Lenny Curry Archives - Page 7 of 114 - Florida Politics

Al Lawson begins week in Jacksonville, will visit Eureka Garden

Democratic Rep. Al Lawson will begin the week in Jacksonville, ascertaining the priorities of the eastern flank of Florida’s far-flung Congressional District 5.

Lawson plans to spend Monday through Wednesday working in town, with the following tentative itinerary.

Monday will see Lawson working out of his new Jacksonville office on N. Davis Street in LaVilla. He will meet with various organizations.

Tuesday sees Lawson at public events.

The morning will find Lawson at Ribault, where he will participate in a roundtable on education, and participate in flight simulation at the school’s aviation academy.

The afternoon finds Lawson at Eureka Garden with Mayor Lenny Curry and (schedule permitting) Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis.

Expect the press gaggle at that event to get interesting, as Lawson (like every other Democrat in Washington) has been critical of President Donald Trump, a Lenny Curry favorite.

Lawson, a regional whip in the House, is well-regarded by leadership and looks impervious to a challenge from his eastern flank in next year’s primary.

With that in mind, he is doing the work of a safe incumbent, building relationships and getting a better understanding of local priorities.

We will be on hand at the Eureka Garden event.

Religious right to Lenny Curry: ‘keep your promise’ on HRO

The phones were lit up Friday morning when FloridaPolitics.com visited the office of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

The subject: Curry allowing the city’s Human Rights Ordinance to become law, albeit without his signature.

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

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

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

****

Though it is over, in the sense that LGBT rights are now codified in Jacksonville law, it’s not over for those on the religious right who supported Curry in 2015 … and are threatening to withhold support in future mayoral runs.

They point to an email from Mar. 9, 2015, in which Curry said he would have vetoed the 2012 version of the HRO expansion — one that ultimately did not pass the city council.

“I thought that 2012-296 was flawed in its assumption of widespread discrimination and in it the remedies it proposed. Based on how this kind of legislation has affected other cities, I came to believe that the regulations contained in the bill could have created more problems than they solved. That’s why I would have vetoed the bill had I been mayor,” Curry wrote.

Of course, there were changes between 2012 and 2017: an increasing societal understanding of the need for LGBT protections, a bill that was drafted to protect small businesses and religious organizations, and so on.

But for a fervent band of commenters, the objection isn’t to granular elements of the legislation — but to the need for it at all.

And, as was the case earlier this week, they continue to let Curry have it.

****

Some sample correspondence: “You have previously stated, ‘[I am] pro-life, and you are a Christian. I was raised in the faith and I am active in my church.’ You also, stated….. I would have VETOED the bill if I was MAYOR!”

“This anti-liberty proposal is the worst possible piece of public policy any elected official could support. It violates the dignity, safety and the security of women and children and disregards religious liberty,” asserted another.

“I thought you had more courage.  I will support someone who will stand up against the tyranny of the Social Justice Warriors,” asserted another correspondent.

****

We contacted Curry’s office Friday afternoon, and were advised to refer to the statement issued Tuesday evening after the supermajority city council vote in favor of HRO expansion.

For Curry, the matter is closed.

The question going forward: when will the matter be closed for his critics on this issue?

Jacksonville PFPF trustees throw cold water on Lenny Curry’s pension deal

On Friday, the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund held its monthly meeting of trustees.

It was the first such meeting since the city agreed to tentative pension deals with the police and fire unions last weekend.

As part of that deal, the city will no longer be obligated to the terms of the 2015 pension reform agreement, including the extra payments.

Out of the loop in negotiations, it was inevitable that the PFPF Board would raise questions. And they did just that, before and during the meeting.

In sum, the PFPF believes that they had no say in the deal, and that without specifics, they can’t agree to the deal.

They also believe that the deadline to agree to terms by Mar. 15 is unrealistic, given that the deal is still opaque, especially relative to the role of the PFPF board — which was not at the bargaining table.

****

Before the meeting, Trustee Bill Scheu was asked about the deal.

He noted that there’s “no financial information yet,” in terms of the specific financial projections as to what it will cost the city.

Board Chair Richard Tuten expressed similar sentiments, noting that there are no numbers yet on paper that have been produced for the board or the media.

Scheu and Tuten expanded on these positions during the first hour of the meeting.

****

The position of Mayor Lenny Curry has been that such details are “exempt from disclosure” through the collective bargaining process.

However, it should be noted that the city projected real savings from the plan … when the city contribution was expected to be 10 or 12 percent on the defined contribution plan, not 25 percent.

In that context, the numbers are relevant to the discussion.

****

A public commenter kicked the meeting off, saying that he advocated signing the deal immediately, albeit with a waiver to make the 10 percent employee contribution voluntary.

The board disagreed.

Director Tim Johnson noted that the draft agreement cut out those voluntary payments, and advised that there be a workshop to discuss the pension surtax and the supplemental payments from the city, with an eye toward figuring out the board’s rights and role going forward.

Tuten advised that the lawyers be there to review the relevant ordinances, including the extra contributions from the PFPF.

“Until we have long-term numbers from the mayor,” Tuten said, the projections can’t be dealt with.

****

Time is of the essence, said a representative from the city’s office of general counsel.

“The agreements themselves provide for a short window. Everything has to be done by the 15th of March,” said Steve Durden of the OGC.

“The bills have to be introduced by Mar. 31,” Durden added.

Durden framed the deadline, meanwhile, as a device to facilitate the next budget.

As well, “parties just want things done,” Durden added.

That didn’t go over well at the table; the PFPF board asserted that they were dealt out of the negotiations.

****

Board members noted that the PFPF wasn’t a party to the agreement, yet Durden contended that the time frame was not elastic.

“We have no financial information, no nothing,” an exasperated Scheu said.

Durden advised that the “agreements were not done — the proposed agreements — until early last week. It has not been long. And I don’t know if it was appropriate to bring it to your attention.”

The workshop, said Scheu, is about the PFPF authority — not the terms of the deal, which is a different matter entirely.

“The mayor doesn’t want to pay the extra payments. We’re a little reluctant to give that up, now that it’s been codified by a federal court,” Tuten said.

“If the numbers don’t add up,” Tuten added, “it’s going to be a problem.”

Durden noted the board’s internal schedule conflicts precluded them getting together as a board.

“The mayor wants to get that information to you right away … what exactly’s in the deal,” Durden contended.

****

The deal was framed by PFPF Attorney Bob Sugarman as a “momentous decision … equivalent to a merger and acquisition. The numbers are very large, and you’re going to need legal advice, as well as outside advice.”

Requiring focus: the reliability of revenue streams.

“We’ve made promises with share plans, extra contributions … the contracts are a little hazy on what all this means,” Tuten said.

“Are we going to need the mayor’s complete plan? If he doesn’t spell out his numbers, we’re talking to ourselves,” Tuten added.

Tuten framed “what the mayor wants” as “irrelevant.”

“You don’t come and say — just sign it man, no big deal. Our responsibility is to the members, to make sure it’s fiscally sound … the mayor should be presenting a very convincing case at the moment to us … until we get those things from the mayor, there’s no way we can meet March 15.”

“A lack of planning on your part does not mean an emergency on mine,” Tuten said, eliciting laughter from the table.

“We’re going to need you to show us why this is a good deal,” Tuten said, “because you’re not going to be mayor in eight years.”

“Paying extra now doesn’t necessarily cost the city anything,” Tuten said, given the money will come in later.

“They don’t want to skip one year, they want to skip every year,” Tuten explained.

Tuten said they might need two months to figure out the specifics of the deal.

****

Scheu found it “shocking” that the board was being expected to approve a plan without hard numbers.

He also raised questions about whether the future value of the plan could be considered an asset.

Scheu also advised that “the mayor’s office will demean us” as a PR tactic.

“Now he’s likely to demean us for wanting to take our fidicuiary responsibility seriously. I for one think we need to exercise that,” Scheu said.

“We don’t have the power to sue the city,” Scheu said, “without city council approval.”

“The city is our partner here,” Sugarman said, “but we do have procedures we need to go through.”

This is especially true, Sugarman added, with a half a billion dollars on the line.

“Until we get a proposal, I can’t even tell you,” Sugarman said. “If the March 15 deadline is not realistic, that’s not our fault. We did not establish the Mar. 15 deadline. We need to know what we’re talking about.”

“It’s unlikely we’ll be able to do our due diligence in four weeks,” Sugarman said.

Sugarman noted that “each trustee has skin in the game,” and “you can’t buy enough insurance” to protect against personal indemnification if the pension deal doesn’t work out as advertised.

“All we have here is a deal sheet,” Sugarman said, and the real story is in the amendments and the ordinances

In sum, the PFPF believes that they had no say in the deal, and that without specifics, they can’t agree to the deal. They worry about revenue streams, usurped governance authority, and so forth.

There was also talk of enforcing the 2015 agreement in court, if need be.

On Friday afternoon, Mayor Curry offered a statement attempting to cool the tensions expressed in the PFPF Trustees meeting.

“Last weekend,” Curry said, “the Police and Fire union leadership reached a tentative agreement with us that keeps our promises to public safety workers, respects tax payers and is fiscally responsible. The tentative agreement included a timeline that would ensure that we solve this problem in a timely manner. The PFPF Board will have the financial information they need to make a responsible decision prior to their vote.”

Fire Union head Randy Wyse, in the crowd, understood the board’s position.

“I would not want the trustees to breach their fiduciary duty. They need time to make the right decision,” Wyse said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Editor’s Note: LOL]

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

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

Still more feedback greeted the mayor in his email box.

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

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

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

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

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

Carol Thomas, likewise, was irked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That imprint allows for pattern recognition for those investigating crimes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

NIBIN would be one more facet of that collaboration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenny Curry talks CFO, HRO, and pension deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mercury is a part of the Omnicom Public Relations Group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOP President Steve Zona had this to day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Salem launches 2019 run for Jacksonville City Council

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

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

Salem has a connection to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

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

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

How well regarded was he?

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

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

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

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

There may be one exception, however.

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

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

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

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

Tom Grady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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