Donald Trump Archives - Florida Politics

Ahead of Thanksgiving, Kathy Castor looks to Feeding Tampa Bay to help solve food insecurity

“I’m not lazy. I’m just a mom trying to feed my special needs son.”

That’s the message on an enormous poster hanging from rafters stacking pallets of canned food and other non-perishable items at the Feeding Tampa Bay warehouse in Tampa.

The nonprofit agency serves 10 counties and feeds people throughout the region every day — not just Thanksgiving.

“Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to remind everyone that this is a challenge every single day for families across this country and especially here in west Florida,” said U.S. Representative Kathy Castor during a tour of the facility.

As she spoke, a team of about 25 volunteers filled bags with sweet potatoes to be distributed to various food pantries and community partners throughout the agency’s coverage area.

The giant warehouse also is a daily distributing arm for fresh foods ranging from strawberries and bananas to meats and cheeses.

The agency has seen an uptick in food contributions since President Donald Trump’s tariffs lead to a backlash from farmers worried it would impact their bottom line. In response, Trump issued a $12 billion aid package to farmers.

While the influx in food contributions will help the agency provide more benefits — some families will receive up to six weeks worth of food rather than the previous one-week allocations — Feeding Tampa Bay is worried the cost to process that excess won’t be covered, according to Executive Director Thomas Mantz.

The agency expects to have to lease additional warehouse space to store cold foods and will need additional personnel to help distribute it.

“So, perhaps you could help us make that case,” Mantz said to Castor, asking for support drawing down federal dollars to help cover additional expenses. 

Feeding Tampa Bay serves more than 600,000 individuals including nearly 200,000 children. It provides 46 million meals each year, a retail value of $100 million.

The agency estimates its charitable giving amounts to nearly $150 million in economic impact throughout the region.

“When you look at a basic family of four — a mom, a dad and two kids — even an income of some $65,000 a year, which sounds good, but that family winds up with less than $2.50 a day per person to spend on food,” Mantz said. “They have income. They have homes. They have jobs. They have responsibilities. But their obligations are greater than their income.”

A mom pictured in on of the posters whose son requires special medical needs is a featured client. She worked as a special education teacher, but a tumor in her leg left her unable to return to work. Now she cares for her son full time and her husband’s paycheck isn’t always enough to cover housing and medical costs and provide adequate food for the month.

Another poster shows a college student, Nevin, pursuing a degree in engineering on a scholarship. His photo is also emblazoned on a poster.

“I am not a burden,” it reads.

That’s the overall message Feeding Tampa Bay and its 550 agency and community partners want to send to potential donors.

“There are families across our community who are food insecure. Even though the economy has gotten better, we have so many families who still struggle to make enough money to make sure that their families have a healthy meal every single day,” Castor said. “Wages have just not kept up.”

The agency will see a surge in contributions — both financial and food — through this week as people begin getting in the holiday spirit, according to Mantz. But he hopes that civic-minded charitable pattern will continue throughout the year if people understand the power of providing healthy meals.

“My background is specifically in how strong, community-based food systems can lead to other community benefits — safer streets, lower crime and lower healthcare, which results in more money in our pockets. Every single one us regardless of whether or not we are directly impacted will have an effect on all of us,” said Monica Petrella whose graduate work at the University of Vermont centered on food insecurity.

Americans for Prosperity-Florida lets voters know what it’s thankful for this year

Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity announced a volley of direct mailers, digital ads and phone banking to spread the word on what the organization is thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Four issues got the spotlight in the newly announced ad buys: Reigning in federal spending, supporting a fix for the Dreamers, criminal justice reform and opposition to the Donald Trump Administration’s tariffs.

Chris Hudson, who will soon move up from his job as state director for the Florida branch of AFP, said the national org wanted to “take the opportunity to encourage lawmakers to join together and tackle our country’s toughest challenges.

“Before we celebrate the opportunities coming in the new year, there is critical work to be done in Washington — work that requires bipartisanship and principled leadership,” he continued. “Now is the time for Washington to rein in out-of-control spending, eliminate tariffs, and find a permanent solution for DREAMERS.

“We think hearing from their constituents will embolden these lawmakers to get bold solutions over the finish line before the year ends,” Hudson concluded.

Among the lawmakers benefiting from the ad buy is Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who was recently re-elected to represent Florida’s 1st Congressional District.

“Pumpkins grow on vines. Potatoes grown in the ground. Turkeys grow on farms. But thankfully, Matt Gaetz knows money doesn’t grow on trees,” one of the mailers reads.

“The federal government gobbled up over $4 trillion last year for the first time ever,” the reverse side says. “Representative Matt Gaetz voted against this out-of-control spending.”

The mailer then encourages constituents to give the second term Congressman a call to “thank him for standing up for our families and communities.”

The  Gaetz mailer is below.

AFP Gaetz Mailer 1 AFP Gaetz Mailer 2

Andrew Gillum advises Ron DeSantis to prioritize diversity

A day after conceding Florida’s gubernatorial contest, Democrat Andrew Gillum offered advice to victor Ron DeSantis as he names an administration.

“Very quickly,” Gillum said, “bring in a diverse set of people.”

In an interview today with AM Joy on MSNBC, host Joy Reid asked what DeSantis should do after an election in which racial divides played a huge role, from DeSantis’ post-primary “Monkey This Up” moment to Gillum’s debate assertion that “racists believe he’s a racist.

Gillum said he remains concerned whether DeSantis has done enough to distance himself from fringe elements of the party.

“I was really disappointed to see him appoint Matt Gaetz to the transition team,” Gillum said.

Specifically, he called out Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican, for inviting Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson to the 2018 State of the Union.

“I don’t know if he is a known neo-Nazi,” Gillum said of Johnson, but he was “someone whose values are inconsistent, I would suggest, with a majority of people in my state.”

DeSantis invited Gillum for a summit to speak about the state’s future.

And as rhetoric escalated post-election about the U.S. Senate recount, The New York Times reports DeSantis actively sought to tone things down in the now-complete Governor’s race recount.

That may have prompted President Donald Trump yesterday to offer praise to Gillum on Twitter, calling him a “strong Democrat warrior.”

Gillum told Reid he would be fine meeting with DeSantis so long as it wasn’t merely a post-election “photo op” and provided “more of a sincere opportunity to have diverse voices at the table.”

“Mr. DeSantis, I would hope, would take this as an opportunity to acknowledge that half the people in this state voted differently, and they wanted a different outcome,” Gillum said.

“If he really means to be governor for all the people of the state of Florida and not just those that voted for him, that means he’s going to have to make some outreaches.”

And after a historically close election, one DeSantis won by 33,683 votes out of more than 8.2 million cast, Gillum said he wants election reform in Florida.

Gillum said in his opinion, one of the biggest problems with the election this year wasn’t during the recount but the fact that in Florida’s most dense (and Democratic) counties, early voting remains more limited. He called that “intentional voter suppression.”

“We need a statewide overhaul,” Gillum said, “that takes into account the fact that many of these counties, many of those counties in South Florida where you’ve got high Democratic participation, are not resourced in a way where they are able to have 21st century technology to count the votes and quite frankly to ensure that those who want to vote early have access to it.”

Gillum’s surprise primary win this year elevated his national profile, and Reid asked Gillum if he planned to run for President. Gillum laughed off the suggestion.

“I want to stay married,” he said, stating he and wife, R. Jai, planned a post-election vacation, and he would like to return to father duties attending his children’s soccer games.

He does plan to stay involved in state politics, and referenced passage of Amendment 4, which will automatically restore voting rights for 1.4 million ex-felons who already completed restitution to the state.

“We have 1.4 million people re-entering society who want a chance to be heard in this process,” he said.

He also discussed promoting a Medicaid expansion in Florida and fighting for better teacher pay.

“My eyes are going to be right here on Florida,” Gillum said.

With recount completed, Andrew Gillum concedes—again

Democrat Andrew Gillum formally conceded the race for Florida Governor for a second time.

Standing alongside wife, R. Jai, in a Facebook Live video and wearing an jacket for his alma mater Florida A&M University, the Tallahassee mayor formally brought to a close one of the most dramatic gubernatorial elections in state history.

“This has been the journey of our lives,” Gillum said.

The video (available below) posted shortly before 5 p.m., a symbolic acknowledgement that thousands of vote-by-mail ballots that could still be entered into state totals if verified by that time held no potential to close a gap of more than 30,000 votes separating Gillum from Republican Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis.

Setting a conciliatory tone, Gillum wished his opponent well.

“R. Jai and I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Mr. DeSantis on becoming the next governor of the great State of Florida,” Gillum said.

The concession came hours after Republican President Donald Trump praised Gillum as a “strong Democrat warrior” and “a force to reckon with.”

Gillum later tweeted similar sentiments to DeSantis, who responded with a conciliatory tone as well.

“This was a hard-fought campaign,” DeSantis wrote. “Now it’s time to bring Florida together.”

Gillum first conceded on Election Day as returns across the state showed DeSantis ahead.

But as late returns counted over the next two days put the race within a 0.5 percent margin, that triggered a machine recount for the Governor’s race and two other statewide contests.

That led Gillum to retract his initial concession.

In the following days, attorneys for Gillum closely watched recount proceedings as the Democrat toured the state encouraging the counting of every vote. Supporters for DeSantis and Gillum clashed in major protests outside elections offices in Broward County, where national media captured the friction of video.

The gubernatorial contest, though, was the least close of the three major races. The initial tabulation of the votes put DeSantis up 33,684, or 0.41 percent of more than 8.2 million votes cast.

After a machine recount, the gap shrank by one, to 33,683 votes.

While Gillum encouraged voters straight into Saturday to make sure their vote-by-mail ballots did not get rejected in error, he ultimately conceded minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline for voters to contact election officials.

Gillum said in his Facebook video, though, that his own fight for progressive values would not end with this race.

“Although nobody wanted to be governor more than me, this was not just about an election cycle,” he said.

“More than 4 million of you decided you wanted a different direction for the state of Florida… Your voices will continue to power us as we stand at the front lines right alongside you to make this a state that works for all of us.”

Gillum said he would still champion progressive issues as a private citizen. His first priority, though, will be on demanding Florida’s election systems be modernized so avoid the protracted and at times uncertain confusion about the election results this year.

“We need to update Florida’s election system and bring it into the 21st century,” he said.

Gillum had been a surprise Democratic nominee, surging just ahead ahead of the August primary on a platform endorsed by Bernie Sanders and embraced by the far-left of his party.

While Gillum lost, he championed passage of Amendment 4, which passed and will automatically restore voting rights for 1.6 million Floridians previously convicted of felonies.

The Democratic leader, who drew national interest in Florida’s gubernatorial contest, said his candidacy representing the start, not an end, to a progress movement in the state. He encouraged supporters to continue demanding change.

“You win that, yes in many cases through elections, but you also win that through the dedicated, committed and hard work that’s required to transform communities, to transform neighborhoods, to transform the state of Florida,” he said.

Democrats praised Gillum quickly upon his concession.

“You captured our moral imagination and called on us to remember that in Florida and our nation, great leaders don’t divide or demean but seek to unite and elevate all,” wrote New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an early supporter of Gillum, wrote: “You inspired a generation to for fairness and equality and softened the soil for the next progressive champion to fight for a Florida that deserves better. I’m ready for your next journey whatever that may be.”

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro wrote: “He ran with class, integrity and a positive vision for the future that inspired millions of people in Florida and beyond. Great things ahead.”

State Rep.-elect Anna Eskamani praised Gillum and running mate Chris King for running “one of the most inspirational campaigns our state has ever seen.” “No matter who our Governor is, know that I am fighting for hardworking families everywhere,” she added.

Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Terrie Rizzo echoed the sentiment. “ are incredibly proud of you. Looking forward to continuing the fight with you,” she wrote.

Rizzo later released a lengthy statement praising Gillum’s run. “We could not be more proud of Mayor Gillum and Chris King for running a historic campaign, that inspired millions and gave people hope for a better Florida. We are grateful for the sacrifices you both made to run for Governor, and Florida is better because of your candidacies. We look forward to continuing the fight with you, and will keep working toward your vision to bring it home.”

And Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee chairman, suggested Gillum still had a bright future in politics. Perez wrote that Gillim “ran an inspiring campaign that energized millions of Floridians & sparked hope across the Sunshine State. He refused to get in the gutter with his opponent, & he never gave in to the politics of fear and division. Thank you for fighting the good fight.”

California Sen. Kamala Harris suggested as much in her own post, asserting Gillum’s “campaign inspired millions of people not just in Florida but across the country to create change in their communities. I know we haven’t seen the last of him.

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy said she was proud to stand with Gillum and King. “Both of you, along with R. Jai, Kristen, & your beautiful families, led by such example and handled it with grace,” she tweeted. “Thank you.”

State Rep. Shevrin Jones remarked that Gillum still made history as Florida’s first black nominee for a major party, done at the same Stacey Abrams ran as Georgia’s first black woman to be a nominee and as Ben Jealous ran for governor in Maryland. “Regardless of the outcome, history was still made, and I am happy to say that I was part of it,” Jones wrote.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson made reference to the historic group of governor candidates as well. “You are all brilliant trailblazers who God has placed on a path to greatness. This is just the BEGINNING! KEEP STANDING!”

The Kiss-off: Donald Trump dubs Andrew Gillum strong warrior—in the ‘future’

President Donald Trump may have just directed his most damaging tweet yet at Democrat Andrew Gillum. He paid him a compliment.

“Congratulations to Andrew Gillum on having run a really tough and competitive race for Governor of the Great State of Florida,” Trump tweeted.

“He will be a strong Democrat warrior long into the future—a force to reckon with!”

While the tone read uncharacteristically kind, the grammar was decided past tense, serving as the latest and loudest of political assessments on the state of Florida’s gubernatorial race.

Namely, it’s over, whether Gillum concedes soon or not.

As President Trump’s words turned gentle, those of fellow Democrats grew increasingly loud. A growing number of leaders within Gillum’s party suggest in less subtle ways each day that this race is done.

“Every minute Andrew Gillum doesn’t concede at this point he looks worse and worse (or at least he does to me),” Democratic consultant Matthew Isbell tweeted Thursday. “It’s over. Move on.”

The gubernatorial vote this year did turn out historically close. Republican Ron DeSantis led Gillum by 33,683 votes after a machine recount, about 0.41 percent of more than 8.2 million ballots cast.

But the machine recount netted Gillum just one vote, and the margin, while close, wasn’t enough to trigger a hand recount, unlike the five other state elections that went to machine recount.

Gillum himself yesterday continued to urge voters to check on their absentee ballots. A lawsuit connected to the U.S. Senate recount led a judge to grant voters until 5 p.m. to verify their ballots.

But attorneys for the Division of Electionssay some 3,688 vote-by-mail ballots and 93 provisional ballots got rejected statewide for bad signatures. That’s not enough to make a meaningful difference in the gubernatorial election.

Gillum spokesman Kevin Cate stressed yesterday that the push to count every vote is about more than finding a path to the governor’s mansion for Gillum. “The @AndrewGillum campaign was doing something much bigger than just trying to win an election,” he tweeted. “And we did. And we still are.”

And Gillum has until the end of the month to challenge the election results.

DeSantis yesterday called results of the machine recount “clear and unambiguous,” and he marked the end of the recount by inviting Gillum to join him for a “conversation about the future of our great state.”

The only question still outstanding in the Governor’s race may be when Gillum feels ready for the talk—and when he finally speaks he will, once again, concede.

Pam Bondi dubs reports of upcoming Mar-A-Lago meeting as ‘fake news’

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi disputed news she would meet with President Donald Trump in Mar-A-Lago over Thanksgiving to discuss a potential nomination for the U.S. Attorney General position.

“The attorney general says that is fake news,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said in an email to News Service of Florida on Friday.

The denial comes after her name popped up in media reports as a possible replacement for former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump asked to resign immediately after the midterms.

Almost immediately, Bondi arose as one of the more prominent potential choices to succeed Sessions.

McClatchy reported on Friday that Trump plans to host Bondi at Mar-A-Lago for a meeting when he vacations there for Thanksgiving.

The news organization says three administration sources confirm Trump is “seriously considering” Bondi for Attorney General. Notably, Bondi did not respond to calls from that news organization before its report.

Mention of Bondi’s name for the post immediately reignited controversy about a $25,000 donation made by the Trump Foundation to Bondi’s re-election campaign in 2013. Ultimately, the donation, which was illegal for the charitable foundation to make, resulted in a fine for Trump to the IRS.

Bondi herself came under scrutiny because the donation came around the same time her office elected not to pursue an investigation of Trump University.

This isn’t the first time media speculated whether Bondi would play a role in Trump’s administration. Trump named her as part of his transition team’s executive committee, along with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also rumored as a choice for U.S. Attorney General then and now.

She took a meeting Manhattan with Trump while he assembled his initial cabinet. At that time, she told the USA Today ““I’m very happy being attorney general of the state of Florida right now.”

But that was in 2016, two years before the end of her term as Florida Attorney General. Now, her term ends within weeks. Attorney General-elect Ashley Moody will be sworn into the office in January, along with the new Governor and other Cabinet members.

So Bondi no longer holds any professional obligations in the Sunshine State.

But Trump may not be the only New Yorker blowing up her phone. In August. Bondi sought Florida Commission of Ethics clearance before a three-day stint co-host “The Five” on Fox News, fueling speculation she might take on a full-time job on the network after her term expires.

Jacksonville Bold for 11.16.18 — A very good year.

A cottage industry among Northeast Florida political observers this year has revolved around the same question it did in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Did Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry go too far?

In 2015, he capsized a popular Mayor. In 2016, he stumped for President Donald Trump and got pension reform through (which ticked off the left). In 2017, he allowed LGBT rights to become law (which ticked off the hard right).

The question asked almost every election cycle: “Is Lenny Curry going too far?”

And in 2018? Curry brought the political operation inside the building, with Brian Hughes taking over as chief of staff.

Critics, as Curry might say, chirped. But a year into it, there has been little in the way of meaningful pushback against his administration’s agenda.

There are fewer than 60 days remaining until the end of qualifying. If a serious candidate does not file, one wonders how credible complaints about the administration will be going forward.

Given the realities of Curry’s political operation, a full-spectrum dominance machine that includes enforcement of the City Council, an outside political machine of the sort previously unseen locally, and opposition that hasn’t marshaled visible support, as of yet, one wonders why the opposition campaign hasn’t been launched yet.

How Waltz beat the national left

Florida elections saw in many respects a blue wave, as witnessed by three of the five state-level races on the ballot triggering recounts.

However, a 50/50 tendency doesn’t extend to every contested race. Exhibit A: Florida’s 6th Congressional District, the former fiefdom of soon-to-be Governor-elect Ron DeSantis.

Republican Mike Waltz, a Trump-endorsed former Green Beret and counterterrorism adviser to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, defeated Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a Clinton-era Ambassador to the United Nations.

Despite an expensive Democratic campaign, Mike Waltz mostly held previous GOP margins.

Despite Soderberg spending over $3 million directly and having even more than that come in from Michael Bloomberg and other national Democrats, despite all of the talk of a blue wave, Soderberg wasn’t able to close the deal. She went down 56 percent to 44 percent, losing in all four counties in the district.

And her campaign didn’t seem to see it coming.

Soderberg ran as a moderate Democrat in a district that the previous Democratic candidate and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton each lost by 15+ points in 2016.

Bloomberg‘s Independence USA PAC spent $3 million of its own. Fundraising was a definite prerequisite in this Daytona-centered district, which abuts the Jacksonville media market to the north and the Orlando market to the west.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before …

Per the News Service of Florida: “A federal appeals court has rescheduled a hearing in a challenge filed by former Congresswoman Corrine Brown after she was convicted in a charity scam. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week scheduled the arguments Feb. 1 in Atlanta, according to an online docket.”

Corrine Brown again revisits the ‘Holy Ghost’ issue of her trial.

This was pushed back from December and rehashes what may seem to be an esoteric claim from the original trial: “In the appeal, Brown contends that a juror was improperly dismissed from her trial. The dismissal came after the juror made statements such as the ‘Holy Ghost’ told him Brown was not guilty. Prosecutors, however, argue a district judge acted properly in replacing the juror with an alternate and disputed that the decision violated religious rights.”

Brown’s defense tried and failed to make the discharged juror an issue during her original trial. Her strategy seems to be doubling down, though it’s uncertain what has changed but the venue.

Smooth sailing for NE FL

For a second straight Legislative Session, a Clay County Republican will be key to the budget process.

Northeast Florida is sailing smoothly for Travis Cummings and Speaker Jose Oliva.

Just as Sen. Rob Bradley chaired Senate Appropriations in 2018, chairing the powerful Appropriations Committee is state Republican Rep. Travis Cummings, of Orange Park.

Cummings replaces former House budget chair Carlos Trujillo, who left the Legislature after being appointed Ambassador to the Organization of American States.

Like incoming Speaker Jose Oliva, a Republican from Hialeah, Cummings was an early supporter of presumed Governor-elect DeSantis.

For DeSantis loyalists and Northeast Florida partisans both, the Cummings appointment is good news.

He told us Friday that he was “excited and fortunate” to be chosen, noting that while Northeast Florida is “well-positioned,” he has a holistic view regarding money for school safety and the environment in what otherwise will be a “pretty tight budget year.”

Read more here.

Baker turnout boom

For those inside Jacksonville who wonder why DeSantis won and Andrew Gillum did not, it may be useful to look to the Baker County Press for insights.

Homegrown: MacClenny’s Chuck Brannan is headed west on I-10 to the state House.

The county had a 70 percent turnout for the 2018 election … the best midterm turnout in Baker history, a strong sign that the GOP campaign against “corruption” and “socialism” made a dent.

Baker also was able to get a favorite son to the state House: MacClenny’s Chuck Brannan, who will replace Elizabeth Porter in House District 10.

Baker trends deeply conservative. The GOP ticket won by 68 points or so, in race after race.

Even if the candidate wasn’t remotely competitive.

“GOP candidate for Congressional District 5 Virginia Fuller, a recent California transplant to Florida, won the county with 81.1 percent, though her opponent, Democratic incumbent Al Lawson, held a 34-point lead in the district stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, 67 percent to 33 percent.”

With Jacksonville’s leading Republican officeholders all in for the DeSantis campaign, October fundraising for their 2019 campaigns was on the back burner.

Lenny Curry and presumed Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis. (Image via Lindsey Kilbride/WJCT)

And why not? Though Jacksonville has a Democratic plurality, and statewide candidates Bill Nelson, Gillum, and Nikki Fried all won here, local Republicans have no reason to doubt their ability to hold serve based on campaign fundraising.

Mayor Curry raised nothing for his campaign account and a modest $75,500 for his “Jacksonville on the Rise” political committee. He has just under $3,000,000 on hand, and still awaits a candidate with any sort of fundraising traction to file (only NPA Connell Crooms has over $1,000 on hand).

Sheriff Mike Williams raised just $2,000 in October, with no money going into his political committee over the same period. It likely won’t matter: Williams, with roughly $440,000 on hand, is up against one candidate, Democrat Tony Cummings. Cummings’ campaign account is in the red.

Property appraiser Jerry Holland raised $5,290 in October, pushing him over $148,000 on hand. Democrat Kurt Kraft has been running for three years now, and has $150 on hand.

City Council races are characterized by a mixture of well-established trends and genuine question marks.

Read more here.

Not taking it for granted

Two new bills introduced to the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday evening could, at least in theory, lead to the city returning a grant from the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE has used charitable donations to ingratiate itself with US institutions, winning hearts and minds.

Ordinance 2018-813 would return that $2.775 million grant. And Ordinance 2018-790 would appropriate $2.775 million from the city’s general fund, to replace what some critics are calling “blood money” from the totalitarian Middle Eastern regime.

Back in October, the United Arab Emirates gave Jacksonville $2.775 million toward post-Irma reconstruction. City Council voted the appropriation through without a hitch in the summer, but second thoughts clouded members (and potential 2019 mayoral candidates) Anna Brosche and Garrett Dennis when they considered the UAE’s human rights record, deemed to be among the world’s worst.

The money is for various expenditures, including computer labs for Raines and Ribault High Schools, restoration of a local park, purchase of mobile medical units, with approximately $1.45 million going to projects in the Ken Knight Road area, which was among the slowest in the city to recover from Hurricane Irma.

Skilled labor shortage?

The Jacksonville Daily Record spotlights an issue years in the making, with no ready solution.

A shortage of skilled trades workers, one that started after the 2008 economic crash and has only been exacerbated in the decade since.

No solutions are in sight for a shortage of skilled trades workers.

“The trades over the last generation have been stereotyped as a second-class occupation,” one source said. “That’s starting to catch up to us, as we don’t have as many skilled laborers anymore.”

Candidates for Governor, including apparent winner DeSantis, spotlighted the needs for people to go into skilled trades.

It needs to happen soon: delays can last up to two months, asserted Bill Garrison, the executive officer of the Northeast Florida Builders Association.

Game over

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council imposed a six-month moratorium on adult arcades.

No more games. Jacksonville is suspending new adult arcades for six months.

The legislation cleared committees without opposition and landed on the consent agenda, with most of the 19-person legislative body listed as sponsors even before Tuesday’s meeting.

Ordinance 2018-680 bans any new permitting for so-called internet cafes, a bane to the existence of Jacksonville lawmakers.

These establishments are predominantly in areas of town that have socioeconomic challenges already, and Council members have sought to put the brakes on what has become a flourishing industry, albeit one of dubious moral value.

Arcades often are near churches, schools, daycares and homes, and the noise, traffic, and other associated activities concern people outside the industry.

Jacksonville’s municipal code, which often seems fragmentary, lacks “performance standards or criteria pertaining to adult arcades,” offering another potential justification for the moratorium.

UNF recognized for ‘engaged’ campus

Via news release: “In recognition of the University of North Florida’s commitment to campus-community engagement and public service, Florida Campus Compact recognized UNF as the Engaged Campus of the Year for 2018 for the State University System. This is the University’s second time receiving this award.”

Ospreys give back to the community every day.

UNF is receiving accolades for its community engagement, philanthropy.

The award “recognizes institutions that advance the purposes of higher education while improving community life and educating students for civil and social responsibility. This is the highest honor for campus-community engagement in Florida.”

“UNF consistently provides remarkable service to the greater Jacksonville area and beyond through its volunteering, philanthropy and community-based teaching and research,” said UNF President David Szymanski.

A staggering 94 percent of departments offer courses with these components, leading to 1 million hours of work on projects like the Adaptive Toys Project: “UNF engineering and physical therapy faculty and students work with the Brooks Pediatric Residency Program to design, fabricate and deliver custom assistive technology, like battery-powered toy cars, for kids with developmental disabilities to aid in mobility and independence at no cost to the families.”

No benches, no homeless problem

For one Jacksonville Beach City Councilman, solving the homeless problem is as simple as removing places for them to sit.

“In a recent city council meeting, Councilmember Keith Doherty said the homeless population is an issue,” reported Action News Jax.In the meeting notes, he said Gonzales Park had become a popular hangout spot for transients.”

Too many homeless people in parks, says a Jacksonville Beach Councilman.

The solution?

“Doherty suggested in the meeting removing the benches and shelters in hopes it would alleviate the homeless from sleeping on them. He also suggested moving the City’s Veterans Memorial to the park to attract more activity and keep the homeless away.”

Whether that will work or not is unknown. Jacksonville Beach’s homeless problem continues to increase.

Home prices up, lower end sees action

Despite a slight slowdown in the Northeast Florida housing market, the area continues a trend of strong sales, particularly with lower-end homes.

Jacksonville’s entire home market is still strong, but the real action is with low-end properties.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, homes spend an average of 64 days on the market year-to-date before the sale, a number 11 percent up from last year, as per a release from the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. Properties in the $150,000 and $199,999 range are spending the least amount of time on the market — 44 days on average — 24 percent faster than this time last year.

The number of homes on the market priced less than $199,999 have decreased over the past year — with those available under $149,999 down almost 14 percent. As with homes more than $199,999, inventory has increased.

The percentage of properties sold over list price has increased for properties valued at or below $199,999, the Journal writes. The percent of properties selling over the listing price that is valued at more than $199,999 has either decreased or remained equal over the past year.

Marketwide, sales prices are increasing. The median sales price was $221,000, an 8.8 percent increase compared to last year.

“We are pleased to see new listings being added to the market, but sales are taking place so steadily that a sustained and significant influx of properties is needed to turn the tide away from lower than normal inventory,” NEFAR President Ben Bates said in a release.

ZOOLights holiday fun

Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens launches its post-Thanksgiving holiday season celebration with the Seventh Annual ZOOLights event, beginning Dec. 7.

ZOOLights will feature thousands of LED lights, transforming the zoo into a winter wonderland of moving sculptures, lighted trees and animal silhouettes.

Guests can walk among lights strung throughout the Zoo and listening to holiday music and enjoy a unique view of ZOOLights by boarding the Zoo’s lighted train (the train only runs from the back of the Zoo to the front). There will also be carousel rides, the 4-D Theater, marshmallow roasting, and more activities for an extra charge.

Jacksonville Zoo becomes a winter wonderland of lights for the holidays.

The dates are Dec. 7—9 and Dec. 14 — Jan. 5 (Closed Christmas Day) Sunday — Thursday 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The Zoo closes at 5 p.m. and will reopen for ZOOLights at 6 p.m.

Prices are $10 for Non-Members; $8 for Zoo Members, with a special of $5 for Zoo Members, Dec. 17 — 20 only.

ZOOLights Value Tickets includes train rides, 4D Theater and Carousel (children 12 and under): $15 for Non-Members, $12 for Zoo Members.

For more information, visit

Loss to Colts exposes Jags

As the Jacksonville Jaguars season began to go South, observers wondered how they would react. Were there sufficient leaders on the team that could carry them through rough patches?

Others feared that with the number of strong personalities in the locker room, infighting might lead to making a bad situation worse. There was hope that the trade of Dante Fowler Jr. to the Rams was a step that could help bring the team together.

The trade of Dante Fowler Jr. to the Rams was intended as a step in the right direction for the Jaguars. We will know on Sunday.

Alas, Sunday’s 29-26 loss in Indianapolis to the Colts officially sent the season into free fall. They have lost 5 games in a row and now sit at 3-6.

The last loss seemed especially hard to take, especially to a once-proud defensive unit. Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey must have been hearing from the fans as he lashed out on Twitter.

“When I’m gone from here, y’all gone miss me,” he tweeted. “I ain’t even trippin lol.”

He might have also reacted to some indirect criticism from Head Coach Doug Marrone very well. Marrone said after the game Ramsey (without mentioning his name) blew a coverage that led to a 53-yard touchdown play for the Colts.

Some questioned whether the entire Jaguars’ defense had already left, giving up all 29 Indianapolis points in the first half. The team made a spirited comeback, only to fall short at the end when Rashad Greene fumbled in the final two minutes with the team in field goal range.

A favorite target of the wrath of fans is quarterback Blake Bortles, but he threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The defense gave up similar numbers to Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck.

With the defense struggling, the last thing they need to see is the surging offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers will be in town Sunday, motivated by the two losses the Jaguars hung on them last year in Pittsburgh, including one in the playoffs.

Jaguars fans can only hope that somehow the 2017 version of the defensive unit can show up. Otherwise, look for a lot of points.

New push for offshore drilling as Florida awaits recount results

As Florida waits to find out the eventual results of its recounts, the Florida Petroleum Council urges renewed consideration of offshore drilling.

The timing is interesting, as presumed Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis is opposed to the practice.

The industry group asserted potential revenue of $2.5 billion as a result of offshore leasing in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“The projected tax revenues outlined in this new study of potential federal offshore oil and natural gas production and activity could mean substantial investments in Florida such as in areas like education and opportunities to rebuild infrastructure,” said Florida Petroleum Council Executive Director David Mica.

“This opportunity to inject one billion dollars in increased state and local revenues, coupled with the additional billions of dollars for the economies of coastal states from previous studies, is critical for any plans to help improve quality of life for Florida’s residents and the overall future of the state,” Mica added.

The industry study suggests offshore exploration “could generate additional non-bonus and royalty revenue such as personal and corporate income tax, property tax, and sales taxes. The combined associated state and local tax revenues are projected to reach nearly $155 million annually by the end of the forecast periods, according to the report.”

The timing of this study is interesting, after voters approved a Frankenstein-monster amendment to the Florida Constitution that banned offshore drilling and workplace vaping.

The industry group objected to the bundling of amendments.

Florida officials, including Gov. Rick Scott, have opposed plans by President Donald Trump’s administration to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters beyond the nation’s outer continental shelf — a jurisdictional term describing submerged lands 10.36 statutory miles off Florida’s West Coast and three nautical miles off the East Coast.

DeSantis, in his environmental plan, said he would “utilize his unique relationship with President Trump and his administration to ensure that oil drilling never occurs off Florida’s coastlines.”

The Trump administration announced earlier this year its plans to open almost all U.S. waters to offshore drilling. The Department of the Interior’s draft five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf proposed the largest number of potential offshore lease sales ever.

There are already measures in Florida statute that prevent oil companies from taking root on the parts of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts that fall under state jurisdiction.

The current law: “No permit to drill a gas or oil well shall be granted at a location in the tidal waters of the state, abutting or immediately adjacent to the corporate limits of a municipality or within 3 miles of such corporate limits extending from the line of mean high tide into such waters, unless the governing authority of the municipality shall have first duly approved the application for such permit by resolution.”

Adam Putnam will raise concerns about revamped NAFTA

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will voice concerns Thursday about the potential impact on Florida’s produce industry of the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Putnam, who has been a critic of the original agreement known as NAFTA, is slated to appear before the U.S. International Trade Commission.

When President Donald Trump’s administration announced a renegotiated and rebranded trade deal in October, Putnam said more work was needed to help the state’s farmers compete against growers in Mexico.

“I am disappointed that this new agreement has no new protections for Florida fruit and vegetable producers, who for too long have suffered from Mexico’s unfair trade practices despite our best efforts,” Putnam said after the reworked deal was announced.

Putnam has argued for years that pepper and tomato growers and other Florida farmers have struggled against Mexican counterparts who swamp the U.S. market each winter with low-cost produce.

The revised trade deal, which needs congressional approval, includes numerous issues, ranging from auto manufacturing and Canadian dairy imports to a dispute-settlement system.

Trump, who campaigned in 2016 arguing that NAFTA was poorly negotiated and hurting American workers and manufacturers, has proposed naming the revised pact as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.


Donald Trump calls on Bill Nelson to concede

President Donald Trump sought to intervene in Florida’s legally-mandated vote recount Tuesday, calling on the state’s Democratic senator to admit defeat and again implying without evidence that officials in two pivotal counties are trying to steal the election.

“When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida?” Trump said in a morning tweet. “The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to ‘find’ enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!”

There have been bumps as Florida undergoes a recount for both the governor and Senate races. Palm Beach County said it won’t finish its recount by the Thursday deadline. And in oft-criticized Broward County, additional sheriff’s deputies were sent to guard ballots and voting machines, a compromise aimed at alleviating concerns. Those counties are both Democratic strongholds.

Still, the state elections department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which are run by Republican appointees, have said they have seen no evidence of voter fraud. A Broward County judge challenged anyone who has evidence of fraud to file a report.

Presidents have historically sought to rise above the heated partisan drama surrounding election irregularities. Former President Barack Obama wasn’t so publicly involved when a recount and legal process in the 2008 election delayed a Democrat taking a Minnesota Senate seat until July 2009. Former President Bill Clinton struck a lower tone during the 2000 presidential recount, which also centered on Florida.

But this year, the Florida recount was personal for Trump. He aggressively campaigned in the state in the waning days of the election and put his finger on the scales of the Republican gubernatorial primary this summer by endorsing former Rep. Ron DeSantis. After Election Day, Trump’s aides pointed to the GOP’s seeming success in the state as a validation that the president’s path to re-election remained clear — a narrative that has grown hazier as the outcomes have become less certain.

White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp said Tuesday the President “obviously has his opinion” on the recount.

“It’s been incredibly frustrating to watch,” she said.

Still, there’s not much choice but for Florida to go through the process. State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. In the Senate race, Republican Rick Scott’s lead over Nelson was 0.14 percentage points. In the Governor’s contest, unofficial results showed Republican former Rep. Ron DeSantis ahead of Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points.

Once the recount is complete, if the differences in any of the races are 0.25 percentage points or less, a hand recount will be ordered, meaning it could take even longer to complete the review of the Senate race if the difference remains narrow.

Broward Chief Circuit Judge Jack Tuter held an emergency hearing Monday on a request by Scott’s lawyers that deputies be put in charge of ballots and voting machines that aren’t being used until the recount is over.

An attorney for Broward Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes described layers of security including keycard and password access to rooms where ballots are kept, secured by deputies and monitored by security cameras and representatives of both campaigns and parties.

Scott’s lawyers had alleged in court documents that Snipes was engaging in “suspect and unlawful vote counting practices” that violate state law and that she might “destroy evidence of any errors, accidents or unlawful conduct.”

The judge said he could see no evidence of any violations, and said “I am urging because of the highly public nature of this case to ramp down the rhetoric.”

“If someone in this lawsuit or someone in this county has evidence of voter fraud or irregularities at the supervisor’s office, they should report it to their local law enforcement officer,” Tuter said. “If the lawyers are aware of it, they should swear out an affidavit, but everything the lawyers are saying out there in front of the elections office is being beamed all over the country. We need to be careful of what we say. Words mean things these days.”

Snipes has drawn criticism from Trump and other high-profile Republicans as her county’s election returns showed a narrowing lead for Scott during the ballot-counting in the days after Election Day, and even former Gov. Jeb Bush — who appointed her in 2003 — said she should be removed. Asked about those criticisms Tuesday, she hinted that she may not run for re-election in 2020.

“It is time to move on,” she said, later adding, “I’ll check with my family and they’ll tell me what I’m doing.”

Meanwhile, Elections Supervisor Mark Andersen in heavily Republican Bay County told the Miami Herald on Monday that he allowed about 150 people to cast ballots by email, which is illegal under state law. The county was devastated by a Category 4 hurricane in October and Scott ordered some special provisions for early voting there.

Manatee County, south of Tampa Bay, had to restart its recount Monday because a needed button on the machine wasn’t pushed. The error was caught after about a quarter of the county’s nearly 165,000 votes had been recounted, said Michael Bennett, the county’s Republican elections supervisor. It shouldn’t affect the county’s ability to meet Thursday’s deadline.

In Palm Beach, Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said the county’s 11-year-old tallying machines aren’t fast enough to complete the recount by Thursday. The county is doing the Senate race first and will then do the governor’s race. If the deadline is not met in a race, the results it reported last Saturday will stand.


Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Florida; Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida; and Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report. Material republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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