Jacksonville Archives - Page 7 of 53 - Florida Politics

Jacksonville City Council to consider local bill to make drinking and dining easier

Two members of the Jacksonville City Council introduced a resolution last month urging a local bill this Legislative Session to further relax rules on drinking and dining in certain areas of the city.

Councilmen Jim Love and Reggie Gaffney filed 2016-783, which would urge the Florida Legislature to amend relevant Florida statute, adding “special zones” in certain areas of Springfield and Murray Hill, which would allow lower seating and space requirements for liquor-serving restaurants.

The bill is similar to a resolution the council pushed last year, regarding the Riverside/Avondale Commercial Character areas.

As with that previous iteration, seating requirements for liquor-serving restaurants in affected parts of Springfield and Murray Hill (with more than half of their revenue derived from food sales) are requested to be cut from 150 seats to 100, and space reduced from 2,500 to 1,800 square feet.

In discussing the bill last year, Councilman Love cited urban density in these already built out areas as a factor in reducing requirements.

The areas impacted by the proposed bill are likewise established, including “the Murray Hill Commercial Area (excluding all churches, schools, non-profits, vacant lots and parking lots), on both sides of Edgewood Avenue between I-10 and Roosevelt Boulevard, parcels fronting Roosevelt Boulevard between Edgewood Avenue and Owen Avenue, and in the polygon formed by I-10, Lenox Avenue and Woodruff Avenue.”

Also included, according to the bill summary: “234 parcels of property in the Springfield area generally described as both sides of Main Street from 1st Street north to 20th Street and on both sides of 8th Street from Pearl Street on the west to Walnut Street on the east (excluding churches, schools and non-profits, but not excluding vacant lots or parking lots).”

The bill is presented as an opportunity for revenue enhancement, in both increased sales tax and liquor license proceeds.

Last year, when the city council discussed the Riverside/Avondale measure, one councilman contended that the unintended consequence of such legislation would be a de facto Bourbon Street district.

However, those fears didn’t carry in 2015, and they likely won’t carry when the council gets this bill in committees next year.

Worth noting: Rep. Reggie Fullwood sponsored the previous local bill, yet he is no longer in the State House.

A local sponsor will have to manifest for this measure.

Transparency and trust are necessary for democracy, says Jacksonville ethics director

In Jacksonville, the name Carla Miller is synonymous with ethics.

Miller, the city’s ethics director, wrote the city’s first ethics code and first started serving as an ethics officer in Duval in 1997.

As the city has grown, Miller has been a constant. And in her role, she has come to understand the incremental nature of improvement in transparency, which happens, she says, step by “next little step.”

Meanwhile, Miller has become a global authority on intragovernmental ethics. So global, in fact, that she was in Panama earlier this month, where she participated on a United Nations panel: “Building trust at local level: the role of transparency in local government to promote citizen participation in public affairs.”

Miller moderated a panel involving mayors from Belize, Colombia, Spain, and a representative from the Canadian Federation of Municipalities.

The subject: the “crisis of confidence” in the role of the public sector, with a jarring hypothesis – most “of the public trust in government is produced (or lost) at the local level.”

Miller, in discussing her panel, noted the similarities between the global and local spheres, in that the issues relative to corruption and loss of public trust are similar throughout the world.

And that for localities, there is an opportunity: there is more of an opportunity locally to feed solutions vertically, globally.

Miller noted that, when people discerned she was from Florida, there was an expectation that transparency as manifested in the Sunshine Law translated into an open society and a feeling of participatory democracy.

However, the esoteric framing of data and documents can inhibit what the transparency really means.

“It doesn’t make a difference,” Miller said, “if the data isn’t presented [in a way] that the average citizen can understand.”

With that in mind, open source software – such as mysociety.org, exposingtheinvisible.org, and theyworkforyou.com – are valuable resources for those wanting to make government less inscrutable and more translatable to the average person.

“Transparency,” to Miller, means getting data in a “usable format” to “make some kind of difference in what people do.”

“Usable” information, Miller continues, is “not being curated.”

“Facts alone don’t galvanize passion,” Miller contends. “We have all this data. But unless we engage and teach [people how to use it], what’s the point of having this sophisticated system?”

In fact, data can disillusion citizens in some cases, Miller claims. With that in mind, open source solutions and citizen activists can lead to “people-powered anti-corruption,” driven by “people monitoring … at the local level,” which is happening all over the world.

In Jacksonville, Miller would like to see more citizen engagement, beyond the 15 stalwarts who are constant presences at city council meetings.

Miller is “thinking of developing a citizen outreach program,” which could be an online or offline course, to drive engagement consistently.

“Most people become engaged on sporadic issues,” Miller notes.

Journalists have their place also, in terms of increasing transparency. Miller heard from Frederick Obermeyer, the journalist who broke the Panama Papers story, by farming out documents to journalists with the capacity to do that kind of work … including a local Icelandic journo who scored an interview with the prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.

That journalist asked mundane questions, Miller said, before maneuvering the PM into giving a quote about offshore banking … at which point the journalist asked about the PM’s own offshore accounts.

The interview ended soon thereafter. And so did the PM’s political career.

However, journalists alone are not the bulwark to maintain transparency.

“We need response from citizens,” Miller said. “It can’t just be 15 citizens in the city, of hundreds of thousands of registered voters.”

On issues such as human rights, Miller observes, Florida will not be mistaken for places like Somalia. But we have inequities locally. And those inequities are abetted by a general disengagement of citizens.

“Florida can be the most transparent [government], but it doesn’t make any difference if people don’t use it,” Miller said.

Steve Schale: Florida early vote, a retrospective

It is time for one last big data piece on Florida 2016.

For about 18 hours a day over 2+ weeks, I found myself living and breathing early voting data. So now that all the data have been reported from counties, I wanted to look back at some assumptions, and compare them to the actual voting data.

Before I begin, there are five things to keep in mind:

1. Every time I talk in percentages, those percentages are relative to the two-party, i.e., Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton numbers. I have no use or interest in playing the “what if” questions around third-party votes, so the data in here is just the two-party vote. For what it is worth, this is standard for my blogs.

2. I compiled this data over the entire month of November, often by pestering counties to provide data they don’t have on their website. Some of the data came before the final, final certified versions, so there might be exceptionally slight variances — like tens of votes in a county — from the state final counts. However, there is nothing that happened so significant to change any findings.

3. When I talk about early voting, that is both in-person and vote by mail combined, unless I specify otherwise.

4. For the sake of interpreting the data, everything that wasn’t an in-person or traditional vote by mail ballot was allocated to Election Day. So this means that there are likely provisional from in-person early, and VBM, as well as late military ballots in Election Day. I don’t think the impact of this is significant, but I’m flagging it regardless.

5. We know how people voted on Election Day, but we do not know yet who voted on Election Day. In terms of firm lessons and take-aways, some of that should wait.

And since I was wrong about the outcome, before we get started, here were some of my macro-assumptions going into Election Day.

When early voting started, I thought presidential turnout would fall about 9.2 million votes. Because of early vote turnout, and based on who was left to vote on Election Day — namely voters who voted on Election Day in 2012, I modified that projection to 9.5 million late during the second week of early voting, and assuming 3 percent of those would vote for someone else, this meant slightly over 9.2 million would vote for either Trump or Clinton.

I was assuming going into Election Day, we were at about 67-68 percent of our total turnout, and while the Democrats had a 96,000 lead among registered voters heading into Election Day, I was operating from a place that her lead was between 3-4 percent, largely due to the overwhelmingly diverse nature of the NPA vote, which would put her raw vote lead between 180-250K votes.

This meant Trump had to win Election Day, on the low-end by about 5.8 percent to upper end of 8 percent, just to break-even. Both numbers are above Mitt Romney’s Election Day win in 2012 (I can’t remember John McCain, but I suspect it is above McCain as well).

Here are two other things baked into my assumptions: Republicans had about 100,000 more “certain” voters left to vote, though when you looked at just 2012 voters, the number was about 40K.

So worst-case scenario, Democratic turnout struggled and only the certain voters turnout. the R versus D lands about even for the entire election, and the early vote strength combined with a more diverse NPA vote would carry the day. I think my final memo pegged her winning Florida by about 1.5 percent, which was about 130K votes, meaning on the more optimistic view of Clinton’s early vote lead, Trump could still win Election Day by more than Romney, and she’d still win.

Since Trump is a golfer, I described his challenge on Election Day in golf terms: a 250 yard shot over water.

So here are the toplines:

— 9.42 million Floridians cast a ballot for President. For what it is worth, 9.58 million Floridians cast a ballot, though it was only 9.3 million in the Senate race.

— 9,122,861 Floridians voted for either Trump or Clinton in 2016.

— Trump’s margin was about 113K votes, or roughly 1.2 percent out of the two-party voters.

— 69.3 percent of the vote was cast before Election Day.

— Of the VBM/early vote, Clinton won by just over 247K votes — roughly a 4 point edge (she won both VBM and early vote)

— On Election Day, Trump won by 360K, or a roughly 13 point margin over Clinton.

Toplines versus basic assumptions:

Turnout on Election Day was slightly lower than I expected, by about 80-100K votes. Given that my projection was based largely on the number of 2012 voters who had yet to vote, it was almost certainly lower because some share of 2012 Election Day Democrats didn’t show up, and, more than likely, another share voted for Trump. This is the big question I will be looking at when the state updates the final 2016 voter file.

Clinton’s nearly 250K vote lead was actually at the upper-end of my projections. Honestly, this surprised me. I suspected some of my optimism in the numbers leading up to the election was misplaced, and honestly thought as I put numbers into Excel, that we’d see she had gone into Election Day with a narrower lead. However, almost everything was landing right on target for her to win. As I get more into this, and look at some of the benchmarks I tracked throughout, you can see the pattern for my optimism going into Election Day.

However, Trump just crushed Election Day. There is no other way to look at it. And as I discussed in the first look back at the numbers, it really happened in just a handful of places: namely the Tampa and Orlando media markets. For example, his two-party vote share was 8.39 percent higher on Election Day (56.44) than Early Vote. (48.05), but in Tampa it was up 8.92 percent (51.5 percent EV, 60.42 ED), and Orlando was up 9.08 percent (48.8 percent EV, 57.88 percent ED). Less than 3 million voted for Bush or Clinton on Election Day, yet he won the day by 360K votes.

How big is that? Bush won Florida in 2004 by landslide for Florida proportions: 380K votes — out of 7.6 million cast. Trump’s Election Day margin almost matched it.


For most of early voting, I tracked a variety of benchmarks, namely Hillsborough (the only county that voted for Bush and Obama both times), the I-4 corridor counties, South Florida and #Duuuval county.

So, for the sake of this exercise, let’s start there:


Clinton went into Election Day with about a 29K partisan advantage among early voters, or a partisan lead of about 6.8 percent.

When the votes were cast, she carried the early voting period almost 44,000 votes, or almost 11 percent of the two-party vote. Trump won Election Day by just under 2 points, or right at 3,000 votes, so when all was done, Clinton carried the county by 41,000 votes. The final percentage margin, 6.8 percent was almost the same as Obama, and her raw vote win was about 5,000 votes larger.

The county was a little below where it should have been for turnout. Hillsborough is typically about 6. percent f the statewide vote, but it landed at 6.3 percent, largely because its Election Day share was down — only 29 percent of Hillsborough votes came on Election Day.

Long and short of it, Hillsborough could have been a little better, but that number is right at what a win for Democrats looks like.

I-4 Corridor

Hillary Clinton won the I-4 counties by almost 162K votes, but here the Trump surge on Election Day is very evident. She won these counties by almost 200,000 votes in the early/vbm phase, yet Trump won Election Day by almost 35,000 votes. Overall, Clinton won the early phase with 56.3 percent of the two-party vote, though only won 47.3 percent of the Election Day vote — a surge which exceeded his statewide average.

When you look at the Volusia and Polk numbers, you can see the seeds of how Trump won on Election Day. Compared to the state, both saw their Election Day turnout levels exceed Early Vote — with 34 percent of the Volusia vote coming on Election Day, and over 40 percent for Polk. Once fairly Democratic Volusia has been the canary in the coal mine for a few cycles — there is a reason I’ve highlighted it in blogs for years. If I was going to do qualitative research into 2016, I’d start with focus groups in Volusia.

Pinellas is a slightly different kind of animal, but his Election Day performance is probably indicative of late deciders breaking almost exclusively for Trump. Had the FBI Director not chosen to insert himself into the campaign with a week to ago, I suspect Clinton would have carried Pinellas (albeit very narrowly).

In total, 24.1 percent of the statewide vote came from these counties, of which 70.6 percent of the vote came before Election Day. Another way to look at it: while only 29.4 percent of the total vote from these counties came in on Election Day, 33.4 percent of Trumps’ vote total from these counties came in on Election Day. I suspect when Election Day voter data comes out, we will see a cratering of minority participation.

Volusia (Daytona)

Final early vote party spread: 39.6 R, 37.1 D, 23.3 NPA R + 4,302
Actual early vote spread: Trump +8.88 percent (+14,754 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +22.28 percent (+19,162 votes)
Results: Trump +33,916 (54.3-41.4 percent). In 12, Romney was +2700 (+1.15 percent)

Seminole — suburban Orlando

Final early vote party spread: 41.0 R, 35.0 D, 24.0 NPA R +10,316
Actual Early Vote spread: Clinton +1.84 percent (+2,989 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +12.36 percent (+6,518 votes)
Results: Trump +3,529 votes (48.1-46.5 percent). In 12, Romney was +13,500 (+6.5 percent)

Orange (Orlando)

Final early party spread: 45.8 D, 29.5 R, 24.7 NPA D +67,155
Actual Early Vote spread: Clinton +29.71 percent (+116,949 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +13.49 percent (+17.729 votes)
Final spread: Clinton +134,678 votes (59.7 percent-35.4 percent). In 2012, Obama was +85,000 (+18.2 percent)

Osceola — heavy Hispanic suburban Orlando.

Final early vote party spread: 47.1 D, 26.2 R, 26.7 NPA D + 22,625
Actual Early Vote spread: Clinton +29.71 percent (+30,645 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +13.98 percent (+4,512 votes)
Results: Clinton: +35,157 votes (60.4-30.6 percent). In 2012, Obama was roughly +27K (+24.4 percent)

Imperial Polk — between Tampa/Orlando

Final Early Vote Party Spread: 39.6 R, 39 D, 21.4 NPA R +1,085
Actual Early Vote Spread: Trump +7.55 percent (+12,424 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +25.01 percent (+27,573 votes)
Results: Trump +13.94 percent (+39,997 votes). In 2012, Romney was +19K votes (+6.8 percent)

Hillsborough (See Above)

Pinellas (Clearwater/St. Pete)

Final early vote party spread: 38.5 R, 38.2 D, 23.3 NPA D +752
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +4.58 percent (+14,460 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +12.72 percent (+19,960 votes)
Results: Trump +1.1 percent (+5,500 votes). In 2012, Obama won by about 26K votes (+5.5 percent)

South Florida

Going into Election Day, there was almost nothing that I didn’t feel good about in South Florida, and here is why: 87.7 percent of the entire 2012 election turnout voted early in Dade. In Broward, it was a respectable 81 percent. In fact, 11.9 percent of all early votes came in from Dade (should be 10.3 percent), and Broward was at 9.65 percent (should have been 8.75 percent).

And then Election Day happened. The issue here was different from I-4. Trump’s share of the two-party vote in Broward and Dade went from 32 percent to 38.7 percent, a growth of 6.7 percent, which while significant, is lower than his statewide average increase of 8.4 percent. What happened on Election Day is people didn’t vote. Statewide, 30.7 percent of the vote came on Election Day — in Broward and Dade, it was 23.2 percent. Another way of looking at it: these two counties made up 21.5 percent of early vote, and only 14.7 of Election Day

That said, these two counties both exceeded their projected share of the statewide vote, as well as set records for vote margins. Democrats cannot blame losing on Broward and Dade not doing their jobs.

On the flip side, I was concerned about Palm Beach County the entire early vote period. Even in my last memo, I called Palm Beach a “red flag” largely due to lagging turnout. While the Democratic margins were good, Palm Beach was only 5.9 percent of the statewide early vote, and it should have been 7 percent. Well it turned out on Election Day — 41.1 percent of the total Palm Beach County vote came in on Election Day, making up 9.5 percent of the total statewide vote, the biggest single jump in the state. And it was a Trump vote that showed up: after running up a 95K vote lead in the early vote, Clinton won Election Day by just over 7K.

When it boils down to it, Clinton won the county by about the same vote margin as Obama in 2012 (which was down from 08), but her vote share was down. Frankly going forward, Palm Beach is a place where Democrats need to up their game.

Palm Beach

Final early vote party spread: 47.3 D, 28.4 R, 24.3 NPA D +74,728
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +24.9 percent (+94,888 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +2.78 (+7,383 votes)
Results: Clinton +15.1 percent (+102,271 votes). In 2012, Obama won by just over 102K (+17 percent).


Final early vote party spread: 55.4 D, 21.7 R, 22.9 NPA D +212,077
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +41.7 percent (+254,391 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +18.6 (+37,978 votes)
Results: Clinton +34.9 percent (+292,369 votes). In 2012, Obama won by 264K votes (+34.9 percent)


Final early vote party spread: 43.9 D, 29.2 R, 26.9 NPA D +114,767
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +34.4 percent (+234,758 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +26.7 percent (+55,389 votes)
Results: Clinton +29.4 percent (+290,147 votes). In 2012, Obama won by 208.5K votes (+23.6 percent)


Clinton had one job in Duval, keep it manageable. If you had given the Clinton campaign the option of spotting Trump a 20,000-vote win in Duval in exchange for both campaigns walking away, I would have urged them to take it. After all, this is a county where Bush in 04 won by 61,000 votes, and given that Trump exceeded the Bush 04 margins in most counties, running up a big number here was a real possibility.

But she did her job here, plus some. In keeping Trump’s Duval margins under 6,000 votes, she had the best showing in Duval for a presidential Democratic candidate since Jimmy Carter, and she held Trump well below the Marco Rubio numbers, who won the county by 70,000 votes. If #NeverTrump succeeded anywhere, it was in Duval.

Final early vote party spread: 42.5D, 41.1 R, 16.4 NPA D +4,279
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +1.9 percent (+5.439 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +8.9 percent (+11,407 votes)
Results: Trump +1.4 percent (+5,968 votes). In 2012, Romney won by 15K votes (+3.6 percent)

Final Thoughts

There isn’t much more to say — Clinton had the race where it needed to be, and Trump won it on Election Day.

First, one quick note on the votes before Election Day. Democrats had about 1.5 percent edge in the voters who had voted either in-person early or a vote by mail ballot, yet she won the early voting period by almost 4 percent. This was likely due to her over-performing with NPAs, given that nonwhite voters made up 37 percent of NPA voters (compared to 33 percent of partisans).

I suspect what we will see when the Election Day voter data comes out that white NPA participation was quite high, balancing out the racial makeup of the NPA voter to look more like the electorate at-large.

So where did Trump really win it? The data from the early vote/Election Day totals confirms my first glance: This was a win primarily in suburban/exurban I-4.

Here’s why.

Start with my favorite analogy, Florida as a scale. The GOP media market buckets (Pensacola, Panama City, Jacksonville and Fort Myers) and the Dem buckets (Tallahassee, Gainesville, West Palm and Miami) largely balance themselves out, and I-4 tilts it one way or the other. This year, in their core markets, Republicans did much better on Election Day than the Democrats, winning them by 188K votes, compared to the Democrats only winning theirs by 70K, carrying a margin of roughly 120K votes out of their core markets.

However, Democrats went into Election Day with a bigger margin, having crushed the Republicans in early vote, by almost 260K votes. In fact, Clinton’s 141K final margin over Trump in the core partisan markets was a few thousand votes higher than Barack Obama in 2012.

Then we get to I-4, and this time, we look at it not as just as the counties on I-4, but every county in the two media markets. Going into Election Day, I-4 was balanced, with Trump holding a 11K vote lead. But on Election Day, Trump won by 242K votes. In other words, 95.5 percent of Trump’s total margin in the Tampa and Orlando media markets came on Election Day. In total, Trump won 59 percent of the two-party vote in the Tampa and Orlando media markets on Election Day.

And of those 242K votes, 200K of that margin came from the nonurban counties in the media market, in other words. Just on Election Day.

And while it is true that Republicans always do better on Election Day, his Election Day “improvement”, particularly in the Tampa media markets, far exceeded Romney.

For example, in Pasco, his vote share was 7.69 percent higher on Election Day than in Early Vote, whereas Romney was 2.59 percent higher, or 5.1 percent greater than Romney. In Polk, he was also 5.1 percent higher, Seminole 5.1 percent, Sarasota 5.4 percent, and Pinellas 7.2 percent. We saw similar things in the outlying counties in the Palm Beach market, where in St. Lucie, his vote share was 11.1 percent higher on Election Day, a 5.2 percent increase on Romney, and in Martin County, where his Election Day improvement was 6.3 percent higher than Romney.

I could keep writing on this, but until we get actual voter data from Election Day back, there isn’t much else to add. I will do a piece on my thoughts on where the Democrats should go from here sometime in the next few weeks, but as I mentioned in my last piece, the Trump loss, at least regionally, looks a lot like the Bush win in 04 — and there is a road map for how to reverse it (see Obama).

And again, I don’t think it is as simple as Republicans had more voters left to vote, because best case scenario, that number was only about 100,000 more voters. No, this almost surely a cratering of Democratic turnout, all Election Day deciders going to Trump, and an Election Day surge contributing to the comeback.

The combination of two disliked candidates, Trump’s success at driving the narrative into the ground, and all the late-breaking issues going to Trump, it ended up being the perfect storm Nov. 8, or in Trump’s case, the perfect 3-wood over water to that green 250 yards away.

And I lied in the first sentence — I’ll be back once we have the full voter file with Election Day voters. Until then, happy holidays, unless you are a Jags fan, because we will surely all get a Gus Bradley extension for Christmas.

For citizen review board in Jacksonville, a charter change is necessary

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown renewed her push for citizen review boards for police shootings on Friday morning.

It’s a heavy lift, as charter precludes such a board; however, a sheriff’s office reform task force last month suggested that such a mechanism may be a worthwhile reform, even as the police union opposed it.

Brown has prioritized a citizens’ review board during her time on the city council, with a public notice meeting in June and a request to the office of general counsel asking for ways forward.

However, there are a number of legal impediments to affirmative council action in this direction. Among them: state legal protections for officers, via the law enforcement officer’s bill of rights.

A potential way forward exists, however; a council bill to authorize a referendum for charter change might be an option, however unlikely.

Also possible but unlikely: action from the state legislature.


In Friday’s fractious public notice meeting, enthusiasm for anything immediate regarding a CRB was tempered by a memo from the office of general counsel, which noted that a CRB cannot “perform certain duties expressly reserved to the Sheriff by law.”

Those duties include discipline, as the sheriff is an elected constitutional officer.

As well, there is a statutory conflict, regarding the confidentiality of an internal investigation.

By ordinance, the council cannot usurp the sheriff’s disciplinary duties, and “operate in conflict” with statute.

Rev. R.L. Gundy, who was at the June meeting, noted that at that point the potential of an appointed chief of police was discussed.

Representatives of the office of general counsel noted that would require an act of the state legislature or a referendum.

Equally notable: whether Republican or Democrat, virtually all Duval Delegation members received campaign support from the Fraternal Order of Police, which has consistently opposed a CRB.

The OGC memo pointed out some “feasible options,” which include a “disciplinary-recommendation” model, a “legislative-investigative audit model,” and an “executive-investigative audit model.”

Of those models, the OGC pointed out that any body created cannot “get in front of an investigation of officer performance that might lead to officer discipline.”

In other words, while review and assessment could happen, statutory protections preclude enforcement power, due to the city charter.

The sheriff could establish a body to work in an advisory manner.

However, it has not been determined whether that could be done without collective bargaining, a notable point as the police union and the city of Jacksonville are locked in tense labor/management negotiations, with the Fraternal Order of Police already strenuously arguing for its interests in terms of pension and salary.

There is no indication that city negotiators want to open up another front of conflict, in favor of citizens’ review boards, in what looks to be a long and fractious war in the trenches.

OGC representatives pointed out the potentially protracted nature of these investigations, which can take years.

There is a case pending review in the Florida Supreme Court, with a February 2017 oral argument, on CRBs. The resolution of that could determine next steps, the OGC reps pointed out.

One activist on hand from the Black Commission denoted the lack of transparency accorded by a strong union, and one noted that any complaint should go to an independent arbitration process.

OGC reps noted that was beyond the scope of what the legal review covered.

Activist Diallo Sekou, whose The Kemetic Empire group has pushed for reforms such as body cameras, dash cameras, CRBs, and equity in hiring, pressed for more clarity on the memo.

The OGC reiterated its contention that the council had no power to override state statute.

Gundy wanted to know “why can’t we do a referendum” on this matter, contending the original intent of consolidated government was for an appointed police chief.

Gundy, a frequent critic of abuses of state power as manifested by law enforcement overreach, was told that there could be a charter change to effect these changes.

Councilwoman Brown said that “if we get ten votes, we can put it on the ballot.”

And Councilman Reggie Brown seconded that motion, “so at least we can start the discussion … so you know where your elected body stands.”

Consolidation, said Councilman Brown, blurred traditional lines, because the entire county is encompassed in the city limits.

“If we get this out, it won’t impact Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, and Jacksonville Beach,” Councilman Brown said, referring to the unique nature of consolidation, which allowed autonomy for the beaches communities in exchange for their support in the consolidation push.

“I believe that we do need to look at the people having more power than any particular entity of our city,” the councilman added, suggesting a “straw ballot” to gauge the mood of the city on this matter.

The OGC rep pointed out that the election of a sheriff does confer power on the people that wouldn’t necessarily be the case otherwise.

The mayor may appoint someone that citizens may not vote for, it was pointed out.

Activist Ben Frazier urged council members to “stay focused” on the issue of “civilian oversight,” noting that the sheriff’s task force has advocated a review board.

Frazier contends that a “legislative-investigative audit model” is the right way forward, and Councilman Brown seemed to concur, yet noting that JSO’s adherence is conditional on whether it wants to follow through.

As FOP head Steve Zona looked on impassively, Frazier wanted to know if the FOP could “throw this into collective bargaining too.”

The OGC noted that FOP may “engage” with council on such a discussion.

Zona noted that the FOP opposes CRBs as an “investigative body,” as they have the potential to be driven by “opinions” and feelings.

“We welcome one after the process,” Zona added, but “we’re not open to a civilian review board as an investigative body.”

That didn’t mollify Sekou, who does want it as an investigative body.

“If a review board does not have investigative powers,” Sekou said, “it’s almost moot. It’s almost a waste of time.”

A representative from the Black Commission had similar concerns, wanting a parallel citizen review board investigation, but Councilwoman Brown noted that there is no authority for that under statute.

“I can tell you this. Back in June and July, several organizations came to council … at the time, we were talking about body cameras and dash cams. The conversation was that they weren’t going to take place,” Brown said, noting there has been movement on these matters.

“It starts with conversation. Everything that people said we couldn’t do, we were able to get it done,” Councilwoman Brown added.

“When you talk about changing the law, it starts with the state level,” the councilwoman added.

Given resistance from the union, and statutory prohibition, those changes will be tortuous, with the pace bound to frustrate activists.

“Here we are, six months after [the police killing of] Vernell Bing, Jr., and no results,” Gundy said, with no words from the mayor, the sheriff, or the state attorney.

Jacksonville to tighten controls on academic credentials for city employees

A bill requested by the office of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry proposes to tighten definitions for what is and isn’t an academic degree.

The bill, filed in the wake of a report that found would-be Neighborhoods Department head Derek Igou had a degree from an unaccredited college (thus driving his letter of resignation), seeks to tighten up credential requirements for various city departments.

Ordinance code would be “amended to provide a definition of ‘accredited university or college degree’ to mean a degree from an institution accredited by an accrediting agency or state approval agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.”

The semantic glitch, according to the bill summary, affects “several Code chapters where college degrees are required as credentials for various appointed officials, but the sections do not mention accreditation.”

Among the divisions affected: Planning and Development, Fire and Rescue, Public Works, the Downtown Investment Authority, and the Board of Library Trustees.

Jacksonville wants $50M to remove, replace Hart Bridge ramps at sports complex

Despite major turnover in the Duval County legislative delegation, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s priorities are largely unchanged.

Money for public safety. Money for infrastructure, such as the city’s ongoing septic tank removal project.

And one big ask: Curry wants $50 million in state money for Hart Expressway ramp modifications, noting the current setup has outmoded designs and creates public safety issues.

“The ramps were originally designed to bypass the industrialized waterfront,” Curry said, a purpose outmoded in the half-century since the original construction.

Curry wants “to knock the [current] ramp down,” and create a traffic flow onto Bay Street.

“A public safety issue, a traffic flow issue, a downtown in-and-out issue also,” Curry said.

In the gaggle after his brief remarks, Curry noted more than once the Hart Expressway is a state road and a “relic of the past.”

“When this ramp was built,” Curry noted, “there was no Bay Street.”

Now, the ramp is “outdated.”

“It served its purpose,” Curry said, “but it’s time to move on.”

A benefit of the reconfiguration: a reduction of traffic in the area of the stadium, which is logjammed during many early-season Jaguars games, as well as during high-profile college games.

With the amphitheater expected to be completed in 2017, there is that factor to consider also.

Curry is ready to move forward, wanting this to be a priority in the current budget.

“We send money to Tallahassee,” Curry said, and he and his team want to “work with the state to get it back.”

There are still uncertainties related to the project, such as the cost, the timeframe to complete once funded, and how much traffic congestion will be ameliorated.

What is a certainty though: the Duval delegation will have some help, via lobbyists, as was the case during the successful session of 2016.

“Expect to see us having folks represent our interests in Tallahassee,” Curry said.

Those familiar with the lobbying effort expect it to look like it did last session, which saw tremendous ROI for the city’s $150,000 investment in Fiorentino Group, Southern Strategy Group, and Ballard Partners.

One other Jacksonville advantage: three Northeast Florida senators will be on the Appropriations Committee.

In the House, however, there is a lack of experience among the delegation that may preclude similar leverage, in what already is a more conservative body.


FBI director James Comey plans January journey to Jacksonville

Whether or not FBI Director James Comey was actually responsible for Hillary Clinton not being elected president due to his on again/off again inquiry into her handling of classified emails is a matter of interpretation.

Less subject to interpretation: Comey’s travel plans, which include a January journey to Jacksonville, just two days before the inauguration of Donald Trump.

Comey will be in Jacksonville at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, January 18, where he will speak to local leaders and VIPs at the FBI Jacksonville Division office on Gate Parkway.

In August 2016, Comey appointed a new field director of the Jacksonville office; Charles Spencer replaced the retiring Michelle Klimt.

Jacksonville ethics officer headed to Panama for anti-corruption panel

The ethics office in Jacksonville’s city hall is still going strong, and director Carla Miller is getting international attention this week.

Miller will be headed to Panama City — the one on the isthmus, not the one due west on the panhandle — this week to moderate a panel at the United Nations’ 17th International Anti-Corruption conference (IACC).

As the press release from the ethics office states, “The panel session moderated by Ms. Miller is a coordinated effort between the United Nations, the FEMP (Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces), the Global Fund for the development of cities, the Commonwealth Local Government Forum  and the UCLG Middle East section.”

The panel session will “showcase how local governments create increased citizen trust in their governments and will identify problems and solutions in the process of implementing transparency policies.”

From there, Miller and her deputy, Kirby Oberdorfer, will present at the Harvard University school of education.

The topic there: the importance of “citizen involvement” in government ethics initiatives.

As city hall regulars know, there is a small but determined cadre of citizen whistleblowers, who often find their way into major policy debates, such as Curtis Lee and the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County have with issues ranging from the police and fire pension fund to union heads lobbying to protect the positions of “safety officers” in last year’s budget discussion.

Lenny Curry: Pension costs have ‘crippled’ Jacksonville

Another day, another pension pratfall for the city of Jacksonville. And this latest one will have big cost impacts, perhaps expanding the $2.85 billion unfunded liability.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is incensed about the latest cost overrun from the perpetually beleaguered Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund.

“It has come to my attention,” Curry wrote in an email to senior staff Monday, that “the pension fund actuary has been using standards that seem to violate Florida law when calculating the unfunded pension liability.”

“The impact could be as much as an additional $45 million to taxpayers when calculating pension costs,” Curry wrote, going on to label this “reckless disregard for the taxpayers from the pension board.”

Tuesday, Curry gaggled with local media on the subject.

“I’m frustrated,” Curry said. “This is more nonsense coming from the pension board. It appears that the actuary has not been using the standard [established] under Florida law in calculating our pension obligation. If that’s correct, if what I’ve learned is accurate, that’s going to end up costing the city another $44 to $45 million a year in pension costs.”

“It’s outrageous … I’ve asked my general counsel to look at this. Was it intentional? Is it a mistake or was it intentional? If it was intentional, what was the purpose? Who knew it was being done in an incorrect way? Why was it being done in an incorrect way? Were they trying to conceal how bad the pension crisis really is?”

“I don’t know the answers to those questions. But at the end of the day, every time we peel the onion back on the pension fund, it continues to disrespect and cost taxpayers more money,” Curry added.

“We’ve got to get out of the pension business! That’s what I’ve been saying with pension reform. We’re going to honor the obligations we have to existing employees, existing policemen, and firemen. I told them in the campaign: I believed they were promised those, earned those. But we’ve got to get new employees out of the pension business,” Curry continued.

“It’s not sustainable, and specifically when you look at the history of the pension business in Jacksonville; this $45 million problem again speaks to the long story of the pension mess in Duval County,” Curry added.

His team is “still gathering facts,” Curry added, noting that the current actuary will be leaving in January.

“He did some sort of a true up and said ‘here, this is how it’s done; we’re going to do it this way now.'”

Curry has asked his general counsel to “get an understanding of exactly what happened and what our revenues are.”

“We’ve got to get out of the pension business. They’re not sustainable. They’re disrupting the city’s future. They’ve crippled our city,” Curry said.

Curry noted that, while he wants to honor the commitments to current employees, the August referendum created a mandate for pension reform.

“Pension reform is getting new employees out of the pension business. Getting the city out of it too,” Curry said.

Of course, the city’s bargaining units all have different views on how that can be done.

The police and fire unions would like to see new employees in the Florida Retirement System; this option is a nonstarter for Mayor Curry, who believes it keeps the city from being able to control costs.

On a happier note, the Jacksonville Supervisors Association is more amenable to having new hires on a 401k plan, though like the other unions, the JSA would like pay raises that greatly exceed the city’s offers thus far.

When asked about the JSA’s receptiveness to defined contribution plans for new hires, Curry said it was “good,” though he demurred in offering a timeframe as to when negotiations with that bargaining unit might wrap.

“We’re going to continue to schedule collective bargaining meetings with everyone. General employees, police and fire as we go through this process, and work towards the end, work towards the goal.”

National politics, political legacies, & the Jacksonville pension debate

Steve Zona, the head of the Jacksonville branch of the Fraternal Order of Police, got some backup over the holiday weekend from leaders of the state and national FOP in the biggest debate his union has had in some time.

They conveyed a clear message: the FOP has support in what looks to be a protracted period of collective bargaining with the city of Jacksonville.

“President Zona, thanks for filling me in on the details of your pension issue, I agree it is an issue of national concern and the 325,000 members stand with our Brothers and Sisters in Jacksonville,” wrote Jay McDonald, National FOP Vice President on Zona’s Facebook page.

State FOP President Robert Jenkins, meanwhile, offered a similar message of support.

What this all means: perhaps for the first time in the Lenny Curry administration (unless one wants to count the professional opponents and proponents of expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance who came to Jacksonville earlier in 2015), the Republican mayor is going to face national pressure to cave on his unprecedented plan to move all newly hired Jacksonville city employees to defined contribution plans.

Curry has some national backup, of course: central among that, the Koch Brothers’ front group Americans for Prosperity, which has set up a landing page saying that it’s “time to fix Jacksonville” in the light of the $2.85 billion debt caused by the “broken pension system.”

The page is intended to generate emails of support of Curry’s plan; thus far, despite publicity for the page in local news outlets, the emails received haven’t broken the server.

One interesting email generated from the page: that of fire union head Randy Wyse, who sent the same four paragraph form email everyone else did. When we asked him about it, he said that he was unable to erase the pre-populated message from the website.

Wyse, like his public safety counterpart Steve Zona, does not support the defined contribution proposal.

The heads of the public safety unions, who did support the referendum to unlock revenue from a sales tax extension pending new plans for new hires, want different plans for those hires: specifically, inclusion in the Florida Retirement System.

Collective bargaining sessions last week (Tuesday for the fire and rescue workers, Wednesday for police, courthouse staff, and corrections) established the parameters of the debate well.

Tuesday’s session saw the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters far apart from the city’s negotiators.

Calling the current pension plan “arguably the worst defined benefit plan in the state of Florida,” Wyse noted that when Mayor Lenny Curry “proposed the half-cent sales tax, we were supportive.”

Wyse sold the deal on the “knife and fork club” circuit, and the union put in $60,000 to sell the referendum.

However, once the referendum had passed, the differences between management and labor were laid bare.

The city wanted to offer a 14 percent raise over the course of three future years (7 percent in FY 18, 3.5 percent in the next two fiscal years).

A proposal to move employees to the Florida Retirement System: rejected, as the city insists upon defined contribution and the bargaining on a local level.

After that Tuesday session, Mayor Curry had a press conference in the large conference room in his city hall suite; fire union head Wyse was there.

The press conference was brief, giving the media a few quotes to counterbalance the drama involving city negotiators earlier in the day.

Curry explained his aversion to FRS.

FRS is “out of the city’s control,” Curry said, saying the city “can’t control costs” under the state model.

“It would be very easy for me to travel that road,” Curry said, but that would be “ceding the control of costs to the state.”

Wednesday saw Steve Zona making the case for police, courthouse workers, and correctional officers.

Armed with PowerPoint presentations and a compelling narrative, the stark case was made: in terms of “real” dollars, the value of a police officer’s salary has gone down since the 1980s. And a 401K would expose those officers to major risk given inevitable market under-performance.

Correctional officers are particularly exposed to risk, Zona contended; the average C.O. dies at 58 years of age, with lives truncated by exposure to risks of violence in the cell block, and exposure to communicable diseases.

Meanwhile, Zona contended, the city bears little risk in embracing the FRS solution; employer contributions have gone up just 4.1 percent over the last 17 years.

When asked about that Wednesday, Curry took issue with Zona’s assertions on a number of fronts.

Regarding the FRS option, the mayor reiterated his opposition — despite what Zona saw as minimal risk to the city.

“We’d be ceding control to the state,” Curry said. “and FRS doesn’t guarantee a solution.”


Throughout the country, there have been pushes to move public safety workers — specifically new hires, who have no expectations of the future being guaranteed — into 401K plans.

The standard response from labor: mobilization.

An article in Law Enforcement Today from earlier this decade explains how the strategy played out in Illinois.

“Here in Illinois, these groups have been very successful blocking some legislation that would have been very harmful to both state and municipal pension plans.  These groups are only successful because they have united law enforcement officers and firefighters statewide.   Without that sort of strength our pension funds would have been ruined.  When detrimental legislation comes up these groups have been able to garner such huge support that the state legislators have had no choice but to stop and listen…

“During one such legislative push an Illinois State Representative was quoted, as saying all the representatives were receiving so many calls about the legislation that no one could make any outgoing calls from their office lines. If you are a young officer, do not make the mistake of thinking it will be fine just because retirement looks so far away to you,” the article advises.

Locally, politicians can expect a similar pressure.

We understand that there may be police officers showing up, as they tend to do when their interests are challenged, to council meetings and the like. And they may have wives and kids with them to illustrate the effects of potential benefit changes on real people.

That is a strategy that historically has worked with this current iteration of the city council, many of the members of which are politically pliable. That has been a condition the mayor’s office has enjoyed, as the “strong mayor” model (accentuated by persuasive senior staff members) has allowed the city council to trust what this mayor and his team has wanted to do.

Until now, this council hasn’t dealt with the real pressures exacted by organized labor. And in the only debate the current council faced that roiled the community — the one over the Human Rights Ordinance — most of the members of the council were unwilling to commit to a position one way or another on proposed legislation, even as council chambers teemed with passion on both sides. The LGBT community members who say legislation is needed to protect them, and members of churches and other advocates of limited government who caution against “unintended consequences.”

Will there come a point in the debate when the council steps up and takes the side of the police unions over the mayor?

For Curry, the commitment to defined contribution plans for new hires has many benefits.

It “takes the city out of the pension business,” creating a Jacksonville solution to a problem many cities will face going forward.

Being able to accomplish this solution, meanwhile, would write the mayor’s political ticket going forward.

During almost a year and a half in office, Curry’s word has been law in city hall.

But what is clear: the pension reform collective bargaining will be his toughest task yet.







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