Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry took a victory lap on Facebook this week.
“2.5 years in office. Much done- pension reform, public safety investments, board reforms, reforms on how we serve kids, storm prep & relief, infrastructure, etc. The list goes on. However, that’s yesterday. I’m focused on winning today. Big things ahead. Love y’all Duval. We are just getting started.”
None of this was a given.
Pension reform was a heavy lift both in Tallahassee and locally, with unions and the city council.
Board reforms saw Curry castigated by former Alvin Brown supporters, who charged him with politicizing the boards.
Public safety — the new hires are being trained up and integrated into the force. However, that is still clearly a work in progress.
But still, Curry can take credit for a lot in just over half a term.
In a time when Tallahassee is mired in the Jack Latvala drama and Washington D.C. struggles to get what passes for tax “reform” through, it’s telling that Jacksonville’s Mayor is positioned to take a victory lap.
Though there are rivals to the Mayor who say that perhaps he gets too much credit — both in Jacksonville and Tallahassee — thus far he hasn’t had many missteps.
Could JEA privatization be a bridge too far? Or the proposed $18M+ purchase of land for a Peter Rummell development.
Time will tell. And so will Jacksonville Bold.
One Door to the slammer
After a legal ordeal lasting the better part of two years, Corrine Brown and her two co-conspirators in the One Door for Education case — former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons and the former CEO of the charity, Carla Wiley — were sentenced.
No one got off easy.
“A sentence of probation for a member of Congress convicted of 18 counts would not be sufficient,” Judge Timothy Corrigan said.
Brown got 60 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $62,650 to the IRS, and $452,000 of additional restitution, and $664,000 of forfeiture.
Brown will appeal, though attorney James Smith has yet to determine if he will see that appeal through.
Simmons and Wiley, meanwhile, got lesser sentences.
Wiley got 21 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $452,515 in restitution is also owed, along with a $654,000 forfeiture judgment.
Simmons, meanwhile, got 48 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $452,000 of restitution and an additional $91,000 to the House of Representatives for pay for a phony employee of Brown’s staff. An additional $721,000 of forfeiture is due.
Travis Hutson on Jack Latvala: ‘Napalm and matches’
It was inevitable that Republican senators would have to weigh in on the ongoing war between Republican Sen. Latvala and Rachel Perrin Rogers, a Senate aide accusing him of serial sexual harassment.
Via POLITICO, one of the first was from Northeast Florida: Sen. Hutson of St. Johns County.
“This highly respected and regarded establishment is being burnt to the ground, and I feel Senator Latvala is running around with the Napalm and the matches,” Hutson told POLITICO.
“This is only going to get worse. And the best thing for everyone — every senator, every staffer, every accuser and/or accused — would be a resignation so that we do not have to deal with this problem anymore,” Hutson said.
Hutson also told POLITICO that donors to Latvala’s political committee should ask for refunds.
There is a school of thought that Latvala may use his committee to exact revenge against clients of Brian Hughes — Perrin Rogers’ husband. Hutson’s comments seem to indicate that strategy could be undermined by a wave of refunds and a bipartisan condemnation of Latvala.
Meanwhile, Sen. Audrey Gibson — a Democrat — was somewhat more circumspect than Latvala.
“First,” Gibson said, “I have continually maintained my sensitivity and support of women who believe they have been harassed in any way by anyone, being able to come forward and file a complaint. Secondly, Senator Latvala and/or Republican Leadership are the determinants on resignation matters.”
Cord Byrd’s fix for a ‘broken system’
A new bill in the Florida House would offer a vehicle for people with “legal disabilities” a road via circuit courts to the restoration of civil rights.
“Currently,” Byrd wrote on Facebook, “the average wait time for Restoration of Rights is over nine years, with some as long as 11 years. Over 22,000 applications are pending, with only a few hundred being processed each year. Clearly, the system is broken.”
The Byrd bill allows those seeking restoration of rights to petition their county’s circuit court; exceptions to this rule would be registered sexual predators or sexual offenders.
Appeals are possible, and those petitioners who find their bids rejected have the right to file anew a year after said rejection.
Some people wait decades to get their rights back, long after they have proved that the threat they once posed to society has been removed.
Byrd’s bill would be a potential corrective to these onerous delays.
Jay Fant challenge to HRO?
Rep. Fant, a Jacksonville Republican who is also running for Attorney General, filed Tuesday what he calls the “Free Enterprise Protection Act.”
HB 871 would prevent “discriminatory action” by any governmental entity in the state against businesses.
Said discriminatory action would include attempts by government to “alter the tax treatment” of businesses, which would include imposing penalties against them for crimes unlisted in the legislation as filed.
It would also include attempts to deny or revoke a business’s exemption from taxation, as well as withholding or denying a business’s “access or entitlement” to property, including “speech forums.”
The bill would also prohibit governments in Florida from discriminating against “internal policies” of businesses, as well as the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
Fant’s bill, if passed, could be used as a springboard to challenge local laws that conflict with rights enumerated in the bill, including Jacksonville’s own Human Rights Ordinance.
The HRO, as it is called locally, was expanded in 2016 to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, protecting their rights in the workplace, in the housing market, and in public accommodations, such as restrooms and locker rooms.
Fant told Jacksonville Republicans earlier this year that Mayor Curry could have done more to stop that bill, which was approved by 2/3 of the City Council, from becoming law.
Plea deals for child deaths draw scrutiny in House bill
Legislation filed in the Florida House Monday would compel state attorneys to explain why they cut plea deals in cases where children were killed.
HB 867, filed by Jacksonville Democrat Tracie Davis, would require state attorneys to explain in writing why they accepted a plea deal to lesser charges and penalties than originally filed in the case of the death of a child.
On Tuesday morning, Davis told us that there are many cases in which children die at the hands of abusers, and that drove her to file this bill.
“The number of children dying by abuse is alarming and steadily increasing through our communities. As I worked with families, it was [disturbing] to discover that many perpetrators are given a plea deal to a lesser crime in order for them to reveal the details of the crime,” Davis said.
Often families are unaware of changes to the charges. Davis added.
“I strongly feel that families have the right to know when a charge involving a child killed in an abusive situation deserve to know why the charge was decreased,” Davis noted.
JYDs roll out ‘cocktails with a candidate’ series
The Democratic race for Governor is beginning to heat up, and the Jacksonville Young Democrats are offering chances to meet with candidates via cocktail mixers in the coming months.
Democratic candidates thus far have largely concentrated their efforts south of I-4, but Jacksonville’s young Democrats are clearly looking to change that.
The “Cocktails with a Candidate” series kicks off Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at downtown’s Zodiac Bar and Grill, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who appeared already at a JYD event in February.
Gillum — a pre-candidate at that point — discussed what his campaign would do to reach out to minority voters and young voters, as part of what he called an “18-month view of engagement” that would mobilize voters.
2018 brings — at least tentatively — two of Gillum’s opponents: Gwen Graham and Chris King to town.
Brian Hughes moves to Curry’s chief of staff
Comms specialist Hughes is — effective Jan. 2 — chief of staff for Mayor Curry, in a classic example of building something that lasts.
“To me and dozens of other elected officials, Brian Hughes has been a senior adviser on important matters of public policy and communications,” said Curry.
“Working with me, Brian has already put a powerful imprint on our city’s future. From the pension solution to restructuring how we serve Jacksonville’s children with the Kids Hope Alliance, Brian applied his strengths to benefit this great city. I am honored to have him join my administration in a leadership role to help manage this successful team as we continue to accomplish big things,” Curry added.
City Council members — who will now have to work with Hughes in a different capacity — had a reaction.
Council President Anna Brosche said that “it’s my understanding that this is just formalizing how things have functioned for quite some time.”
Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, often the sole voice of opposition to Curry’s initiatives, expected a different hire.
“I thought Ali Korman Shelton was a shoo-in for the job. She has served the mayor and our city well. As a council member, I look forward to working with Mr. Hughes,” Dennis said.
Curry is closer to the big reveal of what his proposed downtown “entertainment district” will look like, per WJXT.
“(The) riverfront. That’s where the Shipyards are. But also begin to think about an entire entertainment district moving a little bit north, between the football and baseball fields,” Curry said. “Just kind of a little teaser there. Big things could be coming.”
With a key rhetorical assist: Alan Verlander of the JaxSports Council.
“We need that fan district. We need a plug-and-play kind of place that people can go to. That’s the missing link here. You look at Nashville, look at Atlanta, you look at Dallas. Those places, they have destination points for their fans,” Verlander said. “We don’t have that here.”
“If they walk out the door and they see there’s things to do, they’re going to extend their stays for weekends around their conferences, and they’re going to have a great representation of Jacksonville,” added Visit Jacksonville VP Katie Mitura. “And when they leave, they are going to talk about the great time they had.”
Privatize, don’t criticize
The groundswell no one really predicted a month ago to privatize JEA continues to swell, per a Florida Times-Union dispatch.
Board chair Alan Howard gave CEO Paul McElroy 60-90 days to complete a report on such.
“If, after what I anticipate will be a healthy debate, a decision is ultimately made to pursue privatization, that process will be open to all bidders so that we can achieve the best result possible for the citizens of Jacksonville and JEA’s customers,” Howard wrote.
T-U reported Nate Monroe notes that ratepayers may see savings: “The utility’s October survey of what other utilities charge showed a JEA residential customer pays $111.76 for 1,000 kilowatt-hours compared to $103.07 for a Florida Power & Light customer.”
We will see how it goes. The Mayor’s political operation is working this story hard, as a friendly dispatch in Sunshine State News indicated this week.
Kids Hope picks all but confirmed
To quote the departed Jim Nabors, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”
The Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee did their best impression of Mayor’s Office staffers Tuesday, confirming six picks to the seven-person board of the nascent Kids Hope Alliance … with a seventh pick (Gary Chartrand?) held in abeyance.
Rebekah Davis, a former member of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission board of directors; Kevin Gay, an earlier Jacksonville Journey board member; former Jacksonville Sheriff and current Edward Waters College President Nat Glover; Iraq War Bronze Star recipient Joe Peppers; and Tyra Tutor, a senior vice president at The Adecco Group North America.
The controversial (to some) choice: Marvin Wells, the first African-American graduate of the UF College of Dentistry. But not for reasons of qualifications.
Wells doesn’t live in Duval County — a clear requirement of the ordinance.
But rules are made to be broken, and the Rules Committee was happy to accommodate. Despite protestations from Councilman Garrett Dennis, who is not on Rules but was visiting the committee, Wells joined the rest on Tuesday’s Consent Agenda.
No more room at the morgue
The opioid overdose crisis in Jacksonville has taxed city resources on a number of fronts, including those not visible to the public, such as the Medical Examiner’s office.
Numerous city hall conversations this year have spotlighted the pressures created by the unnatural and unbudgeted deaths of the overdose crisis.
Tuesday saw the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee discuss facilities, including short-term and long-term solutions.
The short-term fix would be cooling trailers, but Medical Examiner Valerie Rao is angling for a new building.
That concept has support from Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who believes the project should be prioritized in the city’s capital improvement plan.
However, Rao nettled other Finance members by not having outlined the business case for the new building with specifics.
The building she suggested as a model — in Orlando — cost $16 million to build in 2010.
Jax Council candidate blames sexual harassment on female ‘libido’
Jacksonville City Council candidate Earl Testy may be losing the money race to fellow Republican opponent Randy DeFoor in District 14; however, he certainly is garnering earned media.
But not for reasons any sane person would want.
Testy took a provocative position on the current tsunami of sexual harassment charges Monday.
Testy took women to task, asserting “they have themselves and their libidos to blame for much of their own abuse by men.”
“Feminists have no more call to be proud of their abuse of sex than men do, albeit seemingly passive,” Testy asserted.
Testy equated the current spate of revelations with “Gay Pride logic.”
“Sin is sin,” Testy asserted, “regardless of male, female, homosexual or heterosexual orientation.”
Testy advanced his insights in reaction to an article on National Review Online by longtime conservative pundit Mona Charen, a woman who has never asserted that the female libido is “to blame.”
Terror plot foiled
In custody right now: A Filipino national who was willing to die to kill as many people as possible at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.
Per CBS News, 69-year-old Bernandino Gawala “Nandie” Bolatete was arrested this week for possessing an unregistered silencer, a federal crime.
Bolatete, a gun enthusiast, had a purpose in mind.
“I just want to give these freaking people a taste of their own medicine, you know,” the foreign national told an undercover detective.
“The suppressor is not really that ‘quiet’ but it can be used on the 4th of July or New Year (sic) time, it can easily blend with the sound of fireworks,” Bolatete added.
Per Action News Jax, Bolatete’s lawyer argued that this was just “talk,” but as one might expect when a foreign national travels to the states to kill a bunch of Americans, his bond request was rejected, and he’s still in lockdown.