Lenny Curry Archives - Page 4 of 133 - Florida Politics

With Kids Hope Alliance bill, Lenny Curry consolidated Jax City Council behind his vision

A week after the Jacksonville City Council passed his Kids Hope Alliance bill, Mayor Lenny Curry signed the reform bill into law Wednesday.

The KHA, a new seven-person board that will replace the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, will command a roughly $35M budget for services for what the Mayor calls “at-hope kids,”  handling oversight of various programs.

The bill passed 18-1 , after a chippy discussion that lasted almost four hours, exposing and exacerbating fissures on the Council that have moved from hallway gossip to fodder for mainstream media.

The sole no vote: Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who had his own competing legislation that now rests in the scrapheap of dead bills.

This was after City Council President Anna Brosche attempted to stall the bill out from being heard on the night of the vote, saying the public needed more time to review it and that she had unanswered questions, accusing the Curry administration of trying to hide the bill from the public (a contention that Curry strenuously refuted).

And the sponsor of the KHA legislation, Scott Wilson, was himself an interesting choice. Wilson had been very vocal about geographic limitations in the funding program of the Jacksonville Journey in 2016, and it didn’t seem coincidental that he was carrying the replacement.

Wilson was lacerating in dealing with Dennis’ stall tactics during bill discussion, calling them “disgusting” on more than one occasion.

Such procedural drama: in the rear view mirror, as Curry signed the bill.

Indeed, Curry didn’t even want to address the drama that preceded the bill passing; the ceremonial signing at Daniel Kids on Jacksonville’s Southside was described by Curry as a “celebration.”

However, it was a celebration that excluded Brosche and Dennis, who did not make the trip to the Southside.

Curry described the reorg in big-picture terms, saying that it was about trying to make children’s services closer to “perfect” in the city.

Curry also, in what could have been seen as a rebuke to those who thought the previous structure was canonical, noted that long after he’s gone, he expects that advocates for children’s services will attempt to reform the KHA.

“This legislation worked how all legislation should work,” Curry said, noting that the collaboration and one-on-one meetings with Council made the bill better, with key changes that included ensuring that special needs children were addressed in the legislation.

Curry lauded Councilman Wilson, saying that the Councilman “took an interest early on in how we provide services to kids” and was “willing to lead” on this bill.

Indeed, Wilson — in whose district Daniel Kids is located — noted that a key feature that he liked about this bill was language that allowed qualified applicants anywhere in the city to receive services, a difference from the Zip Code based Jacksonville Journey model.

Council VP Aaron Bowman — the odds on favorite to be Council President next year — issued a ringing endorsement of Curry and the bill, one even more meaningful given Brosche’s absence and the unresolved conflict between the Mayor and the current Council President.

“You say you’re gonna do something, you do it,” Bowman said, “and involve all of us.”

And regarding the bill?

“I can’t offer a change to make it better.”

Among the other Councilors in attendance: recent Republican Council Presidents Lori Boyer and Greg Anderson, along with fellow Republicans Jim Love and Sam Newby, and Democrats Katrina BrownReggie Gaffney, and Tommy Hazouri.

The Council calendar is poised to slow down as the year wraps up, but what is clear is that any restiveness among the city’s legislators has been quelled, and the One City, One Jacksonville vision — embodied on Kids Hope Alliance, in both concept and actualization — has prevailed.

This, despite the Council President and the chair of the best committee on Council standing on the sidelines.

April Green to be nominated for Jacksonville’s JEA Board

Florida Politics has learned, via a source outside of City Hall familiar with the process, that Jacksonville’s JEA Board will have a new member soon — pending City Council approval.

April Green has been selected to fill a vacancy left by Ed Burr, who stepped down from the board earlier this year.

Legislation will be introduced by Mayor Lenny Curry this week, and City Council approval will be necessary for Green to join the utility’s board.

Green, an Air Force Veteran who served in Desert Storm, brings to the table copious experience in business and marketing, along with a deep-seated connection with the community through religious faith and philanthropy.

Currently, Green is the COO for Baxter Technology, in addition to being the CFO/COO for Bethel Baptist Institutional Church in Jacksonville.

Previously, Green served as corporate tourism director for the Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A member of the Board of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Green also is a 2015 Leadership Florida graduate.

Green’s husband, Eric, is CEO of JAXPORT.

More details on this potential appointment will follow as made available.

Hart Bridge ‘design criteria project’ cleared for Jax Council vote

Last November, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made an audacious ask of the Duval County Legislative Delegation: $50M to remove and replace the Hart Bridge offramps.

“The ramps were originally designed to bypass the industrialized waterfront,” Curry said in 2016, a purpose outmoded in the half-century since the original construction.

Curry’s ask: “To knock the [current] ramp down,” and create a traffic flow onto Bay Street, thus resolving a “public safety issue, a traffic flow issue, a downtown in-and-out issue also.”

The Duval Delegation didn’t carry this ask, and as a result, Curry changed his strategy — leading to a bill now under consideration by the local City Council, a measure that would allocate $1.5 million for a feasibility study for the project.

On Tuesday, the Finance Committee approved the bill — the second and final committee to OK the legislation, setting it up for Council approval via the consent agenda Tuesday night.

The project is deemed necessary by the Curry administration, which has invested in capital projects for the Sports Complex, and which anticipates a ramp-up for the Shipyards rehab project from Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

And the rationale for the project has evolved as well — to improve freight traffic to the port, a rationale not mentioned in 2016, via Talleyrand Avenue.

Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said the money was to create a “design criteria project,” a prerequisite for moving forward on this “shovel-ready project.”

This design criteria project could be done in as few as four months, or as many as eight.

This would include a survey of the current conditions, preliminary design alignments (such as lane location and speed rates), and other such basic criteria.

This $1.5 million is important, said Mousa, because the city is pursuing a federal infrastructure grant of $25 million, with $12.5 million from the state of Florida in matching money and $12.5 million from the city.

Stakes are high: if the federal money falls through, so does the matching money from the state.

Jacksonville has one of three similar grant applications pending with the federal government, currently, though there is no timetable on when a grant may be approved.

Once the DCP is complete, the project could take 30 to 36 months.

“We’re not asking you to appropriate the $12.5 million,” Mousa said in Monday’s committee, noting that the federal grant would be for “freight movement,” which the FDOT says would be “highly improved” by bringing the ramp down, “providing easier access to Talleyrand Avenue.”

The project would provide for “free-flowing truck traffic,” with a T intersection at Gator Bowl Boulevard to route traffic onto Talleyrand Avenue, to help transport freight.

Jax Council panel bucks leadership, votes down controversial pension bill

The office of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry believes it is done with pension reform. Yet Council President Anna Brosche and other allies, including the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Finance Committee, disagree.

That conflict set the stage for the latest skirmish related to a bill introduced months back by Councilman Danny Becton.

The bill, brought back yet again recently, was mulled in the Finance Committee Tuesday, ahead of consideration in Rules Committee Tuesday afternoon.

The Finance hearing was the most favorable of all potential terrains for the bill; Finance Chair Garrett Dennis is a co-sponsor of the bill, along with Finance Vice-Chair Becton and Council President Brosche.

Yet, despite Council Leadership supporting this bill, it was clear after some discussion that there was no path even on the home court of two prominent co-sponsors.

Despite this, Becton called the question — forcing a 4-3 vote against the bill, and offering a setback for the Council President, the Finance Chair, and the Finance Vice-Chair. It won’t do better in Rules.

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2017-348 seeks an accelerated paydown of the city’s $3.2B unfunded actuarial liability on the city’s pension debt, based on increases in general fund revenue.

The current iteration of Becton’s bill offers a phased-in approach, moving from a 7 percent rate in FY18/19 and moving that up 2 percent a year, hitting the 15 percent threshold in FY 22/23. Assuming a 3 percent growth rate, that would add up to an extra $504M in city coffers by the end of FY 30/31, per Becton’s projections.

The code requirements could be waived if financial circumstances mandated.

The general employees pension fund — the best funded of the three city defined benefit plans — would no longer receive these proceeds, per Becton; they would go to the police and fire pension, and the corrections pension funds, both of which face deeper funding shortfalls.

CFO Mike Weinstein threw cold water on the bill early on, saying “we thought pension was basically finished,” noting that changes to the bill haven’t changed the Mayor’s Office’s position on the bill.

Weinstein also noted that, even when growth abates, the compounding of interest hikes will demand higher payments regardless — creating a potential unfunded mandate.

“If we’re neutral one year, we still have to make a compound increase to the pension fund,” Weinstein said.

Soon enough, Councilmen Matt Schellenberg and Reggie Gaffney joined the chorus of skepticism, with Schellenberg suggesting this bill be held in abeyance until budget discussions next August.

Schellenberg’s concern: a drop in ad valorem taxes, via changes in homestead exemption from the state, could take $26M off the table — and with that, the ability to invest in quality of life issues.

Clouding the forecast fuller: approximately $30M in un-reimbursed costs from Hurricane Matthew, and an as-yet-unknown fiscal hit from Hurricane Irma.

Yet another concern — “a significant amount of capital improvement needs throughout the county,” per Mousa.

“There would just be less monies for capital improvements,” Mousa told the panel.

Becton fought back, saying the Mayor’s Office caution on this bill is misplaced, given that “tough decisions” are made routinely by the Council.

“This is a situation where we do this every day in terms of appropriating funds that go out into the future,” Becton said, “and there isn’t a question.”

Becton also asserted that his bill got a favorable reception from the Curry Administration in the Spring — an assertion countered vigorously by the Mayor’s Office.

As well, Becton forecasted an economic downturn, noting that Pew, Moody’s, and Bloomberg all advocated for increased allocations to offset Jacksonville’s pension burden, potential “asset losses and low investment returns.”

Despite Becton’s argument, not everyone was sold.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer took issue with assertions from the sponsor that there are “deficiencies in the pension reform we passed,” which “does exactly what we committed to do and what the citizens voted for,” regarding an eventual “dedicated source of revenue.”

Boyer also had problem with the bill language, which had mandates rather than targets — “good goals.”

“I can’t support the bill as written,” Boyer asserted.

Councilman Reggie Brown noted that his district had water and sewer issues that hadn’t been addressed for decades, and it would be a “conflict” for him to support pension savings when basic infrastructure is neglected for his constituents.

“Promises made, promises broken”: Brown’s summation of the city’s approach to “existing communities not having the same quality of life as other areas in Jacksonville that were years behind in development.”

Jacksonville Bold for 10.13.17 — Power, money and timing

Jacksonville Bold is intended to appeal to a discerning audience, particularly to those who see politics for what it truly is — a confluence of money, power and timing.

We see evidence of that in every Bold — and this week is no different, as Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s Kids Hope Alliance reform bill advanced through the City Council by an 18-1 vote.

Its success comes as no small feat, given Council President Anna Brosche attempted to forestall both discussion of the bill and the vote itself, even going so far as to accuse an administration member and a city lawyer of working to keep the bill from the public.

And Brosche was the sole vote against discharging the bill to the Council floor — a nearly unheard of repudiation of a legislative body’s presiding officer.

In the end, though, Brosche overcame those qualms and voted for the bill — but not before Curry issued a statement condemning her accusations. Of course, there have been schisms between Council presidents and mayors in the past; but this one is different.

That’s because politics in this region are different.

Stakes are higher. Money is bigger. Operatives work 27/6. Nowadays, the way to win a political argument is not through churches and town halls. It’s all targeting and microtargeting, persuasion of the “velvet glove, iron fist” variety, and an understanding that when a bluff is called, most people will cave.

As we move toward the 2018 election cycle — and the 2019 local derby — file those insights; they may end up being predictive.

Fundraising roundup

September was not a record-breaking month for campaign finance reports in Northeast Florida. Blame Hurricane Irma.

State Senate incumbents, however, did well in amassing money for re-election bids — Aaron Bean brought in $33K, and Audrey Gibson brought in $12K.

In state House races, HD 15 Republican hopeful Wyman Duggan topped $10K for the month. And his Democratic opponent, Tracye Polson, brought in $51K in September. Otherwise, no one topped $7,500.

There was, however, marginally more exciting committee action: Palm Coast Speaker-of-the-future Paul Renner saw his committee give $20K to Speaker-of-the-present Richard Corcoran — who just may be running for Governor as soon as next year’s Legislative Session ends.

Lenny Curry’s political committee cleared $38K in September — and $25K of that came from Shad Khan. And Sheriff Mike Williams finally paid for a controversial August poll through his committee; price tag was almost $9,000 … more than he brought in.

Lenny Curry reaches up for high-fives with Jags’ owner Shad Khan.

The big play of the month came from Attorney General candidate Jay Fant, who loaned his campaign $750,000 — just the kind of thing a candidate that’s not part of the “establishment” does because all the cool kids have three-quarters of a million bucks sitting around. Fant had faced questions about his fundraising, but with one stroke of the pen, he established resource parity with Ashley Moody.

Will that bring Downtown Jacksonville around?

One candidate who won’t be loaning herself $750,000 — Jacksonville City Council hopeful Randy DeFoor. DeFoor, in his first month in the District 14 race, brought in $51,000 — more money, by far, than every other active local 2019 candidate combined brought in during September.

Her political committee brought in an extra $25,000.

Rob Bradley: Senate sentencing bill a ‘win-win’

Florida’s prison industry has endured scrutiny in recent years, and a new bill from Sen. Bradley may offer some relief for the sector.

SB 484 will authorize a court to sentence prisoners to county jail for up to 24 months if that county has a DOC contract.

The bill would also require prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Those prisoners will have sentences that don’t run longer than 24 months, and most felony convictions are exempt from this proposal.

State prison overcrowding could mean stable revenue for counties with room in jails.

On Wednesday, Bradley told Florida Politics that this is not a new idea.

“This is an idea that I’ve discussed with Senate and House colleagues for a couple of years now,” Bradley asserted.

Part of the problem is that the state has more prisoners than its facilities can handle, Bradley said.

“Right now,” Bradley said, “the state incarcerates 100,000 inmates. After dealing with this issue for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that our infrastructure and personnel is simply not equipped to handle that number. We need to reduce the state population. This is a strategy to accomplish this goal.”

Good news/bad news as Bradley bill clears committee

WGCU reports a good news/bad news scenario for a Bradley bill to put more money into the St. Johns River and North Florida springs.

St. Johns River money, a priority of Rob Bradley, may not be the Senate’s priority in the end.

Latvala chairs the Appropriations Committee.

“At some point in time — probably [on] the Appropriations Committee — we’ll have to put all those bills that we have this year, and the bills that we’ve passed over the last couple cycles on one sheet and figure out how we divide it up,” Latvala said.

With budget pressures mounting for Florida on several fronts, Bradley’s attempt to bring more Amendment 1 money to North Florida will be worth watching. It might be a heavier lift than locals hope.

Aaron Bean backs Jay Fant

One favorable augury for Fant: An endorsement this week from Republican state Sen. Bean.

Jay-mentum continues as Aaron Bean support sprouts for the AG hopeful.

“Senator Bean has been a longtime voice for conservative politics in Northeast Florida,” Fant said. “His endorsement is one to be very proud of. We look forward to working with Senator Bean on our conservative platform for years to come.”

Fant still has his last year to serve in the Florida House; since he is not running for re-election, candidates have filed already on the Democratic and Republican lines both in his House District 15.

Fant has gotten roughly a dozen House colleagues to endorse him; his strategy seems to be as the regional candidate who can roll up his sleeves and talk to the grassroots.

Rory Diamond launches Jax Council run

It was no surprise that Neptune Beach City Councilor Rory Diamond started a campaign to succeed Bill Gulliford on the Jacksonville City Council.

Rory Diamond is a candidate to watch for 2019, and likely beyond.

What will be a surprise: If anyone can mount a serious challenge to the Republican alum of the George W. Bush White House and Arnold Schwarzenegger Governor’s Mansion.

A broad cross-section of the city’s power elite supports Diamond and is very comfortable with policy discussions — including those affecting the broader expanse of Duval County, as well as the more granular issues relative to Jacksonville Beach.

Expect him to message heavily on public safety — and, bearing the gravitas of a former federal prosecutor — meaningfully. One of his recurrent theorems: that a lot of the Beaches’ crime problem is coming over from the other side of the ditch.

Censure for Councilors?

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche raised the possibility of censure for two legislators who supported her run for the Council presidency.

The subject: A confrontation between Councilors Reggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown and police officers after a Council meeting last month.

Gaffney has issued the expected mea culpa statements for attempting to leverage his power as a Councilman to check the officers who pulled him over. However, Brown — who accused officers of racial profiling — has yet to apologize.

That point was not lost on the Fraternal Order of Police, which saw its national and state presidents in Jacksonville Tuesday night to condemn Councilwoman Brown’s accusations and unwillingness to walk them back.

“The ultimate repercussion is going to be leveled by their districts … if there is any,” Brosche said.

Brosche has requested “options” from the General Counsel, including what authority Council has, and expects them at the next Council meeting.

“The question is around censure — is it an option for Council,” Brosche said.

Did Irma kill crops?

It’s a race against time for Northeast Florida farmers, per the Florida Times-Union. Hurricane Irma devastated crops last month, and yields — and farms themselves — hang in the balance.

Irma created a big problem for large — and small — farms throughout the state.

Per a Florida Farm Bureau representative: “Many of the losses will be calculated in coming weeks. It’s very difficult for folks to make a total estimate if they’re still struggling to get to their fields, their pastures, round up animals, to repair buildings.”

Among the potential culinary casualties: Christmas coleslaw from St. Johns County.

Clay County, hit hard by Irma, may have suffered more grievously had it not been for delayed planting … as heavy rains had already pushed back planting schedules.

Turn around, don’t drown

The Tampa Bay Times published a long-form, damning article laying out Jacksonville’s vulnerability to flooding during a hurricane.

“The city is dangerously flood-prone,” the TBT attested, as Irma was merely a tropical storm by the time it affected Jacksonville … and the storm could have been worse.

Floods from Irma were unprecedented … yet could be the future in Jacksonville, per TBT.

Of course, some caveats led to the epic flooding: a full moon drove the storm surge, the rain was another factor. But where the TBT article makes its point is a twofold contention.

— Jacksonville has not put money into drainage in older neighborhoods, especially those close to the water.

— Jacksonville officials have no real plan to deal with the matter.

The city’s finances are stretched: millage rates are low, there is no political appetite to raise them. Pension reform offered some fiscal relief, but the recurrent investment of that aid is in human resources — public-sector unions, legacy costs.

John Thrasher enters Confederate monument debate

Florida State University President Thrasher set up a 15-person committee to review Confederate markers and monuments, reports the Tallahassee Democrat.

“I expect them to be deliberate, to be thoughtful and to seek input from the entire Florida State community as they do their work,” Thrasher said about the new  President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions.

John Thrasher is involved in a monument controversy, but not the local Jacksonville one.

The Democrat reports that “the campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society has sought the removal of the statue of Francis Eppes near the Westcott Building. Eppes, the grandson of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, is a former Tallahassee mayor who helped found West Florida Seminary, the forerunner of today’s FSU.”

JTA CEO elected chair of national org

JTA CEO Nat Ford this weekend was elected as Chair of the American Public Transportation Association and calls the election “one of the greatest honors” he’s received in his career.

JTA CEO Nat Ford has been named Chair of the American Public Transportation Association.

Ford expects his chairmanship to bring “national attention” to Jacksonville, a city that is currently involved in attempts to modernize its approach to mass transit through various infrastructural investments — including a regional transportation center under construction.

Among his focuses in the APTA chair: “leveraging big data,” “enterprise risk management,” and the “new mobility paradigm” — which, we hear, will also double as the name for Ford’s indie rock group.

Jax loves Shad; Republicans cool to Jags

University of North Florida polls shows high approval ratings for both the owner and coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

While Shad Khan and Doug Marrone sit at 65 and 58 percent approval, there nonetheless is still some grievance from Republicans toward the home team’s anthem protest in London.

Republicans are less likely to watch games on television or attend, per the survey; almost 63 percent indicated they were less likely to watch NFL games and 57 percent said they were less likely to attend games.

Democrats are unmoved; while 14 and 11 percent respectively said they were less likely to watch or go to games, a full 18 percent of Dems are more likely to watch and attend.

Pollsters conducted the live-dial survey with 512 registered Duval County voters between Oct. 2 and Oct. 4.

The first-place Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Los Angeles Rams at home, Sunday at 1 p.m.

Bean calls for elected Secretary of State

This week, the Fernandina Beach Republican filed a proposal to ask Florida voters to make the secretary of state an elected Cabinet position, removing the governor’s power to appoint Florida’s highest elections official. The News Service of Florida reports that SJR 506 seeks to undo a change approved by voters in 1998 that reduced the size of the Cabinet to three members.

Under that ballot measure, the positions of secretary of state and education commissioner became appointed in 2002 and dropped the Cabinet posts of comptroller and treasurer. It also created a new Cabinet position, chief financial officer, while keeping the attorney general and agriculture commissioner.

For inclusion on the 2018 ballot, Bean’s proposal must be approved by three-fifths of both legislative chambers and would ultimately need approval from 60 percent of voters. Bean sponsored similar legislation in the 2017 session, with the Senate approving it in a 33-2 vote, but failed to advance in the House.

Able Trust lauds Bean

“Senator of the Year” — that’s the designation the Able Trust put on Sen. Bean Monday.

“I look forward to continuing to work with The Able Trust to ensure that Floridians with disabilities are never left behind and are given the opportunities they so rightly deserve,” Bean added.

Sen. Aaron Bean gets plaudits from the Able Trust.

This has been Bean’s third award from the Able Trust. He has historically fought to ensure the nonprofit received funding that was on the chopping block.

Meredith Charbula to Duval County Court

Eric Roberson’s vacancy, left when the former Duval judge moved to the 4th Circuit Court, has now been filled.

Meredith Charbula counted Lenny Curry as an ally.

Meredith Charbula, 59, of Jacksonville, will leave her role as Director of the Legal Division for the Office of the State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit to fill the slot.

Charbula, an alumna of FSU’s law school, was recommended four times by commissions … and passed over four times in the past, reported the Florida Times-Union.

“Some people call me stubborn. I call it tenacious,” she said when asked why she kept trying.

Leadership moves for KIPP Jacksonville

After more than eight years with KIPP Jacksonville Public Charter Schools, Executive Director Tom Majdanics has passed the leadership torch to Dr. Jennifer Brown, who will move from her role as Chief Academic Officer.

Zach Rossley, formerly Chief Operating Officer, will now serve as president and COO, taking on new and added responsibilities.

New Executive Director, Dr. Jennifer Brown, with students at KIPP Jacksonville Elementary.

Brown joined the KIPP Jacksonville team in 2015, with more than 15 years of experience as an educator and leader in large urban, rural, and nonprofit settings. She earned both a B.A. and M.A. in English from Winthrop University and an Ed.D. in Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University.

Brown is also a proud U.S. Army Veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

KIPP Jacksonville Schools are part of the KIPP non-profit network of college-preparatory, public charter schools.

Police line

Poll: Crime preoccupies Jacksonville voters for third straight year

A new poll from the University of North Florida says that crime is the number one policy preoccupation for Duval County’s registered voters.

And despite concerted investments in public safety in the city’s last three budgets, crime concerns more voters than in previous polls — and that is especially true for females surveyed.

Crime was the number one issue concerning 40 percent of voters — up from 38 percent in 2016, and 33 percent in 2015. And the crime issue is a central preoccupation of 50 percent of female Duval voters surveyed, as compared to 27 percent of males.

For black and white voters both, crime is the runaway choice for top concern. However, when it comes to Hispanic voters, crime is the primary concern for just 13 percent of those surveyed, running behind transportation, improving Downtown, and improving education.

2015 saw a Mayoral campaign predicated on public safety themes, with Mayor Alvin Brown being pilloried for force reductions in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office by his then-opponent, Lenny Curry, and a key surrogate — former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford.

That tack worked on the campaign trail: Curry is in the Mayor’s Office, Rutherford is now in Congress, and Alvin Brown is, two and a half years after that election, planning his next move.

Since taking office, Curry has pushed through three budgets that have added 260 police positions, with another 80 community service officers.

Despite those force additions, reduction of the homicide rate has proved elusive. Per the Florida Times-UnionJacksonville already has 101 homicides this year — with almost three months left.

Jacksonville had 120 homicides in 2016, and 114 in 2015 — and absent a sudden abatement in the trend, Jacksonville will see more murders year over year yet again.

In late September, Jacksonville’s Mayor, Sheriff, and the area’s State Attorney converged at City Hall to discuss the public safety focus of Jacksonville’s now-current budget.

This was Curry’s third straight budget to pass without a no vote, and includes 100 new police officers, which — when combined with 80 new officers and 80 new community service officers in Curry’s first two budgets — rectifies what Curry called “dangerously low levels” of police on the street when he and Williams were elected.

“People want this city safe,” Curry asserted, “and they want the right investment made in law enforcement.”

While the personal favorability numbers of both Mayor Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams suggest that both men are insulated from any serious 2019 challenge at this point, it will be worth watching next year’s UNF poll results to see if concern over crime begins to abate — thus indicating that concern about crime is starting to fade in favor of confidence in the city’s strategy to abate it.

512 registered Duval voters were polled by live dial between Oct. 2 and 4,

Poll gives Duval’s political leaders high job approval numbers

Jacksonville’s City Hall has been a cauldron of discontent in recent months; as recently as Tuesday, the Mayor and the City Council President were trading barbs about a priority piece of legislation the Council President opposed.

Despite the fissure between the city’s chief executive and lead legislator, city leaders are polling pretty well, per University of North Florida pollster Michael Binder.

“All of Duval’s political leaders have extremely high job approval numbers,” said Binder. “Contrast this level of satisfaction with what’s happening in Washington right now, and downtown looks like a political paradise.”

Whether Downtown Jacksonville is anyone’s idea of paradise is a matter of interpretation; however, even by the favorable light of UNF polling, it seems that Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams, State Attorney Melissa Nelson, and Public Defender Charles Cofer will sail to re-election.

Curry’s numbers, per the poll, are particularly sky-high.

Of the 512 registered Duval voters polled by live dial between Oct. 2 and 4, Curry has 69 percent approval against 13 percent disapproval.

For Democrats who may be looking to run against the Republican Mayor once dissed as a “party boss,” consider this: even among registered Democrats, Curry has a 57 percent approval rating.

Curry does well with all ethnic demographics: 74 percent approval with white voters, 59 percent with African-American voters, and 64 percent with Hispanics.

Sheriff Williams is likewise strongly positioned ahead of his inevitable 2019 run for re-election. The first-term Republican Sheriff has 67 percent approval — and 60 percent approval among Democrats.

Williams also has broad appeal in all ethnic groups; his worst performance in the survey is 54 percent with African-American voters.

Neither Williams nor Curry have filed for re-election, but they both have active political committees (“A Safe Jacksonville” and “Build Something that Lasts” respectively).

Though State Attorney Nelson and Public Defender Cofer don’t face voters until 2020, the two first-term Republicans’ numbers might prove encouraging.

Nelson has a 55 percent approval rating, and 13 percent disapproval; Cofer has a 36 percent approval rating, and 14 percent disapproval.

Moving beyond the executive level, the UNF survey also bodes well for the Jacksonville City Council, yet somewhat less well for the Council Presidency of Brosche.

The Council enjoys 50 percent approval against 26 percent disapproval, per the poll.

Brosche, a first-term at-large Republican Councilwoman, has 29 percent approval and 20 percent disapproval. Her main publicity since assuming the gavel in July: a controversial proposal to remove Confederate monuments from city-owned property.

Brosche, interestingly, is underwater with members of her own party, with 20 percent approval among Republicans, against 24 percent disapproval.

Anna Brosche talks Confederate monuments, censure for Council colleagues

Tuesday night was rough for Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche.

Her attempts to stall out a vote on Mayor Lenny Curry‘s children’s program reform, the Kids Hope Alliance, failed. And her allegations of Curry Administration attempts to keep the bill from public view, by having a Councilman introduce a substitute in committee earned a sharp rebuke from the Mayor.

Brosche didn’t address this Tuesday night. And in the end, Brosche ended up voting for the bill.

Despite what many in City Hall perceive as a political setback, Brosche is still Council President — and in that capacity, she addressed the Southside Business Man’s Club’s weekly luncheon Wednesday.

She was surprisingly upbeat after a marathon Council meeting. Brosche described it as a “long night” and a “challenging process,” but “we made it through.”

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Brosche took questions from the crowd — and the first was about Confederate memorials, along the lines of “where does monument removal stop.”

Brosche noted that she is focused on “monuments and markers on city property.”

“I appreciate the question where it ends — I know where mine ends,” Brosche said, noting that the most prominent local monument is the statue in Hemming Park.

A legal review from the city’s lawyers is being conducted, and Brosche expects a report soon.

Additionally, Brosche noted 500 emails and 93 public comments, as well as 50 letters and phone calls.

The feedback is split, Brosche said, and “the version of history I’ve received in all those communications runs the gamut.” As do suggestions — which include private purchase.

“It’s about what they mean to the entire community, not just one section of the community,” Brosche said, though she doesn’t “personally favor” a referendum.

“I’ve studied what it is we’ve taken to the voters in the past, and I personally have a hard time putting a vote to the majority, to decide [for the minority],” Brosche said, occasioning murmurs from the crowd.

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Brosche was also compelled to discuss the confrontation between Councilors Reggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown and police officers after a Council meeting last month.

Gaffney has issued the expected mea culpa statements for attempting to leverage his power as a Councilman to check the officers who pulled him over. However, Brown — who accused officers of racial profiling — has yet to apologize.

That point was not lost on the Fraternal Order of Police, which saw its national and state presidents in Jacksonville Tuesday night to condemn Councilwoman Brown’s accusations and unwillingness to walk them back.

“The ultimate repercussion is going to be leveled by their districts … if there is any,” Brosche said.

Brosche has requested “options” from the General Counsel, including what authority Council has, and expects them at the next Council meeting.

“The question is around censure — is it an option for Council,” Brosche said.

Mayor wins: After acrimony, Jacksonville City Council passes Kids Hope Alliance bill

Tuesday night saw the Jacksonville City Council pass a bill authorizing the Kids Hope Alliance, a new seven-person board that will replace the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey.

The bill passed 18-1 , after a chippy discussion that lasted almost four hours, exposing and exacerbating fissures on the Council that have moved from hallway gossip to fodder for mainstream media.

The sole no vote: Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who had his own competing legislation that now rests in the scrapheap of dead bills.

That passage ends a two-month political taffy pull that saw Mayor Lenny Curry opposite the Jacksonville City Council President and Finance Chair, with the Council President suffering a setback at the hands of her own legislative body.

In a special meeting Tuesday afternoon to discharge the bill from Finance Committee, Council President Anna Brosche made a number of charges about the way the administration handled the process, charging that the administration made a procedural move to loop the public out of bill discussion.

Curry fired back: “At no time would any one from my office or the Office of General Counsel seek to subvert the legislative process or attempt to prevent the input of the people of Jacksonville. It is both irresponsible and disgraceful for an elected official to make such a slanderous allegation. The Council President should immediately admit that the anecdote is false and should apologize to the two staff members who she attacked.”

Brosche did not apologize. The Mayor likely won’t forget that.

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During public comment before bill deliberation, Councilman Garrett Dennis repeatedly attempted to make an emotional appeal during questions to people who would be losing their jobs during the restructure. Bill sponsor Scott Wilson made his displeasure with that clear after the third round of this, calling it a “disgusting” tactic at one point.

Council VP Aaron Bowman got frustrated after the seventh round of this, saying it was a stall tactic, and Brosche had to remind him to make questions “germane” to the bill.

There were, in total, 26 public commenters — and they got plenty of time to make their points.

Amidst the speeches, some clarification: it was thought that part of the re-org, early learning specialists and the like, who are directly employed by the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, may lose their jobs.

CFO Mike Weinstein noted that everyone employed with JCC serves at the pleasure of the Mayor, adding that it’s “disgraceful”, “disheartening,” and “shameful” that people are being made to feel their “jobs are on the cutting block.”

“Nobody’s going to lose their jobs if you vote for this tonight,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein noted that an amendment offered tonight would offer “flexibility,” adding that “there’s no direction to let anyone go”, that people have “civil service protection,” and that there are other positions in city government.

The succession of public commenters continued, with Jacksonville Children’s Commission Board Chair Matt Kane having his say.

Kane, a six-year member of the board, said the JCC brought “real change to kids in the community.”

“This organization is really something wonderful,” Kane said. “We have spent time and energy making a difference … changing the way that after school works.”

After the public comment ended, the bill discussion began. And former Council Presidents offered up amendments.

An amendment from Councilwoman Lori Boyer tightened up the definition of “in-house services” in the bill, saying that KHA could provide in-house services and training, contingent on Council approval of scope and budget. This amendment would also protect the jobs people worry about.

“We’re looking for outside providers for most things,” Boyer said, but this would make it possible to go “in-house” if that option made sense.

Councilman Greg Anderson then pushed an amendment that required a 2/3 majority of Council for removal or replacement of wayward board members.

Both the Boyer and Anderson amendments were uncontroversial and passed easily.

Another amendment sought to extend the age of eligibility to people up to the age of 21 who are pursuing education, and 22 years old for special needs people. After some floor debate, that came to pass. Another amendment further expanded what one Councilor called “umbrella coverage.” Other technical amendments, nibbling around the edges of bill language, were debated with an etymological zeal as the meeting lurched toward its fifth hour.

Jax Council bucks President, moves Kids Hope Alliance to vote

On one side, there’s the Mayor.

Lenny Curry asserts that his proposed Kids Hope Alliance bill is the “real reform” Jacksonville children’s services need.

On the other side, there’s Council President Anna Brosche, who asserts the process needs to be more deliberate and transparent. And there’s also Council Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who has his own bill for children’s program reform that is actually favored by members of the city’s non-profit/provider community.

Brosche and Dennis wanted a slower process, with both bills considered side by side; 13 Council co-sponsors on Curry’s bill seemed to want something different.

That was the setup for a Tuesday meeting — a meeting catalyzed by Brosche’s decision to cancel a scheduled Monday meeting, saying that she had too many questions about the Curry bill for that one meeting to answer.

Councilman John Crescimbeni — the man Brosche beat for the presidency — called for the Tuesday meeting. And 13 Councilors backed him up.

If Curry’s bill passes — and with a supermajority co-sponsoring the measure, that seems likely — it means that the Jax Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission programs will lapse, to be supervised by a seven-person Kids Hope Alliance board.

What is clear, however; the political turbulence typical to the third year of a Mayor’s term came to a head on a bill that, outside of providers and non-profits, has been off of most media’s radars.

The meta-discourse on the bill included Dennis telling Action News Jax that Council members felt “bullied” by the Mayor.

“Now it’s political football. The budget is now being held over some of my colleagues’ heads. You know, ‘Vote for this Kids Hope Alliance or your project’s going to be taken out of the budget.’ And that’s wrong,” said Councilman Garrett Dennis.

And that was followed by a Mayoral adviser saying that Dennis would have had to have violated the Sunshine Law to get that information.

With all that prologue and drama in play, it’s easy enough to forget what this bill is: an attempt to streamline children and youth programming in the city, taking these boards out of the role of running programs in-house and having them supervise programs.

The debate long since moved beyond that. It is now a political endgame. And the latest battlefield: Tuesday afternoon in City Hall.

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Ahead of the 3:30 p.m. meeting of the full City Council, Mayor Curry, meeting with Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and former JCC Chair Howard Korman, was in a good mood, joking with this reporter.

Curry’s confidence set into mind an axiom he frequently Tweets: “Plan. Plan all the way to the end.”

Curry had applied this theory throughout his political life, from his run for Mayor to his successful shepherding of pension reform.

However, this time was different; he had the opposition of the council president and the finance chair.

And to overcome that, he has had to do an end run around Council leadership.

Curry wasn’t present in chamber; he had another meeting.

He left it to Council allies to make the sale.

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 The 3:30 meeting was delimited to the question of whether or not to take up the KHA bill, with a hard stop at 4 p.m.

Citing a “sense of urgency” from colleagues and “intense urgency” from the Mayor’s Office, Brosche noted her regret for the impact of the cancellation.

Brosche said some answers from the administration for her questions were “unsatisfactory.”

Brosche also pointed out a “dilemma” stemming from the Mayor’s perceived desire to exclude the public from the process, with an administration member saying that the sub from a Councilor was intended to hide the bill from the public.

The third issue: Brosche didn’t understand the “rush” to make this law.

Curry fired back after the meeting with a statement responding to Brosche’s claims: “At no time would any one from my office or the Office of General Counsel seek to subvert the legislative process or attempt to prevent the input of the people of Jacksonville. It is both irresponsible and disgraceful for an elected official to make such a slanderous allegation. The council president should immediately admit that the anecdote is false and should apologize to the two staff members who she attacked.”

Brosche did not address Curry’s statement, either in the opening of the Council meeting or in response to a question texted from this outlet.

Councilman Dennis and Councilman Reggie Brown had point of order questions regarding public comment and when it might occur in the process; these occasioned grousing from some members of the crowd — specifically, members who were ready to get down to business and discharge the bill.

Councilman John Crescimbeni got fiery with a few minutes left before 4 p.m., saying that he thought the stall tactics from the chair were “some sort of game” to delay the bill further.

Crescimbeni finally was able to move to discharge. The seconds came in quickly.

The bill was discharged to 3rd Reading Ordinances — an outcome that wasn’t in doubt.

An 18-1 vote. With Brosche as the 1. And the Council against the president.

And a vote on a bill that has been the subject of two months of back and forth is imminent.

Councilman Dennis called the process on this bill a “travesty,” saying that rushing forward and not hearing constituents was not in the public interest.

But in the end, the vote looks very likely to happen.

And in the process, the council president looks to have been kneecapped by the process — and a very politically-savvy Mayor.

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