Jacksonville Archives - Page 3 of 61 - Florida Politics

Jax Irma costs: ‘Equal or a bit more’ than Matthew

Monday’s Jacksonville City Council meeting saw local officials address the body regarding Hurricane Irma. Expect a big budgetary hit from this year’s storm, with infrastructural damage that is still being tallied.

That cost was buried in the mix of a few speakers on Monday, but will be the long-range policy impact of the storm.

The city’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa spoke about the progress of cut and toss crews and debris removal: the city’s sites are almost ready, Mousa said, to “accept debris.”

Up to a million cubic yards of debris is expected, more than Hurricane Matthew’s tally, Mousa said, before going into details of damage caused by the storm.

The city is dealing with roof and window leaks from the storm, as well as septic tank and lift station repairs, and “various infrastructure damage around the county.”

“We estimate that 33 to 50 percent of the sand we placed during Matthew has been eroded,” Mousa said.

“We’re just beginning the recovery,” Mousa said, noting that damage could be “equal or a bit more than Hurricane Matthew.”

Matthew cost the city $50M in general fund costs, and the city is still out $27M of unreimbursed FEMA costs; Mayor Curry said earlier this summer that the city could handle a Matthew-sized hit to the the general fund, though it is uncertain what choices a “bit more” costs would require.

Worth noting: the city estimated, in the wake of Matthew, that costs could be up to $100M; that estimate turned out — luckily for the city, given FEMA’s slow reimbursement, to be high.

“We’re still trying to get our arms around infrastructure damage,” Mousa said.

FEMA is in contact with the city, Mousa said, with a visit to the Emergency Operations Center Monday.


Sheriff Mike Williams was next up, extolling cooperation among first-responders.

Williams noted there was some infrastructural damage at JSO facilities, but nothing major — some minor structural damage, yet no damaged vehicles.

Williams noted, in response to worries about looting, that residential and commercial burglaries were a bit up — and that State Attorney Melissa Nelson was handling special prosecutorial detail for those burglaries.


Also addressing the legislators: JEA CEO Paul McElroy, whose performance was criticized roundly in the days after the storm by the Mayor and by City Council members, with Councilman Bill Gulliford offering the staunchest criticism.

Those criticisms faded, apparently, sometime over the weekend.

McElroy put forth familiar talking points, including noting that Jacksonville’s restoration started later than the rest of the state, noting that the local utility had resources from across the country.

McElroy said JEA “restored very well … in the top decile of the state.”

“During the process, we were at or ahead of the pack,” McElroy noted, an especially laudatory detail given the city’s tree canopy and large land mass.

McElroy noted that water service held up well countywide, while wastewater service was a bit dodgier — 700 of them lost power during the peak, and “most of them” had backup power.

“We lost about two million gallons,” McElroy said, adding that’s a “heck of a lot better than last year,” and that most of the failings were attributable to “double or triple contingency failure.”

Northeast Florida jobs numbers strong again in August

As Northeast Florida continues the recovery phase after Hurricane Irma’s storm surge inundated large swathes of the city, the DEO offered good news on the jobs front Friday.

Unemployment in the six-county Northeast Florida region stands at 4.2 percent, down from 5.1 percent last August, and in line with state numbers. And there are 2.5 percent more jobs in the region year over year; compared to the 2 percent population growth, that’s another encouraging indicator.

County by county, unemployment numbers are mostly trending better than the state average.

“St. Johns County had the lowest unemployment rate (3.2 percent) in the CareerSource Northeast Florida region followed by Clay County (3.8 percent), Baker County (3.9 percent), Nassau County (3.9 percent), Duval County (4.4 percent), and Putnam County (5.5 percent),” asserts the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Job growth, year over year, has been especially strong in education and health services (up 4,500 jobs), and n trade, transportation, and utilities (up 5,000 jobs) and professional and business services (+4,400 jobs).

The only sector with year over year declines: leisure and hospitality, down 900 jobs year over year.

Duval Delegation talks recovery from Irma’s ‘unprecedented destruction’

The Duval County Legislative Delegation discussed its role Jacksonville’s continuing efforts to recover from Hurricane Irma on Thursday afternoon.

A big part of their vision, whether in a Special Session dedicated to Hurricane Irma or beyond, is ensuring that “Jacksonville gets what it needs,” as Chairman Jay Fant put it, after the “unprecedented destruction” of the storm.

Jacksonville is in recovery mode finally, after a storm that affected the area — in terms of storm surge/high tide flooding and wind damage — like few other events, with massive flooding Downtown, and in Riverside, Avondale, San Marco, and other low-lying areas.

While Mayor Lenny Curry has expressed confidence that the city has adequate resources for recovery, especially given strong relationships with the Governor and the White House, the delegation will have a key role in securing resources through the legislative process.

Delegation chair Fant’s district, which includes Riverside, Avondale, and Ortega, saw some of the worst impacts of the storm.

The district, Fant said, “got hit as hard as any.”

Fant noted that there may be infrastructure money available, though he believes the storm drains installed in recent years are sufficient for most storms.

However, Fant notes that the current power delivery system in the area — “lines in the air” — may not be optimal going forward.

New neighborhoods, he said, have underground systems in place; older neighborhoods, meanwhile, aren’t currently afforded that option. Combined with a tree canopy, outage issues can be created — and, as is the case with prolonged outages from Irma, can very easily create public safety concerns.

“This is not just a convenience issue,” Fant said. “It’s a public safety issue.”

“Lines in the air are the key. If we can accelerate programs to get these down,” Fant said, power outages of the sort seen in older neighborhoods may be avoided.

Fant has been in communication with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The Delegation, he said, is “very serious” about bringing local needs to Tallahassee.

Sen. Aaron Bean noted that Nassau County — a big part of his district — has thus far been exempt from the FEMA major disaster declaration that encompasses other Northeast Florida counties; he’d like to change that.

Rep. Cord Byrd, who likewise represents Duval and Nassau, has spoken with Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. John Rutherford and Speaker Corcoran about pushing the ball forward.

And Rep. Jason Fischer noted that “we as a state should do everything we can to fill the gaps left by” federal and local governments.

We asked Rep. Fant about the Speaker’s dispensation toward Jacksonville pushing for resources, given the tensions regarding Fant’s positions on Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, incentive programs the Speaker and allied vigorously worked to scuttle.

“Legislators may disagree on legislation,” Fant said, but all are “still teammates,” especially in light of the “catastrophic” Irma.

Fant’s take: the House and the Senate, and their respective leadership, are aligned on this one.




After Irma, state politicians descend on Jacksonville

Hurricane Irma’s impact stopped being felt in Jacksonville Monday afternoon, and it was soon thereafter that Gov. Rick Scott was in town.

Scott, who added Duval County to his ask for a major disaster declaration post-Irma on Monday evening, visited a local hurricane shelter with New York Mets’ minor league prospect Tim Tebow, a legend in these parts for his tenure as Florida Gators’ quarterback a decade ago.

Duval will join St. Johns, Flagler, Clay, and Putnam as Counties benefiting from federal help, which includes reimbursement for debris removal and individual assistance for those whose properties were impacted by the storm.

Tuesday saw Scott surveying damage from the sky, with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. The two reprised a role last seen in the wake of Hurricane Matthew 11 months prior, with Scott coming to town to assess damage after that storm.

After Gov. Scott’s visit, Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio made trips to the Duval Emergency Operations Center early in the afternoon.

Each arrived separately, and each had their own takes on the storm and the path forward afterward.

Nelson noted that, in addition to the 365 water rescues that were made in Duval County when the storm surge came in, there were 120 rescues in Clay and St. Johns.

Nelson described the hurricane as a “very unusual one, that covered the entire state,” one with “real surprises” for everyone.

Water was the big surprise for Jacksonville, of course, as the storm surge flooded the city for hours on end Monday.

“Water … surprised places like North Florida,” Nelson said.

The storm drew strength from turbocharged waters on each side of the peninsula, of course. Nelson noted that “measurements show that sea level has risen eight inches over the last40 years” off the Miami Beach coast, a rise that was accompanied by the heating of the ocean itself.

“That is expected to increase,” Nelson said.

Miami Beach, said Nelson. has had to spend “tens of millions of dollars on expensive pumps” to deal with a mean high tide — and floods are still part of life down there.

“If that’s happening when there’s not a storm, what happens when there is a storm? We’d better get ready for it, because it’s happening before our very eyes.”

Nelson also addressed post-Andrew building codes, noting that the Florida Legislature passed a law to relax those codes.

He’s not a fan of that move.

“Let’s keep these strong building codes,” Nelson said, noting that there was a vast difference in how new construction and older buildings fared during Irma on Florida’s Southwest coast when he toured it earlier this week.


Rubio actually agreed with Nelson regarding the building codes.

“People may not like it, but you know when you’re in a house rated post-Andrew, you have a lot more security about what that means for you and your family, and I hope we don’t walk away from that,” Rubio said.

And he had a lot more to say besides.

Regarding the individual assistance authorized by President Donald Trump for individuals impacted by the storm, Rubio noted that time was of the essence regarding disbursement.

“How many people will not be able to go home for a long time … if you lost your home, you can’t go home tonight, we’ve got to get you that money quickly,” Rubio said, noting that local governments — such as Jacksonville, still owed $26M from the federal government for the last storm — are not able to shoulder that burden.

“There are communities waiting three or four years,” Rubio said in reference to Jacksonville’s cash crunch, citing a “backlog” that needs improvement.

“Small businesses” likewise need SBA help.

A “week or two without revenue,” Rubio said, may be the end for them.

Rubio also addressed Nelson’s contention that sea level rise contributed to this storm.

“Irrespective of the broader debate about its causes, you can measure sea level. And when you start to see flooding at high tide at many communities across Florida, when you start to see military installations critical to our economy and our state threatened by it, there are some things you need to do, and some things you can do.”

“There are some things you can do to mitigate,” Rubio said, though he called it a “whole other debate” when this reporter suggested that strategies are elusive to cool the water down that energizes these storms in the first place.

Flooding at high tide, Rubio said, is an “accelerating process.”

We asked Rubio if the Trump Administration was particularly equipped to handle the challenges created by what some call global warming.

“Again, we’re talking about mitigation. And when it comes to mitigation, it’s an infrastructure need,” Rubio said, a “critical” one.

Tim Tebow plays cheerleader for Irma relief efforts

A New York Mets minor leaguer with a Heisman Trophy from his time in The Swamp brought some star power to Gov. Rick Scott‘s Hurricane Irma relief efforts Tuesday.

After visiting a special-needs shelter together Monday night in Jacksonville, Scott teamed with former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow to thank volunteers and workers Tuesday at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee and then left to do the same in Lee County.

“In the midst of a really tough time, you know I think so many people that were hurting have something to hold on to because there were so many volunteers … and they knew there were people in it with them,” Tebow said during the Tallahassee stop. “It doesn’t take away their pain, and it doesn’t take away their fear and doubt of the unknown, but it does give them a little comfort to know that there are people battling with them and loving and supporting them.”

Tebow, who grew up in the Jacksonville area and stopped by a number of Northeast Florida evacuation shelters, had worked with Scott to rally people to volunteer at shelters and in relief efforts before Irma made landfall Sunday in the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida.

“It’s not like you can make everything better at once, but you can know that people are praying for you and they love you and they are here with you walking this journey with you,” Tebow said.

Also, before Scott took part Monday in an aerial survey of damage in the Keys, the governor talked about Hurricane Irma’s storm impacts with Tebow, college football’s 2007 Heisman Trophy winner. Tebow played minor-league baseball this year in the New York Mets system.

Scott told reporters that people staying and working in hurricane-evacuation shelters have appreciated Tebow’s appearances and efforts.

On Friday, Scott retweeted a message from Tebow that said, “@FLGovScott is asking for more volunteers. LET’S RALLY, Florida! Go here: volunteerflorida.org.”

Scott last week also retweeted a message from Miami rapper Pitbull, a former paid ambassador for the state’s tourism industry, who said, “Florida residents & visitors, please be diligent. Evacuate where needed. Be safe. We will be back bigger, better, stronger.”

The storm work by Tebow won’t get him a “Great Floridian” honor – Scott’s already given him that designation.

Tebow was part of the 2013 class of “Great Floridians” that included former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, golfer Bubba Watson, and 16th-century Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon, each recognized for making significant contributions to the progress and welfare of Florida.

Tebow, who is also a college-football analyst for ESPN, has a charity intended to help children in need. He’s also said he can envision a future career in politics.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Irma wallops Jacksonville: historic floods, 250K+ without power

The morning of Sept. 11, 2017 saw the Jacksonville area waking up to the devastation left by Hurricane Irma, even without a direct hit as suffered out west.

Onshore flow rocked Jacksonville’s beaches in the wake of Matthew. Flood waters coursed through St. Augustine, yet again, along with low-lying areas, such as Downtown, Riverside, Old Mandarin, Broward Road, and San Marco. Impacts in many places exceeded that of 1964’s Hurricane Dora: the previous benchmark for the area; downtown saw flooding unseen since the 19th century. Docks throughout town: destroyed.

Tree damage was noticed even before Irma made its approach, a fierce Nor’easter serving as the hurricane’s warm up act; winds that gusted past Category 1 throughout the night only exacerbated that.

Meanwhile, the city itself was not spared. A symphony of exploding power transformers started before midnight and continued even as day broke, with well over 270,000 JEA customers without power at 9:40 a.m. — more than was the case in the wake of Matthew, even as the storm’s tropical storm force winds gusted to gales as the system made its exit.

The Beaches, evacuated days before, are in the dark.

Jacksonville, still waiting for federal reimbursements totaling $26 million from Matthew, was in no position to assess the financial hit taken early Monday morning. The city, Mayor Lenny Curry said before the storm, had “adequate reserves” to take a Matthew-sized hit. But, as the storm bore down on Jacksonville for over 12 hours with tropical storm winds and higher gusts, there were strong indications that hit may be harder than the one incurred last year.

Right now, Curry said it’s “too early” to assess financial impacts; right now, it’s about saving lives.

However, there was plenty that could be said. And as elsewhere in Florida, there is plenty to rebuild. But for some, the worst is not over.

“Serious storm surge,” Curry said, was along the river, bringing “serious flood risk.”

Those who need rescue from flood-prone areas are encouraged to put a white flag outside, to show they are in distress.

City and state rescue teams will be available. JFRD has already gotten one call per minute.

“3 teams -22 LEOs- of pre-staged FWC officers are en route to Jacksonville areas where flooding is reported,” asserted Gov. Rick Scott‘s deputy communications director, McKinley Lewis, after the briefing.

Flooding, said the NWS weather person, has already surpassed historic levels, and will only get worse with this afternoon’s high tide.

“The data that we had spoke to the seriousness of this storm,” Curry said regarding the evacuation.

There’s no data as to fatalities, but injuries via trees through houses and structure fires are another matter.

Jacksonville: Outside Irma cone, but still ‘under the gun’

On Sunday morning, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry updated locals on the impacts of Hurricane Irma, churning in the Gulf toward Tallahassee.

Though the cone has shifted west as variables have fallen away from the forecast, there will be tropical storm force winds with potentially stronger gusts, along with flash flooding and tornado potential.

“Do not be lulled,” Curry said, this is a “very wide storm” and people are urged to “hunker down.”

By 8PM, Jacksonville residents will experience sustained tropical storm force winds; by midnight, conditions will deteriorate rapidly, with winds of 40 to 60 MPH and higher gusts.

Jacksonville is still “under the gun,” said the NWS weather person. But the threat is less than it seemed earlier this week, and certainly less than faced elsewhere.

The city’s cut and toss teams are out already, clearing debris, as a Nor’easter has been an impact this weekend.

Meanwhile, Curry said to expect power outages from this “major statewide event,” with demand on power crews expected to be more significant than Matthew.

Curry attempted to be positive, urging people to score some “mental relief and root for the Jaguars.”

However, for Curry, there were personal worries: family and friends were in Key West when the storm hit, and some did not evacuate.

And there had been no word since the storm passed from them.

Fuel becomes key as Floridians flee Irma

Florida is scrambling to keep up with high demand for gas from people fleeing and preparing for the weekend arrival of powerful and deadly Hurricane Irma.

Highway regulations and restrictions have been lifted for fuel truckers, who are receiving law-enforcement escorts. Also, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Thursday approved emergency fuel waivers requested by Gov. Rick Scott, who is trying to get more gas quickly into Florida.

“Demand obviously is increasing during this time, so what we’re trying to do is make sure on the supply side that we provide more options than what exist,” Pruitt said in an interview with The News Service of Florida.

Pruitt said he spoke with Scott several times by telephone Thursday. Scott requested an extension of the waivers, which were approved for Hurricane Harvey and were set to expire on Sept. 15.

“Those waivers will provide certainty and confidence to refiners and to others in the industry that will be of benefit to the citizens of Florida and to the other states affected (by Irma),” Pruitt said.

Scott also wants people, particularly those who intend to ride out the storm at home or in nearby shelters, to be more altruistic and to fill up with only the amounts of gas they may need the next few days.

“What’s happening is, people are buying so much gas right now, as soon as you fill up at the retailer, they’re buying all the gas before the truck can get back,” Scott said.

Scott also cautioned Floridians not to delay if they are ordered to evacuate or if they have decided to leave home.

“We cannot save you once the storm hits,” Scott said Thursday afternoon at the Jacksonville Emergency Operations Center. “Once there is an evacuation order, get out.”

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Irma was about 135 miles east of Great Inagua Island, with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, moving west-northwest at 16 miles per hour. Scott warned of life-threatening 5- to 10-foot storm surges in Florida from the Category 5 storm.

“My biggest concern right now is people are not taking seriously enough the risk of storm surge,” Scott said.

Florida received its first storm-surge and hurricane watches on Thursday morning, from the Jupiter Inlet south around the peninsula to Bonita Beach. The hurricane watch – typically issued 48 hours before tropical-storm force winds arrive – also includes Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay.

A storm-surge watch means life-threatening rising water is likely within 48 hours.

The Florida Keys, where more than 25,000 people hit the road after mandatory evacuations were ordered for tourists and residents, is under both watches.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for barrier islands and low-lying mainland areas of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said depending upon the projected path of the storm, evacuation orders may be issued Friday for low-lying areas and mobile homes in Northeast Florida.

For those evacuating: “Go north or west,” Curry said.

“They need to get out Jacksonville,” he added. “They need to get out of the path of the storm.”

Curry worried that some residents might be complacent after Hurricane Matthew last October. That hurricane went up the East Coast but never made landfall in Florida. It left more than 1 million without power, caused serious flooding along the St. Johns River and was blamed for 12 deaths in the state.

“One of the things that we’ve heard buzzing around here in Jacksonville and the surrounding area is that this is another Matthew,” Curry said. “This is not another Matthew. And to be clear, Matthew inflicted serious damage on our city.”

Scott activated 3,000 additional members of the Florida National Guard, bringing the number to 4,000. Another 3,000 are expected to be activated by Friday.

Scott also tweeted a photo of a Florida Highway Patrol car traveling behind a tanker truck on an interstate, noting the FHP is escorting “fuel trucks across FL to ensure supplies are quickly refilled.”

Scott added in a release that he’s been in contact with federal officials, fuel retailers and oil companies to address the shortages of fuel.

“We have asked fuel companies to identify ships that are in route to our ports so we can arrange military escorts to get them here faster,” Scott said. “To further expedite fuel delivery, I have directed state police to escort fuel trucks to gas stations along evacuation routes.”

Regulations related to truck weights and driver restrictions have been waived for fuel trucks.

To help keep gas stations open longer in evacuation zones, Scott added the state’s offering to arrange police escorts for station employees.

The Florida Ports Council reported that multiple fuel ships were headed to Port Tampa and JaxPort and were docked at Florida ports.

“Fuel distribution is being expedited at all phases of delivery — Governor Scott has arranged for military vessels to escort the ships to the docks and law enforcement escort of fuel trucks to stations,” the council said Thursday.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.


In FEMA cash crunch, Jacksonville gets short shrift

As Irma bears down on Florida, Jacksonville still awaits monies from FEMA for Hurricane Matthew recovery. That money isn’t coming anytime soon.

An internal email from Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Todd Smith reveals that the cash-strapped federal relief agency has a priority list — and the roughly $26 million Jacksonville awaits is not at the top … especially given the fund is down to $541 million.

While raising the debt ceiling will increase FEMA’s capacity to act, absent a radical cash infusion, city policy makers shouldn’t expect FEMA money soon.

“Bottom line is that we will likely see impacts to some of our long term recovery projects from Hurricane Matthew,” Smith wrote to Mayor Lenny Curry‘s senior staff.

“When the [Designated Relief Fund] balance is within the range of $800 million to $1 billion, they initiate a fiscal strategy called ‘Immediate Needs Funding’ — which prioritizes the immediate needs of disaster survivors, states/tribes/territories, and communities during disasters,” Smith wrote.

Jacksonville’s needs, in other words, fall behind Hurricane Harvey impacts.

The formula, Smith adds, “prioritizes funding for current disasters, so that FEMA can continue its focus on response and urgent recovery efforts without any interruption.”

“Longer-term recovery projects will be temporarily impacted by INF.  This includes the rebuilding of public infrastructure — schools, roads, bridges, and libraries. Funding is not being eliminated for projects in the restricted categories, but merely delayed until additional appropriations are available,” Smith adds.

This email circulated to Curry’s senior staff two days before he expressed confidence that FEMA would make good on its obligation from 2016.

“I am in touch with the right people in the White House and around the White House to get our FEMA reimbursements,” Curry said. “We’re going to get what’s owed to us.”

Curry discussed delayed FEMA payouts Wednesday in a gaggle.

“We know we’ll be reimbursed. We’d like that to be sooner rather than later. But this isn’t a time to squabble about timing; this is a time to care for each other,” Curry said.

We asked Curry if FEMA needs more funding — which would require Congress to raise the debt ceiling.

“I’d ask Congress to do whatever they have to do to … make sure we have the resources to make sure people are safe, and their needs are taken care of,” Curry said.

“Right now, the first priority is the safety of the people in my city — and for Congress, anyone who has been impacted or could be impacted by a storm,” Curry added.

This was the second straight day of FEMA questions for the mayor.

On Tuesday, Curry addressed some FEMA-related questions from the local press corps.

Curry is confident that, even with delayed reimbursements, the city can weather financial impacts from Matthew until federal money comes through … a key factor with Cat 5 Irma looming in the Caribbean, with eventual impact on Northeast Florida unknown at least for now.

Between cash and reserve levels (which, between the operating and emergency reserve, will be somewhere between $135 and $165M at the end of the fiscal year), Curry is confident the city is ready financially for Irma impacts.

And, as Tuesday’s mayoral briefing at the city’s Emergency Operations Center reveals, that readiness will be tested in the days and weeks ahead.

When asked if the city had sufficient resources for a major storm, in its roughly $150 million of reserve monies, Curry’s answer was an interesting one.

The city has “adequate reserves” for an impact created by a storm like Matthew, Curry said. However, a bigger impact — such as this year’s Harvey — would create decisions for policy makers.

“In the event of another Matthew, we have adequate reserves,” Curry said. “In the event of a — of a catastrophic event, we’ve got a budget; we’ve got priorities. Safety comes first, so if we ever had to realign priorities in an emergency situation, we would do just that.”

If Jacksonville is indeed going to be stranded without federal money, then budget priorities almost certainly will be realigned. Even if the debt ceiling is raised, expect finite federal resources to be diverted to bigger, more immediate priorities.

As Irma looms, Confederate monument debate gets pushback in Jax City Hall

Even as Jacksonville’s Mayor and City Council President stand shoulder to shoulder during storm prep pressers, they diverge on another storm of a different matter.

That storm is a Category 5, but of a different type: namely, the future of the city’s Confederate monuments.

Council President Anna Brosche was provided an inventory by Jacksonville’s Parks Department last month. Though she sidestepped specific comment when we asked her about the path forward, an email “obtained” by First Coast News delineates Brosche’s position.

To sum: the inventory is incomplete and not “responsive” to her request. Brosche asserts that at least one monument was elided.

“I do not believe the document is responsive to my statement issued on Monday, Aug. 14, or my specific clarification in our meeting on Monday, Aug. 21 in which I requested an inventory of ‘Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers on public property.’” Brosche asserted.

“As such,” Brosche added, “I am asking you to review your list to determine if you believe it is responsive to my request, i.e., Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers on public property.  If it is, please change the filename and file title (within) to reflect a response to my request, and for clarity given that many outside parties are requesting a copy of the inventory you provide.”

Brosche wants “updated pictures of the Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers on public property that you were inventorying.”

Citing the Southern Poverty Law Center (an unusual move for a Republican in Northeast Florida), Brosche noted a significant omission.

“In addition to the above clarification request, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report in 2016 that includes a monument not on your list:  Yellow Bluff Fort Monument. So that I may respond to anyone inquiring as to why such monument is not on your list, but contained on a readily available document inventorying monuments throughout the nation, please let me know your reasoning for not including that monument.”

The Yellow Bluff monument is on state property, leaving the city no recourse to remove it independently, asserted the Parks director.

The inventory provided by the Parks Department revealed three monuments, put in place between 1898 and 1926; and eight historic markers.

The monuments include the Confederate Monument in Hemming Park, the ‘Monument to the Women of the Southland’ in Confederate Park in Springfield, and a Confederate Memorial Services grandstand at the Old City Cemetery.

The historical markers are on the Northbank Riverwalk, Walter Jones Park in Mandarin, the Old City Cemetery, the Prime Osborn Convention Center, Lenox Ave. near Cedar Creek (memorializing a “skirmish”), Confederate Park, and Camp Milton Historic Preserve.

Brosche will be discussing Confederate monuments at a Thursday afternoon “FirstThursday” meeting of the Jacksonville Urban League, one where she should expect a warm reception.

The email promoting the event lauds Brosche’s “fresh, innovative and transparent leadership style as the new President of the Jacksonville City Council.”

“FirstThursday Jacksonville is honored and humbled that Council President, the Honorable Anna Lopez Brosche has agreed to address our members, friends and the community during our post-Labor Day meeting,” said FirstThursday Jacksonville’s Chairman, W. Larry Williams.

“Our community is anxious to hear what the Council President’s thoughts are regarding Jacksonville’s Confederate monuments, urban and inner-city communities and the overall economic disparities that exist in these communities,” Williams added.

Amid all of the policy drama, an indication surfaced overnight Tuesday of resistance to monuments — specifically, the high-profile monument in Hemming Park, which was defaced with red spray paint.

The tarp covered most of the paint.

On Wednesday morning, Curry noted that JSO is investigating the “disgusting” incident, but that public safety workers are more focused on the coming storm, “potentially about to put themselves into harm’s way.”

In this context, one veteran elected official believes that there should be a pause in the debate as a potential public safety crisis looms in the Caribbean.

“There is nothing more important today than preparing our City for the devastating and dangerous Hurricane Irma. We need to stay focused on standing with our Mayor and emergency personnel to keep our City safe. As a former Mayor and now Councilman, I know the hard decisions Mayor Curry is currently facing, and nothing should distract from our attention on the safety and welfare of all of our citizens,” Councilman Tommy Hazouri said.

And another veteran public official, Councilman Bill Gulliford, believes there needs to be a hard stop to debate without a legislative solution at present.

“I think she should stop period. She has unilaterally initiated the discussion so how does she go forward? Introduce legislation?”

“Right now we are debating a phantom bill that doesn’t exist. Whether I agree or not either we need to let it die, or someone needs to do something concrete,” Gulliford added.

Regarding the ongoing debate, meanwhile, Curry said he was focused on doing his job and ensuring the “people of Jacksonville are prepared … and safe” for the storm.

“I’m focused on my job,” Curry said.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons