Lenny Curry Archives - Page 7 of 130 - Florida Politics

Jax Councilors won’t ‘rubberstamp’ Mayor’s children’s program reforms

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry unveiled ambitious reforms to Jacksonville children’s programs earlier this summer.

And when he launched the bill at a press conference, 14 Jacksonville City Council members raised their hands in support of the bill he sold to them, one by one, in the days before that high-profile presser.

The Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jax Journey would be rolled up into the Kids Hope Alliance.

The Kids Hope Alliance would be a board appointed by the Mayor’s Office, with approval by Council.

“A board structure with strong oversight that’s empowered to hire management, one with a focused mission,” Curry said regarding the structure.

Of course, re-orgs take time: this one is allotted six months for transition, and legislation hasn’t been approved yet.

On Thursday, legislators had their first chance to discuss the concept formally, via a Finance Committee review of the budgets for children’s programs.

In contrast to their symbolic support weeks back, committee members asked challenging questions about the concept, a preview of committee hearings on the bill in Sept.

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After a long discussion of an amendment filed by Jacksonville City Council Finance Chair Garrett Dennis (which was eventually pulled), committee members wanted to know more about the current programs.

JCC board chair Matt Kane spoke at some length about after-school programs, noting that ‘just this year” there were reforms to the process, after an 18-month study that included a review of national best practices.

“We try not to duplicate any services,” Kane said regarding the perceived overlap between the JCC and the Journey — a reason for reform.

Finance Vice-Chair Danny Becton urged that services be bid out, allowing the Council to know fixed costs — and if necessary, to allocate more money.

Currently, Becton says the model allows for kids to “just be playing on the monkey bars,” rather than learning skills that protect them from automation eliminating unskilled jobs.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney closed the morning session expressing confidence in all the stakeholders, while Councilwoman Katrina Brown closed the discussion.

“The challenge is we are in a re-organization … it’s unfortunate the bill didn’t run parallel with the budget,” Brown said.

“I told the Mayor I’d support the bill along with 13 other colleagues, but I never said a conversation wouldn’t take place,” Brown said. “I stood with the Mayor and the administration for change … but there’s always going to be debate … amendments, suggestions, conversations.”

Chairman Dennis echoed Brown.

“We shouldn’t rubberstamp anything that comes before us,” Dennis said.

Discussion, started Thursday morning, will continue Thursday afternoon.

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In the Kids Hope Alliance, Curry proposed a comprehensive re-organization going far beyond simple tweaks of extant structures.

Curry will roll the JCC and the Jacksonville Journey into one new structure: the Kids’ Hope Alliance (the Jacksonville Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families).

The group will have a seven-person board, comprised of mayoral appointees that must be approved by the City Council; as with Curry’s reformation of the JEA Board earlier in his term, the goal is to move the organization toward linear accountability. In this case, accountability regarding helping “at-hope kids.”

“Hope was a really important word given the feedback I’ve gotten,” Curry said Tuesday.

The transition period will take six months: the first three months, starting in October, will allow the Journey and the JCC to finish its business; by January, a board should be seated to carry on the KHA’s mission. If that doesn’t happen, Plan B is to run JCC and Jax Journey out of the Mayor’s Office, until the board is approved by City Council.

The strong indication is that the board will be in place by the end of the year, however.

Curry is prioritizing business-minded people with big picture visions and strong resumes for board inclusion, similar again to his reformation of the JEA Board. Board members will understand finance and org structure, Curry said, and would understand the necessity of hiring management and staff that understands the mechanics of the services offered.

“A board structure with strong oversight that’s empowered to hire management, one with a focused mission — that’s going to work,” Curry said.

There will be an interim executive director appointed for the six-month period, and one can expect him or her to be a truly transitional, yet respected, figure with experience in these matters; from there, the board of directors will hire someone permanent.

The organization will focus on four strategic elements, that are intended to facilitate long-term transformation and accountability every step of the way.

One such element: early learning and childhood development, with a focus on school readiness and literacy. The goal here is to stop the skills gap that can emerge from rearing its head.

Another element: preteen and teen programming, intended to continue the trajectory of earlier programming.

A third element: juvenile justice programming, including intervention programs much like those found in the Jax Journey.

And the fourth element: out of school programs, including summer camps and after school programs.

Lenny Curry is ‘glad’ Jacksonville City Council term limit referendum vote failed

Tuesday night saw the Jacksonville City Council reject a bill that would authorize an Aug. 2018 referendum to extend the current two-term limit to three for most city elected officials.

The bill, sponsored by second-term Councilman Matt Schellenberg, would have applied to every office but that of mayor.

It failed 6-11, however, despite Council President Anna Brosche supporting it.

One potential key factor downing the bill: opposition from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

“I’m glad it went down,” Curry said in a gaggle Wednesday.

And so continues the ongoing tug of war between the Mayor and the Council President.

In addition to giving another term to City Council members, the measure would have afforded constitutional officers (Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections, and Tax Collector) and School Board members a three-term limit, pending voter approval.

The bill had been deferred four weeks by a 15-4 vote, after a contentious meeting in July. And the interregnum didn’t remove the reasons for said contention, even as a poll was conducted in the interim saying that term limit changes were conceptually unpopular with Duval County voters.

Councilman John Crescimbeni noted that poll jibed with the 82 percent who voted for two-term limits in 1991, promising that voters would “retaliate” against those who voted for the referendum.

Then Councilman Tommy Hazouri introduced a floor amendment to exclude current office holders, saying that this would allow Council members to not be excused of voting in their interest.

The amendment, which failed 9-10 four weeks before, got strong objection from Schellenberg.

Crescimbeni also said the amendment was flawed, given that as written, someone elected in 2023 was precluded from three consecutive terms, as the cut off date of July 1 was after the city election day.

Councilman Al Ferraro noted the irony of the two longest-tenured pols on Council telling first-termers that they shouldn’t run again. That didn’t last long.

“It’s difficult to talk to you about issues like this because you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hazouri snapped back.

The language of the amendment was cleaned up to exclude current office holders; it failed 6-10, with Council President Brosche and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis among those who voted against it.

Ferraro then talked smack, saying he’s for term limits, because “the problem is that when you get horrible people in here, you can’t get them out … I do think older politicians don’t like younger ones in here getting the job done.”

Ferraro, citing consistency, said he supported the referendum to let the people decide.

Hazouri said “eight is enough,” a reference to the slogan regarding term limits from the 1990s. And Councilman Bill Gulliford called this a “dead issue,” noting that voters don’t support this and won’t.

Councilman Reggie Brown made points he’d made previously, saying that continuity is a “good thing,” and the longer the better.

“What I don’t agree with is being categorized as self-serving,” Brown said, rejecting pressure to vote against this as “idle threats.”

“The citizens of this great city, we need to challenge them to do their duty,” Brown added.

Crescimbeni reminded Council members that voters and opponents won’t miss an opportunity to promote a yes vote on this one as self-promotion.

“While you may not be self-serving, it’s not going to appear that way to your opponent or voters,” Crescimbeni insisted.

“We’ve met the enemy and he is us,” Hazouri added. “We keep pushing, pushing, pushing this bill … I just think this is the wrong approach.”

Councilman Brown and Councilwoman Katrina Brown were among those who made the case to “let the people decide” and “put it on the ballot.”

Gulliford, who urged the HRO to be put on the ballot, noted that the “worm has turned” given resistance to that referendum.

Voters, Gulliford said, have only gotten more cynical in the last quarter-century — and “some of them will feel like that’s self-serving.”

Gulliford also noted that, contra claims the Consolidation Task Force backed this play, there was indeed disagreement on the board — and just because the board made a recommendation didn’t make it law.

The question was called. The measure failed 6-10.

Lenny Curry backs Atlantic Beach Mayor Mitch Reeves’ re-election bid

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is endorsing his fellow Republican, Atlantic Beach Mayor Mitch Reeves, for re-election.

“Having a great partner in the Beaches is integral to the shared success of our cities. Whether it’s public safety or protecting the investment of taxpayers,” Curry said on Wednesday, “Mayor Mitch Reeves is someone I can trust to get the job done.”

“When Hurricane Matthew threatened the Beaches, Mitch Reeves made sure Atlantic Beach was ready,” Curry added.

“Since after the storm passed, Mayor Reeves has been working with me to ensure the federal and state authorities keep their promises,” Curry continued.

“With common sense budgets and smart planning, Mitch ensures every taxpayer dollar is used wisely and helps keep Atlantic Beach beautiful,” Curry added.

Reeves was first elected Atlantic Beach mayor in 2015. The Florida League of Cities declared him a 2017 “Home Rule Hero.”

Curry’s political committee, “Build Something That Lasts,” also produced and sent out a mailer on Reeves’ behalf.

Confederate monuments and an eclipse of political capital in Jacksonville

Last week in Jacksonville politics, it was the Anna Brosche show. She was at the center of every news cycle for a provocative proposal to mothball Confederate monuments.

There are some who would say that, just as Jacksonville was set to experience a solar eclipse Monday afternoon, there was a commensurate eclipse of political capital for the aforementioned Council President, whose streak of almost uniformly laudatory coverage came to a halt when confronted with a seemingly intractable political reality.

Seven days before, Brosche took the most compelling position of her political life. She made the strong case that Jacksonville should conduct an inventory of the city’s Confederate monuments ahead of eventual removal.

“I intend to propose legislation to move Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers from public property to museums and educational institutions where they can be respectfully preserved and historically contextualized,” Brosche contended Monday.

Very quickly, the Jacksonville Civic Council backed her play.

Then, momentum slowed — even as the narrative cycle spun on.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was more cautious, saying that he wanted to see what came out of the process before taking a position. Very few Council members seemed enthusiastic about the proposal, with one of Brosche’s political opponents (fellow Republican Bill Gulliford) calling the proposal a “knee-jerk reaction” to the street violence in Charlottesville.

Hate mail came in, as predictable as an afternoon thunderstorm. It was brutal.

“I find your caving-in to nasty commie anarchist hebes and their black jungle-bunny friends to be repulsive,” the emailer wrote.

“You are an Asian!  You don’t belong here. You aren’t from here.  You just can’t cave-in to these sorry people and screw everyone else.  You should not even be on the city council,” the emailer added, saying “liberals and their n*** allies are making you look bad.”

We asked Brosche her thoughts.

“While I’ve received an email with a closing salutation of ‘FU,’ that was the worst email so far. It does not change my position either way,” Brosche said last week.

The position was to change, however.

On Friday, the Jax Chamber backed the call for inventory, but not for removal.

And Brosche, having given those who equate these monuments with the defense of slavery and white-supremacy hope that these monuments would eventually be out of public parks and squares, had already told those same people not to hold their breath waiting for anything to happen.

“We can develop a measured plan of understanding what we have — why it’s there, why it was erected — and be able to develop a very measured response, including understanding private funding, over how many years what’s going to happen, (and) where would they go if they went anywhere,” Brosche told WJXT Thursday.

We asked Brosche about the seeming daylight between her position at the start of the week and the end, and she told us the following: “I asked for an inventory to start a process of understanding what we have to determine next steps. Removal of the monuments remains an option,” Brosche said, “and I’ve received many alternative suggestions for consideration this week.”

By the time Brosche filed her “Sunday’s Lead Letter” to the Florida Times-Union, she had clearly taken those “alternative suggestions” to heart.

The letter: a few hundred words of spackle, one in which Brosche bandied about bromides (“Now is the time for a conversation, one that will be difficult, but one we must have if we are to truly become One City, One Jacksonville”), while avoiding any mention of removal of the monuments.

Indeed, Brosche managed to avoid taking a position at all — a neat trick just days after she took a genuinely iconoclastic position.

“I respect and appreciate the divergent perspectives regarding the Confederate monuments. To some, they are primarily symbols of our heritage and history. To others,” Brosche wrote, “they are primarily symbols of oppression of an entire race.”

Quite a gulf between those two positions. The same held true when those statues were erected; in Jacksonville and elsewhere, Confederate monuments were intended as a visual reinforcement of the Jim Crow social order.

For poor and lower-middle class whites, said monuments were affirmations of their superior position in the caste system of the post-slavery South. And for most African-Americans, those monuments were intended to remind them that the social order hadn’t appreciably changed.

The most controversial Confederate monument in Jacksonville, in Hemming Park, is just a few hundred feet from where the violence of Ax Handle Saturday commenced decades ago. Was that a “heritage not hate” moment? Or was that an outbreak of mob violence designed to reinforce a social order that was every bit as toxic as the polluted ground at the Shipyards nearby?

Brosche still got lit up in the comments for her “Lead Letter.” Her political adversaries sense vulnerability, and will exploit it.

Regardless of — or perhaps because of — Brosche’s position evolution on this matter, Jacksonville City Council public comment Tuesday evening is expected to be lively.

How lively?

Sources tell us that, instead of parking out in front of City Hall Tuesday evening, Council members and staff are being told to park in a garage inside the building.

They are gearing up for one of those marathon public comment events, with Southern partisan types on one side, and the group seeking to tear down the monuments on the other.

Brosche is all but guaranteed to preside over the most rancorous and unproductive public comment period of her presidency, and her allies and frenemies alike will be watching closely to see how she deals with it.

Jacksonville will witness a near-total solar eclipse on Monday. But that’s a temporary phenomenon. Will the eclipse of President Brosche’s political capital in the light of monumental pushback likewise be temporary?

Or is her tenure as Council President mortally wounded?

Jacksonville Bold for 8.18.17 — Are we kingmakers?

Gov. Rick Scott pitched his tax-related ballot initiative in Jacksonville this week. By his side was House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

That was no coincidence.

All smiles for Speaker Richard Corcoran, Gov. Rick Scott in Dirty Duval this week.

Corcoran was there to support the plan — but clearly, he was also there to make his presence known to a Jacksonville press corps often obtuse when it comes to statewide issues and pols.

Corcoran was quippy, making jokes about how he’d be a “horrible statewide candidate” since he couldn’t feign enthusiasm about teams outside of Tampa. And he was relatable, extolling Mayor Lenny Curry with specificity. In turn, Curry extolled Corcoran for his consistent political philosophy.

Democratic candidates for Governor have been playing in the Duval sandbox (Gwen Graham primarily, though Andrew Gillum also has shown up). However, the expectation is that Jacksonville will mean much more in GOP primaries and it’s interesting to see how everyone is playing it.

Adam Putnam has been through the area off and on since declaring his candidacy, and he can always count on coverage, though it’s hard to think of anyone in the local press corps who really “gets” Putnam or gets particularly excited about covering him.

Jack Latvala was through here earlier this month to meet with political allies at the Fraternal Order of Police.

In statewide general elections, Democrats don’t make aggressive plays here (see, Patrick Murphy 2016, Charlie Crist 2014, Alex Sink 2010). In part, it’s because the kind of milquetoast, vaguely center-left campaigns run are tailored for the I-4 Corridor, not for Jacksonville’s brand of Dems.

It will be, in 2018, a Republican year. And expect every Republican with a shot to come through and kiss Curry’s ring.

He has multiple friends in this race, and expect Curry to let the process play out before he endorses.

November sentencing for Corrine Brown

On Wednesday, motions filed by former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown for a new trial and acquittal were denied, setting the stage for a November sentencing.

Brown’s motion for a new trial was predicated on a claim that a discharged juror was incorrectly removed.

Sad times for Corrine Brown, who may be gone in November.

Judge Timothy Corrigan rejected that premise: “Corrine Brown is entitled to a fair trial with an impartial jury that reaches a verdict in accordance with the law. That is what she received.”

“I determined beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no substantial possibility that he could base his decision on the sufficiency of the evidence and the Court’s instructions,” Corrigan added.

Regarding the acquittal motion, Corrigan said that “Suffice it to say there was more than sufficient evidence to justify the jury’s verdict on each count of conviction.”

Brown’s contention was that she was careless with her finances, leaving herself open for exploitation by her former co-defendant and chief of staff. However, Corrigan said the evidence said otherwise — that Brown was active in the scheme to defraud.

Confederate monuments to go?

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche seeks the removal of Jacksonville’s Confederate monuments in the wake of Charlottesville. The Jacksonville Civic Council backs her play.

The mayor thinks Jacksonville has some bigger issues than statues, meanwhile. And Brosche’s Council colleagues … well, let’s just say there is no consensus on this one yet.

Will the Confederate monument issue be as divisive as the HRO discussion was?

Those close to Curry have their concerns. One person wondered why this had to be hot-shotted in the way he believes it has been, when a more deliberate, less headline-grabbing process would have been more appropriate.

Regardless of timing, the band-aid has been ripped off. Jacksonville will have its own dialogue on Confederate reliquary.

For our writers, that means readers. For city officials, including those charged with public safety, more existential challenges — such as activists on the left and on the neo-Confederate side — are posed.

Mayor warns of ‘chatter’ from Confederate enthusiasts

During a Jacksonville press gaggle Tuesday, Curry warned of “chatter” heard by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in the wake of Brosche‘s proposal to remove Confederate monuments.

‘Chatter’ from Confederate enthusiasts concerns Mayor Lenny Curry.

Curry commented in the wake of questions posed to Gov. Rick Scott and him regarding the proposed removal of these monuments — a proposal fraught with controversy locally, with that controversy even extending to the Council.

“I do think it’s important when we talk about public safety to recognize that how this is pursued in our community is important,” Curry said.

“I get briefed by the Sheriff regularly. I can tell you right now from discussions with him, based on Council’s wanting to outright say they want to remove these — there’s chatter from these outside groups. People in Charlottesville are already talking about coming to Jacksonville. We want to keep those groups out of our city, and we want to work together as a community to have a civil discourse.”

“I’m not proposing we remove these monuments,” Curry said. “Certainly, if the public wants to have that conversation — now the Council President has said this is her priority to remove them.”

“I urge the Council to have that discussion, that debate, Whatever they decide, I’ll evaluate it when it lands on my desk at that time,” Curry said, refraining from a commitment to sign or veto the bill when asked.

Brosche addressed Curry’s comments later Tuesday afternoon, saying that she’s “kicked off a process for defining an orderly and respectful solution for consideration by the Council and Mayor. I hope the community can allow that process to work.”

Spotted — Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown at this weekend’s annual Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s policy conference in Tunica, Mississippi hosted by Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson.

Hate mail hits Council President’s inbox

More fallout still from the proposal to remove Confederate monuments, in the form of emails to the Council President.

One such email purported to be from a senior administrator at a local university which, it turns out, had a cybersecurity breach that this episode uncovered.

Anna Brosche is in the middle of the maelstrom, yet undeterred.

“I find your caving-in to nasty commie anarchist hebes and their black jungle-bunny friends to be repulsive,” the email wrote.

“You are an Asian!  You don’t belong here. You aren’t from here. You just can’t cave-in to these sorry people and screw everyone else. You should not even be on the city council,” the email added, saying “liberals and their n*** allies are making you look bad.”

We asked Brosche her thoughts.

“While I’ve received an email with a closing salutation of ‘FU,’ that was the worst email so far. It does not change my position either way,” Brosche said.

Red light cameras to go

Good news for those who hate red light cameras in Jacksonville; this is the last year for them, per Sheriff Mike Williams.

The technology isn’t where it needs to be, Williams said.

Red-light cameras soon to be extinct in Jacksonville, says Sheriff Mike Williams.

“That contract will end in December. We wanted to add crash avoidance to a number of intersections in Jacksonville,” Williams said, “but the technology just isn’t there yet.”

“That was the appeal of having a red-light camera to me. If we can’t do that, we know from the data that it’s not really reducing crashes in the intersections, maybe we just let this contract sunset and take a look at it years down the road,” Williams said.

One suspects that may be many, many years down the road.

White males abound on Jax boards and commissions

The slogan du jour: One City, One Jacksonville. But the city’s boards and commissions are mostly white and male. However, that could change soon.

Of 332 people currently serving, 65 percent are male — a number not substantially different between City Council appointees (64 percent male) and appointees from other parties, such as the Mayor (66 percent).

Seventy percent of all appointees: Caucasian. The percentage of Council representatives is even higher: 80 percent, per the most recent Boards and Commissions diversity report.

This ratio holds true, more or less, no matter who is in office.

Jacksonville City boards and commissions have an overabundance of white dudes.

And some would contend that needs to change.

On Wednesday morning, Brosche held a public-notice meeting to that end.

“The meeting is intended to increase awareness of opportunities to serve in hopes of broadening the pool of candidates that apply,” Brosche said.

“I will always choose the most qualified candidate among the pool of applicants that apply; I’d like to have a ‘pool’ of candidates larger than one application,” Brosche added.

Brosche has made an active push in diversity/social justice initiatives, as seen by her push to remove Confederate monuments from public display in Jacksonville just this week.

JEA nuclear deal safe from failed project fallout

Despite a major blow to the nuclear power industry this week, JEA is still on track to add nuclear to its fuel mix around 2020.

After a South Carolina nuclear project was scuttled Monday, the Waynesboro, Georgia, plants being built by Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia became the only active nuclear construction project in the country.

The owners of the dead South Carolina project pointed to Westinghouse Electric Company’s recent bankruptcy filing as the culprit. The Toshiba-owned company was contracted to construct the new nuclear reactors and was also at one point the contractor for the Georgia plants.

JEA has a 20-year agreement in place to purchase nuclear power from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia plants.

JTA autonomous vehicles move to test track

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s autonomous vehicle program is progressing apace, and the next step: a test track.

Emails between city officials reveal that track may be in one of the highest-visibility areas in the city.

A Friday email from Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa laid it out.

Autonomous vehicles: The time is now, per JTA.

Mousa wrote that “the JTA has approached the City about utilizing a section of asphalt pavement (driveway) in the Sports Complex as a test track for their autonomous vehicle program. The driveway is located south of and adjacent to Lot K, and controlled for the City by SMG. The City, SMG and the JTA have met and based on the attached memo, all seem to be in concurrence with this driveway use, pending further plan development, coordination, etc.”

AVs are the next generation for JTA’s fleet, intended to supplement and eventually replace the outmoded Skyway vehicles.

Mystery deepens on Times-Union ownership

Jacksonville residents are still trying to figure out what the recent sale of the Florida Times-Union means, and a recent Jax Daily Record write-up may or may not offer clarity.

It was previously reported that Gatehouse bought the T-U and other Morris Communications papers. And while that’s true, Gatehouse itself has an external owner after a 2013 Chapter 11 restructuring.

“New Media was created just four years ago to take control of the newspapers owned by GateHouse Media Inc. in a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring … formed by a real estate investment trust called Newcastle Investment Corp,” writes the Record’s Mark Basch.

The Times-Union has branded itself as aggressively local journalism — and that branding has stepped up in the last year, especially after a Morris mandate to endorse Donald Trump for President. The paper has gone hyper local with niche publications for Downtown enthusiasts (“J”) and aging scenesters (“Jack.)

Will the future of this branding and these initiatives change soon? Re-orgs are always interesting.

What the donor class can buy

Marc and Nicole Padgett are among Curry’s strongest supporters, and the Jax Daily Record reports that their future fundraisers for the Mayor will be held in fine style.

The couple is building a multi-story mansion in Fort Caroline, an older neighborhood in Arlington that has some of the highest terrains in the city.

Mrs. Padgett reckons that on a clear day, the couple will be able to see Fernandina Beach from the top floor of their building.

Mr. Padgett is on the Downtown Investment Authority; Mrs. Padgett, on the city’s Planning Commission.

What Aaron Bean is up to

On Monday, Aug. 21, state Sen. Bean will speak to the University of North Florida Student Government Senate at their first meeting of the fall semester, beginning 7 p.m. at 1 UNF Drive In Jacksonville.

The Fernandina Beach Republican will then speak to the Joseph E. Lee Republican Club Thursday, Aug. 24 to give an update on the 2017 Legislative Session, beginning 6 p.m. at The Salem Centre, 7235 Bonneval Road in Jacksonville.

Bean will give another 2017 legislative session update Monday, Aug. 28, at the Republican Club of West Jacksonville’s monthly meeting beginning 6 p.m. At the Harvest Time Church of God, 4502 Old Middleburg Road in Jacksonville.

The next day, Tuesday, Aug. 29, Bean will also give an update to the Rotary Club of South Jacksonville at 12:30 p.m., River City Brewing Company, 835 Museum Circle In Jacksonville.

Save the date

Atlantic Beach kickbacks?

Eleventh-hour drama in the Atlantic Beach Mayor’s race, where Mitch Reeves is dealing with an untimely ethics flap two weeks before Election Day.

Untimely bad press for Mayor Mitch Reeves. Will it matter?

“Atlantic Beach resident and mayoral candidate Ellen Glasser brought the possible conflict to the attention of city officials when she filed a complaint about Reeves July 27. In the letter, she said she believes his employment with G.T. Distributors is a violation of Section 66 of the Atlantic Beach City Charter,” reports the Florida Times-Union.

“Glasser said she felt she needed to raise the issue after looking over city emails and transactions between the city and G.T. Distributors since October 2016. Reeves is a copied recipient of at least four emails regarding specific sales between the company and the city,” the T-U adds.

Not a good look.

Three candidates will face off Aug. 29. If a runoff is needed, that will be in November.

Amazon in NW Jax: Ready to start processing orders

The Jax Daily Record reports that Amazon has begun hiring associates in NW Jax, with the fulfillment of orders set to begin Sept. 1.

Amazon is bringing thousands of jobs, with many in the $12-$16 per hour range

All told, the Pecan Park Road center will focus on small goods, and employ 1,500 people.

The Cecil Commerce Center location will focus on large goods, opening later in September.

“The city and state approved $25.7 million in incentives for the two large fulfillment centers. [The] legislation says the company’s total investment will be $315 million,” the Daily Record report adds.

AppointedMike Bell to the District Board of Trustees, Florida State College at Jacksonville. Bell, 53, of Fernandina Beach, is the vice president of public affairs at Rayonier, Inc. He succeeds Dr. Patricia White and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2021.

Loop Nursery wins medical marijuana license

Jacksonville-based Loop’s Nursery & Greenhouses, Inc. reached an agreement with the Florida Department of Health, reports the Daytona Beach News-Journal. The arrangement settles an extended legal dispute over the license and brings the number of firms approved to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana to 12.

Loop’s struggle to get a license began in 2014, after the passage of a law allowing the use of non-euphoric cannabis for limited types of patients, such as children suffering from epilepsy. The law, which opened the door to wider medical-marijuana legalization, created a process to award one license in each of five different regions of the state. Competition for those licenses sparked lawsuits from several growers, including Loop’s, ultimately reaching the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Now there are 12: After three years of legal fighting, Loop’s Nursery finally wins medical marijuana license.

State Surgeon General Celeste Philip, who is secretary of the Florida Department of Health, signed an order this week approving the settlement and Loop’s license. The DOH now has 10 days to formally license and register Loop’s as a “medical marijuana treatment center.”

Editorial: Deepen JAXPORT for stronger Jacksonville, Florida

A Florida-Times-Union editorial says for Jacksonville’s port to stay competitive, it should not turn away “from all the opportunities before it.”

“That means deepening the port, as has been done for over 100 years,” the T-U writes. “Ships are getting bigger. With federal and state help, Jacksonville is on the way to funding a necessary port deepening plan.”

History of the port is filled with naysayers, the paper notes, including the “black hat” who sought to retain the status quo a half-century ago, keeping intact the “corrupt city government and an underperforming County government.”

JAXPORT deepening: Good for Jacksonville, good for Florida.

Deepening the harbor will have a significant economic impact on both Jacksonville and the state of Florida.

Data from the Florida Department of Transportation shows that for every dollar invested in the deepening project will return $16 to $24 to the state’s economy: “JAXPORT is likely to be at the high end of that ratio, given its growing stake in the Asian trade market — which has increased by 57 percent in a five-year period.”

Conservatively, the Port supports about 130,000 jobs in Northeast Florida — more than 24,000 directly in Jacksonville — with the dredging creating 15,000-plus new jobs.

Uber, JAA reach agreement over trip fees

Action News Jax reports that Jacksonville’s main airport and ride-sharing service Uber have come to an agreement in principle over per-trip user fees.

In a statement, Uber gave details of the agreement: pickup fees for transportation network companies and taxi companies will be set at $2.50, changing to $3.25 for both as of Sept. 1, 2017.

JAA and Uber make nice over per-trip fees.

“We thank the airport’s leadership for working to ensure that Jacksonville residents continue to have access to affordable and reliable transportation options, said Uber Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani.

Uber Florida Public Affairs Manager Javi Correoso told reporters JIA had been charging Uber $3.25, while Gator City cab paid $2.50 for the same per-trip fee.

“We are willing to pay fees at the airport, but we are just asking the leadership at the airport to be fair,” Correoso said.

After early scoring, Armada ends North Carolina match in draw

Jacksonville Armada FC scored twice early and held on for a 2-2 draw against league leaders North Carolina FC (NCFC) in Cary Saturday night.

Recently acquired forward Tony Taylor scored his first goal of his career with the club in just the third minute. In the 18th minute, Jack Blake scored on a penalty kick after a foul on Tony Taylor in the area to give the Armada a 2-0 lead. Just before halftime, North Carolina midfielder brought his club within one goal after a turnover in the Jacksonville box.

Newly acquired forward Tony Taylor shined once again in just his third match with the club.

“You give yourself no breathing room when it’s 2-1,” said Armada Head Coach Mark Lowry. “North Carolina has a lot of bodies coming forward, a lot of players going past you, and is a very hard team to go against if you don’t take your chances.”

“The first half we were good,” said Lowry. “One moment we fell asleep in the box, we didn’t clear our lines properly, we switched off for a second, and we got punished to make it 2-1. Then the second half was a completely different game.”

Following the break, North Carolina’s strong attacking play continued. NCFC broke through to level the match in the 69th minute when Lance Laing was in the right place at the right time for his seventh league goal of the year. The score remained level at 2-2 for the duration.

“If you take away the first 10 minutes, we were exceptionally good,” said NCFC Head Coach Colin Clarke. “But, you can’t to do that, so we’re still answerable for those poor goals we gave up at the beginning. The reaction after [Jacksonville’s] early goals was very good with our play and passing. With a little bit more luck and some better finishing, we could have gotten all three points.”

The Armada play Puerto Rico FC at Hodges Stadium Wednesday.

 

Jacksonville Council Finance Chair: ‘I didn’t plan on being opposition to the Mayor’

Beginning Thursday, the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee will review Mayor Lenny Curry‘s proposed budget.

Discussions last week showed an independent streak among the committee’s members, chaired by Curry’s leading City Hall antagonist of the moment, Garrett Dennis.

FP talked to Dennis Wednesday evening, after he gave a well-received speech to the Jacksonville Young Democrats

Though Dennis’ rhetoric is in campaign mode, he assures us that his next campaign is simply a run for re-election — not a bid for the Mayor’s Office, as some supporters have urged.

Dennis also addressed recent news cycles, including discussions of swimming lesson funding and after-school funding, that have seen him at odds with the Mayor.

“I didn’t plan on being opposition to the Mayor. I want to win. I want the city to win. I’m not anti-Curry. He’s a good guy,” Dennis said.

A good guy, but one with whom Dennis has policy differences.

One such difference dominated Jacksonville news cycles this week: Dennis’ latest push for more after-school program money.

Just a week after Dennis’ floor amendments were defeated on a bill allocating $1 million more for after-school programs, including an amendment that would have pushed the total spend to $3 million, with money coming from the city’s reserve accounts, Dennis tried again with an emergency appropriation for more money for these programs.

Dennis’ proposal is ambitious: it would extend offerings for 1,280 kids in 12 of 14 Council districts. Yet the source of financing nettles the Mayor’s Office; the bill seeks to move $1,92M from Council’s contingency account for pension liability to fund these programs.

Dennis defends the ask, noting that the fund is already being drawn upon for $1.1M SAFER Grant matching funds, that the fund still has a $2.3M balance, and that if unspent, the money would be swept into the general fund at the end of the fiscal year.

“If there is a hill I will die on,” Dennis said, “I will die on this hill fighting for these kids.”

Dennis also discussed Curry’s proposal to hire 100 new police officers, which was held in abeyance by the committee last week. 

“I’m confused on the math,” Dennis said, noting that only 80 of the officers are funded in the budget, and that 70 more are expected to retire next fiscal year.

JSO can only train 80 per year, Dennis said, and he’s unconvinced of the JSO plan to train 170 new officers.

“The math isn’t adding up,” Dennis said, noting the new hires will be younger and cheaper than the retirees.

“I don’t want to give more than JSO has the capacity to perform,” Dennis said, wanting a “realistic number” of trainable hires, rather than excess capacity.

Answers to these questions may not be provided until the “wrap up” meeting of the committee, which could be as late on the calendar as Aug. 26.

In the context of a rift between its chair and the Mayor, the committee resumes deliberations Thursday.

Thursday sees the Tax Collector and Supervisor of Elections kick proceedings off; Dennis was a former employee of the SOE, so he should have interesting insight.

The State Attorney and Public Defender also speak — and given their reform paths, coupled with a Finance Committee controlled by African-American Democrats who are getting intense community pressure on reforms to criminal justice, those could be potentially news-making hearings.

The big time commitment: three hours on Parks and Recreation, a hearing that may involve questions for Director Daryl Joseph on the potential removal of Confederate monuments — a priority of Council President Anna Brosche.

Garrett Dennis pushes for more Jax after-school money; Lenny Curry questions funding mechanism

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, just a week after his floor amendments to add more after-school funding to a bill from Mayor Lenny Curry failed, has filed standalone legislation to the same effect.

Dennis, via Ordinance 2017-605, seeks to move $1,92M from Council’s contingency account for pension liability to fund these programs.

The new money would serve 1,280 kids in 12 of 14 Council districts.

“This is an effort that aligns with achieving One City, One Jacksonville. Therefore, decisions have to be made to ensure that services are being equally available in every district. Our children deserve the opportunity for increased academic performance, improved leadership skills, and a safe, structured environment for youth engagement. As a united community, we must do what’s right for our children,” Dennis wrote.

Last week, Dennis proposed two floor amendments that would have boosted the Mayor’s proposed $1.071M allocation.

The first changed the total allocation amount to $1.408M, with all the money coming from reallocated funds from inside the Jacksonville Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission. 880 children would be added to the after-school programs with that new money.

The second floor amendment was even more ambitious, allocating $2.947M for 1,860 kids, with more money coming from unspent Jacksonville Journey funds, and $832,852 from the city’s general fund balance.

Curry spokeswoman Marsha Oliver offered a statement that questioned the funding mechanism: “funds in the ‘unused pension contingency account'(UAAL) have been previously earmarked and obligated for the one-time three percent payment to employees. These funds were earmarked during pension reform hearings and earmarked, once again, in the third quarter summary.”

“These knee-jerk reactions of appropriating funding on an emergency basis need to stop,” Oliver added.

Despite serious qualms about the funding mechanism, Oliver notes that Curry, “with his continued commitment to youth safety and enrichment offerings, has been meeting with Council members and is scheduled to meet with the Boys & Girls Club [one organization that didn’t get all the funding it wanted] to identify a solution that is fiscally responsible and properly vetted in the budget process.” –

 

 

Lenny Curry urges Duval Schools to retain Interim Supe through academic year

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry had a symbiotic relationship with former Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, including advocating for Vitti’s job security at one point when Vitti was under fire.

Vitti has moved on to Detroit. And now Curry is building relationships anew, as exemplified Wednesday morning when the Mayor met with current Interim Superintendent Pat Willis and School Board Chair Paula Wright.

Curry waded into Duval Schools’ politics earlier this summer, “concurring” with House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Rep. Jason Fischer that a state audit to account for $20M of spending over budget this fiscal year was necessary.

Though the state audit isn’t happening at this point, Curry invested political capital in calling for it.

We reached out to the Mayor’s Office Wednesday morning for a statement on the meeting, and Curry asserted that it went well.

Among other takeaways: Curry wants Superintendent Willis to stay in place throughout the year.

“I met today with the board chair and superintendent for Duval County Public Schools. We had a great discussion,” Curry related.

“As mayor and father to three Duval County students, I believe it’s important for me to understand their plans and priorities for improving the academic achievement levels of our city’s youth.  I expressed my optimism for the new year and encouraged the board to maintain the Interim superintendent throughout the school year to minimize distractions and disruptions to teaching and learning in schools.”

Curry’s statement jibes with feelings in the School Board building, where there is no rush to replace Willis.

Lenny Curry warns of ‘chatter from outside groups’ opposed to Confederate monument removal

During a Jacksonville press gaggle Tuesday, Mayor Lenny Curry warned of “chatter” heard by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in the wake of Council President Anna Brosche‘s proposal to remove Confederate monuments.

Curry comments came during questions to Gov. Rick Scott and him regarding the proposed removal of these monuments — a proposal fraught with controversy locally, with that controversy even extending to the Council.

“I do think it’s important when we talk about public safety to recognize that how this is pursued in our community is important,” Curry said.

“I get briefed by the Sheriff regularly. I can tell you right now from discussions with him, based on Council’s wanting to outright say they want to remove these — there’s chatter from these outside groups. People in Charlottesville are already talking about coming to Jacksonville. We want to keep those groups out of our city, and we want to work together as a community to have a civil discourse.”

“I’m not proposing we remove these monuments,” Curry said. “Certainly, if the public wants to have that conversation — now the Council President has said this is her priority to remove them.”

“I urge the Council to have that discussion, that debate, Whatever they decide, I’ll evaluate it when it lands on my desk at that time,” Curry said, refraining from a commitment to sign or veto the bill when asked.

Council President Brosche addressed Curry’s comments later Tuesday afternoon, saying that she’s “kicked off a process for defining an orderly and respectful solution for consideration by the Council and Mayor. I hope the community can allow that process to work.”

Gov. Scott said that Florida’s “representative governments” should “discuss and review” these monuments.

“At the local level,” Scott said, “they can make a decision.”

The same holds true for the state and federal level.

“We need to go through a process where everybody comes together, makes a decision, then we go forward. My goal is that we are unifiers … that hatred, bigotry, racism should not be part of our society. In regard to monuments,” Scott said, “that decision should be made through a local process.”

“Our state comes together … we have to be the best melting pot in the world … we get together in our state. We solve problems in our state,” Scott said, urging trust in the “process,” one which includes the Mayor.

Jacksonville pols, civic leaders urge Confederate monument removal

In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville this weekend, which included one person killed by a domestic terrorist, protesters in Jacksonville renewed calls to remove Confederate monuments in the city.

Such calls have increased in intensity in recent weeks, with interesting contretemps at Jacksonville City Council meetings between Confederate enthusiasts and progressives who believe those symbols, rather than being celebrations of heritage, are venerations of institutional racism that has yet to abate.

Passions are swirling.

In that context, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry offered a strong statement Monday morning after a job creation event, leaving no room for confusion as to where he stands. And, soon thereafter, Council President Anna Brosche offered a way forward to perhaps remove the controversial Confederate markers.

“Let’s first start with what happened this weekend,” Curry said, regarding the loss of life in Charlottesville at the hands of a white supremacist.

“Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. One of my grandfathers told stories of literal face to face combat with Nazis. I heard these stories as a child,” Curry said.

“One grandfather told me specifically what he was up against,” Curry added. “He had friends who didn’t come home. I saw the effects it had on him; I condemn it.”

“I condemn and reject the KKK, white supremacy, all of these groups — Nazis, neo-Nazis. It’s not what America is about. Frankly that’s not what humanity should be about,” Curry said.

“I do believe in our creed that we’re all created equally. So it’s sickening,” Curry said.

“Should we have any kind of public assembly here on this issue,” Curry added, “I’m going to work with JSO and make sure it’s safe and we don’t experience injury or loss of life.”

Curry then left an opening for a resolution to this issue from the legislative branch.

“That said,” Curry added, “City Council is the legislative body. We have a new Council President. I’ve yet to have a member of City Council come to me and say this is their priority; however, if a Council President or members of Council deem this to be a priority, on monuments, then I urge them to have a debate in a public forum.”

“If legislation develops,” Curry added, “I’ll see what it is at that time.”

Legislation may move sooner than later, with a strong statement from Council President Brosche.

“Following the leads of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and most recently the Florida Senate who removed Confederate items from public places in Tallahassee, and in response to the horrific and unacceptable incidents that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, I am asking that the City of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department and the Planning Department (Community Planning Division, Historic Preservation Section) conduct an inventory of all Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers on public property,” Brosche wrote Monday.

“In order to develop an appropriate plan of action to relocate Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers, it is important to know the full landscape of such a task. Upon completion of the inventory, I intend to propose legislation to move Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers from public property to museums and educational institutions where they can be respectfully preserved and historically contextualized. It is important to never forget the history of our great city; and, these monuments, memorials, and markers represent a time in our history that caused pain to so many,” Brosche added.

Brosche’s position was endorsed strongly Monday afternoon by Ed Burr, head of the Jacksonville Civic Council.

“The Jacksonville Civic Council opposes racism and discrimination in every form and seeks to advance a culture of fairness and respect for all. We commend Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council President Brosche for taking the lead to thoughtfully consider removal of Confederate monuments from local public property, particularly in light of the tragic events of last weekend. The Civic Council will evaluate and weigh in on any legislation introduced
on the matter. Our vision of Jacksonville holds no room for hate.”

In what seems like a retrospective contrast, City Council members were reluctant to offer opinions Monday morning at City Hall.

“No comment,” said Councilman Sam Newby. Councilmen Doyle Carter and Scott Wilson also gave essential no comment statements.

Others were more voluble, if no less conflicted.

“I’m willing to listen to both sides,” Council VP Aaron Bowman said. “What happened last weekend in Charlottesville was despicable.”

Regarding Jacksonville’s Confederate momuments, Bowman suggested “some could be taken down, while others stay up.”

Jacksonville’s most high-profile Confederate monument in Hemming Park, Bowman said, could fall in either category.

“I’m willing to listen,” Bowman said, “and do what’s right for the community.”

Councilman Greg Anderson described himself as “very disappointed” with what went down in Charlottesville, a situation that exemplifies the perils “when groups decide to stop talking.”

On Jacksonville’s historical monuments, meanwhile, Anderson has yet to take a position.

Councilman Jim Love noted that he’s getting a lot more “anti-monument emails” in recent days, but he hasn’t “made up his mind” on the matter.

Love described the “death in Charlottesville” as “terrible,” and noted the “vitriol” in recent public comment periods as concerning.

“I understand both sides,” Love said. “It’s a tough call. You want to make the people happy.”

The Hemming statue, said Love, “has been out there 100 years. If we take another two or three years to figure it out, it won’t hurt.”

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