Lenny Curry Archives - Page 4 of 114 - Florida Politics

Missing mayor casts shadow over Jax ICARE event

The Jacksonville religious group ICARE has been pressuring Mayor Lenny Curry to bring back a homeless day center that was once in Jacksonville.

However, already-fractious discussions between Curry and the clerics broke down last month, and he wasn’t to be at the Monday ICARE “Nehemiah Assembly.”

Moreover, the city’s data suggests there are better ways to spend finite resources, as the homeless day center was not completely effective in terms of the city’s goals, and took away resources that would otherwise go for getting homeless people into homes.

And the original funding for the day center came from Obama-era community development block grants that Donald Trump looks to zero out of the budget.

With all that in mind, the ICARE show went on anyway.

So how did it play?

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The program for the event, distributed upon entry, referenced the ICARE version of the homeless day center narrative, ignoring the lack of a dedicated facility or of the federal funding that got the original facility online.

Also included: Curry’s contact information, with a stock message. “I am disappointed that you did not attend … and I want you to fund the homeless day resource center,” the message read.

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As the event kicked off, a speaker noted that when opposed to something, the crowd was to respond “not with boos, but deafening silence.”

That was true, he said, even when considering concepts like “homeless men and women in our city don’t even have a place to shower” — the first of numerous allusions to the homeless day center dispute.

The call: “to demand justice from our public officials.”

For minutes before the official program began, the crowd practiced responses in unison at the urging of the pastor, who let them know that ICARE pastors would be holding the microphone at all times, even when public officials were speaking.

And that there would be no questions from the floor, as ICARE had spent months researching the answers.

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The pastors had their say, of course.

Catholic Bishop Felipe Esteveznotable for recently comparing objectors to LGBT rights expansion to people objecting to serving in combat during the “darkest days of World War II,” invoked Pope Francis in his argument for a homeless day resource center.

Rev. Tony Hansberry likewise argued for a homeless day center, saying “we keep displacing the homeless to hide them,” and that the homeless day center would help address that cohort’s needs.

“I urge all of you to continue to hold his feet to the fire,” Hansberry said.

Myrtle Collins said that homelessness increased 33 percent in 2015 and 2016, constituting a “crisis.”

“A year ago at this assembly, we called on Mayor Curry to open a day resource center. He said the pension tax had to pass first. That tax passed last August,” Collins said.

“At our meeting with him in the summer, Mayor Curry cited a commitment to make sure the most vulnerable people in the city receive service,” Collins said.

Collins noted that Curry said that he would not attend the assembly if ICARE “went to the press.”

Press coverage followed, then Curry’s “prior commitment,” Collins said.

Radio DJ Kenny Leggett called on Curry to be a “man of [his] word.”

Pastor James Wiggins said Curry “clearly said [he] would” support a day center, showing video of last year’s event where he emphatically said “yes” when asked.

The hard sell continued, despite Curry’s absence, as members of the crowd began to filter to the exits from the balcony and floor levels.

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Curry’s absence wasn’t the only schedule disruption. In lieu of Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who looks poised to move back to Detroit and run the district up there, the chief of schools (Iranetta Wright) “brought greetings on behalf” of Vitti.

Sheriff Mike Williams and State Attorney Melissa Nelson did show, during a segment of the program when the focus was civil citations for young people and other restorative justice mechanisms, an ongoing concern of the group that has been rolled out slowly in Jacksonville.

Williams committed to offer civil citations to 90 percent of eligible youth by March 2018, and to expand community accountability boards … though got pushback when he urged “officer discretion” in a statewide rollout of the program via SB 196.

Williams said his department moved from 10 percent to 83 percent issuance of citations, but that wasn’t enough for his questioner.

Nelson vowed, meanwhile, to divert non-violent youth to neighborhood accountability boards, and to use diversion program.

“You’ve already seen an increase in that,” Nelson offered, compared to the previous state attorney.

Nelson, in addressing ICARE, noted the cumulative effect of its collective concern.

Lauding the “energy in the room,” Nelson said she’s “paid attention and I’ve acted” and will continue to “work with ICARE and listen to ICARE.”

Ahead of legislation, Lenny Curry talks pension with Anna Brosche

Amidst a series of private appointments on the calendar of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was a meeting with Anna Brosche, the chair of the Jacksonville City Council’s Finance Committee.

The timing of the meeting was purposeful, Brosche said.

“I believe it’s going to be introduced tomorrow,” Brosche said, regarding a raft of legislation that may be introduced regarding ratifying the agreements by the unions and the mayor’s office

“He just explained the presentation that they’re going to be speaking to the entire council at one time,” Brosche said, saying this was “process, not really numbers. Just their overall plan for the process.”

When asked if the conversation gave her a sense of comfort. “I can’t say that. I can’t say that. I have to see the stuff and that’s going to come forth when we all get a chance to see it.”

Ahead of ratifying pension reform, Jacksonville City Council looks backward

A Monday “lunch and learn” of the Jacksonville City Council involved members getting educated on the finer points of collective bargaining.

Not a moment too soon for that, as the council will have to vote later this spring on whether or not to ratify the latest pension reform package from the mayor’s office via 11 different ordinances: five on the city side, five from JEA side, and one from police and fire.

Introduction of legislation is imminent, with a slew of collective bargaining agreements being advanced to the council this week — potentially as soon as Tuesday.

The best deals are for police and fire, of course.

The deal offers long-delayed raises to current public safety  employees (a 3 percent lump sum payout immediately, and a 20 percent raise for police and fire over three years) and gives all classes of current employees the same benefits.

As well, all police and fire officers will have DROP eligibility with an 8.4 percent annual rate of return and a 3 percent COLA.

The deal, if approved without modification, will bring labor peace through 2027 — though it can be renegotiated by the city or the unions at 3, 6, 9, and 10 years marks in the agreement.

For new employees, however, the plan is historic — a defined contribution plan that vests three years after the new employee for police and fire is hired.

The public sector unions have agreed to this, but the council’s approval is necessary — and not to be taken for granted.

“As of Friday, all the bargaining units have ratified” the deals, General Counsel Jason Gabriel said, including the general employees — an important part of the puzzle, as all plans have to be closed before the funds are available, either to access or to provide certainty to actuaries that the money will be there.

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In March 2015, for example, the council deadlocked 9-9 on a reform vote. Though objections were magically mooted weeks after Alvin Brown lost his re-election, the fact remains that council needs to understand the process.

To that end, General Counsel Jason Gabriel — an integral part of the negotiating process — explained recent history on concepts to council, which saw 11 new members since the last pension reform package was approved.

Gabriel referenced the “unorthodox” way the city had of negotiating these terms in the past, but those days are long gone now.

“There’s been a conflation of roles … when it’s come to collective bargaining in general,” Gabriel said.

The council, said Gabriel, will have its “management hats” on when deciding to approve or deny the deal.

Gabriel described the 2015 “settlement agreement” as putting the “final kibosh” on negotiating with the Police and Fire Pension Fund, paving the way for the various pension reform deals negotiated since August 2016 with the unions.

The city has three funds: the general employees fund, the correctional officers fund, and the police and fire pension fund.

These funds were established in 1937; pending ratification of pension reform by the council, they will be closed to new members.

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Gabriel went back into history: starting a granular analysis in the early 1990s, after some changes in the 1980s led to a city charter amendment that made the police and fire pension fund an independent agency of the city.

The Ed Austin administration imposed an amendment allowing the local PFPF to negotiate pension benefits, and amendments over the years and across administrations changed and elongated the deal, leading to the 2001 “30-year agreement.”

Gabriel reviewed lawsuits related to that agreement, including actions related to violation of agreement terms, Sunshine Law violations, and so on.

Gabriel discussed pension reform deals worked out by the John Peyton administration in 2011, but not approved, as the Alvin Brown administration withdrew the bill related to the police and fire pension fund.

“The Peyton plan kind of comes off the table, and we start fresh with the Brown administration,” Gabriel summarized.

The Brown administration attempted legislation related to a mediated settlement of a sunshine law suit in 2013, a 2014 retirement reform agreement, and a counter-proposal from the PFPF in 2015, but finding common ground between the council, the mayor’s office, and the pension fund proved challenging.

Also attempted: making JEA a funding source. That didn’t float either.

The 2015 agreement that was ratified, said Gabriel, had “two huge provisions.”

One: “that collective bargaining is a constitutional right of the unions and management … and those rights are not waivable.”

“Everything we’re doing today fits into the terms of the 2015 agreement,” Gabriel said, referring to the pension reform package put forth by the Curry administration, one that sees dedicated funding coming from the extension of a current sales surtax.

“None of this is easy,” Gabriel said, referring to the stipulations of the plan, which include closing underfunded plans to new employees, agreeing to a 10 percent minimum employees contribution, an extant surtax with a date certain for termination, and keeping the trustees out of the bargaining.

“It’s almost like a sleeper provision in there,” Gabriel chortled about the latter. “It’s crystal-clear … we have to follow the dictates of the statute, and one of them is that the board of trustees has no role in pension benefits.”

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If legislation is completed and ready to be filed, the bills will be added to the addendum council agenda meeting Tuesday, setting up a more robust schedule of meetings.

“It’s all a moving target,” Council President Lori Boyer said, with the hope for a marathon meeting about the “financial side” between representatives of the mayor’s office and city council on Apr. 6.

“I’ll hand out a whole schedule tomorrow of potential dates,” Boyer said, floating the possibility of taking up these issues in a separate meeting dedicated to the purpose of pension reform, pending the distribution of actuarial studies.

“This meeting is about us receiving the information … we don’t even have it yet,” Boyer said.

Report: Jacksonville ‘jilts’ intelligent street lights

For those wondering what happened to the “intelligent” street lighting pilot project Jacksonville launched a couple of years back, wonder no longer.

Trade publication LEDs Magazine reports that Jacksonville “jilted” the pilot project from GE.

In April 2015, then-Mayor Alvin Brown, in campaign mode, exulted over the project which was supposed to put Jacksonville “at the forefront of innovation nationally.”

“Jacksonville is excited to be on the front lines with this pilot project, using new technology to increase efficiency and drive innovation, at no cost to taxpayers …. This technology has the potential to transform how our city solves problems by allowing us to use the power of data to drive outcomes that give us flexibility, efficiency and new, creative actions to enhance life in our city,” Brown said.

Brown lost his re-election a month later, and the project was passed on to the Lenny Curry administration, where the excitement apparently ebbed.

“Upon the pilot’s conclusion, the city did not move forward with the program,” a City of Jacksonville spokesperson told LEDs Magazine.

The city had “other priorities that took precedence,” the magazine continued.

(Note: For those who don’t speak Mayor’s Office, “other priorities” is one of those phrases like “the mayor has a schedule conflict” that semantically is intended to close inquiry. However, given the timing of the administration’s decision early last year, it likely was tied with the all-consuming push to get its pension reform scheme through Tallahassee.)

Ironically, the other location where the pilot launched — San Diego — has a mayor who is Republican, like Curry, but San Diego is pushing forward.

“The San Diego smart lighting trial ended in August, and last month Current announced that San Diego was now investing $30 million to deploy 3200 of GE’s CityIQ sensor nodes on street-light poles starting in July, with the possibility of another 3000 nodes later this year. San Diego is also upgrading 14,000 light fixtures — about a quarter of the city’s street lights — to Current’s Evolve LED luminaires,” LEDs reports.

In an interesting twist, San Diego’s system includes ShotSpotter technology.

The Curry administration started looking into ShotSpotter, a technology which allows aural identification of where gunshots come from, last year.

This year, the administration shepherded legislation through the city council to ensure local allocation for it, while having Duval County Legislative Delegation member Rep. Kim Daniels carry an ask for $325,000 of state funds.

Between that and the city’s participation in the NIBIN program (a federal clearinghouse for shell casings to identify firearms used in violent crime), it’s clear that Jacksonville is implementing technological solutions to the crime issue — at least two of which could be called “intelligent design.”

However, the GE project clearly wasn’t the way forward … for reasons the administration didn’t want to discuss with a national outlet.

Why Jacksonville may not get its homeless day resource center after all

On Monday night, Jacksonville’s ICARE group has its yearly Nehemiah Assembly, at which local faith leaders will call for the reopening of a downtown homeless day resource center closed a couple of years back.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has received pressure to come through with money for this purpose, and as of last week, attending the Monday ICARE event isn’t on his agenda, after a fractious February meeting with the group.

Also very possibly absent from Curry’s agenda: bringing back the day resource center.

We talked to Dawn Gilman of Jacksonville’s Changing Homelessness group about the day resource center last week.

Gilman, whose group secured two years of federal funding for the center and who is consulting with the mayor’s office on next steps, threw up a number of caution flags during our conversation.

One major caution flag: the money came from Community Development Block Grants.

CDBGs are phased out of the first Donald Trump budget.

Another major caution flag: mixed results.

While people who used the center liked it, there was a paradoxical correlation between likelihood of misdemeanor arrests and having been a consumed of the center’s services.

The day center, said Gilman, “didn’t have good outcomes in connecting people with housing,” though it did connect people with services.

“The best possible outcome is for a person who is homeless to be connected with housing, and the day resource center didn’t do that,” Gilman added.

Especially in light of limited city resources, “tough decisions” have to be made.

“Is it the best use of resources? No,” Gilman said. “For every $8,000 spent, we could rehouse [someone].” And “permanent supportive housing” for someone could be secured for $12,000 a year.

As is the case with other social-service legislation, such as the Jacksonville Journey, the mayor’s office wants a data-driven approach. And the data shows that a day center serves a supplementary, not a primary purpose, Gilman contends.

It is “unlikely that a day resource center” would top the list of Curry administration solutions to the problem.

A day center, says Gilman, offers a “visible front door” but “no connected exit” from homelessness.

Gilman advocates shifting resources to “crisis response” — emergency services.

Further inquiry, via an outside group commissioned by Changing Homelessness, is underway; the “deep dive” might be completed by this summer, which could complicate recommendations becoming part of the next budget.

Gilman notes a point of success: homelessness is down 30 percent in the last five years.

In that case, the solution is federal: funding from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs has led to a “stunning decrease” in veterans who are homeless.

How Mike Pence wasted Jacksonville’s time

As VP Mike Pence prepared to come to Jacksonville last Saturday to sell the American Health Care Act to Florida, some of the best members of the media dreaded it.

A TV person’s reaction: “Oh, God, I hope I don’t get called in.”

A print guy’s take: “I hate watching these politician events.”

In the end, neither of them were there. Nor were any of the real agenda setters in the local press. The local press turnout was sparse. The national correspondents were no-names. It turned out, a week later, all that was a bad sign.

Also a bad sign: the facility where the event was held — an envelope manufacturing plant — had the virtues and drawbacks of a secure warehouse setting.

The principle virtue: fencing and police at the perimeter of the building and blocks away controlling ingress and egress managed to keep the protesters away — a determined band of Democratic/Progressive activists kept, for the most part, out of the media’s line of sight.

The drawbacks were myriad.

One such drawback: no restrooms for the public. While there were portalets, there was no hand washing station. Politicians and the kind of party volunteers who made the apparently contested invite list love to shake hands. With those grins and grips on Saturday, they shared more than bonhomie.

Another such drawback: security’s key interest was in keeping the media in the pen.

Yes, yes, I know. It’s 2017 and the media are the most dishonest people in the world, except for Infowars and Russia Today and Fox and Friends, of course. But the people tasked with publicizing the event spent the whole time being watched.

We were forbidden to leave the pen after about 12:30. For me, a local guy who knew half the room, that precluded me from the kind of conversations I would have had with certain people in any other milieu.

However, the audience could come in the pen. This led to people approaching more than one female TV reporter and striking up conversations that weren’t of mutual interest.

So, beyond not getting the publicity the VP would have wanted, and beyond the ham-handed logistics of the event, what else went wrong?

The waste of political capital of local and state pols who made the trek.

“President Trump supports the bill 100 percent, and we all do,” Pence said. “A new era for federal/state Medicaid partnership has begun.”

LOL.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry got a warm reception from the same folks who sent him hate mail over not vetoing the HRO, but his words now look pretty hollow given the inaction of the House, which couldn’t get repeal and replace done when given a free kick on goal during what passes for the president’s “honeymoon period.”

Rep. John Rutherford may have enjoyed watching March Madness with the VP on the plane to Jacksonville, but he ended up at the periphery of the debate otherwise.

And Florida Gov. Rick Scott didn’t help himself much either.

How much time did Scott spend conferring with the Trump administration on health care in recent months? How does this Trumpian botch affect his Senate run next year?

Scott, the most prominent Obamacare critic of any state governor, spent his entire administration rejecting the Affordable Care Act.

Pence rewarded the governor’s messaging the day before in a press release and letter to HHS Secretary Tom Price. The VP vowed  to allow “states like Florida” the ability to have a block grant to administer their plans, and a “work requirement” for coverage.

“State solutions,” Pence said, are the best way forward for Florida.

“President Trump supports the bill 100 percent, and we all do,” Pence said. “A new era for federal/state Medicaid partnership has begun.”

So, here’s what happened in Jacksonville. The VP decided to make his stand here, giving Rutherford a platform because neighboring Ted Yoho and Ron DeSantis weren’t feeling this bill. The governor came in and got his moment in the spotlight. And Mayor Curry made the stop before going on Spring Break.

All of them got a news cycle.

But what happens the next time they try to sell a Trump initiative?

Will they be as useful?

After his re-election, George W. Bush said “what good is political capital if you don’t use it.”

Then he wasted it and lost it for a solid decade, until he took up portraiture.

Can Donald Trump paint? And do we have to wait until 2027 to figure it out?

Lenny Curry under pressure to reopen Jacksonville homeless day resource center

Update: Curry will not attend the ICARE event.

In 2015, the city of Jacksonville closed a downtown homeless day resource center opened during the Alvin Brown administration.

As 2016 began, Mayor Lenny Curry was pressed to reopen the center. And after considerable prodding from ICARE organizers, he attended the group’s spring “Nehemiah Assembly.”

The event was intended to serve as a Come to Jesus moment for Jacksonville public officials… especially Curry, who was expected to capitulate and re-fund the center.

However, the meeting turned out to be a Come to Jesus moment for those who showed up to hear the mayor. The subject? Pension reform, an effort which has been the signature push of this mayor (as was the case with every mayor since John Delaney).

Curry told the group that money was not to be available in the then-current budget cycle.

“Ladies and gentlemen – the money doesn’t exist…. Someone has to shoot straight with you, and that is what I am doing tonight,” Curry said, adding that “brighter days” would be “ahead” if his pension reform referendum passed.

“I will examine the number. I believe in the resource center,” Curry said, adding that “if the referendum passes… I will be supportive of a discussion.”

That referendum did pass, of course, allowing an extension of a current half-cent infrastructure tax all the way out to 2060 to pay for the current $2.8B unfunded pension liability — if unions agreed to close their individual plans, a statutory prerequisite to accessing the guaranteed revenue.

So are brighter days ahead, in terms of a homeless day resource center?

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ICARE will renew its push on Monday at this year’s Nehemiah Assembly. Though the mayor will not be there.

The event description from the group: “ICARE will gather over 1750 people at Abyssinia Baptist Church to address community problems with our Sheriff, State Attorney, Mayor and Superintendent. This event will focus on the opening of the Homeless Day Center, increased funding for the Jacksonville Reentry Center, Civil Citations to stop youth arrests and a wealth build strategy that will open a community owned grocery store in Northwest Jacksonville.”

Of course, the Homeless Day Center will be the biggest news coming out of the event — either way.

While a key Curry supporter, Gary Chartrand, emailed the mayor to signal support ahead of a February meeting with ICARE to discuss these issues.

[A typical way of breaking news in Jacksonville: someone sends an email to the mayor or one of his chief staffers, which puts it in public view as media trolls the inboxes for tidbits].

“I support the work of the Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation, and Empowerment. I am very encouraged that you are working with them to reopen the Jacksonville Day Resource Center,” Chartrand wrote, adding that the center served 150 people a day when it was open.

“I think Jacksonville will be a stronger city,” Chartrand wrote, “when homeless citizens have one place to go to access services like showering, counseling, and job opportunities.”

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Chartrand can be persuasive. But there are ways to communicate with the mayor, and there are ways that are less successful … as ICARE found out in February.

 The normally friendly Florida Times-Union offered a glimpse of the mayor’s pique after that February meeting.

“In a Feb. 6 meeting at City Hall,” claimed ICARE to the T-U, “Curry launched into a 30-minute tirade regarding who would be allowed to take part in the previously scheduled meeting.”

Described as “hostile, aggressive and adversarial,”  allegations are that Curry “threatened to withdraw his support for the homeless day resource center if ICARE went to the press.”

Of course, the press did find out. And Curry’s spokeswoman, Marsha Oliver. called the account “unequivocally false.”

Despite the fractious relationship between the mayor and ICARE, the reality is this: another summer with Hemming Park brimming with people who have nowhere else to go is bad for the city in terms of optics, and will be interpreted by many in the chattering class as an expression of bad faith … especially in light of his statements last year, which implied that the program would get serious consideration after pension reform passed.

Meanwhile, there is a school of thought in the mayor’s office that a homeless day resource center may not be the best use of scarce capital.

The question, in that context: is a relatively inefficient use of fiscal capital worth burning political capital?

The budget process will ultimately tell the tale.

Failed Eureka Garden HUD inspection: whose fault is it?

The Eureka Garden complex has been a focus of politicians in the last couple of years, with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Sen. Marco Rubio, Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, and Rep. Al Lawson all demanding rehab of the facility and reform of the HUD process.

A new management group, which is looking to buy the property, promised changes. That group promised to bring capital to the complex pending transfer of title.

But delivery has proven more elusive, with politicians frustrated and hamstrung by the glacial pace of ownership transfer.

As Lynnsey Gardner of News4Jax was first to report Wednesday, Eureka Garden failed its most recent HUD inspection — with a score of 59.

Politicians describe the conditions with the strongest possible language.

And the current ownership, Global Ministries Foundation, asserts that the issue is the fault of “decades of neglect.”

Who is right?

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Rep. Al Lawson offered the strongest statement of the four pols who commented, decrying “atrocities” at the complex.

“Failing inspection is completely unacceptable. Like most Americans, the residents of Eureka Gardens want a clean, affordable, and safe place to raise their families and to call home. It is my firm belief that people who pay rent, regardless of their income, neighborhood, or whether they live in privately owned or public housing, have the right to expect and get routine maintenance. No one should be forced to live under conditions that threaten their health or safety,” Lawson asserted.

“I am renewing my call on federal officials at HUD to launch an investigation into how Global Ministries Foundation was not held accountable sooner for units falling into disrepair and how we plan to work together to do everything in our power to prevent these kind of atrocities in the future. The residents of Eureka Gardens deserve better,” Lawson continued.

Sen. Marco Rubio, so pivotal in starting the reform discussion on the Senate floor, brought a depth of perspective to the ongoing issues at the Jacksonville complex.

“This is more evidence of why I remain deeply concerned about the health and safety of the people living at Eureka Gardens,” Rubio asserted.

“On the one hand, it’s important that the HUD inspections process is no longer handing out passing grades to apartment facilities that clearly don’t deserve them. However, it’s been 18 months since the terrible conditions at Eureka Gardens first came to light, and we’re still not seeing the kind of progress we need to see to ensure all residents are living in a safe environment,” Rubio added, vowing to move forward on reform.

Councilman Garrett Dennis pinned the blame for the current conditions on the still-current owners.

“I’ve consistently said, even though there is an active sales contract with Millenia Corporation, Global Ministries Foundation is still the owner and the responsible party for the living conditions for the residents at Eureka Gardens,” Dennis told News4Jax.

On behalf of Mayor Curry, spokesperson Marsha Oliver had the following to say: “We are aware of the inspection results and maintain our commitment to working with HUD officials on a resolution that addresses the needs of residents.”

“Mayor Curry has been an advocate for improvements to this property,” Oliver added, “leading to a change in management.”

Meanwhile, Audrey Young, speaking on behalf of the current ownership of Global Ministries Foundation, issued the following statement that suggested a better score may be rendered yet.

“We are working closely with HUD on an appeal and fully trust that HUD will make warranted adjustments based on our appeal,” Young asserted.

Young also blamed Eureka Garden’s evolution into a “problem property” and a “burden” to the city on “decades of neglect by previous owners.”

GMF has put in $3 million since acquiring the properties in 2012, in an effort to remedy “decades of neglect and decay under previous owners.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio summed up in 2016 the profit that GMF ownership made from their 40 property portfolio.

“Where does all the money go? What are they doing with all this money that they make?”

“Well, you can look at their 990 tax forms, which are available for all 501(c)(3) organizations. Let me tell you about the 2014 tax year, which is the most recent one that’s available. In the year 2014, the Reverend Richard Hamlet paid himself $495,000 plus $40,000 in non-taxable benefits,” Rubio said

“Also in 2014, the Reverend Hamlet’s family members were paid an additional $218,000. By the way, he had previously failed to disclose his family members’ compensation on tax forms, which is in violation of IRS rules that require CEO’s to disclose the compensation of all family members who work for an organization,” Rubio added.

“The IRS reports also show that between 2011 and 2013, Global Ministries Foundation, the landlord that owns all of these units in all of these buildings that your taxpayer money is paying for, they shifted $9 million away from the low-income housing not profit to its religious affiliate,” Rubio continued.

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A reality underneath the anticipated sale to Millennia Housing Management: HUD properties are big business.

The subsidies are generous and guaranteed, but the flip side is that capital needs for the buildings recur.

Older apartment complexes have issues — and Eureka Garden has them especially.

From mold issues and poor ventilation to appliances old enough to have midlife crises, some of the units look closer to the Third World than the First.

The city would like to accelerate the transfer of title. Congressional leadership feels the same way. And yet, the process is dragged out.

The payments come through from the Feds. Even as the tenants — the expected beneficiaries — suffer.

Crunchtime for John Crescimbeni in Jax Council President race

February ended with Jacksonville City Council VP John Crescimbeni storming out of the gate in the race for the council presidency.

A group of councilmen — Gulliford, Crescimbeni, Greg AndersonJim Love, and Tommy Hazouri — signed on very quickly, giving Crescimbeni a real leg up.

Rhetoric was pitched in the councilmen’s conclave: lots of talk about “council tradition” dictating that, barring some unforgivable transgression against moral or municipal code, the VP move up to the top slot.

In that meeting, Republican Bill Gulliford — the most outspoken of the men in the meeting — urged Crescimbeni, the most veteran of the seven Democrats on the council, to close the deal quickly on his opponent, Finance Chair Anna Brosche.

However, the deal hasn’t been closed. Not by a long shot.

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Crescimbeni got one pledge since, from Democrat Joyce Morgan, bringing him to seven. Meanwhile, Brosche, who started like the allegorical tortoise, well behind Crescimbeni’s jackrabbit start, is making up ground — big league.

Brosche came into Tuesday with five pledges (Matt SchellenbergSam NewbyAl FerraroAaron Bowman and the candidate herself). And even before the morning rush hour traffic abated downtown, she scored a sixth pledge: Doyle Carter.

Those with memories longer than the most recent news cycle will remember the surprisingly pitched race between Carter, a Westside Republican, and Crescimbeni.

Going into the vote, it appeared that Carter had the edge in pledges … before Reggie Gaffney reneged on his pledge to support Carter.

We asked Carter if the schmozz that was the 2016 vote factored into his decision to support Brosche. That wasn’t the case, he said.

The race is 7-6 now, and the momentum seems to be going the way of Brosche, a candidate preferred by the Chamber and other local stakeholders.

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We understand that Mayor Lenny Curry‘s office is taking an agnostic position on the race, and can figure out a way to work with whoever wins.

The relationship between Crescimbeni and Curry has improved, though there are caveats that may affect the mayor’s office should Crescimbeni win, which would not be the case if Brosche prevails.

For starters, there was tension between Crescimbeni and former Mayor Alvin Brown, with Crescimbeni backing out of an agreement to endorse, one trumpeted by the Brown campaign in Spring 2015.

Meanwhile, for a good illustration of what can go wrong when the council president and the mayor aren’t walking in lockstep, consider the example of Clay Yarborough and Alvin Brown — a fractious dynamic that hurt the mayor in getting his 2015 pension deal through while it still could have helped Brown get re-elected.

Curry has had two council presidents, Greg Anderson and Lori Boyer, who sang from the same page in the hymnal.

Arguably, he needs the next council president to be on that page also.

His pension reform package has yet to be ratified by the council, and aspersions cast by a council president could hurt the effort.

As well, the third year for a Jacksonville mayor often is when the bloom falls off the rose.

Brown’s popularity began to dip midway through his term, and while his approval ratings never went below the high-50s, support was soft enough to make him vulnerable to Curry’s challenge.

Of course, it’s unlikely that any Democratic operatives know how to play the game the way Tim Baker and Brian Hughes do. That said, it’s imperative for whoever emerges in this race to understand council’s role, driving policy in accordance with a mayor’s office that remains on a reform path.

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Meanwhile, it’s still slow going in the race for VP.

Aaron Bowman leads Scott Wilson 6-3.

Wilson met with Tommy Hazouri on Monday, but couldn’t close the deal.

As of Tuesday morning, no meetings were set up for the rest of the week by any leadership candidates, as many people are taking a “wait and see” attitude

Rick Scott comes to Jacksonville Monday with message for Duval Delegation

The best political theater in this state so far this year: arguably, Gov. Rick Scott‘s “Fighting for Florida Jobs” roundtables.

Jacksonville gets its version of the roadshow Monday morning at Harbinger Signs in Mandarin.

Scott started off March in Rep. Travis Cummings‘ district, where he repeatedly jabbed at Cummings and Rep. Paul Renner for opposing Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

Cummings was just one of many Republican votes against the Scott agenda, however. In Duval County, a few Republicans voted against Enterprise Florida on the House floor.

Reps. Cord ByrdClay Yarborough, and Jason Fischer all voted against incentives.

They knew they faced a no-win choice. As someone familiar with the thinking of one of the legislators but it, the choice was between Scott’s veto pen and the Speaker’s opprobrium.

The one Jacksonville Republican supporting Enterprise Florida, Jay Fant, filed no appropriations bills this session. And there are strong indications he may not even want to return to the Florida House in 2018.

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Scott typically counts on Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to be by his side at Jacksonville events, such as the job creation events in the past.

Curry won’t be there in this instance; he is on a spring break trip with his family.

Scott and Curry were together at VP Mike Pence‘s business roundtable and rally Saturday in Jacksonville, where both sang from the same hymn book about the Obamacare “death spiral.”

Though it clearly didn’t move the Duval Delegation, Curry issued an extended endorsement of Enterprise Florida a few weeks back.

“Without the state funding,” Curry said, “we would have had trouble closing some of the big deals that we closed.”

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Curry is far from alone in Jacksonville’s city hall when it comes to enthusiasm for incentives.

Jacksonville OED head Kirk Wendland explained it this way: “Just the discussion of Enterprise Florida not being there, and not having a state economic development agency, has absolutely affected the deal flow that we have seen over the past couple of months.”

Local leaders note that Jacksonville especially needs incentives, with cross-border competition and not having the unique value adds of Tampa, Miami, and Orlando.

Gov. Scott is making a strategic move: a stand in Jacksonville, an attempt to rally support in a place that relies on these programs, the rare big city with a GOP mayor — and one who is a political ally of longstanding.

It will be interesting to see if this helps more than the one in Clay County did.

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