After Florida Politics’ most recent report about the mostly behind-the-scenes scrum within the Florida House GOP freshman class to determine which of its members will one day be Speaker, the conclusion was that for either Jamie Grant or Frank White to win, one of them would have to drop out of the race quickly.
Not much sooner after this was written did rumors start to circulate that White was contemplating exiting the race. And after considerable lobbying from Rep. Jayer Williamson (at least that’s what we heard), White, in fact, quit the race.
Now that White is out of the way, and with both he and Williamson lining up behind Tampa’s James Grant, the race returns to its original state: Jacksonville’s Paul Renner on one side, Grant (and a large band of anti-Renner votes) on the other, and Randy Fine in a kingmaker/spoiler role (or, perhaps, a consensus candidate if Grant and Renner can’t win outright.)
With Grant probably back in the lead, pressure is now on Renner to lock down his northeast Florida base. The region — Jacksonville in particular — believes it deserves a turn at leadership. And it’s time for the other Jacksonville/Northeast Florida House members to get in line.
That was the message Thursday evening at a major fundraiser for Renner’s political committee, the Florida Foundation for Liberty, delivered by the boss of bosses, Lenny Curry.
Curry and the rest of the Jacksonville political establishment are “all in” for Renner, according to a consultant who works for multiple candidates in the region.
Along with Curry, Ambassador John Rood and John Peyton spoke before a crowd of more than 250 about the need for Northeast Florida representatives to rally behind a Speaker candidate from Northeast Florida.
The question now is: Was the message delivered?
In the crowd last night: Reps. Cord Byrd, Jason Fischer, and Cyndi Stevenson. If Renner is to win, he will need at least two of the three of them to vote his way.
Byrd is still likely with Grant.
Fischer and Stevenson are still undecided, but considerable pressure will probably be brought to bear for a Renner vote.
But even with those votes, the race fluctuates like my cholesterol level.
Grant’s camp, as confident as ever, thinks that White yielding to Grant is the final, decisive turn.
Which leaves the scrappy Randy Fine. Along with Byron Donalds and, perhaps, Erin Grall, Fine is the what’s standing between a two-horse showdown. Fine, ever the tactician, believes there are votes there for him if Grant or Renner can’t win a quick majority.
But is it time for Fine to play the role of kingmaker? Does he deliver his vote and (again, perhaps) a couple of other independent votes to Grant and Fine, in exchange for a committee chairmanship to be named later?
The political career of Jacksonville City Council President-Designate Anna Brosche hasn’t been all that long, but has been characterized by a triumph per year.
In 2015, Brosche shocked some observers by defeating the iconoclastic Kim Daniels in the pastor’s re-election bid to the City Council.
In 2016, Brosche – a CPA and a managing partner at a local firm – took the helm of the Finance Committee.
And in 2017, Brosche took the Council Presidency in a contested vote, dashing John Crescimbeni’s dream and surprising some observers – both in the timing of the run, and the decisiveness of the 11-8 win.
Brosche made no secret of an intention to pursue Council leadership – she told us about it last year.
Despite some in council (and outside the building also) saying Brosche was too quiet and too callow, she won the race with a combination of signature characteristics: boldness, honesty, empathy, and understanding of the diversity of the Council and how to appeal to them.
This week, we conducted the first deep-dive post-victory interview with Brosche, the next Jacksonville City Council President. It is full of revelations and candor, giving the best possible vantage into her mindset weeks before she assumes the top job in the Jacksonville City Council.
Here we discussed what drove her candidacy, who supported her and who didn’t, how she intends to work with those who worked against her, how she looks at pension reform and budget management, and what the next year will look like with her at the helm of the Council.
Get your popcorn ready.
Why now?: The first question we had was the most elemental: what drove the decision to run this time?
“Early on, I had people share that I would be a great choice for leadership in my first term. I was trying to think of when the appropriate time was, and I got some great advice from past presidents, who said that year four was probably not the wisest time to decide to take on such a big commitment,” Brosche said.
“It came to a point where I had to decide: do I do it or not this time?”
While Brosche appreciates Crescimbeni’s work ethic, “willingness to dig in and challenge things,” the stark contrast between their “different approaches and leadership styles” helped inform her decision to run.
“It was a pretty close race last year,” Brosche said about the 10-9 win Crescimbeni had in the VP race.
And that narrow margin – the antithesis of a mandate – “pointed to providing my colleagues with another option,” Brosche added.
Despite the tension of the race, Brosche described Crescimbeni as “cordial and congratulatory” after the vote, suggesting the healing will begin sooner than later.
Regarding Bill Gulliford, and his stated aversion to serving in a committee in the Brosche administration, Brosche noted she didn’t take it personally, saying his reaction is “his stuff” and that she reached out to Gulliford just like everyone else to determine committee interests.
“Every council year,” Brosche said, this kind of conflict is put behind councilors, who inevitably move on to do the work that’s “important to the city of Jacksonville.”
Service, said Brosche, is in Gulliford’s “blood.”
Chamber candidate? Not quite: Much of the noise from Crescimbeni supporters came back to the Council veteran being more “ready to lead” than Brosche, given his experience on the Council and in the VP role.
However, no such qualms came forth from Brosche’s advisors and supporters – none of whom she wanted to name specifically.
“There are a lot of people in the community who want to make sure we have great leadership in the City Council,” Brosche said. “I have a large group of supporters.”
Of course, the idea of outside support was a leit motif of the campaign itself. Even before her first pledge meeting, one councilman – Bill Gulliford – disparaged “outside entities trying to play in [Council’s] sandbox,” which was a reference to such as the Jax Chamber.
Some reliable sources have said that former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton and Daniel Davis – both of the Chamber – twisted arms and made calls on Brosche’s behalf.
Not necessarily the case, Brosche said.
“I wasn’t dealing with the Chamber or John Peyton,” Brosche noted, adding that the story “fit the narrative that people wanted to create.”
“Was there a distinction? There are certain distinctions between John [Crescimbeni] and me. I’ve been labeled the ‘Chamber candidate’ since my election, and you know that I received other labels during my campaign as well,” Brosche said, with a bit of an edge in her voice.
“I’m not necessarily shying away from things,” Brosche continued, “but I know my relationship with the Chamber in service to the business community, and in service to women business owners.”
“I served on the Chamber board for one or two years in a group of 50 people, when you really don’t have a lot of opportunity to drive the agenda. That happens in a small group, in an executive committee perspective.”
“It’s my understanding that John really didn’t have a relationship with the Chamber,” Brosche continued. “He might characterize it as one that’s not good.”
“I think I have met with Daniel Davis two or three times since I was elected. He had no involvement in my race,” Brosche affirmed, adding that Davis told her personally that – contrary to rumors – he “hadn’t made one phone call” for her candidacy.
Meanwhile, there was another irony Brosche wanted to spotlight.
“Last year,” she said, “I was lobbied from people on the outside to support John Crescimbeni. That’s just how it works. I think it’s disingenuous to suggest that people don’t have supporters in the community that want to see them succeed in positions of leadership.”
Brosche also addressed the perception of a “ticket” with VP-Designate Aaron Bowman.
“We don’t know each other that well … I haven’t necessarily come and carried any bills for the Chamber,” Brosche said.
Brosche and Bowman pledged to each other after John Crescimbeni and Scott Wilson exchanged pledges of support.
“In some regards, the ticket was created for us – and certainly not by intention.”
Coalition building: Much of the surprise to some outside observers – Brosche’s coalition of supporters, which included African-American Democrats, people outside of the inner circle of a lot of recent council decisions, and so on.
“I was not surprised to get the support I did. I felt like I had the option of receiving support from the majority of my colleagues,” Brosche said.
“I have a style and demeanor that is heavily guided by respect and appreciation for my colleagues and for our differences,” Brosche said. “We shouldn’t have a lot of Annas walking around. The diversity of opinion is what makes us better.”
“When I do disagree with my colleagues,” Brosche added, “I do so in a way that honors what they’ve had to say and what they contribute. I take the time to listen attentively, I hear their concerns, and I try to understand them in a way that I can advance the initiative or the matter.
“People appreciate being heard,” Brosche said. “I feel it’s my role to represent us and make sure [it’s clear] that this isn’t about me – this is about the collective body and service to the city, which is why [we] got elected.”
It was slow going getting pledges at first, but there came to be a tipping point recently where Brosche realized the Presidency was within reach.
“I also noticed that … when Crescimbeni wasn’t advancing, I felt some optimism. And I felt much better when I got the email from Katrina [Brown],” Brosche said. “When I received that, that was a big deal.”
Brown and Garrett Dennis gave Brosche the lead with emailed pledges at the end of last week.
Another somewhat surprising supporter on hand for the vote: Duval GOP Chair Karyn Morton, last seen at Council when a controversial GOP insider nominee for a city commission was withdrawing his nomination – a request of Council Democrats who supported Brosche in the chair race.
Morton, seen as a few ticks to the ideological right of Brosche and Aaron Bowman, nonetheless was grinning ear to ear as the GOP took the Council Presidency.
“I appreciated having her support and help. At least in the President’s race, she had a Republican running against a Democrat. I’m not sure she had a choice in that race. She’s about supporting Republicans,” Brosche said.
“The Democratic Party was just as interested in seeing a Democrat elected,” Brosche said, though there is some question as to why the lobbying wasn’t as robust as it was in 2016.
“It didn’t show up in the votes. But word got back to me that calls on both sides were being made,” Brosche said.
Mansplainin’?: One interesting wrinkle in the race: what seemed to be a certain commonality among many of Crescimbeni’s supporters – largely older, white males.
Did issues of youth, gender, and other demographic demarcations sway their positions?
On that question, Brosche was careful in her answer.
“I think that everyone took this choice very seriously and brought their perspectives and experiences to the decision-making process and made what they thought was the right decision for the Council,” Brosche said.
“I certainly picked up on what you said… I had not picked up on it until you pointed it out,” Brosche added. “You pointed it out well in terms of the picture that was made. I didn’t necessarily reach that conclusion … at the outset.”
“I had not picked up on it until you pointed it out,” Brosche continued, adding that she’d “spent a lot of time and life in the CPA World,” in which only 20 percent of partners are women and even fewer are managing partners.
“You just have to do what you have to do. Be the change,” Brosche said.
Pension tension: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry did not wade into the race, in large part out of respect for Crescimbeni and the councilman’s stalwart support for pension reform, from the referendum onward.
Brosche was more cautious than Crescimbeni when it came to pension reform, voicing concerns even at the vote.
“I think there were triggers and tools,” Brosche said, to ensure oversight on the process to keep it as “intended.”
“I don’t think anybody intended for us to pass the legislation and put it on autopilot. I am certainly cautious because there was no one who said every part of that legislation was a homerun,” Brosche added.
“It re-introduced some things that I was glad we had gotten rid of in 2015, but on the whole the value of the dedicated funding source weighed pretty heavily to me,” Brosche said. “I got some feedback that when I spoke to you in the atrium, my remarks weren’t glowing enough on the package I had received six days prior to you asking the question.”
“So I reiterated to those that had expressed concerns about my position on pension reform that I was going through the process I needed to go through to understand what was there and that it made sense to me, and that it was the right thing to do, and that my commitment to a dedicated funding source wasn’t derailed by any other piece of the legislation,” Brosche said.
“We did move through it … pretty quickly. I did need more than six days to reach my conclusion,” Brosche said, “especially when I hadn’t received the answers from the administration to my questions.”
Moving forward: Brosche still hasn’t made her committee assignments; these will come in June.
Regarding the city’s budget, and “budget relief” from pension reform, Brosche noted that “enhancement requests” are piling up from stakeholders.
“We’re seeing it in head count requests as well … I don’t really have any hard and fast [answers],” Brosche said, “and I don’t know if getting back to pre-cut levels is necessary” given that the city has learned to function with fewer people in those roles.
However, Brosche added, “it’s important to make sure we’re delivering the quality of life citizens expect, doing what we can to create jobs, and keeping people safe.”
That list of priorities jibes reasonably well with that of the Curry Administration, for what it’s worth.
“I’m going to hope we are cautious in the use of those savings,” Brosche said, including making sure that money is set aside to address potential needs on the pension front, including accelerated paydown along the lines of what was proposed in a bill by Danny Becton in May.
“I look forward to his Jun. 5 meeting to understand more,” Brosche said. “It sounds like a smart thing. At the same time, I want to be careful that we have the flexibility to accomplish what the administration was suggesting that we need to do over the next few years.”
“We’re going to have savings now,” Brosche added, “and there will come a point when we don’t.”
After a recent terror attack after a pop concert in England that took 19 lives and injured dozens more, security is bound to be stepped up throughout the western world.
Including in Jacksonville, where jazz fans should expect a little “vetting” from Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers at the Jazz Festival this weekend.
“When we ask to stop you, wand you, check your bag,” said JSO’s Leonard Propper Wednesday at a press conference at Jacksonville’s City Hall, “there’s a reason for that.”
The Jazz Festival – an outdoor event sprawling over four evenings and three days starting on Thursday evening with a jazz piano competition and running through Sunday – is especially vulnerable to security holes, said Propper, as an “outdoor” event with “porous” boundaries.
“It’s going to be a wonderful experience,” Propper added. “There’s going to be a little bit of vetting going on. There’s going to be people watching, people in places observing, and every interaction that we have with somebody is based on a reason.”
“And that reason is – we engage in that consensual conversation … it’s for your safety,” Propper added, urging people to “report anything suspicious” or “creepy.”
Propper’s comments – with specific focus on security and the inevitability of police interaction – were the most unique portion of a promotional event at Jacksonville City Hall, that otherwise was not much dissimilar than other jazz festival pressers in recent years.
Mayor Lenny Curry discussed security in a gaggle, citing “public safety” as a “top priority” of his, noting the “regular communication” he has with Sheriff Mike Williams on “any events … downtown.”
Curry noted that people should not feel “concerned,” and should be ready to “come out and have a good time.”
Of course, a new amphitheater – Daily’s Place – is slated to open this weekend.
Curry said that Daily’s Place is on track to open this weekend, with inspections and all that expected to be completed on time for the scheduled open.
“Our public safety officials are ready,” Curry said, when asked about any potential security concerns in a post-Manchester world.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Tuesday for the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead and sparked a stampede of young concertgoers.
The attack was the deadliest in Britain since four suicide bombers killed 52 London commuters on subway trains and a bus in July 2005.
Here is a compilation of reaction from Florida’s elected officials and leaders about the tragedy:
— Sen. Marco Rubioon Twitter: “Our prayers are with the people of Manchester.”
— U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on Twitter: “My thoughts and prayers are with Britain and the families impacted by this horrific act in Manchester.”
— U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Twitter: “Praying for the people of Manchester.”
— U.S. Rep. Val Demings on Twitter : “Standing with and praying for Manchester today. Another cowardly attack against innocent people.”
— U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch on Twitter: “Tonight in #Manchester, enormous amounts of horror, grief, and pain. From America and beyond, we join you in sympathy, outrage and resolve.”
— U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn on Facebook: “Leah and I send our sincere condolences to the British people as they respond to another heinous act of terrorism. The events in Manchester remind us again that these vicious killers will consider any target, even a crowd of teenagers and children at a music concert. We stand with resolve alongside our British friends in the face of this threat.”
— U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings: “I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of yesterday’s terror attack in Manchester. As England’s law enforcement continues working to establish the full details of this horrific attack against innocent children and families, the American people stand side-by-side in grief, anger, and resolve. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the city of Manchester and all of England as they come to terms with this terrible atrocity.”
— U.S. Rep. Al Lawson on Twitter: “Our thoughts and prayers are with #Manchester and the United Kingdom for all the victims of tonight’s attack. Such sad news.”
— U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “As I am writing yet another statement expressing horror and condolences after another inexplicable terror attack, I feel the angst and anger of a mother who has sent my children off to a concert just like last night’s in Manchester.
The terror attack that apparently targeted innocent young people was a truly despicable act committed by cowards. As Americans, we are heartbroken and horrified by this mass murder of young adults and even children, but make no mistake: our resolve to make our world a safer one for our children is only strengthened, and our commitment to working with our British ally in pursuit of that goal remains unshakeable.
Our thoughts are now with the victims, their families and all the people of Manchester. And while many facts are still unknown, Americans will not waver in seeking justice and standing up against the hate that motivates such heinous crimes. And we will never let these pretenders who hold themselves out as the only true defenders of Islam to be recognized as anything more than what they are: murderers.”
— Gov. Rick Scott on Twitter: “Praying for everyone in Manchester tonight. This is an absolute tragedy and our hearts are with those who were harmed and their loved ones. Also praying for the safety and security of Manchester of law enforcement and first responders during this unimaginably challenging time.”
On Tuesday morning, the governor tweeted: “(First Lady Ann Scott) and I continue to pray for the 22 innocent lives lost in the senseless act of hate and terror in Manchester last night. Florida stands with the British people.”
— Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Twitter: “Horrible and senseless. We mourn those lost and pray for swift justice.”
— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Twitter: “Terrorists who take the lives of innocent people are nothing but cowards & they must be brought to justice. My prayers to Manchester.”
— Democrat Gwen Graham on Twitter: “As a mom, my heart breaks. Praying for the children and families, parents and grandparents in Manchester.”
— Democrat Andrew Gillum on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by #Manchester tonight. Prayers to the families affected & the UK.
— House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Twitter: “My deepest sympathies and prayers for strength go out to the victims, parents, & families of the terror attack in the U.K.”
— Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto on Twitter: “Prayers to our British friends this evening. What a horrible tragedy.”
— Sen. Debbie Mayfield on Twitter: “My heart goes out to those in Manchester, especially to the families and first responders. Our prayers are with you and the United States of America will always stand by you.”
— Rep. Chris Sprowls on Twitter: “Our hearts are with the families of those killed in #ManchesterArena last night. May we unite together to eliminate terror.”
— Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Twitter: “My prayers go out to those in Manchester, as a Father of 2 little girls, I can’t imagine what these families are going through.”
— Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Twitter: “Outrage!!–Manchester terrorist attack. Tears & prayers for the victims and families.”
— State Attorney Melissa Nelson: “We’re all grieving for the victims and those affected by yesterday’s bombing in Manchester.
The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.
Monday saw Florida Gov. Rick Scott on yet another trip to Jacksonville, where he highlighted job growth at a medical technology company.
That company — Sunoptic Technologies — has benefited from one of Scott’s key initiatives, Enterprise Florida, which in addition to offering economic incentives also provided a global stage for the mid-sized company over the years, via showcasing it and other companies globally at events like MEDICA, a German trade show for the industry.
“In early 2013, Sunoptic Technologies signed a new exclusive distributor to serve the Japanese market. We chose to participate in the Florida Pavilion at MEDICA because the exposure we will get will help us create new international clients like our Japanese distributor. Thanks to Enterprise Florida, Sunoptic Technologies can focus on our customers and products and work on expanding internationally,” said David Mutch, Director of Sunoptic Technologies, in 2013.
Mutch enthused again about EFI in 2016, as his company readied for another German junket: ““Enterprise Florida’s participation at MEDICA is a key component of our marketing plan … As a small business, it would be very difficult to participate on our own. We would never be able to present ourselves in a positive, professional way. The services provided also enable us to have a larger presence.”
Rick Scott’s strategy — jobs, jobs, jobs — sounds simple. And incentives are often poorly understood by media and politicians. But in the case of Sunoptic, an Enterprise Florida success story, Scott clearly believes the story is worth telling.
And tell it he did.
Sunoptic is a company that has seen its revenue quadruple during the Enterprise Florida era, with 75 employees and 10 percent year over year revenue growth.
Gov. Scott attributed this to a number of factors, including Enterprise Florida trade shows and an environment in Jacksonville, facilitated by the Mayor and the City Council, that just “gets things done.”
After inserting what is now a familiar riposte against “politicians in Tallahassee that turned back” Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Scott passed the mike to Mayor Lenny Curry, who had his own thoughts on the city’s wave of economic success.
Curry noted that “the recipe in Jacksonville” is “just right” for business expansion and relocation.
Council President Lori Boyer — in whose district the company operates — lauded Scott for being “singularly focused” on jobs, noting that Jacksonville’s strong economic metrics (4 percent unemployment; 3.7 percent job growth in 2016) provide evidence that the Rick Scott approach works.
“That’s a legacy,” Boyer said about the numbers.
Scott noted in his post-event comments that, despite a record of strong economic performance, the state’s economic motor is beginning to sputter.
“If your growth rate in something slowed down, that would concern you. That’s happening in our state,” Scott said.
“If you look at our overall job growth numbers,” Scott said, and compare them to a year ago, “they’re not as fast as they used to be.
The same is true for construction and hospitality.
Scott attributed that, again, to “politicians in Tallahassee turning their back on Enterprise Florida.”
Back in 2015, Jacksonville leaders welcomed the Australian MacQuarie Group to town. Now, in 2017, MacQuarie mulls expansion.
And those plans, apparently, are contingent on city incentives … which will help MacQuarie decide to bring 50 new operations jobs and $1.7M in capital investment to the River City or to a city in far-flung Northern India.
To that end, Ordinance 2017-388 was filed in the Jacksonville City Council.
As is the case with incentive deals, the city would assume 20 percent, or $50,000 of the cost, via the QTI Targeted Tax Refund Program. The state would assume $200,000 of the financial impact.
The Lenny Curry administration has had to think heavily about economic incentives in the last year especially, with Gov. Rick Scott‘s model under siege in Tallahassee.
This MacQuarie deal includes state incentives, which might not always be there. Even if they weren’t, Curry said yesterday that the city would continue to offer incentives where they made sense.
“If it doesn’t go the way we’d like it to go … Jacksonville’s not going to lay down and cry and moan. We’re going to find a way to have a competitive advantage and compete for jobs,” Curry added.
“There’s always incentives available,” Curry said about the city, if they conform with the “scorecard” model Jacksonville uses to determine ROI.
In this instance, however, a straight-forward and familiar model will be used to sweeten the pot and deepen MacQuarie‘s footprint in Jacksonville — along the lines of what was used in 2015.
At that point, Curry said what he’s been saying for two years: that incentives would be used “if they make sense for taxpayers.”
The ongoing Corrine Brown drama pushed our legislative roundup back a week — but given the drama that ensued this week regarding what the Duval Delegation accomplished, that’s just as well.
Boils down to this: the legislators think they brought home the bacon, and some in City Hall believe that they brought home crumbs.
As you will see below, the drama came to a head Tuesday, when a Jacksonville City Councilman published a letter in the Times-Union dripping with delegation disses … just before doing an event with Gov. Rick Scott with delegation members who contend otherwise … and told us their thoughts on the councilman’s comments.
We have that in here, and more, along with deep-dive interviews with most delegation members and a few other notable stories …
NE FL Delegation finds money for local asks
The indispensable Tia Mitchell went through Northeast Florida Legislative Session asks in the Florida Times-Union and found some success — especially given that most delegation members were new to Tallahassee and The Process.
Of 37 projects with asks of over $1M, locals got some money for 22 of them.
“In my mind, we are just getting started based on the leadership and potential of our delegation,” said Rep. Travis Cummings, a Clay County legislator who carried one Jacksonville bill successfully in 2016 (the state legislation allowing for a pension reform referendum), and got spiked this session on a $15M request for state money for Jacksonville septic tank removal.
There is room for pessimism, even in Mitchell’s breakdown: many of the requests may have gotten some money … but not everything they wanted.
St. Johns River State College Palatka campus renovations, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Payne, got just $4M of a $16.1M ask.
And the North Florida School of Special Education expansion project, sponsored by Cummings, got just a quarter of a $2M ask.
Still … it’s a start.
Matt Schellenberg says Duval Delegation brought home ‘crumbs’
Jacksonville City Councilman Schellenberg went on the record to grouse about the Duval Delegation — a favorite off-record game among some in Jacksonville’s City Hall.
Smart move? The jury is out. Schellenberg — the city’s representative to the Florida League of Cities and Florida Association of Counties — got pilloried by two State Senators (Audrey Gibson and Aaron Bean) that he lobbied in Tallahassee.
Mayor Lenny Curry also rejected the premise that the delegation isn’t getting the job done.
And Rep. Jason Fischer — who Schellenberg called out in an interview for leaving the School Board early in 2016 to jump to the state House — likewise pushed back.
Schellenberg wouldn’t rule out a 2018 primary challenge to Fischer when we talked to him, setting the stage for a rare contested primary in NE Florida.
However, Fischer would be the one with every advantage: the mayor’s backing; the mayor’s political team; and money coming in from political committees hither and yon.
With many measures making it to the final budget, the Governor’s veto pen serves as their primary impediment.
Bean pointed to “little bills” with big impact and a “huge pass rate … underneath the radar screen,” such as a push for the shared use of school playgrounds, the ‘keys to independence’ bill helping foster kids drive, the ‘disaster prep tax holiday,’ and others.
A big bill with impact, meanwhile: SB 476, a bill Sen. Bean filed at the request of Gov. Scott, which amends and expands existing statute regarding terrorism.
The bill creates a more expansive definition of “terrorism” and “terrorist activities” in the wake of the Pulse massacre in June.
Additionally, the measure explicitly prohibits “using, attempting to use or conspiring to use” training from a “designated foreign terrorist organization.”
Session ‘best ever,’ enthuses Aaron Bean
Bean noted that this was, perhaps, the “best ever … one of the most successful” sessions of the 13 he’s been involved.
Bean pointed to local approps wins, including money for ShotSpotter and the state match on the COPS Grant from the feds, which will allow Jacksonville to hire more police officers.
“We had one of the best sessions in history,” Bean said.
Among Bean’s accomplishments: Neptune Beach can look forward to $400,000 for stormwater culvert improvements on Florida Boulevard: Bean and Rep. Cord Byrd (who seems to be moving into the House Leadership discussion, based on scuttlebutt) put in the work there.
$5M of that is recurring, ensuring that the project to replenish the lakes may happen at long last.
“People have been talking about restoring the Keystone lakes for as long as I can remember, but nothing ever happened. We finally have a plan and the financing to implement it,” Bradley asserted.
Bradley carried one of the most important and controversial bills of the session: SB 10, which allowed for the building of reservoirs to shore up Lake Okeechobee. That, of course, was a priority of Senate President Joe Negron.
“It was a year for bold action in the environmental policy arena. The president and I worked together. I managed his audacious Everglades bill, and he supported our audacious plan to fix the Keystone lakes. There’s a reason why both of those projects had never been done: they are expensive and require a ton of political capital. This year, the stars aligned and both happened,” Bradley added.
Clay Yarborough talks rookie year
Yarborough, a former Jacksonville City Council President, appraised the Legislative Session as a win for Jacksonville.
“Glad we could get some things for Jacksonville,” Yarborough said.
Indeed, Yarborough himself brought home the bacon, with two priority projects: $1.1M from the State Transportation Trust Fund is provided for the installation of pedestrian signals, refuge islands, sidewalks and street lighting and $1.231M for Crosswalk Countdown Traffic Signal Heads Installation.
We asked Yarborough — one of the most concise quotes in local politics — for what he saw as his biggest accomplishment and the biggest surprise of the session.
“Biggest accomplishment: Working with Sen. Travis Hutson to tighten the law on sexual predators (HB 327/SB 336). Biggest surprise: How fast things can move at the end of the session.”
Tracie Davis talks Dozier apology, relationship building
Rep. Davis was the least likely member of the Northeast Florida Delegation to be in Tallahassee. That said, despite Davis’ unlikely arrival in the House, she was characteristically reflective as to the value of the experience that almost didn’t happen.
Davis described her first Legislative Session as being “significant and exciting to be honest … specifically being a freshman in the minority party.”
The bill with the most emotional resonance for Davis “the FL House apology (HR 1335) to the men that suffered at Dozier and Okeechobee reform schools,” which “will always reign supreme for” Davis.
“So honored and grateful to have played a leading role with Sen. [Darryl] Rouson and Speaker [Richard] Corcoran then to have all of my colleagues unanimously support and participate with the apology that day was emotional and phenomenal,” Davis asserted.
Davis, despite being a Democrat in a GOP town, feels she has room to maneuver — and collegiality creates that room.
“I felt that building relationships with my colleagues across the aisle was going to be key for any success. The surprise for me was that those relationships happened easily … The relationship building helped me develop friendships, share perspectives, and get bills moving the House (which is not an easy task).”
Jason Fischer extols ‘balanced budget’
When asked to evaluate the Session, Fischer — who has been talked about as a potential Speaker down the road — had a more holistic read than some.
“We gave our citizens much-deserved property tax relief and a balanced budget,” Fischer told FloridaPolitics.com. “Families work hard for their money; Government should take less and do more!”
Fischer has some specific appropriations accomplishments: $350,000 for the LaSalle Pump Station project.
And $250,000 for a driverless shuttle program that will go to Baptist Health.
The money will go for a local deployment of the Olli minibus, a Local Motors vehicle made in part with 3D printing and powered by IBM Watson technology.
Fischer extolled the Duval Delegation, saying the group “worked together really well,” was “very cohesive,” and focused on “doing what’s best for Jacksonville.
One of the stories worth watching this year: will DeSantis run for Florida Governor?
Conversations DeSantis is having about the race are the kind of stakeholder talks one would expect in the pre-candidacy phase — “open” conversations with local, state and national figures.
Those conversations reveal a “real hesitation about Adam Putnam,” we are told.
DeSantis has a lot of positives: fundraising prowess; a place in the Fox News Channel guest rotation; youth and eloquence.
Despite representing an area to the south of Jacksonville, his roots are deep locally: wife Casey DeSantis has been on-air talent on local television in this market for years now.
Northeast Florida has wanted a House Speaker for a while. But — ironically enough — the Governor’s Office is probably more within reach … should DeSantis decide to run, a campaign that would launch late in the summer.
Adam Putnam brings roadshow to Jax Beach
We were the only outlet in the room when Putnam made his play for Jax Beach voters.
Results were mixed.
Putnam served up the material that had been heard statewide, a pitch of Florida exceptionalism and requisite haranguing of “bureaucrats.”
But when it came to specifics of local interest, Putnam didn’t offer much, opting instead for shopworn hokum.
He mentioned JAXPORT, Mayport and “the river.” Great.
But for those who might want an actual Northeast Florida candidate, it’s unclear if Putnam delivered — or can deliver — enough to stop some donor class dithering.
Moody’s dings Jax pension reform
Jacksonville got its pension reform package through, yet bond rating agency Moody’sasserts that it’s not all peaches and crème.
The write-up boils down to six words: “buy now, pay later, assume risks.”
The biggest poison-pen moment: “Jacksonville’s reliance on future revenues, rather than current contributions, to address its pension underfunding will continue to negatively impact our key credit metrics related to its pensions … because we do not consider future revenues as pension assets — while city contributions are going to be reduced.”
Policy makers considered these risks, as the discussion got less heady and more sober as the final vote approached. The defined contribution reforms and the one-half cent sales tax are correctly seen as “tools in the toolbox.” Not panaceas.
Still, it’s reasonable to conclude Jacksonville may already be at its ceiling regarding bond ratings, if Moody’s report is any indication.
Dick Kravitztalks SOE gig
Former Jacksonville City Councilman and State Legislator Kravitz may have gotten spiked in his run last year for State House. However, Kravitz is still on the public payroll, as the Jax Daily Record reports, working for the Duval County Supervisor of Elections under old friend Mike Hogan.
Part of his role: helping with lobbying efforts in Tallahassee.
“There are some people in the Senate that I served in the House with for eight years. It’s about personal relations, so it’s easy to get appointments, and there’s a lot of trust among us,” Kravitz said. “I tried to add to what the paid lobbyists were doing and help out a little to promote some of the bills.”
With session wrapped, Kravitz is helping run student elections at local schools. No word on whether or not he is debriefing them on the dark arts of robocalls and shadowy consultants.
Appointed — David “Hunt” Hawkins and Thomas “Mac” McGehee to the Florida State College at Jacksonville District board of trustees.
Questions arise over health of CSX CEO Hunter Harrison
Ahead of next month’s CSX shareholder vote on his compensation, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the 72-year-old Harrison often works from home and occasionally uses oxygen because of an undisclosed health issue
Harrison told reporters that doctors cleared him to work, and he believes he can lead the turnaround he began in March at CSX.
“I’m having a ball, and I’m running on so much adrenaline that no one can stop me,” Harrison told the WSJ. “Don’t judge me by my medical record, judge me by my performance.”
CSX Executive Vice President Frank Lonegro said Harrison remains fully engaged. Lonegro spoke at a Bank of America Merril Lynch conference, and he said using oxygen hasn’t slowed Harrison.
“I’ve gotten a dose of leadership from him while he had supplemental oxygen. I’ve had a dose of leadership from him when he hasn’t had supplemental oxygen and they were equally as blunt and equally as effective,” Lonegro said. “So, no question about who’s in charge and no question about how engaged he is.”
CSX shareholders will vote early next month on whether the Jacksonville-based railroad should pay the $84 million in compensation Harrison forfeited when he left Canadian Pacific railroad earlier than planned. Harrison has said he will resign if the compensation isn’t approved.
Jacksonville Zoo Endangered Species Day
Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is celebrating the 12th annual Endangered Species Day, free with Zoo admission, including school groups. Events include extra keeper chats with special collector cards. Collect all 10!
Keeper chat times:
— Penguin Feeding/Chat — 11 a.m. & 3 p.m. at the Penguin exhibit in Play Park (African Penguin card).
— Gorilla Chat — 12 p.m. & 3:30 p.m. at the gorilla exhibit in the Great Apes loop (Gorilla card).
— Manatee Chat — 10 a.m. & 12 p.m. at the Manatee Critical Care Center in Wild Florida (Vaquita card).
— Whooping Crane Feeding/Chat — 11 a.m. & 2 p.m. at the Whooping Crane exhibit in Wild Florida (Whooping Crane card).
— Wild Florida Chat — Times TBD at the Wild Florida Pavilion in Wild Florida (Western Pond Turtle, Sea Turtle cards).
— African Plains — 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Africa Boardwalk near Main Camp Train Station (Black Rhino and Cheetah cards).
— Elephant Chat — 12:30 p.m. at Elephant Plaza on the African Boardwalk (Asian Elephant card).
— Stingray Chat — Times TBD at Stingray Bay (Sharks card).
Armada lose to Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-0 in St. Petersburg
The Tampa Bay Rowdies cruised into the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 3-0 win over the Jacksonville Armada U23s at Al Lang Stadium Tuesday night.
The Open Cup is a knockout tournament featuring teams from all levels of the American soccer system, including qualifying amateur clubs.
Kyle Porter, Alex Morrell and Martin Paterson scored the goals for Tampa Bay as the Rowdies moved on in the competition.
“I thought it was a really, really professional performance by the team,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “We went out and got the job done, which was to win the game and get into the next round. … The game is done and dusted, and we have games coming up in the league, so we’ll shift our focus to that now.”
Playing an opponent from the fourth-tier NPSL, the Rowdies didn’t have to wait long to claim a lead.
With the ball at his feet on the right sideline, Porter spotted Jacksonville goalkeeper Juan Fajardo off his line and took an audacious shot that Fajardo got a touch to, but couldn’t keep from going over the line for a 1-0 Rowdies lead in just the third minute.
Up a goal, the Rowdies dominated the remainder of the first half but didn’t double their lead until the 43rd minute when Morrell stole the ball off an Armada U23 defender and raced toward goal before beating Fajardo from a sharp angle for a 2-0 lead.
“Luckily, the guy had a bad pass, and I picked it off,” Morrell said. “I made the most out of it and scored on my old keeper from college. That was nice.”
Paterson finished the scoring in the 68th minute, tapping in a low cross from Darwin Jones for his second goal of the season in all competitions.
The result was never really in doubt, particularly after Jacksonville was reduced to 10 men in the 62nd minute when Dener Dos Santos was shown a red card. The Rowdies took six shots on target and didn’t allow one from Jacksonville.
It was Tampa Bay’s seventh clean sheet in 10 matches in all competitions.
Jacksonville University Golf earns 1st NCAA Championship berth thru playoff
Before this season, Jacksonville had never qualified for the NCAA Championship in men’s golf. That changed this week as the Dolphins defeated Northwestern in a playoff to grab the fifth and final NCAA Championship berth out of the NCAA Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Regional.
Golfweek reports that after Jacksonville and Northwestern had finished at 19 over, the Dolphins, which carded the final round of the day (1-over 289), and Wildcats each shot two over using a play-five-count-four format on the par-4 18th hole.
The teams then moved on to the par-4 10th hole. Jacksonville’s first three players combined to go one over while Northwestern’s two players in the first group went one over. In the second group, Jacksonville’s two players shot even par and Northwestern, which had a player hit a drive out of bounds, conceded defeat.
Jacksonville began the day in seventh place and didn’t get off to a fast start on the back nine. However, the Dolphins’ four counting players combined to shoot two under on the front nine. Raul Pereda birdied Nos. 4-7 as part of a 1-over 73. Davis Wicks’ closing 71 led the team.
The real impact of Chinese imports on American factories has been discussed to death. But if you look closely, you can find a counter-narrative emerging.
One example of that was demonstrated in Northwest Jacksonville Thursday afternoon, where Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and other local dignitaries came together for the grand opening of a 121,000 square foot stainless steel Hans-Mill garbage can factory.
A vital business in an area of town that needs them; an initiative made possible by Wal-Mart, which has committed to buy $250M of American products over the next ten years.
Garbage cans from Jacksonville — and not China — will be part of that narrative. And at least 50 new jobs will be created. All of that with local incentives. And five of those jobs are to be for Northwest Jacksonville residents.
James Han, the CEO of the manufacturer Hans-Mill, said that Jacksonville was “the right location … the total package” for the manufacturing of these cans.
His company makes 750 items worldwide, and hopes to bring more production stateside, to decrease the company’s “carbon footprint” and take advantage of local sourcing.
This plays into Wal-Mart’s strategy, which prioritizes local sourcing — and has a time element, said Cindi Marsiglio, VP of U.S. Manufacturing.
“Go fast, go big,” was her summation of Wal-Mart’s rapid-fire ramp-up of domestic production.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, meanwhile, said “Jacksonville continues to roll” and “we’re going to continue to roll.”
“This today is big,” Curry said. “We’ve had a number of local expansions … companies move into Jacksonville for the first time.”
“This has been in process for a period of time. This is a big deal,” Curry said.
Despite uncertainty regarding the future of economic incentives on the state level, JAXUSA — an arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce — has brought in 2,000 jobs this year to date.
While Curry noted the importance of state dollars, he said the city is going to fight for jobs regardless.
“Clearly, they’re important. But if it doesn’t go the way we’d like it to go … Jacksonville’s not going to lay down and cry and moan. We’re going to find a way to have a competitive advantage and compete for jobs,” Curry added.
“There’s always incentives available,” Curry said about the city, if they conform with the “scorecard” model Jacksonville uses to determine ROI.
“We can figure out how to get there,” Curry added, “often.”
Of course, it’s not just incentives that make the sale, said Tim Cost, President of the JAXUSA partnership.
Collaboration between political leaders and the “incredibly cooperative” business community help with making the sale to businesses relocating, Cost added.
On Thursday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry took reporters’ questions, and primary among them was one about Moody’s offering mixed reviews of his pension reform package.
Curry’s pension reform, covered exhaustively here, included moving new hires to defined contribution plans, imposing a sales tax extension to deal with legacy defined-benefit costs, and boosting the city’s contribution to 25 percent of payroll on these DC plans.
Moody’s had caveats.
“Jacksonville’s reliance on future revenues, rather than current contributions, to address its pension underfunding will continue to negatively impact our key credit metrics related to its pensions … because we do not consider future revenues as pension assets – while city contributions are going to be reduced … Jacksonville will also provide costly new benefits and salary increases under the plan, which it can only afford because it will defer a significant portion of its legacy pension costs to the 2030s,” reads the report.
On Thursday, Curry addressed the Moody’s report for the first time.
“It also says we got out of the pension business. This has been an almost two-year process — pension reform,” Curry said.
“It’s done now. We’ve solved the problem. There’s no new information here. We meet with the ratings agencies regularly. I’ve met with them a number of times since I’ve been in office,” Curry added.
“It was a very public campaign with taxpayers — 65 percent of them said yes. City Council ratified it numerous times. We’ve solved the problem. All the information’s been laid out for two years. And we’re trucking on,” Curry said.
Curry added that his team has a “great relationship” with the ratings agencies, which understand how the city is managing its budgets.
“It’s over. And we’ll continue to work with them on what’s best for Jacksonville, and managing our credit ratings,” Curry said.
Expect more reports from the ratings agencies in the near future, Curry said.
Florida Governor Rick Scott returned to Jacksonville Tuesday, for the ribbon-cutting at a beer bottling plant he’d visited more than once in recent years: Anheuser-Busch’s expanded Metal Container Corporation manufacturing facility.
Back in 2015, Scott discussed the need for money for the Quick Action Closing Fund, part of a trend in which the “jobs governor” sought money to drive economic incentives that the Florida Legislature was less enthusiastic about.
The event in Northwest Jacksonville Tuesday was a success, driven out of incentives, including the late, lamented Quick Action Closing Fund. And with 102 new jobs created, the goal of 75 new jobs has already been eclipsed.
However, as Scott’s final term as Governor heads for its end, Scott was able to speak more confidently about the past than the present.
“We’ve had a lot of success here,” Scott said. “We’re fighting. But the Legislature this year did not fund economic development.”
As part of a phalanx of speakers at the event, held outdoors on sun-baked blacktop, Sen. Rob Bradley noted that the Governor’s “jobs, jobs, jobs” message may not have resonated with the media, but was necessary.
Then, in a rare moment for a ribbon cutting, Bradley noted that this year’s budget wasn’t to the Senate’s or the Governor’s liking.
“We didn’t get things with this budget,” Bradley said. “Governor, I wish we could have done better this session.”
Soon enough, Bradley introduced a note of levity — and a reference to Gov. Scott’s veto pen, expected to be active this year in a fit of score-settling.
“Whatever you do, we understand,” the Clay County Senator said. “Just don’t do anything about the Keystone Lakes though.”
That reference: to money that Bradley got for the Northeast Florida chain of lakes, currently subject to water depletion.
In a press gaggle after the event, Scott discussed the need for job creation.
“This doesn’t happen by accident. This happens because we recruit companies, go out and get them to come here,” Scott said, via “incentives.”
With incentives increasingly under siege, there already is serious concern about how much more recruitment can happen going forward.
“We’ve got to keep fighting for these things. We’re competing with 49 other states, foreign countries. This is one of the last projects [where] we had the Quick Action Closing Fund, one of the tools in the toolkit we had to recruit companies,” Scott noted.
“We don’t have those dollars anymore. So we’re going to see fewer and fewer of these job opportunities.”