Lenny Curry Archives - Page 2 of 111 - Florida Politics

Opioid overdose crisis becomes top priority for Jacksonville policy makers

The numbers are stark for those who care about public policy in Jacksonville. And the need for solutions is urgent.

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

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

911 calls for ODs to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department have tripled, with a call every two hours now. Narcan administrations: up 500 percent. JFRD responded to over 3,411 calls in 2016, and the cost of transporting OD victims could near $4.5M this year.

Councilman Bill Gulliford and other city council members were on hand — as was Mayor Lenny Curry.

Curry noted that he “moved some things around to be here,” to address the “tragic epidemic.”

“We take this seriously. We understand that families have suffered because of this. And we have to get it right.”

Councilman Gulliford noted the statistics, including the “131 percent increase” year over year.

The goal of the meeting: to talk awareness, prevention, and solutions, Gulliford noted.

Gulliford noted that extends to his own family. He spent time last weekend talking to his grandchildren about these issues.

“I hope I made an impression on them. I pray I made an impression on them,” the councilman said.

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Richard Preston, a recovered addict, told his “hellacious story” of recovery from drugs and alcohol, using the exhorting style that blended the rolling cadences of an evangelist with the patter of a traveling salesman.

He has been sober for 11 years.

“I know that Jacksonville can be the city against which others are measured in the war against opioids,” Preston, a Jacksonville native said, describing how cocaine and other drugs derailed his promising academic career, then his work life.

“This is our opportunity,” Preston said to the politicians on hand.

“We need to bring hope to those who don’t have hope themselves,” Preston said, before shilling his second memoir about his addiction issues.

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Jeff and Edie Carlson spoke next; their youngest son is a heroin addict.

Mrs. Carlson attributed the issue to a lack of education on addiction, and the stigma attached, noting that another Mr. Carlson’s brother — a former undercover police officer — died of an overdose.

“The education needs to start with the parents of elementary school students. Middle school may be too late,” Mrs. Carlson said, before describing their son’s struggle with overdose and rehab trips.

During one post-rehab overdose, her son had stopped breathing. Timely arrival of medics kept him alive.

Currently, he is in a 90-day rehab.

_____

Medical Examiner Valerie Rao spoke of the agony of the calls, when parents ask her what she can do, and when she asks if “they believe in God.”

When they say they do, Rao (a religious person) is relieved.

However, the relief is short-lived.

“We have to somehow personalize this. If you start thinking like that, we can come up with solutions. If you don’t,” Rao said, “it’s not going to work.”

Miami-Dade, Seattle, Orlando — all have task forces.

Rao advised that Jacksonville have something similar.

“Everybody’s talking about heroin,” Rao said, “but fentanyl is cheap. Carfentanil is cheap … who ever heard of these drugs? But that’s what the drug dealers are using to cut the heroin.”

The casualties come quick from these lethal cocktails.

“I’m dealing in truth, not fiction. And this is what I deal with every day,” Rao said, noting that unlike in the case of cocaine, when someone can taste the powder and identify anesthetic, there is no analogue for heroin and its variants.

Rao went through recent cases, including ten just today: the common threads are a history of doing drugs and ubiquitous drug paraphenalia in many of the cases.

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The hope, as advanced by Susan Pitman of Drug Free Duval, is for a sustained community response.

Much of that, said Ron Lendvay of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, revolves around supply interdiction and prevention, via undercover officers infiltrating the communities of users.

Still, the impact builds.

One homicide sergeant had to go to five overdoses in one day recently, and as Rao said, the most corrupted drugs tend to be most deadly.

“The heroin is an organic material … fentanyl is as bad if not worse than heroin,” Lendvay said, noting that Mexican cartels are manufacturing the synthetic cutting agents.

“If anybody hears these speakers and doesn’t think there’s a crisis,” Gulliford said after Lendvay wrapped, “you must have been sleeping.”

____

Audience members had their say, and the disagreements were passionate about the merits of methadone and Nar-Anon, and the limits on treatment for the uninsured.

“Magically,” said one mother, “if you are uninsured, you’re healed in three days.”

Beds at rehab facilities — River Region and Gateway — are filled for months, meanwhile, meaning that the issue for many of those struggling with addiction can’t get help.

Over the course of the meeting, what was generally clear: a sincere desire to somehow stop the epidemic, yet a realization that resources are scarce, and that interdiction of the drugs coming from Mexico has proved daunting.

Perhaps a “great, big, beautiful wall” will stop it.

Perhaps trends themselves will change, as historically has been the case with illicit drug use.

But the reality is that in Jacksonville, as is the case in major and minor cities and hamlets across the country, overstretched local governments have yet to mount a meaningful counter to this epidemic.

In Jacksonville, Thursday evening’s town hall is a start — a step forward on a long journey, one where the finish line is nowhere near being in sight.

Lenny Curry, Rob Bradley committees and Travis Cummings pace Northeast Florida February fundraising

No Northeast Florida incumbents face competitive races in 2018. Yet the fundraising continues anyway, as February evidenced.

Notable for performance: two Northeast Florida political committees that cleared the $100K threshold for February money.

And one Clay County legislator who had a strong month.

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One of the PACs that hit six figures: “Build Something That Lasts,” the political committee of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry,

Curry’s committee raised $110,000 in February. That sum follows a $63,000 January, and brings the committee near $240,000 on hand.

Curry’s committee secured the $110,000 from five donors, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Peter RummellGary Chartrand, and J.B. Coxwell.

While these are usual donors, the committee also got a $25,000 donation from Mori Hosseini, the CEO of ICI Homes who is a noted power player in GOP politics.

For those monitoring Curry’s appeal outside of Northeast Florida, the Hosseini donation is a strong indication of what may be a trend.

Curry still hasn’t filed to run for re-election in 2019, and his name is still in the rumor mill to replace Jeff Atwater as CFO.

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The strongest committee performance in February in NE Florida: “Working for Florida’s Families,” the committee of Sen. Rob Bradley.

Bradley’s committee brought in $120,500 in February, bringing total cash on hand over $360,000.

The leading donor at $25,000, RAI Services, the parent company for R.J. Reynolds, American Snuff, and other fine tobacco products available at stores near you.

American Traffic Solutions gave $10,000, as did licensed medical marijuana company Costa Farms (a regular supporter of Bradley), and Floracann, the cannabis subsidiary of Jacksonville’s Loop Nurseries.

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The best month for any legislator, by far, was from Rep. Travis Cummings in Clay County’s HD 18.

Cummings brought in $34,150 of new money, pushing his total cash on hand over $47,000 – a good indication that the pressure the governor put on him over not supporting Enterprise Florida hasn’t affected Cummings’ bottom line.

PACs and physicians were the main drivers for Cummings: Anesthesiologists, Physical Therapist, Beer Distributors, Realtors, and other such groups that know to back a winner.

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Of local Senators, SD 4 Republican Aaron Bean brought in $6,200 in February, pushing the Republican near $20,000 on hand.

Among the donors to the Bean team: Service Corporation International, which runs the Dignity Memorial funeral home chain, and donated $1,000.

Also maxing out: SmartHorizons, an online education company. And petroleum giant Chevron donated $500.

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In SD 5, Audrey Gibson has yet to report February numbers; we will update this piece when she does.

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In HD 11, Cord Byrd raised $5,500 of new money in February, giving him $10,100 on hand – not bad for someone who won in November with 98 percent of the vote.

Gunster, The Fiorentino Group, Southern Gardens Citrus, and Pinch-a-Penny were among the donors.

Over in HD 12, Clay Yarborough brought in $5,000 in new February money, pushing his total raised to $7,500 for his re-election.

Gunster and Fiorentino ponied up for the former Jacksonville City Councilman, who also had a max contribution from the Florida Harbor Pilots Association.

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In HD 13, HD 14, HD 15, and HD 16, there is nothing as yet to report.

Tracie Davis and Jason Fischer have yet to do a February filing. And Kim Daniels has yet to file for re-election, though a staffer told us last week that delay is just a function of travel and other commitments, and Daniels will run for re-election in a safe Democrat district.

Likewise, Rep. Fant has yet to file to re-election

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In HD 17, Cyndi Stevenson, who was re-elected without the formality of a primary or general election challenge last year, had even a better February, with $8,150 of new money.

Among her contributors: the AIF PAC, Florida Blue, the Florida Chamber, Ronald Book, Bitner and Associates, and Southern Gardens Citrus. Stevenson had just over $20,000 on hand.

Could anti-Donald Trump quotes hurt Pat Neal’s chances of becoming CFO?

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump hasn’t been too keen on hiring those associated with the “Never Trump” movement of conservative policy who surfaced in last year’s presidential campaign.

The most glaring example of this is the case of former State Department official Elliott Abrams. A meeting between the two last month reportedly went well, according to CNN. Ultimately, though, Trump opted not to hire Abrams for the Deputy Secretary of State position once he learned that Abrams criticized him during his White House run.

With the in mind, might strong criticism of the President during the campaign turn off Rick Scott, a close ally of Trump’s, specifically when it comes to naming a new Chief Financial Officer?

While there have been a host of names floated as possible contenders (including state Senators Jack Latvala, Jeff Brandes, Tom Lee and Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Rep. Jim Boyd, former interim head of Citizens Property Insurance Tom Grady, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera), Pat Neal, the Manatee County real estate developer and former state lawmaker, is being looked at by many as the top choice to succeed Jeff Atwater.

Atwater announced last month that he would step down as CFO to serve as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Chief Financial Officer at Florida Atlantic University at the end of the Florida Legislature’s regular session in May.

Neal announced last June that he would not be a candidate for the CFO position in 2018, telling the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that he was “dispirited with what I see every morning having to do with the Trump campaign.”

He went on to tell reporter Zac Anderson that he viewed Trump as an incredibly “vulgar” candidate  who “is leading our party off a cliff.”

Neal later told the Times’ Adam Smith: “I, Pat Neal, have never had a bankruptcy, never had a bank default. When you sign a note of bonds, or sell stock with investors the right thing to do is pay them back. Not only did he lose money for people he borrowed from, but for a period there he lost money for his investors, particularly in the casino deals. That isn’t the way you do it, and I would not say he is a credit to the real estate industry.”

When asked to comment, a spokesperson for Scott simply sent the same statement that Scott said when Atwater announced he would be leaving the CFO spot last month.  It was filled with effusive praise for the Palm Beach County Republican, with Scott adding, “The role of the CFO is incredibly important to our state, and I will begin the process to appoint someone to serve Florida families.”

It should be noted that not everyone who has had critical words for Trump has been banned from working with him in his new administration.

Take Rick Perry, Bush’s Secretary of Energy.

On the campaign trail, the former Texas Governor called Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” before ultimately endorsing Trump for president calling the the New York City real estate magnate “one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen.”

2017 Legislative Session preview: Tempered expectations for Duval Legislative Delegation

It’s show and prove time for the Duval County Legislative Delegation.

The whispers inside the St. James Building (Jacksonville’s city hall) are full of doubt and disbelief.

Some are saying they lack experience – and they do. Five of the six House members are rookies.

That’s going to make it difficult to score appropriations victories.

Some are saying the members’ committee assignments are backbench.

That likewise is problematic.

What is clear though: for Duval County, this will be a session of not-so-great expectations.

After last year’s session, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was able to trumpet a variety of wins, from appropriations asks to the pension tax referendum getting through (sponsored in the legislature, notably, by outsiders), as “what winning looks like.”

This time around?

It’s going to be more like playing for a tie.

A symptom of the diminished expectations emerged as early as last year’s meeting of the Duval County Legislative Delegation.

Curry said he needed $50 million of state money to tear down the Hart Bridge offramps into the sports complex area and route traffic onto Bay Street, creating a flow toward the stadium, amphitheater, and other amenities in the area and soon to be there.

Curry got crickets.

Privately, delegation members groused that the ask was too much, with too little detail, and too little advance work.

Soon thereafter, the Curry administration signaled a strategic retreat.

They decided, as per the Florida Times Union, that pursuing state matching funds for septic tank removal – to go along with a shared $30M commitment between the city and JEA over 5 years – would be more “prudent.”

Curry noted last week that he’d been “working with our delegation on priorities I’ve laid out. One of the big ones is septic tank removal. The city’s looking for a match – a big match. That is an issue that’s environmental … that will help us honor promises that were made pre-Consolidation.”

“I’m working with the delegation toward the priorities that I have, and I think we’ll work very successfully,” Curry said.

Recently, FDOT authorized a $250,000 allocation for a study of the issues on the bridge, though with a tightening state budget, it may be twilight for such ambitious infrastructural asks.

Delegation chair Jay Fant is provisionally optimistic, telling this reporter that even though the folks in the delegation didn’t have a lot of tenure, they knew how to get things done.

That may be the case.

But they clearly need to prove that to the mayor’s office, as the big ask of the session – the Hart Bridge ramps – was squashed before it even began.

For his part, Fant tells us that he would have been “happy to carry the bill,” but that the mayor’s office “backed off” because the concept “needed some validation” and wasn’t just a “request and get.”

Fant asserts that the bill may be more salable in committees with more data behind it.

Lenny Curry political committee raises $110K in February

[Updated with new data.]

“Build Something That Lasts,” the political committee of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, raised $110,000 in February.

That sum follows a $63,000 January.

Curry’s committee secured the $110,000 from five donors, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Peter RummellGary Chartrand, and J.B. Coxwell.

While these are usual donors, the committee also got a $25,000 donation from Mori Hosseini, the CEO of ICI Homes who is a noted power player in GOP politics.

For those monitoring Curry’s appeal outside of Northeast Florida, the Hosseini donation is a strong indication of what may be a trend.

Of the $41,355 spent, the vast majority went on consulting fees.

Exceptions to that rule: $5,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and $1,000 to Wilton Simpson‘s campaign account.

All told, the committee has roughly $240,000 on hand.

Rick Scott talks John Delaney leaving UNF, Lenny Curry as CFO

Despite a persistent narrative in Jacksonville political circles that Gov. Rick Scott wanted John Delaney gone from the University of North Florida, and wants Lenny Curry to replace Jeff Atwater as CFO, neither narrative got any traction from Scott’s remarks Wednesday to this outlet in Orange Park.

When asked about Delaney, Scott managed to avoid mentioning the longtime UNF President by name.

“My job is to focus on the entire state, and I have a good Board of Governors and trustees at all these universities,” Scott said.

“I think our presidents are working hard,” Scott continued. “U.S. News and World Report just came out and said that we’re the number one state for higher education, so I’m appreciative of all of them.”

When asked directly if he had any issue with Delaney, the governor said no, throwing cold water on that narrative.

Delaney adamantly denied this narrative, including an affirmative statement this week that the trustees wanted him to renew his contract.

Political friends and enemies that might want to see Lenny Curry gone from the Jacksonville mayor’s office might want to reassess also, in light of less than specific comments from the governor.

“I’m going to pick the right person,” Scott said. “Lenny’s been a good friend and a good mayor. I don’t think CFO Atwater’s even leaving until the end of session.”

In other words: while Curry is not out of the running, there’s no rush for the mayor to look for a house in Tallahassee.

Unlike the Delaney story, the Curry story will continue to develop, in a speculative way, until the governor officially chooses an interim CFO to replace Atwater.

Rick Scott to work Jacksonville media market Wednesday

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will be in the Jacksonville media market Wednesday afternoon, visiting Orange Park for a “Fighting for Florida Jobs” roundtable.

The Scott visit, which addresses the benefits of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, lands in the heart of Rep. Travis Cummings‘ district.

Cummings was among a number of Republican legislators called out in an email to media from Scott’s press shop promoting an op-ed on this very subject.

Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida both have recently gotten support on the other side of the Clay County line.

Paul Astleford of Visit Jacksonville made an impassioned plea for continuing the tourist program this week on a local television newscast.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce both defended Enterprise Florida last week as being necessary to local economic development.

Scott’s visit to Orange Park likely will lead to questions from local media related to a number of other subjects.

One such: the announced departure of President John Delaney from the University of North Florida.

There are those who assert the governor wanted Delaney to move on; Delaney vigorously contests this narrative, saying he heard nothing of that alleged charge from the new trustees or the governor.

Another local question: Scott’s dispensation on the potential of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to replace Jeff Atwater as CFO later this year.

As well, questions about the governor’s trip to Washington D.C., including what dining with Nigel Farage is like, likely will come up in a gaggle setting.

Lenny Curry lunches, talks policy with high school students

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry lunched Monday with students from Lee High School’s “EVAC” program, a leadership class at the Westside school.

EVAC is the word cave spelled backwards; the name represents the students emerging from the issues that can affect children from at-risk environments.

One student, describing the concept, said it was a way toward empowerment. Curry, meanwhile, would like to see the program extended to the entire city over time, with the Lee students as mentors and leaders.

“The big goal is replicate it everywhere. Let’s pick some folks that need to see the light,” Curry said, offering to facilitate.

Ribault High and Ribault Middle may be the first expansion points for the program, which could be a tool in modeling class mobility to those who may otherwise fall through the cracks so familiar to Jacksonville policy makers.

“We look at the news, only see the bad stuff … the thugs and violence … if we can show the positivity,” one student said, there would be a counter to the negative imagery in the mainstream media.

“As a group,” added another student, “we’re beating the odds and accomplishing things.”

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Curry started off the hour by relating to the students, noting that his background didn’t lend itself necessarily to being mayor, but that he had learned the same lessons they had to learn to get to the mayor’s office.

Students talked about their ambitions: an aspirant lawyer, an aspirant neurosurgeon, an aspirant dentist, and even an aspirant United States President were on hand.

Curry noted the importance of staying close to one’s passions, noting that even as a student at the University of Florida, he coached youth football — a trend that continues today, with his own son, who is a quarterback and a linebacker currently.

Coaching is not without its pitfalls. Curry got into hot water with parents at one point for “ranting and raving” on the field, a function of his trademark intensity.

The mayor also vowed to take the students to a Jacksonville Jaguars game … and host them in the skybox.

The mayor also discussed motivation, noting a podcast he listened to over the weekend about the subject of motivation, and tying it into the students’ own struggles.

“I love competing and I love winning, and I’ve learned to channel that into things that are good,” Curry said. “Hard work beats talent all day.”

Curry noted that he started off at a community college post high school: his grades weren’t strong in high school, yet “hard work and discipline” allowed him to become an A student in college.

When asked his vision for the city as a whole. Curry noted his “big-picture goal” is for a “city where every neighborhood knows we have equal opportunities, where young men and women know we love them.”

“I want a safe city with equal opportunity. That’s simple to state, but complicated to achieve,” the mayor noted.

“One City One Jacksonville means we’re all one,” the mayor noted, asking the students for input on his Jacksonville Journey initiative.

“We have to be very targeted,” Curry said of the program that is intended to prevent youth from falling into the behavioral patterns that lead to the criminal justice system.

—-

Curry noted that, during the 2015 campaign, he learned about the disparities in the city — a lesson not lost on his children, who went canvassing with him on occasion.

“What we focus on is the reality we’re in right now,” Curry said. “Focus on what you want to achieve, where you want to go, and what you want to do.”

Curry discussed the difficulties of campaigning city wide.

“It was challenging. We’re the biggest geographic city. A lot of neighborhoods,” Curry said, “but I learned so much and I carry that with me every single day.”

Curry told a story of a 9 year old boy who answered the door and told the mayor about seeing his best friend shot in the street.

“My son never experienced that,” Curry noted.

During the campaign, Curry posed the question: “How many more kids have to die?”

—-

The discussion continued past noon over Pizza Hut and cola drinks, ranging from TED Talks to after-school activities and YMCA access.

As is the case with these discussions, the students started off reserved, then the conversation became more natural as all parties adjusted to the conference room setting.

The program, said another student, “changes your mind … gives you hope.”

The students host roundtables and other events that offer concrete results.

EVAC students have met with everyone from former President Barack Obama to State Attorney Melissa Nelson, and that mentorship gives them hope that, despite the adversity they’ve faced, good things can happen.

Curry advised students to read biographies of historic figures.

“They wanted to win,” Curry said, pointing out that overcoming adversity is key to any of their struggles for greatness.

‘Bring him home’: Jacksonville remembers its missing adults

How long does it take to forget, when a loved one has gone missing?

Those who were on hand in the atrium of Jacksonville’s city hall on Friday morning can tell you.

The answer is indeterminate.

Grieving parents and loved ones were there for one of the more emotionally wrenching events on the city calendar – the Florida Missing Adults’ Day, hosted by the John Rowan Jr. Foundation and the Justice Coalition.

The slogan of the event – “missing, not forgotten” – is a great reminder.

Whether a person went missing in 2015, 2000, or 1982, the search continues.

There is no closure.

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Luckily for most who go missing, and for their families, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has a good clearance rate for adults that go missing.

In 2016, all but four of a total of 823 missing adults were found in Duval County, adding up to a 99.5 percent clearance rate.

Some cases, of course, are more difficult to clear than others – and a recent example of a case of a missing infant who became a missing adult before she was found illustrates the process.

Kamiyah Mobley, located in South Carolina’s Lowcountry recently, was abducted from a local hospital just after she was born.

Almost two decades later, Mobley was found.

The search was exhaustive.

Undersheriff Pat Ivey noted that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had followed up on 2500 leads over the past 18 years.

“By the grace of God,” Ivey said, Mobley was reunited with her birth mother.

—-

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, focused on public safety throughout his time in office, spoke by way of issuing a proclamation.

“I can’t imagine what you are going through … have gone through,” Curry said, before giving yellow roses of remembrance to those still searching

Indeed, for those who have not been through the specific hell of waiting and hoping, of knowing part of one’s heart is gone and knowing there is no fix and scant likelihood of a resolution – much less a good one – it is hard to imagine.

The raw emotion of the event was unmistakable.

Never more evident was it than when John Rowan sang a song for his son who had disappeared 16 years prior, however.

The haunting refrain: “Bring him home, bring him home.”

The Irish tenor voice, with heartache piercing through the notes, echoing off of the cavernous walls of the city hall atrium.

John Rowan, Jr. was declared dead over a decade ago.

Yet his memory lives on. And so does hope, a quality every bit as ineffable and stubborn as faith itself.

Lenny Curry outlines Jacksonville’s legislative priorities, talks pension and Enterprise Florida

This is a pivotal time in Jacksonville’s city hall.

With complete turnover in the city’s delegation to Washington and opportunities created by the new President, majority turnover in the city’s representation in Tallahassee, a revolutionary pension deal currently being approved by the city’s unions, and the imperiled fate of Enterprise Florida, this is a make or break time for Mayor Lenny Curry.

He discussed all these topics with us – exclusively – on Friday.

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Expect more from D.C.: The mayor met with Rep. John Rutherford on Wednesday.

“We caught up … talked JAXPORT, public safety,” Curry said.

In addition to leaning on Rutherford, an ally of long standing, Curry also will take advantage of connections within the Donald Trump administration – including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

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

Jacksonville is uniquely positioned in terms of the Trump administration. Ballard Partners employs Susie Wiles, a city hall veteran and a close ally and friend of Curry, and she will be doing work in the nation’s capital in addition to Jacksonville. And Marty Fiorentino is in Washington right now also, doing consulting for Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The city contracts with both Ballard and Fiorentino on the state level.

“Certainly we have relationships [in D.C.],” Curry said. “I have direct relationships as well with Reince Priebus and others. We have an RFP [in process] regarding lobbying for the feds. Expect to see movement there.”

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Duval Delegation: There have been grumbles from inside city hall about the relative effectiveness of the Duval County Legislative Delegation.

Committee assignments: weak. Bills filed: often ancillary to city priorities. Leverage with leadership: dubious.

However, Mayor Curry was focused on what could be done.

Despite the relative paucity of appropriations requests on many key issues, Curry noted that he’d been “working with our delegation on priorities I’ve laid out. One of the big ones is septic tank removal. The city’s looking for a match – a big match. That is an issue that’s environmental … that will help us honor promises that were made pre-Consolidation.”

“I’m working with the delegation toward the priorities that I have, and I think we’ll work very successfully,” Curry said.

In a related note, Curry’s office announced Friday that the Florida Department of Transportation has committed $250,000 to a study of the Hart Bridge ramps.

Curry rolled out a potential $50 million ask to remove the antiquated ramps, which present public safety and aesthetic concerns, last year to the Duval Delegation.

Traffic would be routed on to Bay Street under the latest conceptual proposal for replacement, creating a direct route into the Sports Complex and a developing entertainment district close to the river.

That request got de-emphasized, however, and looks more likely to be done in a more gradual manner than the mayor’s office initially wanted.

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Pension Deal Will Save the City Money: Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police overwhelmingly voted to approve the city’s pension offer on Thursday.

One union – the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters – is left to approve the pact, which will offer raises to current employees and defined contribution plans to new hires.

Curry was reflective on the process.

“This has been a very long road, this pension reform. Yet we’ve traveled this road aggressively and in a short window. It hasn’t even been a year since the last legislative session,” Curry said.

In fact, the referendum passed less than six months ago – which kicked off the collective bargaining that appears to be reaching its conclusion.

“So we are close. The yes vote by the police membership [shows] they recognize that this is good for them, it’s good for taxpayers, and it’s good for the city of Jacksonville. We’re going to continue to work for the fire membership vote, and the Police and Fire Pension Fund vote, and then the city council vote – and then be done with this,” Curry said, noting that the proposal yokes two of his campaign priorities – public safety and budget discipline.

“When this pension reform is done and final,” Curry said, “our budgets will be responsible and they’ll allow us to fund the things that I said I’d focus on – the things that voters voted me into office on.”

Yet questions remain, still, about whether this plan saves money for the city

The actuarial projections used in 2016, when last released to the public, were predicated on 10 or 12 percent contributions from the city to the employee’s retirement, far short of the 25 percent in the current proposal.

Though the actuarial projections have not been released and likely won’t be for at least a bit longer, Curry contends the plan will save the city money on its public safety retirement plans.

“Right now we’re spending 119 percent of [salary] for [pension costs] for every JSO employee and fireman,” Curry said. “If we hired you today, we would take your salary and put 119 percent of that in the pension fund. That’s not sustainable.”

“25 percent is a fraction of 119 percent. It works. It will attract and retain people.”

“As to when the numbers will be made available,” Curry said, “City Council will have to vote on this, and all of these numbers will be laid out before them, which is how the budget process works.”

“The public will see them, the council will debate it, people will be able to make their opinions known at the time, and I think they’ll have a favorable opinion.”

The Police and Fire Pension Fund will also have the data needed to make a decision, Curry said, before the Mar. 15 deadline.

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Enterprise Florida: Slowly but surely, locals are compelled to take sides on the Enterprise Florida debate.

The JAX Chamber endorsed the concept Thursday. And on Friday, Mayor Curry offered insight as to why.

One issue that many in the Florida Legislature have not considered: for cities like Jacksonville, Enterprise Florida has offered meaningful benefit, as Curry told us.

“Let me speak specifically to Jacksonville and how we work here,” Curry said.

“We use incentives – local incentives and state incentives through Enterprise Florida – and we use them successfully,” Curry contended.

The city’s scorecard, which ensures ROI for taxpayers when incentives are offered, is designed to ensure an “inflow of tax dollars that exceeds that investment.”

“I would say that incentives are important to us. They’re used in a way that respects the taxpayers. Without the state funding,” Curry said, “we would have had trouble closing some of the big deals that we closed.”

“They’re talking about reforms over there [in Tallahassee],” Curry said. “I can tell you how we do business locally. We use our tax dollars in a way that’s responsible to taxpayers, and we’ve been able to use the state incentives the same way. I hope they can figure out a way to continue to give us the opportunity to have access to state incentives.”

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