Gwen Graham Archives - Page 5 of 54 - Florida Politics

Gwen Graham: ‘After 20 years, we don’t have any more time’

“After 20 years, we don’t have any more time.”

This is the stark message in a video prebuttal to Gov. Rick Scott‘s State of the State address from Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Gwen Graham.

Graham rolled out the video in a news release Tuesday morning, noting that the Legislative Session beginning today is the twentieth straight iteration in which the GOP has “complete control” of the state government.

The 80-second spot charges Republicans with having “rigged our economy, polluted our environment, and attacked our public schools.”

The video, said Graham, kicks off her campaign’s focus on the Legislative Session.

The candidate vows to highlight the top 20 ways that “one-party rule has hurt Florida.”

“In November,” Graham said, “we are going to hold them accountable.”

The goal: “to restore our promise to public schools, protect our environment, and create an economy that works for every Floridian.”

That public school hook drives the first of 20 ways that one-party rule has hurt Florida.

“For 20 years Republicans have promoted and expanded high-stakes testing to benefit the education industry at the expense of our students,” Graham said.

“Last year, the education industry forced our kids to take more than 3 million standardized tests and forced our teachers to teach to those tests. The current system of testing in our schools is supposed to be about grading, but it is actually degrading. As governor, I won’t just criticize the current system of high-stakes testing. I will end it,” Graham added.

Gwen Graham pays $1,200 to get Hollywood Hills records request

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham on Monday wrote a $1,200 personal check to the governor’s Office of Open Government, saying it is a “small price to pay” for information on the 12 Hurricane Irma-related deaths at a Hollywood nursing home.

“It’s disappointing that there are financial hurdles for the information that the people of Florida deserve to have,” Graham said.

Graham, a Democrat hoping to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott in November, was billed the amount after she accused his administration of hiding the documents she requested. But Scott’s administration said the amount charged was a result of staffers working 100 hours to review and redact her the information at a $12 per hour rate.

McKinley Lewis, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said Graham’s request was “unique” and while other media outlets have made similar requests for information, Graham got the bill because she asked for the information first, which launched the “extensive work.”

Now that the governor’s office has received the check, Graham’s request is being finalized and will be made available online “very soon,” Lewis said.

Graham’s campaign spokesperson, Matt Harringer, said she plans to make the information available to the public as soon as she gets it.

Her request revolves around the call logs, text messages and voicemails that went to the governor’s private phone before the hurricane hit the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills and knocked the facility’s power out. His phone line was made available to nursing homes and assisted-living facilities for emergency purposes.

Graham wants to know what role the governor played in these deaths and why some voicemails were deleted, which she deems to be a violation of state public records laws.

“What I want are the voicemails,” she said, “that’s what I want and I hope the voicemails will be included in the request.”

If they are not included, she said she will “take the appropriate legal action.”

Following the evacuation of the Hollywood nursing home, fourteen elderly residents died. Twelve of those deaths have been ruled homicides and legal fights have ensued.

Chris King attracts $100K in campaign donations in December

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King raised just over $100,000 combined in December for his official election campaign and his independent political committee Rise and Lead, Florida, his campaign announced Friday.

With the December draw, King’s two committees reported raising $2.97 million total in 2017, and ended the year with $1.62 million cash on hand, his campaign reported.

King’s official campaign committee began December with $1.17 million left in the bank, and Rise and Lead with about $500,000. The latest numbers have not yet been posted.

“I’m encouraged by the response we’ve received in 2017, from across Florida, to a governor who has a fresh approach to politics and who can grow our economy so it works for everyone,” King stated in a news release from his campaign. “Now I’m excited to see all we’re able to accomplish in 2018.”

King, a Winter Park businessman, faces U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republican contenders are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow.

Philip Levine planning another bus tour of Florida

Philip Levine is gassing up a bus again for another tour of Florida, this time as an official candidate for governor.

Levine, the Democratic former mayor of Miami Beach, announced Friday that he plans to take a bus campaign tour that will start in Orlando next Tuesday morning and end in Key Largo on the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 12.

His campaign is calling the tour “Live! from Florida’s Living Rooms” and promises he’ll be presenting his vision for Florida’s future  from inside host families’ living rooms, throughout Florida.

Levine plans to kick off the tour in Orlando Tuesday morning by watching Gov. Rick Scott’s “State of the State” address from a host family’s living room, and then providing a direct response, via Facebook Live.

“Tallahassee always tells us what they want us to hear. I’m going around this state to make sure they hear from us. From the living rooms of Florida, we will let Tallahassee know that climate change is real, the minimum wage is unlivable, that drilling off our shores is off-limits, and that taking away our right to home rule is out of the question,” Levine stated in a news release.

“This tour begins a conversation we’ve never had, about things we’ve never done, for people who’ve never been given a chance. We’ve heard from Tallahassee. Now, I’m going to make sure they hear from us,” he added.

Levine faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, who just declared his candidacy Friday.

Last summer Levine took a bus tour of Florida as host of a SiriusXM satellite radio talk show. That was before he officially entered the governor’s race, though the tour had all the trappings of a campaign trip.

The exact locations of host families for each living room stop on the next b us tour still are being confirmed. His campaign plans his first stop, in Orlando, at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, at a location to be announced.

Tuesday afternoon he’ll be in Gainesville. Wednesday morning he’ll be in Jacksonville; Wednesday afternoon, Tallahassee; and Wednesday evening, Pensacola. Thursday morning he’ll be in Tampa; and Thursday afternoon, Fort Myers. Friday morning, Jan. 12, he’ll start in West Palm Beach; Friday afternoon he’ll appear in Fort Lauderdale, and then in Key Largo.

Ron DeSantis declares run for Governor, sets up two-man GOP race

True to his word, Rep. Ron DeSantis made news on Fox and Friends.

On Friday, he announced his decision to run for Florida Governor — a decision that seemed made months ago, with the groundwork for a campaign being laid slowly and surely.

“As you remember a few weeks ago, the president tweeted support for me as a candidate for Governor of Florida. So, today we’re going to be filing the paperwork to begin that effort,” DeSantis said.

“As a military officer, an Iraq veteran, and a proven conservative, with the support of the president, I’m in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work that Governor Rick Scott has done to advance economic opportunity, reform education, and drain the swamp in Tallahassee that needs to be drained just like Washington,” DeSantis added.

“While this is an important step towards running for Governor, an official campaign kick-off will take place later this month,” DeSantis continued.

DeSantis rolled out an impressive financial team earlier this week, with more than 50 Floridians stretching from Miami through the Panhandle and featuring Palm Beach billionaire Thomas Peterffy; and more than two dozen national names, topped by Las Vegas casino mogul and conservative political rainmaker Sheldon Adelson.

DeSantis’ state financial leadership team includes Republican donors and timeshare moguls Jackie and David Siegel of Windermere; Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus; Palm Beach fundraisers Gay and Stanley Gaines; and Art Hudson of Orlando.

In addition to Adelson, the national committee includes David Bossie of Dallas, who is chairman of the Citizens United political activism organization and was a deputy campaign director for Trump; Republican financier Rebekah Mercer of New York; Dick Uihlein of Chicago, a big backer of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Club for Growth; and Christian-conservative cause financier Foster Friess of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The GOP race for Governor is shaking out to be Tallahassee interests backing Putnam versus DC interests backing DeSantis. This raises interesting questions for Richard Corcoran, the House Speaker and undeclared candidate. Can he compete with these machines?

Putnam has on-hand roughly $15 million; he began December with more than $2.5 million in his campaign account. Putnam also added just over $1.1 million in December to his political committee Florida Grown, which started December with more than $12.8 million on hand. DeSantis, no doubt, will be able to catch up. Billionaire-stacked finance team aside, he has nearly $1.7 million in his U.S. House account that can be transferred into the gubernatorial run, and a political committee, Fund for Florida’s Future, which has about $2 million on hand.

Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC had nearly $4.69 million on hand when December began.

DeSantis also touted this week a robopoll showing him leading Adam Putnam in what will be — at least until the end of the Legislative Session — a two-man race for the GOP nomination for Governor.

POLITICO popped the survey this week.

“The automated ‘robopoll,’ which had a sample of 1,423 likely GOP voters, had DeSantis with 28 percent, ahead of state Agriculture Commissioner Putnam (25 percent), and Corcoran (3 percent),” the POLITICO write-up asserts.

President Donald Trump on Dec. 22 tweeted: “Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”’

That endorsement of DeSantis matters bigly also. 84 percent of Republicans polled view Trump favorably. And 36 percent see themselves as “Trump Republicans.”

Notable: this is the only survey that shows DeSantis even within the margin of error of Putnam — but that could change soon.

Florida Politics asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott about the Putnam/DeSantis race this week.

The Governor was less than voluble, saying only that he had not endorsed.

A sharp response came from the Putnam campaign Friday morning, in a press release that called DeSantis a “Washington insider” running for another office after a “failed U.S. Senate campaign” in 2016.

“Floridians need a Florida First conservative like Adam Putnam to serve them as their next Governor, not a Washington D.C. insider,” said Putnam spox Amanda BevisB.

“In true Washington insider fashion,” Bevis added, “Congressman Ron DeSantis announced his latest campaign from an empty TV studio to broadcasters in New York. DeSantis is a typical Washington politician who is focused on nothing more than his next promotion. Last election he wanted to be a Senator – now he wants to be Governor…Floridians deserve better.”

Democratic candidates were eager to welcome DeSantis to the fray.

Democratic frontrunner Gwen Graham asserted that “Ron DeSantis running as Trump’s hand-picked candidate with the backing of out-of-state billionaires may endear him to the most partisan primary voters, but he is too extreme for Florida.”

“While DeSantis has dedicated his time in Congress to protecting Trump from Mueller and becoming a Fox News star,” Graham added, “we look forward to a vigorous debate on the real issues that affect Florida families most. Ron DeSantis’s support for privatizing public schools, his denial of climate change and his votes to cut Medicare are just out of touch with Florida families.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, in a Tweet, called DeSantis Trump’s “handpicked candidate.”

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine went further, calling DeSantis an “alt-right extremist” in a fundraising email.

Material from Florida Politics’ Scott Powers and the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

10 big questions facing Florida politics heading into 2018

The holidays are over. Welcome to 2018. That means campaign season pretty much starts now. Fasten your seat belts because we guarantee a bumpy ride.

Let’s start with the Top 10 (for now) Florida Politics Big Campaign Questions™:

#1: When does Rick Scott take the plunge?

Or does he? As the USA Today Network-Florida’s James Call writes, “The pundits … say 2018 may not be a Republican year — even in a red state like Florida.” (See Democrat Doug Jones’ squeaker of a win over the GOP’s Roy Moore in Alabama.)

#2: What kind of fight does Bill Nelson have in him?

Don’t count out the old astronaut just yet. The state’s senior U.S. senator this past summer told reporters, when asked about a possible Scott challenge, “I know how to campaign … I’ll leave it at that.”

#3: How does Adam Putnam avoid becoming Jeb 2.0?

By running further to the right. (See his social media for clues.) Then again, that could backfire. (See Jones vs. Moore.)

#4: What tricks does Richard Corcoran have up his sleeve?

Money aside, the House Speaker needs to up his name ID. He’s already staking out a position as a populist, “protecting your tax dollars” candidate—should he run, of course.

#5: So … is Ron DeSantis for real?

He got a thumbs up from President Trump and announced a finance team. But is it enough these days to have a Trump endorsement? Or is that a liability? (Have we mentioned Jones vs. Moore?)

#6: Can Gwen Graham raise real money?

It ain’t enough to just be Bob Graham’s daughter. We wonder if her anti-establishment, people-person stance will get in the way of her ability to make major bank.

#7: Does Andrew Gillum stay in until the end?

Such youth, such promise. Then came the annoying FBI, with its investigating of possible local Tallahassee corruption. He’s been told he’s not a target, the mayor says. But the who’ll-get-indicted distraction is still a problem.

#8: Can Phil Levine connect with Democratic primary voters?

He’s rich and he’s white. And that could be his boon—or his bust.

#9: Can Chris King gain traction?

Seems like a nice guy, smart. Too bad for him nobody seems to know or care.

#10: Can Jose Oliva keep up the Republican Party’s winning streak in the state House?

Mary Ellen Klas has said Oliva himself has “made clear he will not moderate the small-government, no-tax, anti-corporate welfare policies Corcoran has pursued.” Now he must figure out how to translate that to continued electoral success.

What about the unknown unknowns? Email or tweet us your ideas to keep the conversation going. We’ll see you on the campaign trail(s), starting … NOW.

Jacksonville Bold for 1.5.18 — Cold outside, 2018 is hot

The weather report was unprecedented this week. Cold as ice, as the Foreigner classic goes.

But for those needing a warmup, the 2018 political landscape brings the heat.

Right now, it’s hotter than July in the orbit of almost-Jacksonville Rep. Ron DeSantis. He’s got the billionaires backing him, and a robopoll saying he’s more popular than Adam Putnam.

Time will tell there.

The race to replace DeSantis in Congress also is heating up.

We also have Democratic candidates making moves — both in 2018 and 2019.

And if you read down far enough, you will see us predicting a Jaguars Super Bowl win.

Perhaps we are still celebrating the New Year on that last item?

Bold is back (as you can see) and we are ready for whatever 2018 brings.

Billionaires back DeSantis for Governor

Breaking: lots of people who can buy and sell most of those reading this blog post want DeSantis for Governor.

If Ron DeSantis were an 80s pro wrestling group, they’d be called Money Inc.

Team DeSantis rolled out more than 50 Floridians stretching from Miami through the Panhandle and featuring Palm Beach billionaire Thomas Peterffy; and more than two dozen national names, topped by Las Vegas casino mogul and conservative political rainmaker Sheldon Adelson.

DeSantis’ state financial leadership team includes Republican donors and timeshare moguls Jackie and David Siegel of Windermere; Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus; Palm Beach fundraisers Gay and Stanley Gaines; and Art Hudson of Orlando.

In addition to Adelson, the national committee includes David Bossie of Dallas, who is chairman of the Citizens United political activism organization and was a deputy campaign director for Trump; Republican financier Rebekah Mercer of New York; Dick Uihlein of Chicago, a big backer of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Club for Growth; and Christian-conservative cause financier Foster Friess of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The GOP race for Governor is shaking out to be Tallahassee interests backing Putnam versus outside interests backing Richard Corcoran. This raises interesting questions for the House Speaker and undeclared candidate. Can he compete with these machines?

Putnam has on-hand roughly $15 million; DeSantis, no doubt, will be able to catch up.

DeSantis leads in poll … is it real?

The DeSantis campaign pushed out a poll, via POLITICO, that has the congressman leading Putnam — even before declaring his candidacy.

Are friends electric? Are pollsters robotic? Ron DeSantis and Marc Caputo say yes to the latter.

“The automated ‘robopoll,’ which had a sample of 1,423 likely GOP voters, had DeSantis with 28 percent, ahead of Putnam (25 percent), and Corcoran (3 percent),” the POLITICO write-up asserts.

President Donald Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis matters bigly also. 84 percent of Republicans polled view Trump favorably. And 36 percent see themselves as “Trump Republicans.”

Worth noting: A robopoll is generally not something POLITICO Florida embraces. However, in this case, it made an exception … for reasons not disclosed.

Also, worth noting: This is the only poll that has shown DeSantis even within striking distance of Putnam.

Fred Costello in CD 6 GOP derby

State Rep. Fred Costello is joining what appears to be an increasingly crowded field in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Costello finished a distant second to incumbent DeSantis in the 2016 primary, with 24 percent of the vote; however, with DeSantis essentially running for Governor at this point, Costello will join a field that includes businessman John Ward.

Other candidates — including former Green Beret Michael Waltz, St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns, and Brandon Patty — are taking hard looks at the race; if that field shakes out with six candidates, a hard 24 percent could be competitive.

Fred Costello’s campaign is classic red state.

Costello plans to roll out his campaign Saturday, Jan. 6, at Rockefeller Park at the Casements in Ormond Beach. Rallies follow throughout the day throughout the district.

Costello was a former Ormond Beach Mayor before moving on to the state Legislature. He intends to brand his campaign with a fealty to Trump, an adherence to so-called “Judeo-Christian values,” and localism.

“I have lived, raised my family, worked, played and prayed in Congressional District 6 for 40 years. As a USAF veteran and business owner who has served you as a dentist, Ormond Beach Mayor & State Representative, I am well prepared to Stand for US!”

Costello’s campaign will roll out prominent backers speaking at the events: among them, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, Deltona Mayor John Masiarczyk, state Rep. David Santiago and state Sen. Dennis Baxley will be among the elected officials on hand for regional launches.

Greeting him on the trail, per POLITICO Florida: a complaint that he was campaigning as early as August 2017.

Prediction: DeSantis endorses someone else in this field. DeSantis was irked earlier this year by another candidate, John Ward, jumping in too early.

Al Lawson challenger scores CBC staffer endorsement

Rontel Batie, a Democrat challenging incumbent Al Lawson in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, brought out an endorsement from a former Congressional Black Caucus executive director (Abdul Henderson) this week.

Al Lawson isn’t taking Rontel Batie seriously yet. And Batie is exploiting the situation.

Batie has pointed out previously that Lawson doesn’t line up with the CBC. Batie, a former Corrine Brown staffer who emerged from the CBC’s political operation, is clearly more prepared to line up with the caucus.

“I am pleased to have received an endorsement from Abdul Henderson, who served as the Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus from 2015-2016. Abdul is very familiar with my work ethic and has long believed that we need to make room for young leaders in Congress like myself,” Batie said.

State Reps. preview 2018 Legislative Session

In 2016, Cord Byrd, Clay Yarborough, and Jason Fischer overcame competitive primaries to win nominations — despite powerful interests and strong candidates going against each of the three in the process.

Clay Yarborough is one of three Jacksonville Republicans beginning year 2 next week.

The general elections, in each of their districts, lacked drama: all three beat write-in candidates, garnering over 90 percent of the vote.

We asked the three of them to evaluate the working relationship of the Duval Delegation going into the Legislative Session, their own personal priorities for the 60 days, as well as getting their thoughts on working with City Hall throughout the process this year.

All three of them believe that the delegation is in sync.

Fischer and Byrd messaged specifically on lowering taxes further; Yarborough discussed bills of specific importance to him, including a measure that would repurpose unused medications for those who need them in the state.

As well, all three discussed how the new configuration in the Mayor’s Office — with Chief of Staff Brian Hughes taking an official role — would affect Jacksonville priorities.

None anticipated an adverse effect; Fischer offered the hottest quote.

“The addition of Brian Hughes is a force multiplier for the city. If you want to build something that lasts,” Fischer said, “hire Brian Hughes.”

Of course, “Build Something That Lasts” is the name of Mayor Lenny Curry’s political committee.

Read the entire interview here.

SPLC lauds Melissa Nelson

The Southern Poverty Law Center lauded Melissa Nelson, 4th Circuit State Attorney, for meaningful reforms that have halved Duval’s arrests of children.

The SPLC gave Melissa Nelson props … something that never happened to Angela Corey.

“It is encouraging to see that the number of children prosecuted as adults in Florida has declined, but the fact that we’re sending more than 1,000 children into the adult criminal justice system every year is troubling. Florida prosecutes more children as adults than any other state — often at the sole discretion of prosecutors,” asserted an SPLC representative.

“Some areas of the state with reform-minded state attorneys are keeping their promises to send fewer children to the adult system. In Duval County, there was a nearly 50 percent drop in children going to adult court,” the SPLC continued.

Civil citations were among the reforms that activists thought former State Attorney Angela Corey was too slow to implement. Nelson beat Corey by a more than two to one margin in the 2016 Republican primary, with anecdotal evidence of Democrats and independents crossing over to vote against Corey.

Curry to appear on ESPN Sunday

Jacksonville Mayor Curry is a hard-core NFL fan — and one of his life goals will be completed this weekend on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown.

The reason: the Jaguars are hosting a playoff game, and Curry proclaimed standout defensive end Calais Campbell the Mayor of “Sacksonville.”

An ESPN producer reached out Tuesday via email:

“We are heading down to Jacksonville this week to speak to the Jaguars defensive line, and Calais Campbell, who last month you proclaimed as the ‘Mayor of Sacksonville.'”

“Would you have a window of availability anytime Thursday or Friday to be interviewed on camera about your proclamation? We’d be happy to conduct the interview in your office as it would only take about 15 minutes (we would just need about an hour or so to set up),” the producer wrote.

ESPN could soon feature the ”Mayor of Sacksonville.’

While we haven’t confirmed Curry’s participation in this, sources familiar with his thinking say there is no way he would miss this opportunity.

Campbell, a tenth-year player from Miami, has 14.5 sacks on the season; the big-ticket free agent holds the franchise record.

The Jaguars are favored in Sunday’s tilt against the Buffalo Bills by upward of 7 points, and tickets for the game are sold out and are the hottest ticket among the wild card games on the resale market.

The Jaguars are a 3 seed in the AFC playoffs, meaning that barring a string of upsets in the first two rounds, this will be their only home playoff game.

$490,000 buys a lot of BBQ

WJXT contributed the latest in a depressing and distressing cycle of stories about Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown’s family’s failed business venture — a BBQ sauce plant that couldn’t get off the ground, despite SBA and city loans and grants totaling well over $3 million.

Per WJXT4 THE Local Station”: The bankruptcy judge spelled out a restructuring plan to pay back a portion of what’s owed.

After $3M in loans and grants, Katrina Brown’s sauce biz couldn’t get off the ground.

“The Brown family companies operate two businesses and owe the city a total of $572,000. The city is suing them separately over the $220,000 grant and a $350,000 loan. Of that, the judge ordered the family to pay back the city only $80,000 the next seven years,” a solution which “leaves city taxpayers $490,000 short.”

The Councilwoman’s Porsche likely won’t be seen around City Hall, either.

“Katrina Brown’s debt to pay off her Porsche was also in the settlement. She got an insurance payout enough to cover the outstanding car loan. Documents don’t disclose why, but sometimes you see payouts after an accident.”

Three-way dance in at-large 2

A Democrat might jump into the scrum in Jacksonville City Council’s at-large District 2.

Darren Mason — a member of Duval Democratic Party leadership and an alumnus of the office of current Councilwoman Joyce Morgan — is mulling a run.

Darren Mason is prepared to flex his political muscles and enter the field of play for 2019.

Currently, two Republicans are in the race: well-financed Ron Salem and former Councilman Bill Bishop.

The calculus: Bishop and Salem would cannibalize the Republican vote in this citywide race, clearing a path to the runoff for Mason.

Worth noting: oppo on Bishop was pushed out in 2015 when he ran for Mayor.

Worth asking: Does Mason have Google?

He should be in the race by mid-January, according to an informed source.

Happening Saturday 

State Sen. Travis Hutson and state Rep. Paul Renner, both of Palm Coast, join Farm Share to host a free food distribution at the WE Harris Community Center, 400 Harris St. Distribution begins  9 a.m., and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

JTA launches test track for self-driving vehicles

Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s new autonomous vehicle (AV) test track opened Wednesday, featuring a self-driving 12-passenger vehicle.

The JTA track — between Intuition and Daily’s Place — will research different AVs over the next two years, writes Will Robinson of the Jacksonville Business Journal. The inaugural ride was with a Transdev vehicle with room for six seated passengers and six standing passengers.

JTA unveiled a new autonomous vehicle test track, open to the public to help users get used to the technology and to provide JTA with feedback.

“In Jacksonville, we clearly continue to stay ahead of the curve in how we provide transportation to our citizens,” CEO Nat Ford told the Journal. “We thought really big with this.”

The track will see a rotation of vehicles — of various sizes — every six months, testing different speeds and functionalities to select the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) as part of the Skyway infrastructure. JTA intends to retrofit the 2.5-mile Skyway infrastructure, with offramps to expand the transit system into Brooklyn, LaVilla, San Marco, to EverBank Field and more.

City Council to review Jacksonville Zoo ‘living shoreline’ project

After six years of talk and planning, an eco-friendly project to stem erosion at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens shoreline may finally be realized — pending City Council approval.

Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union reports that the city’s Environmental Protection Board voted in November to fund a “living shoreline” project, using part of a $165,000 trust made up from fines collected from polluters.

In addition to city council approval, legislation to allow the money to be spent must be filed — expected sometime this winter, Patterson writes.

The project showing Jacksonville Zoo’s proposed ‘living shoreline.’

According to city lawyers, an agreement for the new money must be treated like a construction project, one where Public Works Department officials review and approve. Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a project permit, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved the project.

Usually, a bulkhead would be used to stop the waves, but it would isolate turtles, wading birds, crabs and other creatures in the river from shallower water. Bulkheads can also be affected by the water and storms.

The proposed living shoreline would be a more sustainable way to block waves, applying reef balls in the river adjacent to the shore’s low-tide line. Reef balls, concrete domes with holes, intended to allow shellfish and other creatures grab hold and start new reefs to filter water and slow waves.

Three UF Health Jacksonville leaders to retire

As 2017 ends, three of UF Health Jacksonville senior leaders — Russ Armistead, CEO; Penny Thompson, vice president of Government Affairs; and Bill Ryan, senior vice president and chief financial officer — enter retirement. Each made significant contributions to patients and staff for years to come.

Russ Armistead, Penny Thompson and Bill Ryan.

On Aug. 16, 2004, Armistead was recruited to UF Health in Gainesville as associate vice president of Finance and Planning. In December 2012, amid negotiations to take an administrative position at Augusta University, then known as Georgia Regents University, UF Health President David Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., asked Armistead to become CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and use his financial expertise to lead the hospital into a more profitable future. Armistead began as CEO Jan. 7, 2013.

His legacy includes improving the cultural harmony of hospital staff and physicians through hospitality training, promoting increased employee engagement numbers by addressing issues that matter to staff, and by making himself available through weekly rounds and his “A Few Minutes with Us” biweekly video series.

On Jan. 1, Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., MHSA, will assume the role of CEO following Armistead’s retirement.

Thompson began her career with UF Health Jacksonville Jan. 20, 1987, as director of communications and marketing. In this role, she fostered important relationships within the media and the community to make UF Health Jacksonville a more well-known resource for patients in its service areas.

Thompson served the past 18 years as vice president of Government Affairs. Her accomplishments include playing a vital role in securing an additional $2 million in city funding for the hospital, which unlocked more than $18 million in federal funding. She also secured funding through the hospital’s Volunteer Services budget to start the Arts in Medicine program, which has transformed the experiences of countless patients in their time of need. Thompson was also key in establishing UF Health Jacksonville as one of two designated Children’s Miracle Network hospitals in the city of Jacksonville.

Ryan joined UF Health Jacksonville as CFO in December 2001, believing he was fully prepared to manage the financial assets of a large academic hospital. Ryan admirably negotiated the internal relations, budgets and debt arrangements to successfully maintain UF Health Jacksonville as a fully functioning and valuable safety-net hospital for the Jacksonville community.

In September 2003, Ryan retired, but would return as CFO in July 2015.

Predictions for 2018

For the third straight year, Florida Politics has advanced predictions for 2018 in Northeast Florida.

Super Bowl Shuffle for Shahid Kahn and the mayor? We predict it!

Last year, we got a whopping 40 percent right.

Could we do worse this year? It’s possible!

Our crystal ball sees Al Lawson and John Rutherford walking to re-election in the House.

We also see a Democrat — perhaps even one with a pulse — emerging to run against Curry.

JEA privatization, we believe, will be a tough sell.

Real candidates will emerge to face City Council incumbents Anna Brosche, Katrina Brown and Garrett Dennis.

And the Jaguars will … GULP … win the Super Bowl.

Read the whole slate here.

Also worth reading: People to watch in 2018 and How botched were last year’s predictions?

Governor’s office seeks $1,200 to respond to Gwen Graham’s Hollywood Hills query

Gov. Rick Scott‘s office wants $1,200 from Gwen Graham before it will deliver anything to respond to her public records request, contending that’s how much staff time cost to research her inquiry into whether he spoke with nursing home administrators during the September 2017 tragedy at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

The governor’s office sent an invoice for $1,200 to Graham after her campaign issued a press release Thursday alleging that Scott and his office had not responded to her September open records request. In that press release, Graham, a leading Democratic candidate aiming to succeed Scott as governor, demanded, “What is Rick Scott trying to hide?”

In September Graham had followed up on media reports that had suggested Scott may have had telephone contact with nursing home officials during the slow-motion tragedy that unfolded at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

During the several days of power outage following Hurricane Irma, 14 residents died from heat exposure. Several investigations of the tragedy have been launched, including a criminal investigation.

Graham filed a records request under Florida’s public records laws for communications between Scott and his staff and nursing home administrators, particularly focusing on cell phone activity, but also seeking records from state agencies involved.

Thursday morning, more than 90 days later, Graham and her campaign charged that Scott had not responded to her records request, and appeared to be stonewalling.

The response came hours later, in a letter dated Thursday contending that the executive office of the governor had spent about 100 staff hours researching what records might apply to Graham’s request, and for that she must pay $1,200 to reimburse taxpayers before anything might be delivered.

“Ms. Graham,” the Office of Open Government wrote, “Upon review of your records request for the item “Copies of phone records (not limited to, but including call logs, text messages, and voicemails) from the phone account Governor Rick Scott gave out to healthcare executives for hurricane emergency related issues,” it has been determined that a cost estimate of taxpayer dollars spent is required, pursuant to Chapter 119.07(4)(d). To produce Governor Rick Scott’s September and October 2017 personal phone logs, approximately 100 hours of staff resources have been expended. This has been due to the strenuous time and resources that were dedicated to determining the identification of each individual number on the phone logs, as well as then identifying each call as state related business. The hourly rate indicated on the cost estimate is that of the lowest hourly rate of an individual who assisted with this assignment. This cost estimate has been provided in order to recover the taxpayer dollars spent processing this request.

“Please find the cost estimate attached to this email. As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions,” the office advises her.

Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, is pushing open records and government transparency in her campaign seeking to succeed Scott as governor. Her campaign’s press release Thursday alleged that “Scott and the all-Republican Cabinet have paid more than $1 million to settle lawsuits stemming from public record violations. And, last month, Scott pulled the plug on Project Sunburst, an online database of the governor’s emails.”

She faces fellow Democrats Chris King of Winter Park, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Governor Rick Scott does not care about transparency. Throughout his administration he has shown a complete disrespect for the spirit and letter of the Sunshine Laws,” Graham stated in the news release. “Florida used to be proud of our transparency laws. Scott has made a mockery of them.”

Andrew Gillum reports raising $250K

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum‘s campaign is reporting that he raised a quarter million dollars in December between his official campaign and his independent committee, marking his first $200,000 month since early last spring.

Spokesman Geoff Burgan characterized December as a month of momentum. Gillum hadn’t seen much momentum since before his campaign team was shaken up over lack-luster fundraising last summer.

According to a news release, the official Gillum for Governor campaign raised $88,220 in December, which is not dramatically different from the past few months. Its last six-figure month was last April. But his independent political committee Forward Florida is reporting having raised $167,770 in December, which would be its first truly significant month of fundraising since it raised a half-million over a two-month period in March and April.

“Team Gillum ended 2017 raising more than a quarter-million dollars and building on the grassroots momentum we’re seeing in the polls,” Burgan stated in the release. “Our supporters believe passionately in the Mayor’s vision and plans for making healthcare affordable and accessible to all, raising working people’s wages, and leveling the playing field for everyday Floridians, and they showed it in a big way last month. We’re kicking off the new year with energy and optimism.”

Earlier Thursday rival Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine of Miami Beach reported raising $1 million in December between his official campaign and his unofficial All About Florida political committee. That apparently included more than $500,000 Levine donated to his own campaign.

No reports have been made of foreshadowed yet by fellow Democratic candidates Gwen Graham of Tallahassee or Chris King of Winter Park, or by Republican candidate Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Two other expected candidates, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, have not yet formally entered the race.

Philip Levine reporting another $1 million month in governor’s contest

As his introductory television commercials continue to play throughout Florida, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is announcing that money has continued to pour in, another $1 million in December, with about half of that coming from his own pocket.

Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor, saw a combined total of $1 million come into his official campaign and his independent political committee, All About Florida, his campaign announced Thursday morning.

That’s his third consecutive month over the $1 million mark in income, and left him having raised $8 million in 2017, his campaign declared Thursday. The actual reports have not yet been posted on the Florida Division of Elections. His official campaign ended November having raised $578,000, plus $225,000 he donated, while All About Florida ended November having raised $5.9 million.

Levine faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, and Winter Park businessman Chris King seeking the Democratic primary nomination.

“Mayor Levine continues to grow his coalition of supporters who are eager to see fresh leadership in Tallahassee that is focused on doing the right thing by getting things done. Our latest fundraising numbers reflect an operation that is building support from every corner of the state and focused on taking our message directly to the voters,” Christian Ulvert, senior advisor, stated in a news release Thursday..

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