Florida Governor Rick Scott returned to Jacksonville Tuesday, for the ribbon-cutting at a beer bottling plant he’d visited more than once in recent years: Anheuser-Busch’s expanded Metal Container Corporation manufacturing facility.
Back in 2015, Scott discussed the need for money for the Quick Action Closing Fund, part of a trend in which the “jobs governor” sought money to drive economic incentives that the Florida Legislature was less enthusiastic about.
The event in Northwest Jacksonville Tuesday was a success, driven out of incentives, including the late, lamented Quick Action Closing Fund. And with 102 new jobs created, the goal of 75 new jobs has already been eclipsed.
However, as Scott’s final term as Governor heads for its end, Scott was able to speak more confidently about the past than the present.
“We’ve had a lot of success here,” Scott said. “We’re fighting. But the Legislature this year did not fund economic development.”
As part of a phalanx of speakers at the event, held outdoors on sun-baked blacktop, Sen. Rob Bradley noted that the Governor’s “jobs, jobs, jobs” message may not have resonated with the media, but was necessary.
Then, in a rare moment for a ribbon cutting, Bradley noted that this year’s budget wasn’t to the Senate’s or the Governor’s liking.
“We didn’t get things with this budget,” Bradley said. “Governor, I wish we could have done better this session.”
Soon enough, Bradley introduced a note of levity — and a reference to Gov. Scott’s veto pen, expected to be active this year in a fit of score-settling.
“Whatever you do, we understand,” the Clay County Senator said. “Just don’t do anything about the Keystone Lakes though.”
That reference: to money that Bradley got for the Northeast Florida chain of lakes, currently subject to water depletion.
In a press gaggle after the event, Scott discussed the need for job creation.
“This doesn’t happen by accident. This happens because we recruit companies, go out and get them to come here,” Scott said, via “incentives.”
With incentives increasingly under siege, there already is serious concern about how much more recruitment can happen going forward.
“We’ve got to keep fighting for these things. We’re competing with 49 other states, foreign countries. This is one of the last projects [where] we had the Quick Action Closing Fund, one of the tools in the toolkit we had to recruit companies,” Scott noted.
“We don’t have those dollars anymore. So we’re going to see fewer and fewer of these job opportunities.”
Those who might worry that the Florida/Georgia football game will leave Jacksonville anytime soon can rest a bit easier, as the City Council is about to approve an extension of the agreement for the city to host the Florida/Georgia football game until 2021.
The legislation (2017-322) cleared Neighborhoods, Community Investments, and Services on Monday morning, its second committee stop before Finance on Wednesday morning.
Each team gets a guarantee payment of $250,000 per year, plus a one-time signing bonus of $125,000 upon contract execution, and $60,000 annually for travel and lodging.
Jacksonville can recoup that money by programming events at the amphitheater and the flex field; the schools don’t get a piece of that action.
In NCIS, some questions were raised for Dave Herrell, the head of Sports and Entertainment.
The city is committed to buy $1,000 tickets according to the deal, Herrell confirmed.
A $500,000 base payment, Herrell said, was required to keep the schools happy — and this is part of the package of neutral-site games.
While terms on the renewal sound sweet to those on the outside, Herrell called the game an “incredible branding opportunity … a win/win.”
“The Georgia/Florida game is in our DNA,” Herrell said, with “branding exposure” and “good ROI” galore.
“Other communities covet events like this,” Herrell said, noting that places like Atlanta pose threats with new stadiums.
Also obligatory: maintaining a minimum seat capacity of 82,917, which requires the installation of temporary seats — a hard cost of $2.1M in 2016.
After the 2018 game, Herrell said work would begin on the extension.
Beyond direct recovery of the investment, there also are more holistic benefits to the larger economy: $35M of them, according to a post-game analysis.
The 2016 iteration of the game saw a diverse array of programming options around the event: a number of University of Florida basketball games, the Florida/Georgia Hall of Fame Ceremony, and even a concert by the Avett Brothers put on — events designed to appeal to the kind of people willing to camp out in Jacksonville’s “RV City” for days on end.
Back in 2016, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry discussed the importance of re-upping the deal, a negotiations process he said was rooted in “relationships 101.“
Curry added that on his second day of office, after the inauguration festivities, “one of the first calls [he] made” was to the schools’ athletic directors.
“Our team got to work on it,” Curry said. “We are about solving problems and getting things done.”
“The biggest obstacle,” said Curry, was that there “hadn’t been activity in recent years.”
The Curry administration had to “demonstrate how much we care,” the mayor said, “spending time and showing commitment.”
“Blocking and tackling … that’s Relationships 101.”
For Curry, the kind of football fan whose television is as likely to be turned to the NFL Network as a news program, there simply was no room for error — the deal had to be done.
And if this deal clears the full Jacksonville City Council, the game is on lock throughout the rest of the decade.
“Defending the Constitution and enforcing the rule of law is something that can keep me up at night and get me out of bed in the morning,” Fant said Monday.
“The Legislature has been a wonderful experience, but I’m more of someone who likes to administer public policy for an organization, as opposed to standing on the soapbox and screaming all the time, which is what we have to do in the Legislature,” Fant added.
So Fant is interested in “enforcing the rule of law,” rather than making laws — an important point.
“Culturally, there seems to be a lot of pop culture bent against law enforcement, kind of neo-1960s dismissal of our law enforcement people,” he said. “I think that’s a harmful trend, and I hate to see people go after our guys and girls in the blue.”
Johnson is known for virulent anti-homosexual rhetoric, which has even been an embarrassment to fellow Republicans.
Fant’s campaign asserts that Johnson is “not a hire.” Fine. But why was he the point of contact for the launch for his campaign?
Al Lawson has ‘favorite son’ town hall in Gadsden County
U.S. Rep. Lawson may have a learning curve in “Dirty Duval.” But he is golden, a “favorite son” in Gadsden County, according to the Havana Herald.
Highlights? There was some new info from his town hall last week.
Georgia Rep. John Lewis has been mentoring freshman legislators, Lawson said.
“He is truly there to help us get a chance to congregate as freshmen,” he said.
Lawson also discussed food deserts and nutritional deprivation, noting that some school students are hurting so bad for a decent meal that “kids on Fridays put food in their backpacks because they might have no other food on weekends.”
As you can see below, hunger was also a theme in a Jacksonville appearance.
Lenny Curry committee makes it rain in April
April was a big month for Jacksonville Mayor Curry, as he was making the final sale of his pension reform to the Jacksonville City Council.
To that end, his political committee [“Build Something That Lasts”] spent big: $122,000.
Of that money, $100,000 went to ad buys — which facilitated an effective television ad that drove people to call the Jacksonville City Council and show support.
The ad worked: pension reform passed without a no vote.
Curry secured $55,000 of donations in April, with Tom Petway, Michael Munz and John Rood giving.
The committee has roughly $230,000 cash on hand, and with Curry staying put in Jacksonville after withdrawing from the CFO search, he will have time to replenish the coffers.
Paul Renner delivers big for Flagler, St. Johns dune restoration
When Flagler County commissioners recently workshopped an update on recovery from Hurricane Matthew, concerns arose over money appropriated by the Legislature.
More specifically, what was not being appropriated.
“I’m hearing we might not even come close to the $10 million we were hoping for,” Commission Chair Nate McLaughlin told FlaglerLive.com.
However, Republican state Rep. Renner, whose district includes all of Flagler County, came to the rescue. By the end of the 2017 Session, Renner secured $13.3 million for emergency repairs in his district.
But the money came with the catch, as far as Flagler is concerned: it would have to be shared between Flagler and St. Johns counties, leaving a certain uncertainty over how the Department of Environmental Protection will split the amount. The DEP oversees administering the money and of some of the beach-restoration work for Hurricane Matthew repairs, after the storm sheared off enormous chunks of beach sand and dunes in Flagler County.
“DEP will administer that based upon the county’s needs,” Renner said in an interview. “So, we believe that that in combination, with the possibility of some funds from the main beaches budget, will be adequate to cover the entirety of the local match in Flagler County.”
Laura Street Trio, Barnett Building in play
Good news for those wanting downtown development to continue on the upswing! The Florida Times-Union reports that Curry is committed to the renovation of the properties, and the city is willing to put in $9.8M in incentives to make that happen.
“With a keen focus on increasing economic development throughout the city, building public-private partnerships, and ensuring a return on the city’s investments to taxpayers, my administration has been able to successfully negotiate a redevelopment agreement where others have stalled and failed,” Curry asserted.
“Any redevelopment project I present to City Council will reflect a return to taxpayers,” Curry added. “This one is no exception.”
City incentives are “part of $78 million worth of work to turn the buildings into a mix of apartments, hotel rooms, restaurants, rooftop bar, bank and bodega market,” the T-U report added.
All of this would be done within about three years.
School Board, Nikolai Vitti rail against HB 7069
Newsflash: the Duval County School Board and the state Legislature are sideways on education reform, with board members and outgoing Superintendent Vitti messaging hard against changes Monday before the legislature approved the bill, as WJXT reports.
“Not only are we underfunded for infrastructure, but we will see less funding and an acceleration of funding to charter schools,” Vitti said. “This “reform” is — I call it reform because that’s what the Legislature is calling it — it’s not reform. It’s hijacking of the legislative process to favor charter schools. In other words, to favor the few over the many.”
The controversial bit of the bill: the “Schools of Hope” program, incentivizing charter schools taking on students from failing schools — and upsetting the funding formula.
Police Union 1, ‘F— the Police’ 0
In the wake of a springtime clash between anti-Trump protesters and Jacksonville police officers, a very public clash soon ensued on Facebook between Jacksonville Ethics Commission nominee Leslie Jean-Bart and Fraternal Order of Police head Steve Zona.
That clash — which involved, among other things, Jean-Bart defending protesters using the inflammatory phrase “f — the police” by posting that “Also, F*** the Police is protected free speech. I’m not going to condemn it because there is no reason to do so” — has now reached the denouement.
And it appears Jean-Bart will not be moving toward the Ethics Commission anytime soon, with the City Council withdrawing the bill that would put her on.
The nomination was withdrawn at the request of its sponsor: Public Defender Charles Cofer.
In the words of Ice-T: “Freedom of speech … just watch what you say.”
Save the date: Florida Foundation for Liberty is hosting a fundraising reception for Rep. Renner Thursday, May 25. Reception begins 5:30 p.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Dr. #3500, in Jacksonville. RSVP to Katie Ballard at (954) 803-3942 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
UF Health North cuts ribbon on new inpatient hospital
The 92-bed tower is connected by walkways to the current medical office complex, the heart of the campus, which has been open since 2015. The new hospital consists of five floors, four for patients with all private rooms.
There is a 20-bed unit dedicated to labor and delivery and other women’s services, a 24-bed floor dedicated to the intensive care, two 24-bed floors devoted to general medical inpatients, and one floor of administrative services, a chapel, a cafeteria and more.
Night at the Zoo
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will be in a whole new light with Night at the Zoo events from 6:30-10 p.m. Live music, food trucks, cash bars, and visitors will have a chance to see animal exhibits until 8:30 p.m. on June 23, July 14, July 28 and August 11.
There will be animal encounters, keeper talks, bounce houses and more. Tickets for members are $5/adults and $3/children (3-12); nonmembers are $10/adult and $5/children (3-12). Child 2 and under: free (but still require a ticket) Tickets are available by pre-sale, online purchase only.
JAXPORT adds Hans-Mill Corporation
Hans-Mill Corporation, one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of metal and plastic household products, is opening a state-of-the-art manufacturing center near the JAXPORT North Jacksonville marine terminals.
The 121,000-square-foot facility IS for manufacturing, assembling and distributing stainless steel trash cans and plastic household products sold at major retailers around the world.
Hans-Mill will use JAXPORT to import materials used in its manufacturing process from Asia, as well as for the import of finished goods for U.S. distribution. In addition, the company has been granted permission to operate within JAXPORT’s Foreign Trade Zone No. 64. The facility, which already serves as the company’s headquarters, stands for an $11 million investment in Northeast Florida, creating 23 new, direct jobs.
Some good news for fans of minor league baseball in Jacksonville, from First Coast News.
The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are showing a 73 percent YOY increase in attendance — a validation of the once-controversial and once-derided change of the team’s name from the Suns.
Purists balked. But with new promotions and a new look, baseball is juiced once again at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
That’s the biggest increase in turnstile traffic in minor league baseball. The second biggest has a local connection as well: the Columbia Fireflies. The South Carolina A club features Tim Tebow at the plate, and casual fans at the gate, with a 43 percent uptick year over year.
Armada remain undefeated thanks to late equalizer
The Jacksonville Armada FC recorded a late comeback to draw with the New York Cosmos Saturday night. In the 95th minute, Zach Steinberger nailed a clutch goal to give the Armada FC (2W-4D-0L) a 1-1 draw with the New York Cosmos (2W-3D-1L) after trailing from the 23rd minute onward.
Kartik Krishnaiyer reports that New York’s early goal came courtesy of Javi Marquez. Jacksonville goalkeeper Caleb Sewell-Patterson had a great game once again making key saves to keep the Armada within striking distance.
“That performance was the best performance I’ve ever seen from the Armada against the New York Cosmos, who are one of the best teams in the NASL over the past few years,” said head coach Mark Lowry. The Cosmos have won 3 of the last 4 NASL Championships.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” said Armada Midfielder Kevan George. “We’re a team. Our chemistry and grind from preseason is what brought us to this point. Are we surprised that we tied the game? No, we knew we had it in us. We just have to keep going and get wins.”
Jacksonville faces North Carolina FC in NASL play Saturday. The Armada will be looking to continue its undefeated run and jump back into first place with a win. Jacksonville has drawn four straight games.
Meanwhile, the Armada FC learned who they’d face in next week’s US Open Second Round. Miami United will be the opposition after a late winner sunk Boca Raton FC. Local playing legend Nacho scored the game-winning goal in the 87th minute for Miami in a game where Boca Raton recorded the majority of chances, particularly in the second half. Miami’s goal against the run of play was impressive and showed the side could counterattack well, something Lowery and the Armada FC will have to account for in next week’s matchup.
The match will take place Tuesday, May 16, at Hialeah’s Ted Hendricks Stadium.
Fulfilling a campaign promise from 2016, 4th Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson rolled out on Wednesday an initiative designed to increase the use of civil citations for juvenile offenders, via a memorandum of understanding among various local and regional agencies.
“This new agreement for pre-arrest diversion will expand and enhance the juvenile civil citation program uniformly throughout the circuit,” read a release from Nelson’s office.
Speakers and stakeholders abounded at the event, including Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, and Fourth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Mark Mahon.
The use of civil citations was something controversial in the 2016 campaign, with then-incumbent Angela Corey more agnostic on them than Nelson was.
Nelson, devoted to a restorative justice model rooted in 21st century theory rather than that of previous eras, has promised a reform agenda.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry failed to say “no” to the expansion of the local HRO, or Human Rights Ordinance, to include LGBT people.
So Florida Family Action, which agitated against the ordinance being expanded, urged Gov. Rick Scott to just say no to Curry as CFO on Monday.
They’ll take almost anyone else: Sen. Aaron Bean, Sen. Tom Lee, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, or Pat Neal.
Curry, who has spoken repeatedly about his lack of enthusiasm for the bill, nonetheless let it pass without his signature.
The argument from Curry: it had super-majority support, so a veto would have been moot.
However, for FFA, that proves that Curry “is not a principled conservative and is not willing to fight for what is right.”
“As the former head of the Republican Party of Florida, Lenny has become the darling candidate of the GOP establishment, but he is not reform minded. This is a politician who is trying to please everyone. He appears to be more concerned with what the left thinks about him than the conservative base who helped get him elected,” FFA contends.
The group calls Curry a “Charlie Crist Republican,” prone to “unsound decisions” should he ever attain higher office.
Gov. Scott will be in Jacksonville for a job creation event, timed while most of the top guns in the local media are at the Corrine Brown trial.
Will Scott be asked about this FFA broadside? For that matter, will Curry?
The story will continue to develop until such time as Scott replaces Jeff Atwater — who hasn’t left yet — as CFO.
Readers have likely noticed our deep-dive coverage of the Corrine Brown trial this week.
As the trial moves into its evidentiary phase, it would be easy to forget Wednesday’s opening statements.
That would be ill-advised, as those statements represent the crux of the disagreement between the government and Brown.
The Feds maintain Brown orchestrated the criminal conspiracy; Brown’s defense is she was older, not technically savvy, and essentially exploited by her former chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, unaware that One Door for Education was One Big Scam.
Pretrial publicity revealed that quite a few people thought Brown guilty because of the indictment and the reporting on it. What didn’t help: Brown’s reputation over the years, which was often at odds with establishment media.
Of course, there is a flip side: the reality is Brown has (and had) plenty of cache in her community — and that, for those who have followed Brown over the years, the defense argument — that she could not have pulled this whole thing off — seems somewhat plausible.
Brown didn’t use email. Never texted, allegedly, until the last year. It’s why so much of the case depends on whether one finds Ronnie Simmons or Corrine Brown more plausible.
Did Simmons exploit Brown? Or did Brown call the shots?
If just one juror buys the idea that Brown was not in control of the operation, some — if not all — of the charges may not reach a guilty verdict.
She may have a tougher time with counts related to tax issues and inaccurate financial disclosures.
But there are no guarantees there either.
File this away for a couple of weeks. Either it’s eerily prophetic or completely off-base.
In any event, Florida Politics will cover this, pillar to post.
Pension reform a done deal
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry got his pension reform package through the Jacksonville City Council Monday.
The bill moves city employees hired after Oct. 1 to defined contribution plans, which feature a 25 percent match for public safety, and a 12 percent match for general employees.
Integral to the pitch: long-delayed pay raises for city employees — police and firefighters will get 20 percent more over a three-year period. General employees will get 14 percent raises in the same timespan.
A measure of the success of Curry’s marketing plan: over 32,000 views on YouTube for the video clip from “Build Something That Lasts,” Curry’s political committee.
That commercial was pushed via digital targeting, coordinated with voter rolls.
Curry for CFO? T-U drives the narrative
With pension reform now a memory, could Mayor Curry’s next move by Florida CFO?
The crossroads Curry faces: “appointment as the state’s next chief financial officer, which would vault Curry into a high-ranking position in the state Cabinet. Or Curry could continue as mayor of Jacksonville and use the budget relief from pension reform to focus on the unfinished business of turning the tide on the city’s violent crime problem and getting long-delayed construction projects underway.”
What will happen? Ultimately, it’s Rick Scott’s call. And Scott doesn’t blab to the press.
Those familiar with the thinking of Curry’s political advisers say that job is Curry’s — if he wants it.
The contra-narrative: Curry is entrenched in the community and devoted to his family, which leads to some speculation that he wouldn’t want to make a move.
Time is running out on the Legislative Session. With Jeff Atwater’s exit, it will be time next month for speculation to be borne out — one way or another.
Al Lawson, John Rutherfordslow to fundraise
Jacksonville’s two U.S. Congressmen, Republican Rutherford of Florida’s 4th Congressional District and Democrat Lawson of the 5th, are perhaps lucky they don’t (yet?) face real challenges to re-election, as their fundraising was sluggish compared to some in Q1 2017.
Rutherford raised $45,700 and spent $16,000 for an on hand total of $32,000. Lawson brought in $72,000, reports Drew Wilson of Florida Politics.
Rutherford and Lawson weren’t particularly aggressive fundraisers in the 2016 cycle either. It didn’t matter, as Rutherford had great Name ID and a strong team, and Lawson had the advantage of running against an indicted Congresswoman Brown in a radically changed CD 5.
Lawson’s number is worth watching, as Jacksonville Democrats eye a run for the seat.
Rutherford moves to expand ‘yellow ribbon’ program
While Lawson still has yet to file a single bill, Rutherford is on the move, as WJXT reports.
Rutherford “introduced legislation to expand the eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program to people who have received the Fry Scholarship, a scholarship that allows education benefits to be transferred to the children of service members killed in the line of duty,” WJXT reports.
“The Yellow Ribbon Program allows higher education institutions to cover additional tuition costs for service members utilizing their GI benefits if the cost of attendance is above the cap set by the post-9/11 GI Bill,” the report adds.
The bill, formally entitled the “Julian Woods Yellow Ribbon Program Expansion Act,” honors Woods, who died by enemy fire on a foreign battlefield.
C is for ‘cryptic’ in CSX
New CSX CEO Hunter Harrison came in months back, shedding workforce and spiking share prices.
“On the topic of cost savings, there seems to be some confusion among the masses about Hunter Harrison’s pontification on what he was seeing as potential targets for improvements versus actual guidance. On the topic of mergers & acquisitions, there also appears to be confusion (rightfully so) on what was and wasn’t inferred.”
After cutting 800 employees, even before he would have had real time to see how they function, Harrison claims he has a “good hand” at CSX.
Convinced? We’re not. And we’re not convinced he’s telling the truth when he says his end game isn’t to fold up CSX into another, bigger company.
The reality is this: Hunter Harrison could be the reason CSX leaves Dirty Duval.
Karma 1, Ken Adkins 0
Life finally dealt Pastor Ken Adkins a decisive blow, as a jury in Brunswick, Georgia convicted the flamboyant African-American preacher on molestation charges that will ensure he spends his life in prison this week.
Adkins served his uses: he was the self-styled pied piper to the elusive black vote for Jacksonville Republicans, before he went off the rails after the 2015 election, when he went scorched earth against the Human Rights Ordinance expansion.
Adkins was best known for sending out pornographic memes depicting Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri in flagranti delicto in a public restroom with a gentleman.
Now, of course, the truth has come out on Adkins — who groomed a vulnerable teenage couple in Brunswick, setting them up for sexual exploitation.
He will never be a part of Jacksonville politics again, though he should stand as a cautionary tale for those on the right who want to pretend they have an exclusive license on virtue.
This is 40?!
A year ago, no one in Jacksonville knew Gary Snow — the 40-year-old Chicago transplant who has become infamous for counter-protesting Jacksonville protest events.
Snow, a ubiquitous presence with his Donald Trump flag and bullhorn, has been shrouded in controversy since coming to Jacksonville, as the Florida Times-Union reports.
Snow, who drove Donald Trump Jr. around Jacksonville’s football stadium on a golf cart during Florida/Georgia weekend last year, also has white power ties, Pelican writes.
“An example is the October 2015 post that boils skin color down to ‘adaptation to varied climates and levels of UV exposure.’ It goes on to say ‘God has predestined people for certain regions” and ‘they should all return to their home where nature had intended for them to thrive,’ following by hashtags including #GoBlacktotheMotherland.”
66-year-old Hugh Popell was charged with theft and falsifying an official document this week.
WJXT reports “that there were several days when Popell’s time sheet and overtime requests differed from his vehicle’s GPS data, badging history and email data.”
As well, “Popell would say he was working when he was instead making personal stops. One example of a personal stop, police said, was when he visited his niece for about an hour and a half while being paid time-and-a-half for holiday pay.”
Turnabout is fair play. That niece will now be able to visit Popell.
In the Duval County Jail.
Chickens coming home to roost
A couple of years back, Jacksonville passed an ordinance allowing backyard hens after considerable deliberation.
Orange Park is possibly next, if a draft ordinance reported on by the Florida Times-Union becomes law.
The 12-month pilot program, claims Councilman Steve Howard, is rooted in “the concept of local sustainability,” which “has inspired an interest in backyard and community food production to provide local food services.”
The move apparently would be controversial, as it was in Jacksonville initially, and as it ultimately was in Atlantic Beach, which voted 3-2 against a similar ordinance in February.
JAXPORT ‘Cycles Up’ with new supply chain partner
Cycle Up Supply Chain Services, a South Florida-based logistics company, is expanding to JAXPORT, bringing new transportation and logistics options for shippers. Cycle Up recently signed a five-year lease on an 80,000-square-foot warehousing and distribution facility located near JAXPORT’s North Jacksonville Marine Terminals.
Cycle Up provides warehousing, pick and pack, and transloading services. The facility brings new business, including several of Cycle Up’s existing customers, among them major online as well as brick and mortar retailers
“A convenient geographic location, reduced inland transportation costs and increased backhaul opportunities all make Northeast Florida an ideal location for expansion,” said Cycle Up Managing Partner Tony Albanese. “We are confident our customers will benefit from all the supply chain efficiencies Jacksonville offers.”
According to Cycle The expansion brings a $1 million investment and creates 35 new jobs according to the company. Cycle Up operates three other distribution centers around the nation.
Armada growing ‘little by little,’ remain unbeaten
The Jacksonville Armada FC is still undefeated and stayed in first place in the NASL after a 1-1 draw against the defending champions, the New York Cosmos Saturday night in Brooklyn. The Cosmos have won three of the last four NASL titles.
Kartik Krishnaiyer reports that Armada’s goal came courtesy of J.C. Banks in the second half and ensured Jacksonville would remain at the top of the table.
For the fourth successive game, the Armada was outstanding defensively. Mechack Jérôme began defensive play in the sixth minute with an intervention just outside the goal when New York’s Walter Restrepo sent a shot his way. The Cosmos took the lead in the 22nd minute when Javi Márquez found his way through the box to take a shot toward the far post — it went into the bottom right corner.
Jacksonville defender Kalen Ryden came close to an equalizing in the 32nd minute. A timely cross from Nicklas Maripuu was connected with by Ryden, who sent a header just short of the net to the right.
Although goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell lost his clean sheet streak at three, he made three saves in the game.
Despite having the majority of the possession and shots in the first half, the Armada FC failed to find the back of the net.
Banks scored the equalizer in the 67th minute from a headed pass by Ryden. He gained possession about 30 yards out to drive the ball toward the Cosmos and fired it just inside the 18-yard box. Banks goal was selected as NASL’s play of the week. Following the goal Armada FC Head Coach Mark Lowery was ejected from the technical area and sent to the stands perhaps for being demonstrative in his celebration?
Cosmos Head Coach and Sporting Director Giovanni Savarese said.
“We are growing little by little. We need time, and I think we are showing now that we are a different team, tonight, we looked more balanced, dynamic and created more chances.”
Nonetheless, the Cosmos are looking up at the surprising Armada FC in the table. Jacksonville’s start has been one of the big surprises of American soccer thus far in 2017.
The Armada FC returns home to face defending NASL runners-up Indy Eleven at Hodges Stadium Saturday.
Uber to service Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach
Officials with The Players announced the on-demand ridesharing service will have designated pickup and drop-off points at the Sawgrass Marriott hotel during the tournament May 9-14. Drop offs will be at the Sawgrass Marriott Conference Center area, and a shuttle will lake to the Davis Love III entry area at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Uber pickup services will also be at the hotel.
“With the increasing popularity of The Players both in Northeast Florida and nationally, efficiently getting fans into and out of the tournament in a timely and safe manner is one of our key goals,” said The Players executive director Jared Rice.
Jacksonville Zoo Bowling for Rhinos
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is holding the 27th Annual Bowling for Rhinos event June 16-17. The Zoo’s chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers has raised over $117,000 with BFR since 1990.
The international conservation event is at Beach Bowl, 818 Beach Blvd. in Jacksonville Beach. Activities start Friday from 7 — 9 p.m.; registration opens at 6 p.m.; Saturday, from 1 — 3 p.m., registration at noon (more family-friendly) and 7 — 9 p.m., registration begins at 6 p.m. Registration is $25 per person, which includes two games of bowling and shoe rental. Registration for non-bowlers is $10 per person.
BFR includes a silent auction, raffle, and Archie’s Rhino Rye Pale Ale from Bold City Brewery. Limited edition BFR T-shirts will be available. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event go directly to support Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia.
The real work was done over the past weeks and months. But the ceremony, the cameras, the victory lap were all reserved for Monday afternoon, when the Jacksonville City Council officially passed 14 bills that equate to pension reform.
The “committee of the whole” vote – held Wednesday – was the dispositive one.
In that meeting, which lasted over three hours, the Jacksonville City Council worked through the last few rounds of questions and concerns it might have had over the pension agreements.
Those questions and concerns, really, were moot points.
The city can’t afford not to make the deal – not facing an untenable $360M pension hit next year on a $2.8B unfunded actuarial liability.
With pension reform closing current pension plans and backing up the repayment with the future assets from a 1/2 cent sales tax, the pension hit in FY 2018 is $218M; if reform fails, the hit is $360M (up from $290M next year).
As CFO Mike Weinstein has said of late, the savings add up to “$1.4B less out of the general fund over the next 15 years,” and “without that revenue” from the half-cent sales tax, the city would have “difficulty matching revenue to expenses.”
So that’s the reality.
Three bills ultimately are the most newsworthy.
2017-257 establishes the half-cent sales tax extension. 2017-258 changes pension plans for general employees and correctional workers. And 2017-259 changes plans for police and fire.
The city will offer 25 percent matches for defined contribution plans for police, fire, and correctional workers; for general employees, the match is 12 percent.
The other eleven bills ratified collective bargaining agreements between the city and JEA and various unions.
Is there a politician in Florida right now on more of a hot streak than Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry?
This issue of Bold tells the tale.
Curry’s pension reform appears to be on a glide path toward ratification — a major accomplishment.
His moves toward downtown revitalization have a major shot in the arm, with Shad Khan getting the green light to go forward with Shipyards redevelopment.
And he is still in the CFO discussion — bigly.
It is a political season where everyone in Tallahassee looks a bit more diminished with each passing news cycle.
Yet, Curry — vilified as a “party boss” during the campaign two years ago — is looking like the embodiment of leadership.
At 70 percent in an internal poll (and above 60 percent of Democrats), the question has to be raised: Is Jacksonville enough for Curry, or is it time for him to make a play for something statewide?
Pension reform a done deal … almost
It appears that the long and winding path toward comprehensive pension reform in Jacksonville has all but completed after the Jacksonville City Council “committee of the whole” voted to recommend 14 pension reform bills to the full Council Monday.
What this means: all that’s left for the body to do is vote once more for the bills they approved in committee.
Of the bills, 11 ratify collective bargaining agreements. One authorizes the ½ penny sales tax extension, which provides actuarial certainty that there will be money to pay down and eventually pay off the city’s $2.8B unfunded pension liability. And two more bills reconfigure the city’s retirement plans.
Existing defined benefit pension plans will close to new entrants. Hires after Oct. 1 will enter defined contribution plans.
Done deal — and maybe the biggest accomplishment of Curry’s political career.
Thus far …
Curry visits Tallahassee, not lobbying for CFO
Curry made his way to Tallahassee this week … but not to buck for the CFO slot.
Curry, who is at 70 percent in a recent internal poll conducted by his political committee, was there advocating for a friend and CEO of a Jacksonville company, reports Tia Mitchell.
“Curry introduced APR Energy Chair and Chief Executive John Campion to Scott and explained the company’s issues, which have tied up $44 million and could cost even more. He asked Scott to reach out to President Donald Trump in hopes of that the president can help bring the yearslong case to resolution,” Mitchell writes.
Turbines owned by APR were rented by an Australian company that went bankrupt, frustrating attempts to retrieve the equipment.
Curry, meanwhile, is willing to have a “conversation” about the CFO position, he told Mitchell.
Does Jacksonville need block grants?
Does the city of Jacksonville need Community Development Block Grants? As an urban city with all kinds of legacy problems, one would think the federal money would come in handy.
But getting Curry to take a position on CDBGs has been a slog.
The city kicked off the beginning of a week of events designed to call attention to the utility of CDBGs with a mayoral proclamation — but with no one authorized to deliver it.
TV was there — no worries, they didn’t notice. But there is a school of thought that Curry’s reticence is related to the desire of President Trump to zero out these grants — weekend travel to one’s private clubs isn’t cheap.
Curry’s spokesperson, Marsha Oliver, projected agnosticism on the issue on behalf of her boss.
“As long as the program exists and funds are available, we will utilize them,” Oliver said.
Oliver stressed that the mayor was not taking a position on whether the program should or shouldn’t be in existence; however, as budget discussions loom, Curry’s financial team likely will have to factor in the current uncertainty from the White House.
Aaron Bean is lobbying for CFO
Sen Bean — already filed for re-election to the Senate — is in the mix for the CFO opening that will be created soon.
“My name is in the hat for CFO,” Bean said. He has met with Gov. Rick Scott, who said he would announce the process for selection “after Session ends.”
Bean is part of a crowded field of candidates, which includes Curry and Pat Neal, who has been touted by statewide political media as a strong candidate for the caretaker role.
Trouble for Paul Renner?
Rep. Renner has made no secret of his desire to be House Speaker in 2022 — and that may be a dealbreaker.
A week after POLITICO Florida reported Renner discussed his speaker’s bid with House Republicans — violating prohibitions against campaigning for the slot — new draft rules may knock him out of the running.
Peter Schorsch lays it out.
“According to the latest version of the rules, a caucus member would be ineligible to be nominated if the House Speaker declares the member in violation of House Republican Conference Rules,” Schorsch writes.
Adopted last year, those rules state a “candidate for the office of Republican Leader-designate may not have directly or indirectly solicited or accepted a formal or informal pledge of support before June 30 of the year following the general election which the final members of their legislative class were elected.”
Conference rules go on to say a violation would render that candidate “ineligible to stand for election before the House Republican Conference as either the Republican Leader-designate or the Republican Leader.”
Corrine Brown trial boasts witness star power
Federal court awaits Brown next week, and political watchers will appreciate the star power brought forth to testify on the questionable charity graced by Brown’s name.
Among the defense witnesses: Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Bennie Thompson.
Jacksonville luminaries will also testify, including former Mayor John Delaney.
Testifying for the prosecution: Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel, former Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover, current Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, Jacksonville super-donors John Baker and Ed Burr, Jacksonville lawyer, and one-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Steve Pajcic, and former chair of the Donald Trump campaign in Florida, Susie Wiles.
Testifying for the state: the congresswoman’s daughter, Shantrel Brown and her two alleged co-conspirators: Carla Wiley and former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons. Simmons also is on deck for the defense.
Both Wiley and Simmons have pleaded out, and their sentences are contingent on cooperation with the feds.
Brown faces 22 federal counts, with a possible 357 years in prison and $4.8 million fine if all charges are found valid.
Nikolai Vitti, Motown-bound
The Detroit Free Pressreported this week that Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is moving on to the Motor City, wrapping up a tenure that saw Vitti with more buy-in from community “stakeholders” than rank and file.
Going forward, It looks to be a wild ride for Vitti.
The Free Press reported “jeers” from some audience members, with the objection being that Vitti is not African-American.
And there is a lawsuit challenging the openness of the search process also.
And the teacher’s union wants the interim superintendent kept on as an assistant superintendent.
Vitti’s tagline during this process has been a claim that he has Detroit in his DNA.
There’s still time to order a kit from 23AndMe, doctor.
Meanwhile, the Duval County School Board meets Friday to discuss next steps.
Shad Khan gets greenlit for Shipyards development
The “future of the Shipyards” is in the hands of Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan.
No, it’s not kismet. Rather, it’s the result of Khan’s Iguana Investments emerging as the best of three competitive bids for redevelopment of the Shipyards and Metropolitan Park. Indeed, Iguana’s score of 85.5 was well ahead of the other two hopefuls.
Action News Jax reports that “Khan’s vision for Downtown stays true to his prior ‘Live. Work. Stay. Play’ pitch. His aim is to create an atmosphere around the stadium where the City and Jaguars both benefit. In addition to residential and park space, the plan calls for a luxury hotel that connects to the stadium through a pedestrian tunnel and a pedestrian and bicycle bridge park, similar to the High Line in New York.”
City Council will approve this deal later this spring.
Jax Chamber pushes Players economic impact
The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce ascribes $151M of economic impact from May’s PLAYERS Championship for Northeast Florida.
The Chamber hosted a news conference this week that involved representatives from the PLAYERS and US Assure, and as has been the case previously, all parties discussed the unique economic synergy created by the event.
“The tournament has hosting opportunities for businesses of all sizes and the PLAYERS Club is an excellent way to showcase our community, the tournament, and your company. If you have not already, I would highly suggest reaching out to staff of THE PLAYERS to figure out how they can help your company host clients at this amazing event,” US Assure chief operating officer Ryan Schwartz asserted.
“During May 9-14, Northeast Florida is on an international stage thanks to THE PLAYERS Championship,” Jax Chamber Chair Darnell Smith said. “As a community, we must continue to take advantage of this spectacular tournament and venue to showcase how wonderful this city is and to help grow business here in Northeast Florida.”
Ed Burr, double booked
When it comes to the JEA Board, almost-Chair Burr has left the building, reports the Florida Times-Union.
“Mayor Lenny Curry appointed Burr, along with other business leaders, to the board in 2015 following a shake-up of the board in the wake of controversy over governance at JEA. Curry reappointed Burr for another term this year, but Burr asked for his name to be withdrawn from reappointment because of continued ambiguity in state law about whether he is a dual officeholder,” Sebastian Kitchen writes.
Burr, chairman of the Jacksonville Civic Council and a Lenny Curry ally, also serves on the FSU Board.
Tom Petway will serve as interim chair until a new chair is formally selected.
March Madness comes to Jacksonville in 2019
The NCAA awarded Jacksonville a Division I Men’s Basketball Regional for 2019. The Florida Times-Union reports it is the fourth time since 2006 that the city has been a part of March Madness.
Jacksonville is the Florida site chosen for an NCAA regional for the next two years. Tampa received a regional for 2020.
“We have worked on this for the past year, and I think our track record from hosting in 2006, 2010 and 2015 spoke for itself,” said Alan Verlander, chief operating officer and executive director of the Jacksonville Sports Council. “We’re very excited to welcome March Madness back to Jacksonville.”
University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium will host the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Outdoor Championships in May 2019 and May 2021.
“We are thrilled to welcome NCAA Championship events back to Jacksonville,” said Curry. “Our community continues to demonstrate that we are a premiere destination for many of the biggest and brightest sporting events. This is another great opportunity to support and celebrate student-athletes who are competing at the highest level.”
Motivational Speaker Doug Dvorak to give Flagler College commencement
Approximately 358 Flagler University students will get a motivational speech from Doug Dvorak when they receive their diplomas at a commencement ceremony next weekend.
Dvorak, an alum who graduated from Flager with a bachelor’s in business administration in 1984, is the CEO of DMG International, an organization that assists clients with sales, productivity and motivational workshops. His background in sales, leadership and management has allowed him to become one of the world’s most sought-after consultants, lecturers and teachers, and in 2014 he was inducted into the Motivational Speakers Hall of Fame.
JAXPORT now offers expanded service to Asia through Hamburg Süd’s new Asia- North America East Coast rotation. JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminalserves as the last port of call for the new service offered through the 2M Alliance. Ships in the rotation offer direct service from Jacksonville to Busan in South Korea as well as Qingdao, Xingang, Shanghai and Ningbo in China. SSA Marine furnishes stevedoring services at Blount Island.
UF Health Jacksonvilleneurology patients needing medical imaging are getting scans much quicker after an in-house, multiple-department efforts have reduced turnaround times. The change brings more efficiency, increased throughput, and improved patient satisfaction. Overall, there was a 52 percent decrease in the number of scans that took more than a day to complete. Data for the study were collected through early 2016.
Jacksonville-based Community Hospice of Northeast Florida has a new name — Community Hospice & Palliative Care. The Florida Times-Union reports the change reflects Community Hospice’s growing line of services and programs. Since 1979, Community Hospice has served the end-of-life needs of patients and families in Northeast Florida. In February it received a certificate of need start offering hospice services to an 11-county region of north and north-central Florida.
Armada FC appoints Marshall Happer as chief operating officer
Coming off a 0-0 draw this week with San Francisco that kept the Armada unbeaten, Kartik Krishnaiyer reports the club has promoted Happer to chief operating officer. Happer was appointed by the North American Soccer League (NASL), which took over ownership of Armada FC in early 2017.
A former NFL executive, Happer helped launch Armada FC, previously serving as the club’s senior vice president of club and team operations. He has been with Jacksonville since it kicked off NASL play in front of a crowd of 16,164 at EverBank Field on April 4, 2015, against FC Edmonton. The Armada beat Edmonton twice to start the 2017 campaign and now picked up a draw against San Francisco.
Happer will lead the club’s day-to-day business efforts and manage its front office staff. Under the current ownership landscape, all Armada FC assets have been transferred to the NASL. The Jacksonville Armada FC Youth Academy will continue to operate as a separate nonprofit organization.
“It’s an honor to lead this club and continue to bring high-level soccer and quality entertainment to our loyal fans here in Jacksonville,” Happer said. “The team is off to an undefeated start on the field, the front office is eager to connect with the community in new and exciting ways, and the move to Hodges Stadium — a new facility for us — has been extremely well-received by the Armada FC faithful.”
The Armada’s quick start has raised eyebrows throughout the NASL. The club sits in first place with seven points through three games and has yet to concede a goal. Jacksonville travels to New York to face the defending champion Cosmos on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game can be seen live on beIN SPORTS USA nationally.
The final Jacksonville City Council vote on Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s pension reform bills is still a few days a way.
However, the “Committee of the Whole” meeting to be held Wednesday afternoon stands as an excellent preview of what is to come — a closing argument.
The Curry team — especially the political side — would hold that everyone on the council should, in fact, vote in the affirmative … and that vote should happen in the committee of the whole.
There is no obligation to vote Wednesday, though a vote can be taken if the council is comfortable.
Curry’s political team believes that comfort level should have been reached.
Privately, they have wondered why it is that more council members aren’t rushing to endorse the pension reform solution.
They have committed a six-figure budget to ads in heavy rotation on television.
As well, they have commissioned an internal poll, one which shows the mayor with 70 percent approval and pension reform at 71 percent.
A subtext of the poll: the relative popularity of the Jacksonville City Council is yoked to the charismatic mayor and his reform agenda.
The game being played: political hardball.
The political stakes are high for all parties: without immediate pension reform, costs of the unfunded actuarial liability on the city’s $2.8B pension debt will be $360M next year — out of a general fund budget that is barely three times that number.
Such a hit would be political suicide for the current leadership class.
Curry’s pension reform has its critics, and his team isn’t selling the legislation as perfect — but as the most palatable of a menu of bad options.
His team will want to see a vote. And will want it to be 19-0.
Will that happen?
Three of the 14 filed bills are probably the most important: 2017-257 creates a new ordinance section: Chapter 776 (Pension Liability Surtax).
Bill 2017-258 affects the general employees and correctional worker plans, closing the extant defined benefit plans to those hired after Oct. 1, 2017, and committing the city to a 12 percent contribution for those general employees and a 25 percent contribution for correctional officers hired after October.
Bill 2017-259 implements revisions to the Police and Fire & Rescue plans.
258 and 259 both offer fixed costs via a defined contribution plan for new hires, while offering generous contributions from the city to those hires, and raises for all current employees.
The best deals are for public safety: 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 — with guarantees that survivors’ benefits and disability benefits would be the same for new hires as the current force of safety officers.
The Curry model, rooted in a deferred contribution approach that increases a re-amortized liability and spreads out costs to hit hardest when the sales tax extension money starts coming in after 2030, is intended to provide fixed costs and certainty for budgets.