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Rhetoric heats up ahead of Jacksonville mayoral race

Only a couple of days of Jacksonville City Council committee meetings stand between the people running local government and the trappings of Thanksgiving.

Soon enough, ovens and stoves will be in ‘go’ mode. Yet already heating up: Rhetoric around the mayoral race, qualifying for which begins the week after Epiphany (Jan. 7-11).

The Florida Times-Union editorial page made its feelings known, crafting a booster-ish editorial from a co-appearance Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council President Aaron Bowman had at the local Rotary Club.

The piece brimmed with the kind of quotes that one will see in paid communications from Curry’s campaign this winter:

“Visits by investors to the Mayor’s Office are more common these days … Few cities have a consolidated government that can cut through red tape and make things happen like Jacksonville can … thanks to Curry’s leadership, Jacksonville has overcome major obstacles left by the previous administration.”

But wait, there’s more: “City budgeting — once a fight between the former mayor and City Council — is no longer in the news because the Curry administration and the City Council work productively together. But that hard work is behind the scenes. It’s dull when it works but that’s what an efficient administration looks like.”

Meanwhile, per the T-U account: “Bowman deserves a thumbs up for for attempting a culture change for City Council that could have dramatic impact on Downtown.”

The “culture change”: A reference to Bowman taking over the presidency from his immediate predecessor in the role, Anna Brosche, who the T-U gravely described in February as being “out of line with the Mayor” after Brosche did not allow Mayor Curry to speak at a Council meeting set up to discuss the value and potential privatization of local utility JEA.

Brosche is not without her advocates, however, and one of them includes former Times-Union columnist Ron Littlepage, who slammed the T-U as “wrong on Curry.”

“My former colleagues in the Times-Union editorial department have written yet another glowing paean about Mayor Lenny Curry. They continue to pull the shade down over their eyes and ignore the light,” Littlepage (who could handle comms in a Brosche campaign) asserted.

Littlepage asserted that Curry’s pension reform was the biggest tax hike in city history, that the “murder rate was still out of control,” and that, contra the local paper, things were not “hunky dory” in Jacksonville.

“I can only surmise that the TU editorial board is trying to establish an argument that Curry should sail to re-election next spring without a serious challenge,” Littlepage wrote.

“That’s not going to happen. There will be a serious challenger. Only then will the difficult issues facing Jacksonville be the subject of thorough debate and not glossed over with fluff,” Littlepage added.

Brosche, who is very strongly considering a run for Mayor, one that will be well-financed should that run launch, tweeted out Littlepage’s article.

Soon thereafter, a more cryptic tweet.

Brosche even found a platform at the latest Jacksonville Jaguars’ home loss to castigate one of Curry’s favorite players.

Ouch.

Brosche isn’t the only potential challenger to Curry; Democrat Garrett Dennis has also acted as a pre-candidate for months now, and his Twitter feed reflects that.

Dennis, for well over a year, has contended that intimidation tactics are part of the administration’s management style.

“Let me be honest and clear … standing up is not easy. I’ve been threatened by this administration. I’ve been told that I’m a ‘walking dead man,’ ” the councilman said.

“It’s unfortunate that I’ve had to go get a concealed weapon permit and carry a gun on me because I’ve been told by this administration that I’m a walking dead man,” Dennis said.

As it stands now, with just under two months until qualifying, Curry looks well-positioned.

Though in October the Mayor raised nothing for his campaign account and a modest $75,500 for his his “Jacksonville on the Rise” political committee, he has roughly $3,000,000 on hand, and still awaits a candidate with any sort of fundraising traction to file (only NPA Connell Crooms has over $1,000 on hand).

Thus far, six candidates have filed to run against Curry? Could Dennis and Brosche both file, expanding the field to nine people?

There would be one advantage to that strategy: Both could go after the Mayor, driving up his negatives. However, the best case scenario coming out of the March election would be that one of them makes the runoff against Curry.

The other, meanwhile, would be out of the game altogether.

The next few weeks should offer some clarity on this.

Jacksonville Bold for 11.16.18 — A very good year.

A cottage industry among Northeast Florida political observers this year has revolved around the same question it did in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Did Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry go too far?

In 2015, he capsized a popular Mayor. In 2016, he stumped for President Donald Trump and got pension reform through (which ticked off the left). In 2017, he allowed LGBT rights to become law (which ticked off the hard right).

The question asked almost every election cycle: “Is Lenny Curry going too far?”

And in 2018? Curry brought the political operation inside the building, with Brian Hughes taking over as chief of staff.

Critics, as Curry might say, chirped. But a year into it, there has been little in the way of meaningful pushback against his administration’s agenda.

There are fewer than 60 days remaining until the end of qualifying. If a serious candidate does not file, one wonders how credible complaints about the administration will be going forward.

Given the realities of Curry’s political operation, a full-spectrum dominance machine that includes enforcement of the City Council, an outside political machine of the sort previously unseen locally, and opposition that hasn’t marshaled visible support, as of yet, one wonders why the opposition campaign hasn’t been launched yet.

How Waltz beat the national left

Florida elections saw in many respects a blue wave, as witnessed by three of the five state-level races on the ballot triggering recounts.

However, a 50/50 tendency doesn’t extend to every contested race. Exhibit A: Florida’s 6th Congressional District, the former fiefdom of soon-to-be Governor-elect Ron DeSantis.

Republican Mike Waltz, a Trump-endorsed former Green Beret and counterterrorism adviser to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, defeated Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a Clinton-era Ambassador to the United Nations.

Despite an expensive Democratic campaign, Mike Waltz mostly held previous GOP margins.

Despite Soderberg spending over $3 million directly and having even more than that come in from Michael Bloomberg and other national Democrats, despite all of the talk of a blue wave, Soderberg wasn’t able to close the deal. She went down 56 percent to 44 percent, losing in all four counties in the district.

And her campaign didn’t seem to see it coming.

Soderberg ran as a moderate Democrat in a district that the previous Democratic candidate and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton each lost by 15+ points in 2016.

Bloomberg‘s Independence USA PAC spent $3 million of its own. Fundraising was a definite prerequisite in this Daytona-centered district, which abuts the Jacksonville media market to the north and the Orlando market to the west.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before …

Per the News Service of Florida: “A federal appeals court has rescheduled a hearing in a challenge filed by former Congresswoman Corrine Brown after she was convicted in a charity scam. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week scheduled the arguments Feb. 1 in Atlanta, according to an online docket.”

Corrine Brown again revisits the ‘Holy Ghost’ issue of her trial.

This was pushed back from December and rehashes what may seem to be an esoteric claim from the original trial: “In the appeal, Brown contends that a juror was improperly dismissed from her trial. The dismissal came after the juror made statements such as the ‘Holy Ghost’ told him Brown was not guilty. Prosecutors, however, argue a district judge acted properly in replacing the juror with an alternate and disputed that the decision violated religious rights.”

Brown’s defense tried and failed to make the discharged juror an issue during her original trial. Her strategy seems to be doubling down, though it’s uncertain what has changed but the venue.

Smooth sailing for NE FL

For a second straight Legislative Session, a Clay County Republican will be key to the budget process.

Northeast Florida is sailing smoothly for Travis Cummings and Speaker Jose Oliva.

Just as Sen. Rob Bradley chaired Senate Appropriations in 2018, chairing the powerful Appropriations Committee is state Republican Rep. Travis Cummings, of Orange Park.

Cummings replaces former House budget chair Carlos Trujillo, who left the Legislature after being appointed Ambassador to the Organization of American States.

Like incoming Speaker Jose Oliva, a Republican from Hialeah, Cummings was an early supporter of presumed Governor-elect DeSantis.

For DeSantis loyalists and Northeast Florida partisans both, the Cummings appointment is good news.

He told us Friday that he was “excited and fortunate” to be chosen, noting that while Northeast Florida is “well-positioned,” he has a holistic view regarding money for school safety and the environment in what otherwise will be a “pretty tight budget year.”

Read more here.

Baker turnout boom

For those inside Jacksonville who wonder why DeSantis won and Andrew Gillum did not, it may be useful to look to the Baker County Press for insights.

Homegrown: MacClenny’s Chuck Brannan is headed west on I-10 to the state House.

The county had a 70 percent turnout for the 2018 election … the best midterm turnout in Baker history, a strong sign that the GOP campaign against “corruption” and “socialism” made a dent.

Baker also was able to get a favorite son to the state House: MacClenny’s Chuck Brannan, who will replace Elizabeth Porter in House District 10.

Baker trends deeply conservative. The GOP ticket won by 68 points or so, in race after race.

Even if the candidate wasn’t remotely competitive.

“GOP candidate for Congressional District 5 Virginia Fuller, a recent California transplant to Florida, won the county with 81.1 percent, though her opponent, Democratic incumbent Al Lawson, held a 34-point lead in the district stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, 67 percent to 33 percent.”

With Jacksonville’s leading Republican officeholders all in for the DeSantis campaign, October fundraising for their 2019 campaigns was on the back burner.

Lenny Curry and presumed Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis. (Image via Lindsey Kilbride/WJCT)

And why not? Though Jacksonville has a Democratic plurality, and statewide candidates Bill Nelson, Gillum, and Nikki Fried all won here, local Republicans have no reason to doubt their ability to hold serve based on campaign fundraising.

Mayor Curry raised nothing for his campaign account and a modest $75,500 for his “Jacksonville on the Rise” political committee. He has just under $3,000,000 on hand, and still awaits a candidate with any sort of fundraising traction to file (only NPA Connell Crooms has over $1,000 on hand).

Sheriff Mike Williams raised just $2,000 in October, with no money going into his political committee over the same period. It likely won’t matter: Williams, with roughly $440,000 on hand, is up against one candidate, Democrat Tony Cummings. Cummings’ campaign account is in the red.

Property appraiser Jerry Holland raised $5,290 in October, pushing him over $148,000 on hand. Democrat Kurt Kraft has been running for three years now, and has $150 on hand.

City Council races are characterized by a mixture of well-established trends and genuine question marks.

Read more here.

Not taking it for granted

Two new bills introduced to the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday evening could, at least in theory, lead to the city returning a grant from the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE has used charitable donations to ingratiate itself with US institutions, winning hearts and minds.

Ordinance 2018-813 would return that $2.775 million grant. And Ordinance 2018-790 would appropriate $2.775 million from the city’s general fund, to replace what some critics are calling “blood money” from the totalitarian Middle Eastern regime.

Back in October, the United Arab Emirates gave Jacksonville $2.775 million toward post-Irma reconstruction. City Council voted the appropriation through without a hitch in the summer, but second thoughts clouded members (and potential 2019 mayoral candidates) Anna Brosche and Garrett Dennis when they considered the UAE’s human rights record, deemed to be among the world’s worst.

The money is for various expenditures, including computer labs for Raines and Ribault High Schools, restoration of a local park, purchase of mobile medical units, with approximately $1.45 million going to projects in the Ken Knight Road area, which was among the slowest in the city to recover from Hurricane Irma.

Skilled labor shortage?

The Jacksonville Daily Record spotlights an issue years in the making, with no ready solution.

A shortage of skilled trades workers, one that started after the 2008 economic crash and has only been exacerbated in the decade since.

No solutions are in sight for a shortage of skilled trades workers.

“The trades over the last generation have been stereotyped as a second-class occupation,” one source said. “That’s starting to catch up to us, as we don’t have as many skilled laborers anymore.”

Candidates for Governor, including apparent winner DeSantis, spotlighted the needs for people to go into skilled trades.

It needs to happen soon: delays can last up to two months, asserted Bill Garrison, the executive officer of the Northeast Florida Builders Association.

Game over

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council imposed a six-month moratorium on adult arcades.

No more games. Jacksonville is suspending new adult arcades for six months.

The legislation cleared committees without opposition and landed on the consent agenda, with most of the 19-person legislative body listed as sponsors even before Tuesday’s meeting.

Ordinance 2018-680 bans any new permitting for so-called internet cafes, a bane to the existence of Jacksonville lawmakers.

These establishments are predominantly in areas of town that have socioeconomic challenges already, and Council members have sought to put the brakes on what has become a flourishing industry, albeit one of dubious moral value.

Arcades often are near churches, schools, daycares and homes, and the noise, traffic, and other associated activities concern people outside the industry.

Jacksonville’s municipal code, which often seems fragmentary, lacks “performance standards or criteria pertaining to adult arcades,” offering another potential justification for the moratorium.

UNF recognized for ‘engaged’ campus

Via news release: “In recognition of the University of North Florida’s commitment to campus-community engagement and public service, Florida Campus Compact recognized UNF as the Engaged Campus of the Year for 2018 for the State University System. This is the University’s second time receiving this award.”

Ospreys give back to the community every day.

UNF is receiving accolades for its community engagement, philanthropy.

The award “recognizes institutions that advance the purposes of higher education while improving community life and educating students for civil and social responsibility. This is the highest honor for campus-community engagement in Florida.”

“UNF consistently provides remarkable service to the greater Jacksonville area and beyond through its volunteering, philanthropy and community-based teaching and research,” said UNF President David Szymanski.

A staggering 94 percent of departments offer courses with these components, leading to 1 million hours of work on projects like the Adaptive Toys Project: “UNF engineering and physical therapy faculty and students work with the Brooks Pediatric Residency Program to design, fabricate and deliver custom assistive technology, like battery-powered toy cars, for kids with developmental disabilities to aid in mobility and independence at no cost to the families.”

No benches, no homeless problem

For one Jacksonville Beach City Councilman, solving the homeless problem is as simple as removing places for them to sit.

“In a recent city council meeting, Councilmember Keith Doherty said the homeless population is an issue,” reported Action News Jax.In the meeting notes, he said Gonzales Park had become a popular hangout spot for transients.”

Too many homeless people in parks, says a Jacksonville Beach Councilman.

The solution?

“Doherty suggested in the meeting removing the benches and shelters in hopes it would alleviate the homeless from sleeping on them. He also suggested moving the City’s Veterans Memorial to the park to attract more activity and keep the homeless away.”

Whether that will work or not is unknown. Jacksonville Beach’s homeless problem continues to increase.

Home prices up, lower end sees action

Despite a slight slowdown in the Northeast Florida housing market, the area continues a trend of strong sales, particularly with lower-end homes.

Jacksonville’s entire home market is still strong, but the real action is with low-end properties.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, homes spend an average of 64 days on the market year-to-date before the sale, a number 11 percent up from last year, as per a release from the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. Properties in the $150,000 and $199,999 range are spending the least amount of time on the market — 44 days on average — 24 percent faster than this time last year.

The number of homes on the market priced less than $199,999 have decreased over the past year — with those available under $149,999 down almost 14 percent. As with homes more than $199,999, inventory has increased.

The percentage of properties sold over list price has increased for properties valued at or below $199,999, the Journal writes. The percent of properties selling over the listing price that is valued at more than $199,999 has either decreased or remained equal over the past year.

Marketwide, sales prices are increasing. The median sales price was $221,000, an 8.8 percent increase compared to last year.

“We are pleased to see new listings being added to the market, but sales are taking place so steadily that a sustained and significant influx of properties is needed to turn the tide away from lower than normal inventory,” NEFAR President Ben Bates said in a release.

ZOOLights holiday fun

Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens launches its post-Thanksgiving holiday season celebration with the Seventh Annual ZOOLights event, beginning Dec. 7.

ZOOLights will feature thousands of LED lights, transforming the zoo into a winter wonderland of moving sculptures, lighted trees and animal silhouettes.

Guests can walk among lights strung throughout the Zoo and listening to holiday music and enjoy a unique view of ZOOLights by boarding the Zoo’s lighted train (the train only runs from the back of the Zoo to the front). There will also be carousel rides, the 4-D Theater, marshmallow roasting, and more activities for an extra charge.

Jacksonville Zoo becomes a winter wonderland of lights for the holidays.

The dates are Dec. 7—9 and Dec. 14 — Jan. 5 (Closed Christmas Day) Sunday — Thursday 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The Zoo closes at 5 p.m. and will reopen for ZOOLights at 6 p.m.

Prices are $10 for Non-Members; $8 for Zoo Members, with a special of $5 for Zoo Members, Dec. 17 — 20 only.

ZOOLights Value Tickets includes train rides, 4D Theater and Carousel (children 12 and under): $15 for Non-Members, $12 for Zoo Members.

For more information, visit JacksonvilleZoo.org.

Loss to Colts exposes Jags

As the Jacksonville Jaguars season began to go South, observers wondered how they would react. Were there sufficient leaders on the team that could carry them through rough patches?

Others feared that with the number of strong personalities in the locker room, infighting might lead to making a bad situation worse. There was hope that the trade of Dante Fowler Jr. to the Rams was a step that could help bring the team together.

The trade of Dante Fowler Jr. to the Rams was intended as a step in the right direction for the Jaguars. We will know on Sunday.

Alas, Sunday’s 29-26 loss in Indianapolis to the Colts officially sent the season into free fall. They have lost 5 games in a row and now sit at 3-6.

The last loss seemed especially hard to take, especially to a once-proud defensive unit. Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey must have been hearing from the fans as he lashed out on Twitter.

“When I’m gone from here, y’all gone miss me,” he tweeted. “I ain’t even trippin lol.”

He might have also reacted to some indirect criticism from Head Coach Doug Marrone very well. Marrone said after the game Ramsey (without mentioning his name) blew a coverage that led to a 53-yard touchdown play for the Colts.

Some questioned whether the entire Jaguars’ defense had already left, giving up all 29 Indianapolis points in the first half. The team made a spirited comeback, only to fall short at the end when Rashad Greene fumbled in the final two minutes with the team in field goal range.

A favorite target of the wrath of fans is quarterback Blake Bortles, but he threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The defense gave up similar numbers to Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck.

With the defense struggling, the last thing they need to see is the surging offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers will be in town Sunday, motivated by the two losses the Jaguars hung on them last year in Pittsburgh, including one in the playoffs.

Jaguars fans can only hope that somehow the 2017 version of the defensive unit can show up. Otherwise, look for a lot of points.

Corrine Brown appeal pushed back to February

A federal appeals court will hear arguments in February in a challenge filed by former Congresswoman Corrine Brown after she was convicted on felony charges in a charity scam.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had previously said oral arguments are needed in the case and tentatively scheduled them for the week of Dec. 10 in Atlanta, according to an online docket.

However, that hearing has been pushed back.

Brown appealed to the Atlanta-based court after she was convicted last year on 18 felony counts and sentenced to five years in prison.

A former 12-term Democratic congresswoman from Jacksonville, Brown was convicted on fraud and tax charges related to her role in using contributions to the One Door for Education charity for personal expenses and events.

But in the appeal, Brown contends that a juror was improperly dismissed from her trial. The dismissal came after the juror made statements such as the “Holy Ghost” told him Brown was not guilty.

Prosecutors, however, argue a district judge acted properly in replacing the juror with an alternate and disputed that the decision violated religious rights.

Brown, who lost a re-election bid in 2016, is an inmate at the Coleman federal prison in Sumter County, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

No more games: Jacksonville imposes adult arcade moratorium

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council imposed a six-month moratorium on adult arcades.

The legislation cleared committees without opposition and landed on the consent agenda, with a majority of the 19-person legislative body listed as sponsors even before Tuesday’s meeting.

Ordinance 2018-680 bans any new permitting for so-called internet cafes, a bane to the existence of Jacksonville lawmakers.

These establishments are predominately located in areas of town that have socioeconomic challenges already, and Council members have sought to put the brakes on what has become a flourishing industry, albeit one of dubious moral value.

Arcades often are near churches, schools, daycares and homes, and the noise, traffic, and other associated activities concern people outside the industry.

Jacksonville’s municipal code, which often seems fragmentary, lacks “performance standards or criteria pertaining to adult arcades,” offering another potential justification for the moratorium.

Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, 90 certificates of use have been issued, even as many more businesses operate without them.

 

’Blood money‘ reconsidered: UAE grant fight heads to Jacksonville City Council

Two new bills introduced to the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday evening could, at least in theory, lead to a grant to the city from the United Arab Emirates being returned.

Though if that happens, it’s over the heads of Mayor Lenny Curry and the Council President.

Ordinance 2018-813 would give back that $2.775 million grant.

And Ordinance 2018-790 would appropriate the same amount from the city’s general fund, to replace what some critics are calling “blood money” from the totalitarian Middle Eastern regime.

Back in October, the United Arab Emirates gave Jacksonville that money toward post-Hurricane Irma reconstruction.

City Council voted the appropriation through without a hitch in the summer, but second thoughts clouded members (and potential 2019 mayoral candidates) Anna Brosche and Garrett Dennis when they considered the UAE’s human rights record, deemed to be among the world’s worst.

City Council President Aaron Bowman, in a lengthy statement released Tuesday, thinks this attempted cure legislation is dead in the water.

Bowman charged Brosche and Dennis with “derogatory comments” at an August public notice meeting about the UAE.

“I also feel compelled to admonish the recent filing of legislation 2018-813. I see it as an attack on beliefs and religious freedoms. I want the residents of Jacksonville to understand that I do not support attacks on other faiths and ethnic populations. In my role as City Council President, there is no room for bias or prejudice. My expectation is that this legislation will quickly be defeated,” Bowman said.

“We are at a critical point in our world’s stability. We all must recognize diversity; respecting
differences in religion and culture. We must respect our friends and neighbors, locally and around the globe. I expect my fellow City Council members to research, inquire, and prepare when they vote on legislation. There is always an option to ask for a deferral if a City Council member feels he or she needs more time to evaluate or gather additional information,” Bowman added.

Noting that Brosche and Dennis voted for the legislation, Bowman added that to “come back after the fact and slander a highly respected ally of the United States is not acceptable.”

Neither Bowman nor Dennis mentioned the bill during agenda meeting. Councilwoman Brosche, involved in the recount, was excused from the meeting.

The UAE money is being used for various expenditures, including computer labs for Raines and Ribault High Schools, restoration of a local park, purchase of mobile medical units, with about $1.45 million going to projects in the Ken Knight Road area, which was among the slowest in the city to recover from Irma.

Money in the appropriations bill could go to the Duval County School Board.

Dennis, a roofing contractor who does business with the School Board, noted Tuesday that his company “has not and will not participate in any projects I have voted on as a council member.”

At last month’s meeting, Dennis noted potential national security impacts of taking the money. Brosche charged the Lenny Curry administration with a lack of transparency during the process, including punting on press conference questions about the posture of taking money from a country with a poor human rights record.

Recipients of the funding, including local non-profits, defended the move last month.

Cindy Funkhouser, whose Sulzbacher Center got grants for mobile medical units, said the UAE “is an ally of the United States. Has always been an ally of the United States.

“America gives aid all over the world, and nobody says they don’t have the right to give donations,” Funkhouser said, noting people could squawk all they want about American human rights issues.

Odds are long here for any movement: Brosche and Dennis are alone here, in terms of Council members, who are by and large yoked to the Mayor’s Office’s expansive policy agenda.

The Council President won’t do them any favors either.

House budget chief Travis Cummings optimistic about Ron DeSantis era

For a second straight Legislative session, a Clay County Republican will be key to the budget process.

Just as Sen. Rob Bradley chaired Senate Appropriations in 2018, chairing the powerful House Appropriations Committee is state Republican Rep. Travis Cummings of Orange Park.

Cummings replaces former House budget chair Carlos Trujillo, who left the Legislature after being appointed Ambassador to the Organization of American States.

Like incoming Speaker Jose Oliva, a Republican from Hialeah, Cummings was an early supporter of presumed Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis.

For DeSantis loyalists and Northeast Florida partisans both, the Cummings appointment is good news.

He told Florida Politics Friday that he was “excited and fortunate” to be chosen, noting that while Northeast Florida is “well-positioned,” he has a holistic view regarding money for school safety and the environment in what otherwise will be a “pretty tight budget year.”

One focus will be recovery from this year’s devastating Hurricane Michael.

“The Panhandle continues to suffer,” Cummings noted. And after three straight years of catastrophic storms, the state will have to further refine plans regarding tropical weather emergencies.

Cummings, entering year seven in the House, also will look for ways to increase school safety, a process began in earnest last year with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act.

Environmental issues, a campaign focus of DeSantis, will also come to the fore … a necessity in the era of red tide.

Member projects will likely need to be in these areas, said Cummings, to have a “strong chance of being funded.”

After six years of dealing with the Scott administration, Cummings will be dealing with a new Republican leadership.

He is encouraged by the strong DeSantis transition chairs, which include former House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Matt Gaetz, former Sen. George LeMieux, and former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings.

Cummings, like many observers, knows that while there will be functional continuity with the Scott administration, changes will happen as well.

The Orange Park Republican also recognizes the reality of a “brutal campaign” won by a “small margin.”

Any advice?

“Surround yourself with good people … folks you can trust with the same goals,” Cummings said. “Work with the Legislature to build rapport.”

That process, Cummings added, seemed well underway given that Oliva and Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano both are aligned with the Governor already. (Though Galvano hasn’t announced committee chairs yet, regional observers hope Bradley gets a return stint with the gavel, a move that would concentrate unprecedented power in Clay County)

While the realities of the Legislative session and competing interests can create “conflict at times,” Cummings expects a “collegial relationship” to prevail between the executive and legislative branches should DeSantis, as current tallies suggest, be Florida’s next Governor.

‘Losing sucks’: Lenny Curry throws down 2019 gauntlet

When so inclined, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry offers some very direct quotes. On Tuesday evening, Curry spiked the ball on local exponents of the “Blue Wave” theory.

Curry reminded locals of his pre-primary endorsement of Ron DeSantis for Governor.

He also reminded them of his support of U.S. Senator-elect Rick Scott.

Curry also offered a rejoinder to those who might note that Democrats U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried all won more votes than Republicans in Duval.

Curry also gave a shoutout to his political operation, which is apparently much more reliable than the swath of public polls that put Gillum ahead of DeSantis.

Curry was in position to spike the ball. In addition to DeSantis and Scott winning, other endorsed candidates, like Mike Waltz in Congressional District 6 and Wyman Duggan in House District 15, got over the finish line despite well-funded and energetic Democratic challengers with outside help.

To be sure, there are caveats. Duggan held Fant’s seat by two points, and, if nothing else, Democratic opponent Tracye Polson bought name identification for the next run. And the underperformance of the Republican ticket in Duval (only Attorney General-elect Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer-elect Jimmy Patronis carried the day.

But despite those real caveats (including the latest installment of concerns about leadership of the local Republican Party), Curry’s message is that his machine is in high-gear and ready for any challenge that may materialize.

Just as Northeast Floridians may be waiting for fall, so too are we waiting for a credible opponent to emerge in the fast-approaching 2019 mayoral race.

Some names to file away: Democrat Tracye Polson, who ran a close race in swing-district HD 15; Democrat Mia Jones, who came within two points of winning a countywide race for Duval County Tax Collector; and Democratic City Councilman Garrett Dennis, in a perpetual war with Curry.

Meanwhile, a potential Republican challenger potentially looms: Councilwoman Anna Brosche, another Curry nemesis inside the hallowed halls of the St. James Building, the former department store that is now City Hall.

The electorate in Jacksonville is poised for change, possibly forever, to the Democrats with Amendment 4’s passage Tuesday night allowing 1.5 million reformed felons renewed suffrage. But for now, despite evidence of Democratic enthusiasm, Curry has a message for the haters.

Jacksonville is still his town.

Jacksonville voters want extra safeguard against JEA sale

Duval County voters on Tuesday approved a nonbinding referendum suggesting that the Jacksonville City Council must first approve a sale of 10 percent or more of the municipal utility (JEA).

While JEA has an independent board, the push to privatize the utility that started a year ago led Council members to want increased checks and balance.

Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni, who sponsored the legislation that put the measure on the ballot, said the nonbinding poll allowed voters to “weigh in and tell us they’re interested, or they’re not interested.”

The legislation to put the matter on the ballot came after some of the best-connected lobbyists in the area started working this spring for companies that may want to buy JEA.

Florida Power and Light engaged Paul Harden, best known locally as the representative for the Jacksonville Jaguars and owner Shad Khan‘s interests.

Emera, a Nova Scotia-based utility company that acquired TECO and otherwise has assets ranging from New Mexico to the Caribbean, has also lobbied up.

Emera has retained Marty Fiorentino and The Fiorentino Group. Other lobbyists for the client include Wyman Duggan, a land use lawyer running for the state House, and his Rogers Towers colleague T.R. Hainline, who served on Mayor Lenny Curry‘s transition team.

Jacksonville is currently involved in the process of exploring the value of JEA.

While it is by no means certain that FPL or Emera have any interest in JEA assets, both companies were involved in acquisitions of municipal utilities.

FPL acquired the Vero Beach utility recently. The $185 million price tag allowed the city to exit utility agreements, secured the city a new power substation, and led to $36 million in city coffers.

Emera’s TECO acquisition was described as “a perfect fit for Emera’s strategy.” The $6.5 billion deal was lauded as facilitating Emera’s diversification of assets and being “significantly accretive” to shareholder earnings.

A JEA commissioned valuation report of the utility urged exploration of a sale, given a combination of flat electrical revenues and a trend of industry consolidation.

Proceeds, the report said, could be between $2.9 billion and $6.4 billion after the retirement of debt. Values range from $7.5 billion up to $11 billion, based on cash flow, price/earnings ratios, and other metrics, per the JEA commissioned report.

The Jacksonville City Council Auditor subsequently issued his own report.

The 2018 Council Auditor report was more conservative in estimates than the one JEA commissioned.

It contended “the net proceeds to the City from selling JEA could range from a low of $1,702,795,000 to a high of $5,202,795,000.”

Speculation has swirled that even though the issue has been tabled in recent months, it could return with a new intensity after city elections in spring 2019.

Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman wants four more years

Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman launched his re-election bid Monday, running for his second term in the Southside District 3.

Bowman, the former commander of Mayport and current senior vice president of business development for Chamber arm JAXUSA, was elected in 2015.

Bowman assumed the Council presidency in July, serving an important role as an enforcer for the establishment.

As opposed to the previous year, which saw Mayor Lenny Curry jousting with President Anna Brosche on a variety of issues, Bowman and Curry have managed to present a united front in public.

“The Chamber, the mayor and I all have many similar interests: downtown development, job creation, making Jacksonville a safer city, supporting and inviting business growth and good policy, etc. The mayor and I are committed to working together so it should be an active and exciting year for our residents,” Bowman before taking the gavel.

Bowman’s former Council assistant, Terrance Freeman, was appointed to the Council by Gov. Rick Scott this year after the then-incumbent was suspended pending federal charges for graft.

In a bit of irony, strong rumors are that Freeman intends to pursue Brosche’s seat.

Brosche, meanwhile, may challenge Mayor Curry in 2019; both are Republicans, but they have never managed a functional working relationship.

Bringing it home: Jacksonville GOTV Sunday for Jesse Jackson

The Rev. Jesse Jackson decades back was a transformative Democratic candidate for President. Those days are gone, but he’s still working to GOTV. Sunday’s iteration is in Jacksonville.

Jackson’s visit has a different vibe than his 2016 visit.

While he was hopeful that early voting turnout was juiced, local Democrats on hand were less optimistic, a pessimism validated when Donald Trump took Florida.

2018’s campaign is radically different. Jacksonville Democrats strongly embraced eventual nominee Andrew Gillum ahead of the primary, and they are winning the turnout battle as Souls to the Polls Sunday gets underway.

As of this writing (11:20 a.m.), Jacksonville Democrats have cast 44.9 percent of the 207,797 ballots. Republicans cast 41 percent, despite a number of high-profile national surrogates such as Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Lindsey Graham coming to town to juice turnout.

Jackson has been appearing with U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, who will waltz to a general election victory Tuesday.

He also has two rallies Sunday afternoon.

2 p.m. finds Jackson at the Legends Center. 4:00 p.m finds him at the Eastside Bring It Home Rally at 1096 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.

Rain is in the area, and whether that dampens Souls to the Polls turnout remains to be seen. There is no Corrine Brown helming the Duval Democratic machine.

In that context, it is interesting that Dems are having their best turnout year in many cycles.

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