico took all three points at home. This marks the first loss of the Fall Season for the Armada FC and extends the Armada’s current winless streak to five.