Jacksonville – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Jacksonville Bold for 6.1.18 — Signs and symbols

The literary field of semiotics, as articulated by French theorist Ferdinand de Saussure, boils down to a relationship between signs and their intended meaning.

The ultimate meaning of those signs is not fixed; rather, it moves with cultural interpretation.

As we find ourselves now less than three months before primary elections for the 2018 ballot, we will be inundated with signs — the symbolism of politicians either as square-jawed unstinting incumbents fighting the people’s battles, or hard-charging challengers devoted to storming the palace gates, animated by some quasi-populist crusade.

The local landscape in 2018 has its own wrinkles. A former Jacksonville mayor running to take Corrine Brown’s seat back in Congress, part of a group of Democratic primaries on the August ballot. A compelling GOP primary race to succeed Jay Fant in the State House (even as Democrat Tracye Polson presents a challenge in the general).

And so on.

What ultimately engages the mainstream media? Hard to say. The mechanics of politics doesn’t lead local TV, and the Times-Union is moving increasingly toward long-form investigations, as opposed to quick-hit coverage.

An ever-changing media landscape — and what it may (or may not) prioritize — dictates a certain randomness to which narratives will or won’t prevail.

In that context, an old lesson applies: Win every news cycle. Define the contest before it defines you.

Nelson spotlights Vilano renourishment

Sen. Bill Nelson visited Vilano Beach this week, spotlighting coastline restoration efforts as storm season begins.

Bill Nelson visits Vilano Beach to highlight beach nourishment efforts.

Per WJXT: “With the St. Johns County Coastal Storm Risk Management Project finally on the path to being approved, Nelson met Tuesday with Col. Jason Kirk, with Corps, and county leaders to talk about the project, and what’s being done to restore the county’s beaches.”

“The entire east coast of Florida, after we had Hurricane Matthew two years ago, it chewed up the beach like you can’t believe,” Nelson said.

“The property values are going to come back,” Nelson said. “You ask the question, ‘What you can do if you’re a homeowner?’ If you’ve got a dune, keep vegetation on that dune because the sand dunes are Mother Nature’s way of protecting the upland land.”

“The goal is to finish all this out about another mile south and then north of the St. Augustine Inlet,” Nelson said. “Vilano Beach, get that 3½ miles complete, and then they will be in pretty good shape here in St. Johns County.”

Jax Councilmembers hit with federal fraud indictment

Jacksonville hasn’t dealt with a politician’s fraud trial in roughly a year. Perhaps the city was overdue.

61-page indictment dropped in federal court Thursday for Jacksonville City Council members, Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown.

Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown. (Image via News4Jax)

Their first appearance was Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Alleged: a conspiracy to defraud, spread out over 38 counts.

In 2013 and 2014, Katrina Brown opened two companies — A-Plus Training and Consultants and RB Packaging — listing Reggie Brown as the principal.

According to the indictment, the companies were used solely as instruments of fraud, as attempts to siphon government money intended for economic development plans regarding a BBQ Sauce Plant that never appeared seriously meant to come to fruition.

Reggie Brown opened up bank accounts for the companies at a BBVA Compass location soon after forming the entities.

Before this, Reggie Brown — who was serving on the Council at that point — voted yes for what would be a fateful decision in 2011: to appropriate $640,000 for KJB Specialties, a Katrina Brown company, to create 56 jobs at a BBQ sauce plant in Northwest Jacksonville.

Those jobs, as reported previously, were never created — and both the federal government (on the hook for a $2.6 million SBA loan) and locals are still searching for their money back.

By the time Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown went into business together, the barbecue sauce plan was failing. And soon enough, per the indictment, malfeasance began.

Around the end of 2013, A-Plus Training was, the indictment says, used to funnel $12,500 in SBA loan funds, setting up a pattern. In 2014, $251,919 of those funds processed, with Basic Products and Katrina Brown getting over $166,000 of them, and Reggie Brown getting the remainder, prosecutors allege.

[Katrina Brown was elected to Council in 2015; Reggie Brown elected in 2010. However, some of this money went to Katrina Brown’s political activities, including a $3,500 loan from her campaign, and donations for former Mayor Alvin Brown and the Duval Democratic Party.]

The conspiracy boils down to Katrina and Reggie Brown secreting SBA money, with both Councilors engaging in fraud.

Cops snub Brown, back Lawson

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson’s re-election campaign rolled out local police union support in his primary challenge from Brown, a former Jacksonville mayor.

Al Lawson: Cops’ choice for Congress.

For Brown, this must feel like déjà vu.

Brown didn’t secure the FOP endorsement in 2011; that went to Mike Hogan.

In 2015, the FOP backed Lenny Curry over Brown: “In addition to demonstrating leadership and vision for restoring Jacksonville’s greatness, he has committed to fully support law enforcement and community leaders in their effort to eliminate crime by ensuring they have access to every resource necessary to fight crime … We are confident that the election of Mr. Curry will be Jacksonville’s best chance to help our members keep our citizens safe and move our city in a positive direction.”

While it came out sometime later that Curry had given the union assurances that he would protect defined benefit pensions, a factor not mentioned in the endorsement, the FOP nod conferred momentum upon the Republican’s challenge of the incumbent mayor.

Meanwhile, the state FOP endorsed Lawson in his race against former Rep. Corrine Brown in 2016, and there clearly was no reason for the union to deviate from established protocol this time.

Brown to get raise if elected to Congress

At last count, a member of Congress makes $174,000 per annum.

Former Mayor Brown, a current candidate for the primary nomination in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, would stand to receive a serious pay raise in 2019 if he wins the nomination and is elected, per his financial disclosure form.

Alvin Brown has made less than $10,000 this year, per his disclosure form. (Image via Facebook)

Brown has made minimal income in 2018, and 2017 also was a lean year.

In 2018, Brown brought in less than $400 in interest income, and $8,250 in consulting fees ($750 from the Westside Church of God in Christ, $7,500 from Gray Global Advisors).

2017, a pre-candidacy year for Brown, was financially healthier, with more honorarium and consulting cash.

Gray paid him $45,000; additionally, $13,000 in honorariums were paid out (Merck, Sharp and Dohme Credit Union was in for $10,000; Alliance of NC Black Elected Officials for $1,500 and Shiloh Baptist Church for another $1,500).

Incumbent Lawson has not filed a 2018 disclosure; however, 2016 paperwork showed Lawson, a busy lobbyist, raked in over $200,000 in 2015 and roughly $75,000 through the first part of 2016. He also had rental properties and a mortgage that was near being paid off at the filing of his previous disclosure.

A recurrent Lawson talking point has been that Brown “failed as mayor and a lot of people in Duval are saying he’s just looking for a job” by running for Congress.

Brown’s financial disclosure does not show truly steady work since he left office nearly three years ago, suggesting that Lawson’s verbal jab may have some truth to it.

Lawson works Jax Dems at town hall

U.S. Rep. Lawson was in Jacksonville Tuesday for a town hall, as he looks to repel a challenge in the Democratic primary from another moderate who hasn’t been afraid to blur party lines in former Mayor Brown.

The question for Lawson this campaign: Can he parlay incumbency and a primary opponent who has myriad flaws into consolidating support on the eastern side of the district?

The answer is, as yet, unanswered.

Al Lawson is still consolidating Jacksonville support ahead of his first re-election bid.

Lawson spoke a lot about bipartisanship, noting that after Hurricane Irma, he worked to “convince” House Speaker Paul Ryan of the need for FEMA reimbursements, while working well with Rep. John Rutherford and Mayor Curry.

Lawson noted that on hurricane relief and efforts to fix problematic Eureka Gardens, working across the aisle is key.

Unlike any other politician in this market today, Lawson expressed interest in crossing party lines repeatedly during the event.

Lawson was asked about a claim from 538.com regarding his voting with President Donald Trump more often than some might like: “If it’s good legislation, doesn’t make a difference if it comes from Trump or anybody. If it benefits this area, I support it.”

“The man is the president of the United States,” Lawson added, noting that he finds it perplexing when people castigate him for not voting with the Congressional Black Caucus on every roll call vote.

“Nobody in the Black Caucus voted for me. That’s why I don’t understand when people say [I] don’t vote with the Black Caucus,” Lawson said, noting that he votes for what his district wants.

In an activist year, as a candidate from the other side of the district, it’s interesting to hear Lawson pitching collaboration and cooperation.

Jax elite fall in behind Waltz for Congress

Rutherford and Curry were “honorary hosts” for a fundraiser for Florida’s 6th Congressional District Republican Mike Waltz Wednesday.

If Mike Waltz is elected to Congress, CD 6 will continue to have representation on Fox News.

The fundraiser, held at the home of JEA Board member Husein Cumber and City Council hopeful LeAnna Cumber, featured a number of interesting names on the host committee.

Among the luminaries: Jeb Bush, Jr; former Duval GOP Chair John Falconetti; power broker Michael Munz; and Total Military Management’s Kent Stermon.

Waltz is one of three Republicans vying to replace DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, a south-of-Jacksonville sinecure hugging the Atlantic coast in St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties.

The GOP race in CD-6, where candidates vie to replace outgoing Rep. DeSantis, has been an interesting one, with Waltz and John Ward both raising serious money for what will be an expensive primary straddling three media markets (Jacksonville, Daytona and Orlando).

Despite his ability to bring in money, Ward had a catastrophic news cycle last week, with comments he made at an April forum saying that Puerto Ricans shouldn’t vote in Florida drawing scrutiny and condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Gibson pushes back against rumors of divided Dem caucus

Florida Politics caught up with Jacksonville’s Audrey Gibson, as the incoming Senate Democratic Leader negotiates a restive caucus and a primary challenge from City Councilman Reggie Brown.

Audrey Gibson messaging about “Rick’s recession” before Memorial Day.

Thus far, 2018 has been interesting in ways that could not have been forecast less than a year ago, before Gibson replaced scandal-plagued Jeff Clemens.

As we reported last week, Democratic campaign consultants and other insiders see the creation of two recently formed political committees and associated fundraising as an indirect challenge to the Gibson’s leadership.

But she was quick to tamp down any rumors of discord that could challenge her leadership.

“I’ve called every single member of the caucus,” Gibson said. “Before the article came out, I had a couple of calls from some lobbyists who said ‘Hey, what’s going on?’”

hat was the first she had heard of it. Soon after, she made calls to her Democratic colleagues.

“After the article came out, just to, first of all, say ‘remember, our goal is to win in November.’ Because my understanding was some of it was about who the next leader would be.”

Gibson has a message to colleagues: “Let’s get the job done in November. And, everyone get to know each other.”

“The response I got, was ‘we’re all heading in the same direction. We just thought we’d form these entities to try to bring in more money.’”

Gibson told them it would be “good if we could do that in a coordinated way.”

“I hear what you all are saying,” she recounted, “but in public, it looks divisive. Make sure we rein in that because we’re all heading in the same direction.”

She continues to work on behalf of the caucus.

“It’s not a reflection of me not working, me not bringing the caucus together,” she said. “Ever since I was elected, I’ve done meetings and get acquainted stuff and balloons and all those types of things to bring people together.”

Gibson wants security at HUD complexes

Per WJCT, Sen. Gibson sent a letter to Congressman Lawson and Sen. Nelson asking the two to “sponsor legislation mandating HUD negotiate in housing contracts that affordable housing complexes located in high-crime areas provide security or that the policy be created as a rule within the agency.”

Audrey Gibson turned her attention to HUD properties this week.

Gibson, speaking at Eureka Gardens apartment complex, had some criticism for the new ownership making promises it couldn’t deliver on the facility rehab.

“I understand there’s anxiousness to do it all at one time and they should never have promised the residents that it would happen that way, but I think there should be some system of determining which apartments are in, if you will, priority disrepair and then make sure they’re communicating with all the other residents in the community,” she said.

Curry critics critique courthouse jazz fest stage

Jacksonville held another well-attended iteration of its yearly jazz festival over Memorial Day weekend, but critiques of a scheduling decision came from several local politicians.

City decision makers did not use the Jacksonville Landing as a location for a festival stage, in a move not altogether surprising given the continued legal back and forth between the city and Landing tenant Toney Sleiman.

Pols kvetched as crowds flooded the courthouse lawn.

Sleiman, a prominent political donor, set up an oppositional relationship with the Curry administration even before Curry was elected (by appearing in an ad for Curry’s 2015 opponent, then-incumbent Brown, concomitant with a Brown/Sleiman proposal to spend nearly $12 million on a teardown and rebuild plan for the declining Landing).

Since Curry’s election, the administration and Sleiman have not been able to agree on terms, and the city currently is moving to take possession of the waterfront mall from Sleiman, with each side claiming breach of contractual obligations.

While the back and forth continues in legal channels, politicians opposed to Lenny Curry used the move of a performance stage from the Landing to the “iconic” backdrop of the Duval County Courthouse as a launchpad pad for more holistic critiques.

Read more here.

Gaffney, peacemaker?

Per WJXT: Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney seeks to broker a peace between Curry and Jacksonville Landing tenant Sleiman.

Peace in our time? Reggie Gaffney thinks he can get it done.

“I am going to make one last attempt to try to bring them both together, see if I (can) get both of them in the same room,” Gaffney told News4Jax. “We can iron out whatever problems they may be having so we can move the Landing forward because nobody wins right now.”

There’s one consideration worth mentioning: Sleiman is bankrolling Gaffney’s re-election bid.

The Curry administration and Gaffney have a solid relationship. But is Gaffney really the person to broker a peace here?

KEYS 2 Drive rolled out

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and State Attorney Melissa Nelson Wednesday rolled out the ‘KEYS 2 Drive’ (Knowledge Empowers Your Success) diversion program.

Mike Williams, Melissa Nelson has struck a conservative reformer path. (Image via Jacksonville.com)

The program will help those facing primary charges of driving without valid driver’s licenses, or suspended or revoked licenses, to get them reinstated.

Of the 12,000 people faced with that fate last year, estimates are that half of that number — at least — could have been helped by this program.

For Nelson, a proponent of “smart justice,” this program is a potential reprieve for many from “the cycle of license suspension … ballooning of fines and fees” and a “costly and complicated” process of license restoration.

Eligible offenses include misdemeanor driving while license is suspended or revoked, expired or otherwise invalid, or driving outside of classification.

Sex offenders are ineligible for the program, as are non-Florida residents and those with licenses suspended in major criminal traffic offenses.

JEA privatization bills pulled

Jacksonville City Councilmen Jim Love and Matt Schellenberg, both second-term Republicans, had expressed different visions for the future of Jacksonville’s public utility.

Schellenberg’s 2018-242 would encourage the Mayor and the JEA Board to explore a review of a potential sale; Love’s 2018-248 would represent Council opposition to a sale.

Both bills will not see the Council floor, after a Wednesday meeting in which both agreed to pull their bills.

Though Curry has clarified some confusion in his position, saying that he wouldn’t push legislation at this point in favor of a sale, the question is not considered closed by close observers of and participants in the City Hall scrum, despite a recent Moody’s FAQ on the under-construction Plant Vogtle asserting that “the potential to privatize was recently studied by the Mayor and City Council and rejected.”

Love and Schellenberg congregated Wednesday with a group of Councilors, including President Anna Brosche, former President Greg Anderson, Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, and Councilman Gaffney to solve the problem of legislation currently without a purpose.

Love noted the landscape has changed “radically” in relation to JEA, given a special committee and the lack of mayoral initiative on a privatization plan, as well as no board decision in favor of reviewing the option further.

Mind games continue between Curry, Dennis

Though the Jacksonville City Council is on its “fifth week,” a sanctioned break from committee meetings, the intrigue continues in the St. James Building.

On Tuesday, Curry met with a candidate for the legislative body: Marcellus Holmes.

Marcellus Holmes may be Garrett Dennis’ competition next year.

Holmes, a former professional football player, didn’t hone into specific policy proposals when we interviewed him in April.

If elected, he will be “bringing the community together” to “meet the needs of every community” and “get every issue solved.”

Lack of specifics notwithstanding, Holmes scored a Tuesday meeting with Curry.

On Wednesday, Florida Politics caught up with Dennis, who was amused by the meeting.

Dennis has been meeting with potential 2019 candidates for Mayor; he would not specify whether those candidates were in the current field, which includes Republican Jimmy Hill, Democrat Doreszell Cohen and NPA hopeful Connell Crooms.

Dennis, as of this writing, has not filed for re-election.

Discussion has lingered for months about the vehicle Curry’s political machine could use to exact revenge on Dennis, who has stood athwart many of the administration’s initiatives.

Perhaps the meeting is an augury of meaningful support to come.

Clay opioid raid yields no opioids

Per The Appeal: “Sheriff Darryl Daniels of Clay County … is positioning himself as a social media celebrity in the ongoing war on opioids. In January, Daniels’s office filmed the aftermath of a SWAT raid that he and masked officers carried out on a so-called narcotics house on a tree-lined suburban street in Orange Park … The video documenting the raid — in what the sheriff dubbed ‘Operation: You Were Warned’ — went viral, garnering 30,000 shares and 3.4 million views on Facebook.”

Could a Clay County drug bust have been little more than theater?

Sounds good! But …

“Despite the sheriff’s announcement, the ‘raid’ resulted in only five adult arrests and one juvenile arrest, according to Elaine Brown, a lead records specialist at the sheriff’s office. According to police records reviewed by The Appeal, the drug seizures from this ‘narcotics house’ were fairly small scale and did not include opioids. In an email to The Appeal, Sgt. Keith Smith, an office spokesman, clarified that during the raid, narcotics deputies found what they believed to be 1.2 grams of heroin and fentanyl after an initial field test, but subsequent tests revealed the seizure was not a controlled substance.”

The Clay Sheriff’s Office did find weed though.

Read more here.

Solar boom for JEA

Finally, some utility news that doesn’t read like a rejected plot of “House of Cards.”

(Photo via Florida Times-Union)

The Florida Times-Union reports that JEA “plans to team up with a private company for construction of five solar farms through 2020 that will collectively produce as much electricity as a small natural gas plant, turning JEA from a below-average utility in terms of solar power to a utility that is well above average for Florida, according to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.”

“Smaller utilities like Beaches Energy, which is owned by Jacksonville Beach and also serves Neptune Beach and Ponte Vedra, likewise are getting into the game. This month, Beaches Energy joined forces with 11 other municipal utilities to announce plans for 900,000 solar panels at three solar farms in Orange and Osceola counties. They would produce 223 megawatts by 2020,” adds the T-U report.

YMCA breaks ground on Jacksonville expansion

Northwest Jacksonville’s James Weldon Johnson YMCA has broken ground on a new expansion, reports WJCT. Among the renovations include an updated wellness facility, a new swimming pool, and doubling the teen program capacity with a new teen center.

Now serving around 30 to 40 teens daily, the completed center will increase that number to 100.

Rendering of a new common area for the James Weldon Johnson YMCA expansion, which program this week.

First Coast YMCA Social Responsibility VP and Johnson YMCA Executive Director Irvin Cohen tells WJCT: “We really, in this community, didn’t have a place where young people who were not athletically inclined could go. You either went to after-school programs after the school — which were primarily sports-related — [or] until nothing.”

Nearly all the $3.5 million for the project’s construction costs were through private donations. About 10 percent came from state funding; Cohen said it will cover programming costs.

“We all know in communities like this the consequences of idle hands can be deadly to say the very least,” Cohen added.

Local tie to NHL title hunt

Jacksonville is not known as Hockey Town, but the chair of a local company is just a few wins away from an NHL title via his ownership of a franchise.

Bill Foley, chairman of Fidelity National Financial, owns the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

Bill Foley, the owner of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, has a Jacksonville connection. (Photo via Jacksonville Daily Record)

The Jacksonville Daily Record profiled him this week.

Foley expected a playoff team in three years, a title team in six — not a title run in the first season, he said.

Foley, 73 now, is dialing back his Duval business ties.

“He remains chairman of Fidelity’s board and is executive chairman of Black Knight Inc., the Jacksonville-based mortgage technology company spun off from Fidelity. But he said he will likely give up the executive chairman role at Black Knight, which carries more responsibility than chairman of the board of directors,” the Record reports.

Jacksonville Zoo extends popular dinosaur exhibit

“Dinosauria,” the popular dinosaur exhibit at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, will extend through Sept. 22. Beginning March 2, the program was originally slated to end July 2.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, Imagine Exhibitions provided the dinosaurs, the first time that the company created a zoo installation. Previously, they were supplied by Billings Productions.

“The dinosaurs were just going into storage until their next exhibit,” zoo director Tony Vecchio told the Journal. “So, I asked if they could stay here. We’ve never had dinosaurs in the summer, and if we paid full price for them it wouldn’t be viable, but the fact they were just going into storage, the company was happy to do it at a discount.”

The popular “Dinosauria” at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, will extend through Sept. 22.

Initially, the exhibit was expected to help boost attendance during the zoo’s slow months – July and August – as a relatively inexpensive program. The 21 life-size animatronic dinosaurs in “Dinosauria,” Vecchio said, are larger and electrically powered, with smoother hydraulic motions than previous versions.

After its success, zoo officials decided to extend the project. The exhibit will now run through September and costs an additional $4 for the public and $3 for Zoo members.

Also returning is another popular program, called “92 at the Zoo,” offering half-price admission on select days when weather forecast but the temperature above 92 degrees.

Critics aside, coach likes where Bortles is headed

Despite a huge season that had the Jaguars only 5 minutes away from the Super Bowl, there are still those that want to complain. The biggest target of those complaints usually shows up on the back of quarterback Blake Bortles.

Blake Bortles has his coaches’ backing.

He certainly had his difficulties but improved overall from last season. During the playoff games against Pittsburgh and New England, he bordered on spectacular.

That only quieted some of the critics, but the fifth-year veteran from Central Florida is earning the praise of someone important. His offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, believes “the sky’s the limit” when describing the offensive production capabilities of his signal caller.

“The one thing that was consistent throughout the whole [2017 season] was Blake, and Blake getting better and better,” Hackett said Tuesday after offseason OTA (Organized Team Activities) Practice No. 4. “If he keeps progressing on that upward hill, good things are going to happen.”

Jacksonville is favored to win their second straight AFC South title for good reason. No one in the AFC gave up fewer points than the Jaguars and this year’s draft only made the defensive unit even stronger.

If Bortles and his supporting cast on offense can produce points like they did at the end of last season, there is every reason to believe they can take the next step. Hackett is seeing a quarterback that is beginning to understand how to be successful.

“I want Blake to play football,” Hackett said. “There have been so many times he’s gone out there and he hasn’t been able to just go out there and play, and really think about beating a defense. As the [2017] season went on, I think that’s where he went.”

Connell Crooms doubles down on ‘racist bully’ claim against Lenny Curry

Jacksonville mayoral candidate Connell Crooms, running without party affiliation, got some coverage this week for calling incumbent Mayor Lenny Curry a “racist bully.”

“It seems for the sake of professional decorum, the people of color on city council are too afraid to say what black people in Jacksonville have long been saying: Lenny Curry is a racist bully,” Crooms asserted on Facebook last weekend, adding that the first-term Republican incumbent has “bullied the people of color on city council to pass what he wants often at the expense of black citizens and working people.”

Thursday, on First Coast Connect, a morning call-in show on WJCT, Crooms cited Curry’s “long record of treating people of color on City Council with strong-arm tactics.”

These tactics, Crooms said, aren’t used on white Council members, but are reserved for Garrett Dennis and Anna Brosche.

Crooms also charged Curry with “upholding the racist policies of President Donald Trump.” 

Crooms, when asked why he was running by host Melissa Ross, noted that America is headed toward “fascism.”

He is driven to run by many issues, including police accountability, stronger unions, and boosting the minimum wage.

“The campaign has started off on a hot streak, and continues on a hot streak,” Crooms said, saying he was the “most visible candidate in the race” and believes he can take a majority against the well-funded mayor in the first election despite a crowded field.

“I would hate to have to run this race in a runoff again,” Crooms said.

Crooms became known to Jacksonville residents in the wake of a protest that went awry in Hemming Park last April.

Crooms, who is deaf (and an activist for the deaf), ended up being beaten into unconsciousness by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers at that protest as a result of Snow’s actions. He was one of five protesters arrested; charges were dropped in June, with community sentiment on the side of Crooms and the rest of the Jax 5 protest contingent.

Crooms joins a growing field of candidates against Curry, who has banked nearly $2 million for his campaign.

Jacksonville City Councilors will pull competing JEA privatization resolutions

Jacksonville City Councilmen Jim Love and Matt Schellenberg, both second term Republicans, had expressed different visions for the future of Jacksonville’s public utility.

Schellenberg’s 2018-242 would encourage the Mayor and the JEA Board to explore a review of a potential sale; Love’s 2018-248 would represent Council opposition to a sale.

Both bills will not see the Council floor, after a Wednesday meeting in which both agreed to pull their bills.

Though Mayor Lenny Curry has clarified some confusion in his position, saying that he wouldn’t push legislation at this point in favor of a sale, the question is not considered closed by close observers of and participants in the City Hall scrum, despite a recent Moody’s FAQ on the under-construction Plant Vogtle asserting that “the potential to privatize was recently studied by the Mayor and City Council and rejected.”

Love and Schellenberg congregated Wednesday with a group of Councilors, including President Anna Brosche, former President Greg Anderson, Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, and Councilman Reggie Gaffney to solve the problem of legislation currently without a purpose.

Love noted the landscape has changed “radically” in relation to JEA, given a special committee and the lack of mayoral initiative on a privatization plan, as well as no board decision in favor of reviewing the option further.

As well, two valuation reports — one from the Civic Council and one from the University of Florida — are on the way.

Love proposed pulling these bills until JEA reports are completed and a new CEO is hired, and Schellenberg agreed.

The current Council has just 13 months left, and Love and Schellenberg likely will be off the legislative body by the time all of these conditions are resolved.

Jacksonville courthouse stage for jazz festival draws heated criticism from pols

Jacksonville held another iteration of its yearly jazz festival over Memorial Day weekend, but a number of local politicians critiqued a scheduling decision for the well-attended event.

City decision makers did not use the Jacksonville Landing as a location for a festival stage; a move not altogether surprising given the continued legal back and forth between the city and Landing tenant Toney Sleiman.

Sleiman, a prominent political donor, set up an oppositional relationship with the Lenny Curry administration even before Curry was elected (by appearing in an ad for Curry’s 2015 opponent, then-incumbent Alvin Brown, concomitant with a Brown/Sleiman proposal to spend nearly $12 million on a teardown and rebuild plan for the declining Landing).

Since Curry’s election, the administration and Sleiman have not been able to agree on terms, and the city currently is moving to take possession of the waterfront mall from Sleiman, with each side claiming breach of contractual obligations.

While the back and forth continues in legal channels, politicians opposed to Lenny Curry used the move of a performance stage from the Landing to the “iconic” backdrop of the Duval County Courthouse as a launchpad for more holistic critiques.

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, a frequent Curry critic, took to Twitter to castigate the move, saying that his “community” did not see the courthouse as “iconic or welcoming,” but symbolic of oppression and injustice.

“Not surprising that Mayor Curry is playing politics once again. Last year, one of the Jazz Fest stages was at The Landing. Due to a personal vendetta, the Mayor has relocated the stage from The Landing (on the river) to the front lawn of the “iconic” courthouse,” Dennis tweeted. “In case he doesn’t know, my community doesn’t believe the courthouse is either iconic or welcoming. In fact, it’s a place that symbolizes struggle and injustice. Not to mention, the city will pay to restore the lawn after the Jazz Fest is over. Smooth (jazz) move, Mr. Mayor.”

Connell Crooms, one of a number of candidates vying to replace Curry in 2019, took to Facebook to call Curry a “racist bully” over the move.

“It seems for the sake of professional decorum, the people of color on city council are too afraid to say what black people in Jacksonville have long been saying: Lenny Curry is a racist bully,” Crooms asserted.

Crooms’ support for his claim includes citing the mayor as an “avid and unapologetic Trump supporter” who “brought Trump to Jacksonville not once but TWICE and has never criticized the president’s racist policies.”

“Curry used black entertainment (Jazz Festival) as a pawn in his personal spat with the tenants at the Landing, moving the stage to the courthouse billing it as an ‘iconic’ backdrop,” Crooms charged, saying that the incumbent has “bullied the people of color on city council to pass what he wants often at the expense of black citizens and working people.”

(Worth noting: Sleiman’s Jacksonville Landing staged the city’s first Trump rally in 2015, with Sleiman then serving as victory chairman for Trump’s local campaign, vowing to put Trump signs in “every shopping center” he owned.)

“Curry is a racist bully. In a city that’s over 30 percent black, we’re voting him out next year,” Crooms said. “Celebrate that.”

Diallo-Sekou Seabrooks, running to replace Katrina Brown on the City Council, lauded Dennis for speaking out.

“Glad to one city official mention the stage and courthouse. The rest will sit and say no big deal. Like the most of the public,” Seabrooks observed, adding that “some will excuse the oppressive manner it represents. Ignore the many protest[s] held on its lawn. Ignore the many wrongly accused. [In] my mind there is more wrong than good taking place in there!”

We are reaching out to the Curry administration for comment on these claims. Check back for updates.

Underdog Chris King vows to compete for Northeast Florida votes

Chris King, an entrepreneur from Orlando running for Governort, returned to Jacksonville Thursday, his second straight day in Northeast Florida.

Florida Politics caught up with the Democrat ahead of his closed press visit to a church in the Springfield neighborhood, where the progressive political neophyte pitched his policy positions to faith leaders from the region.

King, who has television ads airing in the area, has been canvassing the state with his “Turning the Tide” tour, a push for criminal justice reform that includes opposition to mass incarceration, the death penalty, and private prisons; advocacy of cannabis legalization; voting rights restoration; and “ending the school-to-prison pipeline.”

His final stop on that 11-day “criminal justice” tour was Thursday evening at Florida Coastal School of Law.

In third or fourth place in most polls, King has concentrated his efforts below the I-4 corridor for most of the campaign.

However, there may be some hope yet. As he notes, a new Florida Atlantic University poll has King in a strong third place, within six points of first.

He sees room to grow, and that room is in Northeast Florida.

“I’m dedicated over the next three months to be here a lot,” King enthused. “In fact, it was one of the first markets where we went up on television. We went up in five markets, and Jacksonville is one of them. We think our message resonates in North Florida and the Jacksonville market.”

FP asked King, who is running in the progressive lane of the field with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, if he had any concern that they were cannibalizing each other’s votes.

He did not.

“I have had the ability to get progressives excited on some of my stances,” King said, “such as criminal justice, mass incarceration, the death penalty, and marijuana legalization. But I also have a real deep-seated economic vision for the state, which is another lane of voters I’m fighting for.”

King noted the “economy is not working for a lot of families,” even as “the wealthy and well-connected” flourish.

King went on to appraise his opponents.

When asked about Gwen Graham, the moderate in the race, King asserted that “voters want fresh ideas and new leadership.”

“Almost 50 percent of the voters are undecided,” King said, “we’ve got three candidates in the race who voters have known for years and years, their families for decades. I’m the only real new candidate in the race … something different” from the pack.

“What makes me different from Andrew Gillum or Gwen Graham or Philip Levine,” King asserted, “is my willingness to be pretty bold and visionary on the big ideas of Florida.”

Jacksonville Bold for 5.25.18 — Game theory

We’ve reached the point in the primary cycle where, by now, campaign groundwork and infrastructure should be well underway.

Bold is offering evidence of that proposition.

Smart candidates are bringing out the big endorsements, and less seasoned candidates making career-killing gaffes.

The operatives are talking. If our Jacksonville correspondent isn’t typing, odds are good he is fielding a call from one or another.

Sometimes, what they say may even be true.

For those who have been reading Florida Politics in the Jacksonville market since 2014, what’s clear is that we much of the work — explaining why someone is winning (or losing).

Moments have predictive value. Trends emerge from specific phenomena. And the savvy players, whether donors, consultants, pols or endorsers are making rational transactional decisions.

Some like to sentimentalize politics. But they are soon disappointed when it is revealed (yet again) that the business is a discipline — and well-organized people, and operations, tend to do the best business.

Scott trumpets yet another record low crime rate

Tuesday morning, Gov. Rick Scott was in Jacksonville with what his office called a “major announcement” on “Florida’s safe communities” and the 2017 FDLE Crime Report.

Rick Scott, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, Mayor Lenny Curry talk crime-fighting.

Crime rates have decreased during the Scott era (from a 40 year low to a 46 year low and now, a 47 year low), and his trumpeting of the statistical decreases have become a yearly tradition, which allows the outgoing Governor and current Senate candidate to spotlight budget allocations for public safety measures.

“This year, our budget invested more than $5.2 billion in public safety, a more than $300 million increase over last year,” Scott said. “This investment includes $22.8 million to pay increases for state sworn law enforcement officers, which includes the 5 percent raise I signed last year.”

Scott also trumpeted a 10 percent raise for juvenile probation officers and increased funding for prevention programs for at-risk youth.

“As our economy continues to grow,” Scott said, “we continue to invest more money in law enforcement. These investments are clearly working. Crime in our state is at a 47-year low.”

“The crime rate dropped by 6 percent in 2017, including a reduction in violent crime of 3 percent,” Scott said.

Scott spotlighted several officers who died since mid-April, including Officer Lance Whitaker of Jacksonville, asking for a moment of silence in commemoration.

Scott was accompanied by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams, who spotlighted local efforts, including hiring more police officers and a 36 percent decrease in nonfatal shootings in Q1 2018.

Graham returns to Jacksonville

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham found herself on familiar turf Monday evening, addressing the monthly meeting of the Duval Democratic Party.

Gwen Graham works the crowd in Jacksonville Monday.

In Jacksonville, Graham — once seen as a prohibitive front-runner for the nomination — made at least one “comeback kid” posture, noting that in her 2014 race for Congress, some political reporters bet against her and others said she couldn’t win.

Graham also noted her commitment to progressive ideals in the remarks, including education, public option for health care, and gun control measures, before saying that “these things don’t matter if you can’t win.”

Graham espoused a commitment to the “67 county strategy,” a phrase also used by opponent Philip Levine. While a candidate has to do well in South Florida and the I-4 Corridor, “elections are won or lost north of Orlando.”

And Graham insisted that went beyond just Jacksonville, noting that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “did well in Duval but got beaten badly west of here,” by way of making the case that the key is to “not get beaten so badly in places where Democrats have lost in the past.”

“Look at the data, and you will see: the reality is you have to do well everywhere,” Graham added. “You can’t write off any part of the state and think there’s a path to victory.”

Curry backs Waltz in CD 6

A major regional endorsement from Mayor Curry went to Mike Waltz Monday in the three-way GOP primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

The machine comes through again. [Photo: Jax Daily Record]

Curry and Waltz share some of the same political advisers; judging from the quotes of mutual admiration, there is ideological affinity as well.

“Michael Waltz is a leader and a warrior with a servant’s heart,” Curry said.

“From the battlefield to the halls of power, Mike has already demonstrated a deep reverence for the Constitution and a willingness to fight for the conservative values we share. Washington needs people who instead of saying what they want to do will simply get things done. Florida needs more conservative voices in Congress, and that’s why I am proud to endorse and support Michael Waltz for Congress,” Curry asserted.

“Mayor Lenny Curry is a true leader, visionary and champion for real conservative reform,” said Michael Waltz. “He has worked tirelessly to enact a positive conservative agenda with real results for the people of Northeast Florida. I am humbled by Mayor Curry’s support and look forward to working together in the months ahead.”

The GOP race in CD-6, where candidates vie to replace outgoing Rep. Ron DeSantis, has been an interesting one, with Waltz and John Ward both raising serious money for what will be an expensive primary straddling three media markets (Jacksonville, Daytona and Orlando).

Ward: Puerto Ricans shouldn’t vote here

John Ward, a Republican running to succeed DeSantis in CD 6, looks to have made the biggest gaffe of his political career recently.

John Ward’s comments drew fire from inside and outside his party.

According to Fox News, Ward asserted that displaced Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be allowed to vote in Florida.

“I don’t think they should be allowed to register to vote,” Ward said, given that “the Democrat Party is really hoping that they can change the voting registers in a lot of counties and districts, and I don’t think they should be allowed to do that,” Ward said at an April forum.

Instead, Ward added that Puerto Ricans “belong” in Puerto Rico.

Per the Orlando Sentinel, likely Democratic nominee Nancy Soderberg blasted the comments:

“Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States, plain and simple, and every bit as American as John Ward,” Soderberg said in a statement. “Every American citizen, regardless of where they come from, deserve a vote.”

DeSantis — who took issue with Ward filing for the seat before he was officially running for Governor — blasted his would-be replacement via POLITICO, saying the comments were “beyond the pale.”

Gibson investigates ‘problem spa’

Per Action News Jax, Sen. Audrey Gibson investigated a “problem spa” on Jacksonville’s Southside late last week.

When she walked up to the building, Gibson’s reaction: “Who the hell would want to come here for a massage? It’s seedy!”

Audrey Gibson and reporter Tenikka Hughes (above) investigated a seedy spa late last week.

Gibson and reporter Tenikka Hughes had an interesting dialogue with spa staff, which we include below.

Gibson: “Do you know there’s been illegal activity at this place? Did you know about that?”

Worker: “I don’t know.”

Hughes: “You see, it says sweet, young Asian girls. None of these girls work here?”

Worker: “No, no, no.”

Hughes: “Did you know it was being advertised like this?”

Worker: “I don’t know. That’s the first time I saw.”

Gibson: “Can we come in and see your massage rooms?”

Worker: “No.”

Doubts of Gibson permeate Senate Dem caucus

Two new political committees speak to doubts about the way forward for Senate Democrats, for which Sen. Gibson is Leader-Designate.

Audrey Gibson. (Image via Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

This is the “latest, most indelible sign of a growing rift within the caucus and yet the divide may be improving the minority party’s chances of retaking the chamber.”

“In late April, Friends of Kevin Rader PC was established by David Ramba, a prominent Tallahassee lobbyist who administers dozens of political committees on behalf of a broad range of political clients. Also recently formed was Future Democratic Majority PC and, in addition to Rader, involves Sens. Randolph BracyLauren Book from Plantation, Linda Stewart from Orlando, Bobby Powell from West Palm Beach, and Darryl Rouson from St. Petersburg.”

Per one consultant: “It’s about a crisis of confidence in Audrey (Gibson) and a fear of what the caucus might become if Gary Farmer is eventually given the reins.”

Gibson faces a primary challenge from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown. What’s clear, however, is that the issues around the state are at least worthy of monitoring for the incumbent.

Expect big money for Hutson committee

Sen. Travis Hutson was this week supported at a fundraising reception for his First Coast Business Foundation, and Curry was the special guest at an event heavy on names of prominent politicos, donors and lobbyists.

Travis Hutson is consolidating regional support, which will allow him to reach out statewide.

Event chairs included Marty Fiorentino, former Congressional candidate Hans Tanzler (endorsed by Hutson in 2016), JEA Board member Husein Cumber, Jaguars’ lobbyist and all-around problem solver Paul Harden, and bestbet’s Jamie Shelton.

Among the standout names on the host committee: charter school impresario Gary Chartrand and the Jax Chamber mainstay Daniel Davis.

A similar group of players came together last year for a fundraiser in support of future House Speaker Paul Renner, whose political committee had a $261,000 month because of it.

Hutson is pursuing the Senate presidency in 2022, and fundraisers like this for his political committees will fuel the work to secure support for his bid.

In April, his Sunshine State Conservatives political committee got a boost reflective of similar support from different players.

The committee brought in $155,000 in April, with much of that money coming from other committees.

Firefighters back Polson in HD 15

Democrat Tracye Polson is still waiting to find out which of three Republicans will emerge from the August primary to face her in the House District 15 race.

Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters head Randy Wyse addresses a crowd downtown.

But she doesn’t have to wait any longer for the endorsement of one of Jacksonville’s most influential public-sector unions.

The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters gave its imprimatur to Polson, meaning that no matter what happens in the GOP battle, she can count on union backing.

“I am humbled to have earned the support of the men and women of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. This endorsement is particularly meaningful to me. As a licensed mental health professional, I’ve spent many years treating victims of trauma and I know the critical impact first responders have when they arrive on the scene of fire and medical emergencies. District 15 continues to battle the opioid epidemic, having two ZIP codes with the highest rate of overdoses in the city,” said Polson.

“Furthermore, because of the stressors first responders are exposed to every day, they have increased rates of PTSD and suicide. And this impacts their loved ones and our entire community, too. I will be a staunch advocate for them and their families,” Polson added.

The local Fraternal Order of Police had previously endorsed Polson, giving her a public safety sweep.

Bowman, Wilson take Jacksonville City Council helm

The top job starting July 1 in the Jacksonville City Council will go to current Vice President Aaron Bowman, elected President-Designate Tuesday.

Aaron Bowman and Scott Wilson will lead the Council starting July 1.

There was little surprise: Weeks prior, Bowman had 13 of the 19 councilors pledging support.

Bowman, a VP for the Jacksonville Chamber‘s business recruitment wing JAXUSA Partnership, will represent a break from the chaotic, parlous dynamic between current President Anna Lopez Brosche and Mayor Curry.

Republican Scott Wilson took the VP spot — notable because he entered Tuesday with no pledges and overcame intense lobbying from the head of the Republican Party of Duval County for his opponent, Danny Becton.

BBQ botch

Earlier this month, the city filed suit against Councilwoman Katrina Brown, a first-term Democratic member of the Council’s Finance Committee, for breach of guaranty, relative to a defaulted loan of $380,000 to the Browns’ family business, CoWealth LLC. [COJ v Katrina Brown]

Questions remain about Katrina Brown’s political future after a city lawsuit was filed against her.

CoWealth defaulted on the loan after Jan. 1, 2017, per the filing, which noted that the city is owed over $346,000 in principal, in addition to interest, late charges and so forth.

The city has retained Burr and Forman LLP to represent its interests.

To recap, the city fronted CoWealth $380,000 of loans from the city of Jacksonville and $220,000 of grants in 2011 to build a BBQ sauce plant in Northwest Jacksonville. The grant money was conditional on the company creating 56 permanent jobs, but none were created.

The city won a default judgment against the businesses, but that was effectively worthless. Brown’s parents, including her mother who ran the businesses, filed for bankruptcy months ago.

This news is ill-timed for Councilwoman Brown, who has drawn no fewer than seven challengers for her District 8 seat.

Brown will stay on the Council, she said Tuesday, and will continue her run for re-election.

Another one bites the dust

Jacksonville’s latest Inspector General, James Hoffman, took all of six sentences in a terse resignation letter late Friday to end his twelve-month tenure.

James Hoffman. (Image via Jacksonville Daily Record)

Hoffman is the second permanent inspector general to leave the role in recent years, and the second one to last a year or less.

“I would like to thank you for the trust placed in me to lead the Office of Inspector General. The last 12 months have been personally and professionally rewarding. I have enjoyed learning and working in the consolidated government. I have been inspired by the professionals within the Office working tirelessly every day to make our government more effective and efficient. However, for personal and professional reasons, I resign as the Inspector General for the City of Jacksonville,” Hoffman wrote.

The resignation will be effective June 8.

Back in 2016, Thomas Cline left the position, after less than a year. Steve Rohan, a former city lawyer, also served on an interim basis in between the two permanent hires.

It took the Inspector General Selection and Retention Committee roughly that long to secure Hoffman as a permanent replacement.

Jacksonville City Council members, including the president of the body and the body’s chief advocate for an IG position, didn’t see the departure coming.

Land Trust honored for fort preservation

The North Florida Land Trust was recognized recently with the 2018 Florida Preservation Organizational Achievement award for the work they did to acquire and preserve the 1898 Spanish-American War Fort.

The property had been purchased at a tax deed sale, and the buyer had considered demolition. However, a combination of $162,500 in city funds, a $100,000 donation from the Delores Barr Weaver fund, and other support combined to meet the $400,000 purchase price.

NFLT brings home the hardware.

Per a media release: “NFLT was chosen for the Florida Trust’s Preservation Award in the organizational achievement category for the capital campaign they led to preserve the 1898 Spanish-American War Fort. NFLT partnered with the National Park Service in 2015 to serve as the acquisition and fundraising partner to save the fort. They negotiated with the landowner who had acquired the property at a tax deed sale and had planned to destroy the fort to build a house. The staff then set out on a yearlong capital campaign to raise the money needed to purchase the property and save the fort.”

“This is an example of what a community can achieve when we work together to save an important part of our state’s history,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “When we took this on in 2015, it was the largest capital campaign our organization had ever undertaken in its 16-year history. Our then small staff of six worked very hard to achieve our goal to save the fort. With help from the City of Jacksonville, the Delores Barr Weaver Fund and many in the community who contributed to the campaign, we were able to raise the money needed to purchase this property and save a piece of Jacksonville history.”

The National Park Service will be the ultimate custodians of the fort.

Tim Nolan takes helm of TOTE

Per media release: Tim Nolan has been named the next President and CEO of TOTE Inc., the parent company to TOTE Maritime and TOTE Services.

Tim Nolan, current President of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, will take over July 16.

“I am honored and excited to step into this new leadership role with TOTE,” commented Nolan. “The TOTE team is an exemplary group of people and I am confident that together we will make this a successful transition. I look forward to working closely with customers, vendors and key stakeholders as well as all of the TOTE companies.”

TOTE’s corporate headquarters is moving to Jacksonville, where both TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and TOTE Services are currently based.

Nolan will key in on selecting his replacement in his previous role: the next president for TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico.

Art attack

WJCT reports that Jacksonville’s decision to sell “Iva,” a painting by Joan Mitchell that had not been displayed in a decade, will mean big profits for city coffers.

“Leaders in the arts community now have $2.8 million in their pockets, thanks to the auction seller’s fees being waived by Christie’s grant of a 104 percent return.”

“Iva” by Joan Mitchell.

The money will be split 50/50 by the city and its Museum of Contemporary Art.

The city’s share will go toward its Arts in Public Places program, which has $700,000 in unmet maintenance needs.

Black Creek land deals cut

The state has acquired the land needed for a project to pump water out of Black Creek and into aquifers at Keystone Heights, reports the Florida Times-Union.

The Black Creek project is expected to replenish area lakes, such as in Keystone Heights.

“The project calls for using Black Creek — which floods frequently — as an alternative water supply to meet the region’s future water needs by helping replenish the Floridan aquifer, the state’s main water source. It is the first attempt in Northeast Florida to use water from a creek or river to recharge the aquifer.”

There are critics, including HD 19 Democratic candidate Paul Still.

Still got in the race against incumbent Bobby Payne in part because of the “Black Creek boondoggle,” and he still is unmollified.

“It should be clear that the wetlands associated with Black Creek at Penney Farms require frequent high creek levels to keep them functioning and that withdrawing water at the proposed rate for the Black Creek Project would harm those wetlands,” said Still.

Chambers wins eco dev award

Via a news release from the Jax Chamber: “Cathy Chambers, JAXUSA Partnership senior vice president of strategy and business development, was honored with the prestigious Eunice Sullivan Economic Development Professional of the Year Award at the 2018 Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC) Annual Conference on Tuesday.”

“The FEDC recognized Chambers as a leader of business development success and advocacy for the profession, the region and women in the field,” the release continues. “During her tenure at JAXUSA Partnership, Chambers spearheaded efforts to attract more than 10,000 jobs and capital investment to the Northeast Florida region, including significant projects such as Deutsche Bank, Macquarie, Citibank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Web.com, PNC Mortgage and EverBank, among others.”

“Cathy is a highly respected voice for economic development in the Northeast Florida region and the state,” said Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership and 1997 recipient of the Eunice Sullivan Award. “Many business decision-makers and site consultants have recounted that they are drawn to the region because of Cathy’s professionalism, credibility and knowledge. She consistently impresses our clients resulting in their investment in the region which is good, not only for them but also for our community.”

Jags’ Ramsey makes plans for fatherhood; trolls Bills’ QB

With Father’s Day just three weeks away, Jaguars’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey is looking forward to his first. He is already making plans for the future when it comes to the young Ramsey.

Whether he becomes the father of a boy or girl, he would like for the child to follow in the footsteps of his or her parents. He sees a potential track star in the 2030s.

Jalen Ramsey looks forward to Father’s Day.

Both Ramsey and his girlfriend both ran track in high school back in Tennessee. The former FSU All-American was also a track star in Tallahassee.

“Hopefully he or she will be a little track star,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ramsey is getting ready for training camp by doing something else he does well. One of the league’s best shutdown corners is also one of the league’s most prolific agitators.

The target this time was Buffalo Bills’ rookie quarterback Josh Allen. When the Bills spoke of the impending first pass of Allen’s career during a rookie workout, Ramsey retweeted “that’s a pick waiting to happen.”

Ramsey later deleted the post, but Allen was asked about it later.

Allen said Ramsey’s barb did not bother him at all. “That’s one of the best corners in the league,” he said.

One of the best talkers, too.

Lawsuit won’t push Katrina Brown off Jacksonville City Council

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown is being sued personally by the city of Jacksonville, the fallout from an economic development deal gone bust.

Earlier this month, the city filed suit against Brown, a first-term Democratic member of the Finance Committee, for breach of guaranty, relative to a defaulted loan of $380,000 to the Browns’ family business, CoWealth LLC. [COJ v Katrina Brown].

Brown talked to Jacksonville media on Tuesday, and she insisted that she is not stepping down and will continue her bid for re-election.

“I came here today and wanted to give an explanation, but … my legal team advised me, because it’s in litigation, not to give any details on it,” Brown said regarding the suit.

Brown offered a “no comment” when asked if the suit was politically motivated, 10 months before city elections.

“I’m going to continue to lead,” Brown said.

This suit is ill-timed for Councilwoman Brown, who has drawn no fewer than seven challengers for her District 8 seat.

Six of them were from her own Democratic Party. One of the challengers died soon after filing, leaving five Democrats and one NPA candidate in the mix.

Despite bad news cycles including the business woes described above, and an altercation with local police when a council colleague was pulled over, Brown nonetheless is running for re-election.

In her first month of actual fundraising, Brown raked in $7,000, from $500 and $1,000 checks from outside the district.

Advocates for Business Growth ponied up, as did developers (the Sonoc Company, Leone Development and Nocatee Development, along with Sleiman Holdings), and attorneys interested in development (Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow).

Brown is still in a distant third place in terms of total money raised. The leader, Tameka Gaines Holly, brought in $3,458 in April (much of the money from within the district), leaving her with roughly $19,000 on hand.

Rick Scott trumpets another record low state crime rate

Gov. Rick Scott was in Jacksonville Tuesday morning, with what his office called a “major announcement” regarding “Florida’s safe communities” and the 2017 FDLE Crime Report.

Crime rates have decreased during the Scott era (from a 40 year low to a 46 year low and now, a 47 year low), and his trumpeting of the statistical decreases have become a yearly tradition, which allow the outgoing Governor and current Senate candidate to spotlight budget allocations for public safety measures.

“This year, our budget invested more than $5.2 billion in public safety, a more than $300 million increase over last year,” Scott said. “This investment includes $22.8 million to pay increases for state sworn law enforcement officers, which includes the 5 percent raise I signed last year.”

Scott also trumpeted a 10 percent raise for juvenile probation officers, and increased funding for prevention programs for at-risk youth.

“As our economy continues to grow,” Scott said, “we continue to invest more money in law enforcement. These investments are clearly working. Crime in our state is at a 47 year low.”

“The crime rate dropped by 6 percent in 2017, including a reduction in violent crime of 3 percent,” Scott said.

Scott spotlighted a number of officers who have perished since mid-April, including Officer Lance Whitaker of Jacksonville, asking for a moment of silence in commemoration.

Scott was accompanied by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams, who spotlighted local efforts, including hiring more police officers and a 36 percent decrease in non-fatal shootings in Q1 2018.

Another Jacksonville Inspector General resigns, continued challenge for watchdog role

Jacksonville’s latest Inspector General, James Hoffman, used six sentences in a terse resignation letter submitted late Friday to end his twelve-month tenure.

Hoffman is the second permanent inspector general to leave the role in recent years – and the second one to last a year or less.

“I would like to thank you for the trust placed in me to lead the Office of Inspector General. The last 12 months have been personally and professionally rewarding. I have enjoyed learning and working in the consolidated government. I have been inspired by the professionals within the Office working tirelessly every day to make our government more effective and efficient. However, for personal and professional reasons, I resign as the Inspector General for the City of Jacksonville,” Hoffman wrote.

The resignation will be effective Jun. 8, Hoffman added.

Legislation in October 2014 created the Jacksonville Inspector General position; it was affirmed by referendum the next year.

Finding a steady, long-term presence for the position, however, has been a challenge.

Back in 2016, Thomas Cline left the position, after less than a year. Steve Rohan, a former city lawyer, also served on an interim basis in between the two permanent hires.

It took the Inspector General Selection and Retention Committee roughly that long to secure Hoffman as a permanent replacement.

City Council President Anna Brosche noted: “Mr. Hoffman’s resignation was news to me. I can’t speak to the pattern of individuals serving in the position for a limited duration. The Office of Inspector General is an important function supported by the people of Jacksonville, and I look forward us finding someone to champion efforts to ferret out fraud, waste and abuse in our local government.”

Brosche has a bill currently in Council committees that would allow for a rotating chair position for the again-relevant Inspector General Selection and Retention Committee.

However, she was unaware that he planned to resign, noting that the June 1 meeting of the committee was to review Hoffman’s performance.

Councilman John Crescimbeni, an advocate for the office, likewise was surprised by the resignation.

“I did not know he had resigned and had no indication he was contemplating the same. I am completely surprised and more than perplexed over why we have difficulty hiring and retaining an IG. My last correspondence with Mr. Hoffman was about the proposed legislation to clean up the Ordinance Code as it relates to the Office of the IG. Again, totally surprised,” Crescimbeni said Monday morning.

Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, the OIG budget has ballooned since the office’s most recent inception, approaching a million dollars in the most recent fiscal year (almost a fivefold increase from FY 14/15 levels).

The Record notes that the office received 103 complaints in FY 16/17, closing “69 cases created from those and previous complaints and filed 12 reports comprising two audits, five contract oversight observations and five reports of findings following investigations.”

Among the savings cited by the Daily Record: scrutiny of cellphone contracts for overages, terminated employees, and the like. OIG identified $90,000 in waste; city officials agreed with $41,000 of those findings.

Jacksonville Bold for 5.18.18 — Relationship business

As Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is fond of saying: politics is a “relationship business.”

So, this edition of Bold spotlights the utility of political friendships.

Whether running for Congress or state or local office, you’d better have your friends’ endorsements (well-timed) and the interest of the donor class (early, and often).

In each category, there will be examples of the haves — and have-nots.

File this edition away, come back to it in 100 days or so. You will see a direct correlation (if not causation) between who got the help they needed and who had juice with the voters.

Biden backs Soderberg for Congress

Ambassador Nancy Soderberg rolled out her most high-profile endorsement for her Congressional race yet Monday, with former Vice President Joe Biden backing the Clinton administration alum.

Nancy Soderberg was instrumental in Bill Clinton-era foreign policy.

“I’ve known Nancy for three decades since she first started her work in the Senate,” said Vice President Biden. “She is a lifelong public servant who has served at the highest levels of government. At the White House and as an Ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy brokered international peace deals and helped develop and promote U.S. national security policy. She understands what it’s like to bring both sides to the table and solve complex issues. She’s been tested and she’s delivered.”

Biden is “supporting Nancy because she’s a problem solver, and will fight for the values of the 6th District: growing the middle class, creating jobs you can raise a family on, ensuring every family has access to affordable health care and every child can get an affordable education. She has the knowledge and experience to make a difference and get things done for the people of the 6th District.”

Soderberg, meanwhile, is “honored to have the support of Vice President Biden, who has dedicated his life to standing up for American men, women and children.”

Florida’s 6th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Ron DeSantis, extends from St. Johns County south to Volusia on Florida’s east coast.

Dems rally behind Lawson

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson hinted earlier this month about a swath of endorsements from Florida Democratic colleagues in Congress, and Monday he delivered.

Rep. Al Lawson (shown with French President Emmanuel Macron) trumpeted a swath of Congressional endorsements this week.

In total, eight endorsements came his way: Reps. Darren SotoVal DemingsCharlie CristKathy CastorLois FrankelTed DeutchDebbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.

“I am humbled to receive the support of my colleagues as we continue to make our economy stronger, communities safer and produce results that all North Florida families can be proud of,” Lawson said.

These endorsements come at a key time for Lawson. Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville mayor currently primarying Lawson, enjoyed a two-to-one fundraising advantage during the first quarter of 2018.

And that means that Brown has pulled close to incumbent U.S. Rep. Lawson in terms of cash on hand.

For the quarter, Brown brought in $167, 088, while Lawson hauled in $83,866.

Lawson had $100,000 cash on hand at the end of 2017 before Brown got in the race. Now Lawson has just under $160,000 and Brown has just over $127,000.

A. Brown lauds Ramadan; decries anti-Muslim discrimination

As incumbent Lawson collected endorsements, challenger Brown staked out the high ground.

Former Jacksonville Mayor and current 5th Congressional District Democratic hopeful Brown became the first and so far only North Florida candidate this cycle to laud the beginning of Ramadan.

Alvin Brown made his first public statement in his career on Ramadan this week.

In a statement released this week, Brown lauded the beginning of the annual celebration, while decrying discrimination against American Muslims.

“At sunset, Muslims in my district and across America will begin their monthlong celebration of the holy month of Ramadan. The month is an auspicious time for the Muslim community when the faithful will use the month to not only fast from dawn to dusk each day but also spend time to renew the spirit of their faith,” Brown asserted.

“Our nation is founded on the creed ‘E Pluribus Unum’ and this creed affirms that diversity is our national strength. We celebrate that diversity by recognizing religious pluralism as foundational to our national unity,” Brown added.

“At a time when the American Muslim community is facing unprecedented bigotry and discrimination, I join all Americans of goodwill and conscience to uphold the dignity of all our citizens. May this Ramadan be a source of blessings and joy to all those who choose to celebrate this month. Santhea and I wish all my American Muslim neighbors a very Blessed Ramadan,” Brown concluded.

Gibson stretches lead over hapless primary challenger

Jacksonville political watchers are beginning to wonder about the strategy of City Councilman Reggie Brown, who opted to primary Democratic Senate Minority Leader-Designate Audrey Gibson in August but has not yet actually raised any funds.

Reggie Brown is having problems getting traction against a heavily backed incumbent.

Through April, Gibson was far in the lead fundraising wise with more than $132,000 banked, with Brown far behind, closing the month with just $4 on hand.

Gibson has been quiet about her challenger but has committed to fundraising, with strong April receipts measuring over $17,000, pushing her over $156,000 raised and to the aforementioned $132,000 cash on hand.

Gibson brought in receipts from unions, such as the police and fire locals, as well as racing interests, Crowley Maritime, and traditional Republican donors such as John Rood and John Baker.

FOP crosses party lines in state House races

Jacksonville’s local Fraternal Order of Police went bipartisan with its latest swath of endorsements for state House, including choosing a Democrat over a field of Republicans running to replace Jay Fant.

In House District 15, the FOP endorsed Tracye Polson over Republicans Wyman DugganJoseph Hogan and Mark Zeigler.

The language of the endorsement lauded Polson’s “dedication to her community.”

Trayce Polson continues to build momentum in what has been a disciplined campaign.

Polson is the safest bet of the four candidates in the race, in that she is unopposed for her party’s nomination. Between her campaign account and that of her “Better Jacksonville” political committee, she has raised $211,000, with $135,000 on hand.

The FOP offered two other endorsements in the latest rollout, backing incumbent Republicans over underfunded Democrats.

In HD 11 and 12, the union went with Cord Byrd and Clay Yarborough.

Democratic opponents in both those races are struggling with real fundraising, which augurs poorly for their challenges to safe Republican seats.

Moran backs Polson over Republican field

In 2011, which was a different time in Jacksonville politics, Republican Audrey Moran was a strong candidate for Mayor.

Audrey Moran. (Image via Wave Magazine Online)

Though Moran fell short of the runoff election, her candidacy is still seen by many as an intersection of purpose and politics.

Moran’s days of running for public office appear to be over; however, she is still active in the scene, and crossed party lines to endorse Polson in HD 15.

“Dr. Tracye Polson will bring fresh ideas and strong leadership to Tallahassee,” said Audrey Moran in a statement from the Polson campaign.

“She is smart, collaborative and courageous. Tracye is a first-time candidate for public office and a breast cancer survivor. She knows our community and is ready to fight for what Jacksonville needs. Tracye will represent all of the people in her district and I am proud to endorse her,” Moran added.

“Earning the trust and support of such an influential community presence is an indication our campaign continues to extend its reach, connecting with a wide range of voters including business leaders. Because of her experience and insight, Audrey’s counsel will be invaluable and I am deeply grateful to have her endorsement,” said Polson.

Davis pads coffers, Jackson lags

Duval Democrats are noted for their internal wars, and a good current example of such is the House District 13 Democratic donnybrook between Rep. Tracie Davis and Roshanda Jackson, a former district secretary for state Rep. Kim Daniels.

Tracie Davis wants two more years.

The Davis/Jackson contest is one of two major primary votes awaiting some Jacksonville voters, the other being Davis’ political ally, Sen. Audrey Gibson, being challenged by Daniels’ ally, Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.

The Gibson/Brown contest is one-sided in terms of cash-on-hand, $132,000 to $4.00 in favor of the incumbent. And at least in the early going, the Davis/Jackson contest is lopsided in favor of the current officeholder.

Davis raised $3,100 in April, pushing her over $40,000 on hand out of $41,815 raised. Her top donors, at the $500 level: AT&T Florida PAC, Florida Dental PAC and Fiorentino Group.

Davis, who had a fundraiser in Springfield Monday evening at Crispy’s on Main Street, looks to have a stronger May than April.

Jackson, meanwhile, has raised $830 in her two months in the race and has $800 of that on hand.

Per LobbyTools, the seat “is safely blue with Democrats outnumbering Republicans 54,686 to 22,554 with another 15,550 registered as independents.”

Developer dosh finds K. Brown

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown has drawn no fewer than seven challengers for her District 8 seat.

Katrina Brown will have access to capital her many opponents won’t.

Six of them were from her own Democratic Party. One of the challengers died soon after filing, leaving five Democrats and one NPA candidate in the mix.

Brown, who dealt with bad news cycles including issues with her family business defaulting on city-funded economic development loans and grants, and an altercation with local police when a Council colleague was arrested, nonetheless is running for re-election.

And April’s receipts indicate that Brown will have help from developers in her re-election bid.

In her first month of actual fundraising, Brown raked in $7,000, from $500 and $1,000 checks.

Advocates for Business Growth ponied up, as did developers (the Sonoc Company, Leone Development and Nocatee Development, along with Sleiman Holdings), and attorneys interested in development (Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow).

Brown is still in a distant third place in terms of total money raised. The leader, Tameka Gaines Holly, brought in $3,458 in April (much of the money from within the district), leaving her with roughly $19,000 on hand.

Another shot for Daniels

Recent electoral setbacks weren’t the last call for the peripatetic political career of Jacksonville’s Jack Daniels, as he again has filed to run for the Jacksonville City Council.

Daniels, who shares his name with a consumer product, has taken many shots at public office. Yet, despite his efforts, the glass has come up empty time after time.

Still, he continues his efforts. And in 2019, he will get an electoral rematch against District 2 Republican Al Ferraro, the man who beat him three years prior.

Al Ferraro will face Jack Daniels, again.

Daniels, who raised less than $8,000 for his race, had good ROI: he got 27 percent of the vote.

“Since I hadn’t accepted any political money, my campaign for city council consisted of almost nothing but a year of door-to-door visits. In contrast, since my opponent accepted it, his campaign consisted of paid advice from expert political consultants, continuous paid advertisement promoting his candidacy in the media, numerous paid campaigners for him who made thousands of door-to-door visits to frequent voters, a multitude of campaign signs, many mailings to frequent voters promoting his candidacy, etc.,” Daniels contended.

Despite all of this drama, Daniels endorsed Ferraro — the “opponent.” Daniels told The Florida Times-Union that Ferraro is “a really hard worker, and I think he’d be a very good person to be a council person.”

 Daniels begins the race with a considerable financial disadvantage to incumbent Ferraro, who has over $35,000 on hand after raising $7,105 in April.

Sunshine Law charges cloud Council prez race

A public notice meeting Tuesday morning called by Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis addressed “allegations made by Council Vice President Aaron Bowman on the topic of Sunshine Violations for the upcoming Council Leadership vote.”

Anna Brosche and Garrett Dennis were the only two city officials to show up.

The vote comes Tuesday; Bowman has the majority of Council’s support pledged to him as he chases the top job.

However, clarity was not to be provided this week, as Bowman was not at the meeting. And neither was the head of the city’s ethics office, Carla Miller, expected to be at the meeting.

Bowman was “told by multiple sources that Dennis has been [negatively] talking about [Bowman’s] leadership endeavor.”

Dennis called the meeting to confront his “accusers,” but except for Council President Anna Brosche, no one was there.

In remarks to the media after the brief, inconclusive meeting, Dennis would not say directly that Bowman violated the Sunshine Law.

“I’ve been instructed by the General Counsel not to say that,” Dennis said.

Dennis, who chairs the Finance Committee, likely won’t have that prerogative next year. Bowman, per Dennis, is a “staunch supporter of the Mayor” — Dennis’ political enemy.

As well, with re-election campaigns looming ahead of the March 2019 “first election,” Dennis may see his opponent backed by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce — for which Bowman is a VP for the business recruitment arm, JAXUSA.

Newby drops VP bid, leaves three candidates

The clouded picture in the race for Jacksonville City Council vice president cleared up Tuesday, with Sam Newby dropping out to focus on his re-election bid.

Sam Newby, an ally of Lenny Curry, opted to stand down in the VP race.

Newby, an at-large Councilman, faces one opponent thus far for re-election.

The first-term Republican’s exit from the race leaves three candidates standing: Democrat Tommy Hazouri and Republicans Danny Becton and Scott Wilson. And thus far, none of the candidates have galvanized much support.

Hazouri, a political veteran who has been Jacksonville Mayor as well as a State Representative and School Board member, sees the VP role as the logical next level. However, he hasn’t been put in the spotlight during his time on Council, and pledges have eluded him.

Becton, a fiscal watchdog from the Southside, is a Republican in his first-term. Jim Love is a pledged supporter.

Wilson, likewise a Republican in his first term, sought the VP role last year but was steamrollered in the vote by current VP Aaron Bowman.

Council votes on these offices Tuesday, and pledge meetings will take place throughout the next week.

New officers take control July 1.

Bean, Daniels present check to YMCA

State Sen. Aaron Bean joined state Rep. Daniels this week to present a $250,000 check on behalf of the state of Florida to Eric Mann, president and CEO of YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, the YMCA’s Metropolitan Board of Directors and the YMCA’s Senior Leadership Team.

During the 2018 Legislative Session, Bean and Daniels worked together to help secure state funding for teen programming at the James Weldon Johnson Family YMCA in Northwest Jacksonville.

Aaron Bean, Kimberly Daniels present a $250K check in state funding to the Johnson Family YMCA.

“The YMCA is consistently a leader in advocating for Florida’s youth by providing programs that positively impact their lives and give them the opportunities needed to succeed,” Bean said. “This funding will allow the YMCA to increase programming for at-risk adolescents in the most underserved areas of Jacksonville, which will truly change lives and benefit our entire community.”

Daniels added: “It was an honor working with Senator Bean on the Johnson Family YMCA appropriation … This facility is strategically placed between Cleveland Arms and Washington Heights, which are high crime housing areas. The youth in these neighborhoods will benefit from the program expansion, and I am excited about what is ahead for our community.”

The funding will allow the Johnson Family YMCA to launch new programming and grow programmatic opportunities for teens and pre-teens in Jacksonville’s most disadvantaged areas. The Johnson YMCA will also use the funding to provide life skills training, job and career preparation, health education and summer employment opportunities for teens. These new programs will serve approximately 120 additional youth in the community.

Not so fast on ‘no sale’ bill

On Monday, the Jacksonville City Council’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety committee deferred a bill expressing opposition to selling the local utility, a hot-button issue in recent months.

The bill will be considered in three weeks when committees next convene.

2018-248, a resolution introduced by Councilors Jim LoveJoyce Morgan and Reggie Gaffney, would put the kibosh on moves to potentially sell JEA.

This discussion comes at a time when moves to sell or privatize all or part of the utility find a phalanx of detractors and no public advocates in the present tense.

Though official positions of both JEA Interim CEO Aaron Zahn and Jacksonville Mayor Curry boil down to advocating a pause of some indeterminate length in a discussion of privatization of the utility, many observers of the process do not take those assertions at face value.

The deferral motion from Councilman Love seemed to catch co-sponsor Morgan and Councilman Garrett Dennis by surprise.

Dredge, baby, dredge

The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting bids for the second phase of the harbor deepening project, estimated to cost between $125 million and $200 million.”

Dredging continues in Jacksonville.

This phase, “Project B,” is expected to cost $187 million and will deepen miles 3-8 of the shipping channel.

Project A, still in progress, is expected to be wrapped next year.

Federal funding, which has been in place, is not assured for this part of the project. Jaxport could front the funds in hopes of eventual federal reimbursement.

The dredge, all told, will go from 11-13 miles, deepening the channel to 47 feet.

C. Brown drama lingers

A year has passed since Corrine Brown was found guilty of various counts of fraud and tax evasion related to her former nonprofit, “One Door for Education.”

Brown is imprisoned, yet the appeal process continues, predicated on whether the removal of a juror who claimed to be guided by a “higher power” was the reason she was found guilty.

Corrine Brown’s defense and appeals have been fruitless thus far.

This week, prosecutors again rejected the proposition that the discharged juror was the difference maker.

“The decision to remove a sitting juror is a significant one that justifiably warrants careful, albeit deferential, review by this (appeals) court,” the document said. “The district court’s decision here handily withstands that review. The court took this issue very seriously and removed the juror only after having carefully considered whether that juror would be able to follow the court’s instructions and decide the case based on the evidence. And the court did so only after having concluded that the juror’s decision — that he had been told by the Holy Spirit before deliberations had even begun, that Brown was not guilty of all 24 charged crimes — was not based on the juror’s evaluation of the sufficiency of the evidence.”

Brown, who was convicted last year on 18 felony counts and sentenced to five years in prison, has focused her appeal on the decision by U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan to dismiss the juror.

Bestbet doubles down

In another gambling case that could reach the state Supreme Court, a Jacksonville casino is appealing the state’s decision to end its quest for a slot machine license.

Bestbet doubles down on slots hopes.

Jacksonville Kennel Club, which does business as bestbet, filed a notice of appeal Tuesday to the 1st District Court of Appeal after the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) turned down its application last month. The department regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering.

Any expansion of slots is opposed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which pays the state millions each year for the exclusive right to offer slots at its casinos outside South Florida.

And a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November would require the statewide approval of voters before any expansion of gambling — and its backers say the measure would have retroactive effect.

The crux of the Jacksonville appeal is last May’s Supreme Court decision denying slots to a track in Gretna, Gadsden County, and in other counties that passed local referendums allowing them. Duval was one such county; bestbet Jacksonville wants to add slots to its poker and simulcast wagering.

Jags’ Bortles plays a little defense

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was in the rare position of playing defense last week. Not on the football field, but in his own home.

News4Jax reported that a young neighbor, Joseph Horton, was able to get into Bortles’ truck parked outside his home while the quarterback was hosting a party. The 18-year-old Horton tried to steal the truck, but was unable to navigate through multiple cars belonging to those attending the party.

Blake Bortles is playing defense at home.

Not satisfied to take Bortles’ wallet, which was in the truck along with the keys, the teenager went into the house full of partygoers and went upstairs. When no one recognized him, police were called.

When they arrived, Bortles and two friends were standing guard over the young man, who claimed to enter the house in search of a girlfriend. No one had heard of her.

In the end, Horton was arrested, where it was later learned that he lived in a multi-million-dollar home with his parents on the Intracoastal Waterway. He was charged with burglary, trespassing, and grand theft and later released on bond.

A Twitter account called Blake Bortles Facts used the incident to take a gratuitous slap at the Cincinnati Bengals tweeting “Blake Bortles has prevented more truck thefts (1) than the @Bengals have Playoff wins since 1991.”

For the record, the Jaguars and Bengals do not play each other this year.

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