Lenny Curry Archives - Florida Politics

Jacksonville Bold for 11.17.17 — Time for reflection

A frenetic year in Jacksonville politics — including the passage of the Human Rights Ordinance expansion, pension reform, and the Kids Hope Alliance — is ending.

And not a moment too soon.

The Jacksonville City Council meeting this week had nothing on the agenda was worth covering, even by the standards of our Jacksonville correspondent.

A superbug was going through Council, anyway, and at least one member was absent while another member fought the lingering cold — so it was just as well that they didn’t discuss hot-button issues.

At Bold, we are taking full advantage of the lull in the calendar — with no new issue this Thanksgiving.

We will be with our families, as you will, and we will think of what’s important — the real bonds that give meaning to the often-surreal world of politics.

Rick Scott drops budget in Duval

Gov. Scott released his final budget this week in Jacksonville, an $87.4B proposal with “historic” funding in any number of categories.

Rick Scott trumpeted more JAXPORT funding in his Jacksonville stop.

Throughout Scott’s remarks, there was a common theme: “historic investments” in area after area, a policy justified by an economy that is booming — on the macro level at least — as his eight years in Tallahassee near a close.

“We’ll have historic investments in education, historic investments in transportation, historic investments in the environment, and historic investments in helping those with disabilities,” Scott added. “On top of that, we’re all going to reward our law enforcement officers.”

Some new announcements were made for the Jacksonville market also, including a “historic $10.8 billion for transportation, including significant funding for Jacksonville, including the deepening of JAXPORT.”

Roy Moore accusations ‘disgusting,’ Scott says

Florida Politics was the first media outlet to ask Scott about Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate under fire for dating underage women while he was district attorney decades back.

Here’s what he told us exclusively in Jacksonville Tuesday: “If any of it’s true, he’s got to get out of the race.”

Roy Moore allegations are ‘disgusting,’ says Rick Scott.

“This is not partisan. This is about doing the right thing, and when I think about the things in Hollywood, I think about my daughters. And when I think about this, I think about my grandkids.”

“When my daughters were teenagers,” Scott continued, “I was worried about where they were. So, when you hear reports like this, they’re disgusting. So, if there’s any truth to any of this, he’s got to get out of the race.”

“Every voter, every citizen, every taxpayer deserves to have their elected officials live up to high standards. When you read the stories like this, whether the thing’s in Alabama or Tallahassee or D.C. or California,” Scott said, “you think about your family, and you think about how disgusting it is and you hope it would never happen to anybody.”

Audrey Gibson drops Duval Dems chair

On Monday evening, State Sen. Gibson — the next Caucus leader for Senate Democrats — resigned as chair of the Duval County Democratic Party.

Audrey Gibson spent a year in the chair. Are Duval Dems ready for 2018?

“As you may know,” Gibson wrote in an email to local Democrats, “last week I was elected Leader Designate of the Senate Democrat Caucus. I am deeply honored and realize the efforts I must give to winning more Dem seats will require 100 percent plus of my focus.”

Gibson thought the year she was chair was successful, noting that having “candidates ready to run” was among the party’s successes.

A new chair will be chosen Dec. 4.

Clay Yarborough pushes for FSCJ STEM $$$

Florida State College Jacksonville made an ambitious ask to the Duval County Legislative Delegation: $12 million PECO money for a downtown STEM building.

Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Yarborough will carry that one to Tallahassee, via a bill filed Monday.

Clay Yarborough will carry FSCJ’s top priority this year.

Per the appropriations request, the project will “accommodate the space and growth needs for the College’s STEM programs that focus on public and private sector-identified regional workforce needs.”

“The facility will help the region meet its workforce targets and will help citizens in the community get connected with affordable degree and certificate programs that will lead to employment opportunities,” the request continues.

The $12 million would allow for demolition and replacement of facilities on the college’s downtown campus, the request continues, and unspecified “major employers” in the Jacksonville region would attest to the utility of the project.

Jason Fischer files ‘Smart Cities Initiative’

A bill (“the Florida Smart City Challenge Grant Program”) filed Monday in the Florida Legislature would offer state grant money, via the Florida Department of Transportation, as an incentive for local solutions to transportation challenges.

Fischer filed the House version, HB 633; Republican Jeff Brandes is carrying the Senate version.

Jason Fischer proposes more ‘Smart Cities.’

“Florida’s transportation system is inefficient and faces many challenges, but we can overcome them by embracing innovative technologies and thinking differently about how we plan our communities. This bill will provide cities and counties throughout Florida the opportunity to leverage technology and private investment to re-imagine mobility solutions not just for businesses but also for seniors, people with disabilities and other underserved individuals,” Fischer said.

A wide swath of agencies would qualify for funding; in particular, any governmental body responsible for the movement of goods and services in Florida, including local governments, but also TPOs and state universities.

Money, power, respect

In October fundraising for this region’s representation in Tallahassee, what was clear: correlation between stroke and checks.

Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner in HD 24 is on track to the House Speaker post. And Northeast Florida’s brightest hope in the House is also favored by donors outside the region.

Paul Renner won the money race in Northeast Florida last month.

Proof positive: the impressive October hauls of Renner’s two political committees, “Florida Foundation for Liberty” and “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.” They brought in $108,000 — much more than an incumbent running in a deep-red seat against an underfunded Democrat needs for re-election.

Also doing well: Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley. While not up for re-election, his fundraising was notable.

“Working for Florida’s Families,” Bradley’s political committee, reached a milestone with a $40,000 October, clearing $500,000 cash on hand.

Sen. Aaron Bean raised $36,000 between his committee and his campaign.

Except for Kim Daniels, who raised nothing and Cord Byrd, who raised just $2,000, virtually every other incumbent in the region did well.

The single open seat — in HD 15 — is competitive so far.

HD 15 Republican Wyman Duggan had a strong month:  $20,500 in October, bringing him to $84,600 raised, with nearly $77,000 on hand. Democrat Tracye Polson kept pace.

She brought in $14,090 off 64 contributions in October, bringing her total raised to $65,189, with over $64,000 of that on hand. Her committee has another $12,000 banked, giving her $76,000 raised.

Not doing well in October: Attorney General candidate Jay Fant, who brought in $12,000 between his committee and campaign accounts. Luckily, a $750,000 personal loan buys him time, but opponents Ashley Moody and Frank White are well ahead when it comes to donor and endorser interest.

Big debuts for Jax Council hopefuls

Two new Jacksonville City Council candidates made huge splashes in their first months on the trail. And one political veteran started a bit slow.

Bill Bishop is still getting his fundraising into gear, as October receipts show.

Well-connected District 5 hopeful LeAnna Cumber brought in $101,775 last month in her bid to succeed termed-out Lori Boyer. Cumber’s entry into the race has been discussed for some time, and with that kind of money, the Tim Baker/Brian Hughes team deploying it, and a Democrat opponent with $400 on hand, she’s the front-runner.

Also starting off strong: currently unopposed Beaches candidate Rory Diamond, who brought in $85,326, and retained just over $82,000 of such as cash on hand.

Off to a slow start: former Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop, with less than blistering fundraising in his first month against Ron Salem in At-Large District 2.

Bishop had a respectable first month — bringing in $13,325 off 24 contributions — though Salem almost matched him, with $11,125 collected.

Salem has just under $114,000 cash on hand, and it will be worth watching to see how Bishop closes the cash gap.

Lenny Curry talks D.C. trip, ‘relationship building’

Florida Politics caught up with Jacksonville Mayor Curry, and the main topic of conversation was his trip last week to Washington, D.C.

The Hart Bridge project is a priority of Lenny Curry — for a number of reasons.

Curry met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, as well as Billy Kirkland and Justin Clark, who handle intergovernmental affairs for the White House, U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Sen. Marco Rubio.

The primary goal of that trip: discussing the $25 million grant from the Department of Transportation that would allow the city to reconfigure off ramps from the Hart Bridge onto surface streets, allowing for more efficient movement of goods to and from the port.

And Curry, along with his team, made the pitch.

The in-person meeting, Curry said, had invaluable advantages, as a “face to face meeting” with the right people is inherently more meaningful than just presenting a paper with project specs and scope.

Curry recounted the case he made against the current configuration.

Its age makes it a “dinosaur” regarding design, one with safety issues that mandate changes.

The FDOT Study of the bridge conducted this year revealed the benefit to the port, another key benefit to the project.

The economic development for Bay Street the new traffic pattern would spawn, Curry said, was “gravy” — not the primary purpose of the project that some have suggested.

But the trip was about more than selling the project, Curry said. It’s about “long-term relationship building” as well, on this issue but others.

Jax councilors, mayor’s office discouraged from texting

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche revised the council’s texting policy to include official “discouragement” of texts between legislators and the Mayor’s Office during meetings.

The power struggle continues in Jacksonville City Hall.

Brosche says it’s about transparent government.

“The impetus for change is transparency, open government, and equal access. During our meetings, all Council members and, more importantly, the public should be part of the conversations taking place regarding legislation actively being debated,” Brosche said.

Brosche also noted that administration members have been texting Council members during meetings.

“While I have observed colleagues receiving texts from the administration during meetings, I am going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that such communications were not about active legislation. My revision of the policy is a proactive measure to uphold the principles of transparency and open government and allow all Council Members and the public to know they are participating in all communications happening during Council meetings.”

The Mayor’s Office is OK with this, meanwhile.

“The mayor has always said he respects the Council and Council President’s roles in conducting themselves and setting policies as they see fit. The mayor has also been a proponent of transparency and accountability, and is always encouraged to see practices that support that,” asserted a statement from his office.

The mayor’s office and Brosche have clashed on various issues since she took over the presidency in July.

MLK breakfast troubles

First Coast News reports that the local NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference have no interest in participating in Jacksonville’s Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast next year.

MLK Jr. birthday breakfast this year may go on without key civil rights groups.

The question they are asking: “What’s in it for the SCLC? What’s in it for the NAACP?”

At issue: economic disparity and resource allocation, with the civil rights groups claiming “One City One Jacksonville” is just a slogan — not a policy.

For its part, the Mayor’s Office contends that it has been making good faith efforts to meet with the local leaders of both groups, and has included them on the event host committee.

Revealed in 2017’s breakfast is a gap in rhetoric between the Mayor’s Office and the pastoral community. After that event, a boycott was threatened, per WJCT.

Opioid lawsuit imminent

Jacksonville soon may be one of the many governments suing Big Pharma in reaction to the opiate crisis.

Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel is vetting so-called “prestigious” law firms, with a decision expected early in December.

Jax mulls big suit against Big Pharma.

Earlier this year, the Jacksonville City Council approved a resolution OKing legal action.

“The general counsel’s approved it, and I don’t feel like there’s any impediment,” Gulliford said.

The city has absorbed real costs from the opioid epidemic.

Overdoses, at last count, end four times as many lives as homicides in Duval County, with 2016’s number of 464 casualties more than doubling 2015’s number of 201.

Caucasians represent 86 percent of the deaths, and over half of those passing away are in their 30s and 40s.

And things could get worse: a fentanyl derivative being used to cut heroin in the Ohio Valley doesn’t respond to Narcan.

What Aaron Bean is up to in November

On Friday, Nov. 17, the Fernandina Beach Republican will speak at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Sertoma Speech & Hearing Foundation’s new mobile audiology services van, which will provide pediatric hearing screenings and dispense hearing aids. That event begins 1 p.m. at the Hidden Hills Learning Tree, 12160 Fort Caroline Road in Jacksonville.

On Wednesday, Nov. 22, Bean will appear at the dedication of a memorial for Nassau County Deputy Eric Oliver, on the anniversary of his death in 2016 by a hit-and-run driver. The dedication begins at 7:30 a.m., 463779 FL-200 in Yulee.

Then, on Nov. 28, Bean will give a speech to members of the Downtown Business Professional Group and offer an update on the upcoming 2018 Legislative Session. The meeting starts 7 a.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Drive in Jacksonville.

Local veteran honored in Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame

Colonel Len Loving, United States Marine Corps (Ret.) and CEO of Five STAR Veterans Center, will be honored in the State of Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.

The State of Florida began the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame in 2013 to recognize and honor military veterans who, through their works and lives during or after military service, have made a significant contribution to the State of Florida. In selecting its nominees, the Council has given preference to veterans who were either born in Florida or adopted Florida as their home state.

Colonel Len Loving, United States Marine Corps (Retired) and CEO of Five STAR Veterans Center, is the newest member of the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.

In 1986, Loving founded the Marine Corps Blount Island Command, in Jacksonville, which has become a major economic engine in Northeast Florida. He was the Commanding Officer until his retirement in 1989.

In 2011, Loving began building and opening the Five STAR Veterans Center, where he continues to serve as CEO. The center gives food, housing, assistance securing veteran benefits, financial, mental health services provided by the Delores Barr Weaver Fund, and more to 30-plus homeless veterans monthly.

Loving has been chosen for the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame due to his positive impact on Florida’s most at-risk veterans and their families by 1) opening what is now the Five STAR Veterans Center, 2) going many extra miles to keep the doors open, and 3) making a lasting, life-altering impact on those who are most significantly affected by their years in service and have nowhere else to turn.

Today, five years after opening the doors, 199 veterans have lived at and benefited from the Five STAR Veterans Center; 35 veterans currently live at the center, and by January 2018 the center expects to reach their capacity of 39 veterans.

JAXPORT to expand vehicle-handling capacity

JAXPORT is beginning construction of a new automobile processing terminal, the first part of a multiyear project to increase the port’s vehicle-handling capacity 25 percent.

Once completed, the facility will add more than 100 acres of processing and storage space on JAXPORT’s Dames Point Marine Terminal, offering vessels direct waterside access for loading and unloading with major interstates less than 1 mile away plus the potential for rail capabilities.

After a record-breaking year, JAXPORT is expanding its vehicle handling capacity by 25 percent.

The expansion follows a year of highest-ever vehicle volumes at JAXPORT. In 2017, the port moved record 693,000 total units. With the port’s three auto processors and location in the heart of the nation’s fastest-growing auto consumer market, JAXPORT his responding to the increased demand for vehicle space.

“The steady growth of our auto business speaks volumes about our efficiencies,” said Roy Schleicher, JAXPORT Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. “We are committed to supporting our auto partners with the tools they require to continue to expand their businesses in Jacksonville.”

Jacksonville Zoo Breakfast with Santa

On the weekend of Dec. 2-3, Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens members and their families can enjoy a delicious breakfast buffet, and become among the first to tell Santa their holiday wishes. New this year: Breakfast will take place at the Shaba Terrace at Main Camp.

Members Only Breakfast with Santa begins 8 a.m., and costs $8 per member, ages 3 and up.

Those with a friend, 1 adult family + 1, family + 1 or family + 2 membership may bring the corresponding number of guests. A limited number of tickets will be sold on a first come, first served basis. More information available at Jacksonvillezoo.org.

Jacksonville Bold for 11.10.17 — November reign

Northeast Florida is winning — bigly.

Check the scoreboard. Or read the articles in this week’s edition.

The next leader of the Senate Democrats — Jacksonville’s own Audrey Gibson.

The new budget chief in the Senate — Fleming Island’s own Rob Bradley.

And yeah, there were … things … that happened … to allow both of those to come to pass.

But lo and behold, Northeast Florida has more stroke in the Senate than has been the case for years.

The question, now: what will the region do with it?

In the House, we are waiting for Paul Renner to work his way up to Speaker — next decade.

Can the region’s Senators and House members get together and make some big pushes for Jacksonville priorities?

Report: No worries for Al Lawson re-election

The Tallahassee Democrat posted a provocative article recently, contending that Rep. Lawson doesn’t have much to worry about when it comes to his re-election bid.

Rep. Al Lawson has no worries, says the Tallahassee Democrat.

Data guru Matt Isbell of MCI Maps — cited in the article — says the seat is Lawson’s to lose.

“The district gave Clinton over 60 percent of the vote … the rural red counties make up a small share of the vote,” said Isbell. “Lawson may generate a general election challenger, but it won’t a serious or threatening one.”

Indeed, Lawson is one of those Democrats that Republicans can do business with — and it is hard to imagine a serious general election challenger.

However, as Jax Dems know, Lawson could face a primary challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown … which would be interesting.

Spoiler Alert

While Lawson could face Alvin Brown, more certain is a primary challenge from first-time candidate Rontel Batie.

Batie, a former Corrine Brown policy director, was evasive when we asked his thoughts on Brown’s legal woes and for an idea of how much money his committee (“Rontel for Florida”) has raised.

Batie’s pitch is a millennial candidate with an inspirational personal narrative — rising from deep poverty and personal adversity (including his father getting shot when he was a kid.

It’s uncertain where the momentum comes from to push him over Lawson … yet it’s in Lawson’s interest to have Batie and as many challengers as possible in the race.

Lawson has a lock on Tallahassee, built support elsewhere in the district, and with the more candidates splitting the anti-Lawson vote, the better for him.

Batie really hurts Alvin Brown — again, should Brown get in the race.

No prison, please

Rat on the kingpin, and avoid prison.

That’s the strategy in a sentencing memorandum from Carla Wiley, one of the co-conspirators with Corrine Brown in the One Door for Education case.

How wily is co-conspirator Carla Wiley’s strategy? We’ll know next week. (Photo via Bob Self/Florida Times-Union)

“Immediately after being confronted by investigating agents, Ms. Wiley obtained counsel and quickly began providing truthful cooperation in the Government’s investigation,” the memo asserts, describing her cooperation as “early and significant, leading to the indictment of a then-sitting member of Congress and her chief of staff, and ultimately to the plea and cooperation of Mr. Simmons, her testimony and his testimony at trial and the conviction of Corrine Brown.”

The memo asserts that Wiley’s “significant role” in the scheme that went on for three years is outweighed by her cooperation. Also asserted: that Wiley has “no significant risk of recidivism.”

Notable: one of Wiley’s attorneys, Justin Fairfax, will be the next Attorney General of Virginia, elected in the Old Dominion’s anti-Trump wave Tuesday.

Audrey Gibson to lead Senate Democrats

Jacksonville is making moves in Tallahassee: veteran Democratic Senator Audrey Gibson will become the caucus leader for Senate Democrats after an 8-7 vote Monday.

Gibson will succeed current Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II when his term ends next November.

Sen. Audrey Gibson takes over the role of Sen. Jeff Clemens, who resigned because of scandal. (Photo via Florida Senate)

The split was described by observers as moderates versus progressives, a dynamic which some fear will split the caucus; our source tells us Braynon was the deciding vote.

In a “you heard it here first” moment, Florida Politics called this in the Oct. 30 edition of Sunburn.

We asked Gibson about what this would mean for North Florida — specifically, will the region finally get to sit at the adult table when it comes to appropriations?

“Equal footing comparatively speaking is definitely a goal,” Gibson asserted, “however, in one Session it may be a bit lofty.”

Rob Bradley becomes Senate Appropriations Chair

Gibson’s ascension to Democratic Caucus leader is the shot.

Here’s the chaser.

Sen. Jack Latvala’s scandals led to him stepping down — temporarily — from the Senate Appropriations Chair. And Fleming Island Sen. Bradley will take over the position — just weeks before an election year Legislative Session that will see big money spent.

Sen. Rob Bradley takes over for Jack Latvala, who relinquished the chair after scandal.

“While the independent, third-party investigation regarding Senator Latvala is pending, I believe it is in the best interest of the Senate for another Senator to temporarily serve as Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations,” Senate President Joe Negron wrote in a memo this week.

Latvala, as widely reported, is facing largely anonymous yet deeply detailed accusations of abusing his power with women in the Senate.

Bradley will be in a position to advocate for his priorities, which include more money for North Florida’s St. Johns River, tributaries and springs, as well as a $100 million appropriation for Florida Forever.

Rick Scott fumbles gun question in Jacksonville

Gov. Scott’s talking points failed him in a Jacksonville visit this week when he was asked by this outlet whether “prayers” sufficed as a response after the latest mass shooting on American soil: the killing of 26 people in a South Texas church.

Liberal activists were quick to call the Guv out for his gun gaffe.

Many of Scott’s Twitter followers posited that “prayers” aren’t enough to stop such things from happening. When asked for concrete policy solutions beyond prayers, Scott — a Governor entering his eighth year in office — had no solutions.

He did, however, use the word evil nine times in roughly two minutes.

“The most important thing we have to do,” Scott said, “is we need more prayer rather than less.”

“Last week, we had a terrorist attack in New York City. We need to pray for when these things happen. It’s horrible when these things happen,” Scott said.

“It’s evil when these things happen,” Scott continued. “Whether it’s a terrorist attack with a truck, somebody doing what they did in a church in the San Antonio area, I’m going to pray for them. We know it’s evil.”

“I believe in the Second Amendment. I just wish there was no evil in the world,” Scott added.

“It’s evil — whatever you want to call it. It’s evil. It’s evil what happened — the terrorism in New York, it was a terrorist inspired by ISIS in the Pulse attack. These things are evil,” Scott said.

“Evil is evil,” Scott added.

This botch led the liberal political action committee “American Bridge” to issue an email calling Scott’s handling of the gun question “abysmal” and decrying his statement as “pablum.”

Aaron Bean’s Handmaid’s Tale Moment

News Service of Florida reports that a Senate committee “narrowly approved a bill that would place into law a program that seeks to dissuade women from having abortions.”

Aaron Bean sponsored the bill … and the Fernandina Beach Republican was “surprised” that the bill was controversial with the National Organization for Women, which urged protesters to dress like the concubines in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the Margaret Atwood novel about a dystopian, anti-feminist United States.

Aaron Bean has a Handmaid’s Tale moment.

Lawmakers approved beans bill Tuesday in a 5-3 vote by the Senate Health Policy Committee.

 ‘Kill shot’ for Jay Fant AG bid?

The underreported Cold War between Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and State Rep. Jay Fant continues, with Curry’s political committee donating to Fant’s opponent, Rep. Frank White, in the Attorney General race.

This was followed by endorsements of White from Curry and Rep. John Rutherford, described by one Republican consultant as a “kill shot” for Fant.

The invisible Jacksonville primary is not going Jay Fant’s way.

Curry’s political advisers, Tim Baker and Brian Hughes, are handling White’s campaign.

Fant, the previous chair of the Duval County Legislative Delegation, was slated last Session to carry a bill that would have brought $50 million to Jacksonville to help with costs related to removing current Hart Bridge offramps and routing traffic onto surface streets.

Fant noted that he was going to carry the bill last year based on the public safety argument the mayor’s office advanced at the time.

This year, Fant says the bill would be the prototypical “heavy lift,” saying it was “up to the city to make its case,” and that case “needs to be really good.”

Fant, who was at odds with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, doesn’t appear likely to carry Curry’s priority bill this time out.

The city seeks $12.5M from the state to match a federal grant of $25 million, which would be roughly three-quarters the cost of the project.

Locals endorse Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum for governor

Two elected Jacksonville Democrats — state Rep. Tracie Davis and School Board member Warren Jones — endorsed Gwen Graham for Governor Monday.

Meanwhile, Thursday saw former state Sen. Tony Hill endorse Graham’s primary opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Gwen Graham is racking up Duval Dem endorsements.

Graham had already been endorsed by former Jacksonville Mayors Jake Godbold and City Councilmen Tommy Hazouri and Garrett Dennis, and thus far is the only candidate for Governor on the Democratic side to score meaningful Jacksonville endorsements.

“I’m proud to have Representative Tracie Davis and School Board Member Warren Jones by my side fighting to restore public education in Florida,” Graham said. “With their help, we are making outreach in Jacksonville and Duval County a top priority in my campaign.”

Worth noting: Davis and Dennis are political allies of Sen. Audrey Gibson, the soon-to-be caucus leader of Senate Dems and the chair of the local Democratic Party.

Clay Yarborough widens money lead in re-election bid

Jacksonville’s House District 12 will see a competitive election next November between incumbent Republican Clay Yarborough and Democrat Tim Yost.

Clay Yarborough has never lost an election. Will 2018 be the year?

Clearly not taking re-election for granted, Yarborough posted his strongest total since June: $21,750 of new October lucre.

Democrat Yost brought in $1,208 in donations from 19 contributors, including HD 15 Democratic hopeful Tracye Polson.

He finished October with roughly $2,300 on hand.

Lenny Curry’s D.C. adventure

Jacksonville Mayor Curry was in Washington D.C. this week making the push for a federal infrastructure grant, and his itinerary was packed.

The $25 million grant from the Department of Transportation would allow the city to reconfigure off ramps from the Hart Bridge onto surface streets.

The push is supported by Sen. Marco Rubio, who is just one of the Beltway power players Curry met with.

Marco Rubio: A key ally of Lenny Curry’s.

Curry met with Billy Kirkland and Justin Clark, who handle intergovernmental affairs for the White House.

As well, the Mayor had meetings with U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart.

Diaz-Balart, a senior member of the House Committee on Appropriations, is chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. He also serves on the House Committee on the Budget.

Curry followed up the Diaz-Balart meeting with meetings with senior staff from the U.S. D.O.T., and then a meeting with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Worth noting: Marty Fiorentino of the Fiorentino Group helped Chao, an old friend and colleague, as she settled into her latest Cabinet position.

Four more years for Jax Sheriff?

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams addressed a Jacksonville City Council committee Monday — but the big news is that he is just weeks away from launching his re-election campaign.

Four more years for Jax Sheriff?

“We’ll announce that here in the next couple of weeks,” Williams told Florida Politics. “I think we have a lot of work to do and I’m excited.”

Williams’ political committee, “A Safe Jacksonville,” had $105,000 on hand at the end of September, and raised roughly $30,000 more in October.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s race in 2015 was expensive, with over $2 million raised by the seven candidates in the field.

Williams will likely face a ballot challenger — but high approval numbers, per a recent UNF Poll, suggest that any challenger will have an uphill slog.

The first-term Republican Sheriff has 67 percent approval — and 60 percent approval among Democrats.

Williams also has broad appeal in all ethnic groups; his worst performance in the survey is 54 percent with African-American voters.

Death looms over Jax Council Parks panel

Three-year-old Amari Harley and 74-year-old Ashley Miller Kraan had very little in common — except that they both drew their last breaths in Jacksonville parks this fall.

Harley fell down a hole above a septic tank; the rubber lid was missing.

Kraan was stabbed in broad daylight by a man with mental issues.

Park safety has become a major issue, and the Jacksonville City Council providentially has a special committee on parks.

However, that special committee had nothing to say about the deaths on the dais, instead talking around the margins, discussing maintenance and other issues.

Amari Harley died in a Jacksonville park. Could it have been avoided?

Parks Committee Chair Scott Wilson noted, before the meeting Wednesday, that maintenance and security are among the committee’s focuses.

Calling the deaths in parks “unfortunate circumstances,” Wilson noted that he was “sorry that happened,” but there are logistical issues precluding ramping up park security.

“We have over 400 parks in the city,” Wilson said, and that requires a “careful” deployment of resources.

After the meeting, Councilwoman Lori Boyer noted that during budget discussions this summer, Sheriff Mike Williams had been “unwilling” to make commitments to station JSO officers in parks.

She suggested that park rangers, which would have arresting powers, could be an option.

“Parks need to be safe,” Boyer said,

However, a security guard in every park would be “overkill,” Boyer added.

Randy White files for Westside Jax Council seat

Jacksonville City Council District 12 is the heart of the city’s true Westside; accents are authentically local, politics are right of center, and a person’s word is his bond.

As of 2019, current Councilman Doyle Carter is term-limited out — but a candidate who filed to replace him embodies much of the straightforwardness Carter brought to the table.

Randy White — a former Jacksonville Association of Firefighters union head, and a retired deputy fire chief — has “the fire in the belly to serve,” he told Florida Politics Tuesday.

Randy White is a first-time candidate, but is well-known by the people who matter.

Of course, he says he wouldn’t even be running if “my good buddy wasn’t termed out.”

White’s priorities as a candidate include public safety on the macro level, and on the district level, he wants to actualize the still largely untapped potential of the Cecil Commerce Center (formerly Cecil Field).

No nukes are good nukes?

Mayport’s dream of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier may be dead, per the Florida Times-Union.

“I don’t believe the presence of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier would best suit the Jacksonville area,” Rear Admiral Sean Buck said.

But there are positives, with additional amphibious readiness ships slated to call Mayport home.

Will “the good old days” be back for Mayport?

“In the next two to three years Mayport is going to grow and have a very, very big presence of brand-new Navy warships, more sailors, more families and be back to what I consider the good-old days,” Buck said.

MMJ not OK in Jax Beach

It’s unfortunate when 81 percent of voters are wrong.

That’s the message from Jacksonville Beach, where — despite that massive majority voting in favor of Amendment 2 in 2016 — city leaders are putting the kibosh on cannabis dispensaries, per Action News Jax.

Did Charlie Latham get 81 percent of the vote? MMJ did.

“My job is to represent the people of Jacksonville Beach and as I mentioned during the council meeting, 81 percent of the people may have voted for medical marijuana. But it wasn’t 81 percent of Jacksonville Beach residents looking to put a dispensary in Jacksonville Beach,” Mayor Charlie Latham said.

Even by the standards of beach politics, this was shady. The 4-3 City Council vote on the ban’s first reading included a flipped vote and what Action News delicately called “some confusion.”

The final vote on this measure is in two weeks.

Bye Bye Hastings

The St. Johns County hamlet Hastings will be dissolved, per a resounding vote this week.

One hundred thirty-six voted for dissolution, and 29 opposed; total turnout was 41 percent.

Hastings is on its last legs, and St. Johns County is poised to take over services.

Hastings now has somewhere around 644 people, down from 1200 at its peak. The average housing price: around $80,000. There is no in-town high school.

Dissolution will come at a cost to St. Johns County.

Among moneys owed: $237,000 to FDOT, $639,400 in water and sewer Revenue Bond debt, and $72,757 listed in the Ordinance as “Building Maintenance and Improvement Loan.”

Almost $950,000, all told.

State Rep. Cyndi Stevenson told us earlier this year that dissolution “will likely benefit the city residents and businesses because the county will be a more efficient provider of services. The County will likely incur some costs to improve water infrastructure. The County is already providing some services to unincorporated areas near Hastings, so there are some efficiencies that can be recognized.”

 

Nat Glover among six picks for Jax ‘Kids Hope’ board

A familiar face in Jacksonville City Hall will helm the new Kids Hope Alliance (KHA) board.

City of Jacksonville CFO Mike Weinstein was tapped to be interim executive director of the seven-person panel last week.

This week, the board is mostly rounded out with six community stakeholders — the biggest name of which is former Sheriff Nat Glover.

Other nominees to the board, all of whom will be subject to City Council approval, include the following:

Dr. Marvin Wells, the first African-American graduate of the U.F. College of Dentistry. He owns a local oral surgery practice.

Tyra Tutor, senior vice president for Corporate Development & Social Responsibility at The Adecco Group North America. Tutor serves on the Jax Chamber Board.

Iraq War Bronze Star recipient Joe Peppers, who is currently employed with Amazon, helping to launch a local fulfillment center.

Kevin Gay, founder and CEO of Operation New Hope-Ready4Work. Gay previously served on the Jacksonville Journey board.

Rebekah Davis, a registered nurse and medical director, who has worked at local hospitals. Davis has been a member of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission board of directors, and is the wife of Jax Chamber President and CEO Daniel Davis.

The seventh appointee has not been announced.

Curry pledged to be quick with appointing people to this board, as the Kids Hope Alliance is poised to replace the Jacksonville Journey and the Jacksonville Children’s Commission later this year.

KHA will have oversight over an approximately $35 million budget for youth services, including all children who qualify under 18, as well as slightly older young adults who are still in school.

Official Florida House photo

Lenny Curry, John Rutherford back Frank White for Attorney General

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and U.S. Rep. John Rutherford have officially endorsed Pensacola Rep. Frank White for Attorney General.

This endorsement happened despite a Jacksonville candidate, Rep. Jay Fant, being in the race, raising existential questions about his viability going forward.

“I’m proud to endorse Frank White as our next Attorney General. Frank is a man of character and faith who will fight for conservative values. He is a friend of law enforcement and a champion for the rule of law who is ready to lead,” Rutherford, a former three-term Jacksonville Sheriff, said in a statement.

“Frank White understands that Florida families need a fighter on their side. With Frank as Attorney General,” Curry said, “we will have someone who applies conservative principles to the work of public safety and taxpayer protection. I encourage my neighbors in Jacksonville to join me supporting Frank White to serve as Florida’s next Attorney General.”

“As a true conservative and someone who spent a career keeping our streets safe,” White said, “I welcome Congressman Rutherford’s support.”

“In Mayor Curry,” White added, “I see a Republican champion who has brought a conservative reform agenda to his city. Having both leaders on our team, working in Northeast Florida, will be an important step in our path to victory. I am honored to have them both.”

With Curry and Rutherford backing White, this leaves Fant out in the cold when it comes to the backing of most of Northeast Florida’s most powerful Republicans.

Retired Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody has been endorsed by Clay County Sheriff Daryl Daniels.

Current Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams was on a host committee for a Moody fundraiser, but has not offered a formal endorsement of any candidate.

While Fant does have some endorsements from colleagues in Tallahassee, such as Rep. Paul Renner, Rep. Jason Fischer and Sen. Aaron Bean, he will find limited traction with the Curry political machine behind him.

“This is a kill shot for Fant,” said one Republican familiar with the thinking of White’s advisers.

Packed D.C. schedule on Tuesday for Lenny Curry

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is in Washington D.C. today making the push for a federal infrastructure grant, and a packed itinerary awaits him.

The $25 million grant from the Department of Transportation would allow the city to reconfigure off ramps from the Hart Bridge onto surface streets.

The push is supported by Sen. Marco Rubio, who is just one of the Beltway power players Curry will meet with.

Curry will meet with Billy Kirkland and Justin Clark, who handle intergovernmental affairs for the White House.

As well, the Mayor has meetings slated with U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart.

Diaz-Balart, a senior member of the House Committee on Appropriations, is chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. He also serves on the House Committee on the Budget.

Curry follows up the Diaz-Balart meeting with meetings with senior staff from the U.S. D.O.T., and then a meeting with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Worth noting: Marty Fiorentino of the Fiorentino Group helped Chao, an old friend and colleague, as she settled into her latest Cabinet position.

Curry, a Trump supporter even through Presidential statements that he describes as occasionally “inartful,” has focused on collaborating with the administration.

“I’ve already got messages in to the Trump Administration. I’d like the federal government to be able to help us in some form in Jacksonville. I don’t know what that looks like yet. But we’re going to leverage every relationship we have to get help here with issues we’re facing,” Curry said in February.

Jacksonville is uniquely positioned in terms of the Trump administration beyond the Fiorentino connection. Ballard Partners employs Susie Wiles, a city hall veteran and a close ally and friend of Curry.

Ultimately, though, the sale is Curry’s to make. And by the end of this day, the Mayor should have some idea as to whether he made it or not.

Lenny Curry’s political committee backs Frank White for Attorney General

October was the second straight quiet month — by its standards — for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s political committee, “Build Something That Lasts”

The committee brought in $35,000, its second straight month below $40,000.

All told, the committee has raised $1.436 million — and has spent $1.05 million — since coming into existence.

Comfortably over $430,000 on hand, the committee has resources for whatever it desires — locally and otherwise.

One expenditure that jumped out: $3,000 to the Attorney General campaign of Frank White, a state Rep. running for the office against a Jacksonville Republican that once was politically allied with Curry — Rep. Jay Fant.

Curry took umbrage, per reliable sources, to comments Fant made at a meeting of local Republicans, in which he said that Curry should have done more to stop Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance expansion — which protected rights for local LGBT citizens.

White’s campaign is being handled by Curry’s political advisors, Tim Baker and Brian Hughes.

Fant, the previous chair of the Duval County state delegation, was slated last Session to carry a bill that would have brought $50 million to Jacksonville to help with costs related to removing current Hart Bridge offramps and routing traffic onto surface streets.

Fant noted that he was going to carry the bill last year based on the public safety argument the mayor’s office advanced at the time.

This year, Fant says the bill would be the prototypical “heavy lift,” saying it was “up to the city to make its case,” and that case “needs to be really good.”

Fant, who was at odds with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, doesn’t appear likely to carry Curry’s priority bill this time out.

Jacksonville Bold for 11.3.17 — What can Brown do for you?

With Jacksonville’s City Council on its “fifth-week” break and many of the city’s power brokers on a Chamber trip to Toronto, Bold is a bit light on City Hall content this week.

No matter, since we are entering the political season — you’ll notice a lot of entries focused on Florida’s 5th Congressional District — a Jacksonville-area seat held currently by Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson.

Someone will run against Lawson — the question is who.

Let’s look at former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown — the topic of conversation locally this week, after he told local Dems he’d soon be on a ballot.

Look for Alvin Brown to appear on a ballot near you.

Brown is trimmer now, spending the last two years out of the spotlight. But those familiar with his thinking say he looks like a candidate.

If so — and nothing is officially confirmed — it will make for interesting choices for local donors, pols and activists.

The critique our Jacksonville correspondent hears over and over: Alvin burned too many bridges.

Brown, who came within three percentage points of re-election, is going to have to make an affirmative case as to why he should replace Lawson. That will need to include attacks on Lawson to erode his credibility.

Can he do that? Does he see that he needs to do to the incumbent exactly what Lenny Curry did to him in 2015?

The future of Congressional District 5 rests on that — as does Brown’s own political future.

Lawson stiffs Tallahassee in Amazon hunt

While Rep. Lawson joined fellow Jacksonville Congressman John Rutherford in writing a letter of support for Duval’s long shot bid for an Amazon HQ last week, the Tallahassee Democrat apparently didn’t take care of his home base.

Al Lawson faces unique pressures in his sprawling North Florida district.

Tallahassee.com reports that Lawson was surprised to hear that another city in his district is pursuing Amazon.

“I never heard anything at all,” Lawson told his hometown paper, noting that the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce was among the groups making a sale.

Lawson is gearing up for a (potential) primary challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Current Mayor Curry meanwhile has no great enthusiasm for his predecessor’s challenge to Lawson, saying he and Lawson have a “great working relationship.”

Prison can wait, sez Corrine Brown

Halloween saw former U.S. Rep. Brown deliver a trick-or-treat message to the federal court in Jacksonville.

Rep. Corrine Brown claims that health issues preclude prison time.

She wants to delay her sentencing, she said in a filing, and she believes probation is the appropriate punishment for 18 felony counts of fraud and tax evasion.

The “defendant is still undergoing testing and evaluation by physicians at a local facility mentioned therein, for which additional suspected medical conditions have not yet been fully diagnosed. It is probable that the anticipated findings and evaluation are significant.”

So, in other words, a mystery malady, one with “certain abnormalities.”

However, the “status of the effects of those abnormalities on her mental and emotional condition” remains unknown.

The court already spiked one motion to forestall sentencing just days after filing.

If Brown’s motion is unsuccessful, sentencing is slated for Nov. 16.

Bill Clinton reviews Jax projects

In a non-political capacity, former President Clinton visited Jacksonville this week, reviewing projects that address food scarcity and the opioid crisis.

Former President Bill Clinton’s latest Jacksonville visit was notably low-key.

Action News Jax reported that Clinton offered words of inspiration for opioid addicts.

“Don’t be scared to admit it. Nobody is going to try and put you in jail. We are going to try and make you well,” Clinton said.

Clinton, who presided over a historic expansion of the prison industry while in office, one predicated on criminalizing drug users, has “evolved” on this issue like many pols of his generation.

The low-wattage trip also saw Clinton offer scintillating remarks on food scarcity.

Clinton watched students pack uneaten foods from the University’s cafeteria into individual meals for a local HIV network.

“Never forget that you were here on this day, watching this when you see this become a global trend,” he said.

Rick Scott pushes ‘historic funding’ in new budget

Gov. Scott returned to Jacksonville Monday afternoon to highlight his new budget’s environmental proposals at the Jacksonville Zoo.

Rick Scott chose Jacksonville to message on a budget with no Jacksonville projects.

Scott’s final budget boosts environmental funding up to $1.7 billion: $220 million over the current year’s levels.

The budget proposal has something for most constituencies: $50 million for “the best state parks system in the country”; $55 million for springs, adding to what Scott bills as “record funding for our springs”; $100 million for beaches, which got “hurt during Irma and Matthew”; $355 million for Everglades restoration, including $50 million for the dike at Lake Okeechobee; $50 million for Florida Forever.

“The big thing today is we have the money to do these things,” Scott said Monday. “It’s $1.7 billion for the environment.”

“The money we invest in our environment is important for our children and our grandchildren,” Scott added. “The environment’s important to us. All of us have to call our House and Senate members and let them know.”

One possible oversight noted by the Florida Times-Union: current proposals offer nothing for the St. Johns River and its tributaries.

Adam Putnam stumps in Fleming Island

Comfort food was on the menu at Clark’s Fish Camp, where Agriculture Secretary Putnam stumped to voters this week.

Up and Adam in Clay County = an early rise for Jax reporters.

Putnam carries himself like the presumptive GOP nominee in next year’s race for governor — and why not?

His major declared opponent, Sen. Jack Latvala, has been hit hard this week in POLITICO, after reportage on alleged dalliances with female lobbyists.

In Clay County, Putnam didn’t want to talk about that, punting on the question when asked a couple of different ways. Nor did he say anything quotable about Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is eyeballing a November entry to the governor’s race.

The checklist of Putnam’s right-of-center talking points: an aversion to sanctuary cities, support for Rule of Law, parental involvement in schools — they were all there, as reliable in his speeches as the left-of-center bromides were in the 2016 presidential campaign speeches of Hillary Clinton.

Putnam also extolled Clay County — and St. Johns County — for not having the pressures that Duval County, a largely metropolitan region with the kind of legacy costs facing older, larger cities.

He said the bedroom communities are “taking parents because the schools are so outstanding,” with people “voting with their feet.”

Gwen Graham slates Jax fundraising trip next week

Save the date, centrist Jacksonville Dems — and bring your checkbook.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Graham has a Jacksonville fundraising junket slated for Monday evening at the Haskell Building in Riverside.

Suggested contribution levels range from $100 to $1,000.

Host committee includes Ambassador Nancy Soderberg and former State Attorney Harry Shorstein.

While Nancy Soderberg is on Gwen Graham’s host committee, these pumpkins didn’t make the cut.

Graham is leading the Democratic fundraising race in polls, but she will almost certainly face a cash crunch if Putnam gets the GOP nod.

Audrey Gibson to lead Senate Dems?

Scandalized state Sen. Jeff Clemens is out — and it looks like Jacksonville’s Gibson is in.

Reported by News Service of Florida, Gibson believes she has a “simple majority” of pledges supporting her to replace Clemens as the leader of the Senate Democrats.

Jacksonville may soon have more power in the Florida Senate.

Gibson is excited about growing the party’s presence in the upper house.

“There’s no doubt that we can recover. I think the swiftness with which things happened enables us to be able to do that. If it had dragged on, if he stayed and things kept trickling out, that’s one thing,” Gibson said. “He technically wasn’t leader yet, anyway. He was leader-designate.

Gibson was in the discussion for a potential run for Congress against Rep. Lawson.

A move to Senate leadership for the chair of the Duval Democrats would seemingly forestall that, clearing the way for a potential run from former Jacksonville Mayor Brown.

Gibson outlines North Florida vision, rebukes Jax mayor

We caught up with Gibson after a meeting of the Duval County Legislative Delegation — and she gave us some insight into what she would bring to the table as caucus leader of the Senate Dems (as expected).

Audrey Gibson will be positioned to help Jacksonville … but she needs input from the Mayor.

Gibson stressed the importance of ensuring that all caucus members are able to have their priorities heard, while noting that environmental and educational issues are key.

Also important: North Florida. As Gibson noted, the conversation for years in Tallahassee has prioritized South Florida; even as the leader of the minority party in the Senate, Gibson believes she can move priorities — especially regarding JAXPORT’s dredging process.

She had an ask from the city of Jacksonville though: for Curry to be more involved in dialoguing with the Delegation and expounding on priorities.

While Gibson has met with Curry senior staffer Ali Korman Shelton before recent Legislative Sessions, she has been frustrated in attempts to “meet with the mayor directly.”

“There should also be that personal conversation with the Delegation. We’re making the case here,” Gibson remarked.

Other delegation members have made this case — especially about the Hart Bridge offramp change proposal pushed at last year’s Delegation meeting.

But none of them put it quite like this.

“They just walked in with that map, and I thought ‘what is that?’, and that is not how you relate to the delegation that you want to carry your water at the state level,” Gibson said. “It just shouldn’t be done that way.”

Rep. Jay Fant was going to carry that project last year, on public safety grounds; noting that the rationale for the project has changed, Fant said that it is a “heavy lift” and it is incumbent on the city to make a “really good case.”

State Rep. invokes Irma to stall foreclosure

In the wake of Hurricane Irma last month, State Rep. Kim Daniels distinguished herself by asserting that “prophets” saw the storm coming.

Rep. Kim Daniels has made news off Irma since the storm left Florida.

“Nothing happens except God reveal it to prophets first,” Daniels observed as the death-dealing superstorm enveloped the peninsula.

God’s revelation apparently has limits, however, and those limits extend to a property owned by one of Daniels’ businesses, “Spoken Word Ministries.”

Motions to cancel a sale date have been filed four times — the most recent one, a cancellation of an October sale due to Hurricane Irma, resetting the event to Nov. 8.

Spoken Word Ministries seeks one more cancellation — and, despite the impeccable foresight of prophets in Daniels’ orbit, that cancellation is related to Hurricane Irma.

Spoken Word Ministries needs “time to review damage that the subject property may have sustained,” as well as “potential property insurance issues,” and “eligibility for loss mitigation and other foreclosure avoidance opportunities.”

Curry’s ‘kids hope’ vision

One of the signature legislative pushes of Curry‘s administration — the Kids Hope Alliance (KHA) — passed by the City Council last month.

Lenny Curry had Jaguars game passes for the students from EVAC this week.

The KHA, a new seven-person board that will replace the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, will command a roughly $35 million budget for services the mayor calls “at-hope kids,” handling oversight of various programs.

The board members are still being selected. But when they are in place, Curry wants a group of “at-hope kids” from Jacksonville’s Lee High School — the EVAC Movement  — to address them and let them know what is needed,

“Come and talk to them,” Curry said. “Be real with them and tell it like it is.”

What it is, of course, is an everyday struggle: one of trying to walk a path toward success that requires sidestepping myriad hazards, the kind seen in many Jacksonville communities.

“We are going to invest money into young people,” Curry said, and the mayor wanted the young men to provide insight into how those investments are to be programmed.

JEA still interested in Puerto Rican power gig

We reported weeks back on concerns with Whitefish Holdings assuming the massive task of reconstructing Puerto Rico’s storm-ravaged power grid.

JEA workers will stay in Puerto Rico despite Whitefish contract for power restoration going belly up.

In the weeks since, the story of Whitefish went from obscurity to the global spotlight, with media outlets from cable news on down raising concerns that were originally floated in our reporting — concerns that were not taken as seriously as they should have been early on.

The narrative finally has assumed critical mass: The New York Times and other outlets are reporting on Puerto Rico’s decision to cancel the $300 million contract.

For Jacksonville, this issue hits closer to home than some places — 41 JEA workers are on the island, along with trucks and supplies.

JEA, despite the Whitefish deal going belly up, wants to be there too, they told Florida Politics this week.

“On behalf of JEA, we are dedicated to the task at hand — making a meaningful contribution to the people of Puerto Rico by helping to get their electric system up and running as soon as possible. Our very talented and hardworking JEA crew members are in Puerto Rico now and working hard every day,” JEA asserted Monday morning.

“Whitefish was the available contracting vehicle when we extended the offer for our professionals to work. As that circumstance changes, we will work with PREPA and anyone else that may be assigned to make this devastating situation better,” JEA added.

Clay County Sheriff backs Ashley Moody for Attorney General

When it comes to being Attorney General, Jacksonville Republican Fant can’t — but Moody can, per Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels.

Sheriff Darryl Daniels backs Ashley Moody for Attorney General.

“Our community cannot play politics with public safety. We need an Attorney General who doesn’t need to learn the job on the job. Ashley Moody is the only candidate who has a proven track record of putting criminals behind bars. She is an experienced leader in criminal justice and I’m proud to endorse her for Attorney General,” Daniels said in a statement Monday.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams already endorsed Moody, and the Daniels dis raises more questions about whether Fant is losing the race in his own backyard.

Moody and Fant were joined recently in the race by Rep. Frank White, a Pensacola Republican cut from the Federalist Society mold.

Moody, thus far, has the most momentum — having amassed a lot of law enforcement endorsements and raised over a million dollars.

New facilities, security leaders at JAXPORT

JAXPORT added two experienced and respected local executives to its leadership team.

Transportation management professional James Bennett will join JAXPORT as Senior Director, Facilities Development. Bennett will direct the port’s marine and landside infrastructure development and operations related to capital improvements. In addition, he will work on JAXPORT’s major growth projects, including harbor deepening.

Tammy Brown, James Bennett join the leadership team at JAXPORT.

Bennett is a licensed professional engineer with extensive experience in senior transportation positions, including a decade as Planning Manager for the Florida Department of Transportation’s District Two. He most recently served as the project director for JAXPORT’s general engineering contractor, working directly with port personnel on the engineering, planning, design and permitting of major development initiatives. Bennett currently serves on the five-member Baker County Board of Commissioners.

Retired Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Tammy Brown joins JAXPORT as Director, Public Safety and Security. Brown will direct all law enforcement, physical security, safety, and emergency management and preparedness services in support of more than 25,000 port employees, tenants and customers.

Brown, a 21-year veteran of the sheriff’s department most recently as Seaport Unit Liaison. In addition, she was responsible for coordinating and implementing seaport security initiatives in compliance with Federal Maritime Regulatory requirements.

“Many of us have been fortunate to work closely with James and Tammy in their previous roles,” said JAXPORT CEO Eric Green. “They are both dynamic, experienced leaders who will help us innovate and excel during this important time in the port’s history.”

Crowley expands, adds airfreight partnership

Crowley Logistics, part of Jacksonville-based Crowley Holdings, has entered a joint agreement with airfreight company Air Menzies International.

As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, Crowley’s 40,000 square-foot CrowleyFresh facility in Medley will be the consolidation hub for AMI’s Miami Gateway, connecting Central and South America, with the U.S. and other countries.

Crowley will receive and validate cargo, setting up pallets and daily truck deliveries with Miami International Airport.

Crowley forms a partnership to add airfreight.

“We are very happy to be working with Crowley, and gaining access to their impressive infrastructure here in Miami,” AMI Vice President for the U.S. Mike Pattinson said in a statement this week. “Our capabilities are complementary, and will enable both companies to enhance the quality and scope of services to their customers while preserving AMI’s precious neutrality.”

The Crowley facility will serve as AMI’s first temperature-controlled, wholesale warehouse. An on-site U.S. Transportation Security Administration Certified Cargo Screening Facility will also allow AMI to bypass the higher-cost screening process at Miami International.

In return, Crowley will have access to AMI wholesale airfreight services in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. This expansion will boost Crowley’s capacity and frequency.

“Our new collaboration with AMI represents a significant enhancement to our airfreight service offerings,” Crowley senior vice president and general manager Frank Larkin said in a statement. “For the first time, we will be able to offer customers spot moves from AMI’s other key U.S. gateways in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, into our key markets in Central America and the Caribbean.”

UF Health Jax shuttle works overtime before Hurricane Irma

UF Health Jacksonville shuttles hundreds of hospital employees and patients daily to work, meetings and appointments. But Saturday, Sept. 9, the route was longer — and rougher — as Hurricane Irma began bearing down on the area.

“Without our shuttle service, there would have been no way for us to properly discharge patients that weekend,” said Allison Martin, senior manager for Case Management and Palliative Care at UF Health Jacksonville. “They were truly a lifesaver.”

UFHealthJax.org notes that Martin was among 16 case managers at UF Health Jacksonville and UF Health North staying on-site during Irma between Saturday, Sept. 9, through Tuesday, Sept. 12.

UF Health Jacksonville Hospital shuttles worked overtime to take patients to safety before Hurricane Irma.

Workers discharged as many patients as possible before the storm, to make room for patients expected arrive afterward.

“This storm added a challenge for us. Public transportation and private taxis all stopped running late Saturday,” Martin said. “It left many of our patients stranded.”

Since 2015, Kelly Tours has operated shuttle services for the hospital since 2015. On the weekend of Irma, Kelly provided employees transportation to and from the Pavilion and Clinical Center safely.

Lester DuBose, one of the weekend UF Health drivers, stepped up in a big way for patients.

“Each day, Lester and his shuttles drove 15 to 20 patients to safety,” Martin said. “He drove our patients from the downtown and north campus home and to disaster shelters. He did this every night up until midnight, even on the day of the storm.”

Jacksonville Zoo’s Teddy Bear Affair

Sponsored by Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, kids can bring in their favorite plush animal Saturday, Nov. 4, for free admission to the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens. No coupon needed.

Nemours will be performing ‘checkups’ for plush friends in the Range of the Jaguar.

The Teddy Bear Affair will be from 10 a.m. — 3 p.m.

 

Audrey Gibson discusses vision for Senate Dems, North Florida priorities

Next week, Florida Senate Democrats look likely to choose Jacksonville Sen. Audrey Gibson as their next caucus leader.

Given the amount of narrative in recent months about Jacksonville not having its voice in leadership, this has to be seen as a positive.

After Wednesday’s meeting of the Duval County Legislative Delegation, we asked Gibson if the pledge count looked good.

She noted that it did, and while there is the weekend and Monday to get through, in the coming days she’s going to “stay close to those who have committed to support” her, “for all of us to be a team.”

Whether Gibson wins as expected or not, she has a vision for what Senate Democrats need to do this upcoming Legislative Session.

“First and foremost, we have to come back together as a unit and wipe away the negative going forward. And we need to go and discuss what our agenda’s going to look like,” Gibson said.

“The Leader doesn’t just say to the members ‘this is what we’re going to do and everybody just comes along’,” Gibson added. “My leadership style is to engage each and every member as to what their priorities are.”

One priority “for Democrats in general,” Gibson added, is education.

“We need to revisit the funding for our community colleges that provide the workforce for us,” Gibson said.

Gibson also added that even on education issues, there is a debate within the party; some Democrats are more open to vouchers than others.

A Gibson priority: not to “ostracize members who may think a bit differently, whose districts may respond to things differently.”

Environmental issues, Gibson added, are also a priority for Senate Democrats — and everyone else.

The environment is “not a red or blue issue — it’s a Florida issue.”

While Gibson has her personal agenda items, she also recognizes the diversity among Senate Democrats both in ideology and priorities.

“Even within our caucus,” Gibson noted, “there are individuals who look at policy a little differently.”

Conversation moved to what Gibson’s ascension would mean for Northeast Florida.

“It puts us in the spotlight in a positive way. I think I always have represented my city very well,” Gibson remarked.

“I’m a big ports person, and the ports would be front and center,” Gibson said — good news indeed as JAXPORT moves through the early stages of an ambitious, locally controversial, and expensive dredging process that the city is counting on shared costs for.

For FY 18, JAXPORT has $42.1M budgeted for the dredge: $23.3M from its own finance, and $18.8M from the state.

While that’s definitely a start for the estimated $484M project, there is no guarantee of recurring funding — a concern of local policy makers.

Gibson also noted that she is pro-business.

“I also believe in a business agenda that we should look at as Democrats — we aren’t anti-business.”

Gibson noted a conversation with North Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Montford about Leadership, in which they discussed regional priorities.

“We were talking about the fact that it’s been — and he raised it — ‘South, South, South’, and there’s been no North Florida focus,” Gibson added. “North Florida is just as important as any area of the state.”

To that end, Gibson said that North Florida and Northeast Florida will be front and center in budget and policy conversations — something that hasn’t always been the case.

Of course, Wednesday’s meeting of the Duval County Legislative Delegation was notable in that, for the first year in a long time, there were no local bills — and city leadership had no representation, with most of Mayor Lenny Curry’s senior staff in Toronto for a Jax Chamber trip.

Gibson hasn’t always lined up with the Curry agenda: she took umbrage last year when she was listed on a mail piece as endorsing the city’s referendum to end defined benefit pension plans and pay for them with a tax to be imposed by the year 2030.

Gibson noted that when John Peyton was Mayor, “we would have meetings with him prior to Session starting about city priorities,” with staff around the table.

“I think those were valuable because it means that he values our participation and giving us information in a setting that is conversational,” Gibson said, thus allowing the Delegation to “divvy up” requests and figure out how they would be carried forward.

“Our city is multi-faceted,” Gibson continued, including areas of “extreme need.”

“There are big infrastructure issues we need to deal with, including drainage,” Gibson added. “We need to have those conversations.”

Gibson noted that in 2016, the city’s big ask was $50M for Hart Bridge offramp removal and redesign.

She wasn’t particularly a fan of the city’s approach to selling that project.

“They just walked in with that map, and I thought ‘what is that?’, and that is not how you relate to the Delegation that you want to carry your water at the state level,” Gibson said. “It just shouldn’t be done that way.”

(Perhaps predictably in retrospect, no one in the Delegation carried the request for $50M, leading the city to redefine the project goals in pursuit of a federal infrastructure grant).

While Gibson has met with Curry senior staffer Ali Korman Shelton before recent Legislative Sessions, she has been frustrated in attempts to “meet with the Mayor directly.”

“There should also be that personal conversation with the Delegation. We’re making the case here,” Gibson remarked.

Gibson is not the only member of the Duval Delegation to complain about the approach of the Mayor’s Office to the city’s legislative agenda; however, her statements crystallize statements made by both Republicans and Democrats on the body, and bear watching as 2018 approaches and progresses.

Mike Weinstein tapped to head Jax ‘Kids Hope’ board

A familiar face in Jacksonville City Hall will helm the new Kids Hope Alliance (KHA) board.

City of Jacksonville CFO Mike Weinstein was tapped to be interim executive director of the seven-person panel on Wednesday.

“Mike is an incredible change agent respected and trusted throughout our city and state,” said Mayor Curry. “Few people have had a career as diverse as Mike’s. While his professional journey has included roles as a prosecutor, state representative and nonprofit director, his entire life has been dedicated to improving systems, operations and young lives.”

Weinstein has served in a variety of roles in Jacksonville’s city government dating back to the early 1990s and is one of the experienced hands that have made Curry’s first term proceed as smoothly as it has.

Weinstein will not be the last name tapped for this board: a seven-person board will have to be nominated.

Yet Weinstein’s inclusion in the top slot ensures that the mayor’s vision for children’s services will be implemented in the new board, the latest in a series of Curry administration reorgs.

The KHA, will replace the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, and will command a roughly $35 million budget for services for what Curry calls “at-hope kids,”  handling oversight of various programs.

Disconnect between Duval delegation, Jacksonville leadership raises questions

Jacksonville’s mayor, City Council president, and City Council vice president are part of a 141-person delegation from the city to Toronto on Wednesday.

Their absence raised questions in Jacksonville City Hall about why the Duval County legislative delegation would meet without them, and even the day before the Wednesday meeting, there apparently was encouragement from the mayor’s office to postpone the meeting.

Chairman Jay Fant — a current statewide candidate for attorney general — pushed forward, however, raising more questions for some observers about how in sync the delegation’s priorities are with the city’s.

In a sidebar interview with Florida Politics, Fant noted that he hadn’t heard of any push to change the meeting date, saying he was “notified not to be offended” by people being on the trip to Toronto and missing the meeting.

Meanwhile, on city issues, Fant observed that “the city’s going to have to lobby us individually” on its priorities.

One of those priorities has recurred year over year.

In 2016, Mayor Lenny Curry made a big ask for the delegation to bring home $50 million to tear down the current Hart Bridge offramps and reroute traffic onto Bay Street.

Fant noted that he was going to carry the bill last year based on the public safety argument the mayor’s office advanced at the time.

This year, Fant says the bill would be the prototypical “heavy lift,” saying it was “up to the city to make its case,” and that case “needs to be really good.”

The mayor’s office’s two big asks are unchanged from last year: money for the Hart Bridge project, for which the city is now funding a design criteria study; and money for septic tank remediation, a project that Jacksonville sought $15 million for last year … and got none of it.

Beyond that?

“I’ve been advised that we are still in the process of determining our City of Jacksonville legislative priorities,” wrote a city spokesperson this week.

With appropriations bills having been filed for weeks, and bill slots filling up for some legislators, time is of the essence given 2018’s early Legislative Session.

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Despite the disconnect between the delegation and the local government, the meeting was conducted.

New leadership was chosen: Republican state Sen. Aaron Bean took the chair, stressing the importance of “coming together for Northeast Florida,” especially given Duval is outnumbered by other regions of the state.

Bean lauded outgoing Chairman Jay Fant for doing an “outstanding job” carrying Duval’s priorities forward.

Fant lauded the delegation for being singularly “polished and prepared” in advancing priorities.

Rep. Jason Fischer and Rep. Tracie Davis were both nominated for vice-chair.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, advocating for Davis, noted that the leadership positions should reflect “diversity” among the delegation, comprised of four Republican white men and three African-American Democratic women.

With Rep. Kim Daniels excused, Fischer carried the vote 4-2.

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Stakeholders advanced priorities.

On behalf of the Duval County School Board, Warren Jones called special attention to hurricane funding needs, exacerbated by Irma demands, coupled with delayed reimbursements from 2016’s Hurricane Matthew.

Jacksonville City Councilman Jim Love was the sole city elected official on hand, and he bemoaned the lack of local representation on the Constitutional Revision Commission.

Love also decried the possibility of appointed constitutional officers as a subversion of local control.

On behalf of UF Health, CEO Russ Armistead — who Chairman Bean works for — noted a reduction in state funding to hospitals, which led to a $21 million loss in revenue.

UF Health didn’t expect LIP funding to be decreased, but it has been.

“Miraculously, we’re staying open,” Armistead said, despite razor-thin profit margins.

Florida State College at Jacksonville wants $12 million of PECO money to renovate downtown buildings dedicated to STEM programs.

The University of North Florida likewise has needs, articulated by President John Delaney — a former Jacksonville mayor who will be leaving the university in the next year.

Delaney wants $10 million of recurring money for UNF and other regional universities; he also had PECO asks, including $4 million to renovate Lassiter Hall, built in 1994, and money for  an enclosed courtyard between two buildings on campus.

Sens. Bean and Gibson bemoaned the current funding formula as punitive toward UNF, and not accounting for the unique differences between student populations between schools — such as working students.

“Compared to peers,” Delaney said, “UNF would be among the top universities.”

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