Lenny Curry Archives - Page 3 of 124 - Florida Politics

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.

Being Jacksonville City Council President suits Anna Brosche

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche is settling into the role, having wrapped her first Council meeting as presiding officer last week.

In that role, she is responsible for more than just presiding over Council meetings. Among other duties, she is chair of Jacksonville’s Tourist Development Council — which likewise met last week.

As well, she is the primary liaison from the legislative branch to Mayor Lenny Curry — like her, a first-term fortysomething GOP CPA. For reasons analyzed at considerable length in recent weeks, that has been a relationship to watch.

In all of these developments, and the other myriad components of being Council President, Brosche is embracing the challenges and the responsibilities of the position.

Brosche describes herself as “loving this new role” and “really happy and excited” about serving as Council President … a position that often can be challenging and draining over time.

Brosche discussed the new role with Florida Politics late last week, offering insights on the process. Below, the highlights:

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Regarding the first City Council meeting, Brosche believes that it went well.

I am pleased with the first meeting. I love the conversation and dialogue, and my colleagues hearing each other out,” Brosche said.

There was, of course, one piece of unfinished business in the meeting: a bill to put an August 2018 referendum repealing the current two-term limit for Jacksonville electeds and replacing it with a three-term allowance was iced until the second meeting in August.

When asked if the bill was viable — something very much in doubt after John Crescimbeni led an effort to cast doubt on the political prudence of the measure — Brosche was agnostic.

“I’m not going to predict where term limits goes from here. It seemed some of my colleagues were interested in gathering information,” Brosche said, “and the body supported their desire to do so.”

The next big moment for this maybe-or-maybe-not movement: Aug. 8, when Councilors Bill Gulliford and Lori Boyer host a public notice meeting, one in which the Consolidation Task Force’s arguments for three terms (which boil down to “institutional knowledge” being accrued over time) likely will be rehearsed.

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Another key moment for Brosche this week: a marathon meeting of the Tourist Development Council, which she now chairs.

Her thoughts were interesting.

Brosche expressed conditional confidence in the marketing plan put forth by the Dalton Agency in partnership with Visit Jacksonville, saying that she is “pleased that we will have metrics to measure impact and success for marketing,” and “look[s] forward to getting a better sense on ROI.”

One potential shift in strategy: Brosche is less sold on the necessity for a physical “visitors’ center” than her predecessor as TDC Chair and Council President, Lori Boyer, is.

“I’m going to have to defer to my tourism experts on brick and mortar. I’m skeptical, and appreciate the RFP is asking for a conceptual plan that includes creative ways of delivering tourist information that may not be brick and mortar, or at least combine tourist information with engaging exhibits about our history or other attractions.”

While tourism is, has been, and will continue to be a challenge for Jacksonville, one thing that is progressing apace: Brosche’s rapport with Curry, with whom she met last week after Curry’s trip to Baltimore and St. Louis in pursuit of downtown development inspiration.

“The Mayor and I talk and meet regularly to cover a host of issues and topics (including downtown development) in the interest of working together to move the city forward and you’ll see lots more of those meetings on the calendar. We talk by phone very regularly,” Brosche said.

Jacksonville Bold for 7.28.17 — Institutional knowledge

If this week’s issue of Bold has a unifying theme, it’s “institutional knowledge.”

What that phrase means, in a political sense: knowing your milieu, learning what you can and can’t do in office. “Passing the torch,” so to speak.

For our area’s congressmen, you will see below how the power of knowing one’s way around Capitol Hill translates into a smoother path to re-election than to the first election.

For Jacksonville’s mayor, it means knowing that whatever blowback might be received in the press for an early-week junket with the city’s leading businessman may be worth the benefit.

And for the folks on Jacksonville’s City Council, the phrase is a double-edged sword.

There are some who believe institutional knowledge is conferred via osmosis … or title. Not the case.

The phrase comes down to being able to manipulate the levers of power — whether one has the title or not.

Institutions, by necessity, function best with stable, merit-based hierarchy. When that hierarchy is subverted, things get interesting.

Al Lawson, John Rutherford pack war chests

First-year Jacksonville-area Congressmen Rutherford and Lawson may have different party labels.

But they both have strong fundraising in the latest campaign finance report, suggesting that either will be tough outs in primaries.

Speaker Paul Ryan backs Rep. John Rutherford, as proven by the most recent campaign finance filings.

Rutherford hauled in over $155,000 off 69 total contributions from January to June 2017; Lawson brought in over $158,000 off 118 total contributions, doing even better than Rutherford.

Rutherford’s committee has over $132,000 on hand, a number offset by nearly $96,000 in debts.

Lawson, still without that Jacksonville challenger, has over $148,000 on hand — a number offset by nearly $79,000 in debts and loans.

Most compelling donor? The political committee of House Speaker Paul Ryan, giving to Rutherford.

Lawson talks ‘blue collar’ outreach

The Tallahassee Democrat was on hand for Lawson’s recent comments at the North Florida Democratic Club’s summer picnic.

Lawson, a Democrat representing Congressional District 5, worries that the party has forgotten its core message.

Al Lawson’s take on where Dems have gone wrong is worth noting.

“Fourteen percent of African-American men voted for Donald Trump. Fifty-three percent of white women voted for Donald Trump,” Lawson said.

“This, we can’t let happen anymore in America. We are the ones who have fought for Social Security, fought for equal pay for women, fought for Medicaid. They are the ones who want to cut,” Lawson added.

Lawson cited the party’s enthusiasm gap with the “blue collar worker,” urging those on hand to reach out to groups that help to consolidate the base.

Mike Williams, Melissa Nelson show up for Ashley Moody

Tuesday was not a great day for the campaign of Rep. Jay Fant for Attorney General — as his GOP primary opponent, Ashley Moody, held a fundraiser in his backyard.

Among the significant attendees are two of the biggest names in #jaxpol: Sheriff Williams, who helmed the host committee; and 4th Circuit State Attorney Nelson — who is not endorsing in this one, but is pictured with the candidate below.

All smiles with Ashley Moody and Melissa Nelson. Picture from Moody’s campaign page.

On the host committee: Gary Chartrand, the charter school impresario, and Nelson supporter; Hank Coxe, one of the leading defense attorneys in the state, and Nelson supporter; Buddy Schulz, another key Nelson ally.

We weren’t on hand, alas … but we did have eyes in the room, and here’s what those eyes saw.

Attendees comprised a “who’s who of Ortega and Avondale” — the heart of Fant’s House district, and a short walk from where he kicked off his own AG money campaign.

Worth watching: how much money Moody harvests from Jacksonville donors, as reflected on her next campaign finance report.

Already, the money race is uglier than 5 p.m. on the Fuller-Warren bridge.

Lenny Curry flies the friendly skies, Shad Khan style

An early-week trip by Jacksonville Mayor Curry and Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa caught the eye of the Florida Times-Union Tuesday … as it was on Jags’ owner Khan’s corporate jet.

Lenny Curry finds the skies to be friendly when flying in Shad Khan’s jet

Described as “a two-day trip to St. Louis and Baltimore to take care of official and political work,” T-U scribe Nate Monroe asserted multiple purposes for the trip, including a discussion of “downtown development.”

“What compelled Curry to take the trip, or who he is meeting with to discuss downtown development ideas or his political career, is not clear,” Monroe writes.

Whether clear or not, Curry and Mousa — in an email exchange — extolled the virtues of the trip so far.

Curry to Mousa: “Let’s debrief quickly after today’s St. Louis trip and tomorrow’s Baltimore on downtown development. We need to discuss design, finance, infrastructure.”

Mousa’s reply?

“Yes, sir. Interesting and creative matters we learned today.”

Likewise opaque: who is paying for the trip.

As it could be another in a series of Khan-tributions to Curry’s “Build Something That Lasts” political committee, the finance report for the committee will be worth watching to see precise valuations and itemizations of Curry’s junket.

Paul Renner to take over Ways and Means

To the victor goes the spoils. Rep. Renner of Palm Coast — fresh off winning the Speaker’s race for 2022 — will get some gavel practice by helming the Florida House Ways and Means Committee.

Paul Renner: a rising star in the Florida GOP, and a future House Speaker.

This role will give Renner some practice with the purse strings, and said practice will be during an interesting year — a watershed election on the state level, with all constitutional offices in play.

Renner, though representing Palm Coast, is very much a Jacksonville guy — a local lawyer who came within two votes of representing Jacksonville itself in the Florida House in 2014.

Jason Fischer: Audit the School Board!

On Monday, State Rep. Fischer proposed a state financial audit of the Duval County School Board on which he served until last year.

Fischer’s take: the district is more concerned about potentially suing over the controversial “Schools of Hope” bill he advocated than it is with getting its “financial house in order,” after recent revelations of spending $21M beyond its budget.

Jason Fischer wants a tighter rein on School Board spending.

Fischer has a backup on the board: fellow Republican Scott Shine, who already has amassed $30,000 for his own re-election bid to the body, “welcomes” such an audit.

In an open letter released Tuesday, Shine wrote that he is “not concerned with the possibility of a Legislative Audit.”

“As I suggested to the board [July 18, we need to institute additional peer review and a Legislative audit can be a part of that review process,” Shine wrote.

Shine also noted that the CFO responsible for the budget imbalance was “removed,” in light of the “considerable mistake” made by the budget office.

Garrett Dennis: More cops, please!

Jacksonville progressives are pushing back against Mayor Curry’s proposal to hire more cops. But City Council Finance Chair Dennis is riding with the Mayor on this one.

Garrett Dennis’ positions meet with the approval of the local police union.

Dennis, who attends roughly a dozen community meetings a month, has “yet to hear that we have too many police officers.”

“I understand their concerns,” Dennis said regarding the JPC position, “but I have yet to hear that at any neighborhood association meeting.”

Many in Dennis’ District 9 experience a certain type of more aggressive policing than do those in neighboring District 14.

Dennis’ take?

“Look at the crime stats, and see what crimes are committed” in each district.

Dennis notes that the crimes that predominate in District 9 are of a certain type: “aggravated assault, drugs, violent crime.”

In District 14, meanwhile, the crimes are of a different type, such as “break-ins and auto thefts.”

“The tactics are going to be different based on the crime,” Dennis said.

Term limits bill on ice

When in doubt, defer.

That was the conclusion drawn by the Jacksonville City Council, which opted to defer action on a controversial bill that, if passed, would allow an almost-certain-to-fail referendum to extend term limits for Jacksonville elected officials, allowing three consecutive terms for all offices but the Mayor.

The bill sailed through committees but stalled out in the full Council — with marginalized Council vets John Crescimbeni, Bill Gulliford, and Tommy Hazouri (all of whom got shafted in committee assignments, and missed out on the debate) cooling enthusiasm among many colleagues.

While bill sponsor Matt Schellenberg got help from Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, Tuesday’s exercise was a reminder of political reality.

While it may be possible to shunt Gulliford, Hazouri, and Crescimbeni to the side, if the three of them are aligned, they make a formidable dissident bloc … one that could make budget deliberations in August and September really interesting for a Council President who got installed via a loose coalition that may have only been viable for the leadership vote.

Jags reach out to region

The Jacksonville Jaguars are redoubling (or re-tripling at this point?) its efforts to build a regional fan base, the Florida Times-Union reports.

The problem, as it’s been historically: the bulk of tickets are sold in Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties. Baker and Nassau: negligible factors. And beyond that? Gets perilously close to Bucs/Falcons/Dolphins country.

Some say only winning will fill the oft-empty seats at EverBank Field.

But they’ve got to keep choppin’ wood, with Gainesville, Tallahassee, Brunswick and even Orlando suburbs in the mix.

People travel to Jacksonville for single games, but as anyone who has been to a Jags game knows, they are often there to cheer the road team on.

The Jags’ goal: to become the Green Bay Packers of the South. Easier to do that with more 11-5 years than 5-11 letdowns.

Opioid Watch

Northwest Florida continues to attempt a response to the opioid crisis crushing the nation.

Action News Jax reports that Baker County Commissioner Cathy Rhoden has a daughter addicted to heroin, and Rhoden hopes to parlay that personal experience into community education.

The addiction crisis knows no borders.

Rhoden’s goal: to start a task force, similar to that already in the county for meth.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville saw a conference of people on the front lines of the battle in the region, and First Coast News was on hand.

The seminar was put on by a Canadian rehab company, Trafalgar Residence.

Clearly dominating the Canadian market, it would appear Trafalgar wants to move south of the border.

Verklempt over Volstead

There’s a tear in A.G. Gancarski’s absinthe cocktail, as his favorite bar — the Volstead — is set to close next month, reports the Florida Times-Union.

The best bar in Jacksonville is about to close, yet another night life casualty Downtown.

The bar has a “farewell affair to remember” Aug. 18, with the final night of operations Aug. 21.

It’s difficult to overstate what Volstead meant downtown. The speak-easy embodied a prohibition era aesthetic, with great drinks and plenty of space to mill.

However, the real utility of Volstead was its proximity to City Hall, as it became the go-to spot for off-the-record conversations between pols and savvy reporters, where the secrets spilled were every bit as delicious as the liquor swilled.

What Aaron Bean is up to in August

On Wednesday, Aug. 2, the Fernandina Beach Republican will speak to the Rotary Club of West Jacksonville for an overview of the 2017 Legislative Session. Event begins 12:30 p.m. at the Florida Yacht Club, 5210 Yacht Club Road in Jacksonville. Then, on Tuesday, Aug. 15, Sen. Bean will also offer another overview for the Rotary Club of San Jose’s meeting, beginning 6 p.m. at the San Jose Country Club, 7529 San Jose Boulevard in Jacksonville.

Save the date: Flagler County GOP election kickoff barbecue

Flagler County’s Republican Club kicks off the 2018 election season with an afternoon of fun, food and fellowship at the Princess place preserve Aug. 19. Special guest is Republican Party of Florida Chair Blaise Ingoglia, who will cut the ribbon on the season at 2 p.m. State Sen. Travis Hutson and Speaker-to-be Renner will be honored for sponsoring the Republican Club Youth Scholarships for 2017-18. Emceeing the event is retired Flagler County Clerk Gail Wadsworth. To order tickets, click here.

Adam Putnam, Renner featured at Florida Chamber veteran summit

Leaders from Florida’s military and defense industry, economic development experts, policymakers and the business community will be at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Military, Defense & Veterans Opportunities Summit Aug. 8 at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld, 6677 Sea Harbor Dr. in Orlando.

The event’s theme is examining challenges facing Florida veterans throughout the next 15-plus years and identify solutions.

Adam Putnam, Paul Renner will be featured at the Florida Chamber veteran summit Aug. 8.

Among the featured guests are state Rep. Renner, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam (as keynote) and retired Brig. Gen. Michael Fleming, who serves as Jacksonville University’s senior vice president of University Relations and Development. Fleming and Renner will also host a panel entitled “Making Connections: Eliminating Obstacles for Veteran Entrepreneurs.”

More information and reservations are at the Florida Chamber website.

Intuition Ale Works sponsoring cart service for events

Jacksonville Business Journal reports that Intuition Ale Works is one of the sponsors of the passenger cart service EZEventRide, which transports physically impaired people and others who need the service to and from events at Veterans Memorial Arena and EverBank Field.

EZEventRide’s 10 carts – which offer free rides – can take people from parking locations throughout the Jacksonville entertainment district.

Founder Bill Guerrant launched EZEventRide in 2014 after noticing an elderly couple struggling to walk nearly a mile from there parking spots to the stadium. Guerrant began in June 2014 after acquiring some golf carts. The company’s 10 carts – which offer free rides – can take people from parking locations throughout the Jacksonville entertainment district, in between the stadium and places like the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Waterfront, the Omni Jacksonville Hotel, Intuition and Manifest Distillery and others.

JTA CEO honored with leadership award

Nathaniel Ford Sr., CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) was honored with the Thomas G. Neusom “Founders Award from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). This award is the highest honor bestowed by COMTO.

Ford accepted the award July 18 at the 46th National Meeting and Training Conference in Detroit, Michigan.

Nathaniel Ford Sr., CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA).

The Founders Award honors public and private transportation executives and policymakers responsible for the direction and operation of their agency and who, through their affiliation with COMTO, have made outstanding contributions toward the growth and development of people of color within the transportation industry and have given continued and outstanding service and leadership to the COMTO organization.

“I am honored and grateful to be recognized by COMTO with this prestigious award,” said Ford. “JTA is committed to workplace diversity and it is evident throughout our operation.”

Frontier Airlines adds flights from Jax to Denver, Cincinnati

Flights from Jacksonville International Airport are expanding as Denver-based Frontier Airlines, a low-cost carrier start nonstop flights from Jacksonville to Denver and Cincinnati starting spring 2018, reports First Coast News. Flights will be on Airbus A320 aircraft.

Up, up and away … from Jax to Denver and Cincinnati.

“We are proud to announce the nationwide expansion of our unique brand of Low Fares Done Right which will empower millions more people to afford to fly,” Barry Biffle, president and CEO for Frontier Airlines, said in a statement.

Jax progs, City Council members spar over police hiring

A major selling point in Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s new budget — 100 more police officers on Jacksonville’s streets — is under fire from the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition.

However, JPC is attempting a ricochet approach; rather than target the Mayor, JPC is aiming its rhetorical broadside at City Council Finance Chair Garrett Dennis.

Dennis’ committee will “kick the tires” on the Curry budget in August, and JPC has been driving calls this week to Dennis’ office, via an urgent call to action.

However, it doesn’t appear that on one of the most ambitious parts of the budget, tires are going to be kicked very hard. When it comes to new cops on the street, Dennis stands with the Mayor, saying the progs haven’t made their case with facts.

JPC notes that, despite the 160 people (80 cops and 80 community service officers) added in the previous two budgets, Jacksonville still sees a convergence of high crime in poverty stricken areas.

Moreover, the local progressives assert that “more police officers does not equal less crime, only more police violence in poor neighborhoods.”

On Monday, Dennis noted that the proposal for more police officers accords with the vision of the Mayor and the Sheriff.

“You can’t police your way out of crime,” Dennis added, saying that “prevention and intervention” programs are necessary.

That said, contrary to the JPC assertions, Dennis says the people in his district want law and order.

Dennis, who attends roughly a dozen community meetings a month, has “yet to hear that we have too many police officers.”

“I understand their concerns,” Dennis said regarding the JPC position, “but I have yet to hear that at any neighborhood association meeting.”

Dennis also addressed the JPC assertion that more police simply translates to more aggressive policing in certain areas,

“If they have the facts to back it up,” Dennis said, “I’d love to see it.”

Dennis notes that “the police will be held accountable” for overstepping legal boundaries.

He also adds that, “if we don’t give the Sheriff the tools [he is asking for], we will be held accountable.”

Thus, a “strong, well-funded program” is necessary, but “it has to be balanced.”

Many in Dennis’ District 9 experience a certain type of more aggressive policing than do those in neighboring District 14.

Dennis’ take?

“Look at the crime stats, and see what crimes are committed” in each district.

Dennis notes that the crimes that predominate in District 9 are of a certain type: “aggravated assault, drugs, violent crime.”

In District 14, meanwhile, the crimes are of a different type, such as “break ins and auto thefts.”

“The tactics are going to be different based on the crime,” Dennis said.

Different patterns of infractions, in Dennis’ reckoning, mean that different approaches to law enforcement may be necessary.

“There’s a higher concentration of certain crimes in District 9,” Dennis asserted. “If there are two different types of crimes, [police] are going to institute two different types of tactics.”

Progressives did show up to City Council, making the expected points about police brutality, a perceived misallocation of resources toward law enforcement, and a general perceived lack of accountability among law enforcement.

Councilman Dennis and Councilwoman Katrina Brown, however, pushed back.

Dennis noted the spend is just 1 percent of the proposed budget, while Brown urged the JPC to dialogue with law enforcement and offer “solutions.”

Christina Kittle — one of the Jax 5 — noted that, especially around the time of the incident with Gary Snow, that they did speak to the Sheriff.

“It’s people like us that are being put behind bars and have our reputations challenged,” Kittle noted. “I think we should start looking at things like rehabilitation programs.”

Northside activist Ben Frazier discussed a “lack of transparency” and “poor accountability” among the JSO.

“Why are you not pushing for this agency to clean up its act? Reforms are needed,” Frazier said, including a civilian review board.

Frazier got no questions from Councilors.

Connell Crooms, another member of the Jax 5 and one who felt physically threatened by the aforementioned Snow — leading to the melee in Hemming Park months back, one which led to Crooms being beaten by a police officer — also spoke.

“The silence from this body on free speech being under attack … has been well noted. Slavery in the United States has taken a new form … a new Jim Crow,” Crooms said.

“We’ve had our humanity stripped from us just for crossing the street … it’s elected officials like Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams, and members of this City Council that divide working communities,” Crooms said, emotion coursing through his voice.

Crooms got no questions from Councilors.

 

Lenny Curry, Sam Mousa discuss trip with Shad Khan

The big #jaxpol scoop of the day dropped early this morning.

An early-week trip by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa caught the eye of the Florida Times-Union Tuesday … as it was on Jags’ owner Shad Khan’s corporate jet.

Described as “a two-day trip to St. Louis and Baltimore to take care of official and political work,” T-U scribe Nate Monroe asserted multiple purposes for the trip, including a discussion of “downtown development.”

“What compelled Curry to take the trip, or who he is meeting with to discuss downtown development ideas or his political career, is not clear,” Monroe writes.

Whether clear or not, Curry and Mousa — in an email exchange last night and this morning — extolled the virtues of the trip so far.

Curry to Mousa: “Let’s debrief quickly after today’s St Louis trip and tomorrow’s Baltimore on downtown development. We need to discuss design, finance, infrastructure.”

Mousa’s reply?

“Yes sir. Interesting and creative matters we learned today.”

Still unknown: who is paying for the trip.

As it could be another in a series of Khan-tributions to Curry’s “Build Something That Lasts” political committee, the finance report for the committee will be worth watching to see precise valuations and itemizations of Curry’s junket.

Are two terms enough for Jacksonville’s public officials?

Back in the early 1990s, the people of Jacksonville voted via referendum to limit city officials to two consecutive terms.

Now, almost three decades later, a Jacksonville City Councilman wants another referendum — to amend that two-term limit, making it three terms for every elected office but that of the Mayor.

In addition to giving another term to City Council members, the measure would afford constitutional officers and School Board members a three-term limit, pending voter approval in a 2018 referendum.

The bill (2017-358), introduced and carried by Finance Committeeman Matt Schellenberg, has been a priority of his for over a year; Schellenberg’s take is that Jacksonville voters are deprived of “institutional knowledge” if their Council members were restricted only to two four-year terms, as has been the case since the 1990s.

Tuesday night will tell the tale as to whether or not that referendum moves forward, as the full City Council gets to vote on the measure.

Last Tuesday, the bill was voted through two committees, Finance and Rules, each with an identical 5-2 margin in support.

Those who backed the bill hit the institutional knowledge talking points.

Councilman Reggie Brown‘s take? “The problem years back is that people lost confidence. Things are coming back now.”

Councilwoman Katrina Brown is willing to do three terms, she said, saying that those who did not want to do so “just don’t run.”

“I know on the Council we look at things in terms of what are citizens going to think, so we don’t look some kind of way,” Brown said.

However, Brown was willing to “look some kind of way” in support of a prevailing principle as important as this one.

Chairman Garrett Dennis found a way to blame the city’s pension crisis on term limits, stating without real proof that removing the experienced council members led to Jacksonville’s pension peril.

The Rules Committee was more measured, but hit the same notes.

There were some objections, of course, such as from Councilman Scott Wilson, who believed the community would “overwhelmingly reject” the measure, given that the public doesn’t like elected officials anymore than they did in the 1990s.

“I don’t see what we’ve done to change their opinion about a third term,” Wilson said.

One important person yet to vote on the measure — Council President Anna Brosche — is ready to push this to the ballot and let the people decide.

“The increase of term limits was a thoughtful recommendation from the task force on consolidated government,” Brosche said, “and I respect the work of the task force. I can see both sides of this issue, and I am not afraid to put this question in the hands of the voters in the form of a referendum.”

Council business being conducted in the shadow of a referendum to remove term limits almost certainly will make for interesting public comment in the next year.

One key player — Mayor Lenny Curry — is officially agnostic on the matter; he told us last week that, for him, eight years is plenty of time in the Mayor’s Office.

Those close to the Mayor are a bit more voluble, with one noting that, in the nascent days of the Brosche Presidency, Council has discussed raising the millage rate and changing term limits.

Two big stories are worth watching on Tuesday night.

One story: does anyone who voted yes in committee flip their vote Tuesday?

Another story: if the measure passes, will the Mayor dust off the veto pen?

Jacksonville Bold for 7.22.17 — Shadow play

For those in Jacksonville City Hall, these are halcyon days (somewhat). The mayor proposed the most ambitious budget in nearly a decade, addressing long-deferred needs.

But, as is always the case in a Florida summer, storm clouds are on the horizon — with quiet assaults on the mayor’s vision.

We cover two of them here: A bill to push a referendum to gut term limits for Jacksonville’s elected officials and a push to hike property taxes.

Both are non-starters for the mayor and — as affronts to his vision — will join a bill from earlier this summer to allocate budget increases to the pension debt.

When the TV cameras find them, everyone is all smiles; on the record, there isn’t much daylight between Lenny Curry and leading City Council members.

However, these bills are meaningful, in that the City Council is staking out significant differences in policy vision with the Mayor’s Office, challenging Curry for the first time in over two years.

This is, to be very clear, a Cold War. No one is giving interesting quotes.

When cameras are off? That’s when s**t gets real.

Curry introduces new Jacksonville budget

On Monday morning, Jacksonville Mayor Curry released his first budget since pension reform passed: a $1.27B budget, up from the $1.2B budget the previous year.

Lenny Curry finally got to spend some money in his third budget.

With budget relief available after pension reform, Curry made the decision to invest in long neglected city infrastructure and employees, spending more than in the previous two years and adding 175 new hires total — 100 on the police side, 42 in Fire and Rescue, and — as a measure of the ongoing economic boom in Jacksonville — eight new building inspectors.

According to the Florida Times-Union, the spending increase is the “result of a strong economy, growing property values and far more flexibility stemming from a complex series of reforms to the city’s employee-retirement system.” Pension debt is now at hundreds of millions of dollars each year, but it is a trend that reforms had reversed, for the short term.

Curry also focused on putting money into contingency accounts for salaries and committed to hiking reserve levels in the coming years. As well, a $105M budget for capital improvements includes plans for a near-term demolition of the old Courthouse and City Hall.

Council President Anna Brosche said the budget was “in line with what we’ve seen” in recent years, lauding the proposed increase of the emergency reserve in light of impacts created by Hurricane Matthew last year.

Curry, compassionate conservative

One of the interesting evolutions in local political life has been Curry’s path from “party boss” of the local and state GOP to a mayor focused on equity.

This week saw multiple examples: the budget (discussed above); the release of a book to be given to new mothers at local hospitals to encourage them to read to their children and a Thursday commencement address for graduates of the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program.

New Jacksonville mothers will get a new book to read to their children.

The remarks were notable as Curry described his own bootstrap narrative, including his career in accounting that he put on hold to launch his own business and then his move into politics.

Curry told the graduates that they would get a lot of advice, from a lot of people, but his one takeaway for the students: “You only get to do this thing called life one time.”

Curry went on to describe a run for Mayor that the smart set attempted to discourage him from. They said Curry couldn’t win: no name ID; no resources, they said.

“The voices were loud and persistent, but I ignored them,” Curry said.

“Want your dreams,” Curry added, “more than you want to breathe.”

Millage hike?

Will Curry break his “no tax hikes” pledge?

He’s not inclined to, but the Jacksonville City Council auditor wants a 0.25 mill raise in property tax, the Jacksonville Daily Record reported this week.

Property tax hikes were not popular in the 2015 elections.

Curry noted that his finance team is 3-for-3 regarding delivering balanced budgets, a deliverable driven by sweeping $60M money from sub-funds in 2015, going lean in 2016, and pulling off pension reform earlier this year.

Finance Chair Garrett Dennis is more open to a millage hike, saying he would “support” it to invest in the city.

The Dennis/Curry dynamic is worth watching this year. In many ways, they are mirror images of each other. Affable, smart politicians who underneath it all play to win. The moments where collaboration falters, as was the case with swimming lessons money this summer, are those that reveal potential fault lines that will occupy city politics for the next generation.

Council to gut term limits?

Pieces on Jacksonville City Council committees are sometimes just inside baseball — bills and concepts that may never come to pass.

And other times, they strike a nerve — such as Tuesday’s pieces on two committees voting to gut term limits via putting a referendum on the ballot.

The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee doesn’t think eight is enough.

As with the millage hike, this is yet another issue where council members seem more enthusiastic than the mayor: it passed both committees of reference 5-2, with lots of self-congratulatory shtick about “institutional knowledge” as a justification for giving incumbents more time to incumb.

In addition to giving another term to City Council members, the measure would afford constitutional officers and School Board members a three-term limit, pending voter approval in a 2018 referendum.

There isn’t universal buy-in on this one, and one could imagine there being trouble for the bill Tuesday.

Councilman Scott Wilson voted against the bill, saying he believed the community would “overwhelmingly reject” the measure, given that the public doesn’t like elected officials any more than they did in the 1990s.

“I don’t see what we’ve done to change their opinion about a third term,” Wilson said.

Wilson, a pragmatist, did not have his question answered in committee. But it should have been.

Donors give Duval County Schools an ultimatum

Several major donors on major education initiatives – worth over $122 million in the past decade – have given Duval School Board members an ultimatum over plans to reduce funding those projects.

The Florida Times-Union is reporting on one such party, the Quality Education for All Fund (QEA), that sent a letter to all seven members of the Duval School Board, threatening to “cut ties with the district” if it reneges on an “implicit understanding” that the district would continue funding the programs.

Educational initiative donors draw line in the sand for the Duval County School Board.

“We in the private community want to continue to honor our part of the Quality Education for All Fund commitment … but only if we can believe that we can count on the underlying partnership that has existed since we began this journey to improve public education for our most at risk students,” said the letter, signed by QEA chair J. Wayne Weaver, a philanthropist and owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Other names on the letter include Gary Chartrand, Lawrence Dubow, Cindy Edelman, Matt Rapp and David Stein.

“If you are not willing to invest in those programs that have proven successful, we must consider that this bond has been broken and we will have no choice but to step back our part of this arrangement until a new understanding can be established,” the letter continued.

To prove their point, the QEA board froze nearly $5 million in contributions from going to the district, Chartrand told the T-U this week. “We think these investments have proven out,” he said. “We asked the board do their part in funding them. If they don’t, it will send a loud signal to the philanthropic community that it’s a one-way street. I don’t know if we can keep the private community as engaged.”

Gwen Graham snags Duval endorsements, talks MMJ

Gubernatorial candidate Gwenn Graham scooped up two key Jacksonville endorsements this week from Councilman Garrett Dennis and former Mayor Jake Godbold.

Gwen Graham got a key pair of Jacksonville endorsements this week.

Graham, who had already been endorsed by former Mayor Tommy Hazouri, nearly crossed paths with another Democrat in the building for another purpose: Sen. Audrey Gibson, Dennis’ political mentor.

The Duval Democrats chair beat a hasty retreat from the cameras, likely mindful of a chair’s need to be neutral in primaries.

Graham talked to media for over a half-hour, with the big news being a more aggressive position on medical cannabis than some may have expected.

The greatest pyrotechnics came when she discussed medical marijuana, and the state Legislature’s lack of fidelity to the Constitutional Amendment passed in 2016.

“I am so sick and tired of the Florida Legislature not doing what the people of Florida have overwhelmingly said they want done,” Graham said regarding the smoking prohibition, putting MMJ in the same bucket with lottery money and Amendment 1 funds, which did not go to Forever Florida this year.

Graham noted the palliative effects of cannabis, and said that it is a “good replacement for opioids.”

Bill Gulliford: ‘Christian Communist’ Pope

Jacksonville City Councilman Gulliford is still sticking to his guns, asserting that Pope Francis indeed is a “Communist,” albeit a “Christian Communist.”

Bill Gulliford, like our own A.G. Gancarski, graduated from Jacksonville’s Bishop Kenny High School.

We reached out to him for further clarification after his take roiled some people last week — and many of his comments came back to schisms in the Church between the conservative American Catholic wing and the “liberation theology” school from which the pontiff hails.

“Liberation theology,” said Gulliford, is a “form of Christian communism,” and one that Francis’ “narratives and pronouncements” still echo.

“All he talks about is social justice,” Gulliford added.

“If he is the head of the Catholic Church, he should put salvation over social justice,” Gulliford continued, adding that “any friend of the United Nations is no friend of mine.”

Murder charges for overdoses?

Murder charges for death-dealing drug dealers? State Attorney Melissa Nelson says yes, but not everyone is on board, the Florida Times-Union reports.

The goal, Nelson told the T-U: “to keep the public safe from those responsible for this deadly crisis” … an appropriate “legal response to the loss of life.”

Melissa Nelson’s latest proposal is not universally-lauded.

However, the T-U notes some issues.

“Beyond the policy questions, there are concerns over the legality of such a prosecution. While Florida’s murder statute allows prosecutors to go after drug dealers in overdose cases, the statute lists what drugs apply, and fentanyl isn’t specifically listed. Just last week Gov. Rick Scott held a ceremony to celebrate the addition of fentanyl to the law, but that addition will only affect cases after Oct. 1 and won’t impact Nelson’s murder prosecution.”

Despite qualms, Nelson commits to exploring this, at least.

“If I’m a drug dealer and I know I’m cutting heroin with fentanyl, and I know I can be prosecuted for murder, I’m just telling you common-sensically, maybe I think otherwise about what I’m doing. If there’s research that shows what I’m saying is off base, I’d like to be able to look at it. I’m telling you something by my gut right now. I can’t point to research that proves what I’m saying.”

Nancy Soderberg hits campaign trail

DeLand is a trek from Northeast Florida, yet that’s where UNF professor and former U.N. Ambassador Soderberg launched her campaign in Florida’s 6th Congressional District this week.

Nancy Soderberg’s rep proceeds her, but does she have the retail politics gear? Open question.

Soderberg has rented an apartment in the district, and her first stump speech as a candidate was — as our Orlando correspondent Scott Powers called it — “moderate Democrat.”

Light on attacks on Republicans, heavy on policy, it’s clear where Soderberg’s base is — old-school ClintonWorld. In a “wave election” year, that might be enough.

Soderberg may need some help with comms though. An email from her campaign, for example, said that when she worked in her DC gig, she “reigned in terrorism” as a negotiator.

Curry boosts Rick Baker

Mayor Curry helped out fellow Republican Rick Baker last month, as the former Mayor of St. Petersburg is running to reclaim his job.

The St. Petersburg mayoral race is arguably the hottest campaign in America right now.

Curry knows that money is oxygen for campaigns. And by helping Baker by raising $25,000, that gives Baker — ahead in most polls — some air.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, which covered activity from June 24 to July 7, Curry and his political allies from northeast Florida donated $18,000 to Baker’s campaign. That’s more than incumbent Rick Kriseman raised from all sources during the same period.

Feeling generous: Gary Chartrand, the Jacksonville Kennel Club, Tom Petway, Wayne Weaver, and others who opted to max out.

Curry’s political committee will also slide $7,000 to Baker’s, adding up to $25,000 in total.

Scott talks Venezuela with Goldman Sachs

Gov. Scott cut a Jacksonville press event a bit short Wednesday, and media was told the governor had a meeting.

Turned out that meeting was important.

No, Rick Scott didn’t drive a forklift to Goldman Sachs …

A re-released copy of Scott’s Wednesday schedule included a new entry: an 11:30 meeting with Jacksonville’s “Goldman Sachs Asset Management.”

We reached out to Scott’s office for more detail; the meeting had to do with Scott’s policy on companies doing business with Venezuela.

“Goldman Sachs Asset Management requested to meet with the Governor … to discuss his upcoming policy to prohibit Florida from doing business with anyone who supports the brutal Maduro regime,” emailed Kerri Wyland of the Governor’s office.

Wyland added that more “details on his policy will be announced before the Aug. 16 Cabinet meeting.”

Scott foreshadowed this position earlier in July, via a strongly-worded news release.

 “During the next meeting of the Florida Cabinet in August,” Scott asserted, “I will bring forward a proposal that will prohibit the State of Florida from doing business with any organization that supports the oppressive Maduro dictatorship.

“Floridians stand with the people of Venezuela as they fight for their freedom, and as a state,” Scott added, “we must not provide any support for Maduro and his thugs.”

Gov. Rick Scott visits Florida Forklift’s new facility in Jacksonville. Florida Forklift is a dealer of new, used and rental forklifts founded as Tampa Forklift in 1974. The new Jacksonville facility will allow the small business to continue its growth and create additional opportunities in the community.

Appointed

Gov. Scott announced two reappointments to the Clay County Development Authority.

Russell Buck, 56, of Middleburg, is the regional vice president of Vystar Credit Union. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland.

Gregory Clary, 65, of Middleburg, is the president of Clary & Associates. Terms of both reappointments are through July 1, 2021.

Rayonier rebuff

Rayonier, one of the key companies in Nassau County, finds itself encountering pushback in an attempt to acquire Tembec, reports the Jax Daily Record.

Rayonier has been in Nassau County for decades.

“Although we appreciate the strategic rationale of a Rayonier-Tembec combination, we believe Rayonier’s current offer significantly undervalues Tembec. If the offer is not increased, we believe Tembec shareholders would be better off if Tembec remains independent,” reads the letter from Tembec’s largest shareholder.

“The price offered to Tembec shareholders does not fully recognize these benefits, nor does it appropriately compensate Tembec shareholders for the increased risk associated with combining with Rayonier,” it said.

City Hall for sale

You can’t fight City Hall. But in Neptune Beach, the Jax Daily Record reports, you soon may be able to buy it.

Prime real estate may be available soon. Mayor and Council not included in the sale.

City Hall out there is in a prime location, a short walk to the ocean. The facility needs repairs also and is too small to accommodate city staffing needs.

And, at a time when property values are peaking, Neptune Beach’s mayor looks to ride the wave.

“We’re sitting here with both of these buildings off the tax rolls in prime locations,” Mayor Elaine Brown said. “I think there’s an opportunity to bring in some more revenue in the form of property taxes and sales taxes.”

Jax Beach Mayor mulls overdose epidemic

Opioid addiction is fast becoming a story that is numbing in the retelling, but anecdotes like those from Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham reveal how deep the epidemic runs.

Latham saw a fentanyl overdose last weekend, reported Action News Jax.

The opioid crisis knows no borders.

The overdose victim was, said Latham, “very purple.” And it took two medics to revive him from the brink of death.

But, via Narcan, he was revived.

“I was in the hospital right when he came around. He acted like it was another day at the office,” Latham said. “Shortly after that, his parents came in, and it looked like, of course, they were facing the worst possible, (worst) imaginable scenario.”

The overdose crisis is hitting Duval County hard, both regarding time and budgetary demands for EMTs and in body count — which exceeds, by multiples, the county’s homicide rate.

Doggone doped-up dogs

BestBet President Jamie Shelton decried “sensationalized” reports of dogs failing post-race drug tests for cocaine metabolites this week.

‘Independent contractors’ to blame for greyhound nose candy.

“We contract with kennel operators that acquire or lease dogs from people who raise greyhounds around the country. They are independent contractors. They are licensed by the state of Florida, and they also receive a badge from us so they can come on to our property to race their product at our facility.” Shelton explained at a Rotary Club meeting, as quoted by First Coast News.

“My oversight of the independent contractors other than me being to ensure that the safety and welfare of the greyhounds while they are in my premises in the kennels and they are being cared for they are being turned out, they are being fed, they are air-conditioned kennels,” Shelton added. “All the things you are asking about, that’s my No. 1 concern.”

BestBet is one of the most politically connected companies in Northeast Florida.

The contractor that supplied the dogs in question no longer works with BestBet.

Naps, jobs cut from CSX

Reforms continue at CSX, per the Jacksonville Business Journal!

The latest: no napping by conductors who are on break, said CEO Hunter Harrison.

“We had a rule that said you could take a nap while you worked,” Harrison told The Wall Street Journal. “We don’t have that now.”

Hunter Harrison: Not a fan of naps, but apparently a fan of layoffs.

The goal: “Precision scheduling.”

The reality Jacksonville people experience: Stalled out trains on tracks stymying their commutes.

Speaking of stalled out: CSX equity price momentum, after what the Journal called a “bombshell” announcement on an earnings call this week.

“I’m a short-timer here,” said Harrison. “I’m the interim person that’s going to try to get this company to the next step and good foundation.”

Harrison pledged 700 more layoffs on the call, a strategy which seems to be helping with earnings in the short term, yet raising long-term existential questions.

Chris Hand talks downtown development

Former Alvin Brown chief-of-staff Chris Hand is now in the byline journalism game and his first column in the Florida Times-Union addresses downtown development.

Chris Hand has joined the pundit class. God help him.

“Downtown revitalization needs a constant supply of fuel to keep running. Unfortunately, the city agency charged with overseeing Downtown revival is nearing an empty gas tank,” Hand notes.

Hand adds that “the DIA has little investment funding to prime the pump on additional Downtown development. The City Council should rectify that worrisome deficiency in this year’s budget process.”

The whole column is worth a read.

JIA opens Firehouse Subs location

Jacksonville-based Firehouse Subs opened its first airport kiosk at Jacksonville International Airport, the latest phase in the rise of the fast-casual food chain.

According to the Jax Daily Record, Firehouse Subs expansion plans include more non-traditional locations, such as U.S. airport terminals, college campuses and military bases.

Firehouse Subs opened its first airport location at JIA July 1, the next phase in the fast-casual brand’s expansion.

The JIA location is located in the post-security food court, with a menu that includes the chain’s staples as well as breakfast options geared toward travelers. It incorporates a revised restaurant design to accommodate smaller spaces.

Robert Palmer buys the Armada

The Jacksonville Armada have been sold. Just seven months after the North American Soccer League (NASL) assumed control of the club when original owner Mark Frisch bailed out, Robert Palmer has stepped into the fold. The new ownership assumes control of the club immediately and secures the long-term future of pro soccer in Jacksonville.

Robert Palmer is making a play in Jacksonville, starting with the Armada.

“While sports ownership has been a dream of mine since I was young, the business opportunity with Armada FC and the NASL was simply too good to pass up,” said Palmer. “I care deeply about the Jacksonville market and have both personal and professional interests in the area. My team at Robert Palmer Companies and I look forward to bringing our proven marketing and business strategies to this outstanding organization.”

A native of Lakeland, Palmer and his wife, Jill, have local ties to the Jacksonville area and have maintained a residence in Neptune Beach since 2007. He is the founder and CEO of Robert Palmer Companies, which is based in Central Florida and is involved in the financing, marketing, and escrow of more than $5 billion in residential real estate.

In addition to RP Funding, Palmer has started several other companies including Homevalue.com, which provides personalized reports on homeowners’ property values from a local real estate agent and Listing Power Tools, a company that helps real estate agents craft the perfect listing presentation, among others.

Palmer is bullish about the market and said at the Press Conference unveiling his ownership,  “You’ll have to be under a rock to not know that the Jacksonville Armada will be playing on any given Saturday .” He continued, ” (We will focus on) aggressive, targeted advertising… these guys know soccer, I know advertising.” Palmer also stated RP Funding ads will include Armada pitches within them. He is also committed to growing the fan base not just in terms of attendance for home matches but also other revenue streams including those who watch away matches on television.

The Armada just concluded the NASL Spring Season finishing in the top half of the table. The Fall Season begins on July 30 with a match-up against the San Francisco Deltas at Patton Park.

Sam Mousa: ‘Another mess’ regarding Jax summer camp funding

“Another mess” in Jacksonville summer camp funding has made its way to the attention of Mayor Lenny Curry and Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa.

This time: a complaint that advance funding wasn’t released to a provider (Us and Our Children) … and that immediate help is needed.

Yolanda Tucker emailed Mayor Curry this week, outlining the organization’s plight.

Twyla Prindle-Ivey and I have been friends for many years so when she asked me to come help her out when her summer camp was funded at the last minute I shifted some things in my business to assist her.  Mrs. Prindle-Ivey has funded the entire 4 1/2 weeks of camp out of her pocket.  She had to borrow money to make her initial payroll, purchase snacks for the kids and other camp necessities,” Tucker wrote.

Of course, Prindle-Ivey was moving forward expecting a reimbursement — but she found out all too late that money was being withheld, Tucker asserted.

“The advance that she has been waiting for the last 4 1/2 weeks would not be deposited tomorrow due to an omission on her insurance policy.  Mrs. Prindle-Ivey has advised me twice that JCC has asked her to change one insurance policy and not the other.  As a twenty plus year contract administrator, I asked Mrs. Ivey-Prindle to bring in the RFP so that I could review it,” Tucker wrote.

The RFP lacked language “that advises a respondent that the verbiage JCC is now asking for is required,” Tucker asserted.

Tucker goes on to suggest that maybe Us and Our Children is being sabotaged in the funding process.

“At this point,” Tucker asserted, “I’m not sure if someone is upset that Us and Our Children received the grant and they are going out of their way to make this difficult for Mrs. Prindle-Ivey (it’s definitely behavior I’ve seen before in a procurement office when someone became upset) or what’s happening but I do know that there are six faithful employees that need to be paid for the past three weeks and I’m one of them.  I literally have $19.36 in my checking account and bills are due.”

Prindle-Ivey is flat broke, Tucker said, and that may put field trips for the children into jeopardy.

Mayor Curry asked Mousa to look into this.

Mousa’s response?

“I’m on it … another mess.”

____

JCC CEO Jon Heymann offered comments with the organization’s side of the story.

He said that JCC got a fully executed contract from City Hall July 19; JCC had executed it on June 23. JCC cannot pay contracts until “fully executed,” Heymann said.

Heymann also asserted that the city’s risk management department works directly with the non-profit to make sure they have the required coverage.

Furthermore, Heymann asserted that “prior to the publication of this article and upon receipt of a fully-executed contract, JCC requested that the city disperse funds to the agency.

So, a happy ending. After what seemed to have been a period of high anxiety for the summer camp provider.

____

Curry has had to deal with the issues related to summer camp funding for weeks now.

The Jacksonville Children’s Commission changed its funding model this year, allocating more money per camper in a pursuit of quality. However, providers got locked out in the process, as fewer campers could be accomodated.

This led to the Mayor and City Council members finding almost a million dollars to allow more campers and more providers to be accommodated.

Curry at the time noted that was an ad hoc solution to the problem, and that reforms were coming — yet those reforms have been delayed.

They were expected as part of the budget process, yet Curry was still mulling next steps.

Now he has another problem to mull.

The Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jax Journey are the two programs that handle programs for underprivileged youth.

Combined, they receive roughly $35M a year — roughly 3 percent of the city budget.

Yet more than 3 percent of the headaches for those on the fourth floor of City Hall.

Jax Councilman’s company: Whistleblower lawsuit lacks merit

Earlier this summer, we reported on a whistleblower lawsuit brought against the non-profit company of Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney.

Former employee Darlene Peoples claimed the company, Community Rehabilitation Center, had “unlawfully terminated” her… after she was allegedly exposed to risk from HIV-positive clients without proper training and licensure.

Peoples asserted that she couldn’t find any recourse via human resources, including a fruitless conversation with Gaffney — the company’s CEO. And she claimed she was told that talking to Gaffney was of no use anyway, as he would just tell her what she wanted to hear to get her out of his face.

This week, Community Rehabilitation Center responded to the lawsuit. CRC is being represented by former Jacksonville City Councilman Jack Webb, and — quelle surprise — the response asserts that the claims made by Peoples are groundless. [CRC response]

In response to Peoples’ claims, the company would merely concede that she was in fact terminated in Duval County, and that she was employed from 2013 to 2016.

Peoples’ claims of “exceptional performance” on her part as an employee were “denied,” per the CRC response.

Likewise denied — most of the substance of Peoples’ claims that she was sent out to deal with HIV+ patients without state mandated training. The response does admit that Peoples voiced concerns to a higher ranking person in CRC, and filed a grievance, but that’s about it.

The affirmative defenses — eight of them, so far — are the crux of the response.

CRC asserts that the plaintiff offered no claim upon which relief can be granted, providing proper training and licensure all the while.

Moreover, CRC asserts that Peoples was terminated for a “non-retaliatory reason”; however, the response does not give detail as to the reason for said termination.

CRC’s attorney, Jack Webb, has become something of a go-to for city officials dealing with legal scrapes.

Last year, Webb was successful in defending Mayor Lenny Curry‘s former chief-of-staff, Kerri Stewart, in an ethics investigation.

Councilman Gaffney told us, when we asked him after the original filing, that he wasn’t involved in day-to-day business at CRC since being elected to the City Council, so he couldn’t speak specifically to the claims, but he asserted they were without merit.

Now it is up to Jack Webb to convince the court of that.

Equal Opportunity criteria to be part of Jax budget review in August

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry introduced the City Council to his proposed FY 17/18 budget Monday, a $1.27B plan heavy on spending on infrastructure and public safety.

Council Finance Chair Garrett Dennis is arguably the most important person in the process going forward; Finance will review the budget in August, tweaking it before the full City Council gets a vote.

One thing new this year was established by a Dennis memo released Thursday (which we reported on first earlier this week) regarding equal employment practices to Jacksonville’s Independent Authorities, the Mayor, and Constitutional Officers.

That memo reminds all parties of diversity goals set forth in city ordinance: “the Equal Opportunity/  Equal Access program progress and state, as is contemplated in Sections  400.217 and 400.221, Ordinance Code.”

“To the extent that new positions or hiring are being requested in the budget,” the memo asserts, “the Finance committee should be apprised of each departments’ success in this area inclusive of the goals and objectives for each department.  We look forward to working with the Administration over the following months to develop the budget and policies for the City of Jacksonville.”

Dennis introduced equal-opportunity legislation months back; as Finance Chair, he is well positioned to ensure that equal-opportunity legislation has teeth.

____

On Monday afternoon, Dennis discussed the budget presentation and the path forward.

“Very optimistic. I think as usual the Mayor is fiscally responsible,” Dennis said when asked for a holistic evaluation of the presentation.

“He’s given us another fiscally responsible budget,” Dennis said, “and it’s our opportunity to kick the tires come next month.”

One priority project in the budget — $8.4M for Edward Waters College improvements (a new field and dorm renovations) — is in Dennis’ district.

Meanwhile, we are hearing that there may be a quiet rebellion brewing on this particular line item benefiting a private Jacksonville college … one which could include a floor amendment on budget night.

Dennis had not heard of such resistance, he said, before speaking to the rest of the question.

“I’m committed to my district, and EWC’s in my district,” Dennis said. “Then again, we have to look at the entire budget.”

“One of the things that as Finance Chair I’m going to have to do — I’m going to have to look out for the other 13 district council members. Making sure that every district, every council member’s priorities are on the forefront, as well as the entire budget. So we’ll have to see … I want to see the budget in whole, not just bits and pieces,” Dennis said.

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