Lenny Curry Archives - Page 2 of 124 - Florida Politics

Lenny Curry has no plans to hire new chief of staff

Three months ago, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry bid farewell to Chief of Staff Kerri Stewart.

Stewart resigned to take a position at JEA, and what’s been clear this summer is that there’s been no rush to fill the role.

On Wednesday, Mayor Curry addressed the situation; in short, no one should expect a new chief of staff anytime soon, if ever.

“At this point, we’ve realigned some duties and staff, and have been able to absorb those duties and responsibilities among ourselves,” Curry said.

“There’s really just been no discussion. There’s not an active search happening. We’ve just been so busy with doing what we do and creating this budget, and right now we’re getting along fine.”

Curry cited savings to taxpayers as one benefit of not backfilling Stewart’s position, which was paid nearly $200,000 per year.

Luckily for the Curry administration, the senior leadership team is proven and has almost universal credibility in City Hall.

Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa is a constant presence in the building, with an encyclopedic knowledge of city functions, processes, and historical long view.

If Mousa were to ever move on, the need for a chief of staff may be more pronounced. He does the work of two normal people — and making roughly $300,000 a year, he’s paid like two normal people.

But in the current context, the status quo works just fine for Mayor Curry and his team.

Lenny Curry, Jax City Council have ‘feelgood discussion’ ahead of budget review

Jacksonville City Councilors made the long walk from the Council suite to the Mayor’s Office Wednesday afternoon, for promised “refreshments” with Lenny Curry.

In a period of transition for the Council, the public notice meeting was worthy of notice; it was a conscious forging of camaraderie and unity, and one well-timed, with the Finance Committee taking up the city’s budget Thursday.

The mood was jolly — one reporter wondered if there was Xanax in the coffee. The meeting was all velvet glove and no iron fist.

In a sense, the meeting was a Halftime Show — midway through the term, a check-in point and an opportunity for policy and conceptual alignment between the executive and legislative branches.

In the house: most of the Council, including Council President Anna Brosche and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, two Councilors who have broken with Curry on various policy issues in recent weeks.

Curry noted that when the group came together two years ago, the topic was pension reform.

“While we haven’t agreed on every path, we do agree on the destination,” Curry said, reminding Councilman Tommy Hazouri of the time Curry dissed him with a Jay-Z line.

“I said you wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight,” Curry said. “Boy, I got that wrong.”

This very much was a One City One Jacksonville meeting — unity was the watchword.

Councilwoman Katrina Brown lauded Curry for his honesty, calling him “very forward” and extolling his “taking on the tough challenges.”

Councilman Reggie Gaffney likewise extolled Curry, celebrating the Mayor’s strong team.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri was happy about the “major issues,” like the HRO, “put behind us.”

Curry quickly chimed in with “absolutely.”

“The next Council, the next Mayor,” Curry said, “will have a foundation … that was built by us.”

Councilman Reggie Brown took the long view, saying he’d “like to get back to a place where partisanship doesn’t have a place.”

“Absolutely,” said Curry.

“I like the way that we’re gelling. I like the direction,” Brown said, noting that he’s learned the priorities of the whole city as part of the “real holistic approach” taken by the Council.

“The public sees this,” Curry said. “They tell me ‘keep going.’ People believe in our city, believe we’re getting things done.”

Council President Anna Brosche suggested that “we can get together [socially] if we have a meeting that ends before 11:00.”

“The Mayor can stop watching us on TV and join us,” Brosche added.

Curry, discussing Bill Gulliford, noted that “his hip hop name is Billy G — he’s got it going on.”

On the matter of policy, Curry said priorities were education, public safety, and children’s issues.

“Education isn’t under our purview,” Curry said, but he is looking to influence the process going forward, and follow on the reform vision of Nikolai Vitti.

Curry also pitched his “100 new cops” proposal.

“It’s not about having 1,800 cops to go out and arrest people,” Curry said, noting it’s “about being able to go in the community and build relationships.”

Curry also discussed the Kids Hope Alliance reforms, saying the re-org is about accountability.

“We are going to fundamentally change the way we serve kids,” Curry said.

Curry also addressed downtown, noting the Laura Street Trio is in progress, and his downtown development trip.

“It’s about tying the riverfront into sports and entertainment … getting ideas and getting it right,” Curry said, citing transportation and other factors.

Residential development, Curry said, ties into retail and other development downtown.

“As we’ve done for two years, any deal we bring to you,” Curry said, “has got to be a win for everybody.”

Retail development, said Curry, can drive sales tax revenues in sports districts.

However, “for the record … I’m not proposing any new tax,” Curry said.

After the event wrapped, we asked Curry what he hoped to accomplish — especially regarding healing the rifts that have seemingly emerged on Council.

“When we had lunch together two years ago,” Curry said, “it was a statement to ourselves and to the public that the executive branch and the legislative branch were going to communicate and work together for the people of Jacksonville.”

“We haven’t agreed [sometimes]. There’s been a lot of one-on-one discussions with Council members about how we get to a certain goal. We’ve figured out how to get there,” Curry added.

The conversation Wednesday, Curry said, was a “feel good discussion,” to remind all parties of “where we’ve been and keep moving forward.”

Curry expressed confidence also in the current Council Finance committee’s ability to grasp the budget.

“They have a role. Their job — I respect their job and their role, and the budget process will have to play itself out,” Curry said.

“The budget I presented is thoughtful. It’s a clear statement of priorities. We’ll just have to get through the process. I stand by what I presented. It says a lot and means a lot to the people of Jacksonville.”

 

After-school funding showdown looms in Jax City Council

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and City Councilman Garrett Dennis agree that more money is needed for Duval County’s after-school programs.

However, they are on what Dennis called “different pages” regarding how much is needed. A need for resolution looms and will be provided at Council Tuesday night.

And that resolution looks likely to come out of one-time, non-recurring money. This means that Council could be dealing with this mess again in 2018.

In response to an appropriations bill filed last week for $1.071 million additional afterschool program money from the Curry administration, Dennis — chair of the City Council Finance Committee — said Monday that Curry’s allocation isn’t nearly enough.

“With the Mayor’s support, an additional $1.8 million has been identified to expand accessibility of afterschool services to more youth and their families,” Dennis contended Friday, adding that “there remains a need for approximately $1.7 million to fund an additional twenty (20) sites.”

Curry had no comment on Dennis’ position, ahead of a Monday evening public notice meeting held by the Democratic councilman who seems more willing than anyone else on Council to joust with the Republican mayor.

The proposal would see eight more Boys and Girls Club programs funded, in addition to three Communities in Schools locations, and other programs.

All told, Dennis’ itemized list of additional sites encompasses $3.46M of spending, accommodating 2,260 students. Currently accommodated: 5,805 students at a cost of $7.726M.

“As you all know, public school starts next Monday,” Dennis said, noting an “emergency bill” from the mayor is headed to committees Monday, but “we have an opportunity tonight to add additional seats.”

“If we do nothing, we have 5,805 seats,” Dennis said. “We have an opportunity to have 8,000 seats for students in Duval County, which is unprecedented.”

“These seats are all over Duval County, in nine different City Council districts,” Dennis added.

The Council Auditor’s Office noted that some Jacksonville Journey money could be transferred over, amounting to $850,000. And Jacksonville Children’s Commission money could add up to another $238,000. The Mayor’s proposed $1.01M could also be added to the pot.

$1.3M is the total need, Dennis said. And that money could come out of the $97M general fund balance, which would not push the city below its mandated reserve levels.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney wanted more expansive funding, that could “include everybody” that applied, regardless of scoring matrix results.

Councilwoman Katrina Brown noted that this process is unusual, wanting to know why the Jacksonville Children’s Commission forced Council to “scramble” to fund sites at the last minute.

“We in the Council don’t like to be put in this position,” Brown said.

Councilman Sam Newby noted that some programs were funded at a lower seat threshold than agreed, and he wanted them to be made whole.

“The decision’s going to be made tomorrow whether we do something or nothing,” Dennis said.

Councilman Reggie Brown noted that, as with the summer camp funding issues earlier this year, fewer children were served because the per pupil outlay increased. Brown wanted to ensure that there were no geographic “gaps” in service areas.

Brown took issue with KIPP schools getting 500 students, a number that dwarfs many other schools on here.

Council President Anna Brosche, who supported Mayor Curry’s initial proposal, expressed a concern regarding the non-recurring nature of these funds.

“We’re creating a situation …this funding that we come up with is not in next year’s budget. We’re creating a challenge to solve a problem now that isn’t in the budget that we’re addressing,” Brosche said.

“If you get funded this year,” asked Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, “what would you do next year?”

Councilwoman Lori Boyer talked to us as she left the meeting, concurring that this is one-time money.

“I think that’s the Council President’s point. Even if these funds could be cobbled together from various sources,” Boyer said, “it’s only for this year.”

Boyer also noted that structural reforms in children’s programs — with the Kids Hope Alliance set to replace the Jacksonville Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission — create their own challenges related to forecasting beyond this current allocation.

Journey programs: funded at $4,000 per student per year. JCC programs: $1,600 per student per year.

“Who knows what these [numbers] will look like next year,” Boyer asked, rhetorically.

“It sounds like one-time money. But if you really believe these programs save lives, that they get kids off the street,” Boyer said, then the price is worth it.

Dennis continued to press for spending out of the reserves, but the committee was not sold with the source of money. A modified proposal, not including reserve funds, will likely be provided on Tuesday … hours before Council votes on this emergency measure.

If the proposal goes “all the way,” Brosche noted that it would create $4.8M of obligations this year that are not in next year’s budget — when after-school money is added to the summer camp money allocated earlier this year.

This could, said Councilman Reggie Brown, create “false hopes” going forward.

Lenny Curry fundraising machine churns on

The JAX Chamber’s JAXBIZ arm hosted a fundraiser as August began for the political committee of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

And if there was any doubt who the Chamber would support in the 2019 Mayoral race, that doubt should have eroded like so much beachfront during a hurricane.

Curry’s “Build Something That Lasts” committee raised over $100,000 at the event, hosted by Darnell SmithDenise WallaceMike Hightower, and the JAXBIZ board of directors.

A name not on the invite that delivered what one insider called a “big effort” was that of Daniel Davis, the Jax Chamber President who one very easily can see as Curry’s eventual replacement in 2023.

Davis, a former state Representative and City Councilman, tweeted out the following: “Looks like JAX Chamber wants to see Mayor re-elected.”

Indeed it does.

Curry’s committee continues the momentum one would expect from a popular incumbent.

July saw Curry’s committee raise $52.5K, and disperse $19,647 — including $5,000 to “Seamless Florida,” the committee of St. Petersburg Republican Mayoral candidate Rick Baker.

The big donor: Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who ponied up $25K.

There was no invoicing of the trip that Curry took on Khan’s private jet for an economic development trip last week to Baltimore, St. Louis, and Kansas City.

That trip explored, among other concepts, development ideas for future development of the area around Jacksonville’s football stadium and other athletic facilities.

Garrett Dennis, Lenny Curry ‘on two different pages’ regarding afterschool funding

In a sense, Jacksonville’s City Hall these days is like an extended game of poker between Mayor Lenny Curry and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis.

We have seen a few examples of jousting between the GOP Mayor and the Democratic Councilman of late.

Dennis’ play for $200,000 of emergency money for swim lessons earlier this summer fell, in part because Dennis had no fixed plan for deployment, and in part because the Curry administration worked behind the scenes to destroy the bill. Then, Curry allocated $1.7M in the new budget for a year round program.

This week, when Curry held a presser to promote the new Kids’ Hope Alliance, a radical reorg of the current Jax Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission, fourteen Councilors showed up and vowed to co-sponsor.

Not Dennis, however; he had a meeting.

And, in response to an appropriation made this week for $1.071M additional afterschool program money from the Curry administration, Dennis approached it like a poker player, essentially saying: “I’ll see you, and I’ll raise you.”

On Monday evening in Jacksonville City Council chambers, Dennis will say that Curry’s allocation isn’t nearly enough.

“With the Mayor’s support, an additional $1.8 million has been identified to expand accessibility of afterschool services to more youth and their families,” Dennis contends in a Friday press release, adding that “there remains a need for approximately $1.7 million to fund an additional twenty (20) sites.”

Dennis told us that he and the mayor were on “two different pages” regarding this extra funding.

We reached out to Curry, and spokesperson Tia Ford offered the following response on his behalf Friday afternoon.

“The Councilman is entitled to his opinion and legislative priorities in his role as a legislator. Mayor Curry has no comment on the Councilman’s day to day business and will evaluate any legislation that passes council at that time,” Ford wrote.

The chess game starts up again Monday.

Jacksonville Bold for 8.4.17 — Squad goals

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is all about loyalty, and much of this edition comes back to the idea of one’s squad as a result.

For example, there’s Curry’s candidate in the House District 15 race to succeed Jay Fant, who is running for Attorney General instead of pursuing re-election.

And then there’s the push to sell reform of the city’s children’s programs. He worked the Council, asking for support. Fourteen of the 19 were there at the press event. And some of those who did not attend had plausible reasons for not being there. While others’ reasons, including at least one Council leader, occasioned more scrutiny from Curry’s inner circle.

Of course, Curry isn’t the only executive concerned with his squad. Sheriff Mike Williams addressed what happens when a president of your own party jokes about police brutality while getting his own squad together from the donor class.

As ever: teamwork makes the dream work, in politics and policy both.

Al Lawson, Dems file student loan relief bill

For those dealing with student loan debt, there’s some good news: Rep. Lawson filed a bill this week that would allow refinancing at a lower rate and would eliminate the tax penalty for loan forgiveness.

Al Lawson is selling student loan relief, but will the GOP bite?

The bill has a dozen sponsors, all Democrats — a discouraging augury given that the White House has shown no leanings toward student loan forgiveness measures of any type.

“Unfortunately, the cost of college has increased significantly in the last decade, and for many Americans, this avenue to a brighter future has become unaffordable. Reducing student debt will help increase economic activity and provide our nation’s students with the relief and opportunity they deserve,” Lawson said.

The bill, if passed in its current form, would also eliminate origination fees.

New VA Clinic for Jacksonville

First Coast News reports that a House bill passed late last month includes good news for local veterans.

John Rutherford meets with Veterans at a current Jax VA clinic.

“The portion of the bill that directly impacts Jacksonville involves the potential clinic constructed at an undecided location. If the bill is signed into law, the future clinic will replace Jacksonville VA Southpoint and Jacksonville VA University,” FCN reports.

All told, those outmoded facilities encompass 50,000 square feet of space.

Good news: “if the bill is signed into law the plan for the lease includes a facility that encompasses about 164,000 square feet in the Jacksonville area with 1,150 parking spaces.”

Bad news: this could take up to five years to become a reality.

Aaron Bean is Clean

After all that, nothing.

The Florida Ethics Commission cleared Sen. Bean of long-standing allegations by a political opponent.

Aaron Bean’s accuser, Carlos Slay, pushed a story without merit.

The Florida Commission on Ethics found “no probable cause to believe that Senator Bean misused his position to secure an appropriation in the State budget for a business venture in which he was personally involved, and dismissed the allegation,” according to a Wednesday news release.

Bean had vigorously maintained his innocence, but reports out of Naples, Florida — the first tip-off that something was amiss — heated up the story … mostly because the reporter in question knew nothing about the sketchy background of the tipster.

Let’s see when the stories emerge clearing Bean’s name. We’ll wait.

Meanwhile, here’s the book on Carlos Slay.

Kim Daniels dinged for dodgy disclosures

More financial ethics issues have emerged for Rep. Daniels. And they could lead to action in the Florida House against the Jacksonville Democrat.

Issues from Rep. Kim Daniels’ time on Jacksonville City Council remain unresolved.

The Florida Ethics Commission found probable cause to believe that Daniels filed inaccurate Form 6s, representing financial disclosures for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Kim Daniels FEC investigation.

Daniels failed to list properties owned by her churches, which added up to $1,000,000 of undeclared assets. Indeed, her churches had multiple properties — “parsonages” in various cities, time shares and over a dozen cars.

Daniels, at that point, was serving her term on the Jacksonville City Council.

Daniels has faced similar scrutiny related to campaign finance before: the Florida Elections Commission found probable cause that Daniels spent campaign funds advertising one of her religious books, the Demon Dictionary, in a vanity-press publication called Shofar.

Daniels, a traveling evangelist, went through a rocky divorce earlier this decade, one which led to sensational allegations regarding her management of household and church finances.

Her 2016 financial disclosure revealed salary of roughly $200,000 from preaching and a net worth of just under $600,000.

Daniels could settle or could have an administrative hearing regarding these charges.

Daniels is not talking to Florida Politics about these matters. She interviewed with Action News Jax recently, in which she vigorously denied the findings of the state commissions.

Mia Jones backs Gillum for Governor

Tallahassee Mayor Gillum rolled out the most significant Jacksonville endorsement of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor Wednesday, in the form of former State Rep. Jones.

Andrew Gillum has made a play in Jacksonville, but Mia Jones is his only major local backer thus far.

Jones called Gillum a “tireless public servant willing to take on the tough fights … just the kind of leader Floridians need now.”

“He will rebuild our economy, so it creates better-paying jobs at every rung of the income ladder; protect and defend our access to affordable health care; fight for public school students’ education, and confront our climate change crisis,” Jones said, saying that Gillum would “fight for what we believe in.”

Gillum is “thrilled” with Jones’ endorsement, calling her a “fierce fighter for affordable health care and common-sense health care policies,” an advocate for “our most vulnerable seniors in Florida nursing homes,” and “a champion for our historically black universities and all of Florida’s higher education institutions.”

The two are excited to campaign together, both said.

Gillum and Gwen Graham are the only two candidates for the Democratic nomination making a play in Jacksonville.

Graham has endorsements from former Mayors Tommy Hazouri and Jake Godbold, along with City Councilman Garrett Dennis.

Mayor’s man to take HD 15 GOP nod?

With Rep. Fant still gunning for the Republican nod for Attorney General, questions emerged regarding his replacement … but it seems we know who that will be, with local establishment favorite Wyman Duggan poised to enter.

Wyman Duggan has the machine behind him in his bid to replace Jay Fant.

Duggan will have some road-tested names running his operation: Tim Baker as consultant, Brian Hughes on comms. Baker and Hughes — the top talent working this market — will have the resources they need for whatever campaign awaits the candidate.

Expect a top-shelf finance committee behind Duggan, especially given that Duval GOP legend John Falconetti and Jacksonville Mayor Curry have been crucial to urging Duggan to run and getting support from local stakeholders.

Curry and Rep. Jason Fischer have formally endorsed Duggan; more endorsements are coming.

Re-org for children’s programs

Announced this week: Curry will roll the JCC and the Jacksonville Journey into one new structure: the Kids’ Hope Alliance (the Jacksonville Partnership for Children, Youth and Families).

The group will have a seven-person board, comprised of mayoral appointees who must be approved by the City Council; as with Curry’s reformation of the JEA Board earlier in his term, the goal is to move the organization toward linear accountability.

Hizzonor emphatically launches children’s program reforms.

The transition period will take six months: the first three months, starting in October, will allow the Journey and the JCC to finish their business; by January, a board should be seated to carry on the KHA’s mission. If that doesn’t happen, Plan B is to run JCC and Jax Journey out of the Mayor’s Office, until the board is approved by City Council.

The strong indication is that the board will be in place by the end of the year, however.

Curry is prioritizing business-minded people with big picture visions and strong resumes for board inclusion, similar again to his reformation of the JEA Board. Board members will understand finance and organizational structure, Curry said and would understand the necessity of hiring management and staff that understands the mechanics of the services offered.

Fourteen council members have agreed to co-sponsor the measure so far.

Media questions Mayor’s ethics

Jacksonville Mayor Curry took a business development trip with Jaguars owner and mega donor Shad Khan in July, and questions, via First Coast News, are still being raised about the ethics of it all.

The end game for this trip: Shipyards development. But logistical questions have simmered.

The trip to Kansas City, Baltimore and St. Louis was framed by Curry as an endeavor to “know their ideas and their failures to move our downtown forward.”

City Ethics Director Carla Miller is reviewing the trip, though she notes that there is no law against a mayor flying on a private jet.

Miller has up to 90 days to conclude her review.

Jax Sheriff talks Donald Trump’s “paddy wagon” joke.

Jacksonville Sheriff Williams addressed President Donald Trump’s recent “joke” about police brutality this week, making it clear those comments weren’t helpful to local law enforcement.

“I try to stay away from getting involved, trying to justify anything the president says,” Williams noted.

The president’s attempts at support (or humor) can often have unintended consequences.

“Talking about Jacksonville, and what appears to be a joke about police brutality, we take that very seriously,” Williams said.

“We’ve shown in the last two years, when it comes to police brutality and misconduct, that we take it very seriously and act swiftly and appropriately. That’s the lens through which we should look at Jacksonville — how we respond to stuff,” Williams added.

“I’d encourage people to look at what we do in Jacksonville and how we respond,” Williams continued, “instead of broad-brushing us with a joke from D.C.”

Williams is looking to add 100 new officers this year, which will make the department “appropriately-sized” and facilitate the kind of community policing that he would like to see more of.

First in Bold: Williams committee posts strong June numbers

“A Safe Jacksonville,” the political committee for Sheriff Williams, reported strong fundraising in July.

A $60,000+ month has the committee with over $80,000 on hand — and, says our source, that is even with fundraising not having started seriously until July 12.

Among the bigger names of the donors: Toney Sleiman, who ponied up $5,000; Gary Chartrand, at the same level; Travis Cummings, at $5,000 via committees; Ander Crenshaw at $3,500; and John Falconetti at $2,500.

Sauce loss for Jax in worthless default judgment

Last week, the city of Jacksonville won a $222,000 default judgment against businesses belonging to the family of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown.

How does my default taste?

This judgment was the culmination of a long-standing legal action against CoWealth LLC and Basic Products LLC, two shell companies of the Brown family that — back in 2011 — accepted roughly $600,000 in loans and grants designed to kick-start a BBQ sauce plant that was intended to be a job-creating engine for Northwest Jacksonville.

Alas, the engine stalled — of the 56 jobs that were intended to be created, zero permanent jobs came to pass.

An amended motion for default was filed by the city with the Duval County Court on June 20, with the city pressing two shell companies — “CoWealth LLC” and “Basic Products LLC” — for $210,549.99 in claw-back money and another $10,585.01 for interest, calculated back to June 2016, when the city of Jacksonville began to move toward litigation.

Jax mulls suit of opioid producers

As part of its ongoing fight against opioid overdoses, the city of Jacksonville is mulling a lawsuit against Big Pharma companies, a strategy discussed Thursday afternoon by Councilman Bill Gulliford in Council Chambers.

Bill Gulliford is no stranger to moving Council in his direction.

Making a presentation at the meeting: Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, a firm which has specialized in class action consumer protection suits, including a successful action against Enron years ago for billions of dollars.

There is a precedent for such legal action being taken. Reuters reports that Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri are all suing pharmaceutical companies, on the grounds of their aggressive marketing running afoul of consumer protection laws.

Closer to home, Delray Beach is suing opioid manufacturers, claiming that their product spawned the city’s heroin epidemic, with each overdose costing the town $2,000 — a number that Gulliford said didn’t sound unreasonable, given the expenses of transport and treatment for each victim.

The law firm that presented in Jacksonville Thursday is the same one representing Delray Beach in its action.

Wally Lee, RIP

This week, Jacksonville mourned former Jax Chamber President Lee, who saw the organization through a period of local and regional growth and transition.

The Jax Daily Record notes that Lee had a blood infection after emergency surgery for a spinal cyst in late July.

Wally Lee was universally respected in Jacksonville; he will be missed.

Local notables lauded Lee’s legacy.

Jax Chamber President Daniel Davis described Lee as “passionate about growing Jacksonville and pushing our city forward.”

Former Mayor John Delaney, whose eight years in office coincided with part of Lee’s leadership of the Chamber, described the body as “particularly strong” under his presidency.

Save the date: Travis Hutson Deep-Sea Invitational

State Sen. Hutson is hosting his Third Annual Deep-Sea Fishing Invitational at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Wednesday, Aug. 23, and Thursday, Aug. 24. Wednesday highlights include a 4:45 p.m. tour of the St. Augustine Distillery and 6:30 p.m. dinner at Prohibition Kitchen. On Thursday, the day starts with 6:30 a.m. shuttle to the Marina for a 7:15 a.m. departure. The evening finishes with a 6:30 p.m. fish fry at Costa Brava Restaurant.

Casa Monica Hotel is at 95 Cordova St. in St. Augustine. A special hotel group rate is $169 per night. For more information, contact Brianna Jordan at 203-313-4695 or Brianna@frontstreetflorida.com.

John Thrasher among nominees for veterans’ hall

The News Service of Florida reports that Florida State University President Thrasher, a former state House speaker who served in the Vietnam War, is among 20 candidates for spots in the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame. The Florida Veterans Hall of Fame Council gives the maximum number of names to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet to consider for enshrinement in the hall of fame. Scott and the Cabinet — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — are expected to vote on the nominees Sept. 26.

Florida State University President John Thrasher, who served in the Vietnam War, is among 20 candidates for spots in the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.

 

The 2016 class, which featured 11 inductees, included the late Gov. Reubin Askew, the late Gov. LeRoy Collins, the late Gov. and U.S. Sen. Spessard Holland and former state Rep. William Proctor of St. Augustine.

Shuffle off to Amazon

The Florida Times-Union reports that the Jacksonville Transportation Authority is launching a shuttle Aug. 7 to the North Jacksonville Amazon facility. Timed around shift changes, the shuttle will move between JTA’s park-and-ride facility at 3191 Armsdale Road, just south of I-295, and Amazon, 12900 Pecan Park Road

A new shuttle will transport workers to and from the Amazon North Jacksonville fulfillment facility.

While the Armsdale hub offers parking spaces and bike racks but is also part of the First Coast Flyer route, which connects it to the rest of the JTA system.

The initial schedule has buses running 30 minutes before and finishing 30 minutes after each shift change and will arrive every five to seven minutes. Cost is $1.50 each way, or $3 roundtrip. A trip from another hub within the city to Armsdale adds another $1.50 each way.

UNF beer study to examine yeast strain, flavoring

The University of North Florida is investigating the yeast strain Brettanomyces, which has been a traditional flavor component for beer, but one that proves difficult in winemaking.

UNF biology professor Dr. Michael Lentz has study Brettanomyces for about five years, telling the Florida Times-Union: “We can’t taste it or smell it, but once the yeast gets ahold of it, it becomes a flavor component” that is become popular with craft beer brewers.

UNF is studying a certain strain of beer yeast that gives craft beers a distinct flavor.

Found throughout the globe, the yeast strain is common in Florida fields. Lentz is examining how the strain thrives, evolves and interacts with fermented drinks.

Happy birthday

To Jacksonville-based powerbroker Marty Fiorentino, leader of the Fiorentino Group, who celebrates today.

Happy birthday Marty Fiorentino!

Jax Zoo begins work on African Forest great apes exhibit

Work has started on the new Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens exhibit for inhabitants of the Great Apes Loop reports the Florida Times-Union. Construction, which should continue through this time next year, will ultimately feature overhead trails, more true-to-life habitat and will have a 40-foot tropical tree as a centerpiece.

No monkeying around with the new African Forest great apes exhibit at the Jax Zoo

Tony Vecchio, the zoo’s executive director, tells the T-U the $9 million project is worth the wait, for better viewing, “wellness-inspired” design and “transformative” foliage

Now one of the zoo’s oldest exhibits, the Great Apes area first premiered in 1998 and was quickly expanded.

Armada start Robert Palmer era with draw at home

The Jacksonville Armada started off the NASL Fall Season with a draw against the San Francisco Deltas. This was the team’s first game since announcing the new owner, Robert Palmer, who purchased the club earlier this month.

Kartik Krishnaiyer is reporting that Armada FC goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell began a great defensive effort with an outstanding save in the first minutes of the match. He extended his entire frame to hit the ball over the bar, stopping the promising shot from the Deltas.

Soon after, attacker Jackson of the Deltas sprinted ahead of the pack up the field and kicked the ball right into the box, but it stopped short of the goal. Delta’s Forward Tom Heinemann was in the box, and tried to tap the ball in but missed and the Armada was able to clear what could have given San Francisco an early lead.

The NASL Fall Season is in full swing and the Jacksonville Armada FC is preparing to travel to Puerto Rico this weekend! Photo: Facebook.

Derek Gebhard gave the Armada an opportunity minutes later, as he dueled with defenders and was able to get a good look at the goal. Gebhard kicked the ball just high of the goal but was tackled by Jackson, who subsequently received a yellow card.

J.C. Banks launched a shot on goal during the 32nd minute, the Armada’s first of the match. Charles Eloundou set the midfielder up for a promising kick, but the shot went just high of the goal.

With momentum on their side, Gebhard was able to break away from his defender but was fouled. He was awarded a penalty kick for Jacksonville.

Jack Blake stepped up to take the penalty kick in the 35th minute and nailed the first goal of the Robert Palmer era. The midfielder launched the ball into the right side of the net beating out San Francisco’s goalkeeper, Romuald Peiser, giving the Armada FC a 1-0 lead.

Patterson-Sewell made a clutch save in the 43rd minute as he punched the ball away from the goal. About a minute later he made another save, as he knocked another shot on goal just over the crossbar solidifying the Armada’s 1-0 lead late in the first half.

The Armada FC had two near-misses during first half stoppage time. Gebhard sprinted in front of his defender and created space just outside of the box. He kicked the ball within striking distance, but no one was there to put the ball into the net.

Minutes later Blake tried once more for a goal too and headed the ball, but it went just outside of the net.

The Armada FC went into the halftime break with a 1-0 lead over the Deltas.

Jacksonville came out of the break with the initiative looking to get the elusive second goal. Eloundou and Banks were both able to take nice shots, but Peiser blocked both efforts.

The Deltas did not give up and during the 58th minute, Danny Cruz was able to equalize the score at one.

Patterson-Sewell made another great save after an Armada FC defensive miscommunication almost resulted in a goal. The goalkeeper roared with pride after he made a spectacular and pivotal play during the 67th minute to keep the Deltas from gaining more ground.

“It was a matter of trying [and] … hoping for the best. You train for that kind of stuff when the time is right there is no time to think about it; you just have to [rely] on your training. I was fortunate to keep it out,” said Patterson-Sewell.

Gebhard displayed his speed when he sprinted up the field attempting a shot on goal, but the ball went just wide left leaving the score knotted at one.

Blake continued the Armada FC’s momentum as he took another shot on goal in the 84th minute, but Peiser saved the shot.

Heinemann put the ball into the back of the net during the 90th minute, but the goal was waved off for a foul.

The teams ended the game at 1-1, resulting in a draw.

“It’s not the worst start. We got the draw, but hopefully, we can bounce back and get the win next week,” said Jack Blake. The Armada FC will head south and travel to Puerto Rico. The match will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5.

With Council behind him, Lenny Curry introduces Jax children’s program reforms

After months of deliberation, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry rolled out long-promised reforms of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and Jacksonville Journey this week.

After a summer of bumpy news cycles for the JCC, in which summer camp funding issues were revealed, followed by after-school program funding issues, with an exasperated email from Curry’s chief administrative officer saying that he had “another mess” to clean up after a botched appropriation from an organization whose oversight he questioned, the case for reform was made, over and over, via a spotlight on the beleaguered organization’s problems.

Curry hinted at what the reform might look like in recent weeks: programs with clear, defined services and benchmarks, with an “aggressive” management structure that demanded results for the allocations. Deliverables, in the business sense.

On Tuesday afternoon, ahead of a Wednesday morning rollout, Curry discussed what reform will look like.

Those reforms: major — a comprehensive re-organization going far beyond simple tweaks of extant structures.

Curry will roll the JCC and the Jacksonville Journey into one new structure: the Kids’ Hope Alliance (the Jacksonville Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families).

The group will have a seven-person board, comprised of mayoral appointees that must be approved by the City Council; as with Curry’s reformation of the JEA Board earlier in his term, the goal is to move the organization toward linear accountability. In this case, accountability regarding helping “at-hope kids.”

“Hope was a really important word given the feedback I’ve gotten,” Curry said Tuesday.

The transition period will take six months: the first three months, starting in October, will allow the Journey and the JCC to finish its business; by January, a board should be seated to carry on the KHA’s mission. If that doesn’t happen, Plan B is to run JCC and Jax Journey out of the Mayor’s Office, until the board is approved by City Council.

The strong indication is that the board will be in place by the end of the year, however.

Curry is prioritizing business-minded people with big picture visions and strong resumes for board inclusion, similar again to his reformation of the JEA Board. Board members will understand finance and org structure, Curry said, and would understand the necessity of hiring management and staff that understands the mechanics of the services offered.

“A board structure with strong oversight that’s empowered to hire management, one with a focused mission — that’s going to work,” Curry said.

There will be an interim executive director appointed for the six-month period, and one can expect him or her to be a truly transitional, yet respected, figure with experience in these matters; from there, the board of directors will hire someone permanent.

The organization will focus on four strategic elements, that are intended to facilitate long-term transformation and accountability every step of the way.

One such element: early learning and childhood development, with a focus on school readiness and literacy. The goal here is to stop the skills gap that can emerge from rearing its head.

Another element: preteen and teen programming, intended to continue the trajectory of earlier programming.

A third element: juvenile justice programming, including intervention programs much like those found in the Jax Journey.

And the fourth element: out of school programs, including summer camps and after school programs.

As is always the case when introducing reforms, Curry worked overtime to introduce the package to members of the Jacksonville City Council, via individual meetings designed to acquaint the legislators with the Mayor’s vision.

Curry realized that he had to make the sale to the Council. He spent the first two days of the week in the suite of Council offices, selling the changes to Council members on their own turf. In the end, the changes require a unified vision, and the Mayor became an evangelist, as he has so often when reform has needed to be sold.

The stakes are high, Curry said. With roughly $100M invested into city summer camp programs and after-school programs over the last decade, there are many unanswered questions as to the ultimate outcomes for those who have been in the programs.

“We have to have measurements and outcomes,” Curry said — and those have been lacking, until now.

The goal: to be able to track a child over the course of years, to understand what’s working and what isn’t, so finite resources can be marshaled effectively — which hasn’t always been the case under the current schematic.

Administrative issues, like money sitting in subfunds not being used, are also a concern — and also drive the need for reform.

“If you look at some of the administrative issues you’ve seen play out,” Curry said regarding the summer camp and after-school program funding issues mentioned above, “if your administration’s not organized and right, you’re going to have the same culture serving kids.”

The goal: focus.

“We need a radical shift in culture. The only way you shift a culture radically,” Curry said, “is to upend the whole thing.”

And to that end, a refashioned board will lead to a more “focused mission,” one that also incorporates what is working from JCC and Jax Journey programs, such as tracking children as they utilize services.

Some veterans of Journey 1.0, such as City Hall veteran Susie Wiles, have had considerable input into this process.

As well, research is being conducted on other models working throughout the country, as Jacksonville reconfigures its services to accord with national best practices.

“This is organizational change,” Curry said, “to identify the right kids, delivering the best service to them, and following through over a period of time.”

“I know when this is done right, it works,” Curry added. “If you stick with the right programs, if you follow through, if you care for the kids, it works.”

____

Wednesday morning’s press conference confirmed the above, and added new details regarding the “real reform” Curry was bringing to the city’s children’s programs.

Curry said that “government has a role in making sure at-hope kids don’t fall through the cracks,”

And, fortuitously for the proposal, Curry had 14 Council members show — a measure of his use of political capital to introduce the measure.

Though Council President Anna Brosche and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis were notable in their absences, most everyone else (save Doyle CarterGreg Anderson, and Joyce Morgan) were in attendance.

Dennis had a meeting scheduled, as did Brosche — a partner meeting at her CPA firm that had been scheduled before the presser was.

When asked if they were willing to co-sponsor the legislation, 14 Councilors’ hands went up. However, Council President Brosche (a former JCC Board member) is less enthusiastic.

“I’ve been so tied up that I haven’t heard or (read; sorry) all of the proposal details. As for co-sponsoring, I’m a details kind of person and will need to read before I sign on, or comment further on your questions.”

“We have to get this right. Not an easy road, but we have to get this right,” Curry added.

Republican Councilman Jim Love welcomed the reforms, saying they would be a welcome reprieve from the “panic attacks” created by the kinds of funding emergencies that necessitated the reform package to being with.

The bill will be filed Wednesday afternoon; expect another update to this piece when it happens.

 

Lenny Curry endorses Wyman Duggan in HD 15 GOP primary

The Republican primary will likely decide Jacksonville’s House District 15 next year. And Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made his endorsement known Tuesday.

Curry is backing Wyman Duggan … an unsurprising development, given that Curry encouraged Duggan to get in the race, and given that Curry’s own political team is running Duggan’s campaign to replace Jay Fant (who is vying to be Attorney General next year).

“I’m proud to support Wyman Duggan, a true conservative, for State Representative in District 15,” said Mayor Curry.

“I have known Wyman for many years and know he has the character and courage to stand up and fight for our conservative values in Tallahassee. I look forward to doing all I can to help Wyman be successful in his campaign,” Curry added.

Curry has gotten involved in one State House race during his term, and his support — financial and otherwise — helped push Rep. Jason Fischer to a convincing victory over political veteran Dick Kravitz.

Duggan said it was “an honor to have the support of Mayor Curry.”

Duggan said Curry “is a conservative of tremendous courage and has been a transformational leader who has provided conservative solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing our city. I look forward to working with Mayor Curry to fight for Jacksonville in the State House,” Duggan added.

Expect more endorsements to follow quickly.

Wyman Duggan enters HD 15 race as instant establishment favorite

Despite facing challenges, state Rep. Jay Fant‘s position regarding the GOP primary for Attorney General is simply put as “AG or bust.”

This leaves a void in the House District 15 race for 2018. And it appears the invisible primary is all but over as local establishment favorite Wyman Duggan is poised to enter.

“After much encouragement from members of our community, I am announcing my candidacy to serve our [community] in the Florida House of Representatives and sent my paperwork to Tallahassee this morning,” said Duggan in announcing his campaign.

“As a fourth generation Northeast Floridian and now raising my family here, I am running to ensure the brightest possible future for Jacksonville and to stand up for our shared conservative values. I’ve spent my career representing people and businesses in our community trying to build better lives but see them struggle against government regulations and overreach. As a State Representative, I will be a conservative champion of freedom and opportunity for Jacksonville and our state,” Duggan added.

Duggan will have some road-tested names running his operation: Tim Baker as consultant, Brian Hughes on comms. Baker and Hughes — the top talent working this market — will have the resources they need for whatever campaign awaits the candidate.

Expect a top-shelf finance committee behind Duggan, especially given that Duval GOP legend John Falconetti and  Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry have been key to urging Duggan to run and getting support from local stakeholders.

Duggan, a shareholder at the Rogers Towers law firm, has the kind of credentials that lend themselves to moving into public service. Among the highlights of a long list of honorifics: he chaired Jacksonville’s Charter Revision Commission, and served as Vice Chair of the Consolidation task force. With that experience, he is uniquely suited to advocate for Jacksonville’s interests in Tallahassee — avoiding the kind of learning curve many first-time candidates might have regarding local issues.

Duggan had floated a run for state Senate in 2012; that run lasted but a couple of months, as the money went in a different direction.

In this race, however, expect that the early money and a commensurate windfall of endorsements will go Duggan’s way.

More money for Jax after-school programs as Lenny Curry pushes for reform

Monday morning saw Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council President Anna Brosche announce that $1.071M of new money would be available for after school programs this coming academic year.

With reforms to be announced Wednesday morning at a press conference for the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey this week, this is another short-term solution to a problem that Curry doesn’t want to see in the long term, with money to pay for it swept out of various accounts — more detail on that will come in the filed legislation.

Curry’s statement spoke to that “Band-Aid” solution reality, ahead of meetings with nine Council members on Monday, more on Tuesday, and a Wednesday press conference to announce comprehensive reforms.

“Council President Brosche and I remain committed to creating a city where children from their earliest age through young adulthood have the tools and resources to thrive,” said Mayor Curry.

“As I’ve stated many times before, our youth are our city’s future, and I believe every child deserves access to programs and initiatives that will build brighter futures, pathways and opportunities for them,” Curry added.

“Although we are pleased to increase the offerings and improve access, we recognize that this is essentially a Band-Aid. It is another stopgap measure to help meet the urgent needs of children this school year, which is why the reforms that I will be introducing are essential to our children,” Curry continued.

Much of Curry’s summer has been occupied with the problem of underfunded summer camps.

The city allocated nearly a million dollars to funding camps for underprivileged youth in June. Despite such an allocation, hiccups remained in the dispersal of money to providers, at least one of which was running the program out of her own pocket.

Curry has promised reforms to the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and Jacksonville Journey frameworks, and one should expect those to be rolled out in the coming days. A significant architect of the Journey vision, we hear, is involved in the schematics.

The reforms, CP Brosche said, would be “structural in nature.” (For an analogue of such structural reforms, one might consider Curry’s reforms of the JEA Board, to which he brought people who shared his vision, who then instituted changes in governance and accointability).

JCC will continue to exist and be independent, per Brosche, a vision that accords with her larger vision for the city’s children.

Council President Brosche added, via statement, the following.

“Back to school is a time when students, families and educators are full of hope about the new school year,” said  Brosche. “How the city wraps itself around our children is one of the most important investments we can make in our future. I appreciate and applaud Mayor Curry’s efforts to find and reallocate budget resources to reach more children.”

Council members beyond Brosche are conceptually in favor of reform, but they all have individual concerns — which will come up this week as the Mayor meets with Council members one-on-one, with nine meetings slated for Monday alone.

Southside Republican Scott Wilson notes that some of his neighborhoods struggle like those that are in the ten Jacksonville Journey zip codes, and wants to ensure that his district’s interests are protected.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney, one of the first Council members to meet with the Mayor, noted that reforms would be unveiled in a Wednesday press conference — and that he support Curry’s “vision to restructure” the beleaguered JCC’s changes.

“The program will be totally different,” Gaffney said. “I do support his vision and direction.”

Also supporting Curry’s reforms: Councilwoman Katrina Brown, who took to Facebook Monday afternoon to communicate that commitment

Councilman John Crescimbeni, meanwhile, described his chat with Curry as a “preliminary conversation,” suggesting that details would be in legislation from the Mayor’s Office, expected to drop this week.

Expect that those who appear Wednesday with Curry at the aforementioned press conference share his vision for reform.

And those who don’t, meanwhile, may be hazarding a certain level of risk vis a vis the Mayor’s Office.

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