Taking up President Donald Trump‘s challenge that the media ought to award a “Fake News” trophy, Rasmussen Reports conducted a survey this week that finds stark differences, with Republicans on one side and Democrats and independents on the other, as to who ought to win it.
Overall, Fox News was the top pick among more than 1,000 likely-voters nationally whom Rasmussen surveyed by phone and online on Nov. 28 and 29.
Fox News was the one national television network Trump did not mention when he proposed a trophy in a tweet Monday morning.
We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me). They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!
Not surprisingly, the survey found a huge divide of opinion not just by party affiliation, but by loyalty to Trump. CNN was the top choice for the trophy among Republicans, but finished 15 points behind Fox News, overall.
And the more a respondent supports Trump, the more likely he or she is to think fake news is a really bad problem.
Rasmussen reported the survey has a 3 percent margin of error 3 percent.
Support or opposition to Trump very much colors respondents of the media, Rasmussen showed.
“Among voters who [indicated they] Strongly Approve of the job Trump is doing, 85 percent say fake news is a Very Big problem; 53 percent think CNN should win the first annual Fake News Trophy,” with MSNBC finishing second at 23 percent, Rasmussen reported.
“Just 21 percent of voters who Strongly Disapprove of the president’s job performance regard fake news as a Very Big problem. Among these voters, 67 percent say Fox News should take home the fake news honors, and no one else is even close.”
In this issue of Bold, there’s not a lot of unwelcome news.
— Travis Hutson potentially ascending to Senate leadership.
— The local paper’s editorial board finally noticed Hutson’s Senate colleague, Rob Bradley.
— A popular local politician — Sheriff Mike Williams — is (finally) officially running for re-election.
— If you read far enough, you’ll find the latest “big idea” in Jacksonville politics — a potential privatization of the local utility.
— And two new Sumatran tiger cubs — a “critically endangered” species — were born at the Jacksonville Zoo.
Some issues of Bold — and undoubtedly many future ones — will be packed with scandal and drama.
This one, luckily for the local political class, is not.
6th Congressional District race has Duval flavor
Though Duval County is now comfortably north of Congressional District 6, it’s worth watching as — at least by proxy — it could be argued to be a Jacksonville seat.
Incumbent Ron DeSantis has not decided whether to run for re-election or run statewide, yet wife Casey Black DeSantis is and presumably will continue to be a fixture on Jacksonville television.
The likely Democratic nominee — Ambassador Nancy Soderberg — has been a longtime professor at the University of North Florida.
And a potential GOP candidate — former Green Beret Mike Waltz — was an alumnus of Stanton High School (Go Blue Devils!)
At a time when Congressional District 5 (a seat currently held by Tallahassee’s Al Lawson) may or may not be in play for a Jacksonville politician such as former Mayor Alvin Brown, it’s worth watching to see if CD 6 will end up as a Jacksonville seat by proxy.
St. Johns County Sen. Hutson may be on the Senate Leadership track.
But it’s going to take some time to find out, as Florida Politics reported this week.
The two front-runners to be potential Senate Majority Leader in 2022 are Hutson and Tampa’s Dana Young, according to more than a dozen sources, including several members. Beyond Hutson and Young, sources say Dennis Baxley and Greg Steube should be seen as dark horses.
There’s a lot of time between now and the 2020 vote. However, Hutson atop the Senate and Renner atop the House would make for a unique and welcome convergence for Northeast Florida.
Paul Renner previews Legislative Session, talks harassment
Palm Coast Rep. Renner — a Jacksonville lawyer who chairs Ways and Means and is on track to be Speaker in 2022 — spoke to a crowd on the Southside Wednesday.
While Florida has “the right policies,” is headed in “the right direction” and has a “bright future,” the state nonetheless faces challenges.
Among those challenges: population growth, including a near-term influx from storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and long-term expectations that Florida could add 6 to 8 million people in the coming years. And roads and other infrastructural issues.
“Two points: one is that human beings being are who they are, in any organization you’re going to have five to 10 percent who can’t help themselves in their personal conduct. We need to identify that and ask them to return home because they’ve lost the trust of the people who elected them,” Renner said.
Renner’s second point: term limits.
“You see some of these problems. You look at John Conyers in Congress: he’s 88 years old and has had some serious allegations against him,” Renner added. “Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, there’s a period of time after which people become co-opted, happier to be there than to do what the people sent them there to do.
“They’d rather spend time drinking scotch at the club or doing things that they don’t have any business doing than to do the people’s business,” Renner added. “Do I think that’s widespread among elected members? I do not. But it is an issue, it is a problem, and it’s something we have to take seriously. And as these things arise, it’s something we have to address.”
Staff boosts for Jay Fant AG campaign
When it comes to the GOP race for Attorney General, Fant is in it to win it.
Fant faces former circuit court judge Ashley Moody and fellow Republican Reps. Frank White and Ross Spano in the GOP primary for AG, and has seen his campaign lag in recent months as his rivals, particularly Moody and White, have picked up steam.
The Jacksonville Republican’s revamp effort includes bringing in Randy Enwright and Jim Rimes of Enwright Consulting Group to lead his political team and turning to The Tarrance Group for polling. Former Rick Scott communications chief Melissa Stone is also coming on board via Cavalry Strategies.
Fant is also going all in on advertising with the Strategy Group, which helped President Donald Trump last election cycle and have worked on 11 other Attorney General campaigns nationwide.
Josh Cooper’s Strategic Information Consultants will be handling opposition research, while Strategic Digital Services, founded by Matthew Farrar and Joe Clements, will handle the digital media operations.
Fant has messaged to the right of the field, but has seen his credibility hamstrung by a shoestring operation. Now that problem has been solved.
Fant wants Franken gone
Rep. Fant — as is often the case — is holding forth on issues beyond the state Legislature in which he serves, and the Attorney General’s office in which he would like to serve.
Fant’s latest rhetorical broadside: a full-throttle smackdown on Sen. Franken, accused of letting his hands wander during photo ops.
Fant wants Franken gone.
“Senator Marco Rubio said yesterday that Senator Al Franken should resign, and I fully agree with him on this. Senator Franken has already admitted to mistreating women in a way that would be offensive to come from any person, but is completely out-of-bounds for an elected official representing our public trust. He must go,” Fant said.
“As the father of two daughters, I am sickened by public officials misusing the power of their office for harassment. Sexual harassment is wrong in any workplace,” Fant added, “but is especially disgusting when it involves someone who represents the public trust.”
Fant is embroiled in a crowded four-way race for the GOP nomination for Attorney General. Two of his opponents — White and Spano — are House colleagues. A third competitor, Moody, is a retired Hillsborough County judge.
Times-Union gives props to Bradley
Sen. Bradley was lauded by the Florida Times-Union editorial board last month, and — as it ran during the Thanksgiving holiday — some of our readers may have missed it.
Bradley, the current Senate Appropriations Chair, was celebrated for sponsoring a bill that would earmark $100 million for the state’s “Florida Forever” conservation program.
If this sounds like déjà vu, it’s probably because Florida Politics wrote about the bill two months ago.
“This ought to be easy. Florida voters approved that funding by a whopping 75 percent vote three years ago. But the Legislature has a maddening habit of ignoring the will of the voters,” the T-U ed board remarked.
With the Times-Union yet to announce a replacement for the respected Tia Mitchell, it will be interesting to see how the Jacksonville paper covers Bradley — and the Florida Legislature — in 2018.
Kim Daniels settles disputed election spending
Rep. Daniels cut a deal this week with the Florida Elections Commission. She will spend $1,500 to settle claims that she paid campaign money from her 2015 Jacksonville City Council re-election bid on promoting her book, “The Demon Dictionary.”
As Jacksonville’s Folio Weekly reported in February 2015, Daniels spent $4,000 of campaign funds to promote her book, The DemonDictionary, in a religious magazine called Shofar.
Daniels also offered editorials in the magazine, and no disclaimers marking the communiqué as campaign communications were included.
A local activist/journalist, David Vandygriff of JaxGay.com, filed an FEC complaint, and in March 2016, staff recommended to the commission that there was probable cause to believe that an election code violation might have occurred.
Daniels faces no opposition thus far in her 2018 bid for re-election.
Second Democrat jumps into HD 15 fight
Many connected Jacksonville Democrats are solidly behind Tracye Polson in her bid to replace Fant in House District 15.
But to get to the general election against a Republican (Wyman Duggan is the only one to have filed yet), Polson must fend off a primary challenge.
Jacksonville Democrat Matt McAllister filed last month for the seat.
Jacksonville Sheriff Williams filed for re-election Tuesday, opening a campaign account and launching an operation well ahead of the 2019 vote.
Despite the formal filing for re-election, it’s clear that Williams has been working in that direction for months.
Williams’ political committee, “A Safe Jacksonville,” has raised $154,000, and has $131,000 on hand.
The committee’s spending in September and October reflected a nascent re-election campaign, with a $10,000 October spend with Jacksonville consultant Bruce Barcelo on constituent polling, after a September spend of $8,900 with Data Targeting Research for the same.
While we don’t have access to the internal polls, the most recent public poll shows that Sheriff Williams is popular, with 67 percent approval countywide … including 60 percent of Democrats.
Bad trip? Or hit piece?
The Florida Times-Union offered a long-form look at the political symbiosis between Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.
The subtext may be more interesting than the text.
Historically, there has been a pattern when the T-U would go in on Curry’s administration on one issue or another; a Cold War of some length, followed by rapprochement.
“Curry’s current travel practices have blown up the old system,” writes the T-U’s Nate Monroe, who adds that “Curry considers himself a reform mayor who championed hard-won changes to the old ways of doing business, often touting his interest in increased transparency and accountability for the massive consolidated government he oversees. But Curry might be sidestepping that goal when it comes to his own office.”
In a media market like this, with a few dedicated City Hall reporters between print and television, the relationship between Curry and the local paper is worth watching. While the T-U editorial board is pretty much on lock, the news side is more skeptical — as Monroe’s article suggests.
Curry faces no imminent challenges to re-election, and — as compared to Alvin Brown, who attempted to stay above politics — is exceedingly well prepared for a re-election campaign.
But the path forward can get more treacherous if articles like this one occlude the larger narrative.
Tree canopy tango
Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni introduced legislation this week that opposes a state bill (HB 521/SB 574) that would cut the heart out of the city’s protections of its tree canopy.
The state bill, filed by Republican Greg Steube in the Senate and Democrat Katie Edwards in the House, would prohibit cities such as Jacksonville from stopping landowners from removing trees located on their own private property.
Crescimbeni’s Jacksonville City Council bill (2017-822) contends that the legislation is “harmful to the environment and contrary to the overwhelming wishes of Jacksonville citizens,” and that the state legislation is an “assault on home rule.”
The Crescimbeni bill, if it moves through committee, will be voted up or down by the full Council in 2018.
Price of sex discrimination to be paid by Jax taxpayers
WJXT reported on the city of Jacksonville getting ready to dole out almost half a million dollars to settle two sex discrimination cases.
“The city tried unsuccessfully to get both lawsuits dismissed, and in each case, the city’s general counsel said the agreed upon settlement would be far less than what the city might have to pay after a jury trial and lengthy court battle,” reports WJXT’s Jim Piggott.
For a taste of what these women had to endure, consider the example of 65-year-old Deborah Jones, a jail employee.
Jones claimed her boss called her an “old, demented, worthless whore” and who “didn’t need to worry about inmates hanging around a dark parking lot because ‘they don’t rape old, ugly women.’”
Reggie Gaffneyraises $10K in re-election bid
It appears that, despite issues during his first two years in office, that Jacksonville City Councilman Gaffney will have the resources he needs to best lightly-funded opponents.
October revealed fundraising that, while slow compared to many other candidates in the city, dwarfs opponents in Council District 7, which includes Downtown, Springfield and points north.
Gaffney brought in $9,100 in October, pushing him to $10,100 raised — with all but $228 of that cash on hand.
Gaffney’s money came in chunks: $2,500 in three checks from local dog track interests; $2,000 from three property management entities housed at the same address (437 E Monroe St. Ste 100); and $2,000 more from two property management companies with the same post office box in Yulee.
One opponent has $1,800 banked; the other has $0 in reserve.
Privatize JEA? Tom Petway says yes.
The big news out of Tuesday’s meeting of Jacksonville’s JEA Board wasn’t on the agenda.
Board member Petway — one of the earliest supporters of the candidacy of Jacksonville Mayor Curry — announced his intention to leave the board Dec. 31. And he revived a major conceptual proposal on his way out.
Petway suggested that perhaps the time has come for the municipal utility to move into a “private sector marketplace” model.
“The majority of people in Florida are served by a private-sector marketplace,” Petway said, asking the board to consider where JEA “fits” in that emergent paradigm.
At a press availability Wednesday, Curry further discussed the audacious proposal by one of his staunchest political supporters.
“[Petway and] I’ve had abstract conversations about challenging the utility to think big,” Curry said. “Numerous times.”
“I’ve been about reform, challenge, changing the status quo,” Curry added. “And he certainly challenged the organization to think big yesterday.”
This concept has been floated twice in the last decade, and couldn’t get traction.
However, some City Councilors — notably, Council liaison to JEA Matt Schellenberg and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis — are receptive, even as Council President Anna Brosche wants to know more.
Two candidates have emerged in the hopes of replacing Gibson.
The names: Lisa King, the county party committeewoman who lost a race for state chair to freshly-resigned Stephen Bittel; andHazel Gillis, VP of the Duval Dems’ Black Caucus.
“Democrats can win elections in Jacksonville. To do so,” King said, “we must be brave, build trust and be ready to work.”
Gillis, in an email announcing her bid, noted that she will “work diligently to unify our party and work for inclusion.”
The party will choose Monday evening.
Scott reappoints two to Jacksonville Aviation Authority
Gov. Rick Scott announced the reappointment of Patrick Kilbane and Giselle Carson to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.
Kilbane, 38, of Jacksonville, is a financial adviser with Ullmann Brown Wealth Advisors. He received his law degree from the University of Notre Dame. Kilbane is reappointed for a term beginning ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Carson, 49, of Jacksonville, is an attorney and shareholder with Marks Gray PA. Carson received her bachelor’s degree from McGill University and her law degree from the Florida Coastal School of Law. Carson is reappointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Wildlight UF Health facility plans filed
Wildlight LLC has filed plans with the St. Johns River Water Management District this week for a proposed University of Florida health and fitness complex at Wildlight, the master-planned community in Nassau County.
Karen Mathis of the Jacksonville Daily Record reports that Wildlight developer Raydient Places + Properties and UF is seeking to construct two medical office buildings, with parking facilities, on 6.38 acres in Yulee at Florida A1A and William Burgess Boulevard.
In August, Raydient — Rayonier Inc.’s real estate subsidiary — and UF announced groundbreaking would begin in 2018.
Plans include a 23,331-square-foot medical office building and a 5,888-square-foot building. GAI Consultants of Jacksonville is serving as the project agent.
Wildlight is a 2,900-acre development with 7 million square feet of office, commercial, medical, industrial and residential space. The project will include 3,200 residential units.
Originally in downtown Jacksonville, Rayonier moved its headquarters to Wildlight, a new town that it refers to as “Florida Lowcountry.”
In all, Wildlight will offer homes, townhomes and rental apartments along with shops, restaurants, parks, gardens, playgrounds, a new elementary school that opened and a trail and pathway system to connect it.
JTA holiday bus offers free rides, candy canes, music
Weekdays through December 22, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) is offering a special holiday bus, located on any one of its routes during the holiday season.
If you find the holiday bus, you can ride for free.
JTA says riders on this holiday bus will also get holiday music, candy canes, and decorations.
For more information on the holiday bus, contact JTA customer service at (904) 630-3100.
Jacksonville Zoo celebrates birth of endangered Sumatran tiger cubs
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating the healthy birth of two critically endangered Sumatran tiger cubs. The cubs’ mother, 6-year-old Dorcas, gave birth at 11:40 a.m. November 20. The tigers’ keepers were able to keep an eye on the process using a closed-circuit camera system.
Both cubs are male; they are the second litter for Dorcas and father, Berani. The Zoo’s first Sumatran tiger birth in its 102-year history is big sister Kinleigh Rose, born on November 19, 2015 — two years and a day before the arrival of her little brothers.
“One of the biggest pleasures as the Zoo’s tiger-management program evolves, is watching the effect that it has on the wellness of our animals,” said Dan Dembiec, Supervisor of Mammals. “Dorcas started out as a skittish and shy tigress, but she is now a confident and skilled mother. She is a natural at providing her cubs with the necessary care to help them develop, and this is reflective of the care that she has received from the staff at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.”
The cubs received their first medical exam on November 28. Zoo Animal Health staff were able to quickly and efficiently examine the cubs because of the exceptional bonding and training the keeper staff has conducted with the mother. Dorcas was willing and trusting to be separated from the cubs at the request of the keepers.
Not even three months after Hurricane Irma comes an indication, via Moody’s, that a storm may be brewing in municipal credit markets.
Via Bloomberg: “If cities and states don’t deal with risks from surging seas or intense storms, they are at greater risk of default.”
Moody’s considers six indicators to measure exposure, like how many homes are in a flood plain — an issue for Jacksonville.
During Hurricane Matthew, Jacksonville issued mandatory evacuations in Flood Zones A, B, and C; these encompassed 450,000 people.
During Irma, Jacksonville evacuated zones A and B, which encompassed 256,000 people.
Despite those evacuation orders, life was imperiled: 350 residents had to be rescued in the hours after the storm churned out of the area. Downtown Jacksonville suffered historic flooding, as did neighborhoods on the river, such as Avondale, Riverside and San Marco.
While Moody’s has yet to actually downgrade a city for not addressing climate change, Jacksonville has physical vulnerability.
As well, the city has backed away from nationwide initiatives — such as the Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities,” which offered $1 million a year to participating municipalities.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry — who created a media kerfuffle earlier this year in backing President Donald Trump‘s intention to leave the Paris Accord, an international agreement to curb emissions and other environmental impacts, is not worried about potential future credit downgrades, he told us Wednesday.
“Sea levels are rising, in Jacksonville and the state. We certainly experience catastrophic storms … and we in Jacksonville are doing everything we can to invest in proper infrastructure on the front end, and [working] to keep our people safe on the back end,” Curry said.
“Our Public Works Department has a comprehensive plan they are currently re-evaluating and have been prior to these storms. So I would say we face the reality in front of us and those rising sea levels and those storms are a reality in front of us, and we will adjust accordingly,” Curry added.
But will that convince the bond ratings agencies?
“Budgets — real budgets and real investments speak to bond rating agencies. Not a bunch of feel-good talk that a lot of elected officials like to do that result in no real investments and no real budgets,” Curry said.
“I stand by my budgets. I stand by my work with City Council. I stand by our investments in neighborhoods and infrastructure,” Curry added.
However, Moody’s already expressed concern about pension reform, specifically about the deferred payment model on the $3.2 billion unfunded actuarial liability from the city’s defined benefit plans.
“The Aa2 Issuer Rating reflects the city’s high fixed costs, which are elevated by weak pension funding levels. Despite a new pension reform plan, pension payments will continue to constrict the city’s financial operations. The rating also reflects the city’s rebounding, large and diverse economy, coupled with a strengthened balance sheet position, that both help buoy the rating at the current level. Moody’s will closely monitor the city’s ability to control rapidly increasing fixed costs,” the agency asserted in August.
In the fight to stem the nation’s opioid epidemic, President Donald Trump‘s drug commission – with Attorney General Pam Bondi as a member – came up with more than 50 ideas, involving a dozen federal agencies.
Nevertheless, Sam Baker of Axiosnotes, without a national “drug czar,” there is no one directing the effort – and no accountability for its progress (or lack thereof).
Although a policy-based “czar” can be a “bit of a gimmick” at times, Baker says success will be achieved only when one person has the broad authority to lead a far-reaching national opioid strategy.
And Bondi would be the perfect person for the job.
Yale public health professor David Fiellin tells Axios: “It seems it would be worthwhile to have a separate individual that’s focused exclusively on the tasks that are required to fight the current epidemic.” Fiellin led the task force to develop Connecticut’s strategy for the opioid epidemic.
Among the highlights of Bondi’s seven-year career as Attorney General was a widespread no-nonsense crackdown of pill mills and addiction across the state. During that time, Florida shuttered clinics where doctors illegally prescribed oxycodone and other opioids. It was in the shadow of those successes that helped ensure her re-election in 2014.
Who better than Bondi, a longtime Trump supporter, to be drug czar?
While the Office of National Drug Control Policy has a lot on its plate, no director has yet been put up for Senate confirmation. Time is running out; with no one in charge, the problem is only getting worse.
The country needs a drug czar right now. And this point, Bondi – with her extensive knowledge and experience on the issue – would be an excellent fit.
The city of Orlando is considering a resolution that would have the City Council and Mayor Buddy Dyer formally declare their policy that police and other city officials not get involved in immigration matters, including a policy against questioning people whether their status is legal or not.
The resolution would state what already is the city’s policy. Under Dyer and Police Chief John Mina, police and other officials are not supposed to inquire about whether a traffic stop driver, a suspect, a victim, a witness, or anyone else interacting with city officials is a citizen or properly documented immigrant.
But that’s not on enforceable paper.
And while a resolution would put it on paper, it wouldn’t make it law.
The resolution proposal, pushed by Dyer and others in recent weeks, is a compromise offer between the city’s informal policies that essentially make it unofficially a safe city for undocumented residents, and immigration activists that have been pushing last summer for an ordinance that would make it law.
The debate in Orlando, at least in all public ways, is not about whether the city should be assisting federal authorities in identifying and detaining undocumented immigrants. It’s about how far the city wants to go in rejecting that approach.
A coalition of activists that includes 35 social justice, labor, and progressive groups and is part of a national movement, has been pushing for an ordinance since last summer, with rallies on the City Hall steps, art protests, and meetings and negotiations with city officials.
“We’ve looked for middle ground, a resolution, which is passed in a similar manner as an ordinance, to supplement the policy,” said Deputy City Attorney Jody Litchford.
“But frankly, unfortunately, we are not in agreement,” she added.
Litchford and others, including Dyer’s Senior Advisor Lori Pampilo Harris, argue that Orlando already is doing everything in practice that the advocates want. The city neither questions people about their status, nor detains them — even at requests from the U.S. Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But too many of the undocumented immigrants living in Orlando still remain fearful of coming out of the shadows, even as a witness to crime, the activists argue.
If Orlando wants to make undocumented residents comfortable enough to work with city officials, to not fear encounters, it needs something more than a policy. It needs a law, argued Curtis Hierro, organizing director of the Central Florida AFL-CIO and one of the leaders of the Trust Ordinance Coalition that has been pushing Orlando for an ordinance.
Hierro insisted they coalition is far from done with its effort.
“The reason we’re pushing for an ordinance is it is the strongest act a city can take to codify policy, something with real teeth,” Hierro said.
Without it, Hierro said, there have been at least isolated incidents of police officers or others asking people about immigration status, Hierro said. Word spreads. Trust erodes. People stay in the shadows. That’s why the ordinance they have drafted and offered the city that’s called the “Trust Ordinance.”
But an ordinance, besides being an inappropriate way to deal with city policies, Litchford said, also opens up liability issues for the city. That may start with threats from President Donald Trump‘s administration that it intends to reduce federal grants to cities that are formally sanctuary cities.
The city is offering not just the resolution, but a communication effort, an outreach program that would explicitly try to spread the word that city police and other officials would not do anything to “out” people who came here without visas, or overstayed their visas.
Vern Buchanan is displeased with the Trump administration’s decision to lift the ban on importing elephant trophies from Africa, saying the world’s largest land mammal is a threatened species facing extinction.
“We should not encourage the hunting and slaughter of these magnificent creatures,” the Sarasota Republican congressman said Friday. “We don’t get a second chance once a species becomes extinct.”
The administrationis reversing an Obama-era ban on bringing to the U.S. the heads of elephants killed in two African countries.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials announced they have determined that hunting African elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia “will enhance the survival of the species in the wild,” the standard that determines whether to allow imports of parts — known as trophies — of the animals.
Buchanan isn’t the only conservative Trump supporter disagreeing with the president. Radio and TV personality Laura Ingrahamtweeted Thursday that she didn’t understand the decision either.
Along with Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer, Buchanan co-chairs the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, and the two men released a statement in opposition to the Trump Administration’s decision to reverse the ban on elephant “trophy” imports:
“African elephants are a threatened species and face extinction in our lifetime. As part of the international effort to reverse this trend, we strongly support the ban on imports of elephant “trophies” from Zambia and Zimbabwe. We are deeply disappointed by reports that there are plans to remove this ban, and as co-chairs of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, we are united in our effort to maintain the existing ban.”
Buchanan has a strong animal rights record in Congress, so strong that he was named Legislator of the Year by the Humane Society last year.
He’s previously urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restore a database of animal cruelty information that the department removed suddenly and without notice. He has also introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, bipartisan legislation that permanently bans the transport of horses to slaughterhouses in Mexico to be sold around the world.
A frenetic year in Jacksonville politics — including the passage of the Human Rights Ordinance expansion, pension reform, and the Kids Hope Alliance — is ending.
And not a moment too soon.
The Jacksonville City Council meeting this week had nothing on the agenda was worth covering, even by the standards of our Jacksonville correspondent.
A superbug was going through Council, anyway, and at least one member was absent while another member fought the lingering cold — so it was just as well that they didn’t discuss hot-button issues.
At Bold, we are taking full advantage of the lull in the calendar — with no new issue this Thanksgiving.
We will be with our families, as you will, and we will think of what’s important — the real bonds that give meaning to the often-surreal world of politics.
Rick Scott drops budget in Duval
Gov. Scott released his final budget this week in Jacksonville, an $87.4B proposal with “historic” funding in any number of categories.
Throughout Scott’s remarks, there was a common theme: “historic investments” in area after area, a policy justified by an economy that is booming — on the macro level at least — as his eight years in Tallahassee near a close.
“We’ll have historic investments in education, historic investments in transportation, historic investments in the environment, and historic investments in helping those with disabilities,” Scott added. “On top of that, we’re all going to reward our law enforcement officers.”
Some new announcements were made for the Jacksonville market also, including a “historic $10.8 billion for transportation, including significant funding for Jacksonville, including the deepening of JAXPORT.”
Roy Moore accusations ‘disgusting,’ Scott says
Florida Politics was the first media outlet to ask Scott about Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate under fire for dating underage women while he was district attorney decades back.
Here’s what he told us exclusively in Jacksonville Tuesday: “If any of it’s true, he’s got to get out of the race.”
“This is not partisan. This is about doing the right thing, and when I think about the things in Hollywood, I think about my daughters. And when I think about this, I think about my grandkids.”
“When my daughters were teenagers,” Scott continued, “I was worried about where they were. So, when you hear reports like this, they’re disgusting. So, if there’s any truth to any of this, he’s got to get out of the race.”
“Every voter, every citizen, every taxpayer deserves to have their elected officials live up to high standards. When you read the stories like this, whether the thing’s in Alabama or Tallahassee or D.C. or California,” Scott said, “you think about your family, and you think about how disgusting it is and you hope it would never happen to anybody.”
Audrey Gibson drops Duval Dems chair
On Monday evening, State Sen. Gibson — the next Caucus leader for Senate Democrats — resigned as chair of the Duval County Democratic Party.
“As you may know,” Gibson wrote in an email to local Democrats, “last week I was elected Leader Designate of the Senate Democrat Caucus. I am deeply honored and realize the efforts I must give to winning more Dem seats will require 100 percent plus of my focus.”
Gibson thought the year she was chair was successful, noting that having “candidates ready to run” was among the party’s successes.
Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Yarborough will carry that one to Tallahassee, via a bill filed Monday.
Per the appropriations request, the project will “accommodate the space and growth needs for the College’s STEM programs that focus on public and private sector-identified regional workforce needs.”
“The facility will help the region meet its workforce targets and will help citizens in the community get connected with affordable degree and certificate programs that will lead to employment opportunities,” the request continues.
The $12 million would allow for demolition and replacement of facilities on the college’s downtown campus, the request continues, and unspecified “major employers” in the Jacksonville region would attest to the utility of the project.
Jason Fischer files ‘Smart Cities Initiative’
A bill (“the Florida Smart City Challenge Grant Program”) filed Monday in the Florida Legislature would offer state grant money, via the Florida Department of Transportation, as an incentive for local solutions to transportation challenges.
Fischer filed the House version, HB 633; Republican Jeff Brandes is carrying the Senate version.
“Florida’s transportation system is inefficient and faces many challenges, but we can overcome them by embracing innovative technologies and thinking differently about how we plan our communities. This bill will provide cities and counties throughout Florida the opportunity to leverage technology and private investment to re-imagine mobility solutions not just for businesses but also for seniors, people with disabilities and other underserved individuals,” Fischer said.
A wide swath of agencies would qualify for funding; in particular, any governmental body responsible for the movement of goods and services in Florida, including local governments, but also TPOs and state universities.
Money, power, respect
In October fundraising for this region’s representation in Tallahassee, what was clear: correlation between stroke and checks.
Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner in HD 24 is on track to the House Speaker post. And Northeast Florida’s brightest hope in the House is also favored by donors outside the region.
Proof positive: the impressive October hauls of Renner’s two political committees, “Florida Foundation for Liberty” and “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.” They brought in $108,000 — much more than an incumbent running in a deep-red seat against an underfunded Democrat needs for re-election.
Also doing well: Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley. While not up for re-election, his fundraising was notable.
“Working for Florida’s Families,” Bradley’s political committee, reached a milestone with a $40,000 October, clearing $500,000 cash on hand.
Sen. Aaron Bean raised $36,000 between his committee and his campaign.
Except for Kim Daniels, who raised nothing and Cord Byrd, who raised just $2,000, virtually every other incumbent in the region did well.
The single open seat — in HD 15 — is competitive so far.
HD 15 Republican Wyman Duggan had a strong month: $20,500 in October, bringing him to $84,600 raised, with nearly $77,000 on hand. Democrat Tracye Polson kept pace.
She brought in $14,090 off 64 contributions in October, bringing her total raised to $65,189, with over $64,000 of that on hand. Her committee has another $12,000 banked, giving her $76,000 raised.
Not doing well in October: Attorney General candidate Jay Fant, who brought in $12,000 between his committee and campaign accounts. Luckily, a $750,000 personal loan buys him time, but opponents Ashley Moody and Frank White are well ahead when it comes to donor and endorser interest.
Big debuts for Jax Council hopefuls
Two new Jacksonville City Council candidates made huge splashes in their first months on the trail. And one political veteran started a bit slow.
Well-connected District 5 hopeful LeAnna Cumber brought in $101,775 last month in her bid to succeed termed-out Lori Boyer. Cumber’s entry into the race has been discussed for some time, and with that kind of money, the Tim Baker/Brian Hughes team deploying it, and a Democrat opponent with $400 on hand, she’s the front-runner.
Also starting off strong: currently unopposed Beaches candidate Rory Diamond, who brought in $85,326, and retained just over $82,000 of such as cash on hand.
Off to a slow start: former Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop, with less than blistering fundraising in his first month against Ron Salem in At-Large District 2.
Bishop had a respectable first month — bringing in $13,325 off 24 contributions — though Salem almost matched him, with $11,125 collected.
Salem has just under $114,000 cash on hand, and it will be worth watching to see how Bishop closes the cash gap.
Curry met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, as well as Billy Kirkland and Justin Clark, who handle intergovernmental affairs for the White House, U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Sen. Marco Rubio.
The primary goal of that trip: discussing the $25 million grant from the Department of Transportation that would allow the city to reconfigure off ramps from the Hart Bridge onto surface streets, allowing for more efficient movement of goods to and from the port.
And Curry, along with his team, made the pitch.
The in-person meeting, Curry said, had invaluable advantages, as a “face to face meeting” with the right people is inherently more meaningful than just presenting a paper with project specs and scope.
Curry recounted the case he made against the current configuration.
Its age makes it a “dinosaur” regarding design, one with safety issues that mandate changes.
The FDOT Study of the bridge conducted this year revealed the benefit to the port, another key benefit to the project.
The economic development for Bay Street the new traffic pattern would spawn, Curry said, was “gravy” — not the primary purpose of the project that some have suggested.
But the trip was about more than selling the project, Curry said. It’s about “long-term relationship building” as well, on this issue but others.
Jax councilors, mayor’s office discouraged from texting
Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche revised the council’s texting policy to include official “discouragement” of texts between legislators and the Mayor’s Office during meetings.
Brosche says it’s about transparent government.
“The impetus for change is transparency, open government, and equal access. During our meetings, all Council members and, more importantly, the public should be part of the conversations taking place regarding legislation actively being debated,” Brosche said.
Brosche also noted that administration members have been texting Council members during meetings.
“While I have observed colleagues receiving texts from the administration during meetings, I am going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that such communications were not about active legislation. My revision of the policy is a proactive measure to uphold the principles of transparency and open government and allow all Council Members and the public to know they are participating in all communications happening during Council meetings.”
The Mayor’s Office is OK with this, meanwhile.
“The mayor has always said he respects the Council and Council President’s roles in conducting themselves and setting policies as they see fit. The mayor has also been a proponent of transparency and accountability, and is always encouraged to see practices that support that,” asserted a statement from his office.
The mayor’s office and Brosche have clashed on various issues since she took over the presidency in July.
MLK breakfast troubles
First Coast News reports that the local NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference have no interest in participating in Jacksonville’s Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast next year.
The question they are asking: “What’s in it for the SCLC? What’s in it for the NAACP?”
At issue: economic disparity and resource allocation, with the civil rights groups claiming “One City One Jacksonville” is just a slogan — not a policy.
For its part, the Mayor’s Office contends that it has been making good faith efforts to meet with the local leaders of both groups, and has included them on the event host committee.
Revealed in 2017’s breakfast is a gap in rhetoric between the Mayor’s Office and the pastoral community. After that event, a boycott was threatened, per WJCT.
Opioid lawsuit imminent
Jacksonville soon may be one of the many governments suing Big Pharma in reaction to the opiate crisis.
Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel is vetting so-called “prestigious” law firms, with a decision expected early in December.
Earlier this year, the Jacksonville City Council approved a resolution OKing legal action.
“The general counsel’s approved it, and I don’t feel like there’s any impediment,” Gulliford said.
The city has absorbed real costs from the opioid epidemic.
Overdoses, at last count, end four times as many lives as homicides in Duval County, with 2016’s number of 464 casualties more than doubling 2015’s number of 201.
Caucasians represent 86 percent of the deaths, and over half of those passing away are in their 30s and 40s.
And things could get worse: a fentanyl derivative being used to cut heroin in the Ohio Valley doesn’t respond to Narcan.
What Aaron Bean is up to in November
On Friday, Nov. 17, the Fernandina Beach Republican will speak at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Sertoma Speech & Hearing Foundation’s new mobile audiology services van, which will provide pediatric hearing screenings and dispense hearing aids. That event begins 1 p.m. at the Hidden Hills Learning Tree, 12160 Fort Caroline Road in Jacksonville.
On Wednesday, Nov. 22, Bean will appear at the dedication of a memorial for Nassau County Deputy Eric Oliver, on the anniversary of his death in 2016 by a hit-and-run driver. The dedication begins at 7:30 a.m., 463779 FL-200 in Yulee.
Then, on Nov. 28, Bean will give a speech to members of the Downtown Business Professional Group and offer an update on the upcoming 2018 Legislative Session. The meeting starts 7 a.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Drive in Jacksonville.
Local veteran honored in Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame
Colonel Len Loving, United States Marine Corps (Ret.) and CEO of Five STAR Veterans Center, will be honored in the State of Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
The State of Florida began the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame in 2013 to recognize and honor military veterans who, through their works and lives during or after military service, have made a significant contribution to the State of Florida. In selecting its nominees, the Council has given preference to veterans who were either born in Florida or adopted Florida as their home state.
In 1986, Loving founded the Marine Corps Blount Island Command, in Jacksonville, which has become a major economic engine in Northeast Florida. He was the Commanding Officer until his retirement in 1989.
In 2011, Loving began building and opening the Five STAR Veterans Center, where he continues to serve as CEO. The center gives food, housing, assistance securing veteran benefits, financial, mental health services provided by the Delores Barr Weaver Fund, and more to 30-plus homeless veterans monthly.
Loving has been chosen for the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame due to his positive impact on Florida’s most at-risk veterans and their families by 1) opening what is now the Five STAR Veterans Center, 2) going many extra miles to keep the doors open, and 3) making a lasting, life-altering impact on those who are most significantly affected by their years in service and have nowhere else to turn.
Today, five years after opening the doors, 199 veterans have lived at and benefited from the Five STAR Veterans Center; 35 veterans currently live at the center, and by January 2018 the center expects to reach their capacity of 39 veterans.
JAXPORT to expand vehicle-handling capacity
JAXPORT is beginning construction of a new automobile processing terminal, the first part of a multiyear project to increase the port’s vehicle-handling capacity 25 percent.
Once completed, the facility will add more than 100 acres of processing and storage space on JAXPORT’s Dames Point Marine Terminal, offering vessels direct waterside access for loading and unloading with major interstates less than 1 mile away plus the potential for rail capabilities.
The expansion follows a year of highest-ever vehicle volumes at JAXPORT. In 2017, the port moved record 693,000 total units. With the port’s three auto processors and location in the heart of the nation’s fastest-growing auto consumer market, JAXPORT his responding to the increased demand for vehicle space.
“The steady growth of our auto business speaks volumes about our efficiencies,” said Roy Schleicher, JAXPORT Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. “We are committed to supporting our auto partners with the tools they require to continue to expand their businesses in Jacksonville.”
Jacksonville Zoo Breakfast with Santa
On the weekend of Dec. 2-3, Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens members and their families can enjoy a delicious breakfast buffet, and become among the first to tell Santa their holiday wishes. New this year: Breakfast will take place at the Shaba Terrace at Main Camp.
Members Only Breakfast with Santa begins 8 a.m., and costs $8 per member, ages 3 and up.
Those with a friend, 1 adult family + 1, family + 1 or family + 2 membership may bring the corresponding number of guests. A limited number of tickets will be sold on a first come, first served basis. More information available at Jacksonvillezoo.org.
A recent trip to Cuba by Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin and Councilman Harry Cohen was just the latest by members of the political establishment who have worked for nearly a decade to set up closer relations between the city and the Communist island.
Former Councilwoman Mary Mulhern first visited Cuba as part of a delegation of local business leaders in 2009, and she boarded the first direct flight from Tampa to Havana in 2011 after the Obama administration opened up travel to other U.S. airports beyond Miami, New York and Los Angeles.
Although not nearly as controversial as a decade ago, such trips are still not necessarily universally embraced in Tampa, which houses a huge Cuban-American population, including exiles of the Fidel Castro regime.
After former President Barack Obama made history in 2014 when he announced a full resumption of relations with Cuba, council members rallied to seek a Cuban embassy in Tampa.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn did not endorse the move, saying he always remained loyal to those exiles.
Those tensions came to light at a presentation Thursday when Councilman Mike Suarez, a Cuban-American who never fully embraced the outreach, asked Capin if any members of the delegation had reached out to Cuban dissidents, referring to how former Congressman Jim Davis had done so during a trip in 2006.
Capin said they had not, but appreciated the question.
“Our president just went to China and Vietnam,” Capin said. “He did not ask to see any dissidents.”
“I’m not challenging you at all,” Suarez replied.
Capin had made six trips to Cuba, and she said the issue of meeting dissidents had never come up a single time.
Tampa’s current U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, made her first trip to Cuba in 2013, meeting dissidents at that time. Upon her return, she became the first member of Florida’s congressional delegation to call for the end of the U.S. economic embargo to the island.
Officials Capin met in Cuba asked for “mutual respect for different ideologies,” and dispelled the perception that the country was in “chaos” following Hurricane Irma.
Chambers of Commerce for Tampa and St. Petersburg are considering attending the annual International Trade Fair there, she said.
“In my estimation, Tampa stands to gain thousands and thousands of jobs and transforms us into the global city that we want to be.”
While the local delegation visited the island nation, Donald Trump blamed Cuba for the mysterious attacks that sickened American diplomats there and prompted the abrupt withdrawal of United States embassy staff from Havana.
Cohen said that comment created certain a “chill” on the trip, which he deemed “unfortunate.”
“The international situation I think more than anything, more than anything else, was made clear to us that was going to affect our own region’s ability to engage with the future of Cuba,” Cohen added.
He did say that the Florida Aquarium will continue its partnership with the National Aquarium of Cuba, where it is nurturing and tracking coral reefs in Cuba to learn how to save reefs in Florida better.
Earlier in the council discussion, Luis Viera, another Cuban-American member of the board whose family members are exiles, said he supports Capin and Cohen’s visit as part of what he calls “principled engagement” with Cuba.
He challenged his colleagues to have a dialogue with Cuban-exiles about the relations with the country.
“I think that this would behoove us as council members on this if that’s something that is going to be continued as a policy is to engage members of that community,” he said, “because in the city of Tampa that community is a very large part of our city in terms of the social fabric, cultural fabric, etc.”
Capin said that was an excellent idea.
Two members of the audience questioned the council members visit.
“I have family in Cuba, I want to see a change in Cuba,” said Rafael Pizo, who complained that his family in Cuba still cannot buy aspirin, which had nothing to do with an economic embargo. “This is a tactic by the regime to keep the people down.”
Another unidentified Cuban exile, who spoke in Spanish (with an English translator), said the council was wasting its time trying to do business with the current regime.
“What business can we expect with this regime, they don’t even pay their allies and they pay no debts?” he asked. “To give them our money that we need in our communities for our roads, for our sick, for our social economic programs, we need our money here in our town, not in Cuba, they have nothing to offer us.”
Gov. Rick Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work, spent over $1.2 million last month on advertising, a blitz that foreshadows his likely 2018 bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson.
Of the committee’s $1,281,290 in expenditures last month, $1,229,813 went towards ads. The main beneficiary was Maryland-based OnMessage, which has been Scott’s favored firm for advertising for quite some time.
The rest of the spending was for odds and ends, such as a database from Tallahassee-based Contribution Link, and a handful of political and financial consulting contracts.
The October payments to OnMessage account for nearly half of the $2.5 million Scott has paid the company since he started his political committee in 2014.
All that spending was balanced out by a single contribution last month – a $500 check from former Democratic lawmaker Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda.
Through the end of October, the committee had about $1.5 million on hand, though that number is likely to boom once Scott makes his 2018 plans known.
Keeping Nelson in office is a major priority for Democrats as he is one of a handful of Democratic senators facing re-election next year in a state carried by President Donald Trump in 2016.
At the end of the third quarter, Nelson’s campaign finance report showed him with about $6.3 million in the bank. He raised $1.8 million from June through September and spent about $600,000, leaving him with a net gain of about $1.17 million.
The big-picture numbers show $1.43 million of the Q3 money came in from individuals, while $243,550 came from political committees.
From the moment years ago when Republicans decided victory was worth whatever the cost to their party’s soul, Roy Moore has been lurking out there, waiting for his chance to scream “yeehaw” on the national stage.
Republicans looked the other way while Moore’s peculiar brand of public policy began gaining grassroots acceptance, including here in Florida, and now they don’t know what to do with him. Denounce him too strongly and a candidate could lose the almighty GOP “base.” Speak softly and they could soon have a pariah in their midst, one dedicated to replace them all with more people who think like he does.
Tough choice, eh? Moore is one of the heroes in a movement where what he says – and how supporters believe he will vote – is far more important than what he does, and how do you deal with that?
Yes, many prominent Republicans, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have called for him to drop out of the race “IF” the allegations are proven true. That’s not exactly a Profiles in Courage stance, given that even though the Post named his accusers, this all happened about 40 years ago.
This is how Republicans believe they have to operate since they fell in line while Donald Trump took over their party (with fewer votes than HillaryClinton) after a campaign of lies, insults and dark imagery – and maybe with a little help from his BFF Vladimir Putin.
Trump figured, correctly, that the Republican Party would be easier to hijack than Democrats. The new GOP, as envisioned by Steve Bannon, will be filled with people like Roy Moore – gun-waving, rights-trampling, Constitution-spitting fireballs with no regard for any view but their own.
The wingnut faction of the GOP doesn’t care about law, fairness or diversity. They wrap themselves in the flag and the Bible, but don’t really seem to have a clue what either one stands for.
They believe in their self-righteousness to the exclusion of all else. They see themselves as the only true Americans and patriots. They don’t understand why anyone would be upset over the revelations about Moore.
Is this a good time to mention Moore started The Foundation for Moral Law? It’s true. Try not to laugh.
That group is decidedly Old Testament, finger-wagging “Thou Shalt Not” about the usual things that upset social conservatives. When one of their members is exposed in the way Moore was, they dismiss it as liberal lies.
The more publicity things like this get, the more hardened their stance becomes. Their self-righteousness is reinforced by hard-right outlets like Breitbart, and even if Moore loses and Republicans are walloped in the 2018 midterm elections, the true believers won’t be deterred.
They will blame the loss on a combination of gutless mainstream Republicans and the despised liberal media. They will see statesmanship as betrayal to their ideals. They will view any loss as a temporary setback.
Roy Moore’s supporters in Alabama see this election as another step toward taking their country back from all those liberals, scientists, elitists, Hollywood types and educated smarty pants who stole it. This isn’t a threat as much as it is the plan.