jacksonville city council Archives - Florida Politics

Jacksonville City Councilmember bristles over lack of JEA oversight

On Tuesday, Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Schellenberg, the liaison to local utility JEA, reiterated concerns about the Council’s lack of oversight over the power provider.

Schellenberg had told the Florida Times-Union of his frustrations with not being able to get a meeting with interim CEO Aaron Zahn until after the utility decided whether or not to make Zahn permanent.

The subject of that meeting: JEA’s ill-fated investment in the Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, a deal that has seen delays, cost overruns, a thus-far thwarted attempt to get out of the deal, and credit-rating downgrades in some cases.

Schellenberg has sought to be more involved as a liaison than the JEA Board would seem to like, and his comments Tuesday reflected a long-simmering frustration.

“Because of some of their actions,” Schellenberg said, “some of the ratings agencies have downgraded our bonds going forward.”

“They have a selection committee going forward,” Schellenberg added, “and we’re not part of the conversation that impacts the biggest asset of City Hall.”

Schellenberg wanted to know what Plant Vogtle’s impact would be on electric bills, given cost overruns “driving the price up substantially.”

Schellenberg, who will be term-limited next year, seeks a “more transparent” discourse. However, it didn’t seem he was getting much backup.

Council President Aaron Bowman suggested the matter be discussed during Charter Review, which commences next year.

Councilman Bill Gulliford, a former JEA liaison in his own right who spent many months negotiating with the utility regarding its yearly contribution to the city budget, noted that JEA is an “independent authority” with the best possible information on its decision process.

“If we start intruding on the decision-making power of independent authorities,” the Beaches Republican said, “my concern is that our decisions may not be well-informed decisions.”

“I would caution this body in the future … go back and look at the original intent of making these bodies independent to [prevent] political manipulation,” Gulliford said.

Councilman John Crescimbeni, a termed-out, at-large Democrat, quipped that maybe a JEA Board member should be allowed to sit on the council dais in exchange for greater input into the utility’s workings.

“Maybe we can compromise,” Crescimbeni said. “It’s a two-way street.”

City Hall spent the better part of a year marinating in JEA drama, following what seemed to be a stalled push to privatize the publicly owned utility. Clearly, there’s more of the same to come.

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.

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.

Nikki Fried, GOP money buoy Mia Jones in Duval County Tax Collector race

Both candidates in the November election for Duval County Tax Collector are attempting political comebacks.

However, just one has statewide support when it comes to late-game fundraising.

Democrat Mia Jones, CEO of Agape Health Services, was formerly on the Jacksonville City Council and a member of the Florida House, rising to Democratic Leader pro tempore in 2014-16.

Now, in the closing days of her campaign for Tax Collector, the cavalry is coming into support her, in the form of Agriculture Commissioner hopeful Nikki Fried.

Fried will be in Jacksonville Thursday evening for “The Future Is Female” fundraiser.

Also supporting Fried is another viable candidate (in whose district the fundraiser will be held): House District 15’s Tracye Polson.

This support is timely, given that Jones’ opponent on this year’s ballot is a proven political commodity.

Republican Jim Overton, a Realtor by trade, was the former Duval County Property Appraiser and a Councilman.

Jones and Overton were the top two finishers in August’s blanket primary. Jones, the sole Democrat in the field, got 47 percent of the vote. Overton, who split GOP loyalty with two other candidates, garnered 21 percent of the vote in a heated primary with former state Rep. Lake Ray and former Councilman Doyle Carter.

Given Overton’s background, this is notable: Republican support is finding its way to Jones.

Local establishment pillars John Baker and Gary Chartrand ponied up this month, as did Kathryn Peyton (whose husband, John Peyton, was Jacksonville Mayor).

Prominent Democrats, including political allies like former Mayor Alvin Brown (a consultant currently), also have contributed.

Jones has to some degree closed the fundraising gap with Overton in recent weeks (as of receipts through Oct. 19). She has more cash on hand, even though he has out-raised her in aggregate.

Jones, who did not self-finance, has raised $100,195 during the campaign, and as of Oct. 19, she had just over $30,000 on hand.

Overton has $22,000 on hand of the more than $176,000 he raised and self-financed during the course of the campaign.

Though active Democratic donors by and large have not given to Overton’s cause, former state Sen. Mattox Hair, who represented Jacksonville in the 1980s, is an exception to that rule.

The biggest name Republican to ante up for Overton recently: U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, the former Duval Sheriff first elected to Congress in 2016.

Matt Carlucci leads parade of apparent Jacksonville City Council shoo-ins

Jacksonville political veteran Matt Carlucci, a Republican running for City Council in At Large Group 4, was the first candidate in the 2019 cycle to clear $250,000 raised.

He did that by the end of March, a signal that Carlucci — a former Mayoral candidate, a previous member of the Council, and most recently, the head of the Florida Commission on Ethics — would not be outraised.

Carlucci has put the fundraising on the backburner, and has turned to pushing endorsements from prominent politicians of his generation.

The latest in what will be a long list: former two-term Mayor John Delaney, whose tenure had overlap with that of Carlucci.

“Matt’s character and integrity are deep in his core. He knows how to bring people together to make great things happen for the city we both love. He understands that Jacksonville is at its best when we are together,” said Delaney.

Delaney’s endorsement follows that of another former two-term mayor, Democrat Jake Godbold, and such plaudits will only augment a sense of inevitability for Carlucci’s return to the Council dais. Especially given that the candidate has almost a quarter-million dollars on hand.

His opponents have thus far not managed impressive fundraising. Through the end of September, Republicans Harold McCart and Don Redman have $21,000 and $12,000 on hand respectively. Newly filed Democrat Alexander Watkins has yet to report any receipts.

The four way race may ensure a May runoff after the March first election; thus far, however, one candidate has most of the juice.

The Carlucci race is the most extreme example of a trend in Council races, one of deep fundraising disparities as the election nears, as end-of-September bookkeeping reveals.

In District 2, incumbent Republican Al Ferraro has nearly $63,000 on hand; his two opponents have raised under $500 between them.

In District 5, Republican LeAnna Cumber has about $177,000 on hand. Her one Democratic opponent, James Jacobs, has languished with under $500 on hand for months.

In District 7, incumbent “Curry-crat” Reggie Gaffney has over $56,000 on hand, more money than his six opponents have raised between them. District 8 sees Democrat Tameka Gaines Holly likewise with more on hand than her 11 opponents have raised.

In At Large Group 4, Republican Ron Salem has nearly $174,000 on hand; Democrat Darren Mason has $745.

And in AL-5, incumbent Republican Sam Newby has $27,000 on hand, with Democrats Niki Brunson and Chad McIntyre with just over $4,000 between them (all of it in McIntyre’s account).

Some candidates have bankrolls and no competition at all.

District 4 incumbent Republican Scott Wilson has $21,900 on hand. Danny Becton, another incumbent Republican, has over $87,000 on hand for his return bid. District 13 Republican Rory Diamond has over $117,000 banked. And AL-3 Democrat Tommy Hazouri has no competition and his own six-figure bankroll.

Jacksonville City Council committee punts on opposing homestead exemption change

On Monday morning, the first of three Jacksonville City Council committees of reference mulled a resolution of strong opposition to Amendment 1 on the 2018 ballot.

The amendment would boost the homestead exemption by $25,000 to $75,000.

City leaders have fretted about the impact to the city budget, reducing millage collections by $27.4 million.

However, bill sponsor Matt Schellenberg wasn’t in the ponderously-named Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety committee Monday, and the committee did not move the bill through on an emergency basis, so there was no vote.

The bill needs to be moved through the full City Council next week, if the Council intends to take a position on this Amendment.

Theoretically, it could be discharged from committee and put on the Council agenda as an emergency next week.

The bill has two committee stops on Tuesday, Finance and Rules. Schellenberg is on Rules.

Game over: Jacksonville mulls adult arcade moratorium

New legislation filed this week to the Jacksonville City Council would impose a six-month moratorium on adult arcades.

Ordinance 2018-680 would ban permitting for these 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, day cares 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.

The moratorium could be passed by the Council by November, should there not be interruptions in the six-week committee cycle.

Members of both political parties back the measure. Republican Al Ferraro introduced the bill; Democrats Joyce Morgan and John Crescimbeni are the first of what will be a number of co-sponsors.

Randy DeFoor pads coffers in Jacksonville City Council bid

In the race to succeed Republican Jim Love on the Jacksonville City Council, Love’s fellow Republican Randy DeFoor expanded her cash on hand lead after September receipts.

But in what could be a preview of a runoff election, Democrat Sunny Gettinger is keeping pace.

As of the end of September, DeFoor had roughly $157,000 on hand between her campaign account and her Safe and Prosperous Jacksonville political committee.

DeFoor brought in $10,050 of new money to the campaign account, and an additional $5,000 to her political committee.

First Coast Energy was the big donor this cycle; its CEO Aubrey Edge is a supporter of Mayor Lenny Curry, and DeFoor is aligned with that political operation.

Gettinger, meanwhile, saw declining receipts for the fourth straight month. Her September haul of $4,245 was the slowest month of her campaign, giving her over $96,000 on hand.

Her key donors last month included connected local businessman Walt Bussells and Jon Heymann, the longtime leader of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission.

DeFoor and Gettinger are better positioned financially than the two male candidates in the race, who have yet to report September numbers.

Republican Henry Mooneyhan had roughly $12,000 on hand at the end of August. Democrat Jimmy Peluso had roughly $36,000 at his disposal.

Jacksonville municipal races see a first election in March. If no one wins that blanket primary with a majority, the top two finishers move on, regardless of party, to the May general election.

Jacksonville Cultural Council punts on Michael Boylan hire

Jacksonville City Council candidate Michael Boylan, the former CEO of WJCT, was poised until last month to become interim director of the city’s Cultural Council.

Boylan, who is just six months from an election against fellow Republican Rose Conry, noted that while it was “premature” to assume the posting was a “done deal,” he could serve in a short-term role and also still run for City Council.

“As to serving as the interim head of the Cultural Council, I first must note that board has not yet voted on my hiring, so it’s a bit premature to assume it’s a done deal,” Boylan said.

Boylan told us he was not looking for the permanent gig; he sought to “fill a temporary void.”

“I still believe I can best serve this community on the Council where I can impact policy,” Boylan added.

Indeed, it was not a done deal after all.

And now it seems he will be able to focus on his electoral run.

As WJCT reported Tuesday, the Cultural Council decided not to hire Boylan in the wake of concerns about a pattern of comments perceived as racially insensitive “microaggressions” (Folio Weekly had the primary reporting there).

The publicity of recent weeks is unwelcome for Boylan, who was already behind Conry in the fundraising race in the Southside/Mandarin district.

In the past two months, he has raised just $2,245, and has just under $41,000 on hand.

Conry, who has over $83,000 on hand, raised $7,100 in August alone.

Conry has the backing of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and the political machine of Mayor Lenny Curry, presenting further obstacles for the Boylan candidacy.

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