Garrett Dennis Archives - Florida Politics

JEA no-sale resolution iced again in Jacksonville City Council panel

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, a first-term Democrat, was thwarted by the committee he once chaired Tuesday, regarding a resolution of opposition to sell local utility JEA.

The sale of JEA has been a discussion point in City Hall off and on for the last year, and Dennis is concerned that Council will greenlight the sale down the road.

Dennis’ resolution (2018-593) couldn’t even get moved to the floor Tuesday.

Dennis had pushed similar legislation to the same effect once this year already, and the distraught Democrat dropped science on the silent committee after the non-movement.

“It’s not going away,” Dennis said. “I truly believe that we will be in a better position if this Council votes this resolution up.”

Dennis cited the issues with the Plant Vogtle development, which JEA entered into in 2008 and has since come to see as a financial albatross. The utility was thwarted last month in efforts to get out of the deal.

Committee discussion afterward was brief, and seemed to center on getting Dennis to go away.

“Dennis has indicated that if we withdraw this bill, he will refile it,” said Councilwoman Lori Boyer, who advised that “these bills can be deferred by the chair and never end up on the agenda for discussion.”

For Dennis, a potential mayoral candidate in 2019, this represents another setback.

For the Jacksonville City Council, this is business as usual.

Jacksonville homeless rights bill on pause

Monday morning, Jacksonville City Council Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety committee put the brakes on a long-tabled bill.

But it will be back.

The  Homeless Bill of Rights measure was introduced by now suspended (and federally indicted) Councilwoman Katrina Brown months back.

The bill (2018-308) contends that “the basic rights all people should enjoy must be guaranteed for homeless individuals and families,” and attempts to “assure that basic human rights are not being trampled simply because someone happens to be homeless.”

Since Brown’s sabbatical from Council began, her fellow Democrats Tommy Hazouri and Garrett Dennis were tasked with carrying the bill.

Hazouri told us ahead of the meeting that Dennis was going to rewrite the legislation, so the bill was to be pulled.

“He’s coming out with a new bill,” Hazouri urged the committee.

Currently, there is no timetable set for the new bill.

Duval Elections Supervisor to decide this week on early voting site at University of North Florida

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan told Florida Politics on Wednesday that he hopes to decide by Friday whether Duval follows other counties’ lead and opens an early voting site at the University of North Florida.

Hogan noted in a meeting in August that there were potential logistical issues with UNF, including public access, adequate parking for staff and voters, facility security, ADA compliance, proximity to other early voting sites, and room in the budget.

Jacksonville Democrats, including City Councilman Garrett Dennis, charged that not opening a site amounted to disenfranchisement for voters.

Dennis has noted the trend of opening sites at universities and goaded Hogan Wednesday.

Florida Atlantic University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of South Florida are all slated to host early voting before Election Day this year.

However, as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel notes, Miami-Dade’s Florida International University will not follow suit — a reminder that Supervisors of Elections have the discretion, but not the obligation, to extend early voting sites to university campuses.

Sites have to be finalized by Oct. 7.

Hogan is next up for election on the 2019 ballot. Thus far, he hasn’t filed for re-election, and no Democrat has filed either.

Hogan, a first-term Republican, defeated state Rep. Tracie Davis in the March 2015 election, winning by roughly 10 points.

Jacksonville City Council wrestles with public comment confrontations

Jacksonville City Hall had the kind of law enforcement presence Tuesday evening that is generally only seen when collective bargaining agreements are ratified.

And this was because of what happened just 13 days ago, when Council chambers were emptied in the wake of protest.

As First Coast News reported, the Chambers were emptied at the order of Council President Aaron Bowman after audience members objected to a motion to loosen public comment laws being squashed.

A chant of “No justice, no peace” broke out, and the sponsor of the motion — Democrat Garrett Dennis — said Bowman was “absolutely” to blame for the fracas.

Tuesday night saw the Council reconvene, and questions of order — though not on the agenda — were on the minds of  people throughout City Hall.

“Spillover rooms” were set up for potential scofflaws. However, for some Councilmembers, the question was one of abiding by the president’s decision. And no one was particularly interested in undermining Bowman.

Sam Newby, an ally of Bowman, noted that “this is America and people have the right to protest,” but that Bowman has the prerogative to disallow exchanges between elected officials and constituents from the dais.

Bill Gulliford noted that if a similar scene were to unfold Tuesday night it would not go “very well” for the protesters.

The scene was different Tuesday night, including “overflow rooms” for potential protesters, and approximately ten police officers in those conference rooms and even the green room space in which Councilors congregate.

During agenda meeting, Bowman noted his belief that public comment does not equate to “dialogue.”

“If I do have to clear the Chambers tonight, I’ve given control to JSO,” Bowman said during agenda. “If that happens tonight, we’re not going to open the Chambers back up.”

As the meeting began, however, there didn’t seem to be the critical mass of potential protesters.

And if there had been, enthusiasm was blunted, with discussion of a technical amendment on a bill regarding the precise size of 5G boxes to be put in city rights of way helping to remove the kind of emotion that typically drives protests from the room.

As public comment kicked off, Bowman noted that the previous iteration was “not proceeding safely,” reminding the crowd that he would not hesitate to ice the proceedings.

However, that wasn’t actually required, even as there were moments of pitched critique, especially relative to gun violence.

One speaker compared giving the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office more funding to “rewarding a dog after it tears up your house.”

“We voted you in, we will vote you out! And if you don’t aid in taking these Confederate statues down, Andrew Gillum will do it for you,” Rumsey added.

Another speaker, discussing her son who was killed last year, noted the lack of facial expression on the faces up on the dais.

And still another speaker posed a question to Bowman, asking for a poll to “close the gun show loophole” as the President of the Council.

Bowman was mute.

Ben Frazier, meanwhile, noted that Bowman didn’t “clear” the Council Chambers. Rather, people left in “protest” of the “paramilitary sham” that was the meeting two weeks prior.

“What about the voice of the people,” Frazier thundered, repeating the phrase over and over, his broadcast television training facilitating his raspy boom, until his time finally elapsed.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates decry triple-shooting at Jacksonville high school

A triple shooting in Jacksonville at a football game between Lee and Raines High Schools left one dead, two wounded, and brought forth lamentations of the violence that seem all too familiar.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was the first candidate for Governor to address the violence Saturday morning.

Gillum said that the “shooting at Raines High School is another senseless tragedy in this countless, unacceptable gun violence epidemic.

“I’m deeply saddened that the beginning of this school year has begun under a cloud of violence, and we must take smart, common-sense measures to keep our children safe. As Governor, I’ll work directly with our school districts to ensure they have the support they need,” Gillum added.

Soon thereafter, Gwen Graham and Philip Levine responded to a video of a grieving survivor, calling for gun law reform.


Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (a candidate in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, of which Raines is a part) likewise had a response, rendered via Twitter.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, Brown’s opponent, likewise had a response.


State Sen. Audrey Gibson, the next leader of the party in the Senate, likewise offered a statement to television media Saturday.

One response — that from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry — was late in coming, as Councilman Garrett Dennis observed.

But Curry did put out a statement in the early afternoon, stressing that “we must redouble our commitment to showing young people that crime and violence is not the path.”

“For those who do not understand that fact,” he said, “I will continue my support for law enforcement personal and programs that ensure that perpetrators of crime pay the full force of the criminal justice system.”

Curry ran on a public safety platform three years ago, and attributes the unabated murder rate increase to former Mayor Brown cutting police positions earlier this decade.

Dennis’ trolling Tweet seems to be a response to this sentimental reflection from the Republican Mayor.


Jacksonville Dems push to expand early voting sites to colleges, but roadblocks remain

On Monday, a group of Jacksonville Democrats made their push to expand early voting sites to local colleges and universities.

The goal: to get early voting sites at the University of North Florida and, perhaps, other colleges.

However, logistical roadblocks remain.

At a press conference on the steps of City Hall, a number of politicians and activists addressed the matter ahead of a meeting between city councilors, the supervisor of elections, and several dozen community activists.

State Sen. Audrey Gibson noted that there has been a “steady chipping away at early voting,” part of a larger pattern of disenfranchisement.

While Duval County does enjoy two weeks of early voting, the hours (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) overlap with work, and “college campuses provide additional opportunities” for voting.

State Rep. Tracie Davis, who ran for supervisor of elections in 2015, noted that 830,000 students are enrolled in college, and in 2016 43 percent of them early voted.

Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, said Davis, needs to “do his job … follow the law.”

Hogan had told local media that “criteria of selection of an early voting site involves more than just that it is available. Public access, adequate parking for our staff and voters, facility security, ADA compliance, proximity to other early voting sites and of course do we have the money budgeted for an additional location.”

After the presser, a meeting between Jacksonville City Councilors, SOE Hogan, a representative from the University of North Florida, and many of the presser participants ensued.

Councilman Garrett Dennis, a former Duval SOE worker, said that for early voting to expand, there has to be a “will and a way” to do so.

“Whether one person at UNF votes or 100,” it should be done.

SOE Hogan noted that the court decision allows SOE “discretion” in opening sites on campuses.

In Orlando, where University of Central Florida had early voting, there was low participation, Hogan said.

Hogan noted that he and University of North Florida have been working to find a way forward on an early voting site, but the logistics mentioned have proven to be prohibitive.

Chris Warren of UNF noted that two buildings on Kernan could potentially “host a site if things line up.”

Edward Waters and Jacksonville University are also under consideration, but “time is very limited” given the scope of the election.

“The Russians are in our database,” Hogan added. “All we know is what the Senators have told us and they can’t give us real information.”

The primary election, Hogan added, won’t be over until Sept. 10 or 11, when results are certified. On Oct. 7, the final list of early voting sites has to be submitted to the Secretary of State office.

Vote-by-mail and shuttling, said Hogan, are two potential options under consideration.

“We’re going to try to get two new sites,” Hogan said, noting that funding from the Jacksonville City Council, procuring equipment, and other logistics prove to be challenges.

“We’ll work toward it,” Hogan said, “if we have the cooperation of the universities.”

Getting equipment from suppliers, getting money from the Jacksonville City Council, and other logistics will be a challenge, Hogan related, describing it as “logistically impossible” with slim margin for error.

Some meeting attendees were skeptical of Hogan’s commitment, and expressed those concerns in blunt language.

JEA ‘no-sale’ bill appears to be ‘black flag dead’ in Jacksonville City Council

It is rare that a Jacksonville City Council resolution gets four committee stops, but such is the case with 2018-429, a resolution of disinclination to sell local publicly owned utility JEA.

It is even rarer that a bill can’t get a second to move into consideration.

That was the case in Monday’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee, where the bill could not get a second, and the committee moved to withdraw the bill over the objections of the sponsor.

The final report from the Jacksonville City Council special committee on the future of JEA revealed a consensus to keep the utility local and publicly owned, which seemingly would bode well for the legislation.

However, that wasn’t the case.

Bill sponsor Garrett Dennis, who expended a lot of political capital last year trying to stop what he saw as machinations to sell the utility, asserted late last week his belief that the four committee gauntlet is an attempt to kill the bill.

“Council President (Aaron) Bowman has shown an interest in carrying out this administration’s orders,” Dennis said, “so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is trying to kill the bill.”

Bowman denied that claim when asked.

“It’s time for my colleagues to make a decision. They need to get a backbone and stand up for what is best for our city and not for what Lenny Curry and his cronies want,” Dennis, who is on just one committee currently, said.

As it turned out, committee members asserted they had made their position clear.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri, a Democrat like Dennis, wondered “how many times we have to do a black flag dead on this issue,” given the JEA Special Committee made that statement.

“I’m not here to watch us get embarrassed. You’ve continued to do this on every issue, to go against the mayor. We have spoken,” Hazouri said, proclaiming the bill meaningless.

Committee chairman Sam Newby wondered “why we bring this back up again. It’s a dead issue,” then motioned to withdraw the bill.

Dennis protested the withdrawal motion, but the other four committee members overruled him.

The bill has three more committee stops, and Dennis is on none of those committees, meaning there is a good chance the bill never gets taken up.

Jacksonville City Council panel approves cannabis code change

Ordinance 2018-75, which would revise existing medical cannabis regulations, moved out of its first of two Jacksonville City Council committees Monday.

The code was first formulated in response to “Charlotte’s Web” low-THC cannabis being the single legal strain, and after an extended period of debate, processing and dispensing were allowed in commercial districts, with cultivation permitted in agricultural zones.

This legislation was moved Monday in the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety committee, after deferrals in the spring.

The ordinance would allow dispensaries anywhere in the city, including within 500 feet of a school if the applicant could prove a compelling interest in public safety, health and welfare.

Council would have to consider those waiver requests, which would include a survey of schools similar to that required for obtaining a new liquor licenses under similar circumstances.

However, at least in its current version, churches would not be consulted.

Land Use and Zoning will consider the bill Tuesday evening, its last stop before the Council floor next week.

Endorsements pile up for Tracye Polson, as three more Dems fall in

More and more Jacksonville Democrats are lining up to endorse first-time candidate Tracye Polson in House District 15.

HD 15 is currently Rep. Jay Fant‘s seat, but he opted to leave it months back to run for state Attorney General. Polson — the cash leader in the race — hopes to turn the typically deep red seat blue.

And Jacksonville Democrats back her, almost without exception. Three more endorsements — from Rep. Tracie Davis, Jacksonville City Council Member Garrett Dennis and former Rep. Mia Jones — dropped Tuesday.

More will be coming.

Davis lauded Polson’s “passion for improving education” and “endorsement of Duval County teachers,” describing her as a “professional listener” with “compassion and vision.”

Polson lauded the trio’s “commitment and dedication to our city … not just Democratic values, but for policies that reflect and help every community and neighborhood in Jacksonville.”

For Polson, the endorsements are the latest sign of momentum.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, who aligns with the three latest endorsers, backs her. As do EMILY’s List, the Sierra Club, and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham.

Her endorsements come from beyond her party as well: the nonpartisan Jacksonville Firefighters and the Fraternal Order of Police threw down, as did former GOP mayoral candidate Audrey Moran.

A brief primary challenge materialized, then was vaporized, this spring, leaving Polson able to pile up endorsements and build infrastructure as a trio of Republicans are forced to deplete resources in internecine battles.

Polson, who raised $6,188 in the most recent two-week period ending July 20, has roughly $123,000 on hand. That’s almost what her three potential opponents (lobbyist Wyman Duggan, at roughly $99,000; yacht broker Mark Zeigler at nearly $32,000; political legacy Joseph Hogan with about $16,000) have.

While Duggan can count on the support of many of Jacksonville’s elected Republicans should he win, a Zeigler or Hogan victory may throw more traditionally GOP backing Polson’s way.

Jacksonville Gwen Graham backers bemoan ‘dirty campaign’ from Andrew Gillum

With the Democratic gubernatorial primary fast approaching, some of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s most controversial allies are pushing an ad attacking frontrunner Gwen Graham.

Starting Monday: a $500,000 ad buy in Jacksonville, Tampa, and West Palm Beach via the Collective Super PAC.

This is not the first ad buy hitting a negative message on Graham.

The new spot, “Zero Regrets,” attacks Graham for touting “progressive credentials despite voting with banks, supporting the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, and publicly undermining President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to get reelected,” asserts the Collective group.

The group, after this buy, will have committed over $1.75 million to Gillum.

A pair of Jacksonville Democratic members of the Jacksonville City Council blasted Gillum for the ads.

“Andrew Gillum is running a dirty campaign. He is the only candidate in the race supporting negative Super PAC ads and he is the only candidate attacking his fellow Democrats — more than the Republicans are even attacking our party,” Garrett Dennis said.

“Mayor Gillum likes to say we need to give voters something to vote for — not against. If his campaign and Super PAC followed his own advice, maybe they would be doing better in this race,” Dennis added.

Dennis’ colleague Tommy Hazouri added that “The Republicans are loving to watch as Andrew Gillum embraces secret money and attacks Gwen Graham with Super PAC money. This irresponsible sham weakens our party, and makes it harder for us to win the General Election.”

When asked last week about third party ads compromising his message, Gillum was not worried.

“I try to be my own best messenger,” Gillum said, “and hope that they can pick up from kind of where I leave off, and frankly create ads and advertisements that use my voice and get my voice out there.”

“Obviously we don’t get to control what everyone else does. I’m learning more and more about what everybody’s doing as I read the news,” Gillum added.

We reached out to both Team Gillum and the Collective Super PAC for comment, but thus far none has been offered.

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