FloridaPolitics.com obtained a copy of what will be a committee substitute for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s previously-filed Kids Hope Alliancebill.
The bill will be introduced by Councilman Scott Wilson on Monday, and will be buoyed with support from four former Jacksonville Children’s Commission chairs.
Former chairs Howard Korman, Richard Sisisky, Toni Crawford, and Michael Munz all affirmed support for the reforms, a priority of the Curry administration.
Korman and Munz are especially politically active members of the donor class.
The Kids Hope Alliance would, as proposed previously, be a seven-person board appointed by the Mayor’s Office, with approval by Council. The board will replace the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey with a single executive branch entity that will consolidate efforts for greater efficiency.
However, there will be significant changes in the proposal, Curry said.
“Since our original legislation,” Curry said, “we’ve had an opportunity to continue our work with various community partners and groups to gain valuable input.”
The official tagline will be “Kids Hope Alliance: the Jacksonville Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families.”
The KHA will, per the bill, be responsible for “utilizing and leveraging the intellectual, organizational, and financial capital available throughout the city,” and will “develop, oversee, and manage … an integrated system of essential children’s and youth programs and services to ensure the future success” of the city’s children and youth.
The board will have a CEO, and there will be five Essential Services Categories; Council will be able to amend these with a majority vote.
Those categories: Early Learning, Literacy, and School Readiness; Juvenile Justice Prevention and Intervention; Out-of-school programming; Preteen and Teen Programming; Mental Health, Behavioral Health, Emotional Health, and Physical Disabilities programming.
The last category is new to the current version of the bill.
There will be some substantial changes to the legislation, made in recent weeks in reaction to conversations with Councilors and stakeholders, while the Mayor’s Office also managed the aftermath of Irma.
“Providers” will be limited to public or private non-profits, and “small providers” will provide services at or under $65,000.
Board members will be required to be permanent residents or have “substantial” economic or philanthropic interests in the city. Curry would appoint the initial chair of the program, whose term would end Jun 30, 2019; from there, the board will select its chair.
Board members can be removed by the Mayor, with a 2/3 vote of Council. The board will also be able to request the Sheriff, State Attorney, and Public Defender to offer yearly assessments of strategic policing and public safety initiatives for youth.
The board would also pick the CEO, and the Mayor would no longer have to concur with their decision — a key assurance of the board’s independence, despite being housed in the executive branch.
Curry is prioritizing business-minded people with big picture visions and strong resumes for board inclusion, similar again to his reformation of the JEA Board. Board members will understand finance and org structure, Curry said, and would understand the necessity of hiring management and staff that understands the mechanics of the services offered.
“A board structure with strong oversight that’s empowered to hire management, one with a focused mission — that’s going to work,” Curry said.
There will be an interim executive director appointed for the six-month period, and one can expect him or her to be a truly transitional, yet respected, figure with experience in these matters; from there, the board of directors will hire someone permanent.
The $131 million capital improvement budget: a cornucopia of one-time spending designed to take advantage of budget relief created by pension reform, fueled by the confidence created by Jacksonville’s strong position with bond ratings agencies.
The 100 new officers were a big talking point in public hearing and comment. They will cost $4.41M to onboard, and 80 officers will be on the streets by the end of the year, with the balance in training. 40 officers would be budgeted for six months, 40 for three months, and there would be 20 other unfunded positions.
However, there was a lot of subtext.
Among said subtext: multiple Council members at war with the head of the local police union; and a number of floor amendments, the most interesting of them put forth by Councilman Danny Becton.
One of those amendments sought to move $8.5M from projects at Edward Waters College (dorm renovations and a new community track and field) to water and sewer projects.
The other amendment: almost $23 million to be moved to pension from two accounts ($8,638,343 from Pension Reserve for an extra pension payment for 2017-2018, and an additional $14,078,555 from Pension Reserve to bolster the contribution further).
All these amendments died for want of a second.
And Becton issued complaints — regarding debt being kicked down the road, and regarding his amendments not getting a hearing.
Becton considered voting against the budget; yet, as he did last year when voting for Jaguars’ stadium improvements, he fell in line in the end.
Pay raise pushback: One minor budget request for pay raises got mayoral pushback.
Council salaries: up from $44,100 to $47,000. Council President’s salary: up from $58,800 to 62,600.
This would happen to rectify a salary freeze in 2010-11, and bring salaries in line with state guidelines.
Mayor Lenny Curry, whose salary was to go up also, issued a statement against that.
“It has come to my attention that Council has amended the budget I submitted to now include pay raises for elected officials, which I had not requested. I want to make clear that I do not support pay raises for elected officials. I have asked Council to consider an amendment to the budget tonight that ensures my salary as mayor will not be increased one cent more than it was on the day I took office.”
Councilwoman Lori Boyer issued an amendment waiving an increase to Curry’s salary. The amendment passed.
Councilman Al Ferraro then issued an amendment to keep Council and Constitutional Officer salaries at the levels set in 2010-11, with the extra savings moved to Council Contingency.
Ferraro’s amendment got pushback, via Councilmen Reggie Brown and John Crescimbeni, and it became clear quickly that it would find its place in the amendment graveyard.
So Councilmembers got their raises in the end.
Becton pension push fails: Becton made his case that the future 1/2 cent sales tax proceeds will only pay a fraction of the $3.2B unfunded pension liability, saying that the burden of the debt would be shifted to the next generation to pay out of the general fund.
Becton’s first amendment failed without a second.
Becton’s second amendment, for $14M more in benefit payments out of “excess funds in the pension reserve account,” likewise died without a second.
EWC money stays in budget: Councilman Becton’s objections to the EWC funding came to a head, finally, on budget night. But it was one of those issues where the political will wasn’t there.
The project, said Becton, didn’t serve the public interest compared to infrastructure issues — such as water, roads, and so on — in much of the city. Hence, the desire to move the money to public works.
There was no second to Becton’s motion.
Reggie Gaffney apologizes, Katrina Brown does not: It appears the incidents of last week, in which Councilman Reggie Gaffney was pulled over for using a tag he reported stolen, are now moving toward the rearview mirror.
As the meeting began, Gaffney apologized, saying he’s “not a perfect man.” And Brown said she didn’t do anything wrong; when asking about police racial profiling, that she was asking questions constituents wanted asked.
Police Union head Steve Zona grabbed a public comment speaker’s card, ensuring that the drama would continue.
Before Zona spoke, local activist Ben Frazier said that the “bully of the bully pulpit” now has “two targets,” referring to the “duly elected” Councilors.
Zona “wants to circumvent the electoral process with a click of the mouse and an email” calling for removal for the Councilors, Frazier said.
Zona gave Gaffney credit for a “genuine, heartfelt apology,” but had more to say about Katrina Brown.
“Not one time did I ever call for her resignation,” Zona said.
Zona also alleged that Brown’s claim that new cops are intended to target the African-American community as “repulsive and disgusting.”
Zona also noted that there was “zero facts” to the claim of racial profiling in the “professional traffic stop.”
“It’s embarrassing for the body as a whole,” Zona said, and calls question as to the “decision process” of Councilwoman Brown.
Local progressive activists rallied around Brown and Gaffney.
While Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was in London with the Jaguars, two members of the City Council were making news, via a Only in Jacksonville scandal one might call “Plategate.”
Jacksonville television viewers spent Friday evening watching footage of Jacksonville City CouncilmembersReggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown accusing local cops of racial profiling.
Gaffney had been pulled over for driving on a license plate he reported stolen in early 2016. Brown pulled up behind him to accuse the officers of racially profiling Gaffney.
From there, things got no better. The head of the local Fraternal Order of Police urged the Councilors to apologize to the police they had maligned, or resign.
With this story providing an interesting counterpoint to a budget night vote where the greatest controversy may involve whether or not the city hires 100 new police officers, we asked Curry whether he lined up with the police union or with two council allies who typically are reliable votes.
“I trust that the Sheriff and people over at JSO will do the right thing,” Curry said Tuesday on Jacksonville’s Northside, “and the process will work.”
The process at this point includes a complaint filed to the JSO Integrity Unit by FOP Head Steve Zona.
“The FOP is obviously disappointed in [Gaffney’s] recent behavior and we will await the outcome of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Integrity Unit investigation,” Zona said Monday.
Action News Jax reported Monday that Gaffney’s tag, in addition to mysteriously reappearing on the Councilman’s car after it was reported stolen, had in fact expired.
Neither Councilman Gaffney or Councilwoman Brown have offered comment in recent days on this matter, but it will be harder for them to shake the press at Council Tuesday night.
As we’ve reported all too frequently, Gaffney and Brown seem to face the most ethical challenges of anyone on Council.
Before his election, Gaffney was dogged by a Medicaid overbilling scandal. After his election, he was popped for double-dipping on his homestead exemption. Meanwhile, his non-profit (Community Rehabilitation Center) is being sued by a former employee who charges she was assigned to work with HIV+ patients without state mandated Ryan White training.
Brown, meanwhile, faces issues ranging from the worst attendance record on the Council to an ongoing lawsuit against her family business from the city of Jacksonville.
The city’s grievance: the two LLCs received almost $600,000 of city grants and loans to create 56 jobs for a BBQ sauce plant.
Alas, the companies fell 56 jobs short of that goal.
The city already got a default judgement of $220,000 for part of the money, and has since requested detailed records, facilitating forensic accounting to determine where the rest of the money went.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry galvanized the community Monday with a brief statement on National Anthem protests at NFL games, such as the Jaguars’ tilt in London.
“I stand and cover my heart for the pledge and the anthem. I think it’s stupid to do otherwise. The US Constitution protects the right for a lot of people to do a lot of stupid things,” was the part that people focused on.
Curry, who has co-branded with the Jaguars both individually and collectively, was asked for more detail Tuesday.
“I said what I have to say. You saw my statement yesterday,” Curry said, adding that he is focused on “storm recovery.”
Curry did fly back with the team from London after Sunday’s game, but it doesn’t appear the Mayor debated with players about the decision to kneel or not.
“We had a nice flight back,” Curry said. “I said all I have to say.”
For Curry, this issue is a political minefield, created after a President of his party whipped up the base at an Alabama political rally by imploring NFL owners to fire protesting players.
As a Republican Mayor who has co-branded with the team and owner Shad Khan early and often, the chasm between the position taken by Khan and the vast majority of NFL ownership and that of President Trump and his adherents is a no man’s land.
Curry has dealt with local blowback after various Trump blasts from the past.
The Mayor spent weeks defending his defense of President Trump declaring that he wanted the U.S. out of the Paris Accord on climate change.
And in 2016, Curry courted controversy by emceeing a Trump rally in Jacksonville; though his portion of the program was early in the evening, Curry took a lot of heat in the media and social media for participating.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars are taking a lot of hits from disgruntled fans in the wake of the protest, despite the biggest win of the Blake Bortles era; it will be interesting to see how anthem aggravation affects the box office when the Jaguars play at home again.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry may assert that National Anthem protests are “stupid,” but Jaguars owner Shad Khan — a key political ally of Curry’s — feels differently.
Curry, who the Florida Times-Union reports flew to London with the Jacksonville Jaguars, had a bird’s eye view of that team protesting the National Anthem … and Shad Khan’s role in that protest.
Sports Illustratedoffered the most comprehensive read yet into Khan’s thoughts Sunday, as numerous Jaguars kneeled during the anthem … with Khan supporting them all the way.
Khan offered support before the protest, said defender Telvin Smith: “It was [a] sigh of relief when the owner comes in and says: ‘We’re with you. Whatever you want to do, let’s do it.”
After the protest, Khan told Smith that he was “going to remember this for the rest of my life.”
Khan, who dropped $1 million on President Donald Trump‘s Inauguration, has clearly become more comfortable with the concept of buyer’s remorse of late.
“I supported him in the campaign because I loved his economic policies and I thought, you know, politicians do a lot of stuff to get elected,” Khan said.
Khan — like many reporters — expected a pivot “to the middle.” No dice.
“But I was appalled, right after his inauguration, how things started out,” Khan said, “being more divisive and really being more polarizing on religion and immigration.”
Khan, a Muslim of Pakistani origin, chose not to kneel — but rejects attempts to censure that behavior, he told SI.
“There shouldn’t be any way to punish, ostracize, or in any way make them feel bad,” Khan said.
“We all need to send a thank you card to President Trump,” he added. “He’s united us all in a very powerful way.”
In recent years, Jacksonville taxpayers have authorized $88 million of city-funded capital improvements to the Jaguars’ stadium: $43 million for the world’s biggest scoreboard, and half of a $90 million buy in that secured a new amphitheater, a covered practice field, and club seat improvements.
Khan has been a frequent supporter of Curry, beginning months after the Mayor’s election.
In July, Curry flew with Khan on a three-city tour, investigating economic development ideas in three cities’ stadium districts. Curry’s political committee, BuildSomething That Lasts, paid for that trip.
It remains to be seen whether this anthem schism will affect that dynamic in any meaningful way.
On Monday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry weighed in on the decision of numerous Jacksonville Jaguars to kneel during the National Anthem Sunday.
A brief statement from his office contended that, while not honoring the pledge is “stupid,” it’s also protected by the United States Constitution.
“I stand and cover my heart for the pledge and the anthem. I think it’s stupid to do otherwise. The US Constitution protects the right for a lot of people to do a lot of stupid things,” Curry said.
“I am a Constitutional Conservative, so I respect the wisdom of our Founders. However,” Curry added, “I am focused on storm recovery, public safety and making Jacksonville a great city.”
Curry — who has co-branded with the Jaguars and owner Shad Khan since his election — is at odds with the team and the owner on an issue for the first time in over two years.
Even before the game, Jaguars and Florida Gators legend Fred Taylor said that everyone in the NFL should take a knee before Sunday’s games.
Cornerback A.J. Bouye, who kneeled, took issue with the President’s description of kneeling players as “sons of b******.”
“It holds close to home with me because what you say about us, you’re disrespecting our mums. I lost my mum to cancer. My step-mum came in, I know she’s not what he’s calling her. She’s got her doctorate from Ohio State.
“When you’re five years old and you’re seeing your dad have a gun pointed at his head because he looks suspicious in the neighbourhood at 6am because he’s dropping his son off at a babysitter, it’s not about race. It’s not about black and white, it’s about right and wrong,” Bouye told the London Independent.
Another defender, Malik Jackson, lauded Jaguars owner Shad Khan for standing with his players, calling Khan’s endorsement “a blessing because you don’t have to worry about that backlash.”
Khan had lamented the “divisive and contentious remarks made by President Trump,” which “make it harder” to heal demographic divisions.
Council President Anna Brosche addressed the controversy on Sunday also, standing in support of the National Anthem, while avoiding discussions of whether or not kneeling was “stupid.”
“As a Navy brat and a Navy wife, whose father and husband have defended our country,” Brosche said from London Sunday afternoon, “my pride for the American flag and all it represents runs deep.
“I appreciate those who stood for the flag and chose to show unity through locking arms, and while I personally would never sit or kneel during the playing of our anthem,” Brosche added, “I also believe in the right of free speech protected by our Constitution, for which our American flag also stands.”
State Senator Aaron Bean faces no opposition thus far, but a Tuesday night fundraiser at EverBank Field suggests the Fernandina Beach Republican is leaving nothing to chance.
Virtually every important northeast Florida Republican is listed on the invite to the event.
Jaguars President Mark Lamping is the most unusual name on a list of co-chairs, which also includes Marty Fiorentino, Paul Harden and Gary Chartrand.
Former Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli and local mega-donor Ed Burr are among the featured names in the list of vice-chairs.
Meanwhile, the host committee includes 29 names, and most of them are impressive.
From state Sens. Rob Bradley and Travis Hutson to state Reps. Jason Fischer, Cord Byrd, Clay Yarborough, Jay Fant, Paul Renner, and Travis Cummings, Bean has his Tallahassee colleagues on lock.
Likewise on the committee: 4th Circuit Public Defender Charles Cofer, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, and former sheriff and current U.S. Rep. John Rutherford.
Though it is exceedingly unlikely that Jacksonville City Councilmen will skip the budget vote Tuesday evening for a fundraiser, Councilmen Doyle Carter and Bill Gulliford likewise are on that same host committee.
Despite a stacked roster, one name is missing — that of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.
To that end, Bean sent a letter to Curry’s office with a handwritten note: “Mayor Curry, Please come! Aaron.”
Notable: Bean and Curry were both in the mix for consideration for an appointment to replace Jeff Atwater as state CFO. Curry withdrew his name from consideration, and the job ultimately went to Jimmy Patronis.
Whether the mayor makes it or not, one has to give Bean credit for persistence.
Bean has been fundraising — and spending — thus far in the 2018 cycle.
Bean raised $10,000 and spent just over $5,000 in August, bringing him over $36,000 on hand. Of that $10,000, $4,000 came from committees associated with insurance agents, and $4,000 more from Florida East Coast Industries and affiliates.
Spending ran the gamut in August, from $4 for parking and $5.35 for a biscuit at Maple Street to $2,500 to Bascom Communications.
After a two-week sabbatical, Jacksonville Bold returns this week — with much of the content dealing with a city battling back from well-documented storm impacts (massive flooding in areas, power outages, et al.)
And, like Bold, the city is coming back.
Before the Jaguars kicked off Sunday, power was substantially restored (though it seemed to have come at the expense of efficiency on offense). Debris is piled by curbs, waiting for pickup. Life is moving on — though some of those who suffered most grievously during the storm are still waiting for a helping hand from government.
The question going forward, into next Tuesday’s budget vote and beyond: How will the city shoulder a second straight year of significant storm-related costs?
The capital improvement program was already big-spending and ambitious ($131M). Other adds were equally bold: a proposal for 100 new cops, and a proposal to spend $8M for capital improvements at the private HBCU, Edward Waters College.
As John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
But that quote was never intended to apply to municipal budgets; however, Jacksonville City Council members will be compelled to balance what happened this month with long-range planning made before Irma was even conceived.
Paul Ryan, Florida delegation talk Irma
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Appropriations Chair Rodney Freylinghausen aren’t usually in Bold, but they are this week — as they visited Jacksonville as part of a three-stop tour with the Florida Delegation to discuss Irma relief.
The national figures didn’t talk to the local press (small market blues?), but Florida U.S. Reps, such as Ron DeSantis, had a consistent message: Northeast Florida cities will get what’s coming to them from FEMA.
“One of the things we’ve been impressing on the federal government is these communities are having to spend a lot of resources on things like debris removal. They need to have that money reimbursed in a timely fashion,” DeSantis said.
“You still have a lot of localities that are waiting to be reimbursed for Matthew,” DeSantis added. “That’s a bureaucratic process that’s got to be improved. We’ve been talking to and engaging FEMA about that.”
Rep. John Rutherford also noted that funds are in fact available … good news for budget hawks in City Hall.
Al Lawson fights for Jax FEMA funds
Last week saw politicians coming through Jacksonville for photo ops and to survey the damage. Perhaps the most unheralded visit was that of Rep. Lawson, who dropped into City Hall last week and talked to the Mayor about getting Jacksonville money … from Hurricane Matthew.
“I talked to the Mayor,” Lawson said, “and what I told him is that I know there’s some $26 million that the city hasn’t gotten from FEMA for the last hurricane, Matthew. That’s one of the things that we’re working on to try to make sure they get those funds, because of the devastation in this area.”
“Our goal is to get the resources down here quickly as possible,” Lawson said.
Regarding backlogs with FEMA payouts, which can take years, Lawson noted that “this hurricane affected the whole state, and one of the things we need to do on the federal level is get that money released earlier.”
Lawson has worked, since beating Corrine Brown in the 2016 Democratic Primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, to build up local bona fides and ward off a potential local challenge. As of the end of June, the first-term Democrat had nearly $150,000 cash on hand for his next campaign.
Lawson promised us that Speaker Ryan would come to visit … and he was as good as his word, as you read above.
Rutledge Pearson Post Office?
Pushing for federal funds is one way Lawson is localizing his approach; pushing to name a local post office after one of the most influential civil rights leaders in regional history is another.
Sunshine State Newsreports that Lawson seeks to rename the Kings Road post office after Rutledge Pearson; this play is backed by most of the Florida Congressional Delegation, with Rep. Ted Yoho the sole Northeast Florida exception.
“Rutledge Pearson, a Jacksonville native, was an American history teacher, civil rights leader and distinguished baseball player,” Lawson said last week. “His legacy in Jacksonville, especially in the fight for civil rights, is long-lasting and this is a fitting way to honor his contributions to our community.”
Pearson was a former head of the state NAACP and instrumental in Jacksonville’s struggle toward integration. He died 50 years ago in a car accident in Tennessee.
Hold my mule
The reviews are coming in for Shirley Caesar’s fundraising gig for Corrine Brown — and the Florida Star, closely aligned with Brown throughout her career, gave Caesar high marks this month.
“Selling out 2,000 seats at Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church. Before Shirley Caesar anointed the attendees with her presence. Guest had the pleasure of enjoying the small business Pop-up shop and praising with live entertainment from Phillip Mercer, Abyssinia Choir, Robert Hayes (Classical Mime), and Najee Ward,” the Star reports.
Nothing like the classical mime to warm up the crowd.
Brown faces sentencingin mid-November. One hopes the anointing doesn’t have a shelf life.
Rick Scott: FEMA could offer ‘advance payments’
More good news and clarity on the reimbursement front.
Florida Gov. Scott is also on board — and may be able to help expedite requests.
“I talked to the Administrator of FEMA about this last week,” Scott said. “They can do advance payments.”
Scott noted caveats, such as “still having to go through the process,” and that — if the reimbursement is not approved — cities have to pay the feds back.
“What I’ve told everybody is get it to our office. I’ll get it to FEMA,” Scott added, “and what they’ve told me was they’d work with cities or counties to [make] advance payments.”
Jacksonville, at last count, has somewhere around $150M between operating and emergency reserve accounts — a good chunk of change in a $1.27B general fund budget, but one with caveats — including statutory minimum levels that must be maintained.
Jacksonville is still awaiting reimbursements from the federal government — 75 percent of an approximate $50 million in storm-related damage. Application technicalities, such as Jacksonville’s local commitments to small and emerging businesses and locational criteria for vendors, apparently are not something the federal government honors.
Duval delegation talks Irma aftermath
“Unprecedented devastation” brought by Hurricane Irma occasioned a special press availability of the Duval Delegation late last week.
Most everyone on hand will go to bat for the district; however, details — beyond a Rep. Jay Fant bill to enhance criminal penalties for looting during states of emergency — were scant.
Rep. Cord Byrd, who represents Duval and Nassau, has spoken with Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. John Rutherford and Speaker Richard Corcoran about pushing the ball forward.
And Rep. Jason Fischer noted that “we as a state should do everything we can to fill the gaps left by” federal and local governments.
We asked Rep. Fant about the Speaker’s dispensation toward Jacksonville pushing for resources, given the tensions regarding Fant’s positions on Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, incentive programs the Speaker and allied vigorously worked to scuttle.
“Legislators may disagree on legislation,” Fant said, but all are “still teammates,” especially in light of the “catastrophic” Irma.
Notable: the Florida Times-Union had two reporters on hand, but ultimately saw little of reportable value in the event.
Did prophets see Irma coming?
We’re not sure if the Duval Delegation agrees with Rep. Kim Daniels about whether prophets saw Irma coming as a manifestation of God’s will. We didn’t have the heart to ask them.
“Nothing happens except God reveal it to prophets first,” Daniels observed as the death-dealing superstorm enveloped the peninsula.
We asked Daniels about these comments. To sum, she stands by the claim.
“I wouldn’t post it on Facebook if I didn’t believe it,” Daniels said, feet away from where a massive relief fund was being rolled out for the storm she said prophets knew would happen.
Her musings are “for spiritually-minded people,” Daniels said, “and you can’t explain spiritual things to carnally-minded people … And I’m sure you won’t understand it.”
We asked Daniels why God would want Irma to hit Florida.
Her response: “You pray and ask God that.”
It was easy to lose track of Northeast Florida political fundraising during Irma’s Hell Week; however, we have you covered.
In fundraising for local 2019 races, Jacksonville City Council candidate Matt Carlucci again outclassed the field; of course, he will be taking a break the next couple of months, dealing with Irma claims in his capacity as a State Farm agent.
Though not a declared candidate yet for re-election, Sheriff Mike Williams’ committee is now over $100K cash-on-hand … with the bail bonds industry offering an assist.
In other committee news, Curry’s committee hauled in nearly a quarter-million dollars in August … and in the process, he paid back Jags’ owner Shad Khan for travel to three cities’ sports districts for eco dev ideas for the Shipyards.
And on the state level, committees for Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Paul Renner likewise had strong hauls. Attorney General candidate Fant struggled, while the man who hopes to replace him in HD 15 — lawyer Wyman Duggan — had a respectable first month of fundraising.
Irma may cost Jax more than Matthew did
Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer, Sam Mousa, was the first local official to give even a rough estimate of local budget impacts from Irma.
They won’t be pretty.
“We’re just beginning the recovery,” Mousa said, noting that damage could be “equal or a bit more than Hurricane Matthew.”
Matthew cost the city $50M in general fund costs, and the city is still out $27M of unreimbursed FEMA costs; Mayor Curry said earlier this summer that the city could handle a Matthew-sized hit to the general fund, though it is uncertain what choices a “bit more” costs would require.
Worth noting: the city estimated, in the wake of Matthew, costs could be up to $100M; that estimate turned out — luckily for the city, given FEMA’s slow reimbursement — to be high.
“We’re still trying to get our arms around infrastructure damage,” Mousa said.
Curry still committed to kids’ program reforms
Of late, Jacksonville’s City Council committees have deferred Curry’s “Kids Hope Alliance” proposal.
But the bill isn’t dead, the mayor says. Rather, it’s being tweaked.
Curry called the Kids Hope Alliance bill “real reform,” saying “I will see it through to the end.”
“I’m not going weak on this,” he added.
Regarding discussion among some legislators that significant changes are needed to the bill to make it palatable, Curry stood his ground, saying the aftermath of Hurricane Irma led to a temporary pause in the reform push.
“I met with experts,” Curry said, “tweaking it. But the delay right now is storm-related.”
“Once we get through this hurricane stuff,” he added, “you’ll see the final bill and a discussion in city council in the near term.”
We asked if the entire seven-person board would be comprised of Mayoral appointees, as was the case in the originally filed legislation.
“I don’t want to speak to the final product until we get there,” Curry said, “but I think you’ll see that it accomplishes the intent that I said needs to be accomplished.”
Jacksonville got national coverage last week for massive flooding in downtown and beyond; while that had the benefit of getting Curry and various local journos into the national spotlight, that came at the potential expense of Jacksonville’s reputation for resilience.
In the Jax Daily Record, veteran journalist Karen Mathisasserts that “efficient recovery” involves getting the business community back on its feet — and that it needs to happen soon … and be messaged.
“Companies that want to expand and create jobs want to know that when disaster strikes, they will be able to quickly resume business and continue their payrolls, which is what their employees want, too,” Mathis writes.
“While Florida, Jacksonville and other cities are moving to reconnect people with access to their daily routines, media headlines might not relay that message nationally,” Mathis adds.
The words “safe at home” had a new meaning in the wake of Hurricane Irma, as one Northwest Jacksonville apartment complex instituted a curfew.
Moncrief Road’s Washington Heights dropped a curfew over the weekend; the goal, “safety” in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Per Action News Jax, the curfew is somehow controversial with residents who had aversions to being locked in their houses past 8 p.m. every evening.
Washington Heights is one of a few Jacksonville complexes owned by Millennia Housing Management: the company took over the reins from troubled Global Ministries Foundation, which didn’t commit capital to physical improvements at complexes it owned around town (indeed, throughout the South).
In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, JEA faced opprobrium over sewage spills. Despite reinforcing its generator fleet, power failed at some locations in Hurricane Irma — and sludge seeped out onto Jacksonville streets.
First Coast News reports that “there were 57 known pollution incidents in Jacksonville during Hurricane Irma. More than 1.5 million gallons of sewage and wastewater was released out into the environment.”
FCN visited spills at a couple of locations, describing “a green, glistening stew of waste floating in the water of the creek and nearby roadside ditches” at one place near Fisher Creek on the Westside.
Jacksonville Councilman Bill Gulliford told us that sewage spills were one point of contention he had with the utility during this storm, in a wide-ranging interview that seemed to suggest JEA could use a different CEO.
When given a chance Monday to make critiques to JEA’s CEO at Council, Gulliford avoided this rhetoric; instead, he cast aspersions at an unnamed colleague, who allegedly gave a code for a Council-only conference call that wasn’t intended to be heard by media to a member of the press.
Meanwhile, Curry — when asked — sidestepped the question of whether JEA Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Paul McElroy deserves a bonus this year.
“Now is not the time” for such a discussion, he said.
Curry urges JEA to improve customer communications and to develop a plan to that end.
What Aaron Bean is up to next week
On Tuesday, Sept. 26, state Sen. Bean of Fernandina Beach will participate in the Leadership Nassau Youth Opening Day Lunch and speak with participants about the importance of leadership and public service. The event begins 11:30 a.m. at the FSCJ Nassau Center, 76346 William Burgess Boulevard in Yulee.
One Spark flickers out for this year
Hurricane Irma is to blame for One Spark being pushed back until next year, WJCTreports.
The festival will be held at EverBank Field in April.
“We have received dozens of requests from applicants who have been impacted for extensions and help,” said One Spark Ventures President Chris Carter.
“Right now, we want to be respectful and mindful of our community and the hardships they face by allowing people the time they need to focus on their homes and families first,” Carter added.
One Spark has been in a gradual process of being scaled back in recent years; the hope is that in 2018 and beyond, the event will break-even.
No charges for Vernell Bing Jr. killer
Jacksonville activists sought charges in the police-involved shooting of Vernell Bing, Jr. — However, a year and a half after Bing’s death, those charges won’t come to pass, First Coast Newsreports.
The lawyer representing Bing’s family notes that civil charges are likely, however.
“While I’m sure folks are going to be very disappointed, very frustrated, that there is another criminal case of a police shooting of a young black man on the streets of Jacksonville, I can tell you we intend — if they didn’t criminally — we intend to hold him accountable civilly,” the lawyer said.
Likely, State Attorney Melissa Nelson will get pushback from local activists, but not the kind that will hurt her appreciably in a re-election bid.
For her part, Nelson noted that “we have conducted a thorough review of this shooting incident and determined the shooting was justified under applicable Florida law. We have established new protocols for both how we review officer-involved shootings and how we report our findings to the public. These new rules include the creation of an officer-involved shooting review team comprising investigators and prosecutors, who collectively, have more than 350 years of experience; the release of a comprehensive report detailing our analyses; and the simultaneous release of all relevant public records. These steps are taken to ensure accuracy in our findings and transparency in our work. This is the type of commitment the public expects and the type this office will maintain for years to come.”
Nelson has developed a pattern of messaging around controversial cases with an exhaustive amount of detail; this is no exception.
Shad Khan makes Forbes list of ‘best business minds’
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan was named one of The World’s 100 Greatest Living Business Minds by Forbes magazine. The magazine compiled the list for a special Centennial issue, which includes Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.
“My business goals have been consistent with my personal goals, and that’s to be distinctive and not only be unafraid of doing difficult things but commit to doing those things well so they can inspire others and make a difference in the lives of everyone,” Khan is quoted in the piece.
In addition to owning the Jaguars, Khan is CEO of auto-parts supplier Flex-N-Gate Corp., owns London’s Fulham Football Club and the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.
Khan bought the Jaguars in 2012 for $770 million, and according to Forbes, the club is now worth over $2 billion.
Jax Zoo Manatee Critical-Care Center welcomes first patients
Two manatees became the first patients at the new Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens $2 million Critical Care Center.
Dahlia Ghabor of the Jacksonville Business Journal reports: “Cassie and Buckeye weighed only 66 and 63 pounds when they were rescued. Now, Cassie is at 775 pounds and Buckeye at 625. The manatees will remain at the Jacksonville care center to continue their critical weight gain and monitoring until they are ready to be released in the winter.”
While the Center — one of four in the state — is not an actual zoo exhibit, visitors can view the recovery pool, which is adjacent to the Wild Florida exhibit.
Craig Miller, the Zoo’s curator of mammals and chair of the Manatee Rescue Rehabilitation Partnership and leader of the zoo’s Marine Mammal Response Team, tells the TBJ that the facility will help reduce transport time for injured manatees back to warm water release sites.
“I get the sense from talking to guests that the community is pretty excited about this, because it’s something in their backyard,” Miller said. “We’re pretty excited about being able to help these wild animals. That’s what it’s all about for so many of us in this field.”
Armada suffer historic collapse in 3-3 draw vs New York
For most of the match in Brooklyn Sunday night, the Jacksonville Armada FC seemed sure of taking home three points Sunday. But the New York Cosmos made a surprising comeback to force a 3-3 draw at MCU Park. It matched the Cosmos biggest comeback in the modern NASL history — New York came back from 3 goals down Aug. 8, 2015, to draw Fort Lauderdale 3-3 in South Florida.
A trio of moves led to the first goal in the 13th minute. Jack Blake launched a corner kick toward the front of the goal and Kalen Ryden headed it straight to Ciarán Kilduff, who gave the Armada FC a 1-0 lead.
Kilduff earned a brace in the 41st minute with his second goal of the night. Kilduff stole the ball from New York’s Danny Szetela and made a mazy run toward the goal, poking the ball past goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck for the second goal of the night.
New York was unable to capitalize on their limited opportunities and left the field trailing by two at halftime.
The second half began with back and forth action, but neither side found a goal until 20 minutes in. Zach Steinberger earned a penalty kick after going down inside the box, and Blake stepped up to the spot. He struck the ball past Zobeck for his eighth goal of the year — another new franchise record for the Armada FC.
The 3-0 lead for the Armada was short-lived, however.
The Cosmos’ Javi Márquez was first to chip away at Jacksonville’s lead. He cut the deficit by one for New York in the 79th minute after beating the Armada defense and slotting a shot home for a goal.
Ten minutes later, Ayoze tracked down a ball in the corner to keep it in play. Then he crossed it over to Eugene Starikov who headed it in just barely over goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell’s fingers. Entering second-half stoppage time, the Armada were handing on for dear life and eventually conceded.
In the final minute of the match, Juan Guerra took a shot just inside the 18-yard box to curl it into the back post and equalize the score.
Although leaving New York with a disappointing draw, the Jacksonville Armada remains one point above the Cosmos in the Fall Season and in fourth place in the combined standings, a position for a postseason slot in the Championship.
The Armada will now return home for two matches at Hodges Stadium. First, the team will face the Spring Champions, the Miami FC, Sunday, Sept. 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. and the club will also honor First Responders at the match. Then, the rescheduled match with Indy Eleven will take place Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m. The Armada have not played a home match this month due to Hurricane Irma’s impact on First Coast.
New names and $90,000,000 look likely for the acqusition, rebranding and rehab of four of Jacksonville’s most troubled low-income housing developments, which contain 768 units total.
Jacksonville City Council resolution 2017-671 would authorize $90,000,000 in Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority bonds to “finance, acquire, rehab & equip four Multifamily Rental Housing Developments.”
With the new money would come a new nomenclature, one that perhaps will help re-brand these properties for media members new to the market.
400-unit Eureka Gardens, 94-unit Moncrief Village, 74-unit Southside Apartments & 200-unit Washington Heights would be known as Valencia Way, Estuary Estates, Oyster Pointe and Charlesfort Commons, respectively.
There is no indication in the bill why these particular names were chosen.
The money could add up to over $117,000 per unit, a number that exceeds the median house price in some of the neighborhoods that contain them.
This would close the book completely on the troubled tenure of Global Ministries Foundation, which acquired these properties via a bond process that sidestepped the oversight of JHFA.
Mayor Alvin Brown “bypassed the normal approval process through the city council and went directly to the mayor for approval” for financing, asserted Tripp Gulliford of the JHFA.
As WJXT reported, $3,000 a unit was all GMF had allocated for remediation of problems that had accumulated over decades.
Sen. Marco Rubio brought national attention to conditions at GMF property Eureka Garden in 2015 and 2016, using words like “unlivable … horrifying and inexcusable” to describe what he and staffers experienced.
Mayor Curry was impressed particularly by the company’s CEO saying his standard for rental properties was “would I live in properties I own.”
Millennia has pledged significant resources to facility rehabilitation in the past, as a 2014 tax incentive application makes clear.
In acquiring a 160-unit Section 8 complex in upstate New York, the company pledged to spend $8.8 million on the “soft costs” of renovation. Pro-rated, this comes out to $55,000 a unit, as the company vowed to address a “multitude of capital needs” for the apartments, including kitchen and bathroom renovation and installing new windows.
These needs exist at these rundown, mid 20th Century properties, which have also featured threats to public safety — including but by no means limited to faulty air conditioning, mold in units, and gas leaks that have required evacuation.
Ending what passes for suspense in some quarters, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced Thursday that he will be in London this weekend.
The Jacksonville Jaguars — the NFL’s equivalent of an existential crisis — is set to take on the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium.
The annual London trip offers the city’s business leaders and power elite to showcase the city and what it offers to English businesses, and Curry’s attendance was held in abeyance until the aftermath of Hurricane Irma was under control.
This is the Jaguars’ fifth season going to London. They have two of their 16 wins in that period as the “home” team in the U.K. — an arrangement team leaders credit with helping to bolster the kind of sagging revenue a team might have when it wins once a month.
“This has been a long and challenging couple of weeks for the people of Jacksonville,” said Mayor Curry. “Recovering from a massive storm less than a year after Hurricane Matthew has taken its toll on many, but Jacksonville is a resilient city full of resilient people. We’re open for business, ready to build a stronger and more vibrant city. Part of this effort includes demonstrating to the world that Jacksonville is a prime destination for international business expansion. I welcome the opportunity to do that over the next three days.”