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.
Florida voters have no say in the race for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. All we can do is watch in amazement and wonder what is coming next.
Alabama’s sitting Senator, Republican Luther Strange (you can’t make this up), was defeated in the GOP primary by Roy Moore, a former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Despite having the backing of President Donald Trump, Strange’s fatal flaw was being branded part of The Establishment.
Moore was expected to defeat his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. Then came the recent Washington Post story describing sexual encounters with minors nearly four decades ago allegedly involving Moore.
For example, in a Friday tweet, 2012 GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney said “Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. Moore is unfit for office and should step down.”
Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.
“Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.”
Moore’s dilemma makes it tough for one of Romney’s former key advisers. Tallahassee’s Brett Doster helped the former Massachusetts Governor win the Florida primary and go on to the nomination.
Doster, a strong conservative and good at what he does, is one of Moore’s top message guys. On the day the story broke, he revealed the campaign’s first general election ad featuring “Military, the flag and jobs.”
Doster is a good guy and a strong conservative who is four-square behind Moore. But he and his colleagues have a Herculean task in front of them.
Just for a moment, let’s imagine the creepy stuff had never surfaced. Even without the accusations, Republicans who believe in the rule of law should have plenty of problems with Moore.
I am among those conservatives who try to live by the 10 Commandments and care deeply about law and order and the Constitution. We are the ones who sometimes profoundly disagree with court decisions, but are obliged to go along because that’s how our system of government works. Plenty of liberals fall into that category as well.
In 2003, Moore refused a federal judge’s order to remove a stone monument containing the 10 Commandments from a government building, leading to his removal from the bench. After regaining his place as Chief Justice, he refused to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing same-sex marriage, which led to his resignation earlier this year.
An individual’s personal view does not trump a promise made with the left hand on a bible and the right hand in the air. Moore took an oath to “support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Alabama” in that order. He reneged.
These are not 38-year-old allegations. They are present-day facts.
One of Moore’s supporters in the 10 Commandments controversy was the state’s Attorney General, Bill Pryor. But when the judge ruled, Pryor, unlike Moore, was true to his oath.
“As attorney general, I have a duty to obey all orders of courts even when I disagree with those orders,” Pryor said Aug. 14, 2003.
Unless some irrefutable evidence surfaces somehow proving the 38-year-old allegations against Moore, he is likely to try and ride out the storm. Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead.
Trump said that if the charges are true, Moore “will do the right thing and step aside.” If not, there is a month remaining until Election Day.
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is talking up a write-in campaign for Strange.
Though a long-shot, that would at least give thoughtful Republicans a place to go. It was Murkowski who lost in a 2010 primary but won the general election in that manner.
The drama playing out is made for Hollywood in more ways than one. If it ever becomes a movie, may I suggest The Life and Times of Judge Roy Moore as the title?
Forget talk of a “Trump slump” on tourism, Florida’s tourism czar told Brits this week.
VISIT FLORIDA President Ken Lawson said Florida, even with the lingering impacts from Hurricane Irma on the Keys, is getting a “Trump bump” when it comes to travelers.
Lawson’s comments were reported by London-based TTG Media, which covers travel professionals in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Lawson’s talk of a “bump” came during the World Travel Market “WTM” event in London, days after he traveled with Gov. Rick Scott to Toronto to try to entice people from Canada to spend money in the Sunshine State.
“He said Brexit was `not a concern’ and that UK visitors were still coming, though a weak pound meant they were more likely to stay in a lower priced hotel than before,” TTG Media reported about Lawson’s comments.
Back in June, some VISIT FLORIDA officials, including Chairwoman Maryann Ferenc, expressed concern that President Donald Trump‘s America First and immigration policies could have a negative impact on international travel.
“We’ve seen that at the international shows that we’ve gone to,” Ferenc told board members during a June meeting. “It’s a variable that we really have not a lot of control over and we’re going to suffer from.”
Lawson has maintained since Hurricane Irma blistered the state two months ago that Florida continues to seek a record 120 million tourists this year, which would be about a 6 percent jump from 2016.
As part of Lawson’s appearance in London, he announced that the state’s international budget will be $11 million, with a $2 million winter campaign starting in January in the United Kingdom that will feature radio promotions targeted at Manchester and Liverpool.
The United Kingdom accounted for 1.7 million visitors in 2016, the second highest for Florida’s international travelers behind Canada.
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.
Check the scoreboard. Or read the articles in this week’s edition.
The next leader of the Senate Democrats — Jacksonville’s own Audrey Gibson.
The new budget chief in the Senate — Fleming Island’s own Rob Bradley.
And yeah, there were … things … that happened … to allow both of those to come to pass.
But lo and behold, Northeast Florida has more stroke in the Senate than has been the case for years.
The question, now: what will the region do with it?
In the House, we are waiting for Paul Renner to work his way up to Speaker — next decade.
Can the region’s Senators and House members get together and make some big pushes for Jacksonville priorities?
Report: No worries for Al Lawson re-election
The Tallahassee Democratposted a provocative article recently, contending that Rep. Lawson doesn’t have much to worry about when it comes to his re-election bid.
Data guru Matt Isbell of MCI Maps — cited in the article — says the seat is Lawson’s to lose.
“The district gave Clinton over 60 percent of the vote … the rural red counties make up a small share of the vote,” said Isbell. “Lawson may generate a general election challenger, but it won’t a serious or threatening one.”
Indeed, Lawson is one of those Democrats that Republicans can do business with — and it is hard to imagine a serious general election challenger.
However, as Jax Dems know, Lawson could face a primary challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown … which would be interesting.
While Lawson could face Alvin Brown, more certain is a primary challenge from first-time candidate Rontel Batie.
Batie, a former Corrine Brown policy director, was evasive when we asked his thoughts on Brown’s legal woes and for an idea of how much money his committee (“Rontel for Florida”) has raised.
Batie’s pitch is a millennial candidate with an inspirational personal narrative — rising from deep poverty and personal adversity (including his father getting shot when he was a kid.
It’s uncertain where the momentum comes from to push him over Lawson … yet it’s in Lawson’s interest to have Batie and as many challengers as possible in the race.
Lawson has a lock on Tallahassee, built support elsewhere in the district, and with the more candidates splitting the anti-Lawson vote, the better for him.
Batie really hurts Alvin Brown — again, should Brown get in the race.
“Immediately after being confronted by investigating agents, Ms. Wiley obtained counsel and quickly began providing truthful cooperation in the Government’s investigation,” the memo asserts, describing her cooperation as “early and significant, leading to the indictment of a then-sitting member of Congress and her chief of staff, and ultimately to the plea and cooperation of Mr. Simmons, her testimony and his testimony at trial and the conviction of Corrine Brown.”
The memo asserts that Wiley’s “significant role” in the scheme that went on for three years is outweighed by her cooperation. Also asserted: that Wiley has “no significant risk of recidivism.”
Notable: one of Wiley’s attorneys, Justin Fairfax, will be the next Attorney General of Virginia, elected in the Old Dominion’s anti-Trump wave Tuesday.
Audrey Gibson to lead Senate Democrats
Jacksonville is making moves in Tallahassee: veteran Democratic Senator Audrey Gibson will become the caucus leader for Senate Democrats after an 8-7 vote Monday.
Gibson will succeed current Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II when his term ends next November.
The split was described by observers as moderates versus progressives, a dynamic which some fear will split the caucus; our source tells us Braynon was the deciding vote.
In a “you heard it here first” moment, Florida Politics called this in the Oct. 30 edition of Sunburn.
We asked Gibson about what this would mean for North Florida — specifically, will the region finally get to sit at the adult table when it comes to appropriations?
“Equal footing comparatively speaking is definitely a goal,” Gibson asserted, “however, in one Session it may be a bit lofty.”
Rob Bradley becomes Senate Appropriations Chair
Gibson’s ascension to Democratic Caucus leader is the shot.
Here’s the chaser.
Sen. Jack Latvala’s scandals led to him stepping down — temporarily — from the Senate Appropriations Chair. And Fleming Island Sen. Bradley will take over the position — just weeks before an election year Legislative Session that will see big money spent.
“While the independent, third-party investigation regarding Senator Latvala is pending, I believe it is in the best interest of the Senate for another Senator to temporarily serve as Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations,” Senate President Joe Negron wrote in a memo this week.
Latvala, as widely reported, is facing largely anonymous yet deeply detailed accusations of abusing his power with women in the Senate.
Bradley will be in a position to advocate for his priorities, which include more money for North Florida’s St. Johns River, tributaries and springs, as well as a $100 million appropriation for Florida Forever.
Rick Scott fumbles gun question in Jacksonville
Gov. Scott’s talking points failed him in a Jacksonville visit this week when he was asked by this outlet whether “prayers” sufficed as a response after the latest mass shooting on American soil: the killing of 26 people in a South Texas church.
Many of Scott’s Twitter followers posited that “prayers” aren’t enough to stop such things from happening. When asked for concrete policy solutions beyond prayers, Scott — a Governor entering his eighth year in office — had no solutions.
He did, however, use the word evil nine times in roughly two minutes.
“The most important thing we have to do,” Scott said, “is we need more prayer rather than less.”
“Last week, we had a terrorist attack in New York City. We need to pray for when these things happen. It’s horrible when these things happen,” Scott said.
“It’s evil when these things happen,” Scott continued. “Whether it’s a terrorist attack with a truck, somebody doing what they did in a church in the San Antonio area, I’m going to pray for them. We know it’s evil.”
“I believe in the Second Amendment. I just wish there was no evil in the world,” Scott added.
“It’s evil — whatever you want to call it. It’s evil. It’s evil what happened — the terrorism in New York, it was a terrorist inspired by ISIS in the Pulse attack. These things are evil,” Scott said.
“Evil is evil,” Scott added.
This botch led the liberal political action committee “American Bridge” to issue an email calling Scott’s handling of the gun question “abysmal” and decrying his statement as “pablum.”
Aaron Bean’s Handmaid’s Tale Moment
News Service of Florida reports that a Senate committee “narrowly approved a bill that would place into law a program that seeks to dissuade women from having abortions.”
Aaron Bean sponsored the bill … and the Fernandina Beach Republican was “surprised” that the bill was controversial with the National Organization for Women, which urged protesters to dress like the concubines in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the Margaret Atwood novel about a dystopian, anti-feminist United States.
Lawmakers approved beans bill Tuesday in a 5-3 vote by the Senate Health Policy Committee.
‘Kill shot’ for Jay Fant AG bid?
The underreported Cold War between Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and State Rep. Jay Fant continues, with Curry’s political committee donating to Fant’s opponent, Rep. Frank White, in the Attorney General race.
This was followed by endorsements of White from Curry and Rep. John Rutherford, described by one Republican consultant as a “kill shot” for Fant.
Curry’s political advisers, Tim Baker and Brian Hughes, are handling White’s campaign.
Fant, the previous chair of the Duval County Legislative Delegation, was slated last Session to carry a bill that would have brought $50 million to Jacksonville to help with costs related to removing current Hart Bridge offramps and routing traffic onto surface streets.
Fant noted that he was going to carry the bill last year based on the public safety argument the mayor’s office advanced at the time.
This year, Fant says the bill would be the prototypical “heavy lift,” saying it was “up to the city to make its case,” and that case “needs to be really good.”
Fant, who was at odds with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, doesn’t appear likely to carry Curry’s priority bill this time out.
The city seeks $12.5M from the state to match a federal grant of $25 million, which would be roughly three-quarters the cost of the project.
Locals endorse Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum for governor
Two elected Jacksonville Democrats — state Rep. Tracie Davis and School Board member Warren Jones — endorsed Gwen Graham for Governor Monday.
Meanwhile, Thursday saw former state Sen. Tony Hill endorse Graham’s primary opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
Graham had already been endorsed by former Jacksonville Mayors Jake Godbold and City Councilmen Tommy Hazouri and Garrett Dennis, and thus far is the only candidate for Governor on the Democratic side to score meaningful Jacksonville endorsements.
“I’m proud to have Representative Tracie Davis and School Board Member Warren Jones by my side fighting to restore public education in Florida,” Graham said. “With their help, we are making outreach in Jacksonville and Duval County a top priority in my campaign.”
Worth noting: Davis and Dennis are political allies of Sen. Audrey Gibson, the soon-to-be caucus leader of Senate Dems and the chair of the local Democratic Party.
Clay Yarborough widens money lead in re-election bid
Jacksonville’s House District 12 will see a competitive election next November between incumbent Republican Clay Yarborough and Democrat Tim Yost.
Clearly not taking re-election for granted, Yarborough posted his strongest total since June: $21,750 of new October lucre.
Democrat Yost brought in $1,208 in donations from 19 contributors, including HD 15 Democratic hopeful Tracye Polson.
He finished October with roughly $2,300 on hand.
Lenny Curry’s D.C. adventure
Jacksonville Mayor Curry was in Washington D.C. this week making the push for a federal infrastructure grant, and his itinerary was packed.
The $25 million grant from the Department of Transportation would allow the city to reconfigure off ramps from the Hart Bridge onto surface streets.
The push is supported by Sen. Marco Rubio, who is just one of the Beltway power players Curry met with.
Curry met with Billy Kirkland and Justin Clark, who handle intergovernmental affairs for the White House.
As well, the Mayor had meetings with U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart.
Diaz-Balart, a senior member of the House Committee on Appropriations, is chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. He also serves on the House Committee on the Budget.
Curry followed up the Diaz-Balart meeting with meetings with senior staff from the U.S. D.O.T., and then a meeting with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Worth noting: Marty Fiorentino of the Fiorentino Group helped Chao, an old friend and colleague, as she settled into her latest Cabinet position.
Four more years for Jax Sheriff?
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams addressed a Jacksonville City Council committee Monday — but the big news is that he is just weeks away from launching his re-election campaign.
“We’ll announce that here in the next couple of weeks,” Williams told Florida Politics. “I think we have a lot of work to do and I’m excited.”
Williams’ political committee, “A Safe Jacksonville,” had $105,000 on hand at the end of September, and raised roughly $30,000 more in October.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s race in 2015 was expensive, with over $2 million raised by the seven candidates in the field.
Williams will likely face a ballot challenger — but high approval numbers, per a recent UNF Poll, suggest that any challenger will have an uphill slog.
The first-term Republican Sheriff has 67 percent approval — and 60 percent approval among Democrats.
Williams also has broad appeal in all ethnic groups; his worst performance in the survey is 54 percent with African-American voters.
Death looms over Jax Council Parks panel
Three-year-old Amari Harley and 74-year-oldAshley Miller Kraan had very little in common — except that they both drew their last breaths in Jacksonville parks this fall.
Harley fell down a hole above a septic tank; the rubber lid was missing.
Kraan was stabbed in broad daylight by a man with mental issues.
However, that special committee had nothing to say about the deaths on the dais, instead talking around the margins, discussing maintenance and other issues.
Parks Committee Chair Scott Wilson noted, before the meeting Wednesday, that maintenance and security are among the committee’s focuses.
Calling the deaths in parks “unfortunate circumstances,” Wilson noted that he was “sorry that happened,” but there are logistical issues precluding ramping up park security.
“We have over 400 parks in the city,” Wilson said, and that requires a “careful” deployment of resources.
After the meeting, Councilwoman Lori Boyer noted that during budget discussions this summer, Sheriff Mike Williams had been “unwilling” to make commitments to station JSO officers in parks.
She suggested that park rangers, which would have arresting powers, could be an option.
“Parks need to be safe,” Boyer said,
However, a security guard in every park would be “overkill,” Boyer added.
Randy White files for Westside Jax Council seat
Jacksonville City Council District 12 is the heart of the city’s true Westside; accents are authentically local, politics are right of center, and a person’s word is his bond.
As of 2019, current Councilman Doyle Carter is term-limited out — but a candidate who filed to replace him embodies much of the straightforwardness Carter brought to the table.
Randy White — a former Jacksonville Association of Firefighters union head, and a retired deputy fire chief — has “the fire in the belly to serve,” he told Florida Politics Tuesday.
Of course, he says he wouldn’t even be running if “my good buddy wasn’t termed out.”
White’s priorities as a candidate include public safety on the macro level, and on the district level, he wants to actualize the still largely untapped potential of the Cecil Commerce Center (formerly Cecil Field).
No nukes are good nukes?
Mayport’s dream of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier may be dead, per the Florida Times-Union.
“I don’t believe the presence of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier would best suit the Jacksonville area,” Rear Admiral Sean Buck said.
But there are positives, with additional amphibious readiness ships slated to call Mayport home.
“In the next two to three years Mayport is going to grow and have a very, very big presence of brand-new Navy warships, more sailors, more families and be back to what I consider the good-old days,” Buck said.
MMJ not OK in Jax Beach
It’s unfortunate when 81 percent of voters are wrong.
That’s the message from Jacksonville Beach, where — despite that massive majority voting in favor of Amendment 2 in 2016 — city leaders are putting the kibosh on cannabis dispensaries, per Action News Jax.
“My job is to represent the people of Jacksonville Beach and as I mentioned during the council meeting, 81 percent of the people may have voted for medical marijuana. But it wasn’t 81 percent of Jacksonville Beach residents looking to put a dispensary in Jacksonville Beach,” Mayor Charlie Latham said.
Even by the standards of beach politics, this was shady. The 4-3 City Council vote on the ban’s first reading included a flipped vote and what Action News delicately called “some confusion.”
The final vote on this measure is in two weeks.
Bye Bye Hastings
The St. Johns County hamlet Hastings will be dissolved, per a resounding vote this week.
One hundred thirty-six voted for dissolution, and 29 opposed; total turnout was 41 percent.
Hastings now has somewhere around 644 people, down from 1200 at its peak. The average housing price: around $80,000. There is no in-town high school.
Dissolution will come at a cost to St. Johns County.
Among moneys owed: $237,000 to FDOT, $639,400 in water and sewer Revenue Bond debt, and $72,757 listed in the Ordinance as “Building Maintenance and Improvement Loan.”
Almost $950,000, all told.
State Rep. Cyndi Stevenson told us earlier this year that dissolution “will likely benefit the city residents and businesses because the county will be a more efficient provider of services. The County will likely incur some costs to improve water infrastructure. The County is already providing some services to unincorporated areas near Hastings, so there are some efficiencies that can be recognized.”