$12.5 million for Jacksonville’s Talleyrand Connector, an ambitious reconfiguration of Hart Bridge offramps that would route traffic on surface streets by the stadium and toward the port, escaped Gov. Rick Scott‘s veto pen Friday.
The money is 1/4 of the $50 million Jacksonville anticipates needing for the total project.
Jacksonville is pursuing $25 million in infrastructure money via the Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program for the project; to that end, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made another trip to D.C. this week to lobby members of the Donald Trump administration.
If the federal money comes through, Jacksonville will have $37.5 million of outside money for the Talleyrand Connector project, a strong illustration of how Curry leverages relationships throughout government for his administration’s priorities.
The project has been sold for a variety of benefits. Initially pitched to the Duval Delegation in 2016 as a way of activating the property by the sports complex, a burgeoning entertainment district, further studies in 2017 found benefits in terms of routing traffic to and from the port.
Curry credited legislators from outside of Duval County with helping to make the push in an interview earlier this month.
Curry has pitched other benefits also, including public safety and removing outmoded and ugly offramps that the mayor has called a “relic” of bygone design needs.
Other regional priorities, including $25 million for the St. Johns River and Keystone Lakes, $631,000 for 1,924 crosswalk countdown clocks in Jacksonville, and $200,000 for the “Emerald Necklace” project that will revive Hogan’s Creek, all survived the veto pen.
Some regional vetoes of note in the over $64 million of gubernatorial nixes:
The Flagler College Hotel Ponce de Leon disaster recovery saw $1.5 million vetoed because there was no public ROI for renovation of a private facility.
$50,000 for a feasibility study for elderly care for PACE Partners of Northeast Florida was vetoed precisely because it was for a study.
$1.5 million for widening of St. Johns County Road 244 was also cut.
On Thursday, a Jacksonville City Council panel again delved into the relative merits of selling JEA, the local utility.
As has been the case throughout this discussion, flashpoints of tension abounded, kicked off by a familiar antagonist of the Mayor’s Office.
The tension led to not one but two witnesses refusing to testify, given the committee requiring oaths to be sworn.
A subpoena was authorized, by the end of the meeting, for JEA CEO Paul McElroy, who is one of those witnesses.
Council members stopped short of subpoenaing the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, however.
Oaths: Jacksonville Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa was set to discuss the December RFP to provide “strategic initiatives financial advisory services,” when Councilman Garrett Dennis wondered what the status of oaths and subpoenas were for the subcommittee.
Per the city’s general counsel, the committee could subpoena witnesses and swear them to oaths, but “judiciousness” and “deliberation” should drive those processes.
“I don’t know of any example in the last 50 years when an oath was used in a policy matter,” observed General Counsel Jason Gabriel. “Since Consolidation, employees and Council have attended hundreds of meetings of their own prerogative” with oaths not taken.
Gabriel also urged those sworn in to have independent legal counsel.
Even as Gabriel attempted to warn Council off from oaths, Councilman Dennis pressed him.
“We need to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” Dennis said.
Gabriel said that the underlying assumption should be to “trust the employees and officials that came before you.”
Discussion along these lines continued, with Gabriel contending that oaths in the context of Council committees are “not routine,” and Dennis positing that this discussion rises to a level of special significance.
“Wouldn’t you agree that this is the largest and most complex policy decision in the history of this county,” asked Councilman Danny Becton.
Becton asked CAO Mousa if an oath would affect his testimony. Mousa noted that in 30 years of testifying to the Jacksonville City Council, he had never done anything but tell the truth.
Council President Anna Brosche spoke in favor of oaths.
“If indeed everyone is here to deliver the truth, doing so under an oath shouldn’t be a challenge,” Brosche said. “It is of extreme importance that we’re getting the truth and the facts.”
Councilman Matt Schellenberg posited that oaths were unnecessary; however, Dennis wanted people sworn in.
“I feel I’ve gotten misinformation … information that hasn’t been quite accurate. I think there’s an expectation that this is something we’re going to do,” Dennis said.
Brosche seconded the Dennis motion. And it soon enough carried, even with Council members insisting that this isn’t personal.
After all that, Mousa had his response.
“I refuse to take this oath,” Mousa said.
Dennis then posed the question as to whether or not Mousa should be subpoenaed instantly, but committee chair John Crescimbeni moved on with the agenda.
Memoranda: The legalistic theme continued, with General Counsel Gabriel reviewing memos on procuring financial related services and exploring JEA privatization.
Gabriel contended that the city had the authority to procure said services from a third party, that precedent had been established previously with the procurement of city bonds, and that ordinance had permitted it for years.
Gabriel also addressed the process for evaluation of privatization of JEA, one he said had a number of different possibilities, ranging from no action to partial or complete liquidation.
“We’re still undergoing a vast comprehensive review of all the agreements and matters related to the utility … an ongoing process,” Gabriel said.
“Where and how far you go will determine the level of detail,” Gabriel said of the inquiry.
Gabriel said that such exploration is an “executive branch prerogative,” with input and eventual approval or lack there of from the council.
“It ends with this body,” Gabriel said.
Interlocal and franchise agreements, a review of real estate assets, regulatory approvals from federal and state authorities, and a public interest determination regarding the potential sale of water and sewer assets are some of the areas of consideration.
The marketplace and the evolution of technology would be other considerations, Gabriel said.
The general counsel’s office would also hire outside counsel with a specialty in mergers and acquisitions, should it get to that point.
Councilman Dennis wanted to know when the OGC began to explore options in this regard, and if it was as far back as November; Gabriel contended that wasn’t the case.
Council President Brosche pressed General Counsel Gabriel with a number of questions about how active the research would be from his office into a potential sale.
Gabriel noted that the research would go as deep as needed, and that there are a number of variables in play that would determine how much work was to be done.
Subpoena for JEA CEO: JEA CEO Paul McElroy was compelled to testify; however, “at the advice of counsel,” he would not take the oath.
Councilman Dennis wondered what the process would be for subpoenaing Mousa and McElroy.
There would be seven days allowed for service, which would mean that the respondents could be called up within two weeks.
“I certainly have a lot of questions for McElroy,” Brosche said, urging an earlier start to the meeting on the 29th to accomodate the questions and answers.
Perhaps mindful of future political considerations, Councilman Becton attempted to put the brakes on the Mousa subpoena, but was willing to go forward with the McElroy subpoena.
Brosche urged caution on the Mousa subpoena, saying it might be best after McElroy’s testimony.
Dennis stood his ground, saying that if someone doesn’t take the oath, a subpoena is the logical next step.
“We could still subpoena Mousa, but we could do it at a later date,” Dennis said, a stutter animating his voice.
A city lawyer noted that documents could be subpoenaed as well.
Dennis floated the motion to subpoena McElroy, with Brosche amending the motion being to discuss the valuation report.
McElroy was subpoenaed for March 29.
Dennis floated a motion to subpoena Sam Mousa, but Council members wouldn’t bite on that one.
Dennis continued to push for the subpoena, but Councilman Danny Becton said that it was simply a matter of Mousa not wanting to take an oath to testify.
Council President Brosche, meanwhile, asserted that Mousa not taking the oath stood for itself.
Aftermath: Councilman Dennis defended the push for subpoenas, saying the committee is “all searching for the same thing, transparency regarding our city’s greatest asset.”
Dennis believes that “major transparency issues” were revealed, again, by refusals of principals to testify under oath.
“People need to come up here and answer the committee’s questions … not blatantly thumb their noses at the committee,” Dennis said.
Chairman Crescimbeni, meanwhile, noted that “the optics are going to be very challenging for the general public,” while also noting that if the Curry administration had handled preliminary considerations of a sale differently from November to January, things would be different now in terms of perception.
“The relationship between the Mayor’s Office and City Council has had struggles,” Crescimbeni said, and “this doesn’t help,” even as today’s drama wasn’t the “first degradation” of that dynamic.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams both showed quiet February fundraising for their re-election bids.
Curry, who filed this month for re-election, did not report fundraising yet for his campaign account. The same holds true for the local “Jacksonville on the Rise” committee set up to support the re-election (though with a six-figure ad buy, it follows that committee will have impressive March numbers.)
Curry’s statewide “Build Something That Lasts” committee did register fundraising; however, with $12,500 brought in ($10,000 of which came from Ed Burr), it was the single slowest month for that account since Dec. 2016.
The account spent $12,803, mostly on consultant fees, though there was $1,000 given to City Council candidate Rose Conry.
All told, the committee still has over $600,000 cash on hand. And Curry lacks a credible opponent.
Like his counterpart in the Mayor’s Office, Sheriff Williams had a slow month, but it ultimately won’t matter.
Williams’s committee brought in just $1,000, leaving it with $194,000 as February ended.
Williams brought in $10,000 in hard money off 10 maximum $1,000 contributions, giving him $148,000 in his campaign account; Vestcor and Gate Petroleum were among the donors.
Williams’ opponent, Democrat TonyCummings,raised nothing in February, and has just $260 cash on hand.
The 2018 Legislative Session finally wrapped. Now, in front of us, the madcap dash to the 2018 primaries in August is about to hit full stride.
For Jacksonville area voters, especially Democrats, these are exciting times. From competitive races for Congress to state Senate and state House, there are choices on the ballot. And narratives.
We will have them all for you in the coming months.
Speaking of that Legislative Session, Jacksonville did relatively well — $12.5 million, to be precise, for the Talleyrand Connector.
And we even have good news on other topics … including the right to yell DUUUUUUU-VALL … which (apparently) was in doubt.
Northeast Florida among Session’s big winners
Nobody expected a tragedy like Parkland to suck all the oxygen out of the Legislature’s Regular Session. Lobbyists were left scrambling to save their clients’ priorities as lawmakers hustled to rejigger the budget to accommodate hundreds of millions of dollars for school safety and mental health initiatives.
Some survived, many did not; although that’s no different from any other 60-day tumble in the Capitol.
That said, the past year has been an eventful one for Northeast Florida: Rob Bradley became Appropriations Chairman and performed like a seasoned professional. Future House Speaker Paul Renner capably handled his chamber’s tax package. Sen. Travis Hutson took some major steps toward becoming a future presiding officer.
And don’t forget Sen. Audrey Gibson, who ascended to the role of Leader-designate of the Senate Democrats.
If only there were a Jacksonville-based lobbying firm that works with them all … oh wait, there is — The Fiorentino Group, as well as Southern Strategy Group’s Matt Brockelman and Deno Hicks.
Lawson talks access to capital in Jacksonville
At the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Monday Morning, Rep. Al Lawson and Rep. James Comer helmed a Congressional field hearing for the Small Business Committee regarding access to capital disparities.
Access to capital disparities disproportionately impact female and minority-owned businesses, and the hearing in Jacksonville was intended to discuss potential remedies to the challenge.
“Capital is the lifeblood of any business,” Lawson said, noting that the average African-American startup is 18 percent less likely than white business owners to get help from the lending industry.
“Investors are predisposed to a preference to people who are similar to them,” Lawson added, and to that end, Monday’s hearing was intended to help women and minority-owned businesses voice their needs in the marketplace.
Brown appeals conviction
For great moments in ironic ledes, check out this chestnut from Roll Call:
The similarities between former House members and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers are few. But disgraced former Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida and Jon Bon Jovi are both livin’ on a prayer.
Last week, Brown’s attorney filed a 76-page appeal to her conviction on fraud and tax evasion charges, saying the judge in the case wrongfully removed a juror who claimed a “higher power” told him Brown was not guilty,
“The district court reversibly erred when it questioned a juror who had voted to acquit Congresswoman Brown,” the appeal states, “and then dismissed the juror over [a] defense objection based on nothing more than the juror having prayed for guidance and [believing] that he received guidance from the Holy Spirit that Congresswoman Brown was not guilty.”
Appeals on these grounds so far have flopped, and this one likely will also. Notable: prosecutors objected to the motion, saying it went over word count.
Fundraisers for Levine, Gillum
Two major Democratic candidates for Governor plan Jacksonville-area stops this week, as fundraising efforts continue for the August primary.
Philip Levine plans a “cocktail party” event Thursday evening, with a nascent host committee including Mark Frisch, Matt Kane and Ted Stein, among others.
The event honoring the Miami Beach Mayor will be at the Beaches Museum in Jacksonville Beach and will kick off at 6 p.m.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will have his own Jacksonville area event as well, from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, at the home of Erica and Colin Connor in Ponte Vedra Beach.
A minimum $50 buy-in is requested to attend the Gillum affair.
Levine and Gillum have had different approaches to campaign finance in this campaign.
Levine has spent over $4.6 million of personal funds on his campaign.
Gillum, without recourse to that kind of personal wealth, has had slower fundraising than other significant candidates and had just under $800,000 cash on hand.
Talleyrand Connector cash leads budget haul
Unless Gov. Rick Scott casts a surprising veto, it looks as if Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will get state money for the “Talleyrand Connector,” which tears down the current Hart Bridge offramps that would activate Bay Street and help traffic flow to the port.
As the Florida Times-Union reported, $12.5 million of state money made it into the budget. Curry had personally lobbied regional and state power brokers and the capital moved from a $1 million placeholder to the full appropriation sought.
Jacksonville still seeks other money — specifically, $25 million from the Feds for an infrastructure grant — but city officials tell us that they could begin the project with the state money regardless.
By far, the Talleyrand money was the most prominent get from the state in this year’s budget.
“Senators approved it after barely 10 minutes of discussion. Immediately after, Sen. Dennis Baxley … walked across the Senate floor to shake Bradley’s hand,” the Times article asserted.
“I don’t think anybody’s rights or responsibilities changed with what we did,” Bradley said. “What we did is ensure that there will not be litigation on these questions.”
Record dings Hutson for last-minute ‘stealth annexation’ try
Sen. Hutson ran afoul of the St. Augustine Record this week for attempting to move some St. Johns County land that is part of the Nocatee land tract to Duval County.
The reason: The owners of the land (the Davises of Winn-Dixie fame) want the property in Duval.
The charge: “Nocatee has been given a pass by County Commissioners over the years to gut the affordable and workforce housing components and to renege on all its plans to put commercial property within the development. Perhaps more correctly, Nocatee is locating nearly all its commercial component into the sliver of land that juts into Duval County. Apparently, Duval might be considerably more zoning and impact fee-affable than we are.”
The plan failed this session … however, the Record vows vigilance.
“Much more likely is they saw that the window for approval was closing too quickly — and word got out. Better to quietly yank if from the bill and find another way to skin that cat next session. We bet they’ll be trying. You can bet we’ll be watching.”
Slow February in legislative fundraising
February offered a unique opportunity for people running against incumbents, who can’t fundraise during the Legislative Session, to make up ground in fundraising.
But — at least in competitive Northeast Florida races — they didn’t take up the gauntlet.
SD 6: Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown raised no money in February, his first month challenging Sen. Audrey Gibson for the Democratic Party nomination. Gibson, who couldn’t raise money, has $121,410 on hand.
HD 12: Republican Clay Yarborough has over $122,000 on hand, despite not being able to fundraise in February. Democrat Tim Yost, who did fundraise in February, brought in $1,429 and had $3,300 cash on hand.
HD 13: Incumbent Democrat Tracie Davis has $35,715 on hand; her intraparty challenger, Roshanda Jackson, was in the race for five days in February and spent not one of them fundraising.
With roughly a year before first elections in 2019 Jacksonville City Council races, now’s a good time to take a look at fundraising in selected races through February.
With $8,400 of new money in February, Matt Carlucci, a former Council Republican running for at-large Group 4, is still the clubhouse leader with just over $221,000 raised. Carlucci’s opponent, fellow former Council Republican Don Redman, has a lot of ground to make up. Word on the street is there will be more candidates in this one.
As we reported last week, Republican Ron Salem has over $150,000 on hand in at-large Group 2. This number puts him well ahead of former Jacksonville Councilman Bill Bishop. Bishop raised just $2,000 and has just over $13,200 on hand. Democrat Darren Mason only entered the race in March.
In Jacksonville City Council District 14, Democrat Sunny Gettinger showed respectable first-month fundraising numbers in February, bringing in over $34,000. Gettinger still has a way to go to catch Republican Randy DeFoor, who raised $4,350 in March, and has nearly $90,000 on hand.
The Florida Times-Union spotlights one of Jacksonville’s best-known nonprofits, Operation New Hope.
The Donald Trump administration has taken notice. Weeks after CEO Kevin Gay met with Jared Kushner to talk prison re-entry, the Springfield group hosted HUD Secretary Ben Carson doing a roundtable with former inmates who reformed their lives and got jobs with JAXPORT.
“It is the most bipartisan issue that our country has now,” Gay said. “Our country just needs something that we can all come around on. I don’t care where you are on the spectrum. Who can argue with improving public safety?”
As Florida Politics reported last week, Carson’s comments were a breath of fresh air from a Republican administration that postures as a law and order shop. Carson spoke at length about the penal system’s effects on young black men.
“Purely looking at the cost of someone who is incarcerated versus someone who is trying to bolster the economy,” Carson noted, “the difference is night and day. When we start to think about it that way, what it costs to train somebody, what it costs for someone to go to college, it costs more to keep somebody incarcerated.”
“It’s also costing us their own positive contributions and one of the things we need to realize about our young people is that we have so many in our penal system, particularly young black males, is that for every one we can keep from going down that path of self-destruction, it’s one less person we need to be afraid of or protect our family from,” Carson added.
Pinto named ’40 under 40′
This week, the Jacksonville Business Journal named Mark Pinto of the Fiorentino Group among 40 of Northeast Florida’s brightest, most promising professionals under the age of 40.
In 2012, Pinto served as the Special Assistant to then-Republican Party of Florida Chair Curry, where he worked with House and Senate Leadership, members of the Florida Cabinet, and the Governor’s Office.
Pinto began his political career with Florida Senate President-designate Bill Galvano of Bradenton during his tenure as Rules Chair of the Florida House. He worked on Galvano’s first political campaign and served as his aide in the House.
Prior to his service in the House, Pinto worked for former Congressman Dan Miller, also from Bradenton, and has been active in local, state, and national politics, and has volunteered and raised funds for numerous political campaigns. He also recently served on the St. Johns County Chamber Economic Development Council.
Fanatics owner mulls NFL team purchase
Jacksonville’s Fanatics had all but cornered the market on licensed sports apparel. And soon, its owner may be moving from clothing to owning a franchise.
Per the Florida Times-Union: Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin is seriously interested in making a run at owning the Carolina Panthers.
“Rubin would be entering a somewhat crowded field of bidders for the Panthers, who were put up for sale by owner Jerry Richardson late last year following allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct. According to ESPN, other bidders include a hedge fund billionaire and the founder and CEO of a debt collection firm.”
“Rubin, 45, is worth an estimated $3 billion by Forbes and would be a familiar name to the league’s other owners. Last May, the NFL invested $95 million for a 3 percent stake in Fanatics. That deal boosted Fanatics’ value to more than $3.17 billion at the time.”
DUUUUUVALLL for Y’all
Another piece of football news. In March, no less.
First Coast News reports that “The Jaguars, who caught flak from local groups after trademarking the phrase, “Duuuval,” have seemingly dropped the trademark tag from their social media after receiving criticism for the move.”
From the Jags: “It’s important to note that the Jaguars have not submitted an application to register the wordmark ‘DUUUVAL.’ The only actions taken to date were intended to protect our ability to continue to use this specific wordmark to promote our fan base and our team in the future, given that it became associated with our fans and the team on a national level this past season. In addition, even if we were to seek trademark registration, it would not prohibit any fan from continuing to say or use the word Duval in general.”
Long story short, keep yelling it from the mountaintop.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made a trip to Washington D.C. earlier this week, and has been the case before, he met with members of the Donald Trump administration.
The subject, as it so often has been, was infrastructure — both the Talleyrand Connector project that the city seeks $25 million for in infrastructure money via the Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program, and other local infrastructure projects.
“Mayor Curry’s meetings were in regards to the Talleyrand Connector, as well as to advocate for Jacksonville infrastructure as a whole, and the priorities that he has laid out,” asserted Curry spokesperson Tia Ford Wednesday afternoon in response to inquiries from this outlet.
Decisions on the grant are expected to be made “soon,” per Ford, who said that Curry thought the meetings went “very well.”
The Talleyrand Connector money, should it come through from the Trump administration, will offer major funding for a wishlist item for the Curry administration dating back to 2016. The alterations to the Hart Bridge Expressway are purported to improve traffic flow, including for trucks bound to and from the port.
Curry had met last year with Trump administration members discussing the same project, including intergovernmental affairs staffers and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
The state budget, which currently is awaiting Gov. Rick Scott‘s review, has an additional $12.5 million for the project.
When asked about the line item Tuesday, Gov. Scott would not commit to it, despite Curry having lobbied him personally on it.
“So the budget came out on Sunday. We’re starting the process to review the budget. I look through it line by line. There’s about 4,000 lines to the budget, and my goal is to make sure all taxpayers get a return on those investments,” Scott said.
If the state and federal money comes through, Jacksonville will have $37.5 million of outside money for the Talleyrand Connector project, a strong illustration of how Curry leverages relationships throughout government for his administration’s priorities.
Jacksonville’s biggest priority in the 2018 state budget came through in the form of $12.5 million for the Talleyrand Connector.
The money, which is a full 25 percent of that needed for a project that would include tearing down Hart Bridge offramps to both route traffic onto Bay Street and facilitate truck traffic to the Jacksonville port, was something for which Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry lobbied both state lawmakers and the Governor in late January.
Yet, despite Curry having made the case to him personally, Scott wouldn’t commit Tuesday to not vetoing the money from the budget.
“So the budget came out on Sunday. We’re starting the process to review the budget. I look through it line by line. There’s about 4,000 lines to the budget, and my goal is to make sure all taxpayers get a return on those investments,” Scott said before wrapping the gaggle.
Scott was in Jacksonville signing a couple of bills that would benefit veterans.
The other highlight of the Tuesday gaggle was the Governor’s defense of a gun control bill he signed Sunday, one that now sees the state sued by the National Rifle Association.
Lenny Curry is fond of tweeting: “Plan all the way to the end.”
But at the end of 2016, when the Jacksonville mayor first pitched removal of the Hart Bridge offramps, some were confused as to what that plan was.
Curry brought a poster board into the Duval delegation meeting, and said he wanted $50 million to tear the offramps to the Hart down. That was the first many members of the group had heard of the concept, which was the dramatic reveal of the pre-2017 Delegation meeting.
The Hart Expressway, said Curry to media, was a “relic of the past.”
However, there was minimal movement in the 2017 Legislative Session toward altering said relic.
The city was undaunted, and moved forward, calling a different play by October of last year.
The Mayor’s Office went to the Jacksonville City Council with an ask for $1.5 million for a design criteria study. Meanwhile, FDOT had done a study of the project that revealed a benefit to the port.
By then, the ball was rolling toward an attempt to secure a federal infrastructure grant for $25 million, and the rationale had shifted, per a letter of support from Sen. Marco Rubio to the Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program.
“The city’s proposal will make needed improvement to the Hart Bridge Expressway in order to relieve congestion, improve traffic flow, and enhance access to the Talleyrand Port Authority,” Rubio wrote.
Weeks after that, Curry went to D.C., where he lobbied various power players on the same project.
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 argument, by then, had shifted: economic development for Bay Street the new traffic pattern would spawn, Curry said, was “gravy” — not the primary purpose.
As the 2018 Legislative Session progressed, Curry made a little-noticed (at the time) trip to Tallahassee.
Curry met with Gov. Rick Scott; the two discussed removing regulatory hurdles for downtown development.
However, there was a secondary purpose to the trip.
From the Senate, he met with Aaron Bean, Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson, Travis Hutson and Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, along with Wilton Simpson.
Curry also met with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, in addition to meeting with regional representatives Travis Cummings, Jason Fischer, Clay Yarborough, and Tracie Davis.
Soon after that, there was movement on the Talleyrand Connector issue, with Sen. Bean getting a $1 million “placeholder” into the budget.
“It will be a conference issue — rules say it has to be in either the Senate or House budget to become a conference issue. $1M is all I was able to muster today. It is a start and hopefully not the final number,” Bean said on February 8.
Indeed, it’s not the final number.
That final number was the $12.5 million Curry wanted from the state all along.
While it’s conceivable, in theory, that Gov. Rick Scott could veto the money, in practice that almost certainly won’t happen.
Curry has scored legislative victories in Tallahassee before; consider the pension reform referendum, widely regarded as a “heavy lift” before it was law.
His relationships, he said last week, helped him with this latest heavy lift.
Regarding Senate budget chief Rob Bradley, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Rep. Travis Cummings, Curry said, “without their belief in what we’re doing in this city,” Curry said, such meaningful investments as the $12.5 million in state money wouldn’t be possible.
Regardless of whether or not the federal grant happens, work can begin this year, per administration spokesperson Tia Ford.
“Regarding this project, I’ve been advised that $50 million includes a combination of local, state and federal resources to create the Talleyrand Connector as outlined two years ago and as was evaluated by FDOT last year. The removal of the bridge and first phase of the associated components can be accomplished using $25 million with additional components costing another $25 million in later phases,” Ford said.
There wasn’t a lot of initial faith in (or understanding of) the concept when pitched. But now it’s happening.
As has been the case for over 2 1/2 years, it’s hard to bet against Curry.
And the Talleyrand Connector appropriation is the latest example.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Rutherford said last week.
Rutherford believes his Stop School Violence Act offers security measures, including having teachers look for “warning signs” of “potential mass casualty shooters.”
Rutherford also dodged questions on divergences between him and Donald Trump that came to the fore during a televised White House meeting last week.
Additionally, he said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a “unique opportunity” to change the culture in the Department of Justice. He didn’t offer much detail on that point, however.
Lawson plans Jacksonville roundtable
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson will host a House Small Business Committee hearing Monday, March 12, at 10 a.m. at the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“Disparities in Access to Capital: What the Federal Government Is Doing to Increase Support for Minority-Owned Firms,” per Lawson’s office, will “examine the unique challenges minorities and women-owned businesses face when seeking funding from the Small Business Administration, traditional banks, private investment capital and additional financing mechanisms.”
The hearing will explore ways to overcome difficulties in securing financing by minority-owned businesses.
Davis’ parents back Brown
Alvin Brown was Jacksonville mayor when Jordan Davis was gunned down in 2012 at a gas station on the Southside.
In the years since, Brown has demonstrated support and friendship to Davis’ parents, and that support was reciprocated, via an official endorsement for Congress Wednesday.
Ron Davis and Lucy McBath, offered a joint statement, one that invoked both the Parkland massacre and the National Rifle Association.
“Nearly six years ago, our 17-year-old son Jordan was gunned down at a gas station in Jacksonville for simply playing music too loudly. The recent tragedy in Parkland shows just how little progress we’ve made, and how much more we still have to do, to keep our communities and kids safe from gun violence. This issue is truly one of life or death, and the stakes are too high for more excuses from do-nothing lawmakers, with our children’s blood on their hands, who ignore what’s in their heart to focus on what’s in their pocket. They readily support ‘Stand Your Ground’ and side with the NRA. Alvin Brown is a dedicated public servant with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby, and we know he will help make our country a safer, better place. We are proud to support his campaign.”
St. Johns Sheriff backs Johns in CD 6
St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns scored a significant endorsement Wednesday, from St. Johns Sheriff David Shoar, in the crowded GOP primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
Shoar cited Johns’ “track record of supporting our public safety officers. He has done so on the St. Johns County Commission and will do so in Washington.”
Shoar pivoted from that track record to asserting that Johns was “someone that understands what it takes to keep our country safe, not only at home but at our border.”
Johns said it was “always humbling when such a highly respected law enforcement officer steps up to endorse.”
Shoar “has been on the front lines and knows what it takes to keep us safe,” Johns said. “I will rely on him and the public safety communities to make sure that the laws passed in Washington protect citizens against murderous foreign gangs and solving the nation’s opioid crisis. We need to listen to those tasked with protecting us for solutions to these issues.”
The GOP field in the district, one that runs from St. Johns County south to Volusia, has some candidates already, including former Ormond Beach state Rep. Fred Costello, businessman John Ward, and former Green Beret and current Fox News commentator Michael Waltz.
One of these Republicans will emerge from the primary to face likely Democratic nominee Nancy Soderberg in the general election.
Hogan knows best?
The race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jay Fant, an Attorney General hopeful, in Jacksonville’s House District 15 got more crowded on the Republican side Wednesday.
Joseph Hogan, the son of Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, entered the GOP scrum.
Hogan will face attorney Wyman Duggan and yacht broker Mark Zeigler in the primary.
Hogan made an audacious play during the Mayor’s race three years ago. He endorsed Democrat Alvin Brown over Republican Lenny Curry, crossing party lines despite what he called Brown’s “failed administration.”
“I didn’t make my decision lightly,” related Hogan in a series of text messages. “I plan to run for City Council one day, and I know that supporting Alvin could hurt me with the Party folk, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”
“I don’t look forward to Lenny losing, but someone has to win, and I think the people of Jacksonville are better off with Mayor Alvin Brown,” Hogan added.
The seeds for that endorsement, Hogan related, were planted four years prior, in the aftermath of his father’s narrow defeat at the hands of the Brown operation, upon which Curry said that “excuses are for serial losers,” a shot across the bow of the Hogan campaign that Joe took personally.
Interestingly, Hogan filed for the race just hours after Curry filed to run again for Mayor.
Curry’s chief political strategist, Tim Baker, is running the Wyman Duggan campaign, suggesting that there may be intrigue through August in this race.
Daniels’ NPA opponent touts fundraising
State Rep. Kim Daniels, an iconoclastic Jacksonville Democrat, has the Jacksonville political establishment behind her.
Among her January donors: members of the Rummell family, the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, and local dog track interests.
Daniels has nearly $16,000 cash on hand; however, her NPA opponent, Darcy Richardson, believes that he can be competitive in the November election.
Richardson claims to have raised “more than $6,100 as of yesterday. Most of those contributions will appear on my initial campaign finance filing covering the 12-13 days since opening my campaign account on Feb. 16. The balance — approximately $1,400 — will be reflected in the month of March.”
“That’s more than Republican Christian Whitfield raised during the entire 2016 election cycle. I haven’t begun to do any serious fundraising yet — that’ll happen over the next couple of months. And despite the district’s unfavorable demographics, I’m confident that I’ll be able to raise enough to put up a fight against arguably one of the most reprehensible and outlandish state lawmakers in the country,” Richardson adds.
Jacksonville Democrats have discussed primarying Daniels, but any expectations of that should be tempered by the incumbent’s strong community support.
It remains to be seen if Daniels can also be capsized by an NPA candidate.
Former Duval Dem chair running for state House
Neil Henrichsen, a former chair of the Duval County Democratic Party, is running for a state House seat in Volusia County.
He will face Republican incumbent state Rep. David Santiago of Deltona.
Henrichsen, 55, of Deltona, is the second Democrat in the race. But the other, Tyran Rayaad Basil, has raised little money and shows minimal campaign activity — especially given his early start in April.
“Volusia County has always been a big home … and that’s a seat that should be Democratic,” he said. “It has a handful more registered Democrats and a representative in Santiago who has not done a lot for the district or the state.”
Henrichsen said he expects Santiago to be vulnerable for one vote. Two weeks ago, with survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre looking on, Santiago voted against allowing floor debate on House Bill 219, which would prohibit the sale, transfer or possession of assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition magazines.
Curry files for re-election
Surprise, surprise, surprise.
Except for a brief period when Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was discussed as a possible chief financial officer appointment, there has been little doubt that he would run for re-election.
The first inkling of that effort’s branding emerged Wednesday morning, via a new cover photo on his campaign Facebook page.
The second, more definitive nugget: Curry filing for re-election Wednesday morning.
The third indication: a new political committee, Jacksonville On the Rise, which launched a six-figure TV and digital ad campaign Wednesday.
As was the case during his original campaign, the logo incorporates a bridge motif; the message is minimalistic: “Our mayor.”
For those familiar with the “One City, One Jacksonville” slogan, it’s clear that candidate Curry will run as a uniter, not a divider, in his re-election bid.
Will anyone serious jump into this race against him?
New Curry ad touts first-term accomplishments
Jacksonville on the Rise, a new local political committee designed to boost Mayor Lenny Curry‘s re-election bid, released its first ad this week: a six-figure buy.
To see the ad, click the image below:
As one would expect, the ad extols Curry’s first term accomplishments, framing them in a holistic, big picture narrative that makes the case that the mayor has kept the city safe and has instituted meaningful reforms.
The ad trumpets investments in technology, such as ShotSpotter, and Curry adding 180 positions to the Sheriff’s Office and 225 Fire and Rescue workers, a fulfillment of a campaign promise to remedy public safety staffing shortages.
Additionally, the spot mentions children’s program reforms, via the Kids Hope Alliance: “a partnership with teachers and community leaders who help our children see their dreams become reality.”
The ad also discusses “balancing the budget without raising taxes” and “increased transparency” and “accountability” to the “taxpayers.”
Toward the close, the spot describes the city’s reaction to the hurricanes that came through in back to back years.
“We came together as a city,” Curry says in the voice-over.
On Tuesday, Democratic Councilwoman Katrina Brown launched her bid for re-election in District 8. Days before that, Republican Al Ferraro launched his re-election bid in District 2.
Brown and Ferraro face different paths to re-election.
Brown has issues other incumbents don’t. She has run afoul of the police union and has gotten tough coverage for a failed economic development deal from her family businesses.
Because of these perceived vulnerabilities, Brown faces a bevy of challengers: Diallo Sekou — Seabrooks, Michael Sell, Brandon Byers, Joenetta Dixon, Tameka Gaines Holly, and Albert Wilcox are all in the race against her.
Jacksonville municipal elections involve a “first election” in March, a blanket primary that sees the top two finishers move on to the May election, assuming no one clears 50 percent + 1 in March.
Expect the District 8 race to go the distance.
In Ferraro’s race, one can expect much less drama.
Ferraro has been a steady presence for his district in Council, advocating for issues such as drainage and other infrastructure.
His district is heavily Republican, and he is so far unopposed.
Redman seeks Council return
Of all the candidates in the 2019 Jacksonville City Council races, veteran Republican politician Matt Carlucci has the most impressive fundraising: $221,150 raised, with over $208,000 on hand.
Carlucci was alone on the ballot for at-large Group 4; however, that has changed with the filing of another man looking to return to City Council: Don Redman.
Redman, a Republican who represented a Southside Jacksonville district from 2007 to 2015, has been noted for a certain brand of social conservatism.
As the Florida Times-Union reported, he was best known on Council for asking a Muslim to “pray to his God” at the podium during a Council meeting, and for asking a lesbian at a different Council meeting if she considered herself male or female.
Redman ran most recently in the Republican primary in House District 12, a seat won by Clay Yarborough.
Redman’s fundraising was lackluster; he didn’t even raise $30,000 in the 17-month duration of his campaign. He garnered under 13 percent of the vote for a seat that encompasses his old City Council district.
It remains to be seen if Redman has broad appeal in a citywide race.
Salem clears $150K raised-mark
The money chase in the Jacksonville City Council at-large group 2 race continues to go Republican Ron Salem‘s way.
February saw Salem clear $150,000 cash on hand between hard money and lucre in his “Moving Jacksonville Forward” political committee.
Salem brought in $6,800 in new money to his campaign account in February, despite a $1,000 refund to Gate Petroleum.
The vast majority of the new money came from the energy sector and nursing home interests.
All told, Salem has over $143,500 on hand in his campaign account and an additional $8,000 in his committee.
Salem is well ahead of his two opponents.
Former Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop has not filed February numbers yet, but had just over $13,000 at the end of January.
And Democrat Darren Mason just launched his campaign in March.
Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, plans to develop an entertainment district on a stadium parking lot may be complicated by unremediated environmental issues.
“Jaguars President Mark Lamping said in January the organization plans to turn Parking Lot J, an almost 10-acre plot west of the Daily’s Place amphitheater and a nearby retention pond, into a 250,000-square-foot entertainment district,” the Record asserts.
However, there is oil under the pavement, rendering the property usable only for industrial purposes, per the city.
Remediation would be a must. What is uncertain (at this time) is who will pay for it.
And the timetable thus far is uncertain; the Jaguars will address this matter next in April, at the annual State of the Franchise address.
The internecine battles continue in the Republican Party of Duval County. The latest involves the county chair looking to purge the statewide chair of the Young Republicans.
County chair Karyn Morton wrote Florida Federation of Young Republicans chair Robbie Foster March 3, informing him of a motion to vote him out March 19.
The cause: “highly disruptive outbursts” at the January meeting of the Duval County Republican Executive Committee. These were, per Morton, “the culmination of a pattern of disruptions over the past year … very loud outbursts and vulgar language … erratic behavior” that “frightened” REC stalwarts.
Morton offered Foster the chance to “avoid further embarrassment” by resigning before the March meeting.
Foster has no intention of resigning, he told Florida Politics Tuesday afternoon.
In fact, he sees the putsch as symbolic of rating Morton a broader issue with Morton’s leadership.
“This city will take a beating on the Super Bowl,” Edwards predicted. And after the national articles maligning the city’s lack of cabs and hotels and first-rate entertainment options, he was right.
“The No. 1 job of government is to serve the general public, not special interests,” Edwards said. “Jacksonville has a reputation of serving the special interests first. It’s worse now than ever.”
Spoiler alert: it never got better.
He called the donor class the “syndicate,” and it’s only for lack of gumption among his peers that phrase didn’t stick.
Edwards’ ultimate target, at least this century, was spending on the Jacksonville Jaguars; he maligned the lack of accountability of expenditures on matters ranging from bringing the team to Jacksonville to the aforementioned ill-fated Super Bowl.
“The city pledged some $3 million to the event, and ultimately spent $11 million. But despite requests from several local papers and auditors to the Jacksonville City Council for detailed financial accounting, city officials and the committee refused to provide receipts, contracts or other documentation. Although the committee was subsidized with city funds, staffed with several city employees and tasked with providing a public function on behalf of the city both the city and the committee claimed the agency’s records were not public.”
He was a gadfly. A muckraker. And the kind of journalist that doesn’t exist in this market anymore.
Now that he has passed on, it’s safe for the Jacksonville City Council to admit that he was right all along.
— Councilman Scott Wilson is the third person in the Jacksonville City Council VP race, joining Sam Newby and Danny Becton. Both Newby and Becton have one pledged supporter; the race is wide-open.
— Rory Diamond, running to replace termed-out Bill Gulliford in Council District 13, has already banked $100,000 and has an all-star fundraiser for next week.
Lobbyists (Marty Fiorentino, Paul Harden, Steve Diebenow, Deno Hicks and Susie Wiles) are on board. Former Mayors (John Peyton and John Delaney) and Council Presidents-in-waiting (Aaron Bowman) are there also.
Diamond, a Tim Baker client, thus far is unopposed.
One wonders if Councilman Gulliford will endorse him … or will wait it out.
JAXPORT closer to Carnival deal
JAXPORT is eyeing its first multiyear contract with Carnival Cruise Lines.
This week, CEO Eric Green told the JAXPORT board he has been actively pursuing the agreement, and assured board members that negotiations are going well.
As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, chief operating officer Fred Wong has been a critical part of the dialogue with Carnival. Wong worked with Carnival often as an assistant director at the Port of Miami before joining JAXPORT.
“It seemed as though we will go from a year-to-year contractual agreement to a multiyear contractual agreement,” said Green.
Carnival’s current contract expires May 1, Green said, and if the issue is not settled by then, an emergency board session could be called to provide an extension.
JAXPORT is continuing its strong first quarter, said CFO Michael Poole, with better-then-predicted vessel calls, container counts and revenue in January.
As the Port Authority looks toward the second phase of its harbor deepening project, JAXPORT is currently A rated by Moody’s and Fitch, essential in keeping interest rates low on its debt
With $193 million outstanding, JAXPORT is estimating liability to rise to $252 million by 2020 — bolstered by its share of the harbor deepening project, berth enhancements among other debts.
Despite that, Poole told board members he is confident JAXPORT can keep its A rating.
Crowley to open new Jacksonville cold-storage facility
Crowley Logistics is expanding its distribution capability in Florida with a second CrowleyFresh cold-storage facility.
Crowley’s second humidity and temperature-controlled facility will be located at its West 30th Street distribution center in Jacksonville. It will help boost cold-chain services between South Florida and Northeast Florida.
Crowley senior Vice President Frank Larkin said in a statement: “This second cold storage facility in Florida represents the latest in a series of service enhancements designed to increase the velocity of our customers’ supply chains, decrease total landed costs and offer seamless and reliable collaboration among the varying components of transport.”
The facility will handle perishables moving between the U.S., South America and the Caribbean and is designed for maximum food safety and avoid cross-contamination.
According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, CrowleyFresh is a partnership of Crowley Logistics and Miami-based Customized Brokers, which already have a facility in Miami; the new addition will expand the capability to 400,000 cubic feet of total refrigerated space and 117,000 square feet of dry storage space for non-perishables.
Customers love JAX
For the second year in a row, Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) ranked first among North American Airports for customer service.
The Airports Council International (ACI), the global airport trade association, named JAX among the leaders of the 2017 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards. JAX tied for first with Indianapolis International Airport.
ASQ is the industry’s only global benchmarking program to measure overall airport passenger satisfaction. The survey covers 34 performance indicators of the customer service experience: check-in; security; wayfinding; food/beverage and more.
The result is a comprehensive database of customer service experiences at each participating airport.
Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman said: “Whether an airline employee, custodial staff or a restaurant server, everyone plays an integral role ensuring a world-class airport experience. None more so than input from our travelers. Their insight lets us know when we’re doing well while also providing a roadmap for future improvements.”
ASQ is the only comprehensive program to survey passengers at the airport on their day of travel. Nearly three-quarters of the world’s top 100 busiest airports are part of the ASQ network; the program served 343 airports in 2017.
“Objective measurement and benchmarking are critical in driving performance in any business especially in such a competitive and dynamic one as an airport,” said Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World. “These winning airports have dedicated themselves to delivering a stellar customer experience.”
Jacksonville City Council members convened, via a special committee, to discuss the potential sale of JEA on Thursday.
While Mayor Lenny Curry and his political allies have been open to exploring valuation and potential privatization, Council President Anna Brosche and many of her colleagues (including the members of the committee) have been more circumspect about the prospect.
The JEA privatization issue has revealed the deepest divide between Curry’s shop and at least some of the Council over the last two and a half years, and in that context, the special committee was born.
Committee chair John Crescimbeni kicked off the meeting by discussing “mistrust” and “muddying of the waters by all recent events and news stories,” which he wanted to dispel “by putting facts out in front of everybody today.”
Crescimbeni noted that JEA kicked off 123 years ago, as a way of pushing back against exorbitant rates from a private monopoly for street lights, leading to a city power plant and infrastructure.
And now, he noted, the conversation has come full circle.
A JEA representative noted that while water sales continue to increase, power sales have flatlined despite an increased customer base, given increased electrical efficiency. Fron 2007, there has been a 10 percent decline in electric sales, with further attrition forecasted.
Councilman Danny Becton wondered if JEA was “racing toward obsolescence,” given the declining sales on the power side, lest it become “Blockbuster Video when we’re all using DVRs.”
After the meeting, Council President Brosche offered her take, saying that despite declining trends in sales, she finds it difficult to believe there is a day we will be without electricity or water.”
Discussion continued, predicated on the gap between decline in sales and the public mission of the company, before moving on to JEA contributions to city coffers.
JEA contributes $117 million via the JEA agreement, with other annual money (franchise fees and public service tax) pushing the number to $244.8 million.
The meeting left unanswered questions. And showed unresolved faultlines.
But her questions (including about the “timing of CEO Paul McElroy‘s contract negotiations”) were for JEA leadership, which was not represented in the room, even as former mayoral chief of staff and current JEA executive Kerri Stewart was seen in the mayor’s office minutes before the meeting commenced.
“Everybody’s known this meeting was happening,” Brosche said.
Meanwhile, Finance Chair Garrett Dennis pitched limiting the spending power of the Curry administration, as had been done for the previous administration. He proposed emergency legislation to expedite that.
The suggestion was not rousingly received on the Council dais.
Councilman Becton urged the administration to come before the committee and declare neutrality on the concept of a sale, given the gap between certain council members saying the administration wanted a sale, and Curry and his staffers saying they were exploring the concept.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been an active candidate for re-election since Wednesday; on Thursday, he discussed why he’s going for four more years.
One reason he offered: “to keep fighting for things I told people I’d fight for,” including public safety, resources for children, and a tangible commitment to all of Jacksonville.
Curry stresses that commitment to historically underserved areas, such as the Eastside and the Northwest Quadrant, has been something he has sought to remedy since his first campaign.
“A lot of broken promises” was how Curry described the approach of many of his predecessors. “Truly over the years there hasn’t been attention … equitable investments for the entire city.”
Curry has learned these lessons experientially, via getting “out of the offices and into neighborhoods,” he said, where “good people” are dealing with tough circumstances, all the while “working their asses off for their families … scraping and scrapping.”
Indeed, this battle for the forgotten neighborhoods of Jacksonville, and the men and women in them, animates Curry.
“I have met too many families that want the best for their children,” and right now, Curry says, “there’s no way. It makes me emotional, frustrated.”
“I promised action, to get things done,” he said.
And yet, there is work to do.
An ad a political committee associated with him (“Jacksonville on the Rise“) put out this week touts investments in public safety, and investments in children’s programs; however, the city is still plagued by a rising murder rate.
“I’m not satisfied,” Curry said, “but the only way you get better is to take action. We’ve added police, reformed kids’ programs, and are going to continue to take action.”
The murder rate, particularly among children, troubles Curry the most. He said that if he could accomplish any single goal, it would be that there would “not be another single child injured or killed by violence.”
There is a lot of work to do to get there, of course.
Beyond the public safety question, Curry recognizes that there are many other things left for him to do.
“Running government isn’t a glamorous business,” Curry said, “but it’s a necessary one.”
And one with many components.
Curry, throughout the interview, set himself apart from certain other elected officials who offer “grand plans” without a way to fulfill them, and just “spew talking points.”
Among his goals: to “protect taxpayer assets” and to “do for taxpayers what we set out to do.”
Sometimes, he allowed, there can be risk involved, as with the current discussion of JEA valuation.
“Anytime you take action,” Curry said, “there are people who are going to criticize.”
That’s not new to him: he saw similar dynamics in both the pension reform push (“a risk I was willing to carry”) and the children’s program reforms via the Kids Hope Alliance (“a risk that was worth it.”)
In the case of JEA, Curry believes it “would be irresponsible for elected officials not to understand the value of [that] asset,” especially given that it has “nearly doubled in value” in recent years.
“Many elected officials are afraid to have real conversations with people,” Curry said.
He’s not one of them.
“I have no desire to be a career politician,” Curry said, and that frees him up for “adult conversations” about how the city should look at both assets and liabilities.
Curry, a former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, has been able to build a bridge to Tallahassee; at this writing, it’s looking very possible that the city may get $12.5 million from the state for its Talleyrand Connector project.
Curry attributes the city’s increased ability to argue for its priorities in the state capital to relationships, including Senate budget chief Rob Bradley, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Rep. Travis Cummings.
“Without their belief in what we’re doing in this city,” Curry said, such meaningful investments wouldn’t be possible.
Curry is ramping up a re-election campaign much earlier than his immediate predecessor did, and well before real opposition emerges.
It is possible that potential opponents missed their window.
Curry, cognizant of the reality that messaging is perpetual for an office holder, is already making the affirmative case for his re-election.