jacksonville city council Archives - Florida Politics

Jacksonville to expand early voting sites to University of North Florida, Edward Waters College

Activists wanted early voting at Edward Waters College and the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. And now they’ve got it.

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan confirmed such in an email to Jacksonville City Council members Monday, noting that “sites will be open to all eligible registered Duval County voters. These two additional sites will provide Duval County voters access to 20 Early Voting locations.”

“Funding for the two additional Early Voting sites will be absorbed within my currently requested budget,” Hogan noted.

This made a piece of legislation — a proposal by Councilman Garrett Dennis to allocate $30,000 to expand early voting sites to Edward Waters College and the University of North Florida — “unnecessary,” per Hogan.

Florida Atlantic University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of South Florida are all slated to host early voting before Election Day this year.

Dennis moved to withdraw the bill, noting an email from Hogan committing to open the sites.


Jacksonville homeless rights bill on pause

Monday morning, Jacksonville City Council Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety committee put the brakes on a long-tabled bill.

But it will be back.

The  Homeless Bill of Rights measure was introduced by now suspended (and federally indicted) Councilwoman Katrina Brown months back.

The bill (2018-308) contends that “the basic rights all people should enjoy must be guaranteed for homeless individuals and families,” and attempts to “assure that basic human rights are not being trampled simply because someone happens to be homeless.”

Since Brown’s sabbatical from Council began, her fellow Democrats Tommy Hazouri and Garrett Dennis were tasked with carrying the bill.

Hazouri told us ahead of the meeting that Dennis was going to rewrite the legislation, so the bill was to be pulled.

“He’s coming out with a new bill,” Hazouri urged the committee.

Currently, there is no timetable set for the new bill.

Cultural Council role won’t derail Michael Boylan’s bid for Jacksonville City Council

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

The organization helps to facilitate arts endeavors, and is funded by the City of Jacksonville as well as by numerous state government entities.

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

“For the past nine months I have served as the (volunteer) Chair of the Northeast Florida Long Term Recovery Organization without the benefit of a full time administrator which we were able to bring on in August and through it all I don’t believe my campaign efforts were compromised,” Boylan told us.

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

“In the event that it is approved, however, it will be with the understanding that it will be a part time role (20 hours/week) with a likely term of only three months, and truly in an interim capacity with no aspirations of holding that role on a long term basis,” Boylan added.

“For now it’s an opportunity to fill a significant community void as I did with NFLTRO. I still firmly believe it clear that my energy and focus will be fully on my run,” Boylan said.

Boylan is not looking for the permanent gig; he seeks to “fill a temporary void.”

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

Boylan currently is somewhat 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.

We reached out to Conry and the Cultural Council for their takes regarding an active candidate for office taking this position, but neither returned requests for comment.

Jacksonville City Council wrestles with public comment confrontations

Jacksonville City Hall had the kind of law enforcement presence Tuesday evening that is generally only seen when collective bargaining agreements are ratified.

And this was because of what happened just 13 days ago, when Council chambers were emptied in the wake of protest.

As First Coast News reported, the Chambers were emptied at the order of Council President Aaron Bowman after audience members objected to a motion to loosen public comment laws being squashed.

A chant of “No justice, no peace” broke out, and the sponsor of the motion — Democrat Garrett Dennis — said Bowman was “absolutely” to blame for the fracas.

Tuesday night saw the Council reconvene, and questions of order — though not on the agenda — were on the minds of  people throughout City Hall.

“Spillover rooms” were set up for potential scofflaws. However, for some Councilmembers, the question was one of abiding by the president’s decision. And no one was particularly interested in undermining Bowman.

Sam Newby, an ally of Bowman, noted that “this is America and people have the right to protest,” but that Bowman has the prerogative to disallow exchanges between elected officials and constituents from the dais.

Bill Gulliford noted that if a similar scene were to unfold Tuesday night it would not go “very well” for the protesters.

The scene was different Tuesday night, including “overflow rooms” for potential protesters, and approximately ten police officers in those conference rooms and even the green room space in which Councilors congregate.

During agenda meeting, Bowman noted his belief that public comment does not equate to “dialogue.”

“If I do have to clear the Chambers tonight, I’ve given control to JSO,” Bowman said during agenda. “If that happens tonight, we’re not going to open the Chambers back up.”

As the meeting began, however, there didn’t seem to be the critical mass of potential protesters.

And if there had been, enthusiasm was blunted, with discussion of a technical amendment on a bill regarding the precise size of 5G boxes to be put in city rights of way helping to remove the kind of emotion that typically drives protests from the room.

As public comment kicked off, Bowman noted that the previous iteration was “not proceeding safely,” reminding the crowd that he would not hesitate to ice the proceedings.

However, that wasn’t actually required, even as there were moments of pitched critique, especially relative to gun violence.

One speaker compared giving the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office more funding to “rewarding a dog after it tears up your house.”

“We voted you in, we will vote you out! And if you don’t aid in taking these Confederate statues down, Andrew Gillum will do it for you,” Rumsey added.

Another speaker, discussing her son who was killed last year, noted the lack of facial expression on the faces up on the dais.

And still another speaker posed a question to Bowman, asking for a poll to “close the gun show loophole” as the President of the Council.

Bowman was mute.

Ben Frazier, meanwhile, noted that Bowman didn’t “clear” the Council Chambers. Rather, people left in “protest” of the “paramilitary sham” that was the meeting two weeks prior.

“What about the voice of the people,” Frazier thundered, repeating the phrase over and over, his broadcast television training facilitating his raspy boom, until his time finally elapsed.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

Randy DeFoor retains cash lead over Sunny Gettinger in Jacksonville City Council race

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

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

As of the end of August, DeFoor had roughly $145,000 on hand between her campaign account and her Safe and Prosperous Jacksonville political committee.

The committee brought in $5,000 from real estate interests in August; another $3,250 of hard money came in, with the most interesting donor being former state Sen Mattox Hair.

DeFoor is the only serious fundraiser of the three Republicans in the field. Henry Mooneyhan has raised just over $12,000; Earl Testy raised $164.

Gettinger, meanwhile, raised $5,320 in August, with big-name donors including W.C. Gentry and Walt Bussells.

August was her weakest month of fundraising. However, she’s up to $94,000 on hand.

The other Democrat in the race, Jimmy Peluso, had just over $33,000 on hand (including July receipts). August fundraising was not available at this writing.

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan is establishment choice for re-election

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan faces a former two-term Councilman, Bill Bishop, in her re-election bid.

After one month of running an active campaign, Morgan, a Democrat representing the Arlington area, has taken the cash lead over the stalled-out operation of Bishop, who is just three years removed from drawing nearly 20 percent citywide in the Mayor’s race.

The Morgan/Bishop race is the latest piece of evidence that political prominence in Jacksonville can be an ephemeral thing.

Bishop abandoned his citywide run for an easier race earlier this year, but Morgan’s early momentum suggests that even a district race may prove daunting for his political comeback.

From the Jacksonville Jaguars and owner Shad Khan to the powerful bestbet empire and the Fraternal Order of Police, what’s clear is that the donor class backs Morgan over Bishop.

Morgan raised $15,697 and has nearly $14,500 in hand after her first month’s fundraising, which puts her over the peripatetic Bishop operation, which continues to combine slow fundraising and high recurring costs.

Bishop has just over $12,000 on hand after 11 months of fundraising, including a $700 haul in August that merely defrayed some of the costs of his campaign consulting.

Bishop and Morgan are the only two candidates in the District 1 race.

Jacksonville seeks fresh thinking after high-profile weekend killings

After a weekend bookended by high-profile mass shootings after a high-school football game and a Madden video game tournament, Jacksonville leaders are looking for solutions.

One such solution was advanced Wednesday in a meeting of City Council members and non-profit leaders: budget enhancements in the form of grants for organizations devoted to prevention and intervention.

The Mayor’s Office already devoted $50,000 to crime reduction earlier in the week; Councilman Reggie Gaffney wanted to move $300,000 into the same, to “reach out” and “partner with the faith-based community and other non-profits not receiving money from the city.”

“It’s just a drop in the bucket,” Gaffney cautioned, “but you have to start somewhere.”

Mayor Lenny Curry wants the money in the new budget, Oct. 1, Gaffney said. Gaffney gave no indication as to whether this would be one-time or recurring money.

But no matter.

Over half the Council showed up to lend support. The crowd spilled over into a second conference room.

Colleagues, including Jim LoveJoyce Morgan, and Terrance Freeman spoke in support, with Freeman noting that a lot of “mom and pop organizations” had “a huge impact with limited dollars” during the Jacksonville Journey era.

Councilman Sam Newby echoed Freeman.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer, calling the initiative “critically important,” noted that the Council had prioritized addressing violent crime in the city months ago.

“The mayor is fully behind this,” noted Council President Aaron Bowman, who wants the business community to engage.

Bowman, an officer at the Jacksonville Chamber’s business recruitment wing, is uniquely positioned to make that happen.

Myriad community members, including leaders of non-profits and churches, have yearned for city support — and ironically, a weekend of violence may lead to help for those who are “boots on the ground,” including afterschool programs.

For Gaffney, there is political provenance for this meeting. In an election with myriad challengers, reaching out to the faith community helps to blunt challengers who say he’s not doing enough.

And for the city, there may (or may not, who knows) be some surcease from the kinds of killings that are getting Jacksonville noticed again globally.

Not everyone thought the money was enough. Activist Denise Hunt said it was “appalling” that given an ever-increasing Sheriff’s Office budget, only $350,000 was being pitched.

But for those leading non-profits with needs, it was better than zero.

It will take more than money, said Councilman Bill Gulliford.

“It’s a community issue, because nothing prevents that violence from going from one area to another area. It spreads. It’s already spread,” Gulliford said.

Gaffney noted that anytime a kid is shot, the mayor calls him to talk “solutions.”

Speaking of solutions, Kids Hope Alliance head Joe Peppers noted his group, which will have a $41 million budget next year, has been involved in community discussions, and is moving toward better “merging” services with those who need them.

“We’re looking for sustainable solutions,” Peppers said, and a “collaborative spirit” — a potential challenge when there are more asks than funds available.

“We’ve got to start changing the narrative … telling the stories of our babies and you all, who are out there fighting the fight,” Peppers said.

KHA will also have $50,000 in fines and forfeiture money, and the total $400,000+ will allow “microgrants” starting at $5,000 and moving up, Peppers said.

Whether the money goes to alternative schools or church programs ultimately will be subject to future negotiations, Council President Bowman said.

“I really need measurable successes, and I will go after the business community,” Bowman said, pledging to be “unmerciful” in harvesting that money.

Meanwhile, a Jacksonville City Councilman’s wife has a concept to pitch, that was slated to come up in this meeting, but didn’t.

Dr. Ceil Pillsbury-Schellenberg observed in an email that “Jacksonville has NO comprehensive, coordinated, research-based, strategically-designed, operationally-detailed plan to stop the blood of JAX youth in our streets.”

To that end, she had a pitch: MOBLZE. And jargon to go with it.

“Moblze’s heavy lifting occurs though entrepreneurial mindset saturation—utilizing the global gold standard curriculum of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE pronounced nifty).  My City Connected, Jacksonville’s brand new high tech weapon, allows us to literally saturate our poverty-stricken areas with the entrepreneurial mindset and facilitate funding to make ideas blossom into family-supporting revenue streams for the entrepreneurs who emerge.  For the first time in history, we can scientifically tell you, in advance, who they are likely to be so we can make efficient use of scarce resources,” Pillsbury-Schellenberg asserted.

“Success in the fight against poverty has to come from people of color challenging themselves to reach the potential within.   Black politicians and pastors can only do that to a certain extent because they have to rely on others for their livelihood and watch what they say,” Pillsbury-Schellenberg related.

She was unable to pitch her idea at the meeting, which was regrettable, as she may have gotten interesting responses from those in the room.

Court throws out Jacksonville City Council special election challenge

David Taylor, a former Jacksonville City Council Republican candidate who has not been immune to controversy over the years, saw his lawsuit against the Duval County Supervisor of Elections thrown out Tuesday by Judge Robert M. Foster.

Taylor’s charge: The special election in District 12 was not publicly announced in a publication of record. The only qualified candidate, Republican Randy White, won without opposition.

Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel framed the decision to throw the case out as a victory for consolidated government.

“In summary, the plaintiff, David Taylor, sought to invalidate the special election because he claims he was not provided notice of the qualifying period established by the City Council.  In misapplying state statute, Mr. Taylor argued that the Supervisor of Elections was required to publish notice of the election in the newspaper because there is a requirement for such notice to occur in special elections called by the Governor and Florida Secretary of State,” Gabriel asserted Tuesday.

“The complete dismissal of Mr. Taylor’s complaint is significant because the Court reviewed the requirements necessary to set a local special election for Council vacancies and acknowledged all of our arguments that it is the City Charter and local Ordinance Code that dictate the requirements of the special local election, and such were followed,” Gabriel added.

Indeed, in a seven-page decision, the court repeatedly struck down Taylor’s petitions for relief, effectively saying that even if there were a legitimate petition for redress, it couldn’t be provided in a timely way.

White had filed as the only candidate for the 2019 race before incumbent Doyle Carter filed a resignation letter and had a head start with $86,000 (and political consultant Tim Baker) on his side. Qualifying for the 2019 race is Jan. 7 through 11, and Taylor hasn’t opened a campaign account for it.

The Florida Constitution offers scant guidance in Section 100.501 regarding local special elections: “County commissioners or the governing authority of a municipality shall not call any special election until notice is given to the Supervisor of Elections and his or her consent obtained as to a date when the registration books can be available.”

That happened in this case, with the Jacksonville City Council approving legislation to authorize the special election on the 2019 ballot.

This was Election Supervisor Mike Hogan‘s take last month: “The City Charter controls Municipal Elections — no requirement for Public Notice in the Charter. Was noticed by City Council and on our website.”

The charter does not require published notice, and SOE and the Council did notice the vacancy and the process.

Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel, when the suit was filed, was “confident that the City’s special election set in the upcoming election complies with all applicable laws.

Taylor’s lawsuit asserted that state statute 100.141 prevails, however, requiring notice published twice within 10 days in a paper of record at least 10 days prior to qualifying. He contended that Hogan broke the law because no notice was published.

“No one that lived in District 12 knew there was going to be an election,” Taylor said in July, even as two candidates filed (though one, Sharol Noblejas, did not qualify). “If you’re in some inner circle … that’s great. But the law is the law, and it requires posting in a newspaper of general circulation.”

Taylor later added that those candidates had insider knowledge and that when he called the SOE for guidance on qualifying, he was told to call back. (He did not record those attempts in emails, he said).

Taylor erroneously noted that the legislation was on no Council agenda. Indeed, it was passed on a one-cycle emergency, which would have necessarily been added to the agenda, but Taylor stopped short of advocating a remedy of ending emergency legislation altogether.

Taylor asserted in July that city ordinance on special elections requires that, if language is “void or vague,” then state statute that he cited shall prevail; his attorney, former Duval Democratic Party chair Neil Henrichsen, later told us the arguments were supported by Jacksonville Ordinance Code Sec. 350.103(b)(3) and Fla. Stat. Sec.100.3605.

In July, Taylor did not indicate interest in the 2019 election, saying that the special election should have been “properly noticed” and that officials should “comply with the law.”

In an irony of sorts, Judge Foster — retiring in a few months — is ensnared in an election challenge regarding his seat, which Gov. Scott seeks to fill by appointment, while a Jacksonville lawyer says it should be on the ballot.

The 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Scott in July and the case is headed to the Florida Supreme Court.

Taylor offered a statement that equated the court decision with “communism.”

“This isn’t right. We may have to bring city council in as a defendant and/or appeal but that’s to be decided. It’s not democratic or American for a SOE/Hogan to whisper to one man when qualifying is and intentionally withhold same said information from everyone else. We know that’s what SOE did because every other election/special election has been noticed in the paper consistent with state election law except this one,” Taylor asserted.

“This was the SOE trying to hand deliver his longtime political ally, Randy White, the job. It stinks, especially since Randy White’s wife works at the SOE’s office as the SOE’s assistant.  White has been SOE’s biggest supporter for over 10 different elections over several decades. SOE was trying to repay White but went too far,” Taylor added.

“Worse case scenario White will be city councilman for less than a year, because the next election is March 19. No one in District 12 will vote for White after learning his involvement in this conspiracy to defraud the voters of a choice, which is exactly what they did. Equivalent to communism,” Taylor concluded

Tuesday hearing cancelled in case of Jacksonville City Councilman Terrance Freeman’s disputed residency

Though Jacksonville City Councilman Terrance Freeman continues to function on the local elected body, the legal dispute over whether he lived in District 10 when he became a member of the council lingers on.

On Tuesday, Judge Waddell Wallace was to hear from lawyers for Brenda Priestly-Jackson, a Democrat who was passed over for the appointment to the position by Gov. Rick Scott.

However, that hearing was cancelled due to discovery not being complete, and Wallace’s aide asserted that the hearing may be rescheduled or an order may be issued resolving the case.

Plaintiff lawyers sought to expedite public records requests that they contend have been stalled out by the Governor’s office, in addition to obtaining a temporary injunction in the case.

Defendants’ lawyers, which include attorneys for the state of Florida, the city of Jacksonville, and Freeman himself, contend that the case should be thrown out of court.

In a memo earlier this month, Freeman’s attorneys contended, as they did in a hearing earlier this month, that there was no basis for the legal challenge. At the time he was sworn in on July 12, they contend, Freeman had established residency.

The plaintiff asserts the operative date is July 10, when Scott announced the appointment; this contention is rejected by the defense.

The Governor’s Office likewise contends that it has latitude to appoint that can’t be impeded by interpretations of local charter advanced by plaintiffs’ lawyers, that the court lacks jurisdiction, and that there is no remedy available to the plaintiff by legal action.

The city of Jacksonville, granted its motion to intervene, likewise contends that the case should be thrown out.

Even if the case proceeds, it may ultimately be for naught. One potential cure, per Judge Waddell, could be for the Governor to simply re-appoint Freeman.

Jacksonville City Council panel to investigate short-term rentals issue

Unlike the majority of Florida counties, Duval County has yet to figure out a way forward regarding regulation of short-term rentals.

Zoning doesn’t accommodate them currently, and as a result, Jacksonville is missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue.

A Jacksonville City Council committee looks to change that with findings due by the end of April.

Rolled out this week, the Special Committee on Short-Term Vacation Rentals is charged with making “recommendations on the City’s zoning and other laws to determine whether there are limitations on the ability of short-term vacation rental uses to operate in the City and to ensure their compatibility with other adjacent or nearby uses if they were allowed.”

As well, the committee will look at issues of taxation, regulation, and “leasing strategies” used to circumvent long-term leases.

Danny Becton. is leading the committee. He will be joined on the panel by newly appointed Ju’Coby Pittman and second-termer Jim Love.

Of the three, Love is the only one with on-the-record comments on short-term rentals thus far.

“Maybe it would be better to forgive them and collect the money,” said Love, calling the matter a “sticky wicket” in his district, which includes touristy areas in Riverside and Avondale.

Jacksonville’s code has struggled to keep up with certain aspects of the 21st-century economy.

The city has a similar stalemate on vehicles for hire that has lasted years through a fragmented special committee paralyzed into inertia by competing advocates for Uber/Lyft and traditional cabs.

The city continues to suspend medallion fees for vehicles, and suffers fiscal loss, according to the bill summary for the latest extension of the medallion-fee moratorium: “Revenue loss from medallion renewals payments and late fees; when the moratorium was enacted in December 2015 there were 1,146 vehicle-for-hire medallions renewable at a cost of $100 per year; the late renewal fee is $10 per month after the deadline.”

The math on that, just as is the case with short-term rental collections, runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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