Lenny Curry Archives - Page 4 of 111 - Florida Politics

After HRO expansion passes, opponents vent their rage at Lenny Curry

During the five-year debate ahead of Jacksonville codifying LGBT rights in its Human Rights Ordinance this week, opponents often couched their rhetoric in the Christian gospels.

However, with the bill having passed, the gospel of love has morphed into the rhetoric of hate.

Getting the worst of it: Mayor Lenny Curry, who respected the supermajority of the City Council and did not veto the bill, even as he made it clear Tuesday evening that he believed the legislation “was unnecessary. But this evening, a supermajority of the City Council decided otherwise. This supermajority, representatives of the people from both parties and every corner of the city, made their will clear.”

In other words, Curry was respecting the City Council’s prerogative to set policy, his own position on the bill notwithstanding.

However, some of Curry’s erstwhile supporters seem to believe that he should have usurped the authority of the council and forced a confrontation with the legislative branch over this issue.

Consider a text Curry received Wednesday from Nancy McGowan, who apparently is a Republican activist.

“Why did you run for mayor Lenny?  To implement a blessing on homosexuality and a mental disorder called transgenderism?  What a disgrace you are as a former Republican.  As a former Christian and most importantly the legacy you have left to your own children and those in the community.    You should have never run for office as you have compromised the very person you were and that is so sad.   You lied to all those who supported you and for what gain?”

McGowan’s position is remarkable, as Curry never said he would veto a bill, just that he wasn’t going to push a bill through.

He told media that he would stay out of the process with the City Council, and he did just that.

McGowan’s decision to attempt to read a former Republican Party of Florida chair out of the party is an odd one for her to have made. And her decision to question Curry’s faith goes beyond oddness.

Curry forwarded these texts to his chief of staff, noting that “people should not be texting me stuff about city business. Please get those text messages in my city email account so we are in compliance with public records laws.”

And in that inbox, the text messages became part of an anthology of vitriol, in which character assassinations abounded because he didn’t thwart the will of the council — all 19 members of which were duly elected, just like the mayor.

Another all-star of recent public comment periods, Pastor Wade Mask, also impugned the mayor’s integrity in an email.

“I was encouraged when I was part of a group that met with you last year. You did not commit to anything, but constructed what you said in such a way that I certainly believed that you were with us. Was I ever wrong,” Mask wrote.

Curry, wrote Mask, “could have vetoed it and made them overturn it with the twelve or if Ms. Brown showed up by making her vote one way or the other.”

[Editor’s Note: LOL]

Mask had hoped that one day Curry would be governor. But not now, alas.

“There is an old country saying, ‘Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.’ I will not be fooled again,” Mask added.

Still more feedback greeted the mayor in his email box.

Angela Strong wrote the following: “This is a very family oriented town with values and morals that we can be proud of. I would think that in light of the results of the Presidential race and the obvious majority voting for American values that you would know in your heart that if you wish to be supported in the future you might want to pay closer attention to what the families of your city want for our children’s future.”

Pastor Jim Wilder mused that “The only problem is that this violates the word of God. May God have mercy on your souls!”

Larry McQueeney contended that “the fact you did not veto that hideous bill makes me sick to my stomach.  That is intellectually dishonest and morally wrong.  You have betrayed the people of your hometown to get what?  A state appointment?  Really?”

Keri Petty, meanwhile, wanted to see Curry primaried should be not veto the bill.

“Lastly, this legislation as w/all LGBT legislation(local, state, & federal)has nothing to do with “equality”, but REDEFINITION! They’re wanting to redefine the normal boundaries of civilization for the last 5,000 to 7,000 years. I voted for you & I’m hoping to vote for you again should you choose to run again. However, if you approve this bill, you will not have my vote & I hope the Republican Party will bring a strong Republican candidate that would consider the issues of the MAJORITY of the population of the city to run against you in the primary,” Petty wrote.

Carol Thomas, likewise, was irked.

“If you think you covered your butt by not signing the HRO 2017-15 Ordinance the council foolishly and despicably passed, I wouldn’t count on it.  We know it came in under your watch and we know what you did to stop it.  Nothing,” Thomas wrote.

“Can’t wait to vote against you.  How long do I have to wait?  If there is a recall effort, I’ll be in on it.  This was not what I voted for.  False advertising!  Family values, my granny! But aren’t you modern!  So was ancient Rome, when it wasn’t ancient.  How spineless can you be? I’ll be looking for your name on ballots for years to come, just for the pleasure of voting against you,” Thomas added.

Karl Klein had this take: “A super-majority on one vote is not the fig leaf you think it is.  You can and should veto the ordinance anyway.  Make the City Council revote and see if they can maintain the super-majority.  You have gone back on your word and betrayed the people who voted you into office.  With Republicans like you, there is no need for Democrats.  I will do everything I can to ensure you are never elected to any position in government.”

And John Green had this measured insight: “This will be your Legacy – ‘One Term Curry let the HBO pass on his watch’.”

Certainly, more communiques like these are on their way to Curry’s inbox. Thus far, though, the vituperation is outstripping the congratulation.

Could NIBIN stem the tide of gun violence in Jacksonville’s streets?

Wednesday morning saw Jacksonville leadership announce and discuss a new initiative that stakeholders hope will abate the surge in gun violence in the Northeast Florida city.

This initiative, conceived during a conversation between the mayor and the state attorney last month, may prove to be an indispensable investigative tool at a reasonable price.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams, and State Attorney Melissa Nelson expressed hopes that local participation in the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) will help identify and target shooters for the purposes of prosecution and getting them off of the streets.

NIBIN is a national database of used bullets and shell casings that are either found at crime scenes or test-fired from confiscated weapons.

As Curry explained it, “when a gun fires a bullet, the casings have an imprint like a fingerprint.”

That imprint allows for pattern recognition for those investigating crimes.

State Attorney Nelson pointed out the unique utility of this “crime fighting tool,” which would be an asset to her team in the prosecution stage.

Saying NIBIN would “alleviate the heavy burden” on the state lab, which can take 12-18 months to return results, Nelson noted that results from NIBIN may be returned as soon as 24 to 48 hours.

There is, added Nelson, a “value in timeliness,” which allows authorities to “prioritize cases.”

“Every bullet, every casing, every gun tells a story,” said Nelson. “We often wait months for results. With this tool, we won’t have to do that any longer.

Sheriff Williams described the use of the database as a “force multiplier,” allowing local authorities to tap into a national database to enhance crime-fighting capabilities.

Williams noted that his department collaborates with multiple arms of federal law enforcement, including the ATF, the DEA, the FBI, and other units.

NIBIN would be one more facet of that collaboration.

“Our federal partners are all key,” Williams said, citing a “strong partnership” between local and national authorities on issues ranging from murders to transnational drug trafficking.

Curry is requesting an appropriation of $250,000 from the Jacksonville City Council for the program.

Meanwhile, Curry, Williams, and Nelson will embark on a fact finding trip early this year to Denver, Colorado, where this program is being used in what the mayor calls a “cutting edge” way.

Williams believes NIBIN is the missing piece that JSO needs for its investigations.

Meanwhile, Curry had a pointed message for those shooters and would-be shooters on Jacksonville’s streets.

“If you’re stupid enough to commit a crime in this city — especially a crime with a gun — this group of people is coming after you.”

Lenny Curry talks CFO, HRO, and pension deal

This week, the Jax Daily Record, via a News Service of Florida story, advanced in print a meme that local reporters had discussed on Twitter: Lenny Curry as CFO.

The Daily Record then moved the story forward, abetted by Atwater’s aide discouraging this outlet from asking him about the prospects of Curry as CFO on Monday when he was in town.

Atwater told the Daily Record that Curry “should be in the mix.” 

Curry’s political consultant, Brian Hughes, told the Daily Record what he told other media: Curry “is enjoying and 100 percent committed to being mayor of Jacksonville.”

With Curry having an interesting week of narrative (a tentative pension deal with public safety unions on Saturday, and a resolution of the HRO issue on Tuesday), would the mayor make news for a third time this week by officially throwing in for the CFO gig?

Or would he commit to serving his full term, taking him out of the discussion to replace Atwater, either as a gubernatorial appointment or as an active candidate in 2018?

Curry, as is his wont when asked such questions, refused to “deal in hypotheticals.”

“This rumor started — I assume it started because of the success that I’ve had — frankly, that my team has had — over the last year and a half. When we set goals, we strive to achieve them and we get them done.

Being in the CFO discussion, said Curry, is a “compliment not only to me but to my team.”

“I love this job and I plan on being Mayor of Jacksonville. I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Curry added.

When asked if he would definitively rule out an appointment to finish Atwater’s term, or a run for statewide office, the mayor avoided a firm commitment.

“I don’t deal in hypotheticals. I’m not pursuing anything. I haven’t talked to anyone. I’ve got a job here to do. I don’t deal in hypotheticals, but I’m the mayor of Jacksonville. I love this job and you’re going to continue to see big issues attacked, problems solved, and opportunities capitalized on in Jacksonville,” Curry said.


When asked about not signing the HRO into law, the mayor cited his position that he did “not believe that legislation was necessary” after signing his departmental directive in 2016 to protect LGBT city employees and city contractor employees from workplace discrimination.

“I still hold that view. But the city council is the legislative body. Last night, they took up the issue … and it got a supermajority vote. They demonstrated their will … Republicans and Democrats, council people from all over this city,” Curry continued.

“It’s law without my signature, and we’re moving on,” Curry said. “It’s closed. It’s over.”

Notable: the mayor spent the evening of Valentine’s Day eating fondue with his wife. While he saw part of the meeting, his viewing stopped when dinner was ready. However, his team was ready to move — and did.


Regarding the pension deal struck Saturday, Curry noted that his team knew it was a “one step at a time process.”

“The next steps are membership and city council,” the mayor said, billing the deal a “victory for taxpayers and a victory for public safety employees.”

It offers security, said Curry, regarding “the promises that were made” to public safety employees, while “[putting] our city on a future of financial stability versus the debt that was incurred long before we got here.”

Curry described his pension reform as unique, in that it’s the only reform advanced with a dedicated source of revenue (the promise of a future half-cent sales tax).

“It’s the only reform that solves this problem with finality,” Curry said, noting that “previous reforms … didn’t solve [that] problem” of revenue surfeit.

“The days of task forces on these issues and not solving big problems and big issues are over,” the mayor added.

Personnel note: Public strategy firm Mercury hires Brian Swensen as senior VP

Global public strategy firm Mercury is adding noted Republican political adviser Brian Swensen to its Florida public affairs team as a senior vice president.

Swensen comes to the firm following his role as deputy campaign manager for the successful re-election of Sen. Marco Rubio, the latest in a series of key political victories in Florida and Louisiana. He his tenure with Mercury began Jan. 19, 2017.

In his new role, Swensen will bring extensive experience in the political arena to provide solutions and winning strategies for the firm’s clients. He will be based in Mercury’s Miami office.

Mercury Florida, now in its fourth year of operation, is led by partner Ashley Walker.

“We are thrilled to welcome Brian, who is one of the leading political operatives in the Southeast region,” Walker said in a statement Tuesday. “Mercury continues to assemble the state’s most talented team of public affairs professionals, and the addition of Brian underscores our commitment to building Mercury into the strongest bipartisan consultancy in the nation.”

“I am excited to work with the incredibly talented team of strategists at Mercury to help address some of the most pressing policy issues facing many organizations and corporations today,” Swensen said. “The Mercury Florida team brings together the state’s top political advisers across party lines.  Nowhere else can you find such deep, diverse skills and experience, and a winning track record to boot.”

“As someone who prides himself on having a great work ethic and outside the box thinking,” he added, “I look forward to unleashing my unique skill set to shape strategy, solve problems, and create wins for our clients.”

Before joining Mercury, Swensen served as deputy campaign manager for Rubio’s re-election campaign, during which he built a political operation that benefited numerous campaigns up and down the ballot, while training and empowering the next generation of political leaders.

Previously, Swensen managed the successful campaign of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, which helped set the tone for Florida Republicans in the 2016 cycle.

Additionally, Swensen was a part of the Bill Cassidy for U.S. Senate campaign, where he led the political and grassroots operation. He served as political director for the Republican Party of Florida, and was victory director for Gov. Rick Scott’s winning campaign in 2010.

Swensen got his start in the political process at The Leadership Institute, a conservative nonprofit based in Virginia, after graduating from Florida International University in Miami.

Mercury provides a suite of services including federal government relations, international affairs, digital influence, public opinion research, media strategy and a bipartisan grassroots mobilization network in all 50 states. With a global presence, Mercury has U.S. offices in Washington, DC, New York, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Tennessee, as well as international offices in London and Mexico City.

Mercury is a part of the Omnicom Public Relations Group.

Jacksonville strikes historic, tentative pension accord with police, fire unions

The city of Jacksonville on Saturday struck a historic, revolutionary (and still tentative) pension accord with the Fraternal Order of Police and the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters.

And not a moment too soon: Feb. 11 was the city’s “deadline” for the unions to take its offer.

The deal offers long-delayed raises to current 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 total contribution: 35 percent, with the city ponying up 25 percent of that — and making guarantees that survivors’ benefits and disability benefits would be the same for new hires as the current force of safety officers.

Members of both unions, and the Jacksonville City Council, have to approve the deal.

But all parties projected optimism after months of tough talk and hard bargaining from both sides.

“This represents another step toward solving Jacksonville’s pension crisis once and for all in a way that is good for taxpayers, first responders, and the future of our city. I want to thank the union leadership for working with me and reaching this historic agreement. I look forward to next steps with union membership,” said Mayor Lenny Curry.

FOP President Steve Zona had this to day.

“When I chose to run for president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5-30 I committed I would be transparent and include the members in decision making. After much deliberation, I feel negotiations have brought us to a point where the voice of the body needs to be heard by way of a vote on the current proposal offered by the city,” Zona said.

JAFF President Randy Wyse likewise confirmed that the members of his union would decide if the deal was good for them.

“Benefits reduced since 2015 will be restored with wage increases and pension equality for existing employees,” Randy Wyse, the President of the JAFF, said.

“Our main purpose and goal is the safety and security of Jacksonville’s Firefighters and their families. The JAFF has negotiated faithfully and openly a tentative contract that has been long overdue for existing employees,” Wyse added.

Between this and a tentative agreement with AFSCME to put its new hires into defined contribution plans, the city is on a roll when it comes to revolutionizing public pensions.

With a $2.85 billion unfunded pension liability growing every year, time was of the essence for the city to close its plans, which despite best efforts of previous pension reform, were choking out the city’s general fund.

The deal allows the city to stop making the extra payments to the Police and Fire Pension Fund that were required by the 2015 pension reform deal. Those payments were slated to eventually rise up to $32 million a year.

As Florida girds up for 2018 elections, and the post-Jeff Atwater as CFO era, expect the quiet whispers about Curry’s statewide future to get progressively louder going forward.

Ron Salem launches 2019 run for Jacksonville City Council

Local Republican insider Ron Salem is the first of dozens of candidates to file to run for Jacksonville City Council in 2019.

Salem filed to run in At Large Group 2 — a seat held by longtime Councilman John Crescimbeni, who will be termed out the same year.

Salem has a connection to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

He served on Curry’s transition team as Curry prepared to take office, and confirmed in January as a member of the Renew Arlington CRA Advisory Board at the mayor’s request.

Before that, Salem served multiple terms on the city’s Sports and Entertainment Board.

How well regarded was he?

In 2010, Mayor John Peyton — the 2018 chair-elect of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce — requested Salem’s appointment for a third term to that board, and that legislation included a waiver to allow Salem up to five terms on that board.

Salem is said to have substantial financial commitments to his cause already.

As well, Curry’s high-powered political consultant Tim Baker will serve as Salem’s strategist for this campaign.

For many candidates, the sight of Baker’s name will inspire them to reconsider their nascent bids.

There may be one exception, however.

Despite Baker playing a role on his behalf, Salem likely won’t be alone in that race in At-Large District 2 for long. Former two-term councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Bishop is exploring his options for a political comeback in that same district.

Bishop became persona non grata with many local Republicans in 2015 after running against Curry and then endorsing Democrat Alvin Brown after his elimination.

Bishop, though he polled well in 2015, arguably did so as an alternative to the two better-funded candidates.

Meanwhile, Salem’s strategist offers an edge that Bishop won’t be able to match.

Tom Grady

Jeff Atwater’s surprise departure makes CFO job the hottest in state

Never mind who’s running for Governor in 2018, Floridians want to know which Republicans are in the running for Florida Chief Financial Officer now that CFO Jeff Atwater announced he is leaving this year, with speculation starting with Tom GradyTom Lee, Will Weatherford and Teresa Jacobs and including seven or eight others.

Grady, a securities lawyer who is a former state representative who also has held several positions in state government, is widely reported as a close friend of Gov. Rick Scott, who will select a replacement for Atwater for the nearly two full years left in the term.

Weatherford, a venture capital and business consultant, is a former Speaker of the House who draws praise from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and who recently announced he’s not running for Governor.

Jacobs is the Orange County Mayor and a former banker who always sounds like she’s already someone’s chief financial officer, and who reportedly has been exploring a possible state run for that job in 2018 when she’s term-limited from the mayor’s office.

Names tumbling around Tallahassee  – some with more spin than others – also already have included Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former Speakers Steve Crisafulli and Dean Cannon, state Sens. Jack LatvalaAaron BeanJeff BrandesLee and Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Rep. Jim Boyd, former state Sen. Pat Neal, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Atwater was once a widely-speculated candidate for Governor himself, but that buzz cooled to nothing and on Friday he surprised much of Florida’s political establishment by announcing that he’s planning office to become vice president for strategic initiatives and chief financial officer at Florida Atlantic University after the Florida Legislative Session.

Besides overseeing the states’s financial operations and financial and insurance regulations, as well as the state fire marshal’s office, the job is a full-voting position on the Florida Cabinet. It’s normally filled by statewide vote, for a four-year term, and Atwater was to be term-limited out with the 2018 election.

Atwater’s office’s imminent availability is so fresh almost no one has had time to actually declare interest in it. No one has filed to run in 2018.

Said Brandes in a tweet Friday, “I haven’t talked to the governor yet, but if I was asked, I would carefully consider it.”

Grady, from Scott’s hometown of Naples, has been looking around. He recently was interviewed for the open president’s post at Florida Gulf Coast University, and last cycle talked briefly about running for Congress in Florida’s 19th District. Last year he declined an opportunity to become the state’s insurance commissioner. He’s on the state board of education, is a former commissioner of financial regulations and a former interim president of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. the state-chartered insurer of last resort.

Once this is done there may be another opening on the cabinet, as state Attorney General Pam Bondi remains a widely-speculated prospect to move on to Washington as part of President Donald Trump‘s team.

Former Duval School Board member carries KIPP charter school bill in Tallahassee

On Thursday, an appropriations bill (HB 2787) was filed in the Florida House for the benefit of the “Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP).”

The bill, filed by Jacksonville Republican Jason Fischer (a former member of the Duval County School Board), seeks to continue the $1,224,000 appropriation from the previous budget to benefit Jacksonville’s KIPP school.

HB 2787 is well-positioned to succeed: Jacksonville powerbroker Gary Chartrand, a member of the local KIPP school’s Board of Directors, is close with Gov. Scott and is on the State Board of Education.

“The funds will pay for the incremental costs associated with the extended school day and year for students in the region’s most educationally undeserved community. Extended learning time allows hundreds more hours per year of classroom instruction versus public schools. The extended school day offers more time dedicated to literacy, math, history, and science. As a result, KIPP students achieve at consistently higher levels than their peers in core academic subjects and the arts,” asserts the appropriations request.

In an interesting side note, the official requester on this appropriations request is Tom Majdanics.

Majdanics, the executive director of the Jacksonville KIPP location, made news of a different sort last year when he mounted a determined campaign in opposition to the pension reform referendum that Mayor Lenny Curry was pushing.

The most dramatic confrontation between Curry and Majdanics occurred in August at an unlikely location: the normally sedate Jacksonville Rotary Club.

Just months later, a state representative that got a lot of help in the pivotal August primary from Curry is carrying a bill that benefits someone who tried to scuttle a key Curry initiative.

This is yet another illustration that Jacksonville is a small town.

The lobbyist on this bill: Mark Pinto of The Fiorentino Group.

Cord Byrd sponsors bill for Jacksonville ‘COPS’ grant

A priority of the city of Jacksonville during the Lenny Curry era: increasing police presence on its most dangerous streets.

One vehicle to do just that: COPS Grants.

The city is pursuing state money for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Matching Grant. The vehicle in the 2017 session of the Florida Legislature: HB 2781, filed by Rep. Cord Byrd.

Jacksonville seeks $250,000, a number it has gotten previously, to match $625,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice, and $294,211 in local monies.

The appropriations request speaks to the success of the program, which Jacksonville uses to quell gun violence — a recurrent concern of policy makers as homicide rates have climbed in recent years.

Jacksonville “received seven letters of support from apartment complexes that are receiving services that the COPS program provides. The complexes have seen great progress in a short time: strengthened relations with local housing communities and tenants receive safety inspections to make their homes meet the standards of the Jacksonville Crime Free Multi-Housing Program.”

The lobbyist working on this bill on behalf of the city: Brian Ballard of Ballard Partners.

The city broke with the previous administration by enlisting a three-headed monster of lobbying firms to advocate for its interest.

In addition to Ballard, the Fiorentino Group and Southern Strategies Group carry the city’s water in Tallahassee.

With Mayor Curry in the state capital this week, chances are good that more local appropriations bills may be rolled out by the Duval Delegation.

Lenny Curry administration may re-open a homeless day resource center

In 2016, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry had a fractious meeting with the religious consortium ICARE.

One unresolved topic: a homeless day resource center.

The previous mayoral administration had one in the budget, which offered services three days a week.

Curry cut it. ICARE wanted reinstatement, and voiced its concerns.

The mayor was focused on the pension tax referendum, however, and stood his ground in opposition.

Curry said that “until the pension is solved, we don’t have the money for new programs.”

The question was asked… again.

“Not in this budget cycle.”

However, there is reason to hope that the next budget cycle may be more favorable.

Curry meets with ICARE representatives on Monday, and last week, one of his biggest supporters — Gary Chartrand — sent the mayor a letter of support for the initiative.

“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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