The sun rises, as we are told, every day in downtown Jacksonville.
But for the City Council class of 2011, slated for term-limits in 2019, those sunrises are beginning to fade.
Chosen Tuesday, the Council officers — who first took office in 2015 — show that the balance of power has shifted, the baton has been passed, etc.
There are theories as to why John Crescimbeni was denied the presidency.
Those who supported him blame the Chamber. Meanwhile, people on the other side say the Chamber didn’t get involved.
Whatever the case, it is now sunrise for the new class — dismissed in campaign rhetoric as “political neophytes” just two years ago.
It’s sunset for the rest.
This issue of Bold is heavy on City Council content, for good reason; namely, it was the big story this week. And it’s one that will have ramifications going forward.
Anna Brosche takes Jax Council presidency
The big news in Jacksonville this week: Finance Chair Anna Brosche winning an 11-8 Council vote to become the Council President-Designate.
Brosche will take over at the end of June.
The 11-8 vote defied partisan categories, and the decisive margin was with four African-American district Democrats who voted for the Brosche, a Republican, over the Democrat (DINO?) Crescimbeni.
If Sen. Audrey Gibson — the chair of the local Democrats — got involved in the race, it didn’t do much good, as her close political ally and protégé (Councilman Garrett Dennis) gave a speech seconding Brosche’s nomination.
The VP race, meanwhile, was no contest: Aaron Bowman had 14 votes, while opponent Scott Wilson had five … and the most heartbreaking quote.
“If I’d known they felt that way, I would have withdrawn,” Wilson said.
Jax Chamber, African-American Dems among Council Leadership race winners
We’ve assembled a breakdown of the winners and losers emerging from the Council leadership races.
We take the deepest dive you will find anywhere, looking at what really happened behind the scenes, such as the Jax Chamber and former Mayor John Peyton jumping in to bump off Brosche’s opponent, Crescimbeni (a narrative some swear by and others dispute), and the real reasons why African-American Dems jumped party lines and backed Brosche (a narrative no one disputes).
And we also take a look at the future on Council for Crescimbeni and key supporter, Republican Bill Gulliford, who is resigned to a “year in exile” given his anti-Brosche position in the leadership race.
Did they write checks that wouldn’t cash with improvidential statements? Will they smooth over the bad blood?
These existential questions — and so much more — are considered at great length in the “winners and losers” breakdown.
Al Lawson: NO to food stamp cuts
President Donald Trump is looking to achieve budget savings by cutting the food stamps program — probably a politically easier gambit than cutting agricultural subsidies. Rep. Al Lawson — who has been messaging heavily about “food deserts” and related issues — took issue in a statement this week.
“In my district, one in every four Floridians has been on food stamps at some point over the last 12 months. That is twice the national average,” Lawson noted, calling cuts of “nutrition benefits” out as “unconscionable.”
“We put hard working Floridians in the no-win position of having to choose between paying their light bill or affording healthy food. This is unacceptable,” Lawson said, and “does not align with the values of Florida’s 5th Congressional District, and therefore I intend to strongly oppose it.”
Eight ain’t enough
Give credit to Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Schellenberg for consistency. With pension reform out of the way, he is now reviving his call to remove term limits.
As he told Chris Hong of the Florida Times-Union, eight years isn’t enough time in office. In fact, that’s just when people start being effective, Schellenberg said this week.
“It’s a detriment to the areas we represent,” he said. “When I walk out the door after eight years, I have all the knowledge and contacts …”
Schellenberg, who beat Jack Webb in Webb’s own re-election bid in 2011, doesn’t exactly have rosy things to say about his own elected officials, in whom he’s “very disappointed.”
His bet is that voters clearly don’t share such disappointment.
In the case of Schellenberg, who hasn’t ruled out a run for state House in 2018 against Rep. Jason Fischer, cynics will say he’s just looking for another government gig.
If Schellenberg gets the bill through the council, the referendum would be on the August 2018 ballot.
Reggie Gaffney delivers for Corrine Brown
As #JaxPol waits to see whether Corrine Brown may get a new trial, a wrinkle has emerged, via an old friend — Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney.
Last week, we had the exclusive interview with Gaffney, in which he speculated that he wasn’t called as a prosecution witness because his narrative wouldn’t have been much help for the government. Days later, Brown’s lawyer — James Smith of Orlando — commented on Gaffney’s quotes.
He told Action News Jax’s Jenna Bourne that Gaffney was among prosecution witnesses who were “fearful” to talk to him and that if the prosecution had exculpatory evidence, there was an “obligation” to turn it over.
Smith saved up however many objections for his inevitable motion for a new trial. Those who were in the courtroom will recall his languid approach to much of the last trial, however, and will wonder if a new trial with the same old lawyer can lead anywhere but to a conclusion that is foregone to almost everyone not invoicing the former congresswoman.
“Can you stop following me, please?”
Bourne had another interesting story last week, when the Action News Jax reporter chased a controversial City Councilwoman around Council Chambers, asking why she didn’t show up for work.
Bourne confronted Katrina Brown with evidence of Brown’s haphazard attendance at council conclaves — a running joke among media and those in City Hall that suddenly wasn’t so funny when a determined reporter and TV camera chased Brown into the dais, into the green room, and ultimately out of the room altogether.
Brown claimed to have had another meeting at one point; when confronted again, a visibly agitated Brown turned around and asked Bourne to stop following her.
Bourne, the breakout star of the Corrine Brown trial, brought an energy to the production that others in TV didn’t match. The same holds true for Bourne’s City Hall work, in which she demonstrates the best grasp of policy of anyone on the air.
Daily’s Place on track for Saturday soft open
Since construction began August, there have been whispers and grumbles that the process was behind schedule. That said, the facility will be substantially finished by Saturday — enough for its first events.
This will represent a turning point for the stadium complex. City officials justified the capital outlay in 2016 as keeping up with other NFL franchises with capital investment — but without the expense of a new stadium.
It’s a midmarket strategy. And while the city financing $45M gave observers heartburn, the end product likely will be easy to swallow … especially if city leaders can message quickly and aggressively about the positive economic impact from the investment.
Fidelity spinoff is Vega$ bound
Looks like not every Fidelity subsidiary/spinoff will be in Jacksonville after all, per the Jax Daily Record.
“When Fidelity spins off investment subsidiary Fidelity National Financial Ventures into a new public company called Cannae Holdings Inc., Cannae will set up shop in Las Vegas,” the Daily Record reports.
Part of that is a proximity deal: Fidelity Chairman Bill Foley owns an expansion hockey team set to lace up the skates in America’s gambling capital.
“Cannae basically will be a deal-making company, an area in which Foley has excelled, so it makes sense for the headquarters to be located in his home city,” the Daily Record report continues.
Jazz and the surveillance state
Going to the Jacksonville Jazz Festival this weekend?
Expect a little extra “vetting,” says the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
“When we ask to stop you, wand you, check your bag,” said JSO’s Leonard Propper Wednesday at a news conference at Jacksonville’s City Hall, “there’s a reason for that.”
The Jazz Festival — an outdoor event sprawling over four evenings and three days starting Thursday evening with a jazz piano competition and running through Sunday — is especially vulnerable to security holes, said Propper, as an “outdoor” event with “porous” boundaries.
“It’s going to be a wonderful experience,” Propper added. “There’s going to be a little bit of vetting going on. There’s going to be people watching, people in places observing, and every interaction that we have with somebody is based on a reason.”
“And that reason is — we engage in that consensual conversation … it’s for your safety,” Propper added, urging people to “report anything suspicious” or “creepy.”
Propper’s comments — with a specific focus on security and the inevitability of police interaction — were the unique portion of a promotional event at Jacksonville City Hall, that otherwise was not much dissimilar than other jazz festival pressers in recent years.
JTA seeks to expand regional transportation options
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is looking at broadening options throughout the region with an autonomous Skyway monorail system, a multimodal transportation hub, adding bus lines and more.
At the JTA State of Authority luncheon this week, CEO Nathaniel Ford announced plans for improvements to Jacksonville’s public transportation systems, beginning with the Ultimate Urban Circulation project.
WJCT reports that the U2C project goals are to modernize and expand the Skyway monorail system, and include autonomous transit technology. Expansion will expand on both sides of the St. Johns River.
“We envision an east-west connection on the north bank from Five Points to the Sports Complex, a connection to San Marco, the Baptist MD Anderson Complex and the planned district development, the Springfield neighborhood with future connectivity to UF Health and the (Jacksonville Veterans Affairs Hospital),” Ford told the audience.
Upgrades to the Skyway is currently underway, including repairing cars, rebranding vehicles and remodeling stations. Public art will be installed along 17 columns in the Skyway system, as well as plans for a U2C bike and pedestrian bridge.
After that, JTA will begin developing an autonomous vehicle project, which Ford said was “critical” to deliver quickly for the citizens of Jacksonville.
The JTA is also planning a new Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center hub in Lavilla, which can accommodate the First Coast Flyer, JTA buses, Skyway trams, taxis, Uber and Greyhound buses.
“We’re very excited about what this brings in terms of transportation infrastructure to Jacksonville,” Ford added.
JAXPORT deepening project gets $17.5M in federal funding
The Jacksonville Port Authority is one step closer to a project to deepen the shipping channel in the St. Johns River, with a commitment of $17.5 million in federal funds for the upcoming fiscal year.
The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that the Army Corps of Engineers’ civil work program construction work plan includes the money to “initiate construction of the deep draft navigation improvements at Jacksonville Harbor.”
While the announced amount is only a small part of the estimated $700 million price tag on the entire project, the money represents a significant milestone, the first time Washington has committed any funds deepen the port.
“We’ve crossed the goal line on this one,” interim JAXPORT CEO Eric Green told the Journal. “The entire conversation now has changed.”
Florida has committed $238.3 million to the work plan, as well as $3.2 million for beach nourishment in Nassau County and $3.3 million for nourishment in St. Johns County.
Senior side stays within striking distance of NASL crown with Armada’s San Francisco win
The Jacksonville Armada FC came away with an impressive 3-0 victory and three crucial points in San Francisco against the Deltas Friday, May 19.
“It obviously feels good to get the victory,” said Armada FC head coach Mark Lowry. “San Francisco is a top team. They’re high up in the league for a reason.”
Kartik Krishnaiyer reports that Zach Steinberger scored twice for the Armada and was rewarded for his efforts by being named NASL Player of the Week. It was the third time in the Midfielder’s career he has earned the league’s top weekly honor.
“Zach Steinberger is a top player,” said Lowry. “I’ve said it all along. I think he’s one of the top players in the league and I’ll say it every day. Now you are finally starting to see what he can do.”
In minute 27, the Armada FC took the lead with the first goal by Zach Steinberger and never looked back. Defender Drew Beckie sent Steinberger a cross from the right wing that the Armada man headed past Romuald Peiser the San Francisco goalkeeper. This came after a period to open the match where San Francisco clearly appeared the better side.
A second headed goal from Steinberger, following a cross from Jemal Johnson, came in the 45th minute. The goal coming right before halftime was a devastating blow to the Delta’s hopes for a comeback.
Steinberger’s brace puts him in a tie for the top goal scorer in the NASL.
Second half substitute Derek Gebhard netted the third for the Armada FC in minute 73. Gebhard has checked into the match just one minute earlier after subbing in for Jonathan Glenn. Steinberger had the assist with a through ball.
“I thought we played well,” said Lowry. “We created a lot of chances and we took them at the right times. That made a difference.”
Goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell recorded his fourth clean sheet of the season and had three crucial saves. The win kept Jacksonville in second place in the NASL Spring Season standings.
Armada U-23 win, move with three points of conference leader
The Jacksonville Armada U-23 team moved to within three points of the NPSL Sunshine Conference lead with a 3-0 win in Naples Saturday. The two teams played to the same scoreline a week earlier at Patton Park in Jacksonville. Jesus Coleman opened the scoring in minute 27 for the Armada. The physical encounter saw eight bookings. Naples stayed competitive in the match until an 82nd-minute goal by Jacksonville’s Andrey Rosales. The Armada got a third behind second half substitute Chandler Castleman in stoppage time.