Jacksonville – Page 7 – Florida Politics

Lenny Curry laments ‘senseless violence’ on Jacksonville streets

Mayors come and go, but the bloodtide on Jacksonville streets continues.

This weekend, yet another child was caught in the line of fire.

Seven-year-old Tashawn Gallon was gunned down in Durkeeville Sunday night. Per the Florida Times-Union, he died hours after being shot in a drive-by.

“Last night a 7 yr. old was killed in a drive-by shooting in our city. We must come together as a community and stop this senseless violence to give our kids a sense of hope and peace,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted Monday.

Durkeeville, a rough neighborhood for decades now, is on the periphery of downtown Jacksonville.

“This happened less than 2 miles from City Hall, Within 2 miles of our government and churches and schools and FSCJ and firehouses and sheriff substations, all institutions designed to help keep a community safe and allow kids the security to grow and learn how to make choices and follow dreams,” Curry continued.

“In the shadow of all that opportunity and assistance, a 7 yr. old had life stolen by someone so hopeless and directionless that they didn’t hesitate to recklessly turn our streets into a war zone. We have to break through to these young people. We have to find a way to make them recognize there is so much more for them than they can imagine if they choose to believe in hope and peace.”

Small children being shot: a running theme in Jacksonville homicides, and something that Curry has all too routinely had to address during his two and a half years in office.

After a November 2016 shooting of an infant, Curry addressed the problem with similar urgency.

“When you have a child shot and killed,” Curry said, that “wakes the community up.”

“When this happened,” Curry continued, “there were other shootings happening in the city … and the night before, and the night before that.”

2016 also saw the shooting of toddler Aiden McClendon, which Curry described as the toughest thing he ever had to deal with as mayor.

Jacksonville saw 142 murders in 2017. That was one murder short of the record set in 2008.

Curry ran for office on a platform that included stopping the violent crime in Jacksonville streets.

In 2015, Curry’s campaign rhetoric was fiery.

He claimed that since Brown’s election, “murder and crime” have spiked, and we’re now “even seeing kids dying on the street.” Brown’s “inability to manage a budget” led to “fewer cops [and a] spike in crime and the murder rate.”

Brown, said Curry, “demonstrated that he was not serious about [reducing] crime over the last four years.”

By the end of that campaign, Brown was talking tough, saying in a May news conference to gangbangers that “we are not going to tolerate it anymore. You do the crime, you are going to pay the time.”

He had also requested help from the Justice Department.

Curry prioritized restoring the “Jacksonville Journey” as a candidate. Since he has been in office, the mayor reorganized youth programs under the aegis of the Kids Hope Alliance.

What’s clear, however, is that campaign rhetoric and policy follow-through haven’t caused the murder rate to abate.

Jacksonville’s Big Fishweir Creek restoration clears City Council committee

A Jacksonville creek restoration project awaited by Avondale area residents for more than a decade is finally on the verge of a City Council green light.

And Council members hope this is the beginning of a series of similar projects.

In committees Tuesday and Wednesday: a bill (2018-8) to move forward on the restoration of Big Fishweir Creek.

Tuesday’s committee stop, which the bill passed unanimously, saw a number of residents supporting the proposal before the panel passed it, with Councilman Jim Love, the local representative, extolling benefits.

“Wildlife. Beauty. Natural recreation. There are a lot of reasons to do this,” Love, who used to row boats on the river, said in Tuesday’s committee stop.

Councilman Greg Anderson noted that the city damaged the tributary via road projects and silting, and now the creek pools rather than flows.

Restored, Anderson is confident that kayaking will be possible, as well as the flowing of natural springs that were buried by silt.

Decades-long urbanization and development made the tributary inhospitable to swimming and fishing, per the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“This tributary is tidally influenced,” Amanda Parker, United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Public Affairs Specialist, told the Resident News in 2017.

“The contributing sub-basin to Big Fishweir Creek has been urbanized predominantly with residential land use, much of it occurring prior to promulgation of stormwater regulations. Therefore, limited stormwater management has been implemented in the sub-basin, resulting in sediment deposition in the creek. Urbanization included encroachment along the banks of the creek. Over time, sediments transported by storm events have covered the natural creek bottom. The sediment deposition and encroachment from urbanization have reduced the natural habitat in the creek and along the creek banks.”

The USACE outlines some benefits to the project, including making the creek “swimmable and fishable,” creating a navigable habitat for the still-endangered manatee, generally improving water quality and creating a marsh island.

The project is estimated to cost $6,549,000; the city of Jacksonville has appropriated $2,566,375, with the USACE picking up the other 65 percent of the tab. If the federal contribution goes up, the local share will do likewise. The federal cap is $10 million.

Construction is expected for 2019.

$130M+ hit for Jacksonville from hurricanes, as financial storm clouds loom

Reimbursements will come sooner or later for the city of Jacksonville from the federal government for Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.

Until then, however, the impact of the storms will be felt in the city’s general fund budget.

The Jacksonville City Council Auditor’s quarterly report for the final three months of 2017 puts the figures in sharp relief.

“The latest Hurricane Matthew projection estimates the financial impact will be approximately $45.1 million. As of January 31, 2018, the City incurred expenditures of $28.0 million related to Hurricane Matthew,” the report contends.

“87.5% of the total allowable expenses are subject to reimbursement, leaving the City to fund the remainder. The fiscal year 2017/18 approved budget includes an appropriation of $7.0 million from the GF/GSD to cover the City’s estimated obligation,” the report adds.

Irma is worse: the financial impact will be approximately $86.4 million.

“This could result in an estimated $10.8 million negative impact to the GF/GSD in the future. As of January 31, 2018, the City incurred expenditures of $45.8 million related to Hurricane Irma,” the report contends.

Jacksonville’s general fund budget is $1.27 billion currently. Reserve levels are in the $150 million range.

Even before Hurricane Irma, there was pushback from the Jacksonville City Council in terms of bolstering the city’s reserve levels.

Mayor’s Office staffers cautioned that obligations were coming due and it would pay off to bolster reserve levels.

That ultimately was not convincing to the Council Finance Committee.

In September, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said that he was confident that the city had sufficient reserves to weather a storm with an impact comparable to that of Matthew.

However, Irma’s track created a greater impact.

With slow reimbursements, one wonders if the discussion of reserve levels will be a more forceful one this summer.

The city has already been dinged by analysts for high fixed costs. These, combined with a reluctance to hike taxes, are leading influencers and policy makers to take a hard look at JEA privatization, which could net the city $3 to $6 billion.

Meanwhile, the city has worries regarding increasing interest rates and the equity market volatility of recent weeks.

“Also, a flattening of the yield curve continued throughout the 4th quarter, as the current market expectation is that the Fed will raise rates approximately three times in 2018. The downward shift of the long end of the curve continues to be interpreted as a sign that increased volatility may be on the horizon,” the auditor’s report contends.

No fix for Duval residents vexed by CSX crossing blockages

Duval County residents continue to be vexed by CSX trains stalled out at railroad crossings during the “precision railroading” era.

They shouldn’t expect recourse from local government, however.

A correspondent to Mayor Lenny Curry attempted this week to get recourse from the company. She was directed to make her grievance known on a webpage but with no response.

Some excerpts from her email follow.

“Today I was stopped in Baldwin by a train in the early afternoon.  When I got to the tracks at Rt. 90 (West Beaver Street) where North 301 connects with it, many people were in a long line; they’d already been stopped for quite a while & were backed up … I was there waiting in line for 20 minutes while the train just sat there across the tracks, blocking traffic, not moving.  Many more cars got in line behind me.  Finally, it started up again, but we still had to wait another 10 minutes because there were so many cars on it,” she wrote.

In an effort to save money, especially in light of recent staff eviscerations, trains have gotten longer. With predictably tragicomic results:

“One day I counted over 200 cars from beginning to end.  It doesn’t matter what time of day, but frequently, a very long train will come and just sit there blocking the road for 20 minutes to over an hour and a half or more; one man told me he’d been stopped by a train for 2 hours one day.  I have missed doctor appointments, been late for work, gotten home late for dinner, errands, meetings, etc.  Sometimes it happens in the morning, sometimes at lunchtime, afternoon and evening, ANYtime of day.  One evening, I came home from work downtown late, got to Baldwin, just a few blocks from my home & was there waiting for TWO trains for over an hour and 15 minutes.  I just live down the street, & there was no way for me to get home. It is very frustrating.  I have lived in quite a few other areas, even in other states, that were near railroad tracks, and I have NEVER seen anything like this.”

“There have been other times on South 301 near Rt. 90, that the freight trains block both tracks we have to cross in Baldwin, and I saw ambulances getting in line, waiting, then finally turning back to try to get away via I-10.  People’s lives are at stake because of instances like this.  I would hate to be injured or having a heart attack in an ambulance that got stopped by a train for an hour.  It isn’t right,” the correspondent wrote.

She goes on to suggest potential solutions, such as shortening the trains.

 Curry, in a response, notes that he has no oversight over CSX.

“Although CSX is a private company, over which I have no oversight, I have shared these same concerns expressed by other citizens with their executives,” Curry wrote.

CSX had claimed to cut blockage times just weeks before.

“CSX noted that in the past three weeks they have changed their operations using a utility switchman and this should reduce some of the blockage time.  The mayor will monitor the complaints and let us know if this changed reduced the amount of time trains block the roadway,” asserted Doreen Joyner-Howard, FDOT’s District Freight, Logistics and Passenger Operations Manager, in an email to other FDOT officials.

Clearly, that operations change isn’t helping in the cases described in the email.

Motivations for CSX to fix the issue seem opaque, given the lack of recourse a local government has.

Late in 2017, there were so many citations written on the “precision railroading” company that the city of Jacksonville and CSX had an “arrangement” to pay a few citations and junk the rest — a salutary legal arrangement that most scofflaws will never enjoy.

Blockage issues abound beyond Duval County.

Jalopnik reports of a nine-hour crossing blockage in Michigan in October. CSX told the gullible city manager that the problem that caused blockages would be resolved in a “week to ten days.” CSX told others that the train had broken down, a potential consequence of overburdening the locomotive.

First responders in Ohio, dealing with situations where seconds could mean the difference between life and death, often have to race the trains to traverse a town bisected with rail infrastructure.

“You pray and hope there is no train,” said a firefighter to a Cincinnati television station.

In Richmond, a CSX train was abandoned during a shift change. It sat dormant across tracks until the next crew arrived.

In addition to delays, other issues have cropped up with CSX, as spotlighted into an Amtrak train crashing into a parked CSX train in South Carolina on Feb. 4.

The State, a Columbia newspaper, notes that “CSX employees suspended the traffic control signals system on Feb. 3 and were to work on the system through the next day. The installation of components for the positive control system was partially complete when work crews quit at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3.”

“While the collision remains under investigation, we know that signal suspensions are an unusual operating condition, used for signal maintenance, repair and installation, that have the potential to increase the risk of train collisions,’’ NTSB board chairman Robert Sumwalt said. “That risk was not mitigated in the Cayce collision.”

The State also reports that, in Columbia, epic crossing blockages are a fact of life and the city ordinance recommends fines of $5 to $20.

For CSX, a company who paid a man on his deathbed to come in, fire thousands of people, and collect $84 million even as his infirmity was as apparent as his oxygen tank, $5 may not be real money.

In any event, multiple courts have ruled in favor of railroads over cities, and with aggressive lobbying arms on behalf of CSX and the like, there is no move to change federal law to impose accountability.

Aaron Bowman gets Jacksonville City Council presidency backing from two former presidents

Jacksonville City Council Vice President Aaron Bowman made it official Monday, launching his bid for the board’s presidency.

On Friday, Bowman came away with pledges from two former council presidents and a former mayor serving on the Council.

Tradition holds that the vice president moves to the presidency, barring some unusual development, such as what happened in 2017 when Anna Brosche defeated John Crescimbeni for the top job.

Tradition looks like it will hold in this case.

Backing Bowman on Friday: the two most recent past presidents, Lori Boyer and Greg Anderson, along with former mayor and current Councilman Tommy Hazouri, and Councilmen Doyle Carter and Matt Schellenberg.

Boyer and Anderson worked well with Mayor Lenny Curry during their presidencies; conversely, the Brosche presidency has been a divisive one, with competing narratives between her and fellow Republican Lenny Curry on a variety of issues, including pension reform, children’s program reforms, and exploring the prospect of selling local utility JEA.

A special City Council meeting Wednesday, held at Curry’s request, was so fractious that Brosche would not recognize Curry to speak.

Bowman, a former commander of NAS Mayport, sent councilmembers a letter Monday declaring his candidacy, which boiled it down to a return to civility and order. This will be especially timely given that his year as president will be an election year for the majority of council.

Bowman’s letter urges a City Council strategic plan, to rectify what the first-term Republican calls an “undefined direction” on the 19-person legislative body.

Bowman also seeks regular meetings with all councilmembers to drill into district issues; one of the hallmarks of the current president was the marginalization of key members, such as Tommy HazouriBill Gulliford, and Crescimbeni, and these meetings would seem to be a way of ensuring that all councilmembers have a voice with leadership, fostering “unity and respect.”

To that end, Bowman vows to seek board and commission candidates from councilmembers, rather than reserving selection as the prerogative of the president.

Bowman also vows to regularly meet with the mayor, continuing the “consistent communication” he has forged with Curry and his senior team as VP. Curry prioritizes downtown development and business recruitment; these also are two priorities of Bowman, who is a vice president of JAXUSA, a business recruitment arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

Bowman also prioritizes building relationships with the Duval delegation, in order to ensure coordination of priorities at the state level.

While it’s conceivable that someone could launch a run for president against Bowman, it’s a fool’s errand.

The race for council vice president is in flux, with a number of candidates who have yet to garner significant commitments of support. But the race for the top job is all but decided with this declaration of candidacy.

Jacksonville Sports and Entertainment head Dave Herrell resigns

A shakeup in the office of Mayor Lenny Curry ends a particularly eventful week in Jacksonville politics.

Sports and Entertainment head Dave Herrell resigned, capping an almost four-year run after being appointed in 2014 by former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. The role, per Brown, was “a key position to build Jacksonville’s momentum as a premier destination for major sports and entertainment events.”

“It’s a sweet job for Herrell, who will earn $155,000,” observed the Tenneseean newspaper when Herrell was hired

Herrell was responsible in a previous role for elevating the status of the Fiesta Bowl; however, the TaxSlayer Bowl was not particularly elevated in his term.

Budget hearings between Herrell’s department and the Mayor’s senior staff, at times, were contentious, with Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and others questioning the necessity for the department as it was constituted.

Herrell’s Resignation Letter indicates that, while the resignation is effective April 10, the actual departure date was February 9.

Herrell will use his leave time to “pursue professional opportunities.”

Meanwhile, there is a vacancy to fill in Curry’s senior team, as Chief of Staff Brian Hughes continues to settle into the role.

Marsha Oliver, spokeswoman for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, confirmed Friday that Herrell resigned, but gave no indication as to why beyond providing the letter.

Developing story, expect updates.

Jacksonville Bold for 2.16.18 — Power play

Before we get to federal and state news, let’s take a look at local drama.

In what has been the roughest week for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, his administration pushed forth to a skeptical City Council and the querulous crowd a controversial report Wednesday urging the sale of the local public utility.

The valuation study was released in draft form last week, suggesting that this is the best time ever for Jacksonville to unload all (or part) of its public utility.

It was a tough week for Lenny Curry.

JEA CEO Alan Howard requested a City Council meeting. He was rebuffed by Council President Anna Brosche, who nonetheless had to preside over the meeting anyway when Curry called a conclave.

Gone are the halcyon days of Friday pep rallies with Curry and Brosche cheerleading the Jaguars in Council Chambers, lost in a phalanx of claims, counterclaims and character assassinations. In Wednesday’s meeting, the mayor called the Council president a liar when she said Curry wanted an authorization to explore a JEA sale, followed by Brosche’s assistant saying Curry’s chief of staff “accosted” her, creating a hostile work environment.

The sale, per a General Counsel memo, would require a two-thirds City Council vote. That would be a proverbial heavy lift, given that going into Wednesday, most Council members who had an opinion were skeptical. Some wanted a referendum (not permissible, per the memo).

Others thought a sale is bad business.

And for many skeptics, it wasn’t lost on them that Curry patron Tom Petway, a board appointee who replaced one of Alvin Brown‘s picks soon after Curry took office, was the primary pusher of the sale option last year.

Many of the mayor’s haters have wondered when he would be seen as overplaying his hand. Some will say that happened, finally, this week.

Duval on Senate floor during immigration debate

Sen. Bill Nelson spotlighted a Jacksonville example during the Senate immigration debate this week.

Bill Nelson spotlighted a Duval DREAMer on the Senate floor this week.

Nelson, a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, illustrated the need for protections via the story of Elisha Dawkins.

Dawkins thought he was born in America. He was wrong. He was locked up for falsifying passport information. Could have been deported. But Nelson stepped in.

“I found out about him because I read a news clip that he was in jail. Here was a fella, grew up in America, only knowing that he was American because he was brought to America from the Bahamas at age six months. He served two tours in Iraq. He came back and joined the Navy Reserves. He had a top-secret clearance. His reserve duty was in Guantánamo with that top-secret clearance. And then because of an application for a passport, he was suddenly swept up and put in jail,” Nelson asserted.

“Now, fortunately, we found out about it, started raising a stink about it. It was brought to the attention in one of the court hearings by a federal judge, and the federal judge said to the assistant U.S. attorney, ‘What in the world are you doing putting a fellow like this in jail?’ And, of course, after that tongue lashing from a federal judge, we got involved with Elisha,” Nelson added.

“I’m happy to report to you that Elisha is today a U.S. citizen. Elisha is a productive member of the Jacksonville community,” Nelson added. “And he is educated, and he is contributing to his community.”

Rutherford not down with Brown

Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford obviously won’t vote in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District between Rep. Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Brown.

However, in comments made Monday morning, Rutherford made it clear that he would prefer Lawson keeping his seat to Brown, with whom Rutherford worked for four years in Jacksonville, capsizing the Democrat from Tallahassee.

Not all Alvin Brown/John Rutherford meetings had clerics around, but this one did.

“We had some real disagreements on what was best for this community,” Rutherford said in Jacksonville about Brown. “I believe he hurt law enforcement and public safety in Jacksonville.”

For years, Rutherford and Brown sparred over budget issues with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, which Rutherford ran from 2003 to 2015.

“I can tell you I’ve worked with Al Lawson in Congress already. He’s a gentleman, he’s bipartisan, and I really like working with Al,” Rutherford said. “He and I have really hit it off big, I think. He’s very supportive of our veterans. We have a great working relationship.”

The congressman added that Lawson is more than just a “Tallahassee guy,” saying that Lawson “talks about Jacksonville all the time and what’s going on here and the needs of Northeast Florida.”

Trumpeting Trump

Rep. Rutherford is pretty much yoked to President Donald Trump at this point, and that affinity applies to tax reform and the continuing resolution passed this month.

John Rutherford traveled to Jacksonville with VP Mike Pence to sell the failed ‘Obamacare’ repeal last year.

That held true during a press gaggle Monday in Jacksonville, in which Rutherford defended the continuing resolution to keep the government open, the tax reform bill that critics argue will disproportionately benefit corporations over the middle class, and suggested entitlement cuts down the road to offset a legislative commitment to increased deficit spending.

Asking Rutherford about these issues, reporters note that these measures look likely to pass debt onto future generations.

Rutherford asserted that CBO assumptions of 1.9 percent gross domestic product growth over the next 10 years are probably low.

“They’re anticipating as high as four, four and a half,” he said. “Each point above 1.9 percent is $274 billion a year. If we’re just one point above, in three years we fill the trillion-dollar hole created by the tax cut.”

Regarding the CR, Rutherford asserted that “if your house is being eaten up by termites and it’s on fire, which are you going to address first? Some things are more exigent than others.”

Savings will come, he said, when entitlements are cut.

“Where it’s going to come from,” said Rutherford, “is when we get to the entitlements side of the budget, that’s where the bulk of the revenue is at; that’s where we’re going to have to cut and find ways to make that happen.”

Read more here.

DeSantis needs money

Rep. DeSantis would be seen by some as more of a Northeast Florida candidate if his clear interest weren’t D.C. intrigue rather than Florida issues.

Ron DeSantis trails Adam Putnam 5:1 in the money race between the two GOP candidates for Governor.

One wonders if he might have stronger fundraising were he not doing most of his campaign from the Fox News studios.

Per the Palm Beach Post, DeSantis is still way behind Adam Putnam in the money race for governor, with “less new money in January than the Agriculture Commissioner.

“DeSantis’ campaign advertised a gaudy $3.3 million January haul — but more than $2.4 million of that figure was raised last year by a pro-DeSantis PAC and transferred to a new PAC in January,” the Post observes.

“DeSantis, who announced his candidacy on Jan. 5, raised $894,020 in new contributions in January. That includes $131,019 collected by his main campaign committee and $763,001 raised by a new PAC called Friends of Ron DeSantis. The Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC also received more than $2.4 million from the Fund For Florida’s Future, a PAC formed by DeSantis supporters last year that raised more than $2.6 million through the end of December. The Fund For Florida’s Future nearly zeroed out its account last month, giving $2 million to the new DeSantis PAC on Jan. 18 and another $447,394 on Jan. 31.”

The real story: a five to one ($16.8 million versus $3.3 million) advantage for Putnam.

Moody shreds Fant

Rep. Jay Fant took yet another shot at Attorney General opponent Ashley Moody this week, calling via letter for a “Second Amendment” debate with the “liberal” retired judge, and questioning Moody’s commitment to Stand Your Ground.

Jay Fant gave up a safe House seat for the AG race. Might he regret that soon?

Moody then fired back, making it clear she thought Fant was a mountebank with no business in the AG race.

“Your letter demonstrates why you are not qualified to be Attorney General,” Moody wrote Tuesday. “You do not understand ‘Stand Your Ground’ as it existed then or now, criminal law, or how to try a case. This is not surprising since you have never actually tried a case, prosecuted anyone, nor really practiced law.”

Moody also brushed aside Fant’s challenge to a “Second Amendment debate” on March 1 in Tallahassee.

“I look forward to debating you, Frank White and Ross Spano, in the future and discussing how I will tackle the difficult challenges facing Florida, including the Second Amendment. But, until then, I plan on continuing to travel Florida meeting voters, hearing their stories, and discussing why I should be Florida’s next Attorney General,” Moody responded.

Too much moola for Shands?

POLITICO Florida waded into regional politics with a whistleblower type story asserting that UF Health was getting too much money in the Senate budget.

POLITICO took a swipe at Northeast Florida hospital funding this week.

“Consider Shands Jacksonville Hospital and one of its employees, state Sen. Aaron Bean. He voted to approve a proposed Senate budget that disproportionately benefits the hospital from a pool of hundreds of millions of dollars the Legislature must divide among the state’s many public and private hospitals. Bean works at Shands as a ‘relationship development officer.’ Basically, he gets paid to bring in money,” the POLITICO dispatch observed.

“The Senate appropriation gave Shands Jacksonville a special funding boost of about $12 million. State Senate Budget Chief Rob Bradley — who happens to Bean’s brother-in-law — said he was unaware of the extra money and is calling it a mistake. But Bean won’t say whether he knew about the special money when he voted for it,” the article continues.

UF Health, of course, is arguably the most cash-strapped safety net hospital in the state. The extra $12 million would have made a real difference. Luckily, though, watchdog journalism will ensure another year of belt-tightening for the institution.

HD 15 still House race to watch

The race to replace Rep. Fant in House District 15 continues to be close in terms of cash on hand.

Tracye Polson issued a news release Monday detailing her resources.

Trayce Polson is putting her money where her mouth is, but can she win?

“We will report today another $27,746 in January for my campaign. This is all in my campaign account and includes a $25,000 loan from me personally. This puts my combined total raised to $135,347 with over $91,000 COH,” Polson said.

The $25,000 loan dwarfs the $2,746 of hard money Polson raised in January off 46 contributions (many of which were as small as $1), bringing her to $55,000 loaned to her campaign. Polson also brought in $2,600 to her political committee, Better Jacksonville, but $2,500 was from her campaign treasurer.

Polson’s $91,000 on hand keeps her close to Republican lawyer Wyman Duggan, whose long-rumored primary challenge has yet to manifest.

$5,350 of new money in January brought Duggan over $109,000 raised, with approximately $95,000 of that cash on hand.

Other races for the State House on the 2018 ballot have no drama in the cash dash.

Water issues ahead, Graham says

Former U.S. Senator and Florida Gov. Bob Graham addressed a packed room in Jacksonville at the North Florida Land Trust’s annual meeting.

Graham, the keynote speaker at the event, discussed water issues and tenets of effective lobbying.

Water, Graham said, would be a “continuing challenge” for Florida, due to anticipated population growth and development.

Currently, Graham said, one in 5 acres in Florida is developed.

By 2070, the number will be up to 35 percent.

Former Gov. Bob Graham warns of future water issues.

That development and population growth, said Graham, will tax the St. Johns River, springs and other tributaries. Impacts will be felt statewide, including the Apalachicola River and the Everglades.

“The state needs to step its game up,” Graham said, and “think 20 to 30 years ahead.”

However, that’s not exactly happening — and Graham dedicated a portion of his remarks to the importance of advocacy.

Graham noted that Florida chiropractors were the most effective at lobbying their issues during his heyday.

They built a personal connection, with chiropractors connecting with legislators in their districts. Typically, they’d call quarterly and would talk about sports and other ephemera when the Legislature was not approaching Session.

Then, just ahead of Session, it would be business.

The personal relationship was important to that approach, and effective.

Campaign finance disparities in Duval races

Local Jacksonville candidates continue fundraising for the 2019 elections, and a leitmotif is the relative non-competitiveness of cash dashes thus far.

The carnage starts in the race for Sheriff, where new entry Tony Cummings sputtered in his first campaign finance report, bringing in an anemic $525.

Tony Cummings started really slow in Sheriff’s race fundraising. Not a good sign.

That’s a car payment, but not nearly enough to credibly message against incumbent Sheriff Mike Williams.

Williams has, between committee cash and hard lucre, roughly $338,000 on hand at the end of January.

This was after a quiet month of fundraising for him and Mayor Lenny Curry both.

There are several similarly lopsided races for Jacksonville City Council as well.

Read about them here.

Bowman for president

Jacksonville City Council Vice President Aaron Bowman made it official Monday, launching his run for the Council presidency.

Tradition holds that the Vice President moves to the presidency, barring some unusual development, such as what happened in 2017 when Brosche defeated John Crescimbeni for the top job.

Meet El Presidente: No one will challenge Aaron Bowman for the top job.

The Brosche presidency has been a fractious one, with competing narratives between her and fellow Republican Curry on a variety of issues, including pension reform, children’s program reforms, and exploring the prospect of selling local utility JEA.

If there is a subtext to the letter Bowman, a former commander of NAS Mayport, sent Council members declaring his candidacy, it would be a return to civility and order. This will be especially timely given that his year as President will be an election year for the majority of Council.

While it’s conceivable that someone could launch a run for President against Bowman, it’s a fool’s errand.

The race for Council Vice President is in flux, with a number of candidates who have yet to garner significant commitments of support. But the race for the top job is all but decided with this declaration of candidacy.

Civil rights history task force

This week, Jacksonville City Council President Brosche rolled out a proposal for a task force on civil rights history.

This will be a 25-person task force, chaired by School Board member Warren Jones and Ju’Coby Pittman.

A lunch counter sit-in set the stage for 1960s brutal Axe Handle Saturday in downtown Jacksonville.

Board members include, but are not limited to, Chris Hand, Hope McMath, Tony Allegretti, Marcus Pollard, Ennis Davis, Isaiah Rumlin, Alton Yates and Darnell Smith.

The task force proposal is a reaction to Jacksonville and Florida not being on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. The trail covers 14 states and 100 historic landmarks.

The task force will complete the work by June 30.

Council members in attendance at a public notice meeting Monday included Sam Newby, Reggie Brown, Garrett Dennis, Katrina Brown and Reggie Gaffney.

There was approval for the concept, and potential developments, including a museum proposal by Councilman Brown, and a discussion of potential landmarks that could be included on the trail.

Council members discussed potentially getting money for the museum concept from Tallahassee and Washington, as potential matches for city money.

With education, no more #MeToo

With an increasing number of sexual harassment accusations against entertainment, community and elected leaders, Jacksonville’s Ed Burr is calling for better education and tools for our children to ensure safety for both themselves and others.

In an op-ed for USA TODAY, the entrepreneur and mega-developer described how he watched each development in the #MeToo movement with a “mixture of awe and disheartenment. The bravery of the survivors is inspiring, but in the face of so much evil we can feel powerless.”

With education, Ed Burr says #MeToo can be no more.

Burr calls for a focus on education, giving power to children to prevent abuse from happening in the first place.

“Educators, you have a powerful platform of influence. Schools serve as the single best place to implement prevention programs,” he writes. “Parents can help by supporting schools’ decisions to teach these programs and by fostering a dialogue at home. And lawmakers can make a difference by requiring all schools to provide abuse prevention education — and by holding them accountable to do so.”

Cecil Spaceport to launch first commercial space vehicle this year

After last week’s Space-X launch, Cecil Airport — the joint civil-military facility located in Jacksonville — announced preparation for its first commercial space launch, expected to happen before the end of the year.

Currently, there are 12 commercial spaceports in the United States. Cecil Spaceport will be one of six that can accommodate horizontal launches. Jets equipped with small rockets would fly all over the ocean to be launched.

An aerial view of Naval Air Station Cecil Field, set to become a horizontal launch spaceport.

“It’s incredible, it just makes myself very proud of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and the Jacksonville community,” Cecil Spaceport director Todd Lindner told News 4 Jax.

Construction on a new hangar begins this month, designed for space operators, assembly and storage of vehicles.

“A new space operation mission control center which will be part of a new air traffic control tower that is going into construction probably later this year,” Lindner added.

Tarps come off

Bully for the Jacksonville Jaguars — the Florida Times-Union reports that the tarps are finally coming off the nosebleed seats, a measure of demand for a revived product.

Jalen Ramsey is one of many players who made Jacksonville love its Jaguars again.

Seems like only months ago that local right-wingers were fulminating about kneeling for the anthem.

What a difference a playoff run makes.

Regarding the anti-kneeling brigade, file away the spectacle from last year the next time you consider the next great social conservative fulmination.

Jacksonville general counsel clears Brian Hughes in dispute with City Council assistant

Brian Hughes, chief of staff for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, has been cleared of charges that he violated any laws in an interaction earlier this week with a City Council staffer.

Hughes had been accused of “accosting” Jeneen Sanders, assistant to Council President Anna Brosche, in a conversation over Curry’s office not being copied on an email from Brosche discussing the Mayor’s Office.

However, the General Counsel’s letter, reflective of the investigation, “conclusively demonstrates” that Hughes violated no laws in his interaction with Sanders.

The two witnesses, an administrative assistant and the front office manager of the Mayor’s Office, were interviewed. Video of the event and written statements from Hughes and Sanders were also considered.

Sanders said Hughes “accosted” her on the 4th floor of City Hall Monday afternoon.

“The next time your boss sends an email, she needs to CC this office,” Sanders claims Hughes said.

Sanders cited Hughes’ “aggressive tone, facial expressions, and his physical movements” as causes for written complaint for creating a hostile work environment.

Hughes had called the accusation “baseless” and “false,” and the city’s lawyers stood by him.

Meanwhile, there is still pitched acrimony between the offices of the Mayor and the Council President.

It manifested most recently in a brutal three-hour City Council meeting Wednesday, in which President Brosche would not recognize Curry to speak on the subject of the JEA Valuation Report.

Brosche refrained from comment when we asked her on Thursday afternoon.

Hughes said he was “grateful to the Office of General Counsel – the legal team for the entire COJ government – for conducting this review.”

“With the distraction behind me,” Hughes added, “I’m proudly working with the mayor and city leaders to accomplish positive results for the people of this great city.”

Jacksonville warns Klansman about littering in wake of leaflet drop

In January, Jacksonville residents complained about the return of Ku Klux Klan flyers to city streets.

“I am visiting Jacksonville, and was disturbed to see these flyers (such as those pictured) rolled up and strewn along Riverside Ave. in Five Points in short intervals.  They are everywhere in the area between the Publix and Bell Riverside Apartments, and beyond.  Regardless of the content of the messages, it is illegal to litter City rights of way and private property like this, per the Florida Litter Law, Section 403.413(4)(a) and (c), Florida Statutes,” one wrote.

The cover described the “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” as “fighting for the white race.” The interior text referred to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a “communist alcoholic pervert.”

The city was slow to respond, and that response included a suggestion to set up an “Adopt a Road” program.

The story doesn’t end there.

Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa was made aware of the issue not through internal communications, but “through the media.”

Mousa was emphatic in an email to the complainant: “I was not happy!!”

The city, meanwhile, has attempted a remedy of sorts; namely, a letter to the man it deems responsible for the flyers, Chris Barker: a Klansman from North Carolina.

Citing Jacksonville’s “zero tolerance” litter policy, the letter from Neighborhoods head Stephanie Burch notes that littering fines start at $150, and go up to $500 by the third violation.

Each leaflet, Burch wrote, constitutes a violation.

“In the event future violations may occur,” Burch wrote, the city can “pursue enforcement” against Barker or his “organization” without notice.

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan do have professed operatives in Jacksonville, per Folio Weekly.

One of those operatives, Ken Parker, describes a flyer drop.

“I don’t even know where they all threw them out at … there was like 1,600 fliers thrown out that night,” he told the Jacksonville alt.weekly in 2016.

Parker made news in 2017 when he was banned from the University of North Florida campus. The Florida Times-Union described the 37-year-old undergraduate as a “Nazi.”

Bob Graham: ‘The state needs to step its game up’ regarding water issues

Former U.S. Senator and Florida Gov. Bob Graham addressed a packed room Tuesday in Jacksonville at the North Florida Land Trust’s annual meeting.

Graham, the keynote speaker at the event, discussed water issues and tenets of effective lobbying.

Water, Graham said, would be a “continuing challenge” for Florida, due to anticipated population growth and development.

Currently, Graham said, one in five acres in Florida are developed.

By 2070, that number will be up to 35 percent.

That development and population growth, said Graham, will tax the St. Johns River, springs, and other tributaries. Impacts will be felt statewide, including the Apalachicola River and the Everglades.

“The state needs to step its game up,” Graham said, and “think 20 to 30 years ahead.”

However, that’s not exactly happening — and Graham dedicated a portion of his remarks to the importance of advocacy.

Graham noted that Florida chiropractors were the most effective at lobbying their issues during his heyday.

They built a personal connection, with chiropractors connecting with legislators in their districts. Typically, they’d call quarterly and would talk about sports and other ephemera when the Legislature was not approaching Session.

Then, just ahead of Session, it would be business.

The personal relationship was important to that approach, and effective.

Graham also urged environmentalists to reach out to younger voters, a growing demographic, and business interests, which are “receptive if approached right.”

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