Florida Politics has obtained proof that Karyn Morton, chair of the Republican Party of Duval County, attempted to sway the election for Jacksonville City Council Vice President between Danny Becton and Scott Wilson.
Both Becton and Wilson, who won the race, are Republicans.
However, Morton (who denied having done such when we asked her about it after the vote) texted and called various Republicans on the council, attempting to push Becton over Wilson.
Morton’s take, per a text obtained, was that Becton was more conservative than Wilson.
“Hope we’re on the same page this afternoon on the Vice President of Council vote,” Morton texted a councilman Tuesday.
“As a staunch conservative, Danny Becton is by far the best candidate. And regarding experience, knowledge, abilities with finance, budget, zoning, etc, again I believe Danny is the better choice.”
Morton, not known as a close observer of council business, waded in with unsolicited critiques intended to sway those who know best how the legislative body works.
Councilman Bill Gulliford, one of those lobbied by Morton, objected in the strongest possible terms.
“I find it deplorable that any party chair would stick their nose in council business and even worse that they would pick one party member over another member of the same party,” Gulliford texted Tuesday evening.
“I have never seen this kind of intrusion in the process during my time on the council,” Gulliford added.
At least three other Republican councilmembers were lobbied along similar lines, and they shared Gulliford’s revulsion over the tactics, even as they didn’t want to go on record.
Morton was successful in moving two pledges to Becton: withdrawn VP candidate Sam Newby, who theatrically signed a pledge to support Becton ahead of the vote; and Al Ferraro, a Morton loyalist who had pledged to Newby before Newby withdrew from the race to purportedly focus on his re-election campaign.
A review of those who supported Wilson and those who supported Becton reveals that, in fact, Becton drew half his support from City Council Democrats.
Reggie Gaffney, Katrina Brown, Garrett Dennis, and Reggie Brown, a quartet of Democrats who had voted as a “pack” for Anna Brosche in 2017 and who got rewarded with Democratic control of the City Council Finance Committee as a result, all backed Becton.
Brosche, who supported Becton, told us she was not lobbied by Morton.
Morton’s lobbying, in fact, seemed to have the opposite of the desired effect, driving many of the most respected Republicans to back Wilson — a civil servant since the age of 18 who was a council aide for eight years before getting elected.
Council President-Designate Aaron Bowman backed Wilson.
So too did former Council Presidents Gulliford, Greg Anderson, and Lori Boyer. And second-termers Matt Schellenberg and DoyleCarter were also on Wilson’s side.
Morton was active in lobbying support for Brosche over Democrat John Crescimbeni in the race for Council President in 2017, but her efforts there weren’t what drove the victory for Brosche.
Rather, Brosche’s margin ultimately was sealed by her aforementioned outreach to African-American Democrats, who weren’t sold on Crescimbeni despite the shared party label.
Brosche, mindful of the limited support (and rampant backbiting) for her 2015 bid from the Duval Republicans, was philosophical last year when she discussed Morton’s unexpected support.
“I appreciated having her support and help. At least in the President’s race, she had a Republican running against a Democrat. I’m not sure she had a choice in that race. She’s about supporting Republicans,” Brosche said.
In the 2018 VP race, Morton made a choice between two Republicans, actively undermining the bid of the eventual winner.
Some local Republicans find it curious that, in a year in which Republicans face competition for every slot on the Duval County ballot, Morton is wading into leadership races.
With the political season well underway, the chair of the local Republican Party took an avoidable loss, attempting to strongarm votes of members of a body who believe they are fully capable of deciding who they want to lead them over the next year.
Morton’s decision to intervene apparently happened without active support from the office of Mayor Lenny Curry, who offered support for the new leadership team.
Two weeks ago, the Jacksonville City Council passed a resolution at the request of School Board member Ashley Smith-Juarez backing up its position that a change in state concordance testing changes would lower the city’s graduation rate.
Per WJCT, the new rules would raise minimum standardized test scores needed for graduation, but Mayor Lenny Curry objected to the resolution passed by the Council and the School Board.
At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Councimembers and a School Board member had their say about Curry’s divergence from what they saw as legislative will. His failure to sign kept the resolution from being effective during the debate and decision process on the state level.
Chief of Staff Brian Hughes noted that the Council resolution was passed “on the testimony of a single board member,” as Curry wrote in a letter to the Council..
Hughes met with Gov. Rick Scott‘s chief of staff and others, he said when asked by Councilman Garrett Dennis about whether he consulted with subject matter experts.
Hughes also noted that there were “local contacts,” but the State Board of Education was the ultimate contact, given that Council and the School Board were reacting to its edict.
Dennis said the impact of the bill would be experienced disproportionately by minority students on the Northside; Hughes countered that, four years from now when the new standards take effect, all students will be affected.
Dennis was swayed by Smith-Juarez describing the “economic impact” of the bill, he said, noting that poverty is the driver of myriad social malaises.
“It bothered me. It bothered a lot of people in my community,” Dennis said.
Hughes maintained his position, saying the mayor believed higher standards lead to better results.
Hughes also said that since the bill passed with a veto-proof majority, Curry didn’t veto it.
Councilwoman Katrina Brown noted that the non-signature meant that the bill did not sway the debate, critical since the bill was passed on an emergency basis.
School Board Chair Paula Wright said she sent communications to Curry and Hughes trying to get a conversation, but her efforts were unsuccessful.
“I was disappointed that our city’s leader had decided not to join you in supporting the board,” Wright said, noting that a “forwarded email” was how Wright and others learned about Curry’s position.
Curry did not consult the board, Wright said.
“Had he contacted us, we would have been happy to share … the effects this change has on his most vulnerable constituents,” Wright said.
“The new rule,” said Wright, eliminates the math portion of the state-created Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, which costs less than a dollar to administer, compared to the $60 fees for the SAT or ACT.
As WJCT reported, a “State Board of Education presentation shows the Buros Center for Testing at the University of Nebraska conducted a study on the alignment of the current accepted substitute scores. It found the P.E.R.T to be too easy, saying it measured ‘content knowledge expected of students in elementary or middle school’.”
Councilman Tommy Hazouri, a former Mayor and School Board member, agreed with Wright.
“800 kids will be left behind,” Hazouri said, urging more of a relationship between City Hall and the School Board.
Dennis pressed for a “commitment” from the Curry administration to meet with the School Board to “help our most vulnerable population.”
Hughes said he would be “happy to take the meeting.”
“You have my commitment,” the Chief of Staff said.
One dissenting voice: Councilman Al Ferraro, who noted that Council has no control over the School Board, citing concerns he had about overcrowding and school crossings that the School Board ignored.
“I’ve reached out to the School Board on many things,” Ferraro said. “You haven’t returned our calls.”
The top job starting July 1 in the Jacksonville City Council will go to current Vice President Aaron Bowman, elected President-Designate Tuesday.
There was little surprise: Bowman had 13 of the 19 councilors pledging support to him weeks prior.
President-Designate Bowman, a VP for the Jacksonville Chamber‘s business recruitment wing JAXUSA Partnership, will represent a break from the chaotic, parlous dynamic between current President Anna Lopez Brosche and Mayor Lenny Curry.
Former President Lori Boyernominated Bowman, a Naval Academy alum who went on to run Mayport, lauding his “steady hand.”
“In an election year, when emotions run high,” Boyer said, “a seasoned leader will be valuable.”
Mayor Lenny Curry and his senior staff — seemingly with a stake in the outcome of the uncontested vote — watched proceedings from the green room, coming out as ballots were being distributed.
Curry sat with Bowman’s family.
One interesting anomaly: Councilman John Crescimbeni threw a curve, writing in the name Scott Wilson for President, which caused the dais to break out in laughter. It was an error.
Bowman, in his remarks, noted “excitement beyond belief … uneasiness … and extreme confidence” in taking the helm, vowing that “teamwork” between the council and the Curry administration would define his year.
Bowman also noted “challenges” with the administration this year, saying “we’ve got to do better.”
Curry left the room, staring at the door on his way out.
Meanwhile, the race for Vice President was less of a sure thing headed into Tuesday, with three declared candidates who had little traction between them.
However, action on Tuesday ahead of the vote moved the narrative along, though not in a way that resolved matters until the 3 p.m meeting.
The three hopefuls had pledge meetings Tuesday afternoon ahead of the vote.
Republican Danny Becton had three pledged supporters (himself and fellow Republicans Jim Love and Al Ferraro) ahead of the vote, and added Sam Newby to the mix.
Democrat Tommy Hazouri had two, himself and Democrat Joyce Morgan. Hazouri threw a curveball — announcing his support for Republican Scott Wilson.
Wilson went into Tuesday with no pledges besides himself, but secured pledges from Matt Schellenberg and Greg Anderson in his meeting, giving him three even before Hazouri made his move (with Councilman Bill Gulliford, who had yet to formally pledge but seemed to be leaning Wilson, in the room at the time). John Crescimbeni also pledged to Wilson ahead of the vote via email, adding to the momentum.
Love nominated Becton, while Councilwoman Katrina Brown — being sued by the city for the default of her family business on city grants and loans intended for economic development and job creation — seconded, lauding Becton’s “character” and refusal to “judge a book by its cover.”
Anderson nominated Wilson, noting that his public service started at the age of 18, working for public parking, before moving on to 13 years in Clerk of Courts and 8 years as a council aide.
Morgan, Bowman, Wilson, Boyer, Schellenberg, DoyleCarter, Gulliford, Hazouri, and Anderson went with Wilson, giving him a 10-9 win.
For Wilson, who lost last year by a big margin, and who came into the day with no pledges, it was sweet vindication.
Especially so given that multiple sources assert that Wilson’s own Republican Party backed Becton, attempting to get Republicans on the council to support him over the eventual winner.
While Duval GOP Chair Karyn Morton denied that, sources insist pressure was there.
Gov. Rick Scott was in Jacksonville Tuesday morning, with what his office called a “major announcement” regarding “Florida’s safe communities” and the 2017 FDLE Crime Report.
Crime rates have decreased during the Scott era (from a 40 year low to a 46 year lowand now, a 47 year low), and his trumpeting of the statistical decreases have become a yearly tradition, which allow the outgoing Governor and current Senate candidate to spotlight budget allocations for public safety measures.
“This year, our budget invested more than $5.2 billion in public safety, a more than $300 million increase over last year,” Scott said. “This investment includes $22.8 million to pay increases for state sworn law enforcement officers, which includes the 5 percent raise I signed last year.”
Scott also trumpeted a 10 percent raise for juvenile probation officers, and increased funding for prevention programs for at-risk youth.
“As our economy continues to grow,” Scott said, “we continue to invest more money in law enforcement. These investments are clearly working. Crime in our state is at a 47 year low.”
“The crime rate dropped by 6 percent in 2017, including a reduction in violent crime of 3 percent,” Scott said.
Scott spotlighted a number of officers who have perished since mid-April, including Officer Lance Whitaker of Jacksonville, asking for a moment of silence in commemoration.
Scott was accompanied by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams, who spotlighted local efforts, including hiring more police officers and a 36 percent decrease in non-fatal shootings in Q1 2018.
A major regional endorsement, via Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, went to Mike Waltz in the three-way GOP primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District Monday.
Curry and Waltz share some of the same political advisers, and judging from the quotes of mutual admiration, there is ideological affinity as well.
“Michael Waltz is a leader and a warrior with a servant’s heart,” said Curry.
“From the battlefield to the halls of power, Mike has already demonstrated a deep reverence for the Constitution and a willingness to fight for the conservative values we share. Washington needs people who instead of saying what they want to do will simply get things done. Florida needs more conservative voices in Congress, and that’s why I am proud to endorse and support Michael Waltz for Congress,” Curry asserted.
“Mayor Lenny Curry is a true leader, visionary and champion for real conservative reform,” said Michael Waltz. “He has worked tirelessly to enact a positive conservative agenda with real results for the people of Northeast Florida. I am humbled by Mayor Curry’s support and look forward to working together in the months ahead.”
The GOP race in CD-6, where candidates vie to replace outgoing Rep. Ron DeSantis, has been an interesting one, with Waltz and John Ward both raising serious money for what will be an expensive primary straddling three media markets (Jacksonville, Daytona, and Orlando).
Ward, a Ponte Vedra businessman, was the Q1 cash leader with $709,340 on hand compared to $653,354 on hand for Waltz.
However, Waltz is amassing more high-profile endorsements, including that of Rep. John Rutherford (who also shares political advisers with Curry and Waltz), along with St. Johns Sheriff David Shoar, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, and Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri.
One big endorsement awaits: DeSantis has yet to go public with a chosen successor.
One Democrat, in terms of fundraising, is in the Ward/Waltz neighborhood.
Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations under Bill Clinton, had at the end of March $595,000 on hand. She is keeping pace with the Republicans, without spending her own money on the campaign so far.
Another Democrat, StephenSevigny, had $227,000 on hand.
The 6th Congressional District runs from St. Johns to Volusia counties. It is expected to be a competitive general election this year.
As Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is fond of saying: politics is a “relationship business.”
So, this edition of Bold spotlights the utility of political friendships.
Whether running for Congress or state or local office, you’d better have your friends’ endorsements (well-timed) and the interest of the donor class (early, and often).
In each category, there will be examples of the haves — and have-nots.
File this edition away, come back to it in 100 days or so. You will see a direct correlation (if not causation) between who got the help they needed and who had juice with the voters.
Biden backs Soderberg for Congress
Ambassador Nancy Soderberg rolled out her most high-profile endorsement for her Congressional race yet Monday, with former Vice President Joe Biden backing the Clinton administration alum.
“I’ve known Nancy for three decades since she first started her work in the Senate,” said Vice President Biden. “She is a lifelong public servant who has served at the highest levels of government. At the White House and as an Ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy brokered international peace deals and helped develop and promote U.S. national security policy. She understands what it’s like to bring both sides to the table and solve complex issues. She’s been tested and she’s delivered.”
Biden is “supporting Nancy because she’s a problem solver, and will fight for the values of the 6th District: growing the middle class, creating jobs you can raise a family on, ensuring every family has access to affordable health care and every child can get an affordable education. She has the knowledge and experience to make a difference and get things done for the people of the 6th District.”
Soderberg, meanwhile, is “honored to have the support of Vice President Biden, who has dedicated his life to standing up for American men, women and children.”
Florida’s 6th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Ron DeSantis, extends from St. Johns County south to Volusia on Florida’s east coast.
Dems rally behind Lawson
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson hinted earlier this month about a swath of endorsements from Florida Democratic colleagues in Congress, and Monday he delivered.
In total, eight endorsements came his way: Reps. Darren Soto, Val Demings. Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.
“I am humbled to receive the support of my colleagues as we continue to make our economy stronger, communities safer and produce results that all North Florida families can be proud of,” Lawson said.
These endorsements come at a key time for Lawson. Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville mayor currently primarying Lawson, enjoyed a two-to-one fundraising advantage during the first quarter of 2018.
And that means that Brown has pulled close to incumbent U.S. Rep. Lawson in terms of cash on hand.
For the quarter, Brown brought in $167, 088, while Lawson hauled in $83,866.
Lawson had $100,000 cash on hand at the end of 2017 before Brown got in the race. Now Lawson has just under $160,000 and Brown has just over $127,000.
A. Brown lauds Ramadan; decries anti-Muslim discrimination
As incumbent Lawson collected endorsements, challenger Brown staked out the high ground.
Former Jacksonville Mayor and current 5th Congressional District Democratic hopeful Brown became the first and so far only North Florida candidate this cycle to laud the beginning of Ramadan.
In a statement released this week, Brown lauded the beginning of the annual celebration, while decrying discrimination against American Muslims.
“At sunset, Muslims in my district and across America will begin their monthlong celebration of the holy month of Ramadan. The month is an auspicious time for the Muslim community when the faithful will use the month to not only fast from dawn to dusk each day but also spend time to renew the spirit of their faith,” Brown asserted.
“Our nation is founded on the creed ‘E Pluribus Unum’ and this creed affirms that diversity is our national strength. We celebrate that diversity by recognizing religious pluralism as foundational to our national unity,” Brown added.
“At a time when the American Muslim community is facing unprecedented bigotry and discrimination, I join all Americans of goodwill and conscience to uphold the dignity of all our citizens. May this Ramadan be a source of blessings and joy to all those who choose to celebrate this month. Santhea and I wish all my American Muslim neighbors a very Blessed Ramadan,” Brown concluded.
Gibson stretches lead over hapless primary challenger
Jacksonville political watchers are beginning to wonder about the strategy of City Councilman Reggie Brown, who opted to primary Democratic Senate Minority Leader-Designate Audrey Gibson in August but has not yet actually raised any funds.
Through April, Gibson was far in the lead fundraising wise with more than $132,000 banked, with Brown far behind, closing the month with just $4 on hand.
Gibson has been quiet about her challenger but has committed to fundraising, with strong April receipts measuring over $17,000, pushing her over $156,000 raised and to the aforementioned $132,000 cash on hand.
Gibson brought in receipts from unions, such as the police and fire locals, as well as racing interests, Crowley Maritime, and traditional Republican donors such as John Rood and John Baker.
FOP crosses party lines in state House races
Jacksonville’s local Fraternal Order of Police went bipartisan with its latest swath of endorsements for state House, including choosing a Democrat over a field of Republicans running to replace Jay Fant.
In House District 15, the FOP endorsed Tracye Polson over Republicans Wyman Duggan, Joseph Hogan and Mark Zeigler.
The language of the endorsement lauded Polson’s “dedication to her community.”
Polson is the safest bet of the four candidates in the race, in that she is unopposed for her party’s nomination. Between her campaign account and that of her “Better Jacksonville” political committee, she has raised $211,000, with $135,000 on hand.
The FOP offered two other endorsements in the latest rollout, backing incumbent Republicans over underfunded Democrats.
Democratic opponents in both those races are struggling with real fundraising, which augurs poorly for their challenges to safe Republican seats.
Moran backs Polsonover Republican field
In 2011, which was a different time in Jacksonville politics, Republican Audrey Moran was a strong candidate for Mayor.
Though Moran fell short of the runoff election, her candidacy is still seen by many as an intersection of purpose and politics.
Moran’s days of running for public office appear to be over; however, she is still active in the scene, and crossed party lines to endorse Polson in HD 15.
“Dr. Tracye Polson will bring fresh ideas and strong leadership to Tallahassee,” said Audrey Moran in a statement from the Polson campaign.
“She is smart, collaborative and courageous. Tracye is a first-time candidate for public office and a breast cancer survivor. She knows our community and is ready to fight for what Jacksonville needs. Tracye will represent all of the people in her district and I am proud to endorse her,” Moran added.
“Earning the trust and support of such an influential community presence is an indication our campaign continues to extend its reach, connecting with a wide range of voters including business leaders. Because of her experience and insight, Audrey’s counsel will be invaluable and I am deeply grateful to have her endorsement,” said Polson.
Davis pads coffers, Jackson lags
Duval Democrats are noted for their internal wars, and a good current example of such is the House District 13 Democratic donnybrook between Rep. Tracie Davis and Roshanda Jackson, a former district secretary for state Rep. Kim Daniels.
The Davis/Jackson contest is one of two major primary votes awaiting some Jacksonville voters, the other being Davis’ political ally, Sen. Audrey Gibson, being challenged by Daniels’ ally, Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.
The Gibson/Brown contest is one-sided in terms of cash-on-hand, $132,000 to $4.00 in favor of the incumbent. And at least in the early going, the Davis/Jackson contest is lopsided in favor of the current officeholder.
Davis raised $3,100 in April, pushing her over $40,000 on hand out of $41,815 raised. Her top donors, at the $500 level: AT&T Florida PAC, Florida Dental PAC and Fiorentino Group.
Davis, who had a fundraiser in Springfield Monday evening at Crispy’s on Main Street, looks to have a stronger May than April.
Jackson, meanwhile, has raised $830 in her two months in the race and has $800 of that on hand.
Per LobbyTools, the seat “is safely blue with Democrats outnumbering Republicans 54,686 to 22,554 with another 15,550 registered as independents.”
Developer dosh finds K. Brown
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown has drawn no fewer than seven challengers for her District 8 seat.
Six of them were from her own Democratic Party. One of the challengers died soon after filing, leaving five Democrats and one NPA candidate in the mix.
Brown, who dealt with bad news cycles including issues with her family business defaulting on city-funded economic development loans and grants, and an altercation with local police when a Council colleague was arrested, nonetheless is running for re-election.
And April’s receipts indicate that Brown will have help from developers in her re-election bid.
In her first month of actual fundraising, Brown raked in $7,000, from $500 and $1,000 checks.
Advocates for Business Growth ponied up, as did developers (the Sonoc Company, Leone Development and Nocatee Development, along with Sleiman Holdings), and attorneys interested in development (Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow).
Brown is still in a distant third place in terms of total money raised. The leader, Tameka Gaines Holly, brought in $3,458 in April (much of the money from within the district), leaving her with roughly $19,000 on hand.
Another shot for Daniels
Recent electoral setbacks weren’t the last call for the peripatetic political career of Jacksonville’s Jack Daniels, as he again has filed to run for the Jacksonville City Council.
Daniels, who shares his name with a consumer product, has taken many shots at public office. Yet, despite his efforts, the glass has come up empty time after time.
Still, he continues his efforts. And in 2019, he will get an electoral rematch against District 2 Republican Al Ferraro, the man who beat him three years prior.
Daniels, who raised less than $8,000 for his race, had good ROI: he got 27 percent of the vote.
“Since I hadn’t accepted any political money, my campaign for city council consisted of almost nothing but a year of door-to-door visits. In contrast, since my opponent accepted it, his campaign consisted of paid advice from expert political consultants, continuous paid advertisement promoting his candidacy in the media, numerous paid campaigners for him who made thousands of door-to-door visits to frequent voters, a multitude of campaign signs, many mailings to frequent voters promoting his candidacy, etc.,” Daniels contended.
Despite all of this drama, Daniels endorsed Ferraro — the “opponent.” Daniels told The Florida Times-Union that Ferraro is “a really hard worker, and I think he’d be a very good person to be a council person.”
Daniels begins the race with a considerable financial disadvantage to incumbent Ferraro, who has over $35,000 on hand after raising $7,105 in April.
Sunshine Law charges cloud Council prez race
A public notice meeting Tuesday morning called by Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis addressed “allegations made by Council Vice President Aaron Bowman on the topic of Sunshine Violations for the upcoming Council Leadership vote.”
The vote comes Tuesday; Bowman has the majority of Council’s support pledged to him as he chases the top job.
However, clarity was not to be provided this week, as Bowman was not at the meeting. And neither was the head of the city’s ethics office, Carla Miller, expected to be at the meeting.
Bowman was “told by multiple sources that Dennis has been [negatively] talking about [Bowman’s] leadership endeavor.”
Dennis called the meeting to confront his “accusers,” but except for Council President Anna Brosche, no one was there.
In remarks to the media after the brief, inconclusive meeting, Dennis would not say directly that Bowman violated the Sunshine Law.
“I’ve been instructed by the General Counsel not to say that,” Dennis said.
Dennis, who chairs the Finance Committee, likely won’t have that prerogative next year. Bowman, per Dennis, is a “staunch supporter of the Mayor” — Dennis’ political enemy.
As well, with re-election campaigns looming ahead of the March 2019 “first election,” Dennis may see his opponent backed by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce — for which Bowman is a VP for the business recruitment arm, JAXUSA.
Newby drops VP bid, leaves three candidates
The clouded picture in the race for Jacksonville City Council vice president cleared up Tuesday, with Sam Newby dropping out to focus on his re-election bid.
Newby, an at-large Councilman, faces one opponent thus far for re-election.
The first-term Republican’s exit from the race leaves three candidates standing: Democrat Tommy Hazouri and Republicans Danny Becton and Scott Wilson. And thus far, none of the candidates have galvanized much support.
Hazouri, a political veteran who has been Jacksonville Mayor as well as a State Representative and School Board member, sees the VP role as the logical next level. However, he hasn’t been put in the spotlight during his time on Council, and pledges have eluded him.
Becton, a fiscal watchdog from the Southside, is a Republican in his first-term. Jim Love is a pledged supporter.
Wilson, likewise a Republican in his first term, sought the VP role last year but was steamrollered in the vote by current VP Aaron Bowman.
Council votes on these offices Tuesday, and pledge meetings will take place throughout the next week.
New officers take control July 1.
Bean, Daniels present check to YMCA
State Sen. Aaron Bean joined state Rep. Daniels this week to present a $250,000 check on behalf of the state of Florida to Eric Mann, president and CEO of YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, the YMCA’s Metropolitan Board of Directors and the YMCA’s Senior Leadership Team.
During the 2018 Legislative Session, Bean and Daniels worked together to help secure state funding for teen programming at the James Weldon Johnson Family YMCA in Northwest Jacksonville.
“The YMCA is consistently a leader in advocating for Florida’s youth by providing programs that positively impact their lives and give them the opportunities needed to succeed,” Bean said. “This funding will allow the YMCA to increase programming for at-risk adolescents in the most underserved areas of Jacksonville, which will truly change lives and benefit our entire community.”
Daniels added: “It was an honor working with Senator Bean on the Johnson Family YMCA appropriation … This facility is strategically placed between Cleveland Arms and Washington Heights, which are high crime housing areas. The youth in these neighborhoods will benefit from the program expansion, and I am excited about what is ahead for our community.”
The funding will allow the Johnson Family YMCA to launch new programming and grow programmatic opportunities for teens and pre-teens in Jacksonville’s most disadvantaged areas. The Johnson YMCA will also use the funding to provide life skills training, job and career preparation, health education and summer employment opportunities for teens. These new programs will serve approximately 120 additional youth in the community.
Not so fast on ‘no sale’ bill
On Monday, the Jacksonville City Council’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety committee deferred a bill expressing opposition to selling the local utility, a hot-button issue in recent months.
2018-248, a resolution introduced by Councilors Jim Love, Joyce Morgan and Reggie Gaffney, would put the kibosh on moves to potentially sell JEA.
This discussion comes at a time when moves to sell or privatize all or part of the utility find a phalanx of detractors and no public advocates in the present tense.
Though official positions of both JEA Interim CEO Aaron Zahn and Jacksonville MayorCurry boil down to advocating a pause of some indeterminate length in a discussion of privatization of the utility, many observers of the process do not take those assertions at face value.
The deferral motion from Councilman Love seemed to catch co-sponsor Morgan and Councilman Garrett Dennis by surprise.
Dredge, baby, dredge
The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting bids for the second phase of the harbor deepening project, estimated to cost between $125 million and $200 million.”
This phase, “Project B,” is expected to cost $187 million and will deepen miles 3-8 of the shipping channel.
Project A, still in progress, is expected to be wrapped next year.
Federal funding, which has been in place, is not assured for this part of the project. Jaxport could front the funds in hopes of eventual federal reimbursement.
The dredge, all told, will go from 11-13 miles, deepening the channel to 47 feet.
C. Brown drama lingers
A year has passed since Corrine Brown was found guilty of various counts of fraud and tax evasion related to her former nonprofit, “One Door for Education.”
Brown is imprisoned, yet the appeal process continues, predicated on whether the removal of a juror who claimed to be guided by a “higher power” was the reason she was found guilty.
This week, prosecutors again rejected the proposition that the discharged juror was the difference maker.
“The decision to remove a sitting juror is a significant one that justifiably warrants careful, albeit deferential, review by this (appeals) court,” the document said. “The district court’s decision here handily withstands that review. The court took this issue very seriously and removed the juror only after having carefully considered whether that juror would be able to follow the court’s instructions and decide the case based on the evidence. And the court did so only after having concluded that the juror’s decision — that he had been told by the Holy Spirit before deliberations had even begun, that Brown was not guilty of all 24 charged crimes — was not based on the juror’s evaluation of the sufficiency of the evidence.”
Brown, who was convicted last year on 18 felony counts and sentenced to five years in prison, has focused her appeal on the decision by U.S. District Judge TimothyCorrigan to dismiss the juror.
In another gambling case that could reach the state Supreme Court, a Jacksonville casino is appealing the state’s decision to end its quest for a slot machine license.
Jacksonville Kennel Club, which does business as bestbet, filed a notice of appeal Tuesday to the 1st District Court of Appeal after the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) turned down its application last month. The department regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering.
Any expansion of slots is opposed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which pays the state millions each year for the exclusive right to offer slots at its casinos outside South Florida.
And a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November would require the statewide approval of voters before any expansion of gambling — and its backers say the measure would have retroactive effect.
The crux of the Jacksonville appeal is last May’s Supreme Court decision denying slots to a track in Gretna, Gadsden County, and in other counties that passed local referendums allowing them. Duval was one such county; bestbet Jacksonville wants to add slots to its poker and simulcast wagering.
Jags’ Bortles plays a little defense
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was in the rare position of playing defense last week. Not on the football field, but in his own home.
News4Jax reported that a young neighbor, Joseph Horton, was able to get into Bortles’ truck parked outside his home while the quarterback was hosting a party. The 18-year-old Horton tried to steal the truck, but was unable to navigate through multiple cars belonging to those attending the party.
Not satisfied to take Bortles’ wallet, which was in the truck along with the keys, the teenager went into the house full of partygoers and went upstairs. When no one recognized him, police were called.
When they arrived, Bortles and two friends were standing guard over the young man, who claimed to enter the house in search of a girlfriend. No one had heard of her.
In the end, Horton was arrested, where it was later learned that he lived in a multi-million-dollar home with his parents on the Intracoastal Waterway. He was charged with burglary, trespassing, and grand theft and later released on bond.
A Twitter account called Blake Bortles Facts used the incident to take a gratuitous slap at the Cincinnati Bengals tweeting “Blake Bortles has prevented more truck thefts (1) than the @Bengals have Playoff wins since 1991.”
For the record, the Jaguars and Bengals do not play each other this year.
Among the charges: that the city is contravening the letter and the spirit of open government by slow-walking requests, by vetting seemingly problematic applications with affected officials before fulfilling them, by claiming exemptions from disclosure, by not providing complete email and text records for public officials, and so on.
On Wednesday, Mayor Lenny Curry denied those assertions, a day before city officials took questions from City Council President Anna Brosche‘s “Task Force on Open Government.”
“I’m proud of our record on transparency,” Curry said. “Me, myself, and my administration, we comply with the Sunshine Laws, which result in transparency and when and how you provide information. And so, yeah, I’m proud of our record.”
“Any public record that the media wants,” Curry added, “[that] is in accordance with the law, when asked, is provided.”
After the media panel wrapped last week, one of his OGC colleagues, per the minutes of the meeting, “expressed doubts about the public records obstacles and delays described by the media panel.”
Thursday saw administration officials drawing a narrative of substantial compliance with requests.
Documentation was provided showing that citizens’ public records requests are substantially fulfilled, even as math didn’t always add up. For example, in FY 16/17, 1527 requests were received, with 1478 closed and 61 cancelled (a total of 1,533). And thus far in FY 17/18, 845 requests have been received, with 783 closed and 29 cancelled.
Of course, the issue for media last week wasn’t substantial compliance with media requests, but elided material, or material presented at a prohibitive cost. Included among that latter category: Florida Times-Union requests for applications for the Kids Hope Alliance CEO position (estimated at $170), and requests for emails regarding two specific search terms that resulted in months of negotiation and an invoiced cost of $130 for 4.5 hours of work.
Marsha Oliver, spokesperson for the Curry administration,and Craig Feiser, records custodian from the Office of General Counsel, addressed what Chair Sherry Magill called a “difference of opinion” regarding the internal process of review of sensitive requests and timeliness of response.
Feiser noted, vis a vis the examples, that by and large requests don’t have those kinds of charges enumerated above.
Feiser, who has been on the job for six months, noted that his role is to process media requests in conjunction with the administration.
“We’ve been reasonably prompt,” Feiser said, saying that he had no request that was currently open, and that he offers “advise and counsel” to the administration regarding the release of sensitive requests.
“I can count on less than one hand the times we’ve had … internal discussion about whether something may or may not be exempt,” Feiser contended. “That has not happened very often. I have provided almost every single thing that was requested of me.”
Feiser also contended that occasions in which charges have been estimated have been few and far between.
“I haven’t had any complaints about that,” Feiser said, noting that “the charge hasn’t been much.”
“Frankly, I’m proud of the way things have gone the last six months,” Feiser said, noting that he himself is a “former journalist” who understands “the importance of open government,” and that he and the administration are “absolutely committed” to transparency.
Oliver, who came to city employ from the School Board, noted that the city has a “very specific process” with someone who “knows the law handling it.”
Broad search terms, such as “The Landing,” brought forth 40,000 emails, which created responsivity issues, Oliver said, requiring refinement.
The “review” process, Oliver added, is intended to ensure accuracy and protect confidentiality.
“We have to review every single email,” Oliver asserted.
Feiser added that the costs, roughly $19 an hour for review via a paralegal, are reasonable.
Oliver noted that the city rarely charges for requests, describing the city’s “practices and procedures” as “quite generous.”
Another city lawyer, John Philips, pushed back harder, noting that the city ultimately decides whether something is confidential or not.
An example of confidential information, said Oliver, would be information regarding cybersecurity, which is privileged in light of the “potential threat” to the city. (An example of that: the request from Reuters from earlier this month).
“It’s rare that we’ve done that,” Feiser added.
A task force member noted that internal emails spotlighted Feiser writing to an administration member that “I don’t have a problem giving this to a reporter unless you do.”
Feiser allowed that an administration member could have a “concern,” noting that he may not have chosen that language “carefully.”
Email accessibility, including a complete record of city emails and calendars, was also spotlighted by the task force.
Feiser said he didn’t know of “incomplete calendars” being available, and said he’d told reporters that information that hadn’t been uploaded could be resolved via request.
Oliver noted that the Mayor’s emails are uploaded up to three times a day, a “tool the city’s implemented to facilitate and make that process easier.”
Oliver contended that all emails to the Mayor are made available, and that many of them are grist for story ideas.
A task force member noted that there were no internal emails for days to the mayor.
“For the most part, the mayor does not use email internally to communicate,” Oliver contended. “I have not emailed the mayor in weeks.”
Oliver allowed that Curry “probably” does use text messages, and said the public can request those messages.
Oliver also defended the administration practice of not allowing department heads to talk to press, saying that she doesn’t “support that type of environment” given the inability to refine messaging.
“The goal is to be able to build collaborative relationships with media professionals … to ensure we are aware of the information and the inquiry,” Oliver contended.
Last week, at least one panelist noted that historically access was provided directly, without the conduit.
“I certainly don’t want to open the newspaper to see a department head [taking a position] on behalf of the administration of which we have no knowledge,” Oliver said.
Jacksonville’s tradition of hosting neutral site, destination college football games continues, with city officials announcing an Aug. 31, 2019, clash between Boise State and Florida State.
FSU has made a habit of neutral site games, and the game against Boise State is a compelling interconference matchup between the perennial ACC power and the perpetual Mountain West Conference champions.
Showcase games like FSU vs. Boise State don’t happen on their own. As speakers at Wednesday’s news conference made abundantly clear, a convergence of events, personalities, and passions enabled Jacksonville to get the kind of high-profile event that cities like Dallas and Atlantavie for (and get) every year.
Ed Burr, chairman of the FSU Board of Trustees, is one major player. He was on hand at the news conference and introduced another key FSU personality with a major Jacksonville connection: President John Thrasher.
Thrasher was “delighted … to come back now and announce a major football game at the Gator Bowl,” he said, a reference to the stadium’s familiar, pre-corporate sponsorship name.
Thrasher lauded Jacksonville’s most prominent football fan, Mayor Lenny Curry, calling him an “old friend” from politics who has “obviously gone a lot further than I did.”
Curry, of course, has maximized a synergy with Jacksonville Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan that has seen $88 million in city money poured into infrastructural improvements at Jacksonville’s sports complex: $43 million for the world’s biggest scoreboard during the Alvin Brown administration, and under the Curry administration, half of a $90 million buy-in that secured a new amphitheater, a covered practice field, and club seat improvements.
And more is expected, as the Jaguars have entered into a development agreement with the Cordish Companies.
Back in July, Khan took Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa on a tour of Cordish developments in Baltimore and St. Louis.
Curry referenced the plans during the presser, referencing “innovative things we’ve done,” and the “partnership” with Khan, while alluding to future improvements to come, via “private capital invested in this area over the next ten years.”
“When you look at the plans, the private capital that’s going to go in and around and down here, with retail and entertainment and commercial,” Curry said, “that will be one more big thing that can demonstrate to universities we’re trying to recruit here for big-time college football.”
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Curry said. “Right now, it’s not an annual thing … [but] we’re going to pursue more collegiate football.”
There are good economic reasons for that.
The last neutral site game, a 2016 tilt between Navy and Notre Dame, was estimated to have a $30 million economic impact for the city.
Curry noted that there will be financial incentives in play, but did not have those figures at the media event.
Favorable conditions, in terms of the FSU connections Burr and Thrasher, have allowed for favorable terms. Per JAXSPORTS head Rick Catlett, the teams get no guarantees for this game (money which often equals $5 million a team for these major neutral site contests). But “bowl game prices” will prevail for this matchup, which looks like a preview of the bowl season, but in August.
Catlett expressed optimism that the momentum behind college football in Jacksonville puts the city “back in the national championship hunt.”
Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche may be exploring a run for Mayor, however incumbent Lenny Curry isn’t worried, he said Wednesday.
“I have almost a three-year record in office now,” Curry said. “A strong record of action and getting things done. Big things that I’ve communicated to the public as I’ve tried to tackle them, and I have evidence that they’ve supported me in trying to tackle those.”
“I’m going to continue to pursue the priorities that I’ve laid out,” Curry added, “and make the case to the public.”
“I have the resources to make the case to the public,” Curry said, alluding to having raised $1.75 million and counting in the opening months of his re-election bid.
“I’m going to continue to do that,” Curry said, “and I’m confident that the engagement and interaction I have with everyday people will result in Lenny Curry being mayor, not just through this next year, but in the years ahead.”
Speculation has swirled about a Brosche run for Mayor, including this week when JEA Board member Fred Newbill posited, per the Florida Times-Union, that Brosche’s interest in how the utility is functioning was more political than practical.
“I may be out of order, but in my opinion, she’s going to run for Mayor, and is going to continue to find matters that make us look controversial so they can pull down the <ayor,” Newbill said. “So as a board member, I’m saying if you’re going to run for Mayor, announce your candidacy, but leave JEA out of it. We’re an independent authority. We’re not controlled by you or the <ayor. Let us do JEA business.”
Of course, “JEA business” has been a flashpoint of tension between Curry and Brosche.
Curry was open, at least at one point, to exploring a sale of JEA, a proposal first floated by Tom Petway — a leading Curry supporter from when the Republican first got into the mayoral race.
Petway, leaving the JEA board in 2017, said it was time to explore privatization.
Brosche has contended that the Mayor’s Office leaned on her to expedite legislation that would allow the sale to be explored.
August primaries are close to three months away. Vote by mail ballots will go out sooner than that.
What that means is the time is now for candidates to show what their operations on the state and federal level really look like. And on the local level, where elections are still farther away, it’s infrastructure-building time.
In federal races, we have already seen pretenders separate themselves from ostensible pretenders. State qualifying is next month; some will take passes on those races, too.
Adding to the intrigue: An opening in the Duval County Tax Collector office. While not a thrilling position, it has four candidates (as of this writing) who have real political resumes. And that election, a special, is on the August/November schedule.
As the saying goes, “buy the ticket, take the ride.” Through next May, it’s all elections, all the time — that’s when Jacksonville’s municipal races finally close out.
Rutherford seeks federal penalties for targeting police
Rep. John Rutherford is a congressional co-introducer of legislation to make it an additional federal crime for criminals to attack law enforcement officers.
In addition to any sentences they may receive for the standard crimes, the fact that the crime was committed against a law enforcement officer could add 10 years, or a life sentence if the officer dies, or the perpetrator kidnapped the officer during the course of the crime.
“As a career law enforcement officer and sheriff of Jacksonville for 12 years, I know what officers go through every day when they put on their uniform, say goodbye to their families, and go out on the streets doing the important work of protecting our communities,” Rutherford stated in a news release from his office.
“With an uptick in ambush attacks on law enforcement, like we saw last month in Trenton, Florida, we must ensure that there are steep consequences for anyone who targets our law enforcement officers. The Protect and Serve Act will serve as a significant deterrent for anyone who deliberately targets officers with violence. I want to thank my friend, Congresswoman Val Demings [a co-sponsor and former police chief] for her leadership on this bill and for her support of law enforcement officers across the country.”
The committee brought in $155,000 in April, and much of that money came from other committees.
The “Free Speech PAC” and “Citizens First,” both of 5730 Corporate Way Suite 214″ in West Palm Beach ponied up $40,000 each.
“Florida Jobs Alliance” and “Conservative Choice,” each of which share an address with Sunshine State Conservatives, were in for another $25,000.
These committees all appear to be pass-through committees, with money coming from other committees, and so on.
Also of interest: The contributions, dated April 27, represent a break from previous contribution trends for the committee, which predominantly (though not exclusively) has been from corporate and industry PACs.
The committee doled out $10,050 in April, including contributions to campaigns of Sen. Kelli Stargel, Rep. Joe Gruters, and a secondary Hutson committee, “First Coast Business Foundation.”
More significant spending could be found in March for the committee, which gave $50,000 to the FRSCC, to help with fundraising efforts.
As the race for the eventual Senate leadership continues to unfold, expect more interesting committee transfers … and, if April receipts for this committee are an indication, they will at least sometimes be hard to track.
Yarborough, Byrd pad cash leads
April told a familiar story in House Districts 11 and 12, where Republican incumbents Cord Byrd andClay Yarborough expanded leads over Democratic challengers.
In HD 11, Byrd raised $3,470 in April, bringing his cash on hand to $38,500. Among his donors: the Fiorentino Group.
While less than $40,000 cash on hand doesn’t sound like much, thus far his Democratic opponent (Nathcelly Rohrbaugh) has yet to show real fundraising prowess.
Rohrbaugh raised $560 in April and has $1,010 on hand.
HD 11 is solidly Republican, with 66,830 of them compared to 30,574 Democrats as of 2016.
Though there are rumors that Byrd may face a primary challenger, thus far they have been all sizzle and no steak.
HD 12 saw a similar scenario: an entrenched incumbent continuing to plug away against a Democratic opponent in a deep-red district.
Though Yarborough brought in just $1,000 (and spent more than that on consulting), he nonetheless has over $103,000 on hand.
Yarborough, who was a two-term Jacksonville City Councilman representing a big swath of his current House district, is also one of the better grassroots candidates in the area.
Even with just $1,000 coming in, Yarborough outraised Democrat Tim Yost, who brought in only $745 off eight contributions.
Yost has nearly $4,000 cash on hand.
Polson continues to bank in HD 15
In Jacksonville’s House District 15, Democrat Tracye Polson continues to stack chips in her campaign account, with the hope of flipping the seat from red to blue.
Between her campaign account and that of her “Better Jacksonville” political committee, she raised $36,983.03 in April. The total raised is over $211,000 now, which is far and away the biggest nest egg for any Jacksonville state House candidate, Republican or Democrat.
However, given that the seat was uncontested by a Democrat in recent campaign cycles, and given that in most other local Republican-held seats Democrats are not well-funded, Polson’s campaign stands out as one with sufficient resources to make the race competitive.
“When I got into this race, we knew people wanted change, improvement over the same politicians and lobbyists who fail to provide results that improve the lives of working families in Jacksonville,” Polson said in a media release.
Democrat fundraises for Fischer challenge
House District 16, on the Southside of Jacksonville, is typically a secure Republican hold.
The district leans Republican with a 55,593 to 35,171 voter registration advantage over Democrats, according to LobbyTools.
Rep. Jason Fischer faced no Democratic opposition in 2016. And predecessor Charles McBurney had the same luck.
However, 2018 is a different matter, with Ken Organes carrying the Democratic banner.
Organes, buoyed by $7,500 of his own money, tallied $11,743 off 34 total contributions. Aside from the candidate’s stake, the vast majority of donations were $100 and below.
The former CSX employee still has a way to go to catch Fischer, who recorded no April fundraising either for his campaign account or that of his Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville political committee.
The campaign account has $82,000 on hand, and the committee has nearly $35,000.
Elsbury to replace Korman Shelton
Jacksonville’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Ali Korman Shelton, is moving on as of the end of next week.
And Monday, the office of Mayor Lenny Curry revealed the path forward for the team, with one promotion and two internal hires effective May 21.
Jordan Elsbury, a previous “30 under 30” honoree on this site, will replace Shelton going forward.
Elsbury had already been working with Korman Shelton in intergovernmental affairs. A veteran of the campaign side who moved over to policy when Curry got elected, Elsbury has been a quick study in both the politics and personalities of City Hall.
Additionally, the team will be boosted significantly with two key hires from City Council staff to serve as Council liaisons.
Leeann Krieg, the Council assistant for Greg Anderson, and Chiquita Moore, the assistant for Sam Newby, will be moving over as coequal “Council liaison” positions.
Moore and Krieg will be charged with helping to move the Mayor’s agenda through Council, a process that may get easier at the end of June when Council President Anna Brosche relinquishes the gavel to Curry ally Aaron Bowman.
Incumbent Michael Corrigan is moving on, to become CEO of Visit Jacksonville. His resignation letter suggests that he couldn’t serve his entire term before taking that position.
Providentially, a group of Republican hopefuls, including Councilman Doyle Carter, former State Rep. and City Councilman Lake Ray, and former Councilman and Property Appraiser Jim Overton (who staked his campaign with $51,000) are already filed to run on the Republican side.
One Democrat has filed, and she is a major one: former Councilor and State Rep. Mia Jones.
There will be a special election.
The first election would be on the August ballot. If no one gets a majority of votes, the general election ballot in November would be decisive.
Qualifying for this race will occur between June 18 and June 22.
White ready to replace Carter on Council
Jacksonville City Councilman Carter was already termed out in 2019 before he threw in for the soon-to-be-vacant Duval County Tax Collector position.
And Carter made it clear that he backed his old friend Randy White for the Westside seat.
Like Carter, White is a Republican. And despite the absence of any real competition for the seat, White has maintained consistent fundraising of the sort that would discourage any late-breaking challenge for the political newcomer.
White, now in his sixth month as an active candidate, brought in a relatively modest April haul: $3,700, highlighted by donations from Duval Teachers and Nassau County Fire and Rescue employee funds.
The candidate has raised $83,386 and thus far has spent just $1,402 of that sum.
Conry presses advantage over Boylan
April continued what is becoming a familiar narrative in the two-person race in Jacksonville City Council’s District 6.
Rose Conry still holds the money lead over former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan, as the two Republicans vying to succeed termed-out Matt Schellenberg.
And cash on hand sees Conry with an almost 2-1 advantage.
Conry brought in $8,050 in April, which pushed her over $77,000 raised and $70,000 on hand.
Among notable donors for the first time candidate: Michael Munz and a political committee associated with State Rep. Jason Fischer.
Worth noting: Fischer and Conry share a political consultant, Tim Baker.
Boylan lost ground during the month in the money race, bringing in $6,250, pushing him over $48,000 raised and $36,000 on hand. Not only is Boylan raising less money than Conry, but he’s also spending more of it.
Boylan is in a more precarious position than he might expect. Conry’s political operation is situated to make attacks down the stretch count. He will want to step up his fundraising, lest he becomes unable to counter them.
Soft April for Newby
Jacksonville City Councilman Sam Newby won his at-large seat on the Jacksonville City Council three years ago on a shoestring budget of just over $9,000, defeating a candidate who raised 15 times what he did in the May 2015 unitary general election.
Newby brought in just $4,600, with a $100 personal loan and $4,500 in outside contributions from five donors.
Nevertheless, those donors are noteworthy.
Among them, a “big three” of sorts: the Orange Park Kennel Club, the Jacksonville Kennel Club, and Jacksonville Greyhound Racing.
All three gambling entities gave the maximum of $1,000, as did Sleiman Holdings, which is currently in a legal imbroglio with the city of Jacksonville over busted docks and other issues at the Jacksonville Landing.
These donors suggest that if Newby needs to raise more serious money going forward, he could.
However, he didn’t in April.
Newby has one opponent currently, Democrat Chad McIntyre, who thus far has yet to report fundraising.
Another Bishop belly flop
When then-Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop finished a strong third in the 2015 mayor’s race, the Republican vowed that he would run for Mayor again, before endorsing Democrat Alvin Brown over Curry, the eventual Republican winner.
Both the early declaration of a mayoral redo and the cross-party endorsement of Brown seemed like a safe bet at the time to many.
Bishop has long since abandoned his dreams for the mayor’s office and settled into a bid for an at-large City Council seat.
But fundraising continues to elude him, as another distressing tally in April suggests.
Bishop brought in just $1,225 during the month … much less than he is spending on campaign management ($3,000), via the RLS Group.
April was the second straight month in which the belly-flopping Bishop campaign spent more on campaign management than it raised.
The leading fundraiser in the race, Republican Ron Salem, continued to bank in April. He added $4,000 to his political committee and an additional $2,850 to his campaign account.
The committee has $11,000 on hand after April receipts; Salem’s campaign account, meanwhile, is over $150,000 cash on hand.
New judges in Duval
Two unopposed judge candidates will move on to the bench in Duval, reports the Florida Times-Union.
Assistant State Attorney Collins Cooper, a former Gators kicker who has faced criticism from supervisors over his perceived incompetence, will be one of Jacksonville’s newest circuit judges … Katie Dearing, a respected business attorney and the daughter-in-law of retiring Probate Judge Peter Dearing, was also unopposed and will assume office next year.”
There is one contested election: “Former state Rep. Charles McBurney and former prosecutor Maureen Horkan will face off in an election this fall for circuit judge.”
McBurney, recall, ran afoul of Marion Hammer and the National Rifle Association when he sought a gubernatorial appointment to a judgeship in 2016.
Do they have long memories?
Jacksonville Medical Examiner exits
The “challenging” tenure of “embattled” Duval County Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, per the Florida Times-Union, is at an end.
Rao wrote Gov. Rick Scott last week signaling her intentions.
Rao’s tenure went from bad news cycle to bad news cycle, with early issues of employee turnover due to what the T-U summed up as “conflicts.”
“Rao, ironically, is retiring before she was ever reappointed to the position. She was up for reappointment in 2012, but Gov. Scott never reappointed her. Instead, he said he wanted more names to consider. Eventually, in 2014, the Medical Examiner’s Commission recommended two more candidates, but both ended up accepting other jobs. Since 2012, Rao has served as interim medical examiner.”
Behold, the highlights of a news release on the subject.
Total hotel revenue: up 12 percent year over year. Occupancy: up 3.5 percent. And average room rate is also up $5 year over year, to $96.39.
March hotel occupancy: 82.2 percent, with 462,000 rooms sold in the county, leading to $45.7 million in revenue.
Good news for policymakers counting on the bed tax. Convention traffic has been a driver, with 52 meetings through March locally. Targeted marketing and advertising, per Visit Jacksonville, have worked.
UF Health dumping outpatient dialysis
Tourism may be up … but it’s not helping the fiscal picture at Jacksonville’s UF Health.
In a letter to Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche, CEO Leon Haley notes that the hospital is negotiating to sell its outpatient dialysis service to a national, not-for-profit provider by the end of June.
The seeming deciding factor seems to be that the move is made necessary by what Haley calls “significant federal and state funding shortfalls.”
State funding, per Haley, has dropped by $31 million in the last three years. Additionally, $12.7 million in federal cuts will happen this calendar year.
Feds fund ferry
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority announced Tuesday a $3,356,900 Passenger Ferry Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration.
The money is earmarked for improvements for the ferry slips, the vessel and terminal.
JTA took over the ferry’s ownership and operations two years ago, noted its CEO.
“We have made a lot of improvements since JTA assumed ownership and operations of the ferry on March 31, 2016,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nat Ford.
“Ridership continues to grow, and improvements to the ferry’s infrastructure will continue thanks to grant awards that the JTA has received from the FTA,” Ford said. “With this recent award, the JTA will continue to strengthen the ferry’s infrastructure, and give our riders a safe and reliable service.”
In a media release, JTA thanked Florida’s Senators and Jacksonville’s two Congressmen, Rutherford and Al Lawson, for their work on behalf of the project.
Homeless rights bill filed
The Jacksonville City Council will consider in the coming weeks a “Homeless Bill of Rights,” legislation that will codify civil rights for the city’s dispossessed populations.
Ordinance 2018-308, filed by Councilwoman Katrina Brown, contends that “the basic rights all people should enjoy must be guaranteed for homeless individuals and families,” and attempts to “assure that basic human rights are not being trampled simply because someone happens to be homeless.”
The bill would guarantee the right to move freely for homeless people, as well as rights to be “protected by law enforcement,” to prayer, to voting, to quality emergency health services, to “occupy” legally parked cars, and to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy over personal property.”
Undoubtedly, at least some of the enumerated prerogatives will be major talkers in City Council committees.
A solid month of deliberation over a bill that initially intended to make all of Jacksonville’s public spaces “hit-free zones,” then was gradually watered down to just include City Hall and still make spanking permissible, ended with a 9-9 vote and the bill being killed Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, the bill was deferred, with concerns about everything from “big government” overreach and inhibiting parental discipline to effects on employees tasked with stopping people from hitting each other in offices like the tax collector and supervisor of elections shops.
On Tuesday, despite the changes, the bill couldn’t get over the hump. As has been the case for a month, Council members defended the use of spanking to discipline children during the discussion, while fretting about unintended consequences of the legislative proposal.
Councilman Garrett Dennis, the bill sponsor who has been at odds with the Mayor’s Office, hasn’t been shy about saying that his bills aren’t getting a fair hearing because of City Hall internal politics.
This was the latest example.
Oddsmakers still unconvinced about Jaguars
The NFL draft is history, the first rookie minicamp is yet to begin. The regular season is still four months away. Many of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ players, coaches and management can’t wait.
After coming within five minutes of heading to the Super Bowl and adding some core skill players, the Jags and coach Doug Marrone believe they can take the next step. Those giving odds believe their chance is average at best.
The bookies at Bovada place three AFC teams ahead of the Jaguars and one alongside when it comes to winning the conference championship. The team that kept Jacksonville out of the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots, are again favored to defend their title in the next one.
Bovada has the Patriots as 9-4 favorites to win the AFC, but the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the Jags defeated twice in Pittsburgh last year, are second at 9-2. The Houston Texans face 10-1 odds followed by Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Chargers at 11-1.
As the season progresses, Jacksonville’s odds will improve if the play of quarterback Blake Bortles resembles the Bortles displayed in the playoffs against the Steelers and Patriots.
With the draft providing Bortles with more help on offense, as well as fortifying an outstanding defensive unit, the Jags know they can now play with anyone. With the talent with the confidence and swagger — exemplified by shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey — they have a chance to prove last year was no fluke.
If betting were legal in Florida, the Jaguars might be worth risking a few bucks.